I know I said the other chapter would be the last unlocked one, but I lied. This one is. 😀 Its a cop-out chapter to move the story along. Its been stuck on me for a month and I want it gone.
“Holy shit!” One of the soldiers laughed “It really fucking worked!”
The laughter was short-lived as a barrage of bullets began to cut through the store. I threw myself down just before the snacks around me exploded into mists of oranges, whites, and other colors that made my choke on the dustified snacks.
Glass shattered, metal sang, and I heard pained screams as I quickly pulled myself across the store like a meth-fueled lizard. Gatorade man pulled by my vest’s back handle and pulled me out of the zone of fire.
[“Tangos on the Wal-greens! Tangos-!”] My brother’s voice cut off as another hail of bullets tore through the storefront, forcing me and Gatorade man to retreat.
Gatorade man stuck up and returned fire from the back of the store, which, unfortunately, faced the wal-greens. The return fire was short-lived as I felt a weight slam into my back. I yelped at the and thought I had been hit, but the pressure kept pressing me down. I turned to see what it was and… Gatorade’s bloodied face looked back at me…
I stared in shock, his nose was ripped in two and he was missing his right eye. Blood was gushing from his face and… his neck. It pooled on the floor amongst the scattered snacks and glass. It wasn’t like in the video games or movies; bits of other… things. mixed into the blood. A bit of pink was mixed in and… I threw up everything I had eaten just a few moments ago. Now I struggled through throw off the soldier as the blood and vomit mixed under my chest. The stench… God… The stench was indescribable.
I cursed myself, my dad, my country, and every other entity I could think of as I struggled to even turn over. This man was in full gear too, which added hundred pounds onto this man who had nearly a hundred pounds over my. I was just an average pretty guy, not built like the bear the other men in the family were. In this moment, I had finally wished I had been.
The weight finally lived and I was dragged forward across all the bodily fluids. I saw bloodied boots and felt a few hot casings hit the back of me. The world felt numb and I only heard the rapid thumping of automatic fire. Shell casings were dropping on my right, but it all felt… Unreal.
Free of the weight, I slowly heaved myself to my knees before I was pulled back down by my brother. Somehow, this felt like a deja vu moment as he yelled at me, but I couldn’t understand what he was saying. Rather than being deafened by gunshots, I think my mind was short-circuiting.
I just stared back at him, my thoughts a haze as I tried to wipe Gatorade Man’s bloodied face from my mind.
I just spoke to him… We… He was alive.. I thought as my brother only scowled and pushed me down. I wanted to get back up, but he kept me down effortlessly. The floor was covered in a mixture of sodas and water as the refrigerated section had been peppered with bullets. Blood swirled in the sugary mixture beneath me as.
Just when I tried to get up again, I felt my whole body momentarily shudder. The liquid mixture on the floor also became disturbed, more than when the shells were landing in it. The floor shook and that was when I felt the world come out of its monotonous state.
“Take that motherfucker!” I heard my brother call out. “Fuck yeah!” He hollered as he removed his hand from my back. I could hear distant shouting. I got up and realized I had been dragged away behind the large foot island where they heated their little shit rolls and shoved them into those little bags. From where we were, we had a perfect view of the building across from us. The Wal-greens that was just on the boundary of the HOA I lived in.
The storefront sat on raised land, just like the guardhouse and the office for the HOA; Unlike the HOA, the storefront and its parking lot was smoking.
Before I could register why my brother was howling, I saw the storefront be torn apart my several small explosions – Like those videos of Chinese people setting off a bundle of firecrackers, but much, much more violently.
BURERERERERE – BRRRRRRRRRRRRRTTTT!
I recognized that iconic sound as an A-10 Warthog.
Followed by another pass seconds apart.
“Good hit! Good hit!” My brother yelled over the radio.
I heard the roar of the planes overhead as they circled around and my brother pulled me with him.
“Let’s go!” He yelled.
. . . . . .
Run. The only thought that was in my head.
That was all I could think as I hauled my little brother after me out of that godforsaken dead trap. With most of my squad down, we were practically fucking shrimps to any large enemy element. That didn’t help my friends though. Jackson had laid in his own blood. He was the first one to die and we hadn’t even noticed him drop on contact. I felt that sink to the pit in my stomach when I thought about that.
Anderson and Kelmar also died but in the store. All that was left was Preacher, Hernadez, Kian, and I. We had already lost others when we tried to secure the house. I hadn’t expected that. I was more concerned with securing the last member of my family, my precious little brother. Though in hindsight, I hadn’t treated him so precious in the years previous.
