“The landscape around him was scorched and burned. Fires raged everywhere, buildings were decimated, steel destroyed. There was no sign of life anywhere.”
In his dream, Brian was in the hospital, and he couldn’t move his arm. Gears whirred and metal scraped. Then, the room exploded, and he woke up.
The landscape around him was scorched and burned. Fires raged everywhere, buildings were decimated, steel destroyed. There was no sign of life anywhere.
Brian was shocked. What happened? He remembered living a normal life in the city, talking with his friends, until a bomb hit, and he lost his right arm. There was the hospital room, and then the replacement arm. And then, after weeks… nothing. He couldn’t remember past that. Where was his family? Were they dead? Or were they somewhere waiting? Reality cut through his dream and sleepiness.
Brian suddenly thought of the replacement arm, which had haunted him since he lost his organic one. It was made of coltan, steel, and tungsten. Synthetic muscles replaced the ones he lost, and gears functioned as joints. The doctor had programmed it to be exactly like a normal human arm, except much stronger and more resilient.
He didn’t know what to do. The number one thing he still wanted to know was what had happened. He needed to know what had happened before anything else.
Suddenly, Brian heard footsteps. He seemed to be outside, sitting on the ground. The ground was burnt, upturned, and there was no grass. A million thoughts raced through his mind, mostly about death. Brian grabbed a rock for a weapon and turned around. The footsteps got closer, and Brian desperately wanted to run away, but he needed to see who it was. Eventually, a figure came into view, and it was a young boy, just like Brian.
Brian stared and shouted, “Jack, what are you doing here? What happened? The hell is going on?! Where are Cooper and Henry?!”
Jack limped towards Brian and muttered, “You don’t want to know.”
When Brian was still living in the city, he had several friends, and one of them was Jack. Jack was full of energy, passionate, and loved playing guitar and heavy metal music. Now, it looked like he hadn’t slept in three days. His right leg had a cut, and his pants were stained with blood.
Cooper and Henry were also their friends, but they weren’t here. Brian asked Jack again, “Where are Cooper and Henry?!”
“I don’t know! They’re dead! Dead! Listen to me! Everyone’s dead!”
Jack sat down on the ground and told Brian everything that happened. The reason Brian lost his right arm was because a group of renegades, who were called the Outsiders because they did not live in the city, were determined to take over the city and claim it as their own. First off, the city was where the lucky people lived after World War III; as a result, people built new communities there. However, some did not take the chance to enter these new cities, so they were stuck in the wilderness. Eventually, while the cities grew, the Outsiders banded together and started their own community. Now, they were determined to take over the cities.
One day, the Outsiders flew over the city, dropping bombs and blowing up Brian’s arm.
After Brian received a metal arm, life remained normal for weeks. Then, the Outsiders launched a full blown attack on the city. It was living hell. Fighter jets destroyed the Control Center, and soldiers stormed the ground. The only reason Jack got away was because at the time, he was taking a walk outside and escaped the carnage.
Brian had been inside his house in the living room, the sturdiest part. All the wreckage fell around him. Then, a bomb hit ten yards away, and the force caused Brian to fly through the air. When he landed, his head hit a rock, causing his memory loss. Later, the Outsiders took over the Control Center and claimed this city as theirs. Brian and Jack were stuck outside, while the Control Center was the Outsiders’ to keep.
“So, we’re basically screwed now,” Jack finished up.
Brian stared into the distance. “Well, it’s probably better to die now than to risk being captured by the Outsiders. What do you have in mind?”
Jack thought for a bit and remarked, “Well, I don’t think suicide is a very healthy way to go down. Let’s keep on walking for a bit and see what we find.”
“That’s a stupid idea! We’re gonna die!”
“Better than committing suicide!”
Brian shoved Jack. “I’m not listening to your idea!”
Jack shoved Brian back, and they started fighting. Brian was very weak, but he had his new arm, so he easily overpowered Jack. However, while they were fighting, they came across a dead soldier’s body, and a piece of paper next to him. Paper was rare, as new ways of displaying information called holograms had been invented.
