Sign Up | Log In
BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
CAUTION – THIS STORY IS RATED NC-17. IT CONTAINS ALLUSIONS TO ONGOING POLITICAL VIOLENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST, ALLUSIONS TO THE 9/11 TERRORIST ATTACKS, ALLUSIONS TO WORLD WAR TWO AND OTHERWISE VIOLENT/GRAPHIC CONTENT. The Unification war begins, as seen by those who survive it.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 643 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Please note: While this story can be read on its own, it follows directly on from Part 2, having connections to part 1 and 3. Also, the Browncoat militia mentioned later in the peice are not the Browncoats, rather a grass-roots uprising of otherwise untrained civilians, sharing independence ideals.
Du-Khang reeled. It took mere minutes to spread the word, flowing like hot blood spilt on ice, a wildfire whipping across the city. The cortex thronged, massing with the stories, images, voices crying in pain, desperate for their own salvation from this most ferocious of melees. Violence, injury, death. A massacre of untold proportions previously understood only as the undertakings of some distant, vague world on the faltering edge of civilization. It could not be here. Not now. Not ever. Not even in the domain of the most fanciful dreams; the most disturbing, grave and grotesque nightmares plaguing ones slumber.
Broadcasters stalled regular viewing programs. The wireless reported on nothing else. City police across Du-Khang were activated. Fed squads on leave were activated. Two Alliance military spacecraft in deep orbital translation activated marine detachments, Gunboats streaking into atmo less than an hour after the violence begun in the cities heart. Missions and objectives were unset, but someone, somewhere felt the best situation was to put alliance boots on the ground.
Violence continued. Gunbattles raged. Rooftop snipers tore apart fleeing Feds. Cars rammed barricades. In the west of the city, a team of masked gunmen stormed the Mayoral offices and shot dead a security guard. Pulling the staff from the building, they set a petrol bomb and ran clear before the fireball engulfed the heritage building, wood splintering with heat, red brick scorched and twisted to an unrecognizable mass. The Mayors two children were upstairs at the time in the official residency, as was the Mayor herself.
Fires burned unattended, fire crews refusing to venture into the fray of the city. Schools released students early, walking home to find houses full of grave, solemn faces. Doors were locked; Double-Locked; as the Alliance word came down. Martial law was to be declared. Police raced to the Mayoral offices to find a building roaring in great towering licks of flame, finding the Mayor passed out on a mezzanine. Two officers were overcome by the smoke and heat of the extraction. One never left. The scotched body of the mayor was brought in to hospital in a dazed blur of consciousness. The vice-mayor could not be located. Somebody said he was involved in the 622 demonstration. There was no succession, no recognized rulers or leaders – at least none whom didn’t sting with the scent of Alliance – none the public would listen to. The elected government collapsed before the guns stopped firing.
And then everything went to shit.
Lucas pushed the radio volume higher as news of the attacks streamed in, fire bombings of police stations, against government installations. The AFID offices had a car punched through the front wall. He held his foot to the floor, the little tech squealing on the tight corners, pulling out onto the main road. Lucas turned, looking into the back of the little cabin over his shoulder, Johel’s hands and sleaves drenched in blood as he desperately fought the wound, pressing down hard upon the wheel of crimson spreading across her legs, oiling and thick, coating her white skin, silently seeping out onto the seat and into the foot well. Blood was everywhere. Lin’s face was going from white to grey. Johel felt little better.
“Where are we going man?!” Lucas yelled, hitting the volume knob to shut off the news stream. He made another corner, rocking the vehicle hard with the g-forces.
“Head for St Jeromes in Rockford. And move it man, she’s lost a lot of blood back here”. Johel’s voice was tainted with panic as he adjusted his hands, a small flick of blood pulsing from the wound before Johel could regain its control.
“Mercy West is closer man” Lucas called, violently swerving around a huddled group of pedestrians making them dance energetically for the curb.
“I know, and so do about a thousand other people at the moment. The best shot at saving her leg, let alone her life is to get her into surgery as soon as possible. They wont be about to put her in until they assess all casualties coming in, to see who is the most critical. St Jeromes is our best chance. Take this onramp”
Lucas swerved hard, the tech sliding through the corner before mounting the curb, engine gunning, tearing up onto the highway. A tech was silenced in the middle of the road, flame pouring from the cabin, burned out, windows shattered across the curb. The hungry grasp of the flames piles agains the side of there tech as they sped past, smoke obscuring the view ahead before they popped out onto the expressway. Johel used a knife to cut away Lin’s jeans, tearing up the seems as to reveal the wound fully. It looked like a dirty red burn at the centre of her thigh. There was blood all over, the nicked artery below pumping out the fluid in powerful beats, held in only by the oscillating pressure of Johel’s fingers.
“Timm. I need you to take this wound, okay? Take it and hold it hard. Can you do that buddy?”. Timm looked worried, his eyes still streaming with gunk and mucus. He reached down shakily and grasped the wound, Johel moving slowly, his hands withdrawing as Timm took his place. Lin’s eyes fluttered as Johel turned away. Sammy, lying in the footwell, saw her hand twitch, moving up to look into her eyes, thin slits barely capable of creating intelligible images.
“Lin! Lin, your going to be okay!” She croaked definitely, grasping her hand hard.
“W-what?” Lin was groggy, her world a streaming blur.
