2042: The Global Elite's agenda is nearly complete. There is but one problem: Sarah
By DF Thames
Alliance Controlled Territories
North American Union
Former State of Vermont, USA
October 4, 2042
The sheer force of the impact shattered his right shoulder blade, ripping sinew and bone with a spine chilling crunch that sent waves of agony coursing through his massive frame. It did not take the years of intense conditioning and study to tell him just how bad off that last blow had left him. He fell prostrate, his back slamming against the frozen earth. Something gripped his mind; something alien. Something he had felt only once in his thirty two blood-stained years. This very recognition unleashed upon his mind the full tempest of muscle freezing power that it held… terror. An emotion almost completely forgotten yet now, its very memory tightened the stranglehold it had upon his fading consciousness. This new terror filled reality slipped from him as the pain and fear worked their evil spell; dragging their victim into the immense black depths of unconsciousness.
She towered over him, gazing down upon the monstrosity that so many in the resistance had feared for so long. His prostrate body slumped against the frozen muddy ground. He was out, no longer a threat… for the moment. She should make that fact permanent, she knew. But something stayed her lethal intentions. She knelt beside him, which, considering she wore full survival dress, was an effort. AMRL’s latest, stolen technology was built into the fabric which covered her body. The very fact she was wearing it paid homage to so many of her friends and patriots who had given their lives to secure the technology for the resistance. A meta-material so advanced it curved light around the wearer, rendering them almost completely invisible to an observer. It was a near perfect work of ingenuity… but it had come at a high price. The suit had given her the advantage; that fact she also knew. Outwardly she struggled to feel comfortable in something they had created. In truth, however, she secretly enjoyed it. The way it allowed her to disappear into the background; to become a ghost content to sit and watch the world move about her. There was something peaceful about being unseen. Shyness was an attribute she loathed and yet something inside her had embraced, cherished and needed a fill of it at times. The truth was the suit provided her a haven in which she could indulge herself. But that was her secret alone; no one must know the fact that she had a fondness for anything the elitists had produced. She glanced nervously around, although she knew that while motionless it was next to impossible for anyone to see her. Still, her training and altered instincts would not allow her to relax so far behind enemy lines.
Winter had arrived early this year, so fast in fact, that even the late summer green of the trees had not had time to change. The hardy New England trees which surrounded her were caught off guard and the snow on their green leaves created a strange, surreal landscape. The storm had dropped eighteen inches of snow just two weeks prior and was followed by a cold snap that froze the late summer ground, killing nearly thirty percent of the luscious green trees; they being unprepared for nature’s fury. Of course, she blamed “them”... the global elite and their new world order. Agenda 21, designed to herd the remaining population of the world into ultra condensed urban areas – “smart cities” they called them. Ha, a laugh she thought. To her and the remaining holdouts, aka The Resistance, “smart cities” were nothing more than a complex control grid designed to give limitless power to those that ran them, the global elite. Power they would use to shape every aspect of the lives of those “smart city” residents and ultimately the planet. The freakish storm was in no way natural and she and her fellow libertarians knew exactly what it was designed to do.
Turning back to look at “him”, she released one last curse angrily into the frigid silence. He was covered in blood; his own that she had spilt. The front of his projectile armor was dark red and already beginning to freeze. The cold had helped slow the bleeding; he would live. The thermal material which he wore under his armor would keep him warm enough but he was badly hurt. That shoulder of his was completely busted, probably be pretty useless for some time even after the meds fixed him up. Her punch had been tremendous, harder than she had ever hit anyone… or even had the guts to for that matter. Yet she also knew something else; something that terrified her… she had pulled back at the last moment. This knowledge brought fear to her as it always had and she reacted by gasping at the chilled, late afternoon air. She fought to control her breathing. “I am not… a monster!!” She stood suddenly, let out a long controlled breath and closed her eyes. She reached within her mind; accessing pathways lain down by years of intense meditation and deep study into the Mosler techniques. These gave her mind strength and it was followed by a quick recovery. Snapping open her eyes, refocused on the situation at hand, she quickly scanned the small valley in which she stood; searching for moving targets. She found only a few small squirrels scrambling to make sense of their frozen world and nothing more. Relieved no one had witnessed her bout with fear, she turned once again to the killer sprawled at her feet. She knew he would not be out for much longer.
