Alan strolled through the rendezvous camp taking stock of their assets. It was a modest diamond shaped installation dug in atop a small hill giving the platoon vantage over incoming enemies albeit hampered by the dense vegetation which bordered the camp on all sides. They had a barracks and officer’s tent, operations center, civilian quarters, even a meal tent. For defenses they were equipped with an electric field fence buried under ground which would fry anyone who dared cross its border, and a turret emplacement at each corner of the diamond. It’s certainly not the best but it’ll have to do; besides we’re in the middle of the damn woods well away from the city. This’ll definitely be safe enough to hold out until further instructions arrive thought Alan. He looked over to the tent that Will lay unconscious in and was glad that fortune had ordained to bring the two friends together again.
Serving with Will was a godsend he was a man who could remain steadfast in the face of adversity saving Alan’s life with his talents on more than one occasion. He could go on about Will’s achievements and tenacity while leading the forward surgical team setting a new record of 48 continuous operating table hours and servicing 70 patients in one 72 hour deployment. What Alan liked best about Will though was not his drive but his compulsion to seek out the why; his innate need to understand everything. It started simply enough a challenging joke here or there made by Will while Alan was recovering in the sick bay, something about how many Lazorans it takes to bring down a feral. Things which made Alan think for a brief second about whether they were fighting the good fight followed by uncomfortable laughter. Then things took a turn over drinks one day, Will was dead serious… always, he looked beyond the actions we took for granted. He could hear him now “Alan, why do you think they require leadership to serve?! You don’t know do you? Don’t you think it’s a tad costly to have so many capable leaders exterminated out on those killing fields? It’s to build up nationalism, a leader people can get behind, everyone loves a Vet after all! People who are willing to give up everything for Lazora, those are the role models we churn out, and you’re just a cog in it!” Alan shook his head he may be right, but damn how is that any way to live, constantly thinking about all that extra crap it’s a wonder Will was able to keep a lid on it all. Alan’s kit buzzed and an alert flashed from it informing him of a meeting starting in the command center in five minutes. He cleared the alert and set towards the tent.
Will opened his eyes slowly, he could barely see through the darkness and for a split second he thought he might actually be back in his own bed and then his memory came to. I’m… somewhere… maybe the rendezvous and I was knocked unconscious by those bastards! Will shot up from the bed and nearly fell over from light-headedness startling Meredith in the process.
“Woah, easy there cowboy!” She called turning on a light
“Meredith?! Oh yes! You’re okay!” He enveloped her in his embrace
She smiled and laughed “You’re gonna squeeze the life out of me!”
“You have no idea how scared I was that I’d never see you again.”
“I was too.”
“Look I know it’s not exactly normal but after today I just need you to know… I love you.” He pulled away and looked deep into her eyes.
“I love you too.” They embraced again and kissed.
“So how was your trip, did they knock you out too… those assholes.”
“Nothing forceful, they just told me that this location was sensitive and couldn’t be compromised so they put a blindfold and noise cancelling headphones on me.” She said nonchalantly
“What the hell, why did they knock me out then?!” Will said angrily
“You should’ve seen the way your extraction team came in, the transport was in shambles, on fire in some spots, dents holes and one of the men on board was missing an arm! Maybe it would’ve been too dangerous to let you stay awake for the trip.” She consoled
“That bad huh? How long has it been since we arrived?”
“Oh I’d say maybe about two hours.”
“Anyone else make it back yet?”
“That’s the thing I wanted to tell you, I’ve got a bad feeling about this camp, no one has made it back yet. Normally I wouldn’t be worried but while I was walking around I overheard two of the soldiers arguing. It was something about not receiving any communications from command and that none of the other extraction teams were responding. The one sounded really scared Will, like hopeless kind of scared I don’t think he believes there’s a Lazora anymore.” She said nervously
“Shit, where are all the soldiers who came to get us now?”
“I’m pretty sure most of them are in the command tent, I know five of them took the transport you came in to dispose of it, they were saying its stealth was jammed and that made it more of a liability than asset… but like I said that was two hours ago, I’ve just been here waiting for you to wake up.”
“You’re right, I don’t like the sound of this either, we need to get out of here fast, do you know of anyone in your team who might’ve wanted to get out of here too, maybe that one who sounded scared?”
