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2304_forgeofwar_chapter1

We all have days when the world changes for us.  Those days when we realize that we have to start growing up.  It took me a long time to get there, but there was one day when my childhood ended, just as all good things do….

 

 

All Good Things

 

Birds called out, their cries echoing off the early morning water.  Mist filled the air, rays of sunshine from above visible to the naked eye.  Fish jumped out of the water to feed on bugs, and splashed back down with ripples of water spreading out from them in every direction.  A Loon far above tucked its wings in tight and dove straight down into the water, the surface rippling behind it.  Jack scanned the water and saw the bird break the surface with a fish in its mouth several seconds later.  It shook its wings out, spraying water all over and lifted off back into the air.  Jack smiled.  Today really was a good day for fishing.

His wrist snapped back, his wrist snapped forward, and a lure whirred through the air to hit the surface of the water with a plop.  Jack held the fishing rod in one hand and began to work the reel with the other, bringing the lure back towards the bass boat at the sedate pace a small fish might take on its way through the water.  The line went taut, and the lure began to swim away.

Jack smiled, let it swim for a few seconds, and then began working the reel again to pull it back.  The lure, or more accurately the fish that had swallowed it, fought back.  It fought well, and Jack estimated it at a good ten-kilos.  That would make some good eating if it was the right type.  He let the fish fight away before reeling it back, fight away some more, and reeled it back in some more.  With each round of the conflict, it got nearer the small boat until he could finally see it thrashing in the water just below the surface next to the boat.

A fishnet splashed down into the water, and Jack’s father pulled the fish up into the air, still struggling.  They both smiled.  A Northern.  That would be good eating all right.  They immobilized the fish, worked the lure out, and dumped her into the live well in the boat where she had the chance to swim around with the half dozen fellow Northerns already pulled out of the Boundary Waters.

“I think that’s enough,” his father said and Jack nodded.  The fish would feed their family for at least a week.  They were a good catch.  Jack reeled the lure up to the rod, locked it in place, and stowed the rod in its bin.  It would be ready the next time they came out to fish.

“Time to gut ‘em?” Jack asked.

“Yup,” his father answered and powered up the small trolling motor to send them towards the nearby island where they always left the guts and heads for the birds.

A thunderclap echoed through the air and they both looked up to see a fireball way up high, probably up near the edges of the atmosphere.  Streaks of light speared up, causing more explosions, and plumes of smoke rose from the ground after them to meet more plumes of smoke coming down.  Explosions rippled across the sky, and Jack felt the blood run from his face.

“Ah, hell,” his father cursed and pulled the trolling motor out of the water.  He dropped the big outboard down, pulled the cord once, and it roared to life.  “We’ve got to find cover,” he shouted over the growl and revved the motor up.

Jack held on tight as the propellers dug into the water and spun the bass boat around for home.  The boat’s nose lifted up out of the water as it picked up speed.

“Get in the nose!” Jack’s father shouted over the growl of the engine and the rush of the wind.

“On it!” Jack shouted back and clambered over the ribbing holding the boat together.  He made it to the nose and his weight pushed it down towards the water.  He held on tight to both sides of the boat as his father gunned the engine again.  The nose lifted up again, though not as far as before, and the boat shot over the water, making for home far faster than it normally moved.

Wind blew Jack’s long blond hair back, and Jack would have crowed into it in exaltation if it weren’t for the sky full of fire above them.  Jack looked up, wondering who it was.  The Chinese?  The Russians?  It was hard to believe either of them would break the Treaty.

He looked to the west where one of the few orbital structures large enough to see with the naked eye hung in its permanent position over California.  He watched explosions march across the sky towards it; missiles stopped cold by the point defense satellites covering the sky above America.  But each explosion was closer than the one before it.  He looked back over towards the east where the roar of explosions driving down from the sky finally arrived to roll over the growling of the motor.

Jack tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry as a tomb.  He met his father’s gaze and saw his own fear mirrored in the far older eyes.  There were so many missiles.  It couldn’t be the Chinese or the Russians.

