Bridger is a dystopian serial story about Charlane, a disgraced career soldier leading a security team at a remote research facility. When Char encounters a humanoid creature who claims to come from another world, she sees a chance to save her career—and the dying earth.
Char, a strong, career-driven woman, is fighting to overcome crippling self-doubt after she lost everything in a military scandal. She’d given so much to that career, including her marriage. Now she is starting over. Char doesn’t know that her value as a person doesn’t change based on what she accomplishes. Can she accept the unconditional love of those who care for her?
Our social media and celebrity culture has placed enormous value on beauty, fitness, and lifestyle. Our work culture pressures women to continually rise up the ranks and press for better jobs. All of these are worthwhile things, but they are not markers of personal value. A person is valuable because of who they are, not what they produce.
It was at least four hours before dawn when Char left her room. Seth had called her on the comm and told her it was minus forty degrees outside, and his snowmobile, parked inside an unheated shed, wouldn’t start.
“I’ll have it running in half an hour,” he said. “Stay inside where it’s warm.”
For once she’d taken his advice and curled up under the covers for another ten minutes.
When she marched out into the yard, the fort was still conserving power by keeping all unnecessary lights off. The headlight of Seth’s sled illuminated her path. Seth stood beside the snowmobile, every inch covered with thermal gear. He handed her a helmet.
“Are you re-thinking the snowmobile?” Char asked.
“Yes,” Seth said dryly. “You can tether your comm with the helmet so we can talk if we need.”
“We won’t,” Char said. “It’s five in the morning and I have nothing to say to you.”
Char slid behind Seth on the seat and considered if she could get away without hanging onto him. She really didn’t want to hang onto him, but she kind of did.
“Ready?” Seth’s voice crackled through her helmet.
Seth called over the comm for someone to open the gate and cracked the throttle. She had to grip his waist to not be thrown backward. The snowmobile spit snow behind them as they left Fort Situk behind.
Seth carved the snowmobile up through the passes through the treeless mountains by the light of the headlight. Every time they reached a high point, the bluish glow in the east grew brighter. Finally, as they approached the valley rim where the village of Taylor Bay was, the rim of the sun peeked over the horizon.
The wind had shifted again to the west. The sun rose red-tinted, suspended in smoky air.
They’d been travelling through a barren wasteland of rock and snow for an hour. Suddenly there were trees. Mostly small, waist-height trees with the odd, gnarled, tall pine protruding from the crowd like an adult among kindergarteners.
The town was a loosely arranged group of small houses and mobile homes with packed snow paths between them. Char scanned the edge of town for Seth’s parents’ cozy timber-frame house she remembered so well. Where she was certain it should stand, there was only an empty space. He drove right past it, over a small rise and toward a square house, surrounded by scrubby evergreens, clad with deep red siding and smoke rising from the chimney.
Seth’s uncle’s house. Char tucked her head behind Seth again.
The door opened, and a dark-haired man with a flashing smile stood in the entry, waving.
Char released Seth’s waist and fumbled with cold fingers to undo her helmet. Seth swung off the snowmobile and pulled off his helmet.
“I brought a guest, Uncle Will,” he called.
“Good. Come in and have some coffee.” Uncle Will disappeared into the house and shut the door.
Inside the house, Seth pulled off his toque and his braid fell out. “Uncle Will,” he said, gesturing to Char, who was climbing out of her snowmobile suit. “You remember Charlane?”
“Yeah.” Uncle Will eyed her with the faintest crease between his eyes. “You still like coffee, Charlane?”
“It’s the real deal,” Will said, turned and hobbling to the two-burner stove to poke at the tin percolator. “I’ve been shepherding along the stuff you brought me, Seth. Tastes so good compared to the synthetic stuff.”
“Yeah, perks of living with government folks.” Seth glanced sheepishly at her.
“Hold your hands over here, Charlane,” Will pointed to the stove. “It’s shit-cold out there, yeah?”
“Your trees are coming along pretty well,” she said.
“Yeah, seems they’re making it.” Will pulled two miss-matched mugs out of the cupboard over the sink. “We’ll put in some more in the spring if we can.”
They made small talk over cups of black coffee and gluey mass-manufactured bread with cheese spread. Sometime during the conversation, Seth made mention of going to visit the grave. A strange sense of dread came over her.
Charlie and Lisa Thompson had always been good to her. She wasn’t sure they liked her, but they’d been good to her when she and Seth came to visit. She had good memories of sleeping with him under real down duvet in their guest bedroom and waking up to open gifts on Christmas morning. Charlie had given her a hand-tooled leather belt that she still wore occasionally. Real leather cost a fortune these days.
Sometime during the conversation, Seth made mention of going to visit the grave. A strange sense of dread came over her.
“So now…” Will got up, threw two more slices of bread into the toaster and depressed the creaking springs. “This ring planet that you mentioned.”
“Yeah, do you remember the story?”
Uncle Will sat down and steepled his hands beneath his chin. “Well, the whole ring planet thing didn’t ring a bell.” A grin split his weathered face. “But I was thinking about a totem pole I saw down in Handler Falls. It has this creature with kind of big ears and a smooth face like you said. We could go down there and speak to the elders.”
“Yeah, we should,” Char said. She glanced at Seth. “Right?”
Seth took a gulp of coffee and nodded. “Once Char’s thawed out.”
Char flexed her toes down in her thick socks. “I miss the military-grade socks. They have those filaments in them that keep you warm.”
“Private security can’t afford that?” Seth asked.
“The military hoards the material,” Char said, bending down to examine the developing hole in her toe. No wonder a chill had snuck in. “What don’t they hoard? They won’t even guard their own goddamn research base. Too busy fighting.”
“Wasn’t you in the army?” Uncle Will raised an eyebrow.
“I was, yeah,” Char said. “I, um…” she glanced at Seth. “I couldn’t do it anymore.”
The toast popped. Uncle Will got up to get them. “Who could blame you.”
Who could blame her? Just a few parents of a few dead kids, that’s all.
For the rest of the episode, click here.