‘Not again’ Mason thought.
‘I’m losing another person close to Me.’
There was only half of Rico laying there, he forced out a laugh through the taste of blood in his mouth. Mason knew Rico well. He was tough, reliable, and a good soldier. However, no soldier, no matter how tough can keep a grenade that exploded at his feet from killing them. Mason trusted his comrade and friend too much, and now, Mason was paying the price.
"Sorry Mason, I… I wasn’t quick enough" He lets out another blood filled cough. It filled Mason with regret.
‘This is how it always ends, isn’t it?’ Mason pondered ‘I will always have to watch those who are close to me be snatched by the cruel hand of death’.
Mason looks at him solemnly “it’s ok Rico, you can rest now”. Mason watches as fear flashes through his eyes
"But M-Mason. I don’t want to die. I need to fight. For the Red Cloaks…" Rico struggled to keep his eyes focused. Everything was growing numb in him.
"You’ve done more than enough Rico, let me carry your burden" Mason grabs Rico’s dog tag and puts it around his own neck under his scarf black scarf. Rico’s pained expression softens, and starts closing his eyes.
“I’m… Sorry… Thank you…” And he grows still.
Mason holds one hand in Rico’s bloodied hand and the other to his scarf over the dog tags. He needs that scarf. ‘It hides the burdens’ Mason believes ‘I can’t ever let people see the burdens. I can’t let anyone see my anger, my sadness, my weakness.’
Mason looks at the rest of his now dead team. They were all exceptional soldiers, but he knows this war. This is a war where death reach anyone, and at any time. Except him, of course. Once again, he was the only one who made it out alive.
He takes each of his teams tags. He enjoyed their company and will miss them all
But for now, he needs to carry the burdens of war without them. This war isn’t over until every last human is dead, or every last Kalen has left this planet. And he will not rest until this war is over.
This was, at least, what he could promise to his dead comrades.
People screaming left and right.
Fires, explosions, mass hysteria is seen
“We need to go now Mitchell!”
He stands staring blankly at the chaos in shock
Mitchell snaps out of his state “Mom!”
Mitchell’s mother is getting dragged away by the crowd, Mitchell desperately holding on to her hand. She was all he had left. “Mitchell, hold on!” cried the desperate mother, but he was already gone in the sea of people
"No! Mom!" The frightened boy was searching for his mother, but he couldn’t find her in the rushing crowd.
A feeling of dread rushed over the frightened boy as an explosion was heard and shrapnel and pieces of building rained down from the sky.
Mitchell awoke in a cold sweat. His grip on his bed sheets so tight his knuckles were almost as white as what he was holding.
Panting, he checked his clock on his bedside table. Its 5 AM.
‘Shit’ Mitchell thought ‘I won’t be able to go back to sleep’ It’s been almost a year since he lost his mother in the fall of the Boston District, but he was still having the same nightmares.
So the 14 year old got up and prepared himself for the day. He led a simple life in a very small apartment with nothing but a bedroom, bathroom, and mini kitchen. It was the best his friend Troy, who collected all his money before Boston fell, could do for the two of them. Troy was still asleep on the chair. They switched who got to sleep in the bed nightly.
Once he got dressed he went over to the door to see a letter from the government. He could feel the nervousness start to grow in him as he opened the letter. He truly hoped that this wasn’t what he thought it was. But, unfortunately for him, he was correct.
A drafting notice for him and his friend Troy came out of the envelope. Mitchell knew the government was getting desperate in this war, but he wanted at least another year.
As he read the letter, he prayed that he would get in the National Defense, he didn’t want to risk his life in combat, or at least maybe, the Air Support, for they don’t fight as much as much as them.
Then he got to the sentence he was dreading to see. The words were like lead balls in his stomach. ‘No’ he internally screamed ‘Anything but them’. The world started spinning around him as the panic truly hit him.
"You have been assigned to the Red Cloaks. Please report to the training grounds of your local district in one week."
