20. Comings and Goings

September 2008

Vi and her crew, meanwhile, had landed back around on the road near the wreckage, where they'd spent the night before last. They piled out, grabbed small backpacks filled with the bare necessities, and made for the saddle at a fast walk. They needed to make good time down to the lake, but they also needed to still have plenty of strength left when they got there; the hard part was going to be inside the building.

They made it up to the saddle in good time. Looking down over the lake, they could hear sirens from the building. Men were rushing out of the main doors and piling into trucks, and as soon as a truck was full it pulled away across the bridge and down over the dam at full speed.

As they climbed over the saddle there were ten or so trucks parked. The last truck crossed the bridge as the group reached the halfway point between the saddle and their end of the bridge, and the sirens wound down and fell quiet.

“Looks like the ruse succeeded,” Mark said. “As long as they don't all rush back too quickly.”

“Yeah. I hope the other guys are all doing okay; not many of them have flown in combat before,” said Jay.

“I'm sure they're okay,” said Vi. “Still, let's not be letting them down at our end. Shall we pick up the pace a little?”

“Sure thing,” said Mark. The four of them picked their walk up to a brisk trot, holding the straps of their backpacks to stop them bouncing around.

“Are we going to bother sneaking?” asked Mark.

“Probably not,” Melissa said. She looked at Jay. “You've seen more of the loading area than me – what do you think?”

“Cameras over the main doors, pointing straight down the bridge. And there's no trucks to hide in or behind, this time. I think we try and stay concealed as far as this end of the bridge, then we make a dash for it and hope they've got no time or people to respond.” Jay paused. “I'd suggest we swim, but the only way I know in from the lake is far too far down to get from the surface without diving gear.” He sighed. “Nope, dashing through the front door it is.”

They reached the end of the bridge in pretty decent time. They crouched off to one side, just beyond the end. There was no point hiding in the ditch or under the bridge this time – if there was any traffic around, their plan was probably completely spoiled anyway.

Melissa put her pack on the ground, rummaging around in the small pocket on the front. She gave a small cry of triumph and pulled out the walkie talkie she'd stolen many days ago. She flicked it on.

And winced. The airwaves were filled with yells and curses – desperate shouts for help, and savage epithets hurled at the planes bombing them from above.

“Not sure we're going to get anything useful out of that, 'Liss,” said Mark. “Might be better to leave it off.”

Melissa listened for a few more moments, waiting for any sign of anything useful coming out of the radio, but it was no use; their diversion had caused even more chaos than they'd hoped for. Melissa turned the walkie talkie off and threw it back into her bag.

“Well crap,” she said. “That was pointless.” She picked up her pack again and threw it on her back. “Shall we go?”

“Nothing better to do, right?” Vi grinned. “Let's make a run for it. Everyone ready?” A chorus of affirmatives, and they were off at a jog.

They crossed the bridge without incident, and reached the empty parking and loading area. It was eerily quiet, without the sound of people and trucks and unloading. The huge doors stood open.

(The doors had been already open every time he’d been through, Jay remembered, but usually there had been other people around.)

Jay pointed at the camera above the doors, and signalled the others to follow him as he ran underneath it and flattened himself against the wall beside the doors. They’d probably been spotted already, but no sense tempting things; they may as well take any advantage they were given.

“Ready? Time to get your weapons out,” he said.

It was a nervous moment; none of them were particularly familiar or comfortable with guns, and they were all too aware of what the guns would mean if they bumped into anyone.

“Are these really necessary?” Vi asked.

“Hopefully not,” said Jay, “but I don’t want to risk it. If we get into trouble, we need to be able to get ourselves out of trouble.”

“But aren’t we more likely to get into trouble in the first place if we’re armed?” said Mark.

“We were unarmed, and that didn’t stop them imprisoning Melissa, and giving me a beating and dumping me out in the high country to die,” Jay said.

“But they didn’t shoot you, did they,” Mark said.

“Look, we don’t have to use them,” said Jay. “Just think of them as insurance, or encouragement – they’re a reason for people to leave us alone.”

Mark wasn’t convinced, but it was too late to debate it further. He checked the safety on his pistol and tucked it into his belt. The others followed suit; only Jay kept his gun in his hand.

“Okay, let’s go,” said Jay. He ducked around the corner and into the building. The area at the top of the chute was as empty as the loading bay had been. The small door into the central part of the building was closed, and Jay found it locked when he tried the handle.

“See, this is why we need guns,” he said, taking aim at the latch. He fired; a loud bang and a burning smell, and the door swung open a little way. He yanked it open, gun pointed through the doorway.

“Man, tone it down before you hurt yourself, Jay,” said Vi. “You’re not Ned Kelly.”

Jay glared at her, but lowered his gun-arm a little. “Come on then, no time to hang around,” he said. He went through the doorway into the lobby, and pushed the ‘down’ button for the lift.