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An Omen For Children Chapter 1 https://elementscommunity.org/forum/index.php?topic=57998.msg1184773#msg1184773
« on: April 04, 2015, 04:24:17 am »
Journey 1: Turkey-Bulgaria Border

Recording 1

The world from its nearly two hundred countries had turned into only ten factions, or super nations as some called it. They were each assigned a number. Shaun and I were in the second super nation, known as Iberkan, simply because it stretched from the Iberian Peninsula all the way to the Western Balkans, with Greece, Turkey and Iceland included in it. The formation of these super nations was caused by The Father, a ruler who watched the entire world with his very own eyes. No one knows who he was and where he was located at. All we know was that he was the supreme ruler.

As for me and Shaun, we were pacifiers. It was a pretty decent job with adequate pay. We bring justice to the society. We try to stop revolts and rebellions from occurring. The more rebels we pacified, the more honour, salary and status we were given. Some were so effective at keeping the crowds down that even before an action, or even a word spitted out from a rebel will be immediately be placed in lockdown. They were known as ‘The Father’s Chosen’. I admired them and hoped that one day I will just be as effective as them. Of the two hundred million pacifiers around the world only seventy were promoted to the rank of The Father’s Chosen.
Of all the rebellions I had encountered, there was one rebellion I had remembered with the most lucidness. The day was 17 September, 2049, the day Marcus Robins and Shaun Lee’s lives have changed around. I remembered when it all started with a pacifying briefing.

‘We have been assigned to pacify another rebellion so pay attention!’ Mack Reaves pointed at the whiteboard, taped with documentation and photos either in sepia or black and white. Mack Reaves was a silencer. A silencer was a promoted rank of the pacifier and along with the greater pay and status there were also greater responsibilities, one of them being the leader in a small squadron of ten pacifiers.

‘As you can see here, this is a picture of the new rebellion which has taken place in Varvara. It has started with just a meagre ten. However, their continuous success lead to twenty, then fifty, then hundred, all the way to a staggering three thousand. They therefore, must be stopped immediately.’

He took off a taped picture from the whiteboard and gave it to Bob Martins, a local pacifier, to hand the picture around. The picture showed a man on the right throwing a glass bottle at a pacifier. Another man beside him was oozing with blood on the ground. He was clearly dead. On the left side of the picture was an oil barrel burning with a huge flame.

‘Pardon me, sir, but isn’t Varvara located in South-eastern Bulgaria?’ another pacifier, John Kent, asked.

‘Yes it is.’

‘Then why are we assigned to do this?’ He was right. Bulgaria is a province of Trevorum, the fifth super nation, sharing the borders of Iberkan.

‘It is because the revolt originated in Sofia.’ Reaves replied. He seemed to be a bit emotional about it.

‘Since then it has travelled downward all the way to Varvara. We have the right to believe that it will reach Turkey in any moment.’

‘Well, if it is such a significant rebellion why do we only receive news about it now?’

‘Would you bloody just pay attention!?’ The whispers and small conversations immediately stopped.

‘Right...’ Reaves took a deep breath. ‘Here’s the plan. Since this revolt is SIGNIFICANT...’ he turned around and mocked at Kent. ‘...we can’t just end it with a division or two, we need a plenum. A division consists of a Silencer and its squadron of ten Pacifiers. A plenum consists of ten divisions, which is supervised by a silencer prime.
‘Here’s how we are going to end this revolt. He took down a poster-sized sheet from the whiteboard and he had placed it on the conference table. Everyone gathered around.

‘By the silencer prime’s orders, he plans to separate the ten divisions into three groups. The three groups are responsible to attacking the left, centre and the right side of the rebellion grounds. Divisions 31, 34 and 38 are assigned to the North, behind the trees. Divisions 32, 35, 37 and 40 are going dead centre to fight against the rebels in Varvara. Finally, our Division along with divisions 36 and 39 are going south of the site, behind the dilapidated houses and food vendors. As we were assigned to go down South, our assignment is under phases. The first phase is to notice any rebels planning to escape and to take him or her down. When the centre division has half of the crowd cleared, a Pacifier would raise a red flag, allowing us to commence the second phase. The second phase is for snipers to climb up the broken houses and to start taking down any retreating rebels. Meanwhile, the rest of the team will run all the way to the back, as shown here.’

Reaves points his finger towards the northwest corner of the map. It is the area where the road is leading to the highway. It was a clear path with neither trees from the North or the junked houses from the South. The area was clearly identified with a nice, crimson X. ‘From here, our job is to place stun traps and taser wires, each five and thirty five centimetres apart respectively. After that, another Pacifier would raise a blue flag. Then the third and final phase could begin, which is simply to run back and take down the rest of the mob. I will also assign a few of you to remain near the located X just in case a few smart ones even dare to sneak out of that place. This mission in total should be completed in around fourteen minutes. Are my instructions clear?’ Everyone nodded and left immediately.

We arrived downstairs in the garage of the Pacifier Force Station. The garage was huge with the ceiling, a ten by five by twenty meter building. I usually feel remote in this area due to its size and vacancy, only to be filled with metallic shelves and drawers near the entrance door. But not today. We were greeted by our fellow Divisions who will be cooperating with us to relent the raid. There were jeeps and vans mounted with machine guns and all the Pacifiers stood there, saluting to us upon our arrival. Then, all of a sudden, out of the back, a man approached towards us. He was wearing a black outfit with a helmet and a red visor. He was Silencer Prime James Woodshaw.

Mack Reaves took off his helmet and went to greet him. The rest of us, also, took off our helmets. ‘You made it early time sir.’ Reaves said. Woodshaw, codenamed ‘Ice’ was known for his obdurate personality. He seemed unmoving behind that stern look of his. The semi-wrinkly face, white hair and hedged moustache, sort of like Hitler’s except if you tried to be in physical contact with him, you chin would get the itches. All he did was to reply in a near monotonous tone. ‘The earlier the better.’ The conversation between Reaves and Woodshaw became mumbles to my ears as I wandered around the garage. It could definitely do some fixing up.

‘We could definitely put some lockers way at the back of the garage to put our stuff.’ Turns out Mr. Lee has to follow wherever I go. He was right though. It was really frustrating to always carry our stuff upstairs. ‘Yeah, and maybe a couch along with it.’ I replied sarcastically. ‘But not when it is a bean bag couch.’ His smile imitated one of those Broadway musical ‘ta-da’ moments, the gentleman with their jaws wide open, flinging their hands in the open air. I’d swear the only thing more annoying than that would be if he wore one of those super long tuxedos and wore one of those top hats. Then I’ll club with my gun stock and he can cry all he wants for the following twenty four hours.

‘Marcus Robins! Shaun Lee!’ Crap. ‘I’m sorry sir, they are always like that. I can’t help it.’ Reaves walked quickly towards us, the rest of the plenum turned their heads to face us, some of them laughing, some of them gossiping, some of them sighing. ‘You do NOT do this to me ever again is that clear?’ It was hard to say no with those teeth grinding each other. All Shaun and I did was to slowly nod. Reaves gave me and Shaun a pat at the shoulder. ‘Alright then.’ He then turned towards Woodshaw. ‘We are ready.’ Woodshaw raised his arm up high. At once, jeeps and vans were starting up and soldiers were getting up on the vehicles. In a single file jeep by jeep, van by van left the garage and onwards towards Varvara.

The jeep Shaun and I were riding on included John Kent, Bob Martins and another Pacifier and the driver named Alex Kent, John’s brother. The car ride isn’t exactly smooth so I felt a couple of bumps during the ride. It wasn’t that comfortable but it is paradise to what we usually need to encounter. We sometimes have to travel through mountains, valleys and bloody roundabouts. Can’t we just get a plane or something?

‘So how’s life?’ Martins handed me a beer bottle. ‘So far so I good I guess.’ I replied without hesitation. ‘What do you mean I guess?’ He smiled so charmingly, I couldn’t resist the enchantment he has over me.

‘Well, I mean…have you felt that this is all there is to life?’

Bob Martins gave the classic sarcastic look. ‘Dude. Don’t you think we are blessed, that we are given a job by The Father? The pay’s not bad at all and we have a fun time being together and to be able to enjoy what we do. You’re not planning to be one of those rebels are you?’

‘Of course not. I mean…’ I didn’t know what to say to him so I looked outside the window. The window was nothing more that fluctuations of yellow plains encapsulated by the calmness of the blue sky. The clouds too were especially beautiful today, sort of like the puffy ones which I want to grab as if it were cotton candy. Then, out of the blue was something white, it looked straight yet curly in the near distance. Time started to slow down at that very moment. It was as if fate itself wanted me to see it. ‘Guys, did you see that?’ I continued to keep my eyes out of the window.

‘What?’ The guys started to squish me as they too pondered out the window. ‘It was white, straight yet curly. We passed by it already.’

‘Yeah, the clouds sure are beautiful today.’

‘No, no, no!’ I turned around and crossed my arms. ‘It is not a cloud.’

‘Well, if it isn’t a cloud, I don’t see anything else white. After all, you said we passed by it already.’ Martins giving an expression of nonchalance.

‘Never mind.’ I gave a small sigh. I started to gulp down the beer. Then, as usual, I started to place my hand in my left hand pocket. I took out a gold-plated medallion. Engraved with words, it read:

Long time ago, man had nothing. They were meant to have nothing. But it is by the stupidity of man which made a select few to have everything and the rest to have less than nothing.

What does this exactly mean? How can a few men have everything while the rest have less than nothing? Wait a minute, is ‘less than nothing’ even theoretically possible? Furthermore, why is it stupid, why are we stupid? I don’t even know whose this was. I found it at a beach in Zakynthos on one of my pacifying trips, God knows how far it has travelled. However, after 277 days, I still kept it. It was a quagmire until now I couldn’t even have resolved. In addition, I bet that the owner of this medallion was very important. Even if he or she have lost it, it shouldn’t end up in landfills being clawed by stray cats or bird pooped.

I was continuing to admire it when I was jerked forward off my seat and fell on the floor. The jeep had made such an abrupt stop.

‘Is everyone okay back there?’ Alex asked. ‘Sorry for the harsh stop. It seems that we have to go down through a steep slope.’

‘Yeah.’ I tried to get myself back up to my seat. Shaun and Martins helped me up. ‘There you go.’ Martins gave a sigh of expression. Upon lifting me up, he noticed the medallion and immediately let go of me and I toppled over again.

‘Bob! Ouch!’ Shaun gave a small chuckle. ‘Oh Marcus, I’m so sorry. I’m just so surprised.’ After I got back on my seat, he picked up the medallion and gave back to me. ‘I mean, seriously, you’re still keeping this medallion? It’s been almost a year.’

‘277 days to be exact, and yes, I’m serious about keeping it.’

‘Sometimes, I’m curious how I befriended with you in the first place.’ Shaun told me. ‘Why would you carry something that you don’t even know what it is about? It doesn’t even have much in value.’

‘Well…..it does…..to me.’ I replied. ‘I mean, it is a puzzle that has been unresolved and I want to hold onto it until I find out what it means. It also seems really important to the owner of this.’ As Alex continued to drive, I can start to see the yellow fields dissipate away and to be replaced by huge bodies of ultramarine. While it is a pleasing sight, it is not as beautiful as the Aegean Sea; it was a paradise there.

I can now hear the rebellion in Varvara with my right ear. It was what one expected a rebellion would sound like: explosions, gunshots and shattering glass. ‘Alright guys. This is it.’ Martins said, gripping tightly to his rifle. ‘Remember we are supposed to bring the rebels back alive, and not to kill them. If we can do that, we can get extra credit and more pay.’ ‘Right.’ Said John. The sounds by now were clearly audible. The jeeps and vans started to close to a stop and soldiers started to run to the target site. ‘Looks like we all have to stop here. We can’t go to the site directly as it is too dangerous to drive there.’ Alex shifted the gear to parking mode and took out his rifle. We opened the car doors and one by one left the jeep.

The Plenum started to howl and shout, preparing their bodies physically and psychologically, boosting their adrenaline levels. As I was making crunching sounds with my running in the rubble-filled path, I held the rifle with both hands and taking aim so that I was prepared to shoot anyone that tries to stop me. I can see it, the forest on the far left, and the broken houses on the near right, just like that in the photograph Reaves has shown us.

I quickly hid behind the first broken house I’d seen in sight and knelt down. I then quickly turned around ninety degrees, taking aim with my rifle and shot a rebel which was about to throw a Molotov cocktail at one of the Pacifiers. His white shirt splattered with crimson red, he fell down as if he tripped over. Although he was fatally wounded, it wasn’t my shots that killed him. The Molotov cocktail landed on his jeans. The rebel, shocked, tried to put down the fire with his hands. But it was no use. The fire travelled from his pants, to his blood spattered shirt, to his face. All he could do was to scream as the embers started devouring him, releasing his ashes to the air. All I could was to give a small sigh and to continue running and fighting.

Following orders, I continued running away from the main scene of the rebellion, behind the dilapidated houses. I haven’t felt so panicked before in my life. Perhaps this is because this is the largest protest I’ve ever been too; a whopping three thousand people. As I ran, it was as if the line never stops. I immediately dropped on my knees when a rebel, out of ammo, tried to run towards me as he needed to reload. I quickly slid down and laid behind the broken house and took aim. As soon as he’s in sight, two bullets. One for each leg. He tumbled to the ground and did a roll, losing the grip of his rifle. I ran towards him and handcuffed him to a drainage pipe that was attached to one of the houses.

‘Stop being such a dick!’ He yelped. ‘This government is crazy! Demonstrating socio-economic inequalities leads to me being arrested! I’ll have you know, I’ll…..’ I pushed a towel all the way down to his throat. All I could now hear were mumbles of agony and pain. ‘Now stop complaining.’ I told him. He wouldn’t stop. I punched him twice in the right jaw and one on the left. His head tilted to one side, unconscious. ‘That should do it.’ I grabbed my rifle and continued to run off.

I’ve only taken down two guys and I’m starting to pant and feel tired. I’ve never been like this before. Usually I would only perform these symptoms after taking down at least fifteen. The intense training I had allows me to be able to perform such a feat. But not in this case. The conglomeration of loud noises, crowds, blood and death is probably the reason I’m so afraid. But I must not let this fear control me, I must control my fear. I quickly jumped on top of a house and started firing at any rebel I could see in sight. The sudden spike in frustration and anger produced as much blood as there were bullets being fired from my rifle. One, two, three, four, twelve rebels fell under the power of my rifle. It was then when I noticed it. The red flag. In a hurry, I reloaded my magazine and jumped off the house and ran all the way to the highway as Reaves previously pointed in the battlefield map.

Upon arriving, I took off my backpack and grabbed four stun traps and one taser wire. Seeing that other Pacifiers were running towards me, I hurriedly set up the apparatus before any rebel tries to flee and enter near this area. After a bit of entrenching and tying knots, the equipment were in place, ready to stun any incoming rebel. All I needed to do now is to wait for the blue flag. I sat down, checking to make sure that my rifle is prepared to fire at will.

All of a sudden, I felt a surge of electrical impulses travelling to my brain. I felt something was missing. I dug into my left hand pocket. The medallion was gone! In a panic, I got up and ran back behind the houses, hoping to find it on the way when I was bumped on the shoulder by Shaun Lee. ‘Hey man, what are you doing? You’re supposed to wait for the blue flag!’

‘I know. But I lost the medallion. I need to find it.’ ‘Aww come on!’ Shaun Lee faced his head towards the sky. ‘Dude, just forget it! It doesn’t really have much potential value anyways!’ I was about to reply him when Shaun and I’s attention was fixated on an incoming scream from a rebel. We rotated our bodies and fired simultaneously at him. What a bugger. ‘Anyways, as I was saying, I need to…’ ‘Dude! Just go back!’ Shaun was starting to shout at me. ‘I have set up the stun traps and taser wire already. I now have time before…’ Shaun quickly grabbed hold of my face and rotated it. ‘See that? That’s the friggin’ blue flag! Now go!’ ‘Fine.’ I replied reluctantly.

The amount of usurpers dropped to about one quarter or a fifth of the original amount. I can clearly see the others either being manacled, injured or killed from the fight. I can also see around ten Pacifiers fatally wounded. I drew up my rifle, took aim. Bam! Shot a rebel dead centre in the chest. Bam! Shot another at the throat. Trying to recall run and hit tactics, like Crazy Horse, I made a small team with Shaun and Bob, hiding behind the broken houses, shooting any rebel in sight until our magazines were out and then run towards the next house, reload and then repeat.

When we were reloading, a rebel turned around with his rifle held up high. I impulsively took a deep breath, eyes wide open, thinking that we all would be dead in any moment. However, Bob, more experienced of a Pacifier grabbed his rifle with both hands and clubbed him in the head with his gun stock. He fell down to the ground, with an imprint of the gun stock in the left side of his head. It was a depressed skull fracture. He wouldn’t last long. ‘Thanks man.’ Shaun said. ‘Yeah. I thought my final moment would be here.’ I added on. ‘Nah. Don’t mention it.’ Bob replied as he continued to reload his rifle. ‘C’mon. Let’s fire.’ We all turned around the corner and placed the scope towards our eyes.

‘I am getting the fat guy.’ Shaun chuckled. ‘No, I want it!’ Too late. Shaun shot him down. ‘That’s not fair.’ I gave out an annoyed tone. ‘No. It is fair. I shot him first. It was your loss for not having the dexterity.’ ‘But I saw him first! I…’ ‘Would you both just shut up!?’ Bob interrupted in the middle of our conflict. ‘We’re in the middle of a war here!’ He exclaimed as he fired and shot another rebel down.

‘I…’ I tried to talk back, but something distracted me, something caught my eye. I viewed the area, careful not to expose my head in case some rebel could shoot me. There it was. Something gold and shiny just like THE MEDALLION! Subconsciously, I ran out in the open field, trying to get the medallion back, forgetting the vulnerable position I was prone to. ‘Get the hell back here Marcus!’ Shaun shouted. ‘What is wrong with you!?’ Bob shouted. I couldn’t care about their thoughts. All I wanted to do is to get it back. I’m in reachable distance now. I slid down and tried to grab it when I was disturbed by a shout. ‘Marcus, look out!’ Instantly, I turned and right before my eyes was a pistol ready to fire at me. I closed my eyes, thinking it will be my genuine death this time.

BAM! I opened my eyes. I wasn’t dead! But how!? I heard a moan. Bob Martins! He had blocked that bullet for me. His hand in his chest, oozing out blood, forming a small deluge, contaminating the brown rubble path. ‘You’re lucky you can live a couple extra seconds due to your old friend there.’ It was the rebel with the pistol. ‘But now, prepared to face your official death!’ He was about to fire when he got fired. He was shot on the side of his head, each bullet carving out little pockets of blood. He tumbled and fell down straight to the ground. ‘You alright?’ It was Shaun Lee who shot him. This was the second time he saved my life. ‘Yea…not Bob.’ I said in a low voice, hoping it was not audible to him. I was too afraid to talk. My recklessness has cost a man to be severely injured, perhaps even life. I just hope it was the former. ‘Martins are you alright?’ Shaun quickly knelt on his knees and tried to take off his bag. ‘Are you out of your mind, Marcus!? Couldn’t you just get the fucking medallion after we cleared out all the rebels!?’ ‘I know. I’m sorry. You know me. If I thought about it, I wouldn’t do such a thing.’ ‘Do you THINK a simple SORRY would help Martins to automatically heal himself from the wound which should actually end up in YOUR CHEST!?’ Shaun’s nose was as big as a gorilla’s as he pushed me hard on the ground.
‘Ugh….I moaned.’ I lifted up my head, still seeing that Shaun was trying to cover up Bob’s wounds. He took a linen cloth from his bag and wrapped it around his chest, with Bob moaning whenever Shaun needed to physically move him about. ‘I’m sorry Bob, I couldn’t shoot him on time.’ Shaun said quietly to him. ‘It’s…..alright.’ Bob tried to speak ‘GAH! That hurts.’ While I was doubting my actions, I still grabbed the medallion and placed it in my left hand pocket. After all, I came here, why go back and regret it?

‘Marcus…’ I heard a sound. It must have come from Bob. I slowly approached toward him. My legs seemed to be shackled to heavy boulders. Every step I take required a huge amount of effort to move. I felt so guilty, yet so tired, it is like a voyage to travel to where Bob was laying. I finally made it. I knelt down to the ground, looking at Bob.

He looked up to me and smiled: ‘You douche.’

