Track 31: In the town known as Worcester, MA

For what seemed to be several hours but was probably not even a half an hour, I watched the incoming stream of soldiers trying to get into the factory. The vehicles were still holding the line, but barely.

“Where the fuck are all these people coming from?” I muttered under my breath.

I heard a knock on the door. On the camera, it revealed it to be Eliza. “I’m kind of locked down at the moment,” I said into the intercom. I made sure it was only directed into the speaker outside the door to the security room.

“Good,” Eliza said back into the intercom. “That’s where you need to be. I take it yer ready to push the button?”

“Yeah,” I said. “I am.”

“I like it even less than you do,” Eliza said, “but those tanks won’t ‘old forever. Also, I’m worried about the basement. Buncha pipes and conduits leadin’ in, right?”

“Create a detail for that if you want,” I said, “but I’m not too worried about that. We’ve got bigger problems than-”

There was a roar that reminded me of one of my last years in high school. Behind my school, they had been building a replacement for my old crappy school and part of that process involved breaking ground using explosives. Those explosives, up until recently, had been the second-most powerful weapons I had experienced. Only the Teeth’s plasma weaponry had impressed me more than the humble excavation tool that had caused that tarp behind my school to lift up, propelled by literal tons of dirt and rock.

This sound, however, was like someone had dropped dozens of bombs hundreds of times more powerful in rapid succession. The shock wave was so intense that it felt like my heart would burst and I was nearly thrown out of my chair. Ears ringing, I turned back to the monitor to check what had happened.

The exterior cameras facing the areas the tanks had been defending were useless. Either they were displaying an error message, or they were showing an odd swirling gray mist. Upon looking on the ones viewing the rooms where the soldiers were being triaged, I learned it was dust. Dust that was still pouring in, causing everyone who breathed it in to break down and cough. Dust that was sticking to clothes and skin. I wondered what it was from, then realized with horror: it was from the buildings outside the factory that, along with the tanks, had been blocking the advance of the Dragon’s Teeth.

I slammed the button to the intercom for a general announcement. “GET INSIDE!” I yelled. “EVERYONE, GET INSIDE NOW!”

Then, one of the Dragon’s Teeth planes must have flown too low, because all the dust was blown away. There, advancing over rubble that used to be several blocks of city street and methodically killing US Armed Forces stragglers, were what had to be Dragon’s Teeth soldiers. They seemed to be a new type, with a different kind of armor and were moving along in groups of three, with one in front holding a riot shield and two in back using the one in front as cover.

I frowned. The weapons they were holding didn’t seem to be the typical Pilum bullpup assault rifle or Gladius SMG used by the mainline Legionnaires. I zoomed in. “The bastards…” I muttered as I saw some reach into a hastily restored Sherman tank to remove a crew member.

Some of the ones hiding behind the riot shields were carrying M249s, M240s, or M60s. But most were carrying Maccabees. It was difficult, but I could tell by the fact that the M4-like rifles were oddly thick around the magazines and ambidextrous AK-style charging handles. The ones with the shields were either carrying Maccabees or Ballpeens with flat butt plates that had slings around their shoulders.

They’re using my weapons, I thought in shock. The bastards are in my country, killing my fellow citizens with weapons I made.

Between the shock of seeing my weapons in the hands of the enemy and disorientation from the bomb, I was too stunned to do anything. I watched as the few remaining US soldiers outside the factory capable of doing anything started to fire at the advancing Teeth. Their fire did very little, with many bullets bouncing off the ballistic shields and sometimes even the helmets of the advancing Teeth. Many more shots missed. It was a miracle, in my opinion, that any of the US soldiers had hit them.

The Dragon’s Teeth, meanwhile, were moving with inhuman speed and returning fire with equally impressive accuracy. In the rare circumstances that one of them was dropped by the fire from the US soldiers, his buddies would step over his body and continue onwards. I suddenly realized that the soldiers still outside the factory were screwed, and the Dragon’s Teeth were entering optimum range. I pushed the button.

The doors slammed shut. A soldier had been trying to get through the pedestrian entrance and was crushed by the iron blast door. Their buddy just ahead turned around and began screaming causing other soldiers to turn around. On the vehicle entrance, some soldiers had been dragging in wounded. Some were still outside, and began banging on the door only to be cut down by Dragon’s Teeth fire or to get down. I was unsure which. One soldier who had been dragged by his or her fellows (the body armor most of them were wearing and shitty image quality made telling gender hard) had their legs caught by the falling door. The people dragging the wounded soldier in were now trying to free them.

