“Zoey! Get up and run!” Chan screamed into her ear.
Zoey was shook back to reality, sitting bolt upright. “Wha- what...” Flames. Screaming. Was there screaming? A single high pitched note rang in her head, blocking out all other noise. A tree torn up by the roots flew past, as if tossed by an angry giant. She felt, rather then heard, and explosion. Something hard hit her in the back of the head, and darkness came again.
She was being carried. Not safely. On a shoulder. Each time she bounced it jammed into her stomach. Something hit her in the face. Something wet. Later that day she would find her face was smeared with blood. She saw one of the rockets, charging the island as a knight charged his challenger. It smashed into the ground, and the world let out a low, rumbling moan, like that of a dying whale. The ground shook, and the world went dark once more.
She hit the ground. Chan leaned forward and let loose a stream of vomit that almost hit her. “I can't carry you anymore, you gotta get up and run,” Chan managed to wheeze. Chan's voice was terrifying. It was a voice laden with fear, the kind that made you want to run away and hide, and scream for your mother. It was fear that was brought on when the unstoppable monsters of your nightmares came to life. It was the fear people felt when they were corned by a murderer in their bathroom, and can only wait, quivering, for death to come. It was an infant's fear. That fear was enough to drive Zoey to her feet and to make her run.
She didn't see the Sphere engineers load the Defender Rocket Platforms with the one hundred pound each missiles. She didn't see Colonel Cornwell enjoy giving the command for them to fire. She didn't see the Defender Rockets launch, one hundred and fifty in ten seconds, into the sky and towards their doomed target.
She heard their sound. The baying of Satan's hunting hounds. The rocket's launching, creating a sound of animal aggression. Long ago, before the Roar destroyed the world, there had been a great war. Defender Rockets had been heard in that war, although they were known by a different name. Zoey's ancestors had fought against them, and they simply called it “the death sound,” for those that heard it were soon among the dead. Across a thousand generations, Zoey's people had fought that sound. And now Zoey, hearing it for the first time, thought it was the embodiment of evil.
She ran. And ran and ran. She stopped caring about Chan or Derek or anyone else. All she could do was run from the evil. Through the burned carcases of trees, through the bodies, which had been blasted to bits and pieces. Tears streaked down her cheeks. She would punish herself later for not trying to help some of the screaming voices that filled the air. She couldn't. All that there was in the world was running. And running. Until the screaming stopped.
“Zoey!” Joshua yelled from the deck. “Where is Chan?”
Zoey didn't hear a word. The beach in front of the Bright Side was filled by a mass of desperate people, all begging to be let on. Some threw money in desperation. Others threatened violence. The white noise of a hundred voices, all of which considered themselves more important then the rest, made communication difficult at best.
Zoey slipped her way through the crowd, ducking under limbs and dodging through the press of bodies. The main ramp up was guarded by Giba and three other crewmen. They parted to let Zoey past, and quickly closed again the stop the mass of desperation that followed.
“Zoey!” Joshua rushed up to her. “Where's Chan?”
Zoey was still confused and dazed. “What? Chan?”
“Yes,” Joshua said, annoyed. “You were knocked out when the first rocket hit. Nobody noticed until the full barrage came down on our asses. Chan went back to get you and Giba carried me the rest of the way. Did you see her? Did she help you?”
Zoey felt like she was suffering from short term memory loss. “Yes... she carried me, I think. I was unconscious a lot of the time, I don't remember that well.”
“Where is she?” Joshua asked, a needy desperation present in his voice.
“I don't know.”
“Well you gotta remember, think!”
“No, I really don't know. She was carrying me, and then put me down. I started running, and I lost track of her.”
“God dammit!” Joshua screamed in anger. “We have fifteen minutes until the rockets hit the beach and obliterate everything on it. The crowd will riot long before then. All the rest of the crew is accounted for, amazingly, but we can't leave without Chan.”
“You were fine leaving without Derek,” Zoey said bitterly.
“Derek's different. He's a passenger. Chan is crew.”
“Oh! I get it now!” Zoey said with mock surprise. “You adopt a different moral code for passengers and crew.”
Joshua gave her a look of utter contempt and disgust. “Yes, I do. Hey! Get out of the water you son a bitch!” The latter part of his statement was because of a man that had dove into the water and was swimming for the ship. He ignored Joshua. “Hey! Buddy!” Joshua shouted again, leveling his rifle at him. “Get. out. of. the. Water.” he ordered again. The man feigned surprise, as if he hadn't heard Joshua the first time, and twisted in the water, looking for someone else the order may have been aimed at. “Yeah! I'm talking to you!” Joshua yelled. “Now get out of the water!” The man shook his head vigorously and kept swimming toward the ship. Without hesitation Joshua pulled the trigger. BLAM!The shot went right right through the man's head, and he fell back, dying the water red. “Serves the bastard right.” Joshua said before going back to look for Chan.
Zoey looked back towards the market and was horrified. The entire island was consumed in flame. How many had died? Hundreds, if not thousands. Chan was trapped in there. Trapped because of her. Zoey had a sudden rush of gilt wash over her. What if Chan didn't make it out? It would be her fault.
