Canyon:The Traveler Series Book TwoBy: Tom Abrahams
Beyond that, it was too dark for Battle to see much of anything. He knew there was a wall of tall buildings behind them. On the far side, there was a cluster of lights, which Battle assumed were buildings. There didn’t appear to be the concentration of threats they faced from behind and from the open tracks. Once they crossed the valley and cut their way through the fence on the opposite side, they’d only be a few hundred yards from the checkpoint and relative safety. Battle wished he’d recovered an XM25 from one of his dead compatriots. It was a tactical mistake. He’d been too consumed with helping Buck and hadn’t thought with enough clarity.
The XM25 was a smart weapon that fired up to twenty-five rounds of laser-guided grenades. If Battle had it, he could aim it into the darkness at a perceived threat and fire with ridiculous accuracy. Even if he missed a target, the grenades would explode in the air at the designated distance. Despite its relatively heavy weight, every patrol that wanted one had one of them as a backstop. Battle cursed himself and calculated what he needed to do to escape with an injured soldier, a sidearm, and an HK416. He came to a difficult conclusion.
Battle reached out and put his hand on Buck’s shoulder. “I think you’re going to have to walk from here.”
Buck coughed out a laugh. “Funny.”
“I’m serious. I can’t carry you and return fire. It would take me too long to get you off my back and then reposition into a defensive posture. Can’t use the fireman’s carry. Can’t do the pack strap. You’ve got to walk.”
“How the hell am I supposed to walk? I barely have the energy to keep breathing.”
“Your heart rate is slow because of the morphine and the Phenergan. You’ve lost blood. You’re not dying.”
“If I weren’t dying,” Buck answered, “you wouldn’t be in such a hurry to get us out of here. You’d be holed up in that alley back there, waiting for daylight.”
Buck was right, of course, though Battle wasn’t going to admit it. “Not true. The longer we stay here, the more vulnerable we are. The daylight isn’t necessarily our friend. We got blown up in daylight, remember?”
Buck sighed. “How are we going to do this?”
“Walk assist. I’ll put your arm around my shoulder and then hold it with my hand. My body will be your crutch. You shouldn’t have to put any weight on your injured leg. I’ll have my other arm around your back. I can hold my rifle. If we take fire, I can let go of you quickly and defend us.”
“I don’t know if—”
“You don’t have a choice. It’s what we’re doing. I want you to take my sidearm. That’ll give us two weapons ready to return fire.”
Buck cursed and gritted his teeth. “Fine. Let’s do this.”
OCTOBER 15, 2037, 5:57 AM
SCOURGE + 5 YEARS
Battle stood in the back of the Humvee, his legs working to keep balance while Pico drove toward the center of town. He had his Prairie Panther rifle at his shoulder. After considering the Browning as an option, he’d thought better of it. The Inspector, as he called the twenty-two-caliber semiautomatic, was a far superior weapon at long range.
He adjusted his hat when Pico picked up speed out of a turn. The hat, Battle hoped, would give any hostiles pause. They’d think he was a posse boss until they realized he wasn’t. That was more than enough time for Battle to set, aim, and fire.
Pico was rolling dark. The Humvee’s light array was off. They were as stealthy as they could be in a large armored vehicle.
Battle scanned the road ahead of them and swiveled from side to side, sweeping the streets with his eyes and the rifle. They still had about ninety minutes until sunrise. The streets were empty. Most of the houses and buildings were dark.
The air was cold and the wind swept past Battle as the Humvee pressed forward. His ears stung; his nose ran. He ignored both.
The Humvee turned off of Fourth Street and rolled onto Walnut Street. For the first time, he recognized where they were. He remembered the wide street, the old buildings, and the green awning that hung from Bible Hardware.
It wasn’t Bible Hardware anymore, though. It was the Cartel’s Abilene headquarters.
Pico slowed to a stop in front of the awning. Battle looked across the street to a large fenced lot that surrounded the old post office. There was concertina wire wrapped around the top of the fence. He didn’t remember that. He rubbed his chin and looked back at the awning. A lone streetlight strobed above them.
“Battle.” Pico was standing outside the idling Humvee. “We’re here. What next?”
Battle looked down at Pico and handed him his rifle. He pulled a backpack from the supplies littering the vehicle’s open bed and slung it over both shoulders. He climbed from the Humvee and took the rifle back from Pico.
Battle pointed to the post office. “What’s that over there?”
Pico shrugged. “I think they keep a lot of weapons and such inside that building. It was a post office.”
“It was.” Battle took a step toward the middle of the road. “You’re saying it’s an armory now?”