“We’re on our way to the hospital Lin. You’re going to be fine, I promise” Sammy was tearing up, lip trembling.
“Timm” Lin said slowly “Why do you have your hand on my thigh?” and then she added, waving her head around best she could “and where are my pants?”
Timm smiled with great pain. “Don’t worry Lin. We’ll be there in just a sec”. Uncharacteristic for the big, quiet bloke, to speak with such clear empathy.
“Okay. Ill see you then” Lin closed her eyes.
Johel tore her bloodied Jeans longways, pants becoming bandages. He wrapped them around the thigh, higher than the gunshot, twisting the ends in on each other and holding tight. The bloodflow began to ease.
“How bad is it Johel?” Sammy asked tentatively, her face full of effort as she strained to create the noises.
“Its bad.” He replied gravely, without looking up from his work “The bullet only nicked the major artery in the leg, so it’s bleeding a lot.”
“What do you mean, only?” Sammy queried, as if accusing.
“Normally, if you break the artery it’s kept with a bit of spring, like a rubber band or something, so it gets pulled up into the body while the end vasoconstricts, meaning it like pinches itself off, to stop the blood from escaping. If it’s only nicked though it can’t pinch off because it’s still intact.”
“What do we do then?” Sammy asked, wiping her tear filled eyes.
“Get her to a hospital”
Lucas flew down the highway, passing cars and trucks with exceptional ease, the city sprawled out around in all directions, great plumes of black smoke twisting into the sky, pouring from the Central business region and various other buildings scattered throughout the metropolis, pulpy white flames leaping at the bases.
“Slow down, we’re going to get pulled over” Timm shouted as four police skiffs rumbled over, headed downtown.
“First. I think the police are a little occupied at the moment. And second, we stole this tech, remember?” Lucas called back. He spotted the exit and made for it. The world beyond the vehicle distorted from a brilliant vista of the city scape sprawled below to the depths of the city as the tech shot down the exit ramp and onto the surface. The towering white walls of St Jeromes was only a few blocks distant, the tech blurring past it in seconds, slowing and pulling toward the emergency entry. A huge crowd was gathered there around an ambulance flyer parked in the open-air bay, a gurney wheeled from the vessel by EMTs handed to a waiting team of doctors, machines plugged over the patients body whirring and clicking with various screens and alarms. The crowd massed sideways as she was taken in, paparazzo photo equipment flashing down at the patient, boom mikes extended. Lucas hit the horn as he sped in, hitting the breaks hard as the crowd moved, but not fast enough, bringing the tech to a shuddering halt. He was out the front door, wrestling the rear handle open. Timm took Lin’s legs, Johel her body – his hands still clamped around the wound, blood tricking, slowly but continuously though his fingers – Lucas taking the weight of her head. Police were stepping from the crowd, guns drawn.
“Put the girl down and put your hands in the air” One of the officers shouted, his sidearm trained on Lucas. Lucas didn’t even react to him.
“Put the girl down, NOW!” The other officer demanded, his gun tracking Johel’s blood covered shirt. The three guys stopped, still cradling Lin between them, staring down at the police.
“She’s dying, she’s been shot!” Johel cried at them.
“Put her down and place your hands…”
“She’s dying! Can’t you see the blood!”
“Put your hands in the air…”
“What? You want us to put her down? In the Emergency entrance of a hospital whiles she’s got half of her blood volume smeared out over the inside of that tech.” Lucas screamed.
“Put her down, NOW! That is an order!”
“Fuck you! I’m not about to let her die!” Johel screamed furiously, calming suddenly “Every second we stand here she looses her chances of survival. Now you can bind us by law, or beat us up, or shoot us dead, whatever you want. Just let us get her inside. Please”
“Put the girl on the ground” The officer commanded.
“Oh god! Just let us go inside!” Sammy croaked at them, holding her throat. Without warning Sammy advanced toward them, as if unafraid, a very real game of chicken. One of the officers broke away from the others, raising his pistol and firing into the air. The gunshot was deafening, forcing Sammy back covering her ears, the crowd of paparazzi scattering, cameras flashing at the showdown.
“What the hell is this!”
A doctor, obviously quite senior by his tone, stood behind the police, his star burning into the backs of their necks.
“Lower your weapons officers, now! This is a hospital, and that is a patient. Let her in or I sware to god I will have you all arrested!” He demanded with intensity. Behind him the hospital security guards were forming up. Slowly, the police lowered their weapons.
The Doctors charged forward, Johel, Timm and Lucas releasing the weight of Lin onto a waiting gurney. A scrum of doctors and nurses hemmed in the stretcher, wheeling it toward the entrance, carrying Johel along with it.
“What happened to her?”
“She’s got a GSW to the thigh. It’s nicked but not sliced the artery, so you’ll need to do a pseudo- endothelium patch graft”. He stated, nonchalantly.
One doctor picked it “Med student?” Johel nodded.
One of the machines snapped into Lin’s chest screamed loudly, a shrill, electronic alarm.
“Get a Sustainer, now!” A doctor commanded. A nurse pulled a red kit from under the stretcher and layed in on Lin’s chest, uncoiling two long tubes from the topside, each ending with syringes, pulling the caps and directing them into the neck arteries. The machine was switched on, an artificial heart and lungs, albeit capable of sustaining her body for no more than ten minutes, until the lactic acid in her body, building up because of the lack of blood flow, began to attack her already weakened heart, lungs and brain.
