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Last Flag Standing

Master Inika

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Last Flag StandingToday, during a conference held in Sargonia, the Prime Minister of Kardul denied allegations that his country was producing weapons of mass destruction.“Oman, turn that depressing stuff off,” Eshii asked.“But the security of Irla is at risk!” Oman replied.Eshii turned off Oman’s radio. “We’ll be fine. All of Irla will. The Kardulese prime minister promised it!”Oman hastily switched his radio back on, giving no indication he heard his girlfriend.Following a referendum in Sargonia, the State of Irla lost its only foreign support in sanctioning Kardul’s Imperial Air Force and Imperial Army. The Sargon Republic’s prime minister declared, “We trust the Kardulese Empire. We have no legitimate reason to believe Irla’s accusations. In any case, my country wishes no part in their feud.”Suddenly, a deafening static took the radio, before the device fizzed out entirely. Oman tapped it and flipped the switch on and off, but made no progress in fixing it. The two Irlans soon realized another sound could be heard outside: a low roar. They opened the door and looked out, and what they saw shocked them.Scores of Kardulese war planes were soaring through the skies, sporting paint resembling ferocious wildcats on the nose. Instinctively, Oman grabbed Eshii’s arm and ran to a door on his wall, pulling her. He kicked it down and jumped, ignoring her loud protests. As they hit the ground below, a metal slab slid over them.“Where the heck are we?” Eshii asked, gasping. The room they were in was roughly eight feet in width and length and Eshii was jump barely able to stand up. The room was empty except for a lit candle in each corner, a small box, and a radio hooked up to a generator.“This is my secret bunker, a place I built for this exact situation,” Oman explained. “I have three months’ worth of health pills in that box, for each of us, but we can only have one each a day.”“No way. I’m not staying here for three months,” Eshii said.“We have to. You saw those planes. Just admit I was right, and the Kardulese Empire was planning to invade us.” Then, looking at the steel-bound ceiling, he added, “Besides, I forgot to plan a way to get out of here.” Oman switched the radio on and shushed Eshii.A nation-wide state of emergency has been declared. The President has been escorted to safety. All citizens have been advised to stay indoors and underground. While the invasion was directed at Sargonia, Kardulese troops remain stationed throughout the State of Irla. Thirty-one deaths have been reported, and nearly one hundred missing.Again, the radio fizzed out.“Turn it back on! I’m worried now!” Eshii exclaimed.“Can’t. The radio is solar powered. The panel’s hidden on the surface, so it must be dark.”The two made themselves as comfortable as possibly on the metal floor. Oman had also packed two pillows and a blanket with the pills. Oman blew out the candles and threw the blanket over himself and Eshii before falling asleep. ---- A piercing, high-pitched sound woke the two. Oman immediately sprung up in front of Eshii and readied his fists. A small chainsaw poked through the wall and made a hole. As a figure broke through, they were surprised to hear the invader’s voice. “Hello?” a pleasant female voice called. Eshii tried to run over to help, but Oman held her back. “Who’s there?” Oman called. “My name is Mena.” She finally broke through her small tunnel, covered in dust. Seeing she truly was an ally, Oman dropped his guard. Taller and with a darker skin tone than the two Irlans, Mena was obviously a Sargonian. “Where am I?” she asked. “My underground hideout, in the State of Irla,” Oman said. “I am Oman, and this is Eshii.” “I know you two wish I had some food, but I don’t. All I have is my mini-chainsaw and drill. I’ve been tunneling here all night.” “Then we can take your tunnel and escape to Sargonia, right?” Eshii asked. “Don’t,” Mena said. “It’s awful there.” The radio fizzed back in, and all three listened intently. Kardul has conquered all Irla and Sargonia. Guerilla groups fight back, but with little success. It seems the age of the Kardulese Empire has commenced. The remainder of the day was uneventful. Oman relit the candles with a prepackaged lighter, and the three played silent games of defend-shoot-reload. The sparse radio updates did little more than reiterate the urgency of the imperial occupation. Soon enough, the radio fizzed out, ending the day. Oman blew out the candles and, in complete silence, the three slipped under the same blanket. ---- When the two girls woke up the next morning, Oman was still dead asleep. When Eshii moved to wake him up, Mena stopped him. “No, let him sleep,” the whispered. “He deserves it. Gives us time to talk.” “Okay, about what?” Eshii asked. “You and Oman. How do you maintain such a perfect relationship?” Eshii almost laughed. “Perfect? He forgets my birthday every year, and our date night. It’s not quite perfect.” “Want to trade?” Mena asked, laughing. “What? Why?” “My boyfriend never takes me anywhere,” Mena said. “He just tells me to clean the house while he goes out. If I do a good job, he gives me some leftovers.” Eshii could hardly believe what she was hearing, especially with Mena’s casual, almost happy tone. “Dump him!” she blurted. “Can’t dump him. He can only dump me,” Mena said. “Sargon law.” “That’s not right,” Eshii asked. “What else can’t Sargon women do?” Mena shrugged. “Vote, run for office, own property, make money… You know, I’ll just list the things we can do: cook and clean.” “That’s awful!” Mena remained casual. “Hey, it’s better than when the women were slaves. Besides, you should just be happy you have a boyfriend who cares about you so much.” Eshii wanted to argue back, but she realized Mena was right. Despite the forgetfulness, Oman cared about her more than anyone else she had ever met. She could easily see any of her ex-boyfriends, in the rush of the Kardulese attack, forgetting her and abandoning her to fend for herself. But Oman did not. He even packed two pillow and enough pills for both of them. Oman started stirring. “Hey, what are you two talking about?” “Don’t worry about it,” Mena said. Oman sat up and rubbed his eyes. “What time- Oh, right,” he mumbled. The Irlan stumped over to the radio and flipped it on. Our top story: Sargonian guerillas have driven the Imperial Army back to Kardul. However, Sargon forces remain in Irla, to “purify” us. Our president has been deposed over her gender, and the State of Irla is now under the sovereignty of the Sargon Republic. The group, silent, hung their heads. Mena was visibly the most hurt, slumping to the floor. “Eshii, my friend, it is so clear to me now. I see the injustice of my oppression, as if a switch went off in my head.” The radio fizzed, however, it did not seem as though much time had passed. Soon enough, a voice returned, but it was a voice no one recognized. Mere seconds ago, Kardul attempted to activate their weapons of mass destruction, desperate to regain control over Irla and Sargonia. However, they had underestimated their own power. In the ensuing explosion, what is currently estimated as 99.8% of all life was killed. At this point, the radio voice could be heard tearing up. Friends, the war has ended. Those of you in hiding have no more to fear. Emerge, and join in our great new society. All three looked uncomfortably at Mena’s tunnel. Without saying anything, the group began their trek to Sargonia. ---- The trip was short, but harsh. The tunnel was dark and cramped, but they soon found the surface. Upon seeing the desolate landscape, the group all almost wished they were back in the bunker. Destroyed buildings and decomposing corpses covered every inch of the ground, and smoke suffocated the sun. Oman reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, gilded box. “What’s in there?” Eshii asked. “Something I had to keep safe,” Oman said, crouching on one knee. The box clicked open and Oman pulled out a crystalline necklace with a diamond-shaped locked. “Eshii, I love you. Will you, err, marry me?” Eshii took the locket necklace and donned it, something Irlan culture equated with a “yes.” Oman had to hold back tears of joy as Eshii embraced him, and Mena looked at the destitute landscape of her former prison.

"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
-- Turaga Nokama


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