Let the Fire Fall
The once magnificent cityscape had now been reduced to mere rubble. Formerly the centerpiece of high civilization, now lay ruined by war and fear. The monolithic buildings whose heads once peaked into the heavens were now cement skeletons of their former selves. Debris and gore littered the ancient streets where great operas and plays once drew audience. The sky was dark, polluted by smoke and dust; midday seemed like dusk and midnight, death itself. Citizens ran in fear from the city, as soldiers marched, orderly into it. They defended other cities and after this one, more would surely follow.
Sparse machine gun chatter provided beat as a small group of regulars crept through a particularly rubble cluttered street. Each dressed in the standard grey of their military. Only a patch on their left arm could tell regular from officer. They had no officer with them though; he was dead. All of them were covered in dark soot, which masked most of their telling features. They held their rifles at ready and moved cautiously through the shallow valleys of rock and metal. A heavy smoke lingered in the air, which made looking ahead almost impossible. As they moved through the street, the sound of artillery echoed in the distance. A few of the men shuttered, but the rest were far to accustom to the sound to even notice. Without thinking the lead man cocked up his arm and all in the group dropped to he ground, or behind some rubble. The lead man did the same, but occasionally risked a look ahead to where he had been looking. A figure appeared out of the haze, running. The lead man yelled out, and when the answer was satisfactory, all the others came out of hiding to meet this new comer.
But he wasn’t a new comer at all. He was a scout they had sent forward three days before. Their officer had sent him to see what lay ahead, before he died. The man was breathing hard, but took time to swallow a copious amount of water when it was offered. “Those bastards have taken every bridge along the west side.” He began. “The east side doesn’t look much better, but there seems to be more resistance there.” He slowly looked around the group. “Where’s the Cap?”
“They shot him yesterday. Took two others as well.” Said the leader of the group. He looked at the ground. “Let the fire fall.”
“Shit, yeah.” The scout said remorsefully. “So what’s the plan now?” The leader didn’t answer. “Dan? What the hell are we gonna do now!”
“We’re gonna go on with our mission and take the fiftieth street bridge. We’re gonna hold it until backup arrives, then we will wait for new orders. That is what we are going to do!” Dan looked at the scout.
“Are you fucking crazy? There are ten of us now! We can’t hold a bridge against them!” he looked around at their faces. “You guys gonna do just like your told aren’t you?” No one answered. He shook his head. “I’m done with this war, with all of it. I’m done with all of you!” He stood and removed his regular patch. “Here”, he handed it to Dan.
Dan pulled out his handgun and cocked it. “You’re not done.” He said flatly. The scout turned to face him. Dan pulled the trigger and let two rounds fly into the scout’s chest. He walked over to the squirming body and put another shot into his head. Dan turned to the rest of the group.
“Anyone else wanna leave?” Silence. “Then move out! James, take point for a while. Matt, burn the body, we don’t need him coming back.” The red headed boy walked over to the scout’s body. He peered into the scout’s still open eyes and pulled the trigger of his flamethrower. After the burning, they moved on from that spot without looking back.
It began to get dark when Andrew James motioned for them to take cover. Dan, still hovering in back of the group, quickly moved forward to get eyes on the situation. He moved past Matt and put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“What’s up?” He asked of James.
“Heard gun fire, closer than it has sounded all day. I reckon we’re close enough to the bridge that Scotty may have been right. Seems there might be some resistance up here.”
“We should still move carefully,” Dan looked rather bleak. “I would rather not get into the middle of someone else’s fight.” He looked back at the group and motioned a hearty looking lad forward. “Get up there and have a look. Get back here quickly! Go!” The boy shot forward into the smoky darkness.
“You sent George?” James mocked.
“You know he’s slow as hell and just as dumb?”
“Yeah.” Dan continued looking forward to where the gunfire sound was emanating. James looked into his eyes for an answer. “He may be a dumb shit,” Dan said finally “But he’s loyal. He won’t run off on me when given the chance.” James was becoming quite wary of Dan’s leadership abilities, his face showed it. They entrenched themselves there for sometime, waiting on George to return with a report. Some of them ate, some of them smoked, very few slept. As Dan lit a cigarette, a figure stumbled out of the darkness. Dan was so startled by it he burnt his fingers. Cussing under his breath he raised his rifle, the rest of the troop did the same.
