The Bait

Chapter 6 of Cargo

I wait until dawn, hiding in the garage washroom.

The nightmare of monstrous noise had completely disappeared by midnight, and I might have slept a few minutes here or there. Sitting there on the mechanic’s crawler, I continue to debate my future actions. Everything points to continuing with the delivery, insane as it seems. I imagine arriving at the destination and unloading the crates, most likely they are stained with gore and covered with the dead body parts of a rival gang who seem to have been trying to steal the drug-making equipment.

Would the owner be pleased?

And this thing? Does it belong to them?

I conclude it’s some kind of animal, a smuggled panther perhaps.

What is the alternative? The authorities would lump me in with the drug cartel, my innocence proofless without implants. I can’t really run away, eventually, the cops or the cartel will catch up to me.

This animal is nocturnal, I debate in my head.

After a few hours, as the desert heat level returns to high, I head back to the roller door and manually open it, certain of what to expect. The splatter of blood is the first thing I see. There are no bodies, just pools of red fluid drying in the hot air. I walk towards the Cyberstar, noticing the bloodied footprints made by human shoes, and a pair printed by a clawed foot.


I don’t know what to make of it, as I return to my truck. The back doors are closed, so I get to the cabin and climb inside.

“Bring up the manifest,” I order the AutoMIND.

“Affirmative,” states Avacado.

“What are the contact details for the Raven Mountain delivery?”

The data flash on the console.

“Make the call.”

The speakers pulse with the dial tone, echoing over the sweltering breeze outside, when a gruff voice answers, “Saluton?”

My mouth goes numb. My throat is too dry to activate.

“Where are my artefacts, cajero?” says the voice.

“I am running a little late. I ran into a few problems.”

“I don’t recommend you make them my problems.”

“The cargo…” I begin before my words are snagged by my tongue.

“The delivery of the cargo is your only problem. Deliver the package immediately.”

I muster up the right, most appropriate attitude. “I was ambushed by bikers. I’m guessing they were not your friends.”

I hear the hissing of breath. “It’s not the artefacts they’re after. Give them what they want. Bring the remainder to me.”

“They died,” I say. The words just keep pushing themselves out. “A whole bunch of people have been killed, police are involved, it’s a mess.”

“You did this, cajero?”

“No, the cargo did this.”

There is a long pause, then, “Listen to me, cajero. I will send someone to pick it up.”

“No, this location…” I look around at the evidence, an orgy of blood and murder. “Not possible. I will come to you. I’ll deliver the cargo, I just don’t want any trouble.”

“As long as you don’t run away, cajero. There is no escaping it. Deliver the cargo and you will get no trouble.”

I breathe a sigh of relief. “I’m on my way.”

As they drove away, I couldn’t help but wonder what else was inside the crates from Snake Island.

I drive for an hour.

The Black Mountain district is all hills and valleys, pushing the truck’s three-speed electronic transmission to work overtime. As I arrive at the gates of Villa 1, I can see the luxurious white mansion nestled at the top of the property, overlooking the desert. I can’t help but feel a sense of unease. The owner, likely a notorious drug lord, had entrusted me with the Snake Island Foundation crates, most likely contraband.


With my mishandling of the crates, I expected dire consequences. Pesky witnesses don’t usually survive these types of people. Entering through the arch of a bougainvillaea-infested gate, I spot a group of individuals walking on the driveway. I stop next to them and wind down my window.

“Back up,” yells one, pointing to the barn located on the side of the building. I comply, backing the Cyberstar into the first open entrance. I stop between the forklift and half a dozen luxury automobiles, and turn off the power, awaiting my fate.

A tall, slender man approaches. His straight hips, long legs, and long arms give him the appearance that he’s held together by wires. As he gets closer, his frame is more muscular than I first assessed.

I check the delivery docket on the screen, and ask, “David Sanforth?”

“No, not Sanforth.”

“This delivery is for David Sanforth.”

“I’ll take delivery on behalf of Sanforth.”

I need to ask, it’s my job. “Can I have your name?”

The man smiles, looking at the others, none of who found it amusing. “I am Miĉjo.”


“That’s right.”

“Is that it?”

“Open the back, cajero?” he says.

The prospect of another episode of slaughter and pandemonium crosses my mind, but I am reluctant to get in the way of fate. “It’s unlocked,” I say.

Miĉjo nods at his guys and they get to work. The forklift activates as I sit in the relative safety of my truck, and listen to the crew rummage in the back. They carefully unload the crates and placed them on the ground. I half expect screaming at any moment, my stomach churning, the truck’s cabin offering only a false sense of security. I watch them, the seriousness of their operation, the disgust on their faces. With trembling hands, they open up one of the wooden boxes, only to find that it contains some kind of sculpture. Miĉjo inspects it and seemingly satisfied, moves on to the next crate.

Again, another strange sculpture. I watch from the side mirrors and see panic set in as they realize that the one thing they expected is not onboard the truck. I hear footsteps approach me. It is the drug lord himself, and he does not look happy.

“Where is it?” he demands.

“I don’t know,” I stammer. “It got loose last night.”

The drug lord’s face turned red with anger. “Get out,” demands Miĉjo.

I comply. “I thought it may have gone back inside.”

“You idiot!” he shouted. “Do you have any idea what you’re dealing with?”

“You gotta declare wildlife,” I explain. “You can’t just send a wild animal with ordinary packages.”

“Wild animal. Is that what you think it is?”

The agitation among the other men increases with each moment. Even Miĉjo’s body language betrays a nasty dread nibbling at his heart.

“Fiku,” yells Miĉjo as he turns rubbing his jaw. “Merdo!” He pulls out a pistol and waves it at the crew. They pounce on me, grabbing me by the arms, pulling me outside, under the blistering sun.

“It wasn’t my fault,” I cry.

They force me to my knees as Miĉjo turns around holding his head.

“What are we going to do?” asks one of the thugs, the fear in his voice palpable.

Miĉjo exhales, “It wasn’t supposed to be awake.”

Now the gangsters seem to be the least of my problems. “What the fuck is that thing?”

The skinny man snickers. “A gift.”

I can’t even begin to try to understand what that means.

“They are not going to be happy with it roaming free. When did you see it last?”

“At the abandoned charging station outside a settlement called Raven.”

Miĉjo looks at his men. “That’s west of here.” He looks back at me. “When did it feed?”

“Last night,” I answer.

He seems surprised that I knew. “When did it stop feeding?”

“About midnight.”

Miĉjo looks at his watch. “It’s sad to have to eliminate it, but we don’t have any other choice. There is no chance in hell we can recapture such a thing.”

“Sanford is gonna be pissed,” says one of the thugs.

“He’ll want us to kill it before it meanders into a populated area. Prepare to head out to the excavation site. We’re going lure it into a trap.”

“How the fuck are we to do that?”

“We are going to use him as bait.”

They all turn to face me.