Javier walked east. Where are the troops? What happened? He had come across some bodies earlier in the day and looted them for a pair of pistols, three extra magazines, clothing and water bottles. The food he found wasn’t of Iowa manufacturing, but he ate all of it as he had been famished. He drank the water down and filled the bottles he took from a creek after washing the dirt off of himself. After bathing he felt almost alive again.
My memories, they are so sluggish. He had experienced near death before, other reported that he went into a cocoon of some sort that was impenetrable to any sort of meddling and that his body would emerge from it unscathed after it had healed. Javier never had any memories of any of it. He never remembered emerging from his cocoon, he never remembered dying, thought in some cases he could remember what happened just before he died. There was a guy this time…they were near the barrier out west. Someone came through it.
He shook his head, it was too fuzzy. There had obviously been a battle and the territory he was walking through should have been firmly in Iowa’s control. He was still four hundred kilometers from the Missouri river. It would be a long walk, if he had to leg it all the way there. The area was dotted with small rises and near the end of the day Javier decided to hike up to the top of the tallest one he could see. As the sun was setting he caught a view of the surrounding lands. He knew where he was, at least. Javier and Bill had been all over this section of the country and the view provided him with the bearings he needed. At least now he could make for the closest Iowan outpost. He took a few steps down the hill, to at least get below the crest before wrapping himself up for a cool night of camping.
Abruptly Javier stopped, turned and raced back up the hill. He looked west, scanning the horizon. “It’s gone.” The barrier, was down. Completely missing and he knew right where it should be, this hill, even after the better part of a day of walking was still close to the barrier, which should have dominated the horizon. “What the fuck happened?”
There was no light, no radiance, no fuzzy twinkling in the air. Such things would have been left behind had the Iowan’s used one of their few positronic bombs, so whatever happened there had been conventional in nature. Except Javier suspected the barrier people would not have willingly let the barrier go. Someone had taken it down. “Was it us? Did we do that? Am I marching the wrong way? Maybe we pressed on west and the front lines are near the rockies now?”
He found a few ratty bushes to shield him from the wind, in case it started up and used his pack as a pillow and a spare jacket to lay over his legs to help conserve his heat. Looking up at the stars he thought about what to do.
“It wasn’t us. We didn’t take the barrier down, someone else did. And they pushed us back.” Otherwise, he reasoned, why would he have found the bodies and foreign equipment east of the barrier? “Of course, we could have pushed back with a counter attack.” He was pretty sure this wasn’t the case; his own people didn’t know how to deal with the barricade and it was unlikely there was a secret or plans to bring it down that Bill didn’t know. His stepson, Nick, had been taken through the barricade months ago and ever since then Bill had obsessed over it. Nick was the son of his best friend and when he lost him, something had snapped in Bill, making him obsessed with getting the kid back.
The Iowan’s hadn’t taken down the barrier. Javier had been in all the meetings as Bill’s assistant and he knew they had no way to bring it down. In theory one of the posi-bombs might have done it, but the military guys sitting on the bombs were adamant that they should never be used again, for reasons they wouldn’t say. The civilian government had not let them destroy the bombs, but the military refused to include their use in any planning. It was to the point that tactical nuclear weapons were being assembled now that some sources of enriched uranium had been taken.
Radioactive zombies that’s what we need! Javier scoffed and decided to continue to head east toward the nearest friendly stronghold in the morning.