Busaco - Wasteland stories I

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Dedicated to my lovely roommates, who provided characters to this determined bunch. Our lounge talks will be missed.

Also my first attempt to write in English (not my first language).

Inspired by Fallout, MadMax and all the other beautiful stories set up in a fiction post-apocalyptic (fantasy) world.

Wasteland stories I - Busaco

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Image by: Radek Kocar

“What? I don't believe that.” Clara crossed her arms as she leaned back from Lee's makeshift laboratory.

“It's true. Oxygen is a killing gas. Why do you think some viruses are transferred only by sex or saliva? It's 'cause oxygen is killing them. Like...instant death.”

“That doesn't make any sense,” Clara resisted; struggling with the idea, that every breath is killing her body.

“Ok,” Lee enthusiastically stroked his ginger beard and leaned forward in face of a new challenge, “take bleach for example. Unhealthy, right?”

“What's bleach?”

“It's a...” Lee staggered in his response, as he realized that he's facing a wasteland-born girl. How can I explain oxidizers to someone with NO chemistry knowledge? His beard got almost ripped off, when he finally gave up: “Fuck it. It's a cure, alright?”

“Doesn't smell like one,” Clara pointed at his burner flask – leaking yellow gas from overpressure - and hid her nose in her eternal dark-red scarf.

“Shit!” Lee took a deep breath and blew into a pipe in his right hand – pushing the gas from burner flask into a bottle with distillate water. The leaked gas, however, quickly spread throughout the confined space of the land locomotive. Sore cough revealed woken up Dannion, who rumbled in his ceiling-attached hammock: once green piece of cloth now looked like a magical flying carpet thanks to countless ribbons, fancy-works, amulets and other unidentified token decorations. Hammock tinkle ended with a loud smack as Dannion – dark skin, black hair, dark brown eyes - flopped his bare feet on the metal ground. His hair band snapped and released his equally decorated dreadlocks into a lunatic mane around his head.

“What's that stink?” he frown-yawned and scratched his arms under his over-elongated sleeves of worn out jersey.

“Your cure,” mumbled Clara through her scarf and shoved herself as far from the lab as possible. Dannion spotted the bubbling; yellow colored water and pointed at it with fear and question on his face - blowing Lee proudly nodded.

“Like hell I am drinking that. Smells toxic as fuck.”

“Watch the language,” boomed Ra'dek's voice from drivers cockpit.

“Why me? Lee's cursing all the time.”

“Don't care. Get ready, we're almost there.”

Dannion mumbled yet another curse, coughed into his sleeve and squeezed to his weapon locker in the back. Clara sighed and pinned down her curly hair with old leather helmet, tightened her scarf and put on protective goggles so no part of her skin was exposed. Lee kept blowing the pipe, since his burning substance was still generating yellow smoke.

“Hurry up. Need a scout here,” rumbled Ra'dek impatiently. He was too wide and too muscular dwarf, who never bothered to wear shirts. Silhouettes of his scar-tattoed punishment tools – often mistaken for hands – dangerously tensed.

“Just a sec,” stalled occupied Lee.

“Now!”

“Goddammit!”

The burner got turned off, the pipe sealed and Lee angrily climbed into co-driver seat; hitting his knee hard in the process. With a painful growl he slid the periscope down and started to accumulate magic. His ability to modify refracting index of matter – therefore creating lenses and mirrors out of thin air – made him extraordinary tactical asset. However, although the pollution decreased rapidly since The Fall, it was still dangerous and very unhealthy to use magic. As Lee never forgot to remind: “Stings so bad here in the open.”

“See anything?” ignored his complaint Ra'dek while remaining focused on monitoring the wasteland ahead. The locomotive hovered barely one foot above ground and it was not designed to change directions quickly. Lone rocks, pre-Fall wreckage and hidden gorges were everlasting threats. Lee used his hands as he was forming magical binoculars around the end of the periscope. “No. Nothing as usu...wait. Stop. Stop right now!”

