The robot had actually only killed one person. The other had regained consciousness next to the body of his partner and panicked, managing to get the door open before he’d collapsed. The back of his head felt wet when he touched it and he’d pulled himself into the grass, standing after a moment and making it some distance from the road before he passed out again. The flames had missed him as they chewed their way across the field and the travelers had come and gone with their robot without disturbing him.
Eventually someone shook him awake. He opened his eyes and tried to focus. The face was only a few inches away from his, but everything was blurry. There was a lot of blonde hair though.
“You’re lucky the wind was blowing in your favor, friend,” said the face. It moved away, then reappeared a moment later, “Well… I say lucky in an objective kind of way.”
A camera appeared in front of his eyes and there was a flash. He winced and groaned.
“Do you have some water?” he whispered.
“Yes, I do. What’s your name, friend?”
“What happened to your truck, Anthel?”
“I don’t know.”
“Were you carrying something you shouldn’t have been?”
“No…” he coughed and tasted blood.
“I think you might have been. Did you see the boy and the girl?”
“Did the boy and the girl come by here?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Are you sure?”
“Please… I need water.” It hurt to talk. He didn’t understand what this man was doing.
“I’m disappointed you don’t know what I’m talking about, but I have to make sure you’re not lying to me.”
“Did you know my father is a surgeon? Well, ‘was’ a surgeon. He hasn’t done much surgery since the people of Moughte hung him.”
The face appeared above Anthel again and the man smiled.
“I like to think I picked up a little of the family business.” He wiggled a silver knife in front of Anthel’s face. It glinted in the sunlight.
The man from the weapons shop in Taggen approached a little while later. He hated wind. His hair clung to his face whenever it was windy. The man had his hands shoved deep into his pockets as he walked to keep his coat from whipping around him. He grimaced and held his hand in front of his nose when he saw what the blond man was doing.
“God, Stephen, did you at least kill him first?”
“It’s not like he was going to last much longer anyway.” Stephen stood, wiping one of his surgical blades.
Stephen crouched back down and set the rest of the tools into his box before closing it with a click, then he leaned forward and took another picture. The man in the dark coat stood in the wind and watched, his face frozen in a nauseated grimace.
“You’re just messing around,” said the man, still frowning. “Why’d you need to do that?”
“I had to find out if he had any information for us.”
“Of course he didn’t. He’s a truck driver.”
“What happened to his truck then? You think the girl did that? He did say they saw her hide the robot in the woods. Was this revenge?”
The man spoke slowly and his low voiced rolled away in the wind as he explained to Stephen. “No… they obviously stole the probe from Kappy, but they kept it in the truck for too long. The Rust Initiative designed the probes with a number of fail-safes to help ensure they wouldn’t get stuck somewhere. The probe destroyed the truck and now Kappy has it once again.”
“So, how do we know where they’re going then?”
“It doesn’t matter. They’re heading west, so they’ll have to go through Moughte if they want to get over the gorge. We’ll plan something for them there.”
“We’re going to Moughte? They don’t like me much Moughte.”
The man rolled his eyes, “So keep your head down. Are you quite finished?”
“Yup. We can go.”
The man stared at Stephen for a moment, then down at what lay between them in the grass. He gave Stephen one last look of disgust before turning and walking back towards where he’d left his car.