Episode 1 Scene 11
When the dust had settled—and there was plenty of it from the Goth charge—we took a look around. Our attackers had vanished, completely vanished. There wasn’t a single sign of them. Sure, the walls were damaged, but other than that, there was no indication that we’d just about been on the business end of a massacre.
We exited the compound and headed into the kill zone. There should’ve been dozens of dead bodies. A .50-caliber machine gun doesn’t do nice. It alone should’ve taken care of that many. But there was nothing. Instead, all we found was a heavy sprinkling of slugs in the area the bodies had fallen. The slugs were malformed and twisted, the result of caroming off Goth bone and armor, but there was nothing else, not even blood.
We sent heavily armed watchers to the top of the nearby hills. Their reports came back negative: nothing to be seen. Everything was wrong. Humanity had long grown used to the concept of fighting other groups of humans from completely different time periods. It was part of the background noise of day-to-day living. It was a little worse than having to put up with rush-hour traffic, but probably better than having to watch daytime TV. It was normal. But large groups of people simply disappearing, well, that was something else altogether.
We stood around, stunned. People began to look at me, not strangely, but with a certain amount of respect. I was the only difference in this group; therefore, I must’ve had something to do with the Goths’ disappearance. Then the community got back to business. Those with agricultural skills got their tools and equipment while the warriors made sure their weapons were clean and loaded. Then both groups headed out into the fields, each farmer with an armed escort, as if nothing had happened.
I returned to the compound; my work here was done. I gathered up my gear and went over to my beat-up old motorbike. It was dirty and dusty and could’ve done with an oil change, but it ran OK. I was about to kick-start the machine when an elder approached me. She placed her hand on my arm and asked me to stay for the evening. I looked up at the sky. I was somewhere near the old Canadian/American border and it was summer. I still had light left in the evening, but I’d no real place to go. So I stayed.
And I continued to stay. I later learned the elders and the warriors had had a vote. They wanted to keep me around for a while. Their pragmatic side told them it was handy to have someone to organize their defenses, to teach the kids how to deal with attacks. Their less-pragmatic side told them I was a good luck charm. Religion had long since been put on the back burner: the various Good Books had no explanation for what was happening to us, but superstition hadn’t gone anywhere.
The next airdrop of weapons provided more information. Our situation wasn’t unique. The War Clans had disappeared. There’d been no reports of attacks for weeks. People looked at me with less respect. I wasn’t a good luck charm. It was happening everywhere. I’d just turned into a useless mouth to feed. Time to boogie.
My bedroll and gear were still packed up. I grabbed them and walked out to my ride. I’d scrounged oil from the airdrop, and once I’d dealt with that, I’d be on my way. I’d got my bike up on the main stand and was waiting for the oil to drain when Leon turned up.Leon was fuming. He was the eldest of the warriors and therefore in charge of defenses. He didn’t want me to leave; he thought I had more to offer. Leon was also moving on. After the next harvest, he would move into the agricultural grouping to reap food instead of people. He wanted his successor to be fully trained so his own ass would be protected. I liked Leon. He was practical. He stood in front of me, hands on hips. He opened his mouth to persuade me to stay, and then all hell broke loose.