“Beware when any idea is promoted primarily because it is ‘bold, exciting, innovative, and new.’ There are many ideas that are ‘bold, exciting, innovative and new,’ but also foolish.”- Donald Rumsfeld.
Somebody once said “fortune favors the bold”... if that’s the case then I’d have been a real fortunate sunnuvabitch about now. I live in the desert, a solitary life, but every now and then even I need supplies. I drive my Hummer into town cautiously, it’s a big truck with a lot of modifications for terrain.
I live alone in the desert for a reason... the body-snatchers are social creatures; they don’t like to live alone, so nobody goes wandering much out in the desert. I live in a system of caves set up near the flattest part of the desert. That’s another reason I live there... it’s hard to sneak up on a man when there’s no cover; if they ever discover I’m there... I’ll see ‘em coming. My truck is painted in desert camouflage so that I can park it near the cave and it’ll be nearly invisible, I cover it as well just to be sure.
I do some of the riskiest things on these supply runs. I’m not usually noticed because of the scar on my shoulder and my skill at blending in. A few years back I was with my friend Garret still when we snuck into a hospital; we got our hands on some of that healing spray the parasites use to heal their cuts... we cut ourselves on the shoulder and applied it so we could come into town without attracting immediate attention.
There were a few rules you had to follow, first of all you had to shave before going into town; the notice if your facial hair is too wild, and second you have to keep all weapons hidden; only Arbiters use weapons, and they’re rarely found in supermarkets and whatnot, so you have to be careful. That’s not to say that when I go into town I don’t carry any weapons... that’d be down right foolish. I wear a suit when I come to town, just like the CIA used to and I carry a twin holster inside my jacket, two Barretta 1911s are stowed there. I also keep a sawed off Mossberg 12 gage, an M16, a few breach charges, a couple different types of grenades, two KA-BARs, and my trusty hatchet in the back seat of the Hummer... hidden from plain view of leaches passing by. I also make sure to bring body armor, a flashlight, and chalk.
Anyway I’d originally come to town to hit up a super market, and not in the traditional way. I tried to move at night when at all possible simply because they didn’t see any better in the dark than I did. I found a store, but of course I can’t park in front of the building, the snatchers would suspect something if they saw a car parked in front of an obviously closed stored, so I pull around back and keep the engine running.
In the old days when the door swung open an alarm would have gone off, but the body-snatchers don’t steal from each other, so there are no locks, and no alarm. I’m smart enough not to turn on the lights just in case. I pull out my maglite and go to work. Throwing in non-perishable foods, breads, meats, batteries, and a few other things quickly. The idea is to be in and out as soon as I can.
When I get out to the truck and begin shoving my newly pilfered prizes into the back seat I hear a sound that is so out of place in the new society of the leaches it makes my heart rate quicken.
In one of the buildings that shares an alley with the grocery store, I hear a scream. Leaches don’t scream... only we do. Then I hear another scream a different voice. I recognize the building when I see it... it’s a hospital, or it was... now they call them like... healing stations or something like that.
It only takes me half a second to realize why somebody that isn’t a Spirit is at a hospital in this world. They do insertions here... and whoever these people are, they were captured.
I look into the building... most of the lights are off for the night, the leaches only turn on the lights when they’re being used, they keep their future hosts in the dark for whatever reason. In another heartbeat I’ve made up my mind. I move my groceries to the back of the truck and put on my gear... this is a very bad idea, but I’m committed.
I shut the truck off and park it in the nearest empty parking space where nobody will notice it. “Are you sure about this?” I ask myself quietly one last time as I approach the backdoor. The answer in my head isn’t a surprise... Nope.
I stand with my back to the wall as I pull the back door open. I wait for a moment in case somebody was on the other side... part of my marine training. I pull a Baretta in my right hand, with a flashlight and my chalk in the other. Hold the light with my left hand just below my gun in my right, using my left arm to steady my shooting hand. The door I opened is in the middle of a hallway. I shine the light left then right, checking to be sure I’m clear. As I enter the hallway I turn to my right... seeing as I’m right handed I decide to turn that way first. I mark a B on the right side of the door, this way if I pass by here again I’ll know that I’ve gone to the right once.
