The ending is only sad if you want it to end
Disclaimer: I made up all the characters in this chapter. Everything else is other's property.
This is: Parker's War
If one person could be heard anywhere on earth, it was Sargent Calhoun.
We always heard him.
The door on the APC dropped, releasing us onto the unforgiving ground outside. There was dirt around, but it didn't look like anything I'd want to put in a garden. Not a single shrub in the distance either, just some odd structures and piles of junk scattered everywhere in the darkness. Six of us, SGT Calhoun, some PFCs, and the specialist; an engineer, hopped out of the guardian APC and immediately heard gunfire directed at us. The engineer dropped to the ground and I realized how they saw us so fast. Whoever came up with the bright yellow color scheme this guy was sporting really didn't think it through. This poor guy was a walking target during night ops like this.
The APC doors closed behind us and the guardian sped off to pull rear guard. Our objective, a 300 foot tall tiberium spike, was almost visible about two miles away. It had been highlited by EVA for us, and a transparent, light green line illuminated our path.
"Why didn't we drop off closer sir?" It was probably a dumb question but I just had to know.
Calhoun glared at me through a green eyepiece, the future warrior kit, and shrugged his shoulders.
"Why the fuck are there only five of us if this thing's valuable? Move."
The trek began. We started double timing it, leapfrogging through the rubble to avoid the enemy fire. It was an odd leapfrog, in hindsight, seeing as how I had to stick with the engineer and stay in the back the whole time. The hardest part though was that he couldn't keep up with us. He started panting like a dog after only a couple of minutes.
I tapped the Sargent on the shoulder and gestured at our VIP. I might as well have volunteered.
"Grab his case for him, we're not slowing down," he yelled.
I tapped the engineer on the shoulder and nearly dropped my gun when he responded.
It was a chick's voice. Everyone stopped running. The Sargent turned to me with an incredulous look on his face.
"Sir, we've got a chi-?"
"Grab that fuckin' case and get moving! We have an objective to secure!"
I turned to her and she tossed the case at me with an overly relieved sigh.
This time, I really would have dropped my gun if it weren't for the strap.
The weight of her case knocked me flat on my ass.
"Thanks," She said to me.
She dropped to the ground again.
The Sargent was pissed of course. Over the gunfire erupting from the guys covering me I could still hear him yelling.
"Parker! Get the fuck up! this is a-"
The rest was drowned out by two artillery strikes on either side of us.
The Sargent rushed to me, picked me up from under the case and screamed, "Sprint! We're bracketed!"
He gestured to a pile of rubble about two-hundred yards away and we all ran at once.
Sprinting is hard with a 250 pound briefcase, by the way.
I was running as fast as I could while the Sargent pushed me, occasionally firing a burst off at whoever was shooting at us. I had no idea where they were, and suddenly, I realized that I had no idea where the engineer was either.
"Sargent!" He didn't hear me over a burst he fired off.
"Sargent, where'd that chick go?"
He looked at his eyepiece for a moment and pointed to the pile of rubble we just ran from, about a hundred yards behind us. She was lying prone on the ground looking at us with what I can only imagine through her mask was just the stupidest face ever.
"Drop the case and grab her!"
I dropped it next to him, out in the open between cover spots, and, again, ran as fast as I could back to where the OpFor artillery was about to hit, waving my arms at her to get up and run to me.
She looked around to see if maybe I was talking to somebody else. Then pointed to her leg, which was bleeding. She was hit, and something told me she couldn't run very fast on one leg. Then the whistle of incoming rounds came and I honestly thought "we're gonna' die." I hit the ground right as the artillery shell did, and I think God really loves me because it misses by about 10 yards. I threw the engineer over my back, rose to my feet, and sprinted again, with bullets dancing around my legs, hoping I was goin' in the right direction because I couldn't lift my head enough to see a damn thing aside from the ground right under my feet.
"Parker! Over here!"
