This Valley of Ours

Chapter 15

G. F. D.

Hannah woke up first, slowly shifting herself closer to Fred. She could feel his breathing as her tail twitched beneath the bed sheets. Her hand reached the fork of his legs as she tickled his nude frame. Then she stopped as the sheets began tenting, getting out of bed and grabbing a wooden frame chair.

The door thumped as Hannah jammed two door-stops she had found under the door, then propped the chair under the door handle before returning to the shower room, brushing her teeth to get the morning out.

"Hannah?" I cracked my eyes as she moved the sheets around her.

"Hmmm?" she murred before tucking closer.

"We need to work today," I stated before pulling her closer by the waist., feeling her body rub against mine.

"Do we?" she asked before drawing claws across my back.

"It would be the smart choice."

"Smart like you driving while going into shock?" Hannah looked up with her green eyes.

"Or smart like youÖ" I began before hearing claws skittering on the wood outside, legs pounding the flooring. A shadow flickered under the door just before the whole room reverberated as the door shook.

"AHHHHHHHH!!!" Cloud yelled from beyond the door as Hannah stared at the door, a second set of claws scratching the wood could be heard as Wakan spoke up from beyond the door.

"Holy shit dude, I told you to stop trying to jump in on them," Wakan stated as Cloudís whines could be heard through the thick wooden door.

"Hope he learns not to do that again," Hannah snickered as Wakan could be heard coaxing Cloud up before walking away.

"You know, that was a little mean," I said before Hannah drew her hair back.

"Do I need to make up for it?"

"I donít see how," I began before feeling Hannah reaching her hand down and pulling gently on the growing member.

"I think I can help you fix this," Hannah said before rolling over.

 

Wakan checked Cloudís teeth as Cloud whined. Only slight bruising and soreness he thought as he let go of Cloudís muzzle.

"Are you going to be alright?" Wakan asked as Cloud rubbed his muzzle, already sore.

"Yeah, I think so," Cloud said as Wakan snickered.

"What?" Cloud looked up from his seat on the table.

"Do you need me to kiss your boo-boo to make it feel better?" Wakan laughed before stopping. "Sorry, just a stupid thought I had."

"Yeah, I have another stupid thought too," Cloud blinked as he got off the table and shoved Wakan back into a chair.

 

"You know what I forgot to teach you?" I asked Hannah as I lay back with her on top of me, lazily laying her head on my chest.

"How to do what?" Hannah asked lazily, before batting her eyes.

"How to use a scope," I replied before looking around the wood-trimmed room. "We really should get a move on; we still have stuff to do."

"Aww, why donít we rest again today?" Hannah moaned before I pushed her over. She didnít resist as she rolled through the blankets.

"Because, we had our break day."

"Well, I know Wakan and Cloud wanted to find some cars. Why not just take two break days anyways?" Hannah asked before sitting up as I walked to the restroom.

"Fine, another break day," I replied before hearing Hannah shuffle and lie back down.

Wakan and Cloud looked at the news screen. More propaganda. They watched tanks gather as the Humanist reporter began to spell out a plan to retake the eastern United States. Not so detailed, but enough info to know that within the next three months, the east should expect some attack. Hannah and I watched from behind them before coughing once. Cloud shut the TV off and cut off the wireless link from the Laptop to the TV.

"So, Hannah said another break day for you guys to find your cars while I teach her how to use a scope," I said, getting a cuff from her.

"I was planning on going to search too."

"Sorry you gotta put up with my crap," I replied with a slight smile.

"Well, whatís so important about a scope? I bet I have a better aim than you with any rifle. So why should I learn to use one?" Hannah shot back before stopping at the grin on my face.

"You want to challenge that?" I asked, slowly chuckling more as I thought about the Iron-Sight Challenge. Fifth place at the sporting club with a bolt-action .308 Win Mag Remington Model 700 rifle, I could easily outshoot Hannah.

"Sure, I bet that Mercedes I can beat you without a scope," Hannah shot back. She didnít back down from my challenges, most of them she won since most of them required quick thinking on math, and science, my worst subjects.

"Alright, three shots, rifle of your choice, and weíll do it from the suite of the hotel to a target on the highway. Thatís easily five hundred to six hundred yards. And to show you the benefit of a scope Iíll take my first two with iron sights, then last with a scope," I replied as Wakan and Cloud looked on, then shrugged.

"Can we go find cars for ourselves?" Wakan asked before being dismissed by Hannah who simply waved her hand.

