Rigor Mortis

Epilogue: Rigor Mortis

Officer Camino coughed and violently waved dust out of the air. He picked his way carefully through the basement rubble left behind by the bomb. The wall with the only window had collapsed. Covering the space were the corpses of the other walls. The moaning of the unfortunate survivors was the only sound, but in the half hour that the squadron picked through the disaster silence set in like twilight. The silence was thicker than the dust in the air.

“Nothing here,” Camino announced after forty five minutes of careful searching, punctuated by ever-mounting desperation. “Let’s go to the surface. Maybe we will find something up there.”

The stairs had been obliterated, so everyone filed outside and scaled the short building to what was left of the second floor. It was in worse shape than the bottom, but at least there was more light.

Scratch that, Camino thought. He wished for darkness to cover the broken bodies and rivers of blood. It was necessary carnage, he knew, but it never failed to turn his stomach when he could see it too clearly.

“Fan out,” he ordered his men. “We need to find it before nightfall.” He was worried, as he had been since they had discovered what the remote trackers could do. There were only two left, and if they could destroy this one, they could take down the system. But how would they find it in this mess? Maybe it was best to evacuate Geneva while they still had the chance. But then again, if people were inclined to leave, they would have been gone months ago. By matter of principle, finding the tracker would take far less time.

“Hey, boss!” an invisible someone yelled. “Camino! Over here!”

The voice led him to the west side of the top floor. There was considerably less blood here. As a matter of fact, Camino couldn’t see any bodies at all, save for the very live Private Lucas. His massive frame blotted out the setting sun.

“Aren’t they those kids?” he asked, pointing. When Camino stepped around him, two corpses jumped into existence. A boy and a girl, so covered in dust that they nearly blended in with the wreckage. But Camino could almost imagine that they were simply playing possum, ignoring the two intruders. Laying side-by-side, facing each other, it was like they were in some meadow sharing secrets. One of the girl’s arms was caught under the boy’s shoulder, her head on his arm, her other arm pulled back behind her body. The boy embraced her eternally. His chalky, breathless lips rested on her forehead.

That’s how he wanted to die, Camino decided. Loved.

Their faces were vaguely familiar, he admitted, but every dead face he had seen since this bloody war had started was vaguely familiar. “No, I don’t think so. Come on, back to work.”

“No, I swear!” Lucas insisted. “I think these are those Greek kids from WHO, the ones with the cure. They were on the TV a few times.”

“Why would they be here?” Camino demanded impatiently. “Last I heard they were going to Uruguay.”

Lucas shrugged. “Uruguay, Paraguay. Maybe somebody heard wrong.”

Camino didn’t bother answering, simply began to climb out. The kids couldn’t be here. Camino would not be responsible for their deaths, too.

“Shouldn’t we at least make sure – ” 

“For crying out loud!” Camino exploded. “These kids were geniuses! They were on their way to completely undoing the Reformists. No one’s stupid enough to mix up Uruguay and Paraguay!” Camino took a deep, deep breath. “Now, come on. We’ve got to find that tracker before Geneva is blown into the sky!”

Lucas continued to stare at the young couple for a moment. “I guess we will never know,” Camino heard him mumble. Lucas reached over and draped the girl’s arm over the boy’s side, completing the embrace, before following Camino away.

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