Rhivera

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~Chapter 4A- The Military~

~Chapter Four~

~Juaquin~

~June 2020~

~Present Day~

There’s a derelict building in Northern Uneva that was once a prison. Ever since Population Control was established, a place where the government housed and fed criminals no longer made sense. Now the government uses fines and takes away certain rights for a period of time to deter crimes and if a person’s crimes are severe enough, then Population Control will take them.

The prison was abandoned and has deteriorated over the years. It’s only a matter of time before it is torn down. But tonight we believe the RLA is holding hostages there. It’s their typical routine, the RLA holds hostages and threatens to kill them if the PCC isn’t disbanded.

Corporal Ilyana Ferzo lays out a blueprint of the prison in front of us, and the squad takes in the details of the building. There are fifteen of us in Ilyana’s squad now, including myself. I’ve been with them for nearly two years now. All of us are dressed in the standard blue and white uniforms of the military.

When I turned 16, I joined the military under Raul’s watchful eye. Both Raul and mom insisted I work for the military part time until I finish school. I plan to stay with the military until the RLA was finally gone. After that, I’d do something to help Eugenio so he wouldn’t have to be trapped inside anymore.

My classes in school facilitated a lot of my military development such that my training period was very brief. It took a few months before I was assigned into Ilyana’s squad and a few more until they felt comfortable bringing me on missions like these. But Ilyana seems to have faith in me now.

“We need to find out where in that building they’re holding the hostages before we make a move.” Ilyana says glaring down at the blueprint. Her short black hair is tied into a bun behind her to keep it from getting in her way. She’s a 22-year old woman who is intent on rising through the ranks of the military. Raul has said that her eagerness to prove herself is reminiscent of himself at that age. “Juaquin, Rico. I’m sending you into the prison. Radio us once you’ve identified where they are. Stay out of sight.”

I nod, but Rico silently pouts as he often does. He was a 28-year old man who preferred not to overextend himself. Ilyana couldn’t help but push him.

I do my best to remember the blueprint’s details so I can navigate the prison. The entrance on the western side seems like the best place to start. Even if they have lookouts, they likely won’t be positioned there. They have no idea we’ve tracked them down so as long as Rico and I don’t blow it, we have the advantage.

Ilyana and the rest of the squad take positions around the prison while we head inside. We peer through the darkness of the prison, our automatic rifles ready in case we’re discovered. In these confined quarters, I’m prepared to draw the 9mm pistol at my hip. It’ll serve us better if engaged up close. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

We pass by cell after cell of the prison, I can only imagine being detained in one of them for years. I’d go crazy. I can see how the threat of that once kept people from committing crimes.

Rico and I inform Ilyana that it looked like the western part of the building is empty. We start to hear idle chatter as we go further. We step as quietly as we can and approach.

We enter the mess hall from a metal balcony surrounding the room which must’ve served as a lookout spot when the prison was active. There are a few in dark green camouflage uniforms, typical dress of RLA soldiers. All armed. After circling the room from the balcony we spot the hostages, four cowering teenagers around my age, probably ready to graduate. They had their heads down, hoping not to upset their captors.

Rico and I creep away until we’re out of range. He whispers into the radio, “Corporal, eyes on the hostages and RLA. Location is the mess hall.”

In a moment, Ilyana responds, “How many of them?”

Rico froze up. I take the radio and answer for him, “Four hostages. At least nine RLA soldiers.” Rico nods to me, his way of thanking me for keeping track.

“Stay out of sight and await further orders.” Ilyana says flatly. After a few minutes of silence, her voice comes through, “When I give the order everyone will take out their own target. I need you to reach the hostages when that happens.”

“Yes Corporal.” We respond in a hushed tone. We take our positions with great care so we aren’t seen or heard, and wait for further orders. There is a stairway from the balcony leading down into the mess hall. When it’s time we’ll rush down there to the hostages. I eye one of the RLA members and choose him as my target, preparing my rifle.

It won’t be the first time I’ve killed. My first time was over a year ago in another dealing with the RLA. They already killed some of their hostages, so I didn’t have any qualms about it in the moment. It was only afterwards that I realized what I did, it was unsettling how easy it was. Even more unsettling was how I’ve gotten used to it.

As I line up my sights, some of the other members of our squad begin entering the mess hall through the balcony overlooking the room from different angles, effectively surrounding them.

“Now!” Ilyana’s command comes through the radio.

The room booms with gunfire as our squad unloads on the RLA. In mere seconds half of them are dead. Rico and I make our way down the stairs towards the hostages as the terrorists scramble to retaliate. Rico bellows and falls over.

In a mere minute the fire fight is over, with all of the RLA members in the mess hall incapacitated. Two of them are alive, but their weapons are promptly taken from them. They were using automatic magazine fed carbines and 9mm pistols, the standard issue weapons in the military. They must’ve been stolen, as was usual with all of the RLA’s weaponry.

I kneel next to Rico, “Where were you hit?” I ask him, looking him over.

Rico is gasping, “I- I don’t know.” A few of the other soldiers come over to look at him.

“It doesn’t look like they hit you.” A fellow soldier states, puzzled by him.

“Well, my ankle hurts a bit.” Rico replies. We take another look at his ankle, no sign of any hit there either.

“Did you trip?” I ask.

“No! Of course not.” Rico says, clearly doubtful of himself.

There’s nothing wrong with him. Once it’s clear he’s fine I leave him to check on the hostages. Unfortunately, they were in a dire strait.

They’d all been shot in the legs by the RLA with the intent of crippling them, just like what they did with dad. Even if saved, Population Control will probably take them soon after if it’s severe enough. A common tactic of the RLA.

The only thing we can do at this point is return them to their families. Half of our squad take the hostages out of the prison, while the rest of us stay to deal with the surviving RLA members. We line the terrorists up against a wall. One is a clean shaven older man and the other a younger man that seems terrified of what will happen.

“Do either of you know the whereabouts of Eduardo Santoro?” Ilyana asks. The two of them are silent. “Who’s in charge between the two of you?”

Nothing but silence. The younger man is trembling. He looks even younger than me. Maybe he’s just another person that disagrees with Population Control and thinks this is the only way to fight back. There’s no saving him now though.

Ilyana takes her pistol in hand, takes a stance with her back foot pivoted away and with great accuracy she shoots the younger man before he knew it was coming.

The older man other is taken in for questioning. But it was rare for any useful information to be obtained from them. Either they were too stubborn to give anything up, or Santoro ensured they didn’t have any information to give. Most likely the former. These lower ranking members were never told where their larger bases are. If they told us the location of any of their hideouts, it was usually empty by the time we investigated it. They’re never detained for more than a day before being killed. The military didn’t want too much time wasted on them.

The adrenaline from the shootout begins to wear off, and I feel the fatigue of the night setting in.

Ilyana taps me on the shoulder, “Don’t pass out on me Juaquin.” She must’ve noticed.

I force myself to alertness, “Sorry Corporal. Had my last day of school yesterday. I’ve been going non-stop. Haven’t gotten much sleep.”

“As soon as we get back to base you can head on home.” She smiles, “And no need to be so formal with me. Ilyana is fine.”

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