His dark hair, as shaggy and unkempt as his grizzled beard, formed a ring around his beak-like nose and deep set eyes. His clothes, tattered and worn from traveling for endless miles on foot, smelled of sweat and dirt and the darkness of Peña Dura. He caught rides on oxcarts, sharing afternoons with chickens and long haired goats, his fortune gone, lost in a battle with a foe underestimated. He would not underestimate anyone ever again.
He also knew that traveling by oxcart would not give him the speed he needed to reach his city in time to stop a monster from devouring it, a monster he had indeed created. It had been constructed to bring free energy, free power to his city but in the wrong hands it had become a disastrous weapon.
As he rode along in yet another oxcart, three children next to him, their small dirty legs hanging off of the edge, their laughter tickling his ears, he finally saw a welcome relief, something for which he had been patiently scanning the landscape: a modern building.
It was a two story concrete structure, primitive by modern standards, but possibly holding some type of technology, some type of communication equipment, something that he could use to contact the outside world. Climbing down from the cart, his face grimacing about the slight twinge in his back, he walked to the door and spoke the language of the men who guarded it.
“What is this place?”
One of the men, a burly hulk of a man, dark skin and shaved head but with a crisp forest green uniform. “It is government offices for province.”
The traveler stood, put his hands on his hips as if in despair.
“I am an American and I’m lost,” he explained. “My clothes and identity have been stolen and I need to communicate with my offices back home to have them wire some money to me.”
The other guard, a rail thin man with a raspy voice said “This building has no access. No way.”
The traveler smiled, his teeth filmed over. “I have to…look…there will be a big payoff to you both if I can get to my offshore account.”
The two guards looked at each other, the bigger one smiling as if he knew something the traveler did not.
The traveler knew.
The skinny guard pulled out a set of keys and unlocked the steel door allowing the traveler to enter. Inside, he found an old rotary telephone, a beaten up Acer computer and a monitor that looked like it was not made for computing but watching soccer games. After some unceremonious and sharp cursing from the skinny guard, the computer was up and running and the traveler soon was able to access a Swiss bank account to transfer some money to a service, send a few e-mails and then log himself out before the skinny guard returned from his fit of laughter outside with the burly hulk.
The traveler jogged outside, then sat beneath the shade of the building and waited, reassuring the two guards that “their services will be well compensated.” Two hours and a snack of couscous and goat meat later, the guards and the traveler were laughing and telling jokes as a sleek black chopper flew overhead and then landed, swirling the sand and dust of the desert around it, the blades making a high whine as the traveler jogged toward it, waving back at the guards.
The guards stood to their feet, readying their rifles as if preparing for battle, but lowering them as the traveler returned with a small black leather briefcase. He handed the case to the guards, shaking their hands with an iron grip, and smiling as he returned to the chopper. As the helicopter lifted off, the smooth takeoff of an expert pilot, the guards read the side of the chopper and puzzled over the name printed there in large white letters.