The second installment of our Round Robin story, The Ultima Storm, is by GFWW President Jeff Bacot. Part 3 will be posted soon, so please check back as our members add to the story.
I locked and loaded my weapon, a sexy, titanium clad .50 caliber, fire-spitting, death-dragon of a gun. I verified the others had their gear and weapons. I put my helmet and goggles on and peered out through the slowly rising, mechanized bay doors. We rolled a few feet and I squinted out at the unprotected, unruly, unrelenting exterior world. I could feel an odd buzz in the earth; a sort of humming vibration in my feet. I ignored it and focused on the task.
We scanned suspiciously the area in front of us to ensure intruders could not enter the opening garage.
As I looked out, I stopped suddenly, interrupted by a mental vision of the past, transfixed by an odd musical memory. At that bizarre moment, for some reason I recalled a song I had heard many, many years ago as a child. The song was recorded in the 1980’s, over 70 years before all this environmental and societal meltdown had begun. The song, as I recalled, was by a band called The Fixx. For some reason I could hear the words and melody in my head being, sung by my long vanished father, in better times. The lyrics struck me as prophetic and pathetic; a long ago warning of doom, and a weirdly accurate prediction of this pivotal and harrowing moment:
Crying parents tell their children
If you survive don’t do as we did
A son exclaims there’ll be nothing to do to
Her daughter says she’ll be dead with you
Is this the value of our existence
Should we proclaim with such persistence
Our destiny relies on conscience
Red or blue, what’s the difference
An empty face reflects extinction
Ugly scars divide the nation
Desecrate the population
There will be no exaltation
Stand or fall
State your peace tonight
The words of the long forgotten song were packed with meaning, but somehow rang hollow as there was no peace now, and no “fix” either. I sat motionless staring forward as the rover began creeping out of the warehouse.
“Drake.” I could hear the voice and the snapping fingers in my ear, but couldn’t listen, lost in the strains of a distant melody from yesteryear.
“DRAKE!” Caleb screamed at me this time, as he looked back with a panicked expression at the pregnant girl running toward the vehicle. I slammed the brake. Joe lurched forward in his seat and bumped his head on the dashboard.
“What?” I belted back, now fully engaged and annoyed. I knew exactly what he was about to suggest. I did not want her coming with us for a myriad of reasons: she would slow us down, she was not invited, she would distract Caleb, she would distract me, or even worse, she might reveal that I was just as likely the father of her child as Caleb.
“We can’t just leave her.” Caleb’s strange and imploring expression was both easy to read and hard to ignore, though I tried.
“No, Caleb. The final shuttle will take her away in the next 24 hours. She can’t. We can’t”
“But sir, I….” Caleb paused and inhaled. His broken look defeated me. Or was it her swollen belly, as she trotted toward us with a backpack. I shook my head, knowing I would relent.
“Fine! Get in.” I said, as I looked at Sera staring apprehensively at me. It was fear and gratitude.
“Now!” I barked, pointed and shook my head. Joe glared at me in disgust as he dabbed his head bruise with a towel. He knew the consequences of an uninvited guest in this vehicle and on this perilous and uncertain half day journey to the place that would be our “big boat home”.
“Let’s roll.” I pointed forward as Sera jumped in the rear seat. Henry and Carl were watching us roll away into the disarray. They looked relieved.
The rover’s engine grumbled and rattled, and moved forward nervously, as if this inanimate object knew what it was about to face outside. The mechanics of the machine worked well on Mars, but the vehicle had not been used in quite some time, and never been used much on this planet. There was no choice for us at this moment; it was our Golden Ticket to the underground launch bay and a ticket out of here, after a 12 hour journey from this shuttle launch. The old bucket was our six-wheel, all terrain mule, out of this hellish wreck, we once called home, and once called Mother Earth.
We ascended a short hill outside the facility to the crest and stopped. We gazed down at the chaotic carnage in front and to all sides of us. There were a smattering of soldiers trying to maintain order in a sea of clambering bodies and desperate souls. I panned the horizon, then gazed around the valley below at the smoldering buildings, stinking and decayed dead bodies, ashen earth, gray smoke plumes and scarred vegetation. I thought of the beauty and majesty that was once this panoramic view from atop this peak.
This spot, this country, this earth – a place with a storied past, a crumbling present, and no foreseeable future. We had finally succumbed to the excesses of greed, impatience and ignorance. I have the opportunity to leave this mess now and begin a new life, but these scared people being held at bay by the forces assigned to protect us, did not. Furious frustration was all over the scarred faces; yearning for a future, desperate for a savior, trapped in time. It was the stench of imminent death.
The flurry of activity in all directions in this murky haze was punctuated by colored sounds: white noise, black silence and a strange yellow buzz in the ground. I felt the vibrating earth again. The numerous defenses set up to protect the launches still held so I released the brake and we moved down the hill, dodging the fracas of people running at us. The skies overhead loomed. The haze blackened as we sideswiped a truck that was intended to collide with us.
For several hours we bobbed and weaved in every direction possible. Joe had a map and was navigating, then occasionally firing his weapon at incursions to our space or breaches to our thin moving perimeter.
“OVER THERE!” He yelled. “Look out.”
Caleb’s head was like a bobble-head on a swivel, from Sera, to the right, to the left, to the rear. His youth and bravery were valuable, but his impulsive naivete and quick temper made him a liability sometimes. He was both useful and useless, at differing intervals.
“How far Drake?” He shouted several times. I gave him the response that everyone does to the “are we there yet?” question. “Stop fucking asking me that!”
Sera had a small weapon and attempted to scan the area. But she had neither the meddle of a soldier nor the metal of a decent weapon.
We moved faster as we approached a long highway with an opening through some hills above. The rumbling from the skies above increased as the silhouette of a raging angry climate gone haywire spit threats of looming violence against us. The earth’s stomach grumbled again, I could feel it in my feet. These were the same threats that had previously turned real as many of the ships were torn apart in the cumulus fray, ripping the shuttles to shards of metal as they tried to escape this planet.
I slowed near the approaching gap of highway between the hills and then slowly braked. The rover stopped and we all stared incredulously at something we had never seen before. A sight of mystifying majesty, serene beauty and unbelievable, breathless, terrifying horror! We gasped.
About Jeff Bacot
Jeff Bacot is a freelance writer of fiction and blogger of unconventional thought. His novel ON THE HOLE was recently published and released and is available on Amazon.com or Barnes and Nobles.com. He is an active member of The Greater Fort Worth Writers group. He is a graduate of Southern Methodist University.