The Hunt, Part 9

With the discovery of one of the semi-permanent temporary encampments of one of the raider clans Jay and Elsa prepare to attack. They will be using tactics learned from the archives. Here they studied and practiced the methods used by two military teams – the Navy Seals, and Army Rangers. While they have learned of other such small forward attacking teams it appeared that these two were better known. And with the equipment available from the past that is completely unknown in this time in their history they hope the advantage is with them.

And while we get up close and personal with the two this ending is more of an overview of the operation with the full reveal at the beginning of the final episode, Reconciliation. It is once they review the recorded footage of their actions that they are able to fully understand what their actions wrought. (And if this is the first time here part 1 can be found under December 2015, with the rest under January and February 2016, or under short stories, all in the sidebar on the right.) And for your reading pleasure is the conclusion of The Hunt:

It was full dark when they moved cautiously towards the canyon entrance. They split up and arrived from opposite directions. Even with the lookouts being high up it was doubtful they could be seen. Still it was better to be safe than sorry. They had chosen one of the darkest nights to make this attack. With the night vision goggles they had no problems seeing and moving in silence. Once they began their approach there would be no speaking and everything would be handled by hand signals. They had thought about taking out the lookouts with silenced sniper rifles but decided against it simply because they had no idea when the ones would be relieved and replaced with new lookouts. On this foray they carried 9MM automatic pistols for protection, leaving the rifles at their rendezvous point.

Leaning against the canyon walls that rose up into the night sky, leaving a dark shadow, blocking out the stars producing an almost complete darkness, they with their night vision equipment, had no problems at all. With the prearranged signals one led down the narrow trail with the other following and watching their rear. To the surprise of both of them the trail into this canyon turned out to be short. It opened into a large area where they could hear water running, and see many campfires burning. These fires indirectly lit the area reflecting off the canyon walls and revealed the number of tents within the encampment. It shocked both of them by the sheer size. It looked like this hidden oasis could easily hold twice of what was here, and the raiders who were here had to number in the three digits. One thing for sure they couldn’t afford to be seen. If they were there was zero chance of survival.

Now that they had a chance to see what they were facing, they set plastic explosives along the exit point of this camp. Then moving as close as they dare they set up a number of tripwire explosives with the plan of setting off a flash bang to startle the camp into action, and to hit the number of traps they had set. They lined the walls of the canyon with remote and tripwire claymore mines, when set off would shred the camp with its deadly loads. Both pulled back and began seeding the area with surface antipersonnel mines, followed by lining the canyon walls along the trail with more claymore mines. These would be set off remotely when they could see the majority of the raiders heading out of the canyon trail and beginning their exit into the desert, and additionally by the trail exit (Some, close to the encampment would have trip wires).

Once the two of them were back in the desert they set, in a fan shape, another series of claymore mines with every other one having a tripwire. The others could be individually set off as needed. Now it was time to get this show on the road. With Elsa remaining back at their rendezvous point Jay went far enough in so he could see the camp and tossed the flash bang, turned and immediately ran. He knew he didn’t have a lot of time before the camp would be stirred into action by the explosion.

The flash bang had a delay of about ten seconds giving him time to be at least half way out by the time it went off. He heard it explode followed by a flash of light that lit up the trail briefly casting heavy shadows on the narrow trail walls, turning night into day. It caused the images from the goggles to go white as the light overwhelmed the electronics. Just as quickly it returned to darkness and everything was as it was.

Only now it was as if he had stirred up a really nasty ant nest. He could hear screaming, shouting, and confusion coming from behind. After this came the next in a series of explosions as the traps were tripped setting off the explosive devices they had left in the camp. Then he was back in the desert. They had figured the guards, or lookouts would be looking back at the camp when the action started, and if not, that was exactly why Elsa was where she was. With the lookouts in her scope of the sniper rifle she could target and eliminate them if they proved to be a problem. Eventually they would be eliminated anyway. There were to be no witnesses to what was transpiring here. No one could learn of how this was done or by whom.

With his heavy breathing from running the full distance, Elsa could hear Jay approaching, and eventually she spotted him. He apparently was alone which eased the worry somewhat. There was still much that had to happen and she needed to return her concentration to those lookouts. Jay jumped into the depression where they had set up got his breathing back in control and began to watch the entrance. After what seemed like too long of a period of time, and with his impatience growing, the first of the raiders showed at the entrance.

