Carpathia III: Episode 79 - Barrier Falls

Unassumed Lands, Bar

Still running on adrenaline, Kaoru darted for the truck as Zet and Kaut followed. Kaoru opened the door and jumped into the driver's seat. When he reached for the key, he found that it wasn't there and began searching frantically for it.

Kaoru: Where's the key? Where's the key?

Zet and Kaut inched toward the truck door.

Zet: Kaut has the key.

Before either of them could say more, Kaoru held out his hand.

Kaoru: Well, give it to me! We're wasting time!

Kaut: Scoot over, Kaoru. I'm driving.

Kaoru, momentarily too stunned to speak, simply stared at both of them.

Zet: You barely got the truck here in one piece. We're never going to catch the soldiers if we crash.

Kaut: We're not going to compromise on this, so the sooner you agree, the sooner we get going.

It only took a couple of seconds for Kaoru to mull upon their serious faces and decide to acquiesce to their demand. He scooted away from the steering wheel to the passenger side.

Kaoru: Fine. Hurry up.

Zet climbed into the truck, followed by Kaut. Following the same, tedious starting procedure, Kaut started the truck and zoomed away from the bar. It was only a short drive to the main road, where Kaut turned right and headed toward the Barrier Falls.

The truck sped rapidly down the road, though not nearly as recklessly as they had when Kaoru was driving. Kaut drove quickly, but cautiously, occasionally slowing down somewhat in order to avoid the more catastrophic potholes. Kaoru fidgeted impatiently as he leaned against the passenger door.

Kaoru: I can't stand not doing anything. This is why I wanted to drive.

Zet: And that's why we couldn't let you. We need to make sure we get there in one piece.

Kaoru placed his hand between himself and the window and leaned on it.

Kaoru: Yeah, yeah.

Once again, the cabin of the truck went silent, except for the sound of the engine and the rattle of the suspension on the rough road. In a short while, Kaoru started wringing his hands and shifting around in what little space on the seat that he had. Watching the farms go by as they zoomed along, he did his best to keep his focus, but he was quickly losing that fight.

Kaoru: I should have been there.

Zet and Kaut noticed Kaoru's voice cracking as he spoke. Kaoru sniffed and wiped his eyes.

Zet: If the soldiers could overpower both Tarja and Quilyon, you wouldn't have stood a chance.

Kaut: That's right. Now, we're going to be the ones sneaking up on those bastards.

Kaoru shook his head.

Kaoru: I guess...

The truck hit a deep pothole and bounced, tossing all of them a few inches up from their seats.

Kaut: Just a little longer. We're almost there.

The truck skidded to a stop at the end of the road. Ahead were the Barrier Mountains and accompanying waterfall. Also ahead was a large, green truck, much bigger than the one they were riding in and capable of carrying at least a dozen people, if not more.

For a moment, all three of them thought they just blew their opportunity of surprise, expecting soldiers to start pouring out of the truck. When none were forthcoming, each grabbed their guns and gingerly exited the truck. In the distance, they could hear the Barrier Falls. Slowly and carefully, they approached. Kaoru checked the back, but it was empty. Zet and Kaut each flanked the sides of the truck and checked the driver's seat. Nobody.

Kaut: I guess they're already down the mountain. Now I know why Ghestalt got this truck.

Zet: We should go quietly. We don't know where they are. Does anyone have a spyglass? We might need it.

Kaoru: I think there's one in the glovebox. I'll check.

Kaoru ran back to the truck and swung open the door. As soon as he opened the glovebox and reached inside, he could feel the spyglass, large as it was. After gently closing the door, he returned to the group.

Kaoru: Let's go.

Winding around the narrow trail between the lake and the mountains, the trio carefully proceeded forward, keeping a keen watch for soliders. As they pressed on, the roar of the falls became almost deafening. Finally, close to the falls, the trail turned up the mountain on a low slope. They followed it to its crest.

From there, the trail zigzagged down the steep slope down to the bottom of the falls. At the bottom, they could see the faint light of a fire. Kaoru took out his spyglass and peered through it to the bottom of the mountain as Zet leaned in close to Kaoru's ear.

Zet: What do you see?

As close as he was to Kaoru's ear, Zet still had to shout to make himself heard, so loud was the rumble of untold tonnes of water rushing to the Arid Sea. Kaoru did his best to keep his arm steady as he looked through the spyglass.

