04-25-2007 06:54 PM
“You don’t have a say in the matter, soldier. It’s already been determined that the trip isn’t worth the fuel and manpower and risk to go back in. I suggest you let the matter go and move on with your life.”
“Kane is going to do his duty, he’s going to be at the pick-up site waiting for us to get him. Dallas Kane has never failed any mission. He’ll be there. And you’re going to—”
“This conversation is over, soldier,” Baire said, raising his voice. “Find your own way out. As I said, this matter is closed.”
Harrison clenched his jaw as he looked at the ground. He couldn’t abandon Kane like that. He couldn’t fail his duty, he just couldn’t.
There as a loud pounding on the door the men inside hardly had time to look up before it was thrown open, General Weathers followed by an older man with thick glasses and unkept white hair. Beyond them Harrison say a figure he recognize and the contraction in his chest relaxed as he snapped to attention, Baire following less enthusiastically in the presence of the superior.
“Baire, why isn’t there a team assembled for recovery from the Redlands?” Weathers asked.
“The mission has been canceled,” Baire started to say, knowing full well—as Harrison did—what would follow.
“I’ve never left a man behind. Even when fire and hell rained down, I brought out every man and I’ll be damned if I’ll start now because it’s inconvenient.
“You seem to have forgotten the scientific exploration that fueled this trip. Dr. Waits reminded me of it and informed me that the people who have been surviving there may offer the biggest clues to the only place on Earth we don’t understand.”
“I feel further exploration and monitoring would only aide in our understanding of the phenomenons that occur there,” the scientist said. “My department has already gathered many of the materials needed to build an outpost should it be possible and will also cover part of the cost of fuel, but we’re counting on the military to supply the manpower.”
“Which is convenient since we’re going back to bring our brave boys home,” Weather said.
Harrison caught Kevyn’s eye over the general’s shoulder. She smiled at him and winked.
Siverine led them down a twisted path to a shadowy canyon on the west side of the mesa. Jones and Kane helped the wounded men while Lancaster was in charge of Dr. Fisher with Lan and Duke prowling nearby and keeping untrusting, unfriendly eyes on him at all times.
They made it to the riverbed without incident and the men were actually rather unimpressed with what they saw. It as definitely a dried riverbed, but nothing was in it. Nothing weird, creepy, or unusual. After everything so far, it was part relief and part letdown.
“So what part of this is supposed to shake our sanity?” Lancaster asked Kane in a murmur as they stood on the edge of the riverbed.
“I’m not sure,” Kane admitted. “Siverine hasn’t said anything about it.” He knelt down to get another angle view.
He shook his head. “Nothing.”
“I’m starting to feel foolish,” Lancaster admitted. Kane started to reach out like he’d put a hand where a river had once been.
“Stop!” Siverine shouted and both men spun around, thinking she was yelling at the doctor. Instead, she was looking right at them. “Don’t disturb the water,” she said.
After an awkward moment Lancaster pointed out. “Uh, there is no water.”
“Tell me that in another two hours,” she said. “Come on. We can cover more ground yet.”
Kane and Lancaster glanced at each other, the empty river, and Siverine’s back. Lancaster lowered his voice as he moved his head closer to Kane.
“I dare you—”
“Right after you,” Kane quickly replied and they both looked back at the river.
“What’s that?” Jones asked, slowing his steps and looking to the left.
“What?” Kepper asked, panting. He was sweating although the group moved slowly. His wound hadn’t reopened, so Siverine kept them going.
“I thought I saw something from the riverbed.”
“Night is falling over the Bloodlands. Moonlight on the ground elsewhere reflects off the river,” Siverine said.
“The lost souls are being illuminated, gentlemen,” Fisher told them and Lancaster pushed the doctor along with a rude nudge.
Unfortunately, Fisher hadn’t been lying. The men could see strange shapes coming from the riverbed as the night wore on. Their curiosity drew them closer until they walked right on the edge. Then they realized it wasn’t curiosity, but the trail had narrowed so they were forced to the edge of the river.
The pale blue luminescent river barely lit the trail. In the waters they saw men and animal shapes, often combined in some gross, unnatural way.
Their reflections appeared in the water, as if their souls could be seen in the waters.
Jones watched his out of the corner of his eyes and soon realized what it wasn’t a reflection or shadow as the him in the water didn’t follow his exact moves and had claws instead of fingertips.
“Those aren’t us,” he said.