This should mean the camp was on full alert status, and it was time to set off the charges they had placed around the camp including the claymores that lined the canyon walls along the narrow trail. Between the two traps very little to nothing should be alive afterwards. He pushed the button, heard and saw the glow from the explosions. He then counted to three and set off the claymores placed along the canyon trail. Both waited to see if any more of the raiders would be coming out through the opening. Jay picked up his sniper rifle and with Elsa took out the lookouts that had exposed themselves as they tried to figure out what was happening.

Then a small ragged element of the raiders entered the desert. They appeared to be pretty shaken and leaderless, but still began to spread out. All of them were in the range of the mines set up earlier, and most were killed when they tripped the claymores. The rest died from the ones that had been remotely set off, or by being shot, and then there was silence.

Nothing moved, the smell of gunpowder, and explosives drifted off into the night air and everything returned to the normal quiet night sounds. In the distance and in the area of the encampment they could see a glow. It appeared the camp area was burning. Both remained in the ready position not sure if they had accomplished their goal or not. Only in the daylight, towards evening, when they could venture back inside that canyon of death, would they know.

* * *

Back at The Deeps, they talked about the successes and failures of this venture (And there are always failures.). While it had been satisfying to give back what these raiders had been doing, it still didn’t give them any closure. It was a bothersome and painful thing to extinguish that many lives in such a short period of time. It made both of them realize that war is hell. And while this wasn’t a declared war, it was the same thing with them being the avenging ones against the destroyers. They expected to feel good about what they had accomplished but instead found it had left a bitter taste in their mouths. They had gone from innocents to the killers of men, women, and children. And no matter how they tried to rationalize it, both knew something had changed and they would never be able to go back. It seemed to have affected Elsa deeply, but it had left its mark upon Jay also. Still, to have been this successful on their first attack on one of the raider camps had been rewarding.

* * *

Again, if you are here for the first time, and have been following for only a short time then this ending may seem to leave you wanting more – more explanation, more understanding, more depth of what has transpired here. And if you had the book, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown, in your hands then that desire to learn more would be fulfilled. While each episode has an ending that leads to closure, there is enough mystery that it leaves you the reader wanting more and usually that more is answered at the beginning of the next episode, and it isn’t any different here. Unfortunately, since the next episode has already been presented here I’ll not be repeating it. Still if one is interested, Reconciliation is in the archives under November 2015 in the sidebar on the right.

Next week I wrap up Reconciliation, with the changes made to the end of the book. Again when I first wrote this story it was with the understanding I’d be trying to go the traditional publishing route, which requires a reduced word count. Obviously, since I did get a rejection the novel needed more work resulting in this new episode. And the original ending was a little weak requiring me to tweak it somewhat by adding an epilogue. Have a great week, and come back for the conclusion of this unpublished novel. God Bless! (http://www.fdbrant.com)

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Published in: on February 27, 2016 at 7:15 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Hunt, Part 8

We left our protagonists last week with a failed opportunity. They weren’t quick enough to trail the ones who had passed unknowingly close to “The Deeps”. After returning from their failed attempt Elsa is hot and sweaty and needs a quick shower. Through a chance comment she triggers an idea that Jay decides to pursue. He tells her to take her shower and meet him, leaving her questioning what he’s thinking. And we as the readers of this past episode get a brief insight into those thoughts.

This week we pick up the story after that fateful meeting and find our two out and about using the skills they have learned to go “on the offensive”. With all of history at their fingertips they can use what they have discovered and use it to their advantage. (And if this is the first time here part 1 can be found under December 2015, and the rest under January and February 2016, or under Short Stories, all in the sidebar on the right.) And for your reading pleasure is part 8:

It was their fifth foray out into the world of the hidden trails the raiders, their collaborators and spies used. So far they had been successful, as snipers, to remove from this earth nine confirmed collaborators or raider clan members. They had been sure of their guilt and had picked the loneliest most isolated areas to make their attacks. In any of these operations they had alternate sites to work from. When they took these clan members out it had to be in a place where there would be no witnesses. And once they had confirmed the kills – from a distance of course – they would inspect the area with their glasses, clean up any sign they had been here, police their brass, and silently withdraw. Both had to admit that there was some satisfaction in seeing the raiders take casualties, and maybe with their attacks they were beginning to make the raider clans doubt, maybe be a little tentative in their future plans. Of course there was no way for them to know since they had no one on the inside. Still what they were doing had to have some effect. Both knew it would be that way if it was them.

