Story fragment: Jericho’s Wall

Occasionally, I go dredging through my stories folder on google drive, and find fragments of stories I’ve started but not continued for whatever reason. I thought that I’d share one with you. It’s a rough cut, but maybe you’ll find something to like.


The silent man crested the hill, his boots kicking up spurts of dust from the landscape. He reached for his water skin, shook it slightly, testing how much remained inside the toughened leather.

You need to find a source of moisture, Jericho. I’m detecting a possible source two kilometres to the north.”

The man named Jericho glanced up at the cloudless sky, a mute frown flashing briefly across his face. Far to the west, an airship was working it’s slow way across the sky, it’s gondola hanging beneath it like a pilot fish shadowing a shark.

Any signs of life?” He thought. If he concentrated,he could detect the slight glimmers of energy as the machine searched for a response.

A couple of travelers, nothing more.” There was a pause, a fraction too long to be unintentional. “Best get moving if you want to get there before dark.”

You’re lying to me, Solomon.

No, I’m just not telling you the full story. Get moving, Jericho.

He shrugged, and began the trudge towards the oasis.

**

Charlotte dipped the bucket into the clear blue waters, lifting it clear of the oasis. A mischievous smile crossed her face, and she upturned the bucket over her head, drenching herself in the cool liquid.

“Charlotte, stop wasting time and get over here!” came a stern voice from the caravan.

“Sorry Pa!” She grinned and refilled the bucket, carrying it over to the wheeled house. Her father looked her up and down, one eyebrow raised.

“Couldn’t resist it, could ya?”

She blushed slightly, and set the bucket down next to the hob. Her smile faded as she glanced towards the shaded bedroom.

“How is she?”

“She’ll be better for water. Away with you now, Feed the mules, then yourself.”

She nodded, and walked down the steps towards the front of the vehicle. She opened up the hatch at the front, wincing as sweet-smelling steam hissed out of its black innards. The crater-dragons heads popped out, and she grinned.

“Alright, you rock guzzling devil-mules. Who wants feeding first?”

The dragons chirped, and leapt over the edges of their compartments, scurrying towards the bricks of coal she poured onto the ground. Fed and contained, the little crater’s body heat could power a caravan like theirs across the desert in days, rather than weeks. Charlotte adored them. She leant back against the side of the caravan as they chomped down the raw coal, occasional flickers of flame escaping their mouths.

She glance up towards the horizon, and frowned. Riders were approaching out of the haze.

**

Jericho approached the water hole quietly, his hat shadowing his face from the harsh sun. He glanced towards the east, where the airship was still making it’s ponderous course towards the cities. He envied their ease of travel. He had to rely on a solid pair of boots and a much-patched water-can to survive out in the wastelands.

He reached the oasis as he sun was rising towards noon. A caravan was sat by the cool waters, a couple of men lounging on fallen log benches that some helpful soul had cut over the years.

I don’t like this, Solomon.” The wanderer noted.

Nothing to like, old man.” The machine in his head noted.

As he moved towards the waters, the men looked up at him with disinterest. Solomon ran their facial features against his database swiftly, coming up with matches.

Carl Donovan and Elias Mitchell. Known brigands. No threat to one with your abilities, Jericho.

“Afternoon there, friend. Pleasant days to you.” Donovan said.

Jericho nodded to him, and headed for the cool waters. Donovan frowned.

“Hey, I’m talking to you, pal!”

Jericho turned, his eyes cold steel beneath the brim of his hat. He raised one hand, noting how Donovan instinctively dipped for the gun at his belt. He paused, allowing the man to calm down, then opened his mouth, and tapped his knuckles ion his throat.

Donovan frowned for a moment, then his jaw dropped as he realised the stranger’s meaning.

“Yer a mute? Can’t talk?”

Jericho nodded, a rueful grin crossing his face.

“Aw, I’m sorry friend. Didn’t mean no offence.”

Jericho nodded again, then gestured towards the water.

“Feel free.” Donovan said.

The tall wanderer headed for the water, and stripped down to his underwear. Scars covered his body, signs of a man who had survived plenty of fights. Donovan spotted knife marks and the puckered flesh of bullet holes.

“I don’t like this guy.” Mitchell murmured to his comrade. “He smells of trouble.”

“And you smell of horseshit.” Donovan snapped. “Just keep yer eyes open and your hand close to yer gun. We’ll deal with him when the time comes.”

**

There’s a third man in that caravan, Jericho. He’s holding the family hostage. Theres something else as well. Some odd biological signs.”

Mentally, the wanderer shrugged.

This ain’t our business, Solomon. Don’t try and make it so.

We know these men are brigands. We know there’s a family in there. I’m detecting a man and two women. One of them’s damned young.

Jericho rolled his eyes.

You’re determined to get me involved, I take it.

I’m a justice engine, Jericho. This is my programming.

The wanderer sighed.

I’ll wait for an opportunity. At least that way I can finish my bath.

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