He dreamed of other worlds. Places where he was still the same person but the world around him was different, somehow. In these worlds those you lost were returned to you.
Your best friend who passed away was back and crashing on your couch again. Your father never ran out on you and offered you advice over morning coffee. Mandela didn’t die and instead came to lead your country into a new era.
Somewhere in there was a man. Blurry. Young, maybe? His voice was distorted and every time Anton passed him on the streets or saw him on a reflective surface he said the same thing over and over again. “When you die, find the others.”
It was just before dawn when the rumbling from the distant mortar fire startled him awake. Collecting his thoughts, Anton scrambled to his feet and began collecting his gear from within the confines of the tent.
Throwing the flap open, he positioned himself behind what cover he could find nearby and scanned the horizon with his night vision binocs. Judging by the flashes of light he saw in the distance behind a large hillside, Anton figured there was fighting in Toevlug.
They’re getting closer, he thought.
The NP appeared to be heading towards Hoop with the intentions to finally crush the resistance. From the sounds of it, they were successfully destroying the foothold the resistance campaign had in places like Toevlug and were only gaining momentum with every target they took down.
He didn’t waste any time in breaking down the tent and packing up the rest of his gear. He slung the pack over his shoulders, gripped the Vektor R4 closely to his body and began to hoof it to Hoop.
As he made his way cautiously along the arid hillsides, Anton looked to the skies and listened for the buzzing sounds that he came to associate with drone aircraft. A gift from the Americans, he remembered having lost many of his fellow soldiers to air to ground missile attacks that were launched from one kind of unmanned aerial vehicle or another.
By the time he reached a high bluff overlooking the plains where Hoop resided the sun was high overhead and the sounds of warfare had faded and died away miles away. Anton figured that Hoop had a day at best before the rest of the NP’s machine made its way there. Not enough time to evacuate everyone, he imagined, but perhaps enough time to mount an offensive and buy their plan some time to get mobilised.
These thoughts dissipated the moment he looked out over the plains to see the demolished ruins of Hoop.
Anton’s heart sank and he nearly dropped his weapon when he saw the city that served as the home for the resistance campaign against the NP was completely devoid of life. He stared at it for a few minutes, shock and disbelief on his face.
The highways were free of any traffic and home to husks of burned out cars and military vehicles that were established as part of a blockade action. Bodies were strewn along the roads leading into the city.
How did they know where to strike? he thought.
Looking through his binoculars, he spotted what looked like movements along the ruins of what was downtown. With no signs of smoketrails, Anton imagined that the assault must had taken place days or weeks ago. Coming to Hoop was something the NP had probably counted on when planning to strike the source of the resistance.
Feeling the need to see Hoop, what was left of it, at least, Anton began to pick his way down from the hillside. Reaching the long and abandoned highways, he climbed over the concrete barriers and made the long trek into the city limits.