Deborah still felt energized from binging on the guards’ veins back at Wayne Manor. Maneuvering the beige truck and trailer through the narrow roads of the mountainous area was boring her. She hadn’t realized how long she had been driving until she realized the horizon behind her was beginning to illuminate.
She glanced off the road to examine her passengers. Four year old Tommy barely took up any room on the passenger seat. His wild black scalp rested against the door as he slept, with an empty tactical vest for a pillow.
Directionless, jaw length brown hair was mangled over most of Megan’s eyes. The sixteen year old mother took a deep breath as she awoke on the floor, her one year old Angelica was still cradled to her chest. Megan yawned, “Anyone behind us yet?”
Deborah checked her large side mirrors again, “Haven’t seen anyone all night. I’m not sure how long it will take them to track us down.”
Megan rubbed her eyes without disturbing her sleeping baby, “Shouldn’t we lose the trailer? Won’t we move faster?”
“Not yet. If they’re following with the same vehicle, they’ll have to drive just as slowly to get through these lovely sharp turns. And the longer we wait to ditch it, the longer they’ll have to guess if they’re following the right road or not.”
“And if they’re using jeeps or buggies?”
“I’m not as worried about them.”
Megan gently cracked and rubbed her neck as she sat upright. She dryly replied, “We’ll just take them right out with our two shotguns, huh?”
“If we have to. I’ll try to spare the ammo if I can.”
Megan seemed to hesitate, checking on Tommy before asking, “Back at the manor… I still can’t believe how deadly you were.”
“Are you still worried about me killing you and your kids? Because I think we covered this.”
“Can you teach us how to fight like you?”
Deborah forced her lungs to move so she could sigh, “I can try.”
Morning sun from behind was starting to blur Deborah’s night vision. She waited for a stretch of road that was a little wider than what she had been dealing with. “Can you drive?”
“I did almost steal this truck from you.”
“Right, well it’s time for a shift change.”
Megan carefully rose to a knee to look outside. “Are you going to sleep in the trailer?”
“I actually don’t have to sleep, but yeah, I’m going to go back and see what kind of gear they left in there.”
“I’m pretty sure they empty it when they park it.”
“I still want to check it out. And if you think about disconnecting me and driving off, you won’t get far.”
“Neither will you in the daylight.”
Deborah gave Megan a sidelong glance.
Megan cocked her head back, “Just joking.”
Upon reaching the bottom of a steep slope, Deborah waited for the road to level out to park. “Okay, ready to switch?”
Deborah opened her door and held up her finger, “One more thing.” She unbuckled Tommy.
Megan’s hand snapped up and latched onto Deborah’s wrist. “The fuck are you doing?”
“I was actually going to try to trust you again, but then you made that little joke of yours. Now Tommy’s going to come back with me, just in case the trailer is mysteriously disengaged.”
“He’s already scared to death of you, I’m not locking you in a box with him.”
“Think of it as a bonding experience.”
Deborah slid her arms under Tommy and gently pulled him out of his seat. She locked her red eyes onto Megan’s. The mother’s jaw quivered, but she didn’t say anything.
Keeping her afraid won’t work in the long run. Deborah wanted to reassure Megan that she wouldn’t hurt Tommy, but she didn’t force herself. Fear works for now.
Deborah managed not to wake Tommy as she carried him out of the cab. She also grabbed her shotgun from the floor as she walked towards the back of the trailer. Megan wasn’t far behind.
The younger woman had enough sense not to yell, but she still had plenty of distress in her voice, “Deborah, wait. I don’t know where we are.”
She kept walking, “Me neither.”
Megan walked briskly enough to catch up, Angelica still cradled to her modest breast. “Well where are we going to go? Assuming one of us gets our bearings?”
Deborah held her gun out until Megan took it, then she proceeded to slide the trailer door upward. “Safest place I’ve ever lived was Anthill. Unfortunately, ‘safe’ also means politics and shit.”
Tommy groaned as he awoke. Deborah lifted him so he sat on the edge of the open trailer. He rubbed his eyes, “Are we home yet, mommy?”
Megan forced a smile, “Not yet cactus juice… Listen, you have to do mommy a favor, and stay in the trailer with Deborah today.”
Tommy looked ready to cry, “But she’s scary!”
Deborah ignored him as she reclaimed her shotgun and climbed into the trailer.
Megan continued, “I know sweety, but if you don’t stay with her, then Angelica has to.”
“Then let her.”
Megan stepped forward, grabbed Tommy’s shirt by the collar and stared up at him, “Tommy, you’re a big boy, and that means you have to protect your family, especially when you’re scared. I don’t want you back here either, but Deborah is helping us, and that means we help her too. So you are going to be brave, and stay safe back here until nighttime, okay?”
Tommy still looked ready to cry, but he nodded and leaned down to return his mother’s hug. Deborah rolled her eyes as she jumped into the back. “Whenever you’re ready.”
Megan finally let go of Tommy and nodded. “You have a radio?”
“Yeah. Let’s go channel one zero one point one.”
Megan nodded and hugged Tommy one more time. “Be good and safe Tommy.” She kissed his forehead and watched her son step further in.
