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Jensen Hunter

The thrill of adventure can only be tempered by the sorrow of loss

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 9

Thursday 23rd December 2032, 14:28

 

Gloria grinned as Jack was speaking to the team, “Alright, we’re going back in tomorrow morning, first thing. Joe will stay out here like she did today, Jeff and Vusi will have to double up on over-watch duty. Cecil and Priyanka will be responsible for monitoring the data feed out here. Gloria and the Sarge will be coming into the facility with me.” Priyanka did not look happy when Jack said this last bit, “I don’t think that a three person team is the right call Jack, we should be sending more people down there,” she said.

 

Jack shook his head and said, “Unfortunately that isn’t an option Pri. We’re in hostile environments up here as well as down there. Plus we have a prisoner to monitor and I want both of you to keep an eye on the video feeds that we send back. Whatever is down there has found a way to survive in an environment with an atmospheric CO2 content above six percent. We NEED a Zoologist and Biochemist to safely and critically evaluate what these things are.” Priyanka cut him off, “We can do that down there with you.” Jack cut her off, “Not if we’re all shitting our pants and running for our lives. I want you both here where you can objectively make your observations and record the data. You two are the only qualified people here who can do that.”

 

Priyanka was glaring at him and spoke through gritted teeth, “You are also qualified to do that.” Jack shook his head, “I don’t have a biological background, it has to be you two.” Priyanka was losing her temper when she said, “And what are you guys going to do when these things find you? The pulse rifles didn’t work last time.” Jack started to say, “We only know about one creature and we won’t be using stun pulses this time…” It was Gloria who cut them both off, “We won’t be using the Q-5s this time. Jeff, show the nerds the little care package we brought along.”

 

Jeff had disappeared behind the Unimog during the course of Jack’s conversation with the group. He reappeared carrying two very large pelican cases. He walked into the middle of the group and carefully placed the cases on the floor. Jeff looked at each member of the group in turn and a huge smile covered his face. As he opened the first case he said, “Ladies and gentlemen; when you absolutely, positively have to kill every whatever the hell those things are in the room…” Jeff flipped the lid of the case open and continued, “May I present to you all; the AA-12 automatic shotgun.” The team were looking at two automatic shotguns in pristine condition. Each weapon had a barrel magazine secured next to it in the case.

 

Gloria carried on where Jeff had left off, “No offense to your Lab Rats and their fancy pulse rifles, but we ALWAYS carry our own kit with us. Sometimes you need some old school ballistics and cordite to do a job properly.” The SciDivs looked on implacably while Jeff resumed, “This tough, son-of-a-bitch, belts out three hundred and sixty rounds per minute. We have a barrel magazine with a thirty two round capacity. The solid slug ammo will literally blow a limb off ANYTHING! The entire weapon is designed to absorb recoil so it feels like you’re firing a Q-5; it’s just a smidge louder. If one of you shoots at something down there, you’re all going to know about it.”

 

Priyanka had the dreamy look in her eyes that always surfaced when she was examining firearms. She said, “Now I REALLY want to go back down there!” Jack ignored her comment when he said, “Now THAT is quite the care package you guys brought along. G-LT and the Sarge will take the AA-12s…” Gloria cut him off, “There are two more in the other case; plenty for us all to take down there.” Jack held his hand up and said, “I’d rather have a Q-5 at this point. With that rate of fire and magazine capacity that thing will be empty in less than six seconds.” Gloria scoffed, “There a single shot setting Vanilla, or are you scared of blowing your wad too quickly?”

 

Priyanka bristled at Gloria speaking to Jack that way but he was quick to retaliate, “No. I’m scared of YOU blowing your wad too quickly and not being able to reload in time. I’ll stick to the weapon that has a hundred kill pulse capacity and extra battery mag. You and the Sarge can stick to the heavy fire power.” Gloria just smiled, she seemed to prefer it when Jack gave her the same rough talking that she gave him.

 

Vusi was in the crow’s nest on over-watch but he had been listening to the whole exchange. His voice came over the tac comm system, “Why don’t you guys just go back in today? You have plenty of daylight left.” Jack involuntarily shook his head, a fruitless gesture considering that Vusi wasn’t near them. “Nope, we have preparations to make for tomorrow. We need to find a way to make sure that we don’t lose comms again like we did this morning. We need to rest properly before we go back in there, those suits get bloody hot. We need to analyse the swabs we took from our HAZMAT suits to see what the atmosphere is like down there. If we’re VERY lucky we might not even need the suits,” Jack said.

 

He looked over at Leigh, who was sleeping and now plasticuffed to a camping stretcher under a tarp.  Jack continued with, “We also have a prisoner now. I want to speak to her again before we head back in there, she seems to know something about this place.” Priyanka shook her head and said, “She seems delirious and crazy to boot. Whatever crap she was talking about earlier was probably from a bad dream she was having.” Josephina spoke up, “The Second Lieutenant is right, she is delirious. She was badly dehydrated when she was neutralised by the stun pulse and it looks like she hasn’t had a decent meal in years.”

 

Jack looked at Josephina and said, “When she wakes up, make sure she gets a decent, warm meal in her, perhaps we can win her trust a little bit. Then she’ll be able to confirm or refute what she was saying about this Mistress character and who, or what, exactly she keeps here.” Gloria echoed Priyanka’s sentiment, “She was probably talking crap. I wouldn’t trust a Roamer anyway; they’ll say and do anything for a bowl of pap or half a glass of water.” Jack fixed Gloria with a very level stare when he said, “I thought that there weren’t any Roamers left. And weren’t you the one who said the group that attacked us was unusually large.”

 

Gloria’s eyes spat a look of pure venom at Jack. She couldn’t stand having her own words used against her, unless she was in the mood to play. She steadied her voice and said, “Until we know otherwise, she’s a Roamer.” Jack’s voice was completely calm when he pointed out, “We won’t know otherwise, until we question her and we’ll get a lot more out of her if she trusts us.”

 

Cecil cut in at this point, “Look, Jack is in charge while we’re here so we’ll do things his way. We’re losing daylight while we argue about this and she isn’t even awake now anyway. Surely we should be preparing for tomorrow?” Jack and Gloria held each other’s gazes and they both start to feel a little sheepish about their exchange in front of everyone. Jack broke the silence, “Cecil’s right, there’s no point in arguing about this now. Gloria, you’re our communications guru?” Gloria rolled her eyes and said, “You know I am Vanilla, what do you want?”

 

Jack nodded his head at the datalink antenna that had been set up to communicate with Roodepoort from where they were. “Any luck getting in touch with Mabuse and the base?” He asked. She shook her head and said. “No. It’s weird, we should be able to get a signal just fine from here. I’ve run all of the diagnostics and everything comes back normal, except for the absence of a signal. There is a lot of steel around us, in the facility, but that shouldn’t be an issue. In cases like these I would normally think that someone had set up a jammer but there’s no one here and all of our transponders seem to be working fine.” Jack carried on, “Is there any chance we can jerry-rig that thing to boost our comms in the basement?”

 

Gloria flashed him a grin, Jack was starting to think that she was bipolar with her mood swings, and said, “Actually yes we can, that antenna is so powerful we will definitely not be losing comms anywhere down there.” Jack nodded and said, “Excellent, please will you get onto setting that up for us?” Gloria did a mock curtsey and strode over to the antenna.

 

Cecil walked over to Hannes and said, “Sarge, may I ask you a few questions about what you saw this morning?” Hannes looked at Cecil somewhat suspiciously; the two of them had started to form a friendship. Hannes was used to Jeff and Vusi’s wise cracks and he didn’t appreciate them very much; so he was wary of anyone asking him questions. He carefully said, “That depends on the questions.” Cecil looked a bit confused but pushed on, “You say that the creature had a girl’s face?” Hannes nodded and said, “Ja.” Cecil carried on, “When you say girl, do you mean like a twelve year old, or a nine year old?” Hannes shook his head, “No man, girl as in a woman. I couldn’t tell how old she, or it, looked.” Priyanka walked up to join the other two for the conversation.

 

Cecil nodded and continued, “Grey skin and yellow eyes, did it seem at all perturbed by your flashlights?” Hannes nodded at the first part and shook his head for the second saying, “I’m not sure hey. I didn’t really wait to see if light would irritate it before I shot it. I don’t THINK the light bothered it; it just kind of stood there looking through me until I shot. But it all happened so quickly, I’m not too sure.” Cecil nodded again and asked, “The big rotten teeth, would you say that they were actually rotten or just yellow?” Again Hannes shook his head, “They were big and yellow, they looked rotten to me but…” The big man just spread his hands. Cecil nodded again and Priyanka asked, “What are you thinking C?”

 

“Nothing yet,” Cecil said looking off into the distance. “Rubbish. You’re always thinking something,” Priyanka said playfully. Cecil’s mind was far away when he mindlessly replied, “I don’t have enough facts just yet.” He shook his head and continued, “I want to see this thing in ultra-high definition before I think anymore about it.” Priyanka winked at him and said, “I know, but I hope that we don’t see anything else before we find the Osmium.” Hannes nodded and said, “Maybe taking three stun shots to the chest will make it think twice before coming after us tomorrow.”

 

Cecil and Priyanka looked unconvinced. Jack had sauntered up behind them and said, “Well only one has been seen. And we don’t know what it is so let’s just take it easy until we know more about it.” Cecil, Priyanka and Hannes all gave each other knowing looks. Josephina and Gloria had come over to call Jack, Josephina said, “Leigh is awake LT.” Jack nodded saying, “Have you given her something to eat and drink?” Josephina shook her head and said, “She says that she’s not interested, she wants to speak to you.” Jack said, “I’m coming now.”

 

He walked off to where Leigh was secured to the stretcher, she saw him approaching her and tried to sit up straight. Before Jack reached her she said, “I want my stuff and I want to go please. I promise I won’t tell anyone that you’re here. I just need to get away from this place.” Jack simply replied, “Why do you want to leave here so badly?” She looked genuinely worried when she said, “I don’t know much about this place but I know that we NEED to leave here!” Jack looked her in the eyes and asked, “Why?” Leigh shook her head and said, “PLEASE! I can’t be here!” Jack remained implacable and said, “You’ve said that several times, if you want us to trust you or to cooperate then you need to give me something to work with.”

 

Jack kept his eyes locked with her’s and gave her a level stare when he asked, “Why do you feel that you need to leave here? Who is the mistress? Who does the mistress keep here?” Leigh looked surprised and asked, “How do you know all that?” Jack replied, “You told me all of that earlier.” Leigh looked genuinely scared and said, “I shouldn’t have said anything, she’ll kill me if she finds out.” Jack kept his gaze level and said, “The Mistress isn’t here and I have no intention of telling her what you said.”

 

Jack smiled at Leigh and it had the desired effect, she blushed and looked away from him. He persisted with Leigh, “Who is the Mistress?” Leigh looked at Jack with shy eyes and said, “She’s the Mistress, she’s the queen of this area. At least that’s what she wants us to believe.” Jack asked, “Then why doesn’t she call herself the Queen?” Leigh shrugged and said, “I don’t know, but she isn’t a nice person.”

 

She dropped her voice and said, “I don’t like her.” Jack dropped his voice and said, “I don’t know her but I don’t particularly like her either,” he winked at Leigh. This also worked; she blushed again and let a shy smile slip from her lips. Jack persisted again, “Who does she leave here?” Leigh allowed herself a quick glance at his sapphire blue eyes and said, “I don’t know who they are; all we ever heard were rumours from her special guards. They would tell stories about how they protected the Devil himself and how he was making Demons for the Mistress.” Jack tilted his handsome face and gazed intently at her when he asked, “Making Demons? How was he making Demons?”

 

Leigh shrugged and carried on looking into Jack’s eyes, she found that she quite enjoyed doing that. She was also enjoying the fact that he was interested in what she had to say. Men had never paid any attention to her mind; only her body and she started to enjoy this kind of attention for a change. She carried on, slightly more enthusiastically, “None of us knew how he made them. All we ever heard was that he was making them. The guards called him the Devil, the father of the Tokoloshe, and this is where she keeps them. Away from the rest of us.”

 

Jack looked at her and just said, “Tokoloshe?

 

(I usually use free stock imagery for my blog posts but I sourced this image from www.landroveraddict.com, I am not presenting this image as my own)

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 8

Thursday 23rd December 2032, 07:53

 

Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Good work guys! The elevator shaft is exactly where Cherokee told us it would be.” Cecil fired back in Afrikaans with, “Thank you Grandma Cherokee.” Hannes allowed himself an audible chuckle and he said, “Nice one Cecil, we’ll make a proper Boertjie out of you yet.” Everyone laughed at that, they were feeling pleased with themselves and rightfully so.

 

“This just keeps getting weirder and weirder,” Priyanka said as she was looking at the padlocked elevator door. “I wouldn’t worry too much,” Hannes said, “Most mine security was composed of ex-servicemen, they’re probably the ones who padlocked the door.” Priyanka said, “That makes sense to me; but the fact that these doors were only covered with a thin layer of InstaLawn is what worries me. I have a feeling someone has been here before and recently.” Jack said, “I agree with you but that doesn’t change the fact that we have to continue until we get what we came for. Cecil get ready with the bolt cutters; Hannes and I will open the doors using the crow-bars.” Cecil obliged by cutting the padlock off the doors. Priyanka covered all three of them while Hannes and Jack took up their crow-bars.

 

Jack looked at Hannes as the two of them were holding onto their crow-bars and he said, “Alright in three, two, one.” Both men pulled on their respective crow-bars with all of their strength. After considerable effort the doors to the elevator shaft grudgingly started to give way. Hannes grunted, “Don’t stop, keep pulling!” Jack grunted and kept pulling, suddenly the counter weight system on the elevator door kicked in and the doors slid open. Cecil stepped past Jack to hold the doors open while Priyanka stuck a wedge of scrap metal at the base of the doors to keep them open.

 

The interior team had been in the facility for nearly an hour and a half. They had followed Cherokee’s instructions to the letter; at basement level B2 they had gone through the double doors, covered in InstaLawn since Cherokee had worked at the facility. They moved through the primary storage area for platinum and palladium solutions and it was at this point that their tac comm system had started to lose signal with exterior team on the surface. By the time they had found the rear access the stair case that took them down to level B3; communication with the surface was impossible. Jack had already used seven of his transponders to mark the route that they were taking.

