Paradise - a science fiction work-in-progress - Chapter 22

Chapter 22

Chet was not one for conversation. He pointed to a table and then disappeared through another door at the far end of the room. Slowly, conversation started up again, though in hushed tones.

“Who is that?” I finally was able to ask.

“That’s Chet. He leads the rebellion against the Hyatt. He thinks they are more dangerous than the Plax,” Sam told me

“More dangerous? How can he possibly think that a group of humans are more dangerous that aliens that are trying to eradicate the human race?”

“It’s personal,” Sam whispered in a low tone. “You’ve seen him. He augmented more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Chet was a large man. I couldn’t remember seeing another man even close to as big, though that wasn’t a big deal with so few memories.

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“So, what’s next?”

“Chet will let us know,” Sam said.

“Let us know?” I was not happy with that answer. The mission was dangerous enough. I needed to be the one calling the shots.

“Since we went underground, Chet has become the unofficial leader above ground. You’ve been incapacitated for too long. Someone had to fill the void.”

“But I’m back now.” As I said the words, I realized how wrong they were.

“You may be back, but you’re not the general we all were following. You will always be the face of the rebellion, but until you regain your memories, you  won’t be  the general we need to lead us.”

The words stung. Anger toward Sam welled up inside me, but I knew she was write. I couldn’t remember things like tactics or battle plans. The weapon I held felt like a foreign object. There was no way I could lead effectively.

A few minutes later, Chet came back into the main room and walked over to our table.

“We do this today,” he stated. “We leave in an hour.”

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* * * * *

Chet gathered us exactly an hour later. A platoon of twenty soldiers joined him and our group of four.

The long walk to the rebels bunker had not been too bad, but the walk back up the base revealed just how steep the incline was. I started to struggle early on. My legs burned and breathing was harder than it should have been. I was determine, though. If Sam was going to die on this mission, I was going to die beside her.

“Mechs have been spotted about five miles south of here,” Chet told us when we were back in the military base. “That will be our best chance.”

“What’s a mech?” I whispered to Sam once we were outside. Chet immediately spun around and glared at me. He put a finger to his lips and it was clear there was to be no conversation on our journey.

It wasn’t long before I would find out. Chet walked with a stride three times the length of an average man. Most of us were jogging to keep pace with him. My legs were on fire, but I refused to stop.

Along the way, we passed crumbled building and abandoned vehicles. Sam explained to me later that the Plax had disabled most vehicle through persistent electronic pulses that fried electronic equipment. It was the same reason we didn’t carry communication devices. Our energy weapons still worked, but their guidance systems did not. Fighting relied entirely on the skill of the soldier rather than on any help from the weapon.

I couldn’t help but not that while much of the military base was standing, most of the other building were either completely destroyed or missing at least one exterior wall making them virtually unusable. I thought back to the time in the bunker when I had seen a wall crumble before my eyes and shuddered.

The mech came into view as we were entering a clear. Later I learned that the clearing used to be a park where people gathered on weekends to play group sports. I couldn’t imagine that world looking at the dead foliage and abandoned vehicles that now filled much of the area.

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Not much farther in front of us, I notice one building still standing. The rest of our group noticed it at the same time. Like bugs scurrying away from light in the middle of the night, everyone quickly found cover. I was slow to move, but Sam grabbed me by my body armor and pulled me down behind an abandoned vehicle.

“What’s going on?” I asked her.

“Mech,” she answered.

I was confused. I hadn’t seen anything. Are they small?  I asked myself.

Learned around the corner of the vehicle, I looked into the clearing to see if I could pick out the object that had brought so much fear to our group.

Just then, the building I noticed turned and began moving in our direction.

“What the…” I couldn’t help myself, but Sam silenced me by slapping her hand over my mouth. I saw fear in her eyes as she shook her head from side to side.

So, this is where I’m going to die, I thought to myself.

The building, it turned out, was actually a mech, a large Plax robotic creature that destroyed buildings and captured humans. Nearly as tall as a two-story building, it moved with surprising speed and agility.

My eyes were glued in fascination. How could I have forgotten such a thing?

From my side view, I noticed Chet’s hands were moving. Soldiers in groups of two started to make their way to nearby vehicles. The plan appeared to be to surround the mech.

It wasn’t clear if the mech had noticed us, but it did continue moving in our direction. I watched as Sam disabled the safety on her weapon and pointed at mine. She pulled three balls from a pocket near her should. I imagine they must be some sort of grenade.

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The grenade were blue and perfectly smooth, with the exception of a small round button at the top.