The emergency team turned a corner, colliding with the swing doors of an emergency room theatre. One of the nurses put a hand on Johels chest, holding him back.
“We’ve got it” He said.
Lucas, Sammy and Timm pulled up behind him as the curtains closed on the operating room, leaving three bloodied, injured, dazed and exhausted people standing in the triage of a buzzing hospital, searching for what to do next.
Johel lay face-in against the wall, letting it take his weight, his forehead against the cold concrete, hiding his face from the light. The shirt was too small for him, but it was the only one the hospital staff could fin at such short notice before the real casualties started to flow in. Gunshot wounds spewing blood. Shrapnel. Gas inhalation. Car crashes. Nurses were frantic, trying to find places for them all, categorise them into severity, EMTs streaming in and out, diverting patients to hospitals further removed. Doctors were called in from shifts off. The theatres ran non-stop.
“A few hours” Johel said into the communicator. The video stream was down, only audio. “The vascular surgeon said he should be able to repair the artery, but she lost a ton of blood on the ride here”
“Yes mum, I’ve had something to eat…”
“I’m not sure. I might stay here tonight. I haven’t thought about it”
“Lucas’ dad has a place out in Hallow, he’s out of town. There, maybe”
“I can’t mum. It’s semester. I-I can’t come back”
“What do you…?”
“I’m not going to leave mum. Lin’s really sick right now”.
“No, I think you should. I you think you can get to Osiris that’s fine, but i…”
“I’m not leaving”
A moment, longer than the others. Johel became tense against the handset.
He hung up without replying.
The doctors lounge was a comfortable little space, much devoid from the harsh antiseptic white of the hospital floor, and empty except for Timm and Sammy sitting in each others arms. Lucas had been able to scrounge some eye-wash for Timm, and his eyes had begun to clear up, at least becoming recognisable. Sammy’s throat was still horse, but she wasn’t gasping any more, at least. Lucas had been recruited by some nurse to assist in categorising patients. Johel knew for a fact Lucas had started medicine to get in with some hot nurses. Everyone had to start somewhere.
The small, flat viewscreen buzzed in the corner as Johel collapsed into a couch, some local broadcast. It showed a stream from some newscaster Aerostat gazing down over the riot, a tight knot of protestors. He saw the first Molotov thrown, a glisten of fire. Gunfire afterwards, bursts of flame. Bodies went down. The crowd immediately lost its cohesiveness, disseminating into a chaotic rabble. He saw the motorcade advance toward the building, roof still burning, feds standing back to back around it, spraying outward in flickering swathes. A ticker ran across the base of the screen, reading “Fifty killed and three-hundred injured in downtown riot”. The stream flickered back to a presenter.
“Shocking scenes just a few moments ago in the downtown districts. As we have previously stated, hospitals and officials have reported at least fifty deaths so far, and three-hundred injured but this is expected to sharply rise over the next few hours. The mayor has been rushed to hospital after her offices and residencies were torched, and we have received no official communications from either the Alliance or the Local government. Local police have issued a general statement for all to stay calm, to exercise restraint and caution, and to return to their homes and keep the cortex active.”
Sammy hit the remote, sending the viewscreen to blackened silence.
“How is she?”
“Nothing new” Johel said “We won’t know for a few hours. You guys should go home”
“No way” Timm said “Not at the moment. What are you going to do?”
“Stay here I guess. Do what the doctors say.”
“Lucas said we could stay at his dads, go back for our stuff when things settle down” Sammy said. She was still crying slightly, and her eyes were almost as bloodshot as Timm’s.
The door swung open, the thunderous rumble of the hospital wards, PAs and doctors feet clipping on the hospital floor flooding in as a figure entered, suddenly catching sight of the three in quiet discussion.
“Im sorry, I can go”. He was a younger, tall guy with a camera around his neck, one of the photographers from outside.
“No, its fine mate. Come in” Johel beckoned he enter.
He sat on a chair opposite and started fiddling with his camera, a powerful-looking professional thing, calling up the pictures on the small state-screen on the rear. The three looked at him.
“Who was being brought in outside?” Timm asked finally, recognising the photographer from the mob of journalists at the entrance.
“The Mayor. She doesn’t look to good either. I’m Marc by the way”
They exchanged pleasantries.
Sammy asked “Have you heard anything else?”
“No. It looks like its pretty bad out there. Where were you guys?”
Johel looked to the others “We were at the rally at Corpus. My girlfriend got shot”
“Is she okay?” He asked with genuine concern.
“She should be, with any luck”
“I know this might not be the right time, but do you guys want to do an interview about it? You’re the first people I’ve been able to find who were there who can still talk”
Sammy and Timm nodded.
Clips from the interview ran for three days afterwards, three dazed and battered kids, singed at the edges, still clearing away the last of the blood and mucus as they talked about the riot, the gunshots and the bloodshed.
That night the siphon of bloodied and injured continued to flood the hospital wards with the moans, shrieks and cries. Johel took over from Lucas, who was more exhausted than his own words could express, Timm and Sammy driving as he directed them to his fathers apartment. Johel stayed at the hospital for the night, until the surgeon appeared, sombre but victorious.
