Night God Bless: Point-02

I was half-dead when they pulled me from the water, frozen and pneumonic, my mind delirious in among its fading vital signs. Apparently I had been rambling about wizards and magic dust and so-on which probably didn’t give my rescuers the best impression, but I was grateful nonetheless that they hadn’t just decided to dump me back in and let the current wash me out to sea.

‘They’ were a ragtag clan of people who hadn’t managed to get out, and hadn’t sided with either of the armies busy fighting. The youngest was a girl of 17 with a shock of bright pink pixie-cut hair, who had apparently been running a small scale trading operation from Platform since she was 15.  The oldest was a grizzled army vet with PTSD and everyone knew he was a ticking time bomb. The flipside of that coin was that he was a damn good shot regardless of what weapon you handed him.

The rest were… survivors. Two thirds male to one third female, and a lot of them told stories about getting their significant others, kids, families out of the way but not managing to save a seat for themselves. Others told stories about giving up their ticket out for a small child or a disabled person or something equally white-knight. Still, it was better than my story; why didn’t I get out? Because, I got drunk and made some bad decisions. Whoop-de-doo.

It took a more than a good few days for me to get back on my feet again, and it wasn’t just because the resident nurse had me heavily medicated. Apparently when I’d hit the water I’d fractured quite a few bones; nothing intensely bad but enough to stop me walking, which only seemed to make me frustrated and depressed.

I’d missed my ticket out of that goddamn warzone, I’d fucked up more times than I thought was humanly possible, and the people who rescued me didn’t trust me as far as they could throw me because of all my thinly-veiled blathering about drug running. The second week in, the pink haired girl brought me coffee, and I finally felt like I could relax a little.

“Thought you could use some company.” The cup was a cheap plastic one meant for cold drinks at picnics, but it did the job. I took it gratefully and tried not to spit the syrupy brown liquid back into the cup when I tasted it. There’s coffee, there’s good coffee and then there’s reconstituted motor oil mixed with caffeinated mud. This was the latter.

Gingerly, I set the cup down on the floor. My ribs ached to the point of tears as I leant over the camp bed, but I held back. “Thanks, I guess. Your name is…?”

“Wynona; my friends call me Wynn,” she said, although the statement was indirectly one of disenchantment. A flick of the neck, and her pastel fringe sat away from her eye for a moment before sidling back. “You don’t remember my introduction from before?”

I scratched at the bandage on my arm and looked away. ‘Out of it’ didn’t even cut what I was before, but it was clear I’d hurt her feelings. “I uh… wasn’t exactly very coherent when you introduced yourself before. Sorry.”

The right corner of her mouth pulled up in a smirk that expressed the words, ‘oh well’ with a disappointed sigh. She leaned forward, her eyes expectant. Something clicked, and I realised that it was likely I hadn’t introduced myself.

“I’m Darke, Daniel Darke. My friends call me… well, any variation on ‘Daniel’, I guess… or just ‘Darke’.” I offered a bruised hand, the palm open. She took it and shook it gently, her eyes fixed on me as if I were going to try something. “I lived over in West Haverfield, until this whole skirmish kicked off. I think it was one of the first places the shells started falling.”

She shrugged. “I was over in Beaconsfield when it started, but my girlfriend lives over this direction. There’s a chance that she made it out, but with her being in the Army Logistics Corps… I dunno, she might still be around.”

The girl’s eyes were distant. Whatever hope had stirred her into heading this far had begun to fade. On her nails, the black lacquer was chipped, the crescent moon tips cracked. It was an odd thing to notice, but it was difficult not to notice anything about her. She stood out – and that made me worry; it was girls like her who either were the first to die or the first to be taken. I promised myself I wouldn’t let that happen.

Wynona stood up and sighed. “Anyway, I’ve spent too long. I gotta go on a supply run.”

I swilled down the awful beverage she’d brought and passed the cup back to her. With some effort, I mustered up a weak smile to spite the acid in my throat. “Thanks for the coffee.”

“Someone’s gotta drink this shit,” she said with a grin, “Might as well be you, pretty boy.”

The teenager left the room and I lay back in my bed, content in spite of the urge to vomit in order to save my kidneys from the torture they were about to endure. I’d made an acquaintance at the very least, so perhaps that was enough to stop the rest of them from killing me. Or so I thought.

Night God Bless: Point-01

Artillery whistles don’t make the most convenient alarm clocks, but you can be damn sure they’ll wake you up. That was the way the Arlandrian Civil War started for me; that telltale whistle, that banshee shriek that freezes even the best-trained soldiers right in their tracks. Typical then that I was laid in bed, still drunk as fuck, still on the verge of being sick.