Deborah held the strap to close the gate, “Let’s hope the sun globes can charge the batteries as we drive.”
Megan blinked her wet eyes, “Let’s hope.”
Deborah closed the gate and latched it. In the pitch black, she reached to the side and flicked a switch. Four soft, yellow overhead lights turned on. Tommy was already sitting in the corner next to the door.
As Deborah switched her radio channel, she asked, “How many times do I have to say it kid? I’m not going to hurt you.”
“Are you our family now?”
Deborah cocked an eyebrow, “What?”
“Mommy said family protects each other. And she said you’re helping us stay safe.”
Deborah had never been good with children. Do I just lie so he shuts up? “Sure kid. We’re family now. So don’t be scared, okay?”
Tommy nodded, and the trailer shifted forward. He spoke up, “Can you let the door open? Just a little?”
Deborah shook her head, “You know I’m a vamp, right? The sun ain’t too good for me.”
Tommy looked down at the floor, “Okay.”
Megan squawked over the radio, “Everyone good?”
Deborah answered back, “All good,” she glanced around the trailer, “You were right, looks like they clear most of this stuff out when they get home.”
“Anything we can use at all?”
Deborah snapped for Tommy’s attention and pointed under him, “You heard your mom, let’s start looking.”
Tommy’s face lit up a little bit, and he started looking under the bench where Deborah had pointed. She clicked the radio, “We’re looking now. Tommy will keep you updated.” She handed the radio to the boy, “Tommy, let her know what you find.”
Tommy managed a smile as he took the radio, “Hi mom!”
“Hi baby! What do you see?”
Deborah sat down across from Tommy and watched him point out the supplies he described to Megan. A first aid kit, fire extinguisher and a basic survival kit were stowed together in a compartment. The rest of the bench was cleared out except for a few metal legs.
Tommy asked, “Can I open these?”
Deborah and Megan both told him not to. Tommy put everything back and pulled out a similar drawer beside Deborah. He found a tire iron he could barely lift and spare solar globes. He walked the length of the trailer, making sure there were no more drawers.
Searching the empty gun racks along the walls, Deborah wished she had raided a weapon locker before leaving the manor. She remembered a team of snipers taking down a small nest of vamps in one collective shot. If they really want me dead, all they’ll need is one of those special bullets, and the right shot.
Another reason Deborah had held onto Megan’s family was the hope that the manor cared about hostages. She watched the wide eyed Tommy search the empty trailer. They’ll want the children alive for sure. Raised cattle is easier than taming bulls.
Neal Hamilton stood with his hands behind his back, examining the multitude of monitors filling the small room. There was a dim blue light above, but the camera feeds on the wall were the primary sources of light. Some cameras were black and white, normal, night vision, thermal cameras. Most of the feeds were stationary, while a select few were fast moving, aerial units.
The two operators sitting in front of him clicked away at their keyboards. Olivia on the right said, “Drone thirty-three has movement.”
Neal replied, “Main screen.”
The central, most prominent screen was switched to an aerial camera. Olivia said, “Moving in.” The drone’s black and white camera looked straight down into the steep hills. It veered downward to catch the movement of a truck with a trailer labeled with the number ‘one’ along the top.
Neal asked, “Is the truck still on our channel?”
The other operator, Harold, checked a monitor on his side, “No sir, they’ve switched to one zero one point one.”
Neal nodded, “Put me on all general coms.” He waited for a thumbs up from Harold, “Attention all parties bound for Truck One retrieval. We have a drone on said vehicle, and are currently tracking its path out of the hills. Standby for details.”
Deborah was holding another radio with an earbud in place. She hadn’t switched the channel after turning it on. She didn’t know what a drone was, but Deborah had heard the professional confidence in Neal’s voice.
She scanned the giant empty trailer. The benches and gun racks were bolted down. The wires connecting the lights were exposed, running towards the truck. Deborah stood up and followed them, not finding anything else she could turn into a weapon.
At the far wall, the wire went outside. There was also a metal link on the ceiling which Deborah had been chained to before. No chain this time.
Irritated, Deborah walked back to the other side. She pulled out the drawers and went through them once more. Not satisfied, she removed her tactical vest and went through all the pockets she could find. All she found were nutrition bricks, electrolyte patches, water filter sponges, zip ties, rubber tourniquets, needles and a topographical map.
Deborah’s eyes widened. She scanned the peaks, ridges and canyons. Visualizing the formations from different angles wasn’t easy, but with a full spread, there was a lot of desert to cover. She had used a few old maps growing up, and the scouts in Anthill had worked hard to make accurate maps for each other.
Unlike the loose, unreliable recycled paper Anthill had been using, the map from Wayne Manor was printed on a glossy, old-world quality plastic. How accurate could this be? She checked a corner with the scale key with some more writing: Jaha 12, 723. Below that, Deborah read: Earth Date- April 3, 5288.
She at least knew the year was 723, and she thought she recognized a few landmarks. Deborah stared at every folded section of the map until she could visualize the terrain from the truck’s perspective.
Deborah scratched her head. Earth?