Meanwhile, the auto-turrets had come up. The perimeter around the doors had mostly contracted into the turret’s minimum range. Mostly. A few soldiers outside that small bubble were instantly chewed up by the dumb devices.

Luckily, the Dragon’s Teeth took the brunt of the robotic wrath. A short burst into Dragon’s Teeth clone with a riot shield would seemingly penetrate the shield, its wielder, and, if the burst was long enough, the armor of the other two Teeth in the triad.

I looked out into the hellish landscape outside the factory that I had helped to create in several ways. Buried, maimed, and dead littered all the debris from the bombs. The ringing in my ears from the bombs was slowly dying away and I could hear footsteps and voices outside the door of the security room as people began running to firing positions inside the factory walls. In the cameras looking inside the factory, I could see soldiers and gangsters running to firing positions, checking for masks, or trying to find a place to put the dead and wounded so they at least wouldn’t get trampled. Thanks to what I’m convinced was a Deet carpet-bombing, I think there were a few more potential murder holes than there would have been otherwise.

I realized that the explosion had shaken a huge amount of dust loose from the tiles above me. I brushed myself off, which irritated my burned skin. I then began to wonder what else I was missing. My chest was still aching from the blasts, and I wondered how anyone was still moving.

Due to a combination of finally being able to catch my breath and the ringing in my ears dying down, I finally noticed that some of the thumping was coming from the door to my security room. I looked through the camera just in time to see Captain Castle get slammed against the wall by Eliza.

“Hey, Eric,” I said into the intercom, “Eliza’s having a dispute with one of our guests. Can I have some assistance here?” There was another thump as Castle slammed Eliza back into the door to the security room, and another when he headbutted her. Seeing as there was no way anyone would have been able to make out that what with the explosions and gunfire, I added, “Can you please hurry?”

Castle got Eliza into a headlock somehow, then hammered on the button. “Jacobs, you piece of shit!” he yelled. “Open the fucking gate or I break her GAH!”

Eliza had simultaneously bit Castle’s arm and brought her foot down on the Captain’s shin, causing it to bend where a human leg definitely should not be bending. She then ripped out of his grasp and threw him back against the door with a thud.

At that point, I genuinely expected him to go down. Instead, from the side I could see, three bone claws popped out of his hand and he somehow lunged towards Eliza. In response, Eliza popped her own claws. Shit, I thought. He’s a Lupine as well. This will only end badly.

There was a brief flurry of violence in which I couldn’t see anything. I could see the results. Both combatants had been flung back against their respective walls, Eliza bleeding from the face and Castle clutching his stomach with one hand. Eliza yelled something, but I could barely make out a sound through the reinforced wall and the gunfire.

Castle ignored her and took a step forwards. Then, from the blurry camera feed, I saw him stumble back and I could hear several gunshots striking metal. Whoever was firing at him quickly shifted aim and the result was a massive red hole in his forehead.

Eliza slumped to the ground as Doc and Eric came into view. Eric went over to Eliza while Doc kept his gun trained on Castle’s corpse. Satisfied that the threat was over, I wheeled to the door and began the process of opening it. When it opened, something squishy fell on my legs. It was Captain Castle’s head. I looked down. His stomach was ripped to shreds.

“I’m sorry, Nate,” Eliza said, her eyes filled with tears. Well, eye. One of them was completely gouged out from Castle’s swipe. “I tried to get ‘im to reason wi’ me an’ then ‘e took a swing an’ things just snowballed. I didn’t…! I didn’t mean…!”

I knew. It wasn’t her fault. Two Lupines, one trying to enter the room where the person who had killed all his men was sitting, the other, who wanted to defend said person in the room. I personally was surprised that Doc had arrived in time to end the fight.

The Monk, Ray-Gun and Cross had joined me, Eliza, Eric and Doc. I only barely noticed them. “We have to do something,” I said. “We have to hide the body. How…?”

Cross took  off his jacket and threw it over Castle’s head. “We’re putting bodies out in the back. Most people aren’t back there anyway. Plus he’s just one more body. Easiest stiff disposal job I ever did. You and Eliza just go back in there. Is there a cleaning cupboard?” He then looked down the hall. “There it is. You got a key?”

“It’s got a number pad,” I said. “Four, five, seven, nine.”

“Got it,” Cross said. “We’ll fix this shit up. You and Eliza stay in there.”

