Author Topic: The Freedom War  (Read 268 times)

0 Members and 0 Guests are viewing this topic.

guest121

  • Guest
Re: The Freedom War
« Reply #15 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.