THE GALACTIC FEDERACY

Diplomacy => International Events => Topic started by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:52:18 am


Title: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:52:18 am
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in broken places” – E. H.

The Freedom War: Introduction

The screeching of the alarm klaxon jolts Xander’s sleeping mind into overdrive, nearly toppling him out of his metallic, standard issue bunk. The dull, but bright red light burns into his eyes, forcing him to squint for several, long moments as his senses return to awareness from their slumber. ”All crewmembers to battle stations, this is not a drill, repeat, this is not a drill”, a soft, woman’s voice screams over the vibrant roar of the alarm. Around him, hidden by the drapes of the withering light, the shouts, the calamity of others scrambling about in a disordered diaspora as they rush towards their various stations like a never-ending stream of silvery salmon splashing their way violently upstream, beat a roaring war drum, a rush of hot red blood and stimulating adrenaline that permeates his throbbing ears and his muddled mind. ”Come on, bloody hell we can’t be late!”, a fellow below him cries, already almost fully dressed in full uniform, a mixture of smooth greys and milky blues, as he tugs aggressively at his wrist, ”frack.. not my problem, get dressed and get going!”, he bellows once more before hiding once more in the opaque curtains of the consuming, shifting shadows.

The darkness of the corridor hampers Xander’s every movement, pulling a hand through a sleeve, attempting to straight out every groove, every wrinkle in his uniform, even placing one step ahead of another. Others race around him, forwards in back, their faces lost, and meaningless. Each step, each wringing step atop the sleek, icy steel floor brings him closer towards a light, towards a blinding light so intense all he can sense is the withering commotion around him, the commands shouted by others, the heavy steps echoing from wall to wall, but loudest of all, the pounding of his heart to that beat, that awful, brash, beat of readiness. Bum bum. Bum bum. Bum bum. Eventually, his awkward gait thrusts him headfirst into that white, fiery abyss ahead, only for the burning blindness to clear as he cross the threshold. Here, the din of activity, the ferocity of preparation for the coming moments screamed as if in fervor and lust, men and women hunched all which ways, roaring, crying. A lone, elderly women, her surplus of gleaming medals glinting in the sharp light, stands atop the crowd, elegant, but barking orders all the same. A bulky lieutenant, seemingly materializing out of nothingness, grabs him roughly by his arm, bunching his uniform, and drags him towards a row of monitors alongside the walls of the warship. ”FRACK IT ENSIGN, GET YOUR FRACKING ARSE  HERE QUICKER, WE GO COMBAT LIVE IN TWO FRACKING MINUTES YOU BLITHERING MORON!” he roared as if forced to expel every molecule of atmosphere from his gullet into Xander’s throbbing ear. ”SIT HERE, NOW!” the lieutenant screamed once more, forcing him roughly into a nearby padded seat. He points with a gloved hand toward a dark, but active monitor which lay in front of the seat in which Xander now occupied, ”Bloody idiots, every time we need to get something done- listen up dipsh*t, I’m only going to frackin tell you this once- your sector is Omega 3 Charlie 2, which is battle group,.. er.. Beta, led by commander,… er,.. Captain Ortega,… your job is to relay any actionable data to the fleet commander once the battle goes live, and/or answer any frackin questions she has, you got it you frackin scrub?”.

 The brute of a lieutenant evaporated into the muddle of a mob as quickly and as abruptly as he had consolidated out of oblivion to harass Xander, leaving him some limited time to familiarize himself with the flashing, chrome display console as it lay humming softly before him. Though the various nobs and switches, as varyingly important as they were, remained foreign in nature to Xander, several elements were simplistic enough for even the least astute individual to derive function from. A single, moderately sized black screen, laden with various bright red dots, and labels beneath each of the dots,  with faint numerical lines intersecting around the screen, as well as a single pair of lush, black padded headphones, in which faint, though unrecognizable, sounds spouted from time to time, lay on, and in front of the monitor to Xander, respectively. Tentatively, following in suit of the other crewmen who sat quietly to either side of him, Xander placed the headphones gently across his ears, awaiting orders.

Not several terse moments later, abruptly as to almost startle those not tense enough with dread, a shout rang throughout the bridge, “MULTIPLE CONTACTS, FRONT LINE, SECTORS 1-4!”, a young communication officer screamed from somewhere inside the bridge, his location obscured by the shifting crowds from Xander. Immediately, as if a sudden violent diaspora had lay waste to the bridge in a matter of moments, Xander’s view of the happenings around him abruptly expanded, leaving but no individual except that wiry old woman, her grey hair neatly tied in a uniform bun to the back of her head, standing alone atop a raised, metal platform, staring intently out into the void ahead of her. As she clasped her wrinkly hands firmly behind her back, turning her head ever so slightly to her right, grey, milky eyes now downcast, she intoned softly, “Communications, open a fleet wide broadcast…” Pausing for perhaps a second or more, she continued, this time more audibly, “This is Fleet Admiral Hopper to the fleet,… we are engaging multiple hostile targets in sectors 1 to 4, all military units are authorized for weapons free, repeat, all military ships are free to engage targets.” She gestured strikingly, as to have the communications officer to end the broadcast, before turning abruptly, and strolling to rest in her plush, padded chair, scrubbing her eyes lightly and blinking rapidly.

Operations began smoothly, as far as Xander could tell through the tunes echoing from his padded earphones, a few harsh barks from unknown captains, a few hoots and hollers from enthusiastic pilots and jockeys,

“Watch it, port side, multiple hostiles!-”

 “Smoked em’ Gardier, yeh owe me a shot when we back!-”

 “Target,.. er… painted unit 16G,.. all batteries, full spread!”

However, this relative peace, like a leaf upon a harsh, winter gale, was not to last but a few moments, giving way to more alarming rhetoric. The luminous flashes of far off discharges became brighter and brighter, drawing more defined, more deadly.

“SH*T!!! THEY GOT AARON! FOUR BASTARDS LEFT FLANK!-”

“This is R.S.S. Magadan, requesting immediate assistance, to any-”

“MULTIPLE HULL BREACHES, DECKS 4 THROUGH-”

 Xander’s headset rang with dying screams, each louder, each more blood-filled than the last. The cacophony of sounds distorted so much so that by each moment the noises sound less like the death rattles of men and women, but rather like a crashing typhoon, drown out all other noise around Xander, until all he could hear is the roaring beat of that awful drum in his ears.

“Bum-bum…. bum-bum.. bum-bum. bum-bum, bum-bum, bum –bum, bum-bum!”

Xander’s eyes tearing, he ripped the headphones from atop his head, slamming them into the console in front of himself, nearly shattering the desk with his repulsive force. As he watched in horror, that dark, encompassing monitor in front of him seemed to grow exponentially, the numerous red lights that once adorned it slowly disappearing as if one by one, an electrician unscrewed each bulb, leaving only the blackness to consume Xander.

Xander scrubbed his eyes vigorously, now is not the time to lose his mind, focus, breath. The screaming voices on the bridge once more breach his ears, a mess, but at least compressible. 

“Sector 2 has collapsed completely, I just have the Vanahiem and a few frigates left sir!”

“Admiral Chenya reports total shield collapse, on the battlestar Newport, and has transferred command of Sector 1 to Captain Diahaus on the Omaha.”

“Sir, we only have two functional caps left, the Arcadia and the Russi dreadnaught Kursk, we need to think about…”

This last statement, by a male flag officer towards the front of the bridge, seemed to dull the majority of the bridges voices, as if every crewman collectively held their breaths as they looked to the withered Admiral as she stood, gesturing to silence the officer. She brushed her nose lightly, stared into the void, the effervescent flashes of death fading with every passing moment, before clearing her throat to continue.

“All right, inform Captain Yumashev to spin up their nuclear missiles, and being spinning our as well. Open a broadband channel on all frequencies…”

She paused for a few moments rubbed her eyes as if to clear an invisible speck of dust from them, before continuing.

“This is Fleet Admiral Hopper on all frequencies; this is an emergency message to all parties. The combined fleet has failed to repel the enemy forces, and has sustained heavy losses, repeat, the fleet has failed its combat operations. I hereby command all remaining coalition forces to engage drives and calculate for Telemachi swing to rendezvous at the fallback coordinates. You are ordered to assist any civilians ships with the jump, until such is no longer reasonably possible. I now herby relinquish command of the fleet to Rear Admiral Nagumo, and promote Rear Admiral Nagumo to Fleet Admiral, authorization code AlphaZuluOne-DysonTwoNineZero. To the people of Hiroikku, we have failed you, and for this, we are sorry. Good Speed and Fair Winds, Admiral Hopper out.”

She turns to face the bridge, her eyes now wet, as if morning dew now sprung from her ducts. She rubs her chin, her eyes shift from left to right, before continuing, this time more softly.

Arcadia is now re-designated Palisade 1, and the Kursk is now Palisade 2, as designated under Naval Law J3, Section Two, Defender Clause. I thank you all for your service.”

She looks directly a comm officer, “Is Captain Yumashev ready?” The officer listens for a quick moment to inaudible distance voices, then nods, solemnly. 

“Target 5A seems to have sustained the most damage of their caps, Palisade 1 and 2, launch missiles full spread. Lets crack that mother*cker!”, Admiral Hopper roared.

Streaks of light blossom from both the battlestar and the nearby dreadnaught, as if seeds had been suddenly ripped up by a gust of wind and thrown into the air, towards a distance spec. The light rays lanced out, piercing the hull of the alien warship. As the onlookers watched, the distant ship faltered, then detonated in an array of vibrant deadly colors, scattering irradiated debris amongst the corpses of war.

“Target 5A is no longer on scans; sensor suite reports multiple citadel hits and total obliteration of target!”

A cheer rose in the throats of the bridge crew, a few muted hoots, as Admiral Hopper began to speak again “Eat that, you filthy scum, alright tell Captain Yum-“

A ray of light pierced the Kursk from bow to stern, as she seemed to hang in time for a still moment, before dissolving like so many before her into a storm of fire and metal. The Arcadia rocked violently, throwing several crewmen around Xander from their padded seats and to the metal floor.

“Palisade 2 is not responding, sensor suite reports multiple enemy hits onto her,…”

Admiral Hopper leaped quickly upward from her seat, roaring into the intercom system, “This is Hopper, general evacuation orders to port escape pods to any non-essential personnel, repeat, non-essential personal to port escape pods “. She turned to her helmsman, “Fire starboard bow realignment repulse, get our starboard broadside facing them. Pull main batteries to face starboard. We aren’t going down without a bloody good fight!”

Suddenly, that gruff, broad, angry lieutenant that had harassed Xander earlier materialized once more behind him, hand atop his weary shoulder. “Come on, you fool, get to the frackin escape pods, we don’t exactly have all frackin day!”

As Xander ran, stumbling with every lurch and jerk of the Arcadia as she bore the brunt of weapons fire, the carnage of war blurred around him. Splatters of blood adorned every wall, a corpse here and there, draped across and under fallen metal girders. Occasionally, a bloody crewman would run in front of Xander, before fading into the darkness of the emergency lighting. Several times, He was forced to backtrack, as locked blast doors, fallen debris, and fires delay his egress. Alongside Xander, or rather behind him, the lieutenant breathed heavily, turning pale by every passing moment.

“Stop,… here… escape… room…. 12B…. there..” he mumbled between each breath.

Entering the room, a hatch lay open to a pod beyond. Inside, several others sit waiting on a padded bench, each with various uniforms and in several states of health, though many seats open with their woven harness unoccupied. Upon entering, the heavyset lieutenant closed the hatch behind Xander, shouting, “There’s no one else coming, the past couple of hallways are probably engulfed in flames now, we’re pushing off!” He closed the hatch, then straps into the bench beside Xander, struggling to lock the harness around his large girth. An alarm sounded, the lights dimmed and turned red, a sudden, viscous jolt, then a sudden feeling of gravity tearing at Xanders innards ripped through him, as the pod fell away from the warship.

The viewport built into the hatch gave Xander an unrestricted view of the Arcadia as he fell away, several pods falling alongside theirs. As Xander watches, the Arcadia takes numerous, destructive hits, her guns still blazing away into the void,  before being lanced by a brilliant beam of light into her midsection, breaking into two oblong pieces, as if torn apart by the wrath of an almighty god of light and chaos.

Don’t worry” the lieutenant next to Xander utters softly, “everything is going to be alright

From his groin blooms a wet spot, staining his trousers.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:53:15 am
Chapter 1: Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here

Wet…

Red…

Wet Red…

Sh*t….

Xander awoke suddenly, eyes flickering as piercing white light broke through the shadowy wall in front of him, scattered through new born crevasses. The musk, the smell of smoke and death filled his nostrils as he drew in a deep breath, forcing a labored cough from him. The escape rocked slightly, as if lightly brushed by smooth waves, jingling the bloody corpses still strapped into their harness around him, a rather awful puppet master. Muddy, murky water seeped in through the ruptured hatch, flowing around Xander, mixing with the wet blood of the corpses, mixing an awful velvet concoction that stained his trousers. Struggling, sharp pain burrowing deep into Xanders chest; he unhooked the woven harness, splashing into the deathly liquid before righting himself with the pods metallic walls. Struggling to pull each leg forward, water dragging and permeating his now heavy clothes, he made his way through the broken hatch, and into the bright, blinding light.

Squinting heavily, Xander attempted to clear his vison, the dreadful ringing in his ears doing little to forestall the coming migraine in his future.  Opening his eyes, he rotated from side to side, his eyes observing all around him. A wall of tall, leafy trees arose some ways off, and opposite of which lay some distance black mass. Around him, tall reeds of swampy grasses dotted the horizon, gleaming with fresh dew in the morning light. He reached down to pluck a handful from the murky waters. Rice. 

“Urgh… f*cking stupid arse pod..”

Xander’s head snapped quickly back to the entrance of the pod. The hefty lieutenant that had accompanied him lay resting in the shade of the pod, hand upon the wall to steady him. A deep gash ran across his face, dripping blood every few moments, as if someone had left a faucet almost, but not quite completely closed.

”Where the bloody f*ck are we?”, the man hoarsely utters. His eyes turn, resting on a distance mass.  ”Uh… is that Saruleah Bay City? And is it on fire?!”

Indeed, barely visible, smoke billowed over the distance mass, a funeral pyre set upon the living. Xander squinted, attempting to make out the various buildings, but was abruptly interrupted by a sound, a silencing call from somewhere around him. He turned, suddenly. 

”Shh- you lot, any other survivors? We need to get the f*ck out of here…”
 Seemingly out of nowhere, though perhaps the thrush had hidden and muffled his approach, a uniformed man, an officer of some sorts though more urban, had walked into in front of the crashed pod. At his hip, a service pistol lay holstered, however, his hands twitched over the clasp, as if ready to draw at any moment.

”Who the fracking ‘ell are you?!”, the lieutenant that had come down with Xander replied, rather loudly, leaning in to try and observe the newcome.

”Not so loud you fool! Look, we’ve just escaped the city, and we saw your escape pod come down into the fields. This area is going to be swarming with the,… well,… whatever the buggers are at any moment, you need to run to the tree line with me now if you want to--- OH SH*T RUN FOR IT”, the officer whispered, until his voice rose abruptly. The man had begun to point, decided against such an endeavor, had pulled his service weapon from its holster, and had begun to run for the tree line.

Xander turned to look for whatever had made the man run with such fear, as did the Lieutenant. Not a kilometer out, a metallic object glinting in the morning rays race towards them, hovering, the reeds below it being pushed downward as if some magical invisible beast  bore down upon them.

The Lieutenant turned to run, as did Xander. Whatever bore down upon them clearly wished them no good will. The Lieutenant’s voice became short once more, breathing heavily, running from the coming threat.

”Huff… huff… gotta… keep… runn- ARGPH-….”, the Lieutenant groaned, before a splash sounded somewhere behind Xander. He turned his head sharply to the side, still running for his life, searching for the man. A large lump lay in the water, facedown. Sh*t. The metallic flying object bore down upon them, closing the distance rapidly, its features, sharp, spindly looking guns attached to the front becoming more distinct to Xander.