Once Eliza was shepherded into the room, I turned my attention back to monitoring the hell I had created.

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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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Track 29: The Lights Go Out

From what I understood, Andrew and Lydia had managed to decrypt the army’s radio feed. When I asked them if they should tell the army how easy it was to crack their encryption, Andrew shrugged. “We told one of the Rangers we fought with in Boston about it. He laughed and said that they knew and everyone we had who could come up with a new code was dead or captured.”

“Yeah,” Lydia added, “didn’t you realize we were all fucked, Killer?”

“I did,” I said sheepishly, “I just didn’t know how bad.”

Everyone who was off-duty was listening to the Bluetooth speakers that Lydia and Andrew were using to listen in on the army. Normally, the chatter wouldn’t be interesting. Just some guys occasionally saying all clear. Yet we were all waiting for the time when they’d start seeing something else.

I looked around. The only other two people I saw that I recognized were Cross and Doc, holding hands and looking ill with worry about what was coming. I didn’t blame them.

“Hey, Andrew, Lydia,” I said, “Can you guys broadcast as well as receive? If things start to get hairy for them, they should know that the door is open.”

“Not a problem,” Andrew said. He then fiddled with a laptop for a bit, then said, “US forces, US forces, this is what remains of Bandits one through four. We got ourselves a nice little place. You need to crash, we got a place, over.”

I was somewhat surprised to hear General Connolly himself respond. “This is Alamo Actual. I’ve heard about you guys, Bandit. The 75th spoke highly of you.”

“I wouldn’t be putting those guys in past-tense yet, sir,” Andrew said. “They were pretty bad themselves.”

“Maybe,” Connolly said. “But they’re not going to come help us. Anyway, I take it you’re at a certain weapons factory?”

“Hell yeah,” Andrew said.

“I’ll pass on the information. If you are who I think you are, we got your message. In the meantime, stay off the net. They’ll contact you.”

“Huh,” Lydia said. “We actually have a smart person in charge. That’s always nice.”

I nodded. Still, this was a guy who’d said he’d spent a lot of time behind a desk taking a tired, tiny force up against potentially millions of the greatest army ever seen. I shook my head at thinking this. We could have the greatest commander and a week to prepare, but we’d still be fucked. Hell, maybe if the US government had known that the Teeth had this level of power back before I’d gone to North Korea, we still might be in the same situation.

Around four in the morning, we began hearing the first bits of fighting. “This is Echo Niner. We’re seeing movement on the other side of Lake Quinsigamond. Looking to confirm it is Drake, over.”

“Roger that,” General Connolly responded. “Be advised, though we cannot provide fire support at this time. Alamo out.”

Lake Quinsigamond. That was close, maybe even inside city limits. Of course, the Teeth were everywhere now. There were millions of them versus thousands of us.

“Watershed Nine here,” another voice said in a low whisper. “We’re at a junction between State Routes Twelve, One-Ten, and One-Forty. Teeth are massing right in front of us to move into West Boylston. Requesting Watershed Nine blow the One-Forty bridge across the Thomas Basin as we start our ambush. Over.”

“Negative, Watershed Niner,” Connolly said, “Wait until Drake begins crossing the bridge. Watershed Ten-”

The general was interrupted by an urgent voice. “This is Watershed Ten. We’re observing Dragon’s Teeth spec ops scaling the bridge supports. Your orders, sir?”

“Engage with snipers,” Connolly replied. “Keep them off the supports as long as possible. Watershed Niner, go weapons free. Repeat, Watershed Ten and Niner are weapons free.”

“Roger that,” Watershed Ten said. The last word Ten said was cut off by two roars, one of static, the other on Watershed Ten’s end. Watershed Ten then said, his once-clear voice now severely distorted by static, “Well, I think Watershed Nine is compromised. Multiple plasma bursts impacting at what appears to be their command center and apparently Charons are now amphibious. We’re opening fire with the Abrams and Javelins as we speak, over.” Despite the horrible sound quality, I could sort of make out the loud cracks of big guns.

“Roger that,” Connolly said. “Give ‘em hell, Watershed.”

Suddenly, a panicked voice came over the radio. “This is Echo Niner! Dragon’s Teeth heavy vehicles are crossing Quinsigamond and our charges are non-functioning. Repeat, charges are a no-go, the bridge will not fall. Orders, sir?”

“Make them bottle up,” Connolly said. “We need to do as much damage as we can.”