I’ve never been inside this particular hospital so I don’t know where they’re keeping the new hosts. I decide to make a sweep of the building, but I have to be careful... there are sure to be Arbiters on the premises. I keep my light pointed angled toward the ground a few feet in front of me, it gives off enough illumination that I’ll see something if somebody comes walking by, but it makes it so that people walking down perpendicular hallways don’t see my beam of light.
I thank my lucky stars that I’m always so cautious and wear gloves because I can feel my pulse racing... I’m sweating lightly, and the last thing I want is wet palms with a gun in my hand. I’m moving as quickly, but as quietly as I possibly can, for now they don’t know I’m here and I’d like to keep it that way. After a few terse moments I consider my choice of flashlights. It would be better if something did happen to have two weapons. I fish around inside my light tote bag and pull out one of the few things inside of it. Inside the bag I keep a kit for picking locks (the Spirits don’t lock their doors, but the places they’ve shut down are usually locked pretty tight), a few smaller flashlights, a couple supressors, some rope, duck tape, batteries, and a canteen and some rations in case I can’t get back home so quickly... oh... and more clips of bullets, I have those all over me, but if I run out in my pockets it’s good to have them in my bag.
I pulled out one of my smaller flashlights and some duck tape. I think about it for a moment and decide that the suppressors would be a good idea too. I tape one of the flashlights to the bottom of one of my guns before I fasten the suppressors.
I check down a few more hallways, always marking my way with a B, before I see some bad news... at one of the corners the lights are turned on. I click my flashlight off and I turn to dodge that path as quickly as I can. I hear voices coming down the hallway, along with footsteps. Two people, one sounds like high heels on the tile, the other is decidedly softer... tennis shoes. They’re having a discussion. I realized they were headed my way and ducked into the nearest maintenance closet, keeping the door cracked ever so slightly. They turn down my hallway and continue speaking. One is obviously a man, his voice is low, soft, and comforting, but he’s speaking with a woman. Her voice is sharp, she’s eager for something, and judging by her stiletto heels and the brusque way she speaks... she’s an Arbiter that isn’t expecting any action today. Her mistake.
As the came within earshot I caught a snippet of what they were saying.
“...n’t reacting well,” the woman said irritably.
“You can hardly blame them, they’re still children, they’re still human, they experience a wide range of emotions daily, they can’t always contain them,” the calm male voice tried to soothe her.
“Just shut them up! I can’t focus with that incessant racket... it’s hard to think when they’re all crying, no matter how soft, kind, and gentle we are to them they resist. They might be able to tell me where he is!” the Arbiter responded angrily. As she passed I saw that she was a tigress, and she looked familiar, maybe an acquaintance from the past, but I can’t be sure.
“They were taught to resist , you have to remember that their parents are looking out for themselves and the rest of their families. Those kids were told if they were ever captured to say nothing; to their kind betraying their family, even for the sake of peace, is a horrendous offense,” the doctor told her.
“Move them back to their rooms on the third floor for the night... tomorrow, we implant them. I feel like getting some of that Earthling treat... ‘ice cream’, I shall return to this establishment after I have procured some,” she commanded the doctor before she was out of earshot again. The doctor seemed to part from her at whatever crossroads he’d come to.
“Insufferable,” he muttered just a few feet from my door, he was a rat. I threw the door open and grabbed him by the back of the neck.
“You even twitch and you’re dead, tell me everything I ask or I shoot,” I told him quickly as I pushed the barrel of my gun behind his ear.
“A human... here?” he sounded more intrigued than afraid.
“Where is the building’s main power?” I demanded of him.
“I won’t tell you tha-,” he started to reply... he probably didn’t even hear the whistle of wind as I killed him. I shoved his body into the closet... they had little cleaning machines that would take care of the rest for me.
I searched his body and quickly found a neatly folded piece of paper in one pocket. It was notes he had taken. The Spirits didn’t know anything about torture, but they were good at other forms of coercion... they’d tried bribing the kids and playing nice. Next they were going to try tempting them with their favorite treats or presenting the bodies of any relative they could find that had been implanted.
