What one man can do - a Wintermute TLD story

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(Some plot points may contradict future story mode chapters)


The last few snowflakes that came to rest on the windows of Jackrabbit Remote Transport had begun to melt, thanks to the progressively warmer morning sun. Golden rays pierced into the hangar, where the pilot and owner of the establishment performed maintenance on his floatplane. The sun shed its light on the wealth of engineering tools and parts, rendering them all fully visible. Which was a rather rare occurence, mostly due to the dim, outdated electric lamps that should have burned out about two decades ago. No one but the owner could possibly know where to look for, say, a misplaced wrench at nighttime, with so very little electric light. As he worked, laid on his back under the floatplane, the pilot could slowly but surely see and feel the sun's effects; in fact, he tried to take it all in before the next blizzard in a few days' time, supposedly one of the heaviest in decades. Not that he would be anywhere but here, playing cards alone and having a drink too many...or too early. No travelling for Will Mackenzie this month, he thought. Chances are, no travelling for the next year, either. The Collapse had damaged his business, just like everyone else's, maybe even more. No one would see how well his old girl runs as she soars above the untamed Canadian wilderness, assuming anyone could appreciate it. No one entirely could, he reminded himself, not since Astrid.

The door to the hangar swung open as a young woman walked in. Her stride was confident, her presence accentuated even more by her natural red, curly hair and her toned physique, only slightly hidden underneath puffy winter clothing. "An emergency flight to Hawaii, my dear pilot. I must get there post-haste!", said the woman in a deep voice and sporting a pseudo-Engligh accent. "Ha ha, Maureen", replied Will as he slid away from the underside of the plane to meet her. She instantly replied, "Would it kill you to hold onto one funnybone, Mackenzie? Just one?" He was now one or two grunts from stretching the stiffness away to stand straight in front of her, his eyes meeting hers. "We should arrive just in time for happy hour, Ma'am", Will said in an equally terrible accent. Maureen ran the administrative office next to the hangar, doing all the necessary paperwork. Her workload was just as heavy as Will's, which is to say, nearly zero. She would always visit the hangar just before going to work to catch up and talk about the news, but today was different. Some self-reflection was long overdue and that extended to her profession, and her boss. "Hey Will, I want to ask you something"."Sure, how can I help?" She would ask a question he wouldn't get the answer to until much later.

"I wanted to know, why do you still keep the transport service running? Even though not a single major client has stepped in here, for so many months now? I mean, we'll go borderline bankrupt in less than half a year at this rate." Will was taken aback as he heard it all. He was familiar enough with Maureen to talk about everything and anything, but this specific topic, out of the blue. "I'm not sure, Maureen." He could only be brutally honest and hope for the best. "I suppose I care about the few people left who live here and I'm willing to give them a helping hand. Maybe I'm too afraid to move on, so I stay still, like a ship in frozen, icy waters. Maybe I'm stuck in the past, reminiscing about happier days now gone. Or maybe I'm just waiting for something to fall on my lap for my life to change course." Maureen responded with a friendly, understanding nod. "It's okay if you're unsure, I just wondered because it's been so long since Astrid, and your baby boy, so I thought you'd want-- Will interrupted Maureen impatiently, as if he was trying to stop the flow of memories her words wrestled free. "Like I said, I'm unsure. Let's leave it at that, okay?" His tone didn't seem angry or frustrated, he was rather trying to avoid discussing the issue further. Will felt the conversation was getting tense and thus he structured his retort in acceptance of his burdens, so that Maureen wouldn't have to feel their weight. "I wish I could do more for or beyond this place, but at the end of the day I have to accept what my limits are. I can't just abandon everything I know, close my eyes and hope my next gamble pays off. I hope you can understand." Maureen had the same sympathetic look in her face, an inkling of guilt for stressing him out growing underneath. "I understand, my friend." She wouldn't press this delicate a matter further. Will offered some morning coffee and that was that.


The echoes in the damp maze of a cave are never-ending, made worse by what feels like a dozen ice water currents. No matter how much Will kept his breath and body still, he can't hear his stalker's footsteps. His clothes ripped to pieces or missing, his tools and weapons scattered. Only one chance now, the spear. After traversing a labyrinth of bio-luminescence decorated tunnels that almost drives him to the point of desparation, the central cave comes into view, the spear resting atop a rock in its center. Now, Will can hear breathing and footsteps all around him. His primal fear urges him to hide in the shadows for all time, but there's no time to waste. A mix of hope, fear and instinct fuel him as he runs to the spear, picking it up with a half smile and hoping the old trapper wasn't taking the old Spence legend too seriously. The marrow in his bones freezes as he looks up, the Old Bear already charging at him through the darkness and into the light the open cave ceiling allows. He has less than three seconds before the bear reaches him, so he points the spear at it as he stands his ground. Two seconds now, his arms stop shivering as an unnatural clarity takes over. The answer to Maureen's question becomes obvious. "Because I owe you, Maureen. Even the days I'm too exhausted to honour what my grandpa and father taught me, you and your family still rely on this job, the income you need to sustain them. For all you've done for me here, I owe you something in return". He realises, he owes Astrid too. For all the good she did in his life, the greater meaning she gave it, no matter how everything ended. One second away, the Old Bear stands on its hind legs for a moment and prepares to crash down on a man ten times smaller like a tsunami of muscle, scars and teeth. He takes a gamble as he closes his eyes to keep his arms calm and on target for a little longer. His mind returns to the night his plane crashed in the pit near Milton, where he fell through the windshield, Astrid whispering to him in a dream: "Don't give up. Remember who we were. Don't let this new world break you. And I will see you again". Under his breath, Will Mackenzie utters "Astrid, you will. I promise". His gut tells him he's past his limits, that he's going to die alone in the cold dark. He doesn't listen.


The spear makes contact as he opens his eyes.


(Thanks for reading, this amateur writer appreciates comments)

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1 hour ago, Sherlock Holmes 18 said:

It's a very interesting and immersive essay. ☺️ I congratulate you on really doing this job, 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻

Thanks a lot! I was aiming for immersive, so that's good to hear. I rewrote it a couple of times, and I'm glad the work paid off.

Edited by thefistoffury1
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