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Careful what you Wish for  [John M Wenitong aka Pemulwuy Weeatunga]

Prologue:

    Jimmy Starlight Warrener, or ‘Jimbo’ as he was known, knew he was in serious trouble. From what his muddled brain could figure, he’d been drugged, kidnapped and taken from his home in remote Western Australia and woke to find himself in a strange part of his people’s traditional lands. Jimmy knew he was yet in Australia: the birds, land and foliage told him as much, but as to where, he had no idea.

A few short minutes ago – after waking up tied hand and foot – several strange white men dressed in army-camouflage clothes had cut his bonds and led him outside, while explaining that he was there to be hunted; By them – Like it or not. They showed him crossbows and one regular Bow and explained that he had every chance to escape, if he was good enough. And, that they wouldn’t use guns of any kind. Each man also carried a huge Bowie-knife strapped to his side. Jimbo had tried to speak, to ask what the hell was happening – if it were some type of joke? But the men had interrupted all queries and after telling him to “shut your stupid black mouth and listen!”, they said he had a one-hour start, and that if he survived until sun-down – Jimbo guessed it was about seven-am now – he would be set free.

Though having made no effort to hide their faces, Jimbo was quite sure that was never going to happen – win or lose…

    Glancing around as they explained the so-called, ‘rules of engagement’, Jimbo noted the small shed he’d woken in, half hidden in a stand of trees and behind it, a small helicopter. So he guessed that’s how they had all got here, though he remembered none of it at all. Jimbo glanced at the men trying to see some spark of mercy within any of them, but they looked over-excited and merciless. They were having fun.

They had offered no water nor food and his mouth was already dry; like when he’d been in hospital after an operation. He guessed that was from whatever they’d drugged him with. Jimbo abruptly thought these men were probably more than a tad insane and, that there was little point in listening to them rave on about their hunt. While the men were talking at him, Jimbo had a quick glance around and saw a green, thick tree-line to his right. He knew there was some sort of water there and while the men were yet gloating, he thought; ‘well fuck this fer a joke!’ and abruptly hoofed it as fast as he could toward the water he hoped was there. It was going to be very hot very soon and water was his first priority.

There were angry shouts behind him, but no arrows, or at least none that hit him. One fellow even shouted: “Not fair nigger!”, at the top of his voice. Either they were terrible shots, or they were sticking to the one-hour start. Jimbo didn’t care one way or the other. These men were ‘propa-Womba!’ He went as fast as the land and his feet would allow – running a zig-zag pattern just in case.

When Jimmy reached the bank of the river bed and the cool shade of the tree-line there, he found it was almost completely dry; Except for a few small pools under the shade of the trees – right in under the tree-roots, which was enough to have a drink and splash water over his head and shoulders. He sat for a moment gathering his wits and immediately accepting of the insane situation he found himself in. ‘Better grab a weapon next’, he thought, and began a quick search for a club or something heavy that he could injure these fools with – and, a nice straight sapling he could use as a spear. Then he had another thought: “I’m better with rocks,” he murmured to himself, listening closely for the sounds of the men chasing.

‘Why would I trust anything they say’, Jimmy thought regarding the hour start and began looking for some nice heavy throwing-rocks he could use – a fairly silent weapon to use against them when they came for him. At present, there were no sounds of the hunters; just the usual bush sounds he knew well. Jimmy knew that if he kept his ears and eyes open, the local birds would tell him when someone ‘foreign’ was around. He had hunted game for many years and often relied on birds to help his eyes and ears in the hunt.

Jimmy gorged himself with water, doused his body thoroughly and quickly found a secreted spot in the bushes near the river, where even a Roo could hop right past without seeing him. ‘They’ll come one at a time, I think, because it’s also some sort of competition by the sounds of ‘em,’ he thought and hoped he could injure one, and move quickly to another spot to take out each of the idiots as silently as possible.

His watch had been taken, but Jimmy guessed about an hour had passed since he bolted. He settled in a squat within the bush awaiting the first of the hunters, while sweat began pouring out of him from the exertion and the rising sun beginning to beat against the land. Jimmy was used to sweating and he settled his mind and body to surprise the first idiot Miglo he saw. He didn’t have long to wait.

A huge Black Kite gave him his first hint that someone was nearby. It was high in the sky, but suddenly began circling, moving slowly toward the part of the river where he hid. The Kite had obviously spotted something large moving and was following it from on high; not merely out of curiosity, Jimmy knew. Human movement out here often gave opportunity to scavenge on what the humans killed; usually leaving a generous portion of their kills, no-matter the type of creature killed. Jimmy slowed his breathing and gripped the rock loosely; eyes and ears straining to catch any movement whatsoever – ready to launch the heavy missile at the appropriate moment.

Jimmy had chosen his spot well. The bush he was in was man-height, and circular with an open top, so when he stood to throw, the movement wouldn’t give him away by the sound of the bush’s branches and leaves rustling. His target was actually singing to himself – and as he came closer, Jimmy could make out the tune and the words:

“Ten little blackfellas standin’ in a line, one got sent to prison and then there were nine,
Nine black Abos’ ripping off some booze, one got shot and then there were eight..”.

The man sang quietly as he came closer, almost like he knew Jimmy was there. He carried a crossbow, although he held it in one hand swinging by his side as he walked, almost merrily along; ‘like he was a normal person out for a Sunday stroll’, Jimmy thought, as he prepared himself to hurl the rock as hard as he could right at the idiot’s head.

What Jimmy didn’t and couldn’t know, was that they had put a tiny tracker on him and, that this man was merely getting him to move, so his partner-in-crime could spot and shoot him. Which was exactly what occurred. Jimmy waited patiently until the man was moving away from his hide. When the man was past him and searching around in front of himself, looking toward the river-bed, Jimmy stood slowly and raised his arm to throw.

Suddenly he was knocked forward by a silent but powerful force; and pain – immediate strobing pain shut him down. He fell forward into the bush with all his plans come to nought. He felt the bolt as a numbing pain in his back and knew his time was over. Within a minute Jimmy was dead. The bolt from the crossbow, fired from behind had gone right through his ribs and pierced his heart – and Jimmy Starlight Warrener ceased to be…

A real challenge!

    “I won! I won! You owe me a thousand bucks, Tige,” the man who had shot Jimmy shouted excitedly. The man used as bait looked into the bush where Jimmy’s body lie. He poked the body with his crossbow and glanced at his colleague. “Do-ya think we should have put a tracker on him? Might have made it last longer if we didn’t,” the man said, shaking his head at the lack of challenge the prey had offered. The third man arrived and seeing the prey already dead, shook his head at his companions with real regret on his face.