Blood shot eyes look at the prodigal engineer’s work. This engineer happened to be Joe Williams. He was a tall scrawny man with disheveled brown hair and a narrow face. He had thin glasses and prided himself on being one of the best engineers since the war against the Kalen.
His most famous inventions included the stealth bomb, C4 that could camouflage itself making it difficult to notice, and the Genetic Manipulation Device; an implant that could give humans certain abilities on the field, their DNA determines what exactly the device could do.
His mind was figuring out how to imitate that fascinating alien technology, until a loud clapping of metal interrupted his thoughts.
Joe checked his clock. It was almost too hard to find over the stacks and stacks of disorganized papers that resided on his table “7AM, another all-nighter”
He walked over to his now cold coffee taking a swig. He never liked the taste of coffee, but it kept him awake, so he was content with drinking the poor tasting drink so long as it filled him with caffeine.
He walked over into his humble living room with only enough room for a couch, coffee table, and TV to find a letter from the government at his floor.
‘Probably another project for me’ he thought as he picked up the letter
As he read it, his still red eyes widen in shock. It was not a project for him. It was more like a death sentence to the aspiring engineer.
"They can’t be doing this, not to me" Joe had been avoiding the draft for 3 years with his engineering work, which admittedly was excellent work "I was fantastic, how could they draft me?"
"Well, they might be putting me in the Air support to-"
The words that he read stuck knives in him.
The bodies were everywhere.
Carla looked upon the corpses, many were Kalen, but the tattered crimson fabric was strewn upon the ground almost as much as she saw the bodies of the enemy.
She looked over at a fellow teammate’s corpse. A diminutive girl, a skilled shooter, she had long auburn hair. The crumpled body had 3 burnt holes in it. She was suffering greatly in her final moments. Carla could see it in her glazed over eyes, with dried tear streaks flowing from them. She hated death, yet it surrounded her, mocked her, and there was little she could do to prevent it.
"I’m sorry Ana" was all she could manage to say to the corpse. The girl dead upon the ground was hopeful and light-hearted. It was like she almost had a form of innocence in her squad, which is a rarity in the Red Cloaks to say the least.
She knelt down and closed the terrified eyes. This may be a victory to the government, but to her there was nothing to celebrate. She estimates at least 50% casualties based off her squad
"Squad Leader Carla Davis?" A voice came from behind her. She met a serious gaze coming from one of the few people that were higher up than her, the leader of all the Red Cloaks, Mason Lagner.
He was a very distant person, letting absolutely no one see his emotions. Carla, who can see emotions in people’s eyes, can’t even read him. He does however, seems to always be serious about things, and is very deep in thought. He would probably be about 5’10’’ only a little taller than Carla, and has jet black hair coming down to his forehead, and a crescent shaped scar on his cheek.
He is 23 years old, and has participated in the war since it began, making him the most experienced and talented soldier of the field. Carla joined at 18 and is currently 22 years old, making her an extremely good soldier as well. Not many last as long as she did, even less so with Mason.
"Commander Mason Lagner" Carla quickly stands in salute, with her left arm down her side, and her right arm put a hand on her forehead
"At ease Carla" Mason says "My entire team was killed. I need at least one experienced Red Cloak in my team. You will be replaced by whoever you see best fit to be your squad leader. I need you with me." Carla almost sees a flicker of pain in Mason’s eyes, but couldn’t say for sure.
"Understood" She replies. Mason nods. "How many casualties in your squad?"
"18 Dead, 31 injured"
Mason looks grimly upon the war torn battlefield. “We need to go soon, when we get back, gather your things and bring them to the Squad 1 quarters. Welcome to the team.” With that he walks away. Carla could hear the faint jingle of metal coming from his scarf.
“Gah! What the hell is wrong with you man? It’s like 5 AM.” Troy sleepily got up from the chair and stretched, when he saw Mitchell’s face, he grew concerned. “What’s going on?”
