After - Science fiction novel

“After” – Chapter 2

Prologue
Chapter 1

Chapter 2

“For the Thole!” I heard the yell off to my right, but didn’t see them yet.

We had a good area of defense. We were positioned on top of the highest hill in the valley, and the mountains made a excellent choke point. Nothing was getting over the mountains to the east and west of us, which meant that the only way we could be attacked was from the north or the south. The downside about our position was the damn bend to the north. It cut off our sight, all the way up to the bend in the valley. If you stayed against the cliffs, it wasn’t hard to sneak around it without being seen.

“We’ve got Recreants to our right Sir!” I yelled out to Salem.

Recreants… Depending on who you asked, they were to be pitied or hated. They were humans that had joined the Evarian, and fought against us. I don’t know what caused them to do it. We’ve captured a few of them, but they don’t seem quite coherent. They just continue to babble on about the Thole.

The Thole were, as far as we could tell, the leaders of the entire Evarian race. All of us had seen them before. We’ve got word from other sectors that they had seen them too. They were three beings, even more warped looking than the rest of the Evarians. The soldier side of me says you can’t discern ass from face and to leave it at that, but the Biologist in me is incredibly interested in their form. I want to get a closer look, as it’s difficult to see them well. There’s some sort of light in the way. It’s bright, making it hard to see, and it casts the Thole into darkness behind it. It’s certainly not impossible to see them, you can make out their mangled form, but you can’t see any details.

“To our left!” yelled a soldier on the other side of our posts. I looked over, and sure enough, there came a group of Recreants running uphill. Most of them had guns or swords, but some of them carried Evarian weapons.

“Split your watch, we need eyes left, right and center. We will not get caught of guard.” Salem commanded.

Suddenly, a wild shot fired on the right, from behind the hill. It went flying through the air in no particular direction, collapsed in on itself and disappeared. I didn’t have time to wonder what the point was when the boom hit. There was no flash, but we could see the shockwave. The worst of it was the boom that followed. I suddenly couldn’t hear, my ears were ringing and my head was pounding. I looked, people were starting to panic, nobody could hear. Salem was running throughout the troops, getting their attention and pointing at where they needed to focus. He has always been good at keeping everyone under control.

I gritted my teeth. I had to focus through the pain. The Recreants were bad, but the Evarian were way worse. They were fast and agile. They could run upright and on their impossibly spindly arms and legs. They could jump almost three times their upright height, and they were relentless.

The Recreants on the left reached us just as the ones on the right came into view. It was hard not to panic, seeing them run, scream and fire weapons, but hearing nothing. We came to clash. The Recreants were reckless, trying to charge our hold, they made themselves easy targets, they always have. It was weird, because many of them were soldiers. I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t use more strategy. I fired at one, and burned straight through his chest. He dropped, dead before he hit the ground, hopefully without feeling anything.

Suddenly a beam flew past my face, just inches from me. My heart leaped as I turned to my right. There was another Recreant less than 20 feet from me, holding an Evarian gun. His wild eyed grin was disturbing at best. He opened his mouth for a battle cry I still couldn’t hear, and charged me. Still grinning maniacally from ear to ear, running full speed, he leveled his gun and tried to take aim. I leveled my gun, took aim and fired. He rolled from the momentum, and never got back up.

The Evarian were nowhere to be seen, I was starting to worry. What were they planning? Why weren’t they hear yet? I wasn’t exactly eager to see them, but something wasn’t right. It was obvious Salem thought the same thing. He was watching behind us, binoculars glued to his face as he swept his view back and forth, back and forth.

Boom. I hear a far away shot, as someone a couple yards from me fired there gun. I could finally here something, but it wasn’t enough. We’d taken the Recreants on our right down, there were a few more charging on the left. I held my weapon to my side and started scoping the ground beyond the hill. There was nothing that I could see. It wasn’t exactly a cluttered view down there. It was a spread of fine grass, with a lone tree here and there.

I heard the familiar boom, but not the whoosh as a Recreant on the left fired off an Evarian gun. The shot went wild, and he dropped as he got hit by one of our troops. I heard a little bit of noise as guns next to me were being checked and reloaded. I still couldn’t hear much, but it was coming back.

Silence, or well, visual silence. There was nothing behind us, or in front. We checked the sides, though anyone or anything coming down those cliffs would be unlikely, if not impossible. Nothing. There was nothing at all. We all sat back, tense. I looked around. It looked like we didn’t suffer any casualties, which was relieving but not surprising. Cruz looked like he was going to loose it. I knew he was mad, but I had to try to do something to calm him.

“Cruz!” I shouted as I ran toward him, hoping his hearing was coming back too.

“What do you want?” He replied.

I settled up beside him. “You okay?”

“What do you care?” He glared at me, more hurt then mad.

“I didn’t mean what I said. I was mad, high strung and scared. I do care and I’m sorry.” I hope he knew I meant it.

“The Recreants killed my fucking parents, and you tell me to go off and be one. I know Price’s death has been bothering you, I know you’re stressed, but how could you do that? I was six Alice. Six fucking years old. Their heads, the Recreant, that sword…” His eyes watered and he shuddered. He just stared at the ground, the fire gone from his eyes.

I didn’t know what to do, but we were on the battlefield. “Cruz… I…” I was having a hard time gathering the words. “Look, hate me, that’s fine, I don’t blame you. I know, you hurt and I fucked up. We’re on the field though Cruz. Get your head on, just for now. Please, I don’t want your emotions getting you killed.”

He lifted his head and half-heartedly scanned past the hill. Finally he quietly asked, “Where are they?”

“I don’t know.” I told him. “You’re definitely not the only one wondering. Salem’s been scanning behind us pretty much the entire skirmish.”

“Hey Alice? Tell me about the wood houses.” Cruz said. I knew he was scared.

I told him every detail I could remember from the pictures I was shown and the descriptions my parents had given me. We talked back and forth as we waited for the Evarian to show up. Hours passed, and the sun started to drop toward the horizon, the mountains casting long angular shadows across our valley.

***

“Alright.” Salem finally said. “We’ve been holed up here long enough. I don’t think they’re coming. You are welcome to go back to the settlement, keep your weapons ready and with you.”

Everyone got up, stretching and murmuring to each other. They grabbed their weapons and warily started walking back.

“Blackwell, walk with me.” Salem commanded. Cruz started to get up with me, but Salem directed him to go back to the settlement.

“What’s up Sir?”

“I want some of the Recreants dissected. More specifically, I want to see how their brain matches up with ours.”

“We are all human Sir, the Recreants included.”

“I know.” He sighed. “I know. I just, I want, there’s got to be something different. I can not accept that they would desert us like that without something being… wrong. I want the neurologists to check a couple of them out. There’s got to be something.”

I didn’t like this. Salem never gets desperate. He’s like a machine, but I didn’t have any reasonable objections. “Alright. I’ll get a couple people together, we’ve got five tables we can use for study, we’ll bring five bodies. I’m also grabbing as many of the Evarian guns as I can and I’ll let Cruz at them.”

Salem shook his head. “For everybody’s sake, I hope he doesn’t figure out how to fire one of those things while he’s in the lab.”

“If it happened to anybody, it would be him.” I chuckled.

Salem’s smile dropped. “One last thing Blackwell. I heard what you said to him. What the hell were you thinking telling him he might as well be one of them?” He mad a wide sweeping gesture out to the field littered with Recreant bodies. “I know you were mad, but you know what happened to his parents. All of you have had to grow up fast, I get that, and it affects people differently. He needs you there for him Blackwell. You need to seem unbreakable. That’s what happens when you’re a mentor.”

“I…” I sighed. “Yes Sir, I know.” What point was there? I had no excuse, I screwed up big time.

“Good. Now, head out Blackwell, get them rounded up before it gets dark.” He started walking off toward the labs.

I booked it toward the settlement to gather volunteers.

[Ivy’s note: Hey sunshines, I really want constructive criticism and feedback. I hope to make this into a full sized, printed book one day, so please let me know what you think, and thank you ahead of time for those who do.]

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