“No. It’s a river of souls of the dead. But they’ve forgotten what they were and how they looked. They can’t cross over because they first refused and now have forgotten. They cling to anything living for an answer as to how to leave limbo. If you disturb the waters they’ll cling so tightly that they’ll choke you to death. One misstep and the souls of the dead will overwhelm you and drag you into their hell in hopes that you hold the answers they seek.”
“One misstep?” Emmett said as his foot skidded across the path and Kane quickly grabbed him. “Could have mentioned that sooner.”
“I didn’t want to worry you. And…”
“And what?” Kane asked, still holding onto Emmett.
“And, maybe, we might be able to save you if the souls did wash ashore.
“Come on. There won’t be a spot to safely rest for a few more miles.”
“Miles?” Kepper asked. “We’ll be walking all night.”
“Yes. Try not to look into the water—the souls become more vindictive and angry as the night goes on.”
“You were one of the original team?” Dr. Waits asked.
“Yes sir,” Harrison nodded.
“Excellent. I appreciate you telling Dr. Haines so she could make me aware of the matter.”
“I’m glad to do it.”
“So, since you’re familiar with the terrain, what sort of supplies are we going to need, Rick?” Kevyn asked.
“Well, first off, you’re going to need a lot of dog food.”
05-03-2007 12:33 AM
Kane kept his eyes fixed on Siverine and the dogs ahead of him. Only Duke seemed to notice the disturbed waters and he would growl at them occasionally, his hackles starting to rise.
His eyes were starting to sting and his head ached with the effort of not looking at the water. That why he didn’t notice the water moving until he heard Lancaster curse and looked back in time to see and hand and wrist reach for Lancaster a moment before sinking back into the water. A moment later another hand lifted out, this time some of the arm showing.
“It’s reaching for me,” Lancaster shouted, pressing himself against the wall.
“Don’t reach back,” Siverine told him. “And keep moving. They’re persistent tonight.”
Fisher chuckled. “How you play with their mind, Siverine. Persistent? They want our souls to join theirs; they won’t give up and by the end of the night something that resembles a soul will rise from the water to drag one of these fools into the waters with them—the one more unstable and whose mind is the weakest. There’s a reason the Meryani fear this road.”
“No one will be dragged into the water,” Siverine said. “Unless someone is stupid enough to reach out or respond to the water, it won’t claim anyone.”
“Your vibrato is vanity. You toy with lives more than I.”
‘She is nothing like you!’ Lan said sharply, bearing his massive teeth as he looked back at the doctor. ‘If anyone is to be taken, it would be you.’
“We have to keep moving,” Siverine said, as if ignoring the exchange. “There’s still a long ways to go.
“Lan, you know better than to get angry here; it only draws their attention more.”
‘My concern is more for the living than the dead—the living who should be dead,’ he grumbled, still favoring his wounded shoulder.
Lan’s limp became more evident as the night wore on. As did Kepper’s labored breathing. Kane kept close as Emmett staggered and swayed, his head drooping lower and lower as he walked with hand running on the wall.
Emmett stumbled and sagged against the wall, Kane taking less than a split second to grab his shoulders and brace him.
“Emmett?” Kane asked, concerned.
“You know, it’s kinda funny,” Emmett said, panting as he caught his breath. “But my head is making it so I can’t tell whatever is going on in the water that’s freaking everyone out. I can hardly see at all—well, see straight at least.”
“How’s your leg?”
“Can’t feel it. Can’t feel anything but this headache. That’s two bonuses to make up for it; can’t be bothered by the water and can’t feel if my leg is even still attached.”
“Hey Siverine,” Kane called as the rest of the line waited behind him. “How much further?”
“Another hour or so. The trail will open up and you can rest there before continuing on.”
“You honestly think they’ll be able to continue?” Fisher asked with more than a hint of distain. “You think to enter the tunnel? These men are injured, they’ll never make it.”
“You say that, but they’re still alive. I’d say they’re doing quite well. Being alive is the only requirement to keep on living, after all.” She had slowed her walking a bit, but never stopped and Kane had no choice but to risk falling behind or get Emmett moving.
“Don’t worry about me,” Emmett told him. “This place hasn’t been able to kill me yet.”
“No matter how much you try to get killed,” Jones joked and Emmett smiled weakly before pushing himself away from the wall and staggering forward.
