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#1 Offline Legolover-361

  • Members
  • Stellar Storyteller

  • 09-June 09
  • 3,516 posts

Posted Aug 09 2013 - 02:04 PM

[font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Casualty[/font][font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]by Legolover-361[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]* * *[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“And now we join our field reporter, Susan McConnell, right on the scene. Susan?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Yes, thank you, Isaac... No riots yet in New York City, but terror is in the hearts and minds of many New Yorkers this morning. The mysterious figure standing on the horizon is unlike anything we’ve seen before. It looks vaguely humanoid from a distance with two arms and legs — you can see it there, in the ocean —and it hasn’t seemed to move at all since, um, this morning. We don’t know yet — authorities don’t know what it’s doing, what it is, but we’re told that they’re looking into it.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“It’s emitting very powerful radio waves on a wide array of frequencies; authorities haven’t yet, um, interpreted what message, if any, they contain, but we’re assured that the waves carry definite signs of intelligence. It’s possible the figure we see on the horizon is automated, but until we can get a better scan of it, we don’t — won’t know if it contains any life.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“So — Susan — it hasn’t made any movements?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“No, Isaac, and that’s the odd thing. Authorities are — they’re saying that they are, uh, looking into it, looking into finding, um, more in depth methods of scanning the thing; there’s a lot of radio interference that’s fouling the readings, or so I’m told.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Are there — are there any theories — I mean, about what that thing is or could be?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Believe me, there are plenty — uh, I’ve heard plenty of them, from... concerned citizens, from authorities, from everyone. There are a lot of rumors going around, you know; some people say this is an alien, uh, construct, and the authorities are saying that this, uh, figure is very unlikely to have originated from Earth.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Any indications of what it’s made of?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“No. As I said, the radio interference is — is, uh, fouling up our instruments. Authorities are baffled. What? — excuse me—”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Susan, what is it? — who are you talking to?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“...I’ve just received word that the strength of the radio interference is increasing.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Increasing?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Yes, it’s increasing at a — well, what may be a slow exponential rate but an exponential rate nonetheless. Authorities advise NYC’s citizens to remain on alert, to stay inside their homes, and to—”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Um, Susan, your — your audio is, uh, breaking up—”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“It must be the interference — disrupting radio waves — oh my God, what is it do—?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“...Susan? Susan? Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve lost contact with Susan. We’ll report on further updates as soon — regain contact — producer’s telling me we’re breaking—”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]* * *[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]From a distance and through thick cement walls, the sounds of battle — of gunfire and shouts and explosions — were reduced to a hum. In the dark, it seemed especially eerie.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Antoinette Bickering stared at the ceiling, a blanket pulled around her body, and wondered how loud the cacophony was outside. War’s deafening volume ought to be obvious, but she had never truly considered it until it came just outside her door.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Time passes oddly in the dark: She couldn’t recall how long ago she had run into the cellar upon the wailing of sirens and the shouts of emergency personnel to secure your things and yourselves, there wasn’t much time. The urge to peek outside was great, but Antoinette had long ago accepted that she was, at heart, a coward; she would probably faint if she saw what was outside, and she might bump her head as she fell, and then she’d be unconscious in her cellar with the door open, her head bleeding, and her heart threatening to give up on her. Better to stay put.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Apart from a couple books, a flashlight, her blanket, some canned food, and a handheld radio that could at the moment only play static, her cellar contained a few stacks of cardboard boxes that she had never bothered to unpack after she moved to her current home; an electrical outlet; two long, wooden shelves on opposite sides of the cellar; and a single light bulb dangling from the ceiling. The light bulb had flickered annoyingly when Antoinette had tried to turn it on, so she left it off. Reading was impossible in the dim light, but her nerves were probably too frazzled to permit reading even under satisfactory illumination.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]A dull boom shook the cellar. Antoinette’s next inhale drew dust into her lungs. She coughed and, with an effort, doused her urge to light a cigarette.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Outside the door, someone screamed.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Machine guns roared in response. The cellar rumbled as if an oil tanker of monstrous proportions was driving by. There was another scream — the cellar was rattled again — someone was pounding on the door, crying, “LET ME IN! PLEASE, LET ME IN!”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Antoinette froze, her mind vacillating between “fight” and “flight”. She could just curl up under her blanket, said the voice inside her head. She didn’t need to open the door; it and her cellar walls were the only defenses she had against whatever dangers lay outside. The poor soul out there should have found shelter...[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Now the voice was distinctly sobbing. “Please,” it wailed. The pounding grew arrhythmic, interrupted sporadically by the doorknob rattling. “Please...!”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]The blanket fell to the floor as Antoinette stood up.