F3: Interdiction Zone

For your delectation, without authorial comment…

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INTERDICTION ZONE

‘I wonder just when the world died.’

The question is asked slowly and cautiously, thick with rhetoric and heavy with lack of inflection. Viktor looks up from from his monitor and scratches at his nostrils. His eyes turn upwards and his brow furrows as he considers the question.

‘Does it matter?’ he asks, eventually.

Jurgen leans back in his chair. The fake leather squeaks against his skin and the aging backrest creaks under his weight. Viktor wishes that Jurgen would wear his shirt. As always he chooses not to press the point, given that he long ago abandoned any pretence of wearing his own uniform.

Jurgen wraps his meaty fingers around one another and rests his hands on his ample stomach. ‘When a person dies,’ he begins, pompously confident that he now has his audience hooked. ‘There is a moment of transition. When blood stops flowing to their brain, carrying with it life-giving oxygen. The brain stops working and loses all coherence, memory, everything that made that person who they were.’

‘So,’ says Viktor, deadpan. ‘Death is a supply problem. I will notify Logistics Command.’

This leaves his cellmate blinking in stolid confusion. ‘No, no,’ he replies. ‘I am wondering at what point the world ended, you know? Maybe it was when the wells dried up. Or when there was not enough oil to extract whatever was left. Or when the first revolution happened. Or when all those people died.’

‘I do not care, Jurgen. Is that movement on your screen?’

The fat man leans forwards, his chair registering its usual complaints. Viktor is grateful that Jurgen has abandoned his cheap philosophising. He himself is confident that the world ended when the two of them began their tour in this orbital weapons platform, because after just eight months the polity that sent them up crumbled. Now there is no one left who can bring them back down to Earth.

So they while away the long days and nights firing kinetic hammers at anything that enters their interdiction zone. Their Thor II-class satellite was once state of the art, and they have enough ammunition to entertain themselves for another year or more. It’s likely that the water recycler will fail before then, or that they will grow tired of eating sausage-like tubes of protein and dried vegetables, and opt to flush themselves out of the airlock.

‘It’s an old pick-up truck,’ says Jurgen. ‘It’s seen better days.’

‘We have all seen better days,’ says Viktor. He adjusts the settings on his own bank of monitors, eventually finding a spy-eye that has a good view of the truck far, far below. The vehicle was once red but is now riddled with rust. Its windshield is hidden beneath a protruding hood of cheap sheet metal. It is cruising at speed down a crater-pocked road that the sand has yet to swallow.

Viktor snorts. ‘Budget desert-runner,’ he says. ‘They’ll be lucky if they make it to the next settlement.’

‘What do you think?’ asks Jurgen. ‘It’s been a while since we used one of the four hundred-pounders. Or there are the dispersion flechettes.’

Viktor shrugs. He commands the spy-eye to move closer and watches the truck as it grows to fill the screen. He sees it as it slows, the plumes of dust and sand kicked up behind it shrinking in length.

‘Wait,’ he says. Jurgen belches, then hums an old ditty whilst fondling the ordnance selection controls.

The battered old truck comes to a complete stop. Both doors open; a woman climbs out of the driver’s side and bounds over the bonnet. Viktor and Jurgen watch as she helps out the truck’s passenger: another woman, this one with a swollen stomach.

‘Fuck,’ says Jurgen. ‘That kind of takes the fun out of it.’ He makes a clucking noise with his tongue and plucks a bulb of water from the dispenser.

They continue watching as the pregnant woman vomits into the sand. For a minute or two the figures remain standing where they are, alone in the bleak desert, unaware of what hangs hundreds of miles overhead. Then they climb back into the truck. Viktor imagines the sound of the engine starting up, imagines the feel of desert sun and sand on his skin.

‘This is God,’ he mutters. ‘Today he lets you drive away.’

Comments
9 Responses to “F3: Interdiction Zone”
  1. Paul Raven says:

    That, my friend, is a good little story. Excellent.

  2. GLP says:

    I really like everything about this story except the final line. I don’t know why, it just doesn’t work for me. The rest of it is excellent, though, and I really like the situation. I’d like to see more of these two characters and their relationship in the year they have left to them (and all the stuff they drop hammers on).

  3. Dan says:

    yep, really good.

  4. Kerry says:

    Excellent. That really was a super one.

  5. Shaun CG says:

    Thanks guys, very glad you liked it. I think I will be revisiting the setting, and quite possibly the characters. I’ve written in this world once before, in ‘Sun’ – you may recognise the pickup truck and its occupants!

    GLP: I agree about the final line, in retrospect. It’s left over from the original title (‘Hi, This Is God’). This sort of the thing is the disadvantage of writing and posting something in under an hour, I guess.

  6. Neil says:

    What they said. Nice one.

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