From the view of Krista Raye
"Krista, hurry up! The satellite just said Vash the Stampede showed up in Augusta!" Tommy yelled from the saloon. I looked up from the paper I had been reading. It had been a long time since I found out about the current news that didn't evolve the Humanoid Typhoon and I had been looking foward to just sit and read.
"You sure Tom?" I yelled, putting down the paper. "Ya! The whole town's been deserted. Eye witnesses said that a man fitting his description was running throughout town yelling about massacring eveyone like he did in July," Tom said, walking up, "What do you think?"
I sighed. There went my reading time. "Well, we can't ignore it and we are the closest group to Augusta. Sounds dubious but if he hasn't taken any lives--" I said. "He hasn't," Tommy put in. "--then it just might be him," I finished. "Right. I'll tell Ben to inform the company and meet us at the usual place," he said and left to inform the third member of our group. I grabbed my coat and folded the paper up.
"And I so wanted to rest today," I mumbled. The fact was things had been picking up the last few weeks. Vash the Stampede had been striking more and more lately. And the weird part was…people were dying. Until now it had been a good sign that Vash really had struck when there were no casualties but now…
"What's going on Vash the Stampede? What has changed that you would kill like this?" I asked to the blue sky. Cloudless and sunny, it was amazingly beautiful. Nothing bad should ever happen on such days.
"Krista! You coming?" Tom yelled from his Thomas. He had already saddled up my own and holding its reigns in his other hand. "Well, back to work Krista. We gotta make sure that the company knows where to send people, now don't they?" I told myself, almost believing it. Then I shouted, "Coming Tom!"
"Strange stuff has been happening Krista," he said as I mounted my Thomas. "Ya. Very strange," I agreed as we started to ride north to Augusta. "Stranger than you know Krista. People have been disappearing lately," he said, looking off into the distance. "Huh? What do you mean? How do you know?" I asked, perplexed by this strange statement.
"My sister…lives in the Southern Cornelia region. She wrote me about a series of towns near her being abandoned without a word. They left everything there…and my sister's afraid of what caused them to leave. She says she's leaving soon before what happened there happens to her," Tom said darkly. He looked very worried.
"She'll be okay Tom. Don't worry. Your sister's smart. She'll get out of there before anything happens," I said, trying to reassure him. He smiled but didn't look too relieved. "I know Krista. It's just…so strange. What could be happening down there? What with Vash's strange behavior…" he drifted. I nodded.
It was very strange and I should know. After spending 17 years of tracking after the Humanoid Typhoon I had become an expert at knowing how the Stampede thought. Tracking his next move had become a second nature to me but now…nothing he did made sense. Deaths, these disappearances, this man with a white coat who always seemed to appear now…it was so different from before. It was so unlike the careless drifter that I had come to understand.
We traveled for a long time in silence, each thinking out own thoughts, each wondering the same thing about what was going on. That is, until the sky exploded.
"What the!" Tom exclaimed as the light erupted ahead of us. It was so bright I had to shield my eyes. And then, after several minutes it died out. And then I saw it. "Tom, look!" I said, pointing to the unbelievable sight. "Holy!" he yelped when he saw what I was pointing at. It was the fifth moon…and there was a huge whole in it.
"Could that light have caused that?" I asked, turning to my partner. "He was in opened-mouthed shock, his tan skin pale. "Tom?" I asked, concerned. He shook himself out of it and looked at me, "Huh?" "Tom…that looked like it came from Augusta. There's no way that could have come from any of the other towns. It's too close and there's no city in that direction for 1,000iles after Augusta," I said. He swallowed and nodded. He looked like he was about to throw up.
"It has to be Augusta, but how?" he asked looking in the direction of the light. I almost shuddered at the thought. "Vash?" I suggested despite my own doubts, but what else could have caused it? "I don't know," he said, "But the only way to find out is to go and search for him. It's the only way to be sure."
"You're right…let's go," I said, taking the lead as usual. My Thomas was still agitated from the light but I soon calmed him down by scratching the spot behind his neck. "Come on Vashie, don't get stubborn on me now," I whispered to him. In the corner of my eye I swore I saw Tom smile.
"What?" I asked. His grin deepened. "I still can't believe you named you Thomas after Vash…" he said. "Oh, please. He is my life now. And besides, I'm not the only one who named their Thomas after him," I said, giving him a sly look. "What does that mean?" he demanded, catching my accusal. "Typhoon?" I said, bringing up his own Thomas' name.
