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Favela Sweep

Wayne Clarke
I'm a street sweeper. That does not mean I brush down the gutter, no I'm
a "Nurse," as we're also called. NURS, the National Urban Re-settlement
Scheme, is my employer. We're sent into the favs or shantytowns if you
prefer, to crack down on drugs, black-market electronics, foreign
tobacco, firearms, illegal immigrants and suspected disease carriers.
NURS is an AU government branch much like, ATF, or FBI. Unlike those
groups however, we spend 80% of our lives behind prehistoric oak desks
in dimly lit rooms, but spend 98% of our lives wading through wet
trenches full of shit, trash and cardboard houses. The other 2% is our
life, the time we have allocated to ourselves, well it doesn't in fact
say that anywhere but that's my humble calculation.

Sweeping the favs is not an easy job, it means no social life, and
although neither a police or military operation, you do live your life
as if you are fighting a war. It tends to change you as a person, my
wife left me because I was not the man she said she married, she said
I've become violent. Well it would do that. I mean imagine going to work
every morning, and while secretaries stand beside photocopiers and
bosses look at their legs, while the stock exchange people say "It's
murder today", while everyone complains about how bad their jobs are,
teachers say that the classroom was like a warzone; I /AM/ in a warzone.
Everyday, I'm in a warzone. Everyday I risk life and limb. I could have
been killed yesterday, I could be killed today. Everyone works at their
little jobs not knowing about the mountainous bodycount of social
undesirables that lie only a few kilometres from them, about the areas
of their city that have been cordoned off and declared suburban warzones

Everyone of course, knows all about the millions of so-called refugees
flooding our state, and that 90% of them are coming to the state that is
responsible for their persecution, but they are nowhere near as bad as
the residents. The citizens, those who have been born in poverty and
whose lifestyle has dropped even lower with each day. Or those who have
lost their jobs due to the depression or due to being replaced by cheap
refugee labour. The refugees are relatively easy to kill/disperse, the
"homeboys" aren't. Refugees are tough little bastards, but they use
crude, sometimes prehistoric guerrilla tactics, clever, dangerous, hard
to detect but mild in comparison to the homeboys. The homeboys have
their own "turf" to protect, they guard their women and children, they
are in highly organised and disciplined gangs, trained in firearms and
hand-to-hand combat by their "main man". They are also armed to the teeth.

The main man is never himself the leader, (he is in fact more valuable)
he is a teacher and administrator. He decides who goes into the "posse"
(or "crew", smaller than a posse) not the leader. That is their
tradition. Alliances are never forged, each posse has their own turf, if
it is invaded it will mean bloodshed, that is universally known. The
various posses never try to either help or hinder each other, they
co-exist in relative peace. There is only one time when in fact they
ever meet. When they know a sweep is imminent. And they do know, they
never meet unless they know. All posses have spies, we are talking about
large territory being held, sometimes entire inner-city areas being held
by a single gang, so their power and influence is not to be
underestimated. If this information is received, (the larger posses have
their own closed nets) an emissary is sent. A dove. Always female,
always Caucasian, always light white-ish blonde and always extremely
attractive. These women are known as doves, and are trained from an
early age. They must offer themselves as a gift to the gang leader, and
pleasure him to prove her reasons for coming are legitimate. And then
they "seal the deal". Itís sealed with a "white flag". A white flag is a
STANdard identity program much akin to a Kaybee seal. All the possies
have one. It identifies the person as a member of a certain posse, and
their intention. The feds have been trying to forge white flags for
years but they are changed regularly and at random times, and use some
real curious encryption, more complex than those of many countries

The gangs are more often than not racial. LA gangs are mostly black, BC
gangs Oriental, Miami gangs (not including Rocko B of course)
Latin/Caribbean. The majority of them are small-fry but there are
notorious exceptions. The North Canadian Triad, the big LA posses, the
Tex/Mex. border is another serious hot-spot, Chicago and New York are
still mostly old school mob, and there is the ever-reaching tentacles of
Peruvian and Colombian drug-lords up into the American heartland. Plus
there are the Kaybees, or Killer Bees. More an anarchic terrorist
organisation than a gang but with deep-rooted posse affiliations.
 
 

Security cameras in the favs don't last longer than three seconds; they
are placed on the perimeter and vandalised as soon as they're
operational. The satellites can monitor the favs also but can be blinded
by clouds. A cloud is a satellite-jamming signal. NURS technical manuals
are suspiciously vague to say the least but from what I know myself Iíll
try my best to explain. Far as I know they were invented for the
Sandstorm, the result of bizarre ionospheric experiments conducted in a
government research facility someplace in Alaska. Clouds not only block
out visual data, but all sensory equipment with dense blankets of
electrostatic noise The posses usually use one to blank out a few blocks
of their turf to keep business private. The power requirements for
anything larger are massive, growing exponentially with each hectare.
However, a massive cloud has covered a fairly substantial sector of LA
for three days now, starting the day following the scareÖ

For the past month we've been gentle. Patrolling the borders, keeping
the peace, escorting medical teams into the area, and bringing in feeble
food supplies to bribe info from immigrants. We've been playing our
presence down. But not tomorrow. There's a D-day scale sweep scheduled
for tomorrow with the aid of internal operatives. It sounds like real,
major military shit; /classified./
 
 

We got our briefing via the enclosed NURS-net at 06:30 sharp. It was all
shrouded in intrigue:

Brazilian by birth Vagos once worked as an AU boss for a major Peruvian
drug cartel. Peru was a shambles. The Japs had invested in the country
heavily, from the biggest corps to the Yax and even the family of
Ultranationalist Party-leader President Suzuki. Their presence was
unwelcome in many quarters. These anti-Jap sentiments can be traced
right back to the late 20^th Century. And it was this xenophobia that
Vagos capitalised on to help him rise to power. Corruption was par for
the course with the previous government. They loved Japs, who in turn
loved the cheap labour and fat kickbacks of Third World government. Then
it went too far. Vagosí coup was bloody and merciless. It is no secret
where Vagosí wealth came from. For many years he has fought the
Colombians for control of the West Coast. Meanwhile the Triads have been
fighting a gruesome war to keep back the advancing Russian mob from the
East. Vagos set up a meeting with Sung, his Taiwanese counterpart. A
treaty was made. The North West Coast was to be Triad, and the South
West Coast was for Vagos. Together they would muscle out both Colombians
and other South American gangs in the South and the now weakened Mafia.
The Triad has undoubtedly become the strongest and farthest-reaching
underground organisation on the planet. After Korean reunification and
the fall of Chinese Communism, numerous Chinese syndicates battled for
supremacy until only one remained. And now, their powerbase eclipses
that of the Russians, the Cosa Nostra Exiles and the Yakusa all
together. Triad members are highly secretive, proud, efficient and well
covered in legal terms. They are as strong as they are proud, and
despite their often dirty deals they keep their word. The Triad work by
an arcane and ancient code of honour. To break a promise is tantamount
to death. Such an alliance would benefit Vagos, but there was a price.