“Definitely not the one who sounded scared… but the lieutenant he might want to help us, he spoke very highly of you during our whole extraction.” She said optimistically
“Lieutenant huh? That’s weird normally those officer types are sticklers for the rules I couldn’t imagine one willing to go AWOL even considering the circumstances.”
“His name was Alan Green, he was really very polite way too nice for your typical soldier.”
“Ahhhh Alan, that’s our guy for sure we were good friends when I was on the wall. He gets it you know?”
“Whatever you say hun, I just think we should get out of here as soon as possible.”
“We will, we will, I just need to talk to him and we should be okay” Will said holding her close
Their embrace was cut short by the sound of shrieks and pulse rifle blasts outside the tent
“Damn it, they’re here already!” She yelped pulling away to peak her head outside the tent flaps.
“I don’t see anything, follow me I can get us to the command center, maybe the lieutenant will be there.” She took Wills hand and led him out of the tent. The short walk felt like a lifetime the camp was eerily inactive considering all the commotion occurring outside the perimeter.
“Hello, anyone there?” Will called as they entered the command center… no response
The center was set up quickly monitors were mounted all along the walls in a haphazard fashion. Some scrolling through code, others displaying radar like displays and communication diagnostics, several were displaying vital signs of the platoon…Only 12 signals they’ve already lost half their platoon thought Will. He began to sweat, the tables were unorganized, wires scattered all over, small reconnaissance drones sat in the corner of the room. Something that they weren’t ready for hit them hard, that’s the only reason why they would’ve scattered like this, jeeze this is one hell of a mess, I hope Alan is still out there. Suddenly an idea struck Will, he ran to one of the communication consoles and began mashing on the apparatus attempting to figure out a way to send Alan a message.
Alan was running through the woods back towards the camp, they had been overwhelmed almost instantly the men in the APC were intentionally kept alive as a trap. These tactics were far too sophisticated for any kind of feral warfare. The rebels didn’t have just civilians on their side Alan and his platoon were no doubt fighting their own comrades. Why did I insist on pulling off a rescue mission?! I’m so stupid, because of me we just lost at least five more soldiers on top of the ones who volunteered to derelict the APC. Alan felt tears begin to well in his eyes. No not now I can’t do this now, they still need me. Alan’s kit buzzed displaying a recording from Will.
“Alan we need you at the camp now! Meredith and I can hear the fighting going on outside the perimeter and it’s no longer safe here, we haven’t seen any of our soldiers, I think they’re trying to drive the enemy away. We need an escort to get us to a better location please we need you it’s only a matter of time before they get to the camp and breakthrough.”
Alan quickened his pace, shit shit shit those bastards are hitting the camp now?!?! And the platoon left them unprotected, what the fuck is going on? As Alan neared the camp he could hear the staccato bursts of the enemy lead based weapons along with the shrieks and cries of ferals being killed. He synthesized a pulse rifle and advanced cautiously endeavoring to not get caught in another trap. He saw the camp lights through the trees as he approached the perimeter, quickly checked left, then right and sprinted right through the perimeter, his nanomachine markers insuring his safety by local deactivation of the EM field where he crossed. Alan made a beeline for the command center and burst through the doors to find Will and Meredith standing by the communications consoles at the opposite end of the room.
“Damn am I glad to see you! What the hell is happening out there?” exclaimed Will
“We got overwhelmed, after a group went to derelict the APC they set a trap and we lost people, I got separated from the group, I was on my way to our rendezvous when I got your message, where’s the captain? He should be in here right now.” Alan said breathlessly
“Your guess is as good as mine.” The sound of mortar fire began to erupt around the camp, shockwaves shaking the monitors nearly off their hinges. “Look that really doesn’t sound good, we need to get out of here, please come with us we need your help.” Will said shakily
“Yeah we do this position is compromised, there’s a mountain not too far from here. It’s secluded, would give great comms reception and has plenty of hiding spots but we won’t make it far with just the three of us. I need to try to round up as many of our soldiers as I can before we head out.” Alan said calmly
“Fine call them up, but I guarantee you the longer we wait the worse our chances get” Will said frustrated.