The vibrating tune of metal colossus changed as the front hover pads changed angle against land ship's direction. Lee and Ra'dek had to raise their voices to hear themselves over the tortured metal.

“What is it?”

“Company.”

“Eden?”

“Don't think so...don't see any birds.”

“Guns?”

“Quite a few. I see some trucks. Three...four buggies,” Lee faced away from the periscope as the polluted magic flowing through his body manifested in a sharp pain, “That burns!”

“Clara.” Shouted Ra'dek over his shoulder while switching on all power circuits on the control panel. Mechanical buzzing of servomotors added to the noise inside and totally scrambled Clara's response. Metal click of gun tower airlock mechanism was however satisfying enough answer for increasingly angry dwarf.

“You said it's safe,” shouted Ra'dek accusingly towards his co-pilot.

“No, I said it's remote,” responded Lee through gritted teeth. He was back on periscope and magic usage was torturing him. He knew Ra'dek long enough to know that turning back is not an option, and now didn't need any more encouragement to try and raise their chances for survival. Suddenly he froze in his movements and his voice dropped an octave: “Scout at eleven. Distance three thousand,” knowing that their breaking distance using hover pads is even longer than that, he gulped, “it's a tank.”

“DROP,” shouted Ra'dek immediately and hit the hover pads kill-switch without hesitation. For a brief moment of weightlessness the ship went silent, except for Dannion's desperate “wait”, as he was currently balancing on one leg – trying to put on his second boot.

Front plating bit the ground hard and narrow profile of drivers window darkened by kicked up dust. Dannion's acrobatic flight ended in painful collision with Radek's seat; his boot lost in cavity of steering pedals area; his rifle however strapped properly to his back. Clara managed to hold on in her gunner position, however her shout of pain sounded more than honest. Ra'dek didn't waste time and lifted himself using a ceiling handle while the ship was still crashing. Lee took over his seat and with a shout pulled the door lever. Dannion barely managed to grab onto his magazines case before he was uncompromisingly tossed out of the half-opened side door of crashing train; his lips formulating something starting with “mother-”. Four hundred meters further the half-buried locomotive finally stopped; Lee's laboratory miraculously held.

“You sure about this?” Shouted Lee over his shoulder as he was starting the hover pads again, “we can still bail.”

“Not happening,” opposed Ra'dek and unlocked the safety on his wardrobe. Mechanical crane arm creaked under the weight of his battle armor, as he moved it from its wall attachment above his head, “it's my territory. My claim.”

“Yeah. Against their tank.”

Ra'dek didn't answer. Instead he strengthened his stance and released the crane grip. Quarter ton vest made of kevlar, ceramics, ballistic pads and carbon-fiber landed on his shoulders with a force that sent vibrations throughout the whole ship. Crane arm slid back to the wall and pushed open the heavy metal drawer on floor level; containing matchingly armored trousers. The dwarf stepped into them without breaking a sweat and with several hand motions tightened all strapping buckles.

Lee was watching it in a tiny rear mirror and couldn't stop a chill coming through his spine. Talking about tanks...why did we ever think, it was a good idea going to war with the dwarves? He shook his head to forget the bloody parts of pre-Fall human history and focused on control panel in front of him: “Hovers on eighty percent. We're up.”

“Good,” rumbled Ra'dek and smashed his fists together to check his mobility. When satisfied, he put on his helmet – single cast of inch thick steel with only two visors – and his right hand into his Tuwar. He gestured Lee to start 'All to All' communication. It was easier since they didn't have to switch channels, but they had to presume the other party is able to hear the broadcast as well since they possessed military technology. When he got green signal, Ra'dek resumed talking through microphone: “Do not shoot first. I will reason with them.”

“Right,” snapped Clara sarcastically, “like that usually works.”

“Just be prepared,” responded Ra'dek with mechanical resonance of his helmet and jumped off the ship. While walking towards the approaching cloud of dust stirred by welcoming party, he opened the fortified case on the back of his armor. Lee used his magic to see clearly, which grenade he will use to load his Tuwar.

