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|Tommy Lewis - Inactive||
Posted: Aug 22 2014, 04:23 AM
The taste of copper on his tongue welcomed him back to reality.
The headache came next—a migraine incessantly pounding at his brain with a hammer, leaving him barely any time to think. It took him a moment to realize his arm hurt in a way it never had before. Broken, he evaluated, and most likely out of its socket. In fact, his whole body must’ve had some kind of damage. He was sore all over. His muscles barely responded to his commands, despite all the effort, and the tiniest of movement made them throb with pain.
He stiffened in a start. The ground beneath him was hard and sandy, scalding hot in the summer sun. He could feel himself suffocate in his heavy military garb; he was covered in sweat from head to toe. Opening a tentative eye, he was instantly blinded, making his face reflexively scrunch up with discomfort. His hands were tightly tied behind his back, stopping him from shielding his eyes from the daylight.
He wasn’t sure how he’d survived the RPG grenade. He hadn't seen it coming, in the night. All he could remember was his jeep tilting over to the side in an explosion and his ears going deaf from the sudden blast. He’d reflexively held tight to the steering wheel, his breath instantly taken away at the force of the impact, then the car had been barreling over, and…
Looking back on it, there had been signs. The incessant crackling static on the radio transmissions, for one, should’ve tipped him off. It had been unusual, seeing as military equipment was top-notch when it came to quality, but not unheard of. He’d paid no heed to it, at first. It had only been when Captain’s Breen voice had started being covered by white noise that he figured something had to be very wrong. A jammer was probably sitting around, somewhere.
Unfortunately, it had been too late for any manoeuver whatsoever. The squads were already being slaughtered like pigs.
“Hey, look,” a voice, rugged and low, said from nearby. “This one’s wakin’ up.”
Footsteps were getting closer. As his eyes slowly adjusted to the bright environment, he took note of two things—one, he was sitting back against a makeshift wooden wall of a hut, Harrison and Jenkins on either side of him. Two, if the look of the man who was coming towards him was any indication, his chances of survival might be dwindling with every passing moment.
“Soldier, you’re in big trouble,” the man said, mere inches away from his face. He had a large, smug smile plastered on, with yellowed teeth giving way to a nasty breath.
The man spit square in his eye and proceeded with a few, strong slaps, making his head jerk from side to side at the assault. He then continued with several kicks in the ribs with the heel of his steel capped boot; his bulletproof vest took the brunt of it, but the strength of the blow still made him wince.
For added effect, the man spit on him once more. “You scum Jerichans need to learn your place,” he said, eliciting a few throaty laughter from his audience.
There were others like him, standing around—men from different age groups were watching the scene play out before them, most of them with an amused shine in their eyes. A few women were there, too, with their kids clinging to their hips. None of them had a trace of fear.
He’d been quick to abandon his outpost on some hill a distance afar from the Outsider’s small settlement (2263 meters, to be exact), when he’d realized their ambush was a disaster. Acting without being ordered to might get him in trouble, but this was a special case—the mission parameters had been unclear in the first place and they'd needed him on the field to even the odds, not thousands of meters away. They’d been outnumbered, clearly, and somehow…
Somehow, they’d been expecting them. Those savages knew they were going to get raided, but how?
As he looked closely, he noticed some of them were also carrying Jerichan branded equipment. Pistols, vests—rifles even. Some of them were, in fact, currently handling the very same gear he used on a daily basis. The grips, sights and cartridges… they were all Jericho customs. A few grenades and knives (Jerichan) were also hanging around their belts. It was surreal.
He tried reasoning a way these people could’ve gotten their hands on their technology. The only valid conclusion he could come up with was that somebody had smuggled it out for them somehow, which was a bit of a stretch, as the armories were monitored with the utmost attention. Coupled with how fast they’d reacted to the attack, it led him to believe…
There was a traitor. Somebody, somewhere, had their allegiance someplace other than Jericho. Most likely a military, or someone in a position of power. What was the benefit in helping out a random group of Outsiders, though? It couldn't be money. They basically had nothing of interest to offer a Jerichan, no bribe, no nothing— he had to be missing something, he guessed, as this turn of events most definitely wasn't a coincidence.
Harrison groaned beside him. His blond eyebrows were furrowed in a mix of pain, discomfort, and worry. His hair was dirty with sweat and blood. “Tom… I think we might be screwed,” he said, his voice raspy and whiny. He coughed weakly, his mouth drawn in a grim frown.
Glancing on his other side, at Jenkins, Tom realized all of three of them were in extremely bad condition. Unlike him, it looked like they had already taken a thorough beating—they had split lips, flowering bruises on their cheeks, and blood trickling all over their features. The two of them would be of no help in this situation.
“Hey,” the man, the one who’d spit in his face, piped up at Harrison’s movement. “You kids wanna see what happens to people who kill eight of my friends?”
