SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 51 of many)
SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 51 of many) postapocalyptic stories

ferp2 Old, well, old-ish.
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The journey begins.

SIRT 1 : Thoughts of a Dying AI (Part 51 of many)

Ellie stepped in.

"That was the plan, however, the satellite imagery failed to pick up any discernible trace of the cable.

So, in light of the new information Ranger Weis provided that supports your own evidence that the other location is Warwick Castle, Doctor.

We don't really have much choice but to pursue that lead at the moment."

Though the logic was apparent, the anthropologist and his assistant didn't look fully convinced over the safety of heading north without sufficient Ranger protection.

Bodil added her two cents worth.

"And remember, the nice lieutenant is letting us all have Ranger armour and Ranger weapons so if anything nasty does show its head, we can show it just how academics can fight."

The image this produced in their minds elicited enough of a laugh to ease Amy's and Harry Awolowo's fears just to lift the apprehension that had been building around the table.

"Talking of which," Ellie said, standing up. "I've arranged for a publicity photoshoot which will finish off with a shot of us all booted and spurred and ready to go.

Before that, though, I want you all in your best bibs and tuckers for the individual shots."

With the meeting apparently over, they trailed towards the door.

"Oh, and do remember, team," Ellie said, stopping in the doorway. "If they start asking questions just refer them to me."

Prior to the final photo being taken everyone trooped into the musty smelling Ranger Quartermaster's store.

Of course, the Rangers' Quartermaster had nothing that came close to fitting Gregor.

Which was fine by him as he sat on the bench and watched his compatriots trying to make the lumpy body armour sit comfortably over their ballistic weave body suits.

Gregor was pleased that Ranger Weis had been reassigned to them for their upcoming expedition into the lethal British countryside. Gregor liked the little man. He was funny.

More importantly, he had demonstrated that he was good at his job and had earned the trust of him and the others.

Gregor noted the professional ease the ranger snapped close the bindings of his armour. Weis may be a 'specialist', but he was also a combat veteran.

Gregor's gaze turned to Professor Hill. He still wasn't sure why Miss Ellie wanted her along on this. More than once he had overheard her and Miss Alicia arguing about the archaeologist.

Maybe Miss Ellie was hoping that Professor Hill would not survive. The thought saddened him, but sometimes such things were necessary.

Right now, the professor was having trouble with her snap bindings and Gregor smiled to himself at his friend Victor's eagerness to offer his assistance.

He just hoped Victor's interest in her would not get in the way of his job.

Both Victor and the professor had, it seemed, decided to forgo wearing their ranger helmets, and both for the same reason.

'Helmet hair', however, was not something he had ever had to worry about himself.

Which brought him to his own job. With a sigh, Gregor stood up. He walked over to the counter from where the uniforms had been given out.

Picking up the last helmet in one ham-sized hand Gregor went over to Ellie and unceremoniously plonked it down on her head. Ellie started to protest, but Gregor was used to that.

He fastened the strap under her chin, closing her mouth in the process.

"Don't even tell me because I don't care. The others can do what they like. YOU will wear your helmet."

Ellie started to mutter something about 'I pay your wages dammit'. But Gregor had already turned away towards the waiting cameras.

So she made do with making faces at his back as she and the others followed on behind.

Even before the cataclysmic event known as 'The Fall', military trucks had long been built along the lines of robustness, reliability and cost-effectiveness.

Comfort was never much of a factor back then, and the intervening hundreds of years have done absolutely nothing to change this.

Consequently, Bodil, Victor, Gregor, Doctor Awolowo and the two assistants, Amy and Cybil, all of whom were sharing the back of the truck with a couple of tons of supplies,

were having an uncomfortable time of it.

In the cab of the bouncing truck, Weis, who was driving, and Ellie who was working the ball turret,

weren't much better off but at least there were a few centimetres of padding between their tailbones and the truck.

What made the bone jarring truck journey they were on even possible were the well-worn but deeply rutted trade routes that existed linking the tribes up and down the country.

Most supplies came into the Wembley base camp via the port of Basil's Town fifty km to the east.

Getting supplies to the base, therefore, involved encroaching on the territory of several, thankfully friendly, local tribes who fished the rich waters of the Thames estuary.

Consequently, any convoy using these often-meandering routes were subject to a form of toll...

Today's law enforcement would call it a protection racket but the Rangers didn't even have the manpower to guard the convoys,

never mind the individual trucks that rattled along the muddy tracks. So, it was easier to just pay up and add the extra cost to general expenses.

But that was a fifty km trip through 'friendly' territory. Ellie, her party and the four rangers who were accompanying them just for this trip before returning to Wembley, weren't going east.

They were heading north to the westernmost port of the Nor Folk's lands at Cam's Bridge. Twice the distance and uncomfortably close to the eastern edges of Bru-Mei territory...

And the Bru-Mei were far from friendly.

The first twenty-five or so kilometres of the journey had been through Gu-Nar hunting lands and the many small independent villages that owed the Gu-Nar fealty.

After that, though, a good half of the remaining travel would be through the scorched and poisoned countryside that formed an uneasy no-man's-land between the Bru-Mei and the Nor Folk.

The expedition's first night camp had overlooked the burnt and blackened valley where, a year ago, the Nor Folk had finally halted the eastward march of the Bru-Mei.

Today, the truck and the slightly more armoured reconnaissance vehicle which held the Ranger escort were skirting the eastern edge of the no-man's-land and making good progress north.

The frequent stops to pay 'toll' to whichever village occupants were straddling the road this time, became an amusing break to the bone-achingly bumpy journey.

It also became a competition between the expedition members to see who would get least ripped-off by the locals.

It was mid-afternoon and, with luck, the party would reach Cam's Bridge before noon the following day...

Which is when the two vehicles came to a sliding, lurching, shuddering halt and the occupants of the back of the truck suddenly found themselves either on someone else's lap or,

in Victor's case alternatively being glad to find Bodil Hill on his own lap and then wishing she hadn't had her rather pointy trowel fastened 'just there' on her utility belt.

Immediately after the violent and unscheduled stop, there was a thumping on the back wall of the truck's cab, and the first words everyone heard were from Specialist Weis, their driver.

"Everyone stay calm now. We've got company."

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