“She’s going to be fine. The graft is holding strong, and we’ve got her on pain-killers and artificial blood supplements.”
Johel almost kissed him.
“In the meantime, we simply don’t have the space for her. She’s stable, and it looks like you and your friend would know what to do if something goes wrong with her. The biggest killer for her right now will be infection. Ive got her on two of Ivoprovalyn, which will fight it the best she can, but the best place for her right now is out of this hospital” The doctor told him, his voice firm but reassuring.
Johel took a pneumatic injector and four vials of Ivoprovalyn from the medvault, as well as new bandages and dressings. Lucas, Timm and Sammy pulled back up in the Tech the next morning and stretcher bared her into the back seat, cautiously winding there way back to Lucas’ apartment. There was an air of calm and restraint to the second day, as both sides counted there injured. Some heard talk of massive formations of anti-alliance meeting in the warehouse district, donning body armour and rifles from the cities vaults, all covered by thick, brown coats, shaving there heads bald. Arrests came. So did more violence. On the fifth day Timm and Sammy drove the stolen tech a few blocks from the apartment and dumped it. No one ever came knocking.
Lin slept, one of the side effects of the drugs. In the fleeting moments she was awake, Johel gave her soup and water. It would take time, but with the blood she had and the supply of nutrition, bandages and drugs saw her transition from chalky white to soft pink.
Lucas and Johel started practicing as medics down at the hospital, alongside nurses, treating the otherwise sick who’s ailments paled in comparison to the gunshot and burn victims; sick kids and the elderly. It also gave them access to Medical and food supplies, which were being flown in daily sister hospitals in provincial cities.
The apartment was a third story loft with two bedrooms, kitchen, tiny bathroom and lounge room, squashy for five people, especially after Timm and Johel made the run back to University to retrieve clothes and belongings from the residencies. On the journey in Lucas’ dad’s rusty old Mule, they began to get a full picture of the devastation unfolding. This was not an isolated event followed by aftershocks. What had been a riot-turned-ugly had become a rebellion. Brown flags fluttered from windows, from flag posts. Anti-Alliance, anti-622 and pro-independence graffiti was scrawled across the sides of buildings, kids and adults combined in the vandalism in plain daylight. Police stations lay as abandoned, burned out husks, and received the most graffiti of all. Skinhead gangs of Browncoats ruled the streets, keeping relative calm. Occasional skiffs overhead received shouts of abuse and the sporadic thrown bottle, always smashing down a few meters away. A few received gunshots.
Great sections of the city had burned unabated; Smoke stained the air a dirty grey. Families without homes wandered through the streets, faces tarred. There was word of refugee camps filling the parks and schools, massing tents and marquees, some reduced to nothing but blankets and tarpaulins. Food was scarce.
The University was buzzing. Most of the students were from the provinces, or from other worlds entirely. These were the only homes they had. The streets crawled with them, food supplies and medical rations being taken by ensemble student armies out into the refugee camps. A huge water purifier had been assembled by some science and engineering students, filling pales destined for the camps in the Central park above. As Tim and Johel ransacked there own apartment for clothes, Jewelry, medical supplies and food they looked out over the bustling plaza, toward the great hall. Tech and Mules rumbled through the cavernous entrance, towing boxes on trailers. One emerged hauling a huge, Kaki - green artillery piece.
“What the…Johel, take a look” Timm’s mouth gaped.
“It’s from the vaults. I hear they’ve got enough stuff down there to fight a war”
“What for?” Timm asked, searching for a possible explanation.
“To fight a war. Government has to be able to enforce the peace if it needs to. Once upon a time, the Alliance didn’t exist out here. It all got packed away into storage years ago. I hear they’ve got everything down there. Missiles, Rollers, Rovers. It’s the lifeblood of the Independence fighting campaign system wide.”
Timm and Johel told the others what they had seen as they unloaded supplies: boxes of candles to supplement the intermittent and often non-existent power; anti-bacterial tabs for the water collected from the river, now the only source of water for about twenty-thousand refugees; plus Kerosene for the little camping stove. All were silent when they heard of the guns and artillery. This wasn’t just violence, to be quelled by an Alliance Law enforcement force any day now. This was going to be war.
Lucas scrolled up the volume. It was a local news report, young woman behind a desk reading from a teleprompter in solemn tones.
“The death toll from the wave of anti-Alliance violence continues to rise tonight, with another twenty-three separatist fighters killed after sustained gun battles with government forces throughout the city. The heaviest fighting was in the cities east, in the exclusive Clearsheimer shopping districts, where gunmen seized control of a local mall, Federal troops responding with overwhelming force. While Alliance officials banned cameras from entering the cordoned off zone, these pictures posted on the cortex clearly show the Alliance military using all methods available to them to destroy and capture the fighters. So far, since the fighting begun almost two full weeks ago, three-hundred and twenty have civilians have died and thousands have been injured, with Alliance sources indicating only four deaths and twenty-six injuries have been recorded, although independent sources report as many as thirty Federal troops have been killed since the fighting begun. Alliance sources described the huge civilian death toll as unfortunate, not going so far as to call the deaths a mistake.”
Lucas flipped to another channel. A current affairs talk show. Three academic types, a University lecturer, a Editor of a system Newsprint and a senior advisor, all sitting around a large table discussing there opinions on the violence.