”Kee.. keep.. huff… running… trees… friends…”, the officer mumbled amongst each galloping step, as Xander closed the distance between them.  A bright light shot past Xander, landing the officer in front of him. A moment past, the officer stopped, hanging there for a moment, as if time had stopped for him. His top half fell away, into the murky water, the gun in his hand flung somewhere in front of Xander. The arterial spurt of blood peppered Xander, staining his clothes further, as if red raindrops had flown outwards in a shower of glistening crystals.

Where had the weapon landed? The murk of the water clouded the location of the gun. Xander reached down, searching… where… something sharp brushed upon his hand. He grabbed, and pulled from the murk the officer’s gun.  Xander wasn’t prepared to go down without a fight. He turned to face the attacker.

The metallic war machine now loomed meters away from Xander, as if it had been carried along by the fantastical trade winds of the open oceans. Its gleaming weapons, pointed at Xander, began to gleam with energy. This was it. Xander pointed the weapon upwards, eyes clenched, before-

”Ratatatatatata”,… something pinged off the hull of the flying death contraption. Bullets? But from where? Out of the thick forest behind Xander, an armored vehicle flew out into the open, ripping up the rice plants as if an oversized lawnmower had forgotten to clean up its mess. Atop, a man rode, a large caliber gun pointed at the alien machine. ”Ratatatata” the gun went. The death machine pointed its weapons away from Xander, trying to shoot the moving vehicle. ”BOOM!” the machine fired, bright light lancing outwards, but the driver, the bloody excellent driver, swerved adeptly to avoid the oncoming fire. Twice more, the alien machine fired, but the armored vehicle remained too fast to hit. Cracks began to appear in the armor of the alien machine, sparks flying. As quickly as it had arrived, the machine flew away, back to the burning city, as if a scared bear being chased by a tiny cat.

The armored van stopped in front of Xander, shielding him and blocking his view from the fleeing machine. A light splash drenched Xander again,… his uniform was utterly ruined. Along the side of the armored van, printed in eggshell white, the name “SBCPD” were inscribed. The passenger side door opened abruptly, hanging out over the marsh. A dark skinned man rode in the driver’s seat, his hands gripping the wheel tightly, his perspiration evident in the morning sun.

”Where’s Captain Bruse??? Just get in, I don’t think the 50Cal is going to keep them away for long…”. The officer reached out a hand to help pull Xander into the vehicle, a warming gesture given the mornings experiences…
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:54:08 am
As the van stopped in front of him, Xander thought to himself ”Thank God, maybe… maybe we can get away”. As the man stepped out he felt relief, he had made it. He accepted his hand and climbed into the van stumbling as he got in, almost falling over. He bent over taking deep breaths and said “I.. I don’t know. H-he got… the machine got him. He’s dead and in half…” Xander slowly stood up slightly shaking “Anyplace I could uh.. Sit down?”
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:55:25 am
Xander firmly grasped the man’s hand, as the man deftly pulled him up into the tall armored van. The swampy waters and wet foliage that had expertly entangled Xander fell away, some dripping back out of the vehicle, much staining the interior. Once inside, Xander could more clearly see his uniformed rescuer, his features now shadowed from the blinding gleam of the morning sun, showcasing his silky smooth features, as if he had lived a life fought with the perils of privilege. Light sweat poured from his crevasse, staining his blue, formal uniform, however, his eyes sparked widely with determination.

“Diver side is good, I suppose, if Captain Bruse is dead,” he replied, removing a hand from the vehicles wheel to dab the sweat forming upon his forehead. He pushed heavily upon a lower peddle, as the armored van lumbered back into the tree line, deftly maneuvering between the trees.

”Name’s Henry, Henry Johnson,” he said, as they left the carnage behind them, ”We saw your pod come down in the rice fields,… we’d just escaped  Saruleah Bay City, and,… well,… Captain Bruse said we couldn’t just leave you to the metal heads”. He pointed with one hand into the back of the van, though still managing to steer around the many trees in front of them. Xander turned his head to view the interior of the van, his neck straining with pain after the suffering he had endured. Behind them in the cabin, numerous figures lay on padded benches along the side of the vehicles, from all walks of life, though all scarred, burned, injured in some form from the trauma from which they had escaped.

”You from one of the starships?,” Henry asked, ”I heard just before those,… those things descended upon the city, that the combined fleet had lost with heavy casualties. We were ordered to evacuate the city, but… I mean… it was just chaos. The army tried to stop them, but they were just annihilated. Most of our precinct, I mean, Captain Bruse and mine, hadn’t even shown up for work this morning, and the ones that were left,… well most just walked out. We got a few stragglers at our precinct building, civilians who didn’t get out in the first rush to leave the city, and so the Captain commandeered one of the abandoned riot vans, and we got the heck out of there.... man… I can’t believe Captain Bruse is dead... I think I would be dead thrice over if it wasn’t for him…”

Henry paused for a moment, exhaling loudly. The cracking of twigs underneath the van resounded as they moved forward, as if a lumbering beast flinging itself widely into the unknown, chased by a bigger predator.

”Oh shoot, I’m sorry,… I tend to ramble when… you know… there’s a lot going on. My father, well… he’s… never mind… sorry… but he told me I needed to keep a lid on my mouth more once. Guess I never learned that lesson”, Henry, loosing a nervous chuckle, ”but, I never asked, what’s your name?”
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:56:04 am
Throughout the rambling Xander sat there thinking about what had happened, and then comparing it to Henry's story. After the story when Henry was talking about his father Xander slightly nodded his head in agreement only partially paying attention. After the question Xander looked up “Huh? Oh… The name is Xander.”
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:56:54 am
”Xander huh? Odd name, not from around here…” Henry replied. The armored van hit a light ditch, jostling its passengers slightly as to cause little harm but enough alarm some, forcing Henry to quickly place both hands back upon the steering wheel, lest his deft but unorthodox driving relegate them to a grave of rich dirt and murky water. A splatter of mud, littered with decaying leaves and various indistinguishable bits of foliage was kicked up upon the windshield, only to be removed a moment later by the voracious whirling of the wipers as they efficiently removed the obstructive debris.

”Shoot… sorry, I’m not used to off road driving,… haven’t had to drive outside of the city. Uh, can you reach in there—yes, in the glove box, there should be a map” Henry shouted over the loud humming of the van’s tired engine, forced to endure a terrain for which it had no experience and fondness for. ”David said-- David is the guy on the 50-Cal above—he told us he had some experience with heavy weapons so the Captain put him up there –, “ a gloved hand pierced the carpeted ceiling of the armored van, waved gently, then rose to the heavens once more as quickly as it had arrived, “that there was a broadcast that went out just before the main attack arrived, telling civilians to evacuate as soon as possible to a Lattimer Valley. Captain Bruse decided that we were going to retreat to there, so I think we should stick to that plan. Can you take a look at the map and try and figure out which roads we need to go to get there?”

Xander bent down, opening the compartment to examine its contents, fishing for his desired prize. A chipped, dusky flashlight, its lens blemished by a slight oblong crack, brushed upon on him, its worn edges etching a painful but short scratch upon his curious hand. A few used shell casings—the owner of this vehicle really ought to spend some more time cleaning his spaces—jingled loosely, nearly jumping like escaping frogs out of the compartment and onto the muddied floor. A few loose pieces of undistinguishable paper, then something thick, dry, and papery, crinkled but relatively unblemished caressed the tip of Xanders forefinger. Grasping, Xander pulled, exerting far more effort than warranted to remove the sought object, removing the crinkled, lightly worn map from the dim depths of the compartment and into the dying light.

Henry watched silently out of the corner of his eye, as Xander fumbled amongst the loose objects of the compartment. “Sorry, sorry, we didn’t have many options of vehicles to take. Lieutenant Atwood took SBCPD-1 to the beachhead and didn’t make it back-shoot, you think he’s dead?,” Henry blurted out, “and both 2 and 4 were out being repaired.  SBCPD-3 was Lieutenant Bransons car, he’s not known for his cleanliness, but he didn’t make it in this morning. I hope he’s alright, I mean, he had a family geez. Probably just didn’t make it in because he was helping them,.. right?”

Xander traced his hand along the stained map, each crinkle a crevasse that spoke long tales about wonders this parchment had seen throughout its vast lifespan. Locating the red ink dot that denoted Saruleah Bay City, a solitary island amongst a sea of rice and ocean, Xander estimated where the Arcadia’s escape pod had plummeted and slammed into the watery farmland, and slowly but carefully traced their path into the tree line in which they now moved hurriedly through. There, some distance away ahead of their presumed position, a winding, insignificant but nonetheless defined road wormed its way through the tree line. Forced to squint in the fading light to view the name of the road, Xander bent in, his nose inches away from the crinkled document, mumbling the name of the road quietly to himself, “I-105.”. Following the I-105 further up, each jostle of the van forcing Xander to reacquire the line to continue, he observed the line pass through another minor, black dot, insignificant enough to allow one to question whether the dot had even been part of the original map design, and had been an accidental blotch left from years of use, if it had not been nearly labeled by the author, ”Medona.” Continuing, Xander followed the dark, thin line up into a distant mountain range, as it disappeared into the rolling hills and valleys that defined the range. Xander stretched out the map, as to cover his lap with the geography of the region, a quilt of grass and woodlands, and pointed to the solidary snaking line, so that Henry could follow as best he could.

”I-105 huh?,” Henry replied, as he followed the line up into the mountain range. The van seemed to jostle ever so much more; clearly multitasking was not Henry’s forte. ”Hrmm, I think that was the road Captain Bruse said we needed to follow. We had this larger map up in the precinct building, but it was nailed to the wall and far too large…”

Xander folded up the aged map back into a tight, neat square, before placing it in his ruined trousers. He turned his focus back upon the chaotic glove compartment, search, seeking, before grasping upon the offending black flashlight, and placing it to in his trousers. Perhaps they both would be useful at some later date.

Henry continued, a light yawn stifled quickly before he continued to speak, ” That shouldn’t be too hard to find, but I don’t think we’ll get there tonight… why don’t you close your eyes for a hot bit. I’ll wake you up if we need you… okay?”


A bumpy jolt awoke a tired Xander quickly from his slumber. His eyes, unfocused, took several long moments to clear the billowing fog that blinded his eyes. The ungodly heat of the dying summer’s rays had microwaved the interior of the armored van, causing blossoms of salty water to heavily stain the various joints and crevasses of Xander’s utterly ruined uniform. This, compounded with the perspiration of the other several occupants of the vehicle, mixed an unholy salty stench that burned badly inside Xander’s nostrils, as if arcane magical wizards had teleported tiny flaming bonfires of ocean creature carcasses straight into his nostrils as he slept. Though the light rest had helped alleviate some of the pain, the awkward position and the day’s tribulations had left hard knots along his neck, a shooting pain that erupted like a new born volcano each time Xander made any effort to move, forcing a heavy groan out of his parched, flaking lips.

Henry turned his head to face a now awake Xander. His eyes, baggy with coursing blood, strained heavily from the stress of driving hurriedly through the thick, vibrant forest, observed him as he groaned. However visibly tired, he still was able to form a large, pleased smile, his pearly white teeth nearly blinding, backdroped by the darkening world in the dimming afternoon light.

 ”Ah, looks like you’re awake. Just in time, did you see a town on the map? We’ve just hit the outer limits of one. Looks like it might be a good place to spend the night,” Henry spoke softly, as if not to disturb the blemished calm that had fallen over the occupants of the armored vehicle. He removed one hand from the hard, leather-bound wheel of the van, and pointed ahead through the front window.
Xander looked up, his eyes painfully forced to refocus from the changing light, squinting into at the distant objects ahead. As they approached, the objects became more defined, even in the fading light, a stalwart, suburban house there paint peeling off its weathered sides, perhaps a shingled barn to the right, cluttered by loose materials and tools, propped up against its sides waiting for some future use. As they moved closer, the buildings grew from the earth faster, each subject a light blur until Xander focused more closely.

As the armored van moved swiftly closer, the density of the surrounding buildings grew, as if low bushland, caressed softly by frigid winds had been transformed into a thick forest of yellow corn, sweetened, but also tainted by its time in the sun. Each building, a standalone one story suburban home, clay pots upon the porch filled with dead and dying flowers of distant realms, or a tightly bound storefront with a rusting, sagging display rack propped up against the front to showcase nonexistent wares, exuded a deathly calm that permeated the air. Paint peeled from the once vibrant building walls, a testament to more elegant times, and various singles remained absent upon the many sloped roofs, weathered by torrential rainfalls from past generations. Here and there, signs of modern, industrialized life sprouted like foreign seeds carried aloft by trade winds only to be planted in this isolated realm by the sheer power of luck, a red, shining vending machine to the right that gleamed with a fresh paint job, a sleek gas station to the left, the pumps advertising their ever lowering prices. 

However, as the group drove onward into the thick forest of a town, the calm, the sound of silence, filled their hearts and minds, a rushing feeling of anxiety and fear, that paralyzed some to the bottom of their core, and readied others for a swift jump into a future fray. Not a single lively sound flew through the air, but the slow creak of moving parts, a rusted, dangling green street sign hanging from a lengthy street light and the quick, hurried rustle of loose brown leaves and dirty pamphlets as they rode the along the ground, as if carried by invisible, wispy gremlins. Not a soul, not a single animal, or a lone humanoid, or even the faint apparition of a forgotten deity let their presence be known amongst the winding streets of the town.

”… I wonder what happened to the people who lived here? It’s not as if this place has been uninhabited for a long time…,” Henry spoke softly, his voice quelled by the consuming sound of silence. ”Well the road goes through the town, maybe we’ll find out what happened as we go. I hope they’re okay, I mean, a town this size had to have at least a thousand people living here, if not more.”

The party inched forward slowly as Henry applied as little force to the metal pedal of the vehicle, as if he were walking around the mouth of a den of voracious carnivores. The van left muddy tracks in its wake, gluing the floating debris of decaying leaves and shredded loose papers to the surface of the road, a stain upon an otherwise smooth thoroughfare.

”Oh sh*t, hold up, stop dude, there’s something in the middle of the intersection!” a muffled voice-probably David the gunner-shouted through the roof of the armored van to them, rising panic intertwined with his rapid words. The van ran to a screeching halt, nearly throwing Xander from his seat had he not been prepared, having strapped himself to the chair. Something loud collided and fell to the ground behind him in the main cabin.

The van had stopped just a hair from the center of the town, a broad, asphalt intersection, dotted by numerous businesses advertising an assortment of wares in their dusty windows. Sickly, brown, deciduous trees lay planted at intervals along the sides of the path, in clear need of proper maintenance in care. Burned husks of cars and trucks, split open like chestnuts on an open fire, dotted the main street sporadically, left haphazardly, as if their owners had fled in a rush. A ruined store, perhaps an established, franchised drug store in its prime, lay burned to the bones, a few crisp timbers lay rising out of the slag like skyscrapers overlooking a sea of favelas. Some of the other business showed signs of light damage, a burn here, or a hole there, as if some deadly firefight had taken place here. In the center of the intersection before them however, a lone dark mass lay silent.

Xander squinted in the dying light at the mass ahead of them, a dirtied uniform, perhaps frilly and pink at some point earlier in its lifespan, now caked in mud, dust, and dried blood was worn by the creature, perhaps a vile beast from some far off land. Its extensive, black hair covered its face utterly from the blinding beams of light protruding in front of the armored van, as it sat upon its knees, still, silent, unmoving.

”Oh, Xander, do you think that’s a person?” Henry spoke softly to Xander, a hushed voice loud against the noisy silence the wafted over the occupants. David, now crouching into the van, his bearded, oily face shown for the first to Xander, began to speak aswell.

