[Note that this one is LONG, think of it as, making up for staying away]
She chuckled as the small child did a pirouette on her heels and ran outside. The hut was roomy, haphazardly build from scrap, but cozy. All the twenty or so buildings in this settlement were like this. Some didn't even have a hut, preferring to go the honorable way and only having what they can carry. The fire from outside was all the light that shone into the hut, along with a small salvaged stove. The meat and food on it smelled plain, simple, but that was the way.
She could feel the air change, a strange shadow moved around the room, a breathing. It came from behind her. “Mmm, Celli I smell a feast.” She heard the gruff voice, the strong, scarred arms wrapped around her waist and she could feel his warmth against her back. He was gentle, he always was. “Oooh, nothing really new.” She said, toying with his patience. She could feel him lean on her, trying to get a closer look but she pushed back. “Nu-uh!” She turned around and looked him square in the eye, something not many could dare. He was the second man, almost a chief. A powerful warrior, the many scars on his body showed how many battles he had won, how many dangers he had faced and not faltered. But her eyes, these brown eyes, made him back down. “Very well, my warrior queen.” He said, half jokingly. She WAS a warrior, but not the kind you know. She had a child, a daughter that was all too much into her father, a handful at best, something else at worst. He ran his hands up her arm, stopping at a cloth wrapped around her neck. There was an awkward pause. “What happened?” She broke the silence, hinting at his bruised knuckles. She knew very well, she had seen them dragged into the prison huts.
He counted down the minutes, the red lights and the low hum of the electric engine made it hard. He looked around, all these men and women, nervous. They didn't get many details but they all got notes on what to take along. A shock went through the whole vehicle, the APC landed hard against the mushy mud and rock laden terrain, they had to come this way, quiet. The convoy of five APC's powered by silent engines, muffled by the swampy ground. The night itself seemed to eat up the five massive vehicles. He was shaking, it was normal, no mater how many times he had done this, no mater how many times he had felt it, he always shook. Was it with fear, anticipation, the thrill? He didn't know for sure. He tried to shake it off and turned back to his rifle. A quick check through the scope, it had night amplification on it, courtesy of the Techs, he attached the magazine and grabbed the charging lever, the tip of it bending to the side to act as a handle, he paused, then pulled back and let go. The mechanism registered, clicked. The round was in place, the safety was on. “Hey. Renkov?” He heard with a hush tone from across and looked up. “You ok, you look kinda...” “Yeah yeah. I'm ok. Never gets easy, that's all.” He replied, equally hushed. “So, what's the sitch?” The private mumbled back, the others had noticed, the dead silence inside the vehicle had been broken. They all chipped in. “Heard they nabbed a few of ours, hauled them in.” “S-n-R? Nah, why so many of us?” “Something big's going down, I can feel it.” “You feel the booster, jackass.” “Fuck you, Foreman!”
They all stopped dead when they heard a clank, they looked up at the major standing just behind the cockpit. “You done, ladies?” The forward men sat back, and the last ones leaned in, making an eerie, parabolic line of faces in the dark red light. “Ok, listen up, here's the rundown: The children attacked and nabbed most of a platoon some clicks away. They dragged them here and, as far as recon knows, they are alive.” He paused, he had done this, better let it sink in. “Now, what you don't know, and figured, is that there is something bigger going on. The recon noted and then confirmed the presence of some pre-Fall toxic equipment, biological in nature. We have no idea what those things actually have but since it's pre-Fall, I want every one of you prepped up good. For all we know it might be Shiva on steroids.”
She brushed away from him, turning back at the stove. “Are they really so bad?” He stood there, dumbstruck, but regained. He had asked that question himself many times. “I don't know.” He had come to admire their teamwork, men working in unison. He had seen enforcers, united in a way in their actions, as if they were of one mind. Directed, organized. Never had he seen a group of enforcers running wild, they always managed to make some order in the chaos battle. But that was what they had come to hate. The order, the rank and file that had made enforcers so efficient as a team, the technology that allowed them to survive and achieve. But they were all for the wrong cause. To bring back the old, an old that failed everyone. And old that must never be awoken. “They do things, for the wrong reasons. And I guess, that makes them bad.” He put his hands to her shoulders and leaned in, he could smell her, his lips touched her neck. He could feel her shift her weight under his arms. “Mmm... hon?” “Yes?” “Find Rose, it's almost done.”
