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The Corpse Pickers Episode I: Bones In The Desert

By Ell Mack All Rights Reserved ©

Mystery / Scifi

Chapter 1

The convoy thundered across the barren landscape, tearing up clouds of dust and sand in their wake. The silence of the desert was so dense that it almost felt as if it had mass, but that silence was shattered by the rumble of engines and the screeching of tires. At the head of the convoy was the lead scout buggy, a Volkswagen Beetle, refitted with what seemed like most of a tank. The front wheels were protected by sheets of metal which tore through boughs of sand. The back wheels were supplemented by two additional wheels within caterpillar tracks. A large calibre weapon hung precariously from the left side of the car, grafted on with scrap metal. It was a monstrosity of a vehicle, a mechanical Frankenstein’s monster. Strangely enough, this car was the least imposing of the vehicles which tore through the lonely desert. Just behind the Volkswagen was a large pickup, a large truck with custom wheels the size of smaller trucks. It towered over the car in front like an oak over a fern; its formidable size would seem deterrent enough for anyone who caught an unfortunate glimpse of this demonic machine. But that was not enough. It too was fitted with a large weapon, this time in the form of a mounted machine gun. The drivers cab was packed with at least four men, with two men clinging on to the side of the truck and a woman manning the machine gun in the back. There were several of these trucks, each with varying levels of armaments MacGyvered to their bodies, making up the front and rear of the convoy. The most interesting vehicle, however, was definitely the one in the middle. It was clear that this was what these powerful weapons of war were protecting. The central machine was halfway between a train and a bus. It had at least 20 wheels and two carriages, welded together with whatever they could get their hands on. The cab at the front was reinforced with bulletproof glass, thick steel and barbed wire. This too had weapons all over, with no less than three mounted machine guns swivelling on the roof of the vehicle. The windows were all blacked out with paint that was either a dirty yellow or a murky green. It was hard to tell. A flag flew from a mast erected in the centre of the first carriage. It was a red banner with a white cross, emblazoned with six red stars. The flag of the Confederacy.
All in all there were at least fifteen vehicles streaking across the desert at breakneck speed, billowing a storm of sand in their wake. It was clear that this was a coordinated operation. Probably military.
“Halt the fucking convoy!” bellowed a voice through the loudspeaker system. It was difficult to hear over the roar of the engines, but a few short blasts of the horn got the point across just as quickly. The passengers jumped off of their transports before they had even come to a complete stop, sweeping the area with assault weapons and establishing a perimeter. They were in the middle of the desert, but it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared for anything.
While the armed team scurried around the area, the door to the central vehicle flew open, shaking in its hinges. Two men and a woman stepped out with purpose. The first man was fat and hairy, decked in a stained overcoat and a two gallon hat. The woman was much smaller and considerably older, probably pushing sixty or seventy years old. She held her facial features in such a contorted scowl that it seemed like she was rationing her other expressions. The final man to step out of the caravan was the leader of this expedition, a man known as “The Archaeologist”. His true name is unknown, but his alias is well known throughout the continent. They say he was just as likely to put a body in the ground as to excavate one out of it. This particular endeavour encompassed both of these fine hobbies.
“Are we here?” asked the fat man.
“Yes.” Answered the Archaeologist, simply. He was about fifty years of age with long grey hair which hung limply down his back. His face was obscured by sand goggles and a bandana covering his mouth. The grey suit he wore might have been high class at one point; however it was now marked and scarred all over. The shabby man pulled a folded map from his pocket and peered at it closely.
“According to our coordinates, we are in the exact spot.” He drawled. Despite being a member of the Confederacy, his accent was not southern. In fact, he spoke with very little accent at all. Many guessed that he may be from Europe, but nobody was entirely sure.
“But it’s just sand!” barked the stern woman. She cast her gaze across the landscape, brushing her grey hair from her eyes. The scowl intensified.
“Of course it is. This is an archaeological expedition. We’re going to need to dig.” Replied the Archaeologist, quietly.

It took the better part of a week to clear the sand and uncover the ruined building. The convoy had parked their vehicles in a circle around the dig site, with men and women armed to the teeth patrolling the perimeter. They looked like soldiers, or perhaps mercenaries. They wore Kevlar vests and desert camouflage helmets, complete with optical visors and state of the art weaponry. It was possible that this team of individuals were one of the most heavily armed squads in the continent. Their expensive weaponry was exceptionally hard to come by these days, in the world after the war.
“Sir, we’ve found the vault.” Stated one of the men, before saluting and marching out of the tent. The three companions were standing around a table covered in maps. The archaeologist nodded, without realising the man had left. They strode out into the unforgiving sun. The descent was difficult, as the scaffolding had been hastily constructed, but they made it down into the husk of the building in a few minutes.
“It doesn’t look like a military base.” Noted the fat man, spitting onto the floor. The Archeologist frowned at him.
“Nuclear war has a way of stripping these places to their bones. The vault should still be intact. They were designed to withstand all out destruction.” He mused, removing his goggles and bandana. His face was wrinkled and scarred, but his pale blue eyes had a fire in them that spoke of passion and brutality. They arrived just as the armed men blew the door of the vault, opening it for the first time in almost two centuries. The hole in the door revealed a dark room with very little in it. It would be a massive disappointment to a treasure hunter...but not to those who knew what they were looking for.
The stern woman was the first to spot what they were looking for. It was sitting on a stainless steel table at the back wall, its legs slightly bent.
“Here it is...” she breathed, as she swiped dust and sand from the lid of the metal box. The Archaeologist was at her side in an instant, looking over the container for damages.
“It is. Someone grab it. Be careful with it. It’s not completely fragile but I would rather not take any chances. And tell someone to bring down the bodies; we will leave them in this room. Chances are no one will find them for years.”
Two men moved from their posts at the door, lifted the box steadily and moved it from the room. It took them less than ten minutes to secure the package within a large, sturdy container. This container was immediately moved into the bus, where it was secured in a specially built vault. The men exited the bus and immediately issued orders to their subordinates to begin packing up. After the time it took them to unearth this place, it seemed almost too easy. The archaeologist was going to order the next phase of the plan when he noticed something else, tucked away in the corner.
“Now...what is this?” he muttered to himself as he walked over, cautiously. The item resembled a small box, no more than half a meter cubed. In itself, it didn’t look like much, but printed faintly on its lid was the infinity symbol. The archaeologist raised an eyebrow. Was this really what he thought it was? Slowly, he lifted the lid.
“Sawyer, I believe we have just discovered a bonus.”

Covering the excavation with sand took considerably less time than digging it up. Within a day, the whole site looked untouched. With the tents packed away and the convoy loaded with its precious cargo, the Confederates set to move off. The wind would cover their trail within hours and it would be as if they were never there. It was the perfect plan. However, the Confederates did not take into account that factor which is least predictable – the human factor. As the engines roared to life and the parade of vehicles began to take off, a woman clinging to the side of the rear truck dropped a small bead into the sand, its yellow light blinking, marking their location. 

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