Taking The Reins

This is a story without heroes. As to whether who you brand villains, or the worst of those who appear, is up to you. Past that, this is a story set in our near future but is a hyper negative version of where it could end up. Really can’t say more than that without spoiling things. So I’ll just add this is about 6,900 words long. Enjoy?

“As you can see behind me, the representatives of all nations, mainly heads of state, are returning for another day of the conference. They will continue to discuss the best course of action to combat the daily disasters caused by the affects of climate change…” The middle aged female reporter dressed in a plain grey blazer with white blouse underneath says while staring into the lens of the camera that is pointed squarely at her long, thin face. Her dark hair is pulled back tight against her scalp meaning that it must, though cannot be seen confirmed as not in the frame, be tied in a ponytail.

Behind the reporter giving her piece to camera, being broadcast live to six different networked stations, is a vertical wall of glass and steel. They are the windows which make up part of the outer skin that the building this conference is taking place in is wrapped. Above them is an overhang. That is out of shot unlike the jet washed paving slabs of grey-white which have leaders from countries across the world ambling along.

Some of the leaders bicker and chat at volumes too low for even the powerful microphone the reporter is using to catch.

“The real question is; what can and will be done?” The reporter continues.

“What a load of shit. They won’t do a damn thing. Too focused on being neck deep in some tycoons’ ass to give a fuck about what’s going to happen.” Oliver Hendricks spits with all the disdain he currently feels from having listened to the empty words supposed to conjure hope in any and all who might be watching.

Unable to watch, mainly listen, to what is being said any longer, Oliver switches channel. He does so by stabbing at the button on the remote. It is an outlet for a fraction of his collective ire. Still it obeys all the same and sees the channel flick across to another news network.

Unlike the last this one has very different coverage ongoing. It’s the sort that proves his point as a male reporter in his late twenties continues to interview a devastated and exhausted looking woman covered in muck and gashes regarding the ordeal she has been wrenched from.

According to the text scrolling across the bottom this woman is a survivor in the latest in a long line of natural disasters. Yet, it does not say where this event has taken place.

Oliver shakes his head, unsurprised, but wonders if ordinary people like Joe Schmo buy the bullshit on the other channel if they are watching it. It’s certainly being shovelled in their faces to such a pitch that they might.

Sickness crawls up the back of his throat at having returned to the matter which grates so mercilessly upon his beliefs. It’s an uncomfortable but not unfamiliar sensation. Especially these days as it is a feeling which hits far more often than it does not. Still, he can’t stop himself from caring. And if not for the presence of his anger, boiling, he would feel despair regarding the suffering this woman, and all the others caught in this flood, must have had to endure.

Another surge of venom rushes to the fore when he thinks about how the national leaders never have to suffer like this because they have safe houses, military bases, bunkers and security personnel to protect and serve them in any and all capacities they require.

“Won’t be like that forever you fuckers.” The brown haired man promises while continuing to lean forward as he sits on an old battered sofa.

Clearly the item of furniture has seen much better days. In fact its once dark brown leather has turned a light tan colour, while its surface is covered in gashes, scuffs and other wear marks impossible to remove or recover from. That is unless someone decided to recover the entire surface, and who would be inclined to do that? No one is the answer and Oliver well knows it. Not that he cares. It is serving its purpose of giving him somewhere to sit, his elbows pressed against his knees, neck craned forward, grey eyes blinking slowly.

The man lets out a sigh which quickly turns to a rumble. He licks his lips, shakes his head again feeling nothing but pain for the woman as she balls her eyes out. A child, he presumes is hers, clutching her side with eyes that dart about confused.

If Oliver were to guess he’d say the child is maybe six, but that is about the only observation he can make.

Without warning he changes channel again. Another news broadcast. Not a news channel but a normal broadcast planted between whatever else is on the schedule.

Quickly Oliver learns he’s dropped in right as the anchor is about to launch into a recap of the news, globally. It’s the only sort of news which remains, global. Local news died when the countless string of catastrophes began to ravage the world.

Being in his late thirties, the seething brown haired man on the sofa can remember a time before all this suffering. It wouldn’t have been called it rosy then either but by comparison to today it was certainly a bona fide paradise.

If it isn’t an earthquake of building shattering proportions, it’s a flood, a volcanic eruption, a hurricane, typhoon, tornado devastating a town or a tsunami.

He can’t be sure but suspects that more people have died in the last five years than the twenty before that. Worst of all no one is doing anything. Sure, there are protests but whether people want to acknowledge it or not, they are having little to no affect. The world, in terms of its viability for human habitation, is ending.

Of course the Earth itself will live on. Humanity will not kill it; but what it has done is a fantastic job at screwing it up. That is why things, it has been said many times, have to change.

“Ollie, we’re almost ready.” A guy with a shaved head and dark eyes says once he is within arm’s reach of the brown haired man clad in body armour and an assortment of other military garb.

Oliver nods though does not take his eyes off the screen for a good long while. Around him dozens of armed men and women ready for what is to come next as they make the very, very final preparations before rolling out.

When finally his grey eyes do lift from the screen they glance up at the man stood beside him. He isn’t a friend. In fact he barely knows the man. Definitely not enough to recall his name with ease, as you might with a friend or even an acquaintance.

In that moment it strikes Oliver that he maybe should’ve taken more time to get to know those who have pinned themselves to his flag. Sadly there wasn’t the time. This had to be done hastily due to a change of plans; something that was entirely out of his control. Not that it matters now.

Rising to his full height of a little over six foot, Oliver makes sure to stretch. His joints groan and crack. He isn’t fazed by their responses. Rather, their reactions are entirely what he expected them to be.

Still, he makes sure to test all his joints and muscles. He can’t have them causing him any jip for the outcome could be dire if they did.

