What Remains of The World

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The movement in the distance below the hill caught Riggs' attention first. He gestured to Bender, who eyed the base of the hill, then lowered the volume on their transmitter. The radio frequency had been running hot for ten minute intervals, broadcasting out a message that Harry wanted the world to hear. Or what remains of the world. The Los Angeles hillside appeared beautiful because it hid the devastation at night. Somebody's got to be listening to this, otherwise the white suits wouldn't spend so much time trying to shut us down.

The mission had been planned for two weeks in that farmhouse about ninety miles from Los Angeles. They had ran at night, past several white suit check points, but managed to elude them in order to make it up to the hill to broadcast. The nights away from the underground had been chilling, seeing the green hue hugging the sky and wondering where it had all gone wrong. Too many people with too few choices, none of them reasonable or sane.

Harry had sent Riggs and Bender up the hill with two circuit boards, an amplifier, and a small laptop which fit in a leather suitcase found in the wreckage. Everything was in rubble over the last few seasons, since the sun had begun to cut through the haze and grass grew again. We survived for a reason, Harry keeps saying that. Maybe this is what we were meant to do. Harry had asked the broadcast be put up on the hills overlooking the San Fernando Valley to send the radio waves at least twenty or thirty miles in the distance. The mission was risky, but Bender and I volunteered because neither of us wants to keep being hunted.

Riggs peered down the hill, seeing movement in the darkness. He watched as someone crept forward. No animals came this far south now. Most of them were gone from the earth, leaving flesh feeders who attacked in groups and devoured people, sucking out the marrow from their bones. It can't be a white suit, they are blocky and stay with the mobile units. The person became smaller as they came up the crest of the hillside. Riggs reached out as the person came close, grabbing them by the collar, yanking them to the ground.

The person was light, weak. Riggs moved and sat on top of a boy's chest, pointing his pistol into the kid's face. The boy was sixteen or seventeen, his face dirty. He was scared, but Riggs knew better than to trust any of them. Most children grew up as marauders, attempting to snatch and grab whatever they could find from an encampment. Riggs eyed Bender, who shrugged, unsure what to do. Neither of them were killers, but if they had to, they know they would do it.

"Say your name, quiet and slow, so Bender can hear it without the white suits listening," Riggs said, whispering."

The boy nodded, and said, "James."

"You alone?"

James: "Got no one else."

Riggs turned his eyes to Bender, seeing that she was shaking her head. She didn't want James ended by them. We're all on the same side out here in the wild. All running from those boys in the white suits, hoping them don't dissolve us with the foam. Both Riggs and Bender had taken a risk to leave the underground to broadcast from the hilltops. One of them stealth copters can catch our heat signatures if we're not too careful. That's why we didn't use a camp fire, nothing to help them spot us. Riggs pushed the barrel up against James' forehead.

"You with them?" Riggs said. "Be honest."

"No," James said. "They'd kill me if they got the chance."

The boy pulled back the sleeve covering his right arm. It revealed the splotches of red all over his skin. Same as everyone else, including Bender and me. The sickness took years to devour a person, but the white suits didn't care. They wanted everyone who had it to be gone immediately, so they could form their own little tribes and societies. Riggs relaxed, getting off James' chest, letting the boy get to his feet. Riggs kept the pistol on him, just the same.

Bender went over to the amplifier, broadcasting Harry's message of resistance to the world again. Telling the masses about the truth, that they didn't have to go with the people in the white suits. Regardless of what the sickness was, the cure was not found in a government encampment where they experimented on those stricken. The turncoats at the government labs did this anyway, letting it fester in some lab after the bombs came down and ran out to kill the world.

"Are you the ones putting out Harry's message?" James said.

Riggs nodded. "We took the risk, kept him safe."

"You ever seen him?"

Riggs shook his head. "Nope, he shifts through the undergrounds. Never a night in the same place, keeps the white suits on their toes."

James grinned. "That's all I needed to know."

The boy kicked at Riggs' hand, knocking away the pistol. It had been empty anyway. James got up, punched at Riggs, then rammed forward at Bender, throwing his shoulder into her, knocking her onto the ground. James escaped into the darkness down the hill, screaming and waving his hands as a freak. The white suits brought him up for recon, to flush us out.

Riggs looked down the hill, as Bender drew up her deer rifle, laying a shot into James. The boy dropped in the darkness at the hill's base, but Riggs couldn't tell if the boy was faking or being honest with his death. The white suits are going to come because of that rifle shot. Riggs gestured to Bender, then to the equipment.

"Time to pack up," Riggs said.

They heard three mobile units charging through the embankment toward the hill. The opposite side of the hill was a sharp cliff looking down into the valley. Riggs looked at Bender, worried. "They're cutting us off at the base."

Bender grabbed a shotgun, pumping it and passing it off to Riggs. He focused on the movement down the hillside toward James' body. The mobile units ran their clean-burning fuel machines, letting that odor catch in the wind up to Riggs' nostrils.

"What are we going to do?" Riggs said. "Ain't go more than ten rounds between us."

Bender shrugged, which suggested that the pair would fight it out with the white suits regardless of the outcome. She was tougher than Riggs. Had to be ever since she lost her voice from the sickness. Damn thing came up, snatched it away from her right after the atomics went off. Riggs felt he talked enough for the both of them. His eyes went down the hill, seeing the mobile units stopped at James' body.

"They're coming here next," Riggs said.

The mobile tower lights cut through the darkness, running scopes that forced bright beams up the hill toward Riggs and Bender. They hid down in the dirt, Bender squinting her good eye to prevent the light from blinding her. Riggs licked his lips, wondering he could get off two shots before a white suit nabbed him. One of the mobile units drive up the hill toward them slow. Another mobile unit had a white suit passenger get out, walking over to James' body, inspecting it.

Riggs heard the white suit next to James radio back to the mobile unit. "He's one of our tunnel rats, sir."

Riggs shook his head, knowing that James had been victim to some deep things in one of the mobile unit camps. Rumors were rampant of what went on there. Tunnel rats would do anything to be free, including sell out others who had signs of infection. Bender brought up her deer rifle, taking aim on the white suit next to James' body. She fired the rifle from fifty-two yards out, catching a round in the white suit's throat.

The man choked, grabbing at his throat, drowning in his own blood. Even if he survives, they won't let him live free now that he's been exposed. That was what Harry's message was all about. None of the white suits wanted to find a cure. They wanted to cleanse the populace and start over, almost giving up on those who existed now. Riggs looked over at Bender, who grimaced at the prospect. He leaned over, pulling hard on the amplifier until the volume was up to its fullest. They got up on that hill and ran down, firing as many shots at the mobile unit charging up the hill toward them. Riggs listened to Harry speak his message through the radio, spreading the word of the resistance.

The mobile unit caught a few bullets in the windshield but withstood the shots. It opened up with a stream of white fluid which washed over Riggs and Bender, melting their flesh where they stood. The pair dropped their weapons, drowning in a sea of foam acid. Harry's voice went on in Riggs' head as he faded into death, hearing the man speak the words of truth to the world. What is the point of living if not to fight for it?

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