Both were in what was known in the past as “Ghillie suits”, named after the inventor of this method of camouflage who had created it for hunting. It made them virtually invisible. It had taken months to set this ambush up. The two they were targeting were very good at disappearing at inopportune times, to take alternate and unexpected routes, and to simply disappear for a period of time. In fact it had taken a while before they could establish the fact the ones they were waiting for had been part of the clan network. Eventually all the pieces fell into place and it had been an ambush set up by their two targets that finally had identified them for who they were.

Elsa and Jay had been inside one of the trading centers watching the two when they suddenly withdrew and left. It had been sudden and unexpected, leaving both Jay and Elsa wondering what could be happening. The subjects had never acted this way before. They looked at each other and when they were sure no one could see them they quickly signed questions. They heard a commotion and realized that one of the smaller caravans was preparing to leave and wondered if this might be the reason for the sudden change of character. They decided to follow the caravan from a safe distance. In fact they headed out a few minutes later and headed up and climbed some of the ridges, with each of them taking opposite sides of the main trail so they could cover the whole area. With the glasses they carried they didn’t need to be close, and they could see far ahead – such an advantage that didn’t exist in this world of today.

They stayed with them keeping in contact with each other with small tactical radios following the caravan throughout the day. From what they could observe, it appeared it had a good sized group of armed guards. In truth they didn’t know what the caravan was carrying if anything. Still from the number of guards there must have been something of value. Yet, the two persons of interest had simply disappeared, and as they watched the caravan settle down for the night they began to think that someone unknown to them simply had come up to the persons of interest and had given them a change of assignment.

As darkness approached, both remained back where they could observe the area, the camp, and any of the approaches to the camp. Both had switched to night vision goggles and continued to observe. Still nothing happened and it was getting cold. Neither had anything with them to combat the chill and as they became more chilled and uncomfortable both had come to a decision to give up and set up their own camp. It was then Elsa radioed, “I see movement!”

“Where?” He whispered back.

“Towards your side, coming down a small ravine . . . It’s hidden from you but give it a couple and you should see them also.”

He tried hard to pick up the moment but couldn’t. He looked over towards where Elsa was located and quietly stated, “UT OH.”

“Now what?” She asked.

“Another group approaching the caravan camp from your side.” Zooming in he realized that two of the leaders of this group that he could see were the two persons of interest. “And guess what, the two we’ve been following are part of the ones I can see. I think we have our answer.”

From the tone of Elsa’s voice it was obvious that she wanted to warn the caravan when she quietly said, “Yeah, I really didn’t need it confirmed this way . . . I wish . . . oh well.”

“Yeah I know, but we can’t. All we can hope is the guards are well trained and they can take care of what’s about to happen.” Still it was obvious that the ones that were about to attack knew what they were doing. While the area the caravan had picked to set up camp had been a good one – especially for defense – even the best could be overwhelmed or compromised. And in the end it was that way as the attackers first came in from one side drawing attention away from the main force that was hidden on the opposite side of the encampment. And with the defenders looking towards where the first attack appeared they were unprepared for the second. It was over quickly. Both withdrew once the outcome was obvious and finally came back together miles away from the site of the attack. They felt sick and had their answer, now it was the planning and finding the patterns of their targets then picking the best possible locations for the ambush.

And so here they were on this day awaiting their targets to show. If all went to plan it would be over in moments and they would disappear into the surrounding desert as the dust the winds picked up and blew around. The sun was hot on their backs and they were cross canyon from each other giving both a complete view of the portion of the trail they would be targeting. Both had a few blind spots, but overall what one couldn’t see the other could. Both yearned for a drink but it had to wait. The hours drug by with only a circling buzzard and the lengthening shadows to mark the passing of time. Then their tension rose as they caught movement on the trail. Both, using their glasses, confirmed that the ones who were approaching were their targets. Then both searched the back trail and found it vacant as the blue steel sky which had no clouds. Jay said, “Clear. Take the target closest to me, and I’ll take the other. We are live.”

