Episode XII -- Bunkers
Premiered 20 March 2009
Multiple Choice -- Episode XII
The pristine view was the same tree-filled valley -- complete with snow-capped peaks in the distance -- that David had seen in his dream… including numerous distant structures apparently destroyed by fire, war and blast damage. Everything was back to square one... the square visited in his dreams just prior to David meeting Jeremiah and his thugs for the first time in David’s transformed pad. The panorama, however, was pretty much lost on David as he entered the scene by dropping from roughly ten feet in the air into a pond. A fair amount of sand trickled down behind him, but was quickly moistened by the water and over a period of time was slowly sent to the bottom where it became sediment. It would be the sand’s fate, however, that at some point in the distant future, the trace sediment of exotic, marginally radioactive sand would greatly perplex a future, detail oriented geologist.
When David hit the water, he was flailing his arms -- trying for both stability in mid air and in making a splash in his later adventure... so to speak. He went under, and then quickly came back up, his expression one of sheer delight. Cupping portions of the water with his hands, he threw some in his face, drank some, and tossed some into the air in celebration.
“Oh, yeah! This is more like it!”
Abruptly his expression turned to a frown. He spit several times and glared at the water -- which had the appearance of industrial or war-torn runoff. He frowned at the chest-deep water, shaking his head in disgust.
Abruptly, a laser weapon beam crossed above his head. The shot was apparently not intended for David, but was close enough that he automatically reacted by ducking. There were several other flashes and return fire -- with the battle appearing to move away from him. David moved quickly to the shoreline, as the flashes continued at increasing distances.
As he approached the shore, he noticed he was now wearing the combat uniform he had worn in his dream. The uniform was dirty, torn, lacking in style, but included a pistol, flak jacket, and reams of ammunition. He ducked again, as a lone spacecraft, still firing its laser, roared overhead. David looked around for shelter, and saw the bunker -- the same as the one in his dream -- some distance away. He began to run for it and then suddenly stopped. When the bunker was not blasted to smithereens (as per the dream script), he continued on, and taking a careful look around first, ducked inside.
His arrival caused a few of the soldiers to turn, but upon taking a quick glance at him, they returned to lounging about, apparently trying to get some rest -- typical front line soldiers looking for a brief respite from the battle and treating David as just the latest arrival in their little enclave. There was no technology apparent in the area, other than what was being worn by the weary fighting men and women. Two of them looked vaguely familiar... and David thought, with brown robes would have been the spitting images of Austin Francis and Celt Michael. Neither of the two seemed to recognize David, however.
David grimaced slightly at the scene, and then moved to one side. Against one wall, he saw Evyr with her eyes closed, dressed in similar garb -- dirty, torn and battle-scarred. As David dropped down beside her, she opened her eyes and glanced at him.
Then she closed her eyes and turned back to face front.
“Where the hell have you been?”
“Took a few detours,” David answered. “How about you?”
“You almost missed the best part of the show.”
Evyr then leaned against him, her eyes still closed, one arm curling around his.
Quietly she said, “I thought maybe you were dead.”
“No chance,” David replied with all due bravado. “They’re not about to let me out of this… this… bouncing all over the friggin’ universe!”
Evyr sighed. “Not that’s it’s important… but what the hell are you talking about?”
“Yeah,” David answered thoughtfully. “That had been one of my possible choices. She specifically offered it. But I declined." He paused, before looking around and adding, "Of course, this is apparently another... an alternate version.”
Evyr shook her head. “I’m too tired to try and keep up with you.”
“Don’t bother to try to figure it out,” David advised. “I can’t.”
Jeremiah made an abrupt entrance into the bunker, wearing an officer’s uniform. Several of the grunts, glanced up and began to show signs of life upon the occasion of the arrival of the commanding officer. Celt and Austin seemed surprised, but with a second's thought and a glance between them, decided that the surprise should have been expected.
Jeremiah initiated the one-way conversation in typical form. “Party time’s over, gentlemen… ladies. Gather round. We’ve got new orders.”
There was grumbling around the room… there is almost always grumbling under such conditions… low voices suggesting as to just exactly where Jeremiah could stick his orders.
