The year 2060…
"Sir! The courier is ready to go!" said
the guard. The sound of an aircraft at an incredibly low altitude shook the
entire building. The guard stopped holding the rifle slung around his shoulder
and braced for several seconds in the doorway waiting for the inevitable
explosion of a bomb dropping.
It did, but it was several city blocks away. The guard breathed a sigh of relief and thanked whoever was looking down on him from above. He took another look at the person in the small room of the basement. He was an old man, known to be nearly eighty years old, but the war had made him look much older. He sat over a desk that shook as the elderly man furiously write on a piece of paper.
The man was one of the most important people on their side, so while it wasn’t wise to anger or rush him, the guard was following orders from his superior to get the message across the wrecked city to their troops holding down an important position.
“Sir, I beg you. We need to go!”
The man stopped writing.
He turned slightly, giving his old gray eyes a look at the frustrated young man.
“I’ll be ready when I’m done. The more you rush me, the longer it will take. We only have one opportunity to get this right.” He turned his weathered face away, back to his writing just as the sound of another aircraft approached.
This time it was much closer as the entire building shook. The floor above them gave way to a generous layer of dust which landed on both men. Only the guard reacted to the intrusion.
“Geez,” he yelled, wiping his head.
His radio came to life as his commander demanded to know where he was. He unclipped the radio from his belt and began a lengthy, rambling excuse for the delay.
“I don’t care!” the commander barked. “Get the package going! Now!”
The guard looked at the old man who continued to write.
“Hold your horses. Here is the letter. Let me seal it.”
The old man reached into the ancient desk and pulled out another white piece of paper. He then put the letter inside the other piece of paper.
“Why do that?”
The old man licked the piece of paper.
“Put a piece of paper inside another piece of paper.”
Close gunfire stopped the man from replying for a moment before he smiled.
“The outer paper is called an envelope. In my day, that is how people use to communicate. Before telephones and the internet, this is how people use to keep in touch. The outer paper holds and protects the letter. We even used to have the government deliver these to houses.”
The guard gave him a confused look as the roar of another plane shook the building.
“It was called the postal service.”
“Don’t mind me and my ramblings, youngster. Here.”
He held out the envelope.
The guard gave him a nod as he left the room and made his way back up to the top floor. He passed several soldiers, men and women, sitting on the floor, taking a momentarily rest as hell raged all around them. He gave a few nods as he found his way outside. He checked the street carefully before he ran across into the house that served as their temporary headquarters.
Two women guarding the door saw him holding the letter and let him pass. He made his way inside to the kitchen where his commander sat. He had his camo uniform on with two bars on each side of his collar. He was smoking a cigar with his radio on the table in front of him. He had a handlebar mustache and the look of man who had seen his share of pain. He gave the guard a scowl and held his hand out as cigar smoked escaped his lips.
The guard didn’t know why the commander wanted to see the letter.
No one here knew how to translate it.
Very few people these days knew how to read it which is why they relied on handwritten notes instead of high-tech communications which was frequently intercepted by the enemy. Their entire mission could be compromised if their adversary was able to somehow translate the letter the commander now held in his hand.
He held it for a second, like he was weighing it and gave it back to the guard.
“Reynolds!” he bellowed.
Seconds later, a young man appeared. He was probably barely eighteen. His hair was dirty ,and he wore no uniform. If he was caught by the enemy he could claim plausible deniability. The guard, in his camo, could not.
He would be killed instantly.
The commander held out the letter to Reynolds.
The young man took it and stuffed it into his pocket.
“Careful,” growled the commander. “That is a very important piece of paper you are holding, son. If anything happens to it, we are screwed. Do you understand?”
“Yes. Yes sir.”
The commander looked at the guard.
“Go with Reynolds. Watch his back. If he dies, you take the letter north to Lieutenant Richards. Understand?”
The guard snapped to attention and gave a salute. “Yes, sir!”
“Off with it then,” said the commander dismissing them.
Their mission was to make their way on foot to the north end of the city where the rest of their troops were. The instructions in the letter were then to be translated by another man who could understand the weird written language. From there the troops would have their marching orders and would be able to converge on the enemy at the right place and at the right time.
It would be a turning point in the war.
This letter was the most important thing the guard had ever helped deliver.
The pair made their way outside as distant gunfire was heard. They gave each other looks before taking off north through the city. They ran several destroyed city blocks before talking a break to catch their breath. They huddled in the doorway of a long destroyed comic bookstore.
Reynolds looked at the guard.
“So what language is this written in?” he asked, patting his pocket, where the letter lay.
“Something called cursive,” the guard said.
Reynolds gave his companion a confused look before the pair took off once more, north.