 

Thunk…             Thunk…             Thunk…

 

Cecil’s voice came over the tac comm system, “Am I the only one hearing that?” Priyanka answered him, “Nope, I can hear it too. Anyone have any ideas what the creepy knocking noise is?” Jack said, “It’s probably some kind of structural settling. This place has been abandoned and not maintained for more than a decade. We were told to expect it.” Hannes piped up with, “My Pa was in construction I’ve never heard any kind of settling noise like this before. And it sounds too regular to me” Jack was feeling uneasy, he wasn’t convinced that it was structural settling but the team couldn’t go back topside simply because of a creepy noise. He looked at the O2 levels in his tank, he had thirty percent left.

 

Everyone stepped to the edge of the elevator shaft and shone the flashlights attached to the barrels of their Q-5 pulse rifles down the shaft.

 

Thunk…         Thunk…         Pwing…         RRRRRAAAAAAWWWWWRRRRRRRRRR

 

Priyanka was the first to voice what everyone was thinking, “Is it just me or do the noises sound like they’re getting louder? And that last one sounded like a scream…” Hannes and Jack nodded while Cecil’s eyes were glued to the bottom of the shaft. “Guys, I really don’t mind being the wuss in the group because I am very nervous right now,” Cecil informed his team mates. Priyanka obliged him by stating the obvious, “I’m not scared or anything. But this noise has changed, it has been a bit too regular so far and I’m convinced I heard screaming!”

 

Jack silently cursed, he was also quietly freaking out and Hannes seemed to be the only one of them who wasn’t perturbed. Or maybe he was just hiding it well. “I’m going to set another transponder here and then we will head topside to refill our tanks and rest up for a while,” Jack said. He carried on with, “I read the ambient CO2 levels at seven point six percent, what do the rest of you get?” Everyone else confirmed his number. He set the transponder and as he was laying it down he saw a flicker of movement in his peripheral vision. Hannes said, “Whoa, what the hell was that? Did anyone see that?” All four of them had their Q-5 assault rifles at the ready, scanning the elevator shaft.

 

Eight flashlight beams were illuminating as much as they could of the weed covered interior of the shaft as well as the rest of basement level 3. Jack calmly spoke over the tac comm system, “Hannes, take point and lead us through back using the transponders. Pri get in the middle with Cecil. I’ll bring up the rear. Let’s get topside ASAP.” Hannes didn’t need to be told what to do twice; he followed the directional arrow flashing on his heads up display (HUD). They headed straight for the transponders that would get them out of the facility. All of them were scanning the area with their headlamps and sweeping the peripherals with their Q-5s. Cecil’s voice shakily came over through their ear pieces, “I’m seeing definite blurs of movement on the far left and I don’t think it’s just shadows playing on the walls.”

 

Thwunk, Pwing…   Thwunk, Pwing…   RRRRRRRAAAAAAAWWWWRRRRRRR…

 

Jack was checking the rear and he said, “Just keep moving and don’t shoot anything unless you’re sure of what you’re shooting. I don’t want us to rupture a compressed gas cylinder or a tank of acid.” Jack caught a blur of movement that seemed to come out of the elevator shaft, just out of reach of his flashlights. He kept it to himself so as not to alarm the others. He spoke to the interior team again, “Let’s keep it tight and quick people, move!” As they drew close to the stair case he said, “Cecil get ready to pull the left side door closed to this level, just in case.”

 

As they entered the stair case and Jack was pulling his door closed, he glanced into the vacant space one last time. He could’ve sworn he saw a pair of eyes be illuminated by his headlamp, just for a split second. The doors clanged shut and the team high-tailed it up the stairs to the storage areas of B2. As they entered B2 they all heard the doors that they had just closed; creaking open, loudly. Jack said to them, “I definitely heard THAT, let’s get the hell out of here NOW!” The interior team started to sprint through level B2 as fast as their chunky HAZMAT suits allowed them too.

 

Hannes was out in front when he skidded to a halt half yelling, “What the fuck?” He was staring at a grey, emaciated face with sallow, yellow eyes. Its jaw was hanging open; exposing massive, jagged, crooked and rotting teeth. He brought his Q-5 up and fired three stun pulses directly at the thing’s chest. The creature absorbed all three stun pulses without dropping. It bellowed out a blood curdling screech before darting off at an incredible speed to their right. “RUN!” Hannes screamed as he sprinted at full tilt towards the next transponder. All four of them had heard the scream and saw the blur of movement. They carried on sprinting as fast as they could to the next set of doors and the next stair case. Jack’s lungs were burning and he could taste blood at the back of his throat as his legs pounded up the stairs. Priyanka was starting to fall behind and Jack could swear that he heard heavy footsteps just behind them. He slowed down just enough to grab Priyanka’s arm and haul her up with him.

 

As they reached the top step back at ground level of the main building they could see glorious sunlight pouring through the entrance a hundred meters in front of them. Cecil stumbled and fell, dropping his Q-5; Hannes skidded to a halt and went back to haul Cecil to his feet. Priyanka pulled out of Jack’s grip to scoop up Cecil’s fallen Q-5. She still had the presence of mind to ensure that one of their weapons didn’t fall into the hands of whatever was chasing them. Jack spun around, as Priyanka was going for Cecil’s assault rifle, and fired a volley of stun pulses to the rear of group, just in case anything was there.

 

Within seconds all four of the interior team members were sprinting towards the entrance of the main building again. They burst through the entrance of the main building into the sunlight of the glorious morning. Jack and Hannes turned around again and fired several more volleys of stun pulses into the main building. When they were satisfied that nothing was coming out to attack them, they backed away slowly to the rest of the team. Gloria was looking at the four of them like they were completely insane but she had her Q-5 raised and ready. Josephina was setting up a drip on a young brunette woman that none of the interior team recognised.

 

Jack pulled his SCBA mask off and said in between heaving breathes, “The doors… We have… to… seal the doors… NOW!”

 

Thursday 23rd December 2032, 12:51

 

Leigh was having the same dream. She was trapped and bound in the darkness, she was trying to move, to see but she couldn’t. The dream started to change, she started to hear voices; she heard an argument raging.

 

“That’s complete bullshit you idiots!” Leigh heard a man’s voice say angrily. “I don’t know what you THINK you saw Sarge but it wasn’t what you’re telling me,” Leigh heard the same man say. She heard another man with a deep voice and a thick Afrikaans accent retort, “I’m telling you what I saw; it had girl’s face, grey skin, yellow eyes and fokken big, rotten teeth. I shot it three times in the chest and it look off like a springbok!”

 

The first man spat, “Bullshit!” Leigh heard a woman say, “Shut it Private! We were all there, the Sarge isn’t lying!” “Did you actually see it?” the same man said, “Did you see this so called monster?” The same woman replied, “If you had been down there and experienced what we did, if you had heard what we heard Vusi, you wouldn’t be questioning anything!” Vusi said, “Well isn’t it convenient that the Sarge’s helmet camera wasn’t working when he saw this thing? While you lot were pissing in your panties I was up here dealing with a real threat!” With that he pointed at Leigh, who was propped up in a sitting position next against the Unimog’s rear wheel.

 

Leigh opened her eyes and she saw a pretty young black woman leaning over her with her fingers on Leigh’s throat. Leigh instinctively tried to pull away from the woman but she was too weak. Josephina gently said, “Relax, just relax, I’m just checking your pulse.” Leigh blinked several times and groggily said, “Who are you, where am I.” Josephina replied, “I’m Josephina and you are in our camp.”

 

“That’s enough Corporal,” Jack said, he knelt down next to Leigh and said to her, “What’s your name and how did you find us?” Leigh looked at Jack and blinked several times before saying, “You have a pretty face.” Priyanka smiled, she could just imagine how her best friend felt at being called pretty. Jack’s expression remained deadpan when he responded, “Thank you, what is your name and how did you find us?” Leigh smiled groggily at him and said, “Leigh, my name is Leigh. I followed your tyre tracks.” Jack’s expression didn’t change when he said, “You followed our tyre tracks? That’s quite impressive. Where are the rest of your friends? Should we be expecting more company?”

 

Leigh smiled and at looked at him with glazed eyes when she answered, “I don’t have any friends. None since my parents were killed by the Mistress’ men.” Jack kept his tone and gaze level, “What happened to the people you were with? Can we be expecting them anytime soon?” Leigh looked at Priyanka now, “I like your hair.” She looked back at Jack to say, “They’re all dead, at least Jabu was when I left him. I made sure that Jabu was dead. The rest were unconscious and covered by the grass. Where am I? What’s your name pretty man?” Jack answered her, “My name is Jack, you are at the facility that you followed us to.”

 

Leigh smiled at Jack again, “I like you, you’re pretty and nice. You’re not like Jabu, I hate Jabu.” Leigh blinked a few times and she seemed to gain a greater appreciation for where she was, “I remember, I remember I followed the tyre tracks here.” She started to look around with fear in her eyes, “My stuff, I need my stuff. I need to get out of here, WE NEED to get out here. This is the Mistress’ secret place. This is where she puts them!” Jack’s eyes narrowed, “Who does the Mistress put here? Why do we need to leave?”

 

Leigh’s eyes started to roll into the back of her head, Jack spoke to her more sternly, “Leigh? Leigh! Stay with me, who is here with us? LEIGH?” It was no use, the young woman passed out. Jack turned to Josephina, “Is she going to make it?” She nodded and said, “She was badly dehydrated when she was stunned by the Q-5. She’s lucky the second stun didn’t kill her. She could also use something to eat when she’s strong enough.” Jack nodded and asked, “Do you have any idea when she’s going to be strong enough to answer my questions?” Josephina spread her hands and said, “Sorry LT, I’m just a medic. I know how to save a life. If you want a more detailed prognosis you’re going to have to ask a Doctor.” Jack nodded in disappointment, “Thanks Corporal, I appreciate it. Good work on bringing back from the brink. You’re doing well out here, keep up the good work.” Josephina straightened and her cheeks flushed visibly, she saluted Jack smartly and said, “Thank you sir!” Jack saluted her back and said, “Carry on.”

 

He made his way back to the others, Vusi was still going on, “There’s no way I’m going to believe a word of this crap!” Jack cut him short, “Stop your bitching Private! How long have you served with Sargent Vermaak? How long?” Vusi glared at Jack defiantly and said, “Three years.” Jack scoffed, “Three years? Three years, Private? In the last three years have you EVER known the Sarge to lie? To exaggerate in any way? To waste any words, other than discussing Rugby, at all? How many times has he had your back? Huh?” Vusi continued to glare at Jack and then he looked away. Jack carried on starring at Vusi when he said, “Now the Sarge is telling us that he saw something. There were three of us with the Sarge and even though we didn’t see it, we heard something and we saw movement down there. As Priyanka said, we all experienced something.”

 

Jack turned to look at Hannes, whose hulking shoulders were stooped and he had an uncharacteristically troubled look on his face. Jack said, “I believe that the Sarge saw what he said he saw.” Priyanka spoke loudly and clearly, “So do I!” Cecil spoke up with, “The Sarge saw what he saw and I believe him.” Hannes looked up at them and Jack could swear that he saw a flicker of gratitude cross the big man’s face. Gloria had been listening in over the tac comm system from the crow’s nest and contributed, “So what are we going to do Vanilla?”

 

Jack held Hannes’ gaze and calmly said, “We’re going back in.”

 

 

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 7

Thursday 23rd December 2032, 06:01

 

Jack finished duct taping his rubber boots to the thick, luminous orange, rubber legs of his HAZMAT suit. He held out his arms to let Vusi start sealing the seams of where his gloves covered the sleeves of the suit. He looked at the other four members who would be entering the main building with him. Priyanka was being sealed up by Josephina and Cecil was busy helping Hannes with his suit. Having never worn a HAZMAT suit; the hulking, 1.9 meter tall Afrikaner was having trouble sealing the open seams around his boots and gloves with duct tape.

 

The team had been at their objective for nearly four full days and in this time they had secured their camp and found the entrance to the main building. The facility was complicated to navigate, to say the least. It covered a full square kilometre and it was a never ending rabbit’s warren of InstaLawn covered pipes, fences and buildings. Their camp was located behind three sets of three meter tall palisade fences on an open patch of ground. Jeff was on the roof of the main building keeping watch on the surrounding area. Each member of the external group would take turns manning the post for four hours at a time. Gloria was doing her third check on the communications equipment that would be used to track the interior team’s movements and comms.

 

Each soldier entering the main building of the Facility was wearing a thick, luminous orange, radiation and chemically resistant rubber HAZMAT suit. Thick black rubber boots, gloves and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) attached to a mask that completely covered their faces. They would each carry heavy oxygen tanks with two and a half hours-worth of breathable air and their ever present Q-5 assault rifles. Under their suits they each carried a three litre water bladder. The suits were completely impermeable and the soldiers were already starting to feel uncomfortably clammy inside them.

 

Jack was paying particular attention to Hannes; he had every confidence in the Recce’s abilities. Jack was however, acutely aware that the large man was going to burn a lot of calories and lose a lot of moisture while they were in the facility. He had decided that Josephina would stay outside with Gloria, Jeff and Vusi because she was the team’s medic. If one of the interior crew had an emergency then it would be up to the other three to get that person outside to Josephina ASAP. Hannes would join the rest of them inside the facility because of his physical size and strength.

 

As they were shrugging the compressed air tanks onto their backs Vusi asked, “Why are the suits bright orange? It doesn’t seem very tactically sound to me. If there’s anyone in there they’ll see you straight away” Josephina had been very quiet on the mission so far, as the youngest and least experienced of the soldiers she had been very self-conscious. But it was Josephina’s turn to share her knowledge of SciDiv procedures with the experienced Recces, “It’s actually very tactically sound to wear bright colours in the environment that they’re going into.” The whole team looked genuinely surprised to hear her voice. She continued, “The facility is going to be dark and probably full of weeds so there won’t be any air in there for them to breathe. The suits are bright in case one of them collapses and goes radio silent; it makes it easier for the others to find the casualty and evacuate them.”

