Joe Pierce: Writer
Based on a (very rough) draft by Miranda Daniels. I don't write as often as I probably should, and when looking back on pieces like this, it shows in a few different places. But I'll leave you to decide what is and isn't good about this story.
The sight of war was a strangely pleasant one to Douglas. The consequences were grave indeed, but the thought of utterly dominating one's opposition and leaving a trail of bodies and ruble in one's wake instilled him with a sense of euphoria. Douglas found it gave him purpose in a world that he had for the most part found generally uninviting to one such as himself. And, of course, the true terrors of war had never been gracious enough to visit Douglas personally in these past few years, at least, not as significantly as it had others.
No, he was locked away nice and safe, buried within the womb of the earth, protected from the conflict raging on above. He couldn't properly estimate the number of days he had been tediously operating these monitors, but he found it of little importance. Until the war was over, he'd continue leading around the mindless automaton soldiers of the Trans-human army by the nose. It could be a matter of weeks, perhaps a matter of years.
Leaning forward, Douglas reached into his breast pocket, removing from it a featureless brown package of cigarettes and with it a lone match. He ignited the match on the underside of the console in front of him, and brought the flame up to the cigarette he had just placed into his mouth, taking in a deep labored breath. He exhaled the smoke and quickly flipped a switch activating a nearby ventilation shaft before looking over his shoulder at the others behind him. As he had come to learn very thoroughly over the past few years, they were by no means fans of his decidedly filthy habit.
He sat there for a moment and examined them. They looked like specters; faceless blue silhouettes bathing in the sickly lighting of their respective monitors. It struck Douglas as something that could have been pulled from a dream, and it was then he was reminded of his nightmares. If there was one thing he truly hated about this whole ordeal, it was the separation of him and his wife, Scarlet. He could still vividly picture her in his mind, her and her flowing strands of beautiful crimson hair, as he had been doing so for several nights. Their relationship wasn't exactly the most ideal what with the constant bickering and the gradual alienation between the two of them, but Douglas had always tried to make things work as best he could, and was confident he could have found a way to fix things and bring about a sense of stability. Nothing more than a fantasy now, he thought.
He took another deep drag of the cigarette and leaned up again, his eyes fixating on the monitor for a moment. Two Trans-human soldiers were holding a civilian woman at gunpoint, and as this was a situation of potential significance, they awaited direct orders before making any sort of move. Being in a particularly generous mood, Douglas typed in the command to ignore the woman and continue on with the objective.
He leaned down again, losing himself in another pool of memories. The last time he had seen Scarlet was well over two years ago. They had endured a particularly heated argument, the subject of which escaped him at the moment, and she had driven over to her mother's house in order to “get away from such an infuriating cocksucker”. He had been whisked away by his superiors for this very assignment the following morning. Given the state of the world, she had probably assumed him for dead some time ago. Hell, it was safe to assume that she was probably dead herself, one of many casualties.
He was so lost in thought that, at first, he had failed to notice the alarms going off in the complex. The others scrambled around like frightened rodents, madly trying to figure out what was the source. After several minutes of this, Douglas's longtime colleague Yusef informed everyone of the grave news; a continental missile was making its way to the Fatherland, and fast. The room grew silent, and for the first time in ages, his comrades knew fear.
Douglas inhaled another hefty amount of smoke, chuckling as he exhaled it a moment later. He stood from his seat at the console, and turned to face his colleagues. He starred at them for a moment, then flicked away much of the ash that had built on the tip of his cigarette. Douglas took a few paces forward and said: “Come now, Comrades! It's not as though we're going to be harmed. Our location is a secret to nearly everyone; we're well hidden and well fortified. There's nothing to worry about.” Even as he spoke however, Douglas himself was not convinced of his own words. He could feel the sweat building up on his brow, and he nervously took another drag off his ever shrinking cigarette. They all looked about at one another, unsure of what to do. Yusef again turned to his monitor, and after a bit of tinkering looked at the others with an indescribably horrific expression on his face. Struggling to force out a few words, Yusef said: “The trajectory... It's coming right for us...”
It was then that a frenzy built up in the room; people screaming, smashing things, and feverishly typing away at consoles in some desperate attempt to falsify Yusef's claim. With another labored intake of even more smoke, Douglas looked upon the scene in awe. Douglas had been visited by the terrors of war, and he too knew fear. What little Douglas may have had, this war snatched away long ago. He was no different than those on the surface, he had suffered the same. The alarm increased in severity, and with that he bolted out of the monitor room and for the stairwell. Yusef, unable to keep up, called out to him: “Comrade, where are you going?!” to which Douglas replied: “I'm going to see the sun, one last time!”
He raced up the stairs, the alarms all around him, never waning, ever climbing. At last he reached the top floor, and with it the large blast doors. He knew they could withstand a good amount, but just not quite enough. He hastily punched in the code to disengage the locks and start the sequence, taking another drag as the steel slid apart. His significant time underground left his eyes weak and incapable of processing the vista beyond the blast doors. However, Douglas threw caution to the wind, and scrambled out the door into the blinding light, tripping and flying head over heels onto the cold, damp earth.
Douglas up-righted himself, resting on his hands and knees as the world around him slowly came into focus, a depressing sight indeed. The ground was a sickly gray, and where there had once been a forest nothing remained but ash and dust. The bombed out remains of rural town stood far off in the distance, bringing his gaze ever upward until he realized the worst of this horrific sight: it was raining. Thick black clouds blanketed the sky, ensuring that no trace of sunlight could pierce its mass. The realization of that fact pulled all the color from Douglas's face, turning him a ghostly white. It was then that he started laughing, the cigarette falling to the ground from his mouth, snuffed out by the wind and rain. He turned up to the sky and laughed a maniacal laugh, bellowing out from deep inside him and echoing across the barren land. Then came the defining roar, and with it suddenly the image of Scarlet one last fleeting time, and not a moment later the blinding flash of white, and with it the cold embrace of death.