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GUARDIANS by Iain Richmond
SUMMARY: A deadly pathogen has filled the planets water table leaving only a handful of uncontaminated springs. The GUARDIANS protect the last source of clean drinking water on the east coast of the Free States from a sea of evil determined to take it.
'M.F.' was a nice addition, but was it one word, hyphenated or two? Sofia thought about calling out to the others in the patrol but decided it was of little consequence and could give away their position. Two it is, she decided as the markers tip compressed onto pink flesh as she dotted the final period and started to write the date below it.
A birdlike coo pushed through the cutting winter wind and was met by five gentle thumps as each sentinel hit the ground. The birds had long since left Long Island, NY. Not even the god-forsaken pigeons remained. Sofia remembered a story her grandmother had told of the great hunts. Thousands of the winged-rats were harvested and feasted upon, but that was at least 50 years past and now all were gone except for those that were bred in the Mashomack Preserve.
"If only we fell to incivilities and anthropophagy," she whispered with a predatory smile, still proud of the 'PHD' that had followed her name in a past life. Professor Sofia Torrez reveled in words unknown to most. Now I consume greens, nuts, Periplaneta americana, ground squirrels and an occasional boar, she pondered and strained to remember the last book she held in her callused hands.
An uncontrollable shiver scurried up and down her spine as a physical reminder of their daily protein source scuttled from one shadow to the next. The scientific name helped her draw a mental curtain between reality and fantasy, but Periplaneta americana was still just a "Fucking cockroach!"
Four hushes met Sofia's barely audible and unintended declaration.
Like a periscope, the soldier in her slowly lifted her eyes just above the cooling corpses head. She was sure her latest kill would give away her position through its steam or stench. Luckily you have a vast forehead, she pondered as she followed her latest canvas down to a bearded face.
The acronym had plenty of room, but the date below it bled into its thick eyebrows. A fast drying permanent marker would fix that. She tucked that lesson away for next time, always going to be a next time; Sofia finished the thought as the rather realistic pigeon impression sounded again.
‘Clear,' she always waited an extra few minutes beyond the flanker's hand signals. Something she had learned when an arrow removed a large chunk of her left ear a few years back. Soldiers were cautious, but they could not see everything and a failed civilization being retaken by nature had a way of hiding the deadliest of predators. 'All clear' signals were little more than hopeful yearnings in this environment.
As the leader of the Outer Guard, Sofia spent days and even weeks in the territories protecting the village and its ninety-two residents. 'The Guard,' as the villagers knew them, was not considered part of its populous. We are an unwelcome extension of their DNA and that was all, she clenched hard at the thought.
They were soldiers living on the ragged edge; possessing little more than bows, knives and a few rusted hunting rifles with little ammunition.