"Fine, I get to choose the rifle first," Hannah said before turning on her heels out the door of the chateau. She waited as the rest of us piled in the Mercedes before speeding down to the hotel, quiet the whole way before dropping Wakan and Cloud off in front of the lobby. Both of them stared after us as Hannah sped to the house.

"I want to use this one," Hannah said in a curt voice before grabbing a SOCOM-4 rifle. Based off the M14 rifle, it was a civilian semi-automatic rifle. The .308 Magnum also prevalent, she looked at it, and looked at her M1 Garand. Both of them looked alike, save for the fact one was a shorter rifle. Hannah paused before turning. "Iím going to take two with my M1 and one with this."

"Fine suit yourself," I replied before picking up the M700 I had used for the competition, it would use the same ammo as the SOCOM-4.

I hefted a box of hand-loaded .338 Lapua rounds my dad and I had made. I stared at the box as Hannah walked out. My father and I had reloaded our own rounds, long evenings spent measuring powder, and pressing dies into different shells, mating the bullet with its cartridge slowly. I looked at the box before turning after Hannah, the M700 in hand as I slung the M24 on my shoulder. The box of rounds still in my hand.

"Ok, Cloud, Wakan, what part of town are you guys in?" I cracked over the HAM radio as I climbed onto the roof of the hotel. Hannah already sitting there glaring at me, slowly clenching her M1 Garand and checking the .30-06 and .308 rounds she held.

"Weíre up in one of the side-valleys, about to look through this house. Why?" Cloud responded.

"Ah, that might not be far enough, over," I clicked the talk button as Hannah stared daggers.

"Far enough from what?"

"A certain vixen with a rifle," I responded with a chuckle.

"Oh crap, should I find a concrete basement?" Cloud replied as Wakan laughed in the background.

"Alright, can we start Fred?" Hannah asked sharply before pointing at the highway. "We didnít set out any targets. What are we going to use?"

"Signs," I replied before looking out. "Thereís a light at that intersection, the one for the highway on-ramp. When the light turns green I want you to shoot it out."

"Fine," Hannah replied before loading her M1 Garand, the bolt giving a sharp clack as she removed her hand from the bolt-well.

She only paused for a moment on the gravel rooftop; the balcony for our suite right below us, the rifle lowered as Hannah lay down on the warm gravel and sighted her rifle again. She paused before a sharp report split the air as the cartridge pinged off to the side, I walked and picked it up like my father and I had done at the range. Collect the cartridges for reloading later.

"Your turn, Fred," Hannah said as I turned the .30-06 cartridge over in my hands.

"Yeah," I said as I picked up the M700 and looked down the posts offhand.

"Which light did you go for?" I asked.

"The one above the road," Hannah said.

"Iím going to go for the green turning signal then," I replied before lying down like Hannah, taking my jacket off to roll up beneath my elbows to cover the rough gravel.

The sights swayed as I squinted at the signal, letting it turn green before raising the barrel over it. Pausing before breathing out and sighing once, slowly squeezing before feeling the trigger slack under my finger; the rifle bucked once as I lowered it and cycled another round in through the chamber.

"You missed," Hannah said as she saw the green light flicker.

"So did you."

Hannah blew a raspberry before raising her rifle again. And stopped and repeated my breathing exercise. Or tried to before she pulled the trigger the gun plinking another cartridge to her right, landing next to me. The light stayed green.

I fired again in turn, repeating the routine on the M700. Hannah fired again after me, this time on the SOCOM-4, missing for the final time. For the last round I hefted the M-24, leaving the bi-pod folded.

The scope-caps clicked as the rear one, then the front one flicked open. The clouds passed above us under a blue sky as I sighted through the scope before picking out a single magnum round out of a dozen in the box, cycling it into the rifle. The elevation clicked as my fingers gripped the scope. Hannah stayed quiet as she watched me; we hadnít hit the lights yet. I thought I had hit mine on the second shot, but I had been wrong.

The windage was left untouched as I looked through the scope again, I had estimated five-hundred to six-hundred yards. No wind, and just slight elevation adjustments. Hannah sighed as I took my time. Then took my shirt off to fight the rough gravel poking through the jacket at my elbows.

I sighed and closed my eyes.

"I always breathe out, then close my eyes before I fire. Donít focus on anything but that trigger, got it? Your mind gets distracted on anything else and you fuck up the shot. When you shoot you want a clean kill, that way the elk weíre gonna go after this fall wont suffer longer. Then open your eyes and squeeze," The M24 kicked as the crosshairs cut the green light. A split second barely passed before the green light shattered.

