The entire city burned of ash and fire, darkened plumes of black smoke circling the sky like a storm. Screams of horror echoed through the concrete labyrinth as the massacre continued. Gunfire rippled like the cry of a banshee as the roar of artillery smashed down onto the helpless causalities below. The city of Akilina was a war zone, scorched in the blood of thousands. Overhead, a formation of three King Raven’s flew steadily across the bright-blue heavens, their black coats shimmering and their razor-sharp twin-rotors glistening against the sunlight.
“This is Chalk-Four, we are approaching exfil-LZ-Bravo, over” sounded the lead Raven.
“Roger that, Chalk-Four, we’ve got eyes on you, holding position”.
“Copy your last, Lt. Rose out.”
The pilot of the lead Raven quickly stole a glace back at the aircrew and gave his thumbs up to the Crew chief, “we’re ready to roll, Edwards!”
Crew chief Michael Dewayne Edwards returned a quick nod as he scanned the city whizzing by beneath his feet in a hasty blur. His blue eyes were fixed on the crumbling streets below, stained with the blood of innocents. The Locust had ravaged this city and the COG was trying to hold on as best it could to the last pockets of territory it held. His dark hair wrestled with the currents of the wind, smacking across his forehead with great ferocity. His face, worn and grizzled by the terrifying sights he had experienced on Emergence Day beckoned caution.
Michael swung his gun slowly across the city’s surface once more, watching out for any signs of Locust attack. His hands were numb and bloodless as he squeezed down onto the chain-gun’s cold steel cover. Michael looked up, taking his eyes off of the city and staring straight ahead at the other Raven flying beside his. The door-gunner’s gaze met Michael with a look of uncertainty. Both gunners returned to their duties in silence among the crashing violence that was erupting below them.
The chalk-formation of Raven’s came to a slow withdrawal as they came across the landing-zone. Hovering not more than 60f above the streets below, Michael noticed a bright-green smoke being picked by the wind originating from the middle of the street. Just then a man clad in dark black armour cleared from the building, signalling the Raven to land.
Michael’s tac-comm picks up, “This is Apex team leader, VIPs inbound, you are clear to land.”
One of the other Raven’s slowly descends down toward the street, sending dust everywhere and engulfing the dark-clad Gear in a green cloud of dust and debris. As the dust-storm begins to give in, Michael catches a glance at more shadowy figures moving in from the building to the right and storming the other Gear’s position. They all begin to disappear into the Raven.
“Exfil complete, go, go, go!” yells the voice of the dark-armoured Gear as the Raven begins to climb back into the air, leaving the silent street to its dying dust-storm.
The Raven’s climb back into the air high above the city streets and begin to make their escape of the violence below, however, Michael’s comm picks up another incoming transmission from the Raven that had retrieved the Gears.
“KR-Two-Nine, this is Two-Six, VIP is going mad back here. Refuses to leave without finding his son. Says he’s still back there, in the rubble.”
“KR-Two-Six, Two-Nine here, can’t the Onyx cowboys handle it? One distressed VIP is dismissible. ”
“Negative, patching in Team-Leader now.”
A slight buzzing ringed in Michael’s right ear before the Gear pitched in.
“Lt. Rose, this is Commander Frank Costello, Apex team-leader. My men are strained but willing to go back for the boy. But we need air support.”
“What, are you crazy!?” refuted Michael’s lead pilot, Lt. Rose, “the boy could be dead!”
“It’s a chance we’re willing to take, Lieutenant. This is straight from the top.” replied Com. Costello.
Rose didn’t reply, the cabin of the Raven fell silent as the crew waited for Rose’s response. Lt. Rose looked back at his crew, at Michael, who returned the gesture with a nod of approval. So did the other door-gunner and co-pilot. They had all made up their minds, they were going to look for that boy no matter the chances. Everyone felt the heavy-hearted desire to see the boy alive, reunited with his father, because this war had done one thing and that was bring everyone closer than ever before. They all understood loss, Emergence Day was still a fresh wound for many and this was one chance at a small redemption.
Lt. Rose puckered up and cleared his throat, “Alright Commander, we’ll break off from the main chalk and provide close air-support. You find that boy.”
“Copy that, Lieutenant, I’ll have Apex-Prime rendezvous with you at LZ-Bravo.”
One hour later and they still had not found the boy that they were searching for. The team they were to make contact with had never shown up. Their radios fell silent after a transmission of static came through. Lt. Rose had continued the search alone, without the aid of ground forces in the vicinity. This entire section of the city had been reportedly sacked by the Locust Horde three days earlier. There was no sign of life down there that Michael could spot. Everything was absolutely quiet. The only noise they could hear was that of the cold and blistering wind, swerving in and out of the crevices of the concrete jungle.
Fighting was still heavy around the city with COG forces attempting to hold off areas of importance from encroaching Locust forces, but all that could be seen were plumes of fiery red shells being dropped with the occasional strafing run executed by old Pendulum War-era bombers.
“Sh*t, where could he be?” sulked the other door-gunner, Grant Evanderfield. Grant was a skinny man who resembled a starving stray you’d find on the streets of Ephyra, but his mind was as sharp as they got. One of the smartest men uniformed in all of Akilina city.
“Keep searching, we’re not going to burn fuel for nothing.” Lt. Rose replied.
The day Michael had met Benjamin Rose, he knew he harboured a dislike for the man’s stern and simple-minded ways. Michael couldn’t stand the cold and bitter outlook Lt. Rose held on all things in life. The man was old-school, by-the-book and completely “mission-first”. So the fact that Rose agreed to turn back and search for a little boy in this city troubled him. The Rose he knew would never have done that.
His co-pilot was an average looking man in his late thirties with average traits. Carlos Venetia, the average man’s average man. Michael had him pegged as an honest man, with honest morals and ethics. A man any respectable person could look up to, however, there was one thing that he excelled at. And that was his hand-to-hand combat. Rumours of Venetia being a former amateur boxer about to hit the pros before Emergence Day were swirling throughout much of the week prior.
Michael embarrassingly noticed himself staring at his crewmates and quickly snapped out of it, poking his eyes out toward the door and down below at the street. He didn’t know what had overcome him, wanting to chase a possible ghost - one that showed no signs of ever being here, but he couldn’t back out now. The guilt and pain of seeing a father lose his child would distress him enough to keep him wake at night. Ever since his own child’s miscarriage, he ran from his own demons. He felt as if he had failed his wife, his family and most of all, his son.
As Michael buried painful memories in the back of his head, he soon caught movement up ahead, near one of the broken-into stores. Venetia must have also caught it because he began speaking over the built-in mega blasters,
“CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON, YOUR FATHER IS LOOKING FOR YOU!
He repeated that message three more times as the black Raven hovered above the city, gathering dust and collecting waste beneath them. Just when it seemed like a false hope, a little shape came scurrying out of the store and onto the open street, arms frantically trying to wave down the Raven.
“There, right there!” shouted Venetia as Lt. Rose brought the Raven to a slow decent.
“Hoist me down, I’ll grab the boy!” voiced Michael already attaching the hoist to his waist and double-checking the clippings and hooks.
The Raven hovered just below the tops of the buildings around it, encamping itself within the crumbling labyrinth of concrete. Michael slowly swooped down from the Raven and landed next to the young boy who looked no older than eight.
“We’re here to get you out, son, are you hurt?” asked Michael, checking the boy for injuries and other deforms. The boy could not answer as his grimy face seemed exhausted and worn out. The boy’s clothing was covered in grime and filth. Michael grabbed a hold of the boy and signalled for Grant to raise him up.
“Come on kid, lets get you to your dad.”
As Michael fastened the boy onto the seat he made sure to check for a pulse. The boy looked like he was in bad shape, and Michael didn’t want to know how the boy had managed to survive as long as he did, possibly without aid. As Michael looked after the boy, he soon fell into a moment of tranquility. His eyes shut once and than opened only to shut once more.
the voice pierced into Michael’s mind, disrupting him from his sleep and forcing the young boy to wake and scream in terror. Grant had opened fire with his chain-gun, sending hot lead raining down onto whatever was on the receiving end of 50. Cal rounds.
“We’ve got Locust troops, at our eleven!” shouted Venetia on the tac-comm.
“Taking damage to our underbelly, I’m moving to evade -- aagh
!” Lt. Rose gritted his teeth as he banked the Raven hard, causing everyone within it to sway alongside it.
Michael held onto the boy as best he could and braced for impact but it didn’t come. Opening his eyes, Michael realized that Lt. Rose was still in control of the Raven. Grabbing his chance to aid the crew, Michael took his position at the chain-gun and began firing down at the intruding Locust Horde.
The hot casings erupted out of the chain-gun sending thousands of shells hitting the pavement and Horde below. They twinkled in the muzzle of his ferocious weapon’s tenacity, glimmering as they shattered at the bottom.
The rounds slugged into the thick hides of the Locust forces below, casing massive trauma to the lines and lines of Drones that managed to get in the way. Glass shattered from the windows of nearby apartments and buildings broke, crumbling under the added suppression of chain-gun fire. Debris rained down on top of the Locust forces below, smashing bone and armour alike. The streets ripped open with great fire.
The amount of firepower that was being thrown at the Raven was enough to cause hearing loss. Michael soon only heard the ringing of bells, a faint sound that thudded against his ear-drums as each casing flew from the chain-gun’s hawking mouth.
Suddenly a flash of black ink whizzed past Michael’s head and before he could react to bare its destination, a horrific sounding noise emptied from Grant’s side as his chain-gun fell silent. Michael looked over to bare witness to the entanglement of limbs having been blown apart and the lower torso and body of Grant being sprawled out against one of the seats. Blood oozed down from the walls and dripped like a fountain from Grant’s body as it rolled off the edge of the stump where once the chain-gun stood. Grant had been instantly dismembered in seconds from the attack.
Michael hastily looked over at the child on the seat who was covered in the remains of Grant, crying in great tears, helplessly watching the scene unfold before his eyes.
shouted Lt. Rose as the Raven was struck once more, causing it to lose its balance.
The tail-rotor was struck with destructive force, sending fragments of metal and steel racing past the cabin. The Raven swirled out of control blaring sirens as all hell broke lose. Venetia and Lt. Rose attempted to bring the Raven down without crashing as Michael held on for dear life.
“We’re -- we’re going down!” shouted Lt. Rose, struggling to keep the bird in the air.
“We’re going down, Raven down, I repeat, Raven down!” spoke Venetia over the intercoms to command.
Michael tasted blood as he gritted his teeth, reaching out for the boy who reached out in return. The Raven tilted and swerved as it crashed into the side of a building sending plumes of orange shooting out toward the street and into the night-sky. All went black.
When Michael awoke, he heard faint cries for help. At first he had thought he was hearing things but this soon provided to be false as Michael realized it was the young boy. Michael gathered his bearings, both pilots were dead, he couldn’t see the boy. He had broken a few ribs and his shoulder had been dislocated. His head had a gaping wound. He had somehow survived the crash! The Raven was still lodged into the side of the building! It had been suspended there for hours, right on the edge of a giant sinkhole.
Michael grunted as he made his way toward the sound of the boy, crawling over broken and shattered remains of the building and crashed Raven. He wrestled with the need to close his eyes and pass out.
Once he got there, he realized that the boy was dangling from the building, shaking and slipping. Michael forced himself to move closer, to grab the boy’s hand with his good arm and attempt to pull him up.
“Come on!” he yelled, trying to reach the boy's hand, “grab my hand!”
“Please don’t let me die, mister!”
“Grab my hand kid--”
“I want to see my dad--”
The boy was about to slip but Michael had grabbed a hold of his sleeve just in time. He could feel the boys weight on his lone wrist but he began to pull him up. The boy was slowly being pulled up, he was almost there!
But before he had made it all the way there, the sleeve ripped and the boy was sent falling into the pits below. Michael screamed out as he felt time itself slow down. The boy’s eyes grew wider as he fell, knowing what was to happen to him. He flung his arms helplessly but to no avail. The little boy’s eyes were locked onto Michael’s as he watched in horror. The boy fell into the endless sinkhole, no longer seen, swallowed by the darkness. He was gone.
Michael stayed stretched out staring at the giant sinkhole, a mix of ever-lasting sorrow and anger washed over him. He cried out loud and cursed at himself, agony his only company. Michael lay on the edge of the sinkhole as his tears strolled down his cheeks and into the pit.