I don’t know if the house was a target for the forces, or they had just been canvassing the neighborhood, looking for anyone important. None of us would know, and the information wouldn’t stem the loss of my friends. But at least Kian was safe…
We stopped in the hedges just off the old Home Depot lot, one of those large corporate home improvement stores that existed before the resources became scarce. Just beyond the hedges, a four-foot concrete wall sat. It offered us cover from that abandoned store and the hedges offered us concealment from the street. For once, I was happy that politicians loved their appearances more than they loved saving resources, or the whole damn street would have been baren.
I looked back at my little brother. His body was much too small to be related to us… too… much like our mother. But I had to remember that it as pops and I that were the irregularities. We looked like walking tanks, muscular and “Manly.” It took a lot to remember that. Even when crouched, Kian was much smaller than me.
He had such a pretty face for a boy, and if I didn’t know he was a boy, and my brother; I could have more than certain take him as a young pretty girl. He had long disheveled hair. It wasn’t that he girly, but his looks were effeminate, or maybe the word was androgynous. With each passing year, he even began to look more and more like our mother. Not that he didn’t before…
I had to pump the brakes on my wandering thoughts. It was a clusterfuck of a situation. Whenever family became involved, one of the few things I learned to only care about, came under attack – I just wanted to blindly beat the issue into submission. I couldn’t take on a foreign army, and the rogue state to the north. No. I could only run and take my family away.
In Kian’s hands was the HK416 that Anderson had used, along with two spare magazines I had shoved into Kian’s vest. I never wanted him to kill anyone, to have that taint his soul, but I would much rather turn my brother into a sinner than have him dead. Even if I had to die, I would get him away from here.
The thoughts had only lasted a few seconds and Kian felt my stare. He looked up with those trusting eyes, those innocent lost eyes that had just seen someone die in front of him. I looked away, guilty for something I hadn’t even done, but I had a mission. A mission to get him out of here.
I brought my Onboard Tactical Assistant Device, OTAD, and flicked through a few menu options before I found the updated situation map of the area. Should we have been in our full battle gear, we would have been wearing the latest battle armor with cool-ass helmets that had a heads-up display and use voice commands to do all of this. Yet, we were caught with our pants down. Pops should be securing our gear and inbound to us.
On the small screen, I saw my squad on the screen – Zulu Squad, Coded Bear for today – and the surrounding DC area.
God… It was a mess…
On a battlefield, there would have been controlled areas were friendlies or combatants held ground. Then there would be contested ground, where the combat was. There was none of the first element, but there was only contested ground. The on-board AI was listening to the radio traffic, no longer trying to breach the enemy lines, but fully devoted to transcribing the plethora of friendly comms. With our friendlies, two other hostile elements attacked us at once, but from what was happening, they didn’t seem to be friendly to each other either.
Everyone was fighting everyone and each street was being fought for control or having already been drenched in blood and those streets were about to be recontested by the other element. This was a resource race, we were trying to protect our supply depots or secure reinforcement routes, but everyone else wanted those depots, and they couldn’t just bomb us to hell if they were to get them.
The silver lining in the situation was that all the fighting was going on in the south and north. Their area was marked contested, but with a notation that it was only being marked for transportation to the battles. The contested came from the forces running into each other on their way to the resources. That meant the ambush at the gas station wasn’t actually meant for them, but transport.
That made him feel even angry about the situation. All that blood and it hadn’t even been meant for them.
A message came over his headset, by the robotic voice of his AI.
[“Oracle Actual is inbound and requests the landing zone be secured. All friendly fighters have been scrambled and will tie up the enemy jets. All friendly and civilian elements have been cleared into the air to hide our EVAC.”] The program stated.
The plan made him feel even sicker but on the other hand, he didn’t care if he had to spend the lives of strangers if it meant he wouldn’t lose any more friend or his family. He lamented on the monster he was and looked to his baby brother.
I do this so you do not become one… He thought, but his brother didn’t feel his stare.
The air came alive as tens of jets soared overhead, screaming towards the south. For once in the nation’s life, all those spend dollars and they were all finally being put to use.
“Secure the parking lot,” I said into the mic. “EVAC inbound. We’re only going to have one shot at this.
← ∴ →
Twenty Minutes prior…
“Jesus!” I screamed.
The television mounted in the control room showed the chaos that was playing out above. Bodies in the streets, planes falling from above. Even the new chopper had been shot down by a fighter jet just a few minutes into their broadcast. However, my co-worker, Devan, only kept playing Candy Crush on his phone with the same indifferent expression as aways.
