You don’t have time, you know that. And every minute you spend in the territory of the Hyena is an extra minute in which you risk being discovered. Tell it to Beth and the others, and everyone agrees. It’s the best option for Brandy, who would not be able to handle a fight.
Rest the minimum you need and grumble the latest rations before recharging everything back and forth for the last stretch of the trip. In the surrounding area of Hyenas there is no trace: perhaps they have given up, perhaps they are still busy with that revolt of slaves that Saul had caused. Saul … when you remind the initiate of Iris, your heart shakes. He and Dommie will never see Rad City, and this will push you to get there as soon as possible, even for them.
The first part of the trip is quiet: you take Lance and Beth loads her companion after having tied to herself to make sure she doesn’t fall. A solution that will be really terrible in the event of clashes, but the landseeker has been unmovable: she will not run the risk of dropping her.
Cross the last trees, coming out of the woods to cross what looks like a huge dump: scrap of machines, plates and thousands of objects of which ignore the utility, all left in the sun for a burial of rust and dust. You can think about just two things: that is all that remains of those who can’t reach Rad City, and that these scrap stacks would be perfect for an ambush.
With your tremendous annoyance, you have been easy prophets: not even halfway you listen to the now familiar noise of engines behind you: the hyenas have found you, or most likely preceded you to thrust you into an ambush, real jackals. It counts about twenty, probably all those in the area. It’s clear that it is now a personal matter.
Accelerate: A clash is not even remotely an option, but an escape is not impossible. Lance turns around and with his crossfire piercing the helmet of one of the hyenas, licking the viewer and sending him crashing against another companion. The confusion gives you a few seconds ahead. Maybe you will do it. Maybe.
It takes five minutes to understand that’s not the case. They are too many, and you have already consumed virtually all the gas. You are dead, just too stupid to accept it. Ah, fuck: if you have to die, you will take some with you. You must avenge Saul, you must protect Brandy, you have to show Beth and Lance that they have not been wrong to trust you. You will be covered by the corpses of the hyenas. Bring your tube and whisper a prayer to Santa Curie, like the priest who saved your life. After all, it’s not bad to believe in something.
But apparently Gamma Paradiso will have to wait: suddenly, most of the Hyena Children stops, almost nails falling to the ground to break down. Only three bikes continue, the ones closest to you. Open wide your eyes as you turn back, and you understand the gesture only when you look back again, now you see it. Clear, in front of you. Metal paint, a huge sign in the middle of it, surrounded by skulls, bones and electric wires.
WELCOME TO RAD CITY.
You did it. You have reached it, damned! This … this is Rad City! So, hyenas can’t get in … but then why do some follow you up yet? You know very well, in fact: an infraction is not so long as it is not discovered, and those bastards are convinced that they will be quietly free. Five minutes of endlessness in exchange for a sweet revenge, who will ever know it?
But if this was the plan for the hyenas, then they would be definitely disillusioned. Suddenly, the mute sound of a siren overwhelms the roar of the engines, definitely designed to play the crossing of the sign. Another bike gets convinced and goes back, but the last two continue pursuit, too close to stop now. It’s their last mistake.
A series of shocker gunshot overwhelms the trackers, sending their bikes to crash on the ground. From behind sturdy sheet metal walls, you see them coming out, protected by their black armor and their face covered with white gas masks. There are precise and certain movements, the symbols of black crosses in the red field well visible in the early lights of dawn. They know perfectly what they are doing: They advance each other, three for each shot, without ever lowering their advanced Shocker. Two of them point you to stop, and instantly obey, be sure that a rejection would follow a punishment that would end your race anyway, but in a much more painful way.
One of them puts the shocker down and approaching you, removing the mask. See blue eyes and short brown hair adorn a young face, little more than twenty, but already covered with scars. Get a hint of something that should be a smile.
-Good day to you. You have nothing to fear. Now you are under the protection of the Trauma Korps.
Trauma Korps. How many times have your comrades talked about these legendary soldiers, perfect men and machines to kill. You thought that they were all fairy tales but … now you know, now you see them. There are really. And if men like these protect Rad City, you understand why everyone wants to reach her so desperately.
The soldier doesn’t seem to give too much importance to your reaction, focusing instead on the fallen hyena.
The other traumas, efficient and quick, have made them stand up, make sure that they were alive and tied, kneeling, and with their arms behind their backs. A nod of the young man, who you have to understand, must be a kind of officer, and the others turn away.
-Hyenas, you know the covenant between us and you, and you have broken it, threatening the safety of these people. Nobody, I repeat, nobody can fight in Rad City territory without our permission. Did you understand?
Three of them yell yes.
– Very well. We will scour you back into your territory without hurt you. We don’t have interest in shedding healthy blood, and as you know at any time you can come back here and apply for Citizenship. All right?
Again, three yell and excite their assent and their thanks. One just looks up with hate in his eyes.
-Fuck you cunts! You think you know what, right? You are not better than us! One of these days the Starosta will organize and scatter you and that shit of the city!
In these words, his companions spread to the ground and apologize, but these words have offended the Trauma, they don’t want to show it.
-As you say. Now, will you come back peacefully or do we have to use strong manners?
– I’m not leaving, guard dog! You will have to kill me, pretty!
– Is that what you want, Hyena?
– You can bet the balls that …
Do not finish the sentence. The Trauma pulls out something… something legendary. The metal of the barrel shines shiny, and even if you have never seen one you know instantly what it is. A realweapon. That guy has a realweapon. The rebellious hyena loses all its baldness in a moment. Two eyes wide open on a gloomy face stare at the weapon while the insults and screams turn into a disgusting stutter.
– I … no, wait, I wanted … I was just …
The explosion of the bullet in the silence of Vastness is devastating. The world slows as you see the soldier’s finger pressing the trigger, glow flash like a lightning and the head of the Child Hyena explode, smacking his screams and terrified blood and brain companions. You’ve never seen anyone die so fast, and so … brutally. You ingrained the saliva and remained staring at the scene paralyzed. Never, in your violent life, you’ve never felt so helpless.
-Very well,- Trauma put back the realweapon in the holster, -I’m sure there will be no other incidents. Safe journey back.
The hyenas must be pulled up and rested on the bike before the trauma cut off their laces and let them restart. Fixed the problem, the officer comes back to you.
-Well, gentlemen. Again sorry for the hustle. It’s a pleasure for me to welcome you, but tell me … what brings you to Rad City?
An apparently simple question, but who can say what goes into the head of this war machine? Is there a right answer and a wrong answer? And what, what will you give?
TO THE NEXT CHAPTER