This was the killer so feared by her comrades, a killer she had incapacitated in less than two seconds. She had surprised him as he walked just a few feet away from where she stood motionless in the snow. Her attack had been quick and violent; dazing him first with a fierce blow to his face that shattered his nose and spun his head away from her; then, fearing retaliation from this deadly warrior, she poured her inhuman strength into the blow that shattered three ribs, dislocated a shoulder and sent him reeling twenty feet through the air. Now, she stood triumphant over him basking in the adrenaline the short yet bloody attack had sent racing through her veins. She could feel her immense power and strength still coursing through her muscles, and she exerted immense control to keep her killer instinct in check. It challenged her focus.
Dusk was gathering quickly and the brisk air brought to her nostrils the wet scent of coming snow. She must leave for camp soon or risk being trapped this far inside hostile territory. Without thinking, her hand moved at a speed unattainable by unaltereds and produced seemingly from nowhere, a jagged, razor sharp battle blade and with seasoned accuracy she carved the resistance’s mark into the killer’s cheek. A warning and battle cry both, carved in blood and flesh. She wished the mark would be permanent but the meds would again work their magic and her inscription would disappear, vanishing as so many of her dearest friends had. They had died in defense of justice, in defense of a principle. The words “Life, Liberty and Happiness” were reinstated into the Second Declaration of Independence the uprising’s founders waved in the face of the White House just six years prior. It seemed so long ago now. The death and destruction the war that followed had brought stretched from shore to shore. It had divided brother against brother, family against family, race against race and of course poor against rich. Her enclave of rebels would get word from time to time of fighting across the land once known as North America. The borders with both countries previously known as Mexico and Canada had been overrun. From the south had come the Central American gangs, intent on reclaiming land that once belonged to Mexico. The last she heard however, it was simply no man’s land with drug gangs ruling mercilessly. And to the North, Americans had fled the bloodshed, hoping their Canadian friends would provide safe haven until order was restored, but it hadn’t. Canada had quickly shut the border. But it wasn’t long before the uprising spilled over onto their soil. Of course the official story was that “terrorists” had infiltrated the country. In truth, Sarah knew, it was them… the elite. Intent on creating a North American Union, they had provided the means for the attacks. Their objective was simple; stage the false flag attacks designed to elicit a militaristic response strong enough to unite the three lands into a single governable body. What the elites had underestimated, however, was the will of the people to be free and the sacrifices they would make to ensure that very freedom to their children. That tactical mistake had stalled the elitists’ war machine dead in their tracks for more than six years. It was technically a stalemate with neither side venturing into the enclaves of the other. But all that was about to change, thought Sarah. Things were about to get far, far bloodier. Again, her hand moved with supernatural speed and the red stained knife vanished.
He watched as it turned and literally seemed to move on the wind, vanishing as quickly as the jagged weapon. Slowly, over the past ten seconds, he had climbed back into reality, out from the abyss and had arrived into full consciousness as quietly as any well trained soldier would. His genetically altered mind held at bay the immense pain as he studied the specter looming over him; a seemingly transparent being that had managed to disarm and subdue him in an instant. He sat up unsteadily as he activated the medcom beacon and tried to reacquire the fleeing specter. His vision, while sharper than any human’s vision had ever been, failed to lock on to the target for which he searched; vanished amid the trees and snow covered banks. He did not fail, however, to note the direction the ghost had exited the scene. The meds would arrive soon he knew; yet unlike the pain, he could not stay the fear which maintained a paralyzing hold upon his mind. “What the hell…” he thought, remembering the speed at which it had come at him. Never had he known defeat in hand to hand combat yet the sting in his shoulder told him that never had he pitted himself against such a foe. It had seemingly come out of thin air, incarnating as it moved toward him. His mind went back to the first moment he realized the mortal danger that suddenly engulfed him. He had caught a slight movement out of the peripheral of his vision. It had startled him and trained reflexes rather than his mind took action, reaching for his weapon at his side. He did not have it out but an inch when a powerful blow sent his head reeling to his left and away from the vapory being. He continued his spin left striking out with a fist that would have broken a jaw had it landed but his swing was too slow. The thing lashed out again and he heard his ribs crumple under the supernatural strength, the force hurtling him through air in pain and awe only to meet mother earth a second later. Agony leaped into his mind as he realized just how much damage the blow had dealt him. Fighting to stay conscious, blackness had invaded his vision and only his intense training and altered mind had brought him back so quickly.
