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War for Water
The standoff had continued on since dusk, not halting even to the chilly night. Men with their eyes made huge by night vision goggles stood or crouched behind trees and bushes waiting for the other to make a move. They didn’t have to wait long. A shot rang out signaling the start of the fight. It was over in minutes. Much less time than anticipated but no less celebrated. Mens shouts of joy and triumph carried over the moans of the fatally injured. It swelled and poured over the hills just as the blood of the dead swelled and spilled over dropped bodies. The rejoicing men were now dancing in a blood swamp but all of them were to delirious to notice. Then a hush fell over the crowd of men as suddenly as the fight had started. All goggled eyes were turned to a pair of men. They had disappeared into the forest the moment the battle was over and now reappeared. They paused and looked around at the assembled men dragging out the moment.
“Well?” roared the commander. He did not like to be kept waiting, especially at such a trivial time. “Spit it out!” The two foot soldiers looked at each other, hesitated, then cried together,
“We got it!”
The tension broke as swiftly as a hammer breaks thin ice. Once more the men became delirious in their happiness. The commander quickly asked them how much was found and they responded with delight that there was a whole cavern filled with metal cases of it. All of them danced and shouted praises to their own gods, thanking them for the substance that had become as precious to them as gold had once been. Water.
Rye was hoisted into the air as if he was made of feathers. Not again, Rye groaned inward as he was turned to face the security guard who lifted him up.
“Well, look who we have here, Ryton Halle.” guffawed the guard.
“In the flesh Don, now let me down. Your hurting me.” Rye said trying in vain to shake himself out of the big man’s grip.
“And why should I care if I hurt you?” questioned Don though he did drop Rye to the hard concrete floor. “This is the fourth time this week you have trespassed. Last time Rye or I will be bound by the law to take you to the Force.”
“Please don’t!” Rye begged. The Force was the new and improved police. They were rough and had no mercy. “I’m really sorry Don...”
“No your not.”
“...it’s just that I waned to see them come back and carry the water out. It’s been so long since I have had some.” sighed Rye.
“It has been for all of us Rye.” the burly guard stated. He looked down into the sad face of the fourteen year old and sighed too. “Very well. If I tell you what happened, will you promise not to come back to watch? Next time you might not be so lucky and get caught by me but by Bruce. You remember him?” Rye shuddered. Of course he remembered Bruce. The man always smelled of smoke even though it was against the law and was huge. Unlike Don whose weight came from his bulky muscles, Bruce’s weight came from the greasy burger and fries he always had at hand. It was a miracle that he had been able to catch Rye the last time.
“Well, when the jet arrives at six, they take it out and carry it under heavy guard to the back of an armored truck. It is then taken on the back roads to maintenance where they distribute it to that lovely house you should be in right now.”
“What? No ceremony?” Rye said disappointed.
“No Rye. Why would we do that? So every enemy knows that we have water? Do you want to be attacked?” With a sigh Rye shook his head.
“No. It’s just such an important day. You would think they would want the people to know. ” With a shrug Rye turned and started walking away. He glanced back when he reached the hanger door. Don was looking at the sky with thoughtful face. Rye was tempted to turn back and ask him what he was thinking but was swaded otherwise by the sound of heavy footfalls and hard breathing. Rye slipped out just as Bruce turned the corner. As expected he was carrying a partially eaten burger in one hand but in the other was a cell phone which he was talking rapidly into. Intrigued to see why this call was more important than the fries he usually had, Rye quietly followed. He ducked behind some stacked wooden boxes when Bruce stopped and peered around to see if any one was around. With a another glance around he started talking again. Rye crept closer until he was able to hear clearly.
“...they are arriving at six o’clock. So you’d do well to be here on time.” he paused listening to the other line.
“Why here?” he asked angrily. “Because I told you so that’s why! Do not question me! There might be a good reason why I want it to happen here.” There was a shorter pause this time and Bruce looked around again before he whispered his reply. Rye leaned closer to hear.
“...will be here along with the two generals. Is that reason enough?” There was a break where Bruce listened to the person on the other line.
“Good. Don’t be late. Meet you at the rendevous point” With that Bruce snapped his phone closed and walked away leaving Rye thoroughly confused. As he left a slight breeze lifted up the tarp that covered the boxes revealing five letters, AMITE. He was about to go find Don and ask him about but decided against it. He was supposed to have left and Don would not take kindly to him snooping around. He left with thoughts swirling around his head. Who was Bruce talking too? was the biggest question. Is Bruce planning something? Didn’t Don say that the plane was arriving at six? Rye became worried. He tried to shake it off saying it was just coincidence, but he couldn’t get rid of the feeling that something bad was going to happen. It’s nothing. You just getting all worked up over nothing. With that final thought he opened the door to his house and was greeted by the smell of lasagna. He let it waft over him for a moment listening to his stomach growl. Of course nothing’s wrong.
