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To Soldier On

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To Soldier On

Art McCarthy \\ Juan Rivera



There are things which are impossible to get used to. And it's not a hard bed, tasteless food, or even dreary water filtration. Hell, you can even get used to the apocalypse! But Art couldn't adapt to the gifts of fate. And not to unfortunate coincidences, but to such fat pigs that it fed him with enviable regularity.
One of these unpleasant turns was an unexpected meeting with Rivera. Was it pleasant or not? It's hard to say. In any case, he was happy to find survivors after losing his entire squad during the journey. And the fact that one of the survivors was Juan was possible to forgive him. And his company can be tolerated, especially since they did not meet so often. Art logically signed up for security and search teams and spent more and more time alone the perimeter of the settlement, while Rivera stuck in his workshop.
Outside the window, a gray morning was beginning, dank/ dull and colorless. Nature lived its former life, and its perception was dictated by the internal state of the colonel. A shitty, by the way, state. Perhaps there was no sense of such doom in the settlement, but on the way here they saw only death and desolation. How many people are left at all and will humanity be able to recover?
Art frowned, rubbed his nose tiredly: too difficult questions for eight o'clock in the morning. He should go to the church. The man slowly got up from his chair, put a simple boiler into a ladle to make tea. Although, he would kill for coffee right now. Not figuratively speaking. McCarthy dropped a tea bag into a cup, filled it with boiling water and rummaged through the closet in search of a forgotten cookie or a cracker. At that moment, someone knocked on the door. Art, as steady as he was preparing tea for himself, went to the door, clicked the lock.
- What are you doing here, Rivera? Lost? - he blew on the tea and took a long sip, raised an eyebrow questioningly.



Juan was hanging at the doorstep of his old commander for several minutes, gathering enough courage to knock. The man was one of the last persons Juan ever wanted to see again, surpassed only by the members of a certain Mexican drug cartel Juan had once briefly worked for. Yet, he had talked to everyone else in the camp, and Art McCarthy was the only shot he had left.
While he was standing there, Juan could not help but remember how they had met.
It was the second mission in Iraq. Juan had been recruited as a reservist. He was supposed to go in the first draft, two years before that, but the recruiters could not find him back then.
In his twenties, he had served in a small, half-forgotten military camp somewhere on the outskirts of Texas, and even back then he had known that he could not be a soldier. A good technician - yes, a solitary guy who could easily survive all alone in the middle of nowhere - yes, a disciplined enough man not to get into too much trouble - yes, but a soldier - no. The whole idea of following orders without thinking and risking his neck for something he did not care about had always been absurd to him. So no, Juan Rivera had never been a soldier, and when the homeland had called for him for the first time in 2003, he had fled to Canada, to the very same city he was living in now, although back then it looked very different.
He had returned when the first mission in Iraq had been over, but soon after, they found him anyway. Unfortunately, when he finally got to the frontline, it became known where he had been before. Unfortunately, it became known to McCarthy too, and the first lieutenant made his judgment.
Perhaps, that was the moment when Art McCarthy decided that the mechanic was unreliable, or perhaps it was not that and just the fact that Juan had always been more interested in fiddling with the car motor than listening to the tactical disposition plans. He was not that bad, he could carry out orders if he understood them well, he just never cared about anything except his beloved machines. Maybe, the lieutenant despised him after that episode when he almost abandoned a squad member trying to save the radio. In the end, it was the lieutenant who dragged the poor guy out of fire.  But, to be fair, at that moment, Juan was simply being rational: they could survive without one man, but they would have never gotten out of that desert without a radio!
Whatever it was, when Juan was shot and finally commissioned from the army, he could read on the lieutenant's face that he was even more relieved to get rid of the mechanic than the mechanic himself.
It had been fifteen years since then, the times had changed, the world had ended, and the American army did not exist anymore as well as America itself, and yet, when Juan finally knocked, and the door slowly opened before him, he had to make an effort not to put a hand to his head in a military salute.
"Hey, liuten... I mean, colonel," he had learned from Sandy that the old man had been promoted after the war. He looked for a second at the man waiting for him to let him in, but then recalled that colonel was not that sort of guy.
"I was wondering if you had any traps. Mines, animal traps, grenades. That sort of thing. I've talked to our guys, we are short on them. Maybe you've picked something on the way? I could borrow one or two."

Отредактировано Juan Rivera (2023-01-08 04:50:36)


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