Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Lost in Purgatory

The sandstorm howled with a fury of almost biblical proportions. Those safely inside the tanks and what civilian craft they could acquire did, protected from what was seen as the wrath of god, the mother of all storms. Almost bumper to bumper they pushed on, not knowing if the superior flagritz forces were following them, or if they would ever meet up with Ezikiel again. The mood was sober, only the singing of hymns from the acolytes kept their spirits up. Onwards they pushed, into the unknown.

With a whine and a stench of burning the tank ground to a halt. Smoke billowed from the rear compartment, hastily extinguished by supressors, but making the atmosphere unbearable. The wounded groaned and moaned while the hatch was open to vent the smoke and acrid air. Sand immediately began cascading in, but the wind was able to vent the smoke and the hatch was sealed quickly.
"This is tank alpha seven seven do you read me?"
"This is tank alpha seven seven do you read me? Over?"
More static, then fragments of someone talking then more static.
"Keep trying soldier."
A nun sat down and removed her headgear ruffling her hair and massaging her neck. She looked around, a small group of heavily armed soldiers, some civilians, acolytes and some who were wounded.
"You, take stock of what provisions we have here. Driver, check out the engine if you can, see if it can be repaired. Keep a look out of the vision slits, this storm can't last forever."
"Sister, will we get out of this? The True One says that in adversity the truly blessed will be known. Is this adversity?"
The driver as he was peering into the engine compartment spat and pulled his goggles down.
"No, this is purgatory."

It was several hours later when the hatch was thrown back and Sister Pilar pulled herself out onto the turret. Over half of the tank had been covered in sand, and most of one side was up to the turret. Taking a set of binoculars from a soldier she stood on the turret and scanned the horizon while others pulled themselves out. The area was a sandy wasteland, barren and empty. She pulled out her communicator and started to scan the channels. There was nothing, just static. Sitting on the edge of the turret she drummed her heels against the hull and jumped down.
"How many are we?"
"Just ten, including walking wounded."
"I thought there were others?"
There were three brief gunshots and then a junior sister pulled herself out of the tank, tears in her eyes. Pilar looked at her and smiled.
"You did right sister. Now come, we need to move, help the wounded. We need to get to that outcrop of rock, it's a long way, but we can make it before night fall I think."
"What about the weapons?"
"Bring everything you can carry. We will fight, but I'd rather we survive. So make sure you bring the water."
The driver pulled out a bottle and waggled it.
"And the holy wine?"
She laughed and took the bottle, taking a mouthful of the aniseed liquor.
"Blessed be. Now, move out, and keep an eye out. We don't want to be ambushed or run into anything...."
With a sigh she handed the bottle back.
"Unexpected.... May the True One carry us to safety. If we are worthy of your blessings, hear us now O Lord."

Slowly, but with determination, the small group of survivors, lost in purgatory, headed out.

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