 

The other SciDiv members nodded in approval of Josephina’s explanation. Hannes also ventured some rare words, “I thought that plants were meant to make oxygen. If this green crap is in the building shouldn’t there be plenty of air to breathe?” Priyanka answered him, “In normal plants that process is called photosynthesis and it generally happens in sunlight. InstaLawn is truly miraculous because it doesn’t produce any oxygen, ever. Not even during photosynthesis. It absorbs oxygen and produces carbon monoxide. It can then absorb carbon monoxide and stay alive by producing carbon dioxide”

 

Vusi looked very confused, “How does that work? I’m no scientist but I remember from school biology that every plant has to use and produce oxygen.” Cecil shook his head; he had finished sealing Hannes’ seams now, “Not this stuff. The truth is that there are probably about twenty people in the whole world who can even conceptualise how it’s possible and only one man who was able to get it right.” Jack nodded saying, “De Wet – the father of the Apocalypse – Kruger. The bastard who’s responsible for all of this.” Josephina spoke again, “Don’t forget Precious Ntaka, the evil witch who facilitated everything, international public enemies one and two.”

 

Jack looked at everyone, every member of the interior team was geared up short of putting their face masks and helmets on. The exterior team were also ready. He had been preparing his mission briefing speech since they had arrived on site. Jack activated his tac comm system so that Jeff could hear him in the Crow’s Nest where he was checking the surroundings.

 

“Alright everyone listen up. We’re going into the main building this morning; this area is being treated as a hostile environment so keep your weapons at the ready and on stun. Despite the fact that we opened the front doors yesterday we are also treating this as an oxygen deprived area so keep your masks on at all times. We should all have two and a half hours of air in our tanks but keep an eye on the heads-up display (HUD) in your mask and cross check that with the analogue gauge on your arm. The same goes for the carbon dioxide (CO2) monitors on your suits, let’s see how much CO2 is in the facility. I trust the tech we’re using, but if something can go wrong…”

 

“…it will go wrong!” Everyone finished the age old saying for him. Jack nodded and then continued, “As we all know we’ll each use the O2 from our tanks at different rates, depending on our size and how much we exert ourselves, so take it easy in there, stay calm and hydrated. I’ll be taking point and Pri will bring up the rear.” Jeff didn’t realise that his feed was live when he said to himself, “I wouldn’t mind bringing up her rear.” Priyanka turned around to glare at the roof where he was and gave him the finger. Gloria’s voice cracked like a whip over the tac comm system, “You cut that crap out NOW PRIVATE!” Jeff was grateful that he was on the rooftop away from the rest of the team.

 

Jack continued, “Thank you G-LT; Hannes and Cecil will be carrying the angle grinder, bolt cutters and crow bars. I have ten transponders with me to start marking our progress, Pri has another ten in case we get far enough to need them. Josephina is on standby out here in case we need some medical assistance. I want to make this very clear to all of you, we have been on mission for two and a half weeks and we have already been at our objective for four days. We are running out of time to find the osmium and then get our asses back to base. We need to move quickly and tactically in there but be careful. These old refineries used all sorts of dangerous chemicals for processing ores back in the day. The osmium we are looking for is very nasty stuff but there will be other things in there that are just as bad if not worse. Don’t touch or shoot anything unless you are positive that you have too.”

 

Jack glanced at Gloria, “G-LT is in charge of things out here while we’re inside; as well as the comms and she’ll be monitoring the video feeds and other data that we transmit back.” Jack finished off by saying, “Let’s get our masks, helmets and flashlights on.” The interior team did just that, finishing off by switching the flashlights on their helmets and under the barrels of their Q-5 assault rifles on. They moved to the open door of the main building with Jack in the lead.

 

The SCBA Mask around Jack’s face made an airtight seal around hood of his HAZMAT suit; this significantly reduced the ambient noise that he was subjected too. The side effect was that he could hear his own breathing resounding in his head. The team knew to keep the chatter over the tac comm system to a minimum while the interior team were busy. As Priyanka entered the building Jack’s voice came over the tac comm system, “We are moving past the security office now, an upside of the power being out is that the magnetic locks are off and the doors are all open. I won’t lie, I didn’t expect that…” The interior team continued into the compound with Gloria monitoring their every step, as well as the CO2 and O2 readouts from the sensors they all had mounted on their suits.

 

After fifteen minutes of carefully moving down the corridor and pointing out passage after passage to the interior team, Jack’s voice came over the tac comm system, “We’ve reached the stair case at the end of the main passage; approximately one hundred meters from the entrance. CO2 levels are already at one point six percent. How is the signal G-LT?” Gloria had been monitoring their progress closely, “Loud and clear Vanilla, the data and video are crisp as well.” Jack responded, “Good to hear. I’m placing the first transponder at the top of the stairs and then we’re heading down to basement level 1. Here’s to hoping that we keep radio and video contact.” Gloria responded, “Stay safe Interior Team, we hope you stay on the line.”

 

Jack set the transponder while the other three covered him, shining their flashlights in all directions, except the entrance. The sun had risen and its light was shining down the corridor though the beam didn’t quite illuminate where they were too well. Jack’s voice came of the tac comm system, “First transponder set, we will set one transponder for every two floors that we go down.”  Gloria responded, “Sounds good team, just like we discussed in the briefing.” Jack nodded to the rest of the interior team, who nodded back at him and then he started to descend the stairs.

 

The facility had been abandoned for more than ten years and the team were expecting some structural compromise to have occurred in that time. The entrance to main building had been covered in a thinner than expected layer of InstaLawn and the doors were sealed with some comparatively fresh looking welds. The team simply assumed that was due to the lack of rainfall retarding the formation of any rust.

 

InstaLawn covered the interior walls, floors and ceiling so Jack didn’t know if he was placing his foot on steel or cement steps. He gently put his foot down and slowly shifted all of his weight onto it, the step held fast. He continued the process, slowly and painstakingly testing each step. He counted eleven steps down to the first landing, followed by twelve to the next. Once everyone joined him he said over the tac comm system, “We’re at level B1, G-LT how do you copy?” Gloria’s voice came crisply through their ear pieces, “Still loud and clear, the video and data feeds are still good too.” Jack nodded at the team who all nodded back. They were all sweating profusely in their clammy HAZMAT suits. Their progress was painfully slow but they all knew that acting slowly and safely in the beginning would mean that the days that followed would go smoothly. In the end smooth was fast and clumsy was slow. Jack checked his watch, they had been moving through the facility for half an hour, they should all have two hours of O2 left. He spoke over the tac comm system, “Everyone check the O2 levels in your tanks. G-LT we have been inside for 30 minutes now, ambient CO2 levels are at two point four percent and rising the lower we go. We are continuing down to the next level.” Gloria’s voice graced the team’s ears, while they were all sipping some much needed water, “Sounds good Vanilla, we will continue to monitor your feeds up here.” Jack pointed his flashlights down the stairs and started the slow process of testing each step once again.

 

Gloria was completely engrossed in the video feeds she was watching. Despite the slow progress of the team she was aching to join them in the thick of it in the main building. Jeff’s voice sounded in her ear piece to break her reverie, “Boss, we have a lone figure moving towards the curtain from the south west.” Gloria quickly looked up from the screens and she said, “Repeat that OMO.” Jeff replied, “I repeat, we have a lone figure moving towards the curtain from the south west. Judging from size and gait I would say female and relatively small. No signs of anyone else in all directions.”

 

The interior team stopped in their tracks and Jack said, “We copied that transmission G-LT, do want us to come back topside?” Gloria shook her head, “Negative interior team, negative. If it’s just one person we can handle it, stay on mission. I’ll join OMO in the crow’s nest and Joe will take over monitoring.” Jack replied, “Copy that, let us know if you need us.”

 

Josephina was already on her way to take over from Gloria, who had grabbed her Q-5 and was sprinting to the rope ladder that had been set up as the roof access. Once she was on the roof she leopard crawled over to Jeff to reduce her silhouette against the skyline of the building. As soon as she was next to Jeff, he pointed to the monocular for her; he was watching their visitor through his rifle’s scope. Without saying a word Gloria took a look; sure enough by now the figure was close enough to clearly show that she was young woman, about the same size as Priyanka. “What are your orders Boss?” Jeff asked. Gloria’s quick and intelligent mind knew exactly what she wanted, “Stun Pulse, wait for her to enter the main gate before taking her down. I don’t know effective a stun pulse will be from this distance.” She activated her tac comm system, “Vusi, get your ass over to the main gate ASAP, if OMO’s pulse fails then take her down with a stun.” Vusi didn’t wait to be told twice; he started sprinting to the main gate as fast as he could.

 

The woman stopped at the curtain and looked around, she seemed hesitant to Gloria. “She looks very familiar, I know that denim jacket from somewhere,” Gloria muttered to no one in particular. Jeff helped her by saying, “She looks like one of the Roamers we dropped the other day.” Gloria nodded, “That’s it OMO, she was the young one. How the hell did she find us?” Jeff asked the more pertinent question, “How the hell did she survive in the first place.” Gloria just said, “If she decides to knock at the main gate then we can ask her, until then maybe she’ll make a more pertinent life choice and walk away.”

 

Leigh was shifting her weight from one foot to the other deciding whether or not she wanted to enter the facility. She had followed the Unimog’s tracks to this point but she also had a good idea of what was on the other side of the InstaLawn curtain. She had finished all of the food and water from Jabu’s rucksack a day and a half ago and her throat was burning with thirst. She didn’t have any other choice but to try her luck with the soldiers and the facility. She figured that either way she might die, but at least she would die trying to live.

 

She walked through the InstaLawn curtain and started to make her way to the main gate.

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 6

Sunday 19th December 2032, 10:57

Leigh tried to roll over but she couldn’t, she felt as though her arms and legs were bound. She’d had similar dreams to this ever since the Mistress’ people had captured and imprisoned her. She tried to look around but she could only see darkness. The nineteen year old started to panic in her dream. Her mind kept telling her not to panic, that it was just a dream but her subconscious was terrified. Her dreams had never made her feel this claustrophobic nor quite as restrained as she felt now. She kept willing herself to wake up but it seemed useless. Nevertheless she kept trying. After what seemed like an age she was able to pry her eyes open and look at the world around her.

 

At first everything was blurry and she slowly blinked her eyes, trying to bring the world into focus. As she regained consciousness she became aware of a horrendous, throbbing headache and her body felt like she had been rugby tackled by four people simultaneously. Leigh was feeling the effects of a stun pulse from a Q-5 pulse rifle, though she didn’t know it yet. As the lush green world began to come into focus she tried to roll over a few times and couldn’t. She was waking up properly now and she began to realise that her dream was terrifyingly real.

 

Leigh looked down and saw that her body was covered up to her waste in InstaLawn; she screamed. One of the first things the people of the lush wasteland had discovered was to NEVER fall asleep on the ground outside. InstaLawn always grew and it would quickly cover a human being overnight. Leigh started to thrash her body ineffectually and she quickly realised that her hands were bound uncomfortably tightly behind her back.

 

The young woman from Port Elizabeth had always been tenacious, her tenacity was the only reason she had survived the Mistress’ prison and become an Assault Scavenger. She was finally able to pull her legs free of the weeds and roll over onto her bum. A lack of decent rations ensured that she was thin enough to pull her bound hands in front of her. She looked at the plasticuffs securing her wrists and thought, “Military. Those assholes left us here to be killed by the grass instead of doing it themselves, cowards!” She looked around at her comrades, she didn’t particularly like any of them and she hated Jabu. He was still unconscious on his back, the InstaLawn had almost completely covered him. She could only recognise him because of the three gold teeth that decorated the front of his disgusting mouth.

 

When Leigh had first been imprisoned by the Mistress Jabu had taken a fancy to her. He had visited her every night for six months to beat and rape her. The Mistress hadn’t cared at all; the beatings and rapings only stopped after Leigh had proven that she would serve the Mistress. The Mistress had then placed Leigh in Jabu’s group, the Mistress was an evil bitch in that way.

 

Leigh searched her pockets as best she could with her bound hands, when didn’t find any of her usual belongings she staggered to her feet. “Great they took everything, I guess I’m just going to have to improvise,” she said to herself as she started walking over to Jabu. Leigh had had a fantastic idea for getting out of the plasticuffs and for settling her score with that piece of human excrement. As she reached him she heavily dropped her knees onto his chest, this was enough to wake Jabu up.

 

Jabu made an “Oooooffffgh” sound as Leigh forced all of the air out of his lungs. As he was trying to ineffectually force air back into his chest he also tried to speak, “Wha… who… Oooofffgh.” Leigh stuck the joint of the plasticuffs in between his gold teeth and said, “Shut up you asshole.” Jabu tried to move but the InstaLawn and Leigh’s weight on his chest made it impossible. The sawing and wiggling motion that Leigh was making with her hands made speaking impossible as well.

 

Leigh started to laugh and said, “How does it feel to be tied up and helpless you bastard? Huh? How does it feel to have someone stick something in YOUR mouth when you don’t want it there? HUH?” She wasn’t laughing anymore when three years of pent up anger, fear and hatred started to be released. Tears ran down her face and fell on the man who had ripped away every sense of safety and security from her. The man who had caused her to sleep in half-hour intervals every night. She had kept either a gun or a knife under her pillow after she was finally released from the prison, all because of him.

 

Jabu kept trying to pull away from Leigh’s fury but he couldn’t, eventually his teeth did their job and Leigh was free from the plasticuffs. She stood up, panting. Jabu’s mouth was a mess of blood, torn lips and a ravaged tongue. Leigh threw the plasticuffs aside and said, “Don’t worry Jabu, I’m not done with you yet.” She turned around and started to walk towards the clump of InstaLawn covered tree carcasses that they had been hiding in before the attack on the vehicles.

 

Jabu had always made it a habit to leave his rucksack hidden before an attack. Leigh had never appreciated anything he had done and she had always made a point to do the exact opposite, until now. She found the rucksack and removed the InstaLawn that covered it, shouldering the rucksack, she walked back. “Jabu, I’m baaack,” she sang gently as she kneeled next to his thrashing body. “Thanks for leaving your rucksack for me. What’s the make of that knife you love so much? Oh ja, Gerber,” Leigh was taunting Jabu and savouring every moment of it. She retrieved the knife and used its half serrated, half straight edged blade to cut the weeds away from Jabu’s crotch. She opened his trousers and pulled his manhood out to see the light of day for the last time.