”F*ck that Henry, with all the sh*t we’ve seen, ain’t no way we going other there to take a closer look. Sh*t’s probably a trap by the metal heads, we don’t know what they’re capable of. Drive us CAREFULLY around,… whatever that thing is, the more distance we put between us and it the better we’ll be. If the metal heads got to the rest of the town, they’ll be back, and we don’t have the rounds in the 50 Cal to get them off us again,” David whispered, and undertone of panic underneath his words.

”David, there’s no way we’re going to leave someone out here. Night is coming soon, and we aren’t going to leave someone to be attacked out here in the open, we’re better than that. Come on, lets go see if we can help,” Henry spoke, his voice firm with determination.

Choice 1 (Strength: Mild)
A: Side with David, and get away while you can. There’s a high probability that whoever attacked the town may be coming back, and we have everyone else to look after.

B: Side with Henry, and render assistance to whoever is in the middle of the intersection. They need our help, and as officers of the government, it’s our duty to render that help.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:57:46 am
After thinking for a few moments Xander looked up at Henry "We need to help whoever that is. If we leave now, someone may die. Even if it is a trap, we will know that next time. Just remember David, if we can save them, they can help us save others or ourselves. It's our duty as officers." He looked around at both of them hoping they wouldn't break out into arguing again, or David just leaves them. He also thought about the fact that they may not get out alive.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:58:14 am
David sighed wearily, exasperation alight upon his breath. ”Sh*t, I ain’t no copper. You do your thing dude, Imma stay here up on the 50 Cal, where’s frackin safe…”.

Henry adjusted his belt, his shiny black service weapon flashing in the fading light. ”Come on Xander, let’s go help her. Light is wasting!”, he said cheerfully. Grabbing the handle of the armored van, he jumped out to the broken paved road below, a resounding thud audible enough to lightly vibrate the van. Xander followed suit, boots slipping ever so slightly atop the gravel that coated the dusty black road. Both continued ahead, ever weary of their surroundings, boots crunching over loose debris as they made their way towards the figure. Behind them, Xander could sense David moving about, possible anxious about the threat of immanent attack.

As they drew closer, the figure grew more defined, shadows repelled only by their sharpening eyes, highlighting her deep Asiatic features. Her dark, silky hair, stained by dust and decay, draped over her figure like a rotten mop-head atop a figure-glass pedestal. Her clothes spoke to her menial work, a frilly white apron atop a light pink frock, ripped, shredded, stained with blood but not her own, caked in grime and shoot. A chipped white nametag, clearly inked in neat black letters was pinned upon her lapel. “Hello! My names is Tsubaki”, they read, obscured only by a solitary line of dried blood that ran from her shoulder down her chest.  Her face and hands were soft, perhaps silky smooth if one were to spend the time to wash away the filth, but beneath the thick layer of dirt, her eyes shone brightly, glassy, but alive.

”Er… miss…?”, Henry began to speak, his voice warry but full of the light hearted compassion he exuded, far too trusting he was. ”My name is Henry, Henry Johnson, this here is Xander. We’re both officers of the law, in a sense I suppose. You,.. er, need any assistance?”

”Channel… 1… 3… unknown units spotted…. over… Arcaida… Kyoko… Saruleah Bay… New Daschan… São Paulo…”

”Er… what miss?”

”All flights are… are routed to return to airports. If return is impossible… evasive action and head to nearest available airport…”

”Miss,.. er.. can you tell me what happened here?”

The youthful, battered woman turned to the pair, her eyes widening, striking invisible holes into them. ”THEY COME! THEY COME! THEY COME!”, she shouts, before collapsing to the pavement below, as heavily as a felled tree slamming into the rocky crag below a cliff. She lay there, motionless.

Henry turned Xander, his face colored by a mix of confusion and sympathy, eyebrows raised but a hair, shoulders enthralled in the early stages of a shrug. ”Shoot man, what kind of stuff do you have to go through to make you like that? Shoot, I mean, I don’t mean to be rude, you jettisoned out of a starship in a warzone,.. but at least you’re not babbling… come on, I don’t want to stay out here any longer than we have to”

Gingerly, Henry picked up the now comatose woman, Tsubaki, bracing her against his chest as if she were an infant, and began to walk back towards the armored van. Opening the rear, he laid her down upon one of the rear benches.

”Your name’s Shawis, right? Make sure she’s alright, just call us back if there’s a problem,” Henry spoke to one of the passengers in the rear, who looked none too pleased with the added burden, and eyes her warily. Henry returned to the side of the van, stretched his arms towards the stars for a few moments, as if worshiping some unknown deity, before climbing once more into the driver side of the armored vehicle.

”I don’t want to be out here longer than we have to, and we’ve got maybe an hour of usable daylight left. Keep a lookout for any farmhouses that we can stay in at the fringe of the town.”


Outside the town, some half-hour away, the van slowed to a stop. Here, the path had devolved, no longer the smooth, but rugged paved terrain they had grown accustomed to along the road, no here, dirt was pervasive and king, deeply entrenched in the formally black tires of the van, coating anything exposed, from front grill to rear bumper. A short distance away, a rickety old farmhouse, peeling paint and rough wood, a behemoth whose glory days were long since passed. Farm tools lay scattered, some rusting, others sleeker, haphazardly stored around the farm, a clear lack of organization. However, with the exception of a handful of field mice that played a mesmerizing game of tag in and out of the stalks of rich, yellow wheat, not a single being stirred. An ample hovel for the night.

”We’ll have to shack up here, I don’t think we’ll find a better spot by tonight. And I really don’t fancy being stuck out in the van with everyone,” Henry spoke to Xander. Re-engaging the vehicle, Henry turned right, into the farm.

Parking inside an abandoned barn, long since vacated by its last inhabitants except for the rare spider, the survivors shuffled groggily towards the dilapidated, Xander leading at the front, with Henry bringing up the rear. ”Xander,” Henry shouted, ”You go first. Make sure the house is clear for everyone!”

Xander obliged, leaping up several steps up to the porch. A wooden rocking chair, perhaps once painted a vibrant green, lay propped up against the side. A few wooden crates filled with nothing but the sweetest air stacked to the other side. The wide porch was relatively clear, an oddity given the uncleanliness of the farm in its totality.

First opening the outer screen door, Xander knocked gingerly, a light tap, then a heavier rap against the hardy front door. Thick, sturdy wood rough against Xander’s hand, the door was in dire need of a good sanding. Nothing. Xander tried once more. Still nothing. Carefully, Xander turned the brass knob, and entered the home, watching keenly for the slightest movement.

Xander stepped inside, the arcane floor boards creaking under his weight. Sh*t, too dark. Xander fumbled in his pants, shoot he had put it there earlier,… there. From his pants, he pulled the ancient, chipped flashlight that he had stashed there from the van’s glove box. A quick shake, a flip of a switch, and a shaft of bright, yellow-tinged light shot forth, barely illuminating the dusty hallway ahead of Xander. Still too dark to firmly define the muddled shapes, but enough to seek out the light switch.

A few more steps, a single flick. Click. The old house was suddenly thrust into a sea of murky yellow lighting from dim overhead lights, somewhat illuminating the ancient home. Xander looked around, observing the house for any peculiarities that might be lurking.

Where he stood, Xander could see a good portion of the rooms of the first floor, should he turn his head. To his left, a living room, furnished with rough, plush, antique chairs and a sofa, surrounding a long, scratched, oak wood table and a red brick fireplace filled with long dead cold charcoal, protected by an iron grate, the wooden floor beneath plastered with dirty brown rugs, in need of a good thorough wash. To his right, a sketchy kitchen, appliances as old as the house, and as worn to, countertops decked in once egg-white linoleum, chipped from years of use, rough, wooden cupboards with unknown goods and mystery filling available space along the walls. In front of him, brown, wooden stairs, perhaps leading up to the second floor, ending in void, undefinable by Xander’s eyes. Everywhere, a light layer of dust and grime coated each surface, barely so as if someone had seasoned the entire house in fine dirt, shook loose from the ceiling rather recently.

Henry poked his head into the house tentatively. ”You alright? Don’t see anything out of the ordinary? Good.” Henry disappeared outside once more. ”It’s okay, everyone let’s get inside,” Henry’s parched, muffled voice could be heard even through the thick oak door. A brief second past, then the weary civilians stumbled in, a rag-tag assortment from all walks of life. For the first time, Xander could see them all clearly in the broken yellow-ish light, their grime encrusted clothes from suits to casual atire, some with dried, ****, crimson blood, others with dark, painful bruises as if their bodies had been tattooed by an inexperienced artist consumed by Lou Gehrig’s disease, just under a dozen, each individual more fatigued and more battered than the preceding.

Tsubaki came in second to last, a new, white cotton shawl draped over her like a obscuring hood-good, she was walking-, her eyes warily avoiding Xander as he watched her move into the home quietly.  Henry followed shortly after, closing the thick, wooden door behind him with a solid, resounding thud. He turned to the ragged survivors as they huddled in the atrium nervously.

”Alright everyone, this place looks sufficient for the night. Xander checked it out-right Xander?-and he didn’t find anything out of the ordinary. I don’t know how much food there is in the kitchen, but there’s probably clothes for everyone to change into upstairs. Try and group up in groups of 2-3, and pick a bedroom for the night. If there’s any water still running through the plumbing, try and take a shower and find any buckets to fill with water. We don’t know how long we will have to wait until another shower, or when the plumbing is going to go out.”

Henry turned abruptly to Xander as the others dispersed in a rather unorganized fashion, some heading upstairs to the promise of a sweltering, relaxing shower, others foraging like timid rodents for food in the various wooden cupboards of the antique kitchen. Henry was exhausted, his eyes deeply sunken, above thick, swollen bags. He wavered slightly, a light tremble barely visible through his limbs, a consequence of his inopportune escape and subsequent rush of life-giving adrenaline. He began to speak.

”Um… sorry, I don’t want to hedge our bets on there being a functional heater in this house, and with fall coming around, it’s going to get cold fast. We need to build up a fire as soon as possible, but there’s no wood to burn in here… I think there was some wood propped up outside the barn. Since you have the only flashlight,… you know… could you?”

Xander obliged, was only a short walk outside to the barn and he was probably the most fit member standing, even as pained and tired he felt, bones roaring, akin to the flames of the depths of the deepest pit. He trudged relatively silently forward, boots crunching on the thick dirt and gravel, guided by his single beam of yellow light bursting from his flashlight, the night obscuring everything ahead, and his rear solely illuminated by the dim fluorescent lights of the house behind him.

The red, wood barn rose like a ferocious, lunging bear out of a deep cave as Xander neared.  The wooden, front barn doors lay open a hair, so that Xander could scarcely see the van parked neatly inside, but that was not his prize tonight. Around the side, Henry had said. Xander walked right, feeling the rough barn ahead to guide him. There, a thick stack some ten logs high and thirty logs wide, illuminated by his emanating light. Should only need one or two for the night to keep everyone warm. Xander bent down, back creaking under the stress of the day, feeling the rough bark of the wood as he attempted to gain purchase upon-

”You there, hands up! Turn around slowly! No sudden f*ckin movements!,” a man’s thick, deep voice ringing through the quiet night.

Choice 2 (Strength Mild)
A: Oh, this is trouble. Try and bash whoever that is with your flashlight like a club.

B: Comply, nothing good can come from startling someone who sounds ready to hurt you.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:58:44 am
As he heard the man he quickly dropped the wood that he was trying to pick up and raised his hands. "I don't mean any harm!" He then started to slowly turn around thinking to himself that maybe he could manage to hit the man hard, but he wasn't too sure in his hand to hand combat skills. He also thought that maybe Henry or David should have come with him, so that maybe this wouldn't have happened.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:59:17 am
”Yeah, sure you do cupcake. Ah ah ah-, keep those hands up unless you like a few rounds through the noggin.”

In the dim light of the blanketing night, the figure, no, figures, features were far too obscured for Xander to extrapolate any useful information, save for the manly figure they cut against the moon’s light. The glint of a long rod, a barrel, pointed ominously, directly at the brow of Xanders forehead.

”How bout’ you pretty boy get movin’ to the house there. No sudden movements cupcake, don’t want a little accident on our hands, now do we?”

Xander turned slowly towards the house and began to walk forward, his feet’s noise combining with his captors, raising a din upon the rough gravel such that he was sure the others would hear them, to come rescue him. But none such help arrived. Slowly, he opened the screen door of the rickety house, a roaring creek alighting the night, turned the door knob of the thick, inner door, and walked inside into the embracing warmth of the abode.

”Xander, hey, never mind, David found fire wood stacked up in the kitchen, just leave the new stuff by the-“ Henry spoke, before his eyes fell upon the new arrives. His eyes flicked towards his service weapon, nestled snuggly on an opposing recliner, but an invisible movement behind Xander warded him from his future action.

”Best you get sittin’ there cupcake, you to Officer Boogie. Nothin’ too swift, ya hear?” one of the men behind Xander spoke, his voice gruff and low.

Xander obliged, promptly sitting next to a now seated Henry on one of the coarse, dirty sofas. In the sepia house light, he could now clearly observe the details of the opposing men. Both were young and light skinned, perhaps somewhere just beyond twenty years old.  One was stocky, thick muscles on all appendages, his nose bent at a barely observant odd angle, as if he had been lightly punched many moons ago. The other was far less meaty than his cohort, his skin pocket-marked with light grooves from a clear lack of skin care, one eye, a hare off from alignment with its partner. Both wore thick, flannel shirts, with long, ragged jeans caked in dust, mud, and other unknown afflictions. The broader of the two began to speak.

Names’ Atvulf, Atvulf Lasserson. This here be Mikey, dearest cousin of mine. “[/i] The scrawnier of the two waved a evident, if awkward hello. ”Now, before we get on with the pleasantries, might you tell us bout’ your dealings n’ such.”

Henry began to explain to the duo, though hesitantly, about how they had fled Saruleah Bay City in the initial wave of the invasion, and how they had met Xander in the rice fields, and their current destination of the rally point.  The pair seemed to relax as Henry continued further into their tale, until he finished, and the larger of the two began to speak.

”Bout’ the same with us. We were goin’ into to town today, needin’ more foodstuffs, when the metal heads began attacking. Popped a cap in a few of them suckers, but didn’t quite have the ammo to shoot all them, so we high-tailed it out of there. Saw your lights a few hours back, and we’ve been trying to get to ye since.”

Atvulf paused for a few moments to scratch his forehead, before he continued.

”Err… sorry bout’ sticking this here to yer’ head. Didn’t mean to be all aggressive and such. Don’t even have a round chambered.” A quick flick by the man opened up the rifle, and indeed, it lay empty inside. ” Didn’ really know who the hell you were though, just saw ur’ lights and though we should pay yall a visit, and didn’t think no dinkly little knife was goin’ to convince yall we weren’t going to hurt you. Though I guess us stabbing ye would hurt bout’ the same. Eh, can’t be too careful with them metal heads, don’t know who we can trust ye know? Atvulf shrugged indifferently.

He paused for a few moments to rest the rifle alongside the chair in which he sat. ”Look, we don’t exactly have means of transportation at the moment… and well, a destination… you mind if we be adding ourselves to your group?”

Henry looked worriedly at Xander. ”Well,.. we could do with a few more people to help take on those monsters. With what we’ve seen, I don’t fancy our chances defending the whole group with just David, you, and I.”

Turning back to the duo, Henry continued to speak. ”Okay, you two can join the group. Just,.. please don’t start waving your guns in everyone’s faces anymore. Everyone’s already on edge.”

A noise sounded from the stairwell, a heavy creak of an individual descending. The group turned to look, a clear weariness but preparedness evident. However, it was only Tsubaki quickly descending the stairs. She had donned a worn, long shirt, adorned with some archaic academy logo, which rested but a few lengths above her knees. She had shed her earlier work attire, and had clearly taken some effort to make herself more presentable. If this had been any other day, Xander might have even called her cute.

”Hey there sugar, why don’t you come sit here by me?”, Atvulf hooted, as his cousin, Mikey, chuckled along. Tsubaki’s eyes widened, clearly frightened, and she quickly scurried back up the stairs in much the same speed as her arrival.

”Shoot, er…” Henry looked at Xander again, worry written clearly upon his face. ”I’ll… I’ll go calm her down. Might as well tell the others of our new members to.”. Soon, he to disappeared up the stairs, his feet heavy upon the wooden floor until even that sound to faded into oblivion.

”Aww, shoot, we didn’ mean it like that, now did we Mikey?”, Advulf spoke, the comedic flare embedded in his tone. ”No, nope, we didn’ nah mean it like that, certainly note”, Mikey replied in an equally wry manner. The pair chuckled together heartily, before removing themselves from their seats and evacuating to the kitchen alongside.

Xander walked outside quietly. Given the nights commotion, he resolved to give the farmland a once over, to forestall any new unwanted intrusions. The night’s brisk air entered lightly into Xander’s nostrils, invigorating him much like the kick of a hearty stimulant. To the gate, maybe a few moments, then back. Nothing more, nothing less. The crunch of the gravel was melodious, a pleasant deviation from the new norm of the ancient, rickety house. As he looked back towards the abode, he could barely make out two figures atop the porch roof, sitting quietly, stilly, and could hear hushed whispers broken solely by a random chuckle. One last, deep, filling breath, and Xander began walking back towards the house. Tomorrow was another day, another adventure, more time for unfortunate events, and pounding in his head was not going to get any better with him standing outside.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 11:59:53 am
He quickly walked back inside thinking "I really hope they have a bed I can use. I have the awful crick in my neck." He kept looking around on his way back thinking over what had just happened "I really don't trust those two new ones. The way they laughed talking about the girl... It just didn't seem right. I'll think about it tomorrow. I'm tired." He quickly went upstairs and went to find a bed. If he found one or not, he quickly lied down and went to sleep.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 12:00:26 pm
The war drums of the gods beat with their full might as Xander awoke in the morning, each pound upon their mythical instruments louder than the last. Not the light tap of tiny feet as they scurried around, frantic to supplement their needs, or the rush and din of energy only capable after a solid night of slumber, could overcome the sensation of an atmosphere filled with anguish and terror of an individual forced from their livelihood, nonetheless a cluster of them.

A shower. A hot one. That might help.

Xander remembered rigorous rush of water that had resounded distantly last night, a loving embrace he sorely needed and had missed out from as a result of the nights activities. He stumbled down the hall, one hand braced upon an ugly, rose patterned wall, slowly inching closer to the nearest bathroom, each step a herculean labor within itself.

One step up. Both legs in. Turn the knob.

Water, freezing icy water, as if chilled by a hyperborean, beat down upon Xander’s flesh like a roaring waterfall. One hand reached out, turning the shower’s handle. Nothing. No hot water. Crud. But it would have to do, and the powerful cascade served to awaken Xander further.

”Xander, are you up?”

Henry, probably.

A quick shower unfortunately, but not an unwelcome one.  Xander wiped the loose water from his worn body with a rough, peach towel, re-clothed himself, and quickly left the bathroom.

Henry stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking up towards the above floor, his dark eyes still enraptured underneath by thick, veiny bags. A restful sleep was not for all last night, as it would seem.

”We’ve loaded up all the gear. The new guy, the big one…. er…. Atvulf I think? scavenged the rest of the house this morning. We’re good to go; just you and a few others need to finish getting ready. Don’t bother eating, we’ve taken all the food, and I’ve got a ration bar sitting out on the dashboard of the van for you.”

Xander rushed back to his room, far faster than his first flight. His belongings were limited to only a handful of items, and beyond the black, chipped flashlight that he had taken from the van, none were of any note, except perhaps the thick padded jacket he had found in the closet of his room. It was a mature piece, with its edges frayed from wear, and a suspicious stain adorning the right breast pocket, but where the survivors were going, any such protection from the elements might remain useful.

Xander turned back and rushed down the rickety stairs, his feet raising minuscule amounts of dust and loud creaks with each heavy step downward, his hands gliding down the worn, smooth wooden banister, each groove and notch a fairytale. The doorway lay open to the elements, blocking nothing but one’s own imagination. As he exited their temporary abode, he quietly closed the heavy door behind him. No reason not to close the door, perhaps some other travelers might find use for the house in the future.

The van had been moved out to sit quietly in front of the house, with only the din of noisy occupants filling the brisk, morning air. A light breeze flew through the air, not so strong as to cause alarm, but enough to kick up loose topsoil and dust that had begun to coat the windshield of the armored van. Tsubaki stood solemnly in front of Xander, staring upward toward the skies, her eyes never wavering from some imaginary point in the domain above as her newly acquired bright summer dress swam loosely around her stockinged legs.

”COME ON YE TWO, WE LEAVIN’! GET IN THE VAN!”, Atvulf shouted loudly, startlingly, enough to awaken a sleeping hen that had been resting on a weathered wooden post by the barn, and send it squawking away.

A few steps forward and Xander jumped up into the passenger’s side of the armored van, Henry alongside, hands already on the wheel. A quick flick of his wrist as he turned the metal key in the ignition, a sudden jolt, and they were once more driving towards their destination. For a moment just off the farmhouse land, and back on the uneven road, Xander turned his head back towards the temporary abode that had suited them well the previous night. A shame, to leave the house. Futures are rather uncertain.

The group drove mostly in silence as they inched towards the distant evacuation point, Xander occasionally catching snippets of speech from the other survivors whose names escaped him as he quietly consumed his dry, coarse breakfast. It was not until Atvulf began to speak did Xander snap awake from his light, weary nap.

”So, we all headin’ to this evacuation point in the mountains right? What be makin’ this location important for us anyhow?”

Henry responded somewhat mutely. “My commander, Captain Bruse, received orders to pull out of the city and relocate any survivors we had picked up to Lattimer Valley. There’s supposed to be a fully functional DERA camp being built up there.”

”Yea, but that was ages ago dude,” Atvulf began, ”what makes ye think the camp is still functioning?”

Henry took a moment respond. …”I have faith in our government agencies. If they say they’re going to do something, they’re going to do it. We have survivors under our responsibility, and we need to get them there safely as instructed.”

”Hhhhhh”, Atulf snorted quietly, blowing enough air to raise the hairs on Xanders neck. The van lapsed back into peaceful silence, except for the low hum of the engine and the crunch of debris underneath.


”Anyone mind if I turn on the radio?” Henry began to speak a short while later. When no one spoke up, he turned to Xander, and continued. ”Xander, just keep going through the channels. There has to be something on, maybe some information we could use. This silence is getting to me a bit.”

Xander turned the radio on, and began to test the airwaves, looking for a sound, a peep, a whisper. The only thing that the metal box returned was static, lonely, empty, noisy static. It was if a great void had encompassed the world, silencing all the voices that had once graced the invisible waves. No quiet starlet on a moonlight serenade to impress the stars themselves, no traffic announcer warning cars off some infamous highway like it was the forbidden land, no sports analyst listing off stats as he would his own families birthday’s no, no, no.

No sound.

No people.

Nothing.

”Wow… this is depressing, there has to be-wait, what was that?” Henry spoke.

Xander had heard it to, a barely audible word, such that had he not been paying attention, he would have missed it to the wind. He began to hone in on the frequency, a light twist of the nodes until-

”-escape. If you’re in the vicinity of Medona, make your way to east to the clearing, just 30 miles outside of town. We’ll be leaving in an hour. If you want off Hiroikku, now’s your chance.”

Henry stared at Xander. ”Off Hiroikku? They have a ship or something?”

Atvulf had made his way back to the front of the van, and had stuck his head between Henry and Xander obtrusively. ”The f*** did I just hear? Off Hiroikku?”

”Xander was going through the radio channels, and there was a broadcast going on…”

”What dumb*rse is on the radio blatherin’ bout’ some stupid escape? Dem metal heads probs heard that, idiot is super screwed.”

”What?”

”Dem metal heads are probably able to hear that kind of sh*t. They hit us hard, and they hit us fast. They had to have known where. Stands to reason they got sum’ kind of way to get that info. If they heard that, you can bet they’ll stop anyone from leaving the planet. They easily have the firepower.”

”That’s conspiracy talk, and you know it Atvulf. If there’s a ship out there with room, we might be able to use it to get away from Hiroikku. Sure, we might be able to make it out here for longer than most, but the other survivors? They’re not built for this. Getting them to safety is our top priority. Space seems like the safest place to me. Besides, if they do get attacked, then at least we’ll be there to help them.”

Choice 3 (Strength: ???)
A. Atvulf is right. It’s not worth the risk to go and see what is going on with the mysterious broadcast. It’s too bad if they get hurt, but it’s not our fault.

B. Henry is right. It’s a valid evacuation method, and we need to get the survivors to safety as soon as possible. If they get attacked we can help them to.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 12:00:54 pm
Xander kept looking through the channels looking for something else "Henry is right. We need to get out of here, and maybe get some more help. There has to be more out there than just us and the metalheads, right? Any chance to escape we should take. We don't know when we'll get another one, even if they know about it."
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 12:01:19 pm
”Oh sure you pinhead, side with the fracking sooty. Yall gonna get us killed…” Atvulf murmured under his breath, before returning to the rear of the vehicle in a rage.

Henry sighed heavily, as if trying to exhume some toxic fume from his lungs. ”Why did we let him and his buddy come with us?”. Another deep breath, significantly longer in length. ”Sorry, Xander, I shouldn’t have said that.”

Henry turned to look at Xander, as if examining his eyes for some lost truth, some decaying ideal, before returning his vision to the road.

”My father,… my father, sure he was strict. He knew what needed to be done, what was best for my brother and I. When I was younger, I kind of hated him for it. I think all kids have some sort of resentment to authority. But I understood now what he knew then. That we needed to understand that some people in the world can’t be changed. They’re too fixed in their ways. We just have to be the better person, be stronger, and hold our tongues before we say something we will always regret.”

Henry once again glanced slightly at Xander, a simple turn of his head towards him. ”You get it, don’t you?....  Sorry, that was too much,.. I shouldn’t have gone on like that.”

The road forked a head, a single, wooden signpost denoting the exchange. Towards one lane, the distant ridgeline of ominous peaks grew out from behind the overhead tree line, like the spinney back of some devilish alligator, lurking behind the swaying fronds of a murky swamp in wait for its coming prey. Towards the other lane, the trees began to thin, supplanted by thick, vibrant grasses that swayed calmly in the fresh, light breeze, without a care for existence and its troubles.
 
”Right it is then, I suppose.” Henry grinned at Xander, a smile drawn across his face from ear to ear. ”We’re going to get away from here, somewhere safe. Never been into space before though.”

A light chuckle erupted from him.  ”Space,.. can you believe that. See dad, becoming an officer will take me to higher places, literally”

---

”Xander, psst, wake up!” A light murmur pierced the veil of oblivion that had shrouded him. Xander stood up abruptly, and had he risen any more, his head would have firmly planted itself into the van ceiling above him. He sat down once more. Naps can be quite sudden.

”Get out, you’ve got to see this.” Henry whispered into his ear beside him, before his vague presence ceased to exist once more.

Groggily, Xander removed himself from the vehicle, a heavy weight upon his limbs as he made his way to the cluster of people ahead of him.

”Git’ down you frakkin’ idiot!” A deeper voice whispered angrily at him.

Xander obliged, crawling on all fours towards the group, moist dirt clinging to his arms and legs, leeching the morning moisture into his every orifice, leaving the tree line in which the armored van had been stashed, hidden. Ahead of him, Atvulf, Henry, and a few others he could not define from his vantage point had lain down, watching something in the distance over a grassy embankment. He saddled up next to a silent, still Tsubaki.

”Here, you’re going to need these,” Henry whispered, awkwardly handing him a pair of green, metallic binoculars. ”They’re Atvulf’s”

”Well, not exactly mine. Liberated dem’ from a dead guy in Yonkers. He wasn’t needing them no more…,” Atvulf whispered back as Xander began to peer over the grassy knoll at whatever spectacle lay beyond.

Towering, fresh grasses, sprinkled daintily with morning drew, infiltrated sporadically by crisp white flowers, waved gently in the morning breeze as if saluting the hidden party. They carpeted a small valley-more a light indent in the earth rather than a full-blown basin-that leveled out nicely to form a straight surface, blemished only by a mixed patch of upturned dirt, gravel, and bio-matter. Strewn about, a handful of steel, roughed-up crates lay around the perimeter of the landing site, in which several space-bound transports, as equally dinged as the crates, lay waiting. One was a smoldering wreck, as if lanced by some devastating energy that had slagged it from prow to core to stern, another was far too small for interstellar flight, more fit for yacht than a transport and remained abandoned, but the third, that third ship. A handful of minuscule black dots, ants, no people, scurried around the transport in a hurry, and the low hum of online impulse engines permeated the morning air. They were leaving.

 ”Well then, looks like they’re leaving now. Let’s get going then,” Henry whispered.

”Sooty, we all gotta stay here and watch,” Atvulf spoke, muffled by the bodies to the left of Xander.

”Are you-look, we decide, we’re leaving on that ship Atvulf.”

”Shut your yapper man, we don’t need to get up in there with them.”

”Are you crazy?! They’re leaving now!”
”I can see dem’, I ain’t blind. What I’m sayin’ is we wait. Look, if I’m right and dem’ metal heads be ready to pop anythin’ that makes it off, then we get to live unlike them poor sods. If I wrong, then we just need get that smaller transport yonder, and we meet up with them before they leave the planets sphere of influence. Simple. Just airing on the fracking side of caution man.”

”Oh f*ck this sh*t, stop fracking arguing, I’m getting to that transport, even if you idiots want to keep arguing about it. Die on this fracking planet if you want!,” David appeared to Xander’s right, having stood up. He crested the knoll, and began a light jog down the far side as he made his way to the landing site some lengths away.

”We’ve already decide, David is already walking, Atvulf, we’re leaving, that’s final. Let’s get going!,” Henry whispered angrily, as he sat up and began brushing the debris from his clothes to which they now clung.

Choice 4 (Strength: ???)

A: Stay silent, and get ready to run for the transports. The group needs to leave now, unless we want to be stranded. This is not the time for caution.

B: Side with Atvulf and speak up. It won’t hurt if we wait, and a little caution never hurt anyone. We’ll probably be able to catch them with the smaller transport even if we do wait.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 12:03:24 pm
Xander cursed the weather silently. He sat up and put a hand on Henry's shoulder "He's right. If they do destroy transport and we get on it, we're dead. But, if they survive that smaller ship most likely has a comm device, we could always ask them to wait for us. Plus, youve seen how David can be a coward, he wanted to leave behind our young friend. Waiting a bit wont hurt, but if we go now, we may not survive." He prayed to the gods that watched over everything, hoping he made the right choice.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 12:03:51 pm
Henry stared daggers into Xander, as if to skewer him. ”Are you kidding me?  Fine! Stay with the ragging ****!” Henry began walking up the earthen embankment of the ridge, his feet sinking into the loose topsoil.

”Com’mon laddie, at least ye have more sense than the dumbarse sootie. Let’s go sit in the van, eh?” Atvulf spoke to Xander, as he stood up, and began to walk backwards to the relative safety of the tree line. As Xander stood up, carefully brushing a loose, dry leaf from his shoulder, Tsubaki followed suit with him, looking wildly between the two opposing men, uncertain, her eyes wide open, a light tremble shaking through her body. 

A slight, continuous rumble vibrated the air, erupting from center of the depression, growing exponentially. All turned to look onwards.

The transport was leaving. Rapidly.

”Dumb idiots,” Atvulf mumbled to himself, before raising his voice, It’s f*cking leaving, you’re too late! Just get back here!”

A pause.

A still moment.

Quiet. Too quiet. As if the wind had stopped. No, not just the wind. Sound, any movement, everything paused for a moment.