But terror still held his thoughts hostage as he heard the first faint whisper of the med’s dragonhelo. He looked again toward the north hills realizing that buried in the pain and fear, something else lay hidden in his mind. Admiration and respect began to make themselves known; the kind of respect that only big game hunters had for very large and very dangerous prey. It was a pure understanding of its innate ability to kill; a sense of common mortality; a bond based on power, strength, cunning and deadly prowess. The power of life and death over all they encounter. He was a hunter, a killer, a king among men, a demi-god upon the earth and yet here this day he had become the prey. Something had reached through the air, a devil perhaps, and had stolen his glory from him. It had the power over his fate this day; the power over his very life, and this unholy demon had given it back. Had it chosen differently, he would not have been able to prevent it. It could have ripped him apart; something he had never known before. He could feel the power emanating from the thing and how well he knew the mortal danger in which he had been. The memory brought the sick aftertaste of stark terror up from his belly. He tried to stand but the effort ended as the strain resulted in the sickness in his belly overwhelming him. The bile was hot and steamed into his face as it hit the frozen earth.
The dragonhelo glided to a hovering position behind him and he saw the med leap from the underbelly. The ‘drags’ were amazingly efficient, fast and silent. They were based on the natural dynamics of the common dragonfly. Recent advances in nanotechnologies had enabled the production of a molecular thin, semi-transparent metal that allowed the near-perfect mimic beat of a dragonfly’s wings, an insect he would often chase in the clover fields as a child. Those clover fields seem vague and alien now, going the way most of his childhood memories had gone. Boyhood fantasies did not mesh well with his chosen profession. They are simply distractions which must be forgotten; his training and genetic manipulation would not allow tender boyhood fantasies of the world. The world was not like he had imagined in those days and he was not the man he imagined he would become. Now, he was a commander in his country’s military; a highly feared living weapon. The med was closer now, he was safe and could finally pry the fear from his mind; he would deal with the terror later. First, though, he needed medical attention. He knew the meds would not be able to touch him unless Gentech allowed it, and he knew that would not happen. No… Gentech would send their boys for him but that would take time. The nearest Gentech medical personnel were an hour away. He had called the meds out of panic and cursed himself for his moment of weakness. He had no idea how he was going to explain that later; and indeed there would be a demand for an explanation… even from him. He vision began to blur again and he felt his mind slipping away. “Gencom…” he whispered in the coming darkness. He managed to find the second beacon on his collar and activate it as he collapsed once again into a shallow bank of snow.
Medical Officer 2nd Class Levi Warner quickened his pace as he watched the soldier collapse. He sprinted the final few yards, already establishing the datalink back to the drag. His helmet’s HUD allowed effortless activation of the myriad of diagnostic sensors and subroutines designed to link him directly to the biostat system on board the dragonhelo. The system that would be fed critical biometric data via the encrypted datalink from the gear incorporated into his field dress. Sometimes he felt more like a kid with a video game than he did a med with two plus years of service. That was alright with him though; he always was a sucker for new gadgets and being a med tech meant he was one of the first to get new hardware. If there is one thing that today’s military was good at, it is getting high technology onto the battlefield fast, he thought. Heck, the meds were second in line, right after the AKs to get the new helmets. “AK”, he muttered. Assassin-Killer was the trench interpretation of the acronym; in reality he had no idea what it stood for but if you ever saw one in action you would understand the anxiety that was associated with them. Hell, he’d only seen one during live fire and goddamn he was glad they were on his side, he recalled. He would not want to be one of those unlucky sons of bitches that got absolutely decimated that day. He had almost lost his lunch as he had watched; and he was no noob by any means. He had seen his share of blood and guts. This had been an intense war; violent and bloody as hell. We had gotten so good at killing each other. But the AKs were a different story altogether. They were just lethal, pure and simple. And the worst part was they were cruel… Warner swore he saw the AK smiling as he split men open from throat to groin and watched everything spill out. “Goddamn disgusting…” he remembered thinking. “AKs…” he muttered and decided to try to find out just exactly what that stood for when he got off duty tonight. But right now, there was a downed soldier in front of him and down here in the trenches they watched each others’ backs.