 

“Remember when you came to visit me every night for six months,” Leigh said, “and you would always say the same thing to me. I’m here to hurt you Bitch and I want to hear you scream.” With that Leigh started to slowly cut through Jabu’s flesh. The rapist thrashed as much as he could but the weeds kept him firmly in place. The young woman took her time, making sure that she caused as much pain and did as much damage as she could. When she was finished she could see that Jabu wouldn’t survive his wound for very long. As she stuffed his severed manhood into his mouth she said, “Now you can taste your own dick, you son of a bitch.”

 

She cleaned the knife as best she could and sheathed it on her belt. Taking a sparing sip of the meagre water ration that Jabu had in his rucksack; she started to follow the divots that the heavy, Unimog had left in the grass. Leigh knew that she wouldn’t be able to return to the Mistress now and she was happy about that. Determined to retrieve her property from the soldiers who had taken it from her she walked in the divots, trying to ignore her pounding headache.

 

Sunday 19th December 2032, 11:02

The team had been driving in silence around the Rustenburg area for six hours, making sure that no one was following them. The fuel cell engines ran silently and only the sounds of the tyres on turf and the creaking of the suspensions gave the vehicles away.

 

Gloria finally spoke to Jack, “What do you know about Roamers?” Jack shrugged and said, “The same as everyone else, they attack using the tactics we saw this morning. They have no allegiances because they think that they’re better off on their own.” Gloria looked out the window and said, “That’s what they keep telling everyone. What they don’t say is that there aren’t any Roamers anymore.” Jack took his eyes off the path to look at her, “Why do they keep telling us that there are Roamers out there then?” Gloria shrugged, “Probably in case there are one or two groups left or in case anyone decides to follow in the Roamers’ footsteps.” Jack was watching where he was driving now.

 

“How do you know that there aren’t any Roamers anymore?” He asked. “There haven’t been any reports from any of our people of any Roamer attacks. And quite frankly there aren’t enough resources left for people to scavenge,” was her reply. Jack couldn’t argue with her; they had experience with coming up empty during their scavenger hunt through the shopping mall. “There evidently aren’t many people around these parts either. It’s strange that after being here for two weeks we haven’t encountered another single human being before this morning,” Jack said and shook his head. “The intel said that this area would be a war zone with two rival factions fighting tooth and nail for control,” he continued. Gloria shook her head, “Those factions essentially killed each other off a couple of years ago. Anyone who survived pretty much starved to death or tried to become Roamers, apparently unsuccessfully.”

 

Jack was becoming irritable, “Why would command keep this information from us? What purpose does it serve to make us think that there are Rebel forces still out here?” Gloria looked at him for the first time during their trip, “I sure hope that science is your strong point because politics and strategy don’t seem to be. Making soldiers believe there is a threat keeps us all motivated to train and work hard. Making people believe that we can’t go to an area because it’s too dangerous encourages us to stay put in the bases. We end up with more soldiers and less Roamers this way.” Jack nodded slowly, her arguments did make sense.

 

“If there aren’t any Roamers left out here then who the hell attacked us this morning?” Jack asked. Gloria shook her head again and said, “I have no idea. We’ll send the photos we took of them back to base as soon as we can get a data-link set up. Something doesn’t feel right out here. That group was way too big and well-armed for a bunch of homeless nomads.” Jack was scanning the green path ahead of them intently when he said, “We’ll have to be extra careful out here now, Vusi said that he saw nearly ten people high tail it away from us this morning.” Gloria nodded saying, “You got that right. This morning’s little adventure just upped the ante for us out here.”

 

Jack’s eyes caught a flicker of movement off to their left. They were driving in an area that they had all had two weeks to become familiar with. As he trained his eyes on the movement its significance dawned on him and he said, “Oh you’ve got to be kidding me!” Watson’s ears perked up and Gloria quickly brought her Q-5 to the ready while looking in the same direction that Jack was. “What is it?” She asked. Jack pulled the vehicle into a hard left turn and just said, “We’re right bloody here, we’ve been here for two weeks already!” Gloria looked confused and said, “Right bloody here where? What are you talking about Vanilla?”

 

Jack accelerated towards a wall of green InstaLawn and Gloria started to get nervous. She didn’t know him well enough yet to trust his instincts completely. “You’re accelerating towards a wall!” She said sternly. Jeff’s voice came over the tac comm system from the Unimog behind them, “Rover A you are heading straight for a wall. I repeat you’re danger close to a wall.” “Vanilla, stop the vehicle. Stop the vehicle! STOP IT NOW LT!” She shouted at Jack as he drove directly through a curtain of InstaLawn.

 

Once they were through Jack said, “One of the few gusts of wind that we still get here moved it enough for me to see that it wasn’t the wall we thought it was. We’ve literally been driving past the facility for the past two weeks.” Gloria was not happy with Jack, she didn’t take kindly to being put on edge by her own people. “You couldn’t relay that information to your commanding officer before nearly killing us?” She said acidly. He shrugged and said, “You’re not my commanding officer.” She looked out the other window of the Land Rover while she clenched and relaxed her fist. She was using every ounce of her will power to stop herself from punching him in the face.

 

The Unimog and Rover B had slowed down significantly until Jack and Gloria’s Land Rover had passed through the InstaLawn curtain without incident. Then the remaining six members of the team drove through as well. Jack pulled up near what appeared to be an InstaLawn covered sign. As soon as the vehicle came to a halt, he and Gloria hopped out of Rover A with their Q-5 assault rifles at the ready and scanning the immediate area. The other two vehicles stopped in a tactical position next to Rover A. The other six members of the team poured out of the vehicles with their weapons up, scanning the environment. As soon as Jack was happy that their immediate surroundings were clear he said, “Cover me.” He moved up to the sign and put his Leatherman MUT to work on cutting the weeds off.

 

The InstaLawn covering fell from the sign and Gloria read the name that was printed on it in rust-stained lettering. She simply said, “Well I’ll be damned Vanilla, you were right.” Jack shrugged and replied, “Well we’ve all been driving past it for the last little while, if it hadn’t been for that breeze we would still be looking for it.” Gloria looked Jack in the eyes and said, “We’re at the objective LT, what are your orders.”

 

That was how she handed over command of the mission. The others were still scanning the environment with their Q-5s when Jack responded, “We need to get a good idea of our surroundings in this compound. Cherokee said that it covers several square kilometres and we will encounter fence after fence. We stay together as a team and get the lay of the land over here.” He looked at Jeff and Vusi saying, “Jeff and Vusi, set up a transponder by the curtain of weeds we drove through, we want to be able to find this place again easily if we need to come back. Hannes and Cecil, take first watch for the next 10 minutes. Everyone else gear up while they’re busy and grab some cold chow, we need to establish what part of the compound we’re in and where the main set of buildings are so that we can set up camp.”

 

Vusi and Jeff grabbed a transponder from the back of the Unimog and ran off to the curtain. Jack and Priyanka met up at the water condenser on the back of Rover A to fill up their canteens. “What was your little six hour long Pow-Wow about with the Amazonian?” Priyanka asked. Jack was too preoccupied with suddenly being in command of the mission to be his usual cheeky self with her when he answered, “I’ll tell you more tonight but the Roamers who hit us this morning, weren’t Roamers.” Priyanka tilted her beautiful face and looked intrigued but she knew that he would tell her more when they had some time together. “Have you fed Watson?” she asked. Jack took a sip of the warm water from his now full canteen and said, “Nope, Let’s all have some chow quickly.” Watson’s face quickly registered the use of his name and his favourite word, food.

 

Priyanka nodded, Jeff and Vusi were back at the vehicles now finding some dry rations to wolf down. Hannes and Cecil had taken up their positions while Gloria and Josephina had each decided to quietly sit on their own. Josephina looked particularly exhausted but Jack was very proud of how the young medic was holding up after two hard weeks in the field. Gloria was completely ignoring Jack; she was furious that he hadn’t warned her about the curtain of weeds and at his comment about her not being his commanding officer, despite the fact that it was true. She was also evidently not impressed at him taking command of the mission so quickly and easily.

 

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 5

Sunday 19th December 2032, 04:21

Jack awoke with a start. He lay completely still, listening to the sounds around him and allowing his combat senses to assess his situation. He was lying in complete darkness, on the firm mattress of the roof top tent that he shared with Priyanka and Watson. He could hear Priyanka and Watson’s breathing and nothing else. After a few moments Watson raised his head and starting to pant softly, he knew that his master was awake and nervous. Jack started to calm down when he realised that Watson wasn’t perturbed, he had learnt to trust the Golden Retriever’s instincts a long time ago. Priyanka gave a low moan and rolled over. Jack lay back down with the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach refusing to dissipate entirely. He was awake now and that he wouldn’t be going back to sleep.

It was just over two weeks since the eight troop team had been briefed by Cherokee. Cherokee had turned out to be a seventy one year old Afrikaans woman who was determined to be a grandmother to everyone she met. All of them had liked her instantly, especially Watson. He had been treated to two and a half hours of tummy scratches, while she regaled everyone with stories of the old mining industry. Cherokee was able to give them the exact location of the facility and a detailed set of directions for how to get to the storage area where the Osmium was kept. It turned out that the storage area was a series of vaults that were welded shut. The material they were after volatilised and formed a toxic black gas. The best way to keep people in the facility safe was to seal the material in glass jars and pack those away completely.

 

The first problem that they would have to overcome was finding the actual facility. Knowing the exact location of something was not very helpful when there were no longer any discernible land marks to use when navigating. Everything in the world was covered in green weeds; for all they knew the facility would essentially be one massive green lump on the surrounding landscape. The town that used to be known as Rustenburg was in the heart of territory that was being fought over by at least two separatist factions. Neither faction was particularly fond of the South African government or their Armed Forces.

 

Another problem they faced was inside the facility. They would have to try to follow Cherokee’s directions inside the facility which would undoubtedly be covered in InstaLawn. Every passage would look the same and every sign would be covered in green weeds. The team would most likely have to chop their way to the vaults. Finally, if they were able to actually find the vaults, they would have to cut their way inside and remove one of the most toxic and dangerous compounds known to humanity.

Jack quietly rolled over to pick up his Leatherman MUT. This and his Casio Protrek watch were congratulatory gifts from his parents when he completed his basic training and was accepted into SciDiv. Once the multi-tool was safely secured in its sheath he grabbed his Q-5 automatic pulse rifle and headed for the ladder of the tent. The hoist that had been installed for Watson had turned out to be unnecessary. The seven year old dog was able to nimbly climb up the ladder and make his way down to the floor quite quietly on his own. Jack looked at Watson and whispered, “No boy, stay here with Pri and look after her.” Watson cocked his head to the side but understood what his master wanted. He went to lie on Jack’s side of the mattress and gave Priyanka’s ear a gentle lick, she moaned again but didn’t wake up.

The eight soldiers had been on mission for exactly two weeks now and they still hadn’t found the facility that they were tasked to locate. Navigating the lush, green wasteland that was now South Africa, and the rest of the globe, seemed almost impossible. Everywhere one looked was the same shade of green, varying only by the shadows that were thrown by the weed’s buds, or the structures that it covered. During the day the sky was always the same brilliant blue without a wisp of cloud cover and at night the temperature would drop to a blissful low of 25°C. The return to base would be facilitated by radio transponders that the team had placed at strategic points on the journey to Rustenburg. The transponders would be activated on the way back to act as route markers.

 

The team was made up of two parts; the field scientists comprised of Jack, Priyanka, Cecil and Josephina Radebe; an eighteen year old, straight out of basic training, she was the team’s medic. The members of one recce commando included three tough sons of bitches and a woman who looked like the bitch who’d spawned them.

 

The leader of their pack was twenty seven year old Lieutenant Gloria nKosi, the woman who even made Priyanka nervous. She was six feet tall and built like an Amazonian; with arms that could wrestle a crocodile and eight pack abs that would make body builders jealous. Her second in command was thirty one year old Sargent Hannes Vermaak; he was built like a rugby flank and he had a dreadful scar decorating the right side of his face. Hannes always seemed to be sharpening his Ka-Bar tactical knife. After that were two privates; Vusi Macube and Jeffrey Jefferson, these two seemed inseparable and almost as in love with their new Q-5 pulse rifles as Priyanka was with hers.

Outside the tent, Jack quietly made his way to let Vusi and Jeff know that he was awake and about. He didn’t feel like getting shot with a stun pulse from a Q-5 in the predawn of Sunday morning, at least not again. Jack found the world outside the compound unnerving at best. The vast majority of bird, animal and insect life had gone extinct with the rise of the InstaLawn. This made the outside world unnaturally quiet and devoid of life; which always made Jack uneasy and a little sad.

Jack activated his tactical communication system, “This is LT Jack Curtis; I’m awake and moving around camp. Don’t shoot, I repeat, do not shoot.” Vusi’s voice came over the tac comm system, “All good LT.” Jack spotted Gloria quietly doing chin-ups off the back of the Unimog and made his way over to her. She finished her set and said, “Why are you up Vanilla? I thought you field scientists needed beauty sleep for your brains.” Jack was hoping to have the camp to himself other than the two on watch of course.

The last two weeks had been strained at best; the field scientists were initially excited to work with the team from One Recce Commando. The Recces felt the opposite about working with the Field Scientists. The mission felt like a baby-sitting detail for the Recces and Gloria was particularly unhappy with the arrangements for the commanding it. Gloria and Jack were both of the highest ranking officers of the team; they simply had different areas of expertise. She would be in charge of the mission on route to the facility they were looking for. Jack would assume command for the duration that the team was at the objective and she would be back in command for the journey back to base.

“My brain feels beautiful enough right now,” Jack responded, “Why are you up?” Gloria looked Jack up and down and said, “We need to move out at first light. We’ve spent too much time out here without reaching our objective already.” Jack nodded and hid his surprise, this was first time since they’d met that Gloria had been candid with him. “Agreed, finding the shopping mall and the wrong facility were fun but we need to get to work now,” Jack responded. Gloria flashed a rare grin at Jack.

BANG – THWACK!

Jack and Gloria looked in the same direction, “Was that a bullet…” Jack started to say. Gloria finished the sentence for him, “Hitting turf. EVERYONE FALL IN, WE’RE UNDER ATTACK!”