“Well! This was downright boring! Useless black cunt!” he said, poking his Bow roughly at Jimmy’s inert body, as if he might rise up and fight. “We need a real challenge and – I think I know how to come by such prey,” he said, stepping back and suddenly firing an arrow into Jimmy’s body. “Locked-an-loaded and no fuckin prey!” he shouted angrily, beginning to drag the body out of its hiding place to re-take the arrow and bolt and then burn it thoroughly, as they’d done to other victims before.

As they began to ready the body for total cremation, the man called Tige, asked: “So pray-tell ‘Ender’, he called his smirking companion, “Where are we going next then? We’ve had ex-soldiers, SAS drop-outs, hippies, survivalists, even a marathon runner and none have given us, or our clients much of a fight at all?”.

The man called Ender threw the cigarette he was smoking onto the body, now dosed with a diesel and petrol mix and moved back as the gasses exploded and the fuel began to eat flesh and bone.

“Ever heard of the Kadaitcha Man? – One of those Aboriginal legends from the fuckin Dreamtime?” he asked them both as they watched the body begin to melt from the terrific heat. Tige guffawed: “That’s the best plan you can come up with?” he said mockingly and continued. “A mythical witchdoctor from ancient Australia? You’ve gotta be joking – my erstwhile friend!” he said laughing.

“Believe it or not Snake,” Ender said, standing back to throw yet more fuel on the body. “There are still, what they call medicine-men or witchdoctors alive today – and they are, from all accounts, experienced bush-men and hunters that have no rival, and – I’ve found just such a one, my fellow hunters,” he explained proudly. “Also, we have a client – a very rich client being groomed as we speak – and to hunt a traditional hunter, someone with real bush skills would be worthwhile, I’m saying,” the man stated. The man called Tiger was still all sarcasm.

“And now that we’ve finally found a worthwhile prey, you’re going to give it away to a fucking rich-bitch client?” Tige said, eyebrows raised as they moved away from the smoke and smell. “Oh no!” Ender said with a grin. “We would have to be there – to ensure the safety of said client against such a worthy foe,” he said with a wink.

“And if we have to help, of course we’d be in on the kill – that what you’re saying, Ender?” Snake said, looking halfway excited again. “Ahh! You know me far too well,” Ender said as he poured more fuel onto what looked more like a desiccated Mummy, than a human body now…

    Far above the scorched circle, yet more Kites circled lazily around the black smoke that rose into the mid-morning sky, patiently waiting on the humans to leave before they dropped closer to view any remains…

Chapter 1

    Cedric Hunter was Hunter by name and by nature. The same C.D. Hunter, The 3rd, was one of the net-rich billionaires created by the ever-hungry, three and a half billion Gamers across the world. CD – as he was familiarly known – had created several of the most popular shoot-em-up, single and multi-player games being used worldwide for several years, and his personal fortune – said to be in the top ten richest in the world, showed as much. Not that CD was IT-brilliant. He was granted ‘old-money’ while young, and he had looked ahead and snitched the best bright young game code-writers available – paid them exorbitantly and gave them an open scope and budget to create new, longer games, with HD Graphics that would stun the world’s players.

CD’s instantly-popular, “Homestead #1, 2 and 3”, had exploded onto the market to the point where the business had trouble keeping up with demand. The Marketing said that single, or multiple players had to defend their frontier-homestead against all comers; “Keep your women and children safe from single murderous hunters, bands of roving marauders, wild animals…”, and several amazingly-crafted mutant creatures that were extremely difficult to kill – without the correct weapons, which of course could be discovered, bought or taken/stolen from the Homestead property and its dwarf-like, native inhabitants.

CD’s new Sci-Fi game – where the alien enemy’s language could be accessed and ‘interpreted’ for player/s after a certain level – were launched immediately sales began to drop on the “Homestead” series. CD had over thirty games out now, with more and better quality and new stories to come as the hardware and software were granted ever-expanding tech-progress.

Nevertheless, CD was, or had been bored out if his ever-lovin mind with success, easy women and money. He was with his fourth wife in ten years and the magic was almost gone from his current relationship. Affairs had become simply boring. He could burn a house-full of money and make it back within the hour; Thus, having it and making more seemed like an automatic transaction. CD was almost at wit’s end when he met Mr. Slocum and his associates. Slocum had contacted him via several very rich friends that CD knew, or knew of.

He was absolutely certain that Slocum would never steer him wrong; introduce the wrong type of person into his high-flying – sometimes ‘illegal-ish’ – lifestyle.

The meeting he’d been invited to was face-to-face and absolutely private. The convenors made certain that only the members and those few invited ever knew about such a shadowy group. On the day of the meet, CD was checked for wires or any recording devices by what looked like a rough-rugged mercenary type man three times, before being allowed to enter. Even his vehicle was checked over by the same man, he saw as they moved to the Mansion.

On entering the private mansion, CD found only four men awaiting him, and only him. Slocum was there already, and the names he was given for the others were nick-names, or obviously, not the men’s real names. He knew none of them but the mansion, vehicles outside and their dress-code shouted both power and money; ‘Big money’, CD thought.

Slocum introduced them as; ‘Tiger’, ‘Snake’ and ‘Ender’, though the aliases were never explained. CD had an inkling of why he’d been invited, though he wasn’t sure of anything yet and while he was so un-informed, he wasn’t about to ask or suggest anything as to why he’d been invited to meet this obviously powerful group of men. He’d wait for them to explain…

Hunters

    “Sit down CD, take a load off and make yourself at home,” Tiger said, throwing a casual arm toward the only free chair, in what must have been the smallest room in the house, CD assumed, having glanced around at the massive interior and expansive furnishings as he was taken through the waiting room and hallway. He noticed the door they went through was very heavy, solid, and when it closed all exterior noise disappeared. On a small table in front of his chair were the alcoholic drink – with a full ice-bucket – that CD preferred; revealing they knew somewhat of his likes already. CD made his drink – wondering what else they knew – sipped, nod favourably and waited for the men to speak first, out of a business-practice habit he’d created over the years of running his company.

