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Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 35: Kondor 12
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Previous chapter: Chapter 34, Hastings 12
With several armed men running toward him, Kondor froze for a moment. His trained instincts were to shoot them; but it seemed an unfair fight immediately. With his M-16, he could kill them all before they'd closed half the distance--and then they would be dead, dead forever, what little life they had stolen from them for a mistake. He could shoot them in the legs, but in this world that was probably also a death sentence; life-saving surgery wasn't developed in his world for several centuries, and a flesh wound of that severity would quickly become infected, gangrenous, and slowly fatal. No, this encounter would result in dead men, whether quickly or slowly. He needed an alternative.
He crashed into the woods to his right, holding his gun upright in front of him to protect his face as he broke through the brambles in search of anything which might be a path. He heard the sounds of men behind him, hacking at the undergrowth with their swords. He found nothing; his haste prevented him from truly searching for anything so faint as a game trail, and nothing more obvious presented itself. He needed another plan.
But he was leaving a very obvious trail, and not making much progress. If they persisted, they would catch him eventually. He needed to change his strategy. Dropping to a low, more squat position and tucking his gun closer inside, he pressed on. Although this would not be a good position for running, it was less of a fight to press through the low brambles, and he left a less obvious trail. He now looked more for tunnels through the brush, spaces where he could go under the brambles rather than through them, and gave less consideration to direction, even allowing himself to move back toward the road slightly where that was a clear path. In this way he estimated that he moved about twenty or thirty yards from the point at which he stopped forcing his way through. Here he crashed to the ground, rifle ready, hoping to blend into the greenery with his camouflage gear.
His pursuers hacked their way along for about ten more minutes, and then stopped. In the heavy accents to which he was becoming accustomed, they spoke to each other.
"The trail ends here, sire."
"These hoods are like ghosts, vanishing into nothingness. They must have some witch working for them. All right, men, let us get back on the road."
It still took them a few minutes to return to the carriage, put everything back in order, and drive on; and even then, Kondor waited, finally allowing himself to catch his breath, until the sound of horse hooves had faded into the brush.
Sitting up, he opened his medical kit. His hands and face had been scratched up quite a bit, and although these injuries were minor, he wasn't certain when he would have the luxury of soap and water or other amenities. Even a small wound infected could be trouble, and an ounce of prevention...he chided himself for relying on aphorisms for wisdom. But he cleaned himself with a bit of antiseptic, and repacked the kit.
Rising, he returned to the road slowly to examine the area around the robbery. There were footprints in the dust, but too many to be certain. However, he had seen one of the robbers break into the woods right about where he was, and with a little effort he could see where the undergrowth had been trampled. He stepped through, back into the woods, and looked for the continuation of the trail. It was gone. He had lost them.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #30: Novel Directions. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: