North Ephyra Barracks
8 hours since Emergence
Darrius stared blankly across the cityscape and watched it burn in front of a beautiful sunset. From what he had heard, the things had been pushed back out of Ephyra and onto the green belt that ran around the south side of the city although more of them were coming up out of the ground all over the place. Other areas were not so lucky. Contact had been lost with seventy five percent of densely populated zones all across Sera and the other fifteen percent had reported casualties that bled into the millions. Millions
. You couldn’t imagine that number.
He hadn’t heard from his family yet but, thankfully, contact had not been lost with Corren. Darrius had no way of getting in touch with them. The barracks was in uproar, Gears were rushing all over the place, battle operators were using up all the bandwidth and security were having a great time keeping terrified civilians out.
Yet even as humanity was being slowly destroyed, one brick and person at a time across the continent … all he could do was stare at the silver necklace as it dangled from his hand, over the side of the balcony he was leaning on.
The world was ending and he could only think about one person. Perhaps, in a different time or place, he could laugh at something like that but all he could think about was drowning in his gut wrenching failure.
It was quiet here, on the outer ring of the watchtower. The coarse stone beneath his fingers felt oddly reassuring and the wind whipped up his hair now and again. It was like being on a different planet this far up.
A King Raven roared overhead and headed towards the sunset.
He wondered how it felt, not knowing the hell that would be unleashed upon him whilst he sat in a cramped hold, cradling a gun he had yet to use, sweating under armour that had never worn, looking at other people he didn’t know go through the same thing.
He wondered because right now, he could take the feeling of knowing he could die at any second, could be shot, stabbed, eaten, crushed into roads or pavements that only yesterday, hell even today, he could have been walking down with his family or friends. He knew he could take that feeling any day than the feeling of knowing that because of him, the person he cherished most was dead.
The door behind him opened quietly with barely a hint of a creak. It was Clay.
“Your friend, Kurt, he’ll be okay in about a day or so. If we hadn’t have got him here sooner, the internal bleeding might have been fatal,” Clay rested his elbows on the stone surface.
Darrius nodded and stayed silent.
“Heard from your family?”
“No. My cell is broken and I haven’t been able to find a phone to use,” Darrius said. “How about your squad?”
“MIA. Raven was shot down and haven’t had word since.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Darrius didn’t sound sorry. He didn’t sound anything at all. Dead inside, perhaps.
“I don’t expect you to be. I’m not, they were good men but I didn’t know any of them long enough to consider them friends. I respect them but I do not feel sorry. Not for men who do their duty,” Clay said. “I lost a lot of good friends during the pendulum wars. You learn how to deal with the pain, as will you, when you take the oath.”
“How can you not be affected by all this?” Darrius said, sweeping a hand out towards the city.
“I can’t afford to let anything get to me. Even if the enemy happens to be a pick-a-mix bag of freaks. That’s not to say that being affected is wrong or bad. Everyone handles it differently,” Clay replied. “I don’t exactly see you all shaken up though.”
“I…,” Darrius stopped mid-sentence. Clay was right. He had seen plenty of dead bodies on the way up. Some had been blown to bits and yet he didn’t bat-
He slid to his knees, suddenly sick to his stomach.
The moment his brained focused on it, it hit him. One massive kaleidoscope of images flowed through his mind, one mutilated, crushed, shot corpse after another, the smell of that grey monster, his house flattened by a giant hand spider… and then Sarah… Oh God… His covered his face in his hands, his fingers in his hair, the necklace pressing against his cheek and the tears started to flow.
“It gets you sooner or later. Everyone goes through it,” Clay patted him on the shoulder sympathetically and headed back to the door.
“If you don’t remember where the med wing is, just ask someone. Tomorrow morning I’ll take you to enlisting offices.”
Clay shut the door behind him and waited a moment. Sure he enough, he heard the sobbing.
He felt himself strangely attached to the kid. He was going to be a good soldier if he got his emotions under control. Not many people would have run towards an enemy surprise attack. We are going to need people like him
Sure, he was underage but only by a few weeks but if he was anything like his father, it wouldn’t matter. He was sure he could help tweak the paperwork.
Clay made a mental note to tell the attendant downstairs to stop anyone going up. The kid needed his space right now. Hell, everyone did. What was left of it.
He felt his earpiece buzz in his ear and pressed his finger to it as he descended the stair case.
“Private Carmine? Control here.”
“I’m sorry but we found your squad… or what’s left of them. KIA, last survivor bled out on the APC ride back. Until you receive your orders and squad relocation, you are to remain here in the barracks. Security is running a bit thin.”
“Understood,” Clay said. “What are my current orders?”
“Let’s see…,” There was a brief second of static. “Okay, get down to the front gates. I need you to escort somebody to the control room.”
“Does this someone have a name?”
“Wasn’t told Private, though I hear he has an Embry Star. So move it.”
“Got it. Carmine out.”
A little part of him at the back of his mind was disgusted of his detachment to everything going on around him. He may not have known his squad long but they were people none-the-less and they were all dead having defended humanity. He would have been too if not for Darrius, he realised in a strange way…
Almost as quickly as the shutters rose, they came crashing back down.
He had someone to go meet.
North Ephyra Barracks
18 hours since Emergence.
Darrius had stayed up on the watch tower for what felt like hours but he knew he was barely there for one after Clay left. Emotionally drained, he had wandered around lost in his thoughts until he stumbled across the Med Wing. He had pulled up a chair next to Kurt’s bed and had quickly fallen asleep.
Mercifully, he did not dream.
“Hey, Darrius? Wake up!” Someone said, shaking him by the shoulders.
He opened his eyes to the blaring daylight and quickly shut them, wincing in pain.
“Ah, somebody turn off the sun.”
The person chuckled and Darrius felt a cup of hot coffee thrust into his hands.
Opening his eyes, he was greeted by the sight of Kurt propped up slightly in bed, bandages wrapped around his torso and Cole standing off to one side. He looked like he managed to find a change of clothes somewhere because his bloody tank top had been replaced with a fresh one.
“Please tell me,” Darrius began, rubbing the sides of his head and sitting forward in his chair. “That yesterday, was a crazy dream?”
Nobody answered because Darrius glanced at the necklace still wrapped around the palm of his hand and he just sat back closing his eyes.
Kurt tried to reach over with a reassuring hand but it seemed to cause him too much pain and he let his hand flop back on the bed.
Darrius opened one eye.
“Don’t overdo it man.”
“What are you? My mom?” Kurt smirked but there was no warmth behind it. The look in Kurt’s eye suggested he wished he hadn’t mentioned the word “mom”. Darrius still didn’t know if his family was okay.
“Heard from them, Dee?”
“No. I’m going to ask Clay to get word to my dad. If anything, he’ll now be stationed at Corren,” Darrius took a sip of coffee. “If he’s alive.”
Kurt frowned at his friend’s bluntness. He idolised his father, doubting his abilities was something Kurt hadn’t heard in over ten years of knowing Darrius.
“…Are you okay?”
“Pretty stupid question, don’t you think Kurt?” Darrius snapped. “Look, I’m sorry, I’m not really myself … yeah, just don’t take this personally. How are your ribs?”
“Responding to my stupid question with one of your own?” Kurt said, smirking and then wincing. “I’ll be fine in a few days. The doc said she was amazed I was walking around for so long afterwards. She said something about the fact that walking around actually made it worse… or something. I was kinda drugged at the time.”
Darrius took a sip of his coffee and then grimaced.
“Jesus, why did I just drink this? I hate coffee. Yuck.” He put the cup down on the cabinet beside the bed. “Hey, Mr. Cole? Have you heard from your family?”
“Aw, hey now, don’t call Mr. Cole, Cole will do just fine,” Cole said, looking slightly embarrassed. “Haven’t heard a word from ‘em and I haven’t been able to get word out. Crazy times at the moment, baby.”
“So what are you going to do now? I don’t expect you’ll want to be babysitting us forever.”
“I haven’t actually thought ‘bout it. I expect my Thrashball days are over, at least for now. I’ll probably help out around here for a while an’ keep trying to get word to my family. I’d go look for ‘em but I don’t think I’d get very far.”
Darrius stood up and stretched. He took a deep breath and walked around the bed to Cole.
“Thank you Cole, for saving our lives. I don’t think I said it yet,” He extended his hand.
“Don’t mention it, just doing what any decent human being woulda done,” Cole said, he took Darrius’ hand and shook his head. “I couldn’t just watch you two die. I’d have done the same for anyone.”
“I have to say that out of all the times I imagined meeting you, none of them happened on the worst day of my life,” Darrius said then added. “…everyone’s life.”
“So what are you going to do? Have you got a place in Jacinto to go?”
“No… I don’t. My house was flattened under that…,” Darrius closed his eyes and felt sick rise up his throat. He swallowed. “Kurt does but I think he… we want to enlist. We were planning to before this madness anyways.”
“Aren’t you a little young for that?”
“I’m sixteen in a few weeks, that’s how old I need to be. I don’t think anyone is going to care who enlists right now.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Cole said. “So how are you feelin’?”
“Honestly? I don’t know. I keep flitting between being in disbelief of everything that’s happened and then this… aching stomach twisting pain
of being unable to save Sarah… not knowing how my family are or if they are even alive… then I’m back to square one and I can’t believe any of this has happened. Those things are probably not even a mile away from this place yet here we are, sitting around like f*ck all has happened, discussing enlistment and-,” Darrius suddenly felt weak at the knees. He ran a hand through his hair.
“To think… that… yesterday, the first thoughts on my mind were worrying about school, watching you on T.V. and meeting up with my friends. I’m fifteen years old and about to do something I thought I had three whole years of my life to live for, waiting for this and.… ah sh*t, I’m sorry Cole. I’m having a hard time dealing with this.”
“Everyone copes in their own way, baby, but no matter how hard the outward appearance, everyone’s feelin’ the same inside, no doubt about it. You, me, everyone. Even Clay. Don’t tear yourself up for feeling what everyone else is. No-one’s gonna judge you.”
Darrius turned away and walked back to Kurt. He rested his hands on the metal bars at the foot of the bed.
“I’m going to let you get your rest, okay? Just get some sleep. I need to go talk to Clay about enlisting us. I’ll be back later.”
Kurt nodded and closed his eyes with a sigh as they left. The Darrius he knew was definitely dead.