The flight is far from being a pleasant experience. The plane is not pressurized which means that the air is thin and it is freezing cold. The party members shiver as they take deep breaths, sucking the thin air into their lungs, entombed in the complete darkness of their coffin-like containers. Eventually though, the boredom overcomes the discomfort and they drift into sleep.
They are awoken with a jolt as the plane touches down – it’s hard to say how long it has been, but they all know that the journey was scheduled to take eight hours.
The plane comes to a halt and then taxis for a while before coming to a halt once again and the engines come to rest. Half an hour later and they hear the sound of fork-lifts once more, which starts to unload the cargo. There is more jolting as the containers are unloaded. This time, however, they aren’t loaded onto a lorry, but are rather transferred straight into a warehouse.
After half an hour, the sounds of activity stop and everything is silent. They wait for another 20 minutes to make sure that the area is quiet and then cautiously open the containers a crack.
As expected, they are in a large warehouse which is pretty full of other containers. There doesn’t seem to be anyone in the immediate vicinity, but they can hear faint voices coming from close by. The warehouse is currently brightly lit from the sun coming through the skylights. It is now pleasantly warm compared to the freezing journey on the plane.
After some slow fumbling through the piles of suits, Arvor peeps through the crack of his barely lifted crate lid. He scans around and locates Taeva’s crate. He glimpses her peering around in a similar fashion, and he shrugs his head in a “go ahead” motion for her to do the recce.
With cat-like grace, Taeva checks that the coast is clear and then quickly exits the container, closing it behind her.
Crouching down and keeping to the shadows, she first of all heads in the direction from where the voices are coming from. Arvor keeps an eye on her as she watches for a while. Then she makes an upwards movement with her hand.
“OK, everyone out,” Arvor says. “As quiet as possible.”
Taeva keeps a look out as the party members start to emerge from the containers – the more dexterous ones helping those who are less smooth.
Taeva keeps looking back and forth between the warehouse office and the party member’s containers. Once they are all out and the containers have been resealed, she gestures for them to find cover. The warehouse is pretty full and so it’s not hard to find hiding places well out of sight of the office.
Once everyone is well-hidden, Taeva quietly returns to meet up with the others.
“Arvor, keep an eye on the office while I see what’s outside.”
Arvor nods and moves forwards to where he can see anyone approaching from the office while Taeva quietly heads for the main warehouse doors. In addition to the heavy sliding door, there is a smaller one inside it for passenger entry. Fortunately it is unlocked. Cautiously she opens it a crack and peers through the opening. She has a good look at what is outside and then heads back to join the others.
“I can’t see any easy way out in broad daylight,” she says. “We’re not that far from the perimeter of the airport, which is just a chainlink fence. The passenger terminal is a good 500m away and I can’t see any way of getting there apart from walking directly across the apron, which means that we’ll be spotted straight away.”
“Either we come up with a way of bluffing our way out of here, or else we have to wait for nightfall and try and make our way through the perimeter fence.”
“Are there any storm drain covers nearby or culverts?” asks Arvor.
“I couldn’t really see from the doorway,” Taeva replies. “There could be, but it would still mean a run across the apron to get to them even if there are some around.”
There is a silence among the party members as it just seems too risky to try and exit the airport during daylight hours. Reluctantly everyone agrees that they are just going to have to wait until nightfall, even though it means losing half a day.
The safest place to wait is back inside the containers so, reluctantly, they all climb back inside them where they have a long wait. They try and get some sleep, knowing that they are going to have their work cut out for their remaining stay in Twalarsk as the clock is ticking.
There is some activity in the warehouse during the day as some cargo is loaded and unloaded, but no one disturbs the containers that the party members are hiding in. As time rolls on, the party members have spent the best part of 24 hours shut inside the coffin-like conditions of the containers. The packed lunch that Natalia prepared for them is long gone and everyone is hungry now, and they ache all over from being stuck in the same position.
From 7.00pm onwards, Taeva opens her container a crack and peeps out. Dusk falls at 8.00pm and, by 9.00, it’s completely dark.
The party members repeats the exercise to exit the containers, with Taeva checking on the workers while everyone leaves the containers and assembles in the back of the warehouse. The warehouse is still working at this time and quite well lit.