His friend gave Troy an official looking paper. As he read it over, his face went pale. He had a feeling this would happen, but it still didn’t change the fear that suddenly wrenched him. ‘Oh God’ he thought ‘Not the Red Cloaks, anything but them’.
It was clear that Mitchell was panicking, and Troy had to be strong for the two. “Mitchell,” he said “we need to remain calm”.
Mitchell reacted poorly at Troy’s attempt. “Remain calm? How can you say that? You know the Red Cloaks’ reputation. This isn’t just being the drafted, it’s a death sentence!” His breathing became a little irregular
“It doesn’t matter what branch we’re in, Mitchell, we’ll always be in danger, but that doesn’t matter, because being in the Red Cloaks does not mean that we’re going to die. Do you understand?” Mitchell froze up. He looked at his friend with fear in his eyes. “And despite all that, nothing much is changing, we’ll still be together, and I’m here to help you out man.”
Mitchell thought about it. Troy did have a point. They were still sticking together, and there wasn’t any guarantee that they would die. Troy was his friend for close to 10 years now. Troy was someone he trusted, and if he had faith, then Mitchell would too. “Thanks Troy, we’ll get through this, together”
Troy smiled. “That’s right, and now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go try to sleep again, asshole.” Mitchell looked like he was about to retort, but he stopped himself.
Icy blue eyes stare down at the 10 meter tall pillar made of granite. Those eyes are looking at two names. Ashley and David Robinson.
“Hi Mom, hi Dad”.
The monument didn’t say anything back.
Jessica still can’t believe that she’s survived one year on the streets since she lost her parents. When Kino fell, she watched as her mother told her to run as her father was struggling with one of thosemonsters.
Horrible memories flashed through her mind. She can still see the blood splattering the pavement, the screams as her mother was taken away, her father calling out for his wife as he was stabbed and shocked to death by those weapons. It killed her innocence and made her cold, distant, and unnecessarily pessimistic.
“I miss you guys. I can’t believe it’s been one year.” She also couldn’t believe that she survived one year. When her parents died, she was on the streets. While the rations issued by the government supported her for a month, eventually they stopped. She was forced to steal, to mug, to even kill a person just to survive, because the world is cruel like that. It didn’t allow the weak to survive.
“So, later this year I’m enlisting to the Red Cloaks. I know you would be furious with me, but I need to do this.” Her hand clenched into a fist. “I have to fight… They killed you”. I won’t stop until they leave our planet.”
She felt the tears almost come down from her eyes. “I’m sorry I wasn’t strong enough then, and I’ll be back.” The next words were barely above a whisper, “I promise”
The girl turned around and walked back to the alley she usually resides in, she’ll be in the training camp in a week. She might as well get rest while she can.
“I said no, do you want to just get yourself killed?”
“At least I’ll be able to make a difference!”
Determined brown eyes stare down her daughters even more determined hazel ones. Her daughter was a stubborn one, but unfortunately for her it had to have come from somewhere. Her father, being the mediator of this “discussion”, calms both down and tries to get Maddie to understand what she’s doing
“Honey, why do you want to join the Red Cloaks?”
“Because if no one does, America won’t be able to fight back! I’m also probably going to be drafted anyway, so I may as well join the branch I want.”
Maddie’s mother stepped in again “So what, that doesn’t affect us, and I just want you to live a normal, happy life!”
“I won’t be able to if there’s no one to fight back! It’s a slow and steady decline, and it will eventually affect us! What then?”
“I don’t care I’m not letting you join them! Derrick has already left, not you too!”
“BACK OFF FRANK!!!”
Maddie’s mother was in tears now. She didn’t want her daughter to just go. She didn’t know how she would live with herself if anything happened… But she knew this was a fight she couldn’t win. Maddie’s arms wrapped around her mother.
“It’s okay, Mom, I’ll visit as much as I can.”
Her mother completely broke down now. Her baby girl is joining the military. She might die. And there is absolutely nothing she could do about it. Maddie’s mother hugged her back. “Be Safe”