[Episode 27 of a spin-off from my novels The Hitch-hiker and Mission of the Unwilling.]
We entered the clearing. Some tumble weed bounced through and disappeared beyond a melon patch.
‘Where are they, Günter?’
Günter glared at me. ‘I am FAHRER. Captain Fahrer. Don’t you dare call me that other name.’
‘Yes, Captain—FAHRER—Sir,’ I said aloud. But inwardly, I knew he was Günter, he’d always be Günter.
Günter stared at the empty space in disbelief. ‘Are you sure this was the place? They are not somewhere else?’
‘No, this is it. I remember the melon patch over there and we passed mashed melon which lead here. Oh, and there’s a sock. Yes, this is it. They are gone.’ I picked up the sock. ‘I wonder who’s it is? Probably Fritz’s, he’s always losing his socks.’
‘So, what are we to do now?’
‘Let me see if I can get them on the radio com.’ I pushed the “on” button of the radio communicator and then spoke at it. ‘Liesel to Holly. Liesel to Holly. Can you hear me?’
Gunter Fahrer huffed, ‘It’s the other way around.’
‘Sorry. Holly to Liesel. Holly to Liesel. Can you read me?’
We stared at the black object resting in my hand, willing it to respond. It crackled. Then it fizzed. And then with a “pfft”, it fizzled into static.
‘They are out of range,’ I said. An icy lump formed in my gut. They’ve gone!
‘Allow me to try!’ Günter snatched the radio com out of my hands. He pressed the power button on and off with the same disappointing results. He hurled the radio to the ground. ‘Dumkopfen! Stupid—dumb—morons! Why did they leave us?’
‘I don’t know. I guess they had to go. It must’ve been urgent. Boris, maybe. When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. They’ll be back. I’m sure of it. They won’t leave us here.’
‘And why not? That—that Liesel is a loose cannon.’
‘Has this sort of thing happened before?’
Günter nodded. ‘They left Zach on some remote world filled with women. He was our previous pilot.’ He shook his head. ‘But I didn’t think they would do that to us…’
‘Why did they do that to Zach, then?’ Now I was getting the picture of the situation on the Little Sister Ship. So that’s why there’s tension between Liesel and the Captain.
Günter was philosophical, and as he calmed down, he explained that Zach was not much of a loss. He was more politician than pilot. Zach, the nincompoop, quibbled over every twist, turn, and sector. Got on Liesel’s nerves. And one thing he learnt was not to get on Liesel’s nerves.
‘I’m guessing now, you forgot about that lesson.’
‘What are you implying?’
‘Nothing…’ I gazed at the hills bathed in mauve. ‘What are we going to do? We’re stranded.’
I pulled a map from my pack and then studied it. A crucifix symbol marked a Convent to the south beyond the mountains near the coast. ‘We could head for the Convent-retreat thing.’
‘That place? That is over two hundred kilometers away. How are we going to get there? Teleport?’
‘But if we could walk twenty kilometers a day, we would be there in ten days, and forty kilometers a day, we’d be there in five days.’ I was optimistic. ‘And if we found a car or a plane—no time at all.’ The vision of Trigger, the much-fabled car of John, Minna’s late-brother, drove into my imagination.
Meanwhile Günter paced the clearing. He stroked his chin.
‘Didn’t they have cars at the Wend settlement?’
Günter swayed his head and continued to pace.
‘Joseph said they had a Merc.’
‘Not anymore.’ He stopped and faced me. ‘Even if there was one, where, pray would you get the fuel for it?’
‘The local…?’ I shrugged. ‘What about a cart or buggy. All we would need to do is catch a wild horse and…’
Günter stared at me and rolled his eyes. ‘Any other brilliant suggestions, Miss Mueller?’
‘We better prepare for the big hike, then, I guess.’ I gathered some melons and piled them into my bag.
‘Nein! Nein! Nein!’ Günter snatched my bag, turned it upside down, emptying all the melons on the ground. ‘What did you not understand about my warning of the melons, Ensign? Do I need to spell it out for you?’
‘What’s wrong with them?’
‘They are poisonous. What part of that do you not understand?’
‘Yah. In all the excitement, I forgot.’ I shrank from him. What a fool! I should have remembered. ‘Sorry, Sir.’
Günter put his hands behind his back and recommenced his pacing. Then he stopped and turned. ‘It just might work.’
I checked my map. The now-deserted Wendish settlement lay just over the nearest hill. ‘Anyway, what is left of the town is not far from here. Let’s go there and see what we can find to camp for the night. Maybe we’ll find some leftover food.’ I made a move in the ghost-village direction. Günter stood immobilized. ‘Come on! The place has been decontaminated.’
I raced towards the hill.
Günter called after me. ‘Miss Mueller! Ensign! Stop! Come back!’ I pretended not to hear him and continued up the hill.
He padded after me. ‘Miss Mueller. Do not go there.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Radium Creek, Arkaroola © L.M. Kling 1986
Want more? More than before? Don’t just listen to the rumours of the war on Boris, read it for yourself. Find out how and why this war began.
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