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[personal profile] drewkitty
My head aches with every step. I should stay in bed. But I have a duty to perform.

Shane helps me dress, with the same lack of precision and tact he brings to all his duties. He is puzzled that I am putting on the white long sleeve shirt and tie, polyester pants, and no duty rig except the handgun on my leather belt.

I should be putting on full battle gear, or staying in bed. He is more right than he knows.

The duty cart carries me to the hill. We used to call it Boot Hill because from a certain angle it looks like a boot.

Now we call it Boot Hill because of all the graves on it.

Chairs have been set up at the front. Benches along the back. I have a seat in front. Shane sits to my left, the barrel of his riot shotgun in his off hand and butt against the ground.

Several of the security team, in full battle rattle, are on overwatch. Others are concealed in the bushes. We only own this area on paper and in daylight.

There are three fresh graves. We lost one of the wounded in the night.

It's a hell of a thing, to half wake up, hear CPR in the background and go back to sleep.

The Site Location Executive officiated exactly once. He won't be doing that again. It is technically a leadership responsibility but his skill set is running a coding shop, not wrestling with life and death.

The coffins are repurposed server rack crates, cut in half the long way. One is draped in a US flag. Two are covered in blue sheets.

Janine is taking this one. She used to be a tech. She is now, by unanimous acclamation, the Captain of the Fire Brigade and reports to the VP of Site Ops. I also report to Site Ops, but directly to the SLE. On anything touching Security, she takes my word as gospel. We work well together.

Her stretcher bearers saved my life yesterday, at great risk to themselves. I saw the video. A round landed where they had picked up my unconscious body.

"We are gathered here today for ourselves. These beloved people are at peace. Their work is done, their tour of duty finished. We celebrate their lives and we celebrate our own.

"We have worked so very hard for what we have. Our work continues. Today is not a day of rest. It is a day to rededicate ourselves to the great tasks ahead, to protect and defend our nation from the obscenity that has befallen her..."

Careful, Janine. Careful.

"... loss of San Francisco still affects us all."

On cue, one of the firefighters ... a volunteer employee who chose the Brigade instead of the Reaction Team ... hits Play.

The rock band takes us by surprise.

"We built this city!"

Oh God.

"We built this city on rock and roll!"

Jefferson Starship. It is a song about San Francisco.

The City that is no more. Murdered. Just as surely as the three bodies in front of us.

Everyone but the security team is teary eyed. Some are weeping.

Our countersniper hefts his rifle slightly. No doubt to avoid an arm cramp.

The spoken bridge, the DJ ... for a dead radio station in a dead city ... "The city by the bay, the city that rocks, the city that NEVER sleeps!"

I blink away a tear.

I saw The Fire. Firestorm. Nuclear ignited urban wildland interface fire. Leaping from tree to tree, from roof to roof. Held only by a block of man-made destruction cutting through the former San Mateo, another murdered city not quite as famous. I'd helped.

The song ends. Janine speaks into the silence.

"We will rebuild. We rebuild where we are. Here and now, we work and we build. Let not a single person die in vain. Remember. Then get to work."

Mic drop. She professionally scans the crowd then loiters a moment, after which she immediately comes over to me.

I stand. It costs me. "Sit," she whispers. Hastily Shane gives up his seat to her. She takes my arm, slides down to my wrist and takes my pulse.

As the coffins are carried to their final rest, I am carried to the cart and put on a nasal cannula, oxygen, and the cart rumbles its way back to the infirmary I should not have left.

My rest is still a long way away. But people had to see that I was alive and doing all right.

It is Apocalypse. But duty is heavier than mountains, and death lighter than a feather.
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