“We won’t waste your time nor beat about the bushes, CD”, Slocum said, glancing at the other men there, before turning his attention back to CD. “We know your dollar-value, we know of your many and various talents and we know that you’re a decent hunter; That you’ve killed big game all across the world and, often at great risk to your personal safety,” he said, reinforcing what CD thought the meeting may be about. CD’s pulse rose for the first time in several years, and as the man that called himself Tiger continued, CD sat straighter, leaning toward the speakers…

“We are all hunters – of one sort or another,” Tiger said, grinning at what he saw in CD’s eyes and posture. “We have hunted all over the world and, like yourself, we don’t lay two or five-hundred meters away and kill without the prey even knowing of our presence,” the man said.

“So, CD; Why do you take such risks?” Slocum asked, interrupting the flow of conversation. “Why hunt Lions with a spear and a Masai guide, when even the Masai take several hunters with them?” he asked, while the others await his response.

CD didn’t have to think about that question and responded instantly. “It’s not a hunt if one uses big game rifles, native beaters and a telescopic sight,” CD said simply. “To be honest, it’s become lame,” he admitted, and dropped his bomb. “I need something, more ah..? sentient? Um?.. Something that can plan, can fight back, although it’s mostly only man that has that ability, and that’s ah? Shall we say: morally and ethically wrong; And illegal,” CD said, hoping to god they understood his reference, without saying it outright.

The man called Snake moved closer. He stood over CD looking down at him directly eye to eye; a challenge in his own. “And what would you do, Mr CD Hunter, if the chance to um? Hunt something… ah? More substantial let us say… came along?”, he said, folding his arms as he waited and watched CD’s face closely.

“This room we’re in is completely sealed from the outside world CD,” Slocum assured him noting his hesitation. “No wireless, no signals, nothing can penetrate this little room we’ve created for this purpose,” he explained. CD glanced around at the men and seeing only dead-serious faces, responded. “If you’re saying what I think you’re saying, I’m interested,” he said, once more waiting for more solid information before committing himself further.

“You realise that what we’re about to tell you could land us all in prison for a very long time – if anyone outside were to find out about our little pastime games,” Slocum said with some gravity. “We have a charge for our services as you’d understand, but we know money isn’t much of a concern for you,” Slocum said, smiling. CD glanced around at each man again and decided mere insinuation was pointless. They were waiting on his mind to catch up with the seriousness of what they offered. He gulped his drink, poured another shot, tossed ice into it and stood, forcing the man called Snake to back off. Snake moved back to stand with Ender. CD had made up his mind already.

“Correct!” he said, “Money isn’t an issue, and for what I think you’re offering, any amount would be worth the costs involved. So then,” he said, looking at the men there. “Who, what, where and when?” he asked with raised brows, glancing at each man again, as he swallowed the new drink in a gulp and waited, again. The men glanced at each other and seemed to come to agreement. Tiger nod, Snake grinned enthusiastically, while Ender gave a casual lip-nod. Slocum broke the silence.

“It’s $300-K cash. No records of transactions of course. And as to who, you’re a lucky man CD. Some of the prey we’ve had previously have been – how shall I put it?” Slocum said, looking for the right words. “Fucking clueless terrified idiots that was like ducks in a fucking barrel!” Ender interrupted. Slocum looked to Ender as if he were a slug crawled out of a sewerage drain and continued.

“Let’s just say our previous choices were limited, so now we’ve decided to use a more capable quarry,” Slocum explained after Ender’s snorted response. The man called Snake grinned at his colleague’s critical response and explained much more clearly.

“Mr. fucking “Ender here,” he said sarcastically, using fingers as quotation marks for Ender’s nickname, “thinks we need an active trained soldier, merc, or SAS-type or the like, because others, including ex-servicemen have been less than challenging,” he told CD.

“Snivelling fuckin pussies more like,” Ender mumbled. Slocum almost laughed before continuing. “The problem with Mr Ender’s suggestion, is that such a person would likely be missed soon after disappearing and various law-enforcement agencies and whichever Service they belong to, would have to do a fairly comprehensive search; The very last thing we want,” he explained, staring at Ender with what looked like genuine malice. Then he grinned easily and turned his attention back to CD.

“So then, the who, this time is a semi-traditional ‘Abo’, whom we have in our sights and ready to grab when the time comes. This fellow’s a tracker, hunter and reputed to be one sneaky, capable son-of-a-bitch and, if he’s as good as his reputation, well, even the boys here might have some trouble, though I doubt anyone is that good myself,” he said glancing at the three very capable looking men. “To answer your other questions, the when is within the next month, giving us time to prepare everything. As to where, we keep that secret until the day, for everyone’s safety. We don’t want to be disturbed after all,” Slocum said. The four men watched CD carefully.

“As I said, money isn’t an issue and my time is my own but, I would like to know where I’m going,” CD said. “I don’t think it’s probable with you guys, as you seem to have done this before without any ah? Issues. But I have to be careful, you understand. There are plenty of undesirables who would kidnap me for ransom after all,” CD explained.

“Understandable,” Slocum responded, “I can tell you that our hunting grounds are in the Northern Territory, in such a remote location that we have never seen blacks or anyone else there in all the years we’ve been hunting such um… prey, and I’m afraid that’s all we can tell you at the moment,” Slocum said, gaining nods of agreement from his colleagues.

“I can tell you it’s like no hunting you’ve ever had before,” Snake said, grinning, “there’s just nothing like hunting a thinking creature like man, and I’ve hunted everything from bear to Lion, Crocs and Tigers,” he told CD. “Some run and never stop until they’re exhausted. Some make plans to ambush the hunter. Some just cry and give up. Others have made weapons from out of nothing and attack at first chance, though none have beaten us or our clients ever!” he said. “But, just in case, we’ll be there with you, as we do with all our clients,” Ender explained.

“Just as back-up in case a client gets injured – or the prey is so good at hiding the client can’t find them,” he told CD. “So, are you in for the hunt of a lifetime, CD?” he said, while his colleagues remained silent waiting on CD’s final answer.

“I’m in,” CD said. “You know how to contact me. And I’ll be ready,” he said sincerely. “There’s one more thing,” CD said standing. “I only want my knife, although I’ll be carrying a small pistol in case ole ‘Murphy’s Law’ comes into play. Any issues with that?” he asked glancing around at the men offering this once in a lifetime opportunity.