Grey eyes cast around the massive expanse of what had once, he can only guess for he does not know for certain, been a stacked out warehouse unit crammed with goods of… He doesn’t know that either. It could’ve been anything and is again a detail which does not matter for whatever it was is not what it is now.

With his sweep of his surroundings; the striding bodies, collapsible tables, crates and several dozen off-road vehicles complete, Oliver does a half turn to his right, leans down and retrieves his assault weapon from the sofa cushion he had not occupied.

“We roll out in two. Everyone know their job?”

Response issued is a curt, confident nod.

In response to it however, Oliver does not immediately reply. Rather, he waits; for what he cannot say. It could be an addition, an aside. It never comes if that is the case.

This lack of addition leaves Oliver hoping this man, he still can’t recall his name, is correct. You see, failure is not an option. Not when the world hangs in the balance, treading shark infested water like it is.

At any other time he might snort to himself. Wonder why him. It’s mildly humorous, he supposes without feeling any of the humour he thinks he should or would’ve at some other time.

Would I though, even then?

The question is one which is left to echo through his head without answer. Unfortunately, in being allowed to remain it crushes a small section of his confidence. That is until he tosses it aside, takes a deep breath, steels himself so that only the moment is of import and then orders, “Dismissed.”

With that single word the dark haired man bows his head, turns and departs heading for… Oliver doesn’t know. He doesn’t watch nor pay attention. It isn’t his job too. If it were, this wouldn’t be his operation.

Instead, he checks his assault weapon. The magazine is fully loaded, ready for use. He holds no qualms either way whether he might have to use it or not. He does hope none of those who are a part of his little band; if you can call over a hundred people a little band, will either. If they do it could turn ugly, fast.

Stop thinking about what is yet to come, he urges of himself only to return his focus to his weapon.

The assault platform is one of three weapons that will be about his person. The other two are a nineteen round semi-automatic pistol and an overly large knife. It’s the sort many might wish to call a machete but it isn’t quite that size. Nor is it meant for chopping down foliage preventing progress. Principally because there wouldn’t be much need for that along the South France/North Spanish border.

Checks complete, weapon still perfect, Oliver stomps over to his ride. He won’t be driving. He’ll be a passenger. One of the others who treat him like an officer would in a military setting will be driving. They are ex-military, he thinks. To be honest he forgets. There are a lot of people from all walks of life who could no longer, like him, sit and watch.

Having opened the door to the off-road vehicle, suspension jacked higher than it would’ve been fresh out of the factory whenever it was released, Oliver slips inside and onto the front passenger seat. From there he slams the heavy door shut which in turn results in a short dull boom of a thud.

Seatbelt in place, engine fired into life and revved alongside those of the other near identical vehicles, Oliver waits for the warehouse shutters to roll open. He isn’t left waiting for long. Yet, trepidation sits high in his chest as the horizontal metal slats rise up and out of view.

His concerns fade once it seems they are not about to be ambushed or descended upon imminently. It’s a relief, a sizeable one, and not something he had realised those around him were so concerned about. Though, now that he hears them exhale loudly, he concludes that it should not have surprised him. After all, these people are not stupid. Many are highly educated individuals with years, decades even, or experience in their respective fields. Whether it’s one they have existed within their entire adult lives or not is an irrelevance.

The brown haired leader of this group’s truck begins to roll forward. On a prior instruction Oliver had made it clear that his vehicle which would be the first to leave the ‘safety’ of the warehouses interior. He felt, and stressed, that it was imperative those calling him their leader had confidence in his authority. And that they felt confident he would not ask them to do something he was not willing to do himself.

However, rolling out into the early summer sun without incident was an event which did not strike worry in Oliver, unlike the opening of the shutter.

The same could not be said of those next to and behind him for again he hears them breathe a collective sigh of relief which forces him to suppress a wry smile from creeping across his overly pink lips. A trait for which he was bullied mercilessly as a child when at school; made worse by him having been a stunted little thing.

All that soon changed when he hit puberty and shot up like a rocket to be bigger than almost everyone else.

Alas, his change in stature did not alter his popularity, which never rise to heights that could be considered heady. Not that he ever wanted them too. For you see, Oliver enjoyed his close knit circle of friends. He remembers their names, as well as their faces. How they had been as children. It strikes him that he hasn’t seen them for many years and wonders where they are now.

Sadly, they could be amongst this band of followers he has amassed and he would likely never know. Though, surely they would remind him. Unless…

There is a decent chance if they are counted amongst those alongside him that they too do not realise he is the boy they grew up with. That same child who used to go down the park not to play on the climb frames, slides and such but to bike in the woods nearby. Those same woods which were often frequented by older minors, teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, who would drink, smoke and snort while chatting aimlessly about nonsense.

If Oliver’s mother had ever found out she would’ve killed him, figuratively of course, for he’d disobeyed her express demands that he keep out of that place.

A silent sigh blasts from his nostrils as the truck rumbles down the roads toward their destination. Taking a quick glance around at his surroundings, Oliver suspects they are a good five plus minutes out and so he turns back to his thoughts, his mother.

Regrettably she is no longer counted amongst the living. Unlike many others she wasn’t lost in the disasters which are such a regular occurrence now. No, instead it was a stroke which took her from Oliver. This was back when he was barely into his twenties.

Oliver was the only person at her funeral. His father having skipped out on them… To be honest he doesn’t know when other than to say it must have been when Oliver was very young for he does not remember witnessing such an event. And no, he’s never tried to find his father. He didn’t see the point.

After all, if the guy had wanted to be a part of his son’s life he’d have stuck around. He didn’t so clearly it didn’t matter to him. At least that is what Oliver believes anyway.

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