Chapter 13- Out alone
Frankie laid the Exrollo down and waited. Hiding behind the largest dune he could see, he was sure of a little cover at least but looking around him, he could see that there was little he could but wait for the inevitable ending, “Frankie, my boy. This time your luck has run out,” he said as he checked his pistol. Although, he knew exactly what was left in the cartridge, it was just to pass a few seconds.
In the skies above him, clouds hid the radrians as they flew back to the base, carrying a bleeding Adria, barely conscious but with the aid of the Choroman pain inhibitors she was given, she was staying alive.
James dashed to the windows and called out “Radrian incoming with Adria. Call the medic she looks bad, Marcian.”
When he got no reply, James turned and saw the doors swing closed behind a dashing Marcian as he ran out of the room.
Entering the room, Alanov was almost knocked over in Marcian’s rush to get away “What’s all that about, James?” He asked.
“Your guess is as good as mine, Alanov. I told him the raydrians were back with Adria and to bet the medic, and then he ran out.”
“James, have you noticed how odd he has been since Padraig’s death?” Alanov asked.
James replied “Yes, but I put it down to being new and feeling out of place here.”
“Think of it. How did he turn up here?”
“We had no idea, he was found wandering across the desert, but many of us were found like that. So, we never thought about it. There again, he has been here a month of two now and not really tried to make friends. He just does what is needed and goes to his room; now you mention it, Alanov, he has been acting odd since he got here.”
“We’ll have to sort it out later. I’ll dash down and get the medic for Adria now, James.”
“Thanks, Alanov. I’ll watch for the raydrians to land and see what we can find out from the riders.”
Three of the four of the beautifully marked golden brown birds circled as the fourth landed with Adria. The rider, a tall man with black hair and swarthy carried the limp body of Adria to the ward, seeing the look of sadness in the eyes of James, he said “Don’t worry. She’ll be fine, once the Choroman wears off, she’ll be sore but able to walk in a day or two. She was lucky it didn’t hit her at close range.”
“We can’t thank you too much for bringing her back; she would have been missed terribly. My name is James Parameter and I’m the temporary leader here. My usual role is radio operator but we had to act fast, so I took charge once our leader was killed.”
“It’s nice to meet you James. I’ve heard a lot about your work with Jericho in setting up the radio links for us. My name is Stephano and we are on the look out for a renegade called Marco Peller. He’s about 5’10 with blond hair and is recognised by a long scar on the right side of his face.”
“If you’d got here about five minutes ago, you would have passed him going out. When he heard me say you were on the way; he high-tailed it out of here as fast as possible.”
“I’m not surprised about that, he’s on the run for hacking a main frame unit and sending riders into traps.”
Looking at the screen, James said “He won’t get far, look what’s heading this way!”
Watching the screens, they could see a strong wind blowing their way. “Looks like a bad storm heading for us, I wouldn’t like to be out there in about ten minutes,” Stephano said as he saw the worried look on James’s face. “We saw three riders go in, we picked the girl up outside the gates as the others went in; I’m sorry I can’t help more but I don’t know what happened next.”
“Thanks for that. We went in to try and save somebody called 501. We thought he was trying to call Echo Point, but being a lot nearer I decided to risk a rescue.”
“We owe you a debt of thanks, but fear it’s too late for a rescue,” Stephano commented.
Looking puzzled James asked “In what way?”
Stephano began, “We’re a branch of the Wing Riders and the code 501 means that he has reached level 5, but thinks his cover has been compromised and needs a quick pick up before the Mind troops get him.”
“That explains a lot, we did get the urgent pleas for help. That’s why I sent our men in for him. I heard about the Mind, they’re real nasty, the scum of the sewers and enjoy inflicting pain. From what I gather they have random mind searches using a high intensity radar scope to search your thought patterns and extract what they can and destroy the rest.”
“That’s right and a 501 means they have penetrated our man’s outer thoughts and it won’t be long before they get what they want. Our man was sent in to track a cadre led by a person known as Valwitch. We know some of the members, but nobody has been able to get close to Valwitch.”
While they were talking, the door opened and Alanov came in.