Kaoru: Three... four soldiers at least. I don't see Quilyon or Reuli yet. There's a small building down there. Like a fort or something. Maybe they're in there.

Kaut: We need to go down carefully. If we start an avalanche, we lose the possibility for surprise.

Slowly and carefully, they began making their way down the winding trail towards the bottom of the mountain. Occasionally, they would stop while Kaoru looked through the spyglass at the fort below. So far, there was no change in the demeanor of the soldiers. They looked bored, more than anything, as though they were waiting for something. Kaoru spotted a spit of meat over a fire near the fort. Perhaps, he thought, they were planning to eat before leaving. On the shore of the Arid Sea was something that looked like a boat, floating on two pontoons with a mast in the middle.

Continuing down the hill, the three took refuge behind a tree to rest for a moment. Tip toeing down the steep hill carefully was tiresome and their legs needed a rest. Kaoru took out the spyglass again and examined the fort.

Kaoru: Still no change.

The situation abruptly changed when Kaoru saw a bright flash through the windows of the fort. Suddenly, the other soldiers became alert and started rushing around. A moment later, he saw Quilyon burst through the door, brandishing a rifle and firing at any guard she could see.

Kaoru: Let's go!

Paying no more heed to stealth, Kaoru and the others darted out from behind the trees and slid down the hill as quickly as they could. Very soon, all three of them could see what was going on at the fort without using the spyglass. Kaoru kept a careful watch on Quilyon and her position in relation to the remaining soldiers. As he watched, two more soldiers fell by Quilyon's gun. Two, as far as he knew remained.

Continuing to slide down the hill, Kaoru slammed his shoulder hard into a tree. Ignoring the pain, he turned to look for Quilyon again. He spotted her just as she gunned down yet another soldier. One remained, and he was quickly sneaking up behind her. Over the roar of the falls, Kaoru knew that any shout to warn her would be in vain. He pulled out his rifle and readied it, flipping all the sights and the scope into position. Then, he braced himself against the tree and held the gun as steady as he could.

Peering through the scope, Kaoru could clearly see the final soldier about to round the corner of the fort with his gun ready while Quilyon poked her head around the opposite corner. Taking only a moment to steady himself as best he could, he quickly found the soldier's heart in his crosshairs. Just before he pulled the trigger, the soldier darted around the corner and raised his gun.

With no time for caution, Kaoru followed the soldier with his scope and pulled the trigger. The bullet pierced the soldier in his shoulder and he fell to the ground. Quilyon turned toward the soldier and stood in shock for a moment. Then, she raised her gun and finished him herself with a shot to his head.

Ignoring the pain in his shoulder, Kaoru lept away from the tree and continued to slide down the hill. Quilyon no longer searched for any soldiers. She tossed her gun away and leaned back against the wall of the fort, sliding down until she was seated on the ground, where she buried her face in her hands.

Kaoru: Quilyon!

Quilyon looked up with tears streaming down her face. Just a few more yards to go and, now, Kaoru could see that she was shaking. He was still running as he dropped to his knees and slid the last few feet to her.

Kaoru: Quilyon! Are you okay? Did they hurt you? Is Reuli here? Are there any more soliders?

Quilyon didn't answer through her sobs as Kaoru frantically checked her for any injuries, while Zet and Kaut stood over them. Finally, Quilyon pointed at the door to the fort.

Quilyon: In there. No more soldiers.

Both Zet and Kaut turned and rushed into the fort, leaving Kaoru and Quilyon alone together. Only then did Kaoru notice that there was a broken shackle still attached to her wrist.

Kaoru: We have to get this off of you.

Kaoru didn't have a chance to try. Before he could make any attempt, Quilyon suddenly threw her arms around Kaoru and held him tightly.

Reuli: Quilyon! Kaoru!

Before Kaoru could turn around, he felt something slam into his back. Looking down, he could see the familiar hands of Reuli wrapped around his chest. Together, they held each other, until Kaoru felt another hand on his shoulder.

Kaut: Kaoru.

It took some time before Kaoru turned to acknowledge Kaut. When he finally did, Kaut said nothing, but simply stood to the side. Sitting on the ground was Zet and with him was Wolfram, sobbing into his chest.

Kaoru: Oh no, not Wolfram too.

Commissioned art in this episode from:

All city pictures from SimCity 4

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