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17 August 2015 @ 04:56 am
_Project Dystopia_ part 4  

Dystopia was badly named. This was not a post apocalypse civilization. This was an extinct civilization.

Ebsa's training kept him driving, but at the first wide spot in the bulldozed road he swung wide and parked. Climbed up the ladder and popped the hatch. A slow 360 had him shaking his head in disbelief. High, snow topped mountains to the east. Lower hills to the west. In between, a mostly flat valley floor, covered with broken brick and concrete, occasionally still standing as a testament to the building that had crumbled around it. To the north and south, the rubble of a mega city stretched to the horizon. How can a civilization climb so high . . . and have no protection, no resiliency? Who built this? Who destroyed it?

Or what. It could have been a natural cause, like Comet Fall and their comet impacts.

Of course, they're still arguing about who the Builders were. Assumed to be human until other evidence is found. He swept his gaze around the horizon to horizon remains of buildings. Builders. An appropriate name for them, whoever or what ever they were.

The nearest ruins ranged from pits in the ground to a ragged stone corner that stood about three floors high. Tough looking brush with spiky oily green leaves grew in cracks in ancient pavement, assisting time and weather in reducing the remains to wilderness. Stringy grass tufts were anchored in sand and dirt accumulations, here and there, winter brown, just a touch of green at the base. Nothing animal in sight. No birds in the sky.

"One damn me." He climbed down and drove on. The trip had involved three gates. They'd gotten wary of direct connections after the Helaos war. The Directorate had set up several "hubs" on algae worlds, and worlds with any indication of habitation, or having been discovered were now routed through a third hub with an army camp keeping an eye on them. And a wall around the gate on this side, and troops keeping an eye on the egress that nearly closed on his back bumper. The project camp here was reported to be thirty kilometers down this road He eyed a couple of the curves. No particular reason for the curves that he could see—other than the gate side being able to overlook—and shoot at—anything coming behind them on the curve. Set up for a fighting retreat. Well, I shouldn't blame them for being paranoid, after that mess on the world we used to monitor the Helaos. They came close to taking us all.

The camp had been placed on high ground that, from the look of it, had been swept clean of anything that had ever been built here. It was circled by a wall of steel panels, two meters high, with an armed check point. The guards were in Directorate field khakis, identical to what he was wearing. Ebsa pulled up and stopped where they pointed.

But when he opened the door, he found them doing a visual sweep of the undercarriage, shotguns in hand.

One older fellow stepped to the door. "New here? We've got to check for spiders. Damn things are huge and poisonous." He waved in two men. "Check the top. This things a bit of a wreck, isn't it?"

"Yep. But it's mechanically sound, and it sounded like I'd need a secure place to sleep. Spiders? Oh, definitely."

Two pair of guards dropped back down. "Clear up top." The first one grinned. "They never tell anyone about the spiders, else they'd have a serious personnel problem."

The officer nodded. "Go to the aid station, get an injector of anti-venom before you go anywhere." He pointed. "That's the aid station, what are you assigned to?"

"Mess. I'm the new chief."

That got him some wistfully skeptical looks.

"I, umm, heard the two cooks assigned here weren't . . . impressive."

"They know how to load up the fabs and are pretty good at keeping the vendos supplied."

"Yipes. What time is it, local?" Ebsa glanced at the sun.

"Mid afternoon. Why don't you park on the far side of the big tent there. You'll see the kitchen set up there."

"Good. I'll see about cooking a proper dinner."

Definitely wishful expressions. Uh. Oh.

He drove around the tent—more of an over sized sun shade, with no sides—spotted the kitchen in the back corner and swung around to park with his door a step away from the edge of the concrete floor.

"Poisonous spiders huh?" He opened the well stocked gun case and grabbed his customized belt. A holster, pocket for the extra magazine, a smaller pocket for the metal tube full of the Comet Fall Joy Juice. A life saver, more than once, but illegal in the Empire. This was the full blown von neumans. No chance it would ever be legal. Might not be useful against spider bites, but he was keeping it. He slung it on, added his favorite 9mm pistol and the extra mag.

I look ridiculous. And paranoid. He hung it back up, grabbed the holster that clipped to the inside of his pants waistline, at the back. Slipped the pistol in and stuck it in the small of his back. Pulled up his shirt enough to blouse over the grip and headed out to check his new kitchen.

The kitchen stank of unwashed dishes and had a visible lack of garbage control.

"Hey! You can't park there."

Ebsa looked up from his contemplation of the kitchen to see two people headed his way. A boy and a girl. They must be right out of school. When did twenty or twenty-one start looking so young to me? I'm only twenty-four.

"Just did. I've got stuff to unload, but everything is going to get cleaned, scrubbed and disinfected first." Ebsa showed his teeth. "I'm Ebsa Clostuone. The Mess Chief. Would you two be the two cooks I've heard mentioned?"

Eyes widened, and then the boy's narrowed. "Clostuone? I don't have to take orders from a closey."

"Well, first get the insult right. That's Closey Upcomer Bastard, thank you very much. And if you want anything resembling a favorable job review from your boss—that's me, now—I think you'd better follow orders. Now, where are the cleaning supplies?"

Two hours later, Rye, as in Ryej, and Woofie, as in Wfne were still resentful, but the kitchen was up to snuff and his usual fall back meal of grilled beef patties on buns and deep fried julliened potatoes was being scarfed by gratified diners.

Mind, the round tables they'd grabbed from the dining area were sub-optimal for serving.

Woofie shrugged. "There's crates and containers around back, we just got out as much as we needed." He glared resentfully at the line of people waiting for the next round of filled plates.