When I found the nearest maintenance stairwell I headed down, but not before I mark my path. I head down the stairs so I can throw the power, and of course in this brave new world they’ve constructed they don’t lock the boiler room... even security cameras are now defunct... too bad.
I find and cut the cords coming out of all of their back-up generators with a knife, and then I move toward the main power line for the whole building. Their need for order caused them to move all of their main power sources into one room... time to turn out the lights. It takes me three swings of my hatchet to completely sever the main power line, but I know as soon as I do... the lights go out... and they don’t come back on.
You’re probably curious as to why I chose to cut the power. This will make moving around easier, I don’t have to worry about being seen in the dark; however the Arbiters will certainly suspect something is going on as long as the lights are out... they’ll be moving around more.
I head up to the third level and already they’re starting to move. I manage to sneak around without being seen for the longest time, then I peek around one corner and see three guards standing in front of one room... both of them. There is a slight knock on the door and one of the children peeks out at the arbiters. “What is it?” one of them asks her rudely. They all hold flashlights, but no ready weapons.
“I have to go potty,” the little girl explains. The arbiters look at each other for a moment.
“Follow me,” one says at last. they head off down the hallway and I follow from my own corridor. The arbiter stops at the women’s restroom and waits outside. “I’ll be right here when you’re ready,” she tells the girl.
This is the best chance I’ll have of getting the arbiters alone... it’s tough trying to track two at once in a fight. I flash my light at the wall, then jerk it back down to the ground. I move over to the wall before I do it again. It takes a few tries but I suddenly hear the arbiter leaving her post to check on this anomoly. As she steps out into my hallway I grab her by the front and back of her skull, pushing one way then snapping back so rapidly she never even knows what’s happened.
I lower the body slowly to the ground before I drag her to the men’s room and stuff her there. I get outside just as the little girl opens the door to the women’s room. I kneel down and put my hand over her mouth to stifle any screams she may have. “I need you to be quiet... if you scream they’ll find us... I’m trying to rescue you,” I tell her quickly. She looks at me for a moment before nodding. “I’m going to take my hand away now... I need you to stay quiet and follow me, pretend you’re playing hide and seek with the arbiters and you’ll be just fine. If I tell you to do something you have to listen ok?” I ask her in a calm and quiet voice. She nods again so I pull my hand down.
“Here’s how we’re going to do this... you’re going to go back to the room where they’re hiding all of you kids by yourself; when you get to the door and the man asks you what happened, say she found something by the restroom and sent you back alone. As soon as he’s gone I want you to enter the room and tell all of the kids to prepare their things and that they’re leaving tonight and then wait for me there, can you do that?” I asked her. Again she nodded so I sent her off and waited a few moments.
Without fail the arbiter was suspicious, but he was also in a human body... he saw no threat in leaving the children alone. He followed the hallway to the women’s restroom, where I had the door cracked slightly... I hid inside the restroom behind the door and waited for it to open. The moment it did I lunged out and kicked his knee out from under him forcing him to the ground. I roll him onto his stomach planting my right foot on his left wrist, and forcing his right arm under my left knee, I jam the gun into his mouth and wait. “Don’t. Even. Breath” I command him as I rub the barrel against the back of his throat to reinforce the point. “Three... Two... One,” I count down in a soft whisper. The door flies open and there stands the third arbiter with a gun in one hand. I lift up my left hand with another gun in it.
“Give me a reason!” I tell her softly as I shove the gun further into her colleague’s throat. She doesn’t seem to understand at first... I’m not looking at her, but I have a gun trained on both her and her colleague... I’ve successfully neutralized both of them.
“I’m only going to ask you once... what did you want from these kids?” I ask her.
“I don-,” she starts to say. I never even look up to her face as I squeeze the triggers, they’re both dead before they can react. I hurry down the hall... I stretched the time on this one a little thin, about now they should be discovering that the power’s been cut.
I slowly open the door to the children’s room and peek in. “Is everybody ready?” I ask quietly. A whole rush of kids move forward. “Now we have to be very quiet but very quick... how old is the oldest?” I ask them softly. A woman... well a girl-woman, maybe twenty steps forward.
“I’m the oldest... there are 3 teens here, the rest are all children,” she tells me. She’s a haggard looking young fox, her face is worn but determined as she looks at me. I switch around one of my guns. “Can you shoot?” I ask her quickly.
“I can pull the trigger, whether or not it hits something is up in the air,” she answers me.
“Good enough I suppose, take this,” I tell her as I hand her my shotgun. I give one of the other teens my M-16, the third one is only 14... too young to carry a weapon effectively I decide. “Move quickly, move quietly, I’ll take the lead. There are ten kids here, so we’ll cross hallways and such in groups of three, if you’re unarmed, stay close to somebody with a gun. Don’t fire unless we’re caught, and whatever you do... stay together,” I caution them all quickly.
I hurry down the hall, checking each corner before I cross. Miraculously we get out the door and to my truck without incidents. As they’re pushing their way into the hummer I count 9 kids... great.
“We’re missing one,” I tell them.
“Chloe went back for her bear,” one of the younger kids tell me.
“You have to be fucking kidding me,” I say as I look around. I throw the keys to the oldest one, the girl. “If I’m not back in ten minutes, drive... stay under the speed limit, don’t break any laws... just try to blend in,” I tell her before I turn around. Just my luck I think to myself as I enter again.
As I get to the stairs Chloe’s waiting for me, with a stuffed bear in hand. “I explicitly remember telling you to stay with me, now let’s go,” I tell her shortly. Halfway back to the door I get the worst news yet... I spot one of the arbiters with a flashlight trained on one of my big markers. Fuck is my first instinct as I duck back around the corner... I think for a moment and use my mind. “Chloe... I need you to find a good place to hide where you can see that intersection. I’m going to leave you here, when you see that arbiter walk past I want you to count to twenty, can you count to twenty?” I tell her quickly. She nods. “After that I want you to move quickly, but quietly towards that door, when you get out tell the older girl that I ran into some trouble, but that I’ll be out as soon as I can,” I tell her, she nods before I take off.
I run to the end of the hallway out into the open where she can see me. I make a B on the wall before running as fast as I can down another hallway. I make a B there and turn down that corridor. I can hear her at the end of each hallway before I make another turn. Finally I find a suitable point across from a doorway. I take my chalk out and make write on the wall. I sneak back into the open doorway and wait.
When she catches up to me she’s out of breath... good. She sees the writing on the wall and I can tell she’s confused. “Semper Fi?” she says aloud. I rush out and slam into her with all my momentum and force her to the ground face first.
“Ooooh rah,” I answer before pulling the trigger. I run down the hallways now, abandoning any chance at stealth... the time has passed enough that they’ll have more arbiters here... and this time with weapons. We have to go... NOW!
When I finally get back to the entry way I find the truck is waiting for me; Chloe is standing outside with an open door.
“Get in the truck!” I shout to her.
“There’s no room; all the seats are full,” she answers. I go around and open the back hatch.
“Get in!” I tell her.
“No; I want to ride in front” she stomps back.
I draw one of my guns and point it square at her forehead. “Don’t make me shoot you... get in the truck!” I tell her, this time it’s a demand. She jumps in the hatch, and before I can get to the front a gunshot hits strikes the pane of glass on the open hatch. I jump in to the back of the truck as I pull the hatch down.
“DRIVE!” I shout to the girl up front. The open door slams shut as the car jerks forward. My handguns jam as I try to fire out the back window. “Pass me the rifle and hold on to Chloe!” I shout as arbiter behind us pulls chambers his next round and looks down the site of the gun. Just before he fires I toss the hatch open, the bullet skids off the rear armor plating. I take one second to aim before I fire, half a block away the arbiter falls to the ground motionless just as more pour out the open door.
As we whip around the corner and down the street I breath a heavy sigh of relief before I pull the hatch shut again.
“That wasn’t a well thought out escape plan,” the driver called back to me.
“No... somebody’s screaming ruined a well-planned supply run. I didn’t even decided for sure to help you escape until I saw Chloe going to the restroom,” I laughed as I laid back. I heard a distinct crunching sound.
“What was that?” she asked in a panicked voice.
“My groceries,” I answer in a flat, unamused tone... now I’d have to get more, not to mention my caves weren’t equipped for this many kids... what was I going to do with them anyway?