Saturday, February 10, 2018

VI: Fall

Three days later, everything was ready. We decided to take advantage of darkness, and picked a night ahead of, according to our intelligence, the Scarpine's troop shifts, when they were expected to be on their guard the least.

My plan was to take about ten kilometers by an existing road using my trusty old buggy, cover the remaining two kilometers of rocky cliffs on foot, hide the backpack somewhere among many cracks, and return the same way back. Dr Kelley did his part in spreading a false rumour about Morgan secretly meeting a commander of a Scarpine squad wishing to defect to our side.

I set off in the middle of the night, aided by bleak moonlight and a pair of strong night vision goggles. Although the car was running fully on electric power, I did not want to draw any unnecessary attention by driving too fast. After all, the destination was rather close.

The old road led through a silent, vast pine forest. The conditions indeed could not have been better; I was convinced noone had noticed me. Exactly as expected, after about twenty minutes I got to a sharp curve where I was to continue on foot. Having hidden the car in the woods, I took the backpack and proceeded further north into a cliffy, inclined area densely scattered with large boulders. Far ahead I could see a dim haze where the Scarpine outpost was supposed to be.

Though I had to slow down and watch my every step on those treacherous rocks, there was not even the slightest hint of enemy interference. It was almost unreal not to have a herd of Scarpine soldiers and creatures hunting me at every step. Still, I found myself unawarely checking and re-checking all the time whether my Tau Emitter, an aging but still a brilliant weapon in every way, was securely fastened to my shoulder.

Step by step, I got to a vicinity of the Scarpine's outpost. It was perhaps twenty by thirty meters in size, on a small hill, surrounded by the Scarpine's trademark black shiny fence, and  with a couple of structures emitting white light and a quiet hum. No soldiers were to be seen anywhere, but that did not imply safety; all kinds of cameras and scanners could notice me just as well if I wasn't careful.

Proceeding further, I came to a deep cleft I needed to cross. It was just wide enough for me to jump over it comfortably, which I did, and then found myself some fifty meters from the facility. I didn't want to risk getting any closer, and instead started looking for a place to hide my cargo.

I was lucky. After only a few moments I found a small alcove hidden from plain view, and perfectly sized for my backpack. Everything had been prepared in advance; having placed the backpack inside, I just flicked a switch, checked whether a green LED blinked twice, which it obligingly did, and was ready to leave.

After a few seconds I was back at the cleft. I will probably never know what happened. Perhaps I was just overconfident, no longer having the burden of a backpack, or I took a slightly too short preparatory step, or just slid. Anyway, I started falling, trying in my last thoughts to remember how deep could the cleft be, and whether I hold any chance of surviving, let alone returning to the base.



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