A memory – Conflagration

Oddelulf – III, 3 years ago.

Peace, tranquility. Shattered in an instant. A macro shell violently ripping apart my meditation. The ground shakes, quivers, an echo of a partially forgotten dream. The blood rises, the kids.
Household staff quivering, shrieking in fear, a constant reminder that not all people are rational beings. I run, as quick as I can go to the room Roland and Elizabeth are likely to be in. A good thing the insistence children should be educated properly.
The room is empty. A momentary fear shivering through my body. A whimper emits from under the table. Fools.
I rush over, grabbing my infant and adopted daughter from the terrified nurse’s arms, “round up everyone you can find and meet me in the landing bay,” I yell at the terrified woman. With that, I leave the room, babe in arms, toddler running to keep up with my measured stride.
A quick change, strapping my favoured blades and firearms in easy reach, a carrier to keep my arms free and Roland out of harm’s way. This place was supposed to be a haven, safe. The anger welling inside, simmering away to be unleashed. I take Elizabeth’s hand and turn. The world turns inside out.
A shell lands close enough to obliterate the landing field, but not close enough to destroy the farther end of the estate. I hear screaming, crying. Children in terror, adults in fear, pain. Potentially death. I ignore the adults and put all my will in to the children. Those precious little beacons of life.
Soothing Elizabeth, I heft her on to a hip, and start a loping jog. Out of habit, I’ve planned for this. Always have an escape plan, even if you don’t think you’ll ever need it. The wheels set in motion.
A short jog down the beach, there is a cave. In there, a month’s supplies for four people and an emergency short-wheelbase vehicle. Praying to every deity I can think of, I start the engine. The quiet hum of the antique machine giving a momentary relief from the anxiety.
I set the children in the vehicle and step on the accelerator, mind half on finding an exit, half on driving.
The bombardment stops as suddenly as it began. The eerie silence jarring. Then I see them, streaks of fire and smoke in the sky, landing craft. Following its trajectory, I park in a wooded section just shy of the landing zone and wait. Soothing the youngsters, handing Elizabeth a communicator. “Stay here, be quiet. We’ll play a game; if anyone comes near the vehicle, press this button and say as quiet as a mouse, contact.” She nods, the fear slowly draining out of her, colour returning.
I lock the vehicle and leave, taking a circuitous route to the projected landing zone. I wait.
A loud roar heralds the dropship’s arrival. The trees swaying, ground rumbling as the light craft skims over the land. A sharp twist and dust cloud, the craft lands. I count the heartbeats as the ship settles, landing ramp slowly descending, ready to unleash its payload on the stricken planet.
Angels. I spit in the dirt, grinding teeth as I level the assault pattern rifle, take a deep breath, and squeeze. High-velocity death spewing from the muzzle of the rifle, I duck and swing around. There was a rock a few meters away to use for cover. Running low, reloading as I go, then spray again, chuckling quietly to myself as the remaining men fire at my previous position.
Duck, dash, reload, wait a moment. I dive out of the treeline, covering ground as quickly as possible. Rifle in a ready position.
Adrenaline, anger, blood lust carrying me forward, I drop the rifle, drawing the twinned blades that have gone through so much in the past. I stop by the side of the craft and use a dagger as a mirror. Two people at the far end using boxes as cover. I smile, priming a small incendiary and toss it in.
“Grenade!” One man screams, a loud whooshing crump followed by a wash of flame is my cue. Quick as a serpent, I dive through, throwing another incendiary, this time with pinpoint accuracy then use a bench near the entrance as cover. The men scream as they burn, but I ignore their pitiful pleas and head to the cockpit.

I return to the children, and drive the vehicle straight in to the dropship. Leaving the stricken planet behind.

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