He watched the explosions march down past the horizon in the east and licked his lips with a dry tongue.  He looked back to the west in time to see the other wave of explosions envelope the yards in orbit.

Yosemite Station was the largest orbital construct built by humanity.  Well, the Terran branch at least.  He watched, helpless as the place in orbit where the yards hung lit up with explosion after explosion after explosion.  It seemed to go on for minutes.  Then as suddenly as it started, the explosions faded away.  But the rumble continued to vibrate the very world around him.  Jack remembered his teachers talking about sound waves traveling slower than light, but he’d never seen or heard anything like this.

He glanced over at the smoke filling the eastern sky, looked back up at Yosemite Station, and tried to swallow at the sight.  The yards looked smaller than before.  And they were breaking up into smaller pieces before his very eyes.  Jack shook his head and brought his gaze back down to the shore the bass boat charged towards.

“They got it,” Jack whispered.  “Damn them, they got it.”  He wished he knew who needed damning.  He wondered how many had made it to the escape pods.  How many still lived?  He sighed and looked back up.  He blinked.  It looked bigger again.  No.  It was getting bigger.

“Oh frak,” Jack said as it clicked.  The yards weren’t getting bigger.  They were getting closer.

“Watch your language, son,” his father shouted from behind.  Jack winced.  How had the old man heard him?

“The yards are falling, dad!” he shouted back.  He felt the boat jerk a little bit and turned to see his dad looking up.  He thought he saw his dad squinting.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Frak,” his father said too softly for Jack to hear, but he read lips just fine.

Jack wisely refrained from telling his dad to watch his language.

“We need to get under cover!” his father shouted and twisted the throttle.  It was already turned as far as it went and the bass boat didn’t so much as twitch.  “Damn.”

Jack knew there wasn’t anything closer than their house, and their fishing spot was an hour away from that.  Of course his father wasn’t the kind to gun the engine like this so it would take well less than an hour to get back.

Jack let out a long breath as another small island shot past them.  When the yards hit the atmosphere…he was not going to want to be under them.  He held onto the bench and just watched the wind-driven waves part around their boat.  Jack let the world go, taking in one breath at a time, and just not worrying about anything he had no power over.  All he could do right now was hold on, breathe, and wait.  So he waited.

A new light in the sky pulled him out of his meditation and he looked up to see streaks of fire coming down from orbit.  Yosemite Station was falling.  He hoped no one had survived the attack.  Burning was not a good way to die.  Not that he could think of many good ways to die, of course.  Well, there was always surrounded by a blonde, a brunette, and a redhead.  As deaths went, that wouldn’t be too bad.  But really, Jack planned to live forever.  Burning, trapped in the remnants of a shattered space station, on a one way express to the ground was simply not a way he wanted to go out.

Most of the flaming trails burned up and faded away high up in the air.  The big ones still burned as they fell below the horizon on their way to California, or maybe Washington.  The western States.  He hoped they landed in the country.  He didn’t want to think about how many people would die if one of those hit a major city, or the ocean.  Still, all he could do was watch, so he breathed deeply and let his eyes take in the disaster.

After a time, something began to bother him.  He didn’t know what at first, and allowed the back of his mind to ruminate on whatever it was as he continued to sit and watch.  The wind continued to beat against his face; the bass boat fell down between waves from time to time, rising back up quickly.  Water sprayed up each time, hitting his face and clothing.  It didn’t take long for the wind to dry him off again.

Another wave of fire fell down from orbit, and he frowned as he wondered where it was heading.  Montana?  North Dakota?  The back of his mind screamed at him and Jack gasped as the odd feeling finally blossomed into a complete thought.  Yosemite Station wasn’t falling straight down towards the earth.  It was spreading out to the East before falling.  The wreckage would be falling all over America.

“Dad!” he shouted and turned to look back.  “We have to get off the water!”

