“Just one moment,” I heard Tobi say, then his head popped up from under the desk. A flickering appeared above the desk, and a model of Ravensville appeared, looking remarkably stable. Returning to the Mountain, I had called a meeting. Now we were in the conference room looking at a lifelike model of Ravensville.
“What’s this?” I asked, surprised.
“We took the technology from the Craft, retro engineered it and employed it for ourselves,” Tobi answered, looking proud of himself.
“It’s a great piece of technology,” Newt, Tom’s second in command, marvelled at it.
“Right, getting down to business; I spoke to Kelly Parker’s father today,” I explained, “He has captured Bravo Team and is holding them in Ravensville. He is demanding the return of his daughter and the Craft. We have to comply in twenty-four hours,”
“This is bullshit,” Larry snarled, “You cannot hand over the traitor,”
“I’m not sure what to do,” I replied tiredly, falling back into my chair. My gut was telling me to rush out there and rescue Noah and the others. But I had to think about this logically.
“What do we gain by handing over Kelly?” Mac asked quietly.
“Our recons team given back,” Finn spoke up from next to Rachel.
“But we risk her given up the location and the security of the base,” Nate argued.
“We cannot allow that Craft to fall back into enemy hands,” Sarah countered, “But if you are going to go, take Amanda with you,”
“Why?” I looked at her incredulously. Amanda had changed since we had entered the Mountain in the nearly twelve months we had been here; she was less like the spoiled brat she used to be. She was still trouble, but that was more petty stuff.
“Because besides myself, she has studied the aliens the most and can provide inside information while on the ground. Finn’s been training her on weapons.” This I did not know! I looked at Finn. He merely shrugged, but I could see a small smile on his face.
“How are the three new Recon teams looking?”
“They are ready to go,” He replied firmly.
“Is there a sniper on any of the teams?” I asked curiously, that would have been my job, but I had to be the spokesperson.
“Besides you and Eli, little Arty is the best. He would even give you a run for your money,” Finn laughed, sharing a look with Rachel.
“Artyom Rasmussen, he a Russian student from St Francis,” Finn explained, “I don’t know whether they train them early, but that boy has some skills with a sniper rifle,”
“We’ll have to get his team here; we need to evacuate Ravenscroft anyway,” I told him.
“Erm, Delta team are already at the Mountain,” Finn answered uncomfortably.
“What do you mean?” I glared at him angrily, “I didn’t give them permission to come here,”
“I did,” Mac responded, firmly challenging me.
“Fine,” I returned sulkily, “We’ll have Alpha, Charlie and Delta there as protection. Have you been setting up the boltholes?”
“Yep, we’ve got several places,” Finn spent the next fifteen minutes pointing out various caches and hiding spots.
“How are we are setting up Site B?” I laughed inside at my little Jurassic Park joke.
“We’ve got the infrastructure up at both ends of the valley; it’s secure and quite hidden,” Newt filled in for Tom.
“Could we move into the villages now?”
“They need a little more work, but it could be done while people are there,” Newt answered.
“Good, now this is what I propose,” I spent the next hour going over the plans and hashing them out and going over contingencies. We were just going through a final pass of the plan when a chime echoed through the room. “Charlie, what’s happened?”
“We’ve just had a message through from Bravo’s communicator,” answered Charlie from the Ops Room. My breath stilled, had they escaped.
“Have they managed to get away?”
“No, Commander, it was from Mr Parker. He says you have until 6pm to release his daughter,” Charlie seemed reluctant to tell me this news.
“Shit,” I promptly swore, looking around at the group, “We have a little less than three hours. Thank you, Charlie,”
“Why have they changed their deadline?” Mac asked.
“I don’t know,” I looked at the map for a few moments, “Right, I want everyone assembled in thirty minutes,”
“We’ll be ready,” Finn answered as everyone immediately went to work. Everyone filed out the room as I started to pick up the paperwork in front of me. I heard the door click shut, looking up to see Mac and Tobi still in the room.
“You never answered the question about taking Kelly,” Mac put forward when she knew she had my attention.
“Because we have to take her, she knows little of our security protocols as Tobi has changed them all,” I nodded towards the boy.
“But she knows our location.”