It went on like that for hours as the Dragon’s Teeth began to tighten the noose on all sides. I tried to get to sleep, but I was slowly hearing more and more gunfire and explosions. The last US artillery began firing. Everything they had left: shrapnel rounds, high explosive, incendiary even poison gas was launched, judging by the chatter. The only thing they weren’t deploying were the biological and nuclear weapons. I wondered if they were avoiding releasing something like super Ebola because they weren’t that desperate or if the Dragon’s Teeth had secured our bio weapons like they had with the nuclear stuff. Or even worse, they could be deploying them right now and I’d survive the battle only to come down with a flesh-eating virus that would slowly and painfully eat me alive over the course of years.

More and more, the Teeth seemed to be getting closer. We’d even hear jets fly by over the building on occasion. Judging by how quiet they were and considering how the war had gone, they had to be Dragon’s Teeth. Judging by the sound of gunfire and explosions and the radio chatter, the Teeth were trying to use a mix of artillery, air strikes, and human wave tactics to break through a series of positions on Interstate Route 290.

It was working. The blocking maneuver was working wonderfully, but the people manning it were only holding on because of a huge amount of mustard gas and conventional shells being dropped. The various soldiers manning the ambushes were tiring, and the howitzers were running out.

Finally, a tired female voice came in over the radio. “This is Hotel. We’re dry, and down to only one MLRS, anyway.”

“Roger that,” Connolly said. “Can you get back to position Alamo?”

“Maybe,” Hotel said, as suddenly there was the sound of an explosion close by. “Wait, no. We’re cut off. Good luck. Hotel out.”

The defenses all over began dissolving. I finally knew what so many others had felt across the globe as the Teeth had slowly, inexorably pushed out their nation’s last remaining troops in the area. The Teeth had taken the seas, the skies, and utterly humiliated and annihilated the three great super powers and any player that could have potentially stepped in to fill the void. Still, I hadn’t given up some strange irrational hope that some hero would blow up the thing shooting light into the sky or kill the bad guy or even that God Himself would come down and lay the hurt on these motherfuckers.

Then the retreat began. After what seemed like hours of chaos, Connolly contacted us. “This is Alamo. Bandit, you guys ready to take in some strays?”

“Yes sir,” Andrew said. “We are one hundred percent ready.”

“I hope that’s true,” Connolly said, “because it looks like the main axis of Drake’s attack could bear down on you.”

 

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Track 28: Massachusetts Is Beautiful This Time of Year

For some of us, our work took on a new urgency after that. Others became despondent. From what I could tell though, nobody left. After all, where was there to go? Most of their friends and family were either dead, far out of reach, or in the room with them.

For the first time in a long time, I thought about my family. I suddenly realized that I had no idea if they were alive or not. I didn’t even know whether or not Maynard was part of the area that had been taken. Normally, it was just a thirty-minute drive by highway. Now it was probably a world away, through Dragon’s Teeth patrols, ruined roads, blasted landscape, destroyed houses, wrecked and abandoned vehicles, and corpses.

Until the invasion, I may have been one of the most knowledgeable people on the subject of Teeth weapons and tactics. I knew what could, no, what would happen if you were hit by their weapons. Hell, a near-miss from their personal plasma weaponry had inflicted some of the most horrific damage I’d ever seen on a human being. If it hit my parents or my sister…

I excused myself quickly. I knew why I hadn’t been thinking about it. I couldn’t bear it. I was a coward. I was distant from the world I was thought I was helping. What the hell was I doing? Did I really think that any of this was doing anything? I was just a dumb kid from Maynard who was good at killing people on occasion.

As soon as I found a room, Eliza found me. “Oi, Nate,” she said softly. “You alright, mate?”

“Where’s my family?” I asked, turning to look at her.

Eliza looked thoughtful. After a long while she said, “I think we both know. But there’s really only one way to be sure.”

“Yeah,” I said. “And I don’t think that I can go out looking for them. If they’re in Dragon’s Teeth territory, well.” I gestured to my wheelchair. “I can’t exactly ask you to push me the entire way.”

“Or you could just call, you git,” Eliza said, pointing to a landline on the wall.

“The cell towers are all dead,” I said morosely. “And the landlines are cut.”

“You sure?” Eliza asked. “Your ‘ouse still ‘as a landline, doesn’t it?” She grabbed my chair and wheeled me to the phone. “Call ‘em. Apologize for being a wanker and not calling ‘em sooner or I’ll dump you outta the chair, lock you in the room, and leave you to your own devices.”