No.

Not everything.

A metal machine, no, a behemoth, had appeared suddenly, as if formed from light itself in an instant by some otherworldly god. Towering, not quite over the mountains beyond, but far above the slowly rising dinky transport as it attempted to ascend to the heavens above, it raised its enormous hand skyward, pointing to some far off distant star. Word caught deep inside Xanders throat, a scream, a cry, deadened. And then the massive, metallic hand fell back, downwards towards the terrain.

Another moment passed, nothing changing, frozen. As if the world had nothing better but to savor the moment. 

A gust of wind, no, a shockwave of pure invisible energy, erupted at Xander and the others from a skyward point. Trees buckled, stripped of leaves, grasses strained to not be uprooted. Xander was knocked off his feet as if gravity held no sway upon him, tumbling backward, landing painfully into the ground, agony erupting through his body. Tsubaki fell back into him, a high pitched yelp forced from her lungs. Through the corner of his eye, he watched as a somewhat distant figure disappeared under a massive sheet of metal hull, a fine red mist sprinkling outward, painting the dull white lettering of some word on the debris a crimson red. Grabbing the fallen Tsubaki above him with one arm, Xander threw himself violently sideward, another piece of loose metal debris occupying the location where they had been milliseconds prior. Xander’s version dimmed for a moment, as soil, stone, and unidentifiable material assaulted his face. Something rough scraped him above his eye, a searing fluid left in its wake.

Xander rose to his feet pulling Tsubaki upwards with him, unsteadily, a buzzing in his head louder than a thousand irate hornets bellowing into his ears and into his soul. He looked around, the dizziness invading him hindering his observations.

”COME ON! BACK TO THE VAN! NOW!” Someone shouted mutedly behind him. Atvulf, pehaps.

”BUT THE PEOPLE… SURVIVORS!” This, ahead of Xander. Henry?

”THERE’S NO TIME!”

”DAVID?!”

”HE’S DEAD, SOOTIE. DO YOU WANT TO F*CKING JOIN HIM YOU GOD DAMN IDIOT?!”

Xander limped backwards-his leg felt a bit warm, numb-, Tsubaki helping to hold him up. The pair reached the van quickly, Tsubaki helping to lift him into the passenger’s seat. The opposing door opened, and then closed with a distant click. A rumbling, the engine lit, and Xander felt the vehicle move, turning, and quickly gaining speed, to where, he could not discern.

”Oh f*ck, you think?”

”Think what?”

”Ye think the bastard saw us?”

A pause.

”I don’t see anything in the mirror.”

”F*ck. That good.”

”Oh no, Xander! You’re bleeding! Stay awake man! “ Someone shook Xander by the shoulder. ”Atvulf, get the med kit in the back! It’s under the drivers seat!”

”Dude, da f*ck do I know about fixing head wounds! I can stick a bandage on him, thats about it.”

”I took a few courses at the academy. I think I can repair it when we’ve gotten enough distance from...  from that thing. Xander, stay awake, come on!”

A coldness spread across Xander however, beckoning to him, like a warm home on a cool winter’s night. Quiet. Still. Xander closed his eyes, the blackness consuming him.

F*ck.

End of Chapter 1
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 12:04:49 pm
Chapter 2: For Those Without Hope Wander Aimlessly

A sound. A loud one. Engines?

Xander awoke wearily from his unintentional slumber, a throbbing pain upon his brow. Groggily, he touched his forehead, a dry, rough cloth wrapped tightly around his skull. A reminder, an unkind reminder.

”Aye, looks like Prince Charming is ‘wake.” A man grouchily grumbled from beside him.

”Xander? You back with us? Brilliant, you were really out of it. You took a rock to the head, but luckily it was just a glancing blow. I think. I wish I could tell you more and that I was better at first aid, but-“

”Sh*t, he don’t need no full rundown. He got hit, he’s going to be fine. Nutin’ more to it.”

Xander dragged himself upwards with one hand, pain erupting through him. He had been lain atop one of the padded benches in the back of the armored van, surrounded by the various other survivors. Most payed him no heed, except for the odd glance, and mumbled amongst themselves.

”Now you there, dips*hit, ya got just one oar in the water. I told you to cool your jets, but nah, you gots to be just charging right up in there like King-“

”Look, I know I screwed up. You don’t need to keep reminding me. You don’t think this is eating me up?!”

Atvulf looked down towards his legs, before continuing. ”Nah, I don’t mean it like. Sh*t’s goin’ to happen, but you still gots to be smart about it. This ain’t no easy parade like you high cotton folks got it up in the city. This the real world, and you best be ready for peep’s trying to kill you.”

The front half of the armored van grew silent, as if a smog cloud of depression smothered all sound amongst them, excepting an odd cough here and there. Henry’s voice rose again, breaking through the oppressive mood.

”We’re still going to the evacuation point. We’ll find help there.”

”Uh-huh.”

”Things are still going to turn out alright.”

”Well we best poop or get off the pot I suppose…”

-------------------------------------------------

The mud here was thick, slimy, of the same consistency of excrement as some pointed out as they passed. It pasted and painted the exterior of their vehicle as if some modern art piece had been commissioned upon it. A light drizzle had begun to fall, as the windshield whippers moved back and forth across the front of the vehicle to clear the mist as it fell, obscuring the road ahead for the occupants. The darkening sky shortened their vision, but every so often they would spot and abandoned car as they passed by, many still filled with precious belongings that had been saved from the encroaching invaders. As they passed a newer model van, its chrome finish still shining as if it had just been rolled of the factory line, Henry began to speak.

”Do you all think that these people made it to the evacuation site alright? There’s just been quite a few…”

”Sh*t, like we should know. Or give a f*ck. Ain’t our problem, ain’t it?” Mikey had since moved up to the front of the van and joined them. In the passenger’s seat ,Tsubaki looked noticeably more uncomfortable, averting her eyes from looking at them.

”These were-are still people. I just worry, you know?”

”Maybe we should go raid them cars then? Ain’t no reason not to.” Atvulf turned back from watching out a nearby window to speak to the others.

”We can’t do that!”

”Why can’t we?”

”Because… because it’s still a crime! I’m an officer of the law. I would need to arrest you.”

”Sh*t, ye think that shiny little nugget mean much now? This is the goddamn apocalypse you dumb sootie. It’s kill or be killed and all that sh*t, and we need supplies. If I had my druthers, we’d raid each and every one of these cars.”

”They’ll have rations at the evacuation point. The federal government mandated that DERA camps should have enough rations set aside for at least a year, if not more. We just need to get there.”

”Sh*t, if they gots the resources, we should grab some and just hightail it out of there. They’re goin’ press us into service or some sh*t.” Mikey spoke up once more.

This time, Atvulf berated his cousin, slapping him upside the head. ”Gol durn it, Mikey, they gots the guns you idiot. You think we gonna just waltz in there and rob the military? We’d get are arses shoot right of our backsides!  Geez man, I knew you was stupid, but come on, put some thought power into it.”

Henry, for his part, just exhaled violently.

”Fork in the road coming up.” Henry pointed ahead of the vehicle with one hand.

Indeed, the road did fork. One road, the road in which they currently drove on, continued further into the deep wooded growth that they had been driving on since leaving that picturesque little farm. The other slipped quietly into the hills before disappearing into the deep mountains beyond. The junction however, was not unoccupied. A single police squad car, a soft brown in color-not rusted, but not a clean white either, sad idle to one side of the divide, two uniformed men watching them approach. As they entered the clearing, Henry slowed the van.

”Xander, Atvulf, get out to, okay?” Henry spoke softly ”Don’t know what these guys want, but they’ll probably have some information you both should hear.” He exited the vehicle, and the other men followed shortly after.

Xander’s boots squelched nosily in the mud. Ruined, more than they had already been. Undoubtedly a loss at this point. He made his way around the van to stand beside Henry.

The two uniformed men, clearly local law enforcement of some kind what with their tan uniform with a plethora of pockets, high, black polished riding boots, and wide rimmed hat adorned with gold tassels of some kind, had begun to walk towards them, meeting Xander’s party halfway.

Hey there, yall. Where you be heading?” the taller of the two men inquired, the drizzle continuing to saturate them all as they spoke.

Henry spoke up, staring directly at them. ”Survivors,.. er, refugees. We made it out of Saruleah Bay City before those invaders tore up the city. There’s an evacuation zone that we were directed to make it to up in the mountians,-“

”Yup, Lattimer Valley. Just up the right pass.” the shorter of the two spoke.

”Lattimer Valley, right. Thanks.”
”How many you gots in there?” the taller one continued, nodding towards the vehicle.

”Just a few other, couple injured, nothing serious.”

”All civies right? No military shucks ducking out from service?”

”No?”

”Alright then.”

”Why does it matter?”

”Military folks need to make their way to Aienclad Aviation Base, just up the road. All civies need goin’ to Lattimer Valley, as instructed. We’ve had a few who wanted to hide in with the civies.”

Atvulf spoke for the first time. ”Aienclad? Sounds a hella of a lot safer than some sorry arse valley? Why can’t we go there?”

”Military personal only. No exception.”

”But-“

”Atvulf.” Henry glared at him, his message evident. ”Well, thanks for the help then officers. Appreciate it.” Henry nodded to them, preparing to leave, until the shorter one barked at them.

”Oh, you lot can’t leave just yet. You gots to pay the toll.”

”Toll?”

”Hey, this ain’t no picnic, ya here? Mind lending us some supplies?” the taller of two continued. ”I see a pretty, young face yonder, little company tonight would-“

”She’s not … No.”

”Aww, hell Dwight, I was looking forward to some fun for me tonight,” The taller spoke to the other. Turning back to Henry, he continued ”you sure? Last I heard there was ration shortages up at the camp. Pretty girls and food are worth their weight in gold. I can give you some from my stockpile-“

”No. Not an option.”

”Well, anything else you got?”

Henry turned to Xander and Atvulf. ”Well, we got the six pack from the farmhouse…”

The shorter of the officers ahead of them perked up. ”Beer? That’d do it. Tonight might not be a loss after all Hoffman!”

Atuvlf shouted as a solitary, thick drop of rain water rolled down his brow, visibly angry ”Are you f*cking kidding me? We needs all that sh*t, ain’t no way we partin’ with any of it! You ain’t got no right!”

The taller of the two reached backwards, and put his hand upon the thick black handle of some device upon his belt. ”You sure bout’ that?”

”Atvulf, please…” Henry worriedly looked towards the agitated hulk.

Choice 5 (Strength: Mild)

A: Supplies are ours, and this toll is unfair. This is just robbery in disguise. We’re not handing over any of our supplies.

B: Better to let them have the supplies than cause more conflict. We can afford to part with some goods. Things will end up better this way.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 12:05:16 pm
Xander looks at the men and then back at their supplies. He realizes that he could just give up a few of the sweet beers, and they could have the rest. With that, he reaches back, grabs two beers, and hands them to the officers saying "Enjoy your drinks"
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 15, 2018, 12:05:45 pm
”Oye, I think you saps can do better than that,” replied the shorter of the two, roughly shoving aside Xander and pushing his way to the back of the van, grabbing the remaining beverages. ”Sh*t’s gonna needs to last us a few days, amright?”

A growl sounded from deep inside Atvulf’s chest, as he raised a fist to smash the taller of the two men across the jaw, only to be abruptly cut off as his would-be victim slammed the butt end of his pistol deep into Atvulf’s gut. He doubled over, hot air and pain violently expelled from his chest.

”Learn some fo*cking manner, you hillbilly sh*t!” the officer shouted down at Atvulf, as he raised his weapon to smash him again, this time across Atvulf’s thick skull.

”STOP! Listen, sorry Officer, we’ll be leaving now, I’m sorry,” Henry shouted, ”won’t happen again.”

The taller officer sneered at Henry, shifting his eyes from the double-over Atvulf to the beverages tightly grasped in his compatriots hands. ”Git out, and get a f*cking muzzle on your attack dog.” He snorted, before absconding with his partner back to their vehicle. Henry followed likewise, helping Atvulf back into the van, and returning to the driver’s seat, pausing only for Xander to reenter as well, before speeding off down the rough dirt path towards the mountains.

Silence dulled the atmosphere of the interior, only to be broken by Henry after the party had put several minutes between themselves and the intersection guarded by the extortionists. ”What were you thinking?! We could have left peacefully, but no, you had to go and do your macho man thing to the officer with a loaded gun!” he shouted angrily, ” YOU ABSOLUTE…. ABSOLUTE…. ARGHHH!!!”

A moment passed, Atvulf gingerly massaging his scalp, a light welt already clearly evident atop his skull. He looked down, as if examining his extremities, before his eyes hardened to their typical laser gaze. ”ME?! WHAT THE F*CKIN’ ELL’ WERE YOU THINKING?! YOU JUST F*CKIN’ GIVE AWAY OUR SH*T YOU SON OF A MOTHERLESS GOAT!” he roared. He turned abruptly to gaze at Xander, his blazing eyes piercing through the hapless passenger. ”AND YOU! GOING ALONG WITH THIS SH*T FOR BRAINS SOOTY?! HAVE YOU NOT GODDAMN BACKBONE?!”

”DON’T YOU YELL AT HIM, THIS IS ALL YOU, THIS YOUR FAULT, THE BLAME LIES WITH-“ Henry may have continued, if Tsubaki had not appeared between them, pointing forward and upwards towards the road ahead.

”Tsubaki, now is not the best-what is-….. oh.” Henry murmured.

Their eyes all turned forward, following her tremoring finger to the road ahead, alighting upon the graveyard of abandoned and decaying vehicles that dotted the road and fields up the steep cliffs along the mountain ridge, a sea of dead and rusting monsters never again to perform their purpose. Some of the closer ones looked relatively fresh, only peppered with a light dust from a dirty gale though carcasses nonetheless, but others remained in more advanced states of decay, scavenged for parts such that their various fragments had been strew around their frame, or torched into a nearly unrecognizable slag in some primeval frenzy.

”Oh, sh*t, f*ck me, this ain’t our cup of tea, ain’t it Atvulf? Let bugger out of here, swift.” Mikey called from behind Xander, a light tone of panic underpinning his voice.

”I… I… we need to keep going,” Henry replied, twisting in his drivers chair to look directly at everyone in turn, ”I’m sure they just need extra supplies, once we get there it’s going to be alright.”

”But.., them roads impassable,” Atvulf replied, ”No way in hell we gettin’ this van up them roads, not unless you’ve got sum rocket boosters you’ve told no one about…”

”THEN WE WALK!,” Henry shouted, sweat upon his brow like a miniature volcanic waterfall, ”Everyone, pick some of the gear up. If you can’t or you’re injured, get someone to take your load. We’ll get there before nightfall, I’m sure of it. We’ve got this people!” And with the spring of a rabbit pricked with a thimble, Henry leapt out of the van and onto the dusty, dirt road, pack in tow, and started up the road at a brisk pace none amongst them could hope to match.

Atvulf shrugged at Mikey. ”What they say? When in Arcadia?”

-------------------------------------------

The hot afternoon sun beat down upon Xander, as if some immortal being held a magnifying glass above his neck in an attempt to snuff out his existence. Sweat stained his crevices, a never ending flood of salty lubricant on this torturous climb. With each step up the steep road, Xander could feel the large rocks and pebbles through the soles of his boots more and more, the rough terrain etched in pain to his throbbing feet.

Atvulf had only just managed to keep up with Xander, with both men nearly side by side, though Xander suspected Atvulf fell slightly behind him with each passing step. He to, like Xander, lay in nearly identical condition, though the grimace upon his face was more pronounced. Henry, however, whilst etched in the same configuration, somehow remained a dozen paces ahead, never faltering. Atvulf called up to him.

”Hey sooty, you friggin’ moron, we can’t keep this pace! Can’t you frackin’ see? We need a break! Turn your f*ckin’ head around!”

Henry turned back toward them, though continuing his brisk pace. ”Nonsense, we can do it, it’s only a few more miles-….”