Brian pushed Jack on top of the soldier and saw the paper. He ignored Jack and studied it. It appeared to be some kind of map. Jack stood up and grabbed the map. Brian elbowed Jack with his robotic arm, and Jack went tumbling three feet away. Brian was impressed.
Well! This new arm is way cool!”
He picked up the paper. It showed the city, the wilderness around it, and a mysterious path from the city to a triangle shaped building. Jack stood up, rubbing his ribs and wincing in pain.
Brian showed Jack the map. “Hey, what do you think this is?”
Jack peered at the map and was silent for a few minutes. Eventually, he muttered, “I think we should go there.”
Brian exploded. “What the frickin’ hell are you talking about?! We are going to die soon! We have no resources, and you are fantasizing about doing idiotic things! Are you sure you didn’t hit your head on a piece of rubble?”
Jack sighed. “Brian, you might be right. However, if there’s one thing I want to see, it’s that triangle thing. If we die, at least we tried and saw the thing, or maybe we might even survive and get there! I know I’m sounding a bit cliché, but I wanna try. Either you come with me, or I go by myself. Either way, I’m going. And you can’t stop me.”
And Brian stood there, unable to think of anything to say.
They had been traveling for three days now, following the map. Their share of food, all from the dead soldier, was getting low now. All the way out there, the remnants of the city were becoming less and less. However, there was one thing bothering Brian. Where were all the bodies of the soldiers or anybody else? Did barely anybody die? It was all very confusing for Brian.
Jack was in front, staring at the map and trying to figure out where they were. Along the middle of the path, there were many rocks of all different sizes. From a far distance, all these rocks together looked like a rectangle. On the map, there was a rectangle next to the pathway, meaning Brian and Jack were at that area.
Jack looked up. “Hmm. On the map, there is some kind of rectangle formation made of stone. Brian, can you run back and see if this looks like a rectangle?”
Brian harrumphed, but sprinted back. Around 150 meters back, the rocks did look like a rectangle, and from even further distances, it was certain. Brian jogged back to Jack and told him, “Yeah, we’re here. Give me the map.”
Brian looked at the map, and the rectangle was next to the path.
He thought, If we’re at the rocks, then we have one-half of the path to go. That means around four more days. If only we could get more food somehow..
Over the next two days, the pair followed the map, keeping on track with other landmarks shown on the map.
By the end of the fifth day, they had no more food left. Jack kept on trekking along, while Brian wondered if his mechanical arm was wearing down. Brian had a fear that whenever he received anything new, he would wonder if it was breaking down. He always had this problem, but now it seemed to be overwhelming.
Brian knew this trip was suicide. However, hadn’t he asked for suicide? He wanted it and didn’t want it at the same time. Mind-boggling questions tortured Brian about life or death.
Suddenly, Jack shouted, “Brian! I found a dead soldier! He might have food with him like the last one!”
Brian sprinted towards Jack and saw a soldier lying sideways. He couldn’t see any sign of injury.
“Get some food quickly,” Brian instructed. “I’ll see if he has anything else that’s useful.”
While Jack collected food, Brian searched the soldier’s other pockets. After ten minutes, Jack had found dried fruit, water, crackers, cheese, chili with beans, spaghetti, and beef stew. Brian had discovered a knife, a pistol, and a flashlight.
That was all that they could carry, and they continued their journey.
On the seventh day, the triangle came into view. It was made of metal and was the only modern thing around. In front, there was a hole that lead inside. Brian and Jack approached it, and neither wanted to get any closer. They argued with each other, until Brian went first, holding the pistol, and then Jack. There was nobody inside, and stairs led to mysterious places. Brian wanted to get out but a man stepped into their view. He had black hair with tints of gray. He was smiling, tall, and seemed to be muscular. Brian screamed, and prepared to shoot when the man spoke.
“Wait! I see you have the map. Lucky! Well, follow me!”
Brian and Jack were bewildered. What was this place?
They walked down one staircase and entered a small theater with a screen. The man introduced himself.
“I am John, the leader of this operation, which is called Technology and Resistance Movement, or TARM. You’ll learn a lot here. But don’t worry. This isn’t a trap or anything.”
Brian was even more confused. What was going on?
The screen started playing a video, and Brian and Jack were intrigued. The screen showed videos of the city manufacturing the signature Outsider planes and vehicles. The city secretly transported the technology outside the walls, while telling everybody the Outsiders were a rebellious group. Then, the movie cut to the top leaders accepting money in exchange for doing what the Outsiders wanted. The leaders were bribed, and every time, they accepted it. Finally, the screen showed machines building a very strange shaped base in the wilderness, far away from any civilization. The leaders were entering the buildings along with other officials. The screen cut off, and darkness filled the room.
John spoke again. “The Outsiders are fake. The city is corrupt, and the leaders have a hidden base. Overall, that attack on the city was completely orchestrated by the city itself in order to destroy most of the city and restart the process.”
Brian stuttered, “Most of the city? We didn’t see any of the city left standing!”
“Well, the very middle has a cloaking device, therefore tricking anybody still alive into thinking the city was completely destroyed,” John replied.
Brian wanted to ask another question, but his brain was overloaded trying to process the other information. The Outsiders were fake?!
John kept talking. “Before the attack, we found out about it and sent everybody who wanted to live, here. You two probably didn’t hear about it, and you’re very lucky to have found the map leading here. Anyway, the real reason the leaders decided to attack the city was to reduce the population significantly and restart the city. They only wanted the elites to live with them, the people that they knew personally and could talk with, work with. They didn’t want those lower people who wasted food, money, time, and didn’t benefit the city. It’s a twisted form of a proper society. They did not think of all the lives that would be lost, or how the civilians would feel. They only knew of their own benefits.”
Deep inside Brian, something snapped. Then, shattered. And finally, disappeared. He had wondered where his family was. But now, he knew. They were dead.
“Our plan is to attack the leaders’ hidden base. It might seem crazy, but we have to do it.”
Jack spoke up. “That’s suicide! I don’t know whether this base is powerful, but we are severely underpowered! I saw no artillery or anybody else!”
“Not so fast hotshot, just wait and see.”
John led them into what seemed like the main chamber. It had a tile floor with many lights illuminating the area. On the walls, there were many racks of guns and weapons. The most amazing thing was that there were people. Around 200 people were milling about, doing their work. Brian was shocked. This many people had come here? He had no idea.
John said something into his radio and out came two boys. Immediately, Brian recognized them. They were Cooper and Henry! They seemed to be stronger and tougher. Brian and Jack were shocked again, as both of them thought Cooper and Henry were dead. They bolted up to Cooper and Henry.
The pair laughed and said, “We have a lot to catch up on.”
Cooper had been trained in archery and basic sword fighting, while Henry had learned about running operations and analysis. Brian decided to learn how to take advantage of his metal arm, using its strength and its resilience. He became the best shot TARM had ever seen. Lastly, Jack trained in stealth and shotguns, and he could sneak up on anybody.
Eventually, TARM got ready to attack the hidden base after months of training. However, on the day of the attack, Brian fell down the stairs and sprained his ankle. Everybody was in shock. How could they defeat the city if one of their main attackers was out? Brian wasn’t this clumsy! Well, sometimes he tripped and didn’t watch where he was going, but he never fell down the stairs!
“Screw it, just go. It’s not that hard, is it? Besides, this will heal soon. Go!” Brian winced at the pain.
All the fighters boarded a helicopter-like transporter and took off. Henry, along with other intelligence officers stayed to monitor the battle and fire the heavy artillery. Brian received a healing accelerator and watched the battle through cameras. The second he saw the fighters get off the plane, Brian knew something was wrong. The ground was shaking, and no enemy soldiers came out to greet them. Then, it all happened.
On its way back, the transporter dropped onto the landing pad, just before the engines started smoking. The fighters slowly climbed out, some not even able to walk. The transporter had picked up all the soldiers they could from the battle and flown them back, sustaining heavy fire. Jack and Cooper were lucky, as they were not as injured. Henry and Brian, with his sprained ankle, rushed up to them, and started spewing questions at them. Nobody knew the leaders would be that ready and powerful.
