Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter III

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Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter III

Post by Alexbright99 »

Welcome to chapter three of six. As usual, I've divided this chapter into four pieces with a new upload each Friday. Enjoy!


Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IIIa

How long can I hold my breath?

Is there any point?

Tony Q forces himself to open his eyes. As a result, ice-cold seawater pricks them like small needles. There is not much to see anyway; everything is pitch black. His antique Mercedes hover car is upside down and sinking, dragging him to a watery grave.

How long have I been under?

Weightless and numb, his body craves oxygen, but there is none to be found. He might as well take a giant breath of water. Not doing so is merely postponing the inevitable. He experiences the distressing sensation of being compelled to thrash one’s limbs about in a desperate bid for air. It takes a gargantuan effort, but he controls that reflex and remains silent and tranquil, staring into the yellow light that spreads through tons of water and floods the car’s interior with brightness. It’s a beautiful sight, though he doesn’t fully understand what it—

A massive shockwave smashes the hover car backward and sends it reeling. Centrifugal forces toss Tony against the broken cockpit dome, giving him no choice but to go along for the ride.

When the Mercedes finally stops tumbling, Tony sinks back into what must be the driver’s seat. He has lost all sense of direction—a spin in the world’s most unpleasant washing machine will do that to you. It isn’t completely dark anymore, but there’s no way of telling what’s going on beyond the fissured dome, especially because Tony is finding it harder and harder to retain coherent thought. He managed to hold his breath when the shockwave hit, but he has been under water for at least a minute now. The pressure on his lungs is rising to intolerable levels, as if begging him to make room for fresh air. There isn’t any. It’s all in vain; he’s going to drown. He shuts his eyes as his mind grows dimmer by degrees, as if someone is switching off the lights one by one in a long hallway.

It will all be over soon—the constant pain, the second-guessing, being trapped in this feeble human form on an insignificant planet ravaged by war. It will all be gone if I’d only give in.

Tony feels lighter somehow. Could that be one of the final stages of suffocation? He opens his eyes for a final glimpse at the world through the blur of stinging water. To his astonishment, he sees burning rubble and gray mist outside. His hover car has resurfaced! Yet, no matter how close he is to salvation, he is still trapped inside the water-filled cockpit.

Time has run out. He exhales explosively, sending a swarm of bubbles to the top of the dome, and grabs his mouth and nose with all his might to prevent himself from inhaling water. His lungs fight for breath with such increasing force that he ends up convulsing violently. After an intense, hopeless struggle, he releases his mouth and nose, reaches up, inhales deeply… and fills his lungs with fresh air.

While brawling with the Grim Reaper, he must have fought his head and upper body out of the broken cockpit, and now he’s sticking out of the hover car with his arms held high, relishing the fact that he didn’t drown, and looking pretty silly in the process.

Tony rests his arms on the cracked dome to keep from sliding back into the cockpit that nearly killed him, and he takes deep breath after breath, savoring every oxygen molecule. Walls of fog stretch out in each direction, making it impossible for him to discern anything other than distant specks of light, floating debris, and the poor excuse for a boat he’s in.

“I’m alive!” he shouts suddenly and much to his own surprise. Every cubic inch of his body aches and blood merges with seawater on the transparent cockpit dome, but he couldn’t care less. The good fortune of having survived this ordeal quells his worries. Sure, he’s half-stuck in an oversized fishbowl, sailing straight for Japan for all he knows, but he’s alive!

The hover car glides up and down the waves, and Tony actually enjoys the first twenty-five times it does this (near-asphyxiation does strange things to the mind), but inevitably, he grows tired of it as exhaustion sets in. Listening to the roily sea and the faraway thunder of warfare, only now does he notice a barely audible hum. When he tracks the sound and follows his blood trickling to the undercarriage of his totaled vehicle, he spots a faint blue light illuminating the water.

“Thank you, Mercedes,” he says upon realizing what the blue light represents. A section of the repulsorlifts has reinitiated in emergency mode. That’s what made his Mercedes resurface after being turned the right way up by that shockwave, that strange yellow light… The Fredrickson! Its wreckage, resting on seabed and shoreline, must have exploded. It saved his life.

A humorless grin appears on Tony’s face as the hover car keeps floating through the mist. “Thank you, Fredrickson.”

* * *

Commander Tony “Q” Blue understands why the USS Kennedy is one of Starfleet’s finest starships. Its crew keeps this Sovereign-class vessel in pristine condition. The carpet he is walking on appears untouched by mere mortals, the corridor is so brightly lit that he suspects somebody has nudged up the lighting a few levels, and the LCARS displays on the bulkheads have been furbished to such an extent that they act as slightly distorted mirrors.

Subordinates who happen to pass by salute him by stating his rank, further cementing his status as local hotshot. The young commander replies with a charming smirk and continues his journey to the end of this corridor. The instant he enters the turbolift he finds there, he arrives at his destination: the Kennedy’s bridge, brand new and shinier than ever.

For reasons he can’t quite fathom, he hesitates to enter and observes the bridge and its crew from the turbolift instead. Tony’s old friends from the Kennedy are here, and they drop what they’re doing to meet his gaze with broad smiles. Captain Mathieu Duvivier rises to his feet, and one by one, everyone who wasn’t standing already follows suit: First Officer Jansen, Doctor Van Oers, Lieutenants Malin and Muntenaar, Chief Engineer Soeteman, and even the Vulcan science officer Sivar. Lieutenant Appels and Ensign Parkin greet Tony from their tactical stations.

He had almost forgotten how much he cared about these people. Seeing their kind faces in this familiar setting feels like coming home from an arduous journey.

Captain Duvivier gives him a respectful nod. “Welcome back, Tony Q.”

Before Tony can reply, the captain starts a round of applause. Everyone joins in, and Tony finally steps onto the bridge to be surrounded by his friends.

“She sure was a fine ship, wasn’t she?” Captain Duvivier says, brimming with pride.

“Not as good as her crew,” Tony says, intensifying his friends’ smiles. They are nothing but nice to him, and yet an eerie sensation crawls from the recesses of his mind to no longer be ignored. Something is very wrong.

Despite his desire to cling to the illusion, the events of June 26, 2380, are ingrained in his memory. That day, the USS Kennedy was lost with all hands during the Station A-12 Debacle. Captain Duvivier and Commander Jansen were held captive on board the station and never made it out. Of the dozens of armed security squads that were sent to free the hostages, only two people survived: Tony and Emily. The rest of Tony’s team, led by Lieutenant Appels and Dr. Van Oers, perished in the corridors of Station A-12.

These exemplary men and women, his friends, this ship—they’re all gone; they have been for almost two years. But here he is, on the bridge of the ill-fated Kennedy, encircled by the dead. A paralyzing coldness creeps up from Tony’s soles to his spine, and the once overly bright illumination dims gradually. Within seconds, the cruel temperature shift brings him to his knees.

“It’s so cold. So cold,” Tony says. His friends don’t respond to him anymore. They keep smiling those loving smiles while everything dissolves. Invisible claws seize his hips, inciting crippling surges of pain. He reaches out for the shadowy figures around him, begs for their help, but they fade into darkness to be replaced by equally dark clouds spewing green thunderbolts.

The hover car beneath Tony shocks and shudders as if a giant hand is lifting it out of the sea. He awakens completely from his upsetting dream and finds himself reintroduced to harsh reality. Peering through the night sky, he notices the Mercedes has stopped moving as well as floating. It has hit the shore.

Protruding fragments of the broken cockpit dome have pierced Tony’s hips, keeping his lower body trapped and his legs submerged in ice-cold water, which is slowly seeping away. If he were to make a wild guess, he would say his unintended sailing trip has taken at least half an hour—long enough for his legs to go numb while the rest of his body aches up a storm.

Tony tries to wrestle himself out of the shattered cockpit dome, causing its jagged edges to cut deeper into his skin. With the last vestiges of his strength, he frees himself from the Mercedes and slides down its frigid glass and metal face-first to make a soft landing in the sand. Where is he anyway? This beach has no discerning landmarks. If he is to find his father, he must determine where his hover car has taken him. Lacking the energy and will to get going, he lies there for a prolonged moment of inaction, listening to the gentle roll of the tide inviting him to drift off to sleep.

A surge of adrenaline snaps him back into the real world. Ahead, the ruins of San Francisco burn, under attack by Altonoid fighters circling the hills like vultures. That solves the mystery then; his little odyssey, adrift in his Mercedes, has brought him closer to his destination.

The last time he saw the city—right before he jumped into his hover car and took off without a plan—it was already in a demolished state, but that was nothing compared to this. Most buildings have collapsed, fire and smoke arises for as far as the eye can see, and downed fighters and assorted space vehicles litter the area. A wrecked Galaxy-class starship has crushed entire neighborhoods. It rests aflame on the remains of houses and toppled skyscrapers, incinerating everything in its vicinity.

Packs of fighters search the streets and let loose barrages of phaser strikes. The sheer volume of explosions seems to be dwindling, however, probably because most of the invaders’ work is done. The only signs of ground activity are numerous beams of light piercing the all-encompassing haze in frantic disarray. Whether those beams originate from flashlights of survivors or those of Altonoid ground troops is anyone’s guess.

He is still lying prone in the sand. “All right, Tony. This is it. This is what you’ll have to do. Your father might be alive, and if he is… he needs your help.” When he raises his head, he sees nothing but utter despair enveloping the destroyed city as the Altonoids finish this attack with brutal efficiency. “It’s hopeless… There’s no point.” Another wave of fatigue hits him and he realizes he still cannot feel his legs. “I’m badly injured. My father is dead. Earth is lost… I should give up.”

He tightens his fists. “Yeah… I really should give up.” He begins crawling his way up the beach, away from his stranded hover car and into the doomed city.
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Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IIIb

Post by Alexbright99 »

Commander Tony Q’s stamina is admirable, but his progress is slow nonetheless. Since he’s unable to get any response from his legs, he has no choice but to stick to his strenuous army-crawl. Soon enough, he identifies the location he’s in as the Presidio of San Francisco, which isn’t as overbuilt as the city center. There used to be several important military facilities here. All that is left are piles of stone, dust, and trash, some ablaze—a great contrast with the impressive flora decorating the premises. Most of the vegetation has evaded destruction, which indicates the Altonoids are solely focusing their attacks on killing as many people as possible. It doesn’t take long before Tony comes across the first war victims. He tries to ignore them as he inches past, but these dead bodies lying quietly in the darkness stay in the corners of his vision wherever he fixes his gaze.

As a welcome distraction, a shiny object draws his attention. It’s close to the stone path Tony is crawling on, so he takes the slightest detour to sate his curiosity and digs out what appears to be a plaque. It reads:


Nearby lies Starfleet Medical Academy’s charred skeleton frame. He recognizes it solely because of the plaque he has found; there are no other distinguishing features left.

He has recovered a modicum of feeling in his legs, making it easier for him to move, but he can’t drag himself to downtown San Francisco like this. “Here goes nothing,” he says before shifting more weight onto his legs. Gushing pain flares up throughout his body and he can barely hold back an agonized scream, but his legs are equal to the task. Carefully, he stands up. A severe wave of nausea and dizziness rewards him for his efforts, and he falls back to the stone path—and just in time too.

Hurried footsteps are approaching, denying the young commander the chance to get up and flee. Instead, he closes his eyes and remains perfectly still. That, combined with his torn and bloodstained dress uniform, should make him a convincing corpse.

“Hey Hune, would you look at that,” he hears someone say.

Multiple flashlights bathe Tony in sallow light.

“All dressed up for his own funeral,” another voice, presumably Hune, says to the amusement of his companions.

Tony’s mind races as his survival instinct takes the reins. Altonoids, no doubt whatsoever. Judging by the laughter there’s at least four of them. Or there’s at least four them who liked Hune’s joke…

“We’re not looking for the dead. We’re looking for survivors,” an Altonoid with an authoritative voice says.

That’s right. Carry on.

“I’m not sure this one is dead,” says a voice so nearby that Tony almost gives himself away.

I am dead. Very much dead, thank you. Will you move on, please!

“Too bad our scanners are inoperable,” the nearby Altonoid continues.

“Yeah, well,” Hune says, “our dampening field’s effect on sensors, transporters, and communication devices is a disadvantage for us too, but I like to think of it as adding to the fun. The best way for us to confirm he’s really dead is by shooting him!”

A couple of Altonoids laugh and one of them charges his rifle. No, no, no! This isn’t working! What was I thinking? I’ve got to do something fast!

Tony readies himself to jump up and run off in a last-ditch escape attempt, but the authoritative Altonoid interrupts his trigger-happy subordinate. “No. Don’t waste your ammo on the dead.”

Tony expresses his relief with but a few sweat beads dripping from his forehead onto the ground without anyone noticing. Did I just meet the first Altonoid I’d like to hug?

“He’s an obstacle,” the trigger-happy Altonoid retorts. “Other teams will be slo—” An agitated scoff from the commanding Altonoid silences him.

“Throw him with the others. We’ll burn them later.”

This doesn’t calm Tony’s nerves. Throw me with the others? Oh no…

Tony tries to stay convincingly dead while two burly Altonoids lift and carry him like a heavy sack of potatoes. He can only hope neither of them detects a heartbeat or muscle contraction and discovers he’s not quite as dead as they think he is. So, despite how rough his carriers are handling him, he surrenders to his fate and keeps himself limp and silent, wondering where they will take him.

He doesn’t have to wait long.

They hurl him onto the pavement. The impact causes Tony great pain, but he doesn’t wince or moan while lying there on his side, pretending to be nothing more than a lifeless bag of meat and bones. Without further decorum, the Altonoids retreat.

When their footsteps have dissolved in the clamor of far-off destruction, Tony allows himself to take deeper and deeper breaths, followed by a long-overdue sigh of relief. “It worked,” he whispers, and he opens his eyes. “It actually—” He looks straight into the dead stare of a motionless cadet lying half a meter away. Every hint of triumph disappears as he stares into the glazed eyes of the young woman—one of today’s many casualties—whose terrified expression became permanent upon dying. Tony cannot avert his gaze, even though this horrific sight wounds him to the core. With a tender gesture, he reaches out and closes her eyelids. She couldn’t have been more than twenty years old.

Tony’s blood boils with anger. Such an unnecessary loss of life. What the hell could justify killing innocent people? What did this poor girl ever do to anyone? These Altonoids may be humanoid, but their brutality rivals that of beasts. When Tony props himself up on his elbows, he sees countless other dead bodies—mainly cadets—piled up near the Academy’s ruins. These people were training to become doctors, healers. And now they’ve died a violent death.

Fear gets the better of him. If the Altonoids hadn’t fallen for his desperate trick, he would’ve shared these medics’ tragic fate. Slowly, he gets up, his tired legs aching but complying, horror and fury raging through his skull. Trapped inside this weak shell and uncertain of what’s to come, he would like to let out a plaintive groan, but that might attract the enemy. At least he’s standing, and he hasn’t been defeated yet. He has to go on—for Emily, for his father.

Tony rolls up his muddy uniform jacket and shirt to reveal his abdomen. It looks bad; his sides are bloody and bruised, and the old phaser scar above his right hip has opened up again. Suddenly, a twig snaps nearby. He tugs at his shirt to cover his injuries and moves off. Though limping like a wounded animal, he leaves the scene quickly.

* * *

Although Tony has been living in San Francisco for a couple of years, he is having great difficulty orienting himself. The once thriving metropolis has turned into a maze of rubble. Headed for higher ground, he should be going in the right direction, deeper into the heart of the city, where continuous explosions are deafening but not loud enough to drown out disturbing screams coming from people he cannot see.

He rests against one of the few remaining walls and gives the phaser rifle he found minutes ago a quick but thorough inspection, hoping he will have better luck with it than its previous owner. The scope is clear, the rifle’s power cells fully charged. He switches its flashlight on and off, blocking its light with his palm. Tempting as it may be, leaving it on would draw unwanted attention. The commander has come this far by staying off the main roads, but he can’t get to his destination solely by diving through destroyed alleyways.

An Altonoid fighter flies past, searching for lives to extinguish. Dirt on Tony’s dress uniform helps camouflage his presence, and as soon as the fighter has disappeared from view, the young commander pushes off the wall and starts running toward the end of this alleyway. His injuries hinder his running speed, but his resolve compensates for his pain.

He lifts his rifle and places a finger on the trigger guard while gathering sufficient momentum to dash across the next main street. Not a great strategy, he admits to himself, but it might work if he is fast enough. He’ll have to cover about 20 meters out in the open, which will take about seven seconds at his current speed. A lot can happen in seven seconds.

Nothing in his unique lifetime could’ve prepared Tony for what he experiences when he enters Divisadero Street and is forced to jump over the many bodies littering the road. Not all of them are dead yet; a few of them, mangled beyond recognition, beg for help with raised, bloody arms trying to grab him. Tony evades the grasping figures. Though it’s breaking his heart, there’s nothing he can do for them. They are slowing him down, however, and thus increasing the chance of him getting caught. Around him, other shadows are sprinting through the night, but whether they are survivors, Altonoids, or figments of his frightened imagination is impossible to tell.

Close by, a salvo of phaser fire blows up another building, sending out a fast-moving carpet of thick dust that consumes everything it touches and robs Tony of his vision. Confused and with each breath more labored than the last, he tries to make his way through, but his feet connect with something hard. The ensuing fall causes him to smack his face against the unforgiving pavement and knocks his phaser rifle out of his hands. He hears his weapon sliding away, its heading concealed by the dust cloud.

Hurt, unarmed, flat on the ground, blinded by and choking on dust, surrounded by the dead and suffering, he curses his plight. The dust cloud is slowly dissipating, and Tony discovers he is halfway across the street and facing the right way. He spots his phaser rifle, out of reach but intact. Before making any sudden movements or other rushed decisions, he checks if the coast is clear.

It isn’t.

Partially obscured by the concrete mist, an Altonoid fighter hovers in the air, close enough to see in all its terrifying glory, and it aligns its phaser banks on the tips of both wings with Tony’s position. There’s no room for doubt; it’s coming to get him. As the enemy ship accelerates, Tony gets up with a pained grimace and sprints for his rifle. He doesn’t notice his wounds aching, his eyes itching, or his lungs filling with dust. There are only three things in this universe that matter at present: the fighter, the rifle, and seeking cover. If he can make it to the bushes and their adjacent gardens, he’ll be safe—or safer, at any rate.

The second he picks up his weapon, the fighter unleashes its green phaser beams at its running target. Intense heat imbues the air as the phaser beams slice through the asphalt with unimaginable speed, igniting pockets of dust along its path. The bushes ahead are near—just a few more yards to go. The commander sets his rifle to its highest power setting and prepares for a short demonstration of its capabilities. He leaps backward into the bushes while firing a series of powerful phaser bursts at the Altonoid vessel, right when one of the phaser beams misses him by a hair.

Tony hits the ground sprawling, automatically hidden beneath the foliage. He saw the phaser bursts disperse in the fighter’s shields, and it might’ve distracted them briefly, but a rifle is no match for a Foora-class attack ship, which can take on multiple shuttles with ease. It has bought him a few seconds, however.

Without looking back, he scampers off, racing through the bushes, through nicely maintained backyards of burning houses, and past a wrecked shuttlecraft that has been reduced to a macabre garden ornament. The fighter’s engines humming above him fuels his desire to flee. Forgotten is the battle, the inconceivable death toll, the pain and sorrow that permeates the globe. He should know better, having undergone extensive training, but all he can focus on is that low rumble chasing after him.

He scales a fence and tries to land swiftly and gently. His injured state doesn’t permit such a hasty maneuver, though, and he slips and lands on his back in somebody’s garden, its loose dirt softening his fall. As Tony faces the sky, too terrified to blink, the fighter’s searchlights come on to scour the abandoned residences. Soon, they will find him.

Tony is still holding on to the heavy phaser rifle, his right hand firmly clasping its grip. Set on its maximum setting, it’s capable of instantly vaporizing a modest rock formation. He lifts it carefully and points it where the Foora-class fighter should appear. Unexpectedly, its pilot switches off his searchlights, shrouding the area in emerald darkness, but Tony senses its proximity as he lies there, every muscle tensed, waiting for the axe to fall.

And there it is! The fighter swoops into view. Before Tony can pull the trigger, the fighter fires its phaser beams at an unseen target in the sky and speeds off, having found a more interesting prey.

Although this particular danger has passed, Tony can’t bring himself to resume breathing just yet and rests on the garden’s soil like an unburied corpse while staring at the clouds, trying to remember a time when they weren’t suffused with a persistent green hue. It’s hard to imagine a few hours ago he was having a pleasant conversation with his wife, chatting about the weather and getting ready for that fancy gala party. Now, he is lying in some poor bastard’s garden in a crumbling city he used to call home.

Tony sets the rifle to the lowest kill setting and gets up. Between rows of flattened houses, Alta Plaza Park lies dead ahead, untouched in dreamlike serenity, as if this entire war business never happened, as if all will be rebuilt and all casualties will be resurrected at sunrise.

It looks too calm… He’d better stay clear of it. No more beauty and hope on this planet. With that notion lingering in his mind, he scrambles to his feet and disappears into the next alleyway.
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Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IIIc

Post by Alexbright99 »

A few more blocks and Tony will arrive at Geary Boulevard, the long street where the party would’ve been held and where his father must’ve been when the Altonoids started their relentless carnage. A rare intact sign that reads “Steiner Street” confirms he is heading in the right direction.

Tony pays no heed to the unlit buildings, nor does he dwell on how the skyscrapers’ obliteration has forever mutilated the skyline. He just runs as fast his injured body can carry him, avoiding detection by crossing junctions in a flash, staying close to the walls, and keeping up the pace. Reaching Geary Boulevard is his sole purpose. So he trains his gaze on the horizon and shuts out everything else. Although…

Multiple shadows graze the walls on the other side of Steiner Street. Tony keeps on running, but the shadows distract him; he’s losing his hypnotic fixation on Geary Boulevard. The more his perception of the world around him grows, the more he sees the blackened ruins hemming him in, the more he feels the sting of his wounds, the more he smells the scent of death, the more he hears the moaning of dying strangers, the more he—

A green phaser blast explodes mere inches away, sending fragments of a nearby brick wall flying. Acting on instinct, Tony hits the ground and rolls to shelter, which consist of a piece of shuttle hull plating sticking up from the pavement. His assailants quickly discover his hiding place, but the hull plating withstands this sudden outpour of violence. It shudders with each phaser blast, but it holds—for now. Multiple impacts suggest there are two—possibly three—Altonoids attacking him from across the road.

Outnumbered and outgunned, he looks around, taking in the inescapable darkness and destruction, and realizes this scenario applies to every desperate soul courageous enough to offer resistance during this brutal invasion. He remembers the many slain civilians he encountered along the way. That young medical cadet’s lifeless, gray eyes… Tony curls his upper lip into a sneer. These Altonoids are going down. It may not make much of a difference, but these Altonoids are going down.

He sneaks a peek over the hull plating to ascertain the positions of his rivals—three in total. This increases the intensity of phaser fire his hiding place has to endure; it’s buckling under duress. Judging by the angles of attack, the enemy is zeroing in on him like a hungry pack of wolves. Ignoring the pain, Tony stands up, aims his rifle with lightning-fast precision, and shoots the middle Altonoid squarely in the center of mass before dropping behind cover again. That’s one.

