So first time uploading anywhere. Constructive criticism appreciated.
It’s a Monday. The hardest day of the week, and the most dangerous. On Mondays, traders come from the other provinces into ours. That means soldiers running around, which means checkpoints.
For several decades now, earth has been ruled by a totalitarian government, styling itself as the “New United states”, only with provinces. These provinces ended up being giant cities, sitting in domes, from back when huge swaths of the earth were irradiated. Hundreds of years ago, a nuclear war broke out. Things were rough for awhile.
But then the inventors came, a family who developed radiation shielding, and was able to travel, building giant city states wherever they went. Each city state was ruled by a Dictat, put in place by the inventors.
They were our saviors, but also our downfall. Almost two hundred years later, a descendant of the inventors got it into his head that he wanted to unite the city states.
Great idea, right? Wrong. He wasn’t completely sane, and decided that using nuke on the less agreeable cities was a good idea. So he blew up the rest of earth, and his uncle had to come in and save us.
But that uncle wasn’t really sane either, and we ended up with a totalitarian government ruling all the states, now called provinces. The uncle had all the Dictats killed, and replaced them with his own people.
Then he locked himself in a tower, and no one saw him again. Some say he’s still alive, just living up in the tower, but I can’t believe that. It’s been three hundred years since he set up the “United Provinces of Earth”.
For the first two hundred fifty years, we were all right. Everybody was just happy to be safe from radiation. Then some scientist figured how to clean the radiation out of the world, in the process rebuilding the Ozone layer. Poor guy, he meant well, but he was a threat.
The Military, as the UPE was being called at the time went after him. Luckily, he had some powerful friends. He was spirited away to some rebel base (then a particularly unpopular movement) where he put his plan into action. Our world was cleaned of radiation over the next thirty years or so, and the people increasingly lost faith in the UPE.
And so, being crazy dictators, whoever the current leader was dropped a nuke (more like five, but no one could tell) on the rebel stronghold, killing almost all of them, and our scientist savior. Problem was, that stronghold was located in a Province, and they leveled that province.
Naturally, there were survivors, and you can guess they were pretty mad. So the rebels got an influx of soldiers. But their leadership was all dead, so they were losing, and badly.
That’s when their current leader rose to power. No one knows much about this guy, only that he uses these crazy Katanas, and hates the government. We don’t even know his face, we just see pictures of a man in a black helmet on wanted posters.
This guy isn’t squeamish, and endorses sudo-terrorism. Rebels can blow things up, as long as the target is mostly military. Basically don’t target only civilians, mix it up.
That’s where me and my brother come in. We’re twins, haven’t spent a day apart.
Our family and us were out one day (we were what, maybe sixteen, seventeen?). Anyways, a rebel bomb goes off, and drones, these two meter tall humanoid robots, dropped into the street. My parents scrambled, running off with our sister. We never saw them again.
The entire street was leveled in that firefight, and it’s a miracle we survived. Since then, we’ve been working guard duty at a store right next to the dome’s entrance.
As we’re doing today. It’s been normal so far, but just now the Military stopped a truck. Last time that happened, a bunch of rebels shot up the store we guard. Gotta be careful.
“Jayor,” I say, nodding toward the car. We both pull our pistols, checking the magnetic charge. Guns have developed a bit recently. We can now throw bullets using magnetics, instead of gunpowder.
“Yup. We got company,” Freed replies. What we see, but the Military doesn’t, is the decaled up armor of a rebel in the back compartment.
We take cover under the window, all too aware of what happens to glass when a bomb goes off. And we wait. We know what's coming.
I glance up at Jayor, get an acknowledging grin, and that’s when the window blows in. Glass buries itself feet into the wall behind us, and the armored forms of rebels charge toward the door.
“Not on my watch,” Jayor yells, jumping up firing. Not too original, but still epic. I love my brother. He has it all: looks, cocky attitude, and he’s a crack shot as well.
I come up firing as well, and we drop one rebel before they are in the store. That’s when all hell breaks loose. Drones drop in through the roof, and open fire with heavy machine guns. Those things definitely still use gunpowder.
More rebels go down, and the rest open up with heavy weapons, blowing the store apart. I dive under cover one way, Jayor the other. Rebels are crazy, practically burying themselves trying to take out the Drones.
Well, it works. As the smoke clears, I see most of the drones are down, and a few soldiers are coming into what’s left of the store.
By that time, Jayor’s already gone. We’d discussed this situation before: “Just run, and get home. Don’t wait for the Mils to get there, they are just as likely to shoot a Guard as a rebel,” he said. Guards have a bad reputation of being rebels, since they are the only citizens allowed weapons.