The men all moved in determined unison, masks were pulled onto their heads, all places were checked, gloves were taped up. Marcus slid the rifle between his legs, the stock touching the ground. He pulled the shotgun from behind his seat, a quick check, and one by one the shells were inserted. As the final entered the chamber bellow, he pulled back the forward grip and pushed it forward, it was ready and he slid it into the webbing over his left shoulder, giving it a quick shake to make sure it was secure. He pulled the pistol from the holster on his right thigh and pulled the sled back half way, he peered into the opening and saw the round, satisfied he released the sled, ejected the magazine, checked and reinserted it. A quick click on the attached redlight and he holstered it. They were all as ready as one could be, weapons checked and loaded, twice, thrice. Some had their gas masks firmly placed over their faces, the others had just pulled them over their heads. Marcus gave his gear one last shakedown. Shaking and pulling every pocked, pouch and piece of equipment, making sure nothing rattled more than it should. He took a few deep breaths of the stale air in the vehicle. “40 seconds.” He heard over the little earplug running out of his collar, acting as his radio. He pulled down the mask and made sure all the straps were secure, the guy opposite of him checked the seams to make sure not a single bit of exposed skin was visible, then ran a thin line of tape over them. Marcus pulled his rifle close, his fingers gripped the weapon and pushed it against his shoulder. The sickly sweet smell of the purified air in his mask all too familiar.
The feast was plenty, even some of the other warriors stopped by. The bear had not gone to waste! The moon was high and it was long past the high of night when they all decided it was time for them to go to their duties as guards of lest rest their weary eyes. Rash sat at the side of the bed, a simple mattress with a cloth and a rag blanket, a luxury he had agreed to only on Celine's demand. He watched out the door, Rose was playing with the child of his friend by the fire outside as Celine tended to some of the more fresher wounds. He would let them be, but he couldn't help it either. She wore nothing behind him, nothing both a single item that he found as a reminder of the old. He's still ashamed of the feelings of hate he had when she emerged from the doors of the old bunker. Blinded, lost, scared. Oh how far they had come.
”Squad three, in position.” “Roger that, Squad three. Squad five, report.” “Squad five, delayed.” “What's the holdup, squad five?” “Squad five, enemy patrol, we are now in position.” “Roger that Squad five.”
The radio chatter was hushed, whispered, the clicks of the radio keeping everyone sharp and ready, they had crawled in, low and quiet. The plan had been gone over many times. The pre-Fall stash being the main target, prisoners a secondary objective. Renkov was part of squad four, his and two others would invade the settlement and neutralize anyone posing a threat. They weren't here to overtake, this was too deep in enemy territory. Get in, get the job done, get the fuck out.
“This will hurt a bit more, love.” She said, hushed and with a smirk.
“All units, heads up. Game time.”
Both Celine and Rash twitched as the outside turned bright, rays of light shot through the roof and they could hear the alarm horn starting to blow, but dieing out as fast as they started. There were loud pops and shouts all too familiar by voices all too foreign. “Don't go..” He heard from behind, but he had to go, it was his duty. He quickly pushed Rose towards his “wife” gave her a kiss and held her in his arms for a moment that seemed forever, and left for the door.
Marcus had seen the guard pull out a horn but as soon as it touched his lips, so did the rifle round from Marcus's rifle touch his throat. The signal flare hovered high up like a second sun in the dead of night, warriors, and civilians, all ran back and forth. They were confused, good. He could easily pick out the guards, they were calmer, and they became even more so. By the time Marcus had reached the first untouched hut, he had slung the rifle and held the shotgun in his hand, there was no door, but a rag. The flashlight at the end of the weapon lead wide cone of light into the dwelling. He saw a man, standing over what he presumed was his family. The shotgun was steady and ready. “Don't.” Marcus said, his voice distorted and muffled under the mask. The man thought for a moment and looked over the people behind him, a woman, and two young boys. One looked scared, the older one looked angry. Not at the strange man in the doorway, but at his father, for faltering from his duty to attack. The boy acted. And so did Marcus. There was a flash, a loud bang. The knife dropped to the ground, almost soundlessly next to the numb thump of his body, the woman cried, the man looked at Marcus. “Don't!” He repeated, and cycled a new shell. There was a tap on his shoulder and a muffled voice “Covered, move on.” Marcus moved, and exited the hut. “All right! Outside! MOVE!” Marcus moved to a new hut, his eyes turned to see people being led, almost like caddle towards camp fires, circled up. Here and there were shots and yells, he could spot bodies, he knew which were his. There was a strong tug at his shotgun, he could barely react when he found himself on his back.
Celine held back hes gasp as her love almost went out the door, then threw something in. A clattering sound echoed from somewhere close but she didn't care about that. The form in the middle of the room. Dark and strange. Rash charged at it, trying to jump at it's neck, but the thing was fast, rolled from under it and jumped up.
Marcus stared down the half naked man. He realized that his hands were empty, the shotgun was gone, but no time to look. The warrior opposite of him had murder in his eyes. The savage charged, a small blade in his hand, Marcus dodged, but he could hear the small blade chipping over the shoulder strap of his vest. Too close.