“Oh! Finally someone I know!”
Zoey turned around at was staring into the face of Father Glen Bates. “What are you doing here?” she asked.
Bates eyed the crowd at the bottom of the ramp nervously. “Do you think that they'll be able to get up here?” It was only then he seemed to acknowledge Zoey's question. “I was following you, then I followed that man Joshua, and then he let me on when I told him I knew Jack and could pay. Although, I haven't seen Jack. Where is he?”
“Why did he let you on?” Zoey asked in a very intrusive tone.
“I don't know. He let me on when I said I knew Jack. I'll tell you I thought there was going to be a riot down there when he did. But please! Where's Jack?”
“Fine,” Zoey said irritably, wanting to get off the deck before Joshua shot someone else. She led him to the infirmary and saw Clooney in the far bed, just like he always was.
“Jack!” Bates exclaimed, running to his side. “Jack! Jack! It's me!”
“He can't hear you,” the doctor said, scaring the wits out of Zoey by emerging from the shadows. “He's in a coma. Of course, I don't have a brain wave monitor so I can't tell if it's a real coma. But I would assume such, as he never moves an inch. Either that or he's very lazy.” The doctor chuckled at his own joke, but when he got no response he grumbled and got back to pushing papers around on his desk.
“Oh no,” Bates said. He began to pray. “Please God, please wake Jack up. We need him. I need him. Please.”
“You really think that's gonna do any good?” Zoey asked sceptically.
“I don't know what else to do!” Bates exclaimed. He sat on one of the beds, put his head in his hands and started to sob. “I've been looking for him for weeks! We all warning him what would happen if he left, and then he left! And look what happened! We need him! That's why I was sent to find him! I don't know why they sent me. Probably because they all think that I'm a bad priest and more useful elsewhere.”
Looking at the poor priest, all of the anger and frustration that Zoey had been feeling for Joshua and all of humanity dried up. She sat down next to him and did her best to comfort him.
The crowd was rioting. Who wouldn't? They were about to die and all the other ships had left. They had to get on this ship, or suffer certain death. They were throwing things, and screaming in rage and frustration at the cruel captain who wouldn't let them live.
Only Giba remained at the bottom of the ramp, as only Giba could take it. He used his massive palms to swat people away and pointed his gun at anyone who looked to big and threatening. He alone was holding off a wave of half crazed humanity.
“I really need to pay him more,” Joshua said to himself. His words were an attempt to cover up the tension churning in his stomach. If it was any other crewmen trapped out there then the Bright Side would've been long gone, but Joshua felt a impulse to wait for Chan. It was strange of him to give into an impulse, as most of the time he was a logical person, or at least he considered himself to be.
“Captain? You need to go.”
Joshua wasn't sure exactly who said that, but it sounded to him like Chan's voice. He whipped around in all directions, looking for her.
“You need to go.”
The voice came again, still Chan's. Joshua wondered if his schizophrenia had come back. After a moment of hesitation, he gave the order. “Retract the ramp! Giba get back up! We are leaving!” A second after he said it, a bullet bounced off the railing next to him. He swiftly turned and put a hole through the head of the man who shot at him. A second after he heard a little boy scream at his daddy to wake up.
The ramp pulled up, the masses on the beach wouldn't give up. “Please!” One woman screamed, desperately holding her child up. “Please! Take my baby! Even if you can't take me, take my baby!”
Joshua briefly felt an urge to take the baby and save at least one soul. But he clamped down on the feeling and crushed it. You couldn't just take one person in a crowd. Everyone would wonder why that person got special treatment. Only those who arrived before a mob formed could be saved, like Bates, Joshua rationalized with himself.
“You're murdering us!” a strong looking man at the front of the crowd screamed as the ship pulled away. “You're murdering us! You're no better then the Sphere bastards! You bastard! You could've at least took the children you heartless bastard!”
The man was not alone. Other people started screaming in anger. They had all been rivals only two hours ago. They had all been figuring out ways to oust the competition or scam their customers. But now they were all united in their urge to live and their hatred of one man.
“You can't leave me!” The voice was familiar to Joshua. It was screamed by none other then Tariki the merchant, the one that so cunningly and infuriatingly tried to haggle down the price of the Well Well water. This was the man that had a vast empire of trickery and deceit, who lived for money. In one hand he clutched his wife's arm, in the other he held his eight year old son. “You can't leave! Please! Have pity! Take my son at least! Please!”
They were getting farther away now, and the individual voices melted together to form a white noise of anger, fear, and pleading despair. For a hundred years the Tagra market had been a center of commerce and not all that friendly competition. Now it was nothing but a handful of desperate people, screaming for their lives.
And then the sound came. The ungodly sound of the launching rockets. The sound of death. Joshua turned his eyes away as every living thing on the beach was annihilated. Maybe he could have saved some? No. He never got the chance to buy food. They would've all died of starvation.
Joshua went into his cabin to drink himself to death.