NUKES 1  ·  NUKES 2  ·  NUKES 3  ·  NUKES 4  ·  NUKES 5  ·  NUKES 6  ·  NUKES 7
NUKES 8  ·  NUKES 9  ·  NUKES 10  ·  NUKES 11  ·  NUKES 12  ·  NUKES 13

chapter fourteen
Part Five

Somehow Ozeman dragged himself past the point of fatigue and into what had to be his third or fourth wind. With a clearer understanding of the pending mission he proceeded to move through the assembled vehicles, seeking out and providing maintenance to the sixty-one command tanks that were carrying the nuclear payload and transform them from mobile bombs to ground platform launchers.

The sense of urgency propelled everyone forward like the wind in the sails of a seacraft, another analogy that would've been lost on everyone involved.

But Ozeman was beginning to feel that urgency would be the death of him, because so much time was lost each time they came to the end of a tunnel it was decided that the convoy wasn't going to stop for any other reason, a sensible enough concept except that Ozeman still had thirty command tanks to re-align.

This led to his initiation with a variation of a technique once used to ferry supplies from sailing ship to sailing ship without stopping. Comm Antennas were erected and reinforced, zip lines were strung from one vehicle to the next and Ozeman was first hooked to the line and then actually pushed across the divide between the thousands of pounds of rumbling metal. The process took no more than ten minutes each trip but ensured none of the vehicles he needed to visit were required to stop.

Getting from one Command Tank to the next however required many transits in a veritable network of zip lines that could take more than an hour to complete. Yet in tribute to the crews involved only twice were the lines dropped between vehicles in such a way that the call came to cut and dive before the tension snapped the Comm Antennas.

He finished the final adjustment on the last Command tank with two hours to spare, another fact he didn't know anything about, and was fast asleep in the aft crawlspace of CT-55 when the last of the convoy pulled into Hub 10.

Hub 10 was a vast underground cavern, a seven level cylindrical base nearly half as large as the main hall of the colony itself. The nexus branched off in five directions, each perfectly distanced from the other in a manner reminiscent of another war structure none of them would recognize.

With their assignments pre-noted the tanks entered from the tunnel affectionately called “Homeward” and split to their through tunnels but did not go farther than was necessary to keep the open space in the middle of the hub clear of traffic. The vehicles moved in waves from Homeward and as each took its place and shut down the din began to subside.

The gentle rocking and swaying and even the occasional lurch had lulled Ozeman to sleep and kept him there, it was the sudden deafening quiet that startled him awake. With a weariness and disorientation borne from too many hours hopping tanks Ozeman stiffly climbed out of his crawlspace and the tank and into the bright light of an environ he'd never suspected existed.

It was like some sort of science fiction movie he couldn't place, clean lines, white gleaming halls, glass all around the hub going all the way up to the clear dome through which sunlight was streaming. It was as if the military had created their own colony separate from the dingy, decrepit one he'd been born in.

“Need help, Lieutenant?”

Ozeman sharply glared at the source of the voice, a young Corporal offering his hand to assist his climb down. He had no intention of showing his weakness to this one and shook his head negative trying to look as angry as possible, which because of the deep lines of fatigue he actually pulled off.

In the wake of the scurrying Corporal's retreat Ozeman placed his foot where they'd taught him and gripped as directed and swung down off the tank, dismounting like a pro. He stepped further into the Hub continuing to look around with a mix of wonder and anger. Before he could stumble into the path of the hurly burly however a firm hand landed on his shoulder.

“Amazing, isn't it?”

Ozeman didn't need to look up to recognize Cutter's voice, or for that matter his grip but he hadn't spoken in a while which is why he squeaked out, “No, sir.”

“It was an ambitious project, supposed to be the first of many, but we still haven't finished it and I'm sure any idea of making more has given way to practicality now that we've discovered the outside air isn't as toxic as we thought. Still, it's nice to have a back up. We'd be able to move nearly a third of the colony's population here if need be.”

So it wasn't what Ozeman had thought. His anger had been borne from the envy of seeing so much privilege being reserved for the Millies while the Civvies were left behind in the comparative slums of the past, but as he followed Cutter up the stairs to the first level the heat of that anger passed as Ozeman saw that most of the people here were civilians walking around wide levels with cozy common areas and planters that would need tending by someone other than Military.

He's been led to believe that the world he had grown up in had visible borders but now he was seeing that their leaders had been working all along to expand their horizons and improve their conditions. Ozeman wished he had some way to communicate with his friends at home because this was the sort of news the people needed to hear.

“Why don't we know about this place at home?” It was cheeky and brazen but borne of the moment and Cutter paused understanding that. “This would give a lot of people hope.”

Cutter's face darkened, “It would cause riots. All those who wanted to be here would destroy everything around them to get to the front of the line for this place, and it's not ready.”


Cutter snapped at him, his patience ended, “Our meager resources cannot be wasted quelling dissention at home, Lieutenant.”

Yet, Ozeman thought, we seem to have enough resources to go war. He didn't say it, despite his fatigue because the use of his rank by the General was intentional and delivered with enough force to end the discussion. Yet Cutter continued. “Social history has proven that people do not have patience when they see a solution to their problems, so this will wait until it is ready. With luck we won't need to come here.”

Ozeman feared that attacking an enemy that probably didn't know they existed with a nuclear ambush was the surest way to ensure they'd need this place, and ten others just like it.

* * *

Without being stopped by the guards - who he hoped would've known whether or not he had access to the room Cutter led him - Ozeman joined a crowd of senior Military and Government around a large tactical display with a graphic on it that Ozeman completely failed to recognize as a map of the surrounding area.

Instead he looked in awe at faces he'd only seen on posters and displays and in the newsbriefs, the colony leadership that could've been characters in a book for all he knew, until now. And by their very presence Ozeman couldn't help but feel the full weight of this moment descend on him. He was witness to history, and not the minor footnotes at the bottom of the text, the main subject, the pivotal moment sort of event that would be studied for centuries to come. If they survived the immediate future that is.

* * *

A scant forty-seven minutes later, without digesting a single piece of useful information, Ozeman was led out by Cutter toward one of the non-homeward tunnels, this one oddly labeled with what seemed like a contractive of adjective and verb that reminded Ozeman of some fairy tale destination. That struck Ozeman as entertaining, that the might of their military would proceed on a quest to the distant kingdom of Far-go.

* * *