You can find the previous part of the story here.

Hey, – Red Hot whistled, glancing at cars with bright neon lights. – What are those guys doing in our area?

Strangers almost caught the captain by surprise: maneuverable armoured vehicles flew to one of the phalanges of the Lunatics in the quarry area. After firing at a couple of buggies, they slowed down, as if challenging Red Hot.

Hearing the roar of powerful engines, the leader of the Firestarters turned around the train that was hurrying for raiding the remote range – the bold tactics of the strangers brought to mind the tales of a dragon clan from the east that had been circulating in the Valley. Odegon’s minions repeated the rumours about heretics, covered with electronics from heads to toes, with varying degrees of speculation. But Red Hot had a chance to get a real trophy, and he readily entered the game.

– Did you guys stop by the wrong place? – the slasher shouted sneeringly. – You can’t just leave now. We’re gonna give you a hot welcome!

As if unleashed, the vanguard of the Lunatics raced towards the enemy on the spiked and bladed buggies. They were met by volleys of powerful impulse cannons and fire-spitting drones. The sight of the flame gaining strength drove Red Hot into madness, and he let the heavy artillery of the Firestarters into battle. For a while, the “Dragons” swerved along the bed of the dried river, firing back on the go. But soon the engines of sparkling armoured vehicles roared, and the opponents began to quickly disappear in dancing dust clouds.

A few Lunatics tried to tail them and it was as if they had fallen into quicksand: the ropes from the traps thrown by their enemy chained the buggies, forcing them to spin in vain.

Red Hot realized that he had lost. He was about to take it out on someone when the radio in his pocket came to life:

– Boss, we didn’t catch them, – the speaker crackled. – But what did we find… We have a walking city under our noses! Nomads!

Red Hot thought that the day could still be saved.

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And commanded his dogs:

– Get them.

A man in a yellow biological defense suit looked anxiously toward an abandoned sand quarry. A giant half-flooded crater gaped on the dead body of the desert with a lacerated wound. A member of the “Dawn’s Children” scientific organisation was separated from the abyss by about fifty metres and a line of trucks protecting a mobile city of Nomads. He took cover behind the hull of the aircraft, to which an unknown craftsman attached a powerful tractor chassis, and waited for his heart to stop beating frantically.

– Did you hear that? – the scientist asked a colleague. – Just now there was some sort of clap… Or an explosion…

– I suspect the Nomads shot down something… someone, – the partner in the same bulky suit responded. – I am worried too. We are at the edge of the Valley: it’s scary even to think what might happen here… It’s time to go back to the center – we are wasting time anyway!

Both became silent, listening to the conversation of senior colleagues with the gloomy masters of the platform. The conversation with the Nomads went wrong immediately, and in the last couple of hours it turned into banal disputes – the parties clearly did not understand each other.

– Please, listen – the voice of one of the chief scientists sounded indignant. – The “Dawn’s Children”, of course, are grateful for your repeated help with information and material assistance. But by hiding such details from us, you negate the whole concept of a trusting relationship. We know Lloyd visited you. And we know what he wanted, from the contents of the cryptograms found under the Ravagers Foothold.

There was a guttural rumble in response, as if bursting from beneath a deafening mask. It was hard to understand the words in this mix of sounds.

– The Nomads are not seeking anyone’s trust. The Nomads don’t report about their searches. The Nomads have already refused to help Lloyd. Why would they change for other scientists?

– So, you refused him? Lloyd asked for a guide to go to the center of some anomaly…

– So he told me.

– And you sent him back?

– That is the truth.

Noticeably nervous, the scientist continued with the questions:

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– Please, tell us, the territory he mentioned… Does it coincide with our recent area of interest?

The nomad participating in the negotiations let out a frightening wheeze, either clearing his throat or panting under a mask that had rigid plastic tubes sticking out of it. Apparently, it meant a positive answer, and the entire expedition of the “Dawn’s Children”, the last bastion of science in the destroyed world, excitedly rumbled.

– Colleagues, stay calm! – shouted a senior researcher.

– What kind of calm are we talking about? – one of the yellow suits objected. – Haven’t we missed a criminal obsessed by absolute power?

– Lloyd hasn’t just betrayed us, – the other backed up. He’s found another Oracle module and right now he’s doing everything he can to capture it for his own purposes. Not caring what it does to everyone else.

– Firstly, it is not entirely known that the module is located exactly where we assume it is, – the head of the expeditionary corps reminded in a persuasive tone. – Secondly, access to the facility is blocked by an anomalous zone that only the Lost or the Nomads can enter. As we can see, carriers of the required abilities have neither the reason nor the will to do so. Lloyd can’t get in there by himself. And he doesn’t have the tools to remove the anomaly…

The stream of reasoning was interrupted by the siren, which loudly and mutterly tightened one note.

– Danger, – the Nomad muttered, pushing the scientists away.

– What is it? Are we under attack?

Ignoring the questions, the hooded figure headed to the far side of the “island”, towards the fuselage of the former airliner with a machine gun mounted on the roof. Running down the extension ladder, the nomad saw the Lunatics rushing to the city on high-speed buggies, and then, on the horizon, a train of Firestarters in the orange glow of death.

At the first sounds of the alarm the “Dawn’s Children” ran to the armoured vehicles parked inside the “island”. The Nomads poured out of the tarpaulin-covered tents and quickly dispersed into firing positions converted from ancient AA guns. The nomad negotiator broke into the cabin of the liner and quickly headed for the ammo depot. But just as he touched the bundle of ammo belts, a cold spike jabbed him in the back of the head.

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– Freeze. Do something stupid and you’re dead, – an unfamiliar voice commanded with a noticeable accent.

The nomad slowly turned – a strong guy in a mask with a dragon grin stood in front of him. He must have been waiting for the victim for a while, hidden in the dark compartment where the ammunition boxes were stored.

– How… did… you… manage… to… get… past… the… roadblock? – The nomad muttered, forcing out the words.

– You talk about a bunch of idiots on checkpoint? They are no obstacle for the dragon, – the scout replied complacently.

The nomad’s gaze seemed impassive from behind the thick observation glasses, but he stared at the spy head-on as if trying to work out who he had appeared in the camp, what he might have learned and whom he had managed to inform…

The stranger roughly grabbed the prisoner by the collar of his hood.

– The Syndicate wants you to give knowledge. And now the creature will have to come with me.


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