My head flicked to my right, where my dad always laid with the spotting scope. Only gravel lay there as my chin dug into the crook of my arm. He was gone.

"Fred? Didnít you hear me?" Hannah asked.

"What?"

"Before you shot you closed your eyes, I thought you fell asleep so I asked if you were ok. But you kinda just flicked them open and fired," Hannah trailed off as she looked at the sparks.

"Keep the car," I mumbled as I dressed, then picked up the guns and walked to the stairwell. Hannah looking downrange, the lesson on how to use the scope dismissed.

Hannah followed me down, quietly padding behind me as I walked out to the MAV. She looked on as I placed the two rifles in the back.

"Iím sorry, Fred," Hannah whispered as I hopped in the driverís side. The engine growling to life.

"I am too," I replied before pausing. Then getting back out of the MAV, leaving the engine idle, Hannah walked over and wrapped her arms around me.

"Are you going to be alright?" Hannah asked, her head resting on my shoulder as she stretched up and felt my back through the t-shirt.

"Yeah, just miss people," I mumbled before pulling Hannah tighter.

"I do too," Hannah said. Not letting go as I kept holding her.

"Do you want to find your car, Fred?" Hannah asked as she held on.

"My carís the MAV," I replied as the electric engines buzzed with the electricity.

"Doesnít hurt to have another," Hannah pulled up tighter, bringing me down to touch lips.

"Well, if thatís true, letís find you another then," I said before picking her up as she laughed and brought her to the passenger side.

The MAV rumbled up one of the side-roads that led away from the town. The valley we lived had one main road down the bottom of it. Other smaller tracks split from the main one, each leading to dozens of summer homes that were vacated weeks ago, now we used some for storage.

"Fred, call Wakan and Cloud and ask if they found anything," Hannah said as she walked up to the first garage of a large brick-walled mansion. Looking at the key-pad on the garage for a moment before turning and walking to the front door.

"Wakan, did you guys find anything that you like?" I pulled the HAM off the dashboard as I followed Hannah up; she already had the door open, unlocked, and was waiting in the foyer.

Yelling could be heard as Wakan replied. "Cloud just got what he liked I think, weíre still looking for something for myself."

"Alright, letís try to meet at about two at the hotel," I replied before slipping the radio over my collar.

"Gotcha," Wakan replied before the HAM clicked.

"Fred? Check this out," Hannah said from around the corner of the garage door that had opened while I had been talking. She had already walked through the house to the inner door to the garage.

I walked and peered into the dark garage, only dark curved shapes parked in the concrete room.

"What? I donít have as good night vision as you, you know that, Hannah."

"Well, go outside, Iíll pull them out," she said as she jangled keys she had picked up from the house we were standing in.

The concrete floor clicked as I walked out and sat in front of the MAV leaning against the cool and angled bumper replacement on the car. Not an actual replacement for a broken bumper, but like an oversized brush-guard on steroids, it was a steel encasing for the front of the car.

An engine in the garage revved to life as I looked up to see a dark shape crawl forward from itís slumber.

Hannah shifted the red convertible into drive as the garage yawned over the gold and black shield on the front of the hood. Her face slowly being drawn from the shadow as the morning sunlight spilled over the well waxed car. Several more garage doors opened up alongside the first, flooding more light over multitudes of covered cars.

Tires rubbed the concrete as the car purred out of its spot and in front of the MAV.

"Looks like weíve found a Ferrari," I muttered as Hannah revved the engine once before getting out.

"Do you think we should surprise Wakan and Cloud or go tell them now?" Hannah grinned as she slid a hand over the well-waxed door.

"Well, Wakan might want one of those," I pointed at the other cars in the garage. A blue Dodge Charger sat in the bay next to the Ferrariís. The last model ever made. In retrospect to the "better days" Dodge had gone all-out in their last tribute before the company was bought out by a European manufacturer. The whole car was built out of steel, none of the plastic panels. Under the hood was a big-block V8 pushing five hundred horsepower. Expensive to own, but the fastest American muscle car built pushing 3.4 seconds in the zero-to-sixty in stock configuration at the time it was built.

"Hey Wakan, we got a car for you," I radioed as I walked to the garage.

"Alright, Cloudís going to meet you soon," he replied as Cloud could be heard yelling more in the background. He had trackers in the HAM to locate us since we had agreed to always carry the radios.

"Well, now what about your car, Fred?" Hannah asked as I looked in.

"I could use that scooter," I smirked as she stroked the leather.

"A nice car, Fred," Hannah replied.

"Alright, the MAV then," I chuckled as I could see Hannah rub her temple at my ministrations.

