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Roberts Space Industries ®

Serialized Fiction

Short Stories

ID:

17945

Comments:

29

Date:

January 13th 2021

Sid & Cyrus (Part One)
By: Adam Wieser
Writer’s Note: Sid & Cyrus: Part One was published originally in Jump Point 5.5.

A high-pitched screech carried across the Falling Sky as the front door slid open. None of the regulars at this run-down watering hole noticed the noise or cared. Only Sidney looked up from her post behind the bar. Still as observant and energetic as most people half her age, Sid needed but a moment to scan the young man who entered before going back to work. She’d seen enough.

The kid sidled up to the bar and eyed Vinny, sitting a few stools down. Vinny took a deep drink and kept his eyes glued to the vidscreen. When the Crashers were playing, nothing was more important to him. Definitely not some nervous kid with a wild look in his eyes.

The kid leaned toward Sid, only to pause and glance Vinny’s way again. Once absolutely certain he wasn’t listening, he muttered, “Tomyris sent me.”

Tomyris was the leader of a burgeoning and ruthless outlaw pack calling themselves the Cadejo Crew. Sid knew Tomyris through reputation only, but if this kid thought otherwise, who was she to wreck his reality? So she smiled to put him at ease then replied, “How ’bout I buy you a drink?”

“Radegast, neat . . . wait, you got Ghosts?”

“Course.” Sid grabbed the bottle of Tevarin rye white whiskey and poured his drink. The kid took the moment to eye Vinny again. His nervousness was palpable.

“This is your first run, isn’t it?”

That returned the kid’s attention to her. She set the glass before him. “Don’t worry, you’re doing great.”

The kid gulped down the white whiskey and almost spit it back out as the burn hit his throat. To his credit, he managed to swallow.

“It’s just,” the kid said as he wiped his lips on the sleeve of his worn flight suit, “well, you know. It’s been a crazy day for me.”

Sid topped him off with a bottle of bootleg moonshine, certain after the initial burn he wouldn’t notice the difference.

“Tell me about it.”

“Well, it’s done.”

“It?”

“You know,” the kid leaned in even farther and lowered his voice ’till she could barely hear what he said next, “the convoy to Behistun.”

Sid’s stomach sank. Immanuelle. All she could manage in response was, “You’re sure it’s . . .”

“Yeah . . . I was there.” The kid killed his drink and glanced to the sataball game. Sid refilled his glass and resisted the urge to smash him over the head with the bottle.

“So, we good? They said you’ll handle phase two, right?” The kid asked. Sid forced a smile and nodded. The kid threw back the last shot and set down the glass. “Never did catch your name.”

“Devin.”

Sid mentally logged the name. Then said it aloud to imprint it in her mind one more time.

“You stay safe, Devin.”

The kid smiled and stumbled to the door, suddenly feeling the effect of the hooch. Sid disappeared into the office in the back of the bar. She found Talsa and said she was feeling sick. Talsa sighed sharply, then waved her off without further inquiry.

Seconds later, Sid slipped out the bar’s back door. She debated following Devin and learning what else he knew, but in the end decided against it. Right now she needed Cyrus. Quickening her pace, Sid headed home.

The constant hum of landing and launching ships filled the sky as Sid hurried through the streets of Reis. The city was abuzz with late afternoon activity, as residents rushed to complete errands before Nexus’ bluish-white sun sank over the city’s heavily fortified walls. Most avoided the streets after dark due to the surging crime rate, but Sid preferred it then. There were fewer people around to slow her down.

Sid rounded the corner occupied by Q&D Aeroservice, then merged with a scrum pushing their way through a particularly narrow part of the street. Causing the bottleneck were a cluster of shacks constructed from scrapped shipping containers. Inside lived refugees from outposts overrun by the Vucari. These survivors were the lucky ones.

The Vucari, one of Lago’s oldest outlaw packs, had grown back into power and prominence over the previous months. Led by the newly promoted Master Kraujas, they had become the biggest threat in the area once again, even overshadowing the recent nastiness that was the Cadejos. Methodically, the Vucari expanded their territory by overtaking civilian outposts. Anyone who resisted suffered from their cruelty. Anyone who relinquished all weapons and possessions was allowed to flee. Most ended up in Reis with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The crude shelters, like the ones Sid squeezed by now, were at least a step up from the broken pavement claimed by most poor souls who had to sleep on the streets.

She continued for a few blocks before ducking down an alley. The stench of Human waste slapped Sid in the face. The smell was new, a sign of worsening waste management within the city.

