A Blaze of Glory

Subtlety is overrated.
May 8, 2018

May 4th, 2026 - Somewhere over the desert wastes of Southern California.
Helicopter blades and the wind rushing past Antonio's head was all he could hear in those last few moments leading up to the assault. Riverside company was advancing on the SkyNET facility at breakneck speed, by land and air, it was a full scale assault.

The watch on Antonio's wrist read 15:40, he stared at it and counted as every second was pounded out by the watch's inner mechanisms, his focus only momentarily disturbed as his thoughts were drowned out by the screaming of jet engines, ripping the air overhead and barreling down towards the target.

Following the fighters in full afterburn, the streak of human artillery raced through the sky above the chopper formation, extending overhead and across, towards the horizon, like glowing fingers reaching out at the foundry. Antonio's eyes followed the streaks of light as they started to arc down far in front of the air-mobile unit, but his attention quickly shifted as his radio headset crackled to life with the familiar voice of his company's commanding officer.

"Major Garrison to all Riverside elements, ten seconds to contact!"

His eyes sank back down to his watch, gaze affixed as those few more seconds took much longer than they should have to pound out. At eight, his hands wrapped themselves tightly around the handles of the door-mounted minigun.

Antonio's eyes shifted back up, still bombarded with the sound of the approaching battle, the wind, the blades, he let his head just poke out from the opening over his gun wh-

Everything went black, silent, still, all in an instant.

The first thing to come back was his hearing, a constant high-pitched wail drilled deep into skull from both sides. His hands fumbled for his headset, numbly feeling around, it took him a moment to realize he wasn't wearing them anymore.

His feeling came back next, and Antonio found himself in a world of pain. He rolled around blindly, vision still knocked out of his list of 'things I can do.' He felt dirt, pebbles, hot sand all run past his fingers through his tattered gloves as he crawled. He didn't know where he was crawling to, but he crawled.

As the world began to break through from the blackness, Antonio found himself crawling along side what was once his airborne chariot. A burning, mangled, wreck of the once proud machine sputtered black smoke into the sky and sent sparks into Antonio's face. The blades now spun freely at the mercy of the desert wind, casting a shadow over Antonio every few seconds as he crawled, like a hand to a clock face.

He rolled onto his side, facing the burning beast, he peered inside with battle-blurred vision. He recognized the charred, still silhouettes of his brothers in arms. Rolling over further onto his back, his gaze traveled skyward. Across the vast blue plane overhead, streaks of light arced back and forth from either side. Antonio watched them blitz through the heavens far above him, before fading back into the embrace of the black stillness.

To be continued...
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A Blaze of Glory

Subtlety is overrated.
May 8, 2018

One day prior.
May 3rd, 2026 - Medical bay, Tech-Com Riverside's forward operations facility.

Antonio wrought his hands together as he leant over them, seated off to the side and out of the way of the medics and surgical staff. It was supposed to be a straight forward operation, a task or- or a chore more than anything.

'Rook, you've got three. Greisbach, Ortiz, Morales, you take the watch make sure those barricades get set up and clear the path of any traps since our last soirée through the area.'

A chore, nothing more. Antonio kept reliving the past three hours now, the briefing, the walk out, the first shots. Antonio's eyes fixated themselves on the med-bay tiles, he may have walked in himself, but he wasn't there.

'Alpha's got clear thermals from here to well beyond the objective, lance corporal, four's enough. Just make it fast before we start heading out.'
They could only have been pinned there for a few minutes, it felt like hours. Antonio's fingers clenched, opened then clenched, again and again, each time the material of the gloves he wore creaked in protest to the stress.

'Hey- bud, nothin' to worry about. M'sure it's fine, we're careful enough when we go through there, ain't no bot spotted us. Far as they're concerned, we don't exist, right?'
Antonio couldn't keep his head down for long, he had to look at them. Something, a guilt maybe, forced him to look at what he avoided.

'Fuck- fuck! I'm hit! I'm fuckin' hit man- don't! Don't go!'
Antonio's eyes leveled off. Three beds, three sheets, nobody's face.

To be continued...

dead-body-under-sheet (2).jpg

A Blaze of Glory

Subtlety is overrated.
May 8, 2018
Yes, I absolutely wanted an excuse to use the Chernobyl soundtrack.

One day after the assault.
May 5th, 2026 - Somewhere among the desert wastes of Southern California.

Antonio woke after what felt like an eternity of rest. He was sure he was dead, he had to be, right?


At once he was enveloped by pain, it became his world. A deep, unrelenting soreness pounded away into Antonio's core with every beat of his heart. It at least pulled him away from the searing, dry pain he felt on his lips, cheeks, and forehead from being left exposed in the desert sun.

Antonio rolled his head, trying to escape the unforgiving light that even found its way through his clenched eyelids, and found the most peculiar thing to greet his temple as he pushed it into the sand... it wasn't sand. It was softer than silk and warm to the touch. His hand trailed out into the material as he ran it through his now de-gloved fingers. Ash, gray and black, rained from the heavens and piled up on and around the man. One could be forgiven for thinking a light overcast had settled over the dunes of the wastes.

Antonio, with great effort, suffered his way onto his side. Now, in the far distance, he could see a rising pillar of smoke where his objective once lay. Around him, seemingly for miles, ash and debris fell like snow, gently caressed down and settled into place by a light desert breeze. It was quiet, like a blanket had been cast over the wastes, smothering all before it into a dull, peaceful state.

Antonio looked back to what at one time served as his airborne chariot. It had been fully burned through by now, the remains of his friends and crew held still in their now eternal watch as the same breeze chipped off bits of char and ash from their forms. Antonio has little time to mourn, for as unfortunate as it was for him, he was still amongst the living, and had plenty of suffering left to go.

He crawled away from that pillar, from his friends, from the past. He crawled through black ash, leaving behind him a trail of white sand where he disturbed the surface and exposed the purity underneath. The further he traveled, the more and more the scars of battle, wrecks, craters... even the ash started to fade away. He didn't know what was ahead, he just knew he had to keep going.

To be continued...

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