“Ok,” I said, taking the corded phone off its cradle and punching in the number. “I’ll do it.” Putting the phone to my ear, I heard the reassuring dial tone. Eliza was right, the phones were still working.

But when I finished punching in the number, a gruff, professional voice said, “We’re sorry, but due to recent events many numbers have been disconnected. This number,” the next phrase was in a different military voice, “is located in an area that has been confirmed destroyed.” The first voice began speaking again. “If you have any questions, please contact General Paulson’s office at-”

I didn’t hear the rest of the voice. I hung up, rather than listen about how I should contact a dead army officer. “Apparently,” I said dully, “My home… my family lives in an area that ‘has been confirmed destroyed.’” I broke down sobbing.

“Well,” Eliza said, “you can-”

“Avenge them?” I asked. “Really? And what happens if the reason they’re dead is that they were in a US barrage?” Eliza looked shocked. “It. Doesn’t. Matter. What matters is that I was out doing something utterly stupid instead of being with them.” Before Eliza could respond, I quickly added, “It isn’t your fault or Charlotte’s. It’s mine. I believed I could save the world. At any point on this whole crazy ride, I could have said, ‘you know what, I’m just a dumb kid in over my head,’ and left. And at most points, I could have done it and no one would have thought any less of me.”

“Nate,” Eliza said, “Do you want to leave?”

“Now?” I asked. “No. I might have a way out of this, but nobody else here does.” I sighed and laughed. “We’re fucked, but we can at least die standing. Or sitting,” I added, remembering my chair.

Eliza smiled and hugged me. “I’m glad you’re here.” Her hug tightened. “And I’m glad you want to be here.”

Hugging her back, my voice breaking with tears, I said, “I’m glad you’re here, too.” Getting my voice under control, I tried to add in a flippant tone, “Shame we don’t have a view of the trees. Massachusetts is beautiful this time of year.”

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Health Issues

t4nky

This is not a suicide note. In fact, I think it’s a sign that I’m relatively quite far off from that. But I have to warn you up front that I am unwell and have been that way for a long time. Also, in case you are easily triggered (and I mean that in the clinical sense of the term, not the “lol, I’m a troll top kek fuck ur feelings dur-hur-hur” sense,) the tl;dr is that I’m dealing with a wonderful cocktail of clinical depression, anxiety, uncategorized learning disability, and possible internet addiction.

I don’t know if you’ve picked up on it. One of the things I’ve learned about myself the past few months is that I’m very good at hiding when I’m in pain or need something. I’m what I call “the designated good kid.” I’ve been the DGK longer than I’ve had my other issues. I may…

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Track 27: Twilight’s Last Gleaming

“How long before they get here?” I asked.

Jen was set down on a comfy piece of floor. “I have no idea. It could be a few weeks. It could be a few hours. It all depends on how long the guard can hold out.” She paused, looking like she was about to burst into tears. Then she asked hopefully, “Do you think there will be reinforcements? I haven’t heard anything in days.”

I then realized that I hadn’t heard anything from beyond Massachusetts in days. “I…” I began.

Eric cut me off. “I am sure everything will be all right,” he said. “There is no way they have enough firepower. They have taken on China, the EU, Russia, India, and much of the Middle East. They have to break.”

Jen glared at Eric. “I know when I’m being lied to,” she said. “You aren’t telling me the whole story.”

“We haven’t heard from the Canadians in days,” I said.

“I have,” Eric admitted. “We got a report from NIU observers. They dropped two plasma bombs on the Canucks advancing on us, but the Canadians seem to be still advancing.”

Most people made noises of surprise, but Eliza laughed. “Those mad bastards! It was the same in the first World War, those mad men would charge inna clouds of mustard gas and machinegun nests an’ win.”

“What’s the likelihood of them winning now?” Cross asked.

“Zero,” she said. “But hopefully it either makes those motherless freaks think twice ‘bout moving farther or teaches the Canucks something useful about fighting them.”

“So I came back just to watch them roll over everything?” Cross asked. “When the hell are we going to stand and fight?” He then walked over and kicked a wall. I heard a crack that was probably his toe. “FUCK!”

“Not everything,” I said. “We’re the speed bump.”

“I don’t want New York to be a speed bump!”  Cross yelled.

“Well too late,” Jen said. “From what I heard, it already was, and it wasn’t as good a speed bump as Boston.”