“I know,” his dad answered and Jack saw another glimmer of fear in the eyes that met his gaze.

His father already knew.  Jack looked away and turned to face west again.  The wind beat against him and he licked his lips, watching the land that was their home approach.  It did so slowly, too slowly for his fear.  No.  He breathed deeply and pushed the fear away.  He had nothing to do right now.  He had no control over where that wreckage landed.  All he could do was wait.  So he breathed deeply, watched flames and wreckage fall on the Dakotas and western Minnesota, and waited.

Their dock appeared in the distance and the bass boat turned to aim directly at it, engine still growling away.  Jack swallowed, eyes flicking up to watch more wreckage raining down in their general direction.  The rain of fire was getting way too close for comfort, and the thundering drum once again began to overtake the engine’s roar.

“Dad!” he shouted, turning to make certain his voice would carry.

“I know!” his father returned with another worried glance at the sky.  “We’re almost there!”

Jack nodded, faced forward again, and forced himself to relax and breathe.  He watched the land approach, each second more quickly than the last.  It was an illusion, but he couldn’t help holding on tighter as they closed with the dock at what must be far too fast.

The growl vibrating through the boat died and it shifted as the water grabbed it.  The slap of waves ruled now, and he held on even tighter as momentum tried to pull him out of his seat.  The bass boat still seemed to be moving far too fast as it approached the dock.  Jack’s hands grew white from holding the bench, his feet bracing against the nose, and the water pulled the bass boat down.

It slowed to a stop and gently bounced off the rubber guards on the dock.  Jack sprang into action, grabbing a rope and tying it around a piling.  He jumped out onto the dock and felt it drop an inch with his weight.  He spun around to see his father scrambling up as well, his end of the boat secured.  He looked up to see another spray of burning wreckage coming down, closer than any of the others.

“Move it!” his father shouted over the roaring thunder that proved this was far too close for comfort.

Jack turned and ran towards the house, leaving the dock in less than three strides.  He heard his dad behind him and glanced up towards the rain of fire.  It was too close.  Far too close.  He could hear the rumble of wreckage exploding in the distance, far to the west where International Falls lay.  He had friends there.  He hoped they managed to find cover for a moment before concentrating on running.

Jack vaulted onto the deck, skipping the stairs on the way up, turned the doorknob, and pulled the door open.  Another man-made meteor burned towards the ground in the distance.  He heard it hit the water and swore as he ran into the house.  He had a job to do.  “Mom!” he shouted and ran into the living room.  He dropped to the floor and ripped a rug off it, sending it flying onto a couch with a flick of his wrist.  He grabbed a ring in the floor and pulled the trap door up hard.  Finally, he placed his hand on the panel beneath the door and waited for it to beep, recognizing him as one of the people approved to open it.  A click sounded in the hatch and it slid out of the way to reveal a set of stairs.

“Mom!” he shouted again and looked around frantically.  Where was she?  His father’s boots banged around upstairs where he was searching.

Jack heard the boots screech to a stop.  Then someone shrieked and his father thundered down the staircase.  Jack rolled into the bunker, dropped onto the stairs hard, and gasped.  He pushed himself onto his feet, and spun to face his father.

His father hit the bottom of the stairs at a full run with his mother hoisted over one shoulder and Jack wondered how many steps he’d skipped on the way down.  “Get down!” his father shouted over the roar of…water…that was getting closer.

Jack took a step back, moving further down into the bunker.  He saw the wall of water explode through the front wall of the house and met his father’s gaze.  His father dove for the bunker and Jack threw himself further down the stairs to get out of the way.

His father barreled into the stairway a second ahead of the water.  The wave hit them, driving them down with a force that crushed the air from Jack’s lungs, and Jack fought to stay awake as he hit the floor at the bottom of the stairs.  Hard.  He felt a leg snap and the pain brought with it an odd clarity.