"You know damn well what Iím saying," Hannah shot back as she opened the glove compartment by leaning across the car.

"Alright, Iíll look later."

Silence filled the air as Hannah flipped through the owners manual, the exact model of the car was a Ferrari 599 GTB. A V-8 with the special-order convertible body-style, Hannah pored over the features as I waited in the garage, eyeing the sheet that covered a low-slung car in the last car-bay.

A high-pitched whine filled the air as a pair of electric motors pushed a black motorcycle up the drive. Cloud leaning low into the seat as the windshield flickered. A thin laser passed over the ground in front of the bike as Cloud rolled up next to Hannah while she lay against the Ferrari.

"So, which one is going to be Wakanís car?" Cloud asked as he got off the bike, having ridden down helmet-less.

"The blue one," Hannah replied as Cloud waved a hand over a gloss-black panel that glowed once before the bike shut down.

"Nice," Cloud said as Wakan pulled up.

*****

"So, where should we eat lunch?" I asked the other three as Wakan leaned against his own car now that it was pulled out into the driveway, next to the motorcycle and the Ferrari, the MAV parked further down the drive.

"Why not go to the Overlook?" Hannah said as she looked at the next peak above us. A ten-mile drive on curved roads from here to the Overlook.

"I could give a ratís ass, just choose somewhere," I said as Wakan looked at me.

"What are you going to use, Fred?" Wakan asked as he looked at the MAV.

"The MAV, I donít have a car like you guys," I said as the sheets that covered the last car fluttered in the shadowed bay.

"Alright, then letís do lunch. Fred, you have extra food in your car?" Cloud asked. We had put extra food just in case in the massive under-floor compartments in the MAV. Along with medical packs, ammunition, tents, gear, and a pair of compact Bushmaster ACRís we had taken off the dead soldiers.

"Yeah, letís go," I said before walking to the MAV.

"Beat you up there!" Hannah yelled as she slid into the Ferrari.

"No bet!" I yelled back as I turned the MAV on, then paused. I had a very real possibility of beating them. I knew my car better than they did their new ones.

The tires on the MAV slid for a split second as I floored it in reverse to the road. Then I flipped the wheel over, the tires squealing as the MAV spun onto the main road. Wakan yelled before getting in the Charger, Cloud already on the bike rolling down the driveway. Hannah was ahead of them, already accelerating down the long driveway as her car shifted from neutral, and growled to life on the move.

The diesel engine kicked on as I floored the MAV. The suspension rocking back as the acceleration threw me deeper into the rigid seat. The red Ferrari fish-tailed as Hannah sped onto the road. I had taught her how to drive, and she probably knew just as much as me, minus the experience, but she was a fast learner. She wouldnít make the same mistake more than once in the Ferrari.

Hannahís Ferrari caught up quickly, the lighter car accelerating faster even when I passed the sixty mile an hour mark. The first turn came up, a gentle switchback that would soon lead to more Ė tighter Ė switchbacks, then the quick stop at the Overlook.

I turned in front of Hannah, blocking her off as she honked. Cloud soon caught up, a red laser bending in front of him, twisting and turning as the small windshield flickered. Numbers and graphs passing in front of Cloudís opaque face.

Cloud passed quickly on the opposite side of Hannah as she tried to pass me again, the large MAV blocking the road time and again. His bike sped around me and the next corner as Wakanís Charger caught up.

The wind howled as the openings where the windows were gone sucked in the cool summer breeze. Wakanís Charger passed much like Cloudís motorcycle did. I had to slow down more for the turns; the huge car wouldnít make them, especially considering how heavy they were. Just as Wakanís passed, a screen of dust from dirt on the road kicked up, blowing into the window as something hit, and lodged in my eye. The MAV slowed as I pulled to the side of the road as Hannah accelerated past and caught up to Wakan, disappearing around the corner as I stumbled out the idling car and reached around for that ever-elusive water bottle.

Minutes passed as I sat and washed dirt out of my eyes, the pain unbearable. It was impossible to open my eyes far enough to rinse until I peeled the lids back and rinsed water over my burning eyes.

I sat back against the warm fender of the black MAV as the sunlight streamed down, then hopped back into the car, turning the huge vehicle around back to the house we had found Hannahís Ferrari in. If they wanted to race, they had one.

I stared at the sheet covering the low car, or whatever was under the yellowed, spotted, stained sheet. As long as it wasnít a Mini, or a Civic.

