The War of Fate: A New Journey | Teen Ink

The War of Fate: A New Journey

December 19, 2013
By Bill2000, San Jose, California
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Bill2000, San Jose, California
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Author's note: Recently, there have a lot of movies about Armageddon, or invasion, or something like that. That inspired me to create a story like the movies.

The author's comments:
This chapter briefly brings readers ahead of time, into the narrators time.

“Quick, get down!” Henry whispered harshly. “There’s dozens of them this time!”
“What, already?” I exclaimed. I hid down.
We looked down from our hiding place on a roof. For as far as the eye can see, there were buildings, streets, and consumer vehicles. And, as far as the eye can see, there were destroyed buildings, cracked roads, and burning vehicles. Smoke smeared the horizon, and flashes of blue and red sparked all over the city. The air smelled of ozone, and debris was spread everywhere.

It was the year 2537, and our home planet has been invaded by a race of strong, big humanoid species called Lumbricans. They came in large fleets of spaceships, colossal in size and shape, and were almost unopposed. These alien invaders possess super skills that enable them to build armor, weapons, and machinery that were far more advanced than our’s. In addition, their bodies are designed so that they are tough to kill. Which kind of sucks.
These invaders had nearly wiped out mankind, but about 5 percent of the population escaped to space in 1500 large warships. There, a select number of us were trained to be able to fight off the enemy and regain control over Earth. We were armed with the best weaponry we were able to make, and trained to the highest standard. I was one of them.
It has been years since the initial invasions. The Lumbricans had been gaining all the ground on Earth. Their initiative was still yet to be determined, as they leave only destruction in their path. It’s not like we did anything to them. We didn’t even know they existed.
They landed in the middle of the Pacific, about 1000 miles north of Hawaii. Before our intelligence system could detect them, they had already moved north towards the Bering Sea, and invaded Alaska along the Atlantic Wall. A second spearhead had targeted Asia, and assaulted Taiwan and Japan.
By 2538, the Lumbricans had already completely taken over Asia, and were moving into Africa and Europe. On the other side of the world, Canada was literally crushed, America mostly in ruins, and the entire South America taken over.
By 2540, only 1 percent of the world was left in our hands, a small portion in California.
That was where the final evacuation plans of humanity was planned and executed.
By 2541, the world was taken over, the final sources of human taken away.
But, in 2543, us humans began our own assault. We invaded back onto Earth with a huge spearhead, of about 1.5 million men. Our target, California. In 2544, we had taken back California and portions of the other West coast states, at a high cost of 200,000 casualties.
This is where we are now.
All the while, in space, our United Battlefleet (UF) battled the Lumbrican Battlefleet. We had a good number of warships, but most were destroyed in the opening battles of the war. Out of the 150 battleships at the start of the war, our main striking arm we had, only fifty remain operational. Of the support ships we had, some 800 cruisers and 2000 destroyers, only 300 cruisers and half of the destroyers are left. We still had some 100 spacecraft carriers, a decent war machine, but they were very vulnerable and unreliable capital ships. And the enemy is better than us many times over.

I looked at where Henry was frantically pointing. A gray smoke screen obscured my view. I looked more closely. Several objects were breaking through the mist. They charged through and the mist dispersed. As they moved closer, I saw them more clearly. Sure enough, there were many huge Lumbricans on the street, lined in four straight rows, several ranks deep, heading right towards us. They were big and bulky, about seven feet tall, weighed down with inches of reinforced Karupp steel, and holding long AP firing capable heavy guns. They looked humanoid -except with blue skin- and they walked that way too. They had a single huge head, with three glowing blue eyes full of energy.
“Aw snap, we’re f-----” Henry yelped.
“No way are we going to beat them. There’s way too many!” Tommy said in a barely audible voice. He rubbed his standard issue Cobalt 10 blaster rifle, just like he always does when he’s afraid and nervous.
“We’ll have to retreat and call for reinforcements.” Joseph shuddered. He gripped his rifle tightly. “I don’t want to let them pass, and I don’t REALLY want to die either.”
“Orders are orders, mate,” Arctan said as he playfully jabbed Joseph in the side. “Cap’ain told us to guard this cruddy road until nightfall. The Lumbricans will surely retreat at that time. Then he’ll be able to free up more men to our assistance and get us out of here. In the meantime, were gonna hold at all costs.”
I sighed. “Well, I just hope we live.”
“Oh, don’t worry, there’s only SO many of them. Now shut up, and get your ass back to your battle station.” Arctan grunted. He gave me a shove and I went flying.
Waxy, who hadn’t even made a single sound until now, finally told everyone to be quiet. “Here comes the uglies. Let them have it!”
With a thunderous crack and a huge flash, we sent a volley of blaster fire at the stupid, clumsy Lumbricans. The first row of enemies got shot down down and blew up, sending scorching pieces and parts flying everywhere. The remaining Lumbricans backed up quick, surprised and shocked by the sudden ambush. Waxy fired at their leader, a Lumbrican that was clad in orange armor instead of blue, and it fell down in flames.
Arctan had his hands around a thermal detonator, and he chucked it at the center of the group. When that bomb detonated, it blew a third of them sideways and out of order. Tommy kept up a steady rate of fire, blasting Lumbrican after Lumbrican into pieces. Joseph took up a Cobalt 7 Repeater and started mowing down rows after rows of enemies. But, slowly, the Lumbricans pushed forward, returning fire at the same time. Blasts and shells began hitting the building we were on. We ducked and weaved, but the hits were getting pretty darn close. One shot hit the piece of roofing right below Henry and blew up, and the explosion knocked him off balance. He stumbled and fell.
“Ahhhhh!” Henry yelled as he fell some thirty feet down towards the ground.
“Henry!” We all yelled. We were all shocked. No one in our squad has ever been injured, and we knew Henry may not survive that fall. Even if he does, he will most likely be crippled for life. I rushed towards the ladders leading down, followed closely by Tommy, and quickly started descending to the ground.
The Lumbricans split their fire between us and Arctan, Joseph, and Waxy. When Tommy and I reached down, the Lumbricans had already blasted most of the roof to pieces. I looked back, and saw them running towards the back of the building, but they were receiving fire from all directions. The Lumbricans had already surrounded the building, and some were starting to scale the walls. Tommy and I seethed with rage, but we had to find Henry first.
We looked around and spotted him lying among some rocks and fallen debris, and rushed over to him as quickly as possible. My heart ached by the status of his situation. He was badly cut up and bruised, with wounds here and there, and he was breathing very hard, but at least he was still alive.
“Henry, are you alright?” Tommy whispered softly.
“Is that you, Tommy?” Tommy said weakly. “I’m, uh, okay. Just a little woozy from that fall. What was it, fifty feet?”
“Nah, it was only thirty. But you’re at least still alive. That’s good enough.” I said, with a tiny cringe of jealousy. Nobody I knew ever survived a fall like that.
Henry started getting up, but I pushed him back down. “Dude, you need the rest, man. You’re gonna be okay. But I don’t want you slumping all over right now.”
Henry grunted like he understood. “Where’s Arctan and Waxy?”
“Arctan and Waxy are-” Tommy suddenly stopped. Suddenly, we heard a shout, followed by a lot of gunfire followed by several explosions. I looked at the building… but there was none. The entire place had been reduced into debris and flames. Arcan and Waxy were nowhere in view. The Lumbercans were gone, too.
“Tommy, stay here with Henry. I’m going to go get them.” I said roughly to Tommy.
“No! That’s too dangerous for-”
“Stay here! Watch over Henry. I’ll be back.”
I slowly crept alongside the debris, and when I turned around the corner, or where the corner was supposed to be, my heart fell. In a clearing some fifty meters away, Arctan was lying on the floor, not moving, and Waxy and Joseph were was on their knees, with their hands on their heads. I burned with anger. I felt that I had the blue eyes the Lumbricans had, and I had their superior strength and might.
The Lumbercans still numbered some one dozen, and they were all a lot bigger and stronger than me. I had no hopes of taking them on alone. But this was my duty, and I am here to do it. One of our rules of being a fighter was to save others, even if it means putting oneself in danger. I charged into the open, yelling my lungs out, with my blaster blazing with fiery hell. This just got real.

