We had ditched the truck and our armor almost immediately. No use running if the military could track us through our equipment.
It seemed like we had been running for weeks, but since there was no day or night I couldn’t be sure. The only thing resembling a nocturnal cycle was the Bardo and it was totally random. Sometimes one Bardo would clear only to be followed by another immediately. At other times I would have to stop and sleep three times before seeing another.
That was another odd thing; Ascheya didn’t sleep. She would just laugh at me and explain how sleeping was just another chance to die. And she was right. I lost track of how many times we got attacked while I was asleep.
We didn’t talk much during our cross country trek, but she seemed to know where we were going. Which was fine, I had to do some soul-searching. Should I just turn her in? Could I take my court martial and then go back to a normal life?
“Well, here we are. Oasis,” declared Ascheya as we rounded a corner in one of the many gorges we had gone through.
Ahead of us were the burned out husks of several buildings. Based on the scarred ground, I would have to assume that …
“Biocorp hit this place with an air strike,” she explained, stopping by a pile of rubble. Bending over, she dusted off what looked like the remnants of a neon sign.
“It doesn’t look like much of an Oasis,” I said, looking at the skeleton of a larger building at the end of the gorge.
Tossing a piece of broken glass to the side, Ascheya stood up and dusted her clawed hands off on her legs, “It’s not the kind you’re thinking of,” she said, smiling.
I waited for an explanation, but she seemed fine with leaving me hanging. Stepping gingerly over some more rubble, she tip-toed toward the main building.
“You gonna explain why you call this Oasis then?” I asked, stumbling after her.
“Huh?” she stopped and turned her head slightly toward me, “Oh, yeah. You know how you can’t read written text here on Charon? How things seem to move around?”
“Yeah,” I grunted, stopping next to the dark woman.
“They don’t here. It’s like a little oasis in the middle of the insanity of this world. Plus the monsters didn’t ever come in here,” she said distractedly. Something had caught her attention, something I couldn’t see or hear yet.
“And we’re here why?” I asked. I looked up at the rolling, infected sky. Like so much rotten meat, it twisted and rolled as if filled with massive maggots.
She turned her head as if she was trying to catch a subtle sound, “This is where the news report happened. The Biocorp hunter/killers used this place as a safe haven when they knew Biocorp was coming after them.”
Ascheya held her hand up, “Something’s … not right.”
“Tell me about it,” I groaned, rolling my eyes. There was plenty that wasn’t right. “So about that weapon?”
“Smell that?” she sniffed at the air like a dog.
Why did she always do that? I didn’t have her senses. I wasn’t as fast as she was. I wasn’t as strong as she was. Why did she feel the need to include me?
“You don’t?” she turned around and looked at me.
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. Of course I didn’t.
Turning to me she sighed, “Look, I appreciate you getting me off base and trying to get me a new identity and everything, but you’re dead weight out here. If you’re going to get all butthurt because you aren’t me, we can part ways now.”
Ascheya stepped close to me, looking me in the eye. I watched the violet sclera of her eyes grow thinner … her eyes were dilating as she studied me. The scalpel of her perception was slicing off a little piece of my soul.
“You’ll be dead before you get out of this gorge Jack … or worse,” she said flatly. I didn’t think it was possible for her subtle, seductive voice to sound so uncaring.
“Take your pick Jack,” she said and continued her walk to the main structure.
Dead. Was that what I wanted?
Not sure about the answer, I followed her into the devastated building. Picking through the rubble, I was able to tell it had once been a hotel. The front desk was still there and the walls collapsed, but most of the first floor seemed basically safe.
“You know where we’re going?” I asked.
Tapping her nose with a long, ivory claw, my guide sneered, “Just following my nose.”
Pushing through some collapsed woodwork, she found an opening to what appeared to be a basement. Skipping down the concrete steps, she found a door.
Following her I pointed to the bottom of the door, “Light,” I whispered.
Nodding her acknowledgement, Ascheya pushed open the door slowly and peeked inside. Seemingly convinced it was safe, she entered and I followed her.
Someone was living in the basement! There was a bedroll on the floor and a glowing lamp next to it. There were cans of food and other supplies in one corner and a collection of bladed weaponry and exotic armor piled up in the other corner.
I knelt next the bedroll and lifted up a corner, “Who would live in this place …?”
Ascheya’s blades flew off her belt and she snapped around to the door, ready for a fight. In the doorway was the shadow of big man, a very big man. Probably two inches taller than Ascheya with long hair and a broad build, the man was dragging a sword with him and appeared to be wearing military armor.
“Draghixa?” I heard him whisper in a raspy voice.
“Well,” Ascheya lowered her weapons, “If it isn’t the legendary Jacob.”
For those unfamiliar with Jacob, he appears in “The Seraphim Protocol” and I’ve mentioned him in several posts. Here’s one example http://wp.me/p2yGIy-1b