Another one from the backstory of John Cronin.
Comments/recommendations appreciated, as always.
Cronin and Fernando, both dressed in grey workman’s coveralls, jumped out of the back of the truck as Hector pulled to the side of the road high in the mountains. Dragging their backpacks off the tailgate, they dropped quickly into the ditch as Hector walked over and pissed in the ditch. “Señors, I will be back here tomorrow at the same time. Please be here. Ve con Dios.” He zipped up, walked back to the truck and drove off, as Cronin and Fernando melted into the jungle.
After a hundred yards, Cronin took a knee, pulling out his map. Fernando did the same, and Cronin said, “Remember, one circle of the camp, then watch. I’ll do the same on the far camp and meet you at the clearing north of the middle camp at zero eight hundred. That should give us time to do that camp and get back here in time for pickup tomorrow. These radios won’t last the entire time, so turn it on at the top of the hour for five minutes. If everything is okay, I will not say anything.”
Fernando nodded and said quietly, “Si Señor, I will do the same. If I hear gunfire, I will turn the radio on then.”
Cronin slapped Fernando on the shoulder as he got up. “I’ll do the same. See you in the morning, Fernando.” He moved off quietly, disappearing into the jungle quickly as Fernando shook his head, I didn’t believe him about the gray coveralls, but he is gone. He checked his Browning was secure in its holster, took a compass bearing, and moved off toward the nearest camp.
The next morning, they met at the clearing and compared notes. Fernando said, “They are definitely cooking coke. I counted ocho hombres at various times. It looks like six hour shifts, and they sleep in huts upwind from the camp. There is a rutted track into the camp from the northwest, but I saw no guards or vehicles.”
Cronin nodded. “Basically, the same at the camp I watched. The track ends at that camp, so I’m guessing they are the end of the line. I think one man was down, either sick or poisoned, since I saw them trying to take care of him in the hut, and I heard a lot of moaning and coughing.” He got up, saying, “Okay, let’s knock this one out and get back to the road. We’ve got three hours. I’ll go around the eastern side, you take the western, and assuming there is a track coming in, we’ll meet there. We should have enough battery to leave the radios on until we get back together.”
They moved off to the south, and Fernando thought, This crazy hombre is actually good in the jungle. I would never have thought that. As they neared the camp, Cronin motioned to the west, and Fernando gave him a thumbs up as they separated. He made sure his earpiece was firmly in his ear, and double clicked the mic, then heard two clicks back from Cronin.
Thirty minutes later, Fernando heard, “On your right,” over his earpiece. He looked hard but didn’t see anything until Cronin moved. Shaking his head, he turned toward him, and Cronin said softly, “Let’s follow the track. I’m curious now.”
As they passed the next rough track down to the first site, they heard a truck grinding down the track, and each of them jumped to opposite sides of the track. A battered stake bed Ford went by, with three men in the cab. One of them had a rifle propped on the window frame, pointing loosely out the window. As it passed, they noted a tarp in the back, but nothing else except a few boxes. After it had passed, Cronin stepped back onto the track and said, “That’s interesting. One guard?”
Fernando shrugged. “Maybe. Probably two. Dropping off food and picking up drugs?”
“As good a guess as any.” He glanced at his watch. “Let’s see where this comes out. I think we’re within a mile of where Hector is picking us up.” They walked out to the end of the track, and Cronin took notes on the location and identifying landmarks, then said, “Let’s get back in the trees and head for the pickup point. I doubt that anyone will run up on us, but I’d rather not take the chance.”
Twenty minutes later, they were opposite the turnout where they had dropped them off. A couple of minutes later, they heard a car coming up the road, and saw Hector wave out the window as he swung in. They piled in and Hector said, “Canteens of water in the back floorboard. Followed a box truck up the hill, watched it turn down the track to the little strip. And I found a place about a half mile further up to hide the truck if we decide to do this.” He quickly turned the car and headed back down the hill as Cronin and Fernando gulped the water.
“Thanks, Hector. I needed that.” Fernando echoed him from the backseat and Cronin continued, “I think we can take all three sites in one go. If we had one more person, we could do all three at the same time, because there don’t appear to be any guards with them. Fernando?”
“No, Señor. I only saw one… Químico, how you say–”
“Chemist? Or maybe laboratory manager?”
“Si, laboratory manager. He had a mask hanging around his neck, and was bossing the others around, while he stood outside smoking a cigarette. Him I would cheerfully kill. He was an el cabrón to the others.”
Hector looked in the mirror and laughed. “So, a cop, who by their nature are assholes, wants to kill another asshole.”
Fernando smiled. “But it’s my job to be an asshole. Him, no. He is just power hungry, and little, bad combination in a macho world like this.”
Cronin nodded. “Yeah. The question is, what will we do with the workers? Let them go, or kill them?”
Hector replied, “I’d let them go, if they’ve been forced to work. If not—” he shrugged, “They die in the explosion.”
Cronin bit his lip. “We’ll figure out something.” I really don’t want to kill any more than we absolutely have to. But what do we do with them? I don’t have a good answer for that. It’s too far to walk back to town. Maybe…give them a ride to the barrio and let them disappear in there?
On a slightly different note, HONEST reviews of Rimworld- JACE would be appreciated, I’ve got a long way to go to get to 50 reviews on that one…
Thanks in advance!