For as long as Walter can remember, Earth has suffered the devastation of the War. A ruthless dictator known as the Kaezer invades, and the entire world falls under his control. Walter’s family joins the water rebels, and they struggle to survive in a time when resources have become deadly.
Captured by the enemy after a frenetic battle, Walter and his loved ones are sent to the precarious and oppressive ration camps. The true battle begins, in this young man’s heart and mind, as he strives to remember the meaning of loyalty and freedom.
The first installment in the retro-futuristic “Family of Earth” series, this short story introduces the world and protagonist of “Ruby Descent”, a decopunk novel due for completion in 2015.
Their target that night was a remote wellspring, concealed inside a rugged grotto. They’d raided this location several times before.
There were twenty people on the team. They quietly approached the ledge, overlooking the heavily-secured site.
The skirmishers assumed their positions first.
Riggs stayed back with the carriers, waited for the orders from Liscomb.
Several minutes passed, before Riggs finally waved, ordered them all to stay quiet.
Walter crouched alongside the others, hidden in the shadow of a large rock. Below them lay a well-lit area, surrounded by a sinister fence.
Two walker robots guarded the gate. The bipedal kind, about fifteen feet tall, plated in tough shells of steel. Burnished copper and brass gears, and components, riddled their sides. Along with rows of high-powered weaponry. They trudged about on thick, robust legs, the grumble of combustion engines powering them. The acrid stench of diesel hung in the air.
“Wait for it,” Riggs said.
Then came the first explosion, as the main skirmisher team opened fire.
Startled shouts. And five troopers rushed into view, stark in their long, black uniforms. They swore in their strange, foreign language, and brandished their rifles.
Another loud explosion. The ground shook, gunfire rattled through the air, as the skirmishers ran down the western side of the hill. The troopers all pursued, leaving only the robots to defend the enclosure.
Then, the second skirmisher team attacked. Father was a part of this group.
They sprinted in, aimed their weapons. Fired, to get the walkers’ attention. And then they bolted down the eastern slope.
The robots followed straightaway, the mechanical whir of their movements resounding up the hill.
Two more walkers appeared, from the back of the enclosure.
As soon as these arrived, Villamont made his move. He’d been a robotics technician before the rise of the Kaezer. Now, his skills were invaluable to the riot team.
Villamont stood, unafraid, wearing a patched, unkempt overcoat. His battered fedora was adorned with three feathers, various gears, bolts, and assembly parts attached to the band. His gloves were wired with transmitter fibers, used to direct his machines.
The walkers raced toward him.
He raised his hands, almost as if he were conducting an orchestra, and a mob of reclaimed robots followed his commands.
He modified and reassembled all robots the team managed to capture. And he now had his own small army to harass the Kaezer with.
Villamont’s robots descended like a crazy blur, and attacked. Dozens of hovering drifter models, a walker, and a myriad of tiny reconnaissance drones. Even Walter had helped to trap these, when they were caught spying on the camp.
The enemy walkers fell for the diversion, and soon chased Villamont’s mechanical pests down the east side.
Leaving the gate unprotected.
The signal flare lit the sky, a brazen red scar against the black of night.
“Move out,” Riggs shouted.
And Walter followed the others, stealthily as he could.
They ran into the enclosure.
At the back of the grotto lay the spring. It was smaller than he’d imagined.
Riggs had them wait, as he dipped a tester device in. Just to be sure.
Another contribution that Villamont had invented. The tester devices were vital to their camp, as well as to the others they traded with.
This spring had been clean for as long as they could remember. But the bacteria had been known to infest other sources, which had once run pure.
Walter uncapped all of his canisters. The others did the same.
The tester device chimed pleasantly.
“Safe. Get to it, everyone.”
The carriers all rushed forward. An insane press, as they filled their many containers. This water would be their sustenance for the next few weeks. Until the next riot.
Walter was amazed at how quickly the others filled. He capped his last one, secured it to his pack.
Riggs suddenly looked up.
“Damn. Here comes one. Back to the transport, kids. On the double.”