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]She opened the door quickly, catching only a glimpse of a gaunt figure before pulling him — or her? — inside and shutting the door. Her fingers were damp when she drew them away. She fumbled for the light chain and yanked on it; the light was uncertain but enough to illuminate the red stains on Antoinette’s fingers.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]She swallowed her trepidation and instinctively looked around for a sink. Her cellar had none.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]The figure had curled into a fetal position on the floor, mumbling “oh God” at odd intervals in a voice deep enough to be male. He raised his head and, for the first time, looked Antoinette in the eyes. His face was thin, pale, and dotted with stubble. A roman nose cast a shadow over his right eye. Blood covered his forehead and cheek, gleaming in the sort of morbid fashion Antoinette had only ever seen in the old horror films she had watched.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“You saved me?” he whispered before a coughing fit racked his figure. There was blood on his shoulder, too. And on his chest. And his knee.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Antoinette pursed her lips, looking from him to the only blanket she had thought to bring down. “I don’t know,” she said.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]* * *[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]The first aid kit Antionette found in one of the cardboard boxes was a godsend. She only regretted finding it after using her only blanket to tie up one of the man’s wounds.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]He was disoriented: uncertain diction, slurred tone, muddled sense of time, and spotty memory. His actions were drunken but somehow scarier than that — maybe because Antoinette could tell they weren’t from alcohol consumption but from blood loss. He called Antoinette “Mom” twice (it didn’t help that she was old enough to be his mother), said something vague about an explosion, and once seemed to entirely forget where he was.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Taking off his shirt to better treat his wounds revealed burns along his right side. In a couple places, the top layers of skin had burnt away. Not knowing what else to do, Antoinette covered his arm and torso with burn ointment and left it uncovered.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]His right eye’s pupil was milky; Antoinette gathered from snippets of their conversation — or what could be deemed analogous to conversation — the explosion that wounded him had also blinded him. Or maybe he tripped and blinded himself by falling on a rock. He was unclear on the subject, and Antoinette was afraid to ask too much of him.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]What else she did gather was thus:[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]His name was Grant. His last name he mumbled indistinctly. It could’ve been “Johnson”, “Joseph”, maybe something odd like “Joma”, or a few other names besides; Antoinette couldn’t get him to repeat it. He was twenty-something; his birthday was in October, or maybe September. He had been at a friend’s store when the warnings came and hid out there, but it had no cellar; the aggressors blasted out the front glass windows as they passed and shot his friend through the head. Grant waited until they were gone before running outside. That was where his clear memory ended: ergo, when the explosion must have occurred.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]As she applied antibiotics from a little tube using an ear cleaner, Antoinette asked what the attackers looked like.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Grant’s eyes defocused. “Like — I dunno, they were kinda big, and God...” He was shivering now. “I nearly died — what the blazes is... I mean, this is just... like...”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]His loss of coherent speech corresponded with the amount of moisture in his eyes. Antoinette dropped the subject and wrapped a gauze strip around Grant’s right bicep. It was dyed red almost instantly by the blood, but at least the bleeding seemed to subside.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Well, she had to tell him sometime... “I don’t think I can help you more. You need professional medical help.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“It’s just a cut, Mom—”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“I’m not your mom,” said Antoinette, and she belatedly realized how forceful her reply had been. Sighing, she continued: “The thing is, I don’t know how to get you to medical assistance. You can’t move. I can’t leave you alone. Everyone was explicitly told to stay underground or under whatever cover they could find.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]He blinked. “So what’m I supposed to... I mean, what do I do — have to do — no, what does it have to do with me?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“You’ve, um, lost a lot of blood.” An understatement: at least, a statement too vague to describe the bloody mess that Grant was. “If I can’t get you to professional doctors, I’m afraid you could... well, die.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Silence, save for the occasional explosion or gunfire in the distance.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“It’s like the stories.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“What?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Two people alone against all odds... like, dunno, maybe a film? — oh, what’s its name...”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]He wasn’t himself anymore. Antoinette ended the conversation there; she set him in a position at least halfway comfortable, told him to get some shut-eye, turned off the cellar light, and then settled down in her own corner of the cellar to wait for...[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Wait for what? Sleep? Help?[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Anything would do.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]* * *[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Antoinette didn’t realize she had fallen asleep till crying awakened her.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]She sat up; pain flared between her neck and right shoulder, and she acutely missed her bed. Another cry, like a dog wailing, raised the hairs on Antoinette’s back. Blinking, doing her best to ignore the aches of the rest of her body and failing, she stood up.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Grant was curled into a ball on his side, shaking with ragged breaths. One of his bandages had ripped, and blood oozed through the tear. He convulsed, making a sound halfway between choking and sobbing, and wheezed. Red dots sprinkled onto the floor.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Antoinette grabbed the first aid kit, turned on the light, and knelt by Grant’s side. He didn’t notice her approach. His body shook, and he coughed again, this time expelling more blood. Was it in his lungs?