Sid held her breath, and carefully avoided the piles of trash and strange stains. An outbreak due to poor public sanitation was the last thing Lago needed. People were already on edge due to the housing shortage and shrinking food supplies. Sid knew that if Reis slipped any further, all civility would be shredded. She’d seen it before and she knew what would happen next.

The Vucari would take advantage of the discord and strike. Reclaiming Reis was the dream of every outlaw commander ever since the UEE forcibly reclaimed the planet in 2931. Master Kraujas knew such a conquest would establish his name in history. He also understood that civil instability was his greatest ally and that crumbling civility would only make taking the city easier.

Sid slowed at a tall fence made from corrugated metal, her eyes scanning to insure its integrity. She carefully followed the fence around the corner until it connected to the back of a two-story building. She proceeded to the front of the building and entered a rundown repair shop occupying the first floor.

A bell chimed as Sid opened the door. Behind the service counter, shelves of scrap collected dust. Sid ducked under the counter and crossed the threshold into the workroom of the shop.

Cyrus dozed in a battered chair behind a desk cluttered with mechanical parts and electronic components. Sid nudged her husband’s feet off the desk, startling him awake. A small drone fell from his lap to the floor.

Cyrus sat forward and took a second, his post-nap haze still not completely clear. Though Cyrus was still sharp and nimble, he was sometimes slow to action.

“What you doing back so early?” he asked while scooping up the dropped drone.

“What good is that bell if you don’t hear it?”

Cyrus waved off the reply as he scanned the drone for damage. He snagged a small screwdriver and made a few minor adjustments.

Sid took a deep breath, knowing this next moment might make everything she feared real. Cyrus sensed the pregnant pause and met her eyes.

“What’s wrong?”

“We need to check Immanuelle’s tracker.”

Cyrus took a moment to process the request before spinning in his chair and tossing the drone on his desk, all in one swift movement. He briskly typed at his terminal as spare parts rattled on his desk. He glanced up to see Sid pacing. Her shoulders hunched forward with anxiety, making her look every bit her age.

Seconds later, Cyrus began to launch a program he hadn’t opened in almost a year. It was a backdoor into the geolocation and biofeedback sensors in Immanuelle’s armor, a feature of which their daughter was not aware.

Cyrus added it after a Vucari raid had hit her convoy hauling food and first aid to settlements across Lago. She had spent a week in the hospital afterwards, one of the longest weeks of his life. Outlaws were growing more emboldened by the day, but Cyrus knew that wouldn’t stop Immanuelle. At her age, it wouldn’t have stopped him, either.

Conflicted over what he had done, Cyrus told Sid. In the ensuing argument, she both chastised and thanked him for doing it. The two agreed to access the armor’s information only if absolutely necessary. Immanuelle had been on numerous delivery runs on Lago’s contested planetside since, without incident. This was the first time they had felt compelled to check it.

Cyrus knew something was terribly wrong without even having to ask, but he couldn’t sit in silence not knowing for much longer. “What’d you hear at the bar?”

“Some kid came talking about an attack on a convoy to Behistun. He thought I was someone else, so I don’t know how much I can trust him . . .”

“. . . but . . .”

“He had that look in his eye.” She didn’t need to say more. Cyrus understood.

“Think it’s Vucari again?” he asked.

“Cadejo.”

Cyrus visibly paled. The program finally initialized. He typed a few quick commands and waited. The terminal pinged and returned results.

“Well?” wondered Sid, unable to bring herself to face the screen. Following a few seconds of excruciating silence, she turned to find Cyrus scanning data. “Is she ok?”

“Uncertain,” he replied carefully.

“What does that mean? Is that thing even working?”

“It was. Until eight hours ago. There’s been nothing since. There’s a chance —”

“Where?”

“. . . what?”

Sid crossed to the terminal, “Where’d that last signal come from?”

“North, 34 degrees . . . 26 minutes —”

“Not the coordinates.” Sid leaned across the desk and expanded the map’s visible range. The signal came from the middle of the Platean Plain, about half-way to Behistun.

“That’s Vucari territory, isn’t it? What are the Cadejo doing there?”

Sid gave it a passing thought; hitting a shipment in enemy territory violated the honor code many of these outlaw packs lived by. Then she grabbed her rifle and slammed a fresh battery in it. “I don’t know and I don’t care.”

Neither Sid nor Cyrus had the courage to vocalize their fear about what might have happened to their daughter. Instead, they simply agreed to find out for themselves.