Both of us were Nuclear key carriers. On a normal day, we wouldn’t even be in the same section of the bunker. The sudden break out of war changed that quickly though. They showed us both into the launch room before they closed the door. We can leave, but they can’t enter without one of us opening the door.
“Do you think they’ll call us to…” I turned back to him. “Do you think this is it?”
The broadcast showed the sudden arrival of an entire armada of jets. Helicopters were beginning to take up the lower air space and the jets had to move higher into the sky to fight each other; Or risk crashing into the slower helicopters. It was strange. I wouldn’t have done that. However, they must have some sort of plan. Hopefully.
Something in me said I had to do something, but what? In the movies, they always called their loved ones. I didn’t have a family, aside from a small little chihuahua named Luke. He was an adorable little brown dog with big eyes. It was unfortunate that he didn’t have the ability to answer the house phone though. I would’ve liked to see him one last time. The fighting hadn’t reached where our home was, but no doubt it would within a few hours if the fighting continues to escalate. That was the requirement to be a Keyholder. No family.
Since the nuclear scare that after the third Cold War, presidents were no longer allowed to be to call in the nukes. That was entirely left to the army, with no contest from the political body. They had fallen into a convoluted mess of infighting that never ceased. Hell, there were even whole websites dedicated to the congress brawls that almost always broke out every week.
However, none of that mattered when the world above broke out into an all-out war. While both of them had different beliefs from their NCOs, they were still soldiers. Soldiers that would turn their keys and input their confirmation codes once that red phone rang. Though, I highly doubted they wanted to destroy whatever valuable resources were left.
I heard the soft roll of Devan’s computer chair as he rolled away. I watched him curiously, but he only rolled into the station’s small kitchen with his phone. Most likely went to look into what goodies the higher-ups stocked for us. I turned back to the television, my eyes always looking at my neighborhood when the camera would pan past it.
Nothing there this time…
The newswoman began to shout, informing us that more and more people were jumping into the fight below. Political groups, cults. Anyone and everyone who had a weapon began to filter into the fighting. The camera panned a few more streets. Yeah, it became even more hectic down there.
They kicked the proverbial hornet’s nest… I thought.
I heard something just behind me and turned. I came face to face with Devan, who pointed a pistol at me. My thoughts studdered for a few moments. I wondered if I was just not seeing it correctly, or if I was actually looking down the barrel of a gun.
“Its nothing personal.” Devan said as he lowered the barrel to my stomach. He pulled the trigger.
I flinched at the bark of the gun. My ears rang from the powerful gunshot that echoed through the room. I felt something warm dribble down my leg… I looked down and saw a small circle of blood that stained my uniform on my stomach. I had also pissed myself. I looked back up to Devan, not sure what was going on. I only knew he had a gun and he shot me. We weren’t friends, but we usually saw each other during briefings and lunch…
I thought we were cool…
Devan’s lips moved and I knew he was talking, but only the ringing existed in my ears. He shook his head before he pulled out two small orange ear plugs from his ears. He gave me a weary smile before he pulled my keycard off my shirt. I wanted to stop him, but the blood… There was so much blood coming out of me.
I tried to get up, but I didn’t have the strength to do it. Maybe I was just entering into a state of shock. I didn’t know, but what I did know, was that there was already a small puddle of blood beginning to form under my feet. Then Devan appeared before me again. He only slid me aside and went back to the launch station. There was another one in the room now and the blast door was wide open.
I mumbled some words, a warning that this was illegal but they paid no mind. I called out again to tell them they didn’t have my code. Yet again… They ignored me as they inserted the keycards into the two different consoles on different sides of the room in unison. The room turned dark red and they both inputted codes and the room turned dark green.
They… Didn’t need my code?
That was odd, but not as odd as that I was bleeding to death here. Further exploration of the situation came up with a strange thing… I really didn’t care. I only cared about that stupid dog I was leaving behind. The world was shit, this place was shit, and only that innocent little pupper was worth living for. Pure and happy. The only living thing I cared about in this world.
I fumbled for my phone and inputted the code. I was going to look at that those stupid videos I always took of him, but my phone was snatched away. The newcomer took it. He looked pissed, but I only wanted my phone. Before I could try and fight for it back, Devan had taken it from the man. He looked at me and I only said one word.
“Superman.” The name of that damn dog I had.
The man nodded, tapped on my screen a few times before he handed me one the phone. It showed that little rut running in circles as I walked through the front door. It was a short video, and a pathetic one to want to see as I was dying, but Superman was my little guy and the only thing I had come to look forward to when I went home.
The only regret was that he and I wouldn’t be moving to that nice house after my retirement in a few months.
“Nuclear missile launched.” A faint robotic voice broke the ringing in the distance.