He leaped the final few feet and slid into the snow reminding himself of the task at hand. The drag’s diagnostic program beeped softly as it came online letting him know it was ready to receive upload while at the same time sparking in his memory the med’s own acronym: Penetrate, Access, Report, Transport. “To P.A.R.T. the red sea.” was the slogan stenciled across the drag’s hull. Warner was little more than a medical scout than a practicing medical officer despite his certifications and training. Still, it would only be a little while longer and he would trade his helmet for a surgeon’s glove. After that, he could remain behind in the relative safety of the drag while another fresh young med ran out into the lines to P.A.R.T. downed front-liners. His eyes danced across the heads up display and selected the program that powered the scanning sensors embedded into his glove. Scanned data would be uploaded to the biostat system for evaluation. All he had to do was to reach the injured soldier and wrap his hand around the throat. The sensors took over at that point and all decisions would be made via the biostat system. Within seconds a message would be sent back to his helmet’s HUD to either abandon or transport. If the transport order was received, he simply attached a small hook ring harness to the soldier’s body armor and moved on to the next soldier. It was the job of the drag’s transport crew to attach a life line onto the harness ring as the drag hovered above. However, if the biostat system determined, in its cold wisdom, that the situation of the wounded was “terminal”, it sent the abandon order and the glove administered a sedative to render the dying’s last moments peaceful. Of course there were usually a dozen meds penetrating and accessing at any one time from a single drag during active fire. Each med had one to three targets to reach and evaluate; at least that is according to “the book” i.e. the Field Manual. After all targets had been reached, the drags would emerge from their cover and proceed with transport operations… each target carefully plotted along the most efficient approach and exit pattern. Overall a very efficient system and one far better than the old MASH systems in which his grandfather had practiced back in the day. For all intents and purposes, Med 2nd Class Warner was a content individual.
He answered the soft beep of the diagnostic program with an impatient grunt and reached toward the soldier’s throat. That is until his eyes caught the glint of a deep red insignia emblazoned on the blood stained collar. His hand froze in mid-reach and a second later he yanked it back as the realization of just what that emblazoned insignia meant. “Shit! Gentech… What the hell!?” Warner cursed aloud as the blood red insignia burned in his mind thoughts of secret institutions, rumors of crazy genetic experimentation and demons of un-godly savagery. M2 Warner jumped back as if expecting some vicious attack from this Gentech monstrosity lying in front of him. The initials AK kept floating through his mind as he tried to rationalize what to do next. The soft beep sounded again with an almost human impatience. He glanced at his surroundings half expecting men in white lab coats to appear and take their boy off his hands. But there was only silence to consol him. “What are you doing here?” he muttered aloud once again, ‘Why did you fucking call us?? Damnit! What the hell am I supposed to do with you?” Warner knew full well that Gentech took care of its own, which, of course, was very ok by him. Confused and steadily growing angrier, he flipped open his com channel, “M2 Warner requesting M1 backup, over.” Let someone else take charge if they want to he thought. He personally saw no gain in risking Gentech’s wrath.
Glancing over his shoulder, he could see the backup he requested hit the ground running, the drag’s smooth belly showing a glint of fading sunlight. The com channel crackled, “Backup request authorized. Sit-rep requested, over.” It was the drag’s duty officer. Warner humphed at that last request, “Yeah, you’d better be a little worried. Just wait until you hear that advisory.” he thought out loud.
“M2 Warner advising dragopscom on current field situation, stand by” he cut the audio as the M1 arrived. “Let them wonder a second.” he muttered; besides he first had to figure out exactly what was the situation.
“All right Warner, I’m here, now you wanna fill me in on why?” It was M1 Stroikoff that got the order for backup; a man Warner liked, even respected.
“Well I think you might want to have a look at the patient. I have a sit-rep to finish.”
Warner turned toward the drag as he started to transmit, “DRAGOPSCOM is advised of downed officer, priority red, AK. Repeat, priority red Gentech Class AK. Standing by, over.” Let them munch on that bit of advisory. Warner almost grinned… almost.