Within half a minute Priyanka and Watson were out of their tent and on the ground, along with everyone else. By this stage more bullets where flying and Gloria was on the tac comm system, “Vusi and Jeff, get under the Mog and watch our six. Cecil, Josephina and Hannes are on Rover A.” She looked at Jack and Priyanka, “You two are on Rover B with me, let’s see where these bastards are.” Their camp was tiny, as always, so everyone was in position within seconds.

Hannes came over the tac comm system, “I have muzzle flashes to the southwest, but they aren’t hitting us. I don’t think these are trained marksmen.” Gloria replied, “A stray bullet can kill just as easily as an aimed bullet. Cecil check the scope.” Cecil was on top of things as usual, “Scope is live LT; I can see some movement. Thermals show at least three Tangos, only one is firing at us.”

Gloria was looking through her scope as well, “Keep tracking them, everybody use stun pulses. I don’t want to waste energy on these Tangos. Vusi, what do you see back there?” Vusi’s voice came through clearly, “I see one, no make that two, three… I see multiple thermal images coming from the North LT. They appear to be moving single file.” Gloria said, “Shit, Roamers. Jack and Hannes get under the Mog as well. Cecil, neutralise the three to the southwest.” The two men sprinted for the Unimog, with Watson close on Jack’s heels.

Roamers are scavengers who wonder, or roam as their name suggests, the lush wasteland of South Africa. These groups scavenge what they can from abandoned buildings or other, unwary travellers. The vagabonds bare no allegiance to any government or rebel forces but look after themselves. Soldiers of the Joint People’s Liberation and Climate Change Co-operative Government were all schooled in Roamer tactics. A small band of three roamers would apparently start to attack travellers, shooting in their general direction to draw their attention. A larger force of Roamers would then sneak up behind the victims to hold them at gun-point. These tactics were usually effective on unwary civilians but, this band of Roamers was about to discover that their latest victims were armed and very dangerous.

Cecil was the best marksman that Roodepoort had produced. He had won every inter forces shooting competition that he’d enrolled in since he was first allowed to take part at the age of sixteen. He kept his eye trained on the body with the brightest thermal signature. He steadied his breathing, taking his time to steady his pulse rifle on the bonnet of the Land Rover. When he was ready he took a deep, gentle breath in and slowly exhaled through his open mouth. At the end of his exhale he gently pulled the trigger. The recoil from the Q-5 was far more subtle than anything Cecil had experienced from a conventional assault rifle. This made the time between firing and aiming for a follow up shot that much shorter. As the first Roamer crumpled from Cecil’s shot he was already repeating the process with the second Roamer in his scope. By the time the second was hit the third Roamer did something unusual, they started to blow an emergency whistle. Roamer three was able to sound one shrill blast before Cecil’s third stun pulse cut them short.

One whistle blast was enough to signal the twelve Roamers approaching from the North. The sound galvanised them into action, the single line split into four groups of shooters, all armed with AK-47s. A volley of automatic fire was sent in the direction of the Unimog and more than a few hit the vehicle’s armour plating. “CONTACT!” Hannes yelled at the top of his voice. The four soldiers underneath the Unimog returned fire. Vusi was aiming using his thermal imaging scope while the other three were relying on night vision goggles and the infrared (IR) laser sights strapped to their Q-5s. The whzzt noise that issued from the barrels of the Q-5s with each pulse sounded pathetic compared to the 7.62mm rounds being fired by the AK-47s. The reduced recoil of the Q-5s, night vision, absence of muzzle flashes and hours of training at the shooting range gave the soldiers a distinct tactical advantage.

In under a minute four of the twelve Roamers had been hit and incapacitated. The remaining eight fled as soon as they realised that their comrades were down. The soldiers under the Unimog continued to fire at the fleeing Roamers, until they disappeared from Vusi’s Thermal scope and he called a halt to the firing.

Gloria spoke through the tac comm system, “Does anyone have eyes on the Tangos?” Vusi and Cecil both replied with, “Negative.” Gloria said, “Alright, Vusi and Jeff, check the Roamers to the North, Hannes and Josephina, take the three to the southwest. I want these bastards plasticuffed and stripped of any weapons, food or water that they might carrying.” Hannes uncharacteristically challenged his commanding officer, “Plasticuff? Boss don’t you think that we should neutralise the threat permanently? We don’t these bliksems coming back to haunt us.” Josephina was looking at Hannes with wide eyes, as the youngest member of the team and the medic she was horrified at the prospect of murdering an unconscious human in cold blood. Gloria glanced momentarily at Josephina and said to Hannes, “Just plasticuffs this time Sarge. If they don’t wake up in time the Instalawn will grow over them and do the dirty work for us.” Hannes simply shrugged but he was clearly unconvinced with this course of action.

Vusi traded Q-5s with Jack so that he could cover them using the thermal scope. “Pri trade rifles with me and cover the southeast, I’m going to photograph both parties of Tangos,” Gloria said. Priyanka took her Q-5 and scanned the environment with a practiced eye.

As soon as Jeff and Vusi reached the four Roamers they were tasked with Jeff said, “Why are they called Roamers anyway? Why aren’t they called Scavengers; or Scavs for short. I mean they do Scavenge after all.” Gloria had followed them and cut in, “Shut up you two, finish searching them quietly. You’re Recces for fuck sake, start moving tactically!” With that she quickly photographed the four Roamer’s faces and stalked off to Hannes and Josephina to do the same to the other three. She would also head past the camp to make sure they would be able to move out as soon as Vusi and Jeff were finished. Hannes and Josephina were finishing plasticuffing and searching the three Roamers that had made up the distraction party. They would be back at camp soon to help pack everything up so that the team could move out ASAP.

As soon as Vusi thought she was out of ear shot he piped up, “I agree man, they steal stuff and they scavenge, like you said. Scavs, I like that, from now on I’m calling them Scavs!” Jeff grinned at Vusi as dawn was starting to peak over the neighbouring hills and said, “Don’t you love the irony Boet, we are scavenging from the scavengers.” Vusi laughed and said, “Yebo, we’re scaving the Scavs!” The two of them started to giggle, a strange sight to behold from two highly trained, Special Forces soldiers.

By this stage Gloria had successfully snuck up on the two of them and she literally kicked Vusi in the ass, hard. “I said shut up and finish working! We’re waiting for you two useless idiots so that we can move out!” She spat at them. Gloria couldn’t help herself when she continued, “Besides, EVERYBODY scavenges what we can, don’t you remember scavenging for extra supplies in the shopping mall? They’re called Roamers because they ROAM numb nuts.” Jeff spoke without thinking, “But Boss, we roam too, surely that makes us Roamers as well then?” Gloria glared at him and spoke with fury that was barely controlled, “I swear to God that I will shoot you and leave you here with your Roamer buddies if you don’t shut up and finish what you are doing!”

Vusi and Jeff were both well acquainted with the tone of voice that Gloria was using. The two had also witnessed her choke two rebels to death at the same time on a previous assignment. She had used her bare hands on one and her thighs on the other. They bent down, finished checking the Roamers and sprinted back to the waiting vehicles. The soldiers were able break camp within minutes and the three vehicles silently engaged their powerful fuel cell engines, Gloria called over the tac comm system, “Jack, come and ride with me. Hannes and Josephina ride with Cecil and Priyanka.”

Jack and Priyanka gave each other inquisitive looks but he obeyed the order. As soon as Jack was in Rover A Gloria called over the tac comm system again, “Okay let’s move out people, keep a tight formation.” With that the two Land Rovers and the Unimog pulled away smoothly in the dull light of the early morning dawn. The stunned Roamers were left to their dreamless sleep while the InstaLawn started to silently grow over their immobilised bodies.

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 4

Thursday, 1st December 2016, 08:23

 

Ms. Precious Ntaka stood in the boardroom waiting impatiently for the members of her management team to arrive. Tomorrow was the big day and she wanted to have one last meeting before everything kicked off. Precious loved meetings, she felt that days without meetings were wasted. The real reason for this was that Precious loved telling people what to do. She believed whole-heartedly in micro-managing every single person whom she employed because she felt that every human being, other than herself, was completely inept.

 

Precious was the owner and Chief Executive Officer of ‘Greeff en Ko-Op Inc.’. A modestly sized horticultural organisation situated in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, South Africa. Precious had purchased the small company and associated farm from an elderly Johannes Greeff. The business had been successfully run from the Greeff farm for three generations. Precious had purchased the business with a sizeable sum of money that she had been awarded from a wrongful termination law suit. She had won the law suit against her previous employer. Precious had also threatened Johannes with a land claim against his property if he didn’t sell it to her at a significantly reduced price. The ailing Mr. Greeff was a widower with no children and no one to advise him of his rights and thus capitulated.

Precious had taken the small business and aging farm and built them up to a medium sized enterprise employing just over five hundred people from the surrounding area. She was an exceptional racist and did everything in her power to employ as few Indian, Coloured and White South Africans as she could. There was however, one White man whom she knew would be the jewel in her company’s crown, the Botanist, De Wet Kruger. De Wet was an autistic forty four year genius who was incapable of tying his own shoe laces, but he could solve multi-variable vector calculus problems in his head. He was also utterly obsessed with the colour green and with lawn coverings of all kinds; grass, moss, weeds and vines.

De Wet had developed Greef en Ko-Op’s latest cash-cow using equal amounts of his vast intellect and his obsession with lawn coverings. Precious had used her extraordinary talent for managing people with special needs, to help De Wet develop this genetically modified wonder. The impending meeting would show-case her marketing talent to ensure that the product would reach every corner of the country, followed by the globe.

 

Precious was pacing the length of the board-room while she ran through her speech one last time. The door opened and Dinesh Naidoo, Greeff en Ko-Op’s CFO walked in. Precious detested the man, he always asked too many questions and he was determined to follow the law to the letter. The only reason that she tolerated him was because he was truly fantastic at his job. Dinesh greeted Precious, “Hey Boss-Lady, are you ready for the troops?” She replied in an exasperated tone, “I’m ALWAYS ready. Why the hell are you early anyway?” Dinesh was well aware of his employer’s feelings towards him, after all she didn’t do much to try and hide them. He sarcastically replied, “You always complain when any of us are late so I try to be early. It gives me more time to bask in your ‘ambiance’.” Precious scowled at Dinesh and ignored his quip.

 

The rest of Precious’ management team filtered into the board room. The last person to enter was the overweight and slovenly De Wet Kruger. De Wet looked decidedly uncomfortable in the presence of so many people, all six of them. He was at home in his laboratory, by himself, and he generally disliked being in the presence of anyone other than his care-giver, Gladdys. Precious waited for everyone to settle into their chairs before diving straight into the meeting.

 

“I’ve called this meeting to enlighten you all as too our latest development at Greeff en Ko-Op,” Precious began. She didn’t believe in greeting her management team; they were, after all, there at her pleasure as far as she was concerned. “Are we finally changing the company name to Precious and Sons?” Dinesh quipped; he did have trouble holding his tongue at times. “I don’t need any silly comments from the curry kitchen,” Precious replied acidly. Dinesh simply smiled, he knew that when his boss started to throw out racist comments that he had successfully gotten under her skin. “Me and Dr Kruger are going to unveil our latest achievement,” with that Precious tapped a key on her laptop and a video started to play on the boardroom’s big screen.

 

All the eyes of the management team were locked on the screen as a forty five second long commercial ran. The commercial ended with a catchy jingle and the slogan, “Never water your garden again!” The five members of the management team turned and looked incredulously at Precious, though none of them were surprised by what had just happened. Letiwe Mabotla, the head of marketing, was the first to speak, “So you’ve basically just developed, named, branded and marketed an entire product without informing any of us?” Precious looked especially smug but De Wet was the one who lisped what she was thinking, “None of you were necessary. Ms. Precious and I were the ones who did this and we don’t need any of you.” The entire board turned and looked at the botanist in complete disbelief, Precious merely continued to gloat over her apparent victory.

 

Dinesh recovered and spoke, “As the CFO I protest this action, you’ve gone too far Ms. Ntaka. The management team are here to act as exactly that, a TEAM. We are supposed to discuss and approve new products together and THEN strategise exactly how these products are going to be developed, tested, branded and marketed to the public. The whole point of employing all of us is to ensure that this process doesn’t happen in isolation. Each member of the team has a unique set of skills and those skills are supposed to be employed for the good of company.”

 

Precious was furious and she cut Dinesh off, “This is MY company and I will do what I want with it! I don’t need your permission to make a damn lawn dressing!” Letiwe continued, “You may not need our permission, but our combined intellectual power will ensure that the appropriate procedures are followed. All of our names will be associated to your new creation and we have the right to know what has been developed and how, before it is made available for public use.” “Your names won’t be on it, it belongs to Ms Precious and myself,” De Wet lisped again, “You don’t deserve any part of this.” Dinesh ignored De Wet and directed his queries to Precious, “Have you followed the proper testing procedures on this product or are we going to have another Juniper Weed incident?”

 

Dinesh was referring to an incident that had occurred eighteen months earlier. De Wet had announced that he’d genetically engineered a new plant that could produce glow in the dark juniper berries. He wasn’t lying about the fleshy seed cones glowing in the dark, but he had glossed over the fact that the new juniper plants produced enough potassium cyanide in a single seed cone to kill a full grown human being. That and De Wet had found a way to make the plant grow at an unnaturally accelerated pace. Dinesh and the management team had stepped in, examined all the paper work and had the plants analysed just in time to stop them from going to market. Letiwe and Dinesh had been wary of any of De Wet’s botanical breakthroughs ever since.

 

“Oh grow up Naidoo, this is a lawn dressing not a garnish,” Precious spat at Dinesh. He mustered his haughtiest voice to say, “Well juniper berries are not traditionally used as a garnish Ms Ntaka.” Precious levelled a very dangerous glare at Dinesh and said, “The seeds are being shipped tomorrow and I won’t let any of you stop them. This will be the world’s most successful lawn covering in botanical history! InstaLawn will take the world by storm!” Dinesh levelled a cold gaze at Precious and retorted, “InstaLawn you say? Well Ms Ntaka, I hope for all of our sakes that your InstaLawn won’t be our downfall.”

