Author Topic: The Freedom War  (Read 268 times)

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Re: The Freedom War
« Reply #15 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.

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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.

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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!”

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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?