It isn’t always a matter of doing what’s right. It might just be a matter of survival. Buy time a la carte when you’re too broke for the buffet; whatever it takes to be at the door when opportunity knocks, and opportunity is a frail old granny with advanced arthritis. She often knocks softly.
My mission had failed, or I had failed my mission. Either way, here I was in the nowhere of a mountain forest, my navigator broken and my own brain struggling to stay online. We have come a long way in medical technology, but you still die if you bleed too much. Caught by the fine print again, ha!
My ears perked up when I heard a wolf howl at a distance. Two more voices joined the show.
I dragged my exoskeleton behind me; it was feather-light, but I was drained and bleeding. And with my own blood running low, the exo was useless. A marvel of technology that can squeeze out energy from my spent blood before it goes back to my lungs for another round.
Mustered my strength and courage to get out of the bushes. Walked into the open towards the sound. Darn! A cliff ahead cut off the path I intended to take. But this would be a safe vantage point, not too shoddy in that light.
As I walked up to the edge , the howls became distinct and louder. Shit, a 30 meter drop.The scent of my blood reached the wolves around this moment, I think. The howls stopped. Eerie silence followed. I had to move fast now, or hmm, a change in plan. Sometimes it takes the soft trickle of a stream that you had not noticed in the howls to remind you to listen for opportunities.
The sound of flowing water tickled my thirst. I dragged myself and vampire suit for a drink. Washed myself up and bandaged my wounds. The wolves would not reach here just yet, but I wasn’t safe for too long, neither were the wolves.
It was time to put on the exoskeleton. I needed that extra push to climb up a tree. This was plan F kicking in to action. A through E had brought me so far. Patience, I kept repeating, patience is how cats preserve their curious nine lives. Wait till the right moment, and then… CRACK! The branch below me gave way, and I was left dangling mid air.
I groaned, “Just what I needed!” but truth be told, the wolves must be on their way, this should hasten them. Good!
If it wasn’t for the exo, my arm would have been ripped right outta its cozy socket three seconds ago. But I was good, everything was good.
GOOD! Let’s do this! I found myself a spot between two branches and settled in. Back to the waiting game. I aimed my gun towards land, the cliff falling behind me, perfect. Perfect. I was repeating words now. Must be the exhaustion.
I had been out far too long, the sun was steadily sinking behind the mountains on my right. Shadows had already crawled their way past the high canopy. The game was turning in favor of the wolves now.
An hour went by. Nothing. I shut off the exo after picking a more comfortable perch. My lungs were tired of breathing, I felt like it might be a relief to just stop. Dismissed the idea, not yet. The gun wanted to go back to its holster and all I really craved for was to curl up in a freshly dug pit and doze off to the music of mosquitoes and a raring fire. My dream was short lived.
Granny knocked again! Dry leaves crackling!
I was waiting for this moment! Switched on my exo and felt a rush of second-hand energy. My hands slowly stabilized, but soon I felt exhaustion run through my body at the same time. My blood was fueling the exo, depleting oxygen faster than it was being replenished by my lungs.
“This is it. One chance.” I peered through the sight, darkness. Ah well, let’s hunt with night vision then. Kept scanning the general direction of the sounds until a blob appeared to move on its own. My brain froze, muscles strained, finger urging to dip the trigger just a little more. Patience!
Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, shoot, sigh. I hate doing this, but there’s an upside to having an occasional tranquilizer on you ;) This was not a wolf, but an adult buffalo! As far as buying time was concerned, I was just hurled in to a buffet!
Wolves were still a big concern, but if only I could power my exo for a few hours, I promised myself I would do everything to get the hell out of here. The stumbling buffalo was my first big ticket!
Scanned the woods for any other creatures, jumped off the tree and got on the ground running. Pocket knives are handy, this time I used mine to shave some nasty thick hair off a buffalo’s leg. Heh, finally found a vein worth tapping. Pulled out my “aux cable” as we laughingly called it and inserted the needle carefully to draw some blood.
Waiting game part 2. The pump chugged on the fresh warm juice drawing it into my exoskeleton’s reserve. Few more minutes and I would be ready to sprint my way home. This was perfect!
No granny, no! Not now! Not the opportunity I wanted!
A growl behind my right ear. A warm breath, a drop of saliva on my shoulder raising the hair on my neck. “Don’t move”, internal chatter kicked in, “what are you afraid of? What are they afraid of? Noise! Make noise! How? Fuck! What could I…”
My thought was broken by a cheerful and loud “ALTERNATE POWER RESTORED TO 100 PERCENT”