"The Long Haul" (Novel Excerpt)

We weren’t in the van long before it turned off the road and onto a gravel surface. As soon as it came to a stop, were forced out of our seats and hustled up a steep metal ramp. “This would be the container truck.” Not even Jaid seemed to be listening. We were shoved up the ramp first, and I counted four sets of boots following us up before the ramp was pulled away and the door slammed shut. Most likely, the rest of the team would continue their trip in the van, going ahead of the truck to look for any sign of trouble. The masked men yanked off my head-covering sack, then Jaid’s, as the truck’s big diesel engine began to rumble. Dim light filtered through a series of slits cut into the metal roof of the container, allowing me to see the space I would be locked in for the remainder of the trip. The response team had left their carbines in the van, seeming to prefer their sidearms in such a small space. Morrison himself, shedding his mask, gestured to the overstuffed couch bolted at the far forward end of the enclosure. “Get comfortable. We’ll be in here for about two and a half hours.” I noticed that very standard car-seats, including seatbelts, had been provided for our armed escort at the far side of the small space. Other than that, the container was empty; a fifteen-foot stretch of bare plywood floor separated their seats from ours. Before we could sit down, the truck lurched into motion, rumbling across the gravel and onto the road. I nearly lost my balance, but Jaid seemed unperturbed. “This is why I wanted a book.” Rather than risk being upended by the first pothole we came to, I took a seat on the couch. Jaid remained standing, not bothering to hide the fact that she was scanning the confined space for anything that might help us escape. “At least you get the couch.” Morrison and his three henchmen settled down in the seats. The truck stopped suddenly, then lurched into a turn and began to accelerate – we seemed to be getting on the freeway. Jaid leaned toward me, her eyes on our captors. “What is the speed of this vehicle?” “Seventy miles per hour. That’s…” I wondered how to express that to Jaid, who probably had only the loosest understanding of hours, and no frame of reference at all for gauging the meaning of a mile. “…probably far too fast to jump off and survive, unless you have tricks you haven’t showed me. Also, they can hear us.” “Can’t be helped.” Jaid arched an eyebrow conspiratorially, all but taunting the men to intervene. I could tell she was planning something. Morrison could, too. “None of that. Sit down, both of you, and do keep quiet.” (Art by Jonathan Bogart. Excerpt from my "Gates of Achera" manuscript, part 4 of 8. This section immediately follows the last "Gates of Achera" excerpt I posted.)

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