“Oi,” Eliza said, “I’ll fuckin’ cut you gibbons if you make it a stupid regional thing, swear on me mum.”

“But there are things we can do,” I said. “Things that don’t involve strapping C4 to ourselves and throwing ourselves under a Charon.”

“Please don’t joke about that,” Jen said.

“For instance,” I went on, “there’s still a few rifles. We have…”

“No there aren’t,” Eliza said. “What weapons you ‘aven’t given to our guests and random reprobates amounts to about five bloody Mjolnirs and four NFs. There’s some ammo, but it’ll run out pretty quickly, splittin’ it up among all of us.”

“We made thousands of them,” I said. “We can’t have sold all.”

“You did,” Jen said. “My contacts at the BPD were complaining because your waiting list was backed up for decades and they’d wanted to keep those toys you made for themselves.”

“They are quite good,” Eric said in agreement. “Shame that they sold so quickly.”

I thought of these guns, all distributed to police departments across the country and a few around the world. Apart from maybe my very, very sketchy first customer, I had reason to believe that not a single military or counter-terror unit had come into possession of my products and I had no intention of selling on the civilian market. All those firearms, in the hands of people with no prayer of using them effectively. I hadn’t even managed to get it adopted by the FBI.

“Hey,” I asked, “Did the Chinese manage to put their version of the Maccabee into production?”

“I think they’d just gotten the assembly rolling,” Jen said. “The problem was, the province it was located in was the first to be hit.”

“Maybe they’ve developed a taste for your guns,” John said. “I remember you saying something about them trying to get you.”

“There were other reasons,” I said. “Anyway, let’s get everyone settled.” I then wheeled around to the garage, desperately trying not to think about the incoming wave of Teeth.

The inspection didn’t reveal anything good. We couldn’t fit the seventy assorted gangsters, mostly Kagemoto grunts, but some from other gangs, for any real length of time without running into food problems. We also had only enough ammo for a day of fighting at most, and no weapons designed to take down the various nasty vehicles they had. Still, I wasn’t going to sit down.

We were preparing the defenses, with me talking to Jen’s pet code geeks, Lydia and Andrew, about ways to improve the automated defense systems, when someone turned on a radio.

For a moment, there was static. Then, with AM quality, a soft-spoken voice came over the speaker. “My name,” he said, “Is Brigadier General James Connolly of the US Marines. From what I can tell, I am the highest ranking US officer left alive and at liberty.”

By that point, everyone in the room had stopped talking. From outside, I could hear trucks drive by, broadcasting the message and people, possibly soldiers, shouting something. I wondered if everyone in what remained of the US was listening.

“I am broadcasting on several shortwave and local radio channels,” General Connolly continued, his voice shaking. “The Canadian forces sent to assist my position have been pushed back. This is not because they are cowards, it is because that they were asked to do the impossible. They have done the impossible three times now, and I cannot in good conscience ask them to do it a fourth.”

At this there was a murmur of shock. Everyone, even me, had somehow believed that this would not be the end. That the Canadians would come and save us, or the Latin-American coalition.

“I am broadcasting to all who can hear me,” the General continued, “so that those who still remain under my care can attain an honest assessment of the situation and those out in the rest of the world will know of what in all likelihood will be our last stand.

“In July, the United States had over three hundred million people living in it, spread out over three point eight million square miles. For those outside my country, that’s roughly nine point eight million square kilometers. Worcester County, where I have made my base, was not seen as a significant part of it in any sense. Around eight hundred thousand people living in four thousand square kilometers.

“Now, we of the US are facing our darkest hour. Some of you may not know the extent to which this military has failed its people. We have no planes. Only a handful of artillery and vehicles remain. If they let us live, we will run out of food and water within a few weeks.

“Even more egregious, a week before the first major Dragon’s Teeth push into China, they managed to capture our nuclear weapons and we did not inform you. We have reason to believe that all thermonuclear devices and most other chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction are in their hands.”

That news caused my stomach to drop. Of course they had them. If they didn’t have all the nukes, someone would have used them. Who the hell would hesitate to nuke faceless soldiers murdering their way across your own country? Other people didn’t take it so well.

The General continued on. “Right now, I control two thousand five hundred of the four thousand square kilometers of Worcester County. I have over three million charges, most of them unarmed refugees.