Ebsa checked that Rye was flipping burgers, then cut cheese and reached to lay slices on the hot meat. Woofie laid out another double row of plates and Ebsa started opening up buns "How's the mustard and ketchup holding up out there?"

No answer. He pinned the boy with his best beady eye. The boy shrugged and peered. "Need more mustard."

"Go get it." He turned back to the hot line, drained fries and lowered another basketful into the oil. Salt and pepper, and load Fries onto plates as Rye scooped the patties onto the buns. Assembly line. Over a hundred people. No big deal. So long as the clean dishes hold out.

A loud laugh from the side. A familiar face. "Hey, it's the self starter. No wonder it smells good in here!"

"Wxxo! You running the camp?"

"Yep, for my sins. I'll never complain about a camp full of rowdy soldiers again. Have you met the archeologists?" He glanced around. "No damn it, they haven't come in yet—poor sods are probably trying to avoid having to eat fabbed gunk again. I'll roust them out once I've had time to savor some real food."

"Wait till I get fully set up before you flatter me too much." Ebsa turned back at a ding. Fries up!

An hour later, he had to glare the kids into cleaning up during a brief hiatus, then they all scarfed a quick meal themselves before getting back to work.

"Didn't you have any proper training?" He was getting a bit put out.

"Yes!" Rye snapped. "We learned all about vendos, fabs, and vats. And some cooking. We do do some cooking, no matter what all those people were saying. We have to keep up with the vats, after all."

Woofie looked around. "We fix proper dinners three nights a week, and keep everything running. How much cooking are you expecting us to do?"

Ebsa sighed. "Three a day, children. Three a day. This is the least elaborate dinner you'll ever see me fix. And yes. The kitchen will be cleaned after every meal. Most of the lunches will be simpler, the breakfasts will vary."

He glanced up at movement across the tent. "Next shift of diners. Load the cook top, Rye. Woofie?"

"I know, I know! Mustard."

"First, wipe down the tables. People have been spilling all over them." He could hear the boy's teeth grit, but he did as told, without further prompting.

A mutter from fast lengthening line. "But I'm a vegetarian!" Ebsa looked over and caught a couple of nods. Civilians. Or Directorate scientists. Probably both. He raised his voice. "How many vegetarians?" Hands went up. "Woofie, do the fries, keep the plates coming." He headed for the freezer for the tofu.

Two more hours, everything scrubbed and put away, he sent the pair off to their beds. And sank down into a chair beside the grinning Paer.

"You didn't warn me about the spoiled brats."

"You might not have come." She scooted her chair closer and leaned on his shoulder.

"I'd still have come. But I'd have bought a cattle prod."

She giggled, and pulled out a sealed packet. "Actually, I've brought you a anti-spider venom injector. Beats an electric shock any day, but do try to not use it unless it's the only alternative to strangling one of them. And I've got an anti-chitinous insect spell from Xen. You're going to want to apply it regularly. Frequently, far and wide."

Footsteps . . . Wxxo braced his hands on the table. "I finally had time to kick back and catch up on the news highlights. Please tell me there's no trouble brewing?"

"Ah. My reputation . . . is getting stranger. Well, I think Director Ajki is just trying to get us away, so the newsies would go away, and maybe our co-workers, given a little time to think, could wrap their minds around 'maybe we ought to stop being so rude to Ebsa.' Anyway, he sent Ra'd to Embassy, so any trouble here is not anticipated to require shooting anything."

"I truly hope so. Especially since those tykes need cooking lessons."

"Poor kids probably thought camp cook sounded like an easy job. I grew up underfoot in a commercial kitchen, so I know how one works. And how time intensive it is."

"Does that mean no pastries in the morning?"

Paer giggled. "Administrator! I'm shocked that you don't like those abominations the fabs produce!"

Ebsa grinned. "Actually, that sounds like a great idea. Then I'll attack the crates out there and see what equipment the tykes have been ignoring."

The administrator grinned. "Just watch for spiders, as you unpack. Those things get into everything. and we just can't keep the small ones out."

Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on August 17th, 2015 06:22 pm (UTC)
== I'd have bought a cattle prod."

She giggled, and pulled out a sealed packet. "Actually, I've brought you a anti-spider venom injector. Beats an electric shock any day, but do try to not use it unless it's the only alternative to strangling one of them.

I got lost in the above. Better or easier to deal with the sting than to shock or strangle a spider ??

And anti-spider-venom perhaps ?

Little Egret in Walton-on-Thames
matapampamuphoff on August 17th, 2015 07:47 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I need to add something like "But however frustrating, don't actually us it on you assisstents. Unless they get bit by a spider." Or split the conversation up further and drop any jokes about jabbing his sullen cooks.
Michawl DolbearMichawl Dolbear on August 17th, 2015 06:45 pm (UTC)
=="Yep. But it's mechanically sound, ==

Doesn't really match

==The return message from Vehicles was brief. It hasn't been touched since you returned it. Please stop bringing it back. ==

combined with the end of Rescue Party when it definitely isn't 'mechanically sound'.


Perhaps ++It's now tested and mechanically sound. It hasn't been used since you returned it

Little Egret in Walton-on-Thames
matapampamuphoff on August 17th, 2015 07:44 pm (UTC)
Some day I'll write Ajha's team on the Helios hunt. They get Disco to send a rep--Nighthawk. She works over the officially twice totalled crawler, magically, before they leave. now _nothing_ is to spec and it can't even be used for spare parts.

I'll add something along the lines of "Are they still griping about Nighthawk's customizations? It works better than ever. Even if it does look a bit odd."
(Anonymous) on March 11th, 2018 03:00 am (UTC)
Yes please