“We’ll have to cross that road when we come to it, but it’s not exactly the easiest place to find,” I argued, “She was on the bus with everyone else and has not left the Mountain since we entered.”
“Okay, I hope you know what you’re doing,” she answered, then added with a grin. “Be careful and don’t get your self killed,”
“I’ll be fine,” I told her bravely as she left the room, leaving me alone with Tobi.
“Don’t take any risks,” he told me with a watery grin, “I don’t want my bestie to die,”
“I will try, mate, but until I’m in the situation, I’ll never know,” I returned. I followed him out then turned to go down the stairs to Level One. I reached the cells in a few moments where one of the security was watching over Kelly. The security guard stumbled to attention, but I waved her down.
“Finally, come to see me. It’s only been a couple of months,” Kelly spoke sarcastically. This was a completely different side to Kelly, she had revealed when ‘arrested.’
“I’ve been busy,” I replied, leaning on the desk.
“You didn’t even come to see me when Sebastian died; it was horrible,”
“I have to run a base,” I returned, “Now tell me more about your father?”
“I told you everything,” she blinked owlishly, surprised at the question.
“He has taken four of my people hostage and is demanding you in exchange,” I told her, “Is he honourable if I exchanged you would he release my people?”
“The man I knew as my father was honourable; he would not kill your people,” she answered carefully. I knew there was a lie in there, she had suddenly turned demure, but I could play her game.
“Thank you, Kelly,” I turned away as she started to protest, “Guard, unlock the cell and secure the prisoner,”
It was a little before Five PM when we arrived in Ravensville. Alpha team had all gone to ground and were taking up positions near-by. Kelly was settled in front of me, not very happy, but that’s the least of my worries. Delta team, except for Artyom, were in the LATV with Amanda. Charlie team were in the Craft close by, but not too near they could be detected. Tobi, Mac and Sarah were with Charlie Webster in the Ops Room.
“We’re detecting three gunships a few miles away; you’ve got eight life signs on the streets in front of you,” Charlie’s voice told me. I edged the ATV forward, followed by the lightly armoured vehicle until we saw Mr Parker. Bravo team knelt on the floor in front of three Cataii dressed in white armour; they looked a little like stormtroopers. Mr Parker was stood to the side in an impeccably tailored suit. I stopped the ATV removing my gun to put against Kelly’s head as we stepped away from the vehicle.
“Daddy,” she cried out. I saw a flicker of emotion on his face before he schooled his features.
“You’ve upheld your end of the bargain, Mr Walker.” He sounded like the principle he pretended to be.
“That’s Commander Walker, and I have, but you cannot have the craft,” I returned.
“Then you cannot have your team,” Parker returned.
“It seems we are at an impasse, I cannot give you the Craft because we have gutted it,” I lied, tightening my grip on his daughter, “I would have expected you wanted your daughter back, but perhaps you are the cold-hearted bastard I think you are,”
“One of the gunships have manoeuvred closer,” Tobi spoke over my headpiece as Kelly cried out, real tears now streaming down her face.
“Please, please don’t hurt her,” his façade began to crumble.
“I want my team back, safe and sound, but you know I can’t give you the ship if it’s in a mess,” I returned stoically. The man looked at me, then the Cataii, looking as though he was going to make a decision. One of the Cataii stepped away from the trio, and the two seemed to be in conversation with Parker gesticulating wildly. I subtly looked around at my surroundings, trying to get the measure of the place. We were stood on the main high street, surrounded by medium-height buildings. A flash out the corner of my eye made me turn slightly to see one of Alpha team moving on the roof.
“Sitrep?” I said quietly.
“Three Cataii, five humans beside yourself. There are no other life signs in the immediate area,” Tobi reported.
“Two are holding back on the edge of town nearly a mile away but could probably be there in less than five minutes; the one closest is just hovering over the square,” Tobi answered.
“I have a lock on the Cataii,” Artyom’s Russian accented voice came over the radio. He was in his own ‘nest’ with the sniper rifle.
“I have a lock on the airship,” Adam added. He was beside Arty with his own unique toys.
“You have a green light,” I replied quietly as Parker stamped his feet like an unruly child. I could hear the noise of the Gunship now but did not take my eyes off the Cataii. A sudden whoosh and an explosion of heat blasted me in the back as the LATV exploded. Less than thirty seconds later, I heard another blast as the Gunship exploded mid-air from one of our surface-to-air rocket launchers Adam was carrying. I felt rather than saw a wave of heat jumping out of the way. I rolled over, bringing my gun up, firing at the Cataii. One of them was already lying on the floor, twitching. I had not heard the report from the sniper rifle but knew Arty must have hit him.
“Come on, Noah,” I called as the rest of my team kept the Cataii pinned down. Benji was lying on the floor; I felt bile rise up from my stomach but tried to keep my head from spinning. I turned slightly to see Kelly Park with a massive hole in her stomach as her father cried out. He was being dragged away from the scene by one of the Cataii as the remaining soldier tried to fire upon me.
“We’ve got multiple heat signatures; it seems those ‘gunships’ were transports,” Tobi told me as I met Noah, Tanya and Eli in a window front.
“All teams, I want you to move to evac point,” I told the team over the comms as I looked at the upturned LATV, no one would have survived that, but I would have to mourn for them later.
“Alex, we’re getting reports that Ravenscroft is under attack,”
“Shit!” I pulled out my multitool, cutting away the restraints on Bravo team. I handed over a secondary handgun to Tanya, then my rifle to Noah, “Sorry Eli, you’ll have to scout ahead for us,”
“What’s happening?” Noah gripped my wrist.
“Ravenscroft is under attack; I’ve no idea by who yet,” I told him, “We need to get to the extraction point.”
“On the edge of town,” I replied with my personal handgun at the ready. I took one last look at the upturned vehicle, smoke and flame billowing from the undercarriage. I led the way past the vehicle, running down the road.
“You’ve got more incoming; we think these are zombies this time,” Tobi piped again.
“Just fucking great,” I muttered but focused again on the road as I led the three others into an alleyway. We hurried through the streets, occasionally firing on some Mouldies that we come across, looking more and more decayed. I took a stop in one of the alleyways handing out a canteen of water.
“Are we going to recover Benji?” Eli asked, tear paths streaking down his face.
“Hopefully, when this is over, we’ll recover his body and Delta’s. We lost Amanda too,” I told the trio. They all appeared visibly upset, “Is everyone healthy?”
“Yes, they captured us this morning as we about to leave the town,” Noah returned. I felt like I had been running for weeks, let alone just hours.
“Did they do anything to you?” I asked.
“No, they held us on the street and didn’t move at all,” Noah reported.
“Why did they move up the schedule? Originally they gave us until tomorrow,” I told them.
“I think they were planning their surprise attack on Ravenscroft,” Tanya speculated.
“We have all teams on board the Orion,” Andre’s voice informed me.
“Orion?” I questioned, staring at Noah.
“Well, I had to name the Craft?” I heard the laughter in his voice, but I didn’t really have time to react.
“Bravo and I shall be there in eight minutes if we do not run into resistance,” I told him, taking my canteen back from Tanya. I peered out onto the street, finding it empty. The four of us traced our way through leafy suburbs where garbage lay on the roads; we found some remains and abandoned cars. There were no signs of life on these once beautiful streets.
“Alien search team moving away from the High Street in the opposite direction,” Tobi notified me. The team and I emerged from an alleyway onto a street that overlooked a woodland park. I led them towards the park entrance just as a Hoodie lurched from behind a car, grabbing me. I immediately lost my footing, rolling on the ground several times with the creature snarling and snapping at me. I managed to get my gun barrel between its teeth, stopping it from biting down on me, but I could not get my finger on the trigger. I managed to release my KA-Bar and stabbed it through the head. The creature died instantly, allowing me to push it off in disgust. Noah offered me his head, helping me up.
“You really have the worst luck,” He told me with a grin.
“I know, don’t tell the rest of the team,” I replied.
“We saw,” Mac spoke up, making me wince; I forgot I had the glasses on. Looking around, the four of us trotted into the park. Weaving along the wooden path until we reached a small clearing. Once a picnic area, it was now our extraction point. The Orion shimmered into view in front of us, it’s cargo-doors open, allowing entrance. I moved up the platform to meet with Finn and Harué. The other three passed me as the door began to close. Arty was sat on one of the chairs, looking absolutely stunned. Though they had not been together long, he had just lost his entire team.
“Andre, get us over to Ravenscroft but be careful. I don’t want us detected,” I told the pilot. Finn looked at me questioningly, making me shake my head as I moved to kneel in front of the Russian boy. Only twelve, but he was living in a new world now. Adam Westbridge was sat next to him. I touched the boy’s knee until brown eyes met mine.
“I’m sorry,” he blurted before I could say anything.
“What are you sorry about, kiddo?” I was genuinely confused.
“If I had been sooner, your friend would not have been killed,” I knew he meant Benji.
“You were perfect, but how are you? I’m sorry about Troy, Liam and Violet,” I saw a teardrop from his face.
“We were only a team for a month, but I’ve known them for several years,” the boy explained, “I’ve been going to Saint Francis since I was eight,”
“I’m sorry, buddy,” I told Arty, patting his knee
“The other recon teams have reached Ravenscroft, the reports coming in say it is humans attacking the farm. We cannot detect any alien life signs,” Tobi related. I left Arty with Adam making my way up to the cockpit. I passed the rest of Alpha and Charlie team, nodding my head towards Rachel, who followed me up the stairs. I entered the cockpit and slumped down into the co-pilot’s chair as Rachel and Finn followed int behind me.
“What happened?” Rachel asked.
“I think the Alien’s got impatient; they destroyed the LATV and killed Benji,” I shared a sad look with Finn before looking out at the window as the countryside flew by. Andre was trying to keep the speed up while avoiding any detection from Alien Craft.
“We’ve lost a lot of good people today,” Rachel spoke sadly. My mind went to this morning and my conversation with Ashley.
“Ashley! She was taking the kids to Ravenscroft!” I said aloud, “Tobi, Charlie, where is the school located?”
“Ashley and Martin took the children to Ravenscroft this morning; they have not returned yet!” Mac replied after several tenses minutes.
“Five minutes out,” Andre broke into my thoughts. I looked out over the landscape. I could already see smoke billowing into the sky.
“Touch down a klick from Ravenscroft,” I told him and scrambled down into the hold, “Arm up, we don’t know what resistance we’re facing. Our priority is the younger children first.” I told them, “Charlie, I want you to patrol around the Craft for stragglers.”
“But-“ Rachel started to argue until I looked at her.
“Yes, Sir.” Charlie, Bravo and Alpha were all armed up in minutes from the mobile Armoury we had created in the Craft. I’d picked up a new rifle and some ammo as I felt us descending, then the jolt of the landing gears on the ground. I led the way down the ramp into the small corpse of trees a kilometre from the farm. We moved through the tree’s getting closer to the farm when we began to hear gunfire.
“Alpha come in from the East; I’ll lead Bravo from the West,” the remainder of Bravo team followed behind me as we moved through the fields of barley, some as high as our heads. The gunfire had stopped, but I could hear cries and deep voices.
“Commander, our group, seemed to be in front of the main house; they are surrounded by child soldiers,” Finn’s voice came over the radio.
“Take up an OP, do not interfere unless I give the word,” I ordered both teams, “Any aliens?”
“No Aliens, only humans,” was the reply as my group hit the edge of the field. I called a halt and pulled out my binoculars. It was an absolute mess; the pool area’s furniture was smashed or floating in the pool. Smoke was lazily drifting over the farm, coming from the secondary barn. In front of the house was a fair number of our people surrounded by up to twenty armed children; most looked in their mid to late teens. One boy stood off to the side, watching over them. He seemed to be about six foot with a buzzcut and piggy eyes. But instead of fat, he was broad-shouldered and bulky. This boy must be the leader, I thought as I searched through our group, all of whom were on their knees with their hands behind their heads.
“They are from Davis town,” Noah whispered from beside me. Checking again, I noticed none of the younger children was there, and neither were some of the girls. Abruptly I heard a scream come from the farmhouse.
“How close to the farmhouse are you?” I asked Finn.
“Close,” he returned.
“I need a scan of how many are in the house,” I turned back to watch the group, noticing Brett talking to one of the guards. I indicated for Noah and Tanya to stay where they were. Tapping Eli, I moved along the field until the group was out of sight then ran to the thicket hiding the fields from the barns. We walked up to the main road, where we found only one guard; they were definitely sloppy.