It was a PFC yelling for me from cover, so I turned and kept running in his direction. I slid into safety, dropped the engineer and immediately looked for the medic.
He stopped shooting long enough to duck behind cover and look at me. I pointed to the engineer and he just looked at me funny and threw me a bandage.
"Cover it and put pressure on it!"
"What about the bullet?"
He gestured over the cover and I raised my head long enough to see his point.
The black hand was everywhere with lasers and fire. maybe ten of them with flamethrowers were advancing on us and within fifty yards, while the rest were maneuvering towards our objective.
I glanced at the engineer, who spoke, and then back to where I had left it lying out in the open.
"FUCK YOUR CASE! We're gonna' die!"
The Sargent started screaming over his radio at our APC for cover.
"Zack, they're on us! Get over here!"
Our guardian came around a corner out of nowhere and started throwing led at the nearest Nod guys like hell on crack. These armor clad, flamethrower bearing, special ops guys didn't stand a chance. I have never, in my entire life, been so happy to see another human torn to shreds.
"HQ, we need support to complete our objective. We are severely out numbered, over."
The Sargent was yelling over our radio to try and get more men with us, and the engineer was whining at me about the bullet while I tried to put the bandage on. Ulris, the medic, stopped me now that the threat was gone and went to work removing it.
The APC's gatling guns sounded again, and some Nod militants screamed for the last time.
The Sargent got off the horn and pointed at me.
"Parker, cover Ulris. Chang, you and I are getting that case! Cutter, lay down some fire for us!"
And off they went for the case. I turned my attention to the wound (probably not what I was supposed to be doing) and found myself glad to not be a medic. Ulris's hands were covered in blood all the way up to his wrists already. He wasn't wearing his gloves either, too bulky I guess. I didn't even know a wound that small could bleed that much.
He finished suturing the hole together, slapped a massive bandaid on it, and began repacking his kit.
"You're good! Just keep your weight off of it!"
He stood and picked up his GD-2 without even wiping his hands off.
"Help Cutter, I'm done here!" He yelled to me.
Some bullets went hissing past our heads and we both ducked.
"I'm assigned to her!" I told him.
He glanced at the engineer (she was rolling around moaning about her recruiter) and patted me on the shoulder. "Sure thing."
He ran off to join Cutter in fire support.
I tried to ask the engineer if she could move alright, but I was drowned out by more gatling fire.
She didn't answer, and just kept rocking side to side.
I crouched down closer to her.
"You're not going to die today. We're going to do this!"
She stopped rocking and nodded her head at me.
"Alright," she said.
Then she pointed just over my shoulder as the barrel of an M-16 touched the back of my head. Militants had flanked us.
"Are you ready to die GDI scum?"
No, but I was too busy swinging my foot around into his knees and knocking him over to tell him.
As soon as he started falling I sprayed him with lead. Two in the torso, one in the head.
It felt more like luck than training.
Two of his friends came around some rubble behind and I guess they were ready to die too. They did.
Then the last of them came; a confessor. In case you've never seen one, they're scary.
this six and a half foot demonic looking thing stood over me, bullets from my gun just bouncing off his helmet, and laughed. It's pretty scarry when the recoil from your gun has more effect than the bullets.
"Fear, propaganda, and fools. These are the fuel of GDI's war machine."
His voice was amplified by a built in speaker.
He raised a grenade in one of his hands and pulled the pin as he said,
"Open your eyes to the oppression!"
He released it, and immediately it began spewing gas. Maybe I breathed a little too deep.
I found myself in basic training at Sheppard AFB.
"WHAT IN THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?"
Everyone in the formation was at attention, except for me. I snapped to attention and looked straight ahead.
"I'm sorry Drill Sargent, I don't know."
"SORRY DOESN'T WORK ON THE BATTLE FIELD!"
He bent over to stick his nose right in my face. This six and a half foot tall Drill Sargent was probably the scariest guy I'd ever met.
"RUN THE COURSE!"
He pressed a GD-2 rifle into my chest.
I turned and saw several dummies lined up where the rest of the formation used to be standing.
I swiftly attached my bayonet and returned to attention.
I heard the beep of his stopwatch and charged.
"Parker, what the fuck are- HEY!"
The training dummy hopped off of its pedestal and began dancing, taunting me.
"CLOCK'S TICKING, PRIVATE!"
I remember being a Corporal, but oh well.
Something grabbed my foot. It was another dummy, crawling on the ground.
I raised my gun to stick the crawling dummy and was tackled by three of the others.
"He's gassed! keep him down!"
"Confessor on our six!"
"Aim for the neck and shoulders!"
The dummies were screaming in my ears and throwing rocks at the drill Sargent, who quickly fell.
They pried the gun away from me, and the last thing I saw was a rifle butt in my face.
I was running again now. Or maybe someone else was running. Yeah, someone was running and carrying me.
"Ulris? What are you doing?"
Then he faded away.
Now I was sitting in an old train. I could tell that we were moving pretty fast because it was a bumpy ride. Ulris was holding a lantern up to my face, first one eye, then the other. He had gray hair and looked like a miner, not to mention the pick axe over his shoulder.
"When are we gonna' strike gold man?" I asked him.
"He's still out of it."
It was the chick engineer.
"Is that your name?"
She smiled at me. Her mask was off.
"Parker. you told me that we're going to live through this. I think we're going to live too."
"But... I think-"
"Gunner, infantry, right flank!"
Gunfire drowned her voice out.
"Parker, thank you. I want you to make it through this."
Then I awoke on my own. I was lying on a stretcher inside of a structure. It was shabby, not very well kept, and was extremely cramped. It was six feet across at most.
It was cutter.
"Hey. Where am I?"
"Were in the spike. Are you good?"
"You got gassed."
Now my head hurt.
"Ow... did I do anything stupid?"
"We had to take your gun away."
He smiled knowingly, almost like I had been drunk and embarrassed myself. The hangover sure felt that way.
There was a pause while I stared at the floor, trying to remember everything. A female voice interrupted my zoning out.
The chick engineer was in the room with us and had just finished tinkering with a panel on the wall.
"This spike has a production rate of ten cubic meters per hour. That's roughly ten credits every minute depending on the purity."
She looked away from the screen to Cutter, briefly glancing at me.
"Is that enough?"
"Can you get more?"
"It doesn't matter then."
"But that's a really low yield."
There was a long pause.
"Well, the average rate is two hundred and fifty credits every ten seconds."
"That's one-thousand and five-hundred credits less than average every minute."
"You mean I just got gassed for nothing?"
Cutter offered a gloved hand to help me up. It was bloody, along with his bayonet. Once I was on my feet, he stepped into a cramped elevator shaft that I hadn't noticed. It was in the opposite wall of the Master Control Panel.
"I'll ask the sarge what to do. You stay here and keep watch."
He stared at me for a moment, then realized that I didn't have a gun.
He handed me his sidearm. A pistol, 10mm, then pressed a button on his lift.
A door closed over the opening, and a whirring noise was heard.
"So, where are we?"
I still didn't understand anything since I could only see the room I was in.
"We're in the top of the tib spike. You're squadron, um... unit, is outside fortifying the position. We got some help too."
I puzzled over the word for a moment.
She smiled sheepishly as she began repacking items into her massive yellow briefcase. She was moving clumsily because of her leg injury.
"I'm from third battalion, 22nd division. We work with ORCAs and construction."
"Oh. Air Force."
"You could say that."
"So, is there still a'lot of OpFor around?"
"I haven't been outside for a while, so I don't know."
"Do you want to take a look? It's way safer than standing in the top of this target. as soon as they realize we're getting revenue from it they'll just start firing at it. It's what they always do."
There was a long pause while her expression dropped significantly.
"I have to stay."
She gestured towards the panel.
I guess my expression wasn't very happy either, so I forced a reassuring smile and said,
"I'm sure they won't get close enough. We'll be safe here." It was a blatant lie.
With that said, she finished packing all her used equipment, extended an antenna from her briefcase, and sat on the floor, inspecting her injured leg.
I just stared at the floor and listened to the faint sounds of gunfire outside.
We stayed there, alone, for a long time; sitting, staring, not even thinking.
Then the sound of propellers came.
I glanced at my new friend expectantly.
She shook her head as a volley of bullets ripped through the walls.
One tore through my arm, spraying blood and muscle across the room.
I rolled onto the floor and quieted myself (yes, I screamed) as another volley came through the other side.
"I'm okay!" I yelled. "Don't worry, I'm okay."
More propellers could be heard now, strafing the men outside. The combat had apparently escalated to include Nod aircraft. All for a worthless tiberium spike.
I looked under my shoulder (I was lying face down) at her across the room. She wasn't in high hopes.
"Put your helmet back on. It's good for your skin."
The G.I. humor was lost on her and she just stared at me.
A high pitched whistle came from outside, giving me just enough time to think "shit" before the impact came at the base of our tower. The whole building swayed. She just flinched and kept staring ahead.
"We need to go," I said.
I reached for the elevator's summon button and found only a hole. It was shot to hell.
Another blast rocked the tower, fiercer this time. The metal supports began creaking and snapping, adding a distinct lean to the tower.
"Did I ever thank you?" It was her.
She was looking at her leg again.
"You saved my life, when you carried me. You didn't have to do that."
The tower creaked and leaned a little more. The slope was enough that she had to hold herself in place, hands on the floor, to stop from slipping into the elevator shaft like her case did. I didn't realize how high up we were until I heard it hit everything on the way down. This was going to be a really bad fall.
"Not that it matters now."
I pulled my gaze away from the elevator shaft to see her. Tears were welling up in her eyes.
"My recruiter said..."
"Hey! Don't think like that!"
She sniffled and tried to pull herself together, but apparently engineers didn't have the same training as grunts.
"I wasn't lying when I said we could do this. We can make it."
I honestly had no idea if this was true or not, but if she started crying I knew I would too.
And honestly, I was afraid to die. I was afraid of that elevator shaft, of the enemy pilots, of whatever was going to happen. All I could think was that I might not make it. I unzipped a pocket on my BDU, a full body armor set, and pulled out my letter. It was wrapped in a plastic bag for no real reason, and it wasn't addressed to anybody. I didn't have anyone to send it to. I put it back in my pocket. My last words were safe there.
"Do you have anyone back home?" I asked her.
She nodded her head.
"Did you write a letter?"
She shook her head and began sobbing.
"I was sup-supposed to be an air traffic controller."
Now she was crying, and I was fighting it as much as I could.
"Two kids. Johnny and Samuel."
Now I was crying. I was crying for myself. I knew only one way that she could see those kids again, and it didn't involve my plans for the future.
"I can soften the blow."
I gestured to the elevator shaft.
"If you land on top of me... my body will soften the blow. You can survive. You can tell your kids you love them."
"You can thank me twice. Here."
I handed her my letter, which she placed in her pocket.
"I'll hold it until I see you again." She said it forcefully.
"Okay. Don't worry about me, I'll make it." Another lie.
Another explosion rocked the building, pitching us both into the elevator shaft unexpectedly. The wind chill from falling is especially bad in a narrow space. Either that or it was the icy hand of death taking more of my soul in exchange for her.
I grabbed her, rotated until I was under her, and waited.
"I never caught your name."
She laughed. She actually laughed while we were falling to our deaths.
Sarah. I tried to memorize it, just in case. Sarah.
Maybe Sarah made it.
God, I hope she made it.
So, should there be a sequel?