Babysitting the Taran-Saurus
A Vyrian Incursion Story
by Lance Schonberg
We made it into the shadows, around the corner, and down an alley with no signs of pursuit. Taran had long since stopped giggling, but I took a breathy moment to remind him of the importance of being quiet. He nodded with a hand over his mouth to reassure me. I wondered how much he really understood, but the gesture gave me a lot of confidence, even seen bouncing in the corner of my vision, and if the Vyrians had better ways to track us than by sound, I didn’t see the need to make it easy for them.
And if we had better ways, so did they. My clothing, and Taran’s, might be made from smart fabric, but that wouldn’t do anything to mask the heat signatures from our heads, so we’d show up just fine on infrared if they wanted to use that. Light amplification wouldn’t hurt either, but if I could get into a more populated area, I could negate both advantages.
Jogging through a parking lot, I pulled a pair of powered glasses from my belt and tightened the sports strap as I put them on. One of my favourite toys, they could toggle between light amplification, infrared, sonar, and clear plastic. Environmental consistency was the key, though. Every time I looked near a street light, it washed out the low light mode, and without much in the way of heat sources the infrared didn’t help, the sonar representation was grainy and colourless. I decided I’d take crappy over nothing with great joy. It might mess up any bats who happened to be around, letting them see more than they should, but I could live with fewer mosquitoes in the world. And if we made it to anything like temporary safety, clear rims wouldn’t cost me any peripheral in normal light.
Heavy footsteps ruined the beginning of my improved mood. I couldn’t tell from where, but had to assume they were pacing me, at least, and tried think my way through a very short list of options. Too far away from any entertainment or commercial district to find any real foot traffic to blend in with, and not enough people wandered around the residential area this time of night to make a crowd. Besides, one or two witnesses could be stunned and any advantage I might find having more places to hide would be negated by the Vyrians having more places to set traps and ambushes. The only real option left was an odd twist of urban design. The industrial park backed onto a real one and if it would be far too easy to track us through it, enough speed might carry us to the subway station nestled between a movie theatre and a giant bookstore. Cutting through the industrial park might be a better gamble, but they’d know that, too.
At least my running shoes were new.
Even after midnight, a few trucks moved through the wide streets, which made a certain amount of sense. Any business that did a lot of shipping on the roads would probably prefer to beat peak traffic periods as much as possible. The big trucks were easy to avoid, but avoiding them slowed us down and getting through the concrete park went on long enough for Taran to start drifting off again in spite of the bouncing. By the time I could see trees, he’d slumped against my back.
My wristwatch vibrated almost the same moment the park came into sight, catching the ping of an active tracking system. Whether my pursuers were desperate or just close enough to triangulate me, I couldn’t afford to let up, and a shout behind me proved the point as I hit the grass. A second, just a little further away, came on its heels.
If it hadn’t been a race before, it was now. I stepped up my pace and made for the trees.
Short of a crowded subway, I had no way to lose my pursuit. If the world didn’t slow down much anymore, it was still too late for one of those. Not willing to waste the breath, I swore fluidly and continually in my head. It made sense on several levels for Taran’s protection detail to be a tiny operation, but I would have given a lot for some backup at the moment. Anything at all would do, but since wishing gained me nothing, I decided I’d like a little covering fire and a nice helicopter ride to somewhere safe.
More familiar with the local geography probably didn’t give me any real advantage and didn’t do anything for the most immediate problem: I had shorter legs than the Vyrians. Tearing through the park as fast as I could go and still keep going, I knew they were gaining. Every time I crossed one of the walkways, other, heavier footsteps crossed a few seconds later, and the delay was shrinking. I could draw things out by being sneaky or cunning, maybe, but with nothing around but a sleeping squirrels and pigeons, they’d have no problems tracking me.
Alternate paths and random direction changes might keep me ahead until we reached the subway, but I’d be surprised if the lead came down to more than half a football field. My chances of finding a anything like a crowd to blend into were pretty slim unless a big movie had just gotten out, and if I couldn’t get onto the subway with a crowd, I’d just be cornering myself. Not good.
The movie theatre had too many dark places to be viable itself, which left my only real option earning dirty looks from the bookstore staff while hanging out in the magazine section near the cash registers. The store closed in an hour, so I’d just be buying time, but time could be a powerful thing if you had it. Time to breathe, time to think, time to plan. I needed all three, and 130 wasn’t far enough away.