The Foundling Saga: Revelation (14 page)

BOOK: The Foundling Saga: Revelation
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Having stumbled along the forest floor for an hour, it was a welcome change to be able to walk along the path left by the Stink. Despite his fatigue, the flora and fauna of Rayleigh was starting to interest him and provided a little distraction to his other worries, great though they were. He noticed that some smaller paths led off from the main narrow path and he could see that some of these stopped abruptly at a burrow. The so-called Stink had a size that he suspected fell between hare and badger from the size of the burrow. The entrances to the burrows were carpeted with cracked tubenuts, presumably discarded by the Stink after they had fed on the soft internal nuts.

Keller spoke with Ash for a while as they were walking on the easier path. He asked him about the forest workers that Ash had mentioned earlier. Ash told him they tended to work the forests nearer Plymouth Rock or near other main settlements, particularly those near the rivers or the sea. It simply reduced the effort required for transport. They had plenty of forests, just not enough people working them - so they could pick and choose where they worked. Some of the main forests on the north of New Fiji were mostly trees similar to pine. They grew fast, had soft wood and their resin was harvested and distilled to provide a valuable source of turpentine. This was useful in solvents, paint, cleaning products, medicinal purposes and so forth including the creation of synthetic camphor. The products arising from turpentine were one of the many exports sent as freight to the New Exeter hub and onwards to other worlds where cultivation of forests wasn’t an option.

The settlement they were heading for (they had a choice of several), was on a river and was solely a forestry outpost for both the Lambda and Theta trees. Named after ancient Greek alphabet letters, the Lambda was a pine-like tree and Theta was an extreme hardwood tree. Theta was slow growing but very successful on some parts of Rayleigh particularly on the western and northern parts of Khatru. New Fiji, on its’ own though, had enough to sustain the industry using the current resources available for harvesting this wood.

The four of them eventually came to a river with hills either side. Over a period of time, rocks had fallen into the river creating a white-water effect in places. Generally though, it wasn’t fast flowing. They were able to cross several times, back and forth as they moved on, just in case their tracks were found.

They stopped to eat up the slope from the river. Sitting under a rock promontory gave some feeling of security with good visibility downriver. Keller was suffering - he was weary and his feet were sore due to lightweight shoes. Tane had fared just as badly.

It was dark by the time they had food ready. Ash set up his viewer displaying a small amount of light towards them whilst they ate. The energy pack inside would last at least three weeks he said, so there was no problem using some of this energy to generate light. It didn’t, however, generate heat so they needed to get into their night gear which would protect against the cold. The night gear, which included a light nightbag for sleeping in, was treated so that it would deter insects, In particular it would deter the ant-like creatures that would find you if stayed still too long and would either sting if they thought you were a threat, or bite if they thought you were food - so Ash had told him.

Ash then used his viewer to send a communication to Government House. The elected officials had gathered there to work towards regaining control of the security of Rayleigh. He had agreed to send a series of notes to the Governor’s office to alert them that they were well - six separate musical notes. When they reached somewhere safe for pick up, he would then send a different signal - only switching to voice or text messages when their rescue was imminent. They had agreed to avoid any other signal in case there were any comms engineers intercepting these and keeping Kurk and his renegades informed.

Keller and Tane had settled first, falling asleep quickly beside a low rock that provided wind protection. Bula settled soon after. Ash had told them that he would continue to listen to the sounds of the forest until he was satisfied that there was no sound of human activity. As Keller started to doze off, all he could hear was the night-time sounds of insects clicking, the fading bird sound and the breeze. Keller fell asleep knowing that progress through the forest would be very difficult in the dark for any pursuers.

The Pursuit

Keller woke to find Tane leaning on him with her hand over his mouth. “Don’t move! Lie still!” she whispered, holding his gaze. She was still in her nightbag and had pinned him down. It was light. He heard a buzzing noise above them. “Heli,” she whispered.

Keller shifted his eyes to the right and saw Bula and Ash, both out of their night gear and pressed back against the rock for cover, looking tense.

The buzzing passed. Tane took her hand away from his mouth and rolled off him. “Stay still for a minute,” she commanded. Tane looked over at Ash. He nodded and seemed to relax.

Tane got up and out of her nightbag. Keller did too. “Get your packs ready,” Bula told them.

Ash came over then explaining that this was the second pass of the heli, the first being on the other side of the valley. “The heli was above us and our location under the rock meant that they shouldn’t have been able to detect anything. The nightbags also prevent heat loss, so even if you had been detected, you would have appeared too small a heat source.” He continued. “It’s a fairly wide sweep. If they don’t know we are here then they should be sweeping further afield on their next pass. However, we should get going away from this spot, as we can’t be certain. If there are any trackers on foot then they will gain on us. Let’s wait about 20 minutes. We can get some food and drink and then leave.” He look up at the sky intently. “The heli was travelling at an angle from us on both runs that seem to be parallel with each other. In which case we need to change direction slightly east, otherwise we are likely to walk across their next search path.”