“Fuck me,” he slipped as he recognized the runes on the hand crafted piece of mayhem.

“What?” asked Clara's voice in his earphone.

“Uh,” staggered Lee, as he was searching in the seat container for the darkest sunglasses, “I...broke open Ra'dek's...wine. The archive bottle.”

“Wha...oh,” understood Clara and for a while stopped preparing her gun to strengthen her face and eyes cover. Lee put on a ridiculously large; butterfly shaped women sunglasses he salvaged about a year ago, and unwrapped his famous 'magic candy'; synthesized from amphetamine and medical opiates the lozenge helped him withstand the pain outbursts from magic usage, while maintaining reflexes. Sort of.

“Engine room ready,” panted Dannion and coughed rapidly, “...'cking dust! What did I miss?”

Lee used the periscope and quickly spotted one of Dannion's colored dreadlocks on a dune top about three hundred meters away. “You're sparkling today. Nice to see you like that.”

“Sorry,” Dannion hid his loose hair into the hood of his sand-colored coat, “not like it's my fault though. It's a pain to walk baref-”

“Quiet,” interrupted Ra'dek, “they're here.”

It was a sunny afternoon and horizon was engulfed by a thin layer of hot shimmering air. Tiny wobbling black dot slowly grew into the silhouettes of a mid-sized tank accompanied by three sand buggies and another column of dust has arisen from the mountain massif that was Ra'dek's destination. Clara adjusted the angle of her anti-aircraft twins, Dannion cocked his rifle, Lee crunched what was left of his candy, Ra'dek stood his ground thirty meters in front of the hovering locomotive; grenade launcher in his Tuwar loaded but at ease for now.

Nobody moves. Nobody talks. The tank is stopping twenty meters before Ra'dek; turret rail cannon aiming at the locomotive, roof hatch opening. Buggies – each with a mounted heavy machine gun - are stopping at a semi circle; two aiming at Ra'dek, one at Clara's turret. Variously armed humans – their gender unidentifiable thanks to thick skin coverage – jump from buggies and take cover behind their vehicles; arms ready and aimed. Large topless dwarf emerges from the tank and two armored ones jump from the back of the tank. They start to approach Ra'dek.

Lee grits his teeth in pain and starts mumbling into his headset: “Don't come near. Don't come near!”

“That is close enough,” shouts Ra'dek outside and raises his left (unarmed) hand. The dwarf delegation stops and bare-skin dwarf prompts his companion to lower their Tuwars.

“I am Dmant. Clan of Granite Veins. Leader of this colony.”

“My name is Ra'dek. I don't have a clan.”

“I see,” acknowledged his answer Dmant and both dwarves nodded their heads in traditional greeting. Ra'dek took the floor.

“You are trespassing in my territory. I ask you to leave immediately.”

One of the armored dwarves – offended by the bluntness of Ra'dek's request - steps forward, but is stopped by Dmant.

“I do not wish to fight you,” proclaims the colony leader loudly and after taking a long time to inspect the hovering locomotive spreads his arms, “join my clan, Ra'dek. You and your crew.”

As to support his offer – backup force arrives. Five more buggies, two hovercrafts and truck loaded with infantry widen Dmant's offensive line. Lee moans under the torture of increasing magic usage and spurts “tick-tack” through his gritted teeth. Clara switches (against Ra'dek's rules) from 'semi' to 'auto' and her hand starts to tremble. Ra'dek is now in gun-sight of countless barrels. He doesn't move: “I have no interest in trespasser's offer.”

Dmant's guards raise their Tuwars, but are stopped by their leader's raised hand. “The strength of territory claim is equal to the strength of clan behind it. My offer stands. Do not waste it.”

“Leave now,” repeats Ra'dek firmly and raises his Tuwar, “or suffer the consequences.”