By five thirty Rye had made up his mind. I’ll go to the airport and watch the jet land. I’ll stay only for that and then leave. Rye knew that he wouldn’t leave until the last armored truck disappeared but he was trying to not feel guilty. Under the story that he was going to his friend Wes’s house, Rye headed out to the airport. He had hoped to beat most of the Force to the landing hanger but he was disappointed. Force men stood at every entrance and lined the runway, all alert and watchful. Rye quickly squeezed through the hole at the bottom of the fence that encircled the airport and squatted behind some bushes that grew next to it. At that very moment a Force man looked his way. Rye held his breath even though he was to far away for the man to hear him. After the longest moment in Rye’s life, the Force man looked away. Rye let out a slow breath. That was close. He would have to be more careful next time. He crouched and surveyed all the Force soldiers to find a moment where he could run to the hidden entrance Don showed him when he was six years old. It was a perfect fit back then but Rye had grown like a weed and barely used it any more so he fervently hoped he could get through. He was curious enough to take the risk. With a final glance around to make sure no one was watching, Rye dashed out of his hiding spot and ran like his mother was behind him with a list of chores he had to do. With a final gasp of breath Rye sprinted the last hundred yards faster than he had ever run in his life. He barely had time to break before he slammed into the wall.
Blinking stars from his eyes he fumbled with the minuscule key he kept on a chain around his neck. He wore it more for show now instead of using it. He froze just as he was about to slip the key in the lock behind a patch of tall grass. Some one was trying to sneak up on him from the right side of the building. He cursed silently thinking that they must have heard him hit the wall. Moving quickly he slammed the key home and twisted praying Don hadn’t put a new lock on. He didn’t. With a silent prayer of thanks Rye fell down to his stomach and slid in grabbing the key as he went. It was a tight squeeze but Rye forced himself through. He twisted around and pulled the miniature door shut. He heard the lock click shut, and not a moment to soon. Rye once again held his breath as he listened to the footsteps stop outside. He didn’t breath again until he was sure the man had left. He then looked around and gathered his bearings. He was in the storage closet as he expected. The force of his push had sent him halfway across the room. He took a deep breath and winced. His chest had hit a rock when he dropped to the ground and no doubt he would have a colorful bruise tomorrow.
He slide over to the door and pressed his ear against the cold metal. He opened it a crack when he made sure that no one was outside it. There was no one in sight which seemed odd but he didn’t waste time thinking about it. A ladder wasn’t very far away and he sprinted towards it and jumped to the first rung, scaled it in under a minute. Making no sound he walked through the twisting network of catwalks that covered the ceiling towards a distant corner. There he settled down to wait.
A chest vibrating roar announced the arrival of the jet and shook Rye out of his stupor. He was surprised to find the hanger now swarming with men but no one on the catwalks. He looked towards the hanger door as the roar increased. It slowly lifted and a moment later the jet slid in. It was smaller than he expected and unadorned save a small dark blue circle with a X in the middle. Just as the plane cut its engines something moved out of the corner of his eye. It was not the almost chaotic movement of the Force, but a stealthy, creeping walk. Three men were carefully heading towards the three armored trucks. All three men in unison knocked on the driver’s door and waited for them to open. And all three of them, once again in unison, knocked out the drivers. Pushing the men over to the passenger seat they climbed in and with a glance around too see if any one saw what happened, closed the doors. All of this took seconds to transpire, but Rye saw all of it with widened eyes. He would later bitterly regret not speaking up and saying something about what took place. Instead he turned back to the reason he came. The pilots had opened the doors and were now parading triumphantly through the mass of men with metal carts dragging behind them. Everything was deathly still. The Force men had stopped their mad scramble and stared at the crates as if nothing else existed in the world. Some of them however were not so easily entranced. Moving quickly and quietly they shifted their positions till all the exits blocked with at least three men. They appeared to be of the Force, but at further inspections they would be missing the insignia of the Force’s home on their lapel. The blue circle with the X in the middle. No body heeded them, not even the real Force men they were standing next too. All of them, army commanders, the president, even Rye were oblivious to their surroundings. Only when the last truck was loaded and the hatch secure did the crowd break the trance. The Force men shook themselves and quickly surveyed the area and were surprised to find men covering all of the entrances. Before they could understand what was happening they were killed. The men that weren’t hit fumbled with their weapons until the machine guns cut them down. Rye stared in shock mind blank with panic. What if they looked up here? I don’t want to die! He dropped down to his stomach and peered through the grill to see when he could make his escape. He saw Bruce waddling over to a man Rye took to be the leader of the traitorous group. Rage burned up inside him and all he wanted to do was jump down and kill Bruce with one of the discarded guns. He was the reason so many men lay dead! The reason many wives had become widows and children become fatherless. It took all of his will power to stay where he was. He watched in anger as Bruce talked with the man and then climbed with much huffing and puffing into first armored truck. As the engines growled to life, Rye started to slither to the ladder he came up. As he rounded a corner he glanced down and gasped. Laying underneath him lay Don. Rye’s eyes started stinging and burning ; he could barely breath through the lump that had formed in his throat. Don had been the his closest friend and companion since his father died in a raid from the same enemy that struck today. Not bothering to wipe the tears from his eyes, Rye kept moving, trying to get as far away from this dreadful place as possible. He peered through his watering eyes to see if any one was looking his way. He was lucky that they were all preoccupied with something they were doing in the opposite corner to where he was or else he wouldn’t have made it. He half slid half climbed down it and bolted to the storage closet. He flung open the door and glanced back one more time and froze. The men who worked for Bruce had taken off the tarp that covered the wooden boxes he had hid behind earlier that day. The word now had eight letters spelling DYNAMITE. Rye thought back Don laying with a dozen bullets in him and became reckless in his sadness and rage. He wrenched a gun from its dead owner, briefly aimed, and fired.
