~Chapter 7A- Nirivo~
“I’m glad you’re not a soldier anymore. It wasn’t right for you.” Mom remarks. She’s ecstatic about the lie Raul and I told her. She gives Eugenio and I a kiss on the cheek and heads out the door for work. For the last few years she’s been managing the Neruda/Rios Farm as well as her brother’s bakery. Eugenio and I have the house all to ourselves.
“You’re really not a soldier anymore?” Eugenio asks, sounding disappointed.
“Hold on a moment,” I run upstairs to grab the white suitcase Raul gave me. I bring it down and slap it onto the table. “Can you keep a secret?”
Eugenio eagerly nodded. I know I can trust him. I open up the suitcase and show Eugenio the Survival Suit. “When I said I was in a safer position, I wasn’t lying. But I’m still a soldier.”
Eugenio pulls a flat object out of the case, “What’s this?”
I take it from him and flick it in the air like I saw General Lena do, and it unfolds into a helmet, locking into place once fully expanded.
“Cool!” Eugenio exclaims, reaching for the helmet.
“Yeah, it’s mine.” I hand the helmet to Eugenio and he puts it over his head. It’s a bit oversized for him and looks a little silly.
“Apparently it’ll protect me from gunfire. It’s supposed to be top secret stuff. Just don’t tell mom I’m still a soldier. After what they said about what Miro and the RLA just pulled, she’d freak out. Don’t tell Melissa or Arturo either.”
Eugenio nods in the helmet, “I won’t tell.” If there’s one person I can trust to stay true to his word, it was Eugenio. “You still have to tell me about all of the missions you go on though.”
I smile, “That’s fair.” He loved hearing about the ′adventures′ I would go on as a soldier.
Eugenio takes the helmet off, “Miro is a good guy though, right?”
I tilt my head at him, “What makes you say that?”
“That’s what Melissa said. Miro is trying to get rid of the PCC so I can go outside.”
Damn it Melissa. Why would you tell Eugenio something like that? “I think they’re misguided. The RLA wants to get rid of the PCC too, but they’re still doing really terrible things. Miro is no different.”
“Oh. Ok. That makes sense.” Eugenio nods and hands the helmet back to me. I collapse it to its flat state and return it to its suitcase.
There was a rustle in my squad when I arrived at base the next day. They already heard I was given the Survival Suit and wanted to see. Word must’ve spread from Raul. Rico audibly gasps when I showed them the helmet of the suit.
“It looks just like Miro’s!” Ilyana comments, arms folded.
“Do you want it?” I ask. “They don’t really care who uses it, as long as it gets tested.”
Ilyana raises her eyebrows at me, “Didn’t Raul give this directly to you?”
“Then you should keep it for yourself.” Ilyana remarks.
Ilyana did a bit of research into the previous incarnations of the survival suit, and found out that in 2006 a Survival Suit user killed Fidel Santoro, the original leader of the RLA. Soon after that, his son Eduardo Santoro took over the RLA, and it began to turn from a legitimate army into the terrorist group it is now. The first Survival Suit user was referred to as Nirivo, and subsequent ones have carried that name.
“Have you tested it out?” Rico asks.
“I haven’t used it yet, so no.”
“Let’s get you into that suit and see how well it does.” Rico brashly suggests.
Ilyana unfolds her arms and steps in urgently, “Absolutely not! We’re not going to shoot at Juaquin or any of our own soldiers.”
“It’s not a bad idea to see what it’s capable of. I’m not against trying it out.” I say.
Ilyana nervously looks back at me, “Ar-Are you sure?”
“Yeah. Let’s try it. I’m sure they would’ve tested it before I got it anyways.”
“Let’s at least test it out on a dummy before we start shooting
I change into the Survival suit. It takes some time to get into. I expected it to be restrictive, but it’s surprisingly flexible. I’m able to do some quick stretches in it. I don’t quite have the same range of motion, but this is fine.
Ilyana asks again when I return to the squad, “Are you sure about this?”
I nod. The prospect of getting shot is nerve-wracking, but it’s better to find out now than later. It didn’t seem to do any harm to test dummy we used beforehand.
Ilyana has me stand against a wall 10 meters away from her. “Where do you want me to shoot?” Ilyana says, the apprehension heavy in her voice.
“Aim for the shoulder, I guess.”
“Alright. I’ll try to just knick it.” Ilyana pivots her back foot and aims her pistol. Usually she fires almost immediately, but she’s reluctant now. She pulls the trigger and I wince. There is a single loud boom from the gun, and a moment later I feel a sharp jab in my shoulder.