 

The horrifying reality of InstaLawn became apparent roughly two years after it was launched. The weed had an exceptionally short growth cycle and the adventitious root system had the ability to spread and grow at an exponentially fast rate. InstaLawn took off in the middle class suburbs of the Highveld and Western Cape. The catchy jingle that Precious had written in combination with the slogan; “Never water your lawn again!” had been absolute gold in coercing the gardening obsessed wealthy into buying the seeds of their own demise and planting pure environmental collapse in their gardens. The miracle lawn covering only took two days to start showing sprouts of green in the well composted and manured gardens. Within a week, the areas that had been sown were covered by an unnaturally healthy green layer of envy-inducing lawn dressing.

Initially the middle class masses were positively smitten with their new symbols of status in the fancy secured estates and outlying areas. The gardening services were kept busy sowing the seeds of destruction and trimming the edges of the apocalypse. Very soon the middle class who could only afford garden services once a week began to notice that this new lawn covering was perhaps a bit too miraculous for their liking. Within two days of the fully developed InstaLawn being trimmed around the edges, those edges would expand, rapidly covering paving and growing into the roads in front of the houses. This seemed like good news for the garden services because their customers would call them back more frequently to trim those edges again and again.

But soon the garden services were having trouble keeping up with their customer’s calls and demands. Eventually even when the garden service would return to trim the edges of the weed a day after trimming them initially, the InstaLawn could be found having covered paving completely and even starting to grow up the walls of houses. It quickly transpired that cutting InstaLawn in any way or at any point on the plant stimulated a rapid growth cycle that would speed up exponentially with each trimming. This titbit of information was discovered far too late by the civilian population. By this stage InstaLawn had been successfully marketed, shipped, sold and planted in the continental United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Europe. Even the Chinese had secured samples of the lawn dressing and they had mass produced a generic version for their own local consumption.

By early 2021 the vast majority of landmasses that had either imported the seeds, or those who were unfortunate enough to have neighbours who had imported the seeds, were completely covered by the hateful, green weed.

 

Wednesday, December 5th 2018, 22:26

 

Dinesh Naidoo walked into the lounge of his house calling for his wife Nazeera, “Nazzy, Honey? Where are you?” Nazeera was by the front door getting ready to go out to fetch their eldest daughter Tanisha from a friend’s house. Dinesh found her before she could answer and said, “Oh there you are Baby, where are off too at this time of night?” Nazeera smiled at her husband and said, “I’m off to fetch Tanny from Richard’s party Silly, didn’t you realise how blissfully quiet the house has been?” Dinesh just chuckled and said, “I won’t lie, I actually didn’t even notice. You’re right though, not having a teenager for the evening has made the house unnaturally quiet. Where’s Pri?”

 

Dinesh’s youngest daughter Priyanka had been hiding behind a couch in the lounge playing with her favourite G.I. Joe action figures. She came running through at the mention of her name and leaped onto her Dad’s back with a battle cry, “Aaaarrrgh!” Dinesh staggered forward saying, “Hey, take it easy there G.I. Jane. Your Dad’s back isn’t what it used to be, too much cricket in my misspent youth.” Priyanka just giggled and kissed her Dad on the back of his neck. Nazeera laughed and said, “You two be good while I’m away and feel free to do the dishes for me.” Dinesh made a face and said, “I’ll trade you, Pri and I will go and fetch Tanny while you do the dishes. I know that you don’t like driving at night and I’ve been couped up in my study all day, preparing for tomorrow’s trial so I am ready to get out of here.” Nazeera gave her husband a suspicious smile saying, “What makes you think I’d rather do dishes than drive at night, huh?” Dinesh flashed his wife a cheeky grin and said, “Nothing, I just know that I would rather drive at night than do dishes.”

 

Nazeera rolled her eyes and said, “Ah, men! Alright you two don’t take too long and be safe! I promised Tanny I would fetch her at eleven so be there on time!” Dinesh winked at his wife and said, “Aye, aye Ma’am!” He scooped his keys off the table by the front door with Priyanka still on his back and the two of them made their way to his car.

 

On the way he said to Priyanka, “How about a McFlurry on the way my little Rugrat? We can get your mom and Tanny one each as well.” Priyanka perked up and said, “Ooh, yes please Daddy that would be AWESOME!” Priyanka loved her father and she loved ice-cream. Once they both in the car Dinesh started the engine and began to make his way to the gate of their complex. Priyanka asked, “What’s a trial Daddy? And why do you have one tomorrow?” Dinesh wasn’t quite sure how to answer his daughter and said, “Well, a man and woman I used to work with did something very naughty two years ago and now the police have to prove that they actually did the naughty thing that they’ve been accused of. I’m helping the police prove that the two are guilty so that the law can take its proper course.” Priyanka nodded wisely and asked, “Is it about that grass that’s everywhere now?” Dinesh nodded and said, “Yes it is Rugrat, yes it is. The two of them were very naughty because they didn’t follow the right way of doing things and now we have a big problem in the world. But don’t worry, we’re going to fix it and then everything will go back to being okay again.” They arrived at the gate of the complex and Dinesh opened it, he was looking at his beautiful daughter in the rear view mirror as he pulled out of the complex.  Priyanka was looking out of her father’s driver’s side window when she asked, “Daddy, who’s the lady with the gun?”

 

Dinesh turned quickly and looked down the barrel of a Vektor SP2 semi-automatic pistol. Precious Ntaka stood next to the Audi and looked Dinesh square in the face before pulling the trigger. She lingered long enough make sure that the bullet had ripped through Dinesh’s face and bathed the inside of the Audi with his blood before turning on her heel and running at full speed to her BMW. The screams of Dinesh’s youngest daughter followed Precious down the road. She had no idea that the little girl had been in the car or that she had seen Precious’ face in stark detail.

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 3

Friday 3rd December 2032, 11:37

 

Jack, Priyanka and Cecil stood in Mabuse’s office waiting patiently for the commanding officers to elaborate further. “Can any of you tell me something about Osmium?” Shadrack asked. Jack was the first to respond, “Not much Sir, only what I can remember from second year Chem. It’s a transition metal, one of the PGMs, highly toxic, it has a lot of valence states and that makes it highly reactive.” Shadrack nodded and Alyssa looked very impressed, “Good work Lieutenant, I’m happy to see that SciDiv troops remember their lectures.” Jack simply said, “Thank you Ma’am, I always found it easy to remember the particularly nasty elements. What do the Lab Rats think that they can do with it?”

 

Alyssa answered his question, “There is no need to go into too much detail but they have had some very promising results with stabilizing it in solution as a herbicide. Most importantly the herbicide kills the weed.” Priyanka spoke up, “Ma’am, this is some nasty stuff; are we sure that we want to use it at all? I mean what about the Chinese Pyridine incident of 2027?”

 

In 2027 the Chinese Interior Ministry had received a research report filled with data that had been manipulated by one of their top scientists. The scientist was convinced that a solvent called Pyridine could be used to eradicate the InstaLawn but he was mistaken. The initial field trial resulted in the precious ground water for an entire municipality becoming contaminated. This resulted in thousands of people being left sterile while dying from dehydration. The Chinese, like everyone else on the planet, did not have sufficient water reserves to cope with the catastrophe. The interior ministry had laid the blame for the incident solely on the Scientist who had authored the report and he was publicly executed. The municipality had continued to be covered by InstaLawn and the weed had not seemed particularly perturbed by the presence of the Pyridine at all.

 

“We’re well aware of your concerns, Second Lieutenant, that is why we are busy constructing a dedicated greenhouse for all further test work,” Shadrack responded. Alyssa continued, “The greenhouse will be in a classified location far away from our facilities and the neighbouring civilian population. We will NOT be making the same mistake that the Chinese made.”

 

The three junior officers merely nodded but remained sceptical. Mabuse picked up the conversation, “We have a reliable source that has informed us of a stockpile of this material in a facility on the outskirts of what used to be Rustenburg. You three will travel with Corporal Radebe and four members of One Recce Commando to grab as much of it as you can. You will be leaving in three days.” All three of them nodded again and Jack spoke up, “Are we allowed to know who the source is Sir? And why would anyone want to keep a stockpile of this stuff in the first place?” Alyssa answered him, “The name of the source is being kept classified, we have designated them Cherokee. What we can tell you is that Cherokee is a family member of one of the Lab Rats and they used to work at the facility in question. To answer your other question Lieutenant, the Osmium was a by-product of the old mining industry from the area. No one wanted it so they had no choice but to stockpile the stuff.”

 

The junior officers graced their commanding officers with some more nodding. Cecil felt that it was his turn to contribute to the conversation, “Excuse me Ma’am, but Rustenburg is in the heart of Rebel held territory? An eight troop team seems a bit small for this type of operation.”

 

Mabuse confronted the elephant in the room, “You are correct Ismail; eight regular troops would constitute a suicide mission. But you three and Radebe are our best field Scientists; plus the four members of One Recce are the best of the best from Special Forces. You will all make it back in one piece. To be honest, we simply don’t have any more people to send out with you. We have a very good idea of where the facility is and tomorrow you will all be briefed by the source. After that you will visit the Quartermaster to be briefed on the equipment you will be taking. If your mission is successful then we have arranged with Pretoria for a larger contingent of troops to be sent to salvage all of the material from the facility. But until you find that stuff, you’re it.”

 

Shadrack looked at his fellow commanding officers and then turned to the junior officers, “That’s all for now you three, we will reconvene tomorrow morning at 07:00.” Jack, Priyanka and Cecil stood to attention and the three of them saluted smartly. As the three of them turned to leave the office, Mabuse piped up, “It’s been a while since all three of you were off-site, you have an appointment at the Clinic at 13:00 to make sure that your shots and boosters are up to date. It was approved by me this morning so don’t be late.”

 

Once the three of them were outside, with Watson trotting contentedly next to Jack he said, “Jeez, he makes it sound like we have to go to the vet.” Watson’s ears perked up at that comment and he gave Jack a slightly worried look. Jack carried on, “Well that gives us roughly an hour; personally I could use another nap before I have to deal with Captain Labuscagne. Cheers Cecil, see you at 13:00.” Cecil waved and turned down another corridor as Watson, Jack and Priyanka carried on back to the room.

 

Once there Jack pulled his shirt off to start getting ready for a quick snooze and said, “Oh lucky us, we get to deal with the; every soldier must do their part to ensure the survival of the species, speech again. I am so over that crap.” Priyanka burst into tears and ran out of the room. Jack just stood there in shock, he was completely speechless because he had no idea what had just happened. In the ten years that they had been friends Priyanka had never cried, ever. She hadn’t even cried on the day they had met, after Jack had helped her to fight off six boys who were trying to assault her.

 

He recovered and ran after her; he quickly caught up with her in the passage and stopped her. “What’s wrong Dude? Talk to me?” Jack asked, extremely worried about his best friend. Watson had followed them and was panting heavily in between crying with Priyanka. He was most perturbed by what was happening and he was still worried about Jack’s vet comment. “Don’t worry about it, there’s nothing you can do anyway so just piss off and leave me alone” Priyanka sobbed.

 

Priyanka’s unusual behaviour was starting to make Jack panic. The two most terrifying situations for a man are when either a child or a woman start to cry. Jack had been fortunate enough not to experience the latter with Priyanka until now. He said to her, “You know that shit talking me isn’t going to make me go away. What is wrong? And don’t tell me to piss off!” She looked at him with bloodshot eyes and said, “I can’t, it’s not fair to you and I’ve been selfish for too long already. I just need to figure this out by myself.”

 

Jack was generally an astute man and he retorted with, “Well our meeting with Labuscagne is clearly what’s bothering you. Tell me what’s up so that we can make a plan together, we only have fifty five minutes and two heads are better than one”. She looked away from him and said, “I’m too old”. Jack waited for her to say more and when she didn’t oblige he said, “Oh for fuck’s sake, stop with the cryptic sentences! What the hell does that mean from a twenty four year old?”

 

Jack’s tone and choice of words had the desired effect. Priyanka glared at him and spat, “Exactly. I’m twenty four. We’ve been partnered for six years and we don’t have any kids. I’m too old! That homophobic Bitch is going to want to reassign us!” One of the many things that Priyanka loved about her best friend was his rare gift. Jack possessed true empathy, unfortunately he was as typically male as a man could be; he needed a situation to be highlighted for him before it could kick in. Understanding immediately dawned in Jack’s eyes.

 

He glanced furtively up and down the corridor to make sure that no one had heard them and then said, “We need to chat about this in our room”. He took Priyanka by the arm and pulled her back to their room. Once they were there he sat her down, Watson marched directly up to her and forced his golden head onto her lap. She started to laugh after looking into his big, brown, puppy-dog eyes. Once he heard her laughter his tail started to wag. Jack looked sternly at her and said, “Why the hell are you Bitching out on me like this?” This startled her into saying, “Up yours!”

 

Priyanka was actually terrified; Jack was the only man other than her father, whom she had ever trusted. Priyanka’s problem extended even further to the fact that she had actually never let anyone other than Jack and her sister, Tanisha, in. She had never trusted or felt more comfortable with any of her lovers or friends. She was acutely aware of how strange it was that she was so comfortable; changing with, showering with and sleeping naked in the bunk next to a straight white guy. She had become so comfortable with him that his gender and sexual orientation didn’t even feature in her thinking anymore. She had become acutely aware over the last few months of just how much her relationship with this unique, genderless man actually protected her in the compound.

 

The new South African Armed Forces had many programs in place to try to protect the surviving human population. There was one program that permeated the entire country, the aim of which was for the soldiers who were selected for the armed forces to procreate. The officers in charge of the Armed Forces and the President of the country felt that this would not only ensure the survival of the species, but the survival of the right members of the species for rebuilding human civilisation.

 

All members of the armed forces were paired from the age of eighteen. Normally they were paired with a partner of the same age and this is exactly what had happened to Jack, who was four year’s Priyanka’s senior. Prior to this Jack had been fortunate enough to be paired with the true love of his life, Louise. The two had been together since the first day of basic training and it had been love at first sight. Louise had been killed during a rebel attack on the town closest to the base. Soldiers had been sent out to protect the civilian population there and Louise had caught a rogue bullet to the throat. She had bled out in Jack’s arms while he was trying to stem the bleeding. Louise and Jack were twenty one at the time and Jack would later learn that she had been two months pregnant.