In his haste to take revenge, Rye forgot that when he hit the dynamite, it wouldn’t just blow up and kill the cluster of men around it, but would also blow up the building, with him still in it. He came to that conclusion just as he fired. With a curse he spun around and bolted through the storage room door. He jammed the key into the lock and was twisting it when the blast came. Rye was slammed through the petite door and was flung a dozen yards away. He landed in a world of pain. His whole backside was covered in three degree burns, his arm and nose was broken, and he felt like he fractured his skull. He was struggling not to slip into the void that lurked behind his eyes, but soon he could not fight it any longer and gave into its call.
Rye had almost reached them. He had been tracking them for five days and one more and he would be upon them. Rye was now twenty-five and in better health than he had ever been in his short life, and he was excited. For ten years Rye had worked to help rebuild his country. After the massacre at the airport resulting in the death of their countries leader and military commanders, everything had fallen into chaos. With nobody to protect them, they were being attacked every week. Almost all their fresh water supply was gone. Rye knew the only hope for survival lay in finding water. With the incentive of finally having water, he hoped the people would come back together and help rebuild. While Rye was searching for water the elusive water, he had stumbled onto the trail of his old nemesis, Bruce. The lust for revenge had over taken Rye and he followed them without second thought. The group was traveling on foot which Rye figured would be hard for Bruce who had not given up his affinity for burgers, so Rye was certain he would catch them in a day. He was wrong however and going on the fourth day now was beginning to think about turning back. They must have a great incentive to be traveling so fast through the wilderness. I wonder what it is? Well, just one more day. Concluded Rye. And then he would go back to his search for water. With that thought, Rye unpacked camp and settled in for another cold night.
In the morning he rose before dawn, packed camp, and started out. He only hiked for about twenty minutes when he found Bruce’s campfire. It was still warm so Rye figured that Bruce and the other two people he was with hadn’t left very long ago. Rye continued on. It was midmorning when he topped a rise and saw Bruce shuffling into the forest below him. Rye fell to his stomach in case Bruce turned around and saw him. When he had disappeared into the forest, Rye quickly scrambled down the steep side after him. In his haste he didn’t see the pale rock the jutted into his path. His foot caught sending him flying down the slope. He waited for the impact but was disappointed. Instead he felt wind rushing against his face. He opened his eyes to find himself falling down a hole. He twisted in mid air and looked up to the patch of blue sky above. Gnarled grass crisscrossed over the stretch except for a body sized gap. That’s why I didn’t see it when a fell. He twisted again to face the yawning drop in front of him. He tried to gauge how far down it went, but it was impossible with no light. That matter was resolved quickly when he landed. The impact knocked the wind out of him for a moment. He breathed and air came rushing back into his lungs, clearing his mind. He lay for a while trying to determine how Bruce and his companions had missed the hole and decided that they must have taken the more angled way down to accommodate the glutenous walker.
After the pounding in his head dulled to a low throb, Rye sat up and looked around. He was in a pit, he knew that for sure. He looked around again and discovered that the air to his right seemed darker, or more dense. He stood up and walked towards it, as trying to go up and out was not possible. As he went, he trailed his hand across the slimy wall. When he reached the darker spot, his hand touched emptiness were it was once touching stone. It was a passage way taking off in another direction. Rye decided to follow it because there was no other way to go. The way was pretty easy going and soon he reached a cavern. He could tell when his footsteps started to echo louder at him. He clicked his flashlight on, having finally located it and held it up and started in wonder. Not only had he reached a cavern, but in the cavern was what he had been searching for. It was a huge underground lake. The water was crystal clear and over five miles long, who knows how deep. He stood and stared for a moment. Who cared if Bruce escaped? There would be other battles to fight. Rye had everything he wanted right here. He stood for another moment then took out his cell phone and called his friend who was now in charge of what was left of the military.
“Hey Wes? I’m going to need some backup.”