"The Long Road Home"|
The Long Road Home
Book III of
The Cameron Legacy: The Fall of the Star League
A fictional novel in three parts set in an alternate history
Classic BattleTech Universe
Stephen T Bynum
All rights reserved, copyright 2009.
This is an original work of fiction.
July 4, Olympic Peninsula
North America, Terra
Empire of Amaris (Terran Hegemony)
The cold rain feel in an irregular rhythm—first light drizzle blown by the steady wind, and then a heavy downpour along with a solid gust, and then back to the constant light soaking cold. Even through the heavy SLDF fatigue blouse Liz wore, she could feel the icy water’s impact on her hot, flushed skin. Eighteen months of constant fighting—and fear—had taken their toll among her Ghosts, on her as well, and the unusual weather was not helping. What should have been high summer was cold and miserable in this ‘year without a spring’. The scores of nuclear detonations eighteen months ago—combined with a massive volcanic eruption five months past in Indonesia—had produced a nuclear (or volcanic) ‘autumn’ effect, causing world-wide temperatures to plunge. Eighteen months. Has it only been a year and a half since the Coup, she asked herself?
Slipping in the slick undergrowth of the steep hillside, she slammed her rump down onto the wet muddy ground, splashing more of the cold wetness up as she landed. She shook her head, and sighed before placing the butt of her rifle solidly into the ground. Reuben paused as he passed by and cocked his head, but she shook her own in an empathic NO. He shrugged and carefully made his own way down the slope. Using the rifle as a support, she slowly stood, making certain that her feet were braced on forest floor not quite as slippery as the rest. When the leader of the guerillas was once again standing, she placed the rifles sling over her neck, and tightened the strap against her chest, the rifle pointing down towards the ground, away from her fellow insurgents. Keeping the weapon tucked tight in against her right shoulder, she began making her way down-hill once more. Just another thirty minutes, Liz, she thought—a half-hour and we can take a breather.
She almost took another misstep, but caught her just in the nick of time to avoid stepping onto the muddy rut in the ground where one of her people had slid three meters. She stopped again, and tried to draw in a deep breath, but she gasped as her lungs ached. She began to cough, a deep barking cough filled with phlegm that she spat out onto the ferns that surrounded her. Overheated, she pulled open her jacket, and loosened the scarf she wore around her throat, letting the wonderfully cold air and moisture cause steam to rise from the red flesh below. She was lagging behind—and she knew it—and she made her self take another step. And then another. And then the forest began to spin and everything went black.
As she woke, she shivered and her head pounded. She could feel a heavy warmth piled all around her, but she didn’t understand. Where was the woods? Where was the rain? She tried to sit up, and once again, her world spun, and she retched a dry heave before she collapsed back upon the cot upon which she lay.
“Easy, Liz,” a gentle voice whispered. She opened her eyes, but could not see—she felt a cool wetness covering them, and her forehead. “You gave us quite a scare, you know.”
“Bear?” she croaked.
“The one and only; you were perhaps expecting Vince or Bernie to tend to your illness?” his voice sounded amused.
“My head . . .” she began, but Bear cut her off.
“Hurts like hell—and you can’t breath real well, can you?” He snorted. “How long have you been feeling ill?”
“A few days, but I took some aspirin and a few cough tablets.”
“Why, Oh Lord,” Bear intoned in the darkness around her, “why do people that KNOW better, insist upon treating themselves instead of letting me—the only QUALIFIED physician in the bunch—take a look and render a real diagnosis.”
She winced, as a sudden pain her temple hit her like a white-hot ice-pick, and then she began coughing again—a deep wracking cough that she did not have enough breath to finish. Bear lifted her up into a sitting position, and she began to breath better, but even she heard a rattle from inside her lungs.
Someone else—several someones, in fact—were nearby, and placed some soft covers behind her back, as Bear laid her back down, laying at an elevated angle. “Liz, you had a chest cold—but it is has gone and morphed into pneumonia. I’ve shot you full of antibiotics, but you need some rest. Here—this will help you sleep,” he said as she felt a sharp prick on the inside of her elbow, and a cool, almost cold liquid squirted into her veins.
“Where . . . tell Reuben . . .” she began, as the pain-killer and sedative started to take hold.
“Don’t you worry none, Liz; Reuben has everything under control. Just go to sleep and give your body a chance to fight off the infection.”
She slid back into the depths of unconsciousness, hearing his voice slowly fade away.