There were a couple of loud cracks like the sound of thunder, then only silence. Nothing now moved in the isolated canyon where the trail wound its way through. From the surrounding ridges there was movement then nothing, with only the buzzard to witness what had transpired here.

* * *

With the successes then came the work of finding one of the encampments the raiders used, and by trailing a couple of the collaborators – success. And with this first one finally located, they would be going in this very night, using the tactics they had learned and find out if all the time and effort they put in was worth it. One thing for sure, if, in the end, they screwed it up neither of them would be alive to regret it. So here they were, leaning back against one of the banks of a wash, waiting for the sun to set. Soon it would be time.

* * *

Next week we conclude this episode, The Hunt. For any who are new to this blog and have only been with me throughout this one episode then you may not realize that first this is part of an unpublished book, and second, this is an episode added later, and being presented as bonus material. I’ve self-published a number of books, and decided that I would try the traditional route with this one. Knowing what I know about debut or “first novels” I knew word count would have to be kept down. Originally the manuscript word count was 82,000, which is less, by far, than my normal word count. Still it meant I had to leave some of the story by the wayside. A publisher was originally interested, but rejected it in the end. So with that rejection I added this episode because there seemed to be something missing between the episodes, A Time of Learning, Death, and Revenge, and Reconciliation, and thusly why this additional episode, leading to a new word count of over 98,000, pushing the limits of what is considered a “first novel”. (In a way it’s funny that such should be considered as a debut or first novel. Very rarely is this the truth with most authors. And it is no different for me as this is actually the eighth book I’ve written – so hardly a first.)

And for those who have been following from the beginning we pick up the story exactly where it would have existed at the end of the episode titled, A Time of Learning, Death, and Revenge. This episode was then renamed as, A Time of Learning, Death, and Thoughts of Revenge, when, The Hunt, was added. From this point next week until the final revision at the end of the story what we have is identical to what you’ve read in the past. In two weeks I wrap this up with the changes made to the end of the story. Have a great week and return for the conclusion of The Hunt. God Bless! (http://www.fdbrant.com)

Published in: on February 20, 2016 at 7:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Hunt, Part 7

For whatever the reason, when we read, or view a tragedy on screen, the impact is less than if we are witnesses to the event. And since we can view any of these events almost immediately after they happen (thru media) we feel we can get a sense of what has transpired or is transpiring. Yet, if we honestly think about it we’d realize that this is far from the honest truth. I have found, personally, that what we hear from the reporters on scene and the images we are presented that overall it is far different than the true reality. For an example, if you see a wildfire sweeping through an area burning everything in its path, you feel for anybody who is losing their home, and maybe so much more. Change your location from that report and what you see on your TV to being on the ground where it’s happening, and suddenly the personal impact increases many times over. You feel the despair, the overwhelming heat, the flash of the flames, the suffocating smoke as it lays upon you, the loss of your sense of direction as all the familiar landmarks disappear and the surrounding chaos that takes your ability to reason away from you. So different from seeing it from a distance. And for Jay and Elsa this trip has brought them up close and personal to that past event when the earth was almost destroyed.

This week we find them back, after their trip deep into the desert, returning with the knowledge of what their distant ancestors had faced and accomplished. Still, this is the past and they are dealing with the problems at hand. And one thing for sure, with the age of “The Deeps”, things break all the time and require the two to stay on top of the maintenance or suffer the consequences. And so it is with this we open this week’s part with one of the alarms. (If this is the first time here, part one can be found under December 2015, and the rest under January and February 2016, or Short Stories, all in the sidebar on the right.) And for your reading pleasure is part 7:

They had been back at “The Deeps” for at least a week. In a way they had fallen back to the way of tracking time in the ways of their ancestors and were no longer using the lunar calendar. In a sense they had no choice once Ed had become their teacher and mentor. He and all who had lived here in this place had maintained the old system of years, months, weeks, and days. Both were studying the images they had taken of known agents of the raider clans when the alarms went off again. Shaking his head Jay asked, “I wonder what’s broken this time.”