“A man after my own heart! Up close an’ personal,” Tiger responded and clapped CD with some force on his shoulder before offering a high-five. “I’m looking forward to working with someone that knows his own mind, my hunting friend,” he said warmly…

Chapter 2 Taken

    Buryldandji Djungari came to his senses slowly. He opened his mind and senses but not his eyes, as he waited for his body to catch up with his mind. He could hear several voices speaking – white-men’s voices – he was sure. His hands and feet told him he was bound and the muddle within his mind had to be from a drug of some type, he reasoned. The voices – four – he heard, were not attempting quiet; In fact they were tensely excited as they spoke to each other.

‘Budani’, as he was commonly known, lay perfectly still – unmoving, while he ‘felt’ out the place he was bound within. He sensed the small room he was captured within was old and dusty – part of an old settler’s hut most probably. His ears told him the men were in another part of the old shed-come-shelter he was in. Bird sounds told him he was yet in-country and the weather’s ambience said he was close to the desert; his home country. His nose told him the room he lay in had lots of fuel close by. Petrol and diesel the strong scents said.

The last thing he remembered was a man and woman tourists asking him how to get to the main highway, from where they’d found him off the dirt road, just out of Tanami East, near his beloved home country, where he’d been searching for a yet another pair of lost tourist-explorers. He remembered standing near the big four-wheel drive, resting an arm on the front doors open window, explaining where they were and to keep going east to get back to the highway; to go south to Newcastle Waters or north to Birdum and Daly Waters, when the woman had briefly touched his arm in a thank-you gesture. He remembered a slight stinging sensation – like being stung by a bee or wasp, and then nothing until he’d woken here.

As he lay still and began to feel his body come to life again, Budani heard the men move to the outside of the shack. As they left, he heard them talking excitedly about a previous hunt. It seemed three of the men were experienced kidnappers and possibly man-hunters, while one was a newbie to the whole thing – whatever this thing was? He heard the twang and thump of what sounded like the crossbow he’d got for his nephew last year, then the twang and thump of a normal bow and arrow. The men were cheering and insulting each other as they fired at some target that his senses told him was about fifty or sixty meters away. Now at least he could open his eyes.

He was bound with heavy ‘leccy’s ties – hand and feet – good solid heavy plastic ones that were almost unbreakable, but Budani almost laughed out loud at the bindings. They were so sure of themselves that they’d tied his hands to the front rather than the back – but then he guessed they wanted him alive, not in danger of dying from suffocation, which could happen if he was unconscious with his hands tied behind. Budani had used his teeth as a tool since childhood and his jaw muscles were as strong as a croc’s bite. His teeth were strong and healthy because he only ever ate bush-tucker. He’d seen what processed foods had done to his family and clan’s teeth and overall health – and his ‘work’ necessitated being fit, strong and healthy to complete his various ‘missions’ for his secretive Clan.

There was a small open window in the room he was in. The old push-out type held with a stick and through that, he could hear the men boasting about how good or bad each was with the weapons. Glancing around he saw an old clear-glass bottle near one wall and some old material lying near it on the floor. Budani brought his hands to his mouth and bit and chew through the plastic binding and within minutes his hands were free. Then he rolled to the wall and grabbed the bottle and the old pair of pants there. He put the bottle in the material and smashed it on the stone floor as quietly as he could, then used a sharp piece of glass to saw through the binding on his feet and was free. He took a moment or two to get the circulation going again and to listen to the men outside, yet arguing over who was the best shot.

It was still early morning and he guessed they’d brought him here last night or very early, and were now preparing themselves for whatever they had planned for him. He slid silently across the floor to check out the land, the men themselves, and whatever vehicle they come here in. From the open window he saw the four men standing together about sixty meters from a bullseye target they’d set up and as he glanced around, he saw a small black helicopter to one side of the clearing made for the shack. It was modern and looked extremely expensive. ‘That made sense,’ Budani thought. ‘A chopper could land and take off from anywhere, while a plane – even a small one needed a runway – and choppers were the usual transport for rich white people and landowners up here.’

Two of the men were using crossbows, one using a bow and arrow, but the man standing a bit apart had nothing except a huge knife strapped to his side and a holster with a handgun. As he watched, the knife-pistol man walked closer to the target and the others stopped their shooting competition to watch him. He was dressed in expensive safari gear; lightweight and camouflaged to this land’s colours. The man stopped ten meters away and abruptly threw the big knife in one flowing natural movement; It hit with a solid thunking sound that echoed up to where Budani stood inside the hut. ‘Obviously done that before’, Budani mused. Then the man pulled the pistol from his holster and without seeming to aim, let go several loud shots at the target, which surprisingly exploded around the knife. ‘Explosive rounds’, Budani guessed. All that was left of the target was the centre-piece bullseye that had the knife in it – and dead centre, if what his spy’s eyes were telling him was correct.

The other men began clapping and cheering as the sound of gunfire echoed through the land. ‘Good time to leave’, Budani thought, and grabbed the one small can of fuel that stood beside the 44-gallon drums of fuel, in what could loosely be termed the kitchen. Even the smaller fuel can was camouflaged. ‘Tanks-very-moochius!’ Budani thought cheekily. He slid through the small window opening like his Totem – the Desert Death Adder: a small desert-camouflaged, serpent predator with fast-acting and quite lethal venom. Once on the ground, Budani moved like his totem, sliding slowly away from the men’s sight to the corner of the shack: so slowly against the wall, along the ground that the men wouldn’t catch movement in their periphery sight.

Once around the corner he stopped to look back at the group of men, and realised he could probably have stood and run while singing hail bloody Mary, because then men were still thumping the knife-pistol guy’s back and staring in awe at the damage done by his small pistol, and probably half-deafened by the explosive rounds.

‘You fellas ain’t goin nowhere; Welcome to my world!’ Budani thought grimly, as he kept an ear to the men’s boisterous activities and ran his eyes across to the sleek little chopper. He moved down on ground like a Goanna, sliding silently and slowly out into the sparse trees and shrubs encircling the shack. Moving slowly and still at ground-level, Budani moved around until he was close to the helicopter. He heard another loud boom and looking across from underneath the chopper, he saw the other men were now taking turns shooting the pistol at anything that stood out. While they were so entertained, Budani opened the can of fuel and sloshed it over the motor and fuel-tank. Then he looked around and gathered the makings of fire.

Budani quickly found the tools needed and watched the yahooing men while he spun up fire from wood and soft crushed bark-dust. The tiny spark caught and he picked the kindling up and tossed the small sparking fire directly onto where he’d poured the fuel on the chopper, turned and ran like the devil was behind him…

Chapter 3 Run-away!