Xander turned back to, observing the remained of their party as they straggled behind in a loose, disorderly configuration, a gaggle of intoxicated wanders on some unknown path after a night of heavy drinking.

Henry sighted deeply, ”Okay, we can rest for a couple of minutes I suppose… but we need to make it to the camp by nightfall. Only a few minutes.”

Atvulf collapsed where he stood, panting as he lay comatose, unintentionally examining the burning sun in painful detail. One by one, the survivors crawled up to them, each collapsing in turn. Tsubaki nearly took the same tumble to the roughly hewn road, but Xander caught her, and let her down gently. She nodded back gratefully.

Atvulf turned his head towards Henry, small particulates of dust, dirt, and gravel clinging to his coarse hair. ”Look ‘ere, why don’t we loot dem vehicles on the way up? We’d get sum supplies, easy, and peeps gonna get some rest to.”

Henry didn’t bother looking at Atvulf as he replied. ”Don’t worry about it, there’s going to be supplies at the camp. We aren’t going to need to scavenge as long as we make it there. Everything is going to be alright.”

”Ye’ sure them camps only a little ways away? We’ve been at this for bout’ 6 hours” Mikey called wearily from where he lay.

Henry remained standing, staring outward, carefully observing the distant landscape, picturesque snowy mountains, lush, grass-laden hills, and dense pine forests. It would all be so tranquil, if not for the pervasive reminder of the coming storm that had become ever so embedded in the back of all their minds.

 ”Yes, it’s only a little further,” he replied, before mumbling to himself, ”It’s going to be alright. Everything is going to be alright”

He suddenly turned back to the incapacitated survivors, pointing upwards along the road. ”Onwards!”

------------------

Some several hours later, and Xander could no longer feel his feet, the pain and ache that had permeated them long since migrated to a sharp agony upon his shoulders, as if he carried four times the load that he had begun this hike with. His throat was dry, parched and caked with a fine dust that guaranteed respiratory problems for all those who inhaled this infernal toxin. But, the camp base was near; having passed some empty guard posts several paces back. Someone among them had asked where the guards were, but for all Xander understood it might as well have been an auditory hallucination. Just over that slight ridge-
 
Henry collapsed. He had continued his mighty pace since their last break, and was several lengths ahead of the rest of them and had already crested the light ridge. He remained unmoving, grounded to the rocky path, driven to his knees, sharp stones driven painfully into his flesh, though such suffering seemed lost upon the frozen officer.

The rest of them sped up to assess the evolving  situation. ”HENRY?,” Xander inquired loudly, though the voice that he produced was not his own, or at least not familiar to him, ”WHAT’S GOING-…. on….. “

They had all crested the ridge, and were now alongside Henry, standing frozen like, as if paralyzed down to their eternal soul by some invisible, infernal source. At least more than one among them exhaled loudly, violently sucker punched by the atrocity that now scarred their vison.

A pungent, filly smell wafted through the thick, sweltering air, the scent of burning Hiroi flesh and metal. Smoke burned and clogged their lungs, forcing a cough from each of them as easily as one could inhale. The massive DERA refugee camp, perhaps once a neat grid of survivor chaos, was no more. Scarred and scattered debris coated the rocky terrain, such that no single obvious path between the piles of burning wreckage remained, as if some entropic being had taken care to ensure not even the luckiest of survivors could escape this impromptu, lethal tomb. Odd bits of metal, tall rods from long seared tents, the ribs of shredded vehicles, and spines of unrecognizable steel stood out amongst the rubble, tall barbs ready to impale those who dared traverse the carnage in the valley. That which could still be recognized as once constructed rubbish all lay blemished, burned with infernos or punctured with numerous, petite holes. The loosest of debris, unrecognizable sheet of paper of untold number, occasionally flew through the air, carried aloft by the thermals of the burning cinders, but motion beyond remained nonexistent, or at least hidden from their vantage. Exempting the odd bloody limb or bleeding, amputated torso, though through squinted eyes Xander swore he could see a decapitated head on a spike some ways off, whole bodies were nowhere to be seen. But what unsettled them all the most, though the carnage should have been enough to force even the most stalwart of men to the ground, upheaving their earlier meals, was the shear lack of noise. Barring the flutter of the loosest of debris, and the light howl of harsh, mountain wind as it traveled down the valley from the snowy peaks, no cries for help, no screams of agony, not even the faintest moan permeated the air. All was effectively quite.

”I…. I… no… no… NO!,” Henry stammered between each staggered breath, ”It wasn’t supposed to be like this….. I,…. I,…. I’ve f-“

Henry likely would have collapsed further, had Tsubaki no placed her hand upon his shoulder. He looked up, their eye’s meeting. Henry stood up abruptly, brushing the gravel from his uniform, where it had clung after his kneeling.

”You’re right. Everyone, we’re searching the camp for survivors and supplies. Anything useful, water, food, bring it back here and pile it up. I don’t expect we’ll find any hostiles, but nonetheless, stay in groups of at least three to four. If you have an issue, shout and I’ll come over. Got it?” Henry commanded the group. A few loose nods, though the muting effect of the carnage ahead still held the survivors in its throes.

”We’ve got about three hours until the sun sets, let’s get this going then.”

--------------------------------------------------

Henry, Mikey, Atvulf, and Xander had grouped up, Atvulf and Mikey leading the charge, clearing the debris to forge a path, while Henry and Xander foraged. The cinders, while dying, were still blistering enough to give them all an unwanted tan, though it was hard to recognize any such blemish through the grime and soot that coated their exposed skin. Henry grabbed a disposable water bottle, half empty, and whipped his forehead with his arm before depositing the find into his uniform’s pockets.

”I don’t understand,” Henry started, the sting of poisonous smoke welling tears in his eyes, ”How could this have happened? Why did it happen?”

A moment passed, before Atvulf replied, ”I told ye, dem metal heads are able to hear all our sh*t. Ain’t nothing we can hide, tech’ all compromised and such. They gonna keep hitting us hard and fast, and sh*t like this ain’t just gonna be isolated here.”

Henry paused from his scavenging to look at Atvulf, ”You don’t think…”

”If we compromised to all hell, all dem evac camps gonna be blown to heck, just like this one.”

”DERA camps are designed to have a maximum capacity of about a million people, and there 7 designated camps along the coast here,” Henry turned to Xander, ”There was a cool documentary about federal disaster relief infrastructure I watched with my family a couple of months ago. Dad said we should have watched the documentary on our intercontinental communication infrastructure, but-.“ Henry sighed deeply, accidently choking on a cough as he inhaled.

”Oh, yea, part of that twelve part series about hidden infrastructure, right?” Atvulf replied.

Henry looked puzzled. ”Yeah,… uh,.. you watched that documentary series to?”

Atvulf turned away, deflecting. ”Nah,… er,… just saw some advert about that sh*t. Man, these morons though this sh*t was what they needed?” He held up a portable television, screen tarnished with spider web cracks. ”If all dem other sods be bringing this kind of sh*t, then they nuttier than a squirrel turd.”

Mikey guffawed loudly. ”Hell no dawg, they bringing only the best essentials!” he cried, holding a burned smutty magazine at arm’s length. Though the magazine as a whole was thoroughly burned, Xander could still make out the **** outline of a woman posed suggestively.

”Sh*t man, dat there the finessed sh*t! See if you can find us any more, eh!” Atvulf cried right alongside him.

Henry sighed, ”Leave it, we’re only taking what we need and what we can carry. Besides, all this was someone’s stuff. Show some respect, alright?”

Mikey shrugged, but out of the corner of his eye, Xander watched him stuff the magazine into his pocket as Henry turned his back away from them. Mikey and Atvulf fist bumped, and continued to search for more salacious material.

Henry stood up, stretching, before looking at the rest of them. ”This is going nowhere, and we need more. Look, er, Atvulf and Xander, try and make your way right a bit. I think that’s a road there, right? Mikey and I will go left, towards those cars? Trucks? Whatever. We’ve got about an hour before we’ve got to start heading back, okay?” Mikey and Henry peeled off, heading left, soon hidden, consumed by the mounds of debris. 

Atvulf shrugged. ”Just ye and me, buddy, eh?”

Xander followed him right, carefully navigating the debris so as to avoid the densest piles of refuse. If one were to have watched them from above, Xander surmised they might have looked like roaming, headless chickens. The two didn’t speak for some time, until Atvulf broke the silence.

”You think that sooty bloke is alright? White man to white man” he started.

Atvulf shrugged nonchalantly, ”I ain’t never trusted a sooty. Pa never would have let that sh*t fly. But that idiot got his heart in the right place, I suppose. Though dumber than a sack of nails. No spine or sh*t.  Might get us killed, might not. Anyway, he gots himself a promotion to our defacto leader, I suppose. No changing that sh*t. “

He turned to Xander. ”But’s you got to get a spine in you, boy. Like a good white fella. Stick up for yourself. Sooty might be our leader now, but if he’s gonna get us killed, you needs to put a stop to it. Two to the eyes or something.” He laughed, mutely.

”But say, you said you’s from the navy and sh*t, right? Sailing our space ships eh? Hows that all—“

A moan broke the conversation, emerging from somewhere behind the mounds of smoldering rubble. Atvulf put a finger to his lips, and pointed to the left of the pair, before moving off in the direction he pointed. Xander followed closely behind.

Behind a mound of rubble, a wrecked helicopter lay, cleaved in two as if some massive blade had sliced through it like butter. This was not some military vehicle no, painted white with blue stripes, a black “Channel 9” was emblazed on the grimy side. The front end was royally smashed, glass shards littering the already choked ground, but the rear looked in slightly better condition. Atvulf pointed to a row of seats in the back.

”There”

The pair hopped into the downed helicopter, careful to avoid the jagged edges of shredded metal between the two halves. Strapped into one of the rear seats, a woman remained strapped into one of the padded rear seats, dangling helplessly like a lifeless doll.

”’s alright miss, we can get you out of there in a giff. Xander, help me.” Atvulf called.  The pair unhooked the unmoving woman’s harness from around her, and gingerly lowered her to the metal floor.

She was a well-groomed, attractive woman, her dirt blond hair well cut to be exactly shoulders length. Xander could tell her makeup had been applied expertly, though much of it was now smeared. Her nails were cut to the perfect length, and each lacquered in a smooth blue polish. Her green suit, now crinkled and torn, was clearly expensive, woven finely such that not a single loose thread could be spotted. But through her chest, a few centimeters beneath her breasts, a jagged rod of sharp metal stuck out at an odd angle.

”Miss, can you hear me? Can ye’ tell me ye’ name?” Atvulf spoke softly to her.

”…G….Grace… Grace... Evans” she moaned softly.

”’Right Grace, every thin’ gonna be okay,” Atvulf shook his head widely at Xander, ”Sh*t dude, it’s gone through her lung. She’s got a f*ckin’ deflated lung. And-” He looked back at the woman who lay before them, laying a finger across her neck. ”Oh, good, she’s passed out again. She won’t hear this.” He turned back to Xander, ”It’s right up against her heart. If we move the metal sh*t, we could shred her heart. Only thin’ that’s keeping her from bleeding out is that sh*t.”

Atvulf looked panicked, eyes fully widened. ”I,… I ain’t able to do this sh*t. Imma go get Henry. You keep her company, ‘right?” He took off and quickly disappeared amongst the debris.   

Xander looked at the woman’s shut eyes. If he had not known about the metal objected, protruding from her chest, he could have assumed she was sleeping, peacefully so, dreaming of far off wonderlands, sunny, windy grasslands, each blade of grass independently swinging in the breeze, and the light dew of nights passed clinging to the tip of each blade, jeweled ornaments born of nature’s beauty. If only escape were all so easy.

He grasped her hand with his, ignoring their mixing sweat, just one moment, one mere moment of tenderness. Her hand unconsciously tightened around his, though Xander imagined her lips curled upward with each passing moment.

”Back” Atvulf breathed, gasping for air, red in the face.

”They’re on their way here. But…” Atvulf turned away.

”Sh*t dude, we can’t move her. We don’t have the tools to remove that… that thing from her chest. At least safely. Maybe if this wasn’t the goddamn apocalypse,….”

Atvulf looked Xander, their eyes meeting. ”She won’t last the night. I,… I,…” He held out Henry’s service pistol, a black foreboding tool of death. ”I grabbed it from him. She’s got a quicker option.” He pressed the pistol into Xander’s hands. ”I,…. I can’t. It’s your choice now.”

He looked away, staring at the debris. "I'll try and find something useful. I'll be right back." He turned and ran back into the debris.
Choice 6 (Strength: Mild)

A: End Gwen’s suffering. She’ll be in pain for the next several hours until she dies. A painful, certain  death no one wants.

B: Leave the metal shard in Gwen’s chest. We might find something in a few hours to help her in the debris of the camp, something that wasn’t destroyed. You never know.

C: Yank the metal shard out of Gwen’s chest. There’s always a chance it might not shred her heart, and she might live once we re-inflate her lung. And stop the bleeding. Maybe.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest100 on March 22, 2018, 02:55:48 pm
Xander stood next to the women, holding her hand. He figured that they should try and take it out. If they didn't, she'd die, if they shot her, she'd die, if they took it out, she could live, and she was a pretty lady. He looks up at them "We should try to take it out. It's the only chance she has to live."
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on March 29, 2018, 02:43:17 pm
Though the atmosphere was humid with the ashes of the once expansive camp, the cool mountain air chilled everything sufficiently. Yet, sweat poured down Xander’s neck and from his bodily cavities, drenching him in a solution of salty fluids. He attempted to firmly grasped the metal protrusion that erupted from Gwen’s chest, the jagged edges digging waves of pain into his palms, his profuse sweating hindering his efforts. He tried yanking once, his hands slipping on the now slick object, unable to find purchase despite its roughness. He tried again, this time placing his hands closer to the base of the object, yanking upward with his full, though exhausted, might. His neck bulged with the strain, his hands sliding upwards still, until something gave with a wet, disgusting squelch that unsettled his stomach. With a final pop, the metal object escaped from Gwen’s chest, Xander’s expelled force causing him to fall upon his rear onto the rough, metal chassis of the burned wreck of a helicopter, indubitably bruising his tailbone for the next few, sore days. For a moment, a brief, calming moment, nothing occurred. Had he succeeded? Had he saved her life? Thank the gods, she might- and then it began. A jetstream of coagulated bloody erupted from her chest, a fresh spring geyser newly uncorked by thawing grounds, staining the surrounding landscape. Xander leapt upwards, thrusting his hands into her chest, attempting to stem an unstoppable tide with sheer willpower. ”No, no, no!”, he cried to himself, as he began to taste iron in every last one of his pores, his chest and arms near instantly painted crimson red, hot fluids seeping underneath his grasping fingernails. But there was nothing to be done. As the tide ebbed, Xander fell backward once more, squelching as he sat upon his posterior, droplets of salty water trickling down his face, mixing indiscriminately with the solution of bodily fluids that now formed a small lake upon the ground, lost, gone, forgotten.

”XANDER! Is everything alright?!” Henry shouted as he rounded the corner of the debris field, ”Atvulf came and got-“. He stopped abruptly, the words caught in his throat. One hand rose to cup his mouth.

”They just around that there corner, keep movin’ you f*ckin’ oaf,” Atvulf pushed his way past the immobile Henry, needlessly shoving an elbow into his gut. ”Ye two still a‘right, Xander? Look, we were talking-,“ Atvulf nearly copied Henry in his movements as he observed the burned mechanical husk in which the gruesome scene had unfolded.

”The f*ck?!,” Atvulf whispered hoarsely, something caught in his throat. ”But.. it was only-“ he turned and wretched upon the ground nearby, an assorted blob of various half-digested chunks adding to the mosaic of debris in an almost impressionistic pattern.