Peruís scars are still raw, it's government in tatters, it's military
deplorable. Before Vagos took over, the country was trying its best to
shape up for AU inclusion, cutting throats and corners every step of the
way. It was also, from an intelligence point of view dangerously
unsupervised. Now the news had broken out of the "loss" of a full kilo
of weapons grade plutonium. It didnít take long for the intelligence
community to put 2 and 2 together. The CIA have countless files on the
Triad. They are skilled at making small atomic devices, their favourite
being small, lightweight aerial robotics and theyíve often used them to
neutralise small hornet's nests in the Pacific. It is estimated that
they are now concentrating their assaults on continental Russian
strongholds. This revelation could seriously jeopardise relations with
both Japan and Chinese economic allies Korea, the major economic
neighbours of the AU. The erratic, barbarous Peruvian army may also
learn to use these devices, perhaps even against the Japanese, with
horrible results, toppling the precarious diplomacy of the AU and
humiliating it in front of whole world. The Japs were waiting for Vagosí
next move, heís just made it. Placing our nationís balls in a vicegrip.
And possibly involving us in a deadly war.

I donned my gear, bulletproof jacket, visor, strapped on my breathing
apparatus, holstered my relic of a revolver and scrambled into the van.
The first wave had already gone through. Undercover feds, shakedown
experts. We were the next wave. Footsoldiers; grunts. Next came the
heavy artillery, tanks, choppers, army intervention. And for the next
month we would be up to our necks in it again. Riot duty, crowd control,
tear gas, water cannons, Mack truck paddy-wagons. Dispersal, we can't
hold 'em, where we could put 'em? Just drop 'em somewhere else, they
always land on their feet. The team I was to command were unknown to me,
except for my partner of sorts, Flynn. Flynn was a meat-bag rookie,
graduated from some obscure upstate med.-school. He was one of those
typical wet-behind-the-ears types who think they can change the world.
He was put under my charge, but refused to bow to my cynical point of
view. He believed that we should be trying our best to sanitise the
areas, not to act like some modern day SS. The UN is always quick to
denounce ethnic cleansing, he once said, but here there is economic
cleansing. He would've tried his best to feed, clothe and inoculate
every single person in the favs. He was a humanitarian, and though his
sentiments are, in isolation, admirable, in the favs they're suicidal.

The carriers dropped us off at the outskirts of Bruno Baxter's (rumour
has it his real name was Ashley and he changed at the age of 14) turf.
Bruno was one of the ruffest /niggaz/ in California, a dark prince of
black alchemy. He ran crack mostly, and he hated the Peruvians.
Palpitations of apprehension became visible in his crew as the Peruvian
underground oozed their way up into LA and 'Frisco. He had secret
meetings with undercover agents and agreed not so much to aid the attack
but neither to hinder. Giving them safe but covert passage through the
territory. These were old neighbourhoods, decades of decay. They had
long since declined into combat zones that police could never
infiltrate. So they developed their own laws and enforced them with steel.

We proceeded silently through the squalid streets and the dark morning
mist, us on foot, flanking the vehicles. Silence but for the odd chopper
in the distance, beams on, scouring the ghetto. Our attack was not
broadcast, but the streets were deserted. It was like a ghost-town in an
old Western flick. Doors were locked and windows were boarded. And
instead of tumbleweed, the wind blew garbage and dirt. It was indeed a
squalid affair. The 'hood was heavy under the weight of litter, crime
and inner-city austerity. Every building shabby, decaying, riddled with
bullet-holes. Cautiously we weaved through a vipers-nest of alleyways
and backstreets. Past shameful tenements, crack-shakes, brothels and
ramshackle liquor stores, sprayed with a colourful exhibition of tags
from the multitude of graph-writers.

The smell got worse as we proceeded well beyond Baxter's turf and into
No Man's Land, the unwanted buffer zone between different turf. Inner
city structures tapered off into a metropolitan miasma, a dilapidated
gutter-level skyline of rags and cardboard under a Swiss-cheese canopy
of galvanised steel. The stench was rotten. The heat was sweltering.
Humidity was high; mosquitoes- ubiquitous. We were passed under the
cloud now, and no longer capable of radio contact. Drainage was
non-existent, trash piled up in erratic mounds in the street. And more
and more the streets gave way to malignant mires. Here were people of
all ages, and all races. They paid us no attention as we passed through
them like ghosts, but their bright, brown-eyed stares bore through me,
standing out against their dirt-encrusted faces. Adults cooked rice,
they could have been 70, they could have been 17. Girls hung washing on
wooden frames. Boys played soccer barefoot in the dust. Children ran
amok, half-naked, unfazed; they giggled as we passed. One would be
forgiven for thinking the favs were benign.

