Web of Chaos
Stretching, all stiff and sore, Wendy groaned as the semi-truck’s trailer swayed a bit. “How long is it going to take to get to this other cell?“
“Don’t even know if they’re where we’re headed. Might take us a while to find them,” said Diesel.
“You’re not very organized.”
“Oh, we do pretty well. We are on communication blackout with Anlon sending guys to interfere. Don’t know why he just doesn’t stick to dealing with protecting Earth from space and let us down here deal with our own problems.”
“Guess not a whole lot of point in protecting Earth if it’s not safe on Earth.”
“Not safe anywhere in the galaxy.”
Joe drove on a road constructed on top of a barrier holding back the waters of the Delaware River. He coasted past buildings partially submerged along the banks of the river and could not tell if anyone occupied them. Driving two miles away he ditched the car and walked back to the buildings.
Once he made it back, he realized he had no plan to get to the buildings and saw no other way than to swim. He hoped he would pick the correct one first. Otherwise, he’d have to swim to the next building; if the G.E cell resided in any of them.
Taking his shoes off, he decided to leave them. Swimming a distance to a building he walked up some stairs out of the water to the second floor. The door swung open, and two men aimed automatic rifles in his face. A third person grabbed him by the shirt and yanked him inside. One of the men kicked the door shut with a bang.
“Joe… What are you doing here?” The man who pulled Joe inside pushed him away and let go of the shirt.
Joe stumbled backward. “Just released… Fucking communication blackout. I can’t get in touch with Diesel.”
“What? Can’t move your jaw? Come over here,” said the man walking to a table with equipment piled on it. He grabbed a scanning device. “Sit.”
“It’s illegal for the cops to put a tracking device on me.”
“Seriously man. We are dealing with Anlon now. Don’t matter what the law is.” The man scanned Joe and the scanner located the tracker under his skin.
“Shit. I was out. In the infirmary.”
“What the hell did you do? You led them right to us.”
“I thought the attack was to kill me. Get it out of me,” said Joe.
“You’re on your own. Evacuate now! Let’s get out of here.” The man ran off and grabbed some gear.
“At least give me a weapon.”
A G.E member handed him a large knife as a joke. Joe used it to cut himself open in an attempt to get the tracker. The large knife cut through much more than needed for a small pill-sized tracker. Grimacing, Joe did not feel much pain from the super sharp ceramic blade, but the sight of it caused him to feel overheated and nauseous.
He managed to flick the tracker out with the tip of the knife; it bounced and rolled across the floor. Someone saw it, headed over to it, and lifted their foot up.
“No,” said Joe.
The person brought their foot down crushing the tracker.
“Shit! Why? Now they know we found the tracker.” Joe took off his damp shirt and cut a strip of cloth from it. Wrapping up his wound he struggled to tie it with one hand. Once done he ran to the closest stairs and fled to the flooded floor below.
In the America, Alexander stood up when he saw the tracker signal point vanish from the screen. He waited for a second, hoping it would return; it did not. “Get us down there. Cathan locate the target, let him run. Melissa Overwatch.”
“Oh come on,” said Melissa.
“Gunner, North. Liam, South. I’ll go in on the West. Cathan… may as well go in East.”
Alexander ran off the ship’s bridge. Gunner and Liam jumped out of the America onto the roof below. Cathan flew out as the ship moved west of the building. Running full tilt, Alexander jumped out, landed on a different building, and jumped off it. He launched across the water and smashed through a window of the target building. The camouflage on his exo-armor changed colors to match the inside of the room.
Cathan flew along observing the East side of the building and the G.E opened fire shattering the windows. Cathan dropped down into the water. Getting close to the wall of the building, he flew up to the floor the G.E shot from. Popping up right in front of three of them, he returned fire at point-blank range cutting them down. Stepping inside, he decided to head down to the second floor where Joe had entered.
Some G.E took off across the Delaware River in three speedboats. Melissa flew the America around in front of the first one and used facial recognition to look for Joe. Not spotting him she fired; the ship’s massive blast vaporized the boat and the G.E inside. She did the same to the second. The third almost made it to the Philadelphia side of the river, but the America came down in front of it. Not seeing Joe, she blasted the boat away, and water vapor rose in a plume of steam mixed with smoke.
On the second floor, Cathan looked around the abandoned floor. “Have not located the target heading back up.”
“Stay put,” said Alexander over the com channel. “We’ll flush him back down to you.”
Cathan thought, “If he’s up there.” He looked over at the stairs he came down and took up position to wait for anyone coming down them. As the water from the lower floor sloshed against the steps, Cathan realized he saw wet tracks all over the floor.
“He’s swimming for it. Melissa try to find him. I’m heading under.” Diving down to the first floor, Cathan streamed along, his exo-armor propelling him along underwater almost as well as it did in the air.
