All is quiet at the camp … until 13.00 when Grim, who is on watch, picks up the sound of barking wahroos. The sound is coming from the direction that the party members took to get to their current position – it sounds as if these are domesticated wahroos which are following the party members’ trail. Grim wakes up the others to tell them what’s going on.
They decide to strike camp early. Jie takes two of the horses and heads west with them; Taeva takes another two and heads east while the rest of the party members carry on south.
A couple of hours later, Taeva and Jie up meet up with the rest of the party, having let the horses runs loose. Grim has camouflaged the vehicles once more. They hear the sound of a chopper overhead, but the vehicles are well-hidden and there is nowhere for the chopper to land in the dense forest and so it looks like they’re safe.
At least it did until they see eight gendarmes rapelling down from the chopper. The eight gendarmes split into two four-men squads – one heading west while the other heads east.
The party members check their weapons and get into position to take on the first of the squads which is heading in their direction, hiding among the bushes.
Jie waits until the gendarmes are nearly upon the party members and then fires her autopistol at one of them, dropping him. Grim quickly takes out a second one with his shotgun. Taeva sneaks up on a third and plunges her needler into him. Unfortunately though, his mesh absorbs some of the damage and he doesn’t drop. Arvor comes forward and unleashes a volley at the fourth, but his aim is off and he misses. The gendarme fires back at him with his autorifle and drops Arvor, who falls unconscious. The other gendarme tries to hit Taeva with the butt of his rifle, but she nimbly avoids the blow. Jie takes him down with her autopistol, while Grim brings down the one who got Arvor with the shotgun.
With all of the first squad down now, the party members quickly relieve them of their autorifles, ammo, mesh and also find they each have a couple of grenades. Will rushes forward to perform first aid on Arvor, while Max backs up the LandRover so that they can get Arvor into it. Will does a good job with the first aid and Arvor soon regains consciousness while the others bundle him into the back of the LandRover.
The second squad will have heard the shots being fired and so will surely be on their way and so everyone quickly gets to their transport. Grim gets in the LandRover with Max while Will gets back on the quad bike; Taeva and Jie get back on their horses.
Within seconds of the LandRover getting underway though, Max calls out:
He and Grim both duck down as they see the chopper is above them, raking their vehicle with its twin MG’s. The two guns tear up the LandRover badly, smashing all of the windows and riddling the bodywork with shots. By some miracle though, neither Max, Grim nor Arvor gets hit and the engine and tyres also manage to survive.
Taeva has stopped her horse and fires at the chopper, taking out one of its MGs and also hitting the engine. Grim and Jie also fire at the chopper, with Grim getting another hit on the engine and Jie taking its second MG, leaving the chopper defenseless.
The chopper pilot pulls the chopper up now that it cannot cause any more damage and also knowing that another hit on the engine could bring it down. Taeva shoots another volley at the chopper, raking it will fire. Grim also riddles the chopper with fire, catching the pilot. As they watch on, the chopper lurches to one side, falling until its rotor catches the top of one of the trees, sending it careering out of control until it crashes into the forest in a ball of fire.
The other squad is close now though and so the party members don’t have time to congratulate themselves. Taeva and Jie spur on their lead horses, with the other ones following on behind them as they head further into the forest away from the squad. Will follows on immediately behind them, with the beaten up LandRover bringing up the rear.
Ten minutes later and they have managed to put three kilometres between themselves and where the remaining squad was last seen. The horses are tired now and so Jie and Taeva bring them to a halt. The others get out of their vehicles to discuss their options.
“Look at them ruts the LandRover has been diggin’ into the soft soil,” Max says with a nod at the direction they have just taken. “A bleedin’ blind man’ll be able to follow wiv us leavin’ such an obvious trail.”
The others agree that they are going to have to dump the LandRover soon as it is just too easy for their pursuers to follow. In any case, the barrels of diesel in the back got riddled with machine gun fire and have been leaking.
“Alright then,” Max says. “As long as I get the quad bike. I ’ate those bloody ’orses.”
“We need to find a stream,” says Taeva. “If we can find one, then we can ride the horses and the quad bike down it and that will throw the wahroos off the scent and make it very difficult for them to see where we got out again.”
All agree and so the procession sets off again, slowly now so as not to damage the horses.
After an hour, they find a small stream which is running down the hillside from the mountains to the sea. It’s time to abandon the LandRover now and so, with a few winces and grimaces, Arvor gets out of the LandRover and gets on one of the horses. Max loads the least damaged of the barrels of diesel onto the back of the quad bike.
Grim and Taeva see to the LandRover. Grim opens the hood/bonnet and then plunges his machete into the radiator, sending up a small cloud of steam into the cool spring air. Taeva takes one of the grenades, takes out the pin and wedges it into the driver’s door so that it will detonate as soon as anyone opens it, hopefully taking up the LandRover in a mighty fireball as the whole vehicle is now covered in a pool of diesel an inch deep.
Once the LandRover has been prepared, everyone mounts up and, with Taeva and Jie both leading a string of four horses each, with Max in between on the quad bike. They head up the stream for an hour, quite a steep climb for thee horses as the altitude increases. The sun is starting to go down now. Once it is nearly dark, Taeva leads the procession out of the stream bed and they continue in a south-westerly direction, heading to the starport and Southport once more.
They continue to walk the horses through the night in order to put as much distance as they can between them and the gendarmes. There are a couple of choppers up in the air, but they obviously have no clue at the moment as to exactly where the party might be now as they are searching a wide area. On a couple of occasions, the choppers come close and the party is forced to head for the thickest part of the forest and hide beneath the branches as the chopper’s searchlight scans the area for a while before heading off in a different direction, allowing the party to continue onwards.
After five hours of riding, they are already a good distance from Brownport, but Taeva doesn’t want to take any chances as the quad bike and the horses’ 32 hooves are still churning up the undergrowth to such an extent that their trail could be quite easy for anyone to follow if they were lucky enough to stumble across it. And so they repeat the exercise by travelling along a stream – this time heading downstream for 90 minutes bringing them back closer to the coast. They then continue riding for another couple of hours until Taeva and Jie decide that the horses are getting too tired to continue and that it’s time to give them a rest through the day. They are already 40km from Brownport, which should give them an excellent lead. Without being able to follow their trail any longer, finding the party in hundreds of square kilometres of dense forest will be like finding a needle in a haystack.
They choose a location in among a thicket of trees that will be hard to spot from the air, which Grim adds some camouflage to, and then everyone settles down for some well-needed sleep.