The first Lumbrican to fall had a pretty surprised look on his face. The rest looked at the fallen one and were dazed wondering what was going on. I fired again and took two more down. THAT’S when they realized my presence. The Lumbricans turned and began firing at me, blasting holes on the ground all around me. I ran in a circle parallel to them, minimizing my chances of getting hit and making it hard for them to aim. I kept blasting at them, felling one after another, and at one point, chucked a thermal grenade at them. It bounced off the head of one and landed in front of two others. It detonated and sent those two flying, smashing a third to the ground. Waxy and Joseph noticed that their captors were no longer focused on them, so they quietly picked up the nearest weapons around them and started blasting the closest enemies.
We held up our fire and destroyed most of the enemy until there were only a few left. The remaining few began retreating and running for it. I have no clue why they were doing that. They still outnumbered us and overpowered us. Is this a trap of some sort? For now, I don’t care. I rushed towards my fellow fighters.
I cradled Arctan head into my arms, and gently whispered, “Arctan, Arctan! Are you alright?” I shook him a little, but he still didn’t budge.
“The Lumbricans shot him in the arms, and he’s out cold, for now.” Waxy said. “After you and Tommy left for Henry, the Lumbricans started surrounding the building and blasting it to smithereens. Arctan and I rushed towards the back ladders. While we were climbing down, Arctan got hit and he fell, head first, some twenty feet. There wasn’t anything I could’ve done. When I finally got down, the Lumbricans had me surrounded, and ordered me to surrender. I couldn’t have fought back. They would’ve killed me and Arctan. I’m sorry, Colin.”
“It’s ok. I came. Henry reminded Tommy and I that you and Arctan were still alone, fighting off the Lumbricans.” I said gently. “By the way, are you alright?”
“I’m fine. How’s Henry?”
“He’ll live. He’s just a little woozy from that fall.”
Joseph chuckled. “That kid’s got a hard head. I ain’t surprised. Where’s Tommy?”
“Tommy’s still guarding over Henry. We better get Arctan over there and guard those two. We’ll definitely need reinforcements.”
Joseph and Waxy both grunted. I helped thim up, and together, we carried Arctan over to Tommy. When we got there, Tommy was sitting on the ground, polishing his Cobalt and looking really grim. He probably suspects that we were already dead. When we arrived, though, his grim face slowly turned into one of shock, followed by a huge grin. He gave a huge shout and a whoop.
“Colin! Waxy! Joseph! You’re alive!” Tommy jumped up on to his feet and rushed towards us. “Oh my god. This can’t be happening. When I heard all that gunfire, I thought you all were goners for sure! Man, I was ready to rush in and do my part in blasting those Lumbricans, but Henry told me to stay.”
“Yeah I know, I thought so too. How is Henry?” Joseph inquired.
“He just went to sleep, that little----... Anyways, what happened to Arctan?”
“He’s got shot and is out cold. Don’t worry, he’ll live.” Waxy said.
“That’s good. Now who’s in command, with Arctan out of the action?” Tommy asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe Colin.” Joseph replied.
“Yeah, Colin’s the best choice for a leader.” Waxy backed him.
“Fine. I’ll lead.” I said, even though I actually don’t want to lead. Leading a group of wild fighters is just about the last thing I had in my mind. It’s not even on my To-Do list. “First things first. We’re gonna have to find a new outlook. Somewhere not that tall, so that we can’t escape easily, and something not that short, or we won’t be able to find any enemy advances ahead of time. You all know this, right?”
“Yeah I KNOW” “Whatever…” “No DUH…” were the replies I got. I’m pretty sure that it’s already evident I have completely no authority over these jocks. When Arctan’s talking, nobody even bothers to argue, and everyone listens with 100 percent attention.
“OK, I see everyone has been paying attention during training. Now, any ideas where might be a good outlook on this blasted road?”
“Uh, maybe the middle school. They have really good food there, and there is a lot of good places to hide.” Tommy pointed out. Yeah. Leave it to Tommy to think of all the places to get food. He can’t be shut up or be fed up when food is mentioned. The only reason he’s on tour elite squad is because of his resourcefulness…… for finding food.
“We can hide out at the Apple 12 Outlet.” Waxy piped up. “They have telescopes, radar, and a whole bunch of other appliances we can utilize to our advantage. Plus, I heard they have a ton of luxurious items for their customers…”
“NO. Those are all horrible ideas.” I fumed. Don’t these guys have brains? “Cap’ain informed us that we’re supposed to make sure THIS street is secure. The middle school is, like, ten blocks down the road. It’s in the hands of the Lumbricans. And, as for the Outlet, don’t even think about it.” I glared at Waxy.
“Aw…” Waxy and Tommy both whined. Now I’m starting to have second thoughts on this whole idea of conquering Earth. Mankind is relying on us elite fighters, and people like Tommy and Waxy are the ones we're relying on?
“Alright, Colin, why don’t we head on over to that building over there?” Joseph finally piped up. “It’s about half a block down the road, towards the enemy, I’m afraid, but it meets all the requirements our new leader just mentioned.”
He pointed at a dilapidated building that was half covered in rocks and debris, and we all took a good look at it. It WAS a good place to go. There was cover, it was high but not too high, and we could be concealed for a long time.
“Great idea, Joseph.” I exclaimed. “I’m glad at least someone else’s brain is working, other than mine. Let’s get our stuff and head on over. Load your weapons, boys, I don’t want a surprise ambush. Oh, and Tommy, Joseph, carry Henry with you. Waxy and I will get Arctan. Get moving!”
I watched as Waxy, Tommy, and Joseph started lugging all the supplies and weapons with them. We had to salvage it from the wreckage of the building, since all of it was with us when we were on the roof.
By the time we were done, the sun had already started setting. As if on cue, we heard a whirring sound, getting louder and louder. I sighed in relief. It was a Bluehawk airlifter, coming to get us and deliver fresh troops and supplies. It landed right in front of us, and about two dozen fighters rushed out of the landing bay, aiming their weapons down the streets, in the direction of the Lumbricans. We dragged Arctan and Henry on board with us, and the Bluehawk lifted us away.
On board, I felt a twinge of happiness, a feeling I hadn’t felt for a long, long time. Today, we took out dozens of enemies, without losing a single fighter, and without losing any territory. It was an accomplishment, all right.

The author's comments:
The narrator finds out that he might die quicker than he expected.