Sarah didn’t stop until she had almost reached the ridgeline north of her encounter with the AK. She had finally slowed her pace after nearly a mile. That’s when she heard the soft vibration in the air. She stopped and turned toward the clump of maples the AK lay hidden within. The low thump of drag wings would have been missed by even the most skilled, yet she could hear it a mile away. Scanning the tree line to her South-East, she caught the metallic glint swerving steadily along the trees, hugging the ground as it glided effortlessly towards the fallen AK. The drags were fast, she had to give them that; a truly impressive technology. The buckling trees with their heavy burden of snow laden upon their branches formed a barrier that the drag skirted alongside, darting with graceful prowess through the white landscape. “If only we could get the molecular recipe…” Sarah thought quietly. Her train of thought was interrupted as she watched the drag stop suddenly and the first med hit the ground. Then her subconscious picked up on something, “Wait a minute, how did they get there that fast?” Sarah’s fingers moved quickly as she entered coordinates into her wrist navigation system, “speed, direction, base location…” she thought aloud. The numbers it answered with confirmed her fears, the drag must have been summoned at almost the same instant she had left the AK. It was the only logical explanation for the speed at which the drag arrived, “He was awake!” Sarah cursed herself kicking at the ground. She had made a basic tactical blunder and she cursed the frigid air once more. Her mags were skillfully removed from their pouch and expertly focused on the med in under 3 seconds. The mags were small but very powerful and provided superior clarity even at this distance. The freshly fallen snow was easily disturbed by the meds boots. “Why did I spare him?” she hissed through clenched teeth as she watched the sprinting med through the mags. She panned the lenses to the East to come to rest on the hovering drag. It was camouflaged against the white snow and she almost missed it. Resistance command thinks they use the predecessor to the suit technology on the drags, only it isn’t near as perfect. Perhaps it is the metallic skin, perhaps the nanotechnology isn’t quite there yet or perhaps there are production hurdles. Meta-materials are the cutting edge in science and manufacturing technologies, it is not surprising they haven’t quite got the hang of it yet… well that is except for the suit. The drag’s shortcoming in camouflage perfection is a bug she hopes will not be solved soon. She turned her mags back to the sprinting med and followed his line of direction until the image of the fallen AK was in her crosshairs, “Yep, he was awake. Damn!” Sarah made note of the obvious change in position.
Slowly, Sarah lowered the mags; her thoughts were racing by now, as she fought to maintain her composure; but the reddish flush in her cheeks would have told any onlooker that she wasn’t succeeding. Her embarrassment of her mistakes demanded retaliation and her emotions usually got what they wanted. Something had stayed her hand but what and why? And now she may be in serious danger. She had not thought to leave on a false heading when she left the AK. Another tactical mistake she would curse herself for making; but what to do about the situation now, she stressed. She wasn’t going to leave this situation without even a small redemption for herself. The mags disappeared and she slid the missile assembly out and up to her shoulder.
Sarah knelt as she sighted the drag through the targeting lens. The system was one of only a handful of developed weapons produced solely within the resistance and so far, the elites had been unable to steal the technology or reproduce it. It didn’t use infrared, radar or satellite guidance. This was a totally new concept and so far had proven infallible to defensive measures. The secret was in the characteristic resonance signatures emitted by all materials when bombarded by highly charged neutrino emissions. A dense particle stream from the launcher guidance system penetrated the outer skin of the target temporarily causing a resonance effect which the missile could then lock onto. Counter-measures had proven difficult if not impossible given the unique characteristics of the many and varied components which comprised a given target. Counter for the aluminum alloy resonance would not be effective if the guidance system was locked onto the nickel contained within the rivets or the silicon within the glass or the carbon within the petroleum based rubber of the landing gear. Add to this unique targeting system a micro hypersonic scram jet engine and you have a very lethal offensive weapon; a weapon that Sarah was quite proficient at using to her advantage. Faced with the expense of developing an all-encompassing counter measure to this threat, the Order would focus efforts on stealth. After all, they reasoned, you cannot hit what you cannot see.
Unfortunately for this enemy, Sarah could definitely see this target and she intended to let them know it. The weapon offered no recoil as trillions of dense neutrons leapt from the muzzle of the targeting system; racing at near light speed towards the unsuspecting drag. Sarah held the crosshairs frozen on the target until she heard the steady beep of a positive lock. The weapon seemed almost anxious to engage the radiating resonance signature emanating from the smooth metallic skin of the drag. Sarah’s finger released the firing trigger and she felt the small 18 inch missile begin its hyper-acceleration towards hypersonic speeds; the white hot glow from the scram jet engine sent the projectile screaming into the fast approaching darkness. It would reach mach 3 in just under 2 seconds and mach 18 in 10; but as Sarah knew, at this range the drag would be a burning pile of garbage in far under 5 seconds.