Arvor keeps an eye on the office while Taeva heads to the doorway once again and peers out. She gestures for the others to come and join her.
“It’s about 50m around the side of the building to the east we need to go,” she says. “It’s visible from the passenger terminal, but if you keep close to the walls, the shadows should conceal you. Once we are around the corner, we should be out of sight from the terminal.”
Arvor continues to watch the door to the office while Grim comes to the main entrance to keep a watch on the terminal. Once he is sure that the coast is clear, he taps Taeva on the shoulder and she silently scurries through the shadows alongside the wall of the warehouse until she disappears around the side. She beckons for the next party member to come and join her.
William is next. He waits for Grim to give him the go-ahead and then also darts around the side of the building. Max follows him, and then Jie. With there still being no sign of activity from the office, Arvor leaves his position and is the next one through the door. Grim is the last one to join the others waiting at the side of the building.
Moving around the side of the warehouse is safe enough as it is at the far eastern side of the airport. They safely head around the side of the building to its southern edge.
There is a road now separating them from the fence. The front of the terminal building is visible from here, but its quite a long way off and line of sight is not good as the road has trees along each side, spoiling the view.
Taeva peers out and then dashes across the road. She is pleased to see that, as Arvor had suggested, there is a culvert running around the perimeter just inside the chainlink fence, which should provide good cover for everyone while they wait to get through the fence.
She beckons for the others to follow her. Three minutes later and everyone is safely inside the culvert out of view from any prying eyes.
Taeva takes a look at the chainlink fence. It is not electrified, but the bottom of it is fixed into the concrete beneath it, so it is not going to be possible to burrow underneath it. Climbing it is also out of the question as it is 3m tall with barbed wire at the top.
Taeva looks through the fence to see what’s on the other side. Immediately in front of the fence is a railway line that leads to the station in front of the passenger terminal. In front of that is a road which does not seem to be too busy.
On the opposite side of the road are several small industrial units. To the west of them is an area of woodland. To the south east of the industrial units are many dachas – simple wooden houses where more privileged Pavabidians can spend their weekends away from the smog and grime of Central Twalarsk. Downtown Twalarsk is 25km away.
Grim opens his case and pulls forth a small pair of wire cutters. He slides up the side of the culvert and begins to snip away at the chainlink. The fence is quite old and rusty and so he has little difficult in cutting through the wire.
While he is halfway through, however, all hear the sound of something barking, not far from the party’s location.
Arvor and Jie look at one another with a painful reminiscence of the savaging that they received while entering the floating palace.
“Wahroo,” they both say simultaneously.
Grim hurries to get through the remaining links in the chainlink, the sound of barking getting closer all the time.
He has just managed to make a sufficiently large hole for the party members to squeeze through when there is a crashing through the trees and undergrowth and a single wahroo pounces towards them. The beast is wearing a collar, but there’s no sign of a handler. Yet, at least.
Maybe Arvor appears to be particularly tasty to wahoos being a local or it’s pure coincidence, but the beast launches itself off the side of the culvert towards him. Taeva was ready and waiting for it though, and as it leaps for Arvor, she hurls her throwing knife straight at the advancing beast. Her aim is bang on target, hitting the creature right between the eyes and it quickly expires with a terrific howl.
Everyone can hear the sound of booted footsteps in the distance. The wahoo’s handler is on the case, hurrying towards them.
Knowing that there’s no time to lose, Grim rushes through the hole in the fence and drags first William, then Max up the culvert and through the gap in the fence.
A freight train is coming down the tracks. Grim tells the others to quickly get passed it. Jie is next through the gap now, followed by Arvor. Taeva is the last through the fence as she retrieves her knife.
A guard appears through the trees and sees the party members making their escape. The freight train is nearly upon them now, sounding its horn to tell them to get out of the way.
The guard is shouting for the party members to stop.
He’s leveling his SMG pistol at Taeva.
At the last possible moment, she leaps across the tracks just in front of the train, the diesel locomotive missing her by barely an inch.
The party members hear a curse from the guard as the slow, lumbering train forms an impenetrable temporary barrier between him and the party members. He begins blowing on his whistle loudly in order to get back up.