For the first time in this encounter, Dmant's expression darkens with anger. He stares into Ra'dek's helm visors, but achieves nothing. “So be it,” he whispers and lowers his arm. Fragile stillness disappears in a fraction of a second, as display of pre-Fall weaponry fires simultaneously.

The projectile from the tank's rail-cannon disrupts the air so violently it ruptures Clara's ear drum. Rest of the projectile weapons miss as well, since nobody realized Lee's barrier – shifting the image between the two parties like a water surface. The few stray bullets and near landing smaller grenades are not enough to bring Ra'dek down. The short moment - between enemy Tuwar's missing (napalm burst and on-impact gaping spear) and engaging Ra'dek in melee combat - is enough for him to launch his grenade under the frontal plating of enemy tracked vehicle. Only Dmant is able to react in time and throws himself to the ground the same time Ra'dek does.

Light follows. Then vacuum.

Then a shock wave.

Two adjusted buggies fly away spinning, armored dwarves are thrown to the ground, tank aims to the sky before burying itself in the newly formed crater. The only weapons firing through the inferno are semi-conscious Clara's twin AA turret and hovercraft machine gun with headless operator – Dannions work.

Lee releases his barrier and starts steering the ship away from the scrummage - the AA turret have longer range than most of the enemy guns. Even though his body is still hurting, he sets up new mirrors and lenses around his visor; it's his job to be the coordinator.

“Status!” he yells as more and more recovered enemies shoot at the metal ship.

“Busy,” shouts Dannion in between two shots.

“Aliv-” the rest of Clara's answer disappears in loud metal bang, “Sniper! Left!”

“Dannion!”

“Uh...uh...can't see him. Incoming buggy – can't help.”

“Scramming. Hold on.” Lee creates random mirrors around Clara, forcing her to switch back to less effective filtered thermal vision. The turret's plating is not as strong as the ship's. He checks on Ra'dek's location and finds him running towards the enemy line; his long-bladed double axe already extending from his Tuwar. The armored dwarves survived as well and are engaging in Ra'dek's pursuit. A scorched-black dwarf silhouette rises from the edge of the grenade crater and Lee notices metal flashes in the shoulder area, where the flesh got burnt off. Reinforced exo-skelet. Dmant, you sneaky bastard, what else are you hiding?

Dmant removes a tube-shaped Tuwar from his back and places it on his shoulder - aiming at their ship. Lee breathes in to order Clara for a backup, but it's too late. He spots a tiny red light at Dmant's weapon and yells: “Dodge!” while hitting the tertiary drive button.

The primary drive consisted of angle-adjustable hover pads along the ship's framework. The secondary drive consisted of air thrusters – mostly used to adjust the ship's angle in windy conditions or while docking in narrow spaces. The tertiary drive consisted of six kilograms of explosives mounted to the side of the ship.

Ra'dek's hand made case for streamlining the explosion holds and for a brief moment turns the locomotive into a very poorly designed jet fighter. Lee – despite bracing himself - hits his head and loses track of what's happening. I am alive. Guess it's good enough proof to assume that Dmant missed. He straightens himself and starts using thrusters to straighten the sideways sliding ship. Hitting a rock now might flip them over and that would be the end. He creates new magic optics, but can't locate Dmant anymore. The dust-covered fray in the middle of enemy line however grows in intensity. Ra'dek. Damn, he's a beast but...there's just so much he can handle...he needs cover.

“Clara, take out Dannion's buggy.”

The headset remains silent. As well as AA cannons on the roof.

“Clara!”

“…”

Shit! “Dannion!”

He maxes the volume and recognizes familiar panting and hissing – Dannion had to abandon his post. Lee's suddenly forced to blink rapidly and tears soak his cheeks. He gives a sharp cough and turns around – his laboratory got smashed during the dodge and is now contaminating the cabin; Clara's legs are limply hanging from the gunner position. Burst from heavy machine gun drums on the ship as he's reaching for a door-opening lever. Nope. Not a good idea.

