The Last Bastion of the Living
Page 7

 Rhiannon Frater

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“We’re both in a mood this morning,” Dwayne mused.
“It’s the storm,” Maria answered, even though they both knew it was much more than the weather causing them concern. The Constabulary was going to be hard pressed to bring the President’s speech into reality. No president of The Bastion had ever made such bold promises before.
Dwayne gave her a slight smile that made her want to press kisses to his lips, but she fought the urge by looking at her wristlet. Just a few more minutes and she would be on the wall.
There was a sharp inhalation of breath from nearby, and then several people let out gasps of surprise.
“Look!” a man exclaimed, pointing out the window.
The commuters flooded to the sides of the car, faces and hands pressing to the glass. Being taller than most of the people on the train, Maria simply had to stand on tiptoes to peer over their heads.
“Dwayne!” she gasped.
“I see it.”
A tiltrotor was swooping low over the city heading toward the capital building. The last tiltrotor Maria had witnessed in the air was the one that had rescued her a year before. Soon after, all the aircraft had been grounded due to lack of fuel. Her heart sped up at the sight of the black shape moving across the sky, its rotors repositioning to land.
Several people clapped just before the train swept into the main terminal of the city. Excited conversation filled the air. Quite a few of the commuters were already tapping away on their wristlets with great excitement.
“What does it mean?” Maria wondered aloud.
“I’m not sure,” Dwayne answered, the lines in his face deepening.
The monorail train slid to a stop and Maria reluctantly started toward the doors. Dwayne dared to lightly press his hand against the small of her back as they shuffled along at the rear of the crowd. The mood in the train had been muted until the appearance of the aircraft and now the ecstatic expressions and joyful chatter seemed oddly out of place on such a dreary morning.
 as she was about slip through the doorway, Dwayne whispered in her ear that he loved her. She smiled at the familiar words of endearment, then joined the throng of people moving through the long glass tunnel to the main terminal. Glancing back, she saw Dwayne heading in the opposite direction.
The main terminal was not nearly as busy as it had once been when all the trains had been running and had been open to the general public, but it was still fairly crowded. She quickly wove her way through the rush of people, avoiding the drably dressed professionals hurrying to the government facilities. Joining a group of other soldiers, she spotted a familiar face.
“Another day, another credit,” Lindsey joked, falling in step beside Maria. Heavily favoring one leg, she leaned on her cane as she walked. The blond soldier had been terribly wounded in the last assault on the Scourge and now manned communications. Before the fall of humanity, her injury would have been easily repaired, but with resources low, she was disabled for life.
“It never ends, huh?” Maria answered.
“Nope. Day after day, same old, same old. Though, according to the president, things sound like they’re looking up,” Lindsey answered with a wink.
“The biggest load of bullshit I’ve heard in a long time,” Maria groused.
“I almost believed him,” Lindsey admitted, shrugging. “Then I remembered what I hear every day when I’m on duty and I stopped being a dumb ass.”
“Something’s gotta give soon. They have to figure something out,” Maria said, her dark eyes scanning the crowd thoughtfully.
“They’ve been saying that ever since the first Scrag outbreak,” Lindsey reminded her with a shrug of her shoulders.
“True. And the last time they got a great idea on how to push the Scrags out of the valley Ryan died.”
Lindsey pressed her lips together, her eyes lowering. It was difficult for her to talk about Ryan. “They’re talking about shutting down another train. I also heard a rumor about mandatory blackouts at sunset.”
Maria shook her head. “Then why did President Cabot make all those promises?”
“Maybe he knows something we don’t?” Lindsey shrugged again. “We can hope.”
“Hope is all we got,” Maria decided. “But I did see something weird on the train on the way here.”
“What was that?” Lindsey asked.
“An aircraft.”
Lindsey’s eyes widened. “They were grounded.”
“I know, but everyone on the last train saw it,” Maria answered.
