and now... War Torn part 2: Angel
“Lieutenant Ryan Andrews, surrender and she lives.”
Ryan didn’t recognise the man’s voice, but he didn’t expect to; they would have sent strangers with no compunctions about killing him. He kept quiet, not wanting to give away his position. He was crouched down on one side of the room beside a chewed up armchair, avidly watching the only entrance. He adjusted his grip on the knife handle.
The wall behind him suddenly stuttered and cracked as silent gunfire punched into the concrete above the window. They were making their move, taking the curtains down. The room would be open to their spotter, Ryan’s position revealed.
The firing stopped, but the curtain rail was only hanging half off, the job unfinished. Maybe one of the city’s other scavengers had heard the commotion, decided they wanted themselves a shiny, new gun, or just taken a disliking to the military incursion. Whatever the reason, he wasn’t going to question his luck.
The walls, badly deteriorated, burst apart on either side of the doorway, spewing forth two soldiers, their outlines like mist in a broken mirror. Their camo was drawing them in hard angles and shifting shades of grey, a tactic to disorient an enemy up close. The time for concealment was over.
Ryan darted in, trusting training and reaction to deliver his blows to the right locations. He had to stay close, where they wouldn’t risk shooting each other. But they had expected that, they came in guns holstered, blades drawn.
They were jagged, shifting smoke demons. And it was these that inhabited his nightmares, one of these he had once been.
The fight was brutal. Powerful, short jabs and hard, sudden kicks. Elbows and knives. One of the soldiers went down, possibly fatally, but Ryan was tired and as more of them spilled into the room, they soon had him pinned. He went limp, not expecting them to loosen their grip, just knowing when there was no point struggling. His head was trapped under a knee, crushed sideways to the floor. He could taste blood.
“Well, wasn’t that entertaining?”
The same voice as before. The squad leader stepped into Ryan’s field of vision, crouched down and switched off his camo. Just another soldier: clipped hair, square jaw, cold eyes.
He drew his pistol and pressed the muzzle to Ryan’s forehead. The carbon-steel composite was cool against Ryan’s skin and his whole body seemed focussed on that tiny circle pushing against him. Ryan forced himself to look away from the grey-black filling his vision, to look past it and at the man.
“Lieutenant Andrews, there was a tribunal held in your absence. You were found guilty of your various crimes. The sentence is death. I am here to execute the tribunal’s will and to recover our stolen property.”
“She isn’t property.” He managed to growl between gritted teeth.
“She is just another weapon. And you are just another criminal.”
Ryan kept his eyes locked on the nameless soldier’s. He waited for the end.
There were quiet noises from the corridor then, sliding hushes and thuds. The squad leader’s eyes flicked in that direction, alert, but he didn’t shift the gun from Ryan’s forehead.
Then Ryan felt the two men holding him go limp and begin to fall away. He saw the finger in front of him twitch on the trigger, but no more.
The squad leader looked back at Ryan, panic-stricken, and a strained grunt escaped his throat. His eyes rolled up in his head and a trickle of blood dripped, then flowed, from his nose before he, too, crumpled slowly to the ground.
Ryan pushed himself up and looked around incredulously, warily. He checked the men’s pulses. Nothing. Dead. He could see more fallen in the corridor.
He staggered through to the other room. Samantha was still there, just as he had left her.
Sorry it took so long to get here, Ryan.
He looked round, startled. Then back at Sam. That was her voice, but her lips hadn’t moved.
The voice came from all around. The sound of it took hold of something deep inside him; he had thought never to hear it again.
It’s a long story. I’ll tell you as we go.
There are more soldiers coming.
He looked at her, propped up in the faded armchair he sat her in each morning. Her eyes were staring at nothing, her strong features had only the faintest hint of colour. He rested his hand on her cheek.
There will be time, Ryan. I promise. But we have to move. I can guide us, but I need you to carry me.
Ryan took a deep breath. He nodded, resolute once more. He didn’t understand, but he knew a second chance when it came. He put their supplies into his backpack, then slipped an arm behind her knees, another under her back, and delicately lifted her.