It’s Day 593 into the war. Or Day 840. Or 1,383. You can’t keep track anymore. And it’s not really your job to, anyways. You’re just the scout. The runner. You simply complete the missions until there aren’t any more to complete. You aren’t paid to ask questions.
You make it down to the hangar just as the sun is starting to slip above the horizon. Most people aren’t even up yet. But in this slanting light, when the night is caught between dark and day, is when their visibility is poorest, the creatures that crawled out of the void and burned everything they saw. These are the most crucial hours of the day.
The truck is already set up and ready to go: its bed filled with food and other supplies desperately needed at Delta Base after their supplier was attacked in the night last week. A runner that left too early. Timed things badly. That was a blow everyone was worried would hurt, bad. Nobody said it out aloud, but everyone was thinking it.
You hoist yourself into the driver’s seat and turn the key. The 5.3-liter V8 fires up with a roar. You secretly thank the engineers for strapping a Corvette Z06-derived intercooled supercharger to the block, giving you an additional 100 horsepower. There was just something comforting about the thought of extra power. The power to outrun. Hopefully.
Nobody has driven this truck yet. It’s a special concept developed to help run missions. A light-duty pickup, built for more speed and agility than the bigger and heavier models. The guinea pig? You.
The thick doors of the east-facing base creak open and the first rays of the rising sun slither in. You lower the sunshade, check that everything is in place—the harpoon gun securely locked into its holder between the seats—and mash the throttle, propelling the truck out into the charred wasteland beyond.
Everything is gray. The mounts of ash, mixing with the burned dirt of the earth. The carbonized skeletons of fallen buildings. It made painting the truck easy: satin steel gray, with a body-color grille and bumpers. Smoked headlight and tail light lenses. Dark tint on the windows that blended the Silverado all the more with its wretched surroundings.
It’s only 10 miles between your base and Delta. You’re going as fast as you can over the gritty terrain, the 22-inch performance tires rumbling over the ground. The V8 is humming along when suddenly you hear them: wingbeats. Thud. Thud. Thud. The sound of air being concussed to keep a massive, otherworldly body airborne. The sound that fills you with dread.
Your eyes flash across the horizon. Where is the sound coming from? You check the rearview mirror. There, coming in fast, a speck in the distance that was rapidly growing larger and larger with each passing breath. Shit.
Within seconds, the creature is upon you, its terrible, shrieking roar of triumph filling the air. Your foot is already to the floor. The Silverado isn’t going any faster.
Deftly flipping on the cruise control, you steady the wheel and open the sunroof, yanking the harpoon gun from its holder. The beast soars along above, wings beating hard and monstrous jaws unlocked. You hear a sharp intake of breath and you know you haven’t got long. The truck is shaking and jarring you and you only have one shot. You aim and you take it, squeezing the trigger.
Miraculously, the harpoon finds its mark, sinking deep into the creature’s flying arm. Dark, blue-black blood rains down. You must have hit an artery. It utters a hideous, roaring scream and drops back into a limping flight, disappearing from view.
You sink back down into the Silverado’s seat with a sigh of relief and disengage the cruise control. The air is silent once more, save for the pounding in your ears. Up ahead, you can see Delta. A lone figure waits by its doors. It’s the general. She’s waiting for you.
You slam to a halt in front of her, the red-painted six-piston Brembo brakes up front biting hard. She gives you a tight, thin-lipped smile. The doors open and you drive slowly into their hangar, the windshield of the truck splattered with the creature’s blood.
Just another day in the endless war.