Day 33 Night
Mariana and I stopped at the tent to change gear. I asked, “What did you find out from Georgie and the Mother?”
“Not a whole lot,’ she replied, “the Mom was able to put his time of departure somewhere in the eye passage. He probably thought the weather was over and George’s head point was towards the North. That’s one tired little devil but after enough ‘flies’ he did repeat that Chris is in a cave.”
“Sounds about right,” I replied, “He does not know any woodcraft so he’s probably following the dig lines for the power grid. Those generally skirt around the rock formations up there that have cave possibilities. At any rate it’s the best starting point I can think of!”
We pulled up the hoods and shields, more to keep the water off the backs of our necks than to use the sensor suite. Only the infra-red was functional and our only comms were the short range sub-vocs that also went over infra-red.
Once we left the camp perimeter we were vary careful about our paths. We only left the woods into a trench line when we could come into it from down wind. After about three hours our search was rapidly narrowing to the area the grid crews had knick named The Knuckle. This area centered on the e-f 17-18 grid squares.
We knew we were getting close when as we were getting into position to move up the f-18, gap we found Chris’s robot. It looked like a truck had hit it but surprisingly looked repairable.
“Whatever hit it didn’t stay around to tear it up.” I said over the sub-vocs, “We have only seen one thing that can create that type of impact damage.”
She grimaced through her shield, “Yep we got two damn rumbler’s. Wonder why they are so close together? I thought Sinopa said they had huge ranges.”
“Damn if I know. Guess we can figure that out later. Maybe their ranges were separated by the river and we went and built them those handy bridges? Who cares, let’s go get the kid.”
We started moving slowly up the cut, opening after opening showed nothing. Suddenly Mariana tapped me on the shoulder and I turned to look at her. What I saw was Spotter in her hunch shouldered face down look pointing ahead and to our right. Following her pointing finger I scanned a cave opening, that had a heat source.
“How the hell do you do that?” I asked.
“Do I ask you how you disappear into the distance? We do what we do, check out the cave!”
I came out of the sensory trance to watch Andy moving up to the cave mouth. He stopped took a careful look around the the edge of the opening and waved me forward. Moving up and looking I saw the southern exposure of what we had postulated as a rumbler.
“We are going to have to get it to turn around,” Andy said.
“Well, we could always give it a 7.62 hemorrhoid inspection,” I replied.
I watched Andy choking and gagging trying to keep noise discipline. “Yeah I guess that would work.”
He moved about ten paces in front of the cave mouth and unslung that damn cannon. “Anytime you are ready,” he said.
I crouched around the corner and started to sight in, “Damn I know why this one is here. That’s a female, look at the rear hips and exoskeleton placement.”
“Does that change the plan?” he grunted.
“Nope, she’ll just spin faster.”
I sighted in and squeezed off a quick three round burst, then dove out of the opening. I heard the bellow of pain and saw the front legs of the monster start out of the cave.
The world went silent as my earbuds squeezed shut under the overpressure I felt over every inch of my body. I saw the blood, liquid and pureed brain mass fly out of the ear of the rumbler and looked back to the flats.
There stood Andy taking that damn cannon off of his shoulder and the three clouds of smoke. Damn no wonder it hurt. We stared at each other for the 90 seconds it took for the earbuds to relax; then he said, “Go get the kid and let’s go home. Sun’s coming up and people are going to be worried.”