Another phaser strike breaks loose a part of the hull, giving the ensuing phaser blasts that make it over the edge free rein. White-hot packets of energy miss the commander by a whisker. Worse yet, the chipped plating is sizzling and on the verge of melting.

Both Altonoids try to render his hiding place useless by splitting up and circling it, effectively flanking the commander—a decent if not predictable strategy. Just as the rightmost Altonoid has progressed far enough to pose a risk, he appears in the scope of Tony’s readied phaser rifle, exactly where Tony expected him to be. Before the Altonoid can take aim, Tony squeezes the trigger and shoots him in the chest. That’s two.

If Tony doesn’t act accordingly, the third soldier will be on him soon. Powered solely by adrenaline, Tony leaps over the hull plating to make it act as a buffer between him and the last Altonoid. Strafing to the right, he directs his rifle to where the Altonoid should be after basically having switched places, ready to hit his mark as soon as he shows up in his crosshairs.

Nobody’s there.

From out of the blue, a strong arm clenches around his waist, and a serrated knife is pressed against his throat. “Don’t move,” a gravelly voice says. Tony can’t turn to face his attacker, but he’s willing to bet his threatened life that it’s the third Altonoid. “I will make you suffer for what you did to my friends.”

Lacking alternatives, Tony holds perfectly still. “Okay. You got me,” he says with every iota of calmness he can muster, stalling for time with no idea what to do next. “Please tell me, how many people have you killed today, excluding me?”

It takes a few long seconds for the Altonoid to respond. “Twelve.”

“Why? I want to know why.”

Tony’s calm reaction puzzles the Altonoid. “I don’t answer to you. You’re as much a murderer as I am.” His hold tightens and the knife’s blade pierces the skin on Tony’s neck. But then, he hesitates and asks, “How many Altonoids have you killed today?”

Tony takes great care to keep from sounding accusatory, opting instead to convey a childlike innocence. “Two. Just now. I was trying to find my father. You attacked me. I had to defend myself.” His distracted opponent slightly weakens his grasp, inadvertently enabling the young commander to gently lower the phaser rifle clutched in his right hand. “What did those twelve people do to you? Did they attack you?”

Tony hears and feels the Altonoid sigh. “I will kill you, but I will make it swift.” A distant trace of sympathy in his voice. “Any last requests?”

“Yes,” Tony whispers. “Forgive me.”

Tony presses the lowered phaser rifle against the Altonoid’s right shin and pulls the trigger. The phaser blast—fired from point blank range—smashes his captor’s right leg, making him howl in agony.

Immediately, Tony knocks away the knife, frees himself from the Altonoid’s loosened grip, and propels his rifle’s stock against the soldier’s face. His opponent falls backward and makes a rough landing. Cradling his maimed leg, blood streaming from his nostrils, he stares wide-eyed at Tony, who pulls himself together after that dizzying maneuver, plants his feet steady on the ground, and rests his phaser rifle in his hands, its muzzle still hot from firing.

Deserved or not, Tony pities the soldier. Apart from subtly grooved facial ridges and abundant, bristly hair, Altonoid physiology differs little from a human’s, and it’s hard not to empathize with an injured sentient being. Wincing in pain, the Altonoid reaches for his handphaser, which is secured to his belt. Tony aims his phaser rifle with an outstretched arm and shakes his head, hoping to break his adversary’s resistance with one simple word: “Don’t.”

The enemy soldier bares his teeth and mutters indistinct curses while reaching, slowly, for his weapon. Tony doesn’t want to shoot him, not even after having witnessed the Altonoids’ atrocious war crimes. Killing people from afar is easier—horrible but less personal. Without the intensity of a firefight or a ship battle, ending a life is exposed for what it truly is: abhorrent. The Altonoid leaves him no choice, because his fingers have reached the surface of his weapon.

Something from deep within forces Tony to shut his eyes while squeezing the trigger, knowing he won’t miss. With a nauseating thud, the phaser blast hits the Altonoid. When Tony reopens his eyes, the soldier lies dead on the pavement, staring at the battle-filled sky, a smoking phaser wound in his chest. Tony stands there, rooted by conflicting emotions, the phaser rifle in his hand pointed at its latest victim. With effort, he tears his gaze from the corpse. Geary Boulevard is up ahead. He’s so close.

Tony moves onward, past the man he killed. At first, he’s walking, then jogging, and soon enough he’s full-on sprinting toward Geary Boulevard. From the opposite direction, clusters of wounded survivors are carrying themselves away from the large street. As the commander passes by, his eyes meet theirs for a split second of mutual understanding, their shared desperation glimpsing through before they push on into the night. But Tony doesn’t waver…

…because he has reached Geary Boulevard.

He finds cover by a lone wall—all that remains of a structure it once supported—and sees smoldering buildings, blistered tarmac littered with smoking debris, and survivors who are frantically running around, seeking shelter or a way out. There are no enemy troops here at present, but innumerable bodies lying scattered about reveal the slaughter taking place tonight. Green phaser beams light the area, instigating fiery displays of violence, their origins concealed in smoke and confusion. This battle may have been lost, but it’s not over yet.

“All right,” he says to himself, his voice lost in the pandemonium of combat. “This is where Dad—” A sudden eruption of screams precedes a group of survivors emerging from Steiner Street, the same ones he saw leaving Geary Boulevard moments earlier. Now they’re scurrying toward Tony with expressions that go beyond despair, beyond fear, and enter the realm of utter terror.

“Move!” one them shouts at him.

The fleeing mob reaches Tony before he has a chance to react and knocks him aside, causing him to bang his head against the wall and hit the ground face first. Surrounded by countless trampling and kicking feet, his injuries take their toll and the world darkens, the sound of explosions and screaming softens, and the pain subsides to nothing but an unpleasant memory. With increasingly blurred vision, he observes a couple of Altonoid fighters rounding the corner and targeting the crowd. He barely notices their phaser beams whizzing by and setting off distant screams of panic. It’s happening to someone else, not him. It’s only a dream, the end of a nightmare.