Cooper sat down and sighed,“The base had a hidden weapon. Right after we got off the helicopter, the ground shook, and we all fell. The shaking got worse, and right when we thought it would never stop, it stopped. However, soldiers sprinted from the base, shooting their guns at us. Most of our soldiers were shot, but because we’re twelve and thirteen, they didn’t see us. Jack and I climbed back on the transporter with other soldiers, and we took off. So you see, they have a super-weapon. Brian, I knew we would need you!”
Brian was flattered. “Need me? What could I have done, except run around in circles? I’m not that useful!”
“Well, your arm doesn’t feel pain, so it could withstand the earthquake. Then, you could, um, well…”
“See! I couldn’t have done anything!”
The medical staff rushed to treat the wounded, while the group of friends went down the stairs into a fancy parlor. They sat in silence until Jack stood up and said, “Well, let’s get to work.”
The wind blew in Brian’s ears. The rifle on his back seemed heavier than normal. It had been seven months of training and retraining since the last battle. Henry was at TARM’s base, running ops as usual, while Cooper, Jack, and Brian, along with other soldiers, were on their way to a final assault on the base. They were riding the transporter. Since the first fight at the base, TARM had damaged the base with heavy artillery and spied on it with drones. It was now or never.
Brian was carrying a sniper rifle and a smaller, faster rifle. Cooper had his bow and different types of arrows. Lastly, Jack carried two different shotguns, all ready for use.
Suddenly, Henry’s voice crackled in their ears through their earpieces. “You ready for some action? Yeah, you are. Cannon control, standby. Three, two, one, fire!”
Back at TARM, heavy cannons were firing missiles and rockets at the hidden base. They flew past the helicopter, leaving a trail of smoke and plasma. There had been a breakthrough of engineering when the United States was still intact, the time before the cities rose.
The leader’s base lit up, then partly exploded. Many of their anti-aircraft guns were destroyed, leaving an opening for the transporters.
Brian called Jack and Henry over and shouted over the wind, “Alright, let’s go over the plan. A, drop in front and just attack. B, flank from the left. C, come from the right, enter the base, and deactivate security. D, drop from behind, picking off whatever is left, move into the base, and confront those leaders. You ready?!”
Jack and Cooper both replied, “Yup!”
Soon, they were in range of the base. The pilot screamed, “We’re taking too much flak! Brian! Shoot the AA guns!”
Brian unslung his sniper rifle. It was made of wood, like a hunting rifle. However, inside, there were plasma magnets that powered the bullet, making it a very effective weapon. He aimed at an anti-aircraft gun and fired. The bullet flew through the air and ripped the cannon into shreds.
With the gun destroyed, there was time to land and get all the soldiers off. When the transporter was fifteen feet above the ground, Brian, Jack, and Cooper jumped off. From another helicopter, Squad D also landed. Out in front, A was busy soaking up the front line of defense and distracting the base’s soldiers. B was picking off the edge of the the soldiers, while C was fighting to get in the base.
Brian screamed to Jack and Cooper, “Alright, let’s go!!”
Jack grabbed one of his shotguns, a modern, black, and metal one. It was partly plasma-powered, which was even more devastating. Cooper’s bow used a machine to help pull the string, and had many types of arrows, like explosives, EMP, electricity, and scatter arrows.
The ground had already been marred with the signs of war, and mangled bodies lay motionless. Brian immediately turned away and tried not to vomit.
D Squad sprinted forward into the fray of battle, and instantly, a few soldiers went down. Brian had come into this battle unwilling to kill anybody, but when he saw his fellow fighters die, he knew he had to do it. Ignoring his sniper rifle, Brian unslung his smaller, fully-automated rifle, which was also plasma-powered, and fired at an enemy soldier. The bullet flew straight through his helmet and entered his head. Brian looked away and tried not to think that he killed someone.
Jack was busy sneaking off, using his stealth to his advantage, while Cooper was shooting all types of arrows. High in the sky, two orange-ish orbs were falling down.
Brian cursed and screamed at Cooper, “Hey! Two bomb-things are falling from the sky! We better run!”