We neared our destination, Home Base, home. It’s a pretty big military complex that was built before the Lumbricans descended upon us, and was ideally designed to fend off against alien invasions. That’s part of the reason why it’s still standing.
There is an airfield with three runways, dozens of hangars, and more than a hundred buildings, big and small, all built for different purposes. In the center of the complex, there is a tower, called the HICCUP (Humanity In Catastrophe Central Operations Post). All around the perimeter, there were guns, small forts, rifle pits, missile turrets, barbed wire, minefields, you name it. So much defenses were planned and installed here, because this is our main command post. During these days, about a half million troops and personnel were present.
The Bluehawk circled around the complex, waiting to gain access of entering and landing. We were permitted to enter, and we landed on the third airfield. I looked downwards outside the window, and I saw rows after rows of personnel standing in attention. Many were ordinary fighters, but a couple dozen were Commanders, Generals, etc. When we got out, they saluted, and they parted into two neat groups and faced forward.
We were greeted with no welcomes as we walked through the two groups, towards the complex, however. It was a pretty big shock to all of us. No other squad I know defeated so many enemies, and I think we deserve a decent welcome back, at least.
Right after we landed, Arctan and Henry were rushed into the infirmary, where they were put into secret rooms. The rest of us washed up and sat in the infirmary waiting room, waiting to hear about how our buddies were doing. We prayed they wouldn’t be in any critical condition, or that they would be crippled for the rest of their lives, or… you get the point.
After about an hour of waiting, Legion commander came in, followed by our Battalion commander and several guards. Our commander were both men with decades of experience under their belts. They knew this war better than any of us fighters do. We all stood up at moment’s attention and stood in order, with our hands crossed behind our backs.
“Well done, boys.” Our Legion Commander congratulated us, although he still put up a grim face. “According to our reports, you jocks single “squadedly” took out some eighty Lumbricans. That sure is some feat!”
“We did, what we must do, sir.” I replied. “It was our duty, and we were sent here to do it, for the same reason you are too, Commanders.”
“Yes, and you did it magnificently. Which is why I am here.” Our Battalion Commander spoke up. He pointed at us, indicating us to follow him. We looked at each other and shrugged. When a Btln Commander tells you he’s here for a reason, it’s probably not a good one. He’s probably going to tell us, we’re going to be deployed somewhere far, far away.
We walked down the hallway and went into a room, the intelligence archives. It was a massive place with many screens and computers, and many people are here working.
He walked up to the central control panel and entered a few commands on a jet black keyboard. On a flat screen directly in front of, A 3D map of the entire world appeared in blue holographic imaging. Part of the area was covered in green, while a majority of the world was in red. Other parts of the world were in yellow. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the sectors and the colors stand for; Green areas meant this place was still controlled by humans. Red areas are lost to Lumbricans. Yellow means that the area was unknown or action was taking place there. Currently, we control the United States Pacific states, excluding Hawaii. Almost all the other areas are lost, including Asia, Europe, even Antarctica.
The Commander entered a few more commands, and the screen zoomed in on a part of Asia, probably somewhere in China or Russia. The entire place was in red. However, a square portion of the area was in yellow.
“With do respect, Commander, why is that sector in yellow?” Tommy inquired.
“I will explain.” Our Btln Commander replied. He zoomed in a little bit farther, revealing some geographic features. All there was was rumble, dust, and demolished buildings. “According to the latest intelligence reports, provided from our Division General Jameson E. Henderson, the Lumbricans are building a new weapon in that yellow sector you see. This is one of the reasons that the Lumbricans have begun fighting a defensive war lately; They’re planning and constructing a weapon. Haven’t you noticed that the Lumbricans are attacking less and less? That attack on your squad today was probably one of the largest in the past few weeks!”
I thought about it. Ever since the war started some seven years ago, the Lumbricans have relentlessly attacked and conquered. I’ve only been fighting for three of those years, but I’ve seen enough for ten lifetimes. Recently, however, the Lumbricans have begun to fight less, even retreating a little. We have suspected for a couple of months that something was going on, deep in their territory, but we had no idea what was happening.
“This new weapon,” our Btln Commander continued. “once completely and functional, powered to 100 percent, has the capability to fire a powerful plasma beam with such magnitude of firepower and range, that it will be able to strike and destroy all of the transports we have in space, in just a couple of shots. Additionally, this weapon can also fire projectiles and missiles at terrestrial targets, with a range yet to be determined. We’re assuming that those missiles have an effective range of twice the distance around the world, can travel at sublight speed, and have a destructive range of 3000 miles, radius. We suspect this weapon will be finished in about eight months, which leaves us little time to plan and execute a mission to destroy it.”
My squad members and I were shocked. An effective range of twice around the world?! That’s unheard of range. And sublight speed is added on. Plus, only built in EIGHT MONTHS!? That makes this new weapon as deadly as… as… I couldn’t even IMAGINE that scale of power.
Now I think about it, it makes sense why everyone here has such a grim expression on their faces. The enemy is building a weapon that could, essentially annihilate us. I shuddered. I was close to snapping.
“I know. This weapon is the deadliest mankind has ever seen before. But remember, we have survived asteroid attacks, civil wars, and many more, and we WILL survive this.” Yeah, leave it to our Btln Commander to be all optimistic about everything. We may have survived so many world catastrophes, but we’ve never met anything like this before. Personally, I doubt that ANY of us will live. Besides, those asteroid attacks, they destroyed countless buildings, inflicted heavy casualties, and cost billions of dollars to destroy.
“Now, our high command staff, lead by Army General George Skygan, has ordered a strike team to infiltrate through enemy lines and to the weapon. This team will attempt to deactivate or slow down the new weapon. The Staff ordered the best troops my battalion has to handle this mission. Based on new reports of battle statistics, your squad has taken down the most enemy troops, out of all of my fighters. We believe that you guys are the most qualified troops. So… I’ve decided that your squad will be the ones to handle this mission.”
He paused for a moment. “Yes, I understand. This mission is the most dangerous mission that has ever been given out… in the entire course of human history. To assign you guys this mission means that you are the most dedicated, the most skilled, and the most worthy fighters mankind has ever created.”
Man, that means a lot to us. The most skilled troops, of our entire command! And our command has some half a million troops. We smiled at each other at that complement. We’re elite troops!
Our commander went over to the control panel and entered several more commands. A blue holographic image of a Bluehawk appeared in front of the area that was marked as our base. “This Bluehawk will take you to your destination, and your destiny. It will transport you to Midway, where you will have to find other means of transportation. Our defense perimeters only extend to Midway, unfortunately. In the meantime, our forces will be put into full assault mode, in the hope of drawing the attention of the enemy as you attempt to infiltrate into the enemy territory.
“Now, everything has been planned, and we are able to execute this operation at moment’s notice. One problem remains, with you, however. We are asking you a sacrifice that may include your life. It is, of course, your choice to accept or decline our proposal. We will honor your decision, whichever one it is.
“We will give you a week to discuss among yourselves and with your buddies in the infirmary. Surely they will heal by then. After a week, however, if you still have not given us your decision, we will be left in a position where we have a significant strength disadvantage. Remember your duty, fighters. And may humanity always be with you.”
With that said, our Battalion Commander exited the room, leaving us with our Legion Commander.
“Well, that was interesting.” Our Legion Commander finally spoke. “I suppose you will accept this suicide mission, heh?”
There was an uneasy feeling among us. What were we supposed to do, accept? Just like that? If we go on this mission, our chances of surviving are just about 0. If we decline, the whole humanity’s chances of surviving are also little more than 0. Besides, this is a risky maneuver, because I doubt HICCUP has any ways to communicate with us and inform us of any danger, obstacles, or give us supplies, etc. Any signal we send out will surely fall into Lumbrican hands, and the signals pretty much pinpoint where we are. And how are we going to communicate even if we succeed, however unlikely? How are they going to know if we failed? I think there are dozens of holes in this plan, and it obviously doesn’t make any sense.
“I’m not sure we can accept this mission. There are just so many problems with this plan.” I replied reluctantly. “If the diversion made by the rest of the forces fail, and the Lumbricans proceed and catch us? What about if -and only if- we succeed, and how are we going to communicate with you, sir?
“As our Battalion Commander said, everything has been planned out to the slightest detail. If you choose to accept, we will fill you in more, and give you all the necessary information and supplies needed. You will need to undergo more training, though. You will begin this mission about 20 days after you accept. I know the odds are always with us, and that every man we have counts. The High Command didn’t order you guys on a death mission, but instead, we hope that you will the saviors of mankind. It is truly your choice.” And with that happy note, our Legion Commander also left us.