* * *

“Wake up, buddy,” a friendly voice says. For a second, Tony believes he is in bed. Then he hears the fighters roaring up above, smells the scent of char, and feels the cold night air sending chills up his aching spine. He knows exactly where he is: facedown in a puddle of dust, here at Geary Boulevard.

A pair of fingers presses against his neck.

“Come on, buddy. This is no place to take a nap. The Altonoids can be here any second.”

Tony recognizes the voice. All drowsiness vanishes in an instant, and he attempts to stand up.

Lieutenant Commander Ralph Blue’s jaw drops. “Is it really you?” He helps his son to his feet. “What are you doing here?”

“I heard there was a party at midnight,” Tony says while trying to get reacquainted with vertical life. “Sorry I’m a bit late.”

Ralph is at a loss for words, but his broad smile speaks volumes. The hug that follows speaks libraries. Right this moment, the war and its accompanying horror and destruction fade into the background, as father and son revel in having found each other amid the chaos. Sure, they both look terrible, their scorched dress uniforms unsuccessfully concealing bruises and lacerations, but what matters is the present, the fact that they are both still alive. That makes one forget one’s injuries, albeit for an instant.

“I don’t understand,” Tony’s father says after letting go. “How did you get here? I mean, they’ve got us pinned down, killed everybody in sight, blown up practically every building, bridge, installation…” A few blocks away, several detonations wipe out yet another structure, as if on cue. “They’ve turned San Francisco into a death trap, a place to flee from, not to come rushing in headlong.”

Tony has heard that concerned fatherly tone on more than one occasion. “With all due respect,” he replies wryly. “To get here, I survived two starship crashes. I was nearly burned, shot, and stabbed to death. I almost drowned, almost had my throat slit, managed to evade hordes of angry ground troops and fleets of fighters against incredible odds. Oh, I also crashed the Mercedes. And all of that for you to tell me that coming to your rescue isn’t such a great idea in the first place?” His ranting causes his phaser wound to act up, and his knees buckle. Ralph prevents him from falling. “But it sure is good to see you,” Tony continues with a subdued grin.

“Thank you for being here.” Ralph gently wraps Tony’s arm over his shoulder to support his injured son and help him walk.

“This jogs my memory,” Tony says, recalling his escape from Station A-12 and how his future wife had volunteered to carry him through the corridors—a story they had told his father many times over.

Ralph gasps. “Emily! Is she okay?”

“I hope so. I sent her away on a shuttle packed with survivors.”

Ralph gives his son’s arm an encouraging squeeze. “Then she’s in good hands. I saw a batch of shuttles evacuating the Embarcadero, by the Ferry Building. I think that’s our best shot at getting out of here.”

“I agree.” Tony peers through the mist of ashes and vaporized rubble. “The sooner we leave, the better.”

Ralph picks up Tony’s phaser rifle without letting go of his son and shifts his balance to get a firmer grasp and bear more of Tony’s weight. “Comfy?”

“It doesn’t beat piggy back ride, but I suppose it will have to do.”

They start down the road, due east, toward the docks and hopefully their rescue.
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Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IIId

Post by Alexbright99 »

The Altonoids seem to be ignoring this location for now, but they can reappear any second. They’re still wreaking havoc across the city, across the entire world. Geary Boulevard has become an unidentifiable path of smoldering debris and corpses. Save for a lone survivor hastening past, the area is devoid of movement. Above the twisted remains of skyscrapers, the night sky refuses to shed that green tint caused by unrelenting weapon fire. The ascending road obscures any potential danger lurking beyond the next couple of blocks.

Without speaking, the two ragged officers climb the hill. The threat is far from over, but ever since Tony has been reunited with his father, he feels safe. He has found someone to lean on—literally. Though Ralph has not been able to avoid injury either, he carries his son with fortitude, staying vigilant while keeping his phaser rifle at the ready for any defensive actions necessary.

There are a million things Tony would like to say, but it’s best to focus on getting out of here as fast as possible. However, mutual silence offers little comfort, so Tony speaks up nonetheless. “I can’t believe I actually found you.”

“Technically speaking, I found you,” Ralph says with a smile highlighting his familiar laugh lines. “Once the attack began, I hid beneath a torn awning and waited till the brunt of it was over. Then I began my search for survivors, to find the flag officers who attended the party, but the venue was smashed.” He clears his throat to rid it of welling sadness. “The only officers in dress uniform I could find were already dead or dying. I… I didn’t stop to think about it. I just kept searching.”

“Did the thought of escaping cross your mind?”

A deep, weighted sigh. “To be honest, I think our chances of escaping are slim at best.”

“That won’t keep us from trying anyway.”

“We Blues have always been a stubborn lot.”

As they approach the hill’s summit, the creeping realization dawns on them that there’s no telling what might face them on the other side. Is it simply apprehension or are the distant cries for help really getting louder, the explosions closer?

“If I had stayed with the Q Continuum,” Tony says, seizing the last opportunity for having a conversation before their trials resume, “all of this would have happened regardless of my decision. The battles, the loss of life, this determining invasion. It wouldn’t have mattered one—”

“I would’ve died alone in my house,” Ralph says, bringing Tony’s monologue to a complete stop, “thinking about my son, wondering where he was and why he never came back. Maybe you haven’t made a great impact on the universe yet, but I’m just glad to have you by my side.”

Tony lets this notion sink in, then gives his father a playful nudge and brings up a heartfelt smile, which departs rather quickly, because they’ve reached the top of this hill and the view from there is disheartening at best.

Geary Street (as it is called east of Van Ness Avenue) is unrecognizable. Only the street layout suggests this used to be part of the Starfleet capital of the world. In between the roads lies nothing but rubble, some of which aflame. There isn’t a single building within visual range that hasn’t been destroyed or severely damaged. Shuttle crash sites and neighborhood-wide fires illuminate the warzone.