Limbs were rising from the water now and many body parts. The men all tried hard not to look—even if they did see, it was hard to tell what it was sometimes. A hand, a claw, a wing, a misshapen foot, half a head. All reaching for them, all seeking to pull them into the luminescent blue river of souls and wasted lives.
The men’s heads were all aching and they leaned against the wall. Even Fisher was effected and staggered along, half leaning against the wall as his arms and hands were bound to his torso.
Only Siverine and the dogs appeared to be unbothered as she kept marching dutifully and single-mindedly on, slowing only because it was necessary for the others to keep up.
She must have took pity on them as she would occasionally stop and look back to say, “Just keep holding on; you can do it. Just a little further.”
She said that about half a dozen times before adding “We’re almost there.”
Kane looked up, hopefully when she said that. His eyes were bloodshot and his face pale. None of the others looked any better except for Emmett whose eyes were almost glazed over.
“You chose a cruel death sentence, Siverine,” Fisher said, stumbling against the wall. His words were slurred and his mouth hung open when he wasn’t talking. “To walk us along this path until the souls of long dead corrode our minds away like acid.”
“I’ve dreamed up much worse fates for you, doctor. I told you, no one is going to die on this leg of the journey.”
“Oh, so you intend to just walk us to death so that we pass out right here.”
“Stop whining. We’ve reached the end of the trail.”
Everyone looked up—even Emmett although he was seeing three of everything—and watched Siverine walk off the narrow path and into a wide, open area. It was still surrounded by rock on three sides with the river on the forth, but they were able to get further away from the river and as the proximity to it grew, their headaches were mitigated.
Exhausted, sore, drained and mental frayed, the men collapsed as far away from the river as they could. Lancaster pulled Fisher over and made sure he was down before sitting himself, but once sat looked as if he didn’t want to move for at least a month.
“Please tell me, we get to rest now,” Jones said, rubbing an ache in his thigh.
Siverine nodded. “We rest here for a few hours. Only one more real obstacle and—”
“Holy sh—” Lancaster swore, his eyes going wide.
The river was boiling furiously and rose up, a vaguely humanoid shape reaching toward them. Two other’s joined it and the men watched in horror as a swirl of anger, hate, and malice stepped from the river onto the ground and started walking toward them. It was almost as if three tongues of the river were licking closer and closer to them.
It startled Siverine—perhaps it even scared her—and the took two steps back, her feet tangling together and she landed at Kane’s feet, her torso over his shins.
“Siverine,” he said and tried to move to pull her from harm—although where to had yet to be decided—but his body’s reaction was so slow he moved only sluggishly.
The nearest tongue lurched as if tasting their escalated fear and swelled closer.
Emmett had collapsed nearest the river and a hand/claw/tentacle wrapped around his ankle and started pulling me back. The other two tongues reached out for anyone who dared get close enough to help so they might share Emmett’s doom.
“No!” Jones shouted and struggled to stand.
Although he was too slow, something else darted out and sunk teeth into the soul form that had Emmett’s ankle, shaking fiercely until it let go. The tongue drew back as if injured and the other two turned on the intruder threateningly.
Duke started to bark fearlessly at the river’s grasping fingers, snapping at them as they wove around.
“I thought you said…the river…” Kane struggled to find the words to say. He’d finally managed to pull Siverine closer to him and had his hands on her shoulders.
“I told you no one would die and that there might be a way to save you. This is what the Bloodlands made Duke; he was infused with some soul sort of soul hound ability. In his mummy-like stage he can see all the souls and unnaturals that roam the lands and warns Lan and I about the dangers. He couldn’t be like that down here since the souls might have been able to suck him into the river without touching him. But like this—” she looked to where the small black lab cross was herding the tongues back to the river “—he’s able to retain himself enough that his soul can’t be drawn out, but he can still interact with souls that manifest themselves.”
Kane nodded and watched with her and the others as Duke forced the souls back into the river. He continued to bark at it from the bank as it boiled rebelliously at him and it finally settled.
Duke turned around, kicked dirt at the river with his back legs and went over to Emmett who’d been dragged half way and licked his face.
“Thanks buddy,” Emmett said, panting. He slowly sat up and looked back at the group.
“Why is it always me?”
05-09-2007 04:47 PM
Looking around he realized Siverine was gone. She was toward the river, looking at a large cavern in the rock that the river fed into.
“Siverine.” She turned when he said her name as he approached.
“Did you get enough sleep, Kane?”
