by Taz Parks
|Please give feedback, input, recommended changed. I usually do screen-writes for Atlanta Films and branching into a novel this time.
There we sat awaiting the orders to be given. Desolate land is all we had to look at. The terrain held nothing but shallow memories of what was. The Union of the New Americas finally had its stronghold in what used to be Texas, USA. We knew we would be advancing soon, but all wondered when, where, and what the strategy was. Anyone who ever tried to advance beyond the stronghold north was either never seen again or came back as a messenger of the terrors beyond. They told of a commander that shot bolts of lightning from his fingertips and lit fires in the sky that fell to the earth in death storms upon his foes. They spoke of gore and savagery that was unhuman. It wasn’t just unhuman, but demonic. They cried stories of mutilations and death at the hands of a heartless dictator. Our enemy commander was the one who set the world ablaze with his tactical and precise worldwide terrorist strike, Ramone Diedrick. His nuclear mayhem left the world as a fictional wasteland. We were reset hundreds of years. Few cities survived, and those few were ransacked and destroyed over minor resources. The wastelands were radiation plagues and few maps existed that navigated the lands through the fallout ridden areas.
We, on the other hand, were led by the fearless commander, General Tiersyn, to the state of readiness we were at today. The order came in; we were to find Ted Stryker. The Union was at the mercy of a fabled Gunnery Sergeant of the legendary and past United States Marine Corps. He was an experiment the government of old got so right, that he fled to asylum. He was number eleven of twenty six in the experiment and only one of three believed to still be alive. They were super human some said. Others turned a blind eye and denied what they couldn't comprehend. Now we are here. This was the beginning of the War of the World a fourth time and it began with a search for a mythical man to lead a forces on a legendary enemy known for his complete disregard for mankind and had cravings fit for a rabid dog. This was only years after the fallout had settled to the ground. The beginning to a hopeful future but only time would tell of its treasures of lack of. This is our story and it begins here.
We had our orders and needed to head south. The last anyone knew, he was giving survival courses in Argentina. This was before the chaos that consumed the world of course... We didn't even know if he would be alive now. We thought... no, we hoped he would still be there and still be alive. He had made quite a name for himself. Celebrities would travel from around the world to spend weeks living off nature under his close watch. Whether it was for role research, personal desires, or informational satisfaction, he always had something to teach down there. The millions he made were all but useless now. The whole world was back on a barter system and pirates, bandits, and thieves of the past were now part of everyday life. If it weren't for solar energy, we'd have none. Even the solar panels were depleting and few were repairable. The world population was cut and we had few intellects left to guide us. Most of the days were spent searching for food or trying to clean soil so we could get healthy vegetation to grow. Between here and the Gunny we could only hope to run into a couple colonies and be lucky if we got help, or even an encounter from a handful. I live everyday on luck though. That's all we have now.
As we left the gates of the base, we saw the smiles of children kicking a clusters of clothes wrapped in twine to make a ball. Half-dressed and half covered in dirt, but they were on cloud nine kicking a ball in a dirt lot at goals made of old tree limbs. We saw parents watching, chatting, and laughing. I realized that we were leaving the safe haven and sanctuary of mind and entering a world of mayhem and destruction. We passed the thirty foot walls through rolling gates you would expect to see in a junk yard, only three times as big. Our horses and pack mules were geared up to the max. To keep from drawing attention we would dress as wanderers. Loose full covering clothing to keep the elements from attacking to fiercely. Thick soled and breathable boots, the kind soldiers wore in the old wars in the twentieth century. Shemaghs wrapped around our face and head. My beige clothes stained from the white they once were. I believed we resembled the Templar nights of our time, not only in appearance but in mission also. We set off. Primitive metal projectile firing rifles tucked in the horses satchels, hidden but accessible.
"What do you know of him?" My lone companion of this mission into the abyss asked. He was young and resilient. Maybe 19 years old, but he had seen war first hand for years already. He had a stubble growing but no need to shave for days. He was smooth skinned and had a contradicting raspy voice. He looked like a sheltered child but his gestures, awareness, and past would tell differently. Don't let his well-groomed hair fool you. I had seen him playing futbol the other day without a shirt and he had the scars of a roman gladiator with the physique to match. He may have been only two thirds my age, but he had my full respect. His past was hazy to everyone besides himself and he wasn't quick to talk about it. He was known as only giggles, just as a big man would be called tiny. Never lost bearing, never cracked a smile.