    As the whoosh of the fuel igniting and a small fire-ball and thick black smoke leapt into the morning sky, Budani moved, again in a Goanna-like away further into his beloved homelands.

“Well, that seems to have stopped the fun altogether, guess I’m just a born party-pooper,” Budani murmured softly. ‘They would be panicking about now,’ he guessed. ‘Their escape plan was on fire, and with any luck the chopper’s fuel tanks would explode soon,’ he mused, grinning darkly as he moved still further away from the burning chopper; moving backward this time to keep his eyes on the stunned men. He stopped again to watch the men – who were suddenly running toward their ride out – weapons hurled to the ground in utter surprise and disbelief.

Budani looked shocked and murmured. “Hmm? I wouldn’t be doing that if I were you, my ignorant imbecile friends. In fact,” he murmured from his position on the ground, “I think that old term; “Run-away, run-away!” would be a much better plan than running toward a burning helicopter, to be honest fellows,” he said quietly.

One of the men had reached the burning chopper, and for some unknown reason was attempting to put it out with dirt scraped from the ground with his hands. Budani guessed the fellow had lost his mind for a moment – in the shock of such a wild, crazy thing happening to him, right here and now. And then there were three. The fare-thee-well expected explosion blew up and out, basically disintegrating the hopeful fireman and blowing two of the three left, completely off their feet as they too had run toward their ride home. The newbie had wisely hung back and, Budani noted, he still had his big machete-sized knife on one side and the pistol in its holster on the other. The newbie was not to be taken lightly…

Shaken, battered and now filthy, the two injured men dragged themselves to their feet. The fellow with the knife and pistol wandered up to them casually, as if wide-scale death and destruction were a normal occurrence. He glanced at the shredded, smoking body and the burning chopper and looked back to the ragged men.

“So, ah? Was this all part of the show here boys?” he asked semi-seriously as he reached them. “If it was,” he said with big grin, “I’m impressed beyond belief. If it wasn’t, please don’t tell me your mobiles – and our only contact with the outside world, were in the chopper?” he queried politely. One of the injured men pulled a knife from somewhere on his body, yelled some type of curse and abruptly attacked the newbie, while his colleague attempted to stop him, but he was having none of it.

“Stranger and stranger!” Budani chuckled as he watched the violence unfold.

As the angry man rushed in, the newbie swayed to the left and somehow turned the man’s own knife against him. The attacker stopped dead, stumbled backward and turned to his friend. His own knife was sticking out of his chest. He looked down at the knife and then searchingly at his friend in shocked amazement. “I … I… not like this! Not like this!” he said, while looking up at the sky as if talking to God. Blood gushed from his mouth and he dropped like a stone; Terrible shock showing on his now very pale face on the ground. And then there were two.

“He was going to kill me,” Newbie said placidly to the man left standing, who also looked as if something was wrong with the entire world; His world at least. “I… he… we – we’ve never had anything like this happen before,” he mumbled to himself, because the newbie was gone; Sliding toward the shack, gun drawn and moving as if he were now hunting, or being hunted. He disappeared into the shack but appeared mere moments later, walking quickly to the only other live friend he had there.

“He’s gone,” he told the stunned man, yet recovering from the explosion. The statement took more than a few seconds to sink in. Then the stunned fellow took a wobbly step toward the shack, hands out, as if he could change everything with open hands, hope and wishes he held there. CD explained what he’d discovered. “He chewed the freakin ties from his hands and broke an old bottle that was there to cut his feet free,” he told the semi-stunned man with him, with some obvious sarcasm.

“Well, you guys were certainly right,” newbie said sarcastically. “You found a decent challenge all right. He’s probably watching us right now,” he told his companion, searching the surrounds for signs of life or movement. But his companion couldn’t or wouldn’t believe it.

“Nah! You’re wrong! Did you look in the right room?” he said, as if the shack were a ten bed-room house. “The fuckin black couldn’t have… done all this,” he said in disbelief. “A fucking wolf couldn’t chew through those things; I know! We’ve tried it!” the shocked man uttered as if a biblical truth. The fellow turned a circle, still in shock at the incredible carnage and death around him. He turned to say something to the newbie guy, but the man was down on the ground, gun out and turning slowly, searching for a target. The standing fellow heard the sound of wind moving a moment before something heavy hit him directly on the temple; dropping him as fast as his just-knifed companion. Dead before he hit the ground. And then there was one.

“Well fuck my brown dog and call me Alice!” CD swore uncharacteristically, as he stood in shocked awe and looked around him at the battle-ground scene and bodies for a split-second, before his survival reflexes took over.

CD scrambled toward the shack. In his haste, he hadn’t re-strapped his pistol into the holster and it fell out as he scrambled in pure panic toward the only decent cover in the entire area. “Faaaaark!” he screamed in frustration, but there was no going back for it he knew. The black might have one or more of his companion’s weapons by now for all he knew. As he threw himself through the open door, something hit him; Hard! Something thrown with real force.

It hit him in the back and drove him flat on his face into the kitchen and onto the floor; but inside the shack at least. From his supine position on the floor, he saw a rock about as big as his closed fist lying in the doorway. That’s what he had heard before Snake went down. Just the whisper of something hurtling through the air toward them and he had dropped instantly; but it hadn’t been aimed at him anyway. And it hit dead centre of the rock-thrower’s target; Snake’s temple.

“Faaarck! I think the one that hit me might have cracked a rib or two,” CD mumbled, abruptly feeling the pain start; and already, just breathing was becoming difficult without a sharp pain coursing through his body.

CD crawled to the door and kicked it shut, but it bounced against the door-frame and flew open again. “Double fuckin fuck!” he shouted in anger and frustration. He crawled to underneath the kitchen window and began to yell out to the blackfellow out there.

“Hey! Mate!” he called breathlessly, with each shout causing instant awful pain. “Look! I don’t know what’s going on here, I just came out with these fellows to do some hunting!” he called as loudly as he could.

“There’s no need to shout,” a calm modulated voice, unmistakably an aboriginal voice however, said from outside the kitchen window. “So then, you’re not into the manhunt like your friends; Snake, Tiger and ole Ender there eh mate?” the voice said, and CD understood the man had been listening to them talk since he was conscious again. ‘How much has he heard?’ CD thought back quickly on the various conversations they’d had, while believing the man to be unconscious for a lot longer than he obviously had been.