‘Bob, I’m so sorry, I….’

‘It’s ok Marcus. Everyone makes mistakes. Allow the veteran hold it for ya this time.’ I can feel him taking in deep breaths. ‘OUCH!’ Bob, no, not Bob. It was Martins that jerked a bit. Shaun knelt beside Martins, a bit frustrated yet sorrowful at the same time.

It wasn’t long before the paramedics arrived at the scene. All I could do was ponder at their white uniforms and obeying them to get out of the way. I took off my visor and slowly lifted myself up. My knees were killing me. I don’t know why. Either it is because I have knelt too long or because of the internal guilt. I don’t know. A minute I looked down at the ground, thinking how or why all of these incomprehensible moments would come by. The next minute, Martins was encapsulated by an ambulance, already leaving to a nearby morgue.

The sun was shining on a terrible day. I slowly walked, making crunching noises with my boots. I walked like a zombie, partially limped, sweaty and a completely blank mind. I walked all the way to back where our jeep stopped, planning to get on it when a local Pacifier told me that it’s going to get dark soon, and that we’ll be staying here for the night.

The internal pain I felt continued to permeate around my body at dusk. The sun was at the horizon, illuminating the sky with a final glimpse of gold before it dies out. Nocturnal clouds took their turn and mixed the gold with an eerie grey. The water at the Varvara coast started to show a lifeless expression, a lack of colours but abundant in small ripples and waves. The only life I could say remaining is us and the bonfires we’ve set up. Fires always amuse me. They were the strongest warriors when they were supposed to be at their weakest. I guess that’s why after several thousands of years, people still use this primitive approach. Primitive but effective. The bonfire crackled, and glowered with its embers, filling my hands with a nice touch of yellow and red.

I was sitting down on a patch of a grass, thinking about all the things I’ve done. I’ve pacified, and I’ve killed, and my recklessness has caused an ally to suffer with a fatal wound. I started to feel tears drip down from my eyes, but I made no sound. Making sounds when crying is like ritual chants gone wrong. It never helps, it never does. ‘Hey.’

Shaun arrived with two cans of beer. ‘Sorry about what happened this afternoon.’ He handed one over to me.

‘Thanks.’ I looked up to face him. I opened my can as soon as he sat beside me. ‘And….it’s alright.’ I took off my helmet as I took one huge gulp. The nice barley concoction mixed with carbonated water glazes my mouth with a nice sour and tangy texture. It is thirst quenching after a long day. The feeling when the chilled beer flows down to my stomach is absolutely relieving.

‘So…..what are you planning to do now?’ Shaun asked me.

‘Plan what?’ I wiped off my tears, trying to give him a smile.

‘I mean, ever since I’ve met you, I came to realize the uniqueness in your character. You are not like any of the other Pacifiers here. I mean, for that stupid medallion you could cause Martins to be in the morgue. You even questioned about our existence of being a Pacifier.’

‘I did?’ I was shocked.

‘Yeah, during our ride in the jeep you silly.’ He gave a small chuckle.

‘Oh yeah…yes I did!’ I face palmed myself. How could I not remember such things!

From that simple conversation, it seemed that we talked for hours. Alex and John Kent joined us, having fun and laughs at the memories we used to have as rookie Pacifiers. While time is an element that we humans cannot control, we psychologically think we do. Just because of random conversations and a couple of laughs could cause so much time to go by. It feels as if one can control time via his or her actions.

After a nice meal of fried fish and beef brisket, we used our emptied beer cans to collect water from the sea coast and doused the flame. At once, the bonfires, the only lights that could illuminate the darkness has passed away. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. It is plausible that we have to operate another pacifying mission, depending on the aftermath of our war. We were not completely sure if the rebellion is over. We need to receive intel from our reconnaissance before further performing any military task.

I was about to enter my tent when I received a pat on the shoulder. I turned around.

‘Good night, Johnny boy.’ It was Shaun smiling at me.

‘What?’ I gave a sarcastic remark. ‘My name’s not Johnny, Peter.’

‘Hey, don’t call me that. It is just an informal pronunciation for John Doe.’ He smirked.

‘So you think I’m some random guy?’ I was perplexed. I had no idea why he would say such a thing to me like this.