Keller was grateful that Ash had been alert. He didn’t know what was likely to happen if they were located by the renegades but he didn’t want to find out. As he ate breakfast, he spoke with Tane. “Do you know how to use that viewer,” he asked her, indicating Ash who was again studying it.

“It’s called a slate. Apparently, the original ten commandments were written on slate or rock,” she said. “Hence the name. Yes, I can use it but it has many functions, levels and applications and it may take time for me to find every useful function on there. It’s a bit of a skill to navigate it quickly. Why do you ask?”

“I just realised this morning how much we rely on Ash,” Keller said.

“You two, let’s go.” They were interrupted by Bula who was already putting his backpack on.

They headed down towards the river again and followed its path for about 100 metres before heading in an easterly direction.

“Has the plan changed?” asked Keller, looking back over his shoulder at Ash who seemed to be immersed in thought.

“Not really. The heli will no doubt expand its search, which means I don’t expect it back soon but it does mean we need to walk a bit further to come around the top of the settlement we were aiming for. We’re aiming for a settlement called Norske by the way.”

“Is it all through the forests now?”

“No, it’s away from the river but we will be going through another long valley once we have gone over this hill. It will take us down into a rocky area where you won’t find many trees. Different terrain - not easy; but we just have to look ahead and aim for what we can see and not worry about the journey too much.”

They did find more of the animal paths to follow here and there, but the heli had slowed them down by necessitating a diversion and now their spirits were subdued.

They continued to walk until a shortnight break. These two hours of darkness they spent beside a large rock, just resting in their nightbags - Keller and Bula both managing a short sleep whilst the other two quietly talked.

Tane later told Keller that Ash knew her mother, who had been head nurse at the Plymouth Rock medical centre. “Small worlds,” she remarked, “but then ours is smaller than your world,” she added, which brought a smile to his face. The conversation also reminded Keller of home and he pondered about his family. They would probably have difficulty in grasping what he had gone through so far.

Before they set off again, Bula took out a heating pack - a mini stove. He made some tea from the fresh leaves of a shrub growing near the rock. It was the first hot ‘anything’ that Keller had eaten or drunk for a while. It smelt like parsley and was surprisingly refreshing. “As good as the ancient grog,” Bula had said. This little interlude seem to raise the spirits of all four. Though Ash kept giving backward glances at the trail, he also appeared invigorated when they set off again.

“Not far until we exit this part of the forest,” he said. They were back on the forest carpet, as they called it, and Tane was now walking alongside Keller, whilst Bula and Ash followed in deep conversation.

“For someone so soon out of deep sleep, you are keeping up well,” Tane said.

“Maybe I can just hide the grimaces well,” he smiled. “My feet are in a state, though, as if, they have walked through stinging nettles!”

“Stinging nettles?” she enquired, looking puzzled.

Keller was about to answer when he heard a
whoosh
. There was a cry and then another
whoosh
. Splinters rained down on him and he was suddenly disoriented. He felt someone take hold of him and push him “Run! This way, run!” He stumbled forward, aware of Tane doing the same ahead of him. Bula passed him, taking hold of Tane’s arm and pulling her forward. He could see blood on the back of Bula’s head and Tane looked shocked but was managing to keep her footing. Ash was still next to him, urging him on. He heard another
whoosh
and more splinters flying through the air. His face stung and he was aware he was going to lose his step if he didn’t start looking down instead of around him.

“Keep going! The trees are hampering their aim!” shouted Ash.

Keller still hadn’t looked back. Ash’s shouting had spurred them on and they careered through the forest. Clump of rocks were appearing ahead and they ran for the safety of these when Ash shouted at them to stop and take cover.

They threw themselves down. Ash immediately got up to look back. Satisfying himself that their attackers were some way off, he took out his slate and started working intently. Bula had his pack off and was throwing some items out to get to something at the bottom. He pulled out a handheld triggered operated weapon and looked over the rock cautiously. “No sight of them,” he said, then ducked down to re-pack his bag. He then did the same with Ash’s.

Bula looked over the rock again and cursed. “They are some way off. Luckily we had too many trees between them and us. Those were lethal weapons, Ash. Lethal! They are off-plan surely.”

“I don’t know! Kurk may have fired up some people who aren’t easily contained. Or he may be at a point where he doesn’t care. I don’t know. Check the flanks left and right, see if you can see anything.”

“Nothing,” said Bula. He dropped down again and calmed a little. “You two okay?” he asked, looking at Tane and Keller, who were trying to get their breath back.

“Bula? You’re bleeding too!” Tane said and moved over to him. She was limping. He looked at her leg with some concern. “It’s okay, I just stepped on something,” she said, grimacing.

Tane took a small pack out of the side of her backpack and wiped the area on the back of Bula’s head gently, but he grimaced anyway. “You have a bit of a large splinter just sticking out here,” she said, gently touching the side of his head. He reached up and gingerly felt around. Tane pulled out a piece of chipped wood about the size of a front tooth that had embedded itself on the edge of his scalp. “Ouch!” he said.

“Your ear is bleeding too,” said Tane who treated both wounds. “Nothing serious, though.”

“A weapon was fired at us but they hit the ground short and it threw up wood and splinters. It was some way behind us.” Ash said, looking up briefly from his slate.

