Joel Rotter woke from sleep with a start. A stab of fear shooting through him as he realized he couldn’t see, everything was dark. The fear didn’t lessen as his mind came awake enough to confirm that he hadn’t gone blind in the night, because that meant that the mountain pass was in danger of invasion from the fell lands. The power had gone out, and if they couldn’t get the power started again and push back any attackers that might take advantage of the darkness, then the entire settlement would be in danger of destruction as well.
The sky was overcast tonight, blocking out the feeble light of the moon that was only beginning to wax larger in the sky. As a result, it took Joel an extra minute to locate and grab his pistol and machete from the nightstand next to his bed before counting paces to reach the closet to obtain his thick hide coat for warmth against the early spring cold outside.
With trained skill, Joel dressed in the dark. Making sure that his belt was easily accessible with its spare magazines of ammo, and that his hiking boots were on tight with his knife securely in its ankle holster on his right leg over his pants.
Stepping out into the hall, Joel could hear the other guardians working their way towards the exit. A pale flickering lamp burning at the end of the hall, held in the hands of Captain Warner, did little to lighten the mood of the gathered fighters as they stepped out into the night, knowing in their hearts that they might not return alive from the job before them.
“Rotter, see that the men are assembled in the courtyard and that the equipment is in order.” Captain Warner ordered as Joel passed him, trying not to look at the unnerving way the lamp light animated the scars on the Captain’s face, scars the Captain had earned in battle several years before when a pack of twisted fell wolves had assaulted the pass in an attempt to break through to the village beyond. If they were lucky the current problem wouldn’t involve more fell wolves, though if it came down to a fight, Joel would take the wolves over some of the other things beyond the pass any night.
Joel had been on the pass defense force for five years now, ever since his sixteenth birthday, and he had seen things in that time that still haunted his nightmares. One of those things had been the rotter that had been his first kill, the kill that had given him his last name, and provided him with the hide coat he now wore as armor against both cold and attack. If another rotter attacked, or heaven forbid more than one rotter, then they all might die that night. Rotter’s were great hulking beasts with venomous claws, mutated at some point from what Joel could only assume to have been some unfortunate bears caught in the after effects of the bombing some two hundred years ago. The worst thing with rotter’s was that even if you survived the venom that devoured you from within, you would likely still die from the countless number of diseases that the beasts seemed to inflict on their victims.
Joel had been lucky the last time. The monster had killed four men and shrugged off their assault as though it were nothing, but Joel’s last shot had found its way through the roof of the beast’s mouth and into its brain as it had reared up to tear his head from his shoulders. He didn’t fancy he would be so lucky twice in a row.
The men and women of the pass defense force had been trained for this sort of event countless times, since without the electricity from the generators at the dam, the reinforced electric wall and heavy duty spotlights would do little good in deterring the monsters from beyond the mountains. Joel found he had little to do in complying with the Captain’s orders, as everyone knew the procedure, but he did what he’d been told to do anyway, double checking everyone’s packs before retrieving his own, and checking it over as well. Joel was thankful that his fellow defenders were as prepared as he himself was, but a part of him also regretted not having more to occupy his mind from the potential dangers of what they were about to do.
There were so many possible dangers waiting for them, so many different monsters that might attack, monsters that man had made themselves during their own fighting long ago. As the stories went, the world had come to war once again, only this time the war ended with all sides losing far more than ever before. In desperation the nations of the world had used weapons forbidden long ago, and the effects of those weapons had killed entire nations, and many that didn’t die at first had died afterwards for various reasons. The few that remained after that had either managed to survive as Joel and his people had, mercifully sheltered from the war and its aftermath by the natural land, or else had been warped by the after effects until they could no longer be considered even remotely human.
Captain Warner stepped out of the barracks then, bringing Joel out of his thoughts as Warner lit the end of a stick with his lamp and then used the stick to light a basin of logs soaked in oil.
“Alright, you know your orders, team one will check the lines from here to the dam. Teams six and four are going with me to check on team seven at the wall. Depending on the state of the wall and team seven’s condition we will decide what to do from there.” Said Captain Warner, his voice cutting clearly through the crisp night air. “Team five will guard here and make sure we have more torches ready if needed. Teams two and three will follow Rotter and check the lines down to the village. If you don’t find anything out of the ordinary then coordinate with the home guard to protect the village. That is all. Everyone grab a torch and move out!”
Moving quickly in two single file lines, every person grabbed a torch from a stack placed near the flaming basin. The torches didn’t provide the best light, but the defense force used them anyway because the flames tended to be more effective as a weapon and deterrent to any mutant life that had developed a taste for non-mutated flesh.
Joel was a little relieved to be in charge of the village guard teams, chances were good that since the barracks was out of power that meant the breakdown was on the dam approach. It also meant that Joel and his teams wouldn’t be spending the night at the wall in the dark, and were less likely to run into anything more than the wild deer that roamed the village valley. His relief didn’t last long however, his training didn’t allow him to let his guard down once they began to move, a lack of attention to the situation based on the mere likelihood of everything being fine could prove fatal to not only himself, but everyone else.