“That’s what I get for taking the ground tram. Damn. I would have loved to have seen it. The sky has been empty for over a year.” Lindsey lightly chewed on her bottom lip.
“Everyone got so excited when they saw it, but I’m not sure how I feel,” Maria admitted.
Lindsey leaned heavily on her cane as she slightly frowned. “Maybe it’s a good sign. If they’re running the aircraft maybe we’re close to something big.”
They reached the end of the terminal where the transports were loading up soldiers and whisking them to their assigned duties.
“We need to get a drink soon,” Lindsey decided, “catch up.”
“Yeah. Definitely. Send me a message and we’ll hook up,” Maria answered before swinging herself up onto the transport that would carry her to the wall.
Leaning on her cane, Lindsey gave her a small smile. “And if I find out anything on that aircraft, I’ll let you know.”
“Rumors are going to be flying,” Maria reminded her.
“I have a way of finding out what isn’t bullshit,” Lindsey assured her, then walked on.
* * *
As Dwayne passed through security and into the main building that housed the leadership of The Bastion Constabulary and their staffs, he noted the absence of the usual hectic bustle. This didn’t bode well. The last time he had witnessed this sort of inactivity in the HQ was right before the last disastrous push against the Inferi Scourge. Between the aircraft, the president’s speech, and the abrupt cancellation of all his meetings, his growing sense of unease definitely didn’t seem without merit.
Tucking his hat under his arm, he strode down the long corridors that would lead him to his office. Like the rest of The Bastion, the hallways and offices were austere with black tile floors, pale gray walls, and very little ornamentation. Only the flag for The Bastion and the crest of the Constabulary decorated the main corridor. He noted that there was definitely tension in the air as the lower officials of the Constabulary spoke in hushed voices. A few glanced in his direction, but quickly averted their gaze. He was most likely the highest ranking officer in the building today and people didn’t want to be seen gossiping.
Reaching his office, he glanced at the doorway across the hall that led to Commandant Pierce’s office. The doors were shut.
“She didn’t even come in today,” Petra, his assistant informed him as she stepped into the corridor to greet him.
“Something’s up,” he decided.
He slipped past her into the small block of offices where his staff worked. Petra followed, her pad in her hand.
“Absolutely,” Petra agreed.
She was efficient, smart, and tenacious. Very tall, a little too thin, and fine-boned, she reminded him of an avian predator. Her slightly hooked nose and narrow face only added to that impression. Her thick curls were pulled back from her face into a braided bun and her uniform was immaculate.
As he hooked his hat on a metal coatrack and slid out of his wet jacket, he inclined his head toward her pad. “I know you have your ear to the ground. Talk to me.”
“I admit I have been in communication with a few sources,” she said, the corner of her mouth quirking upward.
He entered his personal office and flipped on the coffee maker in the corner. He desperately needed caffeine. “And what did you discover?”
“Commandant Pierce didn’t come into the office this morning, but her assistant sent a communiqué informing me that all her meetings were canceled, including the one with you. Then word began to filter in that all the echelon of the government was canceling meetings.” She tucked her long body into a chair, her pad resting on her lap.
Dwayne slid into his somewhat comfortable chair behind his big ugly desk. “All divisions?”
“Every single one. I did some sleuthing and found out that an aircraft picked up the president’s counsel and delivered them to the capital. Which is where they have been since early this morning,” Petra informed him.
“I just saw an aircraft heading toward the capital.”
“Ah, now, the interesting part is that the aircraft you saw was seen landing and departing from the SWD.” Her fingers lightly caressed her pad. “I received that information right before you arrived.”
“The Science Warfare Division? Interesting. They’ve been incompetent since the beginning of all this. I wonder what’s changed.” Dwayne set his hands on his desk and tapped the surface. The keyboard display popped up and he entered his password. Scanning through the communiqués being sent out by the senior officers, it was obvious they were all in the dark. “Do you know anyone in the Science Warfare Division?”