She laughed remembering how much in awe of this place they were when they had first entered it. And now with all the breakdowns, and equipment needing maintenance, reality had set in leaving them understanding the weaknesses in the systems, and the facility itself. Yeah, originally it might have seemed to be something from the mythological gods, but now it was obvious this place was manmade. “I guess we’d better go find out, don’t you think?” As they listened to the alarm both realized that what they were hearing wasn’t one announcing a breakage or failure but one originating from the security system. This caused chills to run up and down their spines. Their light hearted approach turned dead serious when they realized the difference, and both sprinted to the closest security office.

Out of breath once they arrived they changed the views the monitors were showing to the cameras inside the Welcome and Processing center, and to the cameras outside the facility. The ones monitoring the inside showed a vacant center. Turning back to the other set they watched as the images rotated through the different cameras showing empty desert until one showed what looked like two individuals working their way south. They zoomed in and immediately recognized the two as members of the clans – ones who scouted out potential targets. In fact they were the two they had seen in that bar inside the roadhouse just outside of one of the larger trading centers. Both looked at each other with Jay asking, “I wonder where they are going?”

She smiled, “You’re asking me?” She looked back at the monitor as did her brother who had switched the images to another monitor.

He shook his head as he remembered what he had called these things back in the beginning – windows that see into the distance. He had to admit for someone ignorant of the technology it was an apt description. He leaned back and stood back up. He had been using the shelve that ran the length of the monitors to lean on. “We need to follow them. Let’s grab our packs and see where they might lead us. We might finally get some leads on where the clans travel and camp. That surely would help, especially in our future planning. You know from our training we’ve been doing we really need to know more.”

“Can’t deny that. Okay, let’s do this, and maybe this is the break we need. We knew we would get one sooner or later.”

* * *

By the time they had vacated “The Deeps”, the ones they wanted to follow were out of sight. Somehow the two had approached closer to their location than the ones who normally passed this way, thusly setting off the alarms. And normal here meant once or twice a year. After all their location was at least a full day’s travel inside the desert. And that would be if you made a direct shot here. Normally, following the trails that led one through the area it was closer to three. Still “The Deeps” wasn’t close to any of the known trails, and thusly why it had never been discovered. Any who had to travel the desert knew they must stay on the proven trails or die. It was just that simple. This desert, and Jay with Elsa suspected it was the same with any desert, was unforgiving. You lived by its rules or you died. There were no second chances here. Although, if Jay wanted to admit it, he, in a sense, had been given one by finding that water source so many years in the past. One that originally had been natural but later had been converted by man.

As they tried to figure out where the two had gone he knew, back at that fateful day that both of their lives had been changed forever, so much could have gone differently with neither surviving the raider attack. Elsa should have died back in the raider camp from the abuse she endured, and he should have died of thirst, yet now years later here they were. “Those two were on foot how could they have disappeared so fast? I mean this is the desert after all, and mostly open. Yeah I know, that overall it isn’t true. Still it’s open enough that someone shouldn’t disappear this easily.”

Here Elsa smiled a knowing smile. “Right. After all, you didn’t get lost here, and I didn’t disappear here, and something as large as ‘The Deeps’ shouldn’t be hidden here, yet all of it is fact. And, as you so apply pointed out, there are badlands, canyons, gullies, ravines, washes, and so many other things here that is unknown unless you travel it.”

He shrugged, yup all of what she said was true. “I guess if you state it that way . . . I don’t know, we should only be fifteen or twenty minutes behind them and yet there’s nothing. Should we give it up this time or push on?”

She stopped with her hands on her hips. “I don’t know. We haven’t seen any sign of them, and this sand isn’t good for producing tracks. Maybe we should head back and think this through. Besides whomever they are could be stopping now and then watching their back trail. I know, especially after our training, I would.”

“Good point. All we would need to do now is walk into some type of trap or ambush and then all we are looking to do, all we have planned, would be over.” He looked down at the ground and shook his head. “Okay, let’s head back. We really weren’t ready anyway.” She nodded in agreement. For a short time they remained where they were looking over the vast desert that surrounded them and then began their return. Here they spread out and kept a distance between the two so that they could watch more of the area. All they needed was to be followed themselves revealing their hidden location.

* * *

“Well, that was an exercise in futility. I think I could use a shower.” Elsa headed for her room. And as she did she stopped and turned around seeing Jay was still standing where he had been. “Look we need to come up with something soon.”