So I head home. it’s a bit nerve racking, because drones and soldiers are starting to converge on the site. Soldiers are manageable, but drones will kill you just as fast as see you with a weapon. Their programmings all hostility, no peacekeeping. They are a tool for wartime, not peacetime. Unfortunately, this particular province is considered in wartime.
It was always the weakest provinces, so naturally the rebels have the strongest presence here. It is also surrounded by the ruins of an ancient city, which is the perfect base for the rebels. Or it was, until the Military invaded it.
I arrive at my house after a few hair-raising encounters with drones and soldiers. I move quietly up the stairs, and stop by the door. Lights out. It doesn’t really mean anything, but it still has me nervous.
I cautiously push the door open, and creep inside, pistol raised.
“Freed,” I here Jayor stage whisper. I sigh in relief. No soldiers; we’re safe.
“Jayor, it’s good to see you. I didn’t see you leave the store!” I cry, grabbing him into a hug.
“It’s okay, I’m fine,” he says, though I can tell he’s relieved to see me as well. We can take care of ourselves fine, but we still worry.
He walks over to our little kitchen, and begins pulling out food. Nothing can dent his appetite. Or mine either, come to that.
We sit down at the table, comfortable in our perceived safety.
My eyes blink open, sleep gone in a moment. Something isn’t right. A slight noise, a creak. Our house doesn’t creak. I reach towards my bedside table, my hand finding the hilt of a knife.
Another creak. Something heavy is moving around out there, and heavy means armor. So either the rebels or the Military have come for us. I’m betting on the latter.
I move to my dresser, and grab my pistol. Guns are too dangerous to keep near the bed, but I think I’ll be needing it soon.
I move to the door, silently praying Jayor is awake. But he won’t be. He’s a heavy sleeper.
The door starts to open. I ready the knife, I know I need it to be silent. A dark silhouette moves into the room. Too much armor for the knife. I just go for it. One gunshot later, the Soldier is down, and everyone in the neighborhood knows theres a fight.
The good news is, Jayor is up. The bad: all the soldiers are converging on me.
It’s not so quiet anymore. I fire my gun at two more soldiers standing in the door. One goes down, the other fires back, missing. I hear gunshots from Jayors.
And then a drone smashes through the roof. I hear the gunfire cut out in Jayor’s room; know he’s either dead or injured.
The drone sprays fire, blowing holes in the wall. I feel a bullet go through my soldier. Pain doesn’t come yet, just the feeling of something missing.
I stumble forward, still firing. My vision blurs, but I keep going. Out the fire escape, drop down a floor, land without any air. Struggle to my feet.
I stumble down the alley, trying to get away.
And that’s when they come. Decaled purple armor, guns blazing. The rebels are my saviors.
“Get up son, we have a long trek to the safe house,” yells a man in purple armor.
A woman in green grabs my arm, hauling me onto my feet. Bullets ping off her armor, but don’t get through. Another man, in blue armor, fires a grenade into my building. Won’t be going back there again.
“Come on, I said move it!” The woman yells. I get moving, running down the alley. I’m not sure how far we go, but it was pretty far. The light of early morning was starting to peek into the sky when we got there.
“Here, you’ll be safe here,” I here the woman say. I know I’m in shock, emotionally and physically. My brother is probably dead. I’ve also been shot.
The man in blue pulls his helmet off, and moves to a first aid kit. Except he isn't a man at all. More like a boy. But his eyes show his real age. Already, they are world weary and hard.
He still helps me. Dresses my wounds, gives me anti-shock medication.
“You’re gonna be okay,” he says. Right. I’ll never be okay again.
“Son, pull yourself together. You have two hours before we leave. We’re meeting the regional commander, then pulling out to the wastes. It’s too dangerous to stay in the cities, unless you want to be constantly fighting,” the man in purple says. His helmet is off now, and I can see his face. He has an older, scared face. He’s been in this war for a long time.
I drift off to sleep, still trying to come to grips with my life as it is now.
Someone shakes me awake. It’s the boy.
“Here, you’ll be needing better kit. We have half an hour till we leave. I’ll find you some armor and weapons.”
I shake myself awake. The kid takes me into an armored room, literally. It looks like it has armor on the walls, and suits of armor stacked in it. So this is a supply cache, built to withstand a drone attack. I’ve heard of these. They are the pride of the rebels, their best feet of engineering.
I pick out a light suite of green armor, without a helmet. I’m assigned a submachine gun. It runs on gunpowder, so I’ll be a horrible shot with it, but it’s powerful enough to keep a drone pinned down.
“I know you had a brother. When we get to RECOM, I’ll ask about him. We usually have intelligence on people the moment they get into the system,” the kid says.
