Ray by Stingray
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To whomever dared to travel this far, to whomever uncovers this chronicle, I leave you these final words from the bottom of my heart;

With every road of war, there is a promise of a street of dreams.

Never loose hope... it will find its way under your treads when you least expect it.

For the sake of integrity and in the name of humanity, never loose hope, driver.

 

—Excerpt from the last page of an unsigned diary found in the wasteland.



 

 

    Apparently there are places within this land that have never been traveled by man throughout the ages of humanity's occupation of this dying planet. Blanks on the map. Mostly rumors passed on by individuals who seek absolute serenity from the fear that strikes our hearts everyday. Somewhere the terror and bloodshed will not follow. A place one can so foolishly call "safe."

    One man has never believed such lies. The road was his deliverance. With trust a long dead concept in the wastelands, his rifle was his friend. And with deadly opposition of his strive to survive, it was also his sword. His car was his warhorse and shield. He was a knight of the open road. He stopped for no one but himself. And no one has ever caught him yet.

    His name is Skyray. He was given the name when he was four years old, around the time his family migrated to a small colony outpost in the Oil Seas, somewhere in a territory once called Texas. The exact meaning of it is still unclear, but to him it was the result of a cheesy "prophecy" that he would be the savior of a remaining Eden on the brink of suffering the same fate as the rest of this world has. A ray of light to bleed through the ashen sky and illuminate a darkened world, so to speak. His real name is long forgotten, so for the longest he can remember he has gone by the simplified nickname of Ray.

    The road was unusually clear of rubble and debris of improvised fighting vehicles left over from the great wars, almost glowing under the beaming desert sun. It was hot. Too hot for Ray to handle, as sweat caused his ragged clothing to cling uncomfortably to his body. 

    He pulled over to the clearing along the road and removed his chest holster and shredded leather vest. He let out a disappointed sigh as there was very little change in his overall comfort. He observed the wasteland around him, then at the road ahead. He felt like the only inhabitant of the planet. Truly alone.

    He shut off the engine and listened to the Earth. Nothing. Pure silence. No wind, no tumble of loose vegetation, and most important of all, no distant rumble of a dozen angry war machines charging for their prey. Oddly enough, no ringing in his ears as he usually had after long drives. Have the hours upon hours of listening to my own unmuffled engine caused me to go deaf? Is that even possible? He shifted in his seat to hear the scraping of his clothing against the rough canvas covering. Nope, I'm perfectly fine. Now to find that canteen within the mess of my belongings in the back...

    A rumble. An all too familiar rumble echoed from somewhere in the distance behind him. He leaped out of the car, whipped out the binoculars from a pouch on his belt and scanned the horizon as thorough as he could. He saw nothing but the endless seas of refracting light along the desert surface. Finally, he spotted something. Yes, something in motion. Emerging from the curve of the Earth, growing into a familiar blob of silhouette. Then it rose higher than higher in his lenses. Unusually high. Then the familiar sound transformed into something beyond his normal expectations. As the flying object grew nearer, He heard an earth-shattering "Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!" as repetitive as a heavy machine gun with endless ammo reserve and little to no danger of overheating. A helicopter. A rather large one, at that.

    Normally in situations like this, Ray had a naturally-camoflaged car cover which acts as the perfect cloak from airborne scouts. Unfortunately, that was before falling victum to common theft by a band of scavengers when he last refueled. Now he was as plain as day to anyone with a pair of functioning eyes. Just let it pass over. Maybe they'll leave me alone. Another part of his subconscious told him that he has literally gone insane to believe such a thing.

    It passed over without hesitation, low enough for him to read the insignia on the side of the fuselage: "Destruens Angelus," Latin for "Destroying Angel." It was a highly-modified and elongated CH-47 "Chinook" serving as a gunship and transport, with large sections cut away from the sides for fast-loading of passengers. It also had wings spanning from the center fuselage line, carrying pylons for various air-to-ground weapons. Whoever was operating this beast must be a part of a widespread rebel faction. This was highly irregular for any lone scavengers to want anything to do with, due to it being far too high-profile in contrast to intentions of running from larger threats. This thing belonged to a large force in power. Someone with intentions of conquering over minorities too feed their lust in power. Ray knew what followed would be much worse.

    To confirm his thoughts, he took another look at the horizon. Sure enough, a parade of charging vehicles stormed his direction from the distance. Buggies, Infantry Fighting Vehicles, even mobile artillery. A rogue military faction. Ray's heart sank. No one has ever survived an encounter with a rogue military faction before, and this marked Ray's first encounter without any means of escape or evasion. Time to run. 

    Ray leapt into his custom desert-warfare-modified 1970 Chevrolet El Camino and started the engine. As soon as he pulled out, back onto the road, the giant tandem-rotor helicopter circled around, nose-down and low altitude in perfect attack stance. Ray accelerated, causing the brief bombardment of unguided rockets to miss and hit the road behind. The Chinook passed over, roaring like the battlecry of a hundred angry dragons. He keept his foot on the pedal, forcing himself to keep his vision on the road ahead. Don't stop. Don't look back. Just keep going!

    A sand buggy with various Jeep modifications somehow made it's way next to his passenger door, a rear gunner aiming an arrow-launcher at his front tires. Ray whipped a 1911 out of the holster on his passenger seat and shot the gunner dead-center in the forehead. He tumbled from the caged gunner nest behind the driver, to the road with a cringeworthy "thud" audible over the two rumbling engines.

    The driver swerved and hit Ray's car in attempt to run it off the road, but to no effect. Ray looked to the other driver with an amused grin, surprised how anyone could fathom the idea of how such a small "toy" of a vehicle could ever budge the power of Ray's transport. My turn.

    Ray swerved and hit the buggy, running it off the road, into the desert. The unsecured driver lost control and crashed head-on into a large rock formation, sending him flying through the windshield and into the dunes ahead.

    The Chinook approached him for another attack run, unloading its overall arsenal. Ray swerved on the road, attempting to dodge as many projectiles as he can while he looked for a way out. 

    There. Off to the left of the desert road was an unusually dense oasis of vegetation, sinking deep into a groove in the earth. A stream, possibly, which can't bee seen from this angle on the road. But there was no bridge in sight to indicate as such. Either way, the trees should provide decent cover while evading offensive fire from the Chinook.

    Ray drove off the road, into the vegetation. The band of angry war machines followed, except for the unfortunate weaponized transport vans made specifically for road-travel that tumbled in the dunes. The Chinook also followed, straining to get a clean shot of the El Camino, shredding the trees with armor-piercing machine gun fire.

    A 6x6 mobile artillery vehicle aimed its turret at Ray and fired a shot. The shell blasted the rearmost quarter of the El Camino, causing Ray to loose control and run right off his mental path within the vegetation, into the predicted stream of shallow yet rushing water, tumbling through the algae-slickened rock. The last of this memory of a nightmare... a waterfall.

    Darkness blanketed the world around.


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