Our course is Southeast, along the banks of the sinkholes inland to the
desert. Decades ago, newly-built overspill towns once sprung up all over
California and many other states. Urban sprawl had long since grinded
many cities to a halt. LA and 'Frisco were like two greasy fingers
pushing either side of a zit, which eventually popped, and from this
gunge came the foundations of the sinkholes. Canals were cut into the
desert, feeding seawater along a network of dams and reservoirs.
Half-assed attempts at sewage, sanitation and desalinisation systems
were botched up and crippled by the routine deluge of seismic activity.
This, added with global warming and rising ocean levels turned many
coastal towns into Atlantian marshes contrasting grossly with the
Eastern Dustbowl. Sewage and plumbing systems failed, {much as they did
in to Florida's festering swimming pools after the Big Spill, where a
now noxious urine-shaded Everglades has swallowed, submerged and grown
around neighbouring 7-elevens and Texaco stations} swamping and swirling
around the population. And nobody, ironically enough, has been more
effected by the ecological turmoil than man. Most other creatures show
remarkable resilience. Sharks are one such animal. Many a tale has been
told of hungry bleached-white sharks scavenging for scraps in the
caustic soup of the sinkholes, then swimming right up to the villages
devouring livestock, pets and small children. But that is rare. The real
killer here is malaria; it kills more people in the coastal regions than
HIV and every other disease put together. And the sinkholes continue to
grow, submerged concrete marshes- unattended, without proper sanitation
or inoculation. Thousands of people toil daily here in glow-in-the-dark
paddy fields. Here, where rats have gills and 'gators are farmed then
barbecued over burning oil drums. The residents, adhering to some
perversion of Darwinism, have developed many sickening survival
techniques. One such stomach-churning fact of life is that they won't
drink water unless it's a healthy shade of green- other wise it's highly
toxic. Unlike such nasties as pesticide, algae, salt and sewage can be
boiled or filtered out. Not that it makes any difference however. The
children are gaunt, puss-eyed deformed wretches with a lemming's
life-span. Typhoid kills, dysentery kills, diarrhoea kills, dehydration
kills; in this vile Venice just about everything kills- the Grim Reaper
doesn't use a scythe out here, but a more efficient chainsaw. The
Amphibians as they're known, are mercilessly plagued by a rogue's
gallery of worms, parasites, bacteria and tropical diseases. Smothered
by methane and carbon monoxide, tortured by malnutrition, baked by
sunstroke. You can see them as they pass, waiting just waiting; waiting
to die. Horrid and filthy souls, yellow eyes, fearsome faces like
charcoal gargoyles. They wrap themselves in cloth rags blackened by
outboard fumes, scrawny sinuous limbs folded across their skeletal
frames like wings. They wait and watch, perched high above on stilted
grassy huts. Scores of nests of gangrenous pterodactyls and perhaps the
odd machine gun emplacement. Far below through the trenches of
yellow/brown sludge rubber dingys paddle like upside-down cockroaches
alongside small canoes and kayaks. Then the enormous superrafts; houses,
streets and marketplaces, all floating. Thousands of small rafts
fastened together fashioned by whatever junk manages to sail by. Decades
of flotsam, factory trash; drums of paint, industrial solvents and other
such chemicals. Sealed soda and detergent bottles, pieces of driftwood
and patchwork-mended inner tires. All lashed together with chains, rope,
even vines; held together by tar, epoxy and blind faith.
 
 

Gradually, however the land eventually starts to dry off into gulches
and puddles. Vegetation surrenders its tenuous foothold and the sand
takes over, until it becomes all one can see. Perhaps one might see a
patch of cacti, a darting lizard, a venomous Gila monster basking upon a
rock or hear the raucous squawking of orbiting vultures. The unit is
silent, like sidewinders they crawl on miserably- morale is dangerously
low. The heat out here can make one delirious. Dry heat- hotter that
Hell itself. When night falls it'll be a different story, we'll all be
shivering, icey cold. In school I learned how desert sand is made, the
extremes of heat and cold cause rocks to expand and contract, until they
crack themselves into dust over millions of years. I give it another
hour before we crack, and that's being optimistic. The sun is at it's
highest now, nailed to the pale-blue cloudless sky, a blood-red
punishing orb. It's atomic intensity is worsened by the visor, I feel
like my face is inside a greenhouse, but if I remove it for more than a
second I risk at least a fortnight in quarantine; without pay. The
uniform doesn't help either, pitch black for night camouflage. A great
help out here. The weight of perspiration bogs me down. I'm developing a
rash between my legs and shorts from damp friction. But I'm in charge of
these woeful troops and I march on regardless. Regardless of the agony
in my legs, blisters on my feet, the shoulder straps cutting into my
skin, the dehydration, hunger, fatigue, and mosquito bites on me like
the Rocky Mountains. I'm sweating so much I'm afraid I'll pass out. No
time to stop and drink however, not 'till we reach our next port of
call. Then it's time to break out the water rations, salt/glucose
capsules and foilpacks of food marginally less dehydrated than we are. I
notice a small, tiger-coloured scorpion mutation trying to crawl into
the boot on my left leg. I take out my stun-gun and zap him. He curls up
into a ball as I continue to fry him until all that's left is a tiny
blackened, smouldering morsel- /Little bastard!/

We had been walking for hours, covered at least 20 klicks. We stopped
inside the gates and had much needed rest, food and water before
proceeding. Still deeper, beyond the outer regions, toward the depths,
darkness. Our watches are linked to GMT-Sat, and won't work. Daylight is
minimal. With the foreboding blanket of smog, and lack of juice, the
favs are plunged into an eternal, dour dungeon of dusk. It's hard to
tell time in the favs, perhaps because time never exists. Some of these
areas are well over a century old, like here, but this place is special.
It's floodlit with magnesium streetlamps and trimmed with neon
refraction. This is "Towel-town", mostly Arabic, like the Tower of Babel
had been toppled on its side and the bricks used to build a new medieval
micropolis. A white shining pearl. An oasis of wealth in the desert of
poverty. Satellite dishes and propane tanks sit on the flattened roofs
of whitewashed Legobricks. Every house an air-conditioned palace.
Generators purr, and water-pumps hammer and clunk. Bustling bazaars,
bartering, busking, chattering, domestic animals screeching, spicey
aromas and fragrant oils. An extravagant blur, of colour, of language,
of every scent. Lost in time. A spectrum of sound, a tapestry of tone.
Meshing into one. They've even got their own pirate radio station.
Bedouin Crash music thunders out the massive Boss subs of titanic
Low-riders. Giant nomadic sound-systems wrestling the spiritual sonority
of Muslim chant. There were hundreds, lurching, jerking, cruising
through the gleaming streets. Marble smooth paintwork, luscious silken
interiors woven like magic carpets, dune-buggy tires, and ornate
handcrafted rims; decorated like Ben Hur's chariot. Here, it is
relatively civilised, if a little eccentric, and indeed many agents have
been able to survive and bring back useful intelligence. Its
"parliament" is really a gangster-democracy with the frills of a
monarchical masquerade. Somehow they manage to generate electricity and
keep their people from starvation with the spoils of arms dealing
throughout the rest of the favs. They too, are keeping out of our hair.
This place was once a nest of extremist anti-AU terrorism, however, that
has all changed under current rule. The area has been living under the
pretence that it is a republic. The AU unofficially granted it this and
other concessions, in return for mutual diplomatic co-operation. And
co-operate they do. Much of the weaponry they receive comes from
decommissioned army stock- unofficially. And they usually have no qualms
in using them against us. Or the savage hoard beyond their gates.