“There’s no point in lying mate, or should I say, CD?” the voice said, shocking him with the knowledge of his moniker. CD took in a ragged breath, while the voice came again: “How many hunts have they done out here? Ten? Twenty? More? I heard pretty well everything mate, and I know you were about to do your first manhunt, with me as prey, which is pretty bloody awful from this side mate,” the voice said and abruptly stopped; Except for a few bird calls that had started up again after the explosion and gunfire, silence reigned.

Suddenly, CD could hear the miraculous sound of a helicopter – coming closer. He pushed himself up to take a quick look and as he did, he felt a terrible shocking pain on one side of his face. Then the scent of burning flesh hit him and he realised it was his flesh burning. The shock sent him to the floor once again. This time the pain of cracked or broken ribs and the searing pain on his face took CD away to the blackness where nothing matters…

Chapter 4 Saved by the Bell [helicopter]

    When CD came to there was an older white fellow, face lined with his time in the land and sun sitting over him and looking worried. They were in a helicopter and flying.

“Gosh, thought you were a goner mate, like them other fellas back there,” he said, squeezing a syringe to get any air out. “We gave you a shot before we moved you, didn’t know what was broken, but every time we tried to lift you – well, you screamed. This is a pretty strong painkiller – keep it on the farm for injuries and the like,” he told CD as he put the needle into a vein with practised ease. “Don’t worry mate – done this plenty of times before. Hafta learn how to do everything yourself out here mate – no bloody doctors for miles,” CD heard him say as he slipped back to that dark, dreamy world of darkness and no pain.

The old fellow’s son was flying the chopper and he turned to his father, once the drug kicked in and knocked the poor bastard out again. “Ere, dad, watcha rekin bout that burn-mark on is face there? Eh-da? That’s the Emu foot totem if I’m not mistaken,” he said turning back to the front to make sure they were heading in the right direction.

“Hmm, looks like it right enough,” his father said, turning CD’s face to see better.

“Hmm,” he said again. “Looks like someone used a bit of wire-fence as a branding-iron,” he said, grimacing at the thought. “On trees or stump, or carved into rock it stands for someone’s territory out here,” he said. “But on a man’s face, it means he’s been a very, very bad boy,” he said, wondering what the hell had happened out there and, what this fellow had done to deserve that. “And – a marked-man for some future retribution,” the young pilot said, shaking his head at the vagaries of city-folk…

NT NEWS-FLASH! NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA: THREE DEAD IN POSSIBLE HELICOPTER CRASH – ONE SURVIVOR.
In a bizarre incident on Wednesday morning, a local cattle-farmer discovered a burnt-out helicopter, three bodies and one man seriously injured but alive in a remote area of the Northern Territory. While checking fences from his private helicopter, Cattle-farmer, Mr. Eddie Warburton noticed black smoke rising from an area near his property about mid-morning that day. “I knew it wasn’t a bushfire because of the heavy black smoke,” he told the NT Police when his son and copter-pilot Jason, called them as they ferried the man to their small airfield on the property. Where an air-ambulance met them to take the man to Darwin Base Hospital. The surviving man’s name has not been released by Police as yet, as they are waiting on his injuries to be ascertained by medical staff.

Mr Warburton’s son, Jason, told the Police: “We didn’t touch any of the bodies, as we could see the men were past… um? Any sorta help like, ya-know?” he explained. “It was like a bloody war-zone out there!” he added. NT Police have not released any names as yet, explaining that the identities of the deceased and their relatives had yet to be found.
NT Police have sent a forensics unit to the spot to carry out their investigations, although our reporter Jim Davies, who talked to Mr Warburton and Jason said that all three bodies showed signs of explosive fire and shrapnel, and at least one of the men had been stabbed.

“The bloody knife was still in his chest,” Jason said, and thus, questioning the helicopter crash as possible reason for the deaths…

Chapter 5 Don’t tell me yer worries; I got enough of me own!…

    In his 5-star hotel room in Darwin, NT., Mr Slocum, the official client-contact and instigator of the group was a worried man. He was waiting for CD’s Doctors to allow visitors, so he could find out what the hell had happened with his three hunter-friends and business colleagues; Their very expensive chopper! For God’s frigging sake! He was also fairly certain that the forensics team would explore the area, and; That could be the start of a major investigation. The ‘boys’ hadn’t attempted to bury any proof, he knew. They burned the bodies with diesel and petrol and, though Slocum had warned them to ensure they scatter any remains, he couldn’t be sure they had listened. Once their blood was up, they often turned into childlike idiots, he knew first-hand.

But as many archaeologists could tell you – Slocum knew – even the hottest fire often left clues that today’s modern forensic investigators could bring back to life. Slocum was sure he had no links to either of the men, but CD knew him and his name, and that was a definite problem. CD seemed like the type that knew to keep his trap shut, but who knew how the man had come out of the absolute fiasco. And, what about the ‘black’? The prey? Nothing had been said about an Abo corpse or survivor. ‘Perhaps’, Slocum really, really, hoped, ‘they’d killed and burned the black before whatever shit had gone down’. Nothing was certain, ‘but getting to see CD would be a bloody good start!’ he thought, and rang the hospital once more…

Chapter 6 Intruder

    The man Slocum wanted to see so badly came awake and conscious again in crisp white sheets and fluoro-lighting above. “Hospital,” he mumbled and almost choked from his dry throat, and immediately felt his ribs flare in red-hot pain. A small hand appeared with a plastic cup of water. “Don’t try to sit up just yet, um? Sir? You’ve got a broken rib and two cracked ones. And um, we think you were in a terrible accident,” The nurse said – which she’d been told was all she could say – by the Head Doctor, and the Police – while bringing the drink to his parched mouth.

“Where am I?” CD groaned, but the nurse was already on her way out. She turned to him; looking at her watch and recording the time on his record. “Just lie still and be patient, the Dr. will be with you in a moment. You’re quite the celebrity it seems and Doctor will be with you in a moment. Okay?” she said, not waiting for an answer but sweeping out of the room the way nurses in a hurry do.

“What the goddam fuck!?” CD swore and grimaced as his ribs flared again. An awful voice CD had hoped he would never ever hear again, abruptly spoke from behind his head, behind the curtain that could be pulled around the bed for privacy. Ice ran down his spine; cold enough to freeze out the pain.

“A name, cuz!” it said, taking CD straight back to the shack and the black man they were going to hunt for fun.