He was armored, there was no skin, but he was fast. The first slash only nicked, he swung again but only to punch the thing in the side, where the armor was weak. The opponent grunted under the mask but the smell of plastic became strong as Rash felt a hard edge coming in contact with the bridge of his nose, pushing him back.
Marcus felt the blow to his side, he replied with a headbut to the opponent's nose, this one was tough, too tough. He had to end it quick, or he'll end Marcus. The man attacked, his left hand in front for the throat but Marcus didn't fall for it. His right arm shot out and hit it away, with his left he was able to grab the opponent's left hand and send his knee into the naked man's gut. He then gave the arm a twist and hit his elbow toward's the the man's kidneys, sending him onto his belly with his right arm twisted to it's limit.
The pain was great, but it was moot, he looked at his beloved Celin, sitting there, petrified with their child locked in her arms. They eyes met, all the things he wanted to tell her, all the things he had planned for her. She spoke, her voice was quiet, inaudible, but it was her voice none the less.
Marcus quickly pulled his sidearm and aimed it down at the man's head, but there was a sound, a cry. He turned, the redlight on the gun lighting up at a pair of people on a makeshift bed. A woman and a child. He could almost make out what she was mumbling. It sounded like a plea, she was begging, sobbing. The naked woman caught his eye for more than he would of liked, not for her body, but what was on it. The collar.
He felt a pause, he was distracted... Celine! The bastard! He felt rage, this, was not a man to admire for his training. Not a man to be honored for besting him in hand. No, this was a monster. A monster seeking to restore the old and take all that was dear to him. Rash roared and moved, he'd do anything to stop this creature.
The grunt was silent, he felt the tug, he felt the push, he felt as the hammer made contact with the round and the recoil traveling up to his shoulder, he felt the him go limp. She screamed, she sobbed. He let go of the arm and it fell at an odd angle, he had twisted it out of it's socket. “Squad eight, primary objective secured, awaiting retrieval.” Crackled over his radio. He shook and took his foot off the once proud warrior's back. This was no victory, all the people he had killed, ever, no remorse. But this one, he was different. No, she was. “Good work! All squads, I want a sit-rep!” Marcus turned to the woman, the flare had almost faded but he knew she was now looking at him.
She was shaking, she didn't know what to do. She saw the inhuman face. She knew it was looking at her. She was afraid, she was cornered, but most of all, Rose, she was now all that was left. She shifted herself, the hand tracing the edge of the bed until it made contact with the end of a familiar weapon. She didn't think about him noticing it. She was ready to kill this man, no mater how many times she had to return.
“It still hurts, doesn't it.”
She stopped dead. The owner of the muffled voice, distorted yet, strangely all too human walked slowly towards her and stopped few feet short. She could hear, a silent chittering near him. Coming from inside the head.
Marcus looked at the petrified woman. Her child, a girl, was hiding behind her now. He noticed her hand reaching out and grabbing the end of a small club like thing. He knelt down. He didn't take his eyes off the woman, but he reached out and felt the familiar handle of his shotgun, slowly he retrieved it from inches away from her feet. He stood and backed off.
Rays of light shot through the musky air, someone walked in. “You set!?” “Yeah yeah! I'll manage.” Marcus replied keeping his eyes on the woman. The backup left.
Marcus pulled his eyes off, shook off whatever spell it was, that held him. He straightened his back and looked soldierly.
“Please follow me, failure to comply will be met with force.”
She looked at him. The words, practiced, clear. She was numb, she moved automatically. Without choice she searched to pull on whatever was around. She held her daughter close as they made past the now cold body of his lost love, the monstrous statue of an inhuman being, guarding and shepherding them. She saw the details, the camo patterns, the specks of blood, older than her husband's, the dark silhouettes of his eyes behind the shineless glass eyes. She studied him, briefly, the way how he stood on guard, strong, yet unable to hide the shivers of combat, every warrior had them, when the rush was over, the shivers.
He looked back the camp, he could almost make out the two figures, locked together. The whole op had lasted for less than 20 minutes. One friendly casualty, two injuries. Eight enemies neutralized, thirteen pacified. They weren't quiet to leave. They were in a hurry. The village was there. They left everything except things that looked suspiciously toxic in place. This wasn't a shakedown run. Marcus felt empty, cold. He had seen clones before, but not like that. She was genuinely scared, terrified. It shook Marcus to his bones and he didn't know why. They were all quiet.
The cussing, the damning, the mourning. They all fell past her ears as she sat on the floor of her hut, sobbing, looking at the dawning sun's gentle reflection in the glotting pool on the floor. Her love had been removed. His body will be burned as that of a hero. He died in combat, and that is an honor. But that all escaped her. She was alone. He was all that kept her here, with these people. It was hard. She remembered all she had given up for Rash. The comforts, she remembered the foods, she remembered the warmth, she remembered his touch. She remembered the name tag.