The desert has long since been used as landfill. Everything from
domestic garbage to old-world US Army shit to the mummified corpses of
old mobster enemies- all buried in this septic sarcophagus. This is home
to tribes of nomadic lobster-coloured hunchbacks toiling in the stinging
piercing winds. They move eerily yet deliberately from one dune to the
next. The trick is to follow the crows. They taste marginally better
than the buzzards, lizards and rattlers. They're also an airborne
compass for water and scavenging sites. These spots are often forgotten
then unearthed by the whipping winds. Petrified in the dry sand, many
things remain in mint condition. And anything can be "recycled." Paper,
plastic, glass, aluminium cans- collect enough and you can get yourself
a meal. Scrap-metal, auto parts, old tires- even better! Take 'em all
out in a wheelbarrow or an antique shopping cart. Agricultural waste and
other organic matter can be resold as fertiliser to the vineyards of the
Northwest. Discarded hypodermics, fossilised cheeseburgers- all hard
currency here. Everything finds a purpose- into netted bags or tied to
multibanded straps and belts. They cover the debris like a blanket of
flies. Wading barefooted on the mountainous piles of broken glass, sharp
metal and decaying filth in a frantic competition to pocket anything
they deem valuable. That what would seem worthless to others. But
despite their unsavoury lifestyle they are a proud people. They take
their appearance quite seriously. Colour, and lots of it! They dye their
clothes and hair, braiding it with rainbows of wool and twine and such.
Decorating themselves lavishly, painting extravagant designs and
patterns on their scarlet, sunburnt, blistery bodies. They love
indulging themselves in magpie accessories, grafting ringpulls and
bottlecaps to their ears and nipples, anything shiney- cheap toy-store
jewellery is just as precious as silver, gold and diamonds. And life is
only as precious as tinpots and rusty bedsprings.

Silence but for the whistling wind, the crackling of gravel under
caterpillar tires, and the gentle sighing of the hovercraftís rotors. We
proceeded on our course, past the raven-ridden landfills of the North
into the area known as Eastwood's Cemetery. An arid wasteland as far as
the eye could see, with a straight black serpent stretching out to meet
the horizon. Heat-scorched sand surrounding the black, cracked tar of an
abandoned, lonely highway. Nearby, a small town, it's only inhabitants,
the legions of tumbleweed and the sunbleached bones of cattle. The
monochrome HUD on my riot visor detects no poisons or bio-toxins in the
air. The Geiger counter in my hand is silent. We roll on, forward, into
the unknown. The scene growing increasingly desolate.

No people here- why?

A Coca-Cola billboard- a dustbowl mirage.

An unintelligible sign still in metric- the name of the town eroded by
acid rain. Population 150. A ghost-town- ashes to ashes.

A few little wooden houses, a general store, a gas station, a gun shop
and an ol' fashioned diner. This must've been a truck stop. Cross
country rigs and hillbilly pick-ups parked while their drivers sat at
Formica counters drinking re-heated coffee, munching on big juicy
burgers and wholesome, homemade pie. A burnt out laryengetic waitress
surveys the scene, smoking a cigarette and swatting flies. In the
background the tinny sound of AM radio playing identical sounding
Country. The twanging three chord tricks, lazy, sliding guitars, and
whiney, warbling yodels of country gals, pining for their loved one.
Silenced now, forever. Deadly Silence. A sonic black hole stalking us
like some predatory beast.
 
 

Once this was a pretty riverside resort. Litter-free streets lined with
Ferraris, limos, palm trees and technicolor bloom. Every luxury afforded
to those who could afford it- swimming pools, spas, tennis courts and
golf courses. The truly elite casinos and nightclubs, five-star hotels,
condos, villas. A playboy paradise. But then the water dried out, as did
the money- the crash hit these folk badly and the place deteriorated
rapidly. Until the last of the inhabitants were chased away by redneck
punks. The streets were then reduced to dirt-tracks. The only
indications of transport are rusty, burnt-out, post-Molotov pick-ups and
station wagons, or piles of shit along the main street- mules and camels
no doubt. The buildings are boarded-up wooden shacks or mounds of
crumbling rubble and plaster. To my left a mural exhaulting the KKK,
every wall smeared in graph and the bloodlike stain of red Swastikas. A
tall church dominates the skyline. The words, "Jesus Saves" appear on a
sign beside the doorway caked in dust and cobwebs. He didn't save this
town. Now? Now it's a ghetto run by a hardcore, white-trash Skinhead
gang. A Swastika banner hangs from the tower of the church itself-
inside it lurks a sentry. On seeing us he rings the bell. Immediately
we're attacked by a hail of missiles- rocks, bricks, rotten vegetables
and bottles are showered on us from above. They whoop and holler at us
as we pass nervously. They yell obscenities from windows and rooftops,
brandishing baseball bats, iron bars and chains, swinging them at thin
air with menace. Their feral faces; murderous masks all shaven and
scarred, cruel bloodthirsty fire in their eyes. And still we continue to
bake beneath the daily, solar supernova. Spots are developing before my
eyes, a sunbeam penetrates through the visor, splitting three
mini-spectrums in a diagonal line, blinding me, but I dare not lift it,
for the projectiles are still raining down. We are hopelessly
outnumbered, and it's always hard to know what kind of firepower these
hillbillies pack. Flynn is ghostly pale, he grips his rifle for dear
life, praying to some nameless god. Out of nowhere a camel charges from
behind a termite-ridden shed. Before Flynn even sees what it is he's
squeezed off a shot and grazed its leg. The beast bellows in pain
stampeding along the dusty main street as the shot echoes ripple around
each building- and each ear. The air becomes heavy with tension and
anxiety for one pivotal, apocalyptic instant. The silence became
unbearable, I curled my clammy finger around the trigger, waiting- so
wet inside those sealed surgical gloves that my fingers had wrinkled up
like prunes.

Flynn gripped the rifle even tighter. I glanced at him, he looked
visibly shaken. And in that instant a shot rang out and I heard him
scream as a splatter of blood hit his visor, and watched some wiseguy
rookie in front crumple on the dust sans-visage. More shots, more
shouts; they're packin' peashooters- pistols, sawn-offs, hunting rifles
and the like- slow and sluggish. One man on a rooftop squeezes off two
rounds from a crude pumpaction as he reloads the shack detonates into
splinters.

/Ah!-/ the Crow and Maxwell ASR-50! Laser sights, compatible with
virtually all HUD software including our visor display, can switch to
infa-red mode if needed, you can easily set the RPS {rounds per second}
or toggle to grenade launcher mode. Here it can fire a tiny explosive
pellet only a millimeter in diameter, but its destructive power is
awesome. And many others have also found this out the hard way. The
skinheads jump up and down screeching like frantic chimpanzees. Another
shot and they retreat rapidly from their posts howling like rabid dogs.
And again, that silence. But they'll be back, you can bet on it. I
advise the unit to pick up the pace, but then again, I knew that this
was only the tip of the iceberg.
 