Once again he shrugged, she was right they did need to do a better job of this. Maybe it was time to send a message to the raiders. Maybe it was time to make them worry like they did to every other person in the area. The time they had spent putting together their list, and both felt it was accurate, maybe it was time to test their skills with those sniper rifles and remove a few of these small teams. “Okay, you’re right. Go take your shower. I think it’s time we give back.”

“What do you mean by that?”

He waved at her in a shushing manner, “Just go clean up then meet me back in this security office.”

With a questioning look and with it in her voice she said, “Okay.” She turned back around and headed to her room. Even that short jaunt into the desert had left her feeling sweaty and dirty. And a quick cool rinse would do wonders.

He headed back to the closest security office and brought up the information on the numerous members of the clans and their collaborators they had identified and what they knew about them. It was time to find their patterns so they could be ambushed and he wanted enough of the information available before him so he could present it to Elsa when she returned. And even though they hadn’t found any of the temporary camps, or where they clans actually lived, if they were successful on this first part of their planned operation a message would still be sent. The clans would know that they were just as vulnerable as the ones they attacked and destroyed. Who knows, maybe, in the end, it would make the raiders more cautious, less likely to attack. Here he laughed a bitter laugh. Yeah, like that’s going to happen. He knew that a few of their own were killed in their attacks. It couldn’t be any other way. So losing a few of their infiltrators would only mean they would have to get new ones inserted. And in the end it would simply mean a loss of time, nothing more.

* * *

So close, and yet so far. Knowing that the raider clans travel the desert edge is an important find, one that they hope will eventually reveal more to the two of them. And with an opportunity lost, they return to continue their work. Yet, a chance comment from Elsa gets Jay to thinking. And as she heads to her room and a rinse in the shower he heads back to where they have all their data compiled. He feels it’s time to return the favor to the raider clans. Next week is part 8. Have a great week and God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on February 13, 2016 at 7:20 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Hunt, Part 6

Last week after getting close and personal with the protagonists of this story, and their methods, we learn more about what they have discovered and heard some really disturbing rumors that they hope has no truth to them. And the discouraging thing for both of them is what they have learned about the underground networks of the raider clans, and the sophistication that surrounds them. Plus the fact, and to their surprise that there appears to be many “legitimate businessmen” who actually work with these clans.

This week they continue their research from “The Deeps”, the place that has become their home. So far their long-range goal has been unrealized. Even with the identification of many members within the clan network, none have led them to any of the temporary encampments, the actual locations where the clans live, or any of the places where they meet. Until such can be determined they continue to develop their databases, and hope to have something break soon. (And if this is the first time here you can find part 1 under December 2015, and the remainder under January 2016, or under Short Stories, all in the sidebar on the right.) And for your reading pleasure is part 6:

Jay, shaking his head as they looked over a photo map of the desert said, “I never realized, first off how big this desert is, and secondly how many routes actually exist on the edge here close to us. I suspect none of the villages and towns, like ours, are really aware of this. After all, the desert has always been considered a place of death, and it really is. But it means that we know so little about it or the fact that it is an easy and generally a safe way to move without being seen.”

Elsa had been leaning over the table resting on her hands and arms remaining quiet. There was no doubt this area was huge, but what intrigued her was the fact that not too much further in – to the east – there seemed to be something that could pass, or could have passed as a town or village, or maybe even a city. And if that was so, how did the ones who lived there live? What did they do, and how did they ever get any water? At least by being here at “The Deeps”, it was obvious that there was water under the desert. Still it wasn’t easy to reach. And it had been the old technology that had found and reached it, not what existed today. Yeah, their old village or town – since it bordered on being a town – had a couple of wells. But in comparison to the depth of the wells that kept the tanks filled here, they were shallow – hand dug – no deeper than sixty feet. (Feet – a measurement that they had learned, again, from the library, and one of the two prominent measuring systems.) The maps they were using were actually photos, images taken after the bombardment, overlaying a topo map so they could both see the actual terrain and see the elevations by the lines added. When the photos were taken neither had any real idea since a lot of time had passed after the bombardment, but it helped visualize the land. Still it made it easier to understand what the actual lands were that the maps represented.

She looked up and could see Jay concentrating on the trails they had added to the map over time. Yet as far as she could see there were none heading out deep into the desert, and none heading towards this hidden city. More to herself she asked, “I wonder? Hmmm . . .”

