Gian found himself still smiling after five hours. The sun was nearing noon, illuminating the orange desert with its unyielding rays. Deep black coloring had enveloped Gian’s cockpit window. Even with the glass shader dulling the outside world, Gian was grinning because he was safely out in the daylight for the first time in over three thousand years.
The white buggy with a black windshield drifted effortlessly over the orange, sandy plain. In his side mirrors, Gian saw the truck and trailer slowly fall far behind. The pickup stayed ahead of it, but failed to match pace with Gian and the other three newly acquired buggies.
Keeping at his current westward heading, the sun had finally stopped obscuring Gian’s vision. He smirked, thinking about how he had actually enjoyed looking at the sun all morning. With a clear horizon, the convoy sped up along the ridge to the north.
According to their drone and spotty satellite coverage, when Gian and the convoy reached the end of the rock ridge, Deborah’s truck would only be a few kilometers out. Should I kill her if the good doctor doesn’t find anything useful in her blood?
Seeing Deborah the other day had reminded Gian of someone from a long time ago. Hearing her crass vocabulary and full-hearted threats had made the memory even clearer. Gian didn’t expect to have a hard time killing her, though he knew that would stop his current trend of remembrance. Gian would rather be lost in old memories than the present, but he had lives depending on him.
The ridge began to slope down to the subtle dunes ahead of the caravan. Another distant memory tugged at Gian as the buggy rocked back and forth in every direction, I miss flat, even pavement. Texas always had nice roads.
Gian led the convoy for another thirteen minutes before the sloping ridge disappeared into the orange sand. He tapped a screen to the left of the steering wheel to turn it on and cycled to the turret application. Sturdy mechanical and plastic gears shifted, summoning the single barrel from out of its compartment in the back of the buggy.
A simple green crosshair illuminated on the windshield and a joystick curled out from under the tablet screen. Gian moved the stick left, right, up, and down. The crosshair was perfectly in sync, though he couldn’t aim too far down.
Olivia’s smooth voice poured over the radio, “Trouble Gian?”
He held a button on the steering wheel, “No problem, just warming up.”
“Copy,” she went off the air for a brief moment, “Okay Gian, we want you to detach from the convoy and flank in from these coordinates.”
Gian glanced to his screen where Olivia had brought up a satellite map. Deborah’s truck wasn’t far ahead, and his new path was marked to come in at her blind spot. He responded, “You know she’ll have the human driving in daylight, right? This woman won’t see our new cars as friendlies.”
Neal’s stern voice answered, “I doubt Deborah would trust them either. You have the best gun to take her out while she’s distracted by the others.” He dryly added, “Thanks for that tactical advice though.”
Gian veered right to follow his new course. Fuck you. He watched the rest of the buggies stay on course. No body slowed down. Their combined dust trail would easily be seen by Deborah and Megan, possibly forcing them to change their heading. We’re in no man’s land. It won’t matter where they turn, even if they know where they’re going.
Within another few minutes, Gian could see a small dust trail on the hilly, heat-blasted horizon. Gian glanced out to his left to see his people ramping over the small dunes without slowing down. The vehicles seem to be in great shape. Must have a hell of a mechanic.
Gian squinted through his ultra-tinted windshield. The subtle dust cloud shifted.
Olivia announced through the radio, “Attention all units, truck number one has changed course. Coming right you convoy.”
Gian focused back to the horizon. The beige truck and trailer ahead were finally visible, and approaching quickly. Gian smirked. Whoever was driving had to have seen the caravan’s dust trail by now. All right ladies. Are you being stupid or brave?
Smugly, Gian asked, “Olivia, how shall I adjust my heading?”
Neal’s voice calmly answered, “If the red eye is driving, take her out. If it’s Megan, I want someone to give her a radio set to ninety-eight point one.”
Gian noticed the other buggies spread apart, most likely trying to match the truck’s pace with wide U-turns. He corrected his course to drive straight for the cab. I hope you’re driving Megan. I’d probably lose a game of chicken with Deborah.
Green crosshairs centered onto the approaching driver’s windshield. The truck was quickly closing the sizable gap. Gian stayed on track, watching the other vehicle plow through the small dunes that rocked his slim buggy. Come on.
He flicked the joystick to zoom into the crosshair. A wild haired woman slowly took shape in the truck cab. The tint made the colors difficult to make out, but Gian quickly realized that Deborah’s platinum blonde hair would stick out.
Gian zoomed out and cut a hard right. The truck blew past Gian in a blur, a little closer than he cared for. He turned around in time to match pace with the other three buggies. Truck One was building its own small dust trail. Gian cocked his head to the side.
Deborah had opened the trailer’s gate, head to toe in a guard’s tactical uniform. Gian laughed to himself, completely unfiltered. The truck was driving towards the afternoon sun, leaving the back of the truck out of the daylight. He also loved how the pursuit vehicles would have a harder time dealing with Deborah as the sun would be directly in their eyes. Clever girl.
The more Gian got to know Deborah, the more she reminded him of Eliza.
Deborah waved to someone inside the trailer with her. Megan’s toddler, Tommy, pointed a fire extinguisher at an approaching buggy. Gian found himself still smiling. This should be good.
The buggy passenger had been leaning out of her open window with an assault rifle. When the child emerged, the shooter seemed to curse before sitting back inside. Then Tommy unleashed a torrent of thick white fog.