This isn’t a city anymore. This is hell.

It takes a few minutes for them to encounter a reminder of the residential area this once was: a row of darkened buildings, an oasis in the blackest of deserts. Two Altonoid fighters whoosh past, activated impulse engines flaring. Their sudden appearance startles Tony and his father, who freeze up, unable to move until they know what’s in store for them. The Foora-class vessels break formation and initiate a steep climb. Showcasing impressive piloting skills, both fighters perform a symmetrical U-turn and descend from the skies to execute a coordinated nosedive aimed at Tony and his father. They have been spotted! The Altonoid vessels, now next to each other, are closing in rapidly. Four searing phaser beams emanate from their weapon arrays to melt the asphalt off the road.

Abruptly, Ralph turns left and runs into Polk Street, dragging his son along with him—and not a moment too soon. Behind them, green phaser beams plow the tarmac into grotesque sculptures. The fighters have to make another synchronized maneuver to line up with Tony and his father, giving them a minuscule window of opportunity to bolt for cover. They jump over heaps of bodies and rubble, which have paved the road with a burning stench. Driven by survival instinct, they master the rugged terrain—fatigue and injuries be damned.

Sooner than expected, the two fighters reemerge side by side and unleash another salvo of phaser fire. With sensors jammed, hitting mobile targets is challenging, and a stray phaser beam pulverizes the foundation of a large metal building less than a hundred yards up ahead. As the fighters pull up and disappear into the night, the metal building’s ground floor subsides. In a matter of seconds, the building keels over and threatens to block the officers’ path.

The steel behemoth collapses onto the street, knocks over the remains of a few houses on the opposite side, and embraces its final resting place with a scraping howl. While overturned and unsalvageable, its internal structure has stayed mostly intact. Metal doesn’t crumble as easily as brick or concrete does, which works to the officers’ advantage. Given the circumstances, going straight through is the only way forward, so Tony and Ralph rush toward the building and dive through the nearest broken window.

Adjusting to the darkness, Tony gathers they have landed in someone’s office. The entire room has turned sideways, so they have to stand on the rubble and furniture that has accumulated on the concealed facade. Fumes thick as soup make breathing difficult and fill their eyes with tears. Orienting oneself in a toppled building is problematic, and the gloomy conditions aren’t helping. What’s worse, the walls shudder and rumble ominously at random intervals.

The glow of nearby flames shines in from an opening doorway, enabling Tony to see his father’s uncharacteristically worried expression. The doorway appears to have been placed horizontally against the ceiling. Of course, that’s because the office has been flipped forward. Ralph activates the flashlight atop his phaser rifle, casting a beam of light through the smoke. Without saying a word, father and son clamber into the next room… which looks even less inviting than the one they left.

Fires ignited by clipped pipes offer adequate compensation for the power outage in this harrowing corridor, which is a mere eight feet wide but at least fifty feet long and sports a notable forty feet of headroom. A few minutes ago, this was a sizeable office space like any other, containing dozens of desks and workstations. Now, nearly everything has converged on what used to be the frontage. The left side of this newly formed hallway is carpeted; its right side consists of ceiling tiles and broken light fixtures. Without pattern, that persistent shuddering and rumbling increases and decreases in intensity.

Tony and his father try to cross piles of furniture and equipment while avoiding burning terminals. “They’re out there, firing at us,” Tony says, climbing over an upended desk.

“Could be,” his father replies. “I’m not entirely… Watch out!” Ralph shoves his son away from a tumbling cupboard that travels a good twenty feet before barely missing them and crushing a nearby stack of chairs. Plenty of these dormant projectiles dangle above them from various heights, waiting for the right moment to succumb to gravity.

They continue their journey despite this bizarre corridor’s hazards. Yet, the more Tony gets to explore this interior gone askew, the more he gets the creepy sensation that this is the last place they should be.

“Come on!” Ralph says when he notices his son lagging behind.

“Something’s not right.”

“There’s no time for this.”

“No, listen!” Tony lifts a hand to his ear. Ralph pauses and leans against a slanted cabinet to listen somewhat impatiently—to humor his son, more than anything. Tony, squinting at the rifle’s flashlight, remains silent long enough to make his point.

“They’ve stopped firing at us,” Ralph says. “They must’ve given up. Come on, while we still can.” The beam of light turns away from Tony as his father resumes climbing.

“We should go back.”

“What?” There’s more than a hint of anxiety in his dad’s voice.

“Trust me. They’re either gone or waiting for us on the other side. We shouldn’t be heading north anyway; we should be heading east, toward the piers. Going back is our best option.”

His father gives it some thought and shines the flashlight back and forth until he reaches a conclusion. “You could be right. Good thinking.”

“It would’ve been good thinking if I’d come up with this before we entered the bloody building,” Tony mutters as they turn back.

Once they’ve reached the office they started from, Tony slides down the flipped doorway, into the room, and strikes a blunt chair leg with his right thigh. Clenching his jaw to refrain from saying something unholy, he gets up and determines the chair leg hasn’t caused much more damage than his limbs have already sustained. He then assists his father so he can enter the room with a bit more flair.

They exit the metal wreck the same way they entered it: by jumping through the open window. The cityscape hasn’t improved during the minute they spent indoors, but Tony is glad he’s out of that infernal office and shares a relieved smile with his father. They’re about to get moving when a giant blast knocks them to the ground. A green phaser beam fired overhead blankets them with blistering heat and sprays debris in all directions. Father and son have no choice but to cower and wait for the worst to pass. Acting on a childlike instinct he had considered lost, Tony grabs his father’s hand and holds on tightly, finding comfort in this simple gesture.

After what seems like an eternity, the phaser beam moves off, and the two officers sneak a glance at the building. Four ear-splitting phaser beams originating from the other side are carving it to pieces.

“You were right,” Ralph shouts as he pulls his son up.

