AWOL – Chapter 12

The rain finally stopped, though it had lasted several more hours. Ry knew this was good, knew it in his mind. It meant no evidence of footprints, no obvious crushed vegetation or scuffed gravel. He knew it. But it didn’t stop him from silently cursing every drop that still seeped through his clothing. There was no part of him that remained dry. He’d stuffed his feet back into his boots and it had been like stepping into a swamp.   He tried to ignore the rub of the wet clothes against his skin, the squishing sound he made with every step, the drip of water from his hair into his eyes. Tried to concentrate on his plan.

He wanted a fire. Wanted to sit and warm and dry and take stock of where he was and what he needed to do. He flashed back to nights sitting around fires, hot tins of coffee, laughing with Thomas and Evey despite the horrors they had seen and would see again. The thought should have warmed him. Memories were all he had left, the only positive thing in his life. But it slashed through his gut like a blade of guilt and despair, emptying him. He wrapped his arms around his middle, shivering, suddenly grateful for the excuse of the dampness.

He had to focus, get back on track. No memories of the past. No hope for the future. There was only now. And now, was time to plan. He had to find a town. He needed supplies, clothes, food, information.   Of course, the catch was he needed clothes before he could possible enter a town. Going in as a haggard and bedraggled Drover would scream AWOL perpetrator. He’d be turned over before he made it to the local bar.

He should have gone into that house, should have looked for clothes. At least the house was a sign he was getting closer to civilization. He was heading the right way, he knew. He’d developed an innate sense of direction and Thomas had taught him how to use the stars to check his course. Jack had wanted him to write down instructions, take a map, but Ry refused. Getting caught would be bad enough. But with information like that on his person, there would be no hope. Not for him, not for anyone. He would rely on his own memory. It was safer that way.

His hand slipped to his waistband, cold fingers seeking the comfort of cold metal. That was something else he would have to consider when he found a town. No ordinary person, Priv or regular, would enter a town carrying a gun.

*************

“Guns? What guns?”

Ry tried to push himself up higher, gritting his teeth against the hot pain skittering through his muscles.

“I saw a pile of guns sitting outside the armory. Drover Wild told me they were dysfunctional.”

Halding watched him, obviously not following.

“He said they would be stripped for parts and thrown out.”

“I don’t know that much about it.”

“The thing is, they’re still good. They need cleaned, repaired. But with limited resources…we do have limited resources, right? I just think we should do everything we can to keep them functional.”

“I think that Jude character might have done some permanent damage.”

Ry frowned. “Sir?”

“Here you are, beaten to a pulp, and you’re worried about guns.”

“Just trying to evolve into a good Drover, sir.”

Halding’s mouth twitched in a half smile. “Maybe you’re trying too hard.”

“Sir, the guns?”

Halding waved a hand, turning away. “You’ll have to talk to the Weapons Master. This is not my area of expertise.”

Ry swung his legs, wighing about three times what they normally did, over the side of the bed. He had to make Halding understand. He found the floor with his feet and stood. Or he meant to. But the floor tilted up and smacked into him, and he curled against it, unable to move further.

“I’m really starting to think you did sustain brain damage.” Halding pulled Ry back up and helped him sit on the edge of the bed. “Good thing she got me when she did or there might be nothing left of you at all. And the paperwork on that is just atrocious.”

Everything in Ry froze, dissipating, disappearing. “She?”

Halding sat next to him. “Your fellow Drover, Evey Wilde. She said she’d tried to break up the fight, but there was no way one fish can stop sharks in a feeding frenzy. So, she came to get me.”

Ry tried to digest the news, to assimilate it. To believe it. Evey had stopped it. Evey had saved him. Why?

“Was she hurt?” He was surprised at how hard it was to get those words out.

Halding regarded him. “A couple minor abrasions. Nothing serious. I believe she and her cousin are waiting for you outside.”

Ry tried to jump up again and Halding caught him. “Slowly, son. They’re not going anywhere.” Halding steadied him and Ry headed, wobbling, for the front of the tent.

The guns were forgotten.

 

~ S.D. Bullard

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

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~ by sdbullard on August 13, 2014.

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