‘Alright, alright, man. You got me there.’ Shaun gave me a high five. I gladly accepted it. ‘Good night, you’ll need it. We may have to wake up in the middle of the night depending on the intel we receive from the spies.’

‘Thanks, man. You too.’ I raised my hand in a form of acknowledgement. Then, I bent and entered into my tent. The tent was specifically designed for two people. When we’re out on missions like these, we normally set up the tents and sleep with people in our same division, for convenience’s sake. Tonight, I’m going to be with John Kent. I turned around and sat at a corner of the tent, taking off my Kevlar vest and helmet. I also took off my knife pocket.

Not long after, John came in. He too turned around, took off his helmet, Kevlar vest and knife pocket and sat on the other side of the tent.

‘Hey man, you alright?’ John asked me.

‘Never better.’ I said in a low voice.

‘C’mon. You’ve had a rough day battling with the rebels out there today. For the medallion, you may have sacrificed a life.’

At once, I looked down on the ground. The guilt surged and distributed all over my body. My hands and legs felt numb, my chest was excessively sweating and my heart started to race. ‘I, I don’t know…..’ I said softly.

‘Well….’ I faced back towards John. ‘I wouldn’t worry about it too much. We’ve got a long day tomorrow. He placed his blanket over him and laid down. ‘Good night.’
I got up and crawled towards him. I laid a shoulder on him. He turned around, bewildered.

‘Good night, Johnny boy.’ I snickered. He gave me a final smile before he turned back on his side.

I returned to my corner of the tent and looked at the medallion one more time. ‘I will find an answer to this solution.’ I placed my medallion back in my left hand pocket, laid down and went to sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day, I thought to myself.

I was in a deep sleep, when I felt a nudge. I tried to ignore it. Then, I felt another nudge, except much stronger. Clearly something is going on. I woke up in alarm.
‘Marcus! We got to leave now!’ It was John. He seemed to be totally armed. Clearly something is going on. I felt my heart skip a beat.
‘What is going on?’ I asked.

‘I’ll tell you when we get out. But right now, you gotta be armed and ready.’ I quickly put on my Kevlar vest, equipped my knife pocket and wore my helmet. Taking out my trusty rifle out of my bag, I am ready to leave. As soon as we got out, the insulated air in our tents turned into a smell of burning wood and charcoal. I coughed quite a bit. Clearly there was smoke formation around this area. I can feel a sudden burst in adrenaline. I must’ve been in a panic.

‘So what exactly is going on?’ I asked. ‘Forest fire?’

‘No. It’s a rebel….’ He coughed up a few times as well. ‘A rebellion tactic.’

‘What!? You mean we haven’t neutralized the area yet!?’ It is very unlikely for this to happen at all. This is probably the first time in a decade something like this has happened.

‘I’m afraid not…..quick!’ He patted me on the shoulder. ‘We have to run faster to our jeep and leave!’

‘What!? Can’t we fight back or something?’

‘We’ve already attempted to, but it wasn’t a success. Furthermore, we can’t work in the….’ He coughed a few times again. ‘These types of environment. Now hurry!’
In reality, it takes us less than a minute to get onto our jeep. But time sure is a strange thing. Seconds, seem like minutes, and minutes seemed like hours. It is as if my body doesn’t want to save myself, to remain where I am and get shot. The moment I thought of being shot, I can hear blares of gunshots. It is a terrifying sight, due to the fact that we were low in manpower. There is no point looking back, it only increases your chances of getting killed. We finally got onto our jeep. Once again Alex was the driver and Shaun was already there waiting for us.

‘Hold on tight, my fellow comrades.’ Alex said as he quickly changed gear and pushed the pedal. In a split second, we accelerated away from the place. Alex was driving with such speed that I’ve never experienced it before.

‘Sorry guys, we are currently speeding at 120 km/h.’ Alex remarked. ‘Be careful and hold on tight because we may have to drive through some sharp turns.’ It was terribly dark, with the only light sources being our jeeps and vans. I can see a huge rubble path with tall trees on both ends. Even with our current speed, I could still hear gunshots and fires crackling. Fortunately, the path was quite broad so multiple jeeps and vans could travel side by side and not just single file, a much more effective way of escaping.

