Track 30: End of the End

I moved back to the cameras. It wasn’t long until I saw the first US soldiers come down the street. The first wave were in trucks and they passed by. Some of those trucks had their canvas covers burned off and I could see that they were carrying heavily injured troops who were too messed up to fight. The next wave were the able-bodied and walking wounded. If you could move by leaning against a more able-bodied buddy or being dragged along by the hand, you were in this wave.

I opened the doors facing them. “Hey everybody,” I said over the loudspeakers. “Incoming US troops, please use the doors facing you. Also, if some of the guys who can stand could pull security. And people inside the factory, please do not shoot at the guys in multicam. That’d be great.”

I felt a gloved hand on my shoulder. I turned around and saw Jen in her terrifying Hinomoto Oniko getup. “Make sure you check them all to make sure they aren’t wearing masks, though,” she said, her voice eerily distorted by her mask. “I don’t want to get blindsided again.”

She then leaned against the wall and began checking her weapons. I noticed that she had added two Uilon Mangchis and a Ballpeen to her arsenal as well as her usual twin Beretta 92 Elites and Kriss Vector. “You should have made more ammo,” she said. “If my experience is correct about this, we should only have enough for a day or two of constant fighting.”

I was about to say some things. Such as, “Assuming we last that long,” or ask her why she had jumped in behind me. Instead, I said, “In case I don’t see you again, uh, good luck?” I held out my hand.

Jen let the Ballpeen fall loose in its sling and grabbed my hand. “Good luck.” Then she cocked her head to the side. “Do you have a weapon? You might need one.”

I reached under the desk and pulled out a Maccabee and laid it in my lap, careful to keep the barrel pointed away from Jen. “Nice thing about these guys is that they’ve got almost no recoil,” I said. “I can pretty much spray and pray without having to put my brakes on.”

“That’ll be useful,” Jen said. “I have to…” she made a vague gesture with her hand, then left.

I went back to the monitor. Outside, there was a small stream of soldiers coming in. If things kept up, we literally would not be able to hold any more people in a few hours. Inside, we were already feeling the strain. Gangsters with no military training were doing their best to make tired, stressed, and heavily armed soldiers form an orderly cue so their faces could be pinched. I was surprised that nobody had shot each other yet.

I looked back at the screens viewing the outside. In front of the factory, I could see various fighting vehicles slowly backing down the various streets, firing all the way. Several of these streets had larger vehicles firing over the tops of smaller ones. Then the cameras facing the Teeth’s axis of attack went blank for a bit and the others suffered a drop in quality. What I could see of the firing vehicles showed that there had been a huge blue-white flash. When the video came back on, I could see smoke from farther up the street.

I turned on the intercom. “Get those new arrivals processed quicker. They’re fucking coming.”

I watched the columns of armored vehicles slowly got worn down. I didn’t really have a great angle on them, but I knew that every time there was a bright flash of light and the cameras went out, the odds were extremely high that another tank had been destroyed or disabled.

“Come on, come on, come on” I murmured repeatedly looking at the various internal cameras where the triage was happening and the rush of incoming soldiers. We didn’t have time for this. The whole army was closing in on us and we had a line going out the door. At least it was starting to move quickly.

There was a knock on the door outside. I looked at the camera viewing the hall. A US soldier, his various recent burns and cuts prominent against his black skin. I saw only one side of him due to the camera angle, and one hand appeared to be clawed and he seemed to be favoring the leg I could see. I opened the door, turned to shake his hand and said, “I’m Nathan Jacobs and Jesus Christ you need medical attention!”

The camera view hadn’t really prepared me for the mass of cuts and burns on the poor man. The pant leg on the side I couldn’t see was in tatters, with the leg itself having multiple cuts, burns, and bits of shrapnel stuck in it. I could also tell why his hand was clawed: a rod of metal had gone through it. I’d seen his face from the camera feed, but that had been distorted. The burns and cuts were even more pronounced and I could see the bits of shrapnel now.

“With all due respect, sir,” the soldier said, his eyes bloodshot from what was probably a lack of sleep, “Y’all look like shit as well.” He pulled out a stray bit of shrapnel that had lodged right next to his eye, then took my hand. I tried not to recoil or flinch, seeing as how it was the same hand that had that had removed the metal chunk. “I’m Captain Aaron Castle, and near as I can tell, I’m the ranking officer in this shit show. How long you keeping the doors open?”

“As long as those tanks are holding,” I said. “As soon as I see them stop holding the lines, or as soon as the people out in front get in, I close the doors and turn on the auto-turrets.”

“Can the turrets identify friendlies?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “When they’re on, everything in pre-designated killzones is a valid target. But it’ll be way better than them just pushing on into the building.”

“I don’t dispute that,” Castle said, “but I’d prefer that all my boys make it in.”

“I want them all to make it inside,” I said, “I too want to be able to sleep at night, if we survive this. But if we want to be a speedbump, we cannot let Dragon’s Teeth into the building. We also need to consider the fact that all the food and ammo you guys are bringing in is all that they’re going to get. They also are going to have to worry about the fact that the Teeth can cut the water at any time.”

Castle looked at me in disgust. “Are you suggesting it might be beneficial to leave men out there to die?”

“You’re a smart man,” I said. “I’m not going to insult your intelligence by pretending that’s not exactly what I’m saying. But there aren’t a lot of options other than that.” I paused, then asked, “Serious question: do you know what happens when you try surrendering to these people? Because I legitimately don’t know.”

Castle looked at me, his eyes narrowed. “At this point,” I said, “I’d be willing to surrender, and I think most people in the building would be as well. Alternatively, we could use the people pulling security duty as guinea pigs. Have them surrender, and use that as a delaying tactic.”

Castle shook his head. “No,” he said. “We aren’t surrendering. We’ve lost too many people to give up now.”

“I understand,” I said. “You should go back down and try to organize your men. Ideally, they’ll all be inside.” I smile reassuringly, and the Captain nodded and turned around. When the door closed, I make sure the heavy metal door is locked. Then I pull down the ballistic curtain.

As I said to Captain castle, ideally, every single US soldier will be inside the factory when the Dragon’s Teeth begins their assault.

Of course, the world hadn’t been ideal for a long time.

 

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