Prologue: Children of 40C
How many trips had I already made? I couldn't count them at all. Helicopters and drones sounded so loud that they drowned out the noise of my firm footsteps. I took advantage of it and moved, stretching my long legs as much as I could, crossing the chaotic city, and traveling long distances at an immeasurable speed.
"Quick, help me," I said to Lou as I arrived at the base. He took out the three babies I had fastened to my body with a wrapper and handed them to Alfie, the oldest of our group.
No one knows her age, but many say that she's over 60 years old. I've always thought that she's around 40, although her speaking is ancient and I've never seen a change in her appearance since I was young.
"Hunter, wait" Alfie took my arm a second before we heard an explosion. We both backed away, disoriented for a moment. A great sense of anguish invaded me… I got the feeling I didn't have much time left.
I tried to break free from Alfie's grip, but she insisted, "Hunter, listen to me. I know there's no time, but they're coming and if the plan fails, go to Vanam, do not go to Barca."
"The plan is not going to fail," I declared in a sharp tone and tried to break free from her grip once more, but she held me tighter.
"You have to make sure everyone comes with you, Hunter, promise me," she demanded with terror in her eyes.
I felt a lump in my throat, and avoided her gaze. I knew many entrusted me with this mission, but I didn't think I could promise something like that. I turned around and hurried back to the East building meeting point, in search of more children.
I went up the hill from the street that faced the point where I'd planned to meet the others. But I didn't see them, there was no one at the place.
The scene that I had in front of me, no more than 300 meters away, left me paralyzed. The horror was dragging everything in its path. Little did I imagine I had returned too late.
The Order had already reached that range, and they were snatching the children from their mothers' hands. It was evident that the'd all been intercepted by the Order when they headed to our meeting point.
Someone must have leaked the information. I finally understood Alfie's despair and her sudden interest to change our operation base from Barca to Vanam's.
I raised my rifle, ready to shoot, but the chaos was such that I couldn't make a single shot. Breathing heavily, I stopped myself from shooting when I saw through the rifle scope how the Order was annihilating some mothers who fought back to save their children.
I was puzzled… There must be something I can do. I felt a deep sorrow and frustration when noticing how the mothers lose all sanity traces, approaching the fire, like surrendering to death. I couldn't even judge them. In a matter of seconds, they had to helplessly contemplate their children being thrown into a bonfire made by the Order from other parents' body parts…
Did I take too long to come back? Why don't they fight? Why aren't they waking up the power? I put down the rifle for a moment to wipe away the tears that I shed unconsciously. When I raised the gun again to start firing, Hope, Sean, and Li appeared in front of me, startling me.
"Stop. There is no time." Li urged me while holding her twins. "Take them… take them away from Titam, Hunter. Fast". She began to tie them up to my body with the wrapper, "Wait, what about you?" I gasped in astonishment, but she ignored me.
Hope placed her baby on my chest to tie her up with the wrapper too, and Sean held her baby girl on my back. "Where are you going? Wait, you need to come with me…" I stammered. I couldn't think properly. Deep inside of me, I knew what they were doing, yet my heart wouldn't stop hurting. No, this couldn't be happening. I started to shake my head while my tears began to fall.
Hope looked up after making sure that her baby was well supported and framed my face with her two delicate hands. Her eyes reflected how her soul was breaking into pieces, yet she didn't release a single tear. And here I was, crying my heart out, incapable of doing anything.
"You're an incredible woman Hunter," she reassured, sweetly wiping my tears. My first instinct was to start claiming that I was already a man. Still, she hushed me with a finger in my lips, as if it was not necessary to clarify anything, "Shh, I know… And a great man… there's no time. You trained in case this would happen, so pull yourself together!"
One of the women's screams caught Hope's attention. She turned around briefly and saw how the brutal scene we had a few meters away continued. Her gaze filled with determination, "I'll be right back," she muttered before walking away.
With nervous hands, Sean approached my side and began to caress the girl on my back, like silently saying goodbye to her. "Her name is Nova… but you already know that", he patted me gently on the arm with clearly shaking hands. No matter how much I tried, words didn't come out. I could only repress sobs that made my body tremble. "Please, remind her that I'll always be with her… in the stars," he mumbled before turning away and taking up his weapons again.
I couldn't conceive what was happening, nor all the training in the world could have prepared me for this. Even when I knew that I had to flee immediately, my feet didn't move. My mind was collapsing to see so much injustice, death, sacrifice, and abandonment happening all at the same time.
"We'll make time for you to take the babies far away from here," Li assured from a few meters away, like being close to her twins could make her change her mind at any moment.
"… Thank you, Hunter…" her lower lip trembled for a moment, and before I could even answer, she left.
I stood there, with my eyes fixed on Li's back, admiring her strength and how strong they all were. They'd just became mothers and fathers and yet immediately had to fight for the future Saros was taking away from them.
I was against losing Hope, Li, and Sean, but no matter how hard it was for me, I knew there's no other option. If we wanted the children to live, this is how it had to be. Damn it!
