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Those Who Guard Us Prologue
“Run! Take your sister and run.”
The last thing their mother said to him before being separated in the chaos of things.
The boy of eight years tried searching but the entire town was a battle zone on fire. Nothing around made sense. The frantic cries of his little sister and the instinct of self-preservation meant that he had no choice but to continue as he was told without their mother.
His sister was crying but he had no time to comfort her. Explosions going off all around and the snapping of firearms were getting closer. They had to escape now.
Charging through the main roads wasn’t a good idea, people were being gunned down left and right. Taking her hand the boy led them to the back ways, pathways he knew well from all his exploring throughout town. There were holes and gates he loved playing with but now were his salvation. They were able to keep their heads low the entire time upon exiting the residential zone.
Now came the tricking part.
A large spillway divided the two zones and was void of any sort of objects to hide behind. Several bridges and roads were available but caution won out, the boy would not use them. Too many cars were piled up on them and if at all possible he wanted to avoid the bodies. It was hard enough trying to get his sister to calm down after seeing their local butcher shop store owner lying on the street lifeless.
The little girl clung tight to her lifeline that was his right leg as he weighed their options.
Just going straight was a no go. They were exposed every which way and the sounds of fighting were too close for the boy’s cautious liking.
To the right the spillway looped around the residential area which would take them right back where they started. No clear path out of town was available for a good while if going that direction.
“If we go left,” he looked left to the smoldering bridge leading towards what was once the busy commercial district.
The fighting had since moved on from that area, leaving heaping piles of building debris and infernos. It was the fastest way out of town since there was a highway and a few offshoot roads that led to the nearby woods. If they could make it to the woodland area there was no way anyone would find them. The boy knew those trees like the back of his hand.
The sight of the burning town was enough to rob him of his little courage.
“Brother,” the girl pulled at his shirt.
“Under the bridge. Go under the bridge, Dallas.”
It was a name that wasn’t actually his but only one person called the boy by it. He knew the name and knew that voice very well. Strange for her to make, if only making a very ghostly, contact since Naomi was restricted to his dreams. His neck turned every which way hoping she would be standing right beside him.
The voice faded into the wind like dust.
The boy heeded the advice of his friend and made for the bridge. Scaling down was a bit much for his younger sister so she had to be carried. It wasn’t easy and in the end they fell together in a roll to the bottom. The boy absorbed the brunt of the impact as the girl wrapped in his arms remained unharmed.
“Brother?” the little girl felt him shake.
There were some scraps and cuts that stung like crazy and he was desperately trying to force down the pain assaulting him. They had to get going or they’ll be spotted. Snapping to, they scurried under the bridge-way and made it to the other side without further incident.
He couldn’t carry his sister anymore so they held hands tightly together. Dodging between vehicle husks left on the road he dashed for some building cover. The alleyways were a mess but that gave them some hiding places should the fighting get too close.
“Baze ba un to va say!” shouted a voice over a loudspeaker.
The boy didn’t know what was being said but recognized the language from those of far off lands where there was more sand then dirt. Regardless, the announcement the angry speaker was making sounded hateful. He wanted them to stop.
“Glory to Abu Pentai!”
That phrase the speaker repeated over and over again.
The boy did not like that name, in fact he hated it. Enough wits were about him to put it together that this Abu Pentai was the one responsible for all this fighting. That he was the leader of this fanatical army descending upon his peaceful town.
Their mother warned to never curse anyone but right at this very moment the boy threw every curse a child’s mind had towards that man’s name.
Artillery fire pounding nearby forced him to stop and shield his little sister. She screamed in desperate fear as the very earth shook against the weapons of man. A building cracked and to the boy’s horror, they were in range of its collapsing.
Before she could even begin to obey, the boy hauled her with him in a mad dash out of range of the collapsing structure. It should have been impossible to get enough distance with what speed their childish bodies could produce. Yet they accelerated faster as if though being pushed forward by some unseen force.
