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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Chapter 5 - Crossing the Rubicon

Jude picked up his gun, and pulled the release lever. A mostly burned out battery dropped to the ground, making a plopping sound as it hit the ground. A thin stream of smoke came from the stock of the weapon. He reached into his sack, and pulled out one of his batteries for the same weapon, and inserted it, listening for the reassuring “click” noise that went along with it.

Jude then did the same things with both his kryon weapon and Survivor’s own weapon. When the last gun had been reloaded, Jude looked at the rowboat, and then at the far shore. Crossing this river would not be easy, especially not as Jude eyed the motorboat slowly making its way up the river.

Jude’s heart sank further as he looked at his own boat again. It appeared to be made for two people, however he would have to use it solo. Still, he assumed that he was in better condition than the average person who would have lived in the pretime.

Looking again down the river at the approaching boat, Jude summoned his nerve, looped his guns around his back, and pushed the boat into the river. Jumping in, he began rowing frantically to reach the other side.

The distance was longer than Jude had imagined, and soon his arms were growing weary. Every stroke was an exercise in self-control and determination. Each pull pushed Jude’s physical strength to the limits.

Just then, a horn split the quiet air. Looking to his left, Jude saw that the boat was approaching rapidly, and men standing on the boat began shouting in gibberish. Surprisingly though, the others seemed to understand, ran to the cabin of the boat.
Jude began pulling and stroking harder then ever – the only important thing was to cross the river, where he would be able to take one of his guns and shoot the ship. However, the savages turned up the engine, and the other boat began speeding toward Jude much faster than he could escape.

In just a few brief moments that felt like a lifetime, it became obvious that the boat was headed in a collision course with Jude’s, and that he would have to abandon ship in order to survive. Removing his kryon weapon and throwing it into the water to lessen his own weight for the swim that would be necessary, Jude began frantically searching for a way out, be it a rock to make the savages crash into or a calm patch of water from which to shoot the boat.

But Jude’s folly turned out to be in his throwing of the weapon. The unusual side momentum of the throw made the boat rock, and Jude, being an inexperienced boatsman, was unable to control. The boat capsized in seconds.

Jude was caught underneath the boat, his head in a pocket of air created by seat of the boat. He was nearly unable to breathe because of the cold temperature of the water. Taking a deep breath, Jude plunged underwater. He reemerged on the other side, and began swimming for the far side of the river.

The savages who had run to the cabin had returned now, bearing standard human military-issue rifles. Shots began to tear into the water around Jude, and in just a moment, the water had heated up to almost unbearably hot. Taking a breath, Jude dove underwater again.

He realized that his only hope would be to charge his gun to the maximum and fire it at the ship, but there was one problem in the plan: he had never learned if human weapons were waterproof. He knew that kryon weapons were, however, he had thrown his weapon off of the rowboat too far back – it would be impossible to retrieve it now.

His only choice was to trust fate, and to surface and take a single shot with his gun. He would have to surface soon anyway to fulfill his body’s desire to fill his burning lungs with oxygen. Holding his rifle in both hands, Jude pushed the power setting to the maximum. He kicked quickly and surfaced.

He had but a few seconds in which to act before the savages saw him again. He pointed the gun, aimed, and pulled the trigger. A shot echoed throughout the air. A massive explosion of fire and heat struck the boat two-thirds of the way down the starboard side. And to Jude’s surprise and happiness, the fire quickly spread to the engine. The boat exploded in seconds, sending shrapnel through the air and the bodies of the savages to the watery depths.

However, both boats were now lost in the river, and Jude would have to swim to the far shore. To do so, he would have to lesson the load on himself, but he had nothing which he could dump, and so he continued to swim.

The heat from the explosions did not carry far in the murky river, and soon it was icy cold, and Jude began to shiver. Still, he carried on, although every stroke felt like it was sending a thousand needles into his body. But to stop was to die.

The agony continued for what seemed like an age. However, to Jude’s fortune, he did indeed reach the other side. Lying on the sand, trying to soak in the dwindling sunlight, Jude stared at the sky.

And then Jude had a horrible realization – all of his food had been in his bag, which had been submerged in the water. Reaching frantically through the bag, he was glad to see that none of the cans had burst from the temperature, although one of the water bottles had broken.

Also, to Jude’s surprise, the book had not been damaged. Jude was convinced that they must have invented some form of waterproof paper and leather before the invasion, and that Survivor was fortunate enough to have found a blank book of that material some years ago.

The sunset that night was a spectacular red, and Jude, trying to warm up after his unexpected swim in the river, fell sound asleep.


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