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Carry Them

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You’re dead.

He’s dead.

The dream is dead. A world without nations, a refuge for soldiers, a raised fist and a pointed gun. All dead. But Adam is saying it’s not over yet, there’s survivors, they’re sending in teams. What teams? You’re all dead.

It was the fucking kid. More Kaz’s son than anyone else’s, but Adam says they both have yet some purpose left in the long game of - yeah, the way the kid talks.

He was nothing more than a means to an end. You were cobbled together from a few scraps of metal left in an empty crate left forgotten in some old outpost. There was a voice in your head -

And you shrugged and shut down the AI pod. Getting kind of creepy, huh?

He had a white horse. What was the breed again? Did Ocelot tell you, or had you looked at it and known immediately? You touched its muzzle when he came riding across the red sands to see what he’d built. The trucks carrying three W80s would follow his path tomorrow. You sent out the kids to escort him to the compound. Waited in the shadow of the fortress for him to arrive.

You dismounted from that horse still looking at the kids. They saluted Big Boss and, what, did you say they were twins? Did he even bother explaining? Like the fucking kids would give a shit. You were an idol already.

He had kids too, he’d said. And the goat, the fucking goat, the picture pulled out of the front pocket of your jungle fatigues. And you told him how in 1974 you’d seen him talking to the cat and he’d asked you what cat. You know, that fucking cat that hung around base, and he’d said there was only a dog.

Nah, that thing wasn’t a dog, it was definitely a wolf. Still slept with you every night.

Dead too now.

“What the hell are you talking about?”

Adam looks up from the map spread over the desk. Red gloved fingers splayed across some scummy swampland.

“You want me to go back. To Tselinoyarsk.”

“Grozny Gradj was destroyed. But the region’s been unstable ever since, and the proximity to China means - “

“You’re shitting me.” Where’s the light at, anyways? Adam knows this much, at least.

There’s nothing of him here in this house. In this room, the - what, the study. It’s all Roy Campbell’s kind of shit. FOXHOUND kind of shit. Good old boys and the red white and blue. Some kind of little fucking medals, worn tin things to pin on a dress uniform.

You went hunting once. Thought he was some kind of a hippie, but you went out hunting. There were some issues with the supply lines in those early days. Something about the budget. All that crap you typically left to Kaz. But the kids were getting antsy about it, so he and you went out and brought back those water buffalo, the lumbering beasts with quiet eyes. A red hand on a combat knife slit their throat.

Didn’t talk much, huh.

Not much to say.

A shared cigar while the meat cooked in a freshly-dug pit. He’d carved you a chunk himself. Brought two tin plates laden with it and poured your drink. Wouldn’t eat until you started, like a dog.

So what now? Gonna go back home and roast up your little zoo? What was her name, Marshmallow?

Nothing wrong with that name.

It’s just a goat.

It’s just survival.

You told him how you’d figured it out. The green frogs were gross at first, but then they made you really sick. Took you a minute to realize what it meant when the color changed a bit and the flies buzzed more. If it smells like shit, you’ll feel like shit, first rule of survival.

What, and the snakes smelled like roses?

Hm. I think snakes smell pretty good, myself.

You did. Kind of weird at first. There was weed mixed in with all those funky flowers. Nice move. Mixed well with the tobacco.

Wasn’t he made for you? Did it even matter who topped at that point?

This cigar doesn’t taste the same as that one did. Adam fucked that up again.

Adam isn’t talking anymore. Adam’s standing right here. Weird look on his face. Is he on that black tar again, or is it just the mind games? Kid’s gonna fuck himself over like that. One red-gloved hand is stretched out, fingers still open like he expects someone to read the question off his open palm.

The cigar burns right through the leather. Adam doesn’t even wince, but he firmly pulls his hand back like he’s taking a toy from a child. Well. He tries to.

“Which one?”

Through the glove to his skin. Like Adam hasn’t already burned off his fingerprints. He dislikes being interrupted more than he cares about being burned. “Sorry?”

“You said it. Big Boss is dead. Confirmed twenty minutes ago.”

“What are you -”

“Go get the body.”

“What could you possibly want the body for?”

“Identification?” Is Adam suddenly an idiot? It’s never confirmed until you ID the body.

Adam sighs. Watches the butt end of the cigar burn his wrist now. Between where some of the scars zig and zag. Still doesn’t even blink. “All right, Boss. We can secure the remains if you’d like.”

“You don’t call me that.”

“...Yes, John.”