With maybe a car’s length between the trailer and buggy, Gian was impressed with Deborah’s strength. The woman had launched a length of the trailer’s bench like a giant’s javelin, straight into the buggy’s windshield.
Gian pounded his foot into the accelerator before the other buggy rammed into him. He watched the presumably dead or injured driver wildly streak across the desert in the rearview camera. Gian clicked the radio on, “One down.”
Neal didn’t hide his frustration very well, “Take the fucking shot Gian!”
“Sir, yes sir.” I love it when he can’t handle his shit.
Gian got back on the joystick, and zoomed the crosshair at Deborah’s head. He slid his finger over the trigger. Sorry doll. Keeping you alive means I’m exiled.
Deborah looked at Gian.
Eliza’s voice echoed in the back of his mind. “I’ll always be with you.”
Deborah was knocked out of the crosshair. Gian shook himself and zoomed out. One of the other hunters was leaning out of his passenger window, aiming at Deborah. Gian heard the man over the radio, “Red eye is down. I think I got a headshot, but I’m not packin’ silver.”
Gian remembered holding Eliza on her hospital bed. He had wanted to turn her so badly, but she had always refused. She had been so beautiful, even with the cancer treatments.
Deborah didn’t want to turn either.
Gian moved the crosshair to the shooter. BAM! He heard Eliza’s heart monitor slow a beat.
The driver flinched and looked at the crosshair with her mouth agape. Gian pulled the trigger. BAM! Eliza had held Gian’s hand and cheek.
Neal screamed through the radio, “Gian! What the fuck are you doing?!”
The second buggy aimlessly sped off into the plains.
Gian watched Deborah struggle to pull herself up. Automatic gunfire peppered over Gian’s windshield, dividing his attention. Probably aiming for my turret. Gian pounded the brake and lined up his shot. He lined up another shot behind the driver’s headrest.
BAM! The heart monitor’s blip slowed again.
Neal continued, “You’re killing your own people!”
Gian clicked the radio off before he heard another word.
Steering through the thick dust trail, Gian crossed behind the other vehicle and came up along the passenger side. The gunner leaned out to the back, but Gian fired first.
BAM! Eliza had died with a smile. She had told Gian before, “If you bring me back from death, you’ll never see me happy.”
Gian sped ahead of the buggy to the rear of the trailer. He could see Deborah pointing a shotgun at his windshield. He tapped his screen until the turret disengaged and disappeared back into its housing. There wasn’t enough shade from the trailer to conceal him, but he also dropped the window’s tint.
Deborah kept the shotgun trained on him, but lowered it to hip level. The buggy was sound proof, so he just awkwardly waved with a cringed smile. What am I doing? I probably look like a psychopath.
The red eyed woman seemed to study him. She finally let the shotgun dangle and halfheartedly waved back. Gian felt the sun’s rays beating through the glass. He reached to his belt and held up his walkie talkie to the glass.
Deborah reached behind her back and held hers in the air as well. Gian laid the radio on his lap and steered with his knee to hold up his fingers to signal the frequency ninety-six point one. Deborah shook her head and signaled back: one zero one point one.
Gian tuned his radio and talked, “I want to help you.”
Deborah held her radio up, yelling over the rushing wind and sand, “Why?”
“So you can help me, and others.”
“Why now? You could’ve gotten me out of that prison before this.”
“That was before I realized how magnificent you were. Now would you mind if I turn my shader back on? The sun isn’t particularly kind to me either.”
Megan interrupted, “Gian? What the hell’s going on?”
Deborah answered, “He just shot down three pursuit vehicles for us… Go ahead and do your shade thing Gian.”
Gian waved again before tinting the glass. His black clothes were specifically resistant to ultraviolet lighting, but it still wasn’t comfortable, and he had left his hat in the trunk. The small cockpit still felt warm without the sun, but he could deal with it.
Deborah continued, “How many more are there?”
“Another truck like yours and a pickup ahead. Some of your people are in that trailer.”
“How many blue eyes?”
“Twelve. Two humans in the cab, two more in the back. They also have four prisoners. Do you know a scrawny young man by the name of James?”
He saw Deborah freeze and stare blankly. The woman’s shoulders seemed to slump before she gathered herself. “Does he have permanent bed-head and green eyes?”
Gian couldn’t help but smile for her, “That’s the one.”
“Holy shit, I was so… Who are the other three? Tsara? Did you hear that name?”
“Sorry, Tate only seemed to know James. No one else is being very forthcoming.”
“I’ll fill you in later, but he’s one of them now, and he’s in the trailer as well. This may sound inappropriate, but I recommend we change course. They have more vampires than humans, and they’ll gain the same advantages you had against your pursuers.”
“How do you know they’ll follow?”
“We’ve never had anyone escape this far before, and it will be a long journey to make them stop.”
“I won’t leave my people like this.”
“If they don’t follow, I’ll lead the charge backwards to them. You have my word.”
Deborah stared at him. “I don’t suppose you feel like tracking those buggies down again. I could really use an assault rifle over this shotgun.”
“Oh sure. How about a helicopter as well?”
Deborah cocked her head at him.
“I apologize. I rarely use sarcasm… Not to worry! My turret will suffice, as you’ve seen.”
Deborah stared again, apparently deep in thought. She finally conceded, “Where should we change course?”
“To the south.” Gian veered right to lead Megan.