“…repeat, priority red Gentech Class AK. Standing by, over.” The transmission ended and operations officer Lt. R. Bixby, with jaw slightly agape, stared at the control panel in front of him. Training, and a little fear, took over. His fingers danced across the communications control, “Base, this is DRAGOPSCOM, do you copy, over.”
“Go ahead, Doc., over.”
“Standby to receive field sit-rep, time 1736 hours, M2 Warner, index 63409, over.”
“Copy, opening data channel, standby… security alpha level II sequence three niner zero, over.”
“Transmitting three niner zero now, over.” Bixby’s fingers hit the transmit sequence and watched the audio and video of Warner’s advisory upload into the data stream. It took only a second and he waited for base to acknowledge receipt. Meanwhile his mind worked on the second problem of this mess, what to tell his meds in the field waiting for his orders.
“Data upload received, standby, over.” the audio com channel crackled.
Bixby turned and ordered the contingent of flak soldiers under his command to secure the area around the fallen AK, “No one comes in.” he ordered in the calmest voice he could muster, “Go.” He turned back towards the communications panel as the jar heads pounded down the corridor towards the drop bay.
“Warner” he spoke into the audio com, “return to dragcom along with Stroikoff. Delete visuals and audio starting at index 63409; authorization Bixby zeta alpha zero one niner, acknowledge, over.”
Warner looked up towards the drag’s cockpit, already suspecting they would order a scrub of the mission stats. “Acknowledged, sir, over.”
“As of right now, you are both under general quarantine rule; report to de-briefing stat, over.” Bixby released the transmit button and sighed. That was all he could do for now, it was up to base brass now… and probably a lot higher up than that he thought to himself.
“DRAGOPSCOM 3 this is base, over.”
“Go ahead base, over.”
“Be advised Gentech has ordered Zero Contamination Procedure Delta. Secure area, await further instructions. Base out.”
The comp link went dead.
Warner was just activating his tracking lenses in the helmet when the “return to dragcom” order came through. He motioned to Stroikoff who seemed to be struggling with a target lock from his own tracking scan of the small hills North-East.
“You got something?” Warner inquired.
“Nothing… nothing at all.” Stroikoff answered, “Whatever, or rather whoever, happened to him is gone. What the hell could have taken out an AK like that? Somebody hit him… and hit him hard.”
“Shit do I know; if you would have asked me that 10 minutes ago I would have thought it was a trick question. Dragcom wants us back, stat; oh and we are both under quarantine.”
“Yeah, I heard. Damnit!” Stroikoff cursed, “Tonight’s game night of all nights; and I just got the Sword of Ragorth that I have been itchin to try out all day.”
Warner shook his head, “I don’t know how you guys can sit and play that online stuff all the time. But it doesn’t matter now; you and I aren’t talking to no one anytime soon it looks like. C’mon, buddy let’s get back.”
“Yeah, this should be interesting.” Stroikoff’s voice rose slightly.
Warner took one last glance toward the darkening hills and turned to follow Stroikoff toward the drag. Both men looked up as the flak soldiers ran past them toward the AK. Stroikoff glanced back at Warner and smiled. “At least somebody’s going to have some fun to—“ Stroikoff’s words were cut short as the blast lifted them off their feet and threw them into the snow bank. The fireball singed all foliage within twenty feet and lit up the darkening sky like the sun. When the light faded, nothing stirred save the yellow-white flames that licked at what remained of the once hovering drag.
Sarah let the launcher hang by her side as she watched the fireball rise into the twilight; illuminating the bodies of the men surrounding the AK. The missile had done its job and brought redemption to Sarah. Score another for rebel ingenuity she smirked. She didn’t mind taking lives. They had taken enough from her to ensure no remorse behind her reddish brown eyes; only an emotionless satisfaction for the destruction before her. At least that is what her eyes told the world. Inside, Sarah hated the carnage that war inevitably brought. She had been fighting for over three years now; she tired of the killing and wanted to rest; but she knew that was impossible considering her mission that lay in the coming months. She watched the smoke dance gracefully in the slight wind, lifting ever higher in its effort to reach the stars. She brought her mags up to her eyes. One last look, she told herself, and then I’ll go. The image of the burning wreckage loomed large in the lenses, the white-hot fingers caressing what remained, determined to consume every last morsel. Sarah scanned toward the AK, stopping at every sprawled shape looking for signs of life. She found none. They were the enemy; still she couldn’t help but feel a little saddened for the loss of human life, even if they were a bunch of cattle being led around by the elitists spouting the ‘New World Order’ shit. The AK lay motionless in the white powder. Stillness pervaded the scene… save for the soft whispering of ravenous flames. Sarah turned toward the ridgeline slinging the launcher into its safe pouch. She started to run toward camp; covering nearly fifteen feet with each stride. Her emotions had been paid in full this night, redemption had been granted; she was content… for now.