"That's just a coincidence! Typhoon's name is completely original," he insisted. I couldn't help but grin. "Sure Tom," I said, getting a look from him. "It's true!" he yelled. "Whatever you say Tom," I sighed, not really giving an inch.
The argument gave a lighter mood to the whole journey and kept me from wondering what the hell was up with Vash and what that light could have been. And the moon.
We kept our portable radio on as we neared the town, searching for any news that might help us in our investigation. There were the normal rumors, the assumptions before actual facts came up. By the time we got to Augusta we had basically learned that no one knew anything about the light or what caused it.
That is, when we got to what should have been Augusta.
"Oh my god. What happened?" I gasped as I saw the damage. There was nothing left of the town. No buildings, no electric poles, nothing but rubble. Getting off our Thomas' we worked our way through the debris. It was a miracle that I didn't twist my ankle there was so much debris.
"God…thank goodness nobody was here when this happened. They would have died for sure! There's nothing left!" Tom exclaimed, tripping for the fifth time. "Just like the rumors of July…" I mumbled so softly I barely even heard myself. "What?" Tom asked.
"Tom! Look!" I exclaimed when something up ahead caught my eye. There was a man up ahead. "What? Somebody survived this?" my naïve partner asked, finally noticing the man too. The guy was walking away form us, his black sunglasses covered his eyes, a giant cross hung on his back. "Hey mister! You! The Priest!" Did you see what happened here? Do you know what happened?" I yelled. The priest turned and looked at us, watching as we stumbled through the wreckage, trying to catch up with him.
"I wasn't here when it happened," he said simply, "Who are you?" Getting there before Tom, I thought it was my duty to introduce ourselves. "My name is Krista Raye and this is my partner, Tom Dreg. We're part of the Yellow Alert team of the Humanoid Typhoon Relocation Center and Clean-up Crew. It's our job to confirm if any in fact caused of the reported destruction sites the Stampede and where he might be headed next. We got a report saying Vash the Stampede was in this area and we came to investigate. Do you know anything at all about what happened here?" I asked, explaining what he needed to know.
The man looked out to the destruction, the wind blowing his cigarette smoke in my face. "No," he said, "sorry. Like I said, I wasn't here when it happened." I looked down. "Rats," I muttered. "Is there anyone else here that might have seen what happened?" Tom asked.
The priest looked at him strangely. "No. I haven't seen anyone. You mean, you two haven't seen anyone else either?" he asked urgently. He looked very concerned about this. It was as though…
"No. You're the first person we've come across," Tom answered. The priest looked disappointed. "How long have you been here?" I asked. The man smiled, his black hair moving gently in the breeze. He was a handsome man, I thought, and looked friendly and honest. But still, there was something about him that just struck me as odd.
"A few hours now," he answered, smiling a bit, "I've been combing through the rubble for any survivors but I haven't found anybody. It looks like everybody fled before it happened," he said, looking out to the desert again. There was just something in his voice that told me he was hiding something.
Tom was starting to walk off to the east by the time either of us noticed it. "Hey! There's nothing that way! Don't waste your time," he said urgently enough that it perked my attention.
"So," I started as Tom returned to where we stood, "What brought you out here, preacher?" I asked, getting very suspicious about him. He seemed to tense up a bit before answering. "I'm a wandering priest. I just was heading in this direction when I saw this light in the sky. My curiosity picked up and I came to investigate but found it basically how you did. I was hoping to find someone who had witnessed it but turned up nothing," he said. He sounded truthful enough but…
"Thank you for your help. We better be going before Vash the Stampede takes out another town. If you remember anything else that might help us in finding him you can contact our office in March town," I said, motioning to Tom that we should head back to our Thomas'.
"No problem," the priest said and began to walk in the other direction, continuing his search. "Strange priest," Tom whispered to me as we headed back. "He was lying. At least, he wasn't telling the whole truth," I said when we were far enough away. "What?" How could you tell?" Tom asked. He was a good guy who had just joined the Yellow Alert team a few years after I did but he was still very naïve about some things.
"I just can. Remember, I've devoted my life to figuring out the truth behind rumors and watching body language. I can just tell he's hiding something," I said, mounting my Thomas. "Okay, if you say so Krista," he said, mounting his own Typhoon. "So, where are we going next?" he sighed. "No idea," I mumbled, then louder said, "We better meet up with Benny and inform the satellites. They need to get some real facts soon before they send everyone in a planet-wide panic!" "Right," he agreed and we were off, back from whence we came.
I just wondered and feared what we were going to do next.