First On Earth

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7

“What the hell is going on!” shouted Jerrod inside the darkened room. All the directors and executives and commanders of each Sector were present.

“It’s a blackout. It’s the same as –“ Fran tried to explain.

“The problem is not how the blackout occurred. More urgent matter awaits outside our disabled barricade,” interrupted Commander Soren. “We have to deploy the troops. Every Crusader and soldiers available should be armed right now.”

“Then the directors should leave right now, have the Crusaders armed as quick as possible. With the power down, the barricade will be destroyed in no time,” said Commander Jerrod hurriedly. The five directors left quickly. Jerrod was sweating like hell and his hands starting to vibrate like some motor. The other Commanders watched him silently. “Put up the thermal image.”

“The electricity is down –“

“Shit!” yelled Jerrod so loudly that some of the commanders jerked backwards. He slammed the table in front with his fist.

“Security breached! Security breached!” yelled a soldier from the tower of the barricade. He was madly shooting at whatever he saw that wasn’t human outside the barricade. His arms moved violently and his rifle’s bullet danced in the air. The other soldiers in their towers were not much different. Their minds were in chaos, rationality smashed into millions of pieces. The entire settlement was dark. The slight sunlight from the setting sun seemed like nothing. “Shit! There’s too many of them!”

My head was spinning, doing a backflip and a windmill. I grabbed Scarlet’s hand. She didn’t say anything and followed me. I changed course. Right when I caught the sight of the command center’s main gate, I turned around, heading straight for the armory.

“Where are you going? Shouldn’t you go to Director Han?” she said when I turned around towards another direction.

“It’s going to take ages to go inside and take a blade and come back outside. Now I need a weapon to protect myself right now. Don’t you agree?” I said. I was running now. Scarlet was dashing just beside me and I had no need to hold her hands anymore.

When we reached the armory, the gun racks and piles of ammunition were barely touched. Almost every single firearm was laid right they weren’t supposed to be right now. I took two and threw Scarlet another. We loaded our rifles and shoved the several magazines in my pockets. Then I exited the armory fully armed with Scarlet. I immediately decided where to go.

“Now what?” she said. It was an awful question to ask.

“Think about what guns were made for. I’m going to the hospital,” I said. I wasn’t surprised when she followed me. We entered the hospital and I started to bust in room by room.

Most of them were evacuated surprisingly fast. I guessed the alarm went off at least. The reception was empty. Doors of all kinds of room were left opened. Many of medical instruments were lying around making a mess of the place. There was even hospital gowns were trashed on the ground with some slippers.

“Leon? Scarlet? What are you doing here?” sounded from the back. The two of us turned behind. I was relieved to see Michelle in one piece. “What’s going on? What are you doing with a gun?”

“Blackout. Hunters. Disabled barricade,” I said. I threw her the second gun I carried with me. She caught it and loaded. “We need to get our weapons.”

Then there was an ear-piercing explosion. I saw out from the window and saw the red-orange flame illuminating the settlement like daylight. The whole place was lightened for a millisecond. Then the source of the light turned into a devilish flame.

The three of us left the abandoned hospital. Instantly, I saw groups of scattered soldiers, even some Crusader with their swords. The citizens were running like they’ve just seen the devil itself – only they actually did. The soldiers with guns opened fired towards the direction where the Hunter’s eerie scream roared with the flames. The rifles rattled and empty bullets landed helplessly on the ground beneath. I saw the riflemen’s faces and saw only fear; not the determined, courageous expression of an ideal soldier. Most likely they weren’t aiming properly.

Everyone knew the Hunter armor was impossible to penetrate with ordinary bullets; so they had to shoot their abdomen, where the flesh is soft enough for the bullets to go through. Even in normal, non-chaotic situation, it was difficult to aim accurately, but in a state like this? The soldiers with guns were wasting thousands of ammunition every second they pulled the trigger.

“Let’s go, we need to get to the command center,” I said. The other two nodded and turned to different direction with their weapons lock and loaded. We didn’t run and didn’t open fire without thinking. The last thing we wanted was dozens of Hunters on our tail all the way to the command center.

Just around the corner, a swarm of Hunters rushed in like a huge swarm of locusts. Some of them were climbing on top of small buildings, destroying it piece by piece to find any flesh to devour; most were dashing among the structures of the settlement. The Hunters tore, ravened and dissected human bodies as they see it and more and more were coming through the destroyed barricade. Opposing such ferocious monsters, were scattered soldiers with various weapons. But without a specific line of order, bodies of sacrificed soldiers started to pile up. There were a number Crusaders with their matching weapon, but the odd of numbers were against them.

“What a catastrophe…!” she lost her voice. Michelle also looked unusually hesitating.

