Adam Murton (aka Vardos Cadix) has his own Antares fiction blog where he has a number of continuing stories. We’re delighted he was inspired by the new panhuman heads for the Concord and wrote us a serial on the Vyess and the Gyohn. Part III can be found here, but we continue with part IV…
Fall from Grace, Part IV by Adam Murton
Mija started to turn at Togor’s shout, but a thick, hard arm had swung over her shoulder and clenched round her neck. Despite her struggles, it dragged her back easily. She recognised the man coming down the stairs accompanied by four resistance troopers: Volaugn. Mija swung her carbine towards him, but he stepped in, reached out and twisted it clear of her hand.
Volaugn turned to a tall, greying veteran. “Dreq, get rid of her friend.” Dreq nodded and led his squad over to the stairwell door. Mija watched them shoot Togor, hitting him again and again. The last thing, she saw was a shot slam into Togor’s shattered helmet, flicking his head back and driving him through the window and out of the tower. Togor flung out his hands to grasp at the window’s edge, but too late. He fell, disappearing from view towards the tiled plaza below.
Dreq and another fighter strode confidently across the room to where Togor had fallen and looked down. Dreq turned back towards them grinning jubilantly. “He’s dead alright. Humans aren’t supposed to bend like that.” Disheartened, Mija no longer struggled as she was dragged away to the rear stairwell and down the tower, but not before Dreq removed her helmet and had one of his troopers tie her arms behind her back. Once they were on level ground, Dreq and the other soldier grabbed an arm each and they part-carried, part-dragged her between them. Mija found it was more comfortable, if she could get her legs under her and jog along, matching their pace.
They threaded their way through the city. Soldiers and refugees thronged together. Tiny, waif-like children trudged alongside the weak and the injured. Many were missing limbs and eyes. Volaugn dropped back to walk alongside her. He did a sweeping gesture at the huddled citizens. “Take a look. Take a good long look. This is what they don’t show you in training. This is the true cost of Concord’s benevolence. The injured, the starving and the dead. The people here, they don’t want our… your enforced paradise. They just want to be left alone. But, we are so convinced that we can improve their lives; we come anyway with our plasma carbines and our x-howitzers. We come and we maim and we kill. Does this look like we are helping them? This girl once danced and played in her beautiful city and now she has one leg and no parents. Does she look like she has been helped? Does she look properly grateful?”
“The IMTel could heal her leg.” Even as she spoke, she knew how pathetic it sounded and she didn’t need her enhanced intellect to predict Volaugn’s response.
He rounded on her. Anger burning behind his eyes. “Will it heal her parents? Eh? Will it bring them back from the dead? Will it?” He paused and his anger seemed to ebb away. “Yes, the IMTel could heal most of these and put food in their bellies, but it won’t give them back their lost children and wives and husbands, their parents and friends. And it certainly won’t give them their freedom.”
She looked him straight in the eye, “What happened Volaugn? What happened to you?”
“I woke up.” He pulled back and turned away. “I came to my senses, that’s what happened.”
“How?” Mija called after him. “What woke you up?”
“Maybe, I just got fed up of making orphans and widows, everywhere I go. Maybe, I’m just tired of wars without end,” he called over his shoulder as he strode away
The conversation had ended. At least for now.
Togor woke up amongst shattered tiles. His armour was cracked and broken. He had clearly been bleeding quite profusely, although, these had all clotted now. He tried to judge the time by how close the sun was to the horizon, but his head throbbed and the light pained him. Instead, he took a few moments to gather himself. He pulled at his left arm, which had dislocated at the elbow and the shoulder. There was some muscle damage there and the arm sagged against his side. He removed the little armour that had survived, until he lay there in his shorts – well, he still had nothing to be ashamed of. He used the largest fragment of armour and the flexible under-suit to splint his left leg. The pain was immense, but Togor told himself that it was just proof that he had survived, that he was surviving when no base-line human could have survived.
He searched for his weapons and found one pistol that still appeared to be intact. He then crawled to the wall of a nearby building and used it to hoist himself upright. Burning pain shot through him and he closed his eyes for a moment. But only for a moment; it was too tempting to just keep them closed. He took a deep breath through gritted teeth, let go of the wall and staggered forward.
The tactical map had shown this building as the source of the most intense conflict. Sure enough, only a few paces inside the building he found the corpse of a resistance trooper, so he stripped off its bloody armour and dressed himself, tucking the pistol into his waist band.
The bloodied wreck of the armour matched his face; To be fair, it matched most of his body.
Leaning against the rear wall, Togor took stock of the situation. The Concord forces had clearly been driven off, for the time being, at least. They would be back, but for now the natives were gathering themselves. They appeared from their hiding places, shadows and holes, moving with purpose towards a single location. Togor attempted a smile, but his ruined jaw let him down. He struggled from the building and joined the ragged lines of people as they wound their way through the broken city.
It seemed to take ages, each step sent grinding pain up his leg and his hip was aflame. Eventually, they seemed to reach a veritable town of improvised tarpaulin tents thronging the ruins, small fires burning brightly between the tents. The ragged lines became clusters and then crowds until humanity was everywhere, sitting huddled in whatever cover they could find.
Togor ignored the masses and headed to the centre where there was a low structure arching up amongst the rubble. It had the distinction of being lit not by fires but by artificial lights. Togor hobbled up to it and angled past, risking a glance inside. He thought he could see the Old Man surrounded by soldiers and primitive display screens. This… bunker was clearly some sort of improvised command headquarters.
Volaugn was arguing heatedly with someone who wasn’t visible to Togor, so he hauled himself towards the entrance, fighting against the burning steps and grinding pain. He dropped his right shoulder and let his head list to the side, allowing his pain to show. Two sentries were posted either side of the entranceway, but Togor limped up to them, like he belonged. He nodded at the sentries as he drew level and went to walk past them. One stepped in front of him and looked him square in the face.