Still, everyone slowly began to move toward the center of the bunker where the officer had knelt down underneath the bunker’s only light fixture. Jeremiah laid out a map on the dirt floor underneath the light. He ignored the comments and complaints, and busied himself with the map until the soldiers had gathered around.
“It’s all pretty simple,” he began. “We wait here until twenty one hundred hours… about an hour from now. We flank the north cliffs, where the enemy is holding one of our allies as a prisoner. We’ll scale this overhang, so that they’ll never expect us to come from that direction. We should be able to take the bastards by complete surprise and be done by morning, just in time for an airlift breakfast.”
No one really believed in the concept of an ‘airlift breakfast’, but it was always a nice fantasy with which to wile away the hours. There were also some undercurrents of thought with regard to the ease of scaling the north cliff overhang when fully loaded with all the weaponry and ammunition that would be needed on the far side. But these thoughts were outweighed by other, more practical matters.
“Just one question, Sir,” Celt asked, “How do we know who’s who? I mean like I can’t tell a bad alien from a good one. Much less who’s a prisoner of who?”
Jeremiah grunted. “Right. Now it looks as if the Sirians are the ones we’re here to help… and the Mintakans are the ones we want to kill. Obviously, that might change with new orders from headquarters, but for the moment the Sirians are our comrades.”
Jeremiah took out of his officer’s knapsack several pictures and handed them out to the troops. As the pictures were passed around, there were several raised eyebrows and shared expressions of disgust. Austin took a long look at both pictures, holding them side-by-side.
“They’re both pretty ugly, if you ask me.”
A female soldier replied, “Just don’t tell a Sirian they’re ugly. I hear they have a real mean temper.”
“You’re not obligated to sleep with one,” Jeremiah noted. “Just do what I tell you. Follow orders.’
“I don’t know,” one said. “Sex with this here beauty could be kind of kinky.”
Several of the others grunted with apparent amused agreement at the sexual overtone. Jeremiah concentrated on looking around at the various faces. When no one made any further comment, he took the pictures back and puts them in his knapsack.
“Stay here,” he ordered. “Get your gear together and be ready to move in forty minutes. Or earlier… like in forty seconds.”
Time is a relative thing in military circles. Jeremiah had adequately addressed the issue by equating readiness in terms of minutes, seconds, hours, days, and so forth. The goal of military readiness was to ensure instantaneous response, when in fact of course such immediate response was impractical, unworkable, and never quite happened. It was to Jeremiah’s credit that he no longer bothered with the pretense that anyone on the front line could stand down for any measurable length of time. It was to the credit of his grunts that they understood and appreciated Jeremiah’s lack of bullshit.
As Jeremiah gathered and refolded his map, David took a long look at him. Jeremiah felt the stare and turned his head to stare back at David with the same keen interest. Their eyes met for just a brief moment, until Jeremiah dismissed the thought and quickly left the bunker. With Evyr watching David with a puzzled look on her face, David got up, gesturing to the outside.
“I’m going out to talk to him.”
David exited, while Evyr looked around and prepared to leave as well.
David exited the bunker and looked around. Jeremiah was already some distance away, moving rapidly to a small, fortified dugout. David moved at a slower pace, watching Jeremiah as the latter dropped down in the dugout, pulled out a strange-looking electronic device and fingered it for a moment. Then the officer put the device back in his pocket and leaned back against the sandbagged wall of the dugout, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. David walked up and casually dropped into the dugout, his abrupt appearance causing Jeremiah to quickly become defensive. David slowly leaned against the opposite wall of the dugout from the officer. Jeremiah hid his surprise at David’s sudden appearance, and stared at him. Jeremiah had the look of someone very tired and ready for a rest from responsibility… or else someone caught with their hands in the cookie jar.
David smiled. “No, Sir. I’m just curious.”
Jeremiah scoffed. “I hear that can be dangerous.”
David cut to the chase. “What’s really happening here?”
Jeremiah did a double take. He then glanced up as Evyr slipped into the dugout as well. Without a word, she took a seat next to David, facing Jeremiah. The officer looked at the two grunts, his eyes squinting in suspicion.
“No, Sir,’ David assured him. “Not a chance of that. I… we just wanted to understand a few things.”
“Like what?” was Jeremiah’s guarded answer.
“Like whether or not it’s too late. Whether or not we asked for help in time.”
