Carpathia III: Episode 78 - The Informant
Unassumed Lands, Bridge
Kaoru had only sprinted to the end of the bridge when he started feeling the full weight of his backpack. Not wanting to stop to lighten his load, he pressed on, but the weight became far too great of a burden. Finally, he stopped and unzipped the top. In a flash, he hurled all the extra food, clothing, and other non-essentials from his bag, leaving only the guns and his water, before continuing.
As he ran, Kaoru continuously glanced at the sky. The smoke continued to rise, though it was getting thinner. This heartened him only slightly as he kept up his blistering pace. The closer he got to his home, the more evident it was that the smoke was indeed coming from the house.
The walk to the bridge took him a few hours, but his sprint back to the house was a mere fraction of that. As he reached the crossroad that would take him down the hill to the house, he skidded as he made the sharp turn, nearly falling over. The situation was looking dire from a distance. There was no question now that the smoke came from the house and he could see something at the end of the road.
The scene that greeted him as he arrived was worse than he imagined. Half of the house was exploded into pieces. Before him lay the dead bodies of three men who looked to be soldiers of some sort. With such a clear indication of trouble, he put his backpack down and took out his pistol.
It wasn't long before his search lead him to Ixon and Tarja, both laying dead on the ground with several gunshot wounds. For a moment, he felt as though he would collapse, but he forced himself to keep his composure. Mourning would have to wait, for he did not see Quilyon or Reuli and his first priority was to find them. At that moment, he didn't care if anyone heard him as he shouted their names.
Kaoru: Quilyon! Reuli!
There was no answer.
Quickly and carefully, Kaoru searched the ruins of the house, picking through bits of smoldering wood and overturned furniture. After a thorough search, he thought that, perhaps, they were hiding in the basement.
Kaoru ran to the side of the house to the basement door. After opening it, he flipped the light switch, only to find the basement still dark. Of course the generator was out, so he ran to the house again. Searching quickly through the rubble, he found a flashlight and ran back to the basement door. Racing down the stairs, he nearly fell as he stumbled forward. Once at the bottom, he shone the flashlight around and called their names.
Again, there was no answer.
For a moment, Kaoru thought, hoped, that Quilyon and Reuli ran away into the woods, before another horrifying possibility occurred to him. They could have died in the lake and were carried away in the current. Kaoru rushed up the stairs and out the door. He hesitated, wondering if he should check the forest around him or the lake first. Before he could make up his mind, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
Kaoru lept away immediately and spun around, pointing his gun at whatever it was that was touching him. Zet put his hands up and took several steps backward.
Zet: Whoa, whoa! It's me, Kaoru!
Kaoru lowered his gun, though still kept as alert as possible.
Kaoru: Sorry. Have you seen Quilyon or Reuli?
Zet put his hands down and stepped toward Kaoru again.
Zet: I haven't. I saw smoke, so I came as fast as I could. What happened here?
Kaoru was getting antsy. He looked around and made his way back around the house, occasionally glancing at Zet.
Kaoru: I don't know. I was on my way to look for my friends when I saw smoke rising from here, so I ran back.
Kaoru, still looking around like a nervous bird, made his way toward the lake as Zet followed.
Kaoru once again raised his gun in the direction of the voice and lowered it when he saw it was Kaut. Taking several deep breaths, Kaoru tried to calm his mind and focus.
Kaut: I came to fix the truck. What happened he...
Kaut's voice trailed off as he looked down at one of the dead soldiers.
Kaut: I've seen that guy before!
Kaoru's eyes widened, impatient for any clues.
Kaoru: You have? Where? When?
Kaut: This morning. I saw that Zhail solidier giving a bag of coins to Ghestalt. They didn't see me, but I didn't think much of it at the time. He's always doing weird stuff. That's why I was planning to move out.
Kaoru took several steps forward and got close to Kaut's face.
Kaoru: Where is Ghestalt now?
Kaut: Right now, probably at the bar.
Kaoru quickly considered his options. If Quilyon and Reuli were in the lake, there was nothing he could do. If they ran into the forest, Quilyon's skill would keep them well-hidden and he wouldn't be able to find them on his own. The best option now, he thought, was to interrogate Ghestalt.
Kaoru: Kaut, Zet, you two fix the truck. I'm going to get more guns. We're going to find out what Ghestalt knows.
Kaut: What's going on?
Kaoru: I don't know, but Quilyon and Reuli are missing and I'm going to find out what happened to them!
Without another word, Kaoru turned and sprinted towards the house. Glancing over his shoulder, he saw Kaut and Zet in conversation as they headed toward the truck. Kaoru quickly found the cabinet where Quilyon kept all her guns. It was tipped onto its side and still locked. He didn't know where the key was and didn't want to waste any time looking for it. Over and over, he kicked at the door and, with each kick, the wood weakened a little.
The cabinet was sturdy and it was not coming apart fast enough. Kaoru kicked harder and harder. With one especially hard kick, he lost his footing and fell to the floor.
Kaoru: FUCK IT!
Kaoru turned suddenly when he heard the creak of footsteps on the damaged floor.
Zet: Let me help.
Zet held up his hand and flexed his fingers, showing off his large, thick claws. He kneeled on the ground and dug deeply into one of the cracks in the cabinet. Straining and grunting, he pulled on the wood in opposite directions. Quickly, the crack started getting bigger and bigger until, finally, the entire plank gave out.
After that, it was much easier to dig into the cabinet and Kaoru and Zet tore greedily through the wood to get to the guns and ammunition inside. Inside, he dug through the guns, deciding which ones he would take.
Kaoru: How's the truck?
Kaoru pulled out a sawed-off shotgun to complement his pistol and shoved a pair of shells inside.