 

Jack was emotionally devastated and hollow after this had happened. He had dreaded being reassigned to anyone in the fertility program. Captain Mabuse, as he was back then, was well aware of Jack’s history with Priyanka as well as Priyanka’s sexual orientation. Priyanka had always reminded Mabuse of his own daughter and he had a special soft spot for her, though he was able to hide that fact from everyone. Mabuse was also keenly aware of how Jack was feeling after his own wife had been taken from him in a riot. The Captain had spoken to the officer in charge of the fertility division at that time and the two of them had arranged for Jack and Priyanka to be assigned to one another.

 

Jack started pacing up and down the room, his brain was working overtime. “Okay, neither one of us wants to be reassigned, am I right?” he asked. Priyanka looked at him and said, “Well I don’t, do you? Plus I don’t want to have kids at all, not in this place.” Jack carried on pacing and said, “Neither do I. Okay, all we need to do is find a way to stay paired and not have kids. What is one of us is sterile? No that won’t work, the other one will just get reassigned anyway. Ah but what if BOTH of us are sterile?” Priyanka looked at him and said, “That would work very nicely Vanilla Ice, but how are we going to pull that one off? Besides Labuscagne knows that I have a rep with the women here.” Jack just waved his hand and said, “Who cares what Labuscagne thinks. If both of us can’t have kids then there’s no reason to reassign us. All we have to do is make sure that we are found to be sterile.”

 

Priyanka was unconsciously stroking Watson’s soft fur and chewing her lower lip as she always did when she was thinking, “Okay I agree with you that we can stay paired as long as we are both sterile but HOW are we going to make that work. And why do you want to stay with me anyway?” Jack sat down next to her, put his arm around her and whispered into her ear, “Stop fishing.” Priyanka just gave him a side-long glance and said, “I’m not fishing you oaf. Seriously though, don’t you want to be reassigned? Have kids, have sex for god’s sake?” Jack gently pushed Priyanka’s head onto his shoulder and rested his cheek on it when he said, “I like being with you, you’ve been the only person to respect my privacy and space after Louise…”

 

The two were quiet for a moment and then Jack broke the silence, “Besides, at least you don’t gawk too much at my junk in the shower.” Priyanka pulled away and said, “Oh PLEASE.” Jack chuckled and said, “Okay we need to focus now, we both need to get tested and found to be sterile. Sibongile owes me a favour so I’m sure she can make a plan with the analysis of our samples. We just need to encourage Labuscagne to test us.” Priyanka just said, “Well that should be fairly simple, we just tell her that we go at it like rabbits and we can’t understand why we don’t have six kids already.”

 

Jack nodded saying, “Now we need to find Sibs and get her on-board.” Priyanka looked at him and said, “Why does Sibs owe you a favour anyway?” Jack looked at her, feigning a shocked expression and said, “You mean to tell me that the great Priyanka Naidoo actually doesn’t know something about me? Jack Curtis the open book? Jack the man with no secrets from his beloved?” Priyanka ignored the comment and persisted, “Seriously though, what did you do?” Jack winked at her and said, “I worked my magic with Floyd, he was starting to take a keen interest in a new recruit a year ago. I persuaded him to pay more attention to the woman he chose to be paired with.” Priyanka looked genuinely impressed, “I’m guessing that dislocated shoulder of his last year was not the fiftieth chin-up, as he claimed at the time.” Jack winked again and said, “Something like that.”

 

Priyanka’s flawless, white teeth flashed a smile and she said, “Well then Mr. Social Justice Warrior, it’s time to call in that favour.” Jack nodded and said, “I’ll see you outside Labuscagne’s office at 13:00, don’t freak-out when I pinch your bum for her.” Priyanka grinned mischievously and said, “Not if I grab something of yours first, after all I’m the one who has to convince her…” She loved teasing him; especially because she knew that he didn’t take it seriously.

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 2

Friday 3rd December 2032, 04:12

 

Jack sat back from the Atomic Force Microscope and rubbed his tired eyes. He and Priyanka had been working furiously since the previous day. They were trying to discover how the InstaLawn had covered an entire greenhouse. As well as how the weed had been able to grow through a pane of glass. Jack’s areas of expertise were Geochemistry and soft-sediment Geology, while Priyanka had specialised in Biochemistry and Botany. The lab they were working in was maintained at a blissful 20°C and Jack loved wearing his scotch-guarded, cotton lab coat.

 

The autosampler on Priyanka’s LC triple MS started to make a soft whirring sound, as another vial was moved into position under the sampling needle. Jack looked over at his best friend who was hunched over her laptop, carefully calculating and recalculating data. He was always amazed at her intellectual stamina when she was going over data. He could only view the spreadsheets for a couple of hours at a time before all he saw was a grey blur. Priyanka could sit for a full day staring at and calculating data, hardly missing a digit and then easily run 10 kilometres. Watson had been taken back to the housing camp to stay with their friend Cecil.

 

“How are your fragmentation patterns looking?” Jack asked, yawning. “Shit. How are your magnifications looking?” Priyanka asked, not looking up from her screen. “Pretty much the same and in actuality they’re starting to blur. I need more coffee, would you like a cup?” Jack replied. Priyanka finally looked at him, her green eyes glinting mischievously and said, “Wuss! But yes that would be nice.” Jack just rolled his eyes and made his way to the door of the lab.

 

The new world order that had prevailed during the apocalypse had determined that certain luxuries would be made redundant in favour of the necessities. Thankfully for all members of the Science Division, or SciDiv as they were called, common sense prevailed in the case of coffee and it had made it onto the list of necessities. Tobacco had been banned much to the chagrin of former smokers; along with broccoli much to the relief of children across the country.

 

Jack opened the door of the kitchenette and he was confronted with a dreadful sight, the coffee pot was empty. He ambled over to the cabinet looking for a bag of ground beans, to make a fresh pot. Once the percolator was on the go he leaned against the wall and started to reflect over the last twenty two hours. There had been a flurry of activity across the three military compounds in the area. All of the facilities were abuzz with the news of what had happened and everyone was trying to brainstorm ways of ensuring that it didn’t happen again.

 

The repair crew had been able to successfully remove all of the glass from the greenhouse but most importantly; the pane of glass that bore the InstaLawn on both sides. Everything was taken to the Laboratory Complex, or LC. The LC was completely separate to the Greenhouse Facility and the subterranean housing camp. The repair crew had resorted to carefully using flame throwers to destroy the InstaLawn surrounding all of the greenhouses. This was an effort to prevent a recurrence of this event. They were still busy removing the resulting ash and soil from the site in order to dispose of it at a dumpsite, 20 kilometres from the GH facility.

 

Major Mabuse had put in an urgent order for concrete to be brought in to cover the areas separating the greenhouses. The ability of the InstaLawn to grow over the pruners had proven to the commanding officer that more stringent measures were necessary to keep the facility safe and weed free. The robotics section of SciDiv was also working around the clock to install pruners along the inside and outside of the perimeter wall to the compound. The pruners that surrounded the affected greenhouse had been disassembled and taken to the Robotics Division’s main building for a complete assessment of what, if anything had gone wrong.

 

Priyanka walked into the kitchenette, she had been drawn there by the enticing aroma of coffee being brewed. “Nothing. I couldn’t find a single, damn difference between the cells in these buds and regular InstaLawn that we have in the minus eighty,” Priyanka said. “The TEM, LC and spec all say the same damn thing.” Jack yawned again and replied, “Same thing for the quartz; the MLA, XRF and even the Atomic Force Microscope show that there is nothing wrong with it. It’s good old fashioned, high-purity, amorphous, quartz glass.”

 

The coffee had finished brewing and Jack poured two generously sized mugs of it. Priyanka pulled the powdered creamer out of the cupboard; milk had gone extinct along with the last of the dairy cows. “It’s almost as if the roots are able to grow on the molecular, or even atomic, level as opposed to the cellular level…” Priyanka mused while cradling her mug. “Carbon atoms may be smaller than silicon atoms. But the ability of a brainless, biological system to penetrate a non-porous, inorganic material is a stretch for my imagination at half past four in the morning,” Jack retorted. “Just remember, mister geologist, that biological erosion is a thing in the natural world,” was Priyanka’s response.

 

Jack took a sip of the rich brew and said, “Biological erosion breaks rocks down, it doesn’t magically grow roots, branches, stems, or whatever THROUGH something without breaking it.” Priyanka looked at Jack through half-closed eyes and said, “Maybe it does now…” Jack shook his head and said, “Well whether it does or doesn’t, my brain is fried right now. The Lab Rats can look at this stuff and see if it makes any sense to them. I need a shower and some sleep.” Priyanka nodded and said, “I hate to agree with you on this one BUT I am rather grateful that it is our day to shower. Plus, a nap would be rather nice too.” Jack and Priyanka finished off their coffee and made their way back to the Lab to fill in the proper paperwork and hand over to the Lab Rats.

 

The South African National Defence Force had changed overnight with the election of the Joint People’s Liberation and Climate Change Co-operative Government. Once the extent of the danger that InstaLawn posed had been realised, conscription was reinstituted. The South African Police Service was absorbed directly into the new Armed Forces and martial law was imposed.

 

Recruits, as young as 12, were drafted into the newly formed branches of the military. The flying ban imposed by the UN caused the Airforce to be disbanded. It was replaced with a new Science Division, SciDiv, which embraced every branch and facet of science that could be brought to bear in the eradication of InstaLawn. New recruits were sent into massive examination halls; where they wrote aptitude tests in order to determine where, in the Armed Forces, they would be serving.

 

Recruits who scored well in mathematics and physical science were sent directly to SciDiv and the Military Health Service. These recruits were then assessed further to see where they would best fit in. Recruits who showed an aptitude for the arts and economic disciplines were disseminated, in equal proportions, into the Army and Navy. SciDiv was given top priority and tasked with the eradication of InstaLawn. The Health Services, Army and Navy were given equal priority after SciDiv. Their mandate was to uphold law and order as best they could and plan for a post InstaLawn South Africa. The Armed Forces would only take the top fifteen percent of recruits into their ranks. All of the remaining recruits would be sent back to their families.

 

Once the recruits reported to their designated branches, their physical fitness was assessed and once a recruit was sent to SciDiv, they could not leave. Recruits with an aptitude for physical fitness were groomed as field scientists, such as Jack and Priyanka. Recruits who naturally struggled with physical fitness regimes, but were intellectually gifted were earmarked for pure laboratory work. These were the Lab Rats; this title was worn with pride and anyone who spoke badly of the Lab Rats had to deal with the Field Scientists. All members of the Armed Forces, with the exception of the Lab Rats, were sent through a gruelling six month training regime before they were sent to specialise in various fields.

 

After Jack and Priyanka had finished handing over the data and analysis of the greenhouse samples, they made their way back to the housing camp in the Jimny. Precious resources were strictly controlled and personnel were required to share showers in an effort to preserve water. Jack and Priyanka had been paired together for six years, showering and bunking together; they had become completely comfortable with each other. Jack was too polite to gawk at Priyanka’s perfectly formed figure and Priyanka simply wasn’t interested in Jack’s chiselled and lean physique.

 

As the two of them stood under the cool water, flowing from the shower head, Priyanka piped up, “But HOW could it have happened?” Jack switched off the water, started rubbing soap on his chest and said, “Seriously Dude? Can we PLEASE just talk about something else until after I’ve slept?” Priyanka rolled her eyes, started washing her arms and changed the subject, “Please will you wash my back.” Jack looked up from washing his legs and said, “You do know that I’m straight right?” Priyanka looked over shoulder and said, “Yeah, I also know that this is the closest you’re going to get to any action until you woman-up and start hitting on Jenny.”

 

Jack took the soap from Priyanka, started to rub it on her beautifully, muscular back and said, “Why on earth would I want to hit on anyone when I feel as though I‘m already married to you Dear?” Priyanka just laughed and said, “Because I’m not married to you, I’m paired with you and I’m getting tired of feeling sorry for you not getting any.” Jack smugly replied, “Perhaps I am getting some and you just don’t know about it…” Priyanka said, “Oh please, you know that I would know if you were getting any.” She carried on, more truthfully than she meant too, “Besides, Jenny’s the only straight here that I’ll let touch you, at least she’s decent.”

 

Jack stopped washing for a moment, it was very unusual for his friend to say something so tender, truthful and nice to him. He quickly carried on washing her back and then broke the silence, “And you’re done, my turn.” He passed the soap to her and turned around. Priyanka took it and started to wash his back in silence.

 

The truth about Priyanka’s feelings for Jack was not exactly simple. She was not attracted to him physically in any way. She did love him though, he was like an older brother and a best friend and they had a plutonic connection that neither one of them could explain. Jack had accepted Priyanka’s complicated personality, without comment or judgement, from the first day they’d met. He had fought to protect her from a gang of boys without expecting anything from her afterwards. He had always treated her with respect, as an equal and he had never approached her for any kind of relationship other than friendship. Priyanka’s life experiences had shown her how rare he truly was and she was as protective over him as a mother would be over her child. After they finished showering, they trudged wearily back to their quarters and each of them crashed on their bunk.

 

Jack was woken a couple of hours later by a fat, wet tongue, licking his mouth, “Arrrgh, Watson? Cecil, what the hell man?” Cecil let out a howl of laughter that woke Priyanka up with a fright, “Cecil! What the hell man?” Cecil kept giggling and said, “I just couldn’t resist, and he did the same thing to me all of last night. Here is your fur-ball back with my compliments and Mabuse wants to see you both.” Jack stuck his hand out and rubbed Watson’s nose, the handsome golden retriever enthusiastically licked his owner’s hand. “Thanks Cessie,” Priyanka said sarcastically and rolled over.” Cecil looked at them both and continued, “When Mabuse said that he wanted to see you both, he meant now, as in right now.”

 

Jack threw his blanket off himself and stood up, he had gone to sleep completely naked and Cecil blushed furiously. “I’ll wait outside for you then,” Cecil said as he backed towards the door. “Thanks buddy, check you in a moment,” was Jack’s reply, “Okay, let’s suit up,” he said to Priyanka as he started to pull some clothes on. Priyanka rolled off her bunk, also naked and started doing the same. “Thanks for encouraging Cecil to leave,” she said. Jack smiled cheekily and retorted, “Yeah, well apparently this is the only action I get so I’m not inclined to share with the other boys.” Priyanka pulled a shirt over her firm breasts and just said, “Oh ha, ha.”