“No, what I’m saying is this is an entirely different type of violence than say, on Shadow or Siachen, or Newhall or Greenleaf right now. Here we’ve got sporadic criminal acts, looting, vandalizing of public property. There we see full scale military engagements between a well organized militia, independence fighters from across the system, and Alliance forces.” The Advisor said steadfastly.
“I think its impossible to divorce the idea that this violence will not begin to cause a grass-roots militia uprising, especially when we see almost exactly the same set of circumstances; a large scale public demonstration becoming violent; on Greenleaf and other worlds.” The Editor rebutted with equal conviction.
The Lecturer backed her up: “I think Margaret’s right Stave, and I think its exactly what the Alliance are scared of right now, with there military already stretched across the border, fighting at least fifteen engagements simultaneously at the farthest reaches of there projection capacity, they cannot afford another front opening up here on Sihang. When you look at the Alliance response to the violence, Gunboats landing in Central park less than an hour after the first broadwaves, you can clearly see the Alliance does not see this violence as merely disconnected criminal acts, and neither should we”.
Lucas flicked it.
“And in Interplanetary news; Alliance sources report more Independence atrocities on the moon of Regina. Receiving these images just moments ago, the Alliance tag reports of the discovery of almost two-hundred bodies found burned and buried in shallow graves, most of them children. For more on this, we now cross to Rado Sampton, who recorded this just a few hours ago”
The image flickered from a blurry, black and white video pan over blackened bodies probed with flashlights to a reporter standing on a balcony over a small, dusty city, sun beating down hotly upon his tanned skin.
“Regina has been rocked by another tragedy today, as the remains of almost two-hundred are discovered outside the township of Hancock, many of them children. This news comes just a week after the discovery of a smaller mass grave containing the remains of a church congregation, tied together and dumped in large steel cages in a local dam. Stories of these atrocities become less published every day as the death toll continues to rise. However sources within the Independent faction and obtained exclusively by IPSN revealed this document, citing that such atrocities against civilians would be counter-productive for the independence faction, and that reported atrocities are either grossly exaggerated, misinformed, or complete fabrications on the part of the Alliance military. The Alliance failed to respond to such accusations.”
The images rolled in of the massacres, brutalized bodies fished from creek beds. It changed to the fighting itself, artillery guns pounding, rollers and rovers tearing over mountainsides, skiffs overhead.
“Fighting continues unabated through the day, with Independence forces pushing back early Alliance victories in this new month of fighting, taking the towns of Gregory and Risten. While this area is known be highly pro-independence, no Brown flags fluttered from windows today as Alliance artillery pounded areas outlying these communities, destroying water collection and power generation infrastructure.”
“Turn this off” Lin said, standing in the bedroom doorway, holding the doorframe to steady herself, keeping the weight off the bandaged leg.
“Lin!” Sammy was on her feet, hugging Lin before she had chance to react.
Lucas and Sammy helped Lin to the Couch, fetching her a drink and food. The kitchen cupboards were stuffed with ration boxes, taking some biscuits.
“What’s going on?” Lin asked lazily, lying her head back. The drugs were still pumping through her.
“It’s really bad. The executive apparatus on Londinium has authorized Martial law here, but the military haven’t got the numbers to enforce it. There sending troop carriers from the front”
“When?” Lin asked
“There set to arrive in the next few days” Sammy stated.
“Where’s Johel?” Lin asked, just a quickly.
Johel and Timm strode into the lounge room, Johel cradling a large wooden semi-automatic rifle in his arms, along with a few boxes of ammo. The figure of him standing there, suddenly shocked by Lin’s presence, was imposing.
“What the hell is that?” Sammy asked.
“It’s a rifle. Johel, Timm and I had a chat about it and we came to the point it would probably be a better idea to have it than not. Especially if the hospitals collapse. They’re the only thing running this city at the moment” Lucas said.
“Hey” Johel said, flabbergasted “You’re awake”
“I am” Lin smiled.
Johel gave the gun and bullets to Lucas and lent in, hugging Lin tightly.
“Okay” Lin announced, still staring longingly into Johel’s eyes “Tell me everything”
Night came again. Out the bedroom window the Hallow park was plainly visible, huge flaming barrels skirted with huddled masses. It hadn’t snowed in about a week, but the nights were chilling. Every morning a body would be found, old man or young child in the camps, frozen by the cold. There was some talk of moving the weakest into the school gymnasium, which had not seen a class for two weeks, but it was already packed with families escaping the chill.
The power was off overnight, again. In the candle lit Kitchen the five sat around a small table, chewing down on beans heated on the Kero stove, drinking water tainted with the liquorish-like taste of the anti-bacterial tabs. Johel and Lucas chatted and shared stories about some of the people they had met during their day, stories from the city over. Sammy had started volunteering down at the camps, handing out rations, sending the sick on to the hospital. Timm came too, although his work was far more menial, unloading heavy crates from wagons full of donated clothes. Lin stayed home, still healing, visited regularly by the other four as often as they could, Johel and Lucas passing often as they were directed to the bedridden, the sick and recovering, checkups of children and parents. Bacteria was seeping in, making people distressingly unwell. Johel stressed the importance of boiling water, but few had the equipment.
