Chapter Twenty-Three

76.3K 2.6K 303

25 years earlier

He was on the front line when the message came through. Beyond exhausted, he'd spent the last thirty-six hours in this hell hole and his right shoulder burned with pain from a bullet that has ricocheted off the metal barrier. It had been a through and through, luckily missing the main arteries, but all the medic could do was pack the wound with Sloflo, a clotting powder and give him a shot. It hurt like hell.

The line was holding, just. The battle, if you could call it that, had taken the army by surprise. Until resupply the next day, they were outgunned and outnumbered. Whispers of trouble had been heard for weeks, but no one of any importance had paid heed to them. These were supposed to be a dirty, hungry, broken people, incapable of an uprising; how wrong they were. The insurgent's first calculated move was to take over the weapons dump in the old isolated warehouse district. From what Mickey heard, they had achieved this with the use of pitch forks, pick axes and an assortment of homemade weapons. They were also surprisingly organised, with plenty of manpower including women and teenage children- all hell bent on bringing down the State. It had started here in Charm, but the insurgency was spreading across Bellisa and rumours had begun to suggest that this was going nationwide. The wheels of homeland defence always seemed to move so slowly and the government's lengthy consultation process meant that by the time Mickey and the troops had arrived they were at a significant disadvantage.

To top it all the weather was foul and had been the trigger for their action. The power had been out for over a week, coal was in short supply and the patience of the Flawed masses had finally eroded away. The rain had been near continuous for days. Everything was sodden and their weapons didn't much like the damp. Ironically the older weapons that the insurgents stole from the dump were working well. Too well.

"Hey Mickey, I think I spotted a sniper," Vic shouted above the brutal noise of battle. He had just moved toward the wall to recce the area when Vic fell backwards, blasted off the pallet he had been standing on. Mickey looked down at his friend and saw a neat two centimetre diameter hole in the centre of his forehead. Blood poured out of the back of his head and mixed with the oily detritus that ran like a stream through the middle of their harbour.

"No, Vic, no, " he cried out, bending over to the body of his departed friend. Another pinging sound, of bullet on metal, brought him back to his senses. The sniper was still there. His emotions conflicted, he didn't want to leave his friend's side, but he had the desperate urge to fight back. Mickey lowered Vic's eyelids, not wanting to look into the dulling orbs, forever fixed in a death, a moment longer and took up position on the pallet. Dusk was near, the fading light perfect cover for those lying in wait. Carefully, he scanned the area using the telescopic sight from his rifle.

"Mickey!" A voice called out to him; he ignored it.

"Corporal Briggs." the voice had a more serious tone, "You need to come with me.".

Mickey reluctantly looked away from the battle field that was once a supermarket car park.

"What is it, Lemmy?" he shouted back.

"Sarge wants a word."

Mickey took a last look out, then climbed off the pallet and slowly walked back to the field headquarters stepping over the bodies of once friends and colleagues. After ten minutes they had journeyed back into the safe zone and they approached the Comms tent. It was a large shelter made from a sagging, weathered canvas.

"So sorry mate," Lemmy said, then patted him on the back and sloped off in the direction of the mess tent. Mickey wondered how he was going to tell Vic's family.

"Corporal Briggs, come in," instructed a voice.

Mickey entered and saluted Sergeant Ellis. He stood attention.

The NumberedRead this story for FREE!