For several unnerving moments, no one moved or spoke, save for the odd cough erupting from Atvulf as he attempted to clear the acidity from his throat. Then Henry moved forward, pulling off his police uniform jacket, painted in mud and odd scratches, the golden shield embroidered upon the upper right breast pocket still clearly visible, and laid it upon the bloody corpse of the women he had never known.

”You…. You two go back. Make sure the others are setting up a proper camp. Tell the others …. Tell the others I’ll be late,” Henry spoke softly, his lips barely moving.

Neither Atvulf nor Xander spoke as they maneuvered their way back towards the front entrance of the graveyard of misery.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The clearing was set. Though the debris field-the former DERA camp-still largely surrounded them on all sides in spite of their attempt to extricate themselves from its permeating field of death, the survivors had done a fair job in clearing out much of the wreckage, save a few scraps of loose paper goods that lay strewn atop the rock and dirt ground. They had managed to salvage a few odd tents for their overnight use, including a larger trademarked DERA command tent, its overly larger sigil along one side blatantly insulting the huddled survivors in all its worthless glory. Someone-Xander knew not who-had started a bonfire, burning whatever dry flammable scraps that had been nearby. 

“Henry’s not back yet, eh?” Atvulf murmured, the chilly air leaving his breath vapor visible.

Tsubaki shook her head lightly. She had been staring into the darkness that now obscured the majority of the wreckage for several hours now, sitting atop an abandoned milk carton, searching aimlessly.

”You reckon we need go back, Xander?” Atvulf replied. His head dropped as he looked back into the red, roaring flames of the bonfire. ”I…”

He looked upwards towards the rest of the survivors. ”Sure ain’ gonna do no one no good sittin’ here doing squat. Most of you get sleepin’ ASAP, we gots us another hike-downwards, but still a hike-on the marrow. Ain’ no use wasting ye energy. Night yall.”

Most of the survivors obeyed the commandment, pairing up and retreating to the various salvaged tents. Save for a handful of dim murmurs, conversations beyond Xander’s caring, only the roar and crackling of the flames, the odd heavy breath, and the unseen settling of the distant debris around the valley like rustling of tree branches in a heavy wind permeated the night silence. Atvulf, Tsubaki, Xander, Mikey, and some random man whom Xander swore was pissing, remained the only individuals awake-if just barely.

”Mikey, you to. Get sum sleep.” Atvulf hoarsely whispered.

”Man, no way. You up, I’m up. Bros for life. ‘sides, I… nah. Imma stay up.”

”Look, be needin’ someone to keep watch later. Don’t trust no one but you to watch my back Mikey, so git some proper sleep. I’ll git you up in a few hours.”

Mikey sighed, and nodded his head. ”Sure man, ye know best eh. You take care. Nigh’

”Nigh’ Mikey.”

Atvulf exhaled deeply, staring intensely into the fire as if he could expunge some deeper meaning from it. He turned to Xander.

”Mind if I play sum sh*t? I ain’ gonna stare out into who knows what waitin’ for Henry like sweet t*ts there all night. Here, look.” Henry walked over and grabbed something from a pile of supplies that had accumulated from the survivors foraging, rummaged for a bit, before walking back to the bonfire.

”Mikey found this sh*t in sumbodies tent, damn fine this beut is,” Atvulf conversed with Xander whistling gently, ”Mikey might only got one oar in the water, but his hearts in the right place. He knows I like a good guitar just like I like my women, eh?” He lazily strummed the strings as if caressing a soft kitten. The wooden, lacquered guitar had been carefully polished with care, no dents or scratches to be seen anywhere amongst its body, a stark contrast to the survivors. ”She strung nice and properly to eh? Let me give you a little jig.” Atvulf began to play and sing softly, his deep, guttural voice softened:

”Little bird, little bird fly through my window,”
Little bird, little bird fly through my window,
Little bird, little bird fly through my window,
And buy molasses candy.”


Atvulf exhaled triumphantly. ”Ain’ done that one in a while. Sh*t, lemme think, next verse goes – ‘Fly through my window, my sugar lump, Fly through-“. He stopped as he observed Tsubaki stand up off her milk-carton pedestal sharply. He gently place down the guitar onto the ground, and pulled from his waistline a shining metal handgun.

”Sh*t, who out there? Come out into the light!” Atvulf shouted authoritatively.

A dark figure emerged from the infinite wall of blackness, slowly becoming more defined like a siren emerging from the abyssal depths of the ocean. Sprawled across its arms a wrapped package laid draped. Tsubaki moved forward as if to embrace the unknown figure, but stopped abruptly, air trapped in her throat.

”Just me Atvulf, don’t shoot. I’d rather not have to pull a bullet from my chest tonight,” Henry replied.

Atvulf sighed deeply, his hands falling back to his sides, relieved. ”Took ye long enough eh? What took ye so frackin’ long?”

Henry stepped into the illuminating bonfire life, its flickering flames etching the disturbing package he carried. ”It took me a while to find something to wrap Gwen in, and then I got somewhat lost as night fell. Sorry. But I’m here now, everything alright with everyone?”

”Who the hell is Gwen?”

”Seriously?”

”Ye, seriously, who- oh…”

”Yeah.”

Atvulf stared directly at the bundle draped across Henry’s arms, as if his piercing eyes could examine the prone figure through the mismatched wrappings. ”Ye didn’t need do that. Waste of time,” he muttered to him.

Henry looked downward towards his burden, ”No, it needed to be done. No one should be-“ he looked around towards the enduring blackness of the night”- left to rest in all this. It’s not right.”

”Sure. Whatever you say, man.”

Henry sighed deeply, his breath visible and billowing in the night air. He shivered slightly, before moving to the far side of the camp to lay down his package, his boots crunching on the loose paper debris underfoot. He returned to the bonfire with his arms crossed, drawing a discarded crate to sit upon.

”So,” Henry began, ”how was everyone’s haul? Did we get anything useful?”

Atvulf shrugged nonchalantly. ”Alright I reckon, few knives and such. And them tents everyone’s in. This here gun’s not bad, only one round though.”

”Any food, water, or medicine?”

Again, Atvulf shrugged. ”Not a lot out there eh, lota dry goods from them gov folks but varmits got into most of it. I’d reckon most of these peeps be high cotton arses, ain’ bring sh*t they’d need. We salvaged what we could, but it was piddly squat. Maybe nuf to last us another two days?”

Henry sighed deeply. ”That’ll have to do I suppose. Guess we’re going to have to head back down the mountain tomorrow.”

”I reckon. But where the f*ck we gonna go? Some hood with ye homies eh?” Atvulf chortled to himself.

”Hrmm… you remember what those officers said at the crossing?” Henry spoke slowly, attempting to draw the memory from the recesses of his memory. ”Didn’t they say there was a military base nearby? Er, Aienclad Aviation Base right?”

”Aye, not a bad idea sooty! Maybe you’ve got sum brains up there after all!”

Henry rolled his eyes. ”Sure. We can warn those officers to. Maybe they can come with us. There’s a possibility that those creatures that attacked us might sweep through here looking for survivors later on.”

Atvulf snorted at this option. ”Man, f*ck them. If I had my druthers I’d punt their skinny arses straight into the moon. Let the metalheads have their way with em’.”

”The moon….”

”What? You loosin’ it?”

”The moon. Look up.” Henry’s jaw gaped open as he looked skyward. The rest of the quad around the roaring bonfire looked towards the heavens in turn.

”Oh… sh*t.”

Though the sky was not particularly clear, as smoke from the blistering bonfire and the smoldering debris around them lightly obscured their vison of the stars, the moon shone brightly on the night sky, a clean round circle of light amongst the oblivion. Or rather now two uneven half-circles, if not more debris. The moon have been shattered into, as if some immortal beast had cleaved the heavenly body with one mighty swipe of their indomitable sword, shattering the once beautiful angelic child of the stars.

”Why didn’t we see it until now?” Henry whispered.

”Never did have no good reason to look directly at it till now. Musta happened sometime today though.”

Henry looked back downwards at the other compatriots. ”Do we even have a chance of surviving this?”

Tears welled in the corners of Tsubaki’s brown, slanted eyes, vanishing nearly as quickly as they formed as the sweltering bonfire scorched the last vestiges of dreams from the corners of their souls.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pain.

Sharp pain.

Xander had rolled upon his side in his sleep, and now some irritating pebble underneath awoke him from his slumber, a rough thorn prodding him to action. He steadily rose from whence he lain, one hand out alongside the tent wall balancing him, the rough canvas frigid to the touch. Though he had slept upon the rough crag terrain atop but a few layers of salvaged cloth, he had slept well that night, the buzzing in his head from yesterdays strain of activates absolved for a time. Perhaps. In any case, the morning was afoot, and Xander could hear activity outside.

”Git ur **** up Xander, ain’t this ruckus wake ye from ye sack yet?” someone called from beyond.

Xander groaned, opening the tend flap, and stepped out back onto the mountain valley, stretching towards the heavens as he stood fully vertical, a strained grimace etched upon his face. With the morning sun arisen, Xander could once more see the graveyard sea and the chaos of which it embodied. However, the musk of death that had permeated the frozen wasteland a day prior was gone, swept away by the rapid tidal strength of billowing mountain gusts.

”Most of the supplies have already been packed Xander, just a few more things to go. We let you sleep in a bit, but do you mind grabbing my pack for the trip downward once you’re ready? Thanks.” Henry called from the other side of the clearing.

Xander started towards the somewhat distant voice, his boots crunching upon the coarse, gravel ground, each step tender and uncomfortably raw from the previous days exercise upwards. As he arrived by Henry, he grabbed his heavy load, nearly buckling under the excess weight, hefting it upon his sore shoulders, straps digging fresh trenches of misery upon him.

”Another day of misery” he thought to himself.

Henry turned towards the rest of the group, having located and lifted his morbid hall from the night prior. ”Alright, everyone ready? Let’s get moving!”

----------------------------------------------------------------

The trek back down the winding mountain trail, in spite of the countless abandoned vehicles continuing to litter and obscure their path ahead, was considerably less strenuous than the previous days climb, though a few of the survivors took liberty with their newly acquired gravity and collided with those ahead on occasion, much to their irritation. Henry to, continued to forge a path downward ahead of the pack, a slightly bent metal spade caked in dried, brown mud continuously bouncing of the back of his legs as he walked though he payed little mind to the discomfort or the future rash he invited, the package he bore shaking with each successive step forward occupying his attention fully.

As they nearly cleared the last of the cemetery of forgotten assorted vehicles, Henry paused, looking outward from an outcrop towards the valley just below.

”Here is good” he called to the others.

”Eh? For what?” Atvulf replied, his arms crossed.

Wordlessly, Henry ignored him as he placed his bundle upon the earthen ground, and shouldered the spade from his back, placing the tip into the soil, and began to excavate the outcrop, neatly piling the shifted soil into a pile alongside.

Atvulf snorted. ”This really necessary? She dead, she don’ give a f*ck where you put her skinny ass. Just dump her in a car or something.”

Henry refused to look him directly in the face, barely tilting his head towards him. ”This is the spot.”

Atvulf shook his head in disbelief. ”I ain’t waiting for ye, Imma finish walking and take a rest. Any of ye who want to come with better. Van’s got air conditioning eh?” He started down the mountain path once more. Mikey was the first to move after his cousin a moment later, sparking most of the other survivors to follow closely behind, until only Xander and Tsubaki remained watching Henry burry his burden.

Tsubaki moved to help, graving an abandoned ice scrapper from the dashboard of one of the deserted vehicles, but before she could move her first mound of earth, Henry placed a firm hand upon her shoulder. ”It’s alright,” he spoke softly to her, ”I’ve got this.”

Tsubaki place down her makeshift trowel, and took her place silently alongside Xander, her eyes downcast, examining in needless detail a smooth stone that lay just beyond her sneakers.
Henry sighed in exhaustion. ”Eh, I think that’s good enough right?” He hoisted the cloth wrapped package from the ground, before gingerly placing it into the newly formed ditch. He wiped his sweat and dirt caked hands alongside his pants, doing little to cleanse them.

”Anyone want to say a few words or something? I… I  don’t really know what to say. Is there anything right to say?” Henry mummed.

Tsubaki bent down and grasped the pebble she had been examining, and placed it into the folds of her jacket, straightening upright once more.

Choice 7 (Strength: Mild)

A: Speak a few words for her. No one deserves silence, in spite of how little you know about her.

B: Say nothing. You have nothing to say, is it not enough that you’re here?
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest100 on July 12, 2018, 07:08:57 pm
Xander stood next to Henry looking at Gwen's grave, thinking of the right words to be said. He put his hand on Henry's shoulder before speaking, "Your life shouldn't have ended this way, no one's should have. We just hope that you and the others don't die in vain, and that the pain is over." In his thoughts he told her he was sorry that she died like that. He then gave the other two a moment of silence before helping fill it in.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on July 12, 2018, 07:42:18 pm
His eyes downcast, Henry grabbed a pebble from the rocky road, examining it, before flicking it into the grave as Xander concluded with his brief eulogy.

”I,…“ Henry begins, words caught deep within his throat.

Henry turned his eyes downward, ashamed, returning to covering his grisly self-afflicted task. One last, final flick of his spade, and one final layer of musty mountain soil was lain upon the now hidden bundle, forever lost except to the few who remained to remember.

”I think we’re done here.“ Henry murmured near inaudibly.

--------------------------------------

The remaining trio of Xander, Henry, and Tsubaki finished the remaining climb down the mountain face along the winding dirt road. As the rusting, abandoned cars thinned and ceased upon their trek, they could make out the sight of their familiar armored van, waiting idly by for their arrival. Outside however, a lone figure waited.

”Ye’ took ye’ blasted time. Daylights wasting you idiots, unless you wanna be out roasting our bums whilst the Metalheads find us in the night eh? What took ye so long anyhow? Just drop the body in a pit and be done with the sodding thing.” Atvulf called impatiently as they approached.

”It’s not as simple as that,… you just can’t… nevermind, you wouldn’t understand.” Henry looked away.

”No, I understand ye kind perfectly, you suicidal sentimental f*cks,” Atvulf reached down and grabbed a large, smooth rock from the road, hefted it in his hand to test its weight, and flung it into the surrounding forest. ”BOOYAH SCORE! I think I hits me a polecat!” Atvulf shouted excitedly, ”Night’s meal on me how bout-wait, I think I just stunned it. Sh*t.” Atvulf reached down to grab another stone.

”Stop,” Henry put his hand on Atvulf’s arm, ”That’s enough. Like you said, we need to get going.” Atvulf simply shrugged and returned his hand to his pocket.

-------------------------------------

The survivors pilled back into their armored van once more, reluctant to return to the road and the perils it thrust upon them. Unconsciously, they nearly identically resumed their previous seating arrangement: Henry at the wheel, tired but determined, Atvulf the obnoxious backseat driver with an ever silent Tsubaki aside, and Xander watchful and tense in the front passenger seat.

They drove relatively silently, an awkward air of terse gloom as the boredom of the drive and the painful memories of the past foray up the mountain let their minds wander internally, only broken by the odd crack as the heavy armored van snapped fallen twigs beneath its tires as it moved onward underneath the forest canopy.

”Wait,… isn’t this that intersection,” Henry broke the silence amongst the survivors, ”That one with the police checkpoint?”

”Er,… sure looks like it. Speed up, git us out of ‘ere swift.”

”But the officers might still be here. We need to warn them that the camp is gone.”

”Don’t be drugin up dat sh*t again, just keep goin’.”

Henry put his foot down on the break, slowing the armored van down to a stop just outside of the intersection ahead. ”We’re not like that, you should know that. Come on.” Atvulf snorted and stayed seated.

Henry turned to Xander. ”Okay, us then.”

The pair stepped out from the armored van. Ahead, the clearing was much as it was the day earlier, an intersection between dirt roads in dire need of repair. The leaves in the canopy above rustled in the light breeze, an incoherent jingle of nature.

Henry pointed ahead. ”Xander, was their car in that ditch yesterday?”