He swiftly grabbed a pistol out of his holster and shot Jenkins in the face, twice. The proximity made Tom’s ears ring, Harrison’s horrified yelp seeming farther than it was in reality. Driblets of blood flew and splattered across his face, making him close his eyes and breathe deeply. He didn’t look to his right—Jenkins’ gory corpse would only distract him further.
“See, we don’t appreciate you punks trying to push us around,” the man said, almost good-naturedly. “We—“
“You are inferior,” Tommy said, matter-of-factly. The words came out croaked, due to his parched throat, but not without conviction.
The guy, stunned, stared at him for a moment. A few whispers came from the people around them—they seemed upset by his statement. Insulted, even. He didn’t understand; why would they be? They had inferior genetics and were completely uncivilized. It wasn’t news that they were a plague for humanity. He figured they’d known they would have to be terminated for the greater good.
The man threw his gun in the sand and stomped closer, fists clenched. “You little—“
Tommy was quick to pick up the pace and shoot him down, right behind the head.
A few gasps came from the other savages as the man dropped dead on the ground at Tommy’s feet, blood slowly pooling from underneath him. The handgun was steadily hovering in midair, turning 180 degrees to face the audience. Everybody stayed silent for a while, frozen, until one of the kids spoke up.
“Mom, what’s going on?” he said, to which his mom replied with a nervous “I-I don’t know, baby.” She held him close, her body trembling ever so slightly.
Tom would’ve preferred not doing it this way, but these savages were giving him no choice. The integrity of the mission was at risk. He couldn’t let it get out of hand any more than it had already.
The pistol quickly switched angles and unloaded itself on the other men holding weapons—nineteen, to be exact— before dropping back on the ground with a thud.
The women and kids quickly scattered, screaming and fleeing in every direction.
“What are… what are you?” the girl said, tears trickling down here face. She was looking up at him, huddled behind a cupboard in one of the huts. Her knees were brought up to her chest—she was shaking, almost violently.
“Jerichan,” Tommy said simply, pointing the barrel of his pistol at her. “I am sorry.”
“You don’t have to do this,” she said, wailing loudly in-between her words. The fear and distress in her young, green eyes struck a chord. His heart skipped a beat.
Didn’t he? He had to admit, these past few hours had been strange. Raids weren’t uncommon when outsider groups were settling a bit too close to Jericho, but this… This felt wrong. He had superior genes, he knew, but what exactly gave him the right to end somebody’s life under such a pretext? These people had meant no harm—they had merely defended themselves from an assault Jericho had ordained. They had illegal weaponry, sure, and while his traitor theory still puzzled him, logic dictated the savages had to find some way of protecting themselves from the constant threat Jericho posed to be.
There had to be some other way. He was sure some kind of truce could be done; outsiders would most likely agree to keep their tainted DNA out of Jericho, if it meant that they could walk out of this war alive. Hunting them down only made the ordeal even more of a hassle, as missions like this could very well happen again if they weren’t careful. Killing every single savage couldn’t realistically be a long-term solution, anyway. It wasn’t cost effective. It also wasn’t… humane. Or was it?
Pity left a bitter taste in his mouth.
“I am sorry,” he repeated and pulled the trigger, painting the wall red in the process.
Surprisingly enough, this time, he'd meant it. That’s what confused him most.
He had hesitated.
He walked out of the hut, trying to use his good leg as much as he could to diminish his limp. The afternoon sun was blazing even stronger now, but he kept on his suit and vest in case there were more hostiles. After searching every corner of the settlement, terminating every leftover savage while he was at it, he still couldn’t find Captain Breen’s body. It left him perplexed. He’d identified the remains of the Bravo and Echo squads—all of them. They were littering the ground here and there, some of them in less unpleasant shapes than others. For Captain Breen to be MIA was strange, at best.
Seeing as his search wasn’t amounting to much, he went to one of the intact jeep in order to head back home and give a full report. Something still didn’t sit right with him in his guts, but he didn’t want to assume anything; he had yet to decide if he’d share his suspicions with the higher ups regarding a theoretical traitor. Some digging was direly needed. He wasn’t sure how he’d get around to it, but he’d figure it out. He always did.
He spared a glance at Harrison’s body as he passed by it. He felt a pang of guilt at the sight, as short-lived as it was— he found himself wishing he could have avoided it. It was alien to him. Pure logic dictated it had been the right thing to do, as Harrison would’ve been a liability to Project X. It was unfortunate to kill a man for something he’d never wanted anything to do with, but it had been the only solution Tommy was able to think of, considering the circumstances. Eliminating him swiftly and mercifully was the best he could do.
He’d killed a hundred men in the past, but somehow, something inside of him had shifted over the course of the operation. He still had trouble pinpointing what, exactly, had shed some light over his mind. Was it a plethora of unrelated elements, or was it the ensemble as a whole?
It didn’t seem to matter, at this point. He felt himself doubt, for once, and it scared him more than he’d ever care to admit.