Alex had to make a twist to the right, we all fumbled on the left. Alex had to make a twist to the left, we all fumbled to the right. The ride was uncomfortable, but it is way better than being shot or burned by some egocentric patriotic party. Alex was driving for about five minutes when something caught our eye. A black tire on fire flew over ahead of us and landed on the right side of the path. Alex made a sharp turn to evade it. Shaun, John and I turned back. It turns out that the jeeps and vans behind us were either lit on fire or were completely sprayed with bullets.

‘What’s the situation at the back guys?’ Alex was in a complete panic.

‘Drive faster!’ Shaun shouted.

‘They’re right behind us!’ John shouted.

‘Only two vehicles are behind us!’ I shouted.

Alex, hit the pedal to the medal, accelerating the jeep even more to 160 km/h.

‘Better not hit the limit where the speed is in the red zone! Otherwise, it will run out of control!’ John shouted from the back. Alex nodded in agreement. Every gunshot I hear makes me terrified right now. I hope it would not hit us. After travelling for about a minute or so, my fear came true. Guns were fired at us and the bullets pierced through the back window of the jeep, causing shattered glass all over the jeep floor.

‘Hold on guys!’  Alex shouted. He accelerated the jeep even more to 200 km/h.

‘What the hell are you doing Alex!?’ I shouted at him. ‘Can’t you see the sign is at the red zone!? You won’t be able to control the jeep now dammit!’
‘What I’m doing is getting our frickin’ asses out of here!’ He was enraged. More bullets came in and more glass is shattered. We need to immediately duck down for cover. He did a sharp turn and John, Shaun and I all tumbled down to the ground.

‘Ouch!’ John yelped.

I got back on my seat when I saw another roundabout. ‘Quickly!’ I screamed. ‘Steer the wheel!’

‘I can’t….it….it is out of control! I can’t move it! Fuck!’ Alex replied.

‘What did I fucking tell you huh!? What did I….WOAH!!!’ The jeep drove over the roundabout and is now in mid-air. Time stopped down, thankfully, allowing me to adopt the brace position to help dampen the force applied to me upon impact. I closed my eyes, hoping the crash landing would not be so bad. After what seemed like a few seconds, the jeep tumbled, crashed and landed on flat ground.

When I opened my eyes again, my head felt a bit dizzy. I looked around. It appears the rest of the people have gotten out of the jeep already. I had to squeeze and fumble around a bit to get out of the jeep, since it was flipped upside down upon landing. Once I got out, I quickly grabbed my rifle and ran the hell out of this freak place as possible. The best way to get out of here is to camouflage for the moment. The rebels have vehicles while I have to now run on foot, so I have to remain hidden.
I turned on my flashlight and decided to hide behind a series of tall grass which were about my height, a perfect place to hide. As I made squishy noises with my shoes, I bent down a bit, hopefully to attract less attention. As I was walking inside the maze of tall grasses. I could hear footsteps coming my way. I quickly reached in my pocket and grabbed a silencer and fixed it onto my rifle. No one wants to seek attention at this time. After a few seconds, a short haired man with a pistol was at close range. He did not see me, but I saw him. Immediately, I turned my body around and fired a few rounds.

He jumped up slightly in air before landing onto the grass. I quickly approached his body, searching his pockets for anything useful. Nope, nothing. I continued walking down the grass field, hoping I could find an escape route from here. I dimmed my flashlight to avoid seeking attention, but yet at the same time, it is detrimental for me as I couldn’t see as clearly. I was continuing to walk, with my body slightly bent, when I heard a click from behind. I could recognize it from anywhere, a gun trigger. I halted.

‘Put your hands where I could see them!’ A man from behind me shouted. He sounded robust and firm, I felt that he would really dare to shoot at me. I paused, thinking about my next possible move.

‘PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE I COULD SEE THEM!’ He shouted even louder this time. At once, my body subconsciously turned around half circle with my rifle and was about to shoot him when I saw my division, John, Alex, Shaun, Mack…..all of them, knelt down to the ground with pistols aimed at their heads by half a dozen of rebels. I slowly dropped my rifle, stood up properly and raised my hands in the air. ‘Crap.’ I said.
Ignotum venit retro vivere. :aether :light