 

The sun is now a fiery globe, inside an ultra-white crescent shape, it
seems to be rotating at great speed. The sky itself is stained like the
crimson sheet of some galactic matador. The first of the stars are out,
or they appear to be stars, they are in fact our planetary neighbours;
Venus and Mars I guess, the gods of love and war- all's fair in both
they say. But nothing is fair out here. There is little love, life is
more a drowsy holocaust than war, and we march into its core, blindly.
From here on in it gets only worse. Into the centre of savagery and
inhuman deviance. We're not moving without purpose, but instead
following a breadcrumb Geiger trail converging on the hotspot of
radioactive activity. The digital Geiger is a highly sensitive piece of
equipment. It can differentiate between natural radiation and atypical
readings, picking up the slightest pocket of anomalous activity in a
radius of many kilometers. My only hope is that the Peruvians didn't
install decoys someplace. But the truth is it's quite possible, quite a
depressing thought but then there are worse things to think about- it'll
be dark soon.

Night-time arrives with the stealth of a ninja; unnoticed under the
shroud of smog. We're approaching the heartless heartlands, the
superghettoes, the twilight of reason, the inner sanctum of the
malignant mind.

Sacrificial altars of primal, soul-devouring evil.

Sex, pain, pimps, porn.

Needles, knives, guns and fire.

The struggle for supremacy, survival and sanity.

The junkie jungle. Vaginal Voodoo. The dregs of humanity, cannibalistic
depravity.

The apex of desperation.

Here is where you see how low a man can go, just to prolong his
existence. As the sun sets the children hide, and like vivacious
vampires, the grown-ups come out to playÖ

Boogieland; a crackheads' paradise, a carnival of carnality. We watched
from a hilltop at the perverse spectacle. Multi-storey treehouse
discotheques, twinkley Christmas lights, and strobes climb like luminous
ivy weaved into wooden frames and scaffolding. Mirrorballs, moonshine
stills, heroin and sleaze. It's drugs and sex here, for sale or trade.
An automobile safari has gathered for the nightly "Ho-down." A drive in
auction for hookers and "wives." The MC is dressed like an S&M Santa
Claus. He stands, holding a megaphone on a platform in the square in
front of a big screen. The Mojo {MJ- mini-op jockey} stands above on a
balcony projecting a blend of hardcore images onto it feeding a collage
of sound out of gigantic speaker stacks. Samba, Latino-licks, congas,
bongos, clangey Gamelan, industrial porno and twentieth Century
Phunk-Reviv-ill; wah guitars, subbass, cheesy, weedy synths, farting
hissy electronic percussion, and video-arcade melodies. A bloated biker
in a black leather bondage masks drags a tanned, emasculated teenage
waif in manacles before the MC. He gets her to turn around while jolly
St. Nic fondles her breasts and kneads her buttocks, her ribs protruding
slightly. He gargles a distorted rap into the megaphone and the bidding
begins. The men sit in/on their vehicles honking their horns and
flashing their headlights to bid. At the end she's sold to a half-breed
Red Indian greaseball for fifty dollars cash and ten in hard currency-
i.e. hard drugs. The nefarious Megapimp market of Boogieland has been
around for decades without any prospect of being halted by the
authorities. As far as they're concerned who cares? At least they're not
car-jacking or stealing from the rich. They're not of any danger to
/real/ society, not damaging anything important. As long as they remain
where they are everything's ok.

Bedrock- the valley of primeval skum. They hide between the dunes,
mountains and hills eclipsed from civilisation. This whole area is one
parched, prehistoric nightmare. An isolated wilderness cut-up into the
tiny-turfs of monsters; more Gengis Khans than gangstas. Lilliputian war
criminals that rule their turf without a shred of moral decency. And,
for Vagos, an irresistible, impregnable hiding place. We circumnavigated
the perimeter, following the Geiger's hopeful crackles and blips. We
were trying, if possible, to do so without attracting much attention. It
was my personal folly to awaken a dormant perimeter defense system. I
foolishly blundered into an optical tripwire web, and set it off. A
phosphorescent flash- and I watched in horror as a column of men was
sawn in half by a Thermo-beam. They stood with the horrified, knowing
look of imminent death on their faces until their eyeballs popped, their
eardrums ruptured and their brains liquidised. They shuddered violently
screaming a soul-wrenching shriek as their bodies heated up to approx.
500 degrees. Then finally they exploded, in a pinkish/red gush of fire,
blood and goey entrails. Thermo-beams were developed in what was then
Communist China some thirty years ago. Geneva banned them for being
perhaps the cruellest, deadliest and most gruesome manner of execution
on the planet. Apparently the searing heat in your skull cavity causes
time to slow down and every millisecond before you die becomes a
lifetime. I toggled to the visorís tactical HUD projection, a red
three-dimensional grid mapped itself across the landscape. As I moved my
head tiny numbers in the corner of my sight counted upwards rapidly
until I heard the high pitched sine wave signifying I was locked in. I
relayed the data fed to my ASR-50, which helped me extrapolate the
correct angle and velocity of my shot, to correspond to the approximate
trajectory of the beam. /Whoosh-/ *KABOOM!* We came near the site some
four kilometres on; a mangled robotic tripod high above upon a toppled
mountain of crushed cars. Beside it a barbecued pit-bull, lying on the
blackened earth. The tires were still smoking, glowing redÖ

That last episode provoked me. A horrifying thought entered my head; all
this time I wished for an awkward wild goose chase, but this ain't
Bedrock hardware. Bedrock likes to use mines and tripwires, sawn-offs
and grenades, spotlights and snipers. And that's about as sophisticated
as it gets- right down to concealed leg-nooses or covered-up pits with
sharpened sticks at the bottom. I wasn't prepared for this level of
high-tech severity. No, how could I see such a thing coming. Because in
the briefing I didn't quite engage the idea, the nature of this work
de-sensitises you, you shrug it all off. Now I know this is serious,
this isn't a drill, this isn't some meddling military bullshit, this is
real. I was on the right track, and I knew then that fateful deathray
could only belong to Vagos' mercenaries.