Jay looked up with a questioning look on his face and asked, “Wonder what?”

“Huh? Oh, I’m sorry . . . Was speaking more to myself. But look Jay, doesn’t this area out here look like it could be a town or city? And while it’s obvious that there’s no one or nothing there now, it appears at one time there was.”

He was irritated for a moment since they were trying to come to some conclusion as to whether there was some type of schedule that the ones who plied these trails were on. But from what little they had there wasn’t any proof. They’d need to place hidden cameras on them and then go collect the data, then once collected try to compile all of it. And all of this would take time – something they’d been spending a lot of. He glanced over and immediately saw what she had seen and wondered why he hadn’t seen it himself. At that moment he knew it was because the rest seemed unimportant. He studied it for a few moments and then leaned over to get a better look. “I think you may be right. Why would anybody want to live out in the middle of the desert?”

She smiled, “You’re asking me? I know I wouldn’t.”

He shook his head and smiled back. “Yeah, I was asking generally, not that you didn’t know that, still this is intriguing. Look we have a few days before we should go out again. And we need to make some decisions on how we want to try to track our targets. So, if I get the gist of this, maybe you’d like to go and check it out?”

“No, no, not really . . . although . . . hmmm . . . it is intriguing, as you said. Maybe it would be worth a visit.” She thought about possibly heading out to that village to the south and getting the horses they used during their time out as gem traders but thought better about it. Neither knew anything about this part of the desert, and while it might save them some time, in the end it just might kill the animals. They’d be better to do this on foot.

 

* * *

Distances on a map, and on the ground always seemed to be very different. What seemed somewhat close, and where their destination turned out to be was far different. Looking at the map they had planned their route and again it had seemed to be well thought out. In the end what they had thought might be trails weren’t and some had changed over time from when the maps were first made to now. If they had thought about it, it probably would have been one of those “DUH” moments. Even though things changed slowly over time, they still changed. And to not factor that possibility in had been stupid. Still they had brought plenty with them, especially water. Jay had learned his lesson back when he had almost died because he didn’t have enough. Yet, as they got closer it became more and more apparent that there had been something out here in the middle of the desert.

To the shock of both the first signs that there had to be something here were large fields that had to have been worked deep in the past. And considering the size they probably could have put eight or nine of their own worked fields inside of just one of them. Standing there in awe Jay looked around. “Look at the size of this thing. And there must be at least forty or fifty of these things. How’d they do it?”

She was just as surprised as Jay. And while she knew the question he asked was something she had no answer to, she understood. After all she had worked those fields back in their home and she had felt theirs had been large. But now here before her was proof that they weren’t. “I really don’t know. I know what it takes to work fields and to work these fields like we did would require, oh I don’t know, maybe hundreds for each one.” All she could do was shake her head.

The breezes were hot; no surprise considering it was late in the day. “I guess,” Jay replied, “we’d better find a place for the night, and spend tomorrow looking this over, and then head back. Knowing this is here, and we probably, now that we’ve been here once, can make better time next time, might be important. And I guess if we want to be honest, here is further proof of the old technology that we’ve been learning so much about. Still I never thought about it from this end.”

She had to agree. “Look somewhere close to here, if I’m reading this map correctly, should be where the people lived. Maybe we can find something that will get us out of the elements. It surprises me but it looks like there still might be some trees alive – how I don’t know.” Both looked further to the east and even Jay had to admit that what they were seeing did look like trees. As they worked their way across the abandoned fields they came across small canals showing how the fields were possibly irrigated. Still it was only one possibility. To them it seemed to be a waste of water. With the heat of the desert much of what was here would evaporate and not provide what was needed. Still they knew so little about how it was done and their conclusions could be completely wrong.

Shortly they found themselves on what they would consider a main trail, but knew that in the past such large trails would have been called roads. It seemed to border many of the fields, and once they reached the edge of the fields it curved away and disappeared into the distance. In places they found it to be covered in sand blown in over the ages, and in others it disappeared completely being destroyed by what had happened to this world in their past. In fact just before entering what they considered the town they had to skirt around a large crater. They could immediately see the damage it had caused, destroying much of what was here. “I guess this is probably what finished this place”, Jay said. She couldn’t disagree. Even after all of this time the scorch marks on much of what still stood were visible to the naked eye. Then Jay continued, “I for one am glad I wasn’t here when all this took place.”