Alan worked on the communications console and sent a message to the whole platoon directing them back to the command center for rendezvous before immediate evacuation of the site. He looked up at the monitors displaying the vital signs of his platoon. Fuck me 8 signatures left, pretty soon there won’t be a group to bring back together. Alan began pacing in the command center planning out his next move. Okay so we re-group, I’ll send someone to each turret while the rest of us head to the rations tent, stock up on supplies. We’ll pile it all on the westernmost side of the camp closest to the mountain. The turret operators will file off one at a time. We all grab as much as we can carry, power down the EM perimeter on a delay, the attacking forces will flood in and get trapped, then we make a dash for the mountain killing anything in our way. Alan looked up at Meredith and Will, they were scared but determined, he was too it was the first time he was ever in a real world scenario this dire. He looked over to the radar, 4 of his soldiers were coming in.
“Lets head outside we’ve got 4 people coming in.” Alan commanded
The incoming squad was in bad shape fatigued and hurt their armor was in tatters wet heavy and sticky with blood and sweat. Will didn’t recognize anyone from his extraction team and felt a pang of guilt for wishing ill fate upon them.
“Lieutenant we need to get out of here, we’re the only ones who made it out. The captain had us engage the enemy outside the perimeter in the hopes of scaring the ferals off and driving them away to open up a hole for the APC rescue team but it wasn’t just ferals out there. I identified two Lazoran soldiers fighting in the ranks with them.”
“Sargent, did you see the captain out there at all, anywhere?” Sighed Alan
“He…he took a shot to the leg on the way to the command center with us, he told us to go on without him. He wasn’t that far out, maybe about a 5 minute run there weren’t any enemies around him when he went down…” said the Sargent hesitantly.
Alan looked long and hard at the Sargent “Sargent I want you and the rest of the men to secure the perimeter each of you get on a turret, the doctor and his partner will start collecting supplies, I’m going to retrieve the captain.”
“Yes sir!” barked the Sargent
“Alan don’t do this, we need to go, look I know this is hard but he’s already dead and even if he weren’t he’ll slow us down too much. If you make us wait any longer more people are going to die, you need to cut your losses so more of us can survive.” Whispered Will.
“It won’t be long, don’t worry, these guys will have your back I’ll see you soon” Alan said coolly
Alan sprinted out of the perimeter into the woods in the direction of the injured captain. Each of the soldiers obeyed Alan’s orders and took position at the turret emplacements leaving Meredith and Will standing in the center of the camp.
“Well now what?” Meredith said annoyed
“I guess we just wait a little longer and collect some supplies, at least right now we’ve got a few soldiers watching our back.”
Meredith and Will were moving supplies from the tent for only a few minutes when the turrets began firing, a slow staccato at first which grew into a nonstop hailstorm. However, after a few minutes of firing the sound began to die out, one turret at a time until the camp went quiet. Meredith and Will froze in place in the center of the camp waiting for something to happen. When a soldier stumbled towards them from the north end of the camp leaning himself against the wall of the command center, he had a bloodied mangled stump where his hand should be, and a sword jammed into his abdomen.
“We’re fucked…I’ll try my best to take out as many of these bastards as I can…but we’re fucked, those bastards know what they’re doing, they used the bodies of our platoon mates to bypass the EM field… here’s some weapons.” The soldier said synthesizing two swords and tossing them to the couple.
Seconds later a group of ferals appeared from behind the barracks and charged at Will Meredith and the soldier, the group held their own for a time their superior size, fitness and covering fire from the downed soldier sustaining them. But the soldier was overcome by his wounds and the group of ferals seized the opportunity to strike. Will caught one in the face with his fist dropping it, but then another whacked him from behind. Meredith kicked and swat at them with a sword she found on the ground forcing them to keep their distance. Will went to kick another when he was caught in the back of the head by some metal object a feral had swung at him dropping him to the ground in a semi-conscious daze. He lay there for a few seconds attempting to regain control of his body but failing, when another feral kicked him in the ribs causing him to pass out momentarily.