“I’m fine, thanks. What are you doing?” He stood next to here and looked at the cavern. “Let me guess, we have to go in there.”
She nodded. “Just before sunset it will be the easiest.”
“What about, you know, the river of angry souls?”
“The river ends here. I guess you didn’t notice yesterday, but from here it flows up the side of the mesa and disperses into the rock. What souls make it up to the top somehow turn into the Whirinet. The rest travel though the ground and corrupt the land further. The tunnel goes under the mesa and comes out near the old camp. You’ll be able to find it easily enough once we’re through.”
“What do you mean ‘you’? That makes it sound like you won’t be going back with us.”
Siverine looked down. “That’s right, I’m not. We—Duke, Lan, and I—are going to stay here.”
“What? Siverine, why would you say such a thing? Come home. You can’t stay here.”
“No, I can’t leave here, Dallas. Think about it. The doctor wanted us to experiment on. He’s stop at nothing to use our bodies in the name of ‘science’. If we went back, it would be the same thing. I might be able to return to society and hide, but the dogs, especially Lan, wouldn’t have the luxury. I’d come home one day and they’d be gone. Then after the experiments, I’d be taken too, whether for my own good or that of society. Although surviving here isn’t much of a life, at least I’m alive. We can keep on surviving here—with the doctor gone, it will be a lot easier. We can’t survive back home.”
“Siverine…” Kane was at a loss. He wanted to argue, but could he really offer her the protection he wanted to? Instead he reached over and took her hand in his. “I wish I could tell you everything will be okay. I wish I could tell you anywhere is safer than here, but I can’t guarantee that and I don’t like to lie.” He’d been ordered to bring everyone home safely and Kane had never not carried out his orders. Siverine’s wish to stay put him in an awkward position.
“At least,” he said, still holding her hand, “come to pick up with us. You should see Dr. Fisher taken from here with your own eyes.” Siverine looked at his skeptically. “I promise, I won’t force you to leave.” He paused and added, “But I would like you to think about coming back with me.”
Siverine looked up at him again and smiled weakly. She squeezed his hand as she said, “I would like to, but I can’t. More than anything, I can’t abandon the dogs. Not after everything they’ve done for me.”
Kane nodded. “I understand.”
Kepper was the last to wake and when he did Jones changed his bandages—well, he swiped one bloodstained rag for a slightly less bloodstained rag. Surprisingly there was little infection, but it still leaked blood when he moved.
“We’ll be able to rest and better care for it back at the camp,” Kane said. “Harrison will be out any day to get us.”
Fisher snorted. “You’re quite gullible if you think anyone is coming back here.”
“Another word doc and you’ll find you have a lot harder time talking with a busted jaw,” Lancaster growled. “Our people don’t turn on each other—I know that’s hard for you to understand.”
“We only have to go through the tunnel and we’re practically there,” Kane told them.
“And what lives in the tunnel?” Emmett asked skeptically.
“Nothing,” Siverine said. “Once in the tunnel it will be an easy, dark trip. We can take it at whatever pace you need and not have to worry about anything.”
“Then what’s the catch?” Lancaster asked. A ghost of a pleased smile crossed Siverine’s lips. They certainly had learned.
“There is only one more hurdle,” she admitted.
“Before that, you have to answer me this—will you die here?”
There was a silence of confusion around the group.
“Not if we can help it,” Jones said.
Siverine shook her head. “No, that’s not enough. Unless you are certain you aren’t going to die then you will die.”
“And here I thought you couldn’t be anymore confusing and cryptic,” Lancaster muttered.
Siverine sighed. “To get into the tunnel you have to cross the upstream of the river. It’s only for a split second, but if your soul isn’t firmly tied to your body then it will be pulled from it. If there’s any thought in your mind that that might be your death, then it will be. Be certain you’re going to live. Be certain you aren’t going to die here or now and you can make it through.” She looked at Emmett. “If you have any thought that you can’t make it—”
“I ain’t dead yet,” he replied. “And I don’t intend to die in this place. My soul is going straight to heaven in about sixty years from the comforts of home.”
Lancaster, Kane and Jones all shared.
“Same here,” Kepper said. “I’ve got a wife and kid back home. If I’m going anywhere, it’s back to see them.”
Siverine nodded. “We cross in two hours. The rest of you better be as certain by then.”
05-16-2007 07:37 PM
“Once we’re in keep your right hand on the wall as best you can. It’s a straight shot through so you can’t really get lost,” Siverine told them.