Zet: Just a bad radiator hose. He's patching it now. Should be good to go in a few minutes.
Zet started picking through the guns himself, selecting a pistol and a rifle, which he began loading.
Kaoru: Good. We should get a gun for Kaut, too.
Zet: Something low-powered. Komodo arms can't handle something with a heavy kick.
Kaoru sifted through the guns. By now, he knew the characteristics of each one intimately. He found the weakest rifle he could and pulled it out. Then, he took another rifle, his favorite for its long-distance accuracy, and began loading both.
Zet: I can't believe this is happening.
Kaoru: We can think about that later. Right now, we have to find Quilyon and Reuli. Are you ready?
Zet stood, tucking his pistol into his belt and held up his rifle.
Kaut: Good. Let's go see if Kaut is finished.
Kaoru gathered up his small arsenal and handed a few of the guns to Zet to carry as they rushed back to the truck. They arrived just as Kaut closed the hood.
Kaut: Should be okay now. I patched it and put some coolant in. I'll see if it starts.
Kaut opened the driver door and sat behind the wheel. Kaoru could feel his heart thumping in his chest as Kaut prepared the truck to start. Pull out the choke. Turn the key. Step on the starter. It was all so maddeningly difficult to start and waiting felt like an eternity.
The battered, old truck showed slow signs of coming to life. The engine slowly cranked once, then twice. On the third, it sped up until the engine finally turned over and the truck backfired twice.
Kaut: It's ready! Get in!
Kaoru and Zet were already on their way to the truck. Kaut scooted to the side door as Zet climbed in, followed by Kaoru in the driver's seat. He quickly shut the door and put the truck into gear. Releasing the clutch and stomping on the gas at the same time, the truck took off, skidding into the road and racing up the hill towards the rapidly setting sun.
Nobody said anything as the truck barrelled down the road, leaping and bounding over the rough, pockmarked soil. Kaoru kept a tight grip on the steering wheel, correcting his course each time the truck bounced in a different direction. Kaut and Zet held on tightly to their seats.
Kaoru skidded to a stop near the entrance of the bar. Right away, he opened the door and lept out without closing it. Zet took the key from the ignition. Zet and Kaut nodded knowingly at each other as he handed the key to him. The group approached the bar and Kaut peered into the windows.
Kaoru: Do you see him?
Kaut: I do. He's at his favorite table against the east wall.
Kaoru took out both his little shotgun and his pistol.
Kaoru: Okay, let's do...
To Kaoru's surprise, Kaut put his hands on Kaoru's shoulders and gazed at him earnestly.
Kaut: Look, I know you will do whatever you need to do. I won't stop you. Still, as much as I don't like the guy, I can't bear to watch. I'll guard the front door and make sure he doesn't escape, okay?
Kaoru nodded as Kaut backed away and prepared his rifle.
Zet: I think we should do this quickly and quietly. I'll go in the back, while you...
Zet and Kaut both watched Kaoru disappear into the bar over the shattered remains of what was, until a moment ago, the front door.
Zet: Or we can just break down the door.
Zet ran inside after Kaoru, trying to catch up with him. Every head in the bar was turned towards them. Ghestalt was especially frightened, looking back and forth like a frightened, confused animal. As Kaoru came closer, Ghestalt pulled out a pistol, but before he had a chance to aim it at anything, Kaoru used his own pistol to put a shot into the wall right next to Ghestalt's head, sending little bits of powderized masonry scattering in all directions.
Ghestalt flinched and dropped his gun. After tucking his pistol in his belt and readying his sawed-off shotgun, Kaoru grabbed the table in front of Ghestalt and heaved it to the side with one hand, sending glass bottles and his sack of coins skittering across the floor.
Kaoru grabbed Ghestalt's shirt and pinned him to the wall as he pressed his shotgun hard into his temple.
Kaoru: WHERE IS SHE?
Zet quickly leaned in and took Ghestalt's gun. As he did, the bar crowd started gathering around, though Kaoru took no notice. Ghestalt shivered and whined as he kept his eyes closed.
Ghestalt: I don't know what you're talking about.
Kaoru: YES, YOU DO! WHERE IS QUILYON? WHERE IS REULI!
Ghestalt began to shake as Kaoru pressed the shotgun harder into his temple.
Ghestalt: I swear, I don't know!
Kaoru reached up with his thumb and pulled down both hammers with an audible "click."
Kaoru: Last chance. Ixon and Tarja are dead. The soldier who gave you that money is also dead. Quilyon and Reuli are missing. You had something to do with this. One more time, where are they?
Kaoru punctuated his last three words as though they were sentences unto themselves. All was silent in the bar except for the sound of Ghestalt whimpering.
Ghestalt: The soldiers came from the Barrier Waterfall. They offered me money to give them information about the people who lived in the more isolated areas. I think they might have taken your girlfriend there.
More silence, as Kaoru quickly glanced over his shoulder.
Ghestalt: Please, don't kill me.
Kaoru glanced over his shoulder again. Then, he uncocked the gun's hammer and pulled it away from Ghestalt's head.
Kaoru: I won't.
Ghestalt stopped whimpering and his shaking began to subside as he finally opened his eyes and looked up at Kaoru.
Kaoru: I can't speak for them, though.
Kaoru pointed at the crowd behind him as he turned and walked away, followed closely by Zet. The crowed parted and allowed them to pass and then turned their full attention to Ghestalt. Ghestalt slunk down in his chair, once again shaking.
Ghestalt: No... No...
Kaoru didn't look back and carried forward through the front door of the bar, where Kaut was waiting.
Kaut: Did you kill him?
Kaoru, stone-faced, though breathing heavily, looked up at Kaut.
At that moment, several gunshots rang out from inside the bar.
Kaoru: Let's go.
All city pictures from SimCity 4