“Thanks,” I’m hoarse, my voice rough. I sound broken, just like I feel.
“The armor you picked is power assisted. It’ll help with your arm,” the kid tells me. He’s a good guy. I like him already. He knows how to cheer someone up, and get them moving at the same time.
“Everybody up!” That’s purple, “We leave in ten. That means you, new guy. It’s a long and hard trek to RECOM, that’s regional command, and we have to dodge patrollers all the way. Also, drone activity is up. Don’t forget the heavy weapons.”
We leave, walking out into sunlight. We aren’t on the streets for long. Soon, we drop down into an old sewer tunnel. I say old, because we don’t use them anymore. Some guy came up with a better way, installed it in all the provinces, then vanished. Inventors don’t last long in the provinces.
The sewer is long, but empty. I ask the kid about it.
“They forgot about these in this Province. The others are more watchful, but the local Dictat ain’t too bright, so we get away with alot here. Also, the Mils are busy out in the waists. We keep ‘em very busy out there,” the kid replied, grinning behind his helmet.
The smells starting to get to me, making me wish I’d picked a helmeted suit. But it’s too late now. I’ll just have to deal with it.
After several hours under the city, we climb out of the sewers into something that is best described as a prison. The room had no visible doors, no windows, just one light, and the sewer manhole. A single camera pointed at us.
Blue gave a complicated hand sign, and it began to seem less like a prison. A door materialized as a portion of the wall swept up, and two armored men came in.
“Welcome back, Sergeant. How was the bombing?” one asked.
Blue grimaced, having taken his helmet off, “We got the checkpoint, but ran into this guy and his brother, who is now MIA, and had to shoot our way out of his store. Lot’s of drones dropping in, lot’s of Mils.
“Then, on top of all that, we have to save this kid from a Mil raid. Not the best bombing we’ve ever done, but not the worst. We had zero civilian casualties,” blue replied. Apparently, he’s well known around here.
The rebel’s looked at me, “So, we take him to recruitment?”
“No. Take him straight to the Heart. He needs to see the Regional Commander. I think he’s good as in. They took his brother,” Blue replied, looking sideways at me.
“Alright, but we put him in fatigues, and he doesn’t get access to a weapon,” the rebel replied. So they only trust me so far.
They took me to a side room, where they gave me fatigues, and took my weapons. Then they did a full body scan, I guess in case a had a bomb on me.
Then, finally, we got to go into the Heart of RECOM. It is a busy looking place full of screens and important looking people issuing orders. The difference between it and how I would imagine a Military command center, is everyone here was in full armor, minus a helmet, which was clipped to their belts, and all carried weapons, or had one nearby. Definitely prepared for trouble.
The Regional Commander was a hard looking man, wearing red and black armor, with red eyes. So he had been exposed to some form of radiation early on. He must be from the Province that got nuked.
When I walked in, he was in a conference call with other Regional Commanders, and the head of the entire rebellion. Naturally, the call cut off the moment I walked in.
“So, you the new guy?” he said, looking directly at me.
I gulped. He has this intense, hardened look, as if he was boring a hole through your soul.
“Yessir,” I manage. Something seems to be blocking my throat.
“Alright. we have news on your brother. The Mils got him. He’s been sent in for reconditioning. Do you know what that is?”
I shake my head, unable to speak.
“It’s where they take apart your mind, and put it back together in a way that makes you behave like a drone. It’s what happens to anyone the Mils take,” he doesn’t hold any punches. He has no sympathy. Maybe he’s lost too much, maybe he’s just seen too many men come in like me. I don’t know.
“Can you help him?” I choke out.
“Only if we capture him. He’ll be on the frontline in a few weeks. Probably in this very city. We’ll try, but we don’t make promises,” So little mercy.
“How can I help,” I ask, starting to get angry. This man doesn’t care about me. Or anyone else, I’ll bet.
He smiles, and his gaze softens. But it’s far from a nice smile.
“If you join up with us, you’ll be better prepared if he shows up. We can give you the training to take him alive, to move silently, maybe even break him out of a barracks. It’ll be everything you needed last night, but didn’t have,” the regional commander says. I know he’s playing my emotions, but I don’t care. If it’ll help me get my brother back, I’m game.
“I’m in,” I say, starting to feel better about life. I can get Jayor out. And then the rebels can help him. I know things won’t go back to normal, but life wasn’t that good anyways. Maybe this will be an improvement.
I don’t know. But what I do know is that I’ll do anything, go anywhere, to get my brother back. if it means helping the rebels, I’ll do that. If it means turning the rebels over over to the Military, I’ll do that as well. But I will get Jayor out. Count on that.