“Keep your head straight. I’m not going to die today and so are you,” I said. I readied my gun and stood to meet my foe.

As soon as the Hunters came within range, I open fired. I never had constant rifle practice but I always had some knowledge to use it correctly. But still, I was under-experienced with guns, especially against Hunters. I certainly had the hard time of applying the idea of killing a Hunter with a gun.

Michelle and Scarlet must have had the similar problems. The Hunters seemed immune to bullets as they did not even hold back a single second while charging towards the thin line of riflemen. The creatures closed on rapidly. The ‘proper’ soldiers with guns started to flee backwards. A few Crusaders had their blades unsheathed but repeated stepping forward and backward. It was a matter of second when the Crusaders finally started to run away as well.

“This is hopeless, we’ll need to make a run,” said Michelle. Her voice sounded weak; perhaps she was weak, or it must have been the gun fires and Hunter screams. I nodded and ran towards the command center with Michelle and Scarlet right beside me.

“With the unification, the settlement should have at least five hundred Crusaders and nearly a thousand soldiers; even if they left most behind their own right now. Where the hell are they?” I scowled distastefully. I glanced back. Behind Scarlet and Michelle, I saw probably hundreds of Hunters; not tens, not dozens, but hundreds. It was the first time I saw that many. I even doubted if the Hunters were able to group up such a size.

“There! We’re almost there!” shouted Scarlet on top of her voice. We saw the largest structure of Sector 3. And, thank the gods, there were a whole lot of troops with all kinds of weapon ready in front of the main gate. At the vanguard stood the directors and the Crusaders, behind were the soldiers with the guns up.

“Leon! Michelle! Get your shit over here!” shouted Han. He ordered the gunners to fire at will. The bullet danced over our heads, bringing a metallic storm over the swarming Hunters. Han delivered two swords for us. I immediately drew out, faced towards them once more. “Charge!”

The Crusaders, mixed with the ones from all five Sectors, charged against the monster ruining the settlement. The Hunters also didn’t stop when we started running for them. Like slow motion, the disgusting, grotesque figure of Hunter came closer and closer. And the two sides collided.

The roaring of the Crusaders stopped. Screeching noise from Hunters ceased. They were replaced with sounds of metals, flesh being ripped apart, and blades swishing through bodies. It sounded like some battle scene in a medieval movie, except this was too real and too shocking to compare with it.

The first Hunter was severed in half by the thigh. I had no time to think about controlling my power, like Han said. All I concentrated was my hand clutching the sword and the beasts around me. I unleashed my ability without hesitation and brandished my sword, delivering a blitz of sword swings and strikes to anything that wasn’t human. At some point, I lost Michelle and Scarlet. I tried to slash my way through to find them. But I soon had to give up. There were simply too many.

Streaks of sweat rushed down my face. I probably killed like thirty Hunters but even that did not seem to affect the flooding beasts, replacing the dead every second. Nearby Crusaders started to fall one by one; only that they weren’t replaced like the dead Hunters. Gun fires continued but that too did not do much good – it was a relief if any one of that flying bullet didn’t penetrate human flesh. The fight was unfavorable for us in the first place, as time went by it only exacerbated with lesser and lesser fighters to repel the attack. If I think back… it wasn’t too much to say that humanity was at a verge of being banished from Earth; since, practically three quarters of the soldiers were in Sector 3 at that time.

Minutes? Hours? I lost count of time long before the all-out war – though the Hunters’ wouldn’t have said it was a battle with everything they’ve got. I did not stop using my ability. My body was whirling like a tornado, flourishing my blade everywhere. The Hunters collapsing like falling autumn leaves did eliminate some worries, but not everyone was fighting well. At some point onward, battle cries were replaced with screams of agony; boisterous voices of Crusaders were replaced with shouts of pain; orders of ‘charge’s with ‘fall back’, and vivid sounds of blades crossed with painful sounds of penetration of human flesh.

In the middle of the fight, I saw one or two helicopters that were one of few that were working. I ducked amongst the Hunters to avoid the showers of metal and explosive missiles targeted at the streets imbued with rampaging Hunters. The explosions of land missiles did make a devastating noise; but was it effective? It was certainly better than meaningless wastes of metal bullets. The firepower was enough to fry Hunters that were directly within the hot zone. But again, those that weren’t did not get a scratch from their thick, protective armor. And soon enough spikes, or whatever they call it, from Hunters retaliated back at the flying aircrafts, destroying it right above the group of human fighters. The colloidal damage from it is needless to say.