The author's comments:
The narrator finds out that his best friends weren't going.

The four of us solemnly exited the Intelligence Archives and proceeded back to the infirmary. I felt the new badge I just received. It was the Superior Achievement Medal, one of the highest ranking awards. Before the Battalion Commander left, he gave the guards some badges and left them with some orders. When we began heading out, the guards suddenly stopped us, saluted, and pinned the badges on us. I have no clue as to why the Btln Commander did not do this himself, but we have other more important things to worry about.
We arrived at the infirmary, just in time to see that everything was alright with Henry and Arctan. The doctors informed us Henry that will be in the infirmary or a couple more days. He suffered from a minor concussion and a broken arm. Funny. He didn’t pass out or anything, and he didn’t complain about it.
Arctan, on the other hand, suffered from a broken arm and a medium concussion. He’ll be temporarily out of action for a while, a month at best.
We were pretty dismayed at hearing this. This pretty much meant that Arctan would not be able to participate in the mission with us. And he’s our leader, and a pretty good one too. This just plainly sucks.
The rest of us just stuck around and talked.
“So, guys, how do you feel about the mission, eh?” Joseph just had to bring that up. “Our chances of succeeding, or surviving, are pretty slim, if you ask me.”
“I dunno.” Waxy grumbled. “I don’t even think we should do it. This is suicide, however plainly put.”
“Waxy, this is our duty.” Tommy barked at Waxy. “You are a soldier, just like the rest of us. You ain’t gonna back off now, after going so far. We’re gonna go the distance!”
“I agree, Tommy, but this plan is lacking.” I sighed. “Our duty is our duty, and we will do it, but do we have to really do this? I mean, this plan just plainly doesn’t make sense! We’re supposed to destroy the Lumbrican’s new super weapon, but we don’t know how to destroy it, and how to even get there. Plus, what if our intelligence is incorrect? What if there is no super weapon at all?”
I was close to freaking out at this point. We came home in glory, and now were literally going to get executed… by the enemy. This is just about the worst day of my life.
The others thought about what I just said. If there is no weapon at all, and our diversion and us get killed, then what was the point of this mission? To get rid of “excess” troops? We’re lacking fighters and supplies and everything!
“Uh, Colin? I’m pretty sure the weapon does exist.” Joseph said. “Remember that holographic map we looked at back in the Intelligence Archives? That yellow sector labeled as “Enemy Weapon Under Construction” was pretty big, roughly the size of a county. The chances that the weapon does not exist is almost 0.”
“Well, I guess we’ll have to ask how Henry feels about this.” Tommy concluded. “He will fully recover in time for this mission, right?”
“I hope so. Yeah, let’s ask Henry.” I agreed. We got up from the waiting room chairs and stalked out the door.

The four of us climbed several flights of stairs and entered the mess hall. When I say mess hall, I mean mess hall. The fighters stationed at Home Base are supposedly highly trained, intelligent, and polite -not on the battlefield though! At the mess hall, everybody just lose their dignity and manners, and we all act like monkeys. Every other day, there’s a food fight going on, and it isn’t stopped until someone is injured, usually an officer. Noone really cares when a private or someone like that gets knocked out, it’s just the way it is. Lately, though, the fights are lasting way longer than usual, because the officers decide to eat in their separate offices. Since there are barely any officers, a lot more people get KO'd before an officer gets hurt, and the fighting stops
And this evening, when we go in, there was a full out food fight going on.
I looked around, and I don’t think I saw a single officer eating there. In contrast, there were something like five thousand other personnel “eating”.
We stood around for a moment, because we really can’t go anywhere without getting hit. I noticed that it was Private 1st and 2nd Class vs. Private 3rd Class. That’s common. The 3rd Class are the lowest and largest class, so they always get really hyped up and crazy. We just had to wait there until the fighting stops. But, of course, Tommy gets TOO hungry and walks off towards the entree bar. The moment he steps out of the doorway, he gets hit right in the face with a banana cream pie.
“Hey look! It’s our new Superior Over Achievers! Run them over!!!” A random private from the third table to our right yelled. There was an instant uproar. He chucked a handful of glob at us and, and at least a hundred others followed suit shortly afterwards. Tommy was hit multiple times by globs (a prefered type of ammo) and he ran back out. The other privates ran after us, chucking more globs and yelling insults. We ducked down through a hallway, and disappeared down flights after flights of staircases. We ran until we couldn’t hear them anymore.
“Damn them! Why are they just so roberty?” Joseph swore. “Don’t these piles of manure understand that the entire humanity is under jeopardy?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know.” I grumbled. “They sure acted like everything was alright. I can’t believe either why they would act like that. Have they all gone mad?”
“Man, and I thought we were the best!” Tommy rubbed his back, sighing. “That fool who through that glop sure has good aim.”
Waxy, who hadn’t said anything yet, took out his pistol and started rubbing on it. He loaded the gun and started mock shooting fake objects. “If I don’t get my chow, then someone is going to get hurt.”
We all stumbled back. “You’re not serious, right? I stuttered. “I mean, it’s only one meal you’re going to skip. It’s not like you’re going to die!”
He glared at me straight in the eye. He sure knows how to glare. I stumbled back some more. “Colin, I don’t give crap if you starve for three days. I’m going to eat, and you ain’t gonna stop me.”
We all looked at him in shock. Where was the good ol’ Waxy, the one who we all worshipped, other than Arctan? What happened to this poor guy? Did the mission drive him mad? If he’s truned wild, the I shuddered to think what would happen to us.
Joseph shrugged. “Run along, Waxy. Go get your chow. Me, Colin and Tommy are retiring for the night. And we’re not going to mourn over your dead body.”
Waxy grinned. “Sure will, Joseph, sure will.” He turned around and walked back towards the mess hall, pistol in hand.
“What a fool.” Tommy grumbled. “He’s gonna get himself killed.”
“Whatever Tommy. You ain’t his mom, you got no business bossing him around.” I mumbled.

