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Memories of Lori Part 9: The Precipice

 
Lance Striker's picture
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                                                     10:35 May 13th 2144

                                  Kaibab National Forest

 

The pair made slow progress through the forest. Striker was still pained from taking a

couple of tonnes of wolf to the ribs. A grim determination steeled him on, the mission

wasn't over yet, though it would be considerably more difficult. If the greenhorns had

come this way, it would be highly unlikely any of them were still alive.

 

   “Wait,” Lori said softly, pulling on his hand, “maybe we should turn back.”

 

Striker looked at her and shook his head.

 

   “No, we still have a job to do.”

 

   “But you're hurt.”

 

She closed into him, holding her hand near his ribs.

 

   “I'll be fine.”

 

   “But what if you're not? What if next time we don't get so lucky?”

 

   “Lori...”

 

The concern on her face was selfless, staring up into his eyes as if she was ready to

burst into tears. She gently wrapped her arms around his neck, holding onto him and

speaking softly.

 

   “You said it yourself...clones have stopped coming back since things have gotten worse

   at the Dam. You have a job to do, yes, but you're also my best friend and I need you

   too. I don't know what I'd do without your grumpy ass looking out for me. So let's just go home?”

 

Again, he wondered at her strange behaviour. He wrapped an arm around her, hugging

her as tightly as the pain would allow. Conflict ensued within. Lori tore away from

him, looking up with shimmering hazel eyes.

 

   “Bollocks...” He sighed, resignedly.

 

   “This is my fault...we can just go home.”

 

   “Carl is counting on us...Imagine if that was you who'd gone missing, Lori.”

 

She placed her hands on his chest, her eyes searching his.

 

   “But it's not...”

 

He put his hands on her shoulders.


   “And I can only be grateful for it, kiddo. I know you want to go home, I do too, but if we don't

   see this through... Think of all the people back home missing loved ones, their families.”

 

   “But...when mom and dad died I had you. Those people can find their own friends too.”

 

Striker frowned disapprovingly, squeezing her shoulders firmly.

 

   “What's gotten into you? I've never known you to be so selfish, Lori. The lives of those

   greenhorns matters just as much as ours.”

 

   “I don't care!”, she screamed at him, her voice echoing through the forest, “I don't care anymore...”

 

Emotion battled instinct as he looked around nervously and caught Lori who collapsed against him, sobbing.

 

   “Hey now...it's gonna be all right. It's gonna be all right.”

 

She buried her face into his shoulder, probably out of embarrassment, he thought.

 

   “I'm sorry...I'm not a very good soldier. Or a ranger. I'm not even a good Vista. I don't think

   I'm a good anything, all I do is let you down.”

 

He pulled away from her gently, holding her face in his hands. She looked down in shame

while he wiped the tears from her eyes in an effort to save the charming patches of dirt on her cheeks.

 

   “And yet you're still the most important person in my life.”

 

   “I'm the only person in your life...” She sniffled, shyly.

 

   “I don't need anyone else. Come on, you, let's go home.”

 

She looked up at him, not quite knowing what to say. Words caught in Lori's throat, as Striker

waited almost expectantly on a reply. She opted, instead, for a hug – wrapping her arms

tightly around him.

 

   “Thank you.” She whispered softly.

 

   “Don't thank met just yet, we still have some distance to c-”

 

Striker groaned in pain, his weight shifting onto Lori as a shot rang from some distance

away. She backed away as he fell to the floor, in agony, she herself paralysed by the

shock. Striker winced as he reached out and pushed Lori's leg.

 

   “Go!”

 

Lori stood helpless, lost in the panic. Striker surveyed the surroundings, mutants were

flooding out from almost every angle. He knew Lori wouldn't be able to move without him

and so he held out an arm, snapping her out of her trance as she helped him to his feet.

 

   “Move it!” He shouted through gritted teeth as they sprinted onward.

 

In his condition, the horde gained on them quickly. He could hear them laughing as the

thunderous pounding of their feet grew louder. Searching for something, anything, his

eyes darted across the surroundings. A log, a rock, he needed something to use to buy

Lori time to get away, even if he had to die. The forest was growing thin and Lori, ahead, seemed

to be heading for a clearing. Striker's heart sank when Lori suddenly stopped, he couldn't

see anything other than sky beyond her and knew instantly that they'd been herded to a ledge.

 

   “Jump!” He shouted as he gained on Lori.

 

She turned to him as he gained on her and held out her hand. He grabbed her hand, leaping

over the precipice without a thought, the pair bracing for the rock-laden slopes of the

southern Kaibab. Striker landed first, his ankles almost buckling under the impact, Lori was

more graceful, though she skidded off ahead, pulling him with her. Another ledge, some

50 meters down, greeted them; Striker pulled back as hard as he could, groaning in pain

as they both tumbled hard into the ground.

 

Lori rose first, covered in dust and scuffs, she pulled Striker to his feet with some effort. Exhausted

and battered, they both turned to the higher ledge, looking on in horror as the clouds of dust

dispersed on the wind; More than a dozen warped and twisted men lined the slope, their

makeshift rifles trained on the pair. Lori hid behind Striker, noting the impact of the bullet on the

back of his vest – it had not gone through, but that would matter little now. She clung to him, sobbing in fear.

 

   “I don't want to die...”

 

Striker felt helpless, beaten. Another mutant emerged on the ridge, pushing itself between the two

in the middle. It raised its hand, laughing at their prey. Striker's mind was awash in thought, despite

his collar he did not believe in souls – he was just a vessel and he too would soon face his end. He

thought of his successor, waking up in Hoover Dam, subjected to whatever horrors were conducted

in that concrete prison. He thought of his charge, tearful and afraid at his back. He thought of the

coming void, trying to make peace with it. Instead, he found anger, rage and an overwhelming

sensation to survive, to win.

 

His mind began to thrum with energy, a desperate power answering his call of defiance. He pushed

harder than he had ever dared before, there was little need for safety now. His eyes began to

burn, his body felt like it was being torn apart from the pressure and his thoughts began to warp

into abstract sensations of shapes dividing and fusing.

 

   “Fire!” The mutant exclaimed, throwing its hand down in command.

 

Clarity came to Striker in an instant, though it was something far beyond his experience; his

eyes, still paining him, saw more than they did before. In his mind he could 'see' the distance

between himself and the mutants, as if it existed inside of him, as if he could wade through

it and scoop it up in his arms. He pushed at it, not with his hands, but with a thought – it didn't

move, but he felt as though he now occupied more of that space despite his feet never

moving. He pushed more, harder, with everything he had, an indescribable sensation of his

conscience expanding and draining simultaneously. The flash of gunfire on the ridge hurtled

towards him, each bullet burrowed into his thoughts like nails driven through his skull.

 

His sight grew dark, his thoughts fragmented as the power left him and he could feel himself

tumbling backwards. Lori grasped at him, shouting, though he couldn't make out her words

as he fell, succumbing to the fading black.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

Joe Spivey's picture

Intense.

Stick with me kid and you'll be farting through silk.

Hyle Troy's picture

(( wonderful read...   wow!

I would rather die peacefully in my sleep, like Grandad, than screaming, like his passengers



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