Kemuri Harbor, reeks of fish and felony, a cottage industry as it were.
Reputed to be, i.e. it is, sponsored by a renegade Yakusa underling
named Kimura. He's the major heroin supplier of the entire region. Here
the opium is farmed and processed, then gets shipped out along the canal
that runs through the mountains and eventually joins up to a major canal
clear to his distributors in San Francisco. It's a nice operation, he
manages to outfox the coastguard that way. And very few have the guts to
penetrate the outlying regions to his layer. Nobody has a car here, only
rickshaws and bicycles except for the balloon maintenance crew. They
have autogyros, simple open-air, one-man choppers made of silk and
carbonex. They've created a devious, if crude microclimate. The water
that isn't evaporated gets drained through pipes and gullies into
underground reservoirs where it's filtered and pumped back up for
drinking water and crop irrigation. They also have a simple sprinkler
system; suspended rubber hoses with tiny holes criss-crossing the
streets and misting down on the inhabitants. High above, in the lower
atmosphere, tethered to the ground by giant chains and cables, are
hundreds of solar powered airships (everything is solar here). They pull
against each other and fan out the corners of the impressive,
meteorological kite known as the "Umbrella." The umbrella consists of
two square kilometres of a micro-thin, transparent sheet made of some
super-strong, lightweight, space-age material. During the day it acts as
a greenhouse and captures evaporating moisture. Then, when the cold
desert night arrives it cools and clouds the town in supernatural
precipitation. Sometimes it rains snails, they farm them too. A special
type of snail that slimes along, over and under the sheet keeping it
clean, much like those used in fish-tanks. Due to this exotic atmosphere
the people here tend to live a hectic, heaving nocturnal life- it being
an impossible furnace at daytime. The harbour itself is a hazey, humid
mess like a cross between Kevin Kingsley's blockbuster, "Jack the
Ripper", and those lame, Shanghai, "Cyber-Samurai" flicks. Incandescent
paper lanterns and neon Oriental symbols cut through the misty moor-like
air, twisted into kaleidoscopic blobs, dancing like dragon-fire on the
damp sidewalks. The sodden streets were thronged like an open-air sauna.
Vaporous clouds; the sickly-sweet smell of incense and hashish. Scores
of smokey, sushi stalls; men drinking beer and sake. They grunt and
guffaw unwittingly developing mercury poisoning. Everything on sale,
from beautifully ornate ricebowls to knock off electronics. All manner
of street-entertainment, gambling, cock fights, hookers. Nearby the
theatres and peepshows featuring spritely young teen girls in knee
socks, school uniforms and all manner of battery-operated adventures.
They all ignored us, much as one ignores the commercials between their
favourite show. But they saw us; oh yeah they saw us- only they didn't
bother moving, as they knew in their hearts we were only a temporary
inconvenience- and that a brutal catharsis was on the cards.

Kimura, AKA Goldfinger, an ugly, fat SOB, and equally mean. Cold, swift,
precise manipulative. A satanic sumo, a cantankerous barrel, full to the
brim with Japanese arrogance. One has to die with honour, but to live
with honour never enters the equation, nor does to kill with honour.
Women, children- he'll butcher them all if for no other reason than to
make an example of them with the expected level of Jap efficiency. His
name isnít exactly accurate, theyíre actually silver. Artfully sculpted,
hand-crafted electro-conductive, razor-sharp talons wired straight to
his nerves by rather crude shanty cybernetic welding. Theyíre to replace
the ones he lost- both of his middle and index fingers. His original
ones were claimed by top Hawaiiís top oyabun (master or Don) Toshiro
Watanabe, who had been disgraced by Kimuraís psychotic actions. Kimura
had brutally slaughtered and diced up the family of a rather prominent
businessman when merely instructed to give him a warning. This was the
final straw for Toshiro who expelled him from the organisation and is
rumoured to have a price on his head for anyone foolish enough to desire
it.

Mankind does have a dormant psychic power that comes to the fore in
times of extreme necessity. Our location had all the charm of a ticking
timebomb. Without seeing or hearing anything that might indicate danger
we somehow knew we were in trouble. We knew the spies were there. It was
only a matter of time. That feeling of dread, like a fly trespassing on
the invisible silken threads of a carefully woven web, and the slightest
tingle has vibrated, setting off silent alarms. Soon the stealthful
spider will methodically make its way from the centre to deliver its
venom. We had fifty men this morning; we were down to 34-33-32Öthe
countdown continued.

These ongoing Houdini acts were making me panic. /Reeeallly /scared.
Through the droves, send out a man on point; then find him disembowelled
ten seconds later. See that handsome, smiley, chirpey kid Fernandez.
Turn my head for a second and he's swallowed up by the milling crowd. A
crossbow arrow here, a poison dart thereÖ

A kid walks up to us smiling, bright eyes, grubby knees, and some
computer game character on his T-shirt. /Fhit- Fhit- Fhit! /Three shots
from a silenced pistol. Twenty-six of fifty
remaining-/tic-tic-tic-tic!!!/ The kid scampers off, we pursue him down
the impossibly crowded streets, around a corner down a dead-end
alleyway. He was gone; in his place stood a man with nunchucks. He swung
them around his head lightning fast. Clockwise, switching to
anti-clockwise, up, down, behind his back. The men gaped at the
mesmerising blur, a few trained their rifles on him. Then from behind
along comes a truck, it tows an articulated trailer that blocks the
exit- an ambush. Our Galipoli.

/Kar-rut-tut-tut-tut! /ASR-10's thundering from unseen perches./ /The
nunchuk-man flickered in the wake of a flame-thrower blast, a hologram-
/Stupid! /The flame licked along the ground engulfing three men, they
screamed and flailed their arms. One tried to roll on the damp ground to
quench the flames- he got shredded by gunfire for his ingenuity. The two
tanks are taken out from above by Shuriken missiles, possibly fired from
one of the airships. The rookies tried to extrapolate the trajectory, no
chance, too slow- /Kar-rut-tut-tut-tut! /My stomach felt queasy, my
throat sore, tears were welling up behind a psychological dam. Take
cover, me in a doorway. Flynn behind some trashcans. A few more here and
there. But where? Where are the shots coming from? How can we take cover
if we don't even know the angle of attack?
/Kar-rut-tut-tut-tut-tut-tuttut! /Oh my God! I spy the jeep,
/Kar-rut-tut-tut-tut! /Perhaps our salvation, unharmed due to its
proximity to the trailer. /Krrr-rut-tut-tut-tut-tut-tut-tut-tuh!
/Another shot lit up the night sky; the two drivers are minced by
bullets. Get a fix on the attack with the rifle, line it up parallel
with the crosshair on the visor. Only ASR-50's have the dual action
shot- possibly our only advantage. I let loose an explosive round. The
resulting dazzling light and smoke give me a chance to move. I wave the
nine survivors to run my way as I cover them with a stream of bullets-/
Kar-rut-tut-tut-tut-tut! Kar-rut-tut-tut-tut! /I try get a fix on the
balloon, the sky is too dark, so I take a leap of faith (fate). Then a
miracle, I fire two more grenade rounds as a deterrent but somehow
manage to hit something. Another flash illuminates the darkness, we see
silhouettes above and unleash a frenzy of fire as we back off, as one,
toward the jeep. A lead sprinkler system, flashes from the nozzles, my
fingers shaking, I open the jeep door and kick out the corpses. Everyone
piles in as I grind it into gear, swinging round toward the dead end
then pull the handbrake and screech in a jolting arc, temporarily
oblivious to the backseat shootout. I floor the accelerator with a
sickening squelchy noise. The floor is a goey mess of brains, blood and
bone. I nod at Grant, the tall sullen black kid, as I point at the
trailer. He gets the message and squeezes off a grenade. The truck
detonates and I bawl right toward the mushroom of yellow flame and black
oily smoke. The tires catch fire but the gas tanks don't; we managed to
survive. The people got out of our way this time, right through, parting
the sea of bodies, all the way to the bridge and across. They won't
follow us beyond the limits of their turf. Intruders are eliminated
immediately in the favs- it's seen as an act of war. They failed to kill
us, but they conclude that their ghastly neighbours will finish the job.