As Waxy stalked back towards the mess hall, the rest of us went to our dorms. Yes, I mean dorms. Like the college thingies. We live in the same dorm, our entire squad. By the way, my squad is called the 7th Grand Army, 1st Corps, 2nd Division, 2nd Regiment, 4th Battalion, 3rd Legion, Omega 1 Squad. It’s a really long name. See, there are approximately 1.5 billion humans left, and there are about 5 million of us in the army. These five million troops are divided into 10 armies, each with about 500,000 troops. Each Army, commanded by an Army General, is divided into 5 different Corps, numbering some 100,000 men each. Each Corps, lead by a Corps General, is divided into 5 divisions, of 20,000 men each. Each division, lead by a Division General, is further split into four regiments, of some 5000 men. Each regiment, commanded by a Brigadier General, contains five battalions, numbering around 1000 men. Each Battalion, headed by a Battalion Commander, is divided into ten Legions, which contain 100 men each. Lastly, each Legion, lead by a Legion Commander, is subdivided into 5 companies, with around 20 men per company. Companies are lead by Sergeants and are comprised of four five man squads.
Anyways…, the dorm isn’t really big, but it has all the accommodations you will need for the night. There are usually eight bunks, four bunks high, in a dorm, and there are several closets, a small living room, and a pretty nice bathroom.
I stepped in and flopped myself on my bed. It was totally enough for one day. Tommy and Joseph followed suit, and within fifteen seconds, we were all snoring.
I guess we didn’t wake up on time, because when we got up, sunlight was pouring in through the window. I yelped as the sun sizzled my back. Apparently, someone had taken off my shirt. Whatever. I looked around and saw Waxy standing in front of his bunk, staring straight at me.
I flopped off my bunk and looked him over. He was covered in tatters, food, and slop.
“What happened, Waxy? Well, did you get your grub?” I asked jokingly. “Hey, how come the grim face? Why are you just so-”
“Colin, Arctan is gone.” He said impossibly soft and strikingly.
The room felt like the temperature just dropped a couple degrees. I took some time to register what Waxy just said. Arctan. Gone.
“What do you mean?” Tommy and Joseph had woken up, and were looking inquiringly at Waxy. “That guy is tougher than all of us combined! What do you mean he’s just… gone?”
“Last night the 9th Legion’s Delta 5 squad raided everywhere, and destroyed a lot of equipment. They were,... like you said, gone mad. Those damned fools even raided the infirmary, and took down a whole ton of equipment! Arctan isn’t really gone, I mean by gone, gone, like in the afterlife. He’ll be out of action for at least another five weeks, added on to the original month of stay.”
We all grimaced at that. Arctan, gone. That pretty much just meant that we were all suckers. No way could we carry out a mission this impossible without Arctan.
“What about Henry? Is he alright?” Tommy asked. “Was he affected by the raid?”
“ Fortunately for Henry, the idiots didn’t go into his room.” Waxy said smoothly. “They did, however, unplug many devices, so I suspect Henry will be held in for another two days or so. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. I just checked on him.”
I sighed in relief. Next to Arctan, Henry is probably the most valuable fighter we have in our LEGION. He’s got all the skills necessary for a good fighter, and he has more brains than the rest of us.
“So…, are we going to accept this suicide mission?” Waxy looked at us. “I thought about it, and I kind of think we should.
“I… really don’t know. This is, as Btln Commander said, the hardest and the most daring mission in our entire history.” Joseph grumbled. “If we accept, we will become true heroes, even if we epicly fail. The problem is, I just don’t think this is a clever idea to get rid of the Lumbrican’s new super weapon. We’re going to be in for a big one.” He sighed and started cleaning his rifle.
“I also thought about it, and now I don’t think we should do this. There are plenty of other fighters to choose from.” Tommy suddenly stood up. “If we are the best of the best fighters, then why are we receiving what everybody will understand as a death sentence?”
“The POINT of mission is not to kill us!” Waxy growled. “We’re soldiers! We’re here to carry out orders, and try not to get killed! But, if the circumstances are tough, then suicide missions will probably be a last resort!”
“We are not going to get ourselves killed!” Tommy suddenly shouted. “I didn’t sign up and train for this army to get killed! I understand that many of us will fall before this war is over, and I certainly may be one of them. But that doesn’t mean we’re up for sacrifice! Besides, the circumstances around here aren’t that bad. Our Armies have advanced more than five hundred miles in all directions ever since we invaded back! And we’ve got eight whole months to beat that thing to scrap metal. EIGHT MONTHS!”
He glared at Waxy and sat down onto his bed, heaving.
I looked at the three of them. Joseph was studying the floor, Waxy was leaning against a bunk post, and Tommy was lying on his bunk.
“You guys, we’re going to do this mission.” I said definitely. The three of them all looked at me, Waxy with a grin, Joseph with no expression, but Tommy with rage.
“Why, Colin, why?” He asked, with a slight edge in his tone.
“As Waxy said, this is our duty. If we don’t do it, then who will?” I continued with a commanding tone. “If we’re is in crisis, then who will be the first ones save us? Ourselves! We’re soldiers! Fighters! Knights of the New!”
Tommy looked back down onto the ground. He closed his eyes for a few moments, before getting up and reaching for his rifle.
“If I’m gonna get killed, then let’s make it quick.” He growled.
I grinned, Waxy grinned, Joseph gave a weak smile. We’re going to stick together through this. And if we fall, which will happen, we’re falling together.

