Messing With Mother Nature
The battered skimmer shot through a gap in the trees. Devlyn Frost gripped the controls and aimed for the treeless horizon. “Are the Gaeans still back there?”
RSS 104 squirmed for a better view. A volley of thorn-like projectiles clattered against the window. Russ slid farther down in his seat. “Yeah. They’re back there.”
Dev slid an amused glance at his android companion. “Hold on. Those rocks ahead might mean we’re far enough from the Gaean interference to regain a satellite lock”
Devlyn slotted the skimmer between the rocks. The ground on the other side dropped steeply away. He fumbled with the console, struggling to switch from mag-lift to short-term glider mode. Finally, the engines shuddered. Dev brought the skimmer in for a relatively smooth landing on the arroyo floor.
“Good thing I don’t have bodily functions, or we’d be replacing this seat,” Russ said. “Think we lost ’em?”
Dev made his fingers uncurl. “Doubt it. They might think twice about the electrical storm headed this way, though.”
They hid the vehicle amid boulders and made camouflage from dried brush. Russ reached for the tent. “Leave that,” Devlin said with a grimace. “I feel like I’m inside a pumpkin in that thing. Why did you buy orange?”
“Okay, no tent. Where do we hide?”
Dev pointed up. “Cave.”
“This is amazing,” Devlyn said, voice echoing against the unnaturally smooth walls. “I think this is an old outpost from the Gaea Wars.”
The Gaea Wars: Angered by indifference to Climate Change, a bio-engineer turned eco-terrorist had altered herself and her followers, becoming more plant than human. The mutagen caused plant life to grow uncontrolled, wrecking cities, turning them into wilderness within weeks. Humanity fought back — and the world forever changed.
Devlyn snagged a pair of binoculars and returned to the entrance. “Crapola! Those things move fast. They’re below us.”
The android’s synth-skin crawled with the feeling of being watched. He turned slowly to find a man in uniform standing in the shadows. “Uuuuhhhh, Chief? We got company.”
Devlyn lowered the binoculars, but the figure winked out.
Russ took a step back. “Whoooa, I didn’t know I had a Creeped Out circuit, but it’s in overdrive now.”
“What are you talking about?”
“The ghost! Right there!”
“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“Yeah? What just flittered away, then?”
“The electrical storm is messing with your sensors, Russ,” Dev lifted the binoculars again. “Be great if the legend of the Gaean fear of lightning is true.” A bolt crashed nearby; he ducked back. When he re-emerged, the hunters were speeding away.
“Yes! Score one for Mother Nature.” He lowered the binoculars. “There’s something ironic there.”
Russ’s grin faded as the ghost reappeared behind Devlyn. The translucent man gave him an unmistakable thumbs up, then vanished.
Dev stretched and stifled a yawn. “I’m going to catch some Zs.”
Russ looked hard at where the apparition had stood. “Ummm yeah.” He settled down, back against the wall. “You do that. I don’t need shutdown for another couple days.”
The storm raged through the night, but dawn brought blue skies and a clear satellite connection.
Russ stowed the last of the gear and secured the hatch. Looking up toward the cave mouth and the shimmering figure just visible beside it, he gave a thumbs up, then climbed into the skimmer. “Hit it, Chief!”