When he had stated this she felt a shudder go through her as she imagined how it must have been. Yeah, they had seen the destruction through the cameras that had recorded the event. But actually being at one of the places where a strike had happened made it more real even if time had dulled the impact. “How’d any of us survive? I know ‘The Deeps’ had been created to give us a chance, and it failed. Still some of us remained – enough that we are here now. How? I mean how? Look at this – I mean really look at this. I suspect that this is probably a minor strike in comparison to others; still it destroyed most of what is here. And maybe, and this is just a guess since I have no way of proving it – maybe the survivors of this place moved to the mountains on the edge of this desert and eventually became us.”

Jay thought a moment as they continued to stand there, “That’s a possibility. Still how would one know where the ones came from that inhabited the areas outside of this desert. I mean it sounds logical that our ancestors could have come from here. Still we have no way of knowing if any survived this and we could be building fairytales because it seems like a strong possibility.” He shook his head with the sheer impossibility of it all. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin to figure that one out.”

She had to agree, how could they? There was too much unwritten history. And she was sure that chaos reigned supreme as the survivors tried desperately, well, to survive. “I don’t know if we’ll find anything fully standing or not but maybe there are a few sheltered areas that were missed.” Looking around again with new eyes she thought she could see where there were foundations of some of the destroyed buildings. It was hard to tell, but she suspected that the further they got away from this impact area the less the damage would be. As they stood on top of the crater rim she noticed that even after all of this time that there still were patterns spreading in all directions with the crater being the center. The scars ran deep and even time couldn’t erase them.

Jay looked to the south and noticed that the lands seemed to drop away somewhat. So maybe there was some of the original buildings still standing since there was a chance they would have been protected from the blast. Still knowing nothing about how the energy waves, the heat and fire, the winds created would have acted there was really no way of knowing. Turning back to Elsa he said as he pointed, “Look there might be a possibility that something might have survived over there.”

She looked in the direction where he was pointing and could see how the area seemed a bit lower. It could be, but she doubted it. Even after all of this time the power and destruction caused by this impact was highly visible. What truly could survive such a thing? She shook her head saying, “I don’t know about that, but let’s go look anyway.” They headed in the direction indicated by Jay and passed by outlines of foundations where homes had one stood. In many ways, even after all of this time it was a depressing sight. For Jay it reminded him personally of their home even though after the fires had died and left a few ruins there was still more back there than here. The difference lay in the fact that their village or town had been destroyed by man, while this place had been destroyed from the skies. Destroyed by an uncaring universe where life and death was determined by the living and dying of suns. So what happened here meant nothing in the overall scheme of things.

They reached the distant area that he had seen back at the crater and found that there was a small cliff like area, and yes it did provide partial protection to some that were furthest down. Still everything showed signs of damage and none escaped the fires. It said volumes about the amount of heat generated with the impact. At least, in his own mind, death had to have come quickly to the residents, unlike the members of their village. They found a trail that ran down into the small valley and towards the far end found a partially standing home. Here they set up camp for the night. Tomorrow they would head back after some exploring. He suspected that what they had found here would leave marks on both of them as the past became real to them. Not some images on a screen, or words written down describing what transpired during that horrible time. Still what they found here said that it was possible to live in the desert and be successful. The size of this place had been a surprise and the fact they were growing things meant the lands were fertile – something to remember.

* * *

It’s always interesting the differences between seeing something on a screen or reading about it in some report verses being on site. An example of this in my own life had to do when I was in my early teens. I was out with one of our boy scout leaders when there was a fire that quickly burned twenty acres behind their home. It was extinguished at that point. I had seen news reports and witnessed moving fires through the TV screen or from a great distance, but this was the first time being up close and personal. To me the surprise, when we went down to the burned area, was how hot the ground was. It burned my feet right through my shoes. And the area continued to smolder and smoke. So for our two protagonists they suddenly realize the difference when, and for the first time, they visit an area where one of the strikes from the past occurred. They are witnessing firsthand the amount of destruction and it is both a surprise, and a shock, leading them to a better understanding. Next week I’ll be presenting part 7. Have a great week and God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

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