“Give me a name, or you-fla dead, right now. Say good bye to all that money – your fourth-wife will be happy anyway… Only need one,” the voice said coldly. To reinforce the threat, CD felt a sharp prick on his neck. “Name – now – CD,” it said again, as the needle was pushed through his skin into his flesh. CD’s mind thrashed. It came out before he could stop it. “Slocum,” he whispered and felt the needle withdraw. “Watch yer back CD, you’re now a liability,” the voice whispered in his ear. CD felt he was in double, or triple-shock. For the first time in his life, he couldn’t think at all…

“Was that filthy half-wild black-fellow in the room?” A stentorian voice said, breaking the spell CD was under, as a Dr. entered, followed by several others, including a Policeman and ‘probably a Detective,’ CD thought warily. CD’s nurse half turned to the door, but spun back immediately. “I think he was just a local, probably got lost while looking for a relation here, Dr.” one of the nurses said. “They’re always getting lost in the hospital, everybody does,” she told him off-hand. The group moved closer to CD’s bed, forgetting the incident entirely. Only his nurse noticed how pale her patient suddenly looked. ‘He looks like he’s just seen a ghost,’ she thought, and stood back to give the Dr. room.

“So? How are you feeling Mr. Ah? I don’t think we have a name yet. Do we Sister?” the Dr. asked, looking straight at CD, brows raised?

“I… I – um? Can’t sort of remember!” CD lied and groaned as if in real pain again, though the shock of the black man turning up at his bedside was yet over-riding any mere body-pain.

“That’s perfectly normal my friend,” the Dr. said blithely, looking at CD’s chart. “These fine gentlemen from the Police would like a word, but I think you might need a good night’s rest, before the ahh? Inquisition as it were,” he said, expecting a chuckle from those around him. None were forthcoming. “Right then gentlemen!” he said, continuing a little huffily. “Shall we leave our un-named guest get some rest, and you fellows can speak to him in the morning perhaps; After Rounds, shall we say?” he said, making a note on CD’s chart before he handed it to one of the nurses to put back at the end of his bed.

It was plain to see, the Detective was impatient, but in such cases, the attending Dr. had the final say and nothing he could do or say would change that, he knew well. He gave CD a searching glance. “We’ll be back tomorrow – after Rounds then, and I do hope you’ve remembered your name by then – Sir,” he said, unable or unwilling to hide his sarcasm and doubt. It seemed the Police were suspicious of some type of foul play having occurred and to them, the yet nameless CD was right smack, dead centre of whatever had occurred…

And, they were apparently finding a lot more questions, as the Forensics team began a more thorough search of the entire area, the Detective knew. They left him alone to rest…

Chapter 7 Sly-boy Slocum

    In Darwin, Slocum had arranged a meet with his ‘girlfriend’, confidante and pretend-wife when needed – in the very lucrative business they were involved in; They were the top dogs in fact, and money from their daring exploits had rolled in like a spring-tide. They each had enough to disappear, and that was why they were to meet and arrange how and where to meet up later; much later – both agreed.

The meet was to be at the end of a dirt road, right on the ocean, behind the Military Museum on Darwin’s coast. It was an isolated spot, especially at night, which they’d decided would be safer all round – considering recent events beyond their control. Slocum was already there when his partner-in-crime arrived. Or at least his car was, the middle-aged woman found to her surprise. Slocum wasn’t the outdoor type; he loved his car and sound-system. He was always skiting about its clarity…

…Ms. Janice “Fuck-me!” Werribone, thirty-four, presently of No-Fixed-Address, had literally fucked the brains out of Mr. David Earl Slocum, and that’s how she had become a partner in the ‘game’, as she called what she did to help grab victims – prey – as the boys called them. Janice got her lovely nick-name for using those unique words on men she wanted to have some control over. It had worked on ninety-nine percent of the men targeted. She did have specific targets of course, but it was a wide range of ‘employment’, as she saw it. She had big firm ‘magnetic’ tits and she used those words with genuine lust in her eyes, posture and voice.

As she tried his car door, a voice came from the dark near the water’s edge, where soft waves were splashing behind. A form materialised from the rocks and beach as it rose like a spectre. It was dressed in dark clothing, down to its shoes, with a hood over its head. But Janice recognised the voice instantly and wished now she’d brought her little man-killer pistol from the car. She’d started to trust him instead of using him: ‘a fatal mistake considering the circumstances. I only wish I’d thought of it first!’ Janice mused, stunned to immobility.

“Fuck-me! … Janice!” Slocum said, pointing what looked very much like a pistol with silencer attached at her. “You taught Me! Not to trust “anyone,” he said, using hand gestures to accentuate the word. The pistol came down, pointing at her again. “Hey!” he said with a chuckle. “What about a final blow-job? What a way to go eh?” he said grinning again.

“I could manage that,” Janice said, affecting a sly, sexy grin; a glimmer of hope in her eyes at thought of getting that close to his manhood.

‘Fuck-you! Not Fuck-me! I’ll give you a slow-cum you’ll never forget!’ she thought, suddenly having one small chance to get out of this alive. She walked suggestively toward where he stood; ‘that freakin smirk on his face even now!’ she thought, trying not to grin or giggle at the thought of biting his fuckin penis right off and going for the gun. ‘He was that stupid after all,’ Janice mused as she bent to squat and undo his fly. She felt a blow that knocked her senseless and to the ground. Her body wouldn’t respond, so she tried to speak. But Slocum just grabbed her feet and began to drag her toward the rocks, the small beach and the water. Janice felt sudden acute pain almost everywhere on her body. But she was alive.

“You stupid slut! I wouldn’t have shot you – too many questions,” he said, struggling with her weight while dragging her roughly over the rocks and down to the rough shell-sand beach. “This way, it’s a terrible lone drowning for unknown reasons on a deserted beach miles from anywhere. Suicide, will be the obvious finding,” he grunted out, while dragging her limp body with the strength of a madman or desperate creature straight out into the waves…

‘I’m sorry mum…’ Janice thought sadly, as Locum held her head underwater for the required time for death to occur. Janice tried to stop it, but her lungs overrode her will and sucked water in and down. She couldn’t see… There was sand being forced into her mouth and eyes, because Slocum was holding her face-down and – when the darkness came; it was a relief…

Chapter 8 Hunter or hunted? That is the question…

    “One down, one – maybe two, to go,” Slocum said, ensuring the body stayed face down for several minutes. When it was done, he wiped his hands dry on his pants and pulled the mobile from his pocket and touched the dial-pad. He touched a name and the phone on the other end began the monotonous tone of the man’s phone. It was picked up quickly.

