Authors: Tom Abrahams
A Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian Adventure
The Traveler Series Book Three
A PITON PRESS BOOK
The Traveler Series Book Three
© Tom Abrahams 2016. All Rights Reserved
Cover Design by Hristo Kovatliev
Edited by Felicia A. Sullivan
Proofread by Pauline Nolet
Formatted by Stef McDaid at WriteIntoPrint.com
This book is a work of fiction. People, places, events, and situations are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or historical events is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means without the written permission of the author and publisher.
SPACEMAN: A POST-APOCALYPTIC/DYSTOPIAN THRILLER
(coming November 2016)
THE TRAVELER POST-APOCALYPTIC/DYSTOPIAN SERIES
MATTI HARROLD POLITICAL CONSPIRACIES
JACKSON QUICK ADVENTURES
PERSEID COLLAPSE: PILGRIMAGE SERIES NOVELLAS
“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.”
OCTOBER 25, 2037, 2:00 AM
SCOURGE +5 YEARS
PALO DURO CANYON, TEXAS
Dragging a fresh corpse across the canyon’s floor wasn’t part of the plan. Not much that had happened in the week since he’d arrived had gone as Charlie Pierce expected, but there was a job to do.
Regardless of the obstacles or the unforeseen circumstances, Pierce had to deliver. General Roof was relying on his surveillance for the coming assault.
Pierce was bent over at the waist, slogging backwards on his heels as he pulled the body through brush, over rock, and across dry creek beds. He didn’t know how far he’d have to go to find the right spot to dump the man he was forced to execute. He’d know it when he found it.
Lightning flashed in the sky above, illuminating the steep, jagged walls of the canyon. Thunder followed and reverberated as it traveled the wide valley of Palo Duro. Pierce stopped and dropped the body. He stood erect and put his hands on his hips. He was winded and, despite near freezing temperatures, was sweating through his shirt. He could feel the perspiration chill as it dripped from the nape of his neck down his back.
Another fork of light jabbed the black sky, pulsing as the thunder cracked and rumbled before the afterglow was gone. The storm was getting closer.
Pierce wondered if the turn in the weather was a good thing. A heavy rain would wash away the impression of the body from having pulled it through the dirt.
He’d snapped the man’s neck during a brief struggle. The man, a sentry for the Dwellers, had asked too many questions. He’d pressed too hard about Pierce’s intentions. Although Pierce had tried to talk his way out of the predicament, it hadn’t worked.
Pierce had found a communications bunker on the canyon’s floor. It was two miles from the Dwellers’ central encampment.
The bunker wasn’t much more than a grotto nature had carved into the mesa walls. There were several two-way radio base stations, their orange displays casting a warm, fire-like glow on the cave’s pale walls. It was the rumble and hum of a generator that had led Pierce to the grotto. Sound traveled in the desert night, and the rumble was unmistakable from a half mile away.
A thin, camouflaged wire serving as an antenna extension ran up the steep wall as far as Pierce had been able to see in the dark. The Dwellers’ communication system was a fortunate but critical find for the spy. If he couldn’t disable the two-way system as the attack occurred, he could at the very least relay frequencies to the Cartel so they could monitor the Dwellers’ tactical positions. The sentry had surprised him as he was checking those frequencies.
“Hey,” the sentry had called out from beyond the bunker’s entrance, his voice echoing inside the small cave. “What are you doing? You’re not supposed to be in there.”
“I just stumbled in here,” Pierce had lied. “I was out for a walk…”
The sentry had stepped into the cave, aiming a penlight at Pierce’s face. It had been otherwise dark save the glowing green and blue lights on the two-way transmitters. “It’s two o’clock in the morning.”
“Yeah.” Pierce had shrugged before making his deadly move. Now he found himself dragging a body along the canyon floor.
