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By The Harshest Light Of Day

VC: "By the Harshest Light of Day"
Jason — 29 Aug 1999, 6:43 PM

I'm a bit rusty, but the recent flow of stories have reminded me of the good ol' days of VC. Note to Terry, this story has no connection to any other, so far as I can see at this point. Timeline wise, I would say it is toward the end of the current established timeline, if not after most of the events listed in the timeline.

The stars shone brightly over them every night, but to them, they were unfamiliar stars-- unfamiliar constellations that shed light on their journey during the long nights. By now, their journey had been going on so long, so aimlessly that they had little more than a vague idea of where they were headed... and even less of an idea of how to get there. It occurred to them that they could navigate by the stars, but none of them ever quite figured out how to do it, much less to accurately read a compass use the information to lead them where they wanted to go.

When they had originally set out, their small caravan had been brand new. While in Federation City, the caravan's leader had recruited four hands that he thought would be able to help him as he set out on his task: travelling through nearby towns, cataloging plant and animal life, looking in hopes of finding samples of species that were presumed endangered or extinct, species whose vitality had been endangered by the merciless flow of settlers into the west..

That had been the plan, at least.

Their caravan had traveled through two towns when it got caught in a harsh thunder storm one evening. Before they could do anything, their horse had taken them wildly off course. By the time that morning broke and they could find their bearings, the caravan was far off-course in unfamiliar territory.

A long time had passed since then. Their caravan, which had never been meant for long range travel, was now creaky-- the wheels were shaky and uneven, the boards on the side of the caravan had been mostly torn off and the floorboards threatened to give way every time someone stood on them.

Nonetheless, it had an intrepid group of individuals living aboard her, hunting and searching for supplies as they desperately searched for some sort of safe harbor. Alas, instead of getting closer to home, they seemed to get further away from it. They hadn't been in a town where there were people who could assist with repairs or supplies in months (much less provide directions). And where there used to be an abundant amount of game to live off of, as they continued their trek, he vegetation and the animal life had gotten increasingly sparse.

Continued (Part Two)
Jason — 29 Aug 1999, 6:45 PM

Still, the Leader was determined to make it home and bring his hands back to civilization. Where he had originally been remote with his group of hands, over the months he had come to know them and bond with them. They were a family-- a family with it's share of problems, no doubt, but a family nonetheless.

Their leader was firm and often silent as he presided over the caravan. His face was bruised and scarred, mostly from his fight with a wild bear, but they were also served as relics from other dangerous encounters he'd had over time.

Despite the fact they were lost, the crew of the caravan did have a map of the area. The problem was that it had been damaged in an attack they had sustained from a nearby Indian tribe. The edges of the map had been burned, as well as a large section in the middle of the map. The crew had, over a long period of time, come to reason that they were somewhere in the middle of that missing section, and that on the other edge, there was a settlement. All they had to do was scout the area, and hope that they'd find it before their food and resources ran out.

But, it wasn't working out as well as they had hoped. They were moving further into the desert it seemed. This seemed necessary to reach the settlement the leader reasoned, but his crew were not as convinced.

Even worse, their trusty steed was getting older by the day. It was only a matter of time until he gave out for good. Even the First Hand, a cocky young man who had been trained as a horse trainer, couldn't keep the horse in good health. Soon, they were travelling in a region where the vegetation was so sparse that they couldn't even pull anything out of the ground to eat, save passing by tumbleweeds. And the ground was increasingly composed of sand, than it was anything else that was useful.

Among the group of five, there was a woman, arguably the most skilled among the bunch. She had long, golden hair and a fair complexion.

The golden haired woman emerged from the caravan, brushing her hair aside and inspecting the caravan's status. She was in charge of making repairs, tweaking the aerodynamics of the caravan in hopes it would go faster, and other tasks relating to keeping the caravan in good shape.

The sweat was dripping down her brow. They had been in the desert for a few weeks and it was getting much hotter by the day. Even since setting out from Federation City, she questioned the practicality of wearing a dress. In the first town she had visited, she had secretly procured a pair of pants, suspenders and cowboy hat, which she hid at the bottom of a trunk they had brought with them. Now it was time. She slid them on, curious as to what the reaction of her compatriots would be. They didn't really notice, although the First Hand gave her a wink that she wasn't quite sure what to make of.

Day by day, further the crew ventured in to the desert. They hadn't eaten in days, much less spotted any sign of a town.

As the horse trod throughout the desert, the blond haired woman sat at the front of the caravan, watching the landscape go by.


Instantly, she went spinning from the caravan, thrown a good two meters clear of the vehicle. As she got her bearings, she quickly realized that she hadn't been the only one. The rest of the crew had been thrown clear from the caravan, which had turned right over. She came closer, and found that the wheel had broken off. The horse was on its side, still attached to the caravan, hurt.

"Can you fix it?" the Leader asked.

"I think so," the blond haired woman asked.

"This was just what we needed," the cocky First Hand said directly to her.

"It's not like this is my fault," she retorted.

Part Three
Jason — 29 Aug 1999, 6:47 PM

"You're in charge of keeping the caravan in good shape," he responded.

"This caravan has been out in the wild for months. It was never supposed to be out this long!" she shouted.

"Enough," the leader said. "Get to it." He motioned for the fourth person, a black man, to lend her assistance, and they went to it immediately.

She took her tools and went to fixing the wheel, the black man sitting with her, helping her with whatever he could. She steadily worked, her eyes wide with determination as the sweat poured down her forehead. It was as if she was doing everything she could to hold back her frustration: trying, in vain, to turn her anger into useful energy in getting her job done. Nonetheless, no matter how much she tried, she couldn't get the wheel into it's groove.

Furious, she shouted at the caravan and got up, pacing around it, staring at it as if it were her worst enemy. The black man got up too, doing as much as he could-- watching her and waiting for her temper to sooth. Soon, she stumbled and fell to the ground, and he ran quickly to her aid. She was becoming faint, but she regained her composure.

"It's so damn hot," she said, staring up at the searing sun which, despite the lateness of the day, was still presiding at it's highest point in the sky.

She exchanged a firm glance with their leader, who had walked by to check on their progress. His expression did not change, and after returning her glare for a moment, he continued on his way, to deal with something brought to his attention by one of the other hands.

"Come on," the black man said. "Let's try this again. I'll help you."

The blond woman got up, her temper broken by her exhaustion. This time she was going to get it right. Together, she and the black man got the heavy wheel back into it's groove, and affixed it properly.

"You did a good job," he said. "I don't know what we'd do without you."

She smiled, and they stood, going to report the good news to the other four.

"So we can start off again?" the leader asked.

The blond woman looked to the horse, which was still resting on the ground.

"The question is, how far can we go?" said the First Hand.

The Leader turned to the fifth, who was turned away from the rest. He barely said anything, not believing in non-essential conversation. "I want you to do everything... and *anything*... you can to get that horse working for us again."

The fifth simply acknowledged the Leader's request, and proceeded to work immediately.

"We'll start off again in the morning," the Leader said to the rest of his crew.

The blond woman looked back up to the sky, and then looked at the black man's pocket watch, observing the time.

"When will that be, I wonder...?" she asked. "The sun seems like it will never set. This has got to be the longest day of the year."

There was a moment of silence, as the Leader gave a creepy look, as if he were confident for some reason.

"It's the equinox," he affirmed, looking at the sun, which was shining down on them intensely, still high in the sky. "I think it's a good omen. Things are going to change for the better very, very soon."