He headed to the back of the building facing Philadelphia. A large section of the damaged wall had broken off, and he couldn’t find any sign of Joe.
Over the com channel came Alexander’s voice. “Melissa, leave the ship to search along the shorelines.”
“Understood,” said Melissa.
The truck jolted to a stop, and Wendy almost fell off the Arkvee arm she sat on. Sitting in the dark lit only by the tablet she had, Wendy shifted her weight. The journey and cold hard metal had made her sore. Her eyes hurt from staring at the tablet studying for such a long time.
A noise came from the back door and her muscles tensed. One side of the door opened. Wendy jumped at Diesel and slammed the tablet into his face. She ran to the door and jumped over the person who opened it. Landing, her legs gave out; the height too much for her sore and stiff legs. Two other G.E grabbed hold of her and lifted her up.
Climbing out the back of the trailer, Diesel handed Wendy the cracked tablet. “Usually dropping one of those things won’t crack it. Good job.”
“What the fuck is with you?” She wanted so much to throw the tablet at him but did not.
“Come on. We have work to do,” said Diesel walking across the fractured asphalt of an old parking lot. Weeds grew up through some of the cracks and stink trees buckled the ground.
Diesel headed into the side entrance of a ruined food market. Behind the building, the undergrowth had taken over. Inside a team of G.E members stood watching Diesel. The well-lit interior could not be noticed from the road as the boarded-up front of the building blocked all of the light.
“Listen up. We have an Arkvee and need to get it in here somehow to assemble,” said Diesel.
A woman stepped forward. “Clearing a path to a loading dock out back would be the least noticeable.”
“We’ll start on that. If we can’t get it done by tonight, we’ll bring the parts in the front in the dark.”
“Sounds good. Ok men, out back. Let’s get to work.”
At a park, Sydnie slid down a spiral slide. “The parks on VR are prettier.”
“This park has an AR setup if you want to put on some glasses,” said Gill.
“No, no it’s fine.” At the top of the slide, she pushed an icon on a screen, and the slide changed shape to snaking curves. She slid down.
“Do you want to do something else now?”
“I want to go to a forest and pet a chipmunk.”
“There must be more plants from Earth in space than there are in North America. I doubt there are wild chipmunks left.”
“Oh… I want a real chipmunk.”
“I’m sure you are only allowed to have one with a license and a large terrarium.”
“How big of a terrarium?” She had trouble pronouncing terrarium.
“Probably the size of a room to fit a tree into.”
“Ok,” said Sydnie smiling.
“Once you’re old enough to get the license.”
“Ok. Let’s go get the license.”
“Well, you would have to study first.”
“Then take a class.”
“Ok. What do I study?”
“I’ll search and download some books for you. I’ll check the age requirement for the license. I’m afraid it’ll be a bit longer than you would like.”
“Like sixteen or older.”
Sydnie opened her mouth wide. “Sixteen… for a little tiny chipmunk.”
“Well, maybe we can talk to Mom about getting a license.” Gill knew that would be unlikely. He could do it with ease but would not be around to take care of it. “Guess I can’t get her everything.” He felt disappointed. Maybe more so than Sydnie.
Snorri sat eating some cherries and jalapeños. Enjoying the food, he reminisced about the sprawling farms on his homeworld. The farms and ranches as one estate. The plants and animals out in the sun.
Approaching Snorri, Malphas looked down his nose at Snorri. “Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Snorri enjoys. Snorri will not wait long. It’s hard to wait. Snorri is professional. Waited for a long time. Now within grasp, more anxious, Snorri getting angrier. So Snorri knows can’t wait longer.”
“I see,” said Malphas. “You do recall what I said. It would greatly benefit you to be patient.”
“Snorri recall what was said.” Grabbing a handful of barbecued chicken legs, Snorri put them in his mouth whole and chewed them up, bones and all.
Malphas made a face and walked away. Approaching some of the other aliens standing around, Malphas spoke to them in a lowered voice. “We may have to get that exo-armor off the Rephaim and find someone else.”
“No one is willing to go on such a suicide mission. Only the Rephaim. It was his idea,” said one of the aliens.
“True. Nevertheless, he is not a team player. I do not know how much longer I can control him. Timing is more important than the act itself.”
“We have a Brobdingnagian who will fit the armor, but he would not do what the Rephaim will.”
“We just might have to convince him otherwise.”
“The Brobdingnagian I’m thinking about is not dumb enough to be tricked and would flat out refuse to shoot up unarmed civilians even if they are humans.”
“Start a search through the homeless camps for someone large enough. Maybe we can find someone else mad enough at the humans to do it. They don’t need to know how to use the armor beyond pointing and shooting. It is a Rephaim armor anyway.” Malphas raised his head higher and strolled off.
Copyright Conrad Brubaker 2018