It was an idea that killed them all.
Every single one of the skeletal corpses. Killed by an idea. It didn't matter who had been the victim of the attack- soldiers' bones lay next to the remains of civilians and children.
Not even the birds would come near this place. To the planet, it was a tragic event. The first victim of a massive war, the scientific city of Manea had been the Rebellion's explosion into the spotlight. Millions had died, watching their own bodies decay until there wasn't enough left to keep them alive. The biological terror unleashed here was unstoppable.
Not a single survivor remained to give an eyewitness account. However, the frantic pleas of dying innocents sent to the other countries terrified everyone. Who were these people, those who would purposely unleash a deadly plague onto a peaceful scientific community?
Of course, many countries' leaders stepped into the media and tried to explain away the atrocity of Manea. They tried so hard to squelch the flow of rumors- but whispers have a way of spreading like wild fire.
Rumors of a rebellion against the united governments grew. World leaders began to disappear, assassinated without mercy. The people grew more paranoid every day. When faced with a faceless enemy, fear runs rampant.
Until the day they made themselves known.
It was silent. The still air magnified every sound, forcing him to walk excruciatingly slowly. The ashes helped dampen the sound of his feet, but the thought of what exactly he was stepping on made him queasy.
The remains of this small town were a dreary reminder of the state of his planet. Ilo's war was tearing its landscape and its inhabitants apart. He didn't like to think about it, really.
He focused on his goal: reach the medical supplies, wherever they were stored, and safely return to his little group of refugees. He glanced furtively around the area; the Rebellion was rumored to leave guards behind to ensure everyone was dead. He quenched the fiery hatred growing in his gut. Focus on the mission.
After sifting through the ashes of several buildings, he finally found it: a charred box, marked with a green dragon, the symbol of healing. Crouched on the ground, he absentmindedly traced over the etched design. His sister had always wanted to be a medic. The corners of his mud brown eyes creased upwards for a split second. She was always trying to impress him, her older brother. He wondered what she would say if-
Stop. She was dead.
His mind shut down. He immediately stood up and turned to the woods behind him. He must get these supplies back to the others. He began his slow, calculated journey back to the treeline, using the empty buildings as cover. The shadows of dusk help shield him from prying eyes, as well as his natural skill as a hunter.
A small campfire was burning in the middle of the small glade. The forlorn looking group gathered around it, taking comfort in the small amount of heat it offered. Bandaged hands reached out to the dancing flames, enjoying whatever comfort was available in such desolate times.
Towards the back of the group, a young woman with long, matted black hair watched as an older, balding man thrashed in his fevered sleep. A long gash in his leg had become infected, and she knew sepsis would soon set in. Her rough, calloused hands fluttered over the wound, washing and redressing it carefully. He needed medicine badly.
A rustling in the trees ahead of them alerted the group of twelve. Three of them scrabbled for their guns. A man's voice rang out-
"It's alright, just me. I have the supplies."
A collective sigh came from the group. Not a Rebel. The man entered their little grove and gave the box to the woman.
"Thank you, Adish. I was afraid we would never find him medications."
She began sifting through the little box, finally finding a bottle of disinfectant. She removed the injured man's bandage and began rubbing it onto his wound. The man's thrashing became more violent. He cried out, and she gently began redressing his injury.
Adish watched. "I think we should move again tonight."
"Why? Were you detected?"
"No, Achada. I believe we are being tracked."
The woman's hands hesitated over her patient. "And why would you think that?"
"I saw airships flying above the forest, about 4 mikas away. They were searching for something- they kept dipping lower into the trees, and I fear they found our previous campsite."
Terror flitted through the woman, Achada's, eyes. She quickly finished her work, and her patient slowly relaxed.
"How is he?" Adish waved his hand at the man.
"He isn't ready to be moved. His leg-"
"I'm afraid we don't have much of a choice. If we have to, we must leave him."
As their sun sank below the horizon, the group doused the fire. The cold night set in on the small and frightened group. An older man named Ekram took the first watch. Adish, tired beyond belief, watched as the two children, five women, and four other men tried to find a passable place to sleep. He glanced at Achada, who was still tending to the fevered man. She turned to him, nodded, and went back to her work. She didn't want to leave this person, and she would do anything to prevent deserting him.
Ekram seemed like he was ready to take watch. Waving to Adish, he reclined against a rock and gazed up at the sky. Adish, finding everything to his liking, decided it was indeed safe enough to sleep.
They were woken by Ekram's frantic yells. The sound of propellers sliced through the still air. They had been discovered. Immediately, Adish and Achada began to herd up the group.
The airship was not upon them yet, but it must have been under one hundred yards away, hovering low, skimming the treeline. Two of the adults grabbed the children and sprinted off into the woods. Adish was pleased. At least the kids wouldn't be tortured or slaughtered.
Achada grabbed his wrist and pulled him towards the treeline. He had been too occupied with making sure everyone else was safe- he almost forgot about himself. The medic again tugged on his arm, and this time he followed. They fled into the woods, running in a zig-zag pattern, trying to get away from their pursuers. The pair glanced around, trying desperately to find a place to hide. Suddenly, Achada shoved Amish down. They tumbled into a small trench covered by a thick-leaved bush. Panting heavily, they began the deadly wait.
They heard the airship first. The whirring of the propellers throbbed throughout the night air. The two huddled closer together. The lights came next. The blinding spotlight caused Achada and Adish to wince, not accustomed to the fluorescent lights. It flew almost directly above them. They could almost hear the shouts of the crew on board. They shrank further back into their bush. Finally, after a tense few minutes, the ship flew away.
After the racket of the airship had gone, the two let out a sigh of relief. However, both remained tense, waiting to see if the monstrosity would come around again. After about ten more minutes, they slunk out of the bush and cautiously, slowly, made their way back to the camp.
Achada ran ahead of Adish at the final stretch. At first, he was confused. Why was she so eager? Then, he entered their grove.
Achada stood in the center. She had one hand over her mouth. He noticed her eyes were shining- wait, Achada was trying not to cry? In the six weeks of fleeing the Rebellion, she had not shed a tear. What had upset her so-
Then, he noticed who was missing.
She stood in front of the spot her patient had previously occupied. She had left him, and they had taken him.
"He would have woken up, Adish. He was getting better. His fever was going down! He was going to wake up! They took a sick man! They TOOK my PATIENT."
Her eyes were streaming now. The despair and grief she had held off so long now flooded her mind. She fell to her knees. Adish found himself by her side. They cried together, about the lost loved ones they would never see again. For the cities that had been destroyed. For the lives they no longer had. They cried because they had lost everything worth crying for. And now, they only had each other.
Their fellow refugees slowly creeped back to their little camp. After about three hours, they were missing four people, including a child. After another five hours, only one of the missing members had returned.
Adish's face was drawn. They were down to nine survivors.
"We need to leave, now."
The tiny group seemed like any morale it once had was gone. No one had the will to try and smile. One of the children was gone, probably dead or in pain at that moment. Two of their older members were also gone. It was horrible- almost as bad as the plagues. Slowly, they would all die, or vanish, or become so grievously injured they would be left behind