“Hang on,” Jones said. “Are we going to have to do this blind?”
“There’s no light down there except at the end of the tunnel, so mostly, yes.”
Lancaster pulled his pack off and started to rummage through it as Fisher snorted.
“Very good Siverine,” the doctor said. “Strip the men of one of their most fundamental senses. That will be good for their psyche.”
“Easy on the cynicism, Doc,” Lancaster said. “Because we’re not going blind.”
“You’ve still got a flare?” Kane asked. “I thought we got rid of all the extra stuff.”
“I decided to hold on to mine just in case—they aren’t that heavy after all. Ah, found them. I have one eight hour flare and two—nope, still have the third—glow sticks.” He pulled out three foil wrapped tubes.
“Glow sticks?” Kepper asked as Lancaster tossed one to Kane and one to Jones.
“That’s what my niece always calls them.” He peeled the foil back, crumpled it up and tossed it in the bag, and then bent the tube until it made a cracking noise and shook it up. The stick was soon glowing green. “These babies will last twelve hours before they start to dim.”
“At a crawl it will only take six hours to get through the tunnel,” Siverine said.
“Crawling might not be a bad idea,” Emmett said. Even Siverine had pity for everything poor Emmett had been through.
“We’ll take plenty of breaks.”
“Sounds good. Now point me in the right direction so someone can throw me in—I still see two of everything.”
Jones winced. “I’m sorry man. Seeing one Lancaster is almost more than I can bear.”
Siverine and the dogs went first—naturally. Then Kane and Jones. Lancaster’s job was basically to throw the other three in before jumping himself. While he was careful with Kepper and Emmett, he rather enjoyed grabbing Fisher by the back of the collar and belt and tossing him like a sack of potatoes.
Lancaster was last and being as he hadn’t heard any deathly screams from the others he was actually lax about his turn to jump.
Although it must have only taken a split second, it was a split second that almost split him open. It felt as if his heart was being wrenched one way while his spleen the other. His head felt hot while his skin was cold. Rough, jagged fingernails scratched at the underside of his skin, trying to peel the soul from his flesh. His eyeball and tongue swelled up as his lungs collapsed and stomach dropped.
“I’m not dying!” he yelled; or at least would have had he been able to open his mouth. Then there was a moment of calm and he thought he could glace golden streets with sands before he was through, caught by Kane and Jones, his whole body shaking.
“Easy,” he heard Siverine say. “Just breathe. You’re still alive.”
“Am I?” Lancaster asked as the muscles in his legs started to reform. “I thought—I thought I saw heaven.”
“Very likely. If so then we need to get moving before heaven tries to call you back. From here you can only reach for heaven and trip to end up in hell.”
Siverine and the dogs lead the way again with Kane holding the glow stick for them. Jones helped keep Emmett walking in a straight line while Kepper continued on determined, the sweat beading on his forehead the only indication he was wearing out. Lancaster was on prisoner duty again.
Siverine called a stop for rest and the injured men both fell almost instantly asleep. Surprisingly Siverine and the dogs all curled up together and slept. Lancaster didn’t missed the worried look on Kane’s face as he watched Siverine quickly fall asleep. For some reason Kane was restless and went for a short walk to scout ahead and think. Lancaster knew better than ask his commander the subject—he knew that look.
Lancaster had made himself comfortable. Siverine was right; this leg of the trip was a cake walk.
“Your name is Lancaster, correct?”
He looked over to make he hadn’t imagined Fisher trying to talk to him.
“Isn’t it better if you just keep your trap closed?”
“And your big friend is called Jones.”
Jones heard his name and looked over.
“What?” he asked.
“The Doc’ figured out our names,” Lancaster told him. “Definitely a bright one here.”
“You mock me, but I was able to live and quite comfortably in this wasteland, don’t forget. They didn’t revere me for no reason. I live quite comfortably at my old home too.”
“You lived,” Lancaster corrected him. “You’re future home will have orange jump suits, bars and a room mate named Big Eddie.”
“Perhaps. Tell me, how is it two fine men such as yourself ended up being sent here, to the edge of the world?”
“Hear that, we’re fine men,” Lancaster said. “I thought we were inapt brutes or something like that.”
“It’s our duty. We don’t pick where we go, doc,” Jones bristled.
