Under the Rain Shadow

1 year, 1 month ago
7 months, 26 days ago
10 8638 5 1

Chapter 7
Published 10 months, 17 days ago

Explicit Violence

Perturbed by the lack of any rainfall for months in the Central Grasslands, one conspiracy theorist stormchaser bunny starts to seek the truth for himself.

Theme Lighter Light Dark Darker Reset
Text Serif Sans Serif Reset
Text Size Reset


Gonzo ran his fingers through the fur on the top of his head, exasperated and nauseous. The stampede in the lobby of the base had yet to let up. Military personnel calling for each other's help, punctuated by wails of pain as the herd of bison fought them backwards—and won handily. Not even the occasional blasts of gunfire could kill the commotion.

"We gotta get out of here, man," Gonzo pleaded with Calhoun. "What did you do? Why?"

Calhoun leaned against the desk, holding the coffee-stained papers in one hand as he scrubbed through them. As usual, the pleading fell on deaf ears. "The more I read about this bison breeding project, the more I'm surprised they didn't do this to themselves already. They're not even domesticated. They'd stampede anywhere you tell them to, including at the wrong coordinates."

Without so much as a hint of concern in his eyes, Calhoun looked back up at Gonzo. "You'd think the military would know better."

"Man, I get it. Crazy military dudes! Bison dudes! Mistakes and stuff! We have to leave!"

Calhoun tossed the papers aside, pointing at a dark glass ball embedded in a drop ceiling tile. "There's one problem with that, the CCTV cameras. We're on tape playing with their toys. We leave now, they put pictures of us on the news."

The bunny's shoulders slumped, and he let out an exhausted, aggravated growl as he stared out at Calhoun through puffy, frightened eyes. "And you didn't know about them?!"

Something seemed to dawn on Calhoun as he stared back. "I...could've planned that out better, yeah," he replied more somberly. "Okay, so we steal the tape. They're distracted. Their security detail is probably out of the room."

Gonzo covered his eyes and did his best to keep breathing. On one hand, he was already in more trouble than he could've ever imagined, having gone along with the Calhoun scheme that brought them in here to begin with. On the other, this Calhoun scheme had the potential to not only get them caught faster, but caught with extreme prejudice—with included charges for stealing government property as a bonus.

Finally, he threw up his hands and shrugged. "Then where's the tape, man?"

Calhoun mulled it over for a moment before eyeing up a ventilation cutout just above the workstation. "Ducts. You'd fit. Probably wouldn't make any noise either. You climb on the supercomputer cabinet and hop up there, go find the tape, and get out of here. Roof access."

"And what about you?"

"You ask that a lot. I'll go find someone's office to hide in. I'm not leaving until you find that tape."

And neither was Gonzo. As much as he wasn't having going along with more of Calhoun's lunacy, he'd already be considered an accomplice to whatever tragedy happened out front, and it wouldn't be long before someone came back to check on the workstation. He didn't have much of a choice.

Climbing up on the desk, Gonzo pulled himself up on top of the supercomputer, slid his fingers under the vent to unhook it from the clips keeping it attached to the ceiling, and wriggled into the ducts above. The metal closing in around him felt thin, but he was light, and if he moved slowly enough, he could avoid shaking the duct and making any noise at all.

"HEY! Hands where I can see them!"

And it wasn't a moment too soon. Gonzo couldn't quite see it (and he wasn't about to look back down through the cutout to find out), but someone had spotted Calhoun. Freezing in place momentarily (no small feat given his achy, out-of-breath lungs), Gonzo listened below him—to the shuffling and rustling, where it was coming from and where it was going.

"Up against the wall," a voice sounded from the hallway.

As quietly as he could, Gonzo followed the voice, squinting through another vent in the ducts to steal a peek at who it came from. There were more soldiers now, each of them in identical desert camouflage. A grey wolf kept Calhoun pinned tight against the concrete wall, and a ground squirrel circled around him, patting his clothes and looking through his pockets. The wolf in particular towered over Calhoun—and Calhoun already seemed plenty tall, from where Gonzo stood.

"Funny prank, Calhoun," he said as he tied the coyote's wrists together. "Some folks are dead now because of you. Wanna go see?"

"Don't play God next time," Calhoun grumbled under his breath.

"Shut up."

Gonzo could only watch as the one person he knew at all in this town, this area, this mess was violently dragged down the hall. He tried his best to trail them, but the ducts stopped lining up with the building layout at some point. Gonzo had to turn east, and Calhoun was taken west.

It did mean he was alone now—or, at least he hoped he was. Gonzo had become increasingly aware of the eerie stillness around him as he crawled, the sound of his clothes against the metal duct the only thing audible around. As quick as the bison came to rage, they seemed to leave—but not their effects. He recoiled peeking through more vents on the way, catching limited glimpses of quite a lot of blood (though thankfully no bodies) streaking the floors and painting the walls underneath him.

It was starting to feel incredibly surreal. Beyond the raw shock value of the scene, the panic had dissipated, and the guilt had yet to slam him properly. About the only thing he felt proper was exhaustion. Hours ago, he thought he might've spent that evening parked out in the van on a dune, pondering the base as he listened to the chatter and squabbling that always came over C-band radio, before driving back up north where he belonged.

Instead, some folks had died because he went along with a maniac's plans. A maniac's plans to invite some horny bison to riot on military property as an act of revenge. He didn't know what to think, how to react, or what to feel. For the moment, even the CCTV tape was the furthest thing from his mind.

Gonzo emerged back outside, having followed the bleed of the desert moonlight into the ducts up to the roof. He was hidden here. Even from the rooftop, no one could see inside, and the nook pointed well away from town, with no one around on the ground to spot him anyway.

Sore, scared, and tired, Gonzo sat on the floor of the nook, exhaling as he held his head in his hands.