[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Grant?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]He didn’t respond, only continued his murmuring. Antoinette now realized he was cursing.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Grant,” she said again, touching him on the shoulder.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]He twitched and moved his face a little. His skin was clammy. “God, I want it to end,” he whispered, and he curled up even tighter. This time, he coughed the blood onto his arms. There was more of it than before; even his lips were tinged with deep crimson.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Antoinette looked toward the cellar door. The sounds of gunfire were quieter now. No more explosions or rumbling. She strained but couldn’t tell for sure if she could hear sirens. Was it safe to go out?[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Grant cried out an anathema and shuddered, his body growing stiff and his words quieting until all Antoinette could hear coming from his moving lips was air.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Helpless, she could only give him space.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Maybe she should’ve continued with medical school when she was twenty-something — at least she would have better known what was ailing Grant. Maybe she could have known how long he had left, or if he could be saved at all. Any degree of certainty had to be better than standing between Grant and the cellar door, debating between risking her own life or remaining to watch another’s wane. Maybe there were soldiers out there. Or maybe the attackers were the only ones who would see her.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]She ran through the possibilities. If she remained, Grant would die. If she left, she might die, and if she did, Grant would die too. If she called for help, soldiers could rush in and help, the attackers could break in and kill or imprison her and Grant, or — and this was perhaps the bleakest possibility of all — no one would hear them.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Grant coughed up blood and shouted another obscenity.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Antoinette closed her eyes and placed her head in her hands. “I’m sorry,” she said to Grant.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Then she sat on the ground beside the cellar door, turned away from Grant, and covered her ears.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]She didn’t hear Grant’s retching. She didn’t hear his final curse. She didn’t watch him expire.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]But she did hear footsteps.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Nausea was her first reaction. She sucked in a breath and held it, ignoring her stomach’s protests, and listened closer. Maybe she was just hearing things. The attackers weren’t hunting people down... were they?[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]As if to respond, the sound of wood and plaster crunched underfoot came from outside. Antoinette uncovered her eyes and looked around. Grant lay unmoving against one wall. She had looked through the cardboard boxes before and found nothing of use as a weapon.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Maybe fighting back wasn’t the best idea, anyway. Antoinette was no soldier, just a civilian. If the attackers burst in, she would surrender then and there and pray more fervently than she ever had before — pray that they were taking prisoners.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]The door was battered from outside. Antoinette recoiled, shoulders tensed, and tried to devise a plan. She could conceal herself by the doorframe and then strike the intruder on the head — if he was wearing a helmet or had a gun, that would be trickier — but what if he decided to shoot first and look later?[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Again the door was struck, and again, but no plan came to Antoinette. She was still at a loss when the door was burst in and a seven-foot figure covered in armor filled the doorway, moving its gun from Grant to Antoinette and then to the cardboard boxes. It remained there for several seconds as if daring either person to move.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Then, unexpectedly, it spoke with a voice that sounded like it was coming from a speaker. “Names?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Heart pounding fiercely, Antoinette indicated herself. “Antoinette Louise Bickering.” She gestured to the body on the floor and struggled with a fresh bout of nausea. “Grant — I don’t know his last name — he’s dead, he was injured by an explosion, I think—”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“T14 requesting a medic,” the figure interrupted. It nodded a couple times, then gave coordinates and the street name and returned its focus to Antoinette.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Ma’am, you’re going to have to come with me.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Who are you?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“A soldier, ma’am.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“I mean — I haven’t seen soldiers like you except in movies.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“We’re part of the TITAN program, ma’am — trained for combat in exoskeleton suits.”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Does ‘TITAN’ stand for something?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“Maybe. I’ve heard rumors. Anyway, you need to exfil, pronto — my pals’ll pick up Grant — come on!”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]Antoinette hesitated. “Are the attackers aliens? I mean, like, Independence Day style?”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“I can neither confirm nor deny that.” The figure gestured animatedly. “Now, ma’am!”[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]She hesitated only a second more and followed. In her head, she said a prayer of thanks for not having retched yet.[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]* * *[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“...This message will repeat...[/font] [font="'liberation sans', sans-serif;"]“This is an emergency broadcast to all citizens of New York City and anyone within a three hundred mile radius. The U.S. military orders all civilians to evacuate to the west. We’ve dispatched soldiers to deal with the threat. Don’t panic — we need this evacuation to be orderly. It’s recommended you take the following steps to ensure the most effective evacuation possible. If you live in Jersey City, it’s recommended you bypass the New Jersey Turnpike...”[/font]

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