The author's comments:
An unexpected twist

The Btln Commander was very pleased with our decision. You have sealed your fate, he had said, but you have laid down the first brick on the road destined to lead humanity to paradise. He told us that they were very busy at the moment, gathering data about enemy advances, retreats, our forces, their forces, etc., and that we should come back when he calls for us. Then he will fill us in with information and the actual plan, and start the new two week long training program.
“You’re doing what you were made to do, and you should be proud of yourselves. You are all true heroes.” He said before dismissing us.
We left the Intelligence Archives and headed towards the infirmary, to check up on Henry. And Arctan, if he is in good condition. We entered the infirmary, and a cold blast hit us. That place was really cold.
“Who on Earrrrth would turn on the AC that high? It’s freezing!” Joseph complained.
“I’m frrrrrreezzing to death…” I shuddered.
We shook as we looked around for the front desk officer that was supposed to be here. It took some time, but we found him under several blankets, curled up in front of his desk. He looked up when we approached.
“What do you guys want?” He asked, evidently annoyed. “If you’ve got no business, then get your butts out ‘a here.”
“Hello sir, we have come to see Henry and Arctan.” I said. Normally, I would do all the diplomatic stuff, since all my buddies are pretty useless at communicating. “Are they in any condition so that we may visit him?”
The guy grunted. He looked up our buddies on his flat screen computer and gave us a key. He jerked a thumb towards our left. “Go down and take the third exit to the right. Henry’s room should be room 111. As for Arctan, he’s in no condition to see anyone.”
We nodded our thanks and headed down the hallway. At Henry's room, we gently knocked the door.
“Come in.” A muffled voice inside said.
Tommy slowly and gently opened the door. We walked in. Henry was lying on his bed, with his face up, and he was reading a book. He glanced upwards when we entered, and he broke into a huge smile.
“Tommy, Colin, Joseph, Waxy!” He exclaimed. “You’re all alive! Oh guys, how’s it going?” He shuffled around a little. “I’ve been stuck in here for ever.”
We grinned at him. This guy always in funny, even when things are critical. That reminds me, I haven’t told him about our planned suicide mission yet.
“All’s, er, good!” I said. “We had a hero’s, er, welcome. And there was a party, and all that. Too bad you missed all that.”
He sighed. “Well, I’ve missed a lot. Apparently, you guys are about to go on a death mission or whatnot. What’s that all about?”
We shuffled around a little. None of us liked to talk about it. Still, we filled him in. We told him all about the new weapon, the failed plan, and how we may never see him again.
Henry listened to the entire story without fidgeting. When we finished, he just sighed again. “I’m sorry, guys, but orders are orders. If you die, we honor you. It’s just the way it is.”
He said it in such a weird way, we all felt pretty sick. I mean, he’s always the happy, not gloomy, but cheery guy. My heart suddenly filled with dread. If Henry’s so gloomy and so, well, negative, then that pretty much means that he thinks there’s no chance of us surviving. He’s literally saying his final goodbye.
We left his room, thinking about how he just dumped us. None of us were in the mood to talk, and we certainly weren’t very happy.
We slumped over to the mess hall, as it was about noon. But instead of going to the normal fighter mess hall, we veered towards the special fighter mess hall. That place was designated especially for fighters who achieved the Special Achievement Badge. Which included us and a few others. We got some porridge and sat on one of the empty tables.
I put my head back into the cushiony chair. It’s pretty nice to be able to enjoy your meals without having idiots throwing food everywhere. And speaking of food fights, sounds like there’s another one going on next door. Those fools.
“So, what do you think they will train us with?” Tommy said. “Do you think they would experiment with us so that we would be able to read each other’s minds?”
I snorted. “Tommy, the chances of you being able to communicate with us without filling our minds with food and cooking is pretty big of an accomplishment. And all your thoughts will be sufficient enough to clog up all of our minds.”
Waxy and Joseph merely chuckled at that. Tommy frowned and asked, “Well, then what do you think we’ll be learning? How to easily defeat Lumbricans?”
“Most likely they will teach us even more advanced survival skills and the ability to use highly technologically advanced equipment.” Waxy replied. “We probably will also be able to shoot far more accurately and rapidly… I don’t know.”
“Maybe we’ll get high tech light infantry weaponry!” Joseph exclaimed. “Remember that laser sublimer we saw on UNS Lendington? That was just awesome! Able to shoot and accurately hit a target some two kilometers away. And it’s all in a rifle shaped weapon!”
“Uh, yeah. You realize that it was just an experimental prototype, right?” Waxy raised an eyebrow at him. “And that weapon was deemed WAY too powerful to issue. We need stealth, and bringing a gun with that magnitude of firepower is not a good idea. It will expose our positions too quickly. Something like the Cobalt 12 Plasma Rifle is what I’m thinking about.”
The Cobalt 12. Man, I always wanted one of those. It was newest of the series of Cobalt guns. Our standard issue is, well, the Cobalt 10, a pretty decent gun. But the Cobalt 12 has 20 percent more range, 20 percent more firepower, 25 percent quicker firing rate and was 30 percent more accurate. And the entire weapon weighed the same as the Cobalt 10. So far, I don’t know of a single squad to be armed with these. If we’re supplied with this new weapon, our chances of surviving just went up drastically.
“That’s a good weapon, that Cobalt 12. But what about enemy armor?” I inquired.
“We’ll there’s going to be at least four of us in this, so we’re going to be supplied with a long range high velocity gun of some sort. I really have no idea.” Joseph said.
“Um, yeah, totally. Added onto our supplies, how are we going to tow a gun with us?” Waxy countered. “And we still have to carry extra ammunition with us.”
“And what about the transportation we’re supposed to receive at Midway?” I asked.
No one answered. We all thought about it. Commander had said that Midway was as far as they could transport us. I doubt there were any resources there that we can use to build transportation. Midway’s tiny!
We ate the rest of our breakfast in silence. If there was transportation, in what form will it be in? I am not sailing on a small, shaking, wet, and rolling ship. I’d rather have a Bluehawk transport me the entire way. At least we’ll get there faster, and everyone will be happy.
Well, it turns out we’re sailing a rickety old ship after all.
Btln Commander had said over the intercom for us to report to the Intelligence Archives immediately. And we were still eating breakfast. But, order are orders, we got up and slouched over to the Archives.
Btln Commander and Legion Commander were all there, along with several other Commanders and even a couple of generals. I could tell because of the type of uniform they wore and by the number of stars they had on their shoulders. They were all sitting down around a long table on the far end when we came in, but when we made our way over, they had all stood up.
“Well, fighters, you have accepted the mission.” Our Btln Commander said, with a striking and loud tone. “You will now proceed to train and attempt to accomplish this mission. Because of the level of difficulty, we have decided to name this mission Operation Last Man Standing.”
“This is your duty, men, and I hope you will fulfill it to your best performance.” The General sitting on the far end said. “Now, to business. Commanders, you are dismissed. Except Lendon and Commat. You may stay.”
The other Commanders regarded us with many different expressions, and exited towards the entrance.
The General who gave us the orders walked towards a the holographic map. He entered a few commands, and the same view of the enemy weapon location appeared. He waved for us to come over, and entered a few more commands. This time, another map appeared, spanning from our base to the enemy weapon. A purple laser connected the two locations, and an image of an aircraft appeared overhead.
The General turned towards us and finally spoke. “Lendon, your Btln Commander gave you basic information, and now I will give you all the information you need and answer any questions you may have.
“As you already know, we have eight months. With this time, we will train you and transport you to Midway, where you will find your own transportation. That transportation will take the form of, well, a boat. Yes, like the boats of the old, this boat will be made of wood, and you will make it yourselves.”
We gaped at him. With our type of advanced technology, though still pretty outdated, we can still make good transportation. Why are we going to make a BOAT? My stomach is just feeling bad at the thought of that.
“I understand your concerns. Although we COULD provide you with adequate transportation, that’s not the point of the whole Operation. Besides, any aircraft or other fast moving object will be easily detected by the Lumbricans, and that’s not going to end well. The enemy’s technology is highly advanced, but they can not detect small and slow moving objects. We know for certain.”
Oh, that explains a lot. They’re just going to shoot us out of the sky if we attempt to fly. So basically we’re going to trek over thousands of miles of jungle, climb over hundreds of mountains, and sail through tsunamis, penetrate through enemy lines, break into their base, and destroy the weapon. Sounds so easy.
“Now, for the training. We’re going to train you very advanced survival skills, and teach you guys how to be thrifty. Yes, I said thrifty. A good soldier needs to be thrifty in order to survive in the harsh and wild wilderness. You will learn how to find the right amounts, right kind of food in the right places. You will study how to use the resources around you to survive. And most of all, you will learn how to build a boat that sails, quickly, and efficiently.”
Joseph and Tommy both stifled a groan. The General merely looked at them, before returning to his lecture.
“On Midway island, we have already stored 3 weeks of supplies and a boat big enough to carry those supplies. It is made of wood. The reason behind that is simple. The Lumbricans can detect virtually anything made of metal that is the size of a Bluehawk. How we figured that out, you don’t need to know.
“From Midway, you will proceed to sail across the Pacific to The Solomon islands. There, you will have to build your own sailing vessel, whatever that it may be, and collect supplies and all that kind of things, and sail towards the Marshall Islands. From the Marshall Islands, you will ditch your old boat -by now, it should be junk and totally undetectable- build another one, and sail towards Iwo Jima. There, you will repeat the process and sail to Taiwan. From Taiwan, you will trek across the width of the island, and sail to mainland China. The weapon should be around the Sichuan region.
“You may ask why your building so many boats. If we had given you a sizable boat and it was heading straight towards the enemy, they would react almost immediately. But since your squad is so small and you will be getting there the hard way, your chances of surviving actually increased many times over. The Lumbricans will have a hard time tracking your movements, if they detect you, because you’re moving so slowly and so undetectably.”
I thought about it. That actually makes some sense. If we’re advancing towards them quickly and in a pretty menacing vehicle, then the Lumbricans won’t even think twice before destroying us. But if we’re sailing a run-down, totally worthless piece of garbage towards them, then they’ll think we’re something else, like actual garbage.
“Now, I will leave you with your Commanders. They will discuss with you what you are going to do for the two weeks. I’m sure you’ll train hard, and complete this operation. Good luck, my heroes.” And with that, he saluted to us -we saluted back- and he walked off towards the center of the Archives.

The author's comments:
Training time

Our training wasn’t like anything we expected. Or at least it was a surprise.
Our Btln Commander and Legion Commander told us to follow them, and to be quiet. We were pretty noisy. We walked after them, and we kept walking and walking, through corridors, halls, descended a couple flights of stairs, and reached ground level. We walked out the main entrance of the complex and trudged along the roads.
After at least an hour of walking, we finally arrived at our destination. It was the armoury. The entire building was pretty massive, as normally we store about 1000 tanks and at least 1500 support vehicles in here. No to mention that there were at least 20,000 rifles, blasters, cannons, and countless explosive devices. Because of all that stuff in there, the building is the third largest of all the buildings in our Base. All around the building, there were troops, and on the top of the building was an entire row of autocannons and machineguns.
Well, that… came as a surprise. That General had told us that we were to be stealthy, quick, and act like ghosts. And now were at the place where they suit soldiers up with equipment so heavy and bulky that even walking was nearly impossible.
“Um sir, why are we here?” I tried to ask, but the Btln Commander cut me off.
“You’ll find out soon enough.” was all he said.
He stepped forward, and the guards in front of the doorway parted. He went up to the door and put his hand on it. The monstrous door opened upwards, like a garage. He walked in and waved for us to follow. We followed him towards the central platform of the building, the place where all the security cameras are viewed from, and where the guy in charge stays.
He turned towards us, and told the Legion Commander to man the command post.
“Now, we will begin your training. You are to subdue all the guards we have placed in this room. Not to worry, they’re simply robots. But they’re highly intelligent robots. There's four of you, and a dozen of them. They outnumber you 3 to 1, but you’ve got your wits. Use them and defeat them. Good luck.”
And with that said, our Commanders entered the command post and went up to the top level.
We were pretty puzzled. That was the entire training, a test to test our wits? “So what are we supposed to do?” Tommy asked, clearly bothered. “Subdue robots? That’s the best they’ve got for us?!”
“I don’t know.” I grumbled. I looked around. For some strange reason, there were barely any vehicles around, only like three tanks. I know there were multiple levels in this huge building, but one level accounts for at least one-fifths of the vehicles. That means we’re missing at least 500 support vehicles and tanks. That’s really bad. On the other hand, that doesn’t make any sense. As far as I’m concerned, there is no battle going on that would require armor. So where could all the vehicles be stored.
I thought for a moment. None of us knew how to operate a tank, and handling a tank in such a space isnt a good idea anyways. I looked upwards, and saw directions leading towards the Infantry Supply Chamber. Infantry? Hmmmm.
“Guys, let’s go to the infantry supply chamber and get some guns first. Then let’s plan our next initiative.” I whispered. The others agreed, and we crept towards the chamber. It was located in the back of the building on the second floor, which meant we had a long way to go.
“Anybody got a pistol? We’re in a tight situation here.” Joseph grumbled. We all felt around. Waxy yelped. He took out his pistol and checked in it. There was a charge in it, good enough for at least a hundred rounds. We sighed in relief.
We climbed a flight of stairs and silently stalked towards the chambers. Waxy stayed in the front, as he was the only one armed. Nothing jumped at us, though. We entered the chamber, and we all gasped. There were tens of thousands of guns, if not millions, of all sizes, type, and calibre. We were astonished at the sheer amount of guns. And, right in front of us, were the Cobalt 12 Plasma Rifle.
“Quickly, grab some blasters, a couple of grenades, and lets go!” Waxy whispered. We all looked at the weapons, and we each grabbed a Cobalt 12, a couple of grenades, a spare pistol, and sufficient amounts of ammo to last us for about three hours.
“Right, now lets go together, but at least twenty feet apart, and lets scan these floors.” Tommy suggested. “Let’s advance in a diamond formation.”
“Right.” We all agreed. This was no time to argue, and Tommy’s plan is good enough.
We advanced out the chamber, our weapons right in front of us, and proceeded down the corridor. There was still no movement. I’m starting to think that the enemy is hiding somewhere below of us, where they have a clear shot. And I was right.
Through the window that views an empty room -the first level- , I saw 12 huge, robotic Lumbricans. They were trying to handle our tanks! That was pretty stupid of them, because those armored vehicles will repel their attacks.
Well, it didn’t turn out to be like that. Those fools GOT IN the tanks and started piloting them! The rest of us began to duck and cover. The building was strong enough to repel those kind of tanks from the outside, but from the inside…
“Boom! Boom! BAM!!!” Heat seared my face, and I stumbled. The floor shook. I peeked over my hiding place, a metal crate, and saw three tanks, rumbling. There was a huge hole in the wall we were facing, at least four hundred feet square. We gaped at the damage. I shuddered. The high command must be pretty serious about whipping us into super soldiers. That damage is gonna take months to fix.
“Alright, guys, here’s our battle plan.” Waxy whispered. “Colin, go up the stairs, climb at least two more levels, but keep those tanks in range! Joseph, you go with him. Make sure he doesn’t get distracted. Tommy and I will engage them, kind of, until you two get into position. Oh, did you guys get a rocket launcher?”
I shrugged at Joseph. He shrugged back. Guess we forgot that.
“Idiots, go get one!” Waxy whispered/yelled.
Joseph and I scrambled back towards the weapons depot. We milled around the guns, and finally chose a lightweight mortar and a dozen rockets. When we got out again, we could hear the explosions and rapid fire of guns.
“Come on, bro. We gotta go!” I said.
I raced up the stairs, followed closely by Joseph. We found a good viewing point of the tanks from the Level 3 through a window. Joseph perched the mortar on the window sill and loaded a rocket. I looked down. Waxy and Tommy were running in circles, on opposite sides of the tanks, and were rolling, weaving, and ducking.
“Come on, hurry up!” I cried. Joseph sure is slow.
“Ok, ok, I’m almost done. Just give me a few more seconds.” He muttered.
At long last, he loaded the weapon, aimed it at one of the tanks, and fired. He quickly pulled the mortar down. There was an explosion, followed by scraping of metal and a cheer. Joseph hit a tank.
We quickly set the cannon back up, loaded another piece of ammo, and fired. This time, however, it bounced off the side of the second tank and blew up, causing no damage. Unfortunately, the Lumbricans spotted us, and began to fire their repeaters. Blasts began to spray the room we were in, and Joseph and I had to hurry up and get out of there. We ran across a sky bridge, and entered the other side of the building. All the while, the Lumbricans were blasting the bridge, and we barely got through. The bridge fell down towards the floor in flames. We ducked behind a wall, entered another room. The Lumbricans were blasting everywhere. Well, with all their attention focused on us, I wonder what Waxy and Tommy were doing. Were they… no. I shuddered at that thought. That can’t happen.
“Joseph, let’s set up the cannon again.” I said unsteadily. “We’re going to win.”
Joseph nodded numbly, and we began. Despite all the fire around us, we managed to set the cannon up. We loaded the gun, and fired again. It hit the turret of one of those tanks, and pretty much disabled it. We loaded and fired again, and it deflected off the armor of the third tank. Ignoring the enemy fire, which was getting really close and hitting all around us, spraying debris everywhere, we fired again and blew up the third tank. The three burning wrecks just burned. We flew down the two levels to find our comrades. They weren’t anywhere. Then I noticed two bodies sprawled on the floor. I rushed towards them, and the sight I saw almost made me faint. They were only knocked out, but were sprawled in such a way that it was repulsive.
I shook them both. “Tommy! Waxy! Wake up!”
Joseph knelt beside me, and started swearing. A common thing to happen, especiallt under these circumstances.
“Oh, don’t worry. They’re just immobilized. They’ll be ready for action soon enough.”
I looked behind me. Our Commanders were standing right there, grinning at us. I looked at the wrecks, and several fire fighting teams were putting them out. Don’t ask me where they came from.
“You passed the first test with flying colors, boys. In fact, your strategy was almost uncontested. We had positioned the Lumbricans near the tanks, assuming that you will try to get a hold of them. But you didn’t, so we had to order the robots to get the tanks themselves. In the meantime, you went to the stocks and armed yourselves! Ok.” Our Btln Commander commented.
“Yes, it was a fantastic plan. However, I would never suggest going so far to find resources. They are sometimes right in front of you. But the splitting up idea was splendid. The enemy would have to divide their fire, which is great.” Our Legion Commander said.
“Go rest up. This first test proved that you are able to use your skills to complete a task, given any circumstances. Congrats.” Our Btln Commander dismissed us. “Oh, and your buddies will be with you shortly, once they get de-immobilized.”
We watched as the medical corps dragged Waxy and Tommy away, and wondered, THIS is supposed to be our training? What? I pondered over what we just did. We were supposed to fight robots. But what did the test teach us?
Joseph and I walked out of the armoury and headed back to HICCUP. Too lazy to walk the distance back, we called a transport to get us there quicker. On the way, we discussed the reason behind the first test.
“The first test was kind of crappy.” Joseph commented. “Blowing up the armoury? What were those test planners even thinking?”
“Well, they're probably pretty serious about getting us on our way, because having a mock battle in the armoury is not the brightest idea.” I replied. “We could’ve blown the entire complex up if we made any mistake. That was a big risk to take.”
“Yeah, I guess…” Joseph grumbled.

The author's comments:
The narrator finds out that his men are going to "die" extra early.

There was a slight change of plans… we’re running out of time, and were sent on our way, almost immediately.
Here was how it happened: When we got back, we were ordered to hurry up and get to the IA, where our Commanders were already there and the entire High Staff was present. On route, we were joined by Waxy and Tommy. How they got there so quickly, I don’t know. We entered into the room, and at least a hundred pairs of eyes turned and stared at us. At the table in the far corner, there were a dozen or so Generals seated, looking really grim and worried.
When we approached them, they looked at us. And awkward silence ensued, with them staring at us and us just standing there like idiots. “Sit down over there.” A General pointed at three empty seats. We did.
One of the Generals sitting at the front of the table cleared his throat, and grimly began. “I am Army General George Skygan, as you may know already. This getleman right here, to my left, is blah blah blah, this here is blah blah blah.” And this went on for some time. At last, he said, “Well, fighters, you’re ready for this mission.”
We began to protest, but he raised his hand. “Yes, you believe that you’re totally unprepared and lacking, but we have some,... difficulties. New intelligence reports indicate that you guys only have five months left. That means we just lost three months of preparation and training time. And that is, well, bad.
“Based on our reports, we have decided that you will begin the mission immediately. Given the circumstances, we will NOT plan a diversion with the rest of our forces. It is way too risky, and probably unnecessary. You leave mainland in one week, and we will execute the plan as usual. As for how to build a boat to transport your selves to the islands, we’ll have to build a sturdy one for you. I highly doubt that you will be able to build a boat in so little time, not that I don’t trust you, but because it takes weeks, possibly months to be trained in the craft of boat making.”
He stood up. “You are, for the last time, heroes of humanity. Do your mission, and we will honor you, for eternity.”
The General saluted us, followed by all the other Generals, and they departed. We were left with our Commanders again.
Our Btln Commander sighed. “Well, time for you guys to tour around our base for the last time.”
We exited the room, climbed into a standard travel vehicle, and took a one last spin of the base. There was still so much to see. Of the hundred buildings, we’ve only been through two dozen or so. Believe it or not, there was actually a museum. For destroyed enemy tanks and Lumbrican artifacts. Our Commanders were left with the job of furnishing us to the best they can do, and educating us about enemy tactics, weapons, and weakness was a big priority.
We entered the museum, called the Home Base Lumbrican Museum. Inside, there were rows after rows of Lumbrican armour, tanks, weapons, and clothing. There were even utensils, writing, and sketches by them.
Our Commanders educated us in all the areas of the enemy, and expected one of us to understand each of the following: Weakness, Strengths, Armour, and Infantry. I was assigned Armour, and I highly doubt that I could remember so many artillery pieces, heavy tanks, medium tanks, light tanks, jeeps, infantry support vehicles, and so many more. It was killing. Tommy, Joseph, and Waxy weren’t doing much better. Their parts were pretty hard.
Our next stop was the bakery. I never knew we had one outside the compound. Then we visited the POST Office, blacksmith shop, SHOES store, etc. I had completely no clue as in why we still have these buildings.
As we visited all these buildings, I felt a twinge of sadness. I’ll probably never see this place again. I mean, I’m about to get killed, and even if I don’t die, the Lumbrican super weapon is going to kill us all anyways. I’m sorry, I’m just not that optimistic.
At the end of the day, we slouched back to our dorms, and retired in early. It was a horrible day.

The author's comments:
The narrator and his party step into their ride, as they go meet their destiny.

The days went by so quickly, it felt like our doom day came in just seconds. If the remaining few days, we mainly just trained how to shoot accurately, throw grenades more accurately, and get stronger. We also got digital copies of survival indexes, which were tied onto watches on our wrists.
We got up early that day, and took a ride to the airport, where our Bluehawk was already waiting for us. We boarded the warplane, and looked down at the assembled crowd standing below us.
There were thousands, if not millions, of people down there, waving hats, shirts, shooting blanks at the sky, and creating A LOT of noise. Some were weeping, others expressionless, but the majority of them were smiling and cheering. I looked through the crowd, and saw that everyone was standing out of order. Generals were next to Privates, Commanders next to cooks. Don’t ask me how that happened.
The High Staff stood on top of an outdoors podium and looked really serious. They walked onto a small addressing table, and began addressing the crowd. The first up was a General that we all call “General Rotundity”, as he was really round.
“Today, we come to celebrate and give our best hopes to these young men, who have stepped above and beyond their expectations, to save everyone. Blah blah blah…” Was all we heard. He spoke in such a monotonous tone that everyone would’ve fallen asleep, if it wasn’t for the speeches of the other officers.
On and on this went, with officers after officers giving speeches, giving us their best wishes, and praying for our success. Mostly we just saluted, applauded, smiled, waved, etc, because this was not that fun. At one point during this “ceremony”, however, Waxy whispered something to Tommy, and they fell over laughing. Of course, everyone found out pretty quick, and in five seconds, ten thousand pairs of eyeballs were glued onto those two.
A millennia later, the High Commander, Army General Skygan stood up to make the final comments and wishes. When he stood, all the chatter that had been going on stopped. Everyone gave him their full, undivided attention. He was our supreme commander and hero.
He talked for a long time, mostly just squabble and random stuff, but his concluding remarks were very… I don’t even know how to describe it.
“... and to our best hopes,” he concluded. “these young men, young fighters, warriors, will complete and fulfill this mission. After they survive, they will become the heroes of eternity. They should be honored, and they will be honored. We will see to that. Now as these brave men depart us, we give them our UNDIVIDED support. And, as the ancients say, may we all be with you.”
He said it like we WILL survive, despite the huge odds, disadvantages, and risks we are going to undertake. I looked behind me, towards our undetermined fate, and I saw the sun was slowly rising. It’s color was slowly turning from striking red, to golden yellow. That was striking, because a new age, a new adventure, a new journey was about to begin. And enemy territory, once red, will turn yellow.

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