He first noticed it around the edges. Like some sort of creeping thing, coming closer then backing off… as if it feared the very blackness into which it was invading. Slowly it had managed to encircle all of his vision, surrounding him in all directions. The last of the darkness had fled to give way to this strange illumination. Then the circle appeared, not bright at first, just an oval in space he could barely distinguish; slightly brighter than the creepingness. Slowly the edges became clearer, more defined, yes, this must be it, he thought. Then, puzzled, he thought again, “It? What was I thinking about, again?” His mind wandered, swayed out of focus, then back again to the oval, brighter now. Yes, this was something, something familiar but he could not find the name of the thing. It danced in the air in front of him, back and forth in the creepingness, much more defined now. Warner watched with intrigue as his mind searched for a name for the thing. He began to notice something behind the light, something he couldn’t quite make out, yet was certain was there, calling to him. Perhaps it could answer his questions, he wondered; perhaps if I tried to reach out to it. His arm felt large, bloated somehow and heavy. It was exhausting to move such a heavy thing; he began swiping out at the thing behind the light.
“What are you?” he tried to communicate, “Can you help me?” He swung his arm outward again and felt something grab it. “What are you doing? Stop!” he shouted. He struck out with his other arm, this time focused on the light. His hand made contact, pain snapped the pieces of his mind back together, “Uggh.” He managed to utter.
“Warner, calm down! We are here to help. But you have got to calm down.” demanded the med.
“What?” Warner’s mind whirled, spinning around then coming together into frame. Focusing and converging on that flashlight probing into his vision, blinding him. He struck out again with what he was sure was a fist.
“Easy buddy! Just take it easy… you are going to be ok.”
Warner focused on the words with his new sharper mind. He squinted against the bright light, “Can you get that flashlight out of my eyes?” he asked holding a hand up to block the light.
“You ok?” the voice behind the light asked as he lowered the flashlight.
“Yeah… I guess so… where am I? What’s going on?” Warner struggled to look around and discern his predicament. He sat up unsteadily, the helping hand behind the flashlight providing assistance. “What happened?” he asked again.
“We were hoping you could tell us, Mr. Warner.”
Warner looked around himself to see several other people apparently trying to revive the flak soldiers. His memory slowly seeped back into his consciousness, “We were heading back… back towards the drag.”
“What happened then?” the voice asked.
“I don’t know… wait… Stroikoff, where’s Stroikoff?” Warner remembered the white light that lit up the drag in front of Stroikoff. He remembered Stroikoff was saying something when the drag behind him was vaporized… Warner could remember how hot the intense heat was. He lifted his hand up and felt his face.
“Don’t worry, all the parts are there and where they should be soldier.” the voice continued, “Do you remember anything else?”
“What happened to Stroikoff?” Warner demanded again.
“Sorry soldier, he’s in pretty bad shape. We lifted him out of here about 10 minutes ago. You should thank him, he probably saved your life; the blast took its full fury out on him. He was your cushion so to speak.”
Warner put his hand up to his head. The throbbing began a few seconds ago and it felt like his head was about to split wide open, “Bad headache… you got anything?”
The med smiled, “Sure, wait here, I’ll notify the drag that you are awake. They’ll get you onboard as soon as triage is finished. Good luck soldier.”
Warner looked down and noticed the transport ring attached to his armor plating. He’d never been on this side of the ring before; it was an odd reality into which he had awoken. He watched as the med turned and left. He knew that there were others needing attention. He glanced around once more. There was a distinct smell of the explosion in the air and the pungent odor stung his nostrils. He wondered how long he had been out. He could see the glowing embers of the drag in the darkness just east of where he sat.
“How long…” he muttered as he lifted his wrist to look at the log time.