The hatch at the top of the stairs snapped closed.  Its emergency systems had recognized the threat and locked it.  Water pressed him to the floor, but then began to flow away.  The pumps were taking care of the water that pushed them in.  He looked around, seeing his mom, soaking wet from head to toe but uninjured.  She really was a beautiful woman.  He considered that thought, felt the pain in the back of his head, and recognized the symptoms of a concussion.  He was going to feel that in the morning.

His mother screamed.  His mother ran across the bunker, slipping and sliding through the ankle-deep water still on the floor.

Jack blinked and wished she would stop screaming.  It really hurt right around in the temples.  He rolled to the side, feeling the bones in his leg shift.  That should really hurt too, but it didn’t.  Jack considered just how odd it was that he could feel the screams in his temples but not how badly his leg had to hurt, and shrugged the thought away.  It should hurt.  It didn’t.  Shock.  Yeah, he was in shock too.  That must mean he’d been hurt a lot worse than it felt like he had.  It was probably a blessing.  He figured he really didn’t want to be feeling all the pain he was in right now anyways.

Come to think about it, he probably shouldn’t be moving right now either.  But first he really needed to figure out why his mother was screaming.  He could feel that pain real strong.  He turned a bit more and looked over to see her cradling his father.

Jack blinked.  That looked bad.  That water had been awful strong when it smashed his father down the stairs.  Yeah.  That was real bad.  Human bodies were really not meant to bend like that.

His mother stopped screaming and started to sob.

Well, that was an improvement.  Jack’s headache started to go away and he rolled over onto his stomach.  The water was gone, leaving just a thin film on the floor.  The bunker had good pumps.  He grabbed a shelf and pulled himself across the floor.  His leg shifted in ways that really weren’t right.  It was broke real bad.  They were going to have to do something to splint it.  The med kits were two shelves over.  He was going to have to get his mother to get them somehow.

He finally reached his mother and father and put his head next to her lap.  He was feeling really tired for some reason.  He shifted his head and met his father’s gaze.  Good.  They were both alive.  Well, Jack knew he was still alive.  He was in too much pain to be dead.  No.  Actually, he really wasn’t in any pain at all.  But it wasn’t the ethereal lack of pain he would expect in Heaven.  It was the “I’m in shock and I’m gonna die of blood loss so please get this fixed up real soon” kind of pain that was hovering just outside where he could actually feel it.

Not that he was actually going to die of course.  When he was younger he could have.  But he’d had the Peloran treatments.  He could feel his body healing itself already.  He was really going to have to let his leg lay straight if that was going to heal right.  Maybe he wouldn’t need the splint after all.  No.  He probably would.  It was going to take a long time, and a lot of food, for his body to do all the healing it needed, and there was no way it was going to burn a lot of energy fixing a leg when it had more important stuff to heal.  Internal bleeding could kill you a lot faster than a bad leg in most cases, after all.  Unless a mountain lion were chasing you.  In that case he would probably be questioning which was most important.  Running or bleeding?

He blinked and looked at his father.  His father smiled back.  His father smiled up at his mother.  And as Jack watched, he saw his father release his last breath.

His mother screamed again and the headache came back with a vengeance.  Jack looked at his father for a very long time, wondering what he should feel.  Grief, he supposed.  Pain.  Yeah, that too.  Anger.  Yeah.  Definitely anger.  Once this concussion and all the other stuff got fixed up, he figured he was going to feel all of that.  There was something else he was going to need to feel, too, though.

He frowned, trying to get his muddled mind to go through the right thought processes to get to where he needed to be.  It was so slow.  He was so tired.  It was hard to think.  Oh right.  He had it now.  Yeah.  He was going to find out who did this.  Who destroyed Yosemite Station.  Who killed his father.  Once he knew that, he was going to kill them.  Yeah.  That sounded like a really good plan.  That would feel real good.

The decision made, he felt a sweet, painless darkness calling and surrendered to it.

2304_forgeofwar

2304_forgeofwar_chapter1.txt · Last modified: 2018/01/13 11:19 by medron