Jeremiah appeared genuinely puzzled. “Asked who? What are you talking about, Walker?”
“I don’t know,” David replied. “Maybe a general distress signal… to whoever’s listening. But the guys are right. We really can’t tell the good aliens from the bad ones. So what are we supposed to do? Believe what they tell us? Pretend we’re sheep?”
Jeremiah stared at David, and then Evyr. He then looked down, avoiding their eyes. For a couple of moments, he toyed with the idea of coming clean.
“Maybe,” he finally answered, “it’s not really them at all. Maybe it’s us… and our need for stability and non-change in a constantly changing universe.”
Evyr frowned. “We have met the enemy and he is us?”
“Something like that.”
David shook his head before, “What I’m asking is: What are we doing here?”
Jeremiah replied with his own question… a time-honored device for argument and debate where strategy is important... and where actually answering the question comes under the category of An Inconvenient Truth. “Trying to make a difference?”
“But we really don’t,” David replied. “It’s just one possibility among many. Why can’t we just pick and choose… and avoid all the drama?”
Jeremiah shook his head. “I’m not following you, Soldier.”
Evyr looked at David. “I think I’m beginning to.”
David and Evyr exchanged smiles… the type of bonded, shared understanding. They both turned back to a skeptical Jeremiah… just as the moment was shattered by the careening sound of a shell prior to its managing a direct hit on the bunker. The three’s immediate reaction was to hit the dirt… which they did. Then as the debris settled around the total destruction of the bunker and any of their comrades who had remained inside, the three quickly began to scramble for better cover. Evyr and David took off in one direction, while Jeremiah headed in the opposite direction. As the two scrambled over an embankment into a huge crater, David suddenly looked around.
“Shit! We lost him!”
David immediately scrambled back to the top of the embankment, with Evyr following his lead. From the top, Jeremiah could be seen suddenly confronting an alien ground trooper, who seemed ready to kill him. The officer flashed something, and the alien abruptly lowered his weapon and saluted him. Jeremiah quickly pointed in the direction of David and Evyr. The alien ground trooper turned and headed toward them.
Evyr was succinct. “Fuckin’ collaborator!”
David frowned inwardly. “Why am I not surprised?”
Evyr and David slid back down the embankment, and then broke into a run toward the other rim of the crater. They topped it and angled down a small ridge. Several laser cannon blasts began hitting the ground in various locations, but none seem concentrated on them. Then a smaller scale blast, from a hand-held weapon, hit a piece of debris near them, and both dove for the ground.
When they looked up ahead, they saw an old destroyed crane, hanging over a deep blast crater. The two of them quickly scrambled toward it. But just as they got near it a laser blasts slashed above them, directly hitting the crane and causing part of the still standing structure to come crashing down.
Evyr, in the lead, was hit by a piece of the collapsing crane, knocking her to the ground and momentarily pinning her down. David was quickly at her side, trying to help her by lifting the twisted metal. Evyr was apparently not seriously hurt, but had one leg trapped. Her eyes suddenly widened as she looked just beyond David.
David turned as another, smaller blast hit near him. After a quick dodge of the debris, he leapt to his feet and turned to face the attacker. Evyr grabbed his leg with all her remaining strength, and in the same fashion as in David’s dream sequence -- but now more seriously (as if the current action were for real). The alien ground trooper, now seen close up and looking like a made over version of Ugly Dude came running over the embankment, ready to blast both of them.
David aimed pointblank, but his pistol failed to fire. The alien ground trooper, who was about to duck, suddenly realized that he was dealing with defenseless quarries. Something resembling a smile crossed his ugly face, and he began to saunter up to David and Evyr, raising his weapon and preparing to make toast of both the helpless Earthlings. Evyr held David’s leg even tighter, closing her eyes, while David looked disbelievingly at the situation -- in strong contrast to the style of David’s dream. He was still looking around for any kind of help, when suddenly, his expression brightened.
“Wait a minute,” he yelled.
Ugly Dude, also known as an Alien ground trooper, hesitated, momentarily stymied by the inexplicable, as David then yelled in a loud, authoritative voice.
“Cut!" And then for emphasis, "That's a wrap, folks!”
A wave of water slammed into David and Evyr. The scene phased.
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]