I love my Mark III STH model combat boots. They’ve protected my feet in over a hundred missions beyond the walls of The City. While they might not look like much these days, in fact one might rightfully call them ugly, they are more important to me than any gun I’ve ever carried.
It’s true, their light brown leather has forever been altered in dirty, splotchy patterns by mud, and sewage, and fluids I don’t even want to think about, but they’ve always been their for me. Give me a random, unfamiliar gun, and I’ll make it out all right. Force me to wear someone else’s boots… and I’m not so sure. Their armored soles have saved my life countless times, ablating grenade blasts and stopping pieces of centuries old jagged metal from shredding my feet.
My boots allow me to move with confidence no matter the dangers of the terrain I’ve found myself on. The perfect positioning of their secure, belt like straps, have kept them in place even when they were gripped by enemies or caught in a variety of dangerous nooks and crannies. Their insides are tight, and comfortable and warm, and even though they were custom fitted to me almost a decade ago they haven’t slipped so much as an inch on even one of my missions.
No, they might not look like much to you, but to me they might as well be the best footwear available to the human race… and they were up until five minutes ago when the Mark IV’s were announced. Look at that spec sheet! Active camouflage compatibility, nano-construction enhanced grip, integrated auto-adaptive heating and cooling! Old boots be damned! I need to get me some of these!
Sometimes as I walk through the ruins of the cities I’m sent to I try and imagine what the Earth must have been like back then. Instead of being surrounded by buildings so badly damaged that every creek and groan has me on my toes, ready to scramble out of the way of a possible collapse, I try and imagine them as they once were.
In the day time the sun must have come up over that distant ridge and shown brightly off the now smashed or nonexistent windows. Up near the tops of the taller ones the blue sky and light and dark clouds must have reflected down for all those on the ground to see.
At night each building would be a unique pattern of lit and unlit windows, slowly changing and diminishing as the day ended until all but a few went dark. Now, none of them will ever be lit again. Very few of the buildings even have recognizable roofs, centuries of neglect having reduced the upper floors to nothing more than broken patchworks of disintegrating walls and bent, overloaded support beams.
Beneath my feet would have been smooth, dark asphalt, with painted traffic lines instead of the thousand of individual pieces of ancient gray street, separated from each other by large cracks and overgrown plants, like an endless chain of tightly grouped islands in the ocean. There would have been noise here too. Of vehicles whizzing by, honking their horns and screeching to a stop at a moment’s notice. There would have blaring advertisements, and thumping music, and there would have been people…
That’s what is missing the most, the people. Men and women and children. Some dressed seriously in suits, others in bright, carefree, and sometimes obnoxious colors. All of them going to and fro, caught up in their own agendas.
I’m not so naive to think they all would have been happy. Maybe some of them, a few of them, but most would have been busy, in a hurry. They’d be trying to improve their lives, or escape their situations, or just trying survive one more day alone. There’d be plenty shouting, and sighing, and heated arguments, far too many in fact, but sometimes there’d also be lighthearted conversation, polite, friendly exchanges, and the sweet sweet sounds of laughter.
But above all of that, beyond all of that, there would have been movement and there would have been life. Right now, all around me, there is only death. Death and silence and an uneasy stillness that the occasional whistling of wind, and blowing of dust cannot abate. The silence and stillness nags at my soul, it tells me that what happened wasn’t fair, wasn’t just, wasn’t deserved. It’s like this at every place I’ve been to, every place we once owned… inhabited… lived in.
I’d morn for these people, for these cities, if I could, but that’s not my way. Yes, I still feel the sorrow deep down, but it is eclipsed, and overshadowed, and burned away by the brightness, by the intensity of my anger at those who did this to us, and at those aliens who would come here and dig about for their own gain in these hallowed places. In these graves. Who would dare to even contemplate living here without so much as making a nod to the dead? How could thinking creatures even permit such thoughts?
I may be called a Guardian, but I don’t come out here to guard the dead, I come to avenge them. And heaven help anyone who stands in my way.
Recently I’ve felt my stores have been a bit lacking in description. These two were an attempt to correct that. I hope you liked them!