“Press and hold it for three seconds,” she whispered to me. “The button will sink deeper into the grenade once it’s armed. Throw it as far as you can. The explode on impact or in five seconds.”

She handed one to me. I looked over the Chet expecting him to be red with anger, but he only nodded in our direction.

“Come on,” Sam said, “He wants us to head around to the West.”

Quietly we hurried from vehicle to vehicle.

“Why didn’t Chet silence you?” I whispered to her when we reached a point she thought was far enough.

“It knows we’re here,” Sam informed me. “There’s no need to be completely silent now, though loud noises will review our position.

A sizzle pierced the air and the vehicle we had just been near turned to ash. Every hair on my body stood up to take notice.

“If I say run,” she whispered again, “Don’t think about it. Run, and with every ounce of energy you have.”

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Chet’s team was now firing at the mech. The goal seemed to be to disable it by destroying the legs it was walking on. Every soldier was making short, controlled energy bursts before quickly moving to another barrier. I watched in horror as two of Chet’s soldiers were too late to run and turned to dust in a flash of light.

“Get ready,” Sam told me. We both armed and tossed our grenades and then sprinted to another vehicle.

Grenades exploded as we exchanged weapons fire with the mech. Then, all at once, the firing stopped. Shaking, I cautiously started to look around the vehicle we were currently hiding behind. The mech had stopped firing and was slowly rotating to the right. First one of the four legs broke off, and then another. The rest of the unit dropped hard to the ground. The force of the impact shook the ground so hard that I lost my balance and toppled on to my back. All was then quiet for a second until we heard one of Chet’s soldiers cheering.

“Let’s go look at the spoil,” Sam told me, but I grabbed her arm.

“Sam, no,” I stopped her.

“What’s wrong?”

“This was too easy,” I told her. “Something is wrong. I’m sure of it.”

She squatted back near me. Sam kept her eyes on the fallen mech, but I scanned the area behind us. There was two concrete pillars standing not far from us, the remains of a building. With my hand still around her arm, I started to pull Sam up and started to run toward the pillars.

“Roman, what?” She looked at my face and we ran toward the pillars. Far away from us, I saw Menton and Benjamin running away from the clearing as well. Chet himself was moving away, but five or six of his team had gone close to inspect the mech from a closer vantage point.

“Move!” Chet yelled out. Most of his soldiers responded, but the ones closest to the fallen carcass kept going closer.

Sam and I had no more than reached the pillars when white light filled the air. I squeezed my eyes tightly closed, but the light was still too bright. We were knocked to the ground as the ensuing explosion robbed us of our sense of hearing.

Lights continue to flash around me for several minutes after the blast. Sam was up and saying something, but I couldn’t hear anything. I rolled to my side and looked toward the clearing. Where the mech had been was a large burning crater. Of his group, only Chet and five of his soldiers remained.

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Sam was screaming at me, but I still couldn’t hear anything. I tried to read her lips, but the flashing lights made it difficult. Menton was there and picked me up and threw me over her shoulder again. I could see Chet waving his hands, but my group was unwilling to go to him. Instead, we were running back north toward the military base.

Menton most have run a mile before any hearing started to come back.

“Put me down,” I yelled out to her. “Put me down.”

She set me on the ground and Sam and Benjamin came running up from behind us.

“Why are we running now?” I demanded. “There’s nothing left.”

“We were stupid,” Sam said. “We should have known the mechs would self-destruct. Why didn’t any of us know that?”

It was a reasonable point. I wondered myself. Even without my memories, my instinct was to get away from the fallen enemy.

“But it’s gone now,” I demanded.

“The mech is gone,” Menton corrected me, “but now more will be coming. The blast will register for miles.”

I was mad at myself again for not realizing that.

“The Plax will descend on that area,” Sam agreed. “They will make sure none of their tech is left behind.”

“Nothing could have survived that explosion.”

“We did,” Sam said. “That’s probably why Chet didn’t run. They are probably looking for tech.

“We should move,” Benjamin offered. “There’s no safety in these streets.”

He was right, so we continued on at a rapid pace.

We were within one hundred feet of the door of the base when something dropped from the sky right in front of us. We all froze in place. There was no doubt it was a Plax, and we were possibly the first humans to see one.

The creature was a goldish brown color and looked like a large insect. it’s triangular head had four gold eyes and a jaw that opened from side to side. There were six legs on its lower long body and four arms on its upper body. The back of the upper body had two sets of wings. Another one dropped from the sky as we stood there, blocking our online route to the safety the base would provide.

As we stood our ground, I couldn’t help but think, There’s a reason why no human has ever reported back about seeing on of these things.

 

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