The canyon was immense in size. It ran seventy miles long and, at its widest, twenty miles across. Its walls stretched skyward close to nine hundred feet from the floor. Pierce had learned in his brief stay that the Dwellers were experts at navigating and protecting it. Pierce had done everything he could to soak in as much information as possible. He’d listened to conversations, observed patterns of movement and behavior, and he’d absorbed the bizarre philosophical bent of the bellicose pacifists who gave themselves Hindi names in a freakish ritual that, to Pierce’s limited theological education, bore no resemblance to Hinduism.
Pierce had done his job invisibly until he’d killed the sentry. He’d performed exactly as the general had instructed.
“Be a fly on the wall,” General Roof had said the night before he put him in the Jones. “Learn as much as you can about how they work. Then, when we attack, damage whatever defensive systems you can and run.”
They were broad orders with little assurance of survival. Pierce gladly accepted the challenge. He had no family. He’d grown tired of his monotonous and sour post-scourge existence. This was an adventure with the promise of greater things to come should he succeed and live.
Pierce blinked against another flash of lightning and shivered at the first icy drops of rain that smacked against his head and shoulders. The storm was coming.
He was running out of time to dispose of the body in a way that made the sentry’s death look like an accident. He needed to finish the job and return to the camp before anyone knew he was missing.
Pierce looked around at his surroundings. He couldn’t see much beyond a few feet except when the lightning flashed. He decided this spot was as good as any. The ache in his lower back made the choice as much as his brain.
He lifted up his shirt and reached into his baggy, sweat- and dirt-stained pants. Strapped to his leg was a gift General Roof had given him. He flipped it open and pressed a series of numbers before pulling the satellite phone to his ear. It took a couple of minutes for the satellite to acquire his signal. When it did, he heard a series of warbling rings.
The general answered with a voice more gravelly than usual. “It’s two in the morning,” he said.
The rain was intensifying. The drops were heavier and equally as cold. Pierce wiped the water from his eyes. “I found their communications hub. They’re working with two-way radios. I’ve got the frequencies.”
“Go ahead,” said the general. “Give them to me.”
“Four sixty-seven point fifty-eight seventy-five,” Pierce answered. “Four sixty-two fifty-eight seventy-five. Four four six zero zero and four forty-six five.”
“Only four frequencies?”
“That I could tell.”
“So they’ve got a two-mile range.”
“I don’t know.”
“And they’re operational?”
Pierce squatted, resting his weight on his heels. He shielded his face from the rain and tried to cup the phone tight to his ear. The rain was making it difficult to hear. “What?”
“They seem to be,” said Pierce. “They’ve got a generator charging the batteries.”
The signal was beginning to weaken. “Are they onto you?”
Pierce turned his back to the gusts of wind blowing through the canyon. “No.”
“I had to kill a guy,” Pierce admitted. His body involuntarily trembled from the cold.
“That changes things.”
“I’ll be f-f-fine,” Pierce stammered. His jaw was beginning to ache from his chattering teeth. The temperature had dropped what felt like fifteen degrees in a few seconds. The rain was beating down, slapping Pierce’s neck and arms with a cold sting.
The general’s voice was hollow and digitally distorted. “Hello?”
Pierce pulled the phone from his ear and looked at the signal. It was nonexistent. He pressed a button to end the call, wiped the screen with the tail of his shirt, and stood to stuff it back into his pants.
“Pierce?” a voice called from behind him.
Pierce spun as thunder shuddered through his shivering body. A flash of lightning revealed a dark figure standing a few feet from him. Pierce couldn’t make out the man’s features, but he knew who it was and saw the gun in his hand.
“What are you doing, Pierce?” Marcus Battle asked the question as if he already knew the answer.
Pierce balled his hands into fists. He set his feet shoulder width apart and braced himself for the coming confrontation. “What do you think I’m doing?” he asked, the rain spilling into his eyes as he tried to focus on Battle’s right hand.
“Helping the Cartel.”
Pierce laughed. “You’re quick on the uptake,” he said. “I’ve been helping the Cartel since you chose to take me from the Jones. You’re not nearly as smart as you think you are.”
“You were a plant.”
“Something like that.”