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Chapter 1: Fire and Brimstone

“Once more. This time, don’t hold back.”

The brutish guard threw another heavy fist in the battered man’s face, knocking him off balance. Bound to the wooden chair he sat on, there was nothing he could do to soften the fall to the hard floor. Blood and mucus dripped from his nose.

“I… told you…” The man spoke through the searing pain

The burly guard stomped on the prisoner’s ankle. He cried in agony.

A decorated officer leaned down and met the prisoner’s face “If you tell me you know nothing one more time, I swear on your mother’s life-“

“But I don’t!” The prisoner shouted, spitting blood.

The guard straightened the prisoner’s chair back up and unsheathed a long knife. “That’s fine, I like it when they don’t talk…” grinned the officer

The prisoner looked in horror at the dagger and back to the officer, “Why do you think I even know anything? I swear I’m just some guy!”

The commander nods to his companion, who slowly and deliberately stabs the knife into the prisoner’s shoulder. The integrated grits his teeth, trying not to give the sadist the satisfaction of another scream.

“So you mean to tell me, Mr. Reid Lucius,” the officer continues “even though you live right next to the city’s harbor, you never once noticed the comings and goings of troops? Weapons, artillery, nothing at all?”

“Look,” Reid breathed “I’m just a deli worker. Things came and went out of that port all the time, how would I-” The large guard backhands the captive and sends him spiraling back to the ground.

The commander stands over him and shouts, “No more, ‘I thinks’ and ‘I don’t knows!’ Don’t you understand, you peasant, the sort of predicament you’re in?” The officer picked up Reid by the collar and shakes him “Your country has abandon you. Run off like the miserable little cockroaches they are! And here you are. All alone!” He brings Reid close his face and whispers, “And I can do this all day long.”

Reid looked into his deep into his torture’s eyes and saw nothing but blackness.

The surprisingly strong officer chucked Reid into the wall. Obliterating the chair Reid was tied to on impact. He laid sprawled on the floor, begging for death in his mind.

The commander walked over to Reid’s body and kicked him repeatedly in the stomach with his leather boot. “Filthy little pig! Don’t you dare get blood on my boot!” With one final kick to the ribs, the commander pulled out his machine pistol.

“If you value your life, you will tell me what you know.” He cranked back the pistol’s slide and aimed it for the prisoner’s temple.

Reid’s breathing became light and increasingly labored. Images of the burning ferry flashed in his mind. The screams of the innocent on board echoed in his ears.

Reid shut his eyes tight and thought of his sister. How she tried to warn him and how he would never see her again…

He hears the pistol erupt next to him and the clatter of a cartridge landing nearby. But he didn’t feel the sting of a bullet or the warm embrace of his death. Instead, he heard scuffling and something weighty drop to the floor.

Suddenly a pair of thick arms picked him up, and he feels himself being tossed over a broad shoulder. “Am… I dead?” Reid mutters dazed. He gets no answer.

“We managed not to raise the alarm, but it won’t be long till someone starts wondering about these two,” Reid hears a woman’s voice whisper nearby “I hope you were right about blowing our cover like this.”

“We couldn’t leave him, Alice” Replies a deep man’s voice

Reid’s head spun, his vision blurred, and before he knew it, the world went dark around him.

*

“Hey there, can you hear me?” A woman’s soft voice whispered in Reid’s ear

“Sleeping beauty finally gonna grace us with his presence?” A woman spat bitterly nearby. She sounded like the same person from earlier.

“I think so, but we don’t want to rush him. He endured a great deal and-“

“We don’t have time for this crap.”

A bath of ice cold water washed over Reid’s face, shooting him upright. “I told you assholes I don’t-“

“Shut-up kid, you’re safe.”

Reid rubbed his eyes and saw a scowling woman with short, wavy red hair staring back at him with an empty bucket in her hand. He looked around frantically and saw he was no longer in his home but in some strange canvas tent.

