“War is simple. Find your enemy. Get at them as soon as you can. Strike as hard as you can and keep moving.” – Ela
“What the hell are we looking at here?”
Martialla coughed a tuberculosis cough of the future “Maybe Yellowstone erupted.”
I frowned at her “What do you mean? Like Old Faithful? How could hot water do this?”
After another bout of coughing she continued her boring lecture “Yellowstone is a volcano, that’s what causes all the geysers, the pressure and heat underground. Maybe the world wasn’t killed by a war or a meteor, maybe what happened to mess everything up was the eruption.”
“Huh. I don’t know what a volcano deathzone would look like but this seems right for that.”
What we were looking at was a vast field of gray sand as far as the eye could see. It was piled up like snow but it was fine and gritty like fireplace ash. Occasionally there would be a little dust devil swirling around. It kind of looked like what you’d see in old shows about the Depression when apparently all the farmland in the US exploded for some reason. But more than that it looked like something you’d see in a sci-fi movie where they land on a world that has been dead for hundreds of years. It was the kind of thing that makes your head hurt to look at it because the mind rebels at something so unbelievable.
It also reminded me a little bit of when we went into the hills to film a horror short on at a citrus farm where all the trees had died from some tree disease. It was like we were seeing the bones of the earth. That was a great location for a horror movie but the kid who wrote it and was trying to direct it had no fucking idea what he was doing. And on top of that he was a lousy lay too, we were like nose to nose while he was doing it, back off dude.
Martialla scanned the area “If you were going to hide a base somewhere this seems like the place to do it.”
I flicked a hand irritably “What the fuck is with the Invincible and all their secret bases? What kind of James Bond supervillain bullshit is this?”
Martialla shrugged “To be fair we’re the ones who keep calling them secret bases because we don’t know where they are. Maybe the Invincible just call them bases. But if you have important things outside of the area you control it makes sense not to advertise where they are, or that the even exist.”
“Why would you have anything important outside of the area you control?”
She grinned at me like a baboon in heat “As a first step to controlling them. When the Normans invaded Wales King William the second ordered . . .”
I couldn’t help but laugh “Normans? Who the fuck were the Normans? There was a whole group of people called Normans? Did they take over from the Dougs? Or the Kingdom of Jimmy?”
She half-laughed back at me “You’ve heard of Normandy right? Who did you think that was named after?”
“Not a group of people named after the guy who played Mr. Roper, that’s for certain. I thought Normandy was in France. How did the French invade Wales? Did they even have ships in king times?”
“The Normans were actually the decadents of Vikings and in ten sixty-six . . .”
I waved a hand at her “Yeah, I don’t really care, shut up about it.”
We came across the field of ash heading north towards where there may or may not be a secret Invincible base. I don’t even know what to call the vehicle they gave us. I think it used to be a combine. One of the fucking huge ones that somehow survived the fall of man and they apocalypsed into a rolling land-scow.
It goes at a snail’s pace but it can handle the rough ground and there’s enough room for our so-called strike team and all the supplies we could stuff into it. The good news is that the people of today may be sickly and frail but they seem to be able to survive on a diet consisting of a couple weevils and a thimble of water. It’s embarrassing how much Martialla and I eat and drink compared to them but I’m still starving and thirsty ALL the time.
Dirt Tooth and Greasegut came with us because I guess they’re my most loyal killers at this point. Old Ela sent a couple of her “Queensguard” with us and we’ve been joined by a couple of the Lady Jesus people and then a random grab-bag of whoever decided this was a better way to not get killed than joining the two big wasteland war parties.
Almost every other land machine we could scrounge was sent to the valley while the Elish armada is headed upriver. It sucks not knowing what’s going on but it’s just like back in the old days after an audition. All you can do is hope and pray. Tom Petty was right about one thing, the waiting is the hardest part. Aside from the part where we’re probably also going to die.
That’s hard too.