“Despite what I may have said earlier, you don’t seem to be stupid men by any means,” Fisher pushed on. “At least, you can prove me wrong for ever calling you so in the first place.”
“You want to have a spelling bee?” Lancaster asked. “Spell ‘asinine’.”
“Back home I am not a man without means. I can see you both promoted beyond your wildest dreams and with whatever comforts in life you want.”
“Need I remind you that you’re the prisoner here?” Jones pointed out. “What are you trying to bargain for?”
“Help me and we can all walk away happier men. I’m a respected man with influence and associates of great wealth and power. My word could out weight Siverine’s any time. I’m a doctor after all; she’s just a journalist. All you have to do is swear to my version of a story and she’ll be shut away forever and you will both be happier, more prosperous men.”
“You want us to tell everyone Siverine is the nut and you’re a good guy,” Lancaster said.
“And in exchange you will be rewarded handsomely.”
“What about Sergeant Kane? His word is worth more than ours Doc and he’ll never lie,” Jones said.
“Then he will have to share Siverine’s fate. This land can very quickly twist a person’s mind. Someone who knows how to skew the truth such as a reporter could easily lead another astray—the media does it all the time. He can be a victim or an accomplice.”
Jones and Lancaster looked at each other and then back at Fisher. Lancaster gave him a half before pushing the doctor to the ground with his boot and pinning him there.”
“You know, you had a slim chance with getting us to buy into your plot in the first place. But asking us to turn on our Sergeant for a man who manipulated our friend, injured other friends and tried to kill us? You’re more crazy than I thought.”
“Save your promises and deals,” Jones added. “We know what loyalty is. And justice. We intend to see both.”
**Next week last installment. I'm pretty sure.**
05-24-2007 12:40 AM
Harrison looked back at Dr. Haines as she spoke, the wind from the helicopter still ruffling her hair. The choppers they had arrived on hadn’t even been unloaded yet and here she was canceling the mission.
Well, sort of. She had been given full authority to assess the situation and determine if it was an appropriate and worthwhile site for a research facility. If anyone still had misgivings about a rescue mission, no one had said anything about a research outpost. If the research team just happened to run into people needing a ride home, who were they to say no?
Harrison looked back at the choppers. No one else had heard her and were unloading the gear and tools. They might take most of it back. It was fine to unload now since they weren’t sure how long they’d have to wait for Kane and the others.
He lowered his gaze. These choppers had landed all the way—they were touching the ground, he’d made sure of it. Why the others hadn’t no one had known. The pilot had said those had been orders, but never from who.
Kevyn joined Harrison.
“You’re in charge,” he said with a shrug. “We’ll get a camp set up and just wait to see if you change you mind.”
“Fine. I suppose I could work on my tan.” Kevyn looked around and lowered her voice some—mostly because she was closer. “When are the others supposed to meet up with you?”
Harrison shook his head. “I’m not sure. I’m just praying they make it back at all. We can wait—” He stopped when he heard a noise and whipped his head around. The whirl of the helicopter blade slowly died and he thought he heard it again.
“Rick?” He held up a hand for her to be quiet and lifted his shades.
Through the wavery haze of the desert, Harrison saw a small black moving dot and then he noticed an ivory one next to it.
The sound repeated.
“Is that a dog barking?” Kevyn said.
Harrison started to smile. Seven more shapes followed the dogs. Seven out, seven in.
“Don’t unpack your sunscreen babe,” he said. “It looks like we’re going home.”
Fisher was tied up and secured in the back of the helicopter with a marine guarding him, rifle in hand. There was nothing to take home of Kirk but a memory—and Harrison was sure he wasn’t even told half of what had happened and by the looks on everyone’s faces, he didn’t want to know.
The wounded were cleaned up and carefully set in the helicopter to rest. The dogs were given free range of the food—maybe not the wisest idea considering it was a long chopper ride home—and especially the little one attacked it like he hadn’t eaten in a year. Kevyn gave him fond pets and Harrison didn’t have the hart to tell her the dog had been a comatose mummy last he’d seen of it.
“The gear can wait. Why don’t we get the rest of you loaded and get out of here,” Harrison said to which Jones and Lancaster both looked as if he had offered unconditional salvation.
Kane and Siverine, however, didn’t do the same.
“Not everyone’s going back,” Kane said which made the rest freeze in their tracks. “Siverine and the dogs have decided to stay.”