Cooper and Brian bolted far away from the orbs, and when they hit the ground, most of D Squad was gone. Brian felt broken. This was going to fail. His despair turned into fury as he set his sights on another enemy soldier and fired. He fired again. After he had run out of bullets in one clip, around thirty soldiers had fallen, the number of bullets in a clip.
Cooper chose an explosive arrow and shot it through a window, straight at a group of enemy soldiers. Suddenly, right after it exploded, Jack spoke over the line.
“Aww, Cooper! I was sneaking up behind them. They would’ve been really surprised! Anyway, come over to me. I’ve got to show you something.”
Cooper and Brian ran past a few buildings, but were blocked by another building.
Cooper said to Brian, “Well, we could blow that door off, or-”
“Nah. I’ll just punch it.”
Brian used his metal arm to completely punch the door off its hinges. “See? Much more efficient.”
The whole base wasn’t one building. It was a complex of many other buildings leading to the main one. When they reached Jack, Henry screamed in their ears, “Incoming enemy fighter jets! I’m firing the long range missiles.”
The jets flew over the battle, dropping bombs and causing destruction. A bomb hit fifteen yards away, the explosion knocking the trio into a wall. Then, several missiles came screaming towards the jets, destroying them, creating great explosions that lit up the sky.
Meanwhile, three platoons of enemy soldiers started firing at the group and the thirty friendly soldiers. Brian cursed and ducked beneath rubble. Bullets flew over him, making him feel safe, until someone tossed a grenade at him. Brian panicked, until he remembered he had a metal arm that could withstand gunfire. He grabbed the bomb and threw it high and far. It landed in the middle of the platoon, and exploded. Soldiers scattered, screaming, while TARM soldiers took the chance and started shooting. Cooper fired electric arrows, while Jack pumped lead. Brian fired also, turning the ambush around.
Just when it seemed TARM had won, more enemy soldiers arrived. Brian and Jack were hysterical. However, Cooper remained calm. He took an explosive arrow and blew up the soldiers. Again, Brian mowed down dozens of soldiers, reloading and reloading again. Finally, there were no more enemy soldiers.
Henry spoke again. “Everybody except C, head towards A. They’re having trouble. C, keep on trying to get in.”
Jack, Cooper, and Brian rushed to A, where tons of enemy soldiers had pinned down A. Brian, along with everybody else, unloaded their weapons into their targets. After they had finished, Henry came over the line.
“Well, all the outside soldiers have been killed. Now, all of you, attack the base and get inside. C has already weakened them. Go!”
The base stood high and tall, even after the battle. It was silver, metal, and gleaming. It was shaped like a circle, round and able to be defended everywhere.
The D leader planted a charge on the outside, which created a hole in the wall. Gunfire followed, and the whole D Squad was dead. Brian ripped a grenade from a soldier’s belt, and tossed it in the base. He threw two more. After they exploded, the firing stopped, and Brian shot down nine more soldiers.
He signaled to Jack and Cooper that it was safe, when all of a sudden, a bullet hit his metal arm, bouncing off. In the base, very high up, protected by metal and forcefields, a lone sniper stood. Brian rolled to the side, and using the infrared option of his scope, detected him. It would be a very hard shot, even for him, as a metal bar blocked most of his view. Brian aimed at the assailant’s left hand and fired.
The man dropped, his rifle falling. Brian fired again for good measure, and the trio ran into the base. Once again, five platoons of enemy soldiers lined up.
Jack sighed and groaned, “Again?!”
Brian grinned. “Last time. I know it.”
They had cut through the base’s soldiers, albeit running low on resources. Brian only had ten bullets left, Cooper had five arrows, and Jack, seven shells. Brian contacted TARM, saying that all the soldiers were dead.
When they responded, he expected it to be Henry, but it was John. “Nice work there. I’m sending you a map of the place, and we’ve located the leaders. They would be the red dots. Get to them, and do whatever you want. However, get some information from them first. Oh, and this is to everybody. Out.”
The trio, followed by all the TARM soldiers, made their way to the leader’s secret room. On the way, there were a few enemy soldiers left, but they were killed instantly. When they reached the room, the door was locked, but this was nothing guns couldn’t fix.