 

Less than a minute later Jack, Priyanka, Cecil and Watson were walking down the corridor in search of the major. They found him in his office with Colonel Alyssa Snyman, a coloured woman who had, until 2021, been a professor of botany at the University of Kwazulu-Natal; and Lieutenant-Colonel Shadrack Mogorosi, a former professor of Inorganic Chemistry from Limpopo. Jack, Priyanka and Cecil stood smartly to attention and saluted the three commanding officers. Watson sat smartly to attention and looked utterly majestic. The three commanding officers returned their salutes and Alyssa said, “At ease you three, and you Watson.” Watson gave a single, noble bark and took himself to lie down in an unoccupied corner of the office.

 

Alyssa watched the dog and said, “I always find it remarkable that it feels so normal for that dog to be here and to respond to orders.” Jack and Priyanka struggled to supress grins, it was strange that everyone just accepted Watson and treated him like a human. Shadrack said, “Right you lot, the Lab Rats think that they’ve had a break through.” Priyanka piped up with, “They know how the InstaLawn grew over the pruners and through the glass? Sir…” Shadrack glared at her clearly not impressed with the outburst. Jeremiah simply shook his head; Priyanka fixed eyes with Shadrack and stood her ground. “Not yet Naidoo, the Lab Rats think they’ve had a breakthrough with eradicating the InstaLawn once and for all.”

 

The three new comers simply stood and stared at the commanding officers. Alyssa continued from where Shadrack had left off, “That’s right you three, the Lab Rats think that they have something. Preliminary tests look promising but we need you to fetch more of the active component for us to manufacture an herbicide.” Jack spoke respectfully, “May we ask which active component we have to fetch Ma’am?”

 

Alyssa looked at each of them in turn and said, “Osmium.” Cecil looked confused and asked, “Osmium Ma’am?” Alyssa reiterated, “Osmium.” Cecil had no idea what the Lieutenant Colonel was talking about but he responded with, “Oorah!” Jack and Priyanka had to suppress another grin; their friend’s obsession with the United States Marine Corps had just surfaced yet again.

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 1

Thursday, 2nd December 2032, 06:29

 

Jack emerged from the subterranean base, ready to start his shift at the camp. He and his second in command, Priyanka Naidoo, had been chosen for G.H. duty or green-house repair duty in the valley. This was unusual because they weren’t due for this particular work-routine for another week, but their commanding officer or C.O. had insisted that they be the ones to go, so they went. In the military, questioning orders was not generally encouraged.

 

The morning was aesthetically beautiful by historic standards for the area. The sky was a glorious shade of blue, without a whisper of a cloud. This was the shade of blue that only existed in Africa and it was the shade that had drawn international visitors to the continent’s shores for centuries in the past. Alas, those visitors no longer came and none left the continent anymore. All international travel had ceased five years prior to this day, it had been banned by what was left of the United Nations in a vain attempt to curb carbon emissions, shortly before the organisation completely collapsed. The fall of the United Nations had surprisingly not precipitated any type of apocalyptic confrontations between world powers or nations. The sad truth at the time was simply that there were no world powers left to engage in any wars, the human race had already crumbled and the apocalypse was already well underway.

 

Jack stepped through the entrance way into the sweltering 30°C heat of the morning. The heat immediately attempted to sap the 28 year-old’s strength and it took a toll on the man as it did every morning. Jack sauntered up the small, electric vehicle waiting to take him to the valley for his morning shift. The vehicle bore a striking resemblance to an old Suzuki Jimny; that was because it was an old Suzuki Jimny that had been converted to run on an electric motor. There were no more working gasoline or diesel powered vehicles in South Africa simply because there was no more gasoline or diesel available in the country. The formerly precious resource of oil had also been banned by the faltering United Nations seven years before this day. This was one of the first in a series of vain attempts to curb carbon emissions and try to prevent an environmental collapse that was already established.

 

Jack pulled his lean frame, of average height, into the driver’s seat of the vehicle and whistled loudly. His faithful Golden Retriever, Watson, came trotting out of the shade of the entrance and leaped into the Jimny with Jack. The two of them waited in the heat for the Second Lieutenant to enter it. Jack looked out over the vast expanse of hateful green ground cover as he waited. Sixteen years ago at this time he would have been looking at beautiful undulating hills with flat valleys separating them. The hills and valleys would have been dressed in different shades of green and brown. These greens and browns would have been interspersed with black, asphalt roads, as well as houses and walls of various colours and styles. Now all that assaulted Jack’s eyes was the flat green colour that he had seen for the past twelve years, the spiteful green shade that covered everything. The green covering that had invaded his world and caused the apocalypse.

 

Priyanka arrived and pulled herself into the vehicle to start the trip down to the fields in the valley. Each of them was dressed in a well-worn ‘uniform’ covering every inch of visible skin. The ‘uniform’ was compromised of quick-drying, rip-stop, technical fabrics, hardy leather work gloves and tough hiking boots that were well past the point at which they should have been discarded. In addition to this they were each wearing a buff to cover their faces, sun-glasses with class 4 lenses and brown hats with short brims, known as a “Bos hoed” in Afrikaans. The destruction of the ozone layer and the absence of sun screen had necessitated humans covering their skin when outside during daylight hours. Watson wore specially designed goggles with UV protection for his eyes. His thick, golden hair protected his skin, but Jack made every effort to limit his best friend’s exposure to the sun.

 

Jack was in a particularly foul mood this morning; everyone who was left on the planet knew that this was the day upon which the apocalypse had started sixteen years earlier. The world had been a fascinating place during the course of 2016; there had been international and domestic turmoil on a global scale that had not been witnessed since the Second World War. The European Union and the United States of America were in the midst of an identity crisis, while ISIS and Russia were openly at war with one another. Global tensions were rising and most of humanity was convinced that an imminent nuclear holocaust threatened the very survival of the species.

 

No one would have believed that the end of the world as it was known then would come from a small horticultural discovery in the middle of Roodepoort, instead of a megaton nuclear warhead. The exact date of the beginning of the end was easy to determine because it was the exact date when the demise of the human race had gone on sale for R49.99 per packet. The literal seeds of the apocalypse were planted by middle-class, garden-loving capitalists, who were all attempting to out-do one another during a drought that had been on-going for eighteen months. The apocalypse had been catalysed by human beings who were obsessed with gardening and who were not allowed to irrigate their lawns.

 

Jack drove the electric vehicle down the track to the gate of the compound. The doors as well as the side and rear windows of the vehicle had been removed because they were unnecessary. Air-conditioning units had been abandoned by the surviving human population, except for in critical areas such as operating theatres and laboratories. Plus no rainfall had been recorded anywhere in South Africa for the last two years, which made growing crops even more difficult than it had been previously.

 

The team pulled up to the gate where they were forced to stop, a de-weeding team was still busy clearing the gate for vehicles to be able to pass into and out of the compound. An armed guard walked over to Jack’s side of the vehicle and brusquely demanded, “Name, rank, number and purpose.” Jack looked the woman in the sunglasses and said, “Seriously Wilma? You know that it’s just us going down to the valley for G.H. duty. What’s up with the gate?” The gate guard glared at Jack through her sunglasses and sternly repeated herself, “NAME, RANK, NUMBER and PURPOSE!” Jack gave her a sidelong glance and answered in an exasperated tone, “Jack Curtis, Lieutenant, 200407061-3, Green-House Repair Duty.”

 

The guard responded, “Thank you, you’re on my roster. Proceed when the gate is operational.” Jack spoke to the Wilma, “What’s up with all the attitude man, and why do you have a stick up your ass?” Wilma turned around and spat, “Don’t talk to me like that or I’ll report you! Some idiots snuck out of the compound last night to go for a joyride and the guard on duty went with them. Now Sipho’s on all of our asses to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The flipping idiot who went with them didn’t call the de-weeding team in time to keep the gate operational. So now they have to cut off two layers of that green crap instead of one!”

 

Jack put his hands up, “Okay, okay sorry Dude, I was just wondering. You’re usually a lot more chilled out.” Wilma replied slightly more calmly, “You know what Sipho is like, now that one of us has messed up, he’s making it everyone’s issue.” Jack said, “Shame man, well just kick whoever it was in the crotch and tell them to pull their socks up next time.” Wilma shook her head, “Not going to happen, the entire group and the guard are being expelled from the compound for needlessly wasting resources and endangering everyone.”

 

Jack and Priyanka looked at Wilma incredulously. “What the hell? We don’t have enough hands to keep this place going as it is and now they want to expel people? What are the council doing, trying to kill the rest of us?” Priyanka asked. Priyanka had a prickly demeanour on a good day. “Don’t ask me Buttercup, I just work here the same as you. If you have an issue get a tissue,” Wilma responded, Wilma and Priyanka did not get along at all, but then again, exes rarely do. “Oi, don’t give me crap about the way I speak to you and then do the same to my people Sergeant! Show some respect!” Jack snapped at Wilma. Watson gave a low growl from the back seat, showing his disapproval of the person who had caused his master to raise his voice.

 

By this time the de-weeding team had finished and the gate was open. “Have fun with Sipho,” Priyanka said sarcastically as Jack pulled off. “Just relax and stop goading her,” Jack said to Priyanka. “Then she must stop being such a bitch,” was Priyanka’s sullen response. “Well if she hadn’t caught you cheating on her with her best friend then maybe she wouldn’t be such a bitch…” Jack reminded his buddy. “But Lisa is so hot! You’d hit that too given half a chance,” Priyanka fired back. “Not if I’m already in a relationship, I wouldn’t,” Jack said as the vehicle bumped uncomfortably down the green path. Priyanka looked sullenly out of the window of the vehicle. She knew that he was right, of course, but it always irked her when he was. The two sat in a companionable silence for the rest of the short drive to the Green Houses.

 

Jack and Priyanka had been friends for ten years now; both of them had been recruited by the newly elected government in South Africa at the time. The Joint People’s Liberation and Climate Change Co-operative Government; not exactly a name that rolled off the tongue, but at that point the fate of humanity had been of greater importance than naming conventions. This had been a last ditch attempt to curb what was already causing the country, and the rest of the world, to slide into complete disarray. This was the reason why humanity’s view was covered in the hateful green shade and it found a way to penetrate every nook, crack and cranny of every part of the Globe. This reason was aptly named, InstaLawn…

 

The road down to the green-houses was more of a weed-covered track and the Jimny bounced uncomfortably down it. The shocks were in desperate need of replacing like so many other things in the world, but like so many other things in the world, they were in short supply. The Green Houses were kept in a separate compound approximately one and a half kilometres from the subterranean housing facility. This had been done purposefully for the long-term mental well-being of the soldiers running all of the local facilities. It had been discovered through an unfortunate process of trial and error that certain forms of daily variety went a long way to keeping human beings sane.

 

The G.H. Facility occupied the entire valley and comprised over 30 green-houses, each covering an area of 500m2. The green-houses were critical to the survival of the soldiers at all of the local facilities because all of their food was grown there. In addition to this there were two green-houses that were dedicated to the eradication of InstaLawn. This was a feat that had proved to be far more difficult than anyone could have imagined.

 

As the Jimny rounded the last bend in the track the three occupants looked down on the G.H. Facility. Jack slammed on the Jimny’s breaks and the vehicle slid to an eventual halt. “Holy Shit!” Jack exclaimed and Priyanka whistled as she exhaled. The reason for their assignment to G.H. duty was painfully apparent. One of the green-houses was completely covered in InstaLawn. This type of occurrence would not normally be particularly surprising, considering that the weed had successfully covered every building that it had encountered to date. The green-houses however, were state of the art and they had all been built with automated, ground level, pruning technology. This essentially made the green-houses self-maintaining by constantly trimmed the InstaLawn before it could grow over the structure. None of the pruners had ever failed before and that was why this particular instance was surprising and worrying…

 

Priyanka turned to Jack and said, “What the hell Dude?” Jack just replied with, “Well now we know why we’ve been bumped up the schedule.” Watson could sense that Jack was ill at ease and give his master’s ear a wet, reassuring lick. Priyanka tried to stifle a giggle and she was rewarded with a slobbery kiss on the cheek as well. “Yugh, now I have to wash my Buff!! Thanks Watson,” was her response. Jack just smiled and said, “See, he loves you. Think of it as love slobber. Good Boy Watson!” Priyanka looked at the Dog lovingly and said, “I’d prefer it if he kept his love slobber in his mouth and off my clothes.”

 

The Jimny pulled off and carried on down to the G.H. facility, the gate guard here had specific orders to let them through without any preamble and they were summarily waved in. Jack pulled up next to the green-house and all three of them exited the vehicle. Another de-weeding team was working furiously to pull the InstaLawn off the structure. Jack and Priyanka were met by Major Jeremiah Mabuse at the door to the green-house. Jack and Priyanka saluted the major very smartly and he returned their salute, “At ease you two. You can obviously see the reason why you’ve been bumped up the list to today. I need my two best people looking at this.”

 

Priyanka spoke up, “No offense Sir, but surely some people from the Robotics Division should be here looking at the Pruners?” Jeremiah waved his hand at them and said, “The pruners didn’t fail Naidoo, they’re still working. Come inside and have a look.” Jack and Priyanka gave each other a confused look. “What do you mean the pruners are still working sir?” Jack asked. “Exactly that L.T. the pruners are still working, this green crap grew OVER the pruners while they were in action and now it’s growing through the glass.” The three of them had entered the greenhouse now, Watson knew that he wasn’t allowed in there and he had found a shady spot to lie in next to the Jimny. “Did you just say that the InstaLawn is growing THROUGH the glass Sir?” Jack asked incredulously. “Yebo,” was Jeremiah’s response. Jack and Priyanka walked up to the closest window and sure enough, they could see fresh buds of InstaLawn sitting in the middle of the window on the inside of the green-house. There was no evidence of any roots or tendrils coming in from the edges of the window, the buds were just stuck in the middle of the pain of glass.

 

Priyanka stood transfixed, staring at the buds and said, “Well shit on me.” Jack had always appreciated his friend’s flare for the English language.

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