It took me five minutes to get dressed, get my gear and get out of my apartment. Chances were it wouldn’t be standing for much longer. The stairs were like gelatine as I tried to make my way down them; I missed a step and a moment later I was curled foetal by the front door, everything hurt and nothing felt the right way up. Another explosion rattled the rafters above me, and the cascade of dust was all I needed to get back on my feet.

It’s strange how quickly you can sober up when you really need to. I checked my cellphone, desperately hoping that perhaps they hadn’t taken out the communications networks yet. Two bars out of five was good enough, and I forced my fingers steady as I typed in A-N-D-R and up came Andrew Harris, the only dude I knew who could have my back in this sort of situation.

“Andy, bro how’s it…” I started, before the answer machine cut me off with its robotic voice, its slanderous sound-bite tongue. The staccato words dug in harder than the straps of my rucksack, and that was saying something. My mind immediately jumped to the worst. He’s dead. He’s dead. Oh my God, he’s fucking dead; what the hell do I do?

I told myself I was being ridiculous; I had half a mind to slap some sense into me but right now it was a waste of time and a waste of energy. An Arlandrian Army vehicle turned onto the road and I ducked into an alleyway. I didn’t know whose side they were on but I’d be screwed if it wasn’t mine. Oil and sweat and grease filtered through the air like miasma as the truck rolled by, no doubt planning on supplying the front lines with more cannon fodder.

Polyphonic tones cut through the air and I almost had a heart attack. It was Harris, and the noises I heard were those of turbojet engines and loud speakers and crowds. How had he managed to get to the airport so quickly?

“Darke, my main man! ‘Sup brother?” He was jovial as always. Hell, the guy could have a gun to his head and he’d still have a smile on his face. That was just the way he rolled, and it had won him his childhood sweetheart and a lot of friends. “I’m at the airport, if you can’t tell by the deafening roar of BT-22’s and small children. I got your name on the list for a flight out to Maiden’s Bay, but you gotta promise me you’ll be here in the next two hours!”

In theory, that wasn’t going to be a problem. But theory was quickly consigned to the history books when you had a rifle up your ass. Hypothetically speaking. “I’ll do my best, but if I don’t make it, don’t worry. You know me; I ain’t getting my ass handed to me on a platter without giving the chef a piece of my mind, y’know what I’m saying?”

Harris laughed as though I’d told the best joke he’d ever heard. “I feel you man, I feel you. Look, if you don’t make it out, and my place isn’t completely totalled, there’s a safe in the basement. Code’s 14-13-25 and it’s packed to the goddamn nines with all the gear you’d need for some straight-up fighting. Was meant for the mob, but I don’t think they’ll mind too much if you borrow it.”

I smirked as I pushed my way through the discarded trash cans of a desolate alley. Harris and me, we’d pulled some pretty big jobs to supplement our incomes, so to speak. The mob was always looking for gun runners, especially if they were exclusive. The triads and the Russians, they had their sources, sources that incredibly survived the supposedly impossible trip from the mainland. But the mob had nothing – at least until they met The Wizard, i.e. Harris’s ridiculous alter ego who appeared to be a cross between an overdressed pimp and a sorcerer.

The Wizard was the mob’s one stop shop for firearms, pickups and sometimes drugs. We had about twenty people at the height of the operation, and they were nearly all disposable. Recovering addicts we leashed in the blink of an eye, low scale crims who couldn’t afford to bribe the cops, that sort of thing. A few years in and fifty thousand Arlandrian in the vault and we packed it all in, made sure that even the mob wouldn’t have any bad blood against us.

“Thanks for the offer, I might take you up on it if I mess this up,” I replied as I ducked between two cars. The telltale rumble and creak of a main battle tank passed without incident. “I’m coming up on Greenberg and Lake, and making good progress.”

“Shit bro, don’t –” I dropped the cellphone as I left the alleyway, an instant reaction. What had once been a moderately busy intersection in midtown was now a goddamn firing range, and I’d just drawn everyone’s attention to me because of a stupid phone call. As I turned on my heel, everything slowed down to quarter speed, my heartbeat like the drone of a drum in my ears. Splinters rained about me as bullets passed through head-high fences, and while my mind screamed peril all I could do was run. It was all my mind could focus on.

I scaled the fence at the end of the alley and dropped over onto Bridge Street, which turned out to be another stupid idea. Two tanks were sat to my left and the thud of the hammer of their machine guns was more than enough to clarify that they weren’t friendly. There was only one option, and if I survived it, it was going to be a miracle.

A gap in the gunfire came and I ran. Not away from or towards the tanks, but perpendicular to them, towards the edge of the bridge and the river below. With my entire life from the past five years in the bags on my back, I jumped, and immediately the icy water was everywhere. Step two of this imperfect escape plan was to try not to drown; but as always that was much easier said than done.