A remnant of a time long gone, the Ute served as the entry to the Feral Children’s lair.
Part 2 of a mini-series
The Bushranger looked down at the caricature of a woman. Even with her exaggerated features, hastily drawn with pencil, and from a loving father’s memory, she was striking.
Almond eyes that curved beautifully when she smiled, a full row of maintained teeth on display, her hair falling over one side, there was no doubt that Grace, was adopted.
Deputy Jonathan, did not have Asiatic features, like Grace, but his strength of emotion when pleading for the Bushranger to save her, indicated that she was no less his daughter.
Greed, née survivalism was what drove the Bushranger to take the job, despite the lack of information regarding his prey. Bullets didn’t pay for themselves, nor did maintenance of his equipment.
Dingoes, crocodiles and feisty kangaroos were all small fry compared to the Feral Children. He had only ever encountered them far away from the 7 GAFA settlements, but they were legion, and they were rabid.
This job wasn’t going to be easy.
Especially when the deputy demanded that his daughter be returned alive.
The Bushranger decided not to mention the slim odds, that were only getting more anoxeric with each passing day.
It had been a long week, of slow tracking and careful judgement. He would soldier on, through the night, and rest in the shade during the hottest hours. Meals were rationed, and the tracking was often delayed, because he needed a water supply. Such was the life of a hunter in the midst of a slow decaying apocalypse.
When the whole world had gone mad, the simplicity of his lifestyle kept him sane.
Even so, he questioned his sanity when he finally managed to track the Feral Children to their lair underground, the Ute.
The husk of a once fiery red Holden Commodore disturbed the Bushranger, and he swiftly moved the camel to a safe distance of over a kilometer.
Like so many myths, legends and facts, that blur with the passing of time, the Commodore was in actuality a sedan, but so many years had passed, that folklore had simply renamed it the Ute.
A memory was dredged up, of a younger man hooning around town in the exact same car, only his was a metallic green. He recalled the thrill of speed, engine revs and the squeal of brakes.
The soft kiss of a woman in his passenger seat, the wax he applied to the paintwork, and the sound of triumph, when he crossed the line first.
The soft rustle from the camel, bought the Bushranger out of memory lane.
Looking through his newly acquired telescopic scope, he scanned to the left and right of the Ute, trying to discern any tracks.
The Ute was situated in a large clearing, with 4 suspiciously man-made mounds around the entrance, at each compass point. They were the type where Feral Children could pop out and defend their home with ease and disappear into the tunnel system below.
Sparse greenery grew all around the Ute, obscuring vision and preventing clean line-of-sight, and surreptitiously, there was a lack of animal noises. A rifle shot would reverberate across the entire area.
The Bushranger deliberated on what he needed to do. Jumping down, he made the camel kneel, and take a drink from her canteen, whilst he searched his saddlebags.
Laying out the contents, he noted the still full boxes of ammunition he had left. One each for his pistol, and rifle. 200 rounds altogether. A paltry sum.
Looking down at his belt, he noted the 5 magazines of 17 rounds of 9x19mm for his pistol and the smattering of 7.62mm 5 rounds stripper clips for his long rifle.
His ever-faithful Leatherman MUT E.O.D was secured on his belt, accompanied by a brace of throwing knives and a large CRKT M16 tactical knife.
Burrowing his brow in consternation, he flipped open the CRKT, and made a detailed sketch of the lay of the land in the dirt, consulting his telescopic sight every so often to confirm details. Scowling in concentration, the Bushranger mapped out his approach and waited for nightfall.
Like all good soldiers, the Bushranger knew that the best time to strike was just before sun-up. Dawn was when the sentries were the sleepiest, and the attacking force had a bit of light to work with, whilst remaining in the dark. Then when the sun finally came up, if the attack failed, the sun was in the defending force’s eyes.
And so, just before nightfall, the Bushranger played a cruel trick.
He aimed his long rifle at the four mounds, and fired a round into each, in quick succession.
Just to get them out, and sleep deprived by sun-up.
The successive cracks of the rifle disturbed the entire area. Birds found themselves flying away in fright, kangaroos leapt blindly through the bush land and the Feral Children came out in force.
Like their cinematic namesake, the Feral Children were vicious, animalistic and almost Hobbit-like in stature.
Malnutrition, and poor exposure to sunlight, meant that skin was stretched across their bones, and their overwhelming paleness meant that they rarely ventured out during the day, for fear of being burnt.
Their eyes were also blood-shot and unaccustomed to bright lights, and many had severe disfiguration from constant in-fighting and ritualistic barbs, fangs and teeth being pushed through skin as part of their twisted religious fanaticism towards the Saltwater Crocodile.
For all their insanity and aversion to sunlight, the Feral Children were well armed with traditional weaponry; spears, primitive bows, boomerangs and blow-darts laced with red-back venom.
They fought with tenacity and a ferociousness that belied their small size, and often used numbers to overwhelm their opponents.
27 of the Feral Children came out, their weapons held cautiously out, as they hopped and aped around, their gangly bodies, hunched after years of living underground.
The Bushranger, zoomed in on one individual, whose barbs were more prominent on his face and shoulders. It was a extraordinarily ugly individual, whose pale features only served to enhance his bald head, and large nose with a pair of crocodile teeth punched through like a ring.
His shoulders bristled with piercings, some turning septic, other fresher and weeping blood, that he smeared across his back and chest like war paint. The Bushranger named him in his head, the “Big Fucka”, an apt description, for he towered over the others by a full head.
As the telescopic reticle centered on the Big Fucka’s head, the Bushranger checked his rifle and decided against it. They would only spot the muzzle flash, and thus ruin his plan.
Settling back, he slung the rifle over his shoulder, slowly moved away from his sniping position, placed his scarf over his mouth and nose and begun the long crawl.
700 metres later, and what felt like thousand of rocks and a powder box of dust hitting his chest, the Bushranger came across the first sentry.
Lying as still as possible, and keeping his breathing shallow and light, the Bushranger took one of his throwing knives out, and gripped the CRKT in his other hand.
Rising from the small shrub and red dirt like a djinn of Middle Eastern folklore, the Bushranger advanced on his prey and when he was only a few metres away, threw the knife right into the sentry’s throat.
The head snapped back and upwards, and the Bushranger leapt forward and thrust the blade of the CRKT into the sentry’s heart, whilst using the stuck knife to further lacerate the throat wound.
The Feral Child died without a sound.
And the Bushranger moved on.
6 more died the same way, without a whimper echoing across the ground.
Satisfied with the perimeter being cleared, the Bushranger looked at the four mounds and rehearsed how he was going to deal with them, when he came running out of the hood of the Ute.
Taking a deep breath, adjusting his mask and squeezing his eyes shut as hard as he could, to improve his night vision, he tightened the long rifle over his shoulder and stepped over the rusted red bumper of the Ute and ducking his head, entered the lair of the Feral Children.
Darkness swallowed him whole within a few metres.
I have always struggled to make action engaging. I think its hard for me to make the set-up engaging and then keep the crescendo effect going. Its easy to visualise an action set piece in your mind, but a lot harder to make it engaging reading.
The next part should allow me to really stretch my descriptive skills and hopefully make an homage to Episode 3 of The Mandalorian action. A lone gunslinger shooting and fighting his way out of a desperate situation whilst protecting someone.
I also drew inspiration for the Ute‘s entrance in the film Red (2010) in which John Malkovich’s character; Marvin Boggs invites Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) and Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker) into his house: a rust bucket Chevrolet, to avoid the decoy house.
Trying to incorporate Australian slang into this though, was tough. How do I do it seamlessly? I guess you will be the judge of that!
Until the next chapter