So my dad has this real cush job, Outpost Quartermaster. It's right smack in the middle of fuckin' nowhere, but whatever. It's hell anywhere you go. We're surrounded on either side by two other Outposts, not even towns. Our supplies and rations are flown in by a helicopter that lands right in my "backyard." Ok, so I don't have an actual backyard. It's land, it's desert, it's brush, and I'm allowed to go in it, so in my opinion that makes it MY backyard. It's watched over by two guards, Jim and Barry. They're good guys. They keep us safe. Really, they keep the supplies and rations safe. Once in a while they'll help me and my dad get the boxes inside, but pretty much they stand there lookin' all fuckin' serious , army regulation with machine guns and ammo. Being all "dangerous," if you mess with the quartermaster's supplies. Everyone's really cool about it, I gotta say. When that helicopter comes flying over once a week, flinging sand and dirt everywhere, the residents get their butts in line outside the supply tent. Our house, our "domain," is behind a big; locked metal door just behind that supply tent. No one goes in or out but us. That's how dad wants it. No friends come in and I don't go in anyone else's "domain" or house. It's just the way it is.
Today's supply day. We get up at like 0500 hours, shower, eat breakfast, bullshit, wait for the heli. What happens is we unload the supplies as fast as we can, ration out what we know each family at the Outpost will need or has asked for, then we listen to the sob stories and the bribe attempts as everyone tries to get a little more. My dad's unbribable. He is kinda a badass, although he gives in once in a while. A badass with a heart? Eh, I wouldn't call it that; just, once in a while, he gives in, he feels sorry. It ain't often, but I think sometimes it takes a toll on him to deny people what they need. I mean, shit, I sit right there next to him; I wanna give help but I can't. Our hands are tied. If he wants to keep his cush job, he better do it well. Hell, he better do it better than any other Outpost Quartermaster. I know he is hoping that two years from now, after my mandatory service, I'll be following in his line of work. I know the job. I know who's bullshittin' me and who's not. I know how to be fair and I know the laws. And I know as sure as anything I don't want to be punished or sent to a work camp. But I'm only sixteen. At eighteen, I gotta do a four-year stint in the army first. Everyone has to--all the men, anyway. The women, though, that's a completely different story. Not that there's many left, and the ones that are... well... they got their own problems.
She wouldn’t stay behind. I wasn’t so sure she should either. Staying alone or trekking with me to the CDC? Neither was the better decision. I really didn’t want her back in that building. It had been her prison. Then again, if whoever signaled out that window knew I was here, they could be trying to separate us. And that was not happening.
The whole thing was nuts. When I first saw those flashes and knew we weren’t alone as we should be, I became furious. And those flashes weren’t just flashes. They were a code—an old code. One my father taught me when I was a kid. He thought maybe it would he me one day, as some old things should not be forgotten. But George didn’t know it, wouldn’t know it. Yet it was directed at her. It was meant to frighten her or lure her to investigate.
George said that she knew her way around most of the upper levels of the building. So that was a plus. The minus was going in with an unpredictable toddler strapped to one of our backs. For all that I loved Silvie, she was one noisy baby. I wouldn’t change a thing about her—she was as perfect as her mother. The three of us belonged together in this world. We would accept and understand each other. To hell with everyone else. At least for now…
Blinding white light and my vision collided. Surely I was accustomed to all things bright. At first this light seemed unnatural; then I realized why. I’d been staring directly at the sun. The sky was its usual white, and I could almost see the points of the sun’s rays invading that white sky. I blinked burning tears that slid down my sand-dirtied face.
Where the hell? What the hell? I wiped away the sand, sleep, and tears caked on my face and bent my neck downward to get that damn sun out of my eyes. Strange thing about this sun, it provided more light than warmth. I was dressed in army-green khaki pants and jacket, a white T-shirt, and black boots. That was the same. My clothes were normal, but where was I? I’d been propped… somewhere, with my head angled skyward. Did someone put me here? Did I put me here?
My movements were slow due to stiffness. My joints ached, and my back and hindquarters were numb, which meant I’d been sitting here quite a while. Wherever here was.