Tony spits out a mixture of gravel and blood and dabs at the filth that has accrued on his mouth, staining his sleeve with ashen and red. “Let’s just get out of here!” With that, they sprint back toward Geary Street, leaving the doomed metal building behind.

The young commander has no idea from where his exhausted body draws the energy to make him run as fast as he does, as though it is fueled by will power alone. He manages to keep up with his dad as they round the corner and enter Geary Street once again, which will lead them to the docks. But there’s no reason for joy…

…because they stare straight into the phaser banks of a fully armed Altonoid fighter hovering two dozen feet above the ground, its nose lowered at the two men as if to size up its prey. Tony’s heart sinks and drags his conviction with it. Despite the ordeals they have suffered through, he was confident he could save his father’s life. Speechless, they gawk at the invincible warship that has quashed their hopes of survival. So far, it has refrained from firing, but there’s no chance whatsoever it will grant them mercy. Perhaps its pilot loves toying with his helpless victims prior to delivering the killing blow. It’s impossible to tell with the pilot obscured by the fighter’s opaque canopy.

“No matter which way you turn, there’s no escaping them,” Ralph says while laying his rifle on the tarmac. He sticks his hands up and slowly approaches the hovering ship, as if he can somehow persuade it to stand down. “Make a run for it,” he says without taking his eyes off the enemy vessel. “While you still can.”

Tony bites his lip and stares at the sword of Damocles looming over them. His dad is diverting the pilot’s attention for his sake, but he finds himself frozen in place.

Ralph notices his hesitation and says with a side-glance and a reassuring smile, “Now, son.”

There’s so much Tony wants to tell him, so much he wants to share, but the circumstances permit him only the briefest of summaries: “Goodbye, Dad.” He collects the remnants of his mental and physical strength and dashes off, away from his father and away from the Altonoid vessel. Almost immediately, he hears the heavy shriek of phaser fire.

But the area is being lit by red phaser beams, not green ones!

A pair of battle-worn Starfleet fighters barrel down on the Altonoid fighter, impulse engines roaring, weapons blazing. Red phaser beams hit the fighter dead-on, and it starts dropping from the sky while attempting a frenzied counterattack. Tony and his father, thirty yards apart, duck for cover to avoid the enemy’s random phaser fire. Ralph tries not to get caught under the plummeting wreckage, which spews shredded armor and equipment as it enters an unrecoverable spin. Having defeated their mark, the Starfleet fighters fly past in quest of a new target. Their rickety state makes one wonder how far they’ll get before suffering the same fate as their fallen sister ships.

The Altonoid ship fires blindly until it crash-lands but a few meters from Ralph, who is lying on the pavement, ensnared between the burning wreck and a scorched apartment complex. Random phaser beams from the dying fighter have struck the five-story building and sliced deep, molten crevices into its masonry. Already weakened from earlier attacks, the structure tries to remain upright, as it has done for hundreds of years, but gravity wins out.

Tony watches it collapse, watches as his father lifts an arm in a futile act of self-protection before a torrent of stone swallows him whole.

Forgetting everything around him, Tony scrambles toward the massive heaps of brick, glass, and broken furniture and starts digging, praying he’s searching in the right spot. The newly formed dust cloud impedes his efforts, but that isn’t the main problem; some pieces of debris are simply too large to pick up. If he were a Q, he could’ve hoisted those materials without as much as a wave of the hand, but now, stuck in this bruised human form, his excavation attempt is nothing short of pathetic.

“Can you hear me?” Tony cries out while continuing his hopeless rescue mission. Soon enough, his determination morphs into bitter desperation. “Dad!” he shouts at the top of his lungs. With a swift gesture, he brushes aside tears conspiring with dust to hinder his vision, and he resumes digging while flames consuming the crashed fighter provide him with a sporadic light source. There’s no reply whatsoever, no sign of there being a living person trapped in the rubble. Tony keeps shouting, foolish as it may be with soldiers prowling the streets. If only his father responded to his pleas.

Having displaced every movable object in the immediate vicinity, Tony sits down, panting with exertion, forced to take a break. With shaking hands, he wipes clots of sweat and grime from his forehead, then clutches his shoulders, uncertain of what to do next—besides fighting back tears. Despite his unfocused stare, he spots an oddity among the debris: a strip of white fabric.

With newfound vigor, Tony goes back to digging. A conflicting mixture of relief and dread rages through his mind as he lifts a tabletop strewn with bricks and throws it aside with the little energy he has left. His inkling was correct: the strip of fabric is part of a Starfleet uniform, worn by his motionless father. A concrete slab presses down on his torso. In one final effort, Tony grabs the heavy slab by the edges and pushes it away.

Bloody and battered from head to toe, Ralph Blue lies prone in the rubble. His death must have been instant. As Tony watches in stunned shock, any lingering trace of hope evaporates and his heart disintegrates on the spot, leaving an empty shell in its stead. It’s as if all his courage, all his fighting spirit has yielded to pure acknowledgment. There is nothing left to do, no trick to pull, no way to fix this. Tony falls to his knees by his father’s side and reaches out to hold his hand one last time, only to recoil at the sight of his dad’s mangled fingers. Horrified, he wraps his arms around himself and whimpers, “I’m sorry, Dad.”

He faces the distant piers, where the last shuttles—a handful of them at most—take off one by one to transport evacuees to destinations unknown. The chaos of earlier has passed; a serene yet frightening silence has enfolded the city. The Bay Bridge lying collapsed in the sea, the charred streets, the ruins—they all bear silent witness to the tragedies that took place today. The first sunrays are shining through the green clouds. A new day has begun; an era of human reign on Earth has ended.

Tony will stay here with his father.

Alongside the Altonoid wreckage, a spacecraft touches down and opens its aft door, blinding Tony with its interior lights. A backlit figure emerges, its intent unclear. Tony should get up and run, but he remains there, kneeled, staring at the approaching shadow, having no opposition to offer. Once the figure is close enough, it gently picks him up and carries him aboard.
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