As we entered the campground we ran into another bit of merriment, a loud ruckus in the middle of which was a miserable looking older surrounded by a bunch of jeering dumbasses.
Adahy shook his blocky head and gave a grunt of dissatisfaction. He shouldered his way through the circle and sauntered up to the ringleader, a big scraggly-bearded goon with maybe three teeth in his head. Adahy cocked his head and smiled. “Don’t know ya, do I? That means you prob’ly don’t know me, too. Looks to me like you’re havin’ yourself some big fun, dunnit.”
Most of the rest of the group knew Adahy, and one of them had brains enough to see maybe a half a minute into the future. “Hey, look, Adahy, we’re just–”
Adahy turned, stared him straight in the eyes, and rumbled, “Didn’t ask you anything, did I?” The fella shut up fast and dropped his eyes.
Adahy squared himself off in front of the goon and asked mildly, “Well? Are ya having fun?”
The goon shifted uneasily and cast his eyes around for support. Finding none, he decided to tough it out with Adahy. “What the hell’s it to–” he managed to get out before Adahy windmilled him a terrific clout on top of his head. He fell to his knees and then onto his face like a poleaxed donkey. Adahy regarded the unmoving heap a couple of seconds before looking around and asking, “Anyone else interested in having himself some fun? Because I’d be happy to help ya out.” He swung his gaze to the man he’d shut up before and raised his eyebrows.
“Nope. Not me. Not us.”
“That right?” Adahy cast a withering glance over the rest of the group. Nothing but shaking heads.
“Well, then, guess there’s no reason for you lot to be hangin’ around. And, by the way, I don’t think I’m gonna be hearin’ about anybody messin’ with my friend here again–am I?” There were more head shakes all around, and the bullies scattered, leaving Scragglebeard face down in the dirt.
Dyani said, “I’m gonna bet you don’t know your ‘friend’ there at all, do you, Adahy?”
Adahy chuckled and said, “I do not. But I thank him for the chance to set a bunch of jackasses straight about campground rules.”
“So, you’re Adahy. Much obliged to ya,” said the older. “Name’s Hadi. I’ve heard ‘bout you. Who’s your friends here?”
“This here’s Dyani, and she’s a true friend, and these two are Travis ‘n’ Dunc which she’s picked up in the woods. Still don’t know exactly why, but there you have it.”
“Ya didn’t need to help. I was about to knock the legs out from under that asshole there. But thanks anyway.”
“Never like to miss an opportunity to teach manners,” Adahy said.
“Happy to help, then,” Hadi replied. “Anything else I can do for you?”
“Nope, I’m good, so nothin’ for me. What direction you come in from?”
“Down south this side of the river.”
Dyani’s ears pricked up at that. “The Niagara?”
“Yep, that’s the one. Roaded in here a while back and thought I’d rest up a while before roadin’ out again.”
“We’re heading down that way. Maybe you could give us some ideas about the best routes to follow,” I said.
Hadi laughed. “Nah, you never.” When he saw I was serious, he shook his head in disbelief. “What the hell you wanna go ‘n’ do that for?”
“Suppose we don’t have a choice?” Dunc said. “Which we don’t.”
“Then I’d say that there’s always a choice–and you’re making a real bad one.”
Dyani replied, “You’re wrong about that–about there’s always a choice.”
“Didn’t mean you’ve always got a choice between good and bad, y’know. Could be a choice between bad and worse. Not ‘xactly an uncommon thing out here.”
Dyani sniffed and looked peeved. She gave her hair a tug and said, “All right. So there’s always a choice. And we’re heading south.”
I took it from there. “How ‘bout you cross out your obligation to Adahy here by giving us a good picture of what’s happening on the trails? You know–what we should look out for?”
“Sure, I can give you an idea, but it’s not gonna help any unless you’re smart enough to know what to do with it. You think you are?”
Dyani interjected, “Well, you made it back up this far, didn’t ya? How smart are you?”
I had my doubts that we might be smart enough. After all, here we were like puppets in one of those traveling shows that makes the rounds. Bors’s little tools. How helpful had our brains been so far? Dyani may have been having the same thought. I could tell she was getting more steamed by the way she started pulling at her hair again. “Let’s not worry about whose brains are bigger,” she said. “All we’re interested in is getting down ’round the station without getting slagged. So, what’re our chances?”
Adahy rested a large paw on Hadi’s shoulder and gave it a friendly squeeze. “C’mon now, Hadi. Leave off the nattering and give a tell.”
Hadi stroked his wispy beard thoughtfully. “Right. Sorry. Sometimes I can’t pass up a bit o’ teasing. Gets me in some right trouble now and then like just now with those assholes, and–”
Adahy cleared his throat meaningfully.
“As I was saying,” Hadi continued, “you’ve got to be smart roadin’ it down south. It feels like everybody’s nervous and runnin’ every which way down there. Especially those Meek bastards. Hard to say what’s got ’em goin’ but maybe they’re just rampin’ up their mission.”
Dunc piped up. “Well, Hadi, what do you think’s makin’ everybody run?”
“Can’t say as I know, but you want my opinion, I think there’s a lot of folks lookin’ for something. Something big.”
“Flies? Could it be Flies got things stirred up?” Dunc asked.
Hadi gave a hoot. “Flies? There aren’t any goddam Flies. That’s rubbish.”
“We heard maybe there’s a warbot hunting in that area. Could that be it?” I asked.
“Could be,” Hadi said. “Or not. I heard talk of that myself. Most of ‘em turned into piles of junk way long time ago, but there’s still a couple two, three of ‘em supposed to be workin’ the areas where the old bridge crossings used to be. But they haven’t killed anyone in, I dunno, a couple years maybe. They’re not all that hard to dodge.”
“Hell then,” I said. “If it’s not Flies and the warbots aren’t good at their jobs anymore, then it shouldn’t be a problem getting down there and doing what we have to do.” I looked from Dunc to Dyani and then back at Hadi. “Right?”
“Told ya what I know. If you really wanta go that far south, then I’d say you shouldn’t have too much trouble on the way down. Once you get there, though–” Hadi shrugged and let that thought float like a little black cloud in our midst. “Well, I gotta get back to my site. Sleep well and g’luck to ya all,” he said as he walked away.
You’ve just finished the last chapter of Not Even Light serialized here, and you’re about halfway through seeing Travis, Dyani, and Dunc all the way through their quest. To purchase the entire ebook, go to my author’s site and scroll to the bottom of the “About the Book” page for links that will take you to its vendors. Thanks for reading thus far.