The junkies and jackals around the harbour are perhaps the most vile
creatures on this Earth. Shit-huts as far as the eye could see. We
managed to get two kilometres before the jeep kicked it- somehow I knew
it would. We had no choice but to go it on foot, we sensed armies of
invisible eyes watching us with flagitious intent.

Right in the diseased heart of Bedrock. Nine scared, lethargic men
against a legion of barbarians. Walking cautiously through a multistory
scrapyard. Frames of scaffolding and netting, barbed wire and steel
mesh, like that found in chicken coups. Stitched into this metallic
frippery were machine parts and such, hubcaps, pots and pans, mirrors
and animal skulls- goats mostly. Their devil-like horns to ward off
intruders, real caveman shit going on, but it was working. We were
frightened beyond mortal rationality.

/Blacker than night itselfÖ/ /I've always said that what/ /we needed was
a special self-polarising/night vision visor like the feds have. But I
never get my say, budget cuts, always budget cuts- yeah, think about
those confounded budget cuts. Damn them!/

Rifle-mounted flashlight beams and red lazer sights cut through the grey
veil of smoke and steam. I can just make out the pervasive spidery
scrawls splattered on every wall in blood-red spraypaint- "*KING FAHUK.*"

I've just noticed the Geiger; the LED's are twinkling. It's gone crazy,
like a spasmodic disco. It's HERE! The plutonium is /hereÖ/

The place smells of rotten flesh, death and decay. A constant hum of
flies and the odd heart-stopping rustle. /A curse upon those budget
cuts! If I live to see another budget cutÖ/

We step cautiously along, visors up, breath clouding. The ground beneath
me crackles; they may be needles, they may be bones. /If it's here thenÖ/

Cold sweats.

I felt faint.

/Öwhat kind of guard is it under?/

A repulsive, one-eyed cat ran out from in front of me.

A second later I got my answer- */KKKRRRRrrrrreeeeEEEEEE!!!!!/*

That inhuman torturous shriek of agony. A second Thermo-beam. Now it was
just me, Grant and Flynn left. We ran for cover into a doorway. Flynn
shot off the padlock and we shuffled in panting. My heart beat faster
and louder- like the pistons of an Indycar engine. Outside muted
marching and shouting. The building, or at least the swaying heap of
jumble-sale architecture, appears to be some kind of, multi-story
drug-den. The floor is sticky, smells of urine and the walls seem to be
smeared in faeces, along with the most obscene graffiti- bloody rape
scenes and gruesome, grinding chainsaw bondage. We decide to climb
upward, along rickedy rope-ladders and suspended beams. On the second
level the platform is uneven. We looked down at what we first thought to
be a corpse laid out on a filthy blanket- then it moved. A young female,
I finally realised, her arms cut and gashed with needle tracks, her
bottom lip bleeding and her body looked like it was whipped. Her eyes
were glassed over, her pupils were dilated. She musta been trippin'
hard. Flynn approached her and she hopped to her feet, backing away then
tripped over a crate of some kind. With her ghostly pale skin, jet-black
hair and tattered Tarzan attire she had the appearance of a syphilitic
Betty Rubble. Flynn gets closer, as she shuffles backwards like a crab.
A look of sheer terror welded on her face, hissing and snarling in some
alien language; it may have been English- some mutant strain, shanty
dialect. "Sssh!" Flynn tries to comfort her as she presses her back to
the wall, teary eyed and trembling. He holds out his hand to her as one
would to a dog to let it sniff you and familiarise itself. "It's okÖ" he
whispered. She started to jabber again, faster, louder, higher in pitch.
"/Relax/- I'm not going to hurt youÖ" He gets closer and she starts
screaming, "/Ssssh!/" he held out his palms to her and smiles. She locks
eyes with him, and held him there for a second, she seemed to quieten
down. He turned his head back to us with an angelic smile, then a
shocked, emotionally wounded whimper as he gets a neighbourly syringe
plunged into his left thigh for the effort. He looks down at his leg in
pained disbelief giving her a chance to flee in a white blur, before
she's enveloped by shadow. Flynn jerks the needle out, wincing, and
looks at us sheepishly. Then- the sound of shattering glass and heavy
footsteps, getting louder. We run up again, higher. All that went
through my mind at that point was why? I'd seen too many movies to know
that you never, ever, run upstairs. I pondered this as we clambered
upward. I was fast becoming mentally detached. Halfway to the top we
found a hammock-like bridge to the adjoining structure and scampered
across, my mind racing. */KKKRRRRrrrrreeeeEEEEEE!!!!! /*The beam severed
the bridge as we were about halfway along it. We were swung across,
smacked off the other building, suspended about a meter and a half from
a fire-escape type ledge. We dropped down, one by one, and I tried to
knock out the beam projector.

/Theeeouuw! /Missed!