Out of all of them, Lin often had the most to say. At about mid-day the power would often come back on for a few hours, while the others were out, and Lin could catch up on news via the Cortex and viewscreens. Each time she would write down the happenings, what was being done, and would brief the others at the end of the day. Today, reports consisted of ships from other Independent-minded worlds landing in the city, possibly rendezvousing with existing anti-alliance elements. Clearly, suggestions of Independence commanders beginning to organize the skinhead militia into a fighting force were made. The rest of the meal was eaten in silence.
The group rose with the rising sun, hearing the tolling of the three great towers, adding some resembling sense of normality, all eating breakfast and discussing the new days possibilities. There was frantic knocking on the door. Everyone fell silent.
Lucas reached to the top of the cupboard and pulled down a pistol, cocking it.
Johel whispered “Where’d you get that?”
“It was here. Must be my dads” Lucas returned.
The five of them advanced to the front door, leading into the lounge, taking up positions. Johel stepped out and finally opened the door.
“You’re here!” Marc announced, stepping inside. He immediately noticed the gun in Lucas’ hand. “Another bad time?” He asked.
“What’s going on?” Johel asked, his heart beginning to slow.
“You seen the news?” Marc asked, obviously distressed, his voice arching and shaky.
“Powers out here” Sammy replied.
Marc responded by snatching out his state-screen, the cortex logging on. Immediately it began to stream, images and voices from somewhere in the city, cackling gunfire and smoke, people running.
“Where is this?”
“It just happened, in Sudbury. The Feds announced they were going to move in on problem neighbourhood in an attempt to restore order, and this is what happened”. His hands were shaking badly. Johel took the screen from him to hold it still.
The video played, a reporter standing before a public housing block, jeeps and military half-tracks swarming with Fed troopers around her as more charged in to the buildings. Marc scrolled the sound up.
“The military have announced an investigation of recent violence against Alliance and public facilities has led them here, to Project 61 in the Sudbury district…”
“Ta ma duh” Timm breathed. Sammy hit him.
“No, look” he said, pointing into the small screen “We’ve been there. That’s Kal Beetam’s place, you know, the guy from work.”
The picture played forward. “We received confirmation that Police and military personnel have begun their assault” The reporter said anxiously.
Cackles of gunshots filled the air. The camera wobbled off centre, catching only the reporter’s head as they ducked and spun, staring into the project. A window shattered. Purple smoke canisters belched out sting gas. The air was filling with the cloudy residue. The cackling gunfire intensified, resounded through the smog, bright flashes jumping from muzzles all over amplified like headlights though fog. Soldiers were taking cover as jeeps took shots, deep metallic snaps as lead hit steel. The reporter made for cover, the image shaking as the cameraman repositioned. The image zoomed into the interior courtyard of the building, though a wide glass atrium.
More shooting. Soldiers were held together behind large, metal anti-riot shields, sparkling with glints of incoming fire ricocheting away. They returned fire, great bursts into the apartments around them.
People were running from the building, mothers with children, fathers cradling the fallen and injured. Fed troops were forcing them to the ground, down on their bellies, spread eagle. Even the children were searched. Attack dogs sniffed them for gunpowder residue. All were loaded into huge, waiting police vans, cuffed and hooded. A small child broke off from the fray, sprinting away. The dogs reached him in seconds. Lin was forced to look away as the animals lunged into the child, a crumpled mass of black on the ground, the animals seething across it.
“Jesus”, the cameraman was heard to remark, the camera shaking back to the building, the man obviously holding low behind a parked police vehicle. The voice was hard to recognize, but belonged to Marc. Purple smoke was pouring from the building now, mixing with grey and black from a lower story window. The window suddenly cracked open, smoke and flames bellowing out, raining debris upon Feds who ran for cover, shielding there faces from the deluge.
One of the upper story windows burst open, an elderly woman screaming for help as the smoke began to pour into her apartment. Attention swung to the next window, similarly bursting open, a balaclava-wearing gunmen leaning out and firing hard into the street. Police used sidearms to return fire, pocking the concrete with shuddering jabs. An officer went down screaming, clutching his chest. Others dragged him to cover. Behind the gunman, a second hooded and masked attacker leaned out sporting a long tube over one shoulder – a Blowdart launcher – and trained it in on a police car. A second later the car detonated in an awesome fireball, lifting the car from the road and slamming it onto its side.
The image went dead for a moment, then recovered a few seconds later. It showed the depth of the purple fog, two soldiers in combat gear and huge rifles holding there position, silhouetted against the weight of this artificial fog. Suddenly, the shadowy outline of a young woman carrying her child became visible, solidifying as she advanced. Innocent, scared for her life and that of her daughter. So vulnerable in this her moment of need. One of the soldiers raised his rifle, bearing it on the woman. His demands were silent to the image.
A moment later the rifle fired, a pulse of white. The figure fell limp to the ground. In a second the tiny figure of the infant stood, trying desperately to rouse the woman. The two federal soldiers trained their weapons to the sobbing infant daughter, as if the child is somehow a threat to them. She raised her chubby little arms and stumbled toward the soldiers. Johel couldn’t watch it. He closed his eyes, and a moment later the infant girl lay dead against the tarmac. He was hyperventilating, his knuckles white, crushing down on the screen. Lucas grabbed it from him before it snapped the case, the image floating there, the crumpled body of an innocent child butchered for…for what? Johel couldn’t believe it, couldn’t explain it, couldn’t understand it. He turned, doubling over as he found himself having trouble standing, then rushing to the bathroom, hands clutching the sink, still breathing with heavy, gasping chokes. He could hear Lin outside, crying loudly. He looked up, into the mirror, staring back at his own image. His entire world changed, swirling, massing above him, crashing down on his conscious. His mind screamed: Killer. He heaved, the vomited steadily into the vanity.
