Chapter 10

62 4 0

"My grandfather ran off the V-2 rocket film a dozen times and then hoped that someday our cities would open up more and let the green and the land and the wilderness in more, to remind people that we're allotted a little space on earth and that we survive in that wilderness that can take back what it has given, as easily as blowing its breath on us or sending the sea to tell us we are not so big. When we forget how close the wilderness is in the night, my grandpa said, someday it will come in and get us for we will have forgotten how terrible and real it can be."

--Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

I trudge over the slick moss and sword ferns of the island wilderness, flanked by Jennifer and June. Operation Mandible (the name was my idea – I couldn't help myself after Father used the term 'pincer attack') is under way.

It's a long, sneaky hike from the crashed APC to the gates of League territory, and the sun is falling by the time the rain lets up. Dappled sunlight lengthens the shadows of the trees and the winter birds begin to sing. Using my years of survival training (read: patience training), I remind myself to remain focused as we sneak through the woods west of the barren city which was once known as Nanaimo.

When your adrenaline is high, you pick up on incredible details during those long bouts of silence. June's rattling breath, an indication of a lung condition. The glint of sunlight off the silver rings in Jennifer's left ear. They tinkle slightly between damp, squishy footfalls. An old concrete foundation, overgrown with moss, pokes out of the ground to my right like a ribcage from a picked-clean carcass.

June points off to the left. Beyond the grooved bark of mature cedar trunks, a male elk grazes placidly. Jennifer sights the creature through the scope of her Remington, but does not fire. We are hunting a different kind of game. The elk dashes off suddenly, pursued by starving dogs. I assume it's the same pack from earlier. The mangy creatures rush by, not paying us any mind.

Here and there we pass derelict rural homes, most of them demolished from an earthquake that rocked the area at some point between the Doom and now. My usual instinct is to scavenge, but we've no time so we press on. We carefully cross the highway, but there's still no sign of any League scouts or snipers. There's a lot of wilderness, though, so it's possible we've just been lucky.

J & J's burning questions hang in the air around us. I can sense them in the sidelong glances they cast my way. We're in stealth mode, however, so the curiosity just lingers. I find myself hoping I have the chance to get to know these women before we all die horribly trying to rescue Charlotte.

We pass a fallen sign, nearly swallowed by the undergrowth. It reads: Colliery Dam Park. Jennifer nods like we're close to our destination, and I note how our path seems open and smooth, suddenly.

Then my mind wanders, and I try to puzzle out how to explain a term like 'stealth mode' to someone who has never played a video game. The Kawitzen seem to reject anything associated with pre-Doom technology; I bet even Connor hasn't seen one. His face materializes in my mind; he has that inquisitive look he was throwing my way as I enjoyed the cool rain back on the highway.

Hang on, I think. Did I miss something?

Jennifer signals for us to stop by holding up her fist. There is a steep slope up ahead leading to a section of road. We climb up the embankment as silently as possible. At the crest of the slope is a rusted-out, overturned pickup truck.

On the other side of the road is CFB Nanaimo. Behind a chain-link fence I can see two men in combat fatigues guarding the entrance to the flat, one-storey building. The area has been groomed of foliage, a clear indication of permanent post-Doom occupation.

Doom's DaughterRead this story for FREE!