Traveling the Wastes is different now, before it was just me with only my breath and the sun bearing down upon me to remind me that I am not dead. Now the presence of others takes the place of the rhythmic breathing. It is a change that I am more than happy to welcome; having my friends with me seems to make the Wastes more inviting. The dangers are still there but now I don’t have to face them alone. As we walk my mind drifts and I start to think of my parent’s, everything I once knew has changed. From everything I have learned I start to think that there must have been a reason they left me. I can’t worry about that though, there is too much else going on. Once everything I will return to Seaton, there I will have plenty of time to think of my parents. Of Fiona, of my future, after everything that has happened I find that I am grateful. Before everything, before my friends I had nothing. Now for the first time in my life I have a future worth thinking about. Well I don’t have one yet, but at least now I am fighting for one.
“Hey, you’ve been quite.” Fiona asks, “What are you thinking about?”
“A little bit of everything.” I say.
“I can only imagine a lot has happened over the past week.” Fiona says, “I admire you no matter what happens you seem to keep fighting to keep pushing forward.” She moves closer to me as we walk, “You know back in the Wastes, the day we saved you. I think you would have survived even without us. You’re not the type of person to give into death.”
“Hey, don’t sell yourself short; you’re not that different from me. When the time comes I know you will be there. I say, “Just like you were in the Wastes that day. I stop talking and signal everyone to stop moving. In the distance a faint moan can be heard, Creepers.
“Everyone take get down.” I say moving off the road into a ditch along side, “Creepers down the road a bit.”
“I can’t see them, how do you know they are there?’ Velvet asks.
“I can hear them, out in the Wastes hearing is one of the best tools you can have for survival.” I say, "If we sit tight for a bit they will pass.
“No, let’s take them out, call it training.” Velvet says, “Let’s see what you got as a leader.”
Though I hate the idea of intentionally causing a fight with Creepers, she has a point. It would be a good idea to get some practice in, “Ok, here is what we are going to do.” I say. Taking a look around I spot a burned out vehicle along the side of the road. “Fiona, you and Velvet take cover behind the vehicle.” I point in its direction, “Theodore and I will draw them in. Once they get past you open fire.”
“Ok, sounds good to me.” Velvet says. Watching as Fiona and Velvet take cover behind the vehicle I wait till they are set before I start to make as much noise as possible. Theodore follows suit banging a stick against the road. Our calls are answered within moments three Creepers are sprinting in our direction. My breath quickens as the approach, we have only seconds before they are running us down. As instructed as soon as the Creepers pass them Fiona and Velvet spring into action unloading a spray of rounds into the Creepers. As quickly as it started it is over. As my breath returns to normal I can’t help feel good.
That night we are all laughs recounting the tale of today’s victory. An easy victory compared to the battle ahead, but still it feels good. Soon is retelling the tales of his time in the military of his time in a country called Afghanistan.
“Theodore, what happened the day the bombs fell?” Fiona asks.
Theodore sits in silence, the pain of the day fills his eyes and is easy to see behind his mask, “It is ok you don’t have to talk about it.” I say.
“The economy had collapse and the corporations that were left sized power of the government. Those that remained in the military were folded into their private armies.” He says, “I joined the resistance against them. They turned the nuke on us; I was outside of Portland when it happened. It started as a normal day.” He pauses a moment, “we were getting ready to push down to Los Angeles, which you know as Eden.”
“Are you saying the people who dropped the bombs and the Brotherhood are one in the same?” I ask.
“Yes they did, destroyed everything to stop us, destroyed the world for money.” Theodore says, “We didn’t think they would do it, but they did.”
“That is why Eden is so advanced compared to the Wastes, they didn’t get hit.” Fiona says.
“No, then they dumped all the radioactive Waste they had around their territory.” Theodore says, “Wanted to keep those that survived out.”
“They did this, the Brotherhood, they made this world.” I say, “They have to be destroyed.”
