I’d really hoped to get a couple of chapters tackled this week, but life gets busy at times. Here is chapter two – enjoy! Please remember this is a rough draft, and as the author I own FULL copyright to it. This work may not be copied/shared in any manner other than a link to this blog. Thanks and enjoy!
Ally sat back in the seat, enjoying the breeze that whipped past. The electric motor was so quiet she could hear bird song drifting across the fields and through the slowly thickening trees. The smells out here were green and fresh, almost no scent of humans at all. Watching the haphazardly fenced fields vanish, they entered the forest track. Mainly a foot track, it was still easily wide enough for the bike. Ally lifted her head, staring up the heights of the oaks and conifers they zipped past then smiled in pleasure at the bursts of color the occasional rhododendron bush offered. Tiny birds zipped past overhead, the screeching cry of a hawk hunting silencing the bird song momentarily. In that sudden moment of silence the softest hum made Ally twist, eyes searching, ears intent.
‘Ally?’ Eoin didn’t slow, and Ally didn’t answer, wanting to be sure first. Nothing revealed itself so she relaxed back into the seat and reached out to give Eoin’s shoulder a reassuring squeeze. ‘Nothing.’
They moved swiftly over the rough track, the large tires easily navigating the dips and bulges of tree roots and rocks. The track began the gentle climb into the foothills of the huge mountain range. The birds had gotten over their fright and began to sing again. Ally followed the flight of a tiny green bird that tracked a dragonfly, both of them flashing overhead and beyond. Laughing, Ally looked after the bird. Far behind, perhaps two kilometers, something that glinted in the sun followed their path. Ally gripped the back of the seat and stood, balancing her knees against the cushion and stared, letting her eyes focus and adjust. It took a millisecond. She twisted back, sitting and reached out, placing a hand against Eoin’s back, his shirt warm in the sunlight. ‘Raiders.’ Eoin didn’t answer but the bike surged ahead as he accelerated. Ally resumed her watch of the distant vehicles. Perhaps they hadn’t seen them? They didn’t seem in a rush.
‘Nothing, I don’t know if they’ve seen us.’
‘Too much of a coincidence, Ally. Someone in the town must have talked.’
Though she agreed with his thoughts, the two buggies didn’t gain much on them. Enough for Ally’s keen eyesight to count four humans in each of the vehicles. Bouncing along on their high suspension, the buggies navigated the track even easier than the bike Eoin and Ally rode. It caused a tingling of anxiety. That tiny reaction of fear triggered the nano-virus within Ally’s blood, making all her senses sharpen to a level ten times that of a human. Closing her eyes she inhaled as the breeze against their back blew in the scents of the humans. Her eyes snapped open as her brain computed the information. ‘They’re using.’ That’s why she hadn’t picked up their scent earlier. Injecting themselves with the blood drained from any Promethians they managed to hunt down, raiders would experience heightened senses, agility, strength and speed, until the nano-virus died out. The blood of a single Promethian could satisfy a using human for a couple of years, if they could only figure out how to keep it viable once it left the body. It lasted for a couple of weeks in strict conditions, or a week max in poor conditions. Coming down from a blood high left the human user lethargic and nasty. Regular users were among the most dangerous humans a Promethian could cross paths with. Eoin swore under his breath at Ally’s words and gunned the acceleration. They zipped deeper into the forest, the track thinning and the undergrowth of ferns, vines, and saplings getting thicker. Ally only made the occasional glance to see ahead, still balanced against the seat as she watched behind, counting in her mind. The track had taken them far from the straight view of the road, winding back and forth as it slowly inched higher. Trees flashed by, vines tangling the trunks and hanging from branches. The hoots and cries of monkeys made Ally tense for an instant before she recognized the sound. So far the two buggies hadn’t shown behind them. The slightest touch of relief halted the intense flow of ergogenic substances into her system. Registering the lowered threat against personal survival, her body swiftly worked at removing any excess to return all functions to normal. With a sigh of relief at the relaxing sensation, Ally turned and sat properly in the seat. ‘Can’t see them,’ she called to Eoin. ‘Are we far from where you want to be?’
Eoin twisted to glance her way and behind them. He stared for a long moment before easing off the speed. ‘Keep your eyes open.’