George came fumbling out of the darkness. To their horror, he was missing an arm and a chunk of his skull was showing; he was drenched in his own crimson blood. He stopped and looked at them all. Dan stared into his eyes for a moment. “Well?” George nodded his head and fell to the ground, dead. “Burn ‘im!” Dan yelled as he walked past the body. Matt did as he was told. James came up beside Dan.
“What the hell?”
“We move in.” Dan was looking very out of body.
“What? Are you fucking craz—“ Dan had wheeled around to face him, pistol out.
“I am not crazy, I assure you.” James nodded in a hesitant agreement and the group walked on, toward the gunfire.
Night had fallen, but there were some piles of burning rubble to mark their way now, as they came nearer the action. The machinegun chatter increased in volume as they went onward. Dan took lead again, they didn’t stop; they weren’t moving carefully now. They came to an intersection, they should have stopped before crossing, but Dan had them at a full run. A tall member of their party fell to the ground, his head few into the air, then they heard the shot.
The cross fire began.
“Suppressive fire!” Dan barked “Flair! Flair! Let the wind blow!”
Matt sent up the flair so they could see. They returned fire. James threw a grenade.
BOOM! Rock and dust went everywhere.
“Aahhhh!” another member of their group went down, shrapnel peppering his face. Matt shot up another flair and hurled a second grenade. Only six men remained in their ranks now. Dan and James were shooting viciously; three others were picking targets. After three minutes, the battle was over. For a moment all was silent, then Matt looked about around at the men just as James jumped onto Dan, yelling like a mad man.
“You sick bastard!” He threw a punch. “You knew moving fast was risky! Now two more dead.” They struggled on “Only six of us left! Ahhhhhhhh!” Matt grabbed James and threw him off; two others had a hold of Dan.
“They died for the cause!” Dan yelled wildly. They looked into one another’s eyes for a moment.
“Died for the cause? We go from city to city, trying to fend these bastards off! Does it work? Never, they always win! They can’t be beat, their too powerful, too infecting! Cap knew that.” Then it hit James. “Cap wasn’t shot by them was he?” Matt’s eyes flew to him, then to Dan. “YOU shot him in the back, didn’t you? Right as they attacked!”
“Cap was an ignorant fool.”
“You did! Damn you! Matt, he did didn’t he? You burnt him, where was the wound? In his back I bet!” Matt said nothing; the others weren’t sure what to do.
“You all would be dead now if not for me!” Dan screamed with insanity. Before anything else could be said, they heard a voice. Then more voices. They forgot their yelling and ran for cover. All together they ran toward the bridge once more. Shots rang in their ears. James was hit in the leg and went down. Matt stopped to help him, but Dan took out his pistol and motioned him on. They both looked into James’s eyes one last time and ran into the darkness. Moments later came the most painful scream one could imagine. The five of them ran on, and soon the smoke and dust of the city streets cleared and before them ran a great river, over which set the grandest bridge they had ever seem. The sky was dark with clouds and across the river, the city continued. Great pillars of smoke rose up from the ruined city. Ships flew overhead on bombing runs. One of the men looked out and saw the enemy force, marching over the bridge.
“W-we can’t repel that! They are behind us too. We must flee!”
“NO! WE FIGHT!” The others looked at Dan. “You will fight! Let the glory come down!” Artillery was falling everywhere now, blasting the paved streets into dust. Dan pulled his handgun again and motioned the men to charge. One did not and he was promptly shot in the head. A mortar blast tore into the others. Chaos! Dan and Matt charged on. Then Dan fell to a bullet; he screamed something about being free. Matt stopped to look back at him. For a moment time stood still, Matt had no intentions of helping him. Bullets were flying everywhere. Another mortar fell from the sky. It landed right on Dan in a blast of flesh and pavement. There was no time to think. Alone, surrounded. A third mortar threw Matt from the bridge and into the ice cold water below. He thought of home, of his brother, of undeath.