“H-Hey, are you ok? That gash looks pretty bad.” A young woman with long bernete hair and big hazel eyes sat at his side. She took his arm and applied light pressure to the wound, “That has to be infected.” She stood up and walked to the opposite side of the tent.

“Hold it! Where are you going?” blurted the angry woman

“To get the nurse. Wouldn’t she want to be notified as soon as the patient woke up?”

“That can wait, I need a word with him first.” She tossed the bucket in the corner and pulled up a stool. “What did they ask you, kid? What info are they looking for?”

“Huh?” Reid replied, “Where am I? Who the hell are you?”

The woman kicked back her chair and slammed Reid into the cot he sat in. “The good guys believe it or not. Now I don’t have time to play twenty questions. I need to get something from this freaking failure. What were they asking you? Why were they interrogating you?”

The brunette girl rushed back to Reid’s side and placed a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Captain, don’t you think you should give him just a moment to gather his thoughts? He’s had a long night too after all.”

The captain swiped away her hand “We are in the middle of a war kid, every day from now on is going to be a long one!” She pointed emphatically to the other side of the tent “I lost half my squad doing recon and all I’ve got to show for it is this idiot!”

“They wanted information on the boats,” Reid rubbed his swollen eye and tried to recall the past few hours

The captain’s head shot back at Reid “The boats, what about the boats?” She took him by the shoulders

“They wanted to know what was coming and going off of them.” He remembered vaguely, “Said I would know something because I lived by the harbor, but it wasn’t just me. They were interrogating everyone in town.”

“What did you tell them?”

“I don’t know anything! I work at the local deli, I don’t know anything about guns or troops.”

The captain shoved Reid back into the bed “Well thank God for that,” She stormed out of the tent in a huff.

The other girl followed but stopped at the tent flap “I’m going to go get the nurse, just hang tight ok!” and she ran out.

Reid sat back up and stared at the grassy floor. His head pounded, but he needed answers, and he knew the only way he would get those answers is if he sought them out. Standing up, his busted ankle screamed under his weight. He shakily made his way out the tent, welcoming the fresh night air on his face.

What he saw once he was outside the warm tent, sent him tumbling back to the ground. Lanterns and large campfires lit up hundreds of tents, just like his, in long lines along the coastline. He saw thousands of bloodied people laying on stretchers, several of them missing limbs and moaning in pain.  Dozens of doctors rushed between tents, all of them covered in blood and gore. Children ran wild, crying, searching frantically for their mothers.

The sound of an explosion rang from behind Reid. He circled and watched a plume of smoke and fire rise across the water along the opposite coastline. It was then he finally understood.

He was on the Isle, the explosion across the bay was his village, and the camp around him was all that was left of the inhabitance of his former home. His neighbors and peers laid wounded and dying next to him.

His sister was right, this was total war, and there was no escaping it.

*

Days following that dark night in 1935 C.E. the world stood in stunned silence as news traveled about the Vormare Republic’s invasion of the peaceful Isle of Aska. Though the old men and woman that fought in the first World War would have told you the writing was on the wall. Vormare, though taking incredible losses in their defeat during the first war, managed to quickly rebuild and somehow become even more powerful than before.

With new power at their fingertips and a heart filled with revenge, their humble neighbor to the west, the nation of Aska, proved too tempting a target for the recently rebuilt country to sink its new teeth into.

The small nation filled primarily with farmers and ocean traders hardly stood a chance against the beast in the east. Aska did its best to rescue its citizens from across the bay, but the Republic’s blitz attack prevented them from picking up little more than half of their people and ferrying across to the nation’s mainland.

The Republic was ruthless in their invasion. Making quick work of the small garrison Aska placed along the border. The Republic’s soldiers spared no man, woman or even child. Violating several war crimes.

Soon, the flames of war spread across the world once again. Age old alliances were called in, treaties were burned, and the small nation of Aska found themselves on the front line of a new world war.

** Next Chapter – Chapter 2: Welcome To Squad Two **

One comment on “Valiant Hearts – Chapter 1: Fire and Brimstone

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