‘Of course,’ she said with mild irritation.
‘No, not far. We could stop anywhere. I just want a little more distance from that lot.’
Ally nodded in agreement though he’d already turned back. She closed her eyes, aware of her system slowing back to a pleasant pace.
A mortar whistled overhead, hitting a tree that exploded, splinters and shrapnel flying everywhere. Ally hunched down in the seat and felt the stinging bite of metal slicing through the tough canvas of her fitted pants, slashing her shin. Eoin yelled in pain and Ally looked up to see a piece of wood sticking stake-like through his shoulder. She didn’t hesitate, leaning forward and yanked it out, making him yell again. Already she could feel the skin across her shin bone knitting back together. ‘Hang on!’ Eoin yelled. Already in the midst of twisting, Ally braced herself against the seat, thighs gripping the narrow base tight as she lifted the seat and rummaged through her pack. Various missiles whizzed past the sides and overhead as Eoin swung the bike from side to side, making as much use of the narrow track as he could. Other than the explosive sounds of armed trajectory, the forest was silent. Finding it, Ally pulled the gun from the bag. A LENR weapon, it utilized a low energy nuclear reaction to shoot short laser blasts. At the current distance of around five hundred meters and closing, Ally would be able to easily pick off targets. It fitted over the users hand for a tight hold around the wrist. Made of reclaimed metals, the most vital part was the thick half sphere of glass, within which a silver ball floated in water. That led to the snub nosed double barrel, neat and simple. To look at the weapon didn’t appear much. But the fire power soon changed that observation. Bracing herself against the seat, Ally lifted the gun. Within the mechanism came an ominous rattle. She swore.
‘What?’ Eoin asked, voice strained as he swung the bike again, a mortar whistling alongside them close enough for Ally to feel the heat.
‘Crystal’s almost gone. I’ve got three shots max.’ Without the crystal to direct it through, the LENR motor was nothing but energy, wasted energy.
‘Then make’em good ones!’ Eoin snapped. ‘And hang on!’
The bike made a sharp turn around a fallen tree. Ally gritted her teeth and slipped the gun over her wrist. A quick twist fastened it in place and she set her thumb in the power/trigger slot. With an instant of focus she triggered the layered electroplaques in her palms, sending a fifty thousand volt shock through the palladium coated ball in the centre of the weapon. Beneath her palm the gun vibrated with a hum, the silver coloured sphere within the hardened water spinning faster and faster as the energy built within. Bracing her arm over the back of the seat, Ally stared at the buggies racing after them. The humans in the closest buggy bared their teeth at her, showcasing glints of metal from the grills they wore. The human beside the driver had a bionic arm, the metal casing spread across his chest. Ally could see the edges of it weeping. A recent replacement. ‘Bionics,’ she called back to Eoin and aimed the weapon on that human. Humans never took well to adaptions, their DNA hardwired to reject such things. The only thing that might save an adaption was blood. Promethian blood. Ally pressed the trigger, a blast of red catching the human center chest, exploding flesh, blood, and metal. The other humans in the vehicle screamed in anger, the first sound she’d heard them make. The gun vibrated stronger now, signalling the last life in the crystal. Ally kept her focus on the buggy as the bike veered left and right, bouncing over rocks, roots, and tree branches. Body moving easily with the chaotic motions, Ally spied the humans loading their weapon again. Last shot, she thought, and lifting the gun, fired at the weapon. The gun made a choked splutter as the crystal within shattered, but her shot was sound. A hail of sparks and an explosion of sound rang out, the humans jerking away from the mangled remains of their launcher, blood running down their faces and hands. The looks of fury and hatred they directed her way wasn’t comforting, but with her hunter instincts running full strength, didn’t shake her. Then the driver, hunched over the wheel to avoid any further shots, twisted to shout something at someone behind. The buggy suddenly slowed. Ally’s heart gave a lurch of hope. Before she could tell Eoin the two buggies switched position, the back buggy veering to the left then lurched forward while the front buggy veered right and braked. Ally sucked a breath in as she stared at those in the second buggy, all grinning vindictively at her. Her stomach made a churn at the bizarre silence. Normally raiders shouted and threatened, trying to spook their targets. These ones hadn’t once yelled at them.