“Couple hours at least.” a voice behind him spoke.
Warner spun around as fast as his muscles allowed.
“Didn’t mean to frighten you.” the man said as he walked toward Warner.
Warner watched as the man came in to view, he was extending his hand toward Warner as if to ease the tension.
“Fuller.” The man spoke in a striking voice, “Should have realized you would be a bit jumpy for a few minutes after what you just went through. Here let me help you up.”
Warner felt the man’s hand under his arm and tried to pull his feet under his weight. He stood shakily, grasping at the man’s forearm before letting go as his legs regained their balance.
“Thanks.” Warner managed to say.
“No worries, anything for you meds. Anything I can get you? Need anything to drink?”
Warner’s eyes squinted against the shadows caused by the dim light of the scene. He struggled to get a closer look at the stranger who was being a bit overly compassionate. Not a med, he thought, not even military I don’t think. Who was this guy? A second later, the rest of the day’s events came flooding back to Warner’s now much sharper mind: the AK. Warner quickly scanned down to the man’s collar: nothing.
“GIC, soldier.” Fuller responded, obviously noting Warner’s efforts to discern his identity.
Warner was now officially in very uncomfortable territory. First the AK, now a genuine Gentech spook standing right in front of him and addressing him. Goddamn Gentech Intelligence, “Oh this is getting so awesome.” he thought while trying to figure out what to say next to this man.
“Yes, sir.” Warner stumbled on his own words.
“I am interested in what happened here today, son. Anything you can tell me about that would be a great service to your country.” Fuller paused, “I want you to know I admire you meds. In my opinion you have one of the toughest jobs out here. Great deal of respect for what you do, young man.”
“Thank you, sir. I do my best.”
“I am sure you do. I scanned over your service record en route; impressive. I also listened to your sit-rep from earlier today.”
Well then there is still a copy floating around thought Warner, remembering he and Stroikoff deleted all traces of it on order.
“Now I know that you military boys like to stick together… can’t blame you. And no offense to you and your boys, it’s just that my superiors like to have everything make sense, you understand what I am saying, Warner?”
“Yes, sir.” Warner was tense and he hoped his voice was not relaying that to Fuller. No one had to tell him who Fuller’s “superiors” were. This guy had Gentech’s fingerprints all over him. Hell this guy almost smelled like a lab. No, Warner knew exactly who he was talking about and it wasn’t the President.
“Don’t get me wrong soldier. I am not here to investigate you or Stroikoff; you boys were just in the wrong place at the wrong time is all. So relax, it’ll all work out. Just tell me everything you know and that’ll be it.” continued Fuller, “You just be completely honest with me and I’ll see if I can’t put in a good word for you over at base. I have a few favors I can cash in for the soldier that helps me out the most. You know we tend to have some pull with your superiors. Might be able to get you that surgeons tag a lot faster, you know?”
“Yes, sir. I’d be happy to help in any way I can, sir.” There was no way he was going to do anything to get this guy on his back. Just answer his questions and get the hell back to base he thought to himself.
“Call me Jim.” Fuller instructed, “Can I be totally honest with you Warner?”
Warner hated this guy already.
“Yes, sir Jim.” He strained to see past Fuller as he wondered if triage was almost done.
“Something big happened here tonight, Mr. Warner, something that could threaten the very balance of power in this whole region. Question for you is, what was it? And I know that as a patriot you would be more than willing to share this information with us. So what do you say? Can we chat patriot to patriot?”
Warner wondered about the mental stability of ‘Jim’, along with whether that really was the name on his birth certificate. Hell, on further thought, he wondered whether this guy even had a birth certificate; or had he just been grown somewhere in a lab like some kind of fungus on a Petri dish.
“I’ll be happy to share everything I know, sir, but I don’t think that is as much as you think I know.” Warner replied as he heard the faint thump of the drag. The sound sent a course of relief through his beleaguered mind. It won’t be long now until he is safe back in the promised drag.
“Great! I’ll get with you after they patch you up; and remember this isn’t the kind of thing we want talked about – even amongst your buddies, k?”
“Like I said, sir, no sweat, be glad to help out a fellow patriot.” Warner took the offered hand then watched as Fuller slipped back into the darkness. He didn’t realize, as he looked toward the approaching drag, the special effort he made to wipe his hand off on his pant leg.