I could hear the storming rain beating against the metal of our transport as we drove down a muddy road leading up to our destination. I turned to the Squad Leader, a guy I fought with back in Basic. I was cocky back then and didn't think he'd make it out of Basic, let alone become a Sergeant. But there he was, sitting in the driver's seat with that insignia on his shoulder and that ever focused gaze of his concentrating on the miserable road ahead of us. He didn't notice me staring at him, so in good gesture I fished out my pack of smokes from my pocket, opened the crumpled package, and pulled out a fresh stick. "Jenson." I spoke, breaking the silence of the cabin. Jenson turned to me quickly, eyed the cigarette, and shook his head. "No, I'm good." He answered automatically.
Jenson was always a straight man. Never liked doing anything of this sort for as long as I could remember back in Basic. I shrugged, put the stick in my mouth, and returned the pack to my pocket before pulling out my lighter, and lighting up. Afterwards I flicked my lighter shut with a trick and returned it from where it came. With the lit cig in my mouth, I turned my attention to what was beyond the windshield of our transport. Staring out into the cold and rainy night, watching the beams of our truck being reflected by a curtain of rain drops while the darkness behind it swallowed it. My thoughts wandered about back home as I spaced out gazing into the night.
I missed home. Home for me was smack dab in the countryside surrounded by the greenest hills and lushest woods, and our backyard basically stretched out to touch everyone's property in the community. My family were farmers! Proud and hardy! We never went hungry, or broke. Hell man, we were so damn well-to-do that we SHARED our food to those who either needed it or asked politely! It was no skin off our nose, and life was just a simplistic dream compared to now.
Now has me here in an ECDF private uniform and scouring the wasteland known to everyone in the Habitable Zones as "Scrapyard", the graveyard of once powerful cities, and the ruins of our shattered Earth. Not that it was my choice either to come out here now that I think about it, I was drafted into the service along with my older brother. Where he is now, I don't know, but I do miss him. I wonder where he possibly could've went...
"Gilberts!" Sgt. Jenson yelled, snapping me back to reality. "Sir!" I responded. The lit cigarette falling from my mouth and landing on the metal floor of the cabin. "Check the map Gilberts. I can't right now due to the road conditions." He ordered. With a sigh of relief, I stepped on my halfway finished cigarette to put it out before popping open the glove compartment and pulling out a folded map. Our route was outlined in red permanent marker, with a big circle over our destination. I couldn't see much through the darkness of the night for road signs or anything, even with the rain now letting up it looked like. I used the soft glow of the instruments on the dashboard to check our headings on the map and confirmed that I had no idea where we were, or if at all we were on the right course.
"Uh, I don't know sir." I replied, trying to make heads or tails of the map in the dim light. Jenson just let out a frustrated sigh. "It's a shit location they're sending us to, you know that?" He grumbled. I reflected on his comment for a moment. I've been with the Sergeant for a good few years now and when he says something is "shit", then that means it's never pleasant. I sat up in my seat and asked out of concern for us. "Where are we headed anyway sir?"
The Sergeant kept his gaze on the road but I could tell he was miffed just thinking about the answer to my question. He usually chews his bottom lip when miffed, or annoyed, angry, etc. He chewed for a bit before finally answering me. "It's not paradise I'll tell you that much. Our Company has been ordered to assist the Eastern Front against a Tribe, and this Tribe has military conquest on the mind Gilberts. They've got the numbers and the firepower to stand toe-to-toe with us, and it is not going to be pleasant." After a pause he continued. "What makes matters worse is that we've lost a few miles of territory and a lot of man power during the last skirmish. Command wants us to take it back. This is front end heavy combat!" Jenson's words hit me like a ton of bricks, and I found myself feeling as if a sink hole was opening up in my stomach.
Front Line Combat? I've never been on the front before. My Company has always been held in reserve and never dispatched in all my years in the service. I never expected them to actually use us either, but here we are! On our way to the front lines of war! I felt my hands shake at the thought and tried to fish out another cigarette to smoke. This time Jenson wanted one as well, it was the first time I've ever seen Jenson smoke. The tension inside the cabin had changed and the smell of cigarette smoke wafted through the small compartment. Not that Jenson or I cared, as our thoughts lingered onto the same horrible page.
I peeked at the map in my hands with its red line leading us to our destiny and couldn't stand to look at it. I returned it to the glove compartment and securely shut it. I took a big, long inhale, and watched the cigarette burn through its coating in the reflection on the window. Then I breathed out, the excess smoke billowing itself into a cloud before me. I concentrated on the swirls in the smoke, my thoughts gathering on memories of home and of a time when life was but as simple as growing onions and gourds.
Damn I miss dirt.
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