Ally hunched over the seat, hanging onto the back as she watched the humans who conversed amongst themselves. She couldn’t shake the feeling… Something was wrong.
‘What’s happening, Ally?’
Eoin’s shout made her turn slightly. ‘I don’t know! They’re getting something… It look’s like a box? A little handheld box?’ Ally stared, heart in her mouth at the way the human holding the box held it high over his head, a triumphant smile on his scarred face.
‘A box?! Here, take the controls, I need to see.’
Ally turned and seized the handlebars as Eoin began to move to the seat then froze beside Ally. In a second he’d twisted back, wrenching a panel off the floor beneath where Ally was stretched out over, hanging on to the handles, a foot near the back seat and one near the front. ‘Eoin!’ she yelped in protest, wobbling.
‘They’ve got an override switch! It’s a trap!’
Ally stared down at Eoin rummaging amongst the wiring in the bike then risked a glance over her shoulder at the humans. The one holding the box high over his head theatrically raised his other hand and slammed it against the box. In an instant the bike lost power, coasting with what remained of its momentum. ‘Eoin!’ He was snatching their packs from under the seat. He shoved Ally’s at her. She grabbed it with a hand, guiding the bike into a thicket of trees with heavy undergrowth. Shouts of excitement rose from behind them. Not risking a glance back Ally seized Eoin’s hand and they leapt from the bike, hitting the soft dirt and sprinted off.
Ally kept the vice-like grip on Eoin’s hand, pulling him along at a speed he’d never have quite managed himself. With her leading it gave him the chance to look back briefly. The raiders raced along the track almost parallel to them. Ally gave a growl in her throat and shot him a quick look, her eyes diluted and dark, hunter instincts fully in control. ‘Which way?’ The gravelly voice was nothing like her normal contralto tones.
‘Up! Away from the track!’ They turned, heading sharply up. Ally aimed for the thickest forest she could find. Eoin was grateful that with his long legs he could at least keep up with her speed, though it pushed his natural abilities to the limit. He could feel the firing sensations among his limbs as the nano-virus released stimulants into his blood stream, triggering everything within his system to switch to extreme survival. Running became easier, his lungs expanding, absorbing more oxygen and his heart thumped steady. His eyes diluted like Ally’s making the colors of the jungle sharp and vivid, scents and sounds enhanced beyond his normal capabilities. Behind the sound of crashing slowed. Ally glanced back. ‘They’re stopping!’
Eoin shook his head, a drop of sweat beading down his forehead, along his nose. ‘No. They didn’t come this far to lose us.’ As he finished the sentence a heavy metallic roar made them pause for a second. The raiders had switched from their buggies to two wheeled bikes created from a variety of hacked up machines. The bikes roared with the sound of ancient oil engines. Dirty, noisy, and messy, but fast. ‘GO!’ Eoin shouted to Ally. Ally dragged him on at what felt like breakneck speed, Eoin focusing on the immediate while his ears measured the sound behind them. The heavy whine of the engines inched closer. A proper sweat broke out on his forehead. ‘Plans?’ Ally shouted as she leapt on top of a fallen tree, Eoin dragged up with her. They leapt off together, feet sinking in the soft leaf litter. A flash of color on the left made them flinch. Disturbed from the sound a leopard dashed away, leaving its fresh kill, the white tailed deer staring with dead eyes their way. ‘Find a tree, get high!’ Eoin shouted as they ran on, swatting away vines. It was a long shot, but the only chance they had. The bikes were gaining on them.
Ally gritted her teeth, body humming from the huge surge of stimulants, muscles pulsing. It felt like flying, the forest flicking past so quick. She glimpsed a motion ahead, a sleek body gliding through the leaves. With an easy grab she snatched the snake, twisted, and hurled it at the bike closest. The human riding it shrieked, batting in panic and the bike smashed headlong into a tree. Those on the bikes behind shouted and roared their anger, their threats falling on deaf ears, Ally focused on the task. A tree. A big tree. Something with vines that would offer an easy fast climb.
‘Ally!’ Eoin sounded short of breath. ‘Look!’