“It’s better this way,” she added, her face set. “We can’t go back to society now. It would only be a matter of time before we were labeled as freaks and if we weren’t locked up, we’d be lab rats.”
Harrison clenched his jaw, but nodded. “The choice is yours. We can leave whatever you want for your use.”
“I’m staying too,” Kane said and Jones dropped his gun.
“Sergeant,” Lancaster started to say.
“No. I came here to bring everyone home. I swore to not leave until the survivors made it back. I’ve never left a mission unfulfilled and I’m not about to start.”
“Kane—” Harrison said.
“Dallas, don’t,” Siverine cut him off. “Pride is terrible reason to stay in this place. Go back to your life and forget about the Bloodlands; you’ll be happier.”
“I don’t think I can do that, Siverine,” Kane replied. “And I’m not staying because of pride. If you are here, then I want to be too.” Either the heat was messing with Harrison’s eyes, or she actually blushed.
“What about me?” Harrison asked. “I said I’d come back to take everyone home. You going to make a liar out of me now? Cuz I ain’t staying here, no offense.”
“You take the rest home and see Fisher pays for his crimes.”
“And what am I supposed to say about you two?”
“Hang on, Rick,” Kevyn stepped in. “I think I know a solution.”
Cloud Nine was one of the nicest luxury hotels in the city. The room was done mostly in white with light gold accents.
Kevyn was sitting on the bed in a white terry cloth bathrobe reading a newspaper, the sheer curtains fluttering in the breeze of the open windows.
Harrison walked into the room wearing only lounging pants. He had a cup of fresh squeezed orange juice in each hand and gave one to Kevyn.
“Thank you. Here; read this one.”
“Let’s see. Page twelve of the Daily. ‘Team returns from wasteland’.” He sat on the bed next to her. “Wow, it seems so insignificant the way they put it.
“‘Damage by the natural elements of the Redlands, the military team sent there two weeks ago all returned home. They returned with survivor of the original team, Dr. Damus Fisher, as prisoner on suspicions of his hand in the deaths of the rest of the team. A small team with military and area experts remained in the Redlands to continue peaceable exploration and study. Assisting them in the last survivor, reporter Siverine Nicholson.’
“I thought Siverine was the area expert,” he said, sitting back against the headboard to sip the juice.
“Actually, I think the dogs are the area experts. It was Siverine’s idea to call them that.”
Harrison looked out the window. “Do you think they’re all okay out there?”
“I do. Oddly enough, I think they’ll be just fine.”
Siverine made a face and muttered some choice words. The antennae wouldn’t line up with the satellite. She reached around the metal bin that was her desk and adjusted it again.
She sat in the shade of a well constructed tent—Dallas would work on the permanent structure once he finished the well. If that ever happened. Lan was helping him, pulling up buckets of dirt and dumping them.
Duke was laying at Siverine’s feet as she started typing again, trying to get the antennae to connect. A large rodent looking creature peeked around the corner. Duke jerked up at its sent and was off, chasing the trespasser out of the camp.
“Got it!” Siverine said as the equipment finally connected. While the computer uploaded some information, she shifted to write more in the notebook she had by the side of the computer.
“Siverine!! I hit water!” Kane exclaimed from the well. “Hurry.”
She was still a moment. Had she heard right? Uncertain, Siverine got up and walked toward the well. Duke came trotting back happily with the rodent—now dead—hanging from his mouth.
Siverine and the dogs looked over the side of the well as water leaked up to Kane’s ankles.
“I told you we’d hit water if we dug deep enough,” he said, sweating and dirty but grinning triumphantly.
Siverine shook her head. Was it really possible?
“I didn’t think the Bloodlands knew this kind of mercy,” she admitted.
Kane smiled at her and shrugged. “Maybe it just forgot. A lot bad people have corrupted—maybe it just needed someone to remind it what mercy was.”
Siverine slowly smiled back at him. “I guess you’re right.”
05-24-2007 12:41 AM
You know when an inexperienced runner starts on a distance run they go sprinting out of the gate and are exhausted by the end? I kinda feel like that. I feel as if I lost some of the momentum just because I couldn't keep the story coming out often and didn't have the time or energy to go into some of the other possible tangents. Still, thanks to everyone who has stuck with it this long to see the end. Hopefully now I can respond to other posts and comment on other's writings--I have read, just not had time to respond. And it doesn't look like my time will be freeing up any time soon. X__X
OK, if you even remember your critiques, let's have them!