“Slinky Dawson ere, job’s done mate,” he said in an affected Australian drawl. “Put the rest in the usual acct and – I fuckin really ‘ope never to see youz’ ever again, ole mate,” it said, before cutting out.

“One more down – one to go, if I can find the black bastard,” Slocum mumbled to himself, as he stumbled his way back up to his car in the dark. Thoughts of his escape plan ran wild in his mind and, he abruptly changed direction to check on Janice’s vehicle – noting she’d left the keys in the ignition and the doors unlocked. “Suicide for sure!” he said to himself, rubbing his hands together in glee for the extra money he’d made tonight, by ‘cleaning up the trash’, as he thought of tonight’s ‘work’.

Slocum leapt into his car in a sudden and almost jolly mood. He hit the music-player On-button, and selected some Benny Goodman Jazz – a live concert. He took out a small packet of white powder from a hidden compartment under the dash-computer, as music coming from an obviously-expensive sound-system drifted absolutely crisply within and without the car. He carefully laid a ‘line’ on the dashboard. This was the good stuff – which he was used to. “The initial hit was like the big ‘H’, the ‘White-King’”, he joked with genuine business colleagues whom partook. He had a bamboo straw secreted with the Cocaine and took a generous snort that instantly threw him back into the lush seat, his nose, tongue, brain and eyes all tingling with the sweet sensation he had grown to love.

Slocum was suddenly and deliriously happy; and it wasn’t just the Snow rushing through his blood. ‘Slinky’, for a respectable price – had taken care of CD: an unfortunate ‘accident’ – something to do with a mix-up of the routine painkillers while in hospital it seemed. ‘He will be missed!’ Slocum mused happily, smiling an idiotic grin that he just had to turn the rear-view mirror to see.

At first, he focussed only on his own relieved, stupid-grinning face, and grinned even more widely at his drugged appearance, but then – he noticed two dark orbs in the mirror that looked a lot like eyes; eyes in a black face his churning mind explained. Which would put the person that owned the eyes directly behind him; In his back-seat! He realized in a panic. Slocum scrabbled for his weapon, which he’d placed into the glove-box but his body abruptly failed him. He watched in growing amazement as his arm reached out in slow-motion, then fall to the console between the seats. There it stay. A lump of dead meat. He tried to turn his head, but only achieved a minute movement, as hard as he tried.

“Hey mate, ow yer goin?” a voice said, as if they were meeting at dinner or somewhere ‘normal’. The eyes had a voice! “Well of course!” his drugged mind said quite loudly, causing another round of giggling. The voice behind him was so casual, Slocum began to giggle from the effects of the snow, yet working its magic. Slocum tried with all his might but still couldn’t turn his head, but then, he suddenly remembered the rear-view mirror and swung his eyes to that small view. The eyes in a black face were right there, still.

“You, Sir, have been a bad, bad boy,” the eyes voice said quite sadly from behind him.

Slocum was slowly becoming terrified; an emotion amplified by his drug of choice. Sweat broke out on his forehead at first, but slowly moisture began to run from every pore in his body until his entire wardrobe was wet and soaked through.

“What’s happening to me? Why can’t I move?” he asked, his voice being the only thing that seemed to work at this moment.

“One of your recent choices for your lucrative game was a relative and friend of mine – he disappeared – and now, I know what happened to him. And you Davy, began the operation, or ‘business’, if you prefer,” it told him flatly. “I have no idea what you’re talking about!” Slocum said sincerely, trying for indignation but failing badly; even from his point of view. He giggled uncontrollably and tried to stop without success. The voice ignored the giggling.

“You’ve been judged and found wanting, Dav,” the voice told him. Guilty of slavery and murder; Of man, woman and child,” it said matter of factly – “You are a ‘Shameless’, and I bin sent to ensure your swift departure from this earthly abode, ole mate,” it said, as if it was giving the time of day. Before Slocum could speak the voice continued.

“That white stuff you like so much was not your usual pure sample old mate,” it told him. A cold, trapped sensation ran through his body as the voice continued.

“It’s a mix of old and new and, in case you’re worried for me ole mate, only the ‘snow’ will be found in your blood when they pull you two, ‘star-crossed lovers’ from the ocean. I’m sure ole fuck-me Janice is lonely out there, mate, bobbing around in the ocean in the little gentle waves all alone. Now, be a man finally! Dav, and help me get you down to the water – as you did to your friend there; She’s waiting for you Dav,” the voice said mockingly.

Strong hands grabbed hold of Slocum like he was a bag of toys; They ripped him from his car and began to walk him – shoulder to shoulder – and ever-so-slowly, down the rocks and toward the sea and waves. “The dead-man’s walk,” Slocum murmured to himself and urinated down his leg. The black-fellow didn’t seem to mind the smell at all – in fact, he seemed to slow down even more.

“At least you get to see the ocean and sky and stars before you go ole mate,” the black said casually, obviously having seen his struggles to get his unlucky accomplice into the water.

“Take a good look Mr. Slocum, coz it’s the last time you will ever see such magnificence; You-fla bin propa lost your right, one-time, to share such wondrous things,” the man, holding him up easily, said, as they reached hip-height in the small waves.

“Don’t even try,” the black man said before Slocum could get a word out about how much money he had, and was willing to share. “I have enough money to live my life the way I wish,” he said, seeming to stare up into the heavens. “Ya-know Davy,” he said, bringing his attention back to earth. “They say the brain lives for up to twenty-minutes after physical death. And that thing you call a brain is about to get hot-wired; enjoy the trip,” he said, and slapped something onto Slocum’s back – something heavy, then he let Slocum go.

He sank immediately and instantly turned over. He could see the stars twinkling through the waters above his face. The black had stuck a weight to his back to keep him face-up and his head just under the water. At that moment, Slocum thought that there could be worse ways to die. But he didn’t die, not right away; He lay face-up, underwater and looking up through the moving water at the sky. Slocum guessed that it was something in the drug mix that held his lungs from acting as they normally would in this scenario; And then the rest of the mixture hit his brain, and each tiny precious moment of time, stretched and warped into an irrelevant structure. Images of victims streamed through his mind in glorious colour and fine detail…

To the ancient Australian watching and talking to the stars above him, it was a mere few minutes of peace and quiet, while ensuring his duty was carried out; To Slocum, it was a living nightmare that went on and on and on, until the avowed, suddenly former-atheist, began to pray to God for the darkness to come…



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