Twenty meters ahead sat a massive banyan tree with wide spread branches and an enormous canopy. The sloping branches would be easy enough for Ally to run straight up. Then she could move them into the thick canopy, find another tree top and move. That brief plan in place, Ally gripped Eoin’s hand tighter and pushed her body harder, stretching into a longer faster stride. She got within ten meters of the tree, those bikes screaming closer and closer, when her foot plunged through the soft leaf cover. Her mind and body screamed as the two of them fell, dirt and leaves pouring into the massive yawning hole that opened around them.
Eoin flailed his limbs, heart seized in horror – where was Ally? Movement as he tried to turn himself, still falling into darkness, allowed him to spot her. Body posed cat-like, twisting neatly in the air, Ally stared down into the darkness they plummeted toward. Her head snapped up, dark eyes meeting his with an expression of fear. ‘Eoin! TURN!’ The floor of the massive drop came rushing up as he tried to twist. CRACK! The sound of his thighbone snapping drowned out the sound of his landing. The breath whooshed from his lungs, from the fall or the pain he couldn’t tell. Stunned, body shrieking in agony, Eoin stared up as leaf matter floated down. Some twenty meters above them glared the angry faces of six humans. Ally’s face came into view a moment later, eyes anxious as she swiftly cleared the dirt and leaves away from his body.
‘We’re going to bleed you dry!’
‘Enjoy your hole, it’s the last place you’ll ever see!’
The humans screamed down at them for long minutes before gathering themselves and crashing off into the jungle. Eoin sighed in relief then gasped as the motion moved his leg.
‘Hang on,’ Ally muttered as she examined it. As gentle as she was, each tiny touch hurt, his body so amped from the stimulants. ‘Hun, it’s crooked. I’m going to have to straighten it.’ Eoin grimaced, opening his eyes to Ally’s, now violet in the dim light. He gave a brief nod and accepted the piece of stick she offered. He put it between his teeth and screwed his hands in fists. ‘Ready?’
Eoin grunted. Blinding white pain screamed through his body, teeth cracking the stick in two. As fast as it hit, the pain passed. Eoin panted in relief, his leg feeling better already. ‘Lie back. Let your body do its job,’ Ally said, her voice croaky. Eoin squinted at her and saw the tears streaming down her face. ‘Lie down with me, love. Keep me warm.’ She snuggled against him, avoiding his leg. Her hair smelled warm and he turned his head slightly, pressing a kiss to it. ‘You did good. We’re still alive.’
Ally gave a choked laugh. ‘Pretty shitty landing.’
‘Can’t do everything perfect.’
Silence descended and the two of them relaxed, listening as the sounds of the forest returned to normal. Bird song rang out and the occasional monkey shrieks and cackles followed. Eoin began to feel drowsy, the nano-virus now triggering the release of pain relief as it set to work at repairing his leg. It didn’t hurt, but felt strange, an intense deliberate tickle as the pieces of bone knitted back together. Mind beginning to drift he recalled the lyrics on some sheet music he’d found on a trip long ago. Humming them at first, he started to sing and felt Ally’s chuckle before she joined in.
‘Bye, bye, Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.’
Ally knew it from listening to him sing, but her adaption of certain words left him laughing. She giggled then thumped his chest gently. ‘Don’t mock!’ Eoin tucked his arm around her a little tighter, still chuckling to himself. They fell silent again.
‘What’ll we do?’ Ally asked quietly.
Eoin gave a snort. ‘No escape plan yet?’
‘I’m working on it. But they might not stop hunting us. This could ruin the trip.’
‘It’ll definitely ruin the trip if they catch us,’ Eoin said wryly. ‘Let my leg heal. Then let’s go from there.’ Ally nodded. He could feel her body twitching with impatience, already recovered from the massive rush of stimulants. It made him envious. ‘Go have a look around,’ he said, releasing his hold on her. ‘There has to be a reason the ground collapsed like this. I wasn’t aware of caves in this area.’ She was on her feet in a flash. He could hear her movements, the soft slide of stones and the cracks of sticks as she moved around the hole. Eoin closed his eyes, dozing off as his body worked at its repairs. It seemed like moments later she shook him awake. ‘Uck! Ally, what?’
‘Eoin!’ her eyes seemed to spark with excitement. ‘I found a tunnel!’