Kabel stood up, hands on the table and looking around she said, “Okay, this is our chance; they will close the city gates in a few minutes and then we can ride out the distant beacons at Fire Ridge and try to get a fix on the signal.”
Stevenarc commented, “I have the signal boosts ready, Kabel, remember at the Ridge you’ll be on the edge of our range and this won’t give you much more range; perhaps enough strength to pick up the signals.”
“Thanks, Stevenarc, we need everything we can get our hands on. Reports on the wires are saying the Game close more stations every day and soon we may be isolated. We need to make contact and quickly so as we have a back-up beacon ready in case ours gets cut off.”
“Is there any news from the Skimmer squads, Kabel?” James enquired.
“Not as yet, they were out so far I had trouble getting the range to contact them and I don't know when they’ll be in range again.”
“Skimmer squads” Alanov remarked, looking puzzled.
James went on to explain, “In the early days, there were groups of people who lived beyond the city, they had the ability to move quickly across the desert as their vans had wheels at the front for steering and tracks on the rear for power.”
“I heard rumours of them, but thought that is all they were, rumours,” Alanov commented.
“Oh. They’re very real, Alanov.” Stevenarc replied. “We would be cut off and vulnerable without their help; the riders and bike teams need to stay close to bases, but the skimmer squads tell us when the Game move. These people living way out in the deserts are rarely seen yet the Game realise they exist.”
Kabel added, “These people have mapped the dunes and sandbars for generations and are able to track people across the shifting landscape as easy as if the tracks had been in mud. Their vehicles may be slower, what they lack in speed, the drivers compensate for by having an unparalleled knowledge; which is why escape routes are planned out so accurately, our bikes can travel carefully over light sand and rock which the Game trucks would sink in.”
Alanov gazed at the vast dunes outside the towers and said, “What about their history? Does anybody remember when they came here? Or why they live in the dunes?”
“Some say, they were Game Lords themselves who got bored with playing and decided to leave; others say they get ejected because of their attitudes; the truth is hard to get at as nobody makes contact with them; the only certainty is they despise what the Game is doing, as much as we do.”
“I am interested in the structure of the groups,” Alanov queried, “do the groups elect a leader or do you act independently?”
James was standing close by and took a second glance at Alanov, before he said, “I realise you were hounded out of your country, but for a newcomer you ask a lot of questions and not all are surface either. How do we know you are genuine?”
Alanov paced the room, he realised he was getting into deep and troubled waters as he replied, “You make a good point, James, you only have my word as nobody here can vouch for me. I am a scientist eager to gain knowledge of how the groups co-exist and communicate, that is all as there would appear to be no radio links between the outer groups. I realise your need for security and I hope to gain your trust soon.”
Stevenarc commented, “You can see James's point, Alanov.”
Alanov replied, “Yes, you are wise to question my motives.”
“For now, I think you know all you need to about us for now,” Kabel commented, “and we have a job to do, we need to be out soon, Stevenarc.”
“Kabel, all the equipment is ready,” Stevenarc replied, “James will be on the radio listening for any signals and hopefully you can contact the other group.”
Kabel remarked, “I realise this trip is a long shot, Stevenarc, but we’re all here because the long shots brought us together and if we don't take the chance tonight, this group may be off line for weeks or even months, before they feel safe enough to try again. By which time they may get compromised or lost faith in us or ran out of supplies.”
Far below the group the sound of engines roared as bikes and skimmers roared out of the sheds, drivers in face masks mired with the sands of ages and wearing green light goggles; the dunes and sandbars clearly visible as the group headed to Fire Point. While the thought of the possibility of new recruits remained in the back of their minds; the group remained alert to the threat of the Game; the risk of the trap was possible but so was the possibility of a new link to fight back in this war and they needed to take the chance.
The ride to Fire point was arduous as the dune shifts during the day meant the skimmers often had to swerve violently or get bogged down; skimmers whizzed across the sandy and rock strewn ground, when from out of nowhere a cry came, “Game to the rear and closing in!”
Looking back the trucks were barely visible through the dips in the dunes but the riders out to the sides had clearer views than us; this had become a race for life.
Padraig Sallower asked, “How did they pick us up? We are so careful about everything Kabel.”
Freddy Marshall in the gun position called over the screeching engine, “There are reports on the air about small groups of Game vehicles doing random search patterns; it was our bad luck to get caught. We’re losing ground; they’ll be on us soon, unless we do something and QUICK.”
“I am ahead of you,” Kabel shouted as the screech of the engines roared high in our ears, “take a left at the next bend; then floor the pedal, Padraig and on my command and when I shout now, launch the rockets ahead of us, Freddy.”
The scream of the engines failed to hide the terror in his voice as Freddy replied, “As much as your actions earned my respect, Kabel, this time you have flipped; I know what you are thinking and wish to God I didn’t as what you plan to do is a suicide move,”