"Theodore Stryker," I responded.
"Nothing more lad, Theodore Stryker. I don't even know if he's alive. I don't know if we'll ever make it to find out or even make it alive to the next horizon. I don't know why I’m going. I don't know why they chose you to pair with me. Theodore Stryker boy. I do what I’m told and nothing less, consistently more... Oh, he was a Gunny too so I lied, I know just that much more."
"Is," he responded with sarcasm hidden deep in his voice.
I realized I was harsh, but I needed to be. I wanted him to realize that this was all too serious and not just another mission. After a slow, deep, exaggerated breath I gave in, "What do you mean ‘IS’?"
"My father was a Marine, and still ‘IS’. Just because he left the Corps doesn't mean it is gone from him. Once a Marine always a Marine, right Sir? Stryker ‘IS’ a Gunny" Responded the Corporal.
Indeed, he had got one over on this salty Major. Our roots were drawn from the Marines and we continued their traditions and ways in our service. We attribute our success to that. There was only one way to respond to that..."Yeah," It was going to be a long trip, "and if you ever want to see another chevron on your shoulder, stop talking."
I saw his small smirk out of the corner of my eye. I had one in my head too. I wasn't as asinine as the rumors had told. My sarcasm and dry humor had quite an effect on my image towards the junior warriors. We walked. Quietly, we opened stride and headed south. We wanted to save the horses for the hills and passes. We needed to conserve all assets and energy wisely. The barren land showed little life. We collected insects and small animals on the way. Lizards, scorpions, and large rodents would be the bulk of our nutrition as long as there wasn’t physical signs of radiation in them. I snacked on bread we collected from the colony as we left, nibbling here and there. Giggles did little to draw my attention, which was good. I didn't need distractions. I was always on the lookout for hazards and Scoundrels.
Scoundrels were the local group of thieves that had claimed control in this area. They were known for stealth attacks and strong arming the caravans out of supplies. Our troops started escorting the caravans in our jurisdiction, but this proved to deter them only for a short time early on in the disputes. Their numbers made small work of our escorts when they really wanted something. But one caravan saved could save a colony and that made it all worth it.
In the distance I could see dust kicking up. Wasn’t close enough to tell what it was. Could be Scoundrels, could be a caravan, and could be wildlife. I was just hoping it was a dust devil kicking up and nothing more. Either way, we were avoiding it. What was left of the roads were all either grown over with shrubs, blown over with sand and dust, or in shambles. If you strayed far enough from the road to lose sight, you might go days without finding another path to civilization. We had primitive road maps that displayed what was and some of what actually is. Our path led straight to the dust cloud... we were better off deterring from it and chasing the noon sun till we found a colony than to challenge whatever lied ahead. Only the caravans and Gypsies would turn us good fortune and those were few and far between. As the sun was at its peak, we went parallel to its path and would travel like this for a bit then turn toward it and travel perpendicular till nightfall. I wanted to make as much travel in the light as possible. When we got south, we would be encumbered, exhausted, and the heat would be too much to travel during mid-day. We would have to make those miles up at night on horseback where we stood a chance to scare off predators and spot Scoundrels. Cougars and Bears were extremely aggressive after the fallout settled. Few were unchanged and most have evolved aggressive deformities as a result of the change in hunting styles. Camouflaged perfectly to the terrain and impossible to spot at night, they were the perfect predators. Night was coming quickly. Camp needed to be set. Tactical heating would have to be used.
"We camp here. In the morning we head towards the path of the sun. Tonight we need a Dakota fire to keep warm and cook off of. We'll make a tent out of the linen and tie up the animals. Set a couple snares while we're at it. Might get lucky and catch some healthy breakfast. I'll cook if you do the dishes," the last part said jokingly but got no response to what I thought was witty humor, “You payin attention there Giggles?"
"Yes Sir" Said with his thousand mile stare, “Fire in a hole, poncho style tent, chase the sun, catch a hare, tie up the animals, and a reference about washing dishes. Don't have any, Sir, but I'm sure I can make some if that's what you want. Anything else, Sir?"
"Yeah, lighten up." I replied.
"Roger that, Sir." He acknowledged though I knew he wasn't going to.
He knew how to follow orders though. As we dismounted I realized that we were finally on our own. On our way. No one would ever know where we were if we needed help or find us if we never made our mission happen. Reality has finally settled in. After 4 hours of treading out of the sight of what we called home, we started a journey into what could either be our end or our names in history.