The two spent the night gathering and prepping their old gear. They moved furniture and raised floor panels to access hidden weapon lockers built by Cyrus. The caches were strategically placed throughout their two-story building so weapons would never be too far away if outlaws or ghosts from their past arrived on their doorstep.

In their own words, Sid and Cyrus ran a small security firm before moving to Reis. The reality was that they were in-demand mercs with an impressive portfolio of missions and a notable number of enemies. It was the life they wanted until the unexpected occurred.

Immanuelle had never been part of their plan. Sid was as shocked as Cyrus to discover she was pregnant. The news floored the couple and forced them to reassess their life. To both their surprise, they realized that they liked the idea of expanding their family. Problem was, they had dodged death far too often and knew it was only a matter of time before it caught up with them. Immanuelle’s arrival was a chance to reset and escape the dangers that had become part of their everyday existence.

When Immanuelle was five they bought this modest two-story building on Reis. The previous year, the UEE had wrestled control of Nexus away from outlaw pacts that had dominated the system for centuries, so the government offered sweetheart land deals to entice new residents. Since Sid and Cyrus had never worked within the system, they figured it was an ideal place to start fresh with a minimal chance of encountering their past.

Cyrus converted the building’s ground floor into a repair shop. His knack for fixing things proved invaluable, as outlaw attacks on supply shipments were common. Sid helped run the repair shop and raise Immanuelle, but felt restless until she wandered into the Falling Sky bar. There, a bit of the buzz came back. She found a piece of her old life among the mercs who frequented it. So, she taught herself to make a killer Terra Tornado, convinced Talsa to hire her, and lived vicariously through the regulars’ stories of Lago’s untamed planetside.

All the while, Immanuelle remained none the wiser to her parent’s previous life. It’s not that Sid and Cyrus hid their past from her. They merely were selective with what they said, both hoping that the gene of self-endangerment had skipped a generation.

Still, it didn’t take long for their daughter’s sense of adventure to surface. Before turning ten, Immanuelle had explored every last nook, cranny and alley in their neighborhood. As a teenager, she often got in trouble for sneaking into the Falling Sky when Sid was off duty to hear the outrageous and often grisly tales its patrons told. It was obvious to Sid and Cyrus that their daughter was cut from the same cloth as her parents.

Cyrus checked ammo clips one by one before sliding them into his pack, in an effort to get his emotions in check and focus on the job at hand. In recent months, he had only heard passing mentions of Tomyris and the Cadejo Crew, but each one had sent a shiver down his spine. Unlike the Vucari, no one attacked by the Cadejo made it back to Reis. Rumors swirled that the Cadejos preferred to take people alive for use in some sinister ritual. Cyrus didn’t quite believe the tales, but had seen enough strange stuff in his day to not completely discount them. At least if true, he reasoned with himself, Immanuelle might have a better chance of still being alive now.

Cyrus slung a duffel bag filled with gear and guns over his shoulder and carefully carried it downstairs. He dropped the bag behind the counter with a thud. He drew a deep breath, surprised by how winded he was, then stepped into the repair shop.

“First light in forty-five,” he called to Sid. “I’ll bring the buggy ’round back.”

“I’ll come help in a few.”

Sid stood at a workbench making adjustments to her energy rifle while wearing heavy armor sans helmet, her lucky bandanna holding back her hair. The sight gave Cyrus pause. She’d always worn light armor in their merc days, preferring to be fleet of foot over aggressively armored.

A few years ago, she returned from a shift at the Falling Sky wearing the heavy armor. She scared Immanuelle half to death by confidently striding behind the repair shop counter before identifying herself. Sid claimed someone gave her a good deal on it, and asked Cyrus to work his magic. She said it might come in handy some day. He never expected this to be it.

“Going with the heavy, huh? You have a chance to field test it?”

“Seems as good a time as any,” she replied.

“The effect on your speed and stamina might surp—”

“Hey . . . I thought you were going to get the quad.”

Sid took her eyes off her gun to shoot Cyrus a look. Her face almost appeared to float amidst the massive armor around her.

“Fine, but I need to tell you two quick things. One, and I’m just being honest here, you look a little ridiculous,” he said as he headed towards the garage. Sid’s eyes flared with intensity. “And two, when you put on your helmet, apply the setting labeled with your name. I’ve already programmed in your preferences.”

A small smile crept across Sid’s face, the first one Cyrus had seen since she arrived home. Before she could respond, Cyrus was out the door. The smile was all the reassurance he needed to know his world wouldn’t completely crumble if this mission ended in the way neither of them dared say.

Reis sat on Sid & Cyrus’ six half an hour later. The two shared a look exiting the city’s eastern security checkpoint. This was the first time the two had been out on an assignment since Immanuelle was born.

As they crossed the Mycale Valley, towering gray mountains loomed on the horizon. Being backlit by the slowly rising sun only made them more ominous and imposing. As Sid drove, Cyrus calculated several potential routes to their daughter’s last known location. Transposing it to the map, he saw that to reach the Platean Plain they would have to navigate one of the many passes that cut through the Harran Mountains. He scanned the list, unsure which one would be the safest.

“The most direct route is through the Datis Pass,” he noted.

“Feels like someone at the bar is always talking about how that pass is infested with outlaws. Any other options?”

Immanuel had once admitted that crossing this range was often the most harrowing part of her journey.

“How about the Sargon Pass? That an option? Vinny swears it’s the safest one heading east.”

“You trust the guy who also swears that asteroid in Nemo actually looks like a space whale?”

“He can’t be wrong all the time. Just check, ok?”

Cyrus smiled. The lightness of their exchange evaporated as the intention of their mission again came front and center. He scanned the list of potential routes until finding one through the Sargon Pass.

“It’ll add at least an hour to the trip.” He selected the route to examine it in detail. “Wait . . . Remember that trip Immanuelle and I took together say about five, six years ago?”

“You two still laugh about it,” Sid sighed softly.

“Really wish you hadn’t gotten sick the night before we left.”

“Me too.”

Silence sat between them.

“Anyways, I just realized we took the Sargon Pass on that trip.”

“So at least one of us is familiar with it.”

Cyrus nodded. Sid stepped on the accelerator and steered the quad more southward towards the pass. The buggy’s suspension bucked under the rough terrain.

Ahead the sun’s rays licked the mountain peaks, finally providing the range some depth and definition. Cyrus took a second to admire the view, then returned to worrying about getting through the pass safely.

“Why’d you volunteer us for this shite gig again?” Dmitri drew his thin coat closer to insulate against the cold seeping from the rocks that composed his sniper perch.

“Stay off comms,” Charlie barked back.

A chilly wind whistled through the Sargon Pass. A shiver worked its way down Dmitri’s spine. When it finally fled, he looked through his sniper rifle scope and scanned the mouth of the pass, which was still shrouded in dark, early morning shadows.

He defiantly spoke into his comm again, “This pass is too narrow for any big fish to take. You’re not gonna impress your new friends by catching any of the minnows that come through here.”

“The hell I just say?”

For an outlaw, Charlie certainly was a stickler for the rules, a trait that had only intensified after the two decided to crew with the Vucari. Dmitri figured it’d be fun to run with the pack that had come to dominate so much territory. Meanwhile, Charlie quickly became enamored with the Vucari’s master plan to wrest control of Reis away from the UEE. Dmitri merely looked forward to the looting.

Despite their motivational differences, Dmitri and Charlie were now hunkered down on opposite sides of the Sargon Pass, hoping to ambush anyone coming from Reis. Dmitri checked the time, and wondered how much longer it would take the sun to illuminate the mouth of the pass and more importantly, provide him a bit of warmth.

Eventually, the sweet lure of a stim felt like his only salvation. Dmitri left the sniper rifle in position and slid down from his perch so Charlie wouldn’t see the vapor. He removed his helmet and plucked a pack of Kings out of his pocket. He savored the flavor as the first pull rushed to his head. It almost made everything all right.

Suddenly, a faint hum filled the air. The sound was subtle but growing closer. Dmitri scanned the sky to discover a small drone hovering no more than ten meters away. Some bugger was spying on him.

Dmitri drew his pistol. His free hand frantically felt for his helmet but couldn’t find it. He turned to look for it, then everything suddenly went black.

Distracted by the drone, he never saw Sid slip in close. She lowered her rifle then hit a few buttons on her mobi. The drone zipped to her location and landed safely. After Sid checked the kid’s pulse, she bound his hands and then searched him out of habit, finding only a half pack of Kings. He wore a patchwork of clothes and cheap armor plastered with the Vucari insignia.

Climbing up, Sid snagged the sniper rifle from its perch and hunkered behind a rock formation while inspecting it. The serial number had been filed off and the Vucari emblem crudely etched into its stock. So, the Vucari distributed meager armor but decent weapons. She made a mental note.

Confident the Vucari hadn’t assigned a single guy to guard the pass, Sid quickly scanned the other side through the sniper rifle scope. If anyone else was around, she couldn’t see them. There had to be at least one, maybe two associates staked out elsewhere. Until cleared, driving any closer could be dangerous.

“We’ve got company. Subdued one of them. Going to flush out anyone left with the drone.”

“I’ll come help.”

“Hold position. Don’t know what we’re up against yet.”

Sid launched the drone to survey the pass from above. It looked clear at first glance. Then she spotted a strange shape between two big boulders. She slowly lowered the drone over the location and saw a parked Dragonfly. That thing only seated two, so that must mean there was one outlaw left.

Suddenly, the drone’s video feed died. A gunshot echoed through the pass as the drone fell from the sky. Sid scrambled to spot the shot’s origin but it was too late. Impressive — the shooter needed only a single round to hit it.

A strange crackling sound startled Sid. She spun, weapon raised, to find no one there. She exhaled, relieved, then tracked the sound to the outlaw’s helmet lying on the ground below. It wouldn’t be long before his compatriot realized this position has been compromised. She had to move soon.

Sid slowly lifted her head with the sniper rifle at the ready. Gunfire erupted, spraying bullets all around her. She quickly ducked back to cover, but at least had a bead on the assailant’s location.

“That you firing?” Cyrus’ voice crackled in Sid’s ear.

“It will be . . . in a few seconds,” she responded while adjusting her spot behind the rock.

“I’m on my way.”

“I can handle it.” Sid raised up with the sniper rifle trained on the spot where she had seen the muzzle flash. No one was there. More gunshots peppered her location from a slightly different angle. She hit the deck before gauging exactly where they came from.

“You get him?”

“Still wasn’t me.”

“That’s it.”

“I just need—”

“Something to draw that fire elsewhere.”

Cyrus was right. Plus, it had only been small arms fire. That wouldn’t do too much damage to their ride.

“Fine. Show yourself but don’t venture too far up. For all we know, the entrance could be lined with explosives.”

Hidden not far from the pass, Cyrus stepped on the accelerator. The buggy lurched forward. It felt a bit jumpy to him, and he made a mental note to look at it once home.

Meanwhile, Sid circled to a new firing position further up, hoping her new vantage point combined with Cyrus’ arrival would end this encounter.

“Just cresting the pass,” Cyrus announced.

Sid readied her weapon and peered over a rocky embankment toward the other side, waiting for this slippery bastard to show himself again. The vehicle’s rumble echoed through the canyon, announcing its arrival. Sid kept scanning with her finger on the trigger.

A sudden movement drew her attention. She focused on the location then paused. Something didn’t look quite right. It took her a moment to realize what she was seeing. The outlaw had a massive weapon hoisted on his shoulder and aimed at the buggy.

“Rocket launcher!” Sid cried over comms.

She squeezed off a series of shots at the outlaw and saw him stagger. His movement was exaggerated by the massive weapon somehow still on his shoulder. She drew a deep breath and fired off more shots while exhaling. The outlaw finally dropped out of sight.

A moment later, an explosion erupted from the place he had fallen. Sid felt the mountainside shake and heard the distinct rumble of rocks and boulders rolling downhill. The rock formation facing where he had fallen was blasted to bits.

Moments earlier, when Cyrus heard Sid’s warning, he instinctively slammed on the accelerator, concerned that the rocket launcher might be pointed in her direction. The next thing he knew, a boom echoed through the canyon. By the time he realized what was happening, it was unavoidable.

Cyrus saw what looked like a tidal wave of rubble roaring toward him. He yanked the steering wheel hard left and the vehicle spun about ninety degrees, exposing the passenger’s side, just as an avalanche slammed into it. The impact knocked the vehicle’s wheels off the ground and blew it downhill. Once at the bottom of the pass, it continued rolling until it lost all momentum.

Sid heard the impact and repeated crunch of rock on metal. When the sound mercifully came to a stop, she trained the sniper rifle on the dissipating dust cloud at the bottom of the pass. The vehicle had ended up on its roof, battered and bruised but in one piece. From this angle, though, she couldn’t see inside the cab.

“Cyrus! Can you hear me?” she cried over comms.

Before receiving an answer, she began to run downhill. Sid felt like life was moving in slow motion. Soon she struggled for breath, the heavy armor and heart-stopping anxiety hitting her hard. She stopped to gather herself, then glanced up and across the pass. She sighed with relief at the sight of the Dragonfly still safely tucked between two boulders, its position just above the blast.

Sid commandeered the Dragonfly and sped to the crash site. Cyrus was motionless inside the upside-down vehicle. Still secured to the seat by the safety restraints, his arms limply dangled past his head. Sid grabbed his closest arm, pulled out a MedPen, and stabbed it where his undersuit was exposed.

Cyrus came back from the brink. His body filled with adrenaline and confusion as to why everything was inverted. He turned to see Sid. Slowly, the preceding series of events came back.

“You get him?”

Sid nodded her head. “You ready?”

He nodded in return. She carefully cut away the safety restraints and helped him out of the cab. Finally freed, Cyrus slowly sat up, mind and body still not in sync. Sid felt bad for thinking it, but he looked just like he did when she caught him napping in the shop.

“Hey . . . I’m gonna see if I can find where the med kit wound up.”

“I’ll help.”

“You sure?”

Cyrus sat forward and stood up. “Rally back here in five?”

She gave him a thumbs up. Cyrus wanted to smile but wasn’t sure if he could. He still felt like not all his wires were connected.

Sid climbed on the Dragonfly and carefully followed the trail of destruction, searching for anything worth keeping. Cyrus slowly circled the buggy but found nothing. It at least afforded him the chance to get his legs under him. Sid returned faster than expected.

“No luck. You probably flung it halfway home.” Sid scanned the horizon. “If we want to expand the search radius, let’s do it fast. No guarantee the previous owner of this bike didn’t inform the entire Vucari clan that we’re trying to get through that pass.”

“I’m fine. Let’s go.”

Sid eyed him, uncertain.

“The most important thing is to clear the pass before reinforcements arrive.” Cyrus pulled his custom sniper rifle from its attachment point. His heart dropped. The barrel was battered and slightly bent.

“Here . . .”

Cyrus looked up as Sid tossed him the Vucari sniper rifle. He gave it a once over. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t his.

He jumped on the Dragonfly. Cyrus’ back came to rest against Sid’s. He exhaled, laid the sniper rifle across his lap and then strapped in. Sure he was safely aboard, Sid opened up the throttles to max and concentrated on putting distance between themselves and the ambush site.

Sid and Cyrus faced no more resistance leaving the Sargon Pass. They raced onto the Platean Plain and were blinded by the morning sun. At various points across the horizon, the land just vanished. These gaps indicated geographical scars that were once strip mines, but were now more and more often hiding outlaw encampments. Sid made sure to give the gaps a wide berth.

“Anyone following us?”

“Not that I can see.” Cyrus scanned for dust clouds or other obvious signs.

“Good. We’re almost there.”

An unnatural jumble of shapes was silhouetted against the horizon. That must be it. Sid quickly glanced around. She could see for kilometers in all directions. Interesting spot to ambush a convoy.

Sid stopped at some distance from the wreckage. Cyrus eyed it with the sniper rifle and saw no one. The scanner on the Dragonfly said the same.

They approached, then circled the ambush site. Several trucks sat in various states of ruin. One was burnt to a crisp, barely more than a frame. Others were thoroughly riddled with bullet holes and laser blasts. One lay on its side.

Sid stopped the Dragonfly at the center of the convoy’s line. The two dismounted and glanced in each direction. Not a single body was anywhere to be seen.

“Left or right?”

“I’ll take left,” replied Cyrus. He headed off in his assigned direction. The closest vehicle had been incinerated by something. There was little left besides its frame and ash. Cyrus still gave it a good once over.

The utter destruction had to be the work of the Cadejo Crew. The Vucari would’ve been more careful so they could use this equipment for their own purposes. The Cadejo were clearly challenging Vucari for control of the area. Such a gang war would only further destabilize this region and make getting supplies to Behistun that much more dangerous.

Cyrus was halfway to the next vehicle when Sid commed him.

“Cyrus, on me.”

He turned and hurried in her direction. Sid stood at the back of a mostly intact truck, its rear doors open wide. Where supplies had once been stored now sat a pile of battered armor. In the middle was the chest piece from Immanuelle’s armor. With the number of times he had repaired it over the years, Cyrus would recognize it anywhere.

After scanning for explosives, they pulled Immanuelle’s armor out of the pile and inspected it. He asked, “You believe the rumors about the Cadejos taking people alive?”

Sid slowly walked away from the vehicle, suddenly drawn elsewhere.

“I don’t believe most of what I hear, but I’m not going to let that stop me.”

Cyrus looked up to see Sid staring off into the distance. He joined her and then saw it. Tire tracks leading north.

Sid and Cyrus locked eyes. Nothing else needed to be said besides, “I’ll go get the bike.”

TO BE CONTINUED

End Transmission

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