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My first attempt at a book on here so give me some time folks and I'll see what magic I can weave. It's different take on the survivalist, prepping scene, but I think you'll like it.

Back to the Tower

James Howdah

I'd only been a boy when the city was built, and the rules were young. Concrete and steel, noise and atmosphere. My military service had been completed so I had my rights, others had less, others none at all. Then there were those who deserved little more than a bullet.

Before me my father did the same, and his before him. Stretching back to the time of the Diadoche. All it took was a quick battle against the desert people back then and we won victory. Then another, and another. Those were glorious times.

Then the colonization came, then the Thals, followed by the civil wars. Now modern civilization was over and this strange time of overlapping advanced technology and crumbling cities amid new ones rising up.

I'd been in this one for two months already. Routine was setting in, time for a new job soon.

Rebar crews moved around not far from my residence. They'd just removed a good amount of the precious steel from a ruin. I'd tried my hand at it in the past but was never really cut out for it as a profession. You had to really know what you were doing to make it pay well and thrive.

That being said, no-one who was able-bodied would starve if they could swing a tool and knock some rubble around. For those that could not, there was always servitar work.

A loud noisy car roared up to my apartment. I knew by the exhaust note who it was. The Camero was a status symbol for Jim Anderson.

Three minutes later my buzzer was going.

I already had my Bug-In-Bag leaned against the hallway, my rifle not a 2x4 length from that. I was just donning my Browning Hi-Power shoulder rig when the buzzer went again.

Big Jim always was impatient. I didn't really like him to be honest, but the man was an absolute contract-hound, able to source the most exclusive jobs. He wasn't a schemer though, the Diadoche weren't known for such things, but in-fighting wasn't unknown either. He'd killed Antimony in a ferocious duel.

"Come on Lucky, get this door open! We've got a good contract to sweep."

I unbolted and unchained the steel inner door, followed by the light wooden one.

There grinning was Jim. Like many of the Diadoche caste he was fair, with rugged looks, but a brawlers physique and inflated muscles spoke of chemical assistance.

"Look Jim, if it's another one of those crummy town shop-houses, I'm not interested," I said trying to discourage any rip-off missions.

"Hey those jobs pay well in booze as well as coin, plus if it's old Ping he lets you have free turns with his girls."

"Maybe I'm getting old, but spending a full day in armor and gunning a tiny-house out of any freaks, then sorting out the paperwork for minimal coin. Why I might as well be swinging a pick-axe or sledgehammer with the rebar crew!"

Jim pulled out a fat paper document from his inside jacket. The thickness alone meant a big job.

"You've got us a tower?" I asked expectantly.

"It's big one Luth."

"How big?"

"Thirty plus, plus three sub-levels. Roof is a mess too. Thals all over it."

I felt that clinch of the challenge in my gut, that lure of over-matching something. My personal record was only twenty-five floors, and while it helped pay for my apartment, the effort was immense in. Now over thirty, which put it in the top five percentile of the city skyscrapers.

"We might need more trigger guys for a forty floor deal Jim."

Jim laughed but in a way that worried me. "Luther what for? You with that rifle and me with an MG, we can cut through each floor like last time. You remember how that twenty-five story one was done? We're the best at this, that's why I got us this new job."

"Yeah and it nearly killed us. You were using it as a club and I was having to bayonet the trash, damn near snapped my bayonet by the time we were done."

"We just pushed a bit too far in that section was all. We can make it, Mosey will be bringing up the ammunition."

I knew of about three people I could call upon, but to do so was risking a deal-breaker with Jim. He was always a stickler for having the bare minimum sized crew. Two clearers and a support bearer.

"What's the rate?"

"Three grand per floor, completion bonus of twenty grand, gotta be thorough though, can't let any bad eggs get out onto the streets."

I nodded grimly, the city merchants and patrons were shrewd when it came to these things. If the price was by floor that meant it was packed with Thals, crazies and goodness knows what else. The opposite usually applied for tiny jobs that had sparse areas to cleanse.

Assuming we could complete the entire tower the pay-day was great. But the pay-day would be blunted by the clean-up charge and the police fee which would be about 15% of the total. Then there would be the share divided between however many were on the team. Jim would take the largest, then me, then little Mosey. Maybe a few coins to any Servitars that gave us auxiliary aid.

"Any hold-outs?"

"Intel says no signals or signs, so it's weapons-free as far as I'm concerned."

"Intel isn't always right Jim," I cautioned.

"Hey, I'm not risking my neck for the off-chance of a few stay-behinds. It's a Dead Tower Lucky, I don't know why you always take chances for those guys being there."

"That's why they call me Lucky."

"Are you in or...."

I knew Jim would get another if I kept stalling him, but his trigger-finger was a bit too keen, more than once I was certain he'd slain where caution could have won us a survivor. But then again in the chaos of a tower clearance Jim was one of the best in the business.

"Alright, I'm in," I said nodding reluctantly.

Whoops and gleeful shouts erupted from Jim Anderson.

"That's great, I'd rather have you on the team than Keyston. We're due to start at 2000 hrs, there's a servitar waiting to unlock the outer gates."

"Where's Mosey at?"

"He's sourcing the extra ammunition but will meet us there."

"What forces can we expect?" I asked. The Thals were a mixed-bag of trouble. Tough and stupid in some ways, but sometimes unexpectedly vicious and surprising if you under-estimated them. There were others though, different strains and breeds of infestation.

"All kinds. Intruders, Thals, Fallens."

"Small folk too though right?" I responded picking up my G3 folding stock rifle. A somewhat cumbersome choice for tower-block work, but sightlines were often long and the corridors lengthy and it hit home like a freight train. Plus they didn't call me Lucky Luther for nothing.

"I doubt it Lucky, intel says no signals."

As we departed my apartment complex I bid the security servitar farewell, loading my gear and rifle into the trunk of Jim's car we exited the outer sliding gates.

Jim's Camero wound its way through the dystopian promise of Triumph City.
We passed the statue of the old president in his trusty cap and suit.

"I sure wonder what he'd make of all this Jim?" I said.

"He'd probably not have this level of surgery on things, just a tactical nuke on each part of the city that needed action."

Nukes were of course banned by the great tribunes but some nations were still rumored to secretly hoarded them.

"That's the tower there! That one with the offset section and the honeycomb part near the top."

I looked at a cluster of skyscrapers, like most of our jobs, it lay in the heart of city's sprawling boulevard zone . The tower wasn't quite the tallest, but most were shorter and more spread out.

We weren't heading there yet, Jim, in his haste at getting the job, had left all his turn-out gear at home.

This wasn't an issue, we had plenty of time. Unlike the Servitars who busied themselves about. They were good at getting things done in their fashion, and so were we. Along with the merchants and patrons we were making Triumph City great again!

That was the plan anyway...

[To Be Continued]

Copyright by J. Howdah
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