“How is the young girl?” Stephano asked.
“Oh, she’ll be fine thanks. When she decided the medic knows his job better than she does,” Alanov said with a laugh, “You know our Adria, James.”
“Only too well, Alanov,” James replied smiling. “This is Stephano, Alanov. He brought Adria back.”
Stephano walked over to the windows and gave a signal to one of the riders “I have just told one of my riders to go back and report the findings from here and the others to search for your friends, we don’t want them out in this storm. It is looking like a force 6 whirler and we need them back quickly.”
As James went to the window he spotted a vehicle racing ahead of the storm “That, I resume is your man out there. He won’t get far; there is no fuel in the tank.”
Watching the speeding car bounce across the shifting sand, Alanov said “He hasn’t a chance of out running the whirler. What’s he doing?”
Looking at the sand storm heading their way, Stephano said “I guess, he thinks it better to die out there than to be shot for treason, if we got to him.” Watching the darkening skies for his friends to return, Stephano turned to Alanov and James and said “I have just got a report from the riders. They saw three burned out bikes by the gates and an Exrollo about five mile out of the city, but there is no signs of the riders. I’m sorry to say.”
Outside the city, Frankie was watching the approaching storm front “Great, just what I don’t need,” he muttered. “At least it will force them back in, all I have to do is dig in and wait for it to pass over. That will give me a few minutes longer to live, even if there is no food and water.”
The storm hit and Frankie was blasted until all his skin felt so tender, it was like being in a pin factory. He couldn’t see his hands but he knew they were hurting, it felt like fire ants biting the nerves.
The sand swirled around Frankie and the longer it went on, the more he was convinced it wouldn’t stop in the near future. “I have no choice left,” he muttered as he tried to stand against the wind. “If I stay here, it’ll be a slow choking death. I may as well try to walk some way back. I know I won’t make it but at least they’ll know I did try.”
Getting on his feet, he tried to stand but the wind and sand forced him back to his shelter, although by now it was almost the same level as the ground above. All he could do was lay and hopefully see the storm through.
In the base, Freddy had just got back from his personal remembrance service for a fallen comrade. As he walked through the doors he said “What was up with Marcian? He almost knocked me over, just then.”
Stephano said “He’s tried to escape us again, only this time he is running into the whirler and it looks a big one from here, Freddy.”
“Hi, Stephano I didn’t see you fly in. There again I was paying tribute to Padraig and was in silent prayers.”
“From what we saw, he went the only way he would have liked. He was trying to help others escape. A brave man, he will be missed by many people.”
“He knew he didn’t have long, but he hid the secret from everybody but me, Stephano.”
“The master was teaching his pupil well.”
“Yes. I know all that he knew and will be able to help plan our movements soon.”
Looking bemused at this conversation; Alanov turned to Freddy and said “Are we to presume that you two know each other?”
Looking a bit guilty Freddie said “Stephano, Padraig and I were one of the first groups of Rangers sent out by the Wing Riders, Alanov.”
Stephano commented “It was on one of our long range rides, we came across Kabel’s cadre.”
James said “I thought he got cornered and attacked by Sand Demons or at least that is what they old us.”
Freddy winked at Stephano and said “Typically Padraig hey!”
Returning the wink Stephano replied “Yes, a true hero. We’ll tell you the story one day, but for now we have more urgent business to deal with. There are only three men that I know, who can remember their dune-racing youth. Me, Padraig and Frankie, so that means he got out of the city and now the winds have died down a bit; we had better try and find him.”
Freddy looked out at the settling sands and said “If Marcian is out there, he better pray to be dead. If he isn’t it’s going to be a slow death back at Wing Rider HQ for the treacherous rat.”
With the winds now died away and the sands settled, Frankie was able to get off the floor of his temporary dug out “That was a bad one,” he muttered, “Oh, well, here I go.” Looking around and seeing the changing dunes he thought “Which is home; oh who cares they won’t get to me in time. Time waits for no man and the sooner I start the greater my chances of being spotted are.”Standing in the midday sun, Frankie said “It won’t be long now, Jeff,” and off he went heading in the direction he thought would take him to the base