THE OUTLAW

Korachan, 4007 RM

The body weighed a ton.

     He’d been carrying it since the observatory. That was what, ten miles ago? He had at least as much left to go, probably more.

     “The hell am I going to manage this?” thought Kerrn to himself. He’d passed scav lairs on the way to the observatory.      He was travelling slower now than before, his chances of outrunning them lessened. He’d have to take the long way around.

     “That’ll add a few more miles,” he said, rolling his eyes. 

     The body was beginning to slump. He stopped, adjusted its weight on his shoulder. 

     The sack was getting sticky. He’d drained the body of as much blood as possible before leaving the ruined dome, but still, it was beginning to seep into the sack.

     Kerrn distracted himself with thought of the bounty that was awaiting him back home. 

     It worked, for a while.

     He crossed dunes of dust and rust, even stopped a few times to admire the view, for what it was worth. It was a grey world he lived in, under grey skies giving the appearance of lifelessness. But he’d explored the wastes enough times to know that the surface was not always true. There was life out there, hiding in valleys and dead trees. 

     He just had to be careful to avoid it.

     The wind was picking up, bringing the mounds of dust and rust to life about him. 

     Kerrn stopped by an outcrop of dark igneous rocks and took shelter, fastening his duster against the wind. He rested for a while and when he broke his reverie he noticed his hand was on the sack containing the body. He regarded it for a moment, found himself thinking of the outlaw within. 

     He shook his head, spat in the dust and carried on.

     He took the long way back, eschewing the trade road west for the roughlands that surrounded Fulcar’s Needle, a pillar of glass-like stone that dominated the region. It was his beacon, drawing him steadily west.

     Home.

He saw it long before he reached it, straddling the Almagesti coast like a black bead caught between oil and water. 

     The only settlement for miles around, it was his world. Inconsequential next to the capital, it meant nothing in the grand scheme of things, but it was all he cared about. He smiled for the first time in weeks and began the final leg of his return. 

     Kerrn’s foresight paid off. He managed the road home without encounter.

     He found the east road and followed it to the settlement, taking a detour that took him to the temple of the Machine Ascendant. Around it stood row upon row of stone shelves in which were secreted tin simulacra of the dead.

He entered the vestibule and caught the attention of a disciple who took the papers proffered and nodded, withdrawing into the gloom of the temple. 

     Kerrn waited, looked around. His work brought him there often enough, though it had been years since he’d last been to mass. He doubted he’d be attending any time soon.

     A priest emerged from the shadows and walked slowly towards the bounty hunter, pushing a gurney. “Another evildoer dispatched,” he sneered.

     Kerrn grunted and heaved the sack onto the gurney. “Just doing my job, Soth. Need to know what he was wanted for?”

     The holy man waved the request away and took the gurney into his hands, ready to take back to the processors. “I need a name, for the records.”

     Kerrn shoved him a handful of papers, crumpled form the road.

     Soth took the papers, gave them a quick look. His eyebrows lifted for a moment and he looked at Kerrn. 

     The bounty hunter looked at him, expectantly.

     “This is your brother.”

     “The law does not recognise blood, holy man. You of all men should know that.”

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©2018 by Nate Mangion