/Theeeouuw! -* BOOOFfff!*/

/1-2-3-4-5Ö/automatic fire clanked above my head, ricocheting off a
suspended radiator grill. The firefight lasted about 30 seconds. Four
khaki-clad men, in similar visors fired at us, but we had height
advantage. Grant, rather than dwell on the peculiar nature of it, took
cover in a rusty bathtub-/Theeeouuw! -*BOOOFfff!*/

We scrambled down to ground level again. Flynn was wheezing like an
asthmatic with a Castro cigar. He bent over on his hands and knees
hyperventilating. He hacked, he choked and he vomited up oceans of blood
almost drowning in it. Then he fell to his knees convulsing- /"What's
going on?" /he squeaked, gripping his stomach, tears in his bloodshot
eyes. I knew what it was, his kidneys, liver, lungs, everything, they
were all about to burst. A superpathogen- lethal bio-engineered viri,
nasty as shit. But he must've known that too, with his medical
background an' all, and I wondered if his question was a deeper one. I
watched him wheeze his last then looked back at a shivering Grant. His
eyes were wide, white saucers. And then I noticed it, didn't see the
person, just the knife glistening in the dim starlight. A curved, rusty
scimitar, held at his throat. He held his breath, and then at that
instant so did I- */CLICK!/*

It seemed to reverberate around the entire universe. I placed my hands
in the air. As we were marched forward I saw a reflection in the
disjoined grill of a Chevy what it was; a .44 Magnum, elongated barrel,
silver finish. An antiquited, classical cannon. I also saw my last ever
image of Flynn. Some formless, brown-hooded demon was dragging his body
inside, along the gravel. Poor Flynn, he wanted to help the masses, now
he was going to feed them.

Perhaps it's the movie buff in me, as we approached King Fahuk's layer I
half expected a flash of lightning to stab across the horizon on queue.
What I did see however were severed heads impaled on pikes; it's
becoming bitterly apparent that this King Fahuk doesn't make idle
threats, and his Insanity is a raging, sadistic inferno. The fortress,
if you can call it that, was nothing more than a converted grain-silo.
None the less, it dominated the horizon with a cruel, dark demeanour.
Fahuk's men were a strange, intimidating bunch. A ferocious array of
warriors, whose armour they must've have plundered down through the
ages. Pirate-punks, Viking-bikers, Centurion-gangstas. They spat and
snarled at us as we were dragged through the windey, wooden corridors.
Until finally we were thrown to our knees on the dusty concrete, before
a scowling King Fahuk. The room was lit with candles and paraffin
torches. Painted on the wall behind him was a giant black Pentagram. Two
anorexic girls flanked him; they wore veils over their faces and
couldn't be more than fourteen. They also bore Pentagram symbols
tattooed on their enormous breasts- grafted silicone a Boogietown
butcher job no doubt. Fahuk himself was perhaps the most hideous,
deformed, monster I had ever seen. Leather-clad, bald and bare-chested.
His face was half covered in purple birthmark, scar tissue from above
his left eye to his neck, the right eye was under a patch. The Moby Dick
of the underworld, sitting on his bone-throne like the Anti-Buddha. A
mountain of obesity- his gut spilling out all over. He held his sceptre
in his left hand- little more than a carbonex wheel axle, with a baby
goat-skull on the top. Grant raised his head too high and got kicked in
the ribs- hard. Fahuk started barking at us. What language he spoke I
couldn't understand, but I got the message, we were in deep shit. His
flabby jowls jiggling as he croaked out an order at the two guards. They
placed two baskets under our heads, I heard the shink of scraping metal,
the sound of the blade whistling through the air and I cowered with fearÖ

*/PICK-OOooooF! PICK-OOooooF!- /shickshick!*

*PUCK-OOOOuuuuu!!!!*

I couldn't see what transpired, I was blacking out. I could only hear.
It sounded like a pumpaction. When I gathered the strength to raise my
head I saw that the chamber was flickering. And I smelled smoke. Grant
had passed out. Fahuk and his guards were lying decapitated, grey matter
sprayed around the room. A hand lifted me up, onto my unsteady wavering
legs. I thought it was a mercenary, but it wasn't. A silver android-like
figure illuminated by the beams of a passing chopper. The cavalry had
arrived in radioactive protection suits. Fahuk's men and the mercenaries
were battling outside; and loosing. And as I crawled back to reality I
heard explosions, gunfire, riotous yelling.

And muffled speech from under the suitsÖ

/Hey Frankie we got two survivors 'ere! Get me a medical team pronto!/

/ÖNo shit?! Quick ged 'em outa 'ere, we got a chopper waitin'ÖHoly shit
it looks like a freekin' a Psycho-Clerk movie in here!/

/-get the stretcher, he's unconscious, the other one's suffering from
shock; he don't seem to know where he is./

/-God knows what these two puh bas-ids bin tru in the pas' twenny-foh
owas!/

*/Whuda-Whuda-Whuda-Whuda-Whuda-Whuda-Whuda!/*

/ÖGet 'em inta choppa' quick!/

*/Tut-tut- Tut-tut- Tut-tut- Tut-tut- Tut-tut- Tut-tut- Tut-tut- Tut-tut!/*

/ÖDayam! I 'ope I neva 'ave tu see a fuckin' Dyyve like that fuckin'
place ageihn!/

/-Well imagine fu'd tu live there!/

/-Naw man, 'sno way mothafuckas live down there, 's-justa a terroris'
base!/

/-Well it's sure as hell won't be there in the mornin', just a big hole
in the ground./

/-That's awl ih ihz anaway! Jussa bii-ig hole-inna-groun', plutonium ma
ayas! Should juss let the motherfuckas nuke 'um-seylves!Ö/

/Öhey hol' up I think ma brotha's comin' raind!/

They administered drugs, set me up with about seven IV drips. Sedatives
mostly, antibiotics, glucose, whatever. They gave me water and salt,
tried to keep me warm under disinfected disposable blankets. The
blankets had that sickly, chemical, hospital-smell that made me gag. I
was taken back for quarantine, where I was scrubbed, disinfected,
washed, shaved and checked thoroughly for chemical, biological and
radioactive poisoning. Then followed two weeks of de-briefing/counseling
sessions, all that our funding will allow. After which I'm firstly to be
medically examined, then the mission is to be investigated, to see if it
was poor leadership and incompetence on my part that brought forty-eight
young men to early graves. And a hearing to see if I am fit to return to
work. Caroline, my ex-wife, she nursed me back to health. I don't know
what I'd've done without her, she supported and strengthened me, helped
me stand on my own two feet again. But she said, "either I come back or
you /go /back," that she could not face every day wondering if her
husband had been killed. She could never take the pressure and pain of
that lifestyle. But I have to go back, to face my demons, I won't sleep
otherwise, plagued by bloody, gruesome nightmares, waking up sweating
and crying into her arms. And I know they shall forever haunt me, unless
I return; once again- /into the darkness./
		
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