Veronica never returned fire but gathered her thoughts and assessed the situation instead. She peered carefully over the rock that concealed her and saw the skilled enemy gradually disappear beyond the edge of the higher plateau a few hundred meters away. There would be a short reprieve again before he would come after her, but she was in a worse condition to repel him. She could not regain her breath, see quite as clearly, and find as much strength as desired -- needed. Her hand was smeared with blood after rubbing sand off the side of her abdomen; she saw that the damage from the close shot of his was considerably extensive though superficial. Sharp glass-like fragments of rock had shredded a patch of her uniform and skin underneath it, and she feared infection -- again.
Only two minutes after examining the wounds, she heard the puttering of an all-terrain vehicle moving along the top of the higher ground and panicked more. The noise then motivated her up onto her feet, where she wildly looked about from the less strategic location. She knew he could not come down the big steep gully and quickly but arduously struggled in the heat to the opposite side of the outcropping, when the threatening sound briefly diminished, and scanned the dusty flats. By then, her side was bleeding again and constantly burned, as if being fried.
Jack, wearing brown desert camouflage, approached from downwind and behind a line of debris that led toward the rocks to avoid being heard or seen until the last possible moment. He figured when he would also make it into the dense cluster of boulders, it would be easy to hunt down and eliminate her in the smaller area. However, she had taken another greatly refreshing revitalizing drink of water and was ready for him. He came into the open suddenly but was met with laser fire almost immediately and continued forward in an evasive swerving fashion.
Her first shots went a little wide of their intended target, and with his high-powered rifle strapped to his back, he already had a small pistol drawn and returned fire. One of the bullets buzzed just over her. Another slammed into the nearby rock, but a third appeared to hit her by the way he saw her drop for complete cover seemingly showing pain. He accelerated closer while she was out of sight anxious to reach his goal and obtain a confirmed victory, but both of the attempted desires were abruptly thwarted seconds later.
Veronica emerged quickly from the other side of the boulder and fired three more times at him while he was moving in a relatively straight path over fifty meters away. She used her limp left hand to stabilize her aim and henceforth enhance accuracy. One shot hit his vehicle above the front fender. Another ruptured the wide front tire, and the last barely grazed his dark helmet. Stunned and surprised, he was harshly tossed onto the hard parched ground when the ATV went out of control and came to a terminal stop.
Jack was not knocked senseless, and instead of further trying to kill him, she rapidly fled the location intimidated again, after seeing him slowly move for his lethal weapon. He removed his ringing high-tech helmet that enabled him to detect movement easier and search to the sounds of her rapid breathing and flung it away in frustration. By the time he had his rifle loaded and his senses clear again, she was out of sight elsewhere. His anger persisted because of that, and he intended more than ever to end the inconvenient chasing she was making him do and prove who really was superior.
He discarded the broken scope of the formidable gun and walked rapidly around the cluster of rocks better poised for another surprise attack, but there was none. His eyes carefully studied every visible gap and crack in the terrain for her, but she was found with significant help from his ears instead. She dropped her canteen, and after he ran across the wide mouth of the ravine and went around a receding cliff, he saw her moving up along the crest of a more gently sloping ridge frantically a moderate distance away unaware of his presence below -- a beautiful and outstanding target.
"Too bad, bitch. You're just not fast enough," he said. "Nice to have known you."
She glanced down, and after seeing his aim already fixed, she desperately tried to change direction -- too late. "No! Oh, no!" she screamed and heard his weapon boom.
The targeted African-American woman was only able to turn some before he saw his deadly shot blow her left arm completely off below the shoulder and knock her clean off her feet. She was almost all out of sight on the other side of the ascending ridge, and when her pitifully kicking legs stopped moving, he raised his weapon in triumph and said, "Bingo! Yes! You lose, honey."
While the feelings of elation from the exciting climax of the hunt were fresh, he decided to check the status of his most challenging victim. He scurried up the gravelly windswept slope smiling and intended to give her a suiting farewell kiss as commendation for her last brave efforts before leaving the isolated place. However, a shocking surprise awaited him. His eyes went agape when she promptly sat up looking like an undead corpse and fired three laser blasts into him at close range. He emitted a loud grunt in pain and buckled to his knees but still appeared to be reacting to the sight of her being alive. Before collapsing onto the ground near a stunted thorny shrub, his mouth fell open driveling blood and shaped an obscene recognizable word after he discovered the revelation of why she was so.
Veronica stood and gazed down on him. "Yes, Jack. The arm was bionic with state-of-the-art . . . technology. I had to be . . . unpredictable because of the infection YOU caused . . . five years ago. So, you lose, not me."
She watched his eyes become vacant while he stared at the intricate artificial details of her dismembered arm, still dripping synthetic red saline "blood" and yellowish lubricants, before she saw a small lizard emerge from a few nearby rocks and eagerly scamper for an abundant meal. She found her precious canteen shortly and carefully walked up the ridge and onto the higher eroded plateau again where she began the contest with Ben. Experience once more showed her that it was not easy to make the grade to be the winner. After resting thoroughly near her still smouldering vehicle a few truly relaxing moments in the meager shade of a large mesquite bush, she began her perilous journey out of the area on foot under siege of a blazing sun.
It was a grueling four and a half hour walk across the unforgiving desert until she came up to the highway that went to the city in the early evening. She had ran out of water to reach the important junction, and many small animals, mostly birds, frequently watched her along the way, as if silently gambling amongst themselves on the probability of also getting out of the hostile environment alive. Her chances of survival were further diminished by the indifference of other members of her very own species. Within the next hour, three other transport modules merely passed her along the bright road that showed rippling in the distance beyond from the vigorously dancing heat waves. Their robotic passengers perhaps would have offered a ride to a normal young human in distress but not one missing an artificial arm, having torn clothes, carrying a laser weapon, and thus recognized as part-cybernetic. Apparently, nobody would help her except her, and she could not much longer.
She did not receive help until a highway maintenance vehicle stopped beside her another twenty minutes later. The uniformed man got out of the car fast, carrying much-needed water, when he saw her essentially sun-beaten dehydrated form reduced to a virtual zombie-like stupor. She fell into his arms, and he helped her into the air-conditioned vehicle where other authorities were called by radio and informed of her status and forever-past events. Then, she was taken down a better road much faster to an inevitably better fate and future.
END / J.J.B. - Oct. 1989.