“Fall back! Fall back! Fall back to the soldier line!” shouted a voice from behind. Whoever he was, the voice was barely heard because most were buried by other screams of yells. I managed to look back and saw rows of Crusaders turning their back against their enemy. More of them started to die, with a sharp Hunter blade plucked to their back.

I stayed at my position. Running was not something I did. The Hunters must have dropped in numbers; it had to, so there was still hope. I hurled myself against the rows of Hunters, all of them eager to sever my body and eat my flesh for supper. Driving my blade at them, I killed the Hunters one by one. Leaping at them, I delivered a tremendous force, crushing them to the ground, destructing their bones. My sword was already sticky with greenish blood from numerous Hunters. I almost lost my grip time to time. But my sword wasn’t my only weapon. What I hated and what I disgusted, what I believed and what I trust. Even all the answers to the questions and emotions related were the impetus that kept me going, deny failures and loses. And perhaps, it was because of holding firmly at the answers that actually made me strong.

Hours have passed. I realized the totally darkened sky. The only light source was the dimness of the moon, raging eyes of the Hunters and the flares occasionally fired from behind. I had to admit, it was a miracle we’ve actually made this far. The sight of continuous gun fires, rocket fires, and sword slashing was still present regardless of the fallen. And in ages, I finally caught glimpse of Michelle.

My stamina was starting to test me. It wasn’t exhaustion or fatigue, but I felt my energy beginning to wear out bit by bit; if the fight went on like this, I knew I’ll be unable to fight at some point before midnight. I pushed my way through towards her. When she finally saw me, she looked delighted.

“By the gods! Where have you been?” she asked. Her movement was noticeably slower than normal and her voice also sounded rough and hard.

“Everywhere, I guess,” I replied back.

“Watch my back, would you?” she said. Michelle lashed her weapon with her back behind me.

“With honor,” I took a deep breath. It was good to have someone watching your back. It really relieved some of the burden – and even more if that person is someone you’ve trusted your entire life.

My breath became hoarser. I was breathing with my mouth, huffing more often than ever. I noticed my sword strokes becoming clumsy than usual. It became harder and harder to kill one more Hunter as time passed. I glanced back and heard Michelle coughing. There was good news though. Those who saw me and Michelle, the Crusaders, started to group up. But every one of us was at a verge of exhaustion, while the Hunters seemed like ‘tiredness’ wasn’t in their nature and besides. I stopped using my ability by then. Every drop of energy was starting to become a waste.

The group of Crusaders, there was perhaps a hundred of us – maybe more scattered beyond our reach – rounded up in one circle. Pushing our limits, we desperately tried to find the line of soldiers which we lost long time ago. And when I straightened my mind and recognized what was going on, we were isolated, surrounded, enclosed by indestructible wall of Hunters. A few Crusaders collapsed to the ground, letting go of their swords. Pathetic, I thought. If I were to die, it was my dire wish to kill one more of these freaks before I depart this world. But these people giving up… they deserved to die with their weak willpower.

Every one of us was the same at one thing: we were waiting for our destruction. The Hunters closed in; slowly eating the space between us and them. They did not barbarically jump in to kill us. Instead, they tried to fill us with fear and anxiety – and it worked for nearly all of us in the circle. Michelle was just beside me and when her eyes met mine, I knew she was thinking the same thing. I gripped my sword hard as ever, waiting for the final stand…

Then, all of the sudden the Hunters stopped.

They did not move, as if paralyzed by something. They ceased encroaching in. More abnormally, they backed off. Couple of Crusaders realized what was happening and fell to the ground from sudden relaxation of their muscle after extreme tension. But I stayed doubtful; the actions taken by Hunters were unprecedented, the pure nature of them was killing the enemy. Stepping back from an enemy that was nearly dying was impossible. Michelle also didn’t let go of her sword, let alone fell to the ground. The Hunters backed off. They continued until we actually saw the line of soldiers in the distance and the directors’ emotions all shocked in awe.

Then there was a devastating scream from atop.

I looked up. And saw it. On top of the gym, dimly figured by the moonlight, I saw the red eyes gleaming down at me. The gunners fired a flare. The night was instantly illuminated by artificial light. It stayed for in the air for several seconds. And I saw the figure on top of the gym. And I realized, the worse has just come to reality. It jumped down, harmlessly crashing down on the ground. It slowly walked towards us. As he came closer, the flare made it clear what the figure was. It was walking, walking among Hunters which made way for it. I only saw such thing once, but I never forgot the first impression it gave me. The red eyed, purplish bodied Hunter. Size smaller than normal black ones and due to the size, the unimaginable speed and power it can display.

I had no idea what to call that thing. Purple Hunter? Human-sized Hunter? But here’s what was certain: the arrival of that thing to the field was probably the worst scenario that could’ve happened.


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