We spend the rest of the night in shock; no one can believe what they have learned tonight. We no longer fight against a tyrannical society, but the destroyers of the old world. If we push this to far will they do it again, will they kill everyone this time. We can’t stop we have to fight. The very future of the human race might depend on it. We all sit in silence, no one knows what to say, and thankfully we have Velvet.
“Did you see that Creepers head.” Velvet says, “I mean I lined up my site and bam.”
“That is nothing, I was a sniper back in the day, and back before the bombs fell I once hit a target from a half a mile away.” Theodore says, “I could run circles around you if I had a scope.”
“Really old man, I like to see you run.” Velvet says.
I have to hand it to Velvet she sure knows how to lighten the mood, “You know you would have fit in Velvet, back then.” Theodore says, “You all would have.”
“So is this what you did back in Afghanistan sat around a fire telling stories.” I ask.
“Nah, we had video games.” Theodore says.
We all spent the next few hours talking about the past and what it was like. What we would have done had we lived back then, what we would be doing know if the world never changed. Theodore said we all sounded like a bunch of veteran soldiers sitting around talking about what they were going to do when they got home. By the time the sun had risen we were already out and only a few hours out of Seattle. It was weird going back there, the place where it all began. Last time I set foot in the place I was concerned only about myself, now I was fighting for everyone back home.
“I remember this place when it was whole.” Theodore says, “There used to be a giant tower over there, it was called the space needle.”
“Wow, you are old.” Velvet says.
As we walk the streets we come across a place that is all too familiar. A place I wished I would never see again. Before I was thousands of bodies, the human remains of people sealed long ago. My eyes draw to the pile upon the street where a mother once stood, a mother protecting her son.
“Oh god, are these.” Fiona says.
“Yes, people, they are people.” I say.
“Seattle was hit hard, almost no one got out.” Theodore says.
“Ok, we need to keep moving.” I say.
Making our way through the remains my eyes catch yet another familiar sight, something I almost completely forget about. The glint of a silver revolver, picking it up me looks at the others. I am almost glad I dropped it. Otherwise I might not have met them, wonder what I would be doing now, funny how things work out. We decide to set up camp a few hours outside of Seattle. Theodore informs us that if we head out early we can reach the fort by nightfall. It is comforting to have someone that actually knows the area, a guide. It makes sense in this moment why Fiona and Velvet sought I guide. It give you hope.
Theodore manages to find a building we can use along the road, it was a daycare center. He explained it was a place for children much like the playground. I am thankful there are no bodies; I don’t think any of us could handle the remains of a child. Before long we have a fire going and Velvet has begin to cook up a stew made of dried meat. In the end it turns out to be the worst meal she has made since I met her, but I guess you can’t complain giving we are in the middle of the Wastes. After the meal I take first watch, finding a bench I settle in. Fiona is the only one that doesn’t sleep. Soon she will join me; at least I hope she will. Luckily I don’t have to wait long, “I was waiting for velvet to fall asleep.” She says, “Didn’t feel like hearing a sarcastic comment.” Sliding against me she places her head upon my shoulder, “You know it strange how things come full circle.”
“What do you mean?” I say.
“Well the Brotherhood destroyed the world because of a rebellion, and now here we are rebellion to say if.” She says.
“Well, I wouldn’t say we were saving the whole world, just Haven.” I say, “We don’t really know what else is out there.”
“When this is all over, maybe we can find out together.” She says.
I haven’t told her about my plan to move to Seaton, but I have to admit the idea of traveling appeals to my Wasters heart. The thought of just being out there finding out what the world has left to offer entices me, especially if Fiona is at my side. Guess there is no harm in spending time wondering, Seaton will always be there for me, “We could head over the mountains.” I say.
“What is on the other side?” She says, “Don’t want to risk heading over for nothing.”
“Well, in Haven there is a legend about a paradise on the other side.” I say.
“Probably just more wasteland.” She says, “But hey if there is a possibility of a paradise might be worth it.”