Johel emerged from the bathroom after a time, finding the four others and Marc all sitting on the couches in total silence. The cortex buzzed, them all transfixed by it, drawn into it.
“Federal Authorities have expressed regret of the raid, but the commander in charge of the operation announced that soldiers acted within the acceptable actions of Federal troops, given the situation” A voice declared, over repeating images of the raid. It changed to a Senior military official surrounded by a horde of microphones.
“Yes, all deaths are regrettable, civilian or criminal, but the aforementioned incident relating to the death of a child is part of our soldiers training and operating procedures. You see, the Separatists don’t always play by the rules, and our soldiers have been attacked in the past by children with explosive devices on worlds across the system. Our review committee are looking at this particular incident and our operating procedures constantly, and we will consider any recommendations our review committee present.”
Someone shut off the cortex, Johel didn’t care who, slumping next to Lin quietly. She had been crying. She touched his knee, whispering into his ear: “Are you okay?”
He shook his head, trying hard to control his breathing.
They sat like that for most of the morning, in total, reverent silence.
That night the Alliance landed. Sixteen rents of light opened across the night sky, slicing the heavens with white cuts from zenith to horizon. Landing ships, gunboats, troop carriers, cargo haulers, all rcoketing into atmo with colossal speed, burning with furious fires screaming from there underbellies. And then, with equal speed, the airwaves went dead. Browncoat militia employed technicians to check the cortex broadcast station. There was nothing wrong with it. The problem lay elsewhere.
It was in the air.
There were noises of movements in the forest beyond the city. Rollers and Rovers. No one knew precisely how many soldiers the Alliance would send. A brigade was the consensus. A division maybe.
Waves from some of the villages in the forest flowed in; children sighting skirmisher squads sweeping through. The final reports always came upon the threshold of it, as the rumble of the rollers came near, the skiffs ever closer, the calls and shouts of infantry, then…nothing. Like a blanket moving across the land, everything it covered turned to silence, until all that was left was the lands they could see, the vast plains before the city, scouts atop the great towers ever vigilant before the coming of the storm.
A tech pulled into the street before Lucas’ dad’s apartment heading west, its headlamps burning through the freezing night, and then exploded.
The blast came from above, a orb of white light growing and collapsing in a microsecond, blast wake rippling outwards from the seething core with colossal force, ripping the tech into a sea of confetti. Everything it touch turned to debris, shattering every piece of brick, concrete and plaster in a single, cataclysmic detonation, showing the air with dust and rubble shards. The force blew passes by to on there backs from one hundred yards, shattering every window in the entire neighbourhood, the stentorian release boring a ten foot hole into the asphalt roadway under its immense weight, collateral energy rocking the apartment block into a blur, knocking Sammy off her feet. Timm grabbed her wrist as the five ran to the window, staring down into the pathway as the bonnets of techs parked dozens of meters away rained down, ripped from there respective vehicles, alarms squawking. Johel stared down into the street, where road had been, and a tech. Wiped from existence.
“Go-Se” Lin announced loudly “What was that?!”
A high pitched whistle, then a second blast threw them to the ground.
“Shell attack! We’re being bombarded!” Lucas cried, crawling forward through the broken glass and scatted debris. Johel grabbed Lin’s head and held it to his chest, pushing his bulk against a wall.
“Does this place a have a basement?” He shouted over the rumble of a third strike, this one further distant, only causing a slight tremble to rippled through the superstructure.
“Yes, its in the basement!” Lucas said, scrambling to his knees. The others followed him adrenaline and fear pushing them, out into the passage, passing others on the way down, a frantic rush. The bottom door was alarmed but didn’t go off as Lucas slammed through it, into the large, dark machine space under the complex. The five of them huddled into the corner as more sprinted in, buoyed by further impacts, low, aggressive thuds on the landscape.
The roof shook but held with every one, a mist of dust dancing out with every strike. The only light came from one mans quick thinking, grabbing a battery powered torch a second before escaping the deluge. For hours it seemed to stretch on, sometimes thuds close by, sometimes distant, all gut-wrenching.
And then it stopped, without announcement.
Time passed. Finally;
“What should we do?” Lin’s voice came through the black.
Consensus was constructed slowly: Lin couldn’t go far, and Sammy didn’t want to leave her; they needed to hold down and clean up the apartment. Timm wanted to check out the camps in Central park, where the unofficial Browncoat command sat, and Lucas would go with him to render any medical assistance needed. Johel would return to the hospital.
But none moved for five minutes, silently psyching themselves for the world beyond the basement.
On the walk over, Johel saw several impact scars from where the shells had come in, shattering rooftops, splitting the faces off buildings. There were injured in the streets, dragging themselves toward the hospital as best they could manage, the crowds of mangled and bleeding thickening as the hospital came into sight. St Jermone’s wards were awash with blood from the moment Johel arrived. Somebody had obviously dragged a blast-mutilated carcass up the ramp leading to the triage, a long oily streak of gore leading into the chaos of the fray.