Hope had returned and she must have noticed I was shaking, "Hunter, look at me." I gave her a puzzled look, but she didn't mind continuing, "Don't tell them about the Chasm … unless they give signs …"
I nodded because I couldn't speak at all. "Take care of the babies as if they were yours… Actually, they're yours now," she grinned and approached my chest where her daughter was to kiss her forehead, "Her name is Ivy. She will steal your heart." She gave me one last glance, like saying goodbye for the last time, then took her rifle and walked away.
I spent two seconds watching the great circular building to the east, watching my lifelong friends leave. Two seconds that seemed to pass slower, and indeed it must've been like that, some Revo surely no longer cared to stop time at will, knowing that he was about to die at the hands of the Order.
I turned around, leaving the pain there, buried with all the Revos. Now, with four newborns, I ran away as fast as I could, well aware that these were the last survivors of this massacre.
I reached the base where I met with Alfie before the last trip, but there was no trace of Revos. The baby on my back whimpered and had already started sounding annoyed, which probably meant that she'd begin crying anytime soon. Isn't Nova her name? I tried to soothe her, taking advantage of my voice that still sounded a little feminine.
"Nova? Easy sweetie… we are going straight to a warm place". I stood still for a second, resting the hands on my hips to prevent waking up the twins on the right side of my chest. My words worked; it seems Nova was incredibly calm now. Great!
I had a look at my surroundings, while taking a deep breath and remembering the protocol. Suddenly I heard the baby girl on the left side of my chest giggling, I lowered my head to check on her and noticed she was staring at me. Her bronze eyes shone, and for a couple of seconds, they'd changed to a dark purple, as if lighting a pair of galaxies.
Those eyes stole my breath away, and at the same time, kept me astonished at their depth, "So you're the one who'll steal my heart, huh?" I started climbing the pipes to get to the secret path, "We'll see about that Ivy, we'll see."
Although I could travel at a higher speed, I chose to walk, making my slow pace work as a rocking chair, so the babies wouldn't fidget nor cry. Sometimes, I jogged a little, always trying to hide in the shadows to avoid appearing near the drones.
After forty-five minutes, I finally reached the secret base on the border, which at first glance is Titam's organic garbage dump. I bent down and touched the ground, watching images impregnated in the soil matter in my mind. I closed my eyes for a moment understanding all the information that came to me. Yes, they passed through here.
I stopped when I heard a couple of officers from the Order coming this way. What are they doing here? I quickly hid myself rocking my body so the babies wouldn't wake up. I also surrounded us with a cloak that would deafen the sounds outside, but the officers' voices were still booming.
"Why just now?" exclaimed one of the officers.
"Stop overthinking. If Oze activates the state of emergency, we only have to carry out the mission," the other one replied.
"Well, yeah, but isn't it strange that it was so sudden? And just because of a few newborns?" I became alarmed. How much do they know?
"Who knows? It'd be his way of instilling fear, or maybe he just has a fixation for babies like the first ruler-"
"ALL REGIMENT OFFICERS FROM TITAM STATION, APPROACH THE EASTERN PERIMETER… IMMEDIATELY," the radio transmissor they were carrying interrupted their chat. My heart skipped a bit just by hearing the place they were being summoned to.
"Oh man," the curious one sounded a little irritated.
"Unless you want them to believe that we're infiltrated Revos, we better start moving," the other one replied.
"How much more do I have to kill to prove it?" I could feel how my blood started boiling just from hearing an officer saying something like that so lightly.
"As much as it's needed, let's go!" said the other one while they drove away.
I looked at them with contempt when they finished losing themselves on the horizon, "Scums!" I spat out of my hiding place.
I tapped on my watch, activating the hologram that shows active points where Alfie and the others are. I stared at the coordinates and calculated that it would be another 45 minutes at this rate.
I turned off the hologram, and out of the blue, a great light blinded me for a second. I hunched over, protecting the babies. I turned back to look the reason of it and saw a great fire in the distance. The eastern building was burning so high that everyone from neighboring stations could see it. I was astonished for a moment. Three aircraft passed by at full speed, heading to the building.
The loud noise of the last aircraft passing so close to the ground woke up the four children at once. They began to cry immediately. I started making repetitive movements to calm them, "Shhh, shhh." As I got going, their crying became so louder that I couldn't help but stop walking. At this rate, they'll become a radar for the Order, and that would surely be the end for us.
What do I do? What do I do besides rocking? Nova seems to be very upset. "Shhh, shhh." My attempts to calm her are not helping, and her sobbing doesn't make the task of putting the others to sleep any easier.
"Shhh… Shhhh, come on, kiddos." But nothing seemed to work. Without much thought, I started singing a song that my parents used to sing at the Saros cultural year festivals when they were too drunk to remember the next day.
"There was a time when I used to fall, for the beautiful Vixen, roaring outside." After a couple of minutes, I noticed that everything had gone silent, and that's when I knew they were sleeping soundly. I can't believe the song actually worked!