I look at myself. I’m fine. There is only a slight sting in my shoulder from the point where it struck. It hurt, but it’s much better than getting shot. I can tell Ilyana is relieved. The single bullet lies around my feet.
“How’re you feeling bud?” Rico hollers.
“Doing great! I barely felt a thing.” I pick up the bullet and hold it in the air, “The suit works! Hit me again!”
Ilyana fires a few shots at my chest. None of which feel like much. I can tell where each of the bullets impacts, but I’m no worse for wear.
“You shot Miro in the head, and he didn’t even react. Aim for mine.” I holler to her, “I want to see what it feels like.”
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea Juaquin,” Ilyana responds.
“It’ll be fine, trust me!” I holler back, beating my chest.
She fired almost immediately and I feel a small tingle on my forehead. I hear a quiet metallic ‘ting’ from the impact. It struck the visor of the helmet, but there was no sign of damage. Not that I could see.
“Still good.” I announce, “I think the helmet is reinforced even more than the rest of the Survival Suit.”
Business goes on as usual, things were starting to calm down in Uneva. Whatever presence the RLA had in our region was being stamped out. Soon, our region would be rid of them entirely.
A few days pass and the Rhiveran Liberation Army in Uneva makes one last effort against us. Nearly 20 armed terrorists take over the train station nearest to the base, taking all of the passengers of the train hostage and halting all travel in and out of Uneva.
“Disband the Population Control Council, or we’ll kill the hostages.” They broadcast. A message they’ve repeated ad nauseam.
Raul mobilizes troops from the base and forms a perimeter around the train station. Around the military’s perimeter, news station’s crews try to catch a glimpse of the situation, no doubt to stir people’s fears.
The RLA’s defense of the station was solid, we couldn’t approach from any angle without being shot at. They must’ve been planning this for awhile. We have the numbers advantage, but we can’t take the brute force approach. That’ll lead to unnecessary military casualties. But if we hesitate, there will be civilian casualties, which is far worse.
There is a point that wasn’t as well defended near the back of the train on the track itself, but it still can’t be approached without immediate fire from the RLA. Ilyana and I see a clear solution. Never one to linger on formalities, Ilyana approaches Raul directly rather than going through her superiors.
“General, we think we have a solution.” Ilyana announces proudly, standing at his attention, “I think we can have Juaquin here eliminate the forces at the rear of the train using the Survival Suit, and it will give the rest of your forces the opening they need to enter the train at all other angles. ”
Raul raises his eyebrow. “Are you sure the suit can withstand that much?”
“Very sure sir,” Ilyana replies confidently.
Raul hesitates, but without any other clear ways forward, he decides to go with the plan. They arm me with the standard automatic rifle, a pistol, and a serrated combat knife.
Hundreds of soldiers gather at the back of the train, ready to strike once I clear the path inside. I know there’s a lot of pressure on me, but I’m ready to follow through.
I’m given a signal to move in, and I sprint down the track towards the train. I feel a sharp jab in my leg, and another in my chest. The terrorists spotted me and began firing. It hurts, but that won’t slow me down. The gunfire from the train becomes more intense. They must think they’re somehow missing me. Unfortunately for them, they’ve given away their positions. There are two of them manned at the very back of the train. I take my pistol and fire through the train window and strike one of them.
Once I reach the train, I climb the platform to the backdoor. The door swings open and I’m greeted with direct gunfire, much more painful at this range. Through it, I shoot the terrorist in the head and he drops to the floor. I enter the train and see it lined with passengers.
I speak into my radio, “Ilyana, I’ve taken-” Someone grabs me from behind. They draw a knife in front of me and plunge it towards my chest. The Survival Suit deflects the blade. I feel the impact of it against my chest, but it can’t pierce the suit. I draw my own dagger and stab the nearest part of their body.
They scream and release me, and I turn to them and respond with a few gunshots to their chest. They fall lifelessly to the ground.
More of the RLA comes to the carrying car I’m in, and I dispatch them as they come. In moments, the Uneva’s forces approach from the back of the train. It was all over once the soldiers enter the train, the RLA lost their advantage and were in a scramble. Within minutes, we had taken the train over and had either killed or disarmed all of the RLA aboard. Once it was clear they lost, the RLA stoops to killing hostages, but are quickly dealt with afterwards. A few hostages couldn’t be saved, but not a single soldier’s life was lost.