Taking my hand off the rifle I place it around Fiona, “Do you think we will actually survive this thing.”
“No, but we can dream can’t we.” She says, “After all it is the one thing they can’t take away from us.”
Leaning in I kiss the top of her head, “No, they can never take that.”
We both stay up until Velvet comes to relieve us, she doesn’t say anything. I guess the novelty is wearing off, though in truth I am sure she is just saying her comments for the perfect moment. As I drift into sleep I think of my future, what it will hold. I allow myself to dream, I allow myself the hope that we will survive this, that I will have the chance to see what the world has for Fiona and I.
As the morning approaches I awake to find Velvet still sitting guard. Apparently she has decided not to wake Theodore; the old guy could probably use the extra sleep. Today will be a long haul to the fort. We should reach our destination by early evening, so the early we set out the better. However I decided to let Fiona and Theodore sleep a little longer and pack up camp myself. As soon as I am done with that I wake the others. Within the hour we are back on the road and heading towards our destination. All this walking makes me wish we could have kept the land runner.
The day goes by uneventfully and by the time the sun slightly hovers over the horizon we arrive at our destination. The place is not what I was expecting; the entire fort is laid out over several hundred thousand acres. It is going to take days to locate anything here. Hopefully Theodore has a plan. Tonight we will camp in one of the outlining buildings and formulate a plan. Tomorrow morning we will head in. As we set camp I have a sinking feeling in my gut, I hope we didn’t come all the way out here for nothing.
“Theodore, do you have any ideas were we can look.” I ask.
“Hopefully we can find one of the old unit barracks; they should have some small arms in there.” Theodore says.
He explains that small arms are rifles and such, but finding them is not the only problem. We need to find ammo as well. That will be locked away in one of the supply warehouse.
“It will be faster to split into two groups, once can search for barracks and the other can head to the warehouses.” I say.
“Do you think it is wise to split up like that?” Velvet asks.
“We don’t have a choice.” I say, “Theodore can you describe what we might be looking for.”
“Sure.” Theodore says. He goes on to tell us that the warehouse will be a large building, most likely bigger than the rest, possible comprised of metal. Much like the buildings back in Haven. He does his best to draw it out in the dirt. As for the barracks he tells us that will be a little harder. They will be smaller, brick mostly. The might still have a sign indicating the name of the unit that was housed there. He also explains how they are mostly grouped together.
“Ok, Fiona and I will look for the Barracks, you two handle the warehouse.” I say, “We will meet back up tomorrow night at this spot. Everyone should get some sleep tomorrow is going to be a long day.”
“That means you two, no late night cuddle sessions.” Velvet says. I knew she was holding her comments for the right time.
We all follow my orders and head straight to bed, Velvet takes first watch. Lying on the ground I stay into Fiona’s eyes as I sleep. It is easy to figure out what she is thinking. It is the same thing as me. If this mission fails, we have no hope. I remain awake long enough to watch Fiona drift off. There is something pure about watching her sleep. While awake she is strong, nothing can stand in her way, but asleep she is innocent, helpless, and perfect. As I watch her I feel myself start to drift off, I don’t fight it. The next thing I know I am being awakened by Velvet, “Is it my shift already?” I ask.
“Yeah.” Velvet says as she takes her spot next to the fire, “Hey promise me something.”
“Sure, anything.” I say.
“If we don’t find tomorrow, promise you will take Fiona and get far away from all of this.” Velvet says, “Don’t worry about me, just take her and leave.”
“I promise.” I say. Within minutes velvet is asleep and I move to the watch position. Sitting upon a fallen and burnt tree I watch as the sun slowly rises. The sun exacerbates the vastness of the fort. All I can do is hope luck is still on our side, at least a little longer. One by one I feel the presence of the others join me. We stand looking out into the distance, we all know everyone back in Haven and know Seaton is placing their faith in us. We didn’t ask for this but this is out lot in life and there is no changing it.