Tane went over to Ash. “I’m fine,” he said.

“A nice welcome you have had to Rayleigh,” she said grimly to Keller, as she went over to see if he was okay.

“I’m fine,” Keller said. He was now studying the forest to see if he could see any movement. “Do we have any of those?” He asked Bula, pointing at the two handheld weapons.

“I do, but you don’t. They are stun pistols. I don’t like them, in a few cases they have led to fatalities. Once hit you can’t always avoid what you fall on as you have no control. Generally, in extreme cases, they are effective. I think this might become an extreme case. If you need to use them then they are fairly simple to use. Unlock, Point, Squeeze, and Stun.”

Tane, at Keller’s prompting unpacked her own stun pistol.

“Friends, I won’t be a minute. I am trying to send a coded message off, and then we will leave and seek some other route out,” Ash said.

“There’s no sign of anyone, Ash,” said Bula, “they may have fired and ducked down. They probably aren’t sure if any of us are injured given the cloud of wood and leaves. Unless, of course, they were deliberately firing short?”

Tane sat with Keller. She showed him how to unlock and fire the stun pistol. “Don’t point this at anyone unless you are intending to disable them temporarily and willing to deal with their wrath when they recover. Keep it locked and pointed downwards. When you unlock it, you should still keep it down until you need to fire. It needs a good squeeze on the trigger when you are ready to use it - a good, strong squeeze.”

Bula came over to the rock they were sheltering behind. “Tane, Ash wants to show you the comms protocol. You may need to send and receive a message if we split up. Go, quickly, we need to get moving. Keller, come with me,” he said moving towards the rock that was overlooking the area they had run from.

“These are my binos, you can adjust them using this slider here. Just look through these down towards where we came from and either side. See if you can see any movement at all while we get ready. I can’t see anything. Ash has used his heat and sound sensor and nothing is showing, but that can be thwarted if they are wearing the right clothing and keeping quiet.”

Keller looked through the binos and moved the slider backwards and forwards, occasionally taking his eye off of it to get a better judge of the area he was looking at.

It was fairly straightforward and he had searched the area for 10 minutes or so when he was tapped on the shoulder by Bula again, who had his backpack on. He took the binos and put them in Keller’s side pocket. “Take care of them,” he said, “Let’s go,” and he pointed in the direction they had originally been heading, beyond the rocks and towards the next valley.

Ash waited behind them, looking back towards their invisible adversaries. “Bula, take them to the next clump of rocks up there.” He pointed towards a group of larger rocks ahead. “Now!”

Bula ushered Tane and Keller forward towards the next clump of rocks. Tane kept up with Keller despite the slight limp that she now had. Keller was a little concerned about her as he could see the side of her shoe was red with blood, although it didn’t seem to be spreading.

They dropped behind the rocks and waited tensely. Ash suddenly came around the corner and dropped down next to them. He looked angry. “Okay, so far,” he said looking at Bula. “You two okay?” he asked of Keller and Tane. They both nodded. Keller was getting a headache, presumably the tension he thought. He rubbed his temple.

“Okay, next group of rocks. Same thing.” He looked over the rock he was leaning against.

Bula led the way again. They waited behind the rock for Ash.

Whoosh.
Another cloud of splintered wood and dust covered them. Bula looked over the rock. He dropped quickly, looking momentarily stricken. He then recovered and looked at Tane and Keller. “Ash.” He said looking suddenly pale. “He’s not moving.” He looked over the rock again, then he pulled off his backpack. He crawled to the side of the rock and rolled over another rock. Then he crawled forward towards Ash.

Tane and Keller remained still. Tane told Keller not to budge. She looked as frightened as he felt.

Bula returned carrying the slate. “He’s hurt, but he’s alive and conscious. He’s going to need medical attention there is no immediate danger to his life. That was lethal force again!” Bula was almost in a rage.

“What injuries has he got?” Tane asked.

“I’m not a doctor! He’s slurring his words and has cuts to his face and he’s lying prone. One of his legs has a lot of blood on it. I can’t see anyone, I don’t know where they are but if I get to them they are in for a whole lot of trouble.”

“Calm down, Bula. Think!” urged Tane. “He may have concussion,” she paused, “he was right though, we have to keep moving.”

She took the slate off Bula. They know we are here. So there is no point in coding any message. “I’ll request a mediheli. They will pick up the request as well and at least Ash can be treated.”

“We hope,” said Bula, still seething.

Tane sent the message. Bula looked over the rock and shouted towards Ash. “Medics are on the way Ash. Stay where you are.”

They heard an angry “Go!” from Ash, which was some relief to them. Then they agreed to set off, one at a time towards the next set of rocks which straddled the hill towards the next valley.

Keller was sent first. Despite his tiredness, he was now angry and he seemed to acquire a second wind. He sprinted for the next rocks, darting to and fro. He edged forward and looked over the valley, just as Tane came over the rocks too. There were buildings in the distance, mainly domed, although some had straight sloped roofs.

BOOK: The Foundling Saga: Revelation
4.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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