What lay within was horrifying.
Bodies were unrecognisable, less skin than gristle, wrapped in plastic and covered with clear tubes slarked with bodily fluids. There were people being dragged in without legs. Children missing arms. One man entered with glass shards sticking from his crimson soaked eye socket. A woman pulled up in a Mule, stepped out and collapsed to the pavement; somehow she had driven to the hospital with half of her skullcap missing. Too many times did people rush in holding in there own entrails with plastic shopping bags, or just there own arms.
At one stage during the night Johel had stepped into the empty washroom to change his scrubs, these ones filthy from drying splatters of ichor and carnage, washing his hands, feeling that the blood was refusing to leave his skin. He wiped it from his face and arms, scrubbing a flek of it from his chin so hard it began to grow painful itself, finally setting against the ground and weeping in long painful, private sobs. He had seen too much of it; the pain of it. He just needed to get out, for five minutes, breathe the air not soaked with the stench of flesh and antiseptic and the moaning wails of the mortally wounded. Get out of the blood, sticky and hot, clinging to everything it touched, impossible to scrub off. And so Johel balled up, knees into his chin, closed his eyes and cried.
Lucas and Timm blurred through the city, careful to take the surface roads, weaving through the twisted urban geography, headlights guiding the path. Occasionally they would have to back track and find alternative routes, roads cut with shell gouges or the crumbled remains of buildings listed onto their faces, hemmed in by family and friends vainly digging on hands and knees, for the hope of finding there loved ones.
As they headed into the city core, the impact craters became less frequent, more and more obvious that the Alliance was not aiming, simply trying to hit the city as best it could. There was no forethought to there tactics. Churches were down. Schools had great furrows gouged into there rooftops. No strategy. Or perhaps that was the strategy; make everyone believe that they truly could be next. Timm pushed his foot in further, tearing for the Park.
The refugee camp had doubled in size in just a few hours. Even those still with homes had come here, sensing that the safest place was a far from the outskirts as possible. Browncoat militia units were moving in military units, occasionally resembling the order actual military units achieved. A long way from watching it on the viewscreen to doing it in real life. A few injured had arrived here, clutching hideous, gaping wounds. Some sections of the city had taken anti-personnel rounds, unlike the normal explosive type, detonating on a barometric trigger and showering the ground below with about fifty steel flechettes, two-and-a-half inch long darts peppering the terrain. Of the small hospital that had been established, mostly just tending to the sick or enfeebled, Lucas was the most highly trained medical staff on hand, with his three years of med school. He helped the best he could manage.
Timm helped directing newcomers into welcome areas of the camp, talking to some of the militia leaders organizing the cities defenses. Already artillery was in position, sighting the Alliance positions along the forest border as Rollers and Rover sped across the plains. They walked along the side of administrative buildings within the University plaza, past a makeshift prison filled with pro-alliance, a few battered and bloodied federals and some ordinary criminals from throughout the city, caught for committing assault or stealing medicines and making others buy them back.
He was there when the second barrage begun.
The scout saw it, atop the great towers, rushing to there Klaxons. All within earshot ran for cover upon the shrill tone, the horizon bubbling with blasts as the rockets fired. They breached the city walls in minutes, spearing over the repugnant remains of the smoldering city, slamming into the heart of the city in bright throbs of energy. They hit the towers of the built-up downtown, mighty edifices reduced to smoking ruins. They hit the park, grooving into the unkempt lawns and gardens. They hit the refugee camp with hideous strikes, scoring the earth with craters full of mangled body pieces of the dead, the screams of the still barely living. One missile hit the university hall.
It only took one.
Timm watched as the great halls crumbled under the weight of the white fire, blossoming and dying, the beat of force assaulting the great stone bricks, shattering the roof in long splinters of dust and rock. With the keystones gone, the buildings collapsed in slow motion, a drawn out death undeserved of such a place: a place of untold fortune and worth. The cloud of dust that escape in the final bellow of the destruction raced out from the threshold, thick grey dust and ash – ash from a thousands burning books – thrown across the city, the structure waning, grinding and shrieking, then pulling in on itself, down upon itself, until there was nothing left but ground-rock and the shattering of a million dreams.
Lin and Sammy watched the devastation live as power was regained in the city shortly following the second attack. Aerostats beamed out pictures of burning bodies and tents blown but the hideous gusts. The sat and prayed for the safe return of Lucas and Timm, hearts low, somehow already wary of the brutal truth.
A knock came on the door. Sharp raps.
Sammy opened it in tears.
Lucas came home, dusty, shaken, streaked in gore.
And above the sky again burned, more rents opening as ships cut through atmo in brilliant, carving streaks, plowing toward the cityscape.
The Independents had arrived.
Our Angels come from the sky
When the great halls burn
The rivers run broken
The children cry
The parents cannot comfort them
When the towers fall
And great tolls come no more
And all that we are
All we lived and loved and were
Faded in the dying light
Our Angels come from the sky
You must log in to post comments.
OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR
All FIREFLY graphics and photos on this page are copyright 2002-2012 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.
All other graphics and texts are copyright of the contributors to this website.
This website IS NOT affiliated with the Official Firefly Site, Mutant Enemy, Inc., or 20th Century Fox.