“We have some stragglers, roughly ten people from Ravenscroft,” Rachel’s voice sounded. I double-clicked the mike to confirm that I had heard, then slipped the gun on its sling. The guard was watching the action and not the road as I scrambled around the corner, putting a hand over his mouth and using my arm to apply pressure to the boy’s throat. Fifteen to twenty seconds later, he went limp in my arms. I’m not sure whether he was unconscious or dead. Eli and I dragged him into a ditch and hid from sight.
“Arty, I need you to come from the west and meet us at the trees between the barns,”
“On my way,” was the quiet reply. I led Eli across the road and underneath the tree where our lookout post was. Crude steps were leading up to a small enclosed platform. I chanced a lookup and found an arm dangling down. I swallowed the sudden wave of nausea, instead forcing me to move behind the barn. I looked out, seeing no one looking in our direction, ran to the other trees. Eli followed me up one of the trees where I could see the whole group and could hear.
“So you are the leader here?” the buzzcut boy said, looking at Brett.
“I am in charge here,” Brett confirmed.
“There are eight people in the house, four civilians and four combatants,” Finn informed me.
“Quietly take out the combatants,” I told him as I heard a rustling at the base of the tree. I looked down to see Arty skillfully climbing up the tree like a monkey. He found a long branch close to mine to set up the sniper rifle. Eli was watching our backs, but we were well hidden within the foliage.
“Who are you?” Brett asked as I turned back.
“I am King Rod of Davis town,” the boy said arrogantly, but I heard Brett snort.
“King, the only King, is King William, and I’m not even sure he’s still alive,”
“This is my territory; I am the king over my domain,” Rod replied imperiously.
“There are no domains, you fool; we are subject to the laws of the country,”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but this is a new world. I make the rules,” the self-styled king told him. He nodded, and one of his guards punched Brett in the stomach. Brett fell to the ground gasping. I heard the click of a safety being switched off.
“Don’t fire until I tell you,” I hissed quietly.
“You are not the people that attacked us a few months ago, but some of the women will make good breeding stock,”
“Breeding stock?” Brett gasped, “we’re not in the medieval period.”
“Think of it as a reward to my loyal men, then,” the older boy grinned.
“You’re a sick fuck,” Brett answered. Rod’s face contorted, and he went bright red. He drew a gun from his holster, sticking it to Brett’s head.
“I’ll do what I want,” he told Brett but luckily withdrew the gun before viciously smacking the boy around the face with the butt.
“Charlie, if there are able boys or girls, I want you to take them across the stream and watch ready for my signal,”
“Stay here unless you hear my command,” I looked between Eli and Arty. Then I slithered down the tree, slowly making my way towards the road.
“Combatants silenced. Alpha team have taken a position at the upper windows,” I acknowledged with a click of the mike as I strolled up the road. A sudden noise indicated that I had been noticed by some of the teen guards. The older teen, Rod, turned around, scanning me from head to toe.
“Who the fuck are you?” he snarled.
“Commander Walker, this is my district,” I told him. I stopped about fifteen feet away, taking note that most of the weapons were AK-47 or a mish-mash of firearms that were semi-automatic.
“Fuck off, you little fag, I own this farm,”
“My, my, my, you’ve got a potty mouth,” I said with more confidence than I felt. He looked genuinely shocked; I had hoped I might get out of this without too many deaths. Most bullies don’t like it when you stand up to them, “We’ve known about you for a long time, Rod, and been watching you.”
“We?” He said, almost nervously. His crew were starting to look at him funny.
“Yes, my soldiers and I. Do you not remember that little raid not so long ago where you lost three men?” I goaded him.
“That was you; they were my cousins.”
“They were rapists, you sick fuck,” I retorted angrily, “Now you’re trespassing on my land.”
“You’re outgunned,” He answered, trying to get the upper hand again.
“I’ve got you surrounded,” I returned.
“Like hell, you have; more than likely, it’s just you are playing dress-up,” the boy sneered.
“Arty,” I replied simply. There was a puff of dirt where a bullet hit three inches from the older boys’ foot. He yelped and moved closer to Brett.