“Outside my defensive perimeter is an enemy that has been confirmed to kill innocents, mostly the sick and the elderly. They have done so with a high-tech, organized barbarity that pales to anything we’ve ever seen. This force is poised on the doorstep, ready to strike.

“It was the duty of the United States Armed Forces to stop this kind of threat. I think it is fair to say that we have failed utterly. Many, both in and out of my country, have looked to us to face this threat. If we had done everything we could, there would be no shame in that. But we haven’t. Our failure goes back decades, if not to the foundation of this country.

“A few months ago, we were the greatest country in the world. Instead of sharing that greatness with the rest of the world, we instead took the best from other countries while giving the minimum in return. We promised so much, and in the end, all we have to give is this.

“To those remaining under my command and protection, I would encourage you to fight. We still have a chance to make a difference. If you want to run or surrender, I would not recommend it as the Dragon’s Teeth have rarely taken prisoners. If neither option sounds appealing, the only other I can think of is spending time with those you care about. Thank you all, and God bless America.”

With that, the radio switched to a slow, mournful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. For a few seconds, there was a silence. Then Eliza loudly proclaimed, “Fuckin’ ‘ell that was an awful speech!”

 

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Track 26: The Battle of Boston

Everything was horrific. Throughout the few remaining places that the US was holding on, Dragon’s Teeth were making fifth-column maneuvers and poking their noses in via traditional methods.

It was all I could do to keep from running off down Route 90 to do something. Hell, it took most of the NIU students still there to stop me. As Eliza said multiple times, “Oi, what the ‘ell’re you going to do, y’fuckin’ cripple? Ram them with yer bloody chair?”

The news was mostly bad. Valkyrie would come back for rests looking bloody and various gangsters would send for more weapons and ammo or repairs. When they left, I noticed that some of the NIU students would catch a ride.

Jen was the first one to come back for ammo. As soon as her harried men began loading ammo into vans, she stalked towards me. “NATE!” she yelled.

“Yes?” I asked, glad Eliza wasn’t there. Something told me that if Eliza had seen someone yell at me, there would be blood.

“Where the hell,” Jen snarled, “is your little play buddy?”

“Mai?” I said, confused. “Wouldn’t you know her better than I would?”

Jen ignored that. “The little backstabbing bitch disappeared twenty-four hours before the Teeth appeared, and she took her friends with her. Oh, and guess where the Teeth established their beachhead? Chinatown! Her part of Chinatown!”

For four days, from what Eric, the gangsters and the news was telling, the Dragon’s Teeth was trapped in a small triangle formed by the Route 90 underpass to the south, Columbus Avenue and the Common to the West, the blocks around by the Orpheum to the North, and Harbor to the East. The thing that had stopped them were heroic efforts by Jen’s people, Boston Police on patrol, and Valkyrie to stop their initial surge. Then more law enforcement and elements of the Massachusetts National Guard and the 75th US Army Rangers had come in quickly.

The Rangers, in particular, had relished the fight. Some of their number apparently still remembered Gothic Serpent and had remembered the lessons Habar Gidir had taught them about urban combat. Gleefully working with surprisingly well-equipped gangsters, who by that point, were streaming in from all over Boston and beyond, they began repurposing their inferior vehicles as barricades. Dumpsters, trucks, Humvees and commandeered civilian vehicles were hurriedly moved into huge piles and occasionally booby-trapped, and angry men with guns placed in nearby buildings.

Surprisingly, this is where how light the Dragon’s Teeth vehicles turned against them. A Bradley or a Stryker would have been heavy enough to ram many of the barricades, but the Charons just dented them, leaving them sitting ducks for LAWs, Javelin missiles, Barret .50 calibers, M2 machineguns, cannon fire, and every other bit of nastiness the US Military could throw at them.

Other cities weren’t as lucky. New York had pretty much lost Long Island, Baltimore, DC, and everything south of the Potomac had finally fallen, and the Teeth seemed to be making a good effort at cutting the remaining US territory in half.

The Canadians, however, didn’t seem like they were going to take any more Deet shit. Their armies began crossing into contested Buffalo, and making their way into Teeth-held territory like Michigan and Washington State. Massive battles were going on in Detroit, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and a town I’d never heard of called Blaine, Washington. Others began heading down via 91 and 93to Boston, only to be intercepted by the Teeth coming out of nowhere. Shortly after, the Latin-American coalition began pushing up across the southern border. Part of their line had stopped around Texarkana, but most were taking massive casualties in skirmishes.