Xander looked ahead towards the car. Indeed, the police squad car that the rangers had been using yesterday lay rear up a distance ahead, hood down in an earthen ditch, dented and scratched by the impact, abandond. The driver side door lay ajar, standing skyward like some metal totem. Deep ruts had been cut into the dirt road, as if someone had attempted to quickly and forcefully drive the car away only to crash unintentionally into the ditch along the road.

”Xander, come here, check this out.” Henry called nervously.

Xander apprehensively approached a kneeling Henry, leaning to examine what he pointed to. A thick, viscous puddle, a crimson fluid, filled a shallow depression in the earthen road. A few drops of the liquid lay splattered outside of the puddle, giving the dirt road an artistic flavor.

Henry turned to Xander, eyes filled with knowing, and shook his head.

”Let’s get going.”

The two turned back towards the van and made a speedy egress. Slamming the doors shut, Atvulf called disinterestly from the back.

”Yeh find the f*ckers?”

”Not quite.” Henry responded, clearly shaken, a slight tremor to his voice.

”Wat,” Atvulf pushed, his voice raising, ”sumtin’ happen? ‘Cause I’m good to give those arseholes a good lickin’”

”No, nothing. We’re leaving.”

”Seriously, don’t be lyin’ to me now, ‘cause-“

”We’re leaving. End of discussion.”

Henry floored the armored van forward, speeding away from the dirt intersection, following the road towards the military base that had been indicated to them by the rangers yesterday, leaving behind the mysterious puddle and crashed patrol car and the horrors they foretold. 

----------------------------------------------------

As Henry sped onward, the van moving increasingly faster so that the terrain blurred and smeared around them, an impressionistic canvas of forest greens, woody browns, and harsh mid-afternoon light, Xander felt something digging into his foot. A dull pain, more uncomfortable than anything, Xander undid the laces of the mud-caked black boot upon his right foot. Lifting upwards, Xander shook the boot slightly with his hand outstretched underneath, a small, gray, dusty pebble fell out of his boot and into his open palm. Placing his boot once more back upon the armored vans carpeted floor, he examined the extraordinarily ordinary little rock. Smooth, nondescript, and covered in dusty grime, the pebble must have fallen into his boot when he last exited the vehicle with Henry. Xander contemplated holding onto the obnoxious little stone, even going so far as to almost place it into his stolen coats pocket for no other reason but that he could but stopped before he could let it slide into the coat’s abyss. Rolling down the armored vans window, he pulled back his arm, and flung the nuisance into the heavily wooded forest.

*Ping*

An odd sound reached Xander’s ears. A ping, the sound of something hard hitting metal? In a forest?

Xander looked upward as Henry slowed the armored van to a sudden, dusty stop. A rusted metal sign, battered and dented, hanging by one loose bolt, lay flat across a long, chain-link fence, bent and broken in numerous links, that stretched into the depths of the forest beyond. Xander tilted his head, squinting through the sudden dust cloud the van has arose from the dirt path beneath.

“Aienclad Aviation Base” the weathered sign read as Xander deciphered the heavily eroded letters. The survivors had arrived.

Xander looked forward along the road. Ahead, the road was barricaded by a military style checkpoint, a gray wooded guardhouse, paint peeling and flaking, several sets of sandbags arranged in semicircles facing the dirt road with small tears blemishing their canvas so that their sandy innards mixed with the earthen ground below, and a flimsy red and white boom gate across the expanse of the road. Or rather, was formally barricaded. Several neat holes permeated the glass panes of the guardhouse, whilst the boom gate failed in its intended purpose and lay smashed to splinters, strewn haphazardly upon the ground. Two corpses added a finishing touch to the chaotic battlefield remnants: one flung atop the sandbags off to right side of the gate so that his coagulated blood stained the loose sand, giving it an earthen, artistic vibe, another nearly hidden by the guardhouse walls, his brown military boots sprouting from the posts’ doorway, the only visible indicator of its grisly contents.

”Look like sum tin’ done f*cked sh*t up ‘ere” Atvulf began from the back as he to observed the carnage. ”How ‘bouts we skedaddle then? Not our problem.”

”Shh, listen,” Henry responded. The survivors quickly quieted themselves. In the distance, loud shouts and rapid gunfire echoed mutedly to them.

”They need help. We’re going.” Henry stated firmly.

”Not over that there rubble, unless yeh aimin’ to blow out yeh tires,” Atuvlf quickly countered, ”Look.”

Henry and Xander followed his finger to where he pointed. There, lying underneath the remains of the splintered boom gate, road spikes protruded from the ground, a menace to both the barefooted and unsuspecting vehicle tires. 

Henry shrugged loosely, ”Then we walk. Get out, and grab anything useful.”

------------------------------------------------------------

Xander, Henry, Atvulf, Tsubaku, and, after some cajoling from Atvulf, Mikey, trudged onwards on to the airbase grounds in a loose, disorderly fashion, following the dirt road to its conclusion. As they drew closer to the central base area, the roaring, rapid-fire rattle of automatic weapons and the metallic pinging as they found their marks grew louder and more defined.

”Git down!” Atvulf hissed at the group as he flopped prone upon the ground behind a gentle rise in the dirt. The others quickly followed suit, viscous mud clinging disgustingly to their chests. Xander brushed a muddy drop from his cheek with one hand, before slowly crawling to where Atvulf lay.

”Peek yeh head over, but be quiet abouts it unless yeh aimin’ to git ur head knocked off.” Atvulf murmured over his shoulder, his eyes still fixed upon the scene ahead.

Xander carefully moved up the rise, warry of every sound he made, a crunch of dried, fallen leaves, the heavy sound of his panting. Slowly, he observed the scene ahead.
Ahead, their backs turned to Xander and the other survivors, five mechanical monstrosities stood tall, stretched out in a uniform, equidistant line, firing indiscriminately into the airfield beyond. Humanoid in shape, metallic implants coated their machines bodies, tough metal armor and other unknown apparatus whose purpose could only be diabolic. Several defenders sprinted in the distance, attempting to use utilize abandoned vehicles and crates strewn haphazardly as impromptu cover, returning fire at the monsters when they could spare, to little effect. Still more lay prone, unmoving upon the ground. 

The group, finished observing and daring not a second more, slid back down the incline and conferred.

”What are those things?” Henry asked puzzled.

”They the goddamn Metalheads, yeh sootie idiot. Didn’ ye see them when ye were fleeing?” Atvulf answered

”Er, no, just the flying drone thingies. Those are the ‘Metalheads’?”

”Honestly, you a hankerin’ for a hitten’ with how many goddamn times I need repeat myself. Yes. Mikey and I,” Atvulf paused to fist-bump Mikey who dutifully complied, ”Killed us a good half-dozen of those suckers for ourselves a while back. Told ye already ain’ I?”

Mikey nodded. ”Hell yeah brother, but dem Metalheads tougher than Uncle Ron’s stomach full of bacon. I shots them like 20 times straight in the noggin’ and day don’ go down. Gots to hit them in a sweet spot.”

Atvulf nodded in agreement. ”Buggers tough as nails. So fightn’ their behinds super chancy. Hell, we don’ even have proper guns anymore, ‘cept yeh little popper.” Atvulf pointed to Henry’s holstered sidearm. ”So we best git our collective arses out of ‘ere as direckly as possible. We ain’ gonna win dis one.”

Henry shook his head in disagreement. ”We stay and fight. They need our help and we’re in the best position to do it with them not trying to kill us at the moment. Empty your pockets everyone, lets see what we have in the way of weapons.”

Xander turned away as he examined the contents of his thick-coat pockets, withdrawing the battered flashlight he had taken from the van earlier. It would have to do.

Xander looked up to observe the findings of his compatriots. Henry had unholstered his service weapon, whilst Atvulf pulled the three knives that had been scavenged from the derelict evacuation camp. A paltry sum of weapons.

”This it?” Henry murmured to himself, checking how many rounds remained in his gun.

”Well we stab them right, we might git sum tin out of this crap,” Atvulf sighed, ”Still, we ain’ got the power ‘ere, would be easier if we up and left.”

Henry shook his head in determination. ”We’re doing this whether you like it or not.”

”At leas’ hold off on yeh goddamn gun before we git in there first.” Atvulf countered.

”Sure, alright.” Henry stated.

Atvulf handed one of the salvaged knives to Mikey, who examined it, testing its weight with a few taps and jabs. Tsubaki, eyes downcast, pointed towards the remaining knife Atvulf clutched. Observing her pointing, Atvulf looked between her and the knife, deciphering her intent, before scoffing quietly.

Sweet t*ts want’s herself a knife eh? But it ain’ pink or gots a bow on it!” Atvulf again chuckled lightly at his own joke.

”But seriously,” he added, ”Ain’ no way in hell imma give you this. This ain’ no place for women. You just stay put an’ be a good little girl ‘right?”

Tsubaki shook her head, and pointed once more at the knife he clutched, her eyes fierce with determination.

”Atvulf,” Henry started, ”there are five of.. of those things out there. We’ll need every able hand we have.”

”Wut, you two?” Atvulf gave one final hoot, ”Wars’ a man’s duty, everybody know dat. We’ll be fine, no needs to have some panzy arse women prancing ‘bout gettin’ us killed and makin’ sh*t difficult.”

Choice 8 (Strength: Mild)

A: Atvulf is right,  agree with him and deny Tsubaki the knife/her reject her help.

B: Tsubaki can help, and she wants to. Tell Atvulf to hand her the knife.
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest100 on July 21, 2018, 05:31:29 pm
Xander looked from Tsubaki to Atvulf weighing in the possibilities that she may die, or that they may die without her. Finally making his decision he gave Atvulf a stern look, "Give her the knife, Henry's right we need all the help we can get, and even if she does mess up I'd prefer we all died together than just leaving her alive, to fend for herself."
Title: Re: The Freedom War
Post by: guest121 on July 21, 2018, 05:41:05 pm
Henry grabbed the knife out of Atvulf’s hand, flipping it so that he held the flat of the blade. He offered the handle to a nervous Tsubaki, who graciously, if cautiously, accepted the sharp, dangerous weapon, testing out its weight with a few imprecise flicks.

Atvulf threw his hands, abandoning the argument. ”Fine, yeh’ frackin’ dumber than a sac of mule sh*t, lettin’ a f*ckin’ girly fake bein’ a man. Gonna git us killed, but won’ git me killed! Yeh problem, not mine.”

The attack party spread out along the earthen rise, each carefully moving behind their respective targets with Atvulf careful to position himself as far away from a anxious Tsubaki as he could. Xander nervously rolled his flashlight club in his hands, sticky sweat beginning to stain his various bodily pits and unintentionally lubricate his weapon. His breathing, heavy and labored, began to speed up rapidly until he became mindful of it, ending the increase with several long, deep breaths. He looked up, barely peering up above the earthen rise at his quarry, his prey or his killer.

The metallic chrome of the murderous monster shone brightly in the afternoon sun, a glint of superheated light reflected directly back into Xanders eyes, blinding him. He turned away, blinking the salty tears of pain from his eyes, endeavoring to wipe the sweat from his brow. A motion to the left of him.

Xander turned his head leftward. Henry, tightly wound, singled to the rest off them, a quick striking motion with his free hand. It was time.

Xander followed suit with his friends, slowly creeping forward, mindful of each step upon the loose, muddy forest ground. Up, over the rise, senses tightened as loose dirt was shook loose by their scaling. Had they heard their approach? No, the metal monsters continued their murderous assault upon the base defenders unabated, oblivious to the slowly ensnaring trap.

One step forward. Look up. Another step forward. Look up again. No change. One final snap, a twig **** beneath Xander’s boot. He froze, sweat now pouring profusely all over his body form a thick, sticky coat, an unending river of salty seepage, his eyes twitching, blinking unendingly.

No change.

Still good.

Xander, breathed in, a deep, silent inhale of crisp, forest smells, mixing, churning with the noxious fumes of the base airfield, with burning ash and lost hopes. Xander shouted, a mighty, ferocious, blood-curdling roar as the war drums of adrenaline rushed into his mind, his soul, invoking his inner warrior as he raised and brought down his flashlight club with his full strength upon the monstrosities back.

*CLANG!*

The club bounced off near-harmlessly, leaving little but a deep dent into the Metalhead’s armor plating. Ineffective. The beast turned violently back towards Xander, clearly aware of the threat it now faced. For a brief moment, the beast paused, analyzing the situation with impossible speed and accuracy.

A metal spike shot out from a hidden sheath in its right appendage, razor sharp, a weapon which could slice through Xander’s grimy skin with ease. Xander looked wildly between it and the Metalhead, who would move first.

Xander feinted right, then leaned in madly flailing his makeshift club in a desperate attempt to fell his foe, up and down, missing the beast as it avoided his strikes with mechanical precision.

The Metalhead raised its weaponized appendage skyward, a strike imminent. No time to dodge, Xander instinctively, desperately raised his left arm to shield himself from the coming blow.

”ARGH!” Xander roared in pain as the metal weapon sliced first through Xander’s pilfered jacket, next through skin and sinew, finally stopped by his forearm’s bone. Fresh, hot waves of pain seared through his arm, excruciating, disabling pain. Xander jerked back his arm, removing it from the blade of his deadly foe.

As he removed the blade, blood spewed forth from his arm, un-dammed by the weapon’s removal, staining his jacket and the ground beneath, a fresh pool of crimson fluids flooding the underlying ground. His arm went numb suddenly, all sensation gone. Useless, but no longer a hindrance.

Xander shouted once more, a roaring battle cry as he screamed for himself, for his life, for his will to live. He would live. He wanted to live.

He dived downward as the beast swiped through the air above which he had recently occupied, whipping, cutting the wind itself and a few of his loose hairs along with it. Wielding his club in his one functional hand, Xander hooked the rim of the flashlights head behind one of the Metalheads legs and yanked. Hard.

Unbalanced, the Metalhead toppled, unable to regain its footing upon the blood-stained ground, raising a small cloud of dirt into the atmosphere, choking Xander’s lungs.

Its head. It was open.

Screaming, roaring, Xander drew back his good arm and slammed it upon the Metalheads head. A crack upon its armored faceplate erupted like dendritic web. Not enough. Not nearly enough.

Once more Xander drew back his arm and smashed it downward with his full weight and might upon the beast. Again. Once more. Again. Again. Again. Soon Xander lost track, lost sense of reality, lost in the bloodlust as the organic pulp he crushed with each successive blow into an even less recognizable mess continued to paint black droplets of viscus fluid upon his face, dripping downward, streaking, with each mighty strike.

Stop.

Stop.

Stop!

Xander halted his brutal assault upon the featureless corpse. It was dead. He could stop. He exhaled sharply, exhuming stale breath from his lungs and reabsorbing fresh air. He had stopped breathing, held his breath unintentionally. Now he panted heavily, attempting, unsuccessfully, to restore his resting homeostasis. He had won.

Xander stumbled backwards, raising his good arm to wipe the alien fluids from his eyes, clearing his vison as he panted continuously. How were the others? Xander looked around wildly, watching his allies grabble their targets to varying degrees of success.

”Help!” A desperate, forced cry.

Xander turned sharply to the sound. Mikey lay, back in the mud, upon the ground with a Metalhead perched above him, one armored boot placed firmly upon his chest, crushing and pinning him. Xander watched as the monster raised its bladed appendage to strike at the downed man.

A flash of movement out of the corner of Xander’s eye.

Xander turned instinctively, watching in horror as Tsubaki and her quarry toppled in a jumbled mass, the Metalhead atop her. Her knife had been ripped from her hands and lay imbedded into the creature’s side, painful, but clearly doing little to slow the beast’s assault. He observed in horror as the Metalhead drew back its blade, aiming for Tsubaki’s throat as she thrashed in a desperate attempt to evade.

Two in need of help, but only Xander remained available to support.

Choice 9 (Strength: Strong)

A: Help Mikey.

B: Help Tsubaki.