I could finally continue my way to the base, so I kept on walking again, this time whispering the lyrics, hoping it could ease the babies' sleep a little bit more. "Ohh, I, I broke the shelves…"
What seemed like a forty-five-minute route turned into an hour and a half. I was exhausted after continually dodging other officers and aircraft and preventing any loud sounds from waking up the babies.
I crossed one last river and finally reached the closest point to the base where my contact with the Revos, Alfie, was. This base was far from the city, in a small suburb ignored by Saros just because it was the most impoverished area of the Station. The fact that everyone avoids this place in Vanam makes it the perfect place to build a hiding point without others noticing it, even if it is a temporary base in this perimeter.
I kept on walking, but this time slower. I didn't even remember how I managed to reach the front gate; my body felt heavy and drained. I approached the main tent and made the signal of the R16 division, the one I belonged to, along with all the Revos that had died last night. They let me pass the entrance, and I finally went inside the base.
From a tent further inside, Alfie started to run towards me. As I got closer, she looked behind me as if she was waiting for the babies' parents to come with me.
I saw all her emotions passing one by one across her face: Confusion at the fact that I was arriving alone, uncertainty because she doesn't know where the others are, fear at just imagining the worse… and then, certainty that she lost them all, just like I did.
"Nooooo!" Alfie yelled, pausing for a second, "It can't be, Hunter!" She began to cry as she fell to the ground in front of me, "NOOO! NOOO!" Lou tried to hold her, and I could barely blink while everything was happening.
Listening to her screams took me back to Titam. The images didn't stop. I started consciously remembering everything I had seen and felt… so at that moment, I've resigned to believe I could no longer escape from my emotions.
Some Revos approached me to help me take off my vest, my gun, and the soaked military clothes that covered the tight outfits I had underneath. Others started cleaning up my face, making me realize it was full of dirt and salty tears.
I knew that taking all the dirt and military clothes off wouldn't take away what was actually weighing me. I couldn't put the pain I was feeling into words, and knew that last night would accompany me for my whole life, no matter what happened to me from today.
Simultaneously, few Revos women pulled the children out of each cloth wrapper. Before taking them away from me, I spoke for the first time without whispering. "They are Hope, Li, and Sean's children," I didn't care my voice was coming out hoarser than expected.
"I'll take care of them. They ask ME to." I blurted, suddenly feeling scared.
The women holding the babies looked at me. I could see compassion in their eyes as they nodded, understanding my words, "We are only going to feed and clean them up. Don't worry. You can come and get them after you rest properly."
Alfie stood up and wrapped her arms around me, "Oh Hunter, I'm so sorry. Forgive me, my boy. My beautiful boy. What you've been through." she cried.
She hugged me while repeating the exact words, and I felt they were connecting with something inside me. I then realized that everything was over. I had already reached the base, and the children were safe.
Becoming aware of that led me to burst into tears and let go of all the emotions I was holding without knowing. I was feeling that my heart was breaking into pieces… I gave up everything I felt, and for a moment, I got lost in pain, screaming in tears.
"They're gone, Alfie." The words ripped through me. "They didn't hesitate a bit," I stammered while the massacre was replaying over and over in my mind. "Jeannine and the others threw themselves into the fire."
She released from my grip and wiped away my tears in a motherly way. With determination in her eyes, she stared at me. "They aren't completely gone. We never leave completely," she said.
"Besides, you brought a part of them with you. I can feel their spirit in each one of those babies. All their parents didn't sacrifice themselves in vain", I couldn't speak at all. I stared at Alfie, listening carefully to the next step in the plan.
"From now on, we're going to take care of them, we're going to hide them, and we're going to do everything in our hands, so they can live." I nodded frantically. Athough my emotional impression didn't allow me to assimilate what she was saying entirely, I've always trusted all her plans. "The simple fact that the third regent announced a state of emergency proves that these children are the key to our future," she concluded.
We were alone in the tent, so I let her know all the information I gathered during the whole mission and my way back to the base. The number of aircraft I saw departing from Barca matched the number of Saros regents. "I think they were transporting Regents to inspect the massacre or maybe they just wanted to show off their power," I said scornfully.
"Hope also asked me that unless the children show any signals, we shouldn't tell them about the Chasm," I added.
"I've been losing my touch," she started to cry. "If I'd figured out way before you left that our information had been leaked, perhaps we wouldn't have lost so many."
I hugged her tightly, "Don't do that to yourself. It wasn't your fault. Thanks to you, we were also able to save a lot" Perhaps this wasn't the right time to talk about last night's events, so I changed the subject to our main priority, "How long do you think we should keep the babies hidden?"
"It took us forty years to get to this point, and all our progress has decreased to zero. I can't be sure," Alfie answered genuinely. "I don't know if I can last 40 more years, Hunter."
"It didn't go down to zero, Alfie," I reminded her. "We have saved 300 newborns."
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locals, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. COPYRIGHT © 2021 KELLIA PRIMERA | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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