The land immediately around their guard station fort had been manually cleared for several yards in each direction, allowing a degree of security from unexpected attack from the evergreen forest that otherwise covered the landscape. The guard station was the largest fort that the village had. Strategically placed so as to not only have easy access to the dam that supplied power to the village and the towns beyond, but also to be able to keep watch on the pass that led between the mountains that separated the village from the war tainted lands closer to the coast. The other guard posts that the village maintained further down in the valley, were more of a precaution than anything else, making sure that if anything managed to get past the mountains another way it wouldn’t be able to catch the village unprepared, but mostly they served to guard the trade roads kept between the neighboring settlements from more human trouble makers seeking to make a living praying on the lives of others of their own kind.
Heading downhill from the guard post, it wasn’t long before Joel lost sight of the Captain and those with him as they disappeared behind a line of trees that bordered the paths cut out for the security of the power lines.
The night seemed safe enough on the way towards the village. The power lines were intact and the relay stations functional as far as could be ascertained. They even startled some deer along their path, a good sign that nothing from the fell lands had come through the area as the untainted animals wouldn’t be found anywhere near the monsters if they could help it.
The power lines took a few turns at times, cutting around natural obstacles as needed in order to maintain a course reachable by the teams, this hadn’t always been the case, the ruins of old power line towers showed that once the lines had gone for the most direct path rather than the most easily maintained, but then as the stories went, man had had access to better technologies in the old days that had made keeping the lines maintained easier.
A final turn in the lines half an hour later brought the teams around a bend of trees, revealing the glowing fires of the village below. Joel was glad to see the fires burning, it meant that the home guard were responding effectively to the power outage, no doubt gathering everyone to the rise where the village shelter stood in case the dam were to break and flood the valley. The rise shelter also allowed for the guard to better focus their defensive grid, ensuring that no fell beast could sneak through unmolested to harm those unable to defend themselves.
Everything was quiet back the way they had come, likely a good sign, because if a gun were fired from the dam or the outpost, then they should be able to hear it from the village. Since no gunfire could be heard, that likely meant that either something new and horrible had come from the fell, slaying the guard teams without giving them the chance to fight back, or else more likely, the teams at the outpost and on their way to the dam had encountered nothing to cause alarm.
“Hoy who’s that there?” Someone called from the village gate as the teams came into sight.
“It’s Joel Rotter, with teams two and three to join in the guard!” Joel called back.
“Dam! The powers out still, and if you’re here I suppose that means something’s wrong dam side. Well get yourselves inside the walls and let’s hope old warner and his can get everything sorted before anything from the fell decides to take a look at the pass.” The voice called back as the village gates swung open to admit them.
“Alright teams, you know what to do here, go get your orders from the wall leads and keep this place safe. I’ll be joining you once I’ve made my report to the council.” Joel said, sounding more confident then he felt. The council consisted of the top officials for the village, and every single one of them had served on the guard in their younger days, so for Joel, it would be the same as a report to several much more senior officers.
The council itself wasn’t hard to find, they were right where he expected them to be, at the top of the village rise, overlooking the entire defensive operation in addition to seeing that the villagers were kept safe under the protection of the elite guard team.
The council headquarters themselves had always been located on the rise, housed in a worn old building of flaking stone. Some even claimed it had stood before the days of the last great war, and gazing on its sturdy exterior of carved stone blocks, Joel could just about believe it. Whatever its purpose had been in the past he didn’t know, it was built like a castle with a single steeple near the front that made a good sniper point, though getting up to it had required the installation of a ladder.
At the moment the council were nearly all gathered at a large egg shaped table placed just inside a massive hall guarded by two sets of great double doors, though Joel could see that a few seats were empty, likely due to some of the council being needed elsewhere to help oversee the gathering of the townspeople.
“Ah Rotter good, what do you have to report?” Asked the senior council member as he noticed Joel enter the room.
“No breaks in the lines from the post to here, teams two and three are with me, and should be stationed with the guard now. Team five is holding the post. Team one went to check the dam. Team seven had the wall tonight and Captain Warner went to check on them with teams four and six. No shots were heard to be fired on our way down so hopefully that means the wall is still held. Team one is estimated to reach the dam within the next half hour.” Joel reported.
“Very good. Let’s hope that that is all we will have to deal with tonight. Rotter locate your men and join them in the guard. Dismissed.” The senior council member said.
So I stopped sitting around being completely lazy long enough to put a little something together. Not sure if I will finish this one or not anytime soon but its out enough that the idea is in place for continued work. Next step is to work out an attack and the capture of Joel Rotter by zombies animated by a mutant plant that is being controlled by a rogue AI that was created by save the planet fanatics before the great war. Should be interesting, though I don’t know where the story will go entirely just yet.