Meredith’s cries for help brought Will back into the fight, he groped around on the ground until he found one of the lead based weapons dropped by a feral, it was heavy and compact, able to be easily held with one hand. Will searched his mind for the name of it… pistol, that was it! And how to use it again, there was a safety Will flipped the safety off and pulled the trigger… nothing… Damn it! What else was there, the uhh, the slide! Bullets need to be… chambered? Meredith’s screams were piercing his ears, his hand slipped as he attempted to pull back on the slide. A group of ferals had noticed him getting up and began sprinting towards him, Will fumbled with the gun, they were just within closing distance, another pull on the slide SHHCK, Will squeezed the trigger CRACK! The pistol jerked back in his hands as a bullet exited the chamber and lodged itself in the chest of a feral. CRACK CRACK CRACK! Click. Before he knew it the gun was empty but it served its purpose two ferals lay on the ground the rest fleeing from him and scattering. Will grabbed a magazine for the pistol from the ground and ran towards Meredith she was encircled by a group of ferals steadily encroaching on her as she bat wildly around at them with a sword she had picked up off the ground. Will’s hands searched the pistol until he found the magazine ejection mechanism and quickly swapped the fresh one in pulling back on the slide and yelling to get the ferals attention. Two from the circle of 6 looked up at him and began to approach unaware of his new weapon.
He walked slowly towards them defying the terror they tried to impose upon him. The ferals took note of his defiance and began to charge, Will leveled his pistol and fired off several rounds in their direction catching each in the abdomen and dropping them to the ground. Will continued to approach the group harassing Meredith blinded by rage, he had no plan was low on rounds. He had no idea what he would do but it would be something. Will called to Meredith telling her to fall to the ground, she obeyed and Will emptied his pistol into the crowd, he had their attention now. Several barreled towards him knocking him to the ground, he was desperately scrapping for his life now, through the flurry of fists and blood he saw Meredith being carried away.
He began to lose hope, the fight in him was diminishing he knew he was outnumbered and against hopeless odds. He took a kick to the ribs, a punch to the face, he was done he weakly swatted them away as they continued their assault. They had full control now and began to bind Wills hands when the attack suddenly stopped, no more punches, no more hands, will looked up through his tousled hair to see why they had stopped, but the attacking group was gone, he looked around to see several dead before him. A figure was approaching him from the shadows, it called to him, but he could barely hear it.
“Will….Will get up! Will….. we need to move!”
Will couldn’t make out the figure until it was pulling him up by the shoulders and removing the binding from his hands.
“Alan?” Will said hoarsely
“Yeah I’m here, I got you, follow me.” Alan soothed
“Fuck you” Will retorted before blacking out as Alan helped drag him away.
Will stood on an outcrop of the mountain they hiked up and looked out at the wall in the distance, then to the city now disheveled several prominent buildings missing from the skyline, then down at the remnants of their camp, now smoldering and in ashes. Alan approached him slowly.
“Will I’m…. I don-“
“Stop, I don’t want to hear it okay, Meredith’s gone those goddamn ferals have her and it’s because of you. Because you fucking left us for your precious captain who was dead anyway, we were overwhelmed from the start. The second that fence failed, the second those ferals didn’t get zapped you all should’ve known we needed to get out of there. There’s no honor in dying pointlessly, in holding a hill that literally serves no purpose, we needed to move! You of all people should’ve seen that, you’re not one of those stupid war monkeys!”
“I know, it’s just of all the people who could help us… the Captain … you’ve seen what he can do, he knows how to lead fighters, he knows how to win batt-“
“He’s a relic, obsolete leaders like him aren’t needed anymore” Scoffed Will
“What the hell are you talking about we need hundreds of leaders like him to fight off these rebels and ferals!” Snapped Alan
“Don’t you get it asshole? Fight for what? Lazora’s gone, we weren’t receiving any communication, the city is in shambles you can see the smoke from here. Oh and hey look at that! I can see smoke from other parts of the wall too, no doubt more breaches! That camp was built for a much larger rendezvous but only your platoon made it back…it’s over” Said Will throwing his head back and rubbing his temples
“It’s not over I can track these ferals, we’ll get Meredith back” Alan said solemnly and holding out his hand towards Will. He looked Alan up and down internally questioning his resolve they locked eyes for several moments and Will took Alan’s hand shaking it firmly.
“We’ll get her back” Will said with cold determination, he straightened up and looked over Lazora from the outcrop with fire in his eyes and vengeance in his heart.