The Ambush

Chapter 4 of Cargo

I wake up, in fright, staring at the orange light glaring past the shades.

My racing heartbeat gradually slows as I realize the gravity of my decision. My anxiety begins to dissipate, replaced by a sense of relief knowing that my instinct to stay put was the right one. Avoiding entanglement with any potential police investigation is a weight lifted off my shoulders. I grab my boots and socks but when I go to put them on I notice dried blood under my feet. 

Holy shit.

I feel panic rising again.

Cyberstar in desert highway

The first thing I do is wash my feet in the bathroom. I don’t even dry them, sliding on my socks and shoving my feet into my Desarado leather square toes. I gather what little belongings I have and head out the door. 

Daylight paints a different picture. I don’t recognise the motel or its layout. Everything seems to be spread further apart than it did at night. The lustre of the pools of blood is gone, replaced by dry patches of dark red cordoned off by yellow tape. Three police vehicles remain, parked in front of the office entrance. I see no officers, so I head straight for my truck. Before I climb in I stop and decide to check the rear. I walk to the back and assess the doors.

The locks are broken!

I freeze, unable to garner the incentive to open up and check the cargo inside. Two cops appear, stepping out from the back of the motel. I make sure the doors are shut and rush to the front. I climb into the driver’s seat and power the truck’s system up, checking whether I’ve attracted the attention of the two officers.


“Avocado, it’s time to go.” I wait for it to respond. It doesn’t. “Avacado, we need to hit the road soon if we want to stay ahead of any potential trouble.”

The familiar voice says, “Power levels are at eight per cent. Please charge.”

“Ävocado, there’s no charging station here.”

“There is a level one Maxicharge twenty-two metre northeast from here.”

I glance out towards the glaring sun and spot the green and red Max Energy logo. “It’s a slow charge dock. We can’t stay here forever. We’ve got to keep moving if we want to stay safe. You know we can’t afford to draw attention to ourselves.”

“The next level three dock is forty-eight kilometres away.”

“Eight per cent is plenty.”

“I am afraid I can’t let you take the risk.”

I run my fingers across the dash, implementing the override sequence, and keeping an eye out for the cops.

“I advise against your action,” says Avacado, “I cite section thirteen on the Safety and Maintenance Protocol.

I power up the truck. “Is there any level one or two docks closer?”

“Yes,” responds Avacado, “there is a level two station twenty-one kilometres away.”

 “Then get me to it, for fuck’s sake.”

“What is the difference between…”

“Just help me get to it.” With a gentle touch on the accelerator, I ease the pedal down, feeling the satisfying resistance of the transmission as it engages. The motors hum with readiness, the road vibrating the steering wheel. As the vehicle glides forward, the motion is smooth and controlled. The sounds of the wheels grinding on the pavement intensify as I navigate the twists and turns of the parking lot.

Gaining momentum, I gently increase the pressure on the accelerator, allowing the truck to pick up speed as it gracefully exits the parking lot. The world outside unfolds before me, the scenery passing by in a blur. I navigate the streets with precision, my hands firmly on the steering wheel, feeling the road beneath my tires.

As the truck gains momentum, a breeze sweeps through the window I open, carrying the scent of the desert air. The world outside becomes a blur of ochre, the rising sun casting a warm glow over the landscape. 

Driving for an hour, I eagerly search for a route back onto the motorway, but an urgency overcomes me. 

“Avacado, bring up the surveillance video from last night.”

The video stream pops up on the dashboard. 

I run my finger along the timeline until I spot movement. As I anxiously view the surveillance footage, a sense of dread washes over me. The screen displays a group of masked thugs, their sinister intent hidden behind the anonymity of their disguises. Like shadows in the night, they arrive at the truck, stealthily surrounding it with malevolent purpose. They converge on the rear door, their movements synchronized in a chilling display of coordination. My heart sinks as I witness them opening the doors when suddenly, the footage disintegrates into a sea of quivering pixels followed by a pitch-black screen.

The onslaught of fear induces a tremor in my hands and feet.


Looking ahead, I search the highway and see a turn-off approaching, leading out to a road that cuts straight into the desert terrain, so I take it and stop about a hundred metres from the intersection. I wait to catch my breath, then open my door, step out, and walk to the back of the Cyberstar. I jolt open the doors to discover the crates are still strapped down but no longer in perfect order. It is as if each wooden crate has been individually shifted, and opened. I climb in and approach the first row. The lid of the topmost crate has been cracked open. I slide the timber aside and peek inside. To my surprise, I see only cardboard boxes. I pull one of the larger, heavier ones out and inspect it.

A centrifuge.

I pull out another to discover it is a granulator machine.

Another is parts for what looks like capsule-filling paraphernalia. I immediately realise I’m handling drug-making equipment. I have no idea how to deal with this. Drug-making equipment is still illegal in this state, and if caught with it, delivering it, I could face serious consequences.

The sound of a motorcycle engine approaches my way. Jumping back onto the road, I see the motorcyclist zipping past. I walk to the front of the truck, watching the bike, hoping it disappears into the horizon, but the motorcyclist stops, not even fifty metres away.

Behind me, a dusty white utility truck roars into the turnoff and screeches to a halt in front of me. Three denim-clad figures emerge from the dirty and battered vehicle, their menacing faces partly obscured by dark hoods. The air grows thick with tension as they surround me, their eyes gleaming with malicious intent. 

“Get on da ground!” yells one.

I comply when I see the glint of weapons in their hands. Their intentions are clear, they aim to rob the crates within the truck. Protocol directs me not to interfere as deliveries are insured, but fear still grips my heart. I muster the courage to not anticipate the worst-case scenario; being executed out here in the middle of nowhere. Knowing that my response would determine the outcome, I wait on gravel. Adrenaline surges through my veins as I brace myself for the impending kill shot, the desert becoming an arena where my death entertains nobody but the participants. 

Suddenly, loud thuds rumble from inside my truck. It sounds like something is moving around among the crates. The gang members turn their attention towards the truck. I see their feet scamper to the back as two of them climb inside. 

A beastly growl deafens me. 

One of the men lets out a harrowing scream.

“Holy fuck!” shrieks another. 

The sound of banging erupts, against wood and metal. I shut my eyes, but the horrific sounds make my imagination visualise what is happening. Human and animal screams are punctuated with gunfire, forcing me to reopen my eyes.

I see the remaining two men’s feet lift and disappear from my sightline as if plucked. 


I hear the motorcycle grumble. Turning, I watch the motorcyclist race towards me, stop a metre from my head and dismount, pulling out a pistol. 

“What the fuck is going on?” he yelled.

I try to speak but nothing comes out. I don’t even know why I’m still hugging the ground. 

The biker slowly steps towards the back, weapon pointed, easing his way around the door. “Jesus,” he cries, his horror distorting his voice. “What is this?” 

From my vantage point, I can see the deep red liquid dribbling out onto the ground. There is a loud snapping of timber followed by a beastly groan. A shot rings out, striking metal. As before, I watch the biker’s feet lift into the air. The biker’s arm grabs the door, but whatever has snatched him, pulls the biker along with the door.

Again, dead silence follows.

Nothing moves. Just the blood cascading onto the tailgate. I wait on the ground, paralysed until the silence frightens me more than any sound could. I stand on wobbling knees and look around in every direction and see nothing but endless vacant highways and deserts. 

I pick a direction, any direction, and launch into a sprint.

desert ambush