Another last minute cancellation. One or two more and he’d call off the tour. Ray (the name tourists called him) was the last guide still taking groups to the ruins. From the city center they were a half-day drive. Recently there’d been some skirmishes along the route. But he knew the factions wouldn’t attack tourists. And there was violence in the city center too.
This wasn’t the future Ray imagined for his country. Everyone had been optimistic after the invaders left. His country had been the epicenter of a proxy war for two distant nations. Despite noble platitudes, the real mission for both sides was to test their newest military technology. One side fought with heavily armed truck-sized robots. The other countered with swarms of insect-like mini-drones
He had never been a soldier. During the worst of the fighting Ray hid with extended family members in a concrete bunker leftover from a previous invasion.
The robots were unable to fight more than type of enemy at a time. By organizing into factions, and varying evasive tactics, the people overwhelmed the machines, and forced their retreat. Still, as usually happens in these situations, the capital was leveled, and soon the factions were fighting among themselves.
Thankfully neither robots nor warlords had destroyed the ruins. There were fewer tourists after the war, but the ruins continued to draw international visitors. Ray made up for the lower number by charging more for security.
Eager for a few more costumers, Ray went down to the city center. The old town center, marketplace and river docks were desolate. Storefronts were shuttered. Not a tourist in sight. At the docks, he ran into a friend who occasionally chartered river cruises. “Where’s everyone?” Ray asked. “You haven’t heard?” the friend replied. “Rumor is the invader are returning to fight the new factions.”
“That rumor’s come up before. It’s wishful thinking for a lot people.” Ray countered.
His friend took the rumor seriously. “I’m going home soon as I finish tying down my boat. But if you’re sure it’s a rumor, there was one tourist who came by earlier. He’s staying at the Old Town Hotel. I bet he’d still trek out to the ruins.”
The friend was right. This tourist was keen to visit the ruins. Brendon was a tech entrepreneur. He explained ruins fascinated him because “they teach me that nothing I build will ever leave the legacy I except.”
Halfway to the ruins, came the unmistakable hum and clang of metal. The rumors were right. Ray veered off towards a bunker he knew. Ditching the van, they walked the last ten minutes.
He assured Brendon, they’d spend just a night in the bunker. There was a family already inside, and they squeezed alongside them. Ray knew they wouldn’t make it to the ruins, but Brendon was about to get a firsthand lesson in legacies and unexpected consequences.
NOTE: This story is Part I of my new series "The Invaders." Although each story is meant to stand alone, the installments will form a larger narrative.
I’m a producer, writer and storyteller with expertise in digital, print, film, TV & stage productions