“There is nothing in the area; we’re sending out two trucks to collect you,” Tobi’s voice came over the comms.
“Now release my people, and this will all end peacefully,” I told him calmly, my heart hammering in my ribs. He sneered at me, regaining his composure bringing up his weapon.
“I’ve got your people as hostages, so you’ll do exactly as I say,” He growled; either he was stupid, or he was calling my bluff. I tried to think of a way without it being too much of a bloodbath hating the decision I was about to make.
“Do it!” I said aloud as Rod glared at me, knowing I would not get through his thick skull. I heard the echo of the gunshot, then saw the older boy’s head almost explode. Blood splattered Brett and some of the other children, who screamed. His body fell like a tree being felled; he didn’t even have time to press down on the trigger. The next few minutes were chaos as three of the teen guards raised their weapons, but several reports later, and they had been killed. As the dust settled, so to speak, the rest of the ‘soldiers’ lay their weapons on the ground and stepped away from them. Alpha and Charlie moved in using hand-ties to secure them. They all looked between the age of thirteen and fifteen. Finn approached me.
“How did you know when to act?” He asked curiously as Eli and Arty approached.
“I’ve learnt a lot from movies and history. If you take out the leader, the soldier’s don’t know what to do,” I replied, then looked around, “I want a clean sweep of the farm, pick up everyone that’s missing, then we’re going to go home,”
“Yes, Commander,” Finn replied, leaving me alone. I moved away to observe and to stop anyone noticing the shakes that were going through my body right now.
“Make sure you have ten older teens capable of carrying weapons onboard a truck,” I told Tobi in the Ops Room, who had taken command there.
“Andre, I want you to take your load to the secondary site,”
“Aye, Aye,” he answered.
“What are you going to do?” Mac asked.
“I’m going to clear out a rat’s nest,” I answered.
A couple of hours later, as darkness was beginning to fall, my truck drove up to the barrier at the edge of Davis town. We stopped at the gate’s they had somehow managed to create on the street.
“Who goes there?” A voice shouted.
“Let me through; I want to talk to your leader,” I told him, not expecting him to comply.
“King Rod is dead, and I have several of his lieutenants with me,”
“Oh shit,” I heard him mutter, seeing him in the firelight. The doors began to scrape open, surprising me. As four or five teens watched, the doors were opened, and our truck drove through. One of their people led our vehicle to the main street in front of a posh looking hotel. There were three people tied up on stakes.
“Someone get them down,” I called to my people; three of them jumped out of the truck to do it as I jumped out with Finn.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” a thin ratty-looking teen come down the stairs from the hotel wearing only a dressing gown. I had learned from our captives there were about two hundred teens and children in the town, fifty of them working for Rod. But like the ten or so we had captured, they were untrained and most only did it to avoid being punished themselves.
“I’m taking over,” I replied simply.
“You what?” his eyes were bugging out of his head. Rod was a natural predator but a bully none the less. This boy was nothing compared to him.
“Davis Town belongs to me now, Rod is dead, and I’ve captured his top lieutenants,” I stepped right up to him.
“Y-you can’t do that, someone shoot him,” he cried. His men were now on their knees in front of the truck with my own people behind them.
“Except your guards on the gate, I want you to round everyone up,” He spluttered, so I punched him, winding the boy. I looked to one of the others’ who immediately complied, sending people scurrying. Time passed, but the square was soon filled up with children from toddlers to sixteen-year-olds. I could tell who Rod’s groupies were by the military-Esque trousers and tops they wore.
“My name is Commander Walker; today, King Rod made the wrong choice and is now dead. I was the one that raided here a few months ago. I do not condone rape or violence unless absolutely necessary.”
“Are you taking over?” someone shouted.
“I will be leaving a governor of sorts here with a couple of my people; in the next few weeks, I’ll be sending medics, admin and support to help you turn this into a proper town again,” I told them.
“Who’s in charge?” someone shouted.
“This is Brett; he’s going to help lead you to a better future,” I know it sounds corny, and I got a few giggles from my people. I let Brett take over and went back to my truck. When I got back inside, I slumped down in the seat. Finn got into the driver’s seat as we headed back home.
“That went surprisingly easy,”
“I didn’t expect them to give too much resistance,” I told him, “Let’s go home,”