Gingerly, Cornelius stepped around the remains of the mangled and shattered forms. Here and there he dispensed his own form of mercy, as he moved determinedly towards the vehicle and the Taartuns within it. A low moan wafted from beneath a pile of snapped branches near to the front of the twisted cockpit and he hastily picked up one of the typical Taartun swords from the ground nearby. Poking aside the splintered vegetation, he revealed a small man, dressed in the curiously checked garment he had seen all of the Clansmen wear. Butt prodded the man with the end of the blade and was rewarded with a startled shout.
Jumping backwards, he drew his new-found laser pistol, transferring the sword to his left hand.
“W-w-where am I?” asked the individual in a dazed fashion.
“That’s exactly what I was going to ask you,” replied Cornelius, watching as the man struggled to his feet, holding one hand against the fresh wound in his side. He saw him scan the underbrush, probably looking for a weapon of some sort.
“Enough of that!” snapped Cornelius, waving his pistol for effect.
To his surprise, the man seemed more concerned about the sword than his pistol, tensing his body as though about to attack. Butt quickly snapped off a shot, which whistled past the man’s ear, causing him to collapse backwards onto the floor.
“Who are you?” he queried in a state of shock, “Where did you come from?”
“The back of your vehicle, trussed up like some piece of prime meat!” snarled Cornelius, the pistol firmly pointed at the face in front of him, which only wore a vacant expression. Suddenly, he knew that somewhere a local village was missing an idiot and groaned in frustration.
“Never mind that, you can start by telling me your name and what you were doing here!” he barked, waiting expectantly.
“My name is Kam, Kam Macadam,” he said warily eyeing the pistol, “All I do is drive, they give us papers and we go where they say. Papers. Drive. Papers. Dri…”
“Enough!” shouted Cornelius, “You’re giving me a headache!”
“Are you one of them?” demanded Kam, readying himself as though expecting a further rebuke.
“I don’t think so,” said Cornelius, “whatever one of them is. I just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; the story of my life really.”
Suddenly from behind the remains of the vehicle came a crashing and snarling, followed by the roar of a pistol round.
“Run!” Butt screamed taking off for the uncertain cover of the rocks, not waiting to see if Kam was following. The Clansman hesitated until he saw an armoured body fly through the air, a steaming hole gaping in its chest as it slammed into the tree next to him.
“Where are we going!” gasped Kam as he ducked under a low hanging branch, trying desperately to keep up with Cornelius, who was travelling extremely rapidly.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m going in the opposite direction to that pistol fire, and,” said Cornelius, pointedly,” as fast as my stubby, little legs will carry me!”
With that he put on an extra burst of speed and left Kam struggling behind.
The Clansman stopped for a moment, trying to figure out why he was following his strange new companion. Struck by rock and wood chips, as a shot impacted close by; he decided it didn’t really matter and set off in pursuit.
One minute he was running at top speed and the next he was laid flat on his back. It felt as though he had run straight into a rock wall, and his bleeding nose tended to agree with his idea. The weird thing was that there was absolutely nothing to be seen.
“What happened?” asked Kam, concern in his voice.
“I have absolutely no idea,” mumbled Cornelius from behind the hand he held cupped under his nose to catch the stream of blood pouring down.
“Boundary shield?” asked Kam, cautiously extending his hand until it struck the invisible boundary. “Did you do that?”
Cornelius looked at him in amazement and simply pointed at his nose and raised his eyebrows.
“Ah, probably not, eh?” asked the Clansman, unbuttoning his trousers, and seeing Cornelius’ astonishment, “I desperately need to go. I can’t wait!”
Kam hurriedly went about his business, spraying urine in a childishly careless fashion. The results were unexpected to say the least. Whatever the stream of liquid connected with did not appear to agree with the procedure and Kam howled in pain. An electrical discharge shot across the distance separating the unfortunate Clansman from the force wall, making his strange hair stand on end in a most frightening manner.
Cornelius stared at the cameo for a moment and then collapsed in laughter onto the floor. “That...” he said between gasps, “...is the best thing that’s happened in a long time!”
Kam found it impossible to talk, his teeth chattering uncontrollably, until he at last finished and fell to his knees. After a short respite, he too began to laugh, and just for a while, they forgot about their pursuers.
“Hey!” shouted Kam, “Have you seen this?”
Cornelius walked over to stand next to him and gaped in complete surprise. Now the force field had vanished, what it had been protecting became obvious. A perfectly straight line cut across the verdant vegetation and beyond it was the unmistakable streets of a city. One, whose very structure looked battered and torn, as though it had suffered an interminable bombardment.
Partially hidden behind a crumbling façade was the burnt out shell of a tank, rusted and twisted it must have lain there a very long time. The streets appeared deserted and there was little noise, except the whistling of a chill wind which they could even now begin to feel.
“I really don’t like this”, said Cornelius, “someone is playing with our heads.”
“Pardon?” asked Kam, confusedly, he sometimes found it hard to understand Butts’ terminology.
“You better have this,” said Cornelius, handing over the short sword, “I don’t think it’ll be of much use, but you just never know:”
Glancing back, he could see Clari, hovering in mid-air and staring worriedly along their back trail. Quickly making up his mind, Cornelius started forward, “Come on,” he said, “it looks like we really have no option.”
“Move!” he repeated to the still gawking Clansman, and set off towards the city, Kam eventually following behind.