The covers fluttered once as the sheets crumpled, then lay still behind the car. Gloss black reflected back at me, the aggressive lines melting into smooth ones, flowing back to a spoiler that sat hunched on the back of the car. Right above a silver circle bisected with the trademark bar printed with Nissan. Twin air-scoops sat over the two turbochargers under the hood, the rims a slate-grey. I stared, already feeling a rush. I knew the exact specs on this classic, a 2009 Nissan GT-R. Zero to sixty in 3.3 seconds, depending on the engine. But every one was different, all of them hand built. So this could be faster, 3.3 seconds was usually the base limit.

Hannah stared at the HAM as Wakan and Cloud chased each other around the wooded overlook. Jumping over and around rocks, Wakan trying to catch Cloud, and vice-versa. From the valley below them they could hear a rumble, a sharp screech before the rumble grew again, the noise gradually getting louder.

"Fred, that doesnít sound like the MAV, what did you do?" Hannah flicked the HAM as she listened to the rumble, a high-pitched whine also joining the noise. Trying to get a response from the other radio.

The radio stayed silent as the rumble grew into a roar, dying down right before the parking area in the overlook as a sleek black car pulled in behind Hannahís. The other two vehicles on the other side of the lot facing down the road they had come up.

Hannah stared as the engine revved once before cutting off. I smiled from the dark windows. Wakan and Cloud had stopped chasing each other in the trees to look at the GT-R. I pulled the door handle and stood, leaning against the door.

"Oh, I left the food in the MAV. Wanna race back down?" I grinned as Hannah glared.

"You know, we could get better food since weíre going back down toward the house," I added in an afterthought. Hannah kept staring as Wakan grumbled something and walked to the Charger. Cloud following suit.

"Youíre a dick, Fred," Hannah said as she walked to the Ferrari.

"You like it," I replied. Hannah stuck her tongue out before starting her engine.

"On go?" I asked through the open windows as Cloud and Wakan lined up. Hannah turned her car around, then gunned the engine, passing the three of us. Her taillights could be seen as she took the first turn.

"Shit!" I cursed as Cloud took off after Hannah. His motorcycle slinging around the GT-R, then a blue Charger blocked my GT-R as I throttled the motor after everybody else.

The first turn came up. The Charger cutting into the opposite lane for the left-hand turn, Cloud was already around the bend as a laser flicked out in front of his bike again, curving lines in the path of the motorcycle.

The second turn passed Wakan, the heavier Charger going too far to the outside as the GT-R turned inside of the Charger at the end of the second switchback. The car whipping past him as he let off the gas to keep hold of the turn, his tires screeching for a moment before the low grumble of the Detroit V-8 rose.

Cloud was having trouble with the wind as the GT-R slowly caught up, Hannahís red Ferrari darting through the shadows from the pines. Slowly I caught up to Cloud, cursing the whole while as the GT-R braked into a turn, then accelerated out, going from the far outside of the road in turns to the inside of the turn. Hannah on the other hand went straight through the turns. Slowly losing her lead as Cloud and I caught up, Wakan slowly following suit on the turns, also catching up to the group.

The road started to become straighter, going from a set of switchbacks to winding turns in the valley as everybody shot toward the town. Cloud began to lose his lead on all the quick turns. Eventually falling behind as all the tilting slowed him down, I didnít blame him, a new rider. Four wheels were better than two on winding roads.

The GT-R caught up to right behind Hannah as she arced through the turns. Slowly trailing her until she turned too far to the outside of the curves, I floored the GT-R. The acceleration throwing my head back into the seat as gauges on the dashboard screen showed a pitch in the engine readouts. Hannah honked once as the black car wove past her and to the final stretch down into the town.

Hannah caught up as my foot slipped on the pedal. Accidentally hitting the brake, I cursed as Hannah pulled up. She looked over as we sped down. The GT-Rís readouts raised again, both cars rocketing down the last stretch of road.

Hannah slammed on the brakes as we both passed a stoplight. Her tires screeching as I pressed my own, letting the GT-R slowly come to a stop.

"Was that a tie!?" Hannah asked as she turned her car away from the stretch as did I, into a small souvenir shop parking lot.

"I think so."

Wakan and Cloud shot down the hill. Cloud came out ahead before slowing down, turning the bike around to park with Wakan.

 

The day slowly passed, our group splitting off as lunch ended. For the rest of the day we did what we pleased. In the following days and weeks working more, I eventually taught everybody else more about firearms. While Cloud and Wakan looking up more small-group tactics in their free-time. Hannah went through another heat, myself having to help her again. And only a month after her heat did the tides of war start affecting us again.

 


 

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