The party members dash across the road as there is no traffic at the moment and quickly disappear behind the closest of the industrial units, disappearing from sight as the train passes by, entering the airport station.
The party members spend a few seconds catching their breath.
Realizing that, if they were to be seen in the wooded area, their behaviour would definitely looks suspicious, they decide to head to the dachas where they could pass as some owners out for a walk in the warm evening weather. A fast walk, at least.
There are very few lights on in the dachas that they pass as most of them seem to be unoccupied. They can hear many sirens of police cars in the distance, heading for the airport. Realizing that they aren’t putting enough distance between themselves and the airport and so they speed up.
The road through the dacha area is just a minor road and so there is little traffic on it. Fortunately this means that there are no passing police cars, but it also means that there are no taxis around. After 20 minutes of fast walking, they stop to listen, and hear the sound of traffic coming from the east and so start to head towards it.
Now they can hear the sound of waroos barking in the distance getting louder and so the party members speed up to keep ahead of them. After another 20 minutes of fast walking, they eventually see a road ahead of them which heads direct for the city centre.
While the others stay in the shadows on the edge of the dacha area, Taeva heads towards the road to check that there is no police around. It seems as if they managed to get ahead of the police though as there is no sign of them. She gestures for the others to come and join them and they flag down a couple of cabs.
They take the two taxis towards the centre. They see a few police cars going past in the opposite direction, but don’t encounter any others on the way. It seems as if they managed to get away from the area before the police were able to seal the whole area down.
When the taxis are well inside the perimeter of the city and it becomes obvious that they aren’t in any more immediate danger from the police, they bring the taxis to a halt at a major junction. They wait for a while until the original taxis have gone and then hail two more. This time, rather than continue to the city centre, they follow the ring road around for half an hour. The airport was in the north west of the city; they follow the ring road around until they are east of the city centre – they should be well away from being linked to the escape from the airport now.
They pay off the taxis and take a look at the area. They are next to a small parade of shops – several bars, a supermarket, and a few other food shops which are all currently closed because of the time. Surrounding the parade of shops as far as the eye can see are the large concrete-built apartment buildings that vary from five floors to up to twenty.
“Should we try and do some recon tonight or shall we just get some rest?” Grim asks the group.
“We could arouse some suspicion if we are travelling through the centre at this time of night,” Arvor replies. “There will be practically no traffic after midnight as hardly anything is open after that time, so we might be stopped and questioned. We probably won’t see much in thee dark anyway.”
“It’s probably best if we just get an early night so that we start our recon straight after dawn so that we don’t miss out on any daylight tomorrow.”
Everyone is pretty tired after spending an uncomfortable day in the container and so they are all happy with the idea of getting a good night’s sleep.
“It’s probably best if I do all of the talking,” Arvor continues. “We shall say that we are all religious pilgrims from Shebleharm come to see Orobid’s procession, so act as if you’re hicks on the trip of a lifetime, enthusiastic at the idea of seeing our great leader.”
“It’s important that we don’t say anything at all to one another that might be incriminating while we are in the hotel. Rooms are quite often bugged and the staff will probably inform anything suspicious to the police.”
Arvor finishes his lecture and the others follow him as he asks a passer-by for directions to the nearest hotel and is directed to one just 500m away.
The hotel is an ugly, concrete monstrosity. Fortunately, it does have a few rooms spare for the night. Thee other party members play their parts as shiny, happy people while Arvor does the talking. The old woman behind the counter just seems to be tired and bored as she checks everyone in. She asks everyone to fill in forms giving details of their identity cards and asking several other questions as well regarding where they have come from and what they will be doing in Twalarsk. The party members fill in the forms a little nervously, remembering the cover stories that they practised while they were on the ship in jump. Fortunately though, the receptionist doesn’t study them too carefully after checking their identity cards and hands everyone their keys.
Before everyone heads to their rooms, Arvor asks the receptionist if she knows what route Orobid will be taking so that the group can get a good view. Fortunately, she has printed route maps for the motorcade which she hands to everyone. Remembering Arvor’s instructions not to speak while they are in the hotel, everyone simply heads to their rooms. They study the route maps for a while to look for possible assassination sites and then get some sleep.