The ground shook to the monstrous collapse of something so heavy. A wave of dust overtook the two children barely managing an escape from the impact zone. The boy was out of breath and had to stop. Holding his knees his lungs greedily sucked in dusted filled air, choking in the process. His sister fared no better following his example and had a tougher time dealing with the lack of proper breaths.
Their lungs burned. Eyes stung angrily to the dust intrusions. Not even using their shirts as filters was of much good.
The boy pulled her along trying to find an exit to the heinous environment.
“No. Not yet. Don’t leave the dust.”
Why? The boy asked his friend. The cloud of floating debris hurt their eyes and made it difficult to breathe. Why should she want them to stay?
Try as she might to remain calm, Tonya was beginning to panic and her urging to flee reinforced the boy’s decision.
“Dallas please, don’t go!”
Their feet were already in motion. His friend just didn’t understand that they couldn’t stay there any longer. It took only a few seconds to clear the dust area and onto a business central street. They coughed and greedily took in unobstructed air.
Nightfall had begun, making the sharp blindness of a bright light behind stand out even more. The boy spared a moment to peak at what it was but after a few words from the crew he knew that tank was not on their side.
“Bu hiya ta!”
The tank roared to life and began moving forward, crushing everything in its path. Tonya spared only a single cry of fear before her brother’s urging forward took over. No matter how slow she was he would not let go. Her brother’s resolve to keep them both safe kept the little girl’s legs in motion no matter how much they hurt.
It was an Abram tank the Americans left behind when they withdrew from their long war in the Middle East. These new occupants struggled to control the behemoth as the treads could not maintain a straight line. The tank collided with a building and dragging the glass storefront along as the driver corrected course.
Not only could these scavengers not pilot the war machine correctly, they yet to operate its massive turret that could flatten any number of opponents. Since their target were children and their main weapon used for show, one of the crew popped out of the turret hatch and began to spray rounds with an AK.
The snapping of bullets around was horrifying enough that not even the boy could hold back a scream. When the bullets started to get close the boy went right and the shooter had to zero in on his targets all over again. Having a poor shooter barely nipping at their heels was of little comfort as the tank itself was getting closer.
“Cannon pur don!” came a voice from the belly of the metal beast.
What the children couldn’t understand was that the tank crew finally got the turret working and were ready to shoot.
“Glory to Abu Pentai!”
An explosion raddling the earth around the children. The boy shielded Tonya to the ground as neither one could maintain footing. The attack went far and wide, being nowhere near the intended target before impacting into a distant building. The boy’s ears were ringing but after patting down Tonya for any injuries they were in a full sprint away from the oncoming tank.
Head hurting, he lost his sense of direction. Just run. That’s all he knew. Run until they were safe.
Another explosion getting much closer. Despite desperation to shield her ears, Tonya’s brother wouldn’t lend even a second away from running. Debris came at them from every direction striking hard enough to draw blood.
Another explosion. The boy found himself weightless having lost every sensory output with his muted ringing ears. The impact was earth scattering, cratering the street just behind the two.
The boy was rendered unable to focus and had no balance trying to return to his feet. He fell, once…twice before taking his sister’s arm and clawed a few inches away.
Spitting air out uncontrollably, all he knew was to keep moving. Why did he feel so light? Where was his sister’s voice?
The snapping of the rounds around them stopped.
Gaining enough sense to realize something was wrong he turned to see Tonya was nowhere to be found.
It didn’t make any sense. The boy was holding onto his sister’s arm. Holding onto only the girl’s arms.
If he had full control of his body the boy would be shouting loud enough for heaven to hear by the severed limb in his hand.
Something was stuck in his throat trying to call out her name.
“Run! Take your sister and run.”
The boy didn’t know what to feel realizing his failure to keep his sister safe. He shook uncontrollably turning his sight to the rear to find what became of Tonya.
Smoke. Lots of smoke.
She wasn’t in the hole caused by the tank’s cannon. She wasn’t anywhere his eyes zoned in on. Confused, he started brushