Saturday, October 29, 2016

Light Ray Blues, Series 2, Instalment 19: Fireside chat

When we last left Leslie, Ed and Mary they were hashing out their next move over hash browns and eggs. Pass me the tartar sauce before this episode gets going . . . 

I’m going to go back on my earlier thought. Maybe I like being out here at my shed more than I previously thought. It might have something to do with the company. I think what got stuck in my craw was being here trapped with my own thoughts. They’re some mighty unpleasant SOBs. 

Leslie, Mary and me arrived without incident in the early afternoon. They crashed out in the backseats of the rail-ute. I drove and figured out how to get to the InterTrak station nearest my trolley shed. Rail Traffic Control only had to fix one wrong turn on my account, but we didn’t lose much time.

We dropped off the ute at the station’s rental kiosk, loaded our new packs with supplies we bought at Heff’s and walked in. The rest of the afternoon and early evening was taken up with the unexciting task of getting the place opened back up and us settled in.

Leslie called Frank Madwood from Heff’s before we left and got him to change his plans and come out to the shed. I had to go pick him up from the station.

I rolled the trolley from the shed, and all three of us wrestled it onto the rail. My timing was just right and Frank and I got back just in time to roast hot dogs over an open fire. Mary and Leslie had scrounged up some wood and branches and had just gotten a fire going in the pit. Leslie insisted on making her cowboy coffee and I took on wennie roast-master duties. We settled in around the pit on some ancient lawn chairs I found in the shed and scarfed down charred hot dogs and copious amounts of coffee. An open fire with the milky way galaxy above can’t be beat by any fancy restaurant no matter how exciting the menu.

“Ed, may I have another hot dog please?” asked Leslie.

“Certainly.” I pulled one from the fire pit grate, wrapped it in a bun and passed it to Leslie.

While Leslie searched for a mustard squirter, Mary stood up and saluted the gathering with a hot dog of her own. “I haven’t formally thanked you all for rescuing me. Thank you.”

We nodded and murmured our think-nothing-of-its.

Mary sat back down after the ceremony and Frank took it as his opening. “I’ve got two questions. First, and most importantly, do you have anything stronger to drink than this coffee?”

Leslie chuckled, “Yes, of course, why didn’t you ask sooner.” She got up and rooted through the supplies.

Frank continued. “And second, what did you find out about the fusor that brought us all here?”

After munching some hot dog, Mary replied, “I think some new circuitry has been added to solve the reaction’s stability problem. I was going to give you a call to come and take a look, but Leslie beat me to it.”

Leslie stopped searching for a minute and looked up. “If someone has conclusively solved that problem we’re going to need more than a few stiff drinks. This is a real danger.”

Mary sighed, “It looks like someone did something very creative. You two need to put your heads together on this.” 

Leslie pulled out a bottle of brown liquid and held it up for all to see. “This will help.”

Frank tossed the remaining coffee in his cup on the ground and offered the cup to Leslie to pour in something from the bottle. “Sure, but I’ll need my equipment. I dropped it off at the lab on my way here.” 

I hush fell over us.

Leslie froze. “You did what?”

Frank looked puzzled. “I took my stuff to the lab. Problem?”

Mary filled in. “We think someone on my staff is working for whoever stole the fusors and caused all this trouble.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, but things point that way.”

Leslie poured some whiskey into Frank’s cup and he took a long swig. “Christ. When you called me last night to arrange to meet at the lab, I called the lab and left a message that I’d be over the next day. I thought they might have a problem with me showing up after hours so I figured I’d let them know. Then when you called me this morning to meet you here instead, I called them again to say I’d be just dropping off my equipment.”

Leslie sat, settled back in her chair and stared at Frank. “That means they’re here.”

“You’re right, we are,” yelled a voice from the trees surrounding the fire pit.

We froze. 

Leslie put down her drink and slowly slipped her hand into the top pocket of her knapsack that was stashed under her lawn chair.

The trees yelled an instruction. “Don’t move bitch!”

Whoever was out there said the wrong thing. From there on it was chaos.

Leslie grabbed her gun, rolled out of her chair and dropped to the ground. 

The rest of us followed suit and hit the deck.

Turns out there were two out there in the forest. The one with the mouth, directly opposite Leslie, and a silent one directly behind Leslie.

The mouth wasn’t the problem, Mr. Silence was. He made his presence known by firing a fusor and wildly swinging the beam over our heads.

“It does work, bitch!” yelled The Mouth with childish glee.

“Yeah, so does this!” Leslie spun around and fired a round of bullets into the woods behind her.

Replica gun my ass. 

One of her shots hit home. There was a scream and the fusor fell to the ground. Beam still on. Someone had overrode the deadman switch. Someone who may now be dead. The ground sizzled. 

Leslie and I got up and ran towards the fusor beam’s source. Mr. Silence was lying on the ground, crying, balled up in a fetal position grabbing his bleeding left knee. I guess he dropped the fusor when he was hit because the tip of his left shoe was a metre or so from where it should have been attached to the rest of his foot. There were probably five fused toes in there, but I didn’t want to look. 

The fusor was on the ground close to the guy, but he wasn’t paying attention to it. Leslie gingerly walked up to the deadly cigarette box sized device, reached down, shut it off, and then slipped it in her pocket. This part was over.

Frank and Mary’s wasn’t. They had run the other way to find The Mouth.

A stupid move, but who can say what people with adrenaline coursing through their bodies will do.

They ran and stumbled and ran and slipped and ran some more until they had chased Mr. Mouth to a clearing near the InterTrak mainline. 

They all stopped.

The Mouth stood on the track about 100 metres ahead. He reached for something in his pocket. Frank and Mary dove to the ground.

Click. Click. Click. Nothing.

The Mouth waved the fusor at the prone bodies and frantically pushed the trigger button.

Not quite nothing happened. It turns out this was an interesting data point regarding the new and improved fusor stability circuits. 

Those three clicks and a pause were followed by an explosion and fireball. 

The 20th and final instalment can be found here.

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