Chapter Fifteen: Wyndham

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The engine to the armoured truck sputtered off as he pulled the key out of the ignition. With his short buzzing hair red as the fiery heat of the continent, Arnold Wyndham stepped out of the driver's seat, shutting the door behind him.

He adjusted his bulletproof vest and muddied jeans, ignoring the dirt that had splayed his maroon shirt. After checking his shoulder slung Greaser submachine gun to be fully loaded, he then gave the metal fuel tank stock a flick to check its capacity. The thick clinking told him he still had enough fuel for his flamethrower attachment to use should things truly get too hairy. Though he was the youngest Guide he knew of at the age of 24, he made up with a trained physique, military skills, and a quick ability to learn.

Circling the truck to the cargo bed, he opened the back door to reveal a single female human. In her early 50s with whitening brown hair, while not easily discernible from the rugged cloak she wore, the woman was actually one of the wealthiest individuals from Citi. Her business had led her to travel south to Ampyre. Blackmail, kidnapping, or secret arms deal, Arnold never asked. It was not his job to question these things, let alone her name. He just had to deliver the people over. He preferred a professional detachment from the shadier side of the business of being a Guide.

"Come on, my lady. We're at Altaro," he gestured for her to leave.

Despite a look of hesitation from the woman, she eventually stepped out of the truck onto the dry dirt floor. Immediately, her face contorted into twisted disgust.

"What a dump!" she cracked under her breath. "How do these backward barbarians continue to beat back out military might I do not know."

"Very good madam," Arnold replied, barely half listening. "Stay close to me. We do not want to be separated."

He double checked to make sure all his doors were locked and the truck magnetically sealed before leaving the safety of the hidden pass where the car sat under the shadows of rocky outcroppings.

The town of Altaro was just a short hour's walk away in the distance. A dozen stone buildings were surrounded with hundreds of makeshift tents and huts. Technically an illegal gathering, the Seracue government - though having condemned it - never shut the place down, as it brought much-needed trade through its black market. However, they do put up a show of force, occasionally raiding the town, especially when they needed more equipment for the war and aren't willing to pay. Raids were not common though, as if they do so constantly, there would be no one left to bring the goods it. The entire town was a society balanced on a needlepoint bureaucratic corruption and a seedy underworld's laws.

He led his charge into the tented outskirts. Shops were set up to sell mostly Dogon technology. Power cells, handheld radios, guns, bullets, and the likes. A few sold trinkets like gaming devices and digital watches. Some sold manufactured drugs. Those fetched high prices from Seracue's wealthy elites looking for kicks and toys.

But they were not here to shop. Arnold headed straight for the few stone buildings central of the town. One of them served an open-aired bar with cracking stools and tables which sold the rank rum that Seracue was infamous for. He was not there to drink either.

Instead, he headed up to bartender. "I'm here to check in. Wyndham. Three days."

The bartender looked up. "Wyndham, huh? Alrigh'. Fhree hundred for fhree 'ays. Pay up."

He bit his tongue and handed the man his credit chip. Arnold watched as the bartender pulled out a scanner and blipped it over his chip and the digital number on the face of the oval-shaped chip dropped from 1,758 to 1,458. He was handed the chip back.

"By the way, Wyndham. There's someone looking for you. Doing a transfer."

For a moment, he was stunned still. Then, anger sets in. "What? If someone's doing a transfer with me, why do I have to pay for the three days?"

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