The room was rectangular and the size of a football field. Inside, computer monitors lined the room. Graphs displayed the city, and many other ones too. It was all white, modern, and sterile. The holograms seemed almost real, while the leaders did not. They were all pale, with dread on their faces. All the TARM soldiers pointed their weapons at them, until one pressed a button. Plasma guns appeared from the walls and started shooting. Brian’s fully-auto rifle, Cooper’s bow, and Jack’s shotguns were ruined. Brian raised his metal arm, which very luckily, blocked a bolt flying towards his face and blocked lots more.
Eventually, the plasma guns were destroyed, thanks to the other soldiers, and the leaders were dragged out. Except one. He was the Head, and it was the trio that were to deal with him. He had been shot in the arm.
“You! You killed our families, destroyed our lives! Who are you?” Brian shouted.
Cooper grabbed his last arrow, a normal one, and thrust it into the Head’s arm. “How about now? Explain!!”
He winced from the pain. Only then did Brian realize how ugly he looked. Dark hair, freckles, a scar on his face, a crooked nose. How surprising for a man who had everything.
He replied, “Still no.”
Brian stepped up and punched the Head in the face.
The man cleared his throat. “The world was already ruined. I had made a new utopia, the city, where we lived in peace! But you poor people that contributed nothing kept stealing our resources we worked hard for! You are a disgrace!”
The group didn’t understand. They were thinking of more ways to hurt him when Brian remembered the sniper rifle on his back. He unslung it and aimed at the Head’s stomach. “Explain more!”
“I was building a new community with people that helped society! You’ll never understand!” The Head was hysterical now, spittle between his lips. “Why don’t you die! You ruined my plans!! I hate you!!!”
He seemed to be losing control, going insane. “You all will die! Along with me!” The Head pressed a button on the wall, committing suicide. His body flopped on the floor with no control.
Suddenly, the whole base started to shake. The commander of A screamed, “We need to get out of here, fast!”
Everybody ran out of the base just before the whole thing cracked in half and blew up. It looked like an orange and red orb had surrounded the base, then, erupted. Pieces of metal flew into the sky, and the orb launched itself into the air, and split apart. The transporter was there, waiting for them, as part of the orb was falling towards them.
When they were running out, Brian noticed the leaders on the floor, crawling with blood around them. It disturbed him greatly.
On the way back to TARM, everybody congratulated each other on a mission well accomplished, but Brian stayed separate. The Head’s last words haunted him, “I was building a new community with people that helped society! I hate you! You will die!”
On the ride back, Brian conferred with Jack, Henry and Cooper.
“I think he hated poor people so much, that he wanted a perfect world without any of us. Nothing was going to stop him,” Jack said.
“No. I don’t think he wanted anything.” Henry smirked. “He was just mentally retarded and insane!” He burst out laughing through the earpieces.
Cooper shook his head. “Nah. I think he was smart, but insane, and it twisted his view of the world so much. He actually thought he was right.”
Brian spoke last. “Well, I agree with Cooper. Before, he was normal and benevolent, but he became insane, resulting in a goal that he never accomplished.”
When they arrived at TARM, everybody cheered. The lights became strobe lights, and a party started. Brian and his friends stood in a corner, insulting each other and trying to beat each other up like normal teenagers. It was hilarious.
After two months, TARM had set about building a new base in a spot closer to natural resources. They decided on a democracy and not to follow in the city’s footsteps. Building was easier, and new technology existed to help. Holograms depicted exactly what to do.
Brian was skipping rocks, and it was frustrating. It had become harder somehow. He liked being out in nature. Even after the new base was built, he still went outside. He thought it connected with his days of finding the previous TARM base, and staying there. While he had stayed there, it felt like it was part of nature, a sanctuary to help the wounded. Now, the new base was modern, without the feeling of nature. He had looked for a replacement, until Brian settled on Nature herself.
Brian thought it symbolized something. His new arm with nature. New with old. Suddenly, his friends came. They screamed, “Brian! Come! Let’s party!”
Brian smiled. And he ran with them.