Route 8 East (Tralnor Hunting Pt. 1)

“Dude,” Hector Christman pushed through clenched teeth, “that was a cop car.”

“No it wasn’t,” the driver shot back, his voice cool, metallic. “That car is always parked there. Trust me. It may have been a cop car at one point, years ago. Now it’s an old taxi cab. Vehicular evolution is a follows: police cruiser, taxi, lawn ornament. I mean, I can track back around and show you the checkered banner on the side panel if you don’t believe me, but we’re kind of on a timeline here.”

Hector shifted in his seat, adjusting the shoulder strap of the twisted safety belt after a series of nervous fidgets. The driver’s lead foot was the last thing Hector needed to worry about out here in what was becoming a foreign and desolate span of gray land. “It’s fine. I believe you. It’s just getting a little eerie out here,” he said, cautious to let slip more of his paranoia bubble over. “You’re not exactly going the speed limit.”

The driver’s only response was pressing firmer on the accelerator. His face wore the opposite expression than his passenger. Jaw loose, muscles slackened, he stared stonily ahead. Hector was right to be tense. The driver knew where they were headed. He had been just as scared the first time he was a passenger in the a car headed this far east on Route 8.

“I never saw a mile marker sign with that high a number,” the Hector spat, tapping on his window toward the road’s shoulder. “You really been this far outside Browning Meadow county boarder before?”

“Guilt is a state of mind, my friend,” the driver said, eyes narrowing to the horizon line ahead, “especially when it comes to what we’re doing tonight. Corruption breeds corruption. Plus, aren’t we just exercising our rights to open the doors of the irreverent palace of youthdom? I know for a fact that we aren’t the first duo to try and free the Tralnor. Even if there had been a cop sitting in that car, we’re not far enough beyond the Fence for him to have any reason to suspect us—”

—as the driver spoke, Hector’s thoughts crept into the duffel bag that sat, bulky and awkward in the trunk of the blue sedan. The cops would question that. The driver’s reasonably-voiced explanations reverberated from the basement walls the night before, while they had packed the bag with what they had both concluded were the necessary objects to successfully free that mythic Tralnor from its eight-decade long captivity—

“—ah, I just got hit with the most inspired backstory for the cops, you know, if we do need one,” the driver said, attempting to chip away some of the lackluster from his passenger’s conviction.

Hector turned his glazed stare from dusk-covered countryside to the driver. “What’s that, genius?”

“You and me are strangers. We just met, right? You’re trying to sell your car. You posted a listing on the ‘net. I saw it. We decided to meet at the fuel station by Hartstown because it’s central for both of us. Dude. This is the test drive. We get to play dumb because neither of us really know the area nor that we are in close proximity of an unrestricted area. Not being locals, we don’t get bulletins about not crossing the Fence. Solid, no? Solid and slick.”

Hector turned sullenly back to the window, nodding. It was solid. That is, if there was anyplace in the region that didn’t get bulletins about the Fence. Still, he silently prayed they wouldn’t have to explain anything to anyone until they were being interviewed by the ‘net reporters who eagerly wanted to share the story of the Tralnor emancipators with the States.

Their velocity blurred the objects on the side of Route 8. Hector Christman thought he glimpsed another mile-marker sign. He wondered how many more they would pass before the pavement gave way to sand.

 

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