Panic starts to crawl into his mind, as he's searching for an oxygen mask, stabilizing the swaying ship on increasingly rocky terrain and trying to figure out a plan simultaneously. Colored dots appear in his eyesight as the synthesized gas enters his bloodstream. Where is it?! He lets go of the steering controls and dives entirely into the seat locker – emergency oxygen canister is stuck at the very bottom. He force-pulls the device out and breaks off the mouth piece in the process. He freezes; staring at the hollow canister with tear-filled eyes. What? How? Wha...? On the verge of collapse his body reacts and tries pressing the edge of the valve with it's thumbnail - the compressed oxygen hisses in a short burst. Right...well...why the hell not? Lee puts the valve to his mouth and – like a kid stealing whipped cream from a bottle – takes a lungful of pure oxygen.

A second after that the 'magic candy' kicks in with a full force. Suddenly he's not anxious or in pain any more. Suddenly he's a perfected war machine designed for this moment. The wasteland ahead reveals a path for him as fast as he's typing the thrusters sequence into the piloting query. His piloting orchestra culminates with a side door opening lever and another oxygen dosage.

Five... Using a smoothly executed ninja leap he lands next to the side door and while preparing a small 'humming bird' mini-gun mounted to the inside of the top door frame he uses magic to locate his pursuers. Four...three... Piloting query reaches redistribution of the energy in hover pads and ship starts to tilt to the side. Lee spots two buggies on his tail and creates huge parabolic mirror in the air, which he uses as a solar weapon – forcing the buggies to maneuver and break their aiming. Two... He starts spinning the mini-gun barrels. One!

Lowered side of the ship hits a medium size boulder and the impact starts a rotation. A queried instructions prevent flipping over and Lee smoothly sways on the impact force. He stops on the door frame the same time first buggy appears in the door-sight; trapped in a middle of a drift it gets stripped to chassis by a precise mini-gun burst. Second driver manages to avoid first line of fire, but the last thing Lee sees before the ship completes one-eighty turn is a blood splash coming from a drivers seat.

“Fuck yeah!” he finally exhales the held oxygen and jumps back to drivers seat. The doors remain open – providing clean air for knocked out Clara. He grabs thrusters and hover pads controlling joysticks and the six hundred ton locomotive suddenly feels like nothing more than a surfing board; wasteland being his sea and sand dunes being his waves. He's shifting the distribution of their ninety gigawatt generator breaking every manufacturer recommendation; swaying through the rocky field in a cloud of thruster-stirred dust. He transforms the velocity from the dodge into a curve turn – aiming for a smaller hill at two o'clock. The ship drifts up the gentle slope with just a little bit of gentle ground kissing. Lee doesn't even register, as he's already scouting the charging route.

He locates Ra'dek's position and his drug-accelerated mind calculates data at incredible speed. Distance nine hundred; ETA fourteen seconds; Impact velocity at around hundred km/h-- Ra'dek appears in his sight. He's sent flying and crashes into enemy truck – which gets almost immediately split into two by enemy dwarf whip-saw. The outcome of that attack is once again covered in dust. Shit. Hold on a bit more...wait, he still had his helmet!

“Ra'dek!” Lee yells into his microphone as loud as possible, “I am coming soon. Be ready on my mark. You hear me? On my mark!

“I see you,” panting Dannion announces, “you got a clear way. No more mobile vehicles.”

“Thanks,” replies Lee with a relief and drops no longer necessary surveillance optics; focusing solely on the route ahead. He notices red flare raising from the overheating indicators. I know, I know...just a bit more. The distance increasingly shortens as he's pushing the locomotive drives to their limits. Increase the angle. Don't hit the tank...now! The turning thrusters blow in full force as Lee braces himself once more; yelling: “Duck, duck,DUCK!

The locomotive smashes into the enemy line almost sideways – missing the buried tank by foot length. Everything else in the way gets either demolished or launched aggressively. Lee bites through his tongue but holds in the pilot seat – hitting the hover pad kill-switch at first opportunity. The kicked up dust from second crash flies in through the open door and creates another suffocating cloud. Lee doesn't bother looking for the gas mask and executes another – much less graceful - leap. He stands up using the humming bird's handles and spins the barrels while praying for the ship to remain vertical.

His prayers were heard as the colossus finally stops; overheated metal creaking, pressure valves hissing, cooling circuits strongly humming. He blinks into the dust – looking for unwanted survivors. Fifty meters away Dmant rises from the ashes and lifts his Tuwar, but Lee is faster. High pitch tone appears with the impacts of first bullets and Lee doesn't let go of the trigger until the shortage of ammo turns the weapon off automatically.

Dmant remains standing. You gotta be kidding me! Lee performs a quick memory sweep for another available weapon, but realizes that everything is too far. He desperately sits down, when the stirred dust clears enough to display the dwarf in more details. Dmant was missing left arm and around forty percent of his chest – he tried to withstand the mini-gun assault and his supporting leg got buried. He was standing, but dead.

Lee remembers to breathe and adjust his tilted microphone: “Status?”

“Got the armored one,” responses Dannion, but his rifle keeps firing. Fifth shot is followed by high pitch urgent: “fucking die already!”

Lee hears the impacts but is too far to see. He raises to go check on Clara: “Do you see Ra'dek?”

The next shot is followed by quick victorious: “Yes! Got you now motha--”

“Dannion!”

“Right...uhh...yes, I see him. I see Ra'dek. He's getting up...he's gonna smash someth...yep, that's the last dwarf. I mean that was the last one. And that's...uh...yeah, I think that's it. That's all.”

Lee steps on the first step of the gun-tower ladder and reaches for Clara's inner thigh. After a while he confirms her pulse and uses magic one last time to see into the top of the turret; she has blood mark on her right temple, but her upper chest is slightly moving in the rhythm of a slow shallow breath. Just knocked out. Good. He looks around him: dust everywhere, shattered glass on the floor, pungent odor in the air, steam raising from random places, ninety percent of indicators flashing red. Damn, Ra'dek's gonna kill me...

“Hey. Hey, Dannion.”

“Yeah?”

“Could you shoot Ra'dek for me, please?”

“That bad, huh?”

But Lee doesn't answer as he tears off the headset and crumbles to the ground; adrenaline subsiding and magic usage after-effects finally catching with him.

 

Three hours later Clara wakes up. She's lying on the ground outside and spots Lee sitting next to her with crossed legs and eyes fixed into the distance. She moans from headache before speaking: “what happened?”

“We won,” whispers Lee and hopes it will put an end to Clara's questions. Firstly he is under influence of two painkillers and only thinking straight is exhausting job for him, and secondly there is no more good news to tell. Dmant has lead a 'locust' colony; following the old “join us or become our food” way of traveling all the way from the far west. And although they possessed truck with a recycling station for harvesting proteins and water from biomass – including corpses – they also kept live prisoners. The wasteland does that to us. First we resist, then we recycle, then we get sick of the plain taste...

Ra'dek gave the gift of merciful death to all of the prisoners since they were sick, starved and beyond saving, but Lee was still glad that Clara didn't see that. Last time they had to deal this way with another 'locust' group remains, she didn't speak to anyone for weeks. But what else can we do?

“Did anybody from Dmant survive?” asked Clara after thinking for a while.

“Yeah, about a dozen people. They're salvaging the battlefield right now,” Lee nodded in the direction he was looking the whole time.

“Will they make it?”

Lee paused before responding. Should I tell her about the recycling station? Should I tell her what exactly they are salvaging right now? I mean...there must be some metal parts as well, but...does she need to know? Does she want to know? What should I...ugh, my head hurts! He took a sip of water from their newly acquired supplies and nodded to Clara: “Yeah, they'll make it.”

The girl remains lying on her back; silently watching the cloudless sky. Hidden behind her goggles and scarf Lee can only guess what's happening in her mind. After few minutes her battling thoughts reach conclusion and Clara sits up vigorously. Lee can't see, but judging from her tone she is smiling: “You should pay me way more.”

Lee turns to her and returns the smile: “Fuck that. You slept through half of it.”

“I wonder why?” she acts confused, index finger tapping on her scarf. “And what is that smell my scarf reeks of? And why we are outsid--”

“Fine fine,” gives up this argument Lee and offers her water. “That was...my mistake.”

She rolls down her scarf to reveal a victorious smile and accepts the bottle. She looks around and giggles like a rascal; pointing at their ship. Lee follows her pointing finger and notices the ornamental plate above the ships door. Although the plate still held, the letters were not so lucky and what originally showed:

“Abund' Samcheo”

which was dwarvish for 'Calm Stream' turned into:

“_bu__' Sa_c__o”

“Busaco,” mumbled Lee with a hint of understanding, “doesn't that mean--”

“Anal? Yes.”

They both giggle. Dannion appears from the other side of the ship – finishing lookout duties. He looks at them confused. They point. Dannion moves his lips silently. Then he bursts into laughter and bites his fist. Ra'dek appears in the door: “what?”

“Nothing,” all freeze.

The dwarf stands for a while before snorting angrily and then tightening the bandage on his last wound. In the opening the three exchange looks - agreement on silence is forged. Ra'dek had to remove seventeen bullets, saw eight deep cuts and stop bleeding from smaller wounds on almost every part of his body, but Lee had the suspicion that he will still be the first one to recover. Dwarves were much more resistant to magic than humans and pollution had almost no effect on them. Unfair.

“Right,” Ra'dek stepped out of the ship and set off to the south slope, “let's check the harvest.”

“Harvest?” Clara turned to Lee confused. He frowned as he tried to remember:

“Right, you joined after we set up this spot.”

“But,” she looked around dazzled, “there's no water source here.”

Lee chuckled: “No. No hydroponic crap here.”

“You...” Clara whispered in disbelief, unable to finish the question.

“Yup,” nodded pleased Lee, “two tons of genuine old-fashioned soil.”

Clara dashed off. She reached Dannion and Ra'dek as they were folding down a camouflage sheet covering the entrance to their cave.

Located far from Eden's reach, shielded by surrounding hills, shined upon by mirrors, watered by drip-tank and fertilized by body waste mixed with Lee's synthesized substance lied the biggest garden Clara ever saw. She drops her goggles and gasps overwhelmed at the green bush blossoming in front of her. Dannion already dances, touching and smelling the leaves with joyful “aw yea.” She knocks her boots off ready to join him, as she realizes there is only one kind of plant. The small doubt slowly grows into an unsettled fear, as she fail to recognize it's leaves or even locate any blossom. Behind her Ra'dek sits on a rock and with satisfied look opens a wooden box; hand-carved by Dannion. He pulls out his last hand-rolled cigar and takes a heartfelt sniff.

Clara crumbles to the ground under the weight of her newly acquired knowledge. Soil: commodity rarer than water or gas, protected often by lives of it's owners and the best hope of reducing cannibalism rate. Two tons of soil wasted on growing tobacco. Right in front of her. Not to mention the fight they underwent to get here. She remains speechless.

Lee catches up to them and smiling sits beside Ra'dek. Dannion successfully finds a live earthworm and joins Lee and Ra'dek in a discussion about how effective this set up was. They move to counting grown plants and calculating the amount of cigars they will make. They are pleased by the results and Dannion pulls out a flask of strong liquor. Ra'dek smokes his 'victory' cigar while they pass the flask around. Sun starts to set and Ra'dek decides that harvest will happen tomorrow. They rise to depart.

“Carrots,” says a sad voice from the floor, “could have been so many carrots...”


Submitted: October 16, 2015

© Copyright 2022 Vojtek Zak. All rights reserved.

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