After four days, however, they got out of the triangle in Boston and halted the Canadians and Latin Americans. Slowly, they began taking more and more of Boston. From what I understood, there was a new type of Dragon’s Teeth clone that seemed to be bred for extended periods of close-quarters combat. Within nine days, they had managed to get up to Route 93, cutting off most of the Rangers and irregulars in the North End.

Meanwhile, civilians were dying in droves. The Dragon’s Teeth did not seem to care about who was in their sights, they just were shooting. Of course, the gangs and concerned citizens were probably not helping, but when Valkyrie came back she put paid to that idea.

“I went into their territory,” she said. “They’re deliberately executing elderly and sickly. I’ve seen it. They took a bunch of old and sick people out by the Harborwalk, shot them in the back, and kicked them into the Bay. That may have been an anomaly, but the way they go after fleeing civilians, well, there’s only so much heat of the moment can justify.”

“So they’re committing genocide,” I said. “Good to know.” I sent a prayer I didn’t know how to make in hopes that the Dragon’s Teeth didn’t get out of Boston.

That prayer wasn’t answered. As the days got colder, the Dragon’s Teeth got bolder. By the end of September, they had taken over most of Boston except the North End where the Rangers were making a desperate last-stand. The only thing that was stopping them was that their new tanks (which were more like WWI landships than anything sensible and equipped with their plasma balls) were too big to get into the tight streets. Meanwhile, by the first of October, surrounding towns like Cambridge, Sommerville, and Jamaica Plains were turning into a cross between Kursk and Stalingrad.

Yet it was all over by the time they had got to Logan Airport. October third, through a combination of Charons modified to drive on the Green and Silver lines and some boats that seemed made specifically for this purpose, the Dragon’s Teeth crossed the harbor. By the fifth, it had been secured and Dragon’s Teeth aircraft based there were making air superiority and close air support runs from Southern Connecticut and parts of New York to Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire.

Valkyrie and Jen were supposed to meet with us for a few hours of shuteye that day. They didn’t. The living quarters were so empty now that it was just Eric’s crew, Cross, Oro, and two of the students I didn’t recognize. Since most radio and TV went down due to Dragon’s Teeth bombing and many social networking sites had been dead since California had fallen, we had simply lost all communication with the outside world.

When I asked Eric the next day if we could contact the people he’d brought with him, he shook his head. “No,” he said. “They’re only supposed to send things in tight bursts back to NIU. We don’t want them getting caught.”

In the meantime, we spent the next few days listening to planes and helicopters fly overhead and bombs fall. We were pretty close to a highway on and off ramp so we’d also see and hear vehicles moving by at all hours of the day. I noticed that all civilian traffic had stopped. There hadn’t been a travel ban that I’d heard, so I assumed that everyone had given up trying to get to safety.

Then on the seventh, late in the day as the sun was going down, a column of battered civilian SUVs pulled up in front of the factory. I had been watching the cameras, but lights flashed in case I missed it.

I pressed the intercom, “Heads up, everyone,” I said. “We’ve got a civvie convoy. It looks pretty beat up I don’t trust anything right now.” Then, from the lead SUV, someone in Samurai-inspired armor and a white face mask with demon horns and glowing eyes got out. “It seems like Jen, but appearences can be deceiving.”

In the factory, I could hear everyone else grabbing and loading weapons. On the screen, I saw the person dressed like Jen staggering towards the intercom. “Nathan,” she said, her voice ragged. “Open up. Open up.”

“How do I know-”

“On our time in Japan,” she said, “I hugged you when you came to check on me before the meetup with the Yakuza. I told you that everyone I love dies because I fail them.”

I turned around, half expecting Eliza to be there holding a gun and a bland expression on her face. She was. “Well,” she said, her voice very modulated, “that’s probably ‘er, innit?”

“Nothing else happened between us,” I said. “It didn’t go any farther than-”

“That isn’t what I’m pissed about!” Eliza snapped. I began to speak, but Eliza cut me off. “And no, it isn’t because y’didn’t tell me, but it bloody well isn’t helping.” She sighed and gestured to the screen. “Let ‘er in. We can talk about this later.”

I called it in to the intercom and let the cars in, then went to meet up with Jen. Eliza was very insistent on pushing my wheelchair. When we came in sight of Jen, she was being carried by Eric and the blond woman with the G36.

Despite her unearthly white mask with glowing blue eyes, I could tell she was exhausted. She turned to me and said, “They’ve broken through.”

My stomach dropped.

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