Sitting across from Hatcher, sandwich between two boxes in the cargo bay of the UGV, Durham wondered why the designer had put windows into the high ridged walls. Watching the identical kilo markers of the A-5 wiz by in perfect intervals, he was grateful for the meager light, but the technician in him couldn’t figure out why the windows were there. On the nearly abandoned motorways of Spain, mostly ferried by drones, there was hardly ever a human to use them.
Getting in and out of the UGV’s wheelhouse had taken a day and a half of slow, crawling progress. Then the pair had to book it back to the A-3 in pick up the equipment they had left behind, needing to grab that and make it back to the road itself to hop on the hacked unmanned vehicle at the stop Durham had scheduled into it. He’d been afraid that it would just keep speeding by, leaving them exposed on the high, dry plateau outside of the city, waiting for some aerodrone to notice them or fall into a random satellite shadow. But the UGV had trundled to a stop in a cloud of dust and opened its loading ramp, welcoming them in. Blinded by Durham’s malignant code, the UGV hadn’t even noticed the additional weight, something it would surely have reported back to the wheelhouse possibly to be flagged by security.
The entire experience had left him exhausted and sore. And while the window provided some comfort with its light, the interior of the cargo bay wasn’t constructed for any kind of human habitation and his ass was letting him know it. Durham snorted his frustration.
“Something on your mind?” Hatcher asked from the shadow under the window.
“I was just thinking,” Durham gestured to the interior of the cargo drone, but indicating the entire affair. “All of this? It only gets you to Portugal.” Once on that end of the Iberian peninsula they’d still need to cross the Atlantic and somehow get to Cuba. Then there was getting into the freeports of Havana. Durham didn’t want to think about how they were going to breach the high security of the special economic zones.
Hatcher only nodded. “Yep.” Durham recognized the focused expression of a physical operator, the determination that kept one foot moving in front of the other.
“I suppose I should just be grateful that you didn’t live up to your Butcher handle getting into the wheelhouse.” Some inner part of Durham went spastic as those words left his mouth, screaming about self-preservation and not taunting someone whose friends and enemies alike knew him to be a mass murderer. The rest of Durham, heavy with fatigue, smothered that piece of him.
If Butcher sensed the comment was meant to be a barb, he didn’t let it show. “Eliminating any of the personnel might have alerted the rest of the security apparatus. Would have jeopardized the entire operation.”
“And that’s all there is to it?”
Hatcher tilted his head, staring at the sky through the window above him, letting the Spanish sun paint his face. “What else is there?”
“Some people might argue that they premeditated killing of other human beings is wrong.”
Hatcher sank back into his shadow, but Durham could feel his eyes on him. “You believe that?”
“I didn’t say me. Just some people.”
“Those people aren’t here in the back of this cargo bay with us. So what do they matter?”
Durham opened his mouth to respond, then thought better of it. Instead he lifted his gaze from the white mask of Hatcher’s face and went back to staring out the window. “Why do they have windows in the trailer anyway? Nobody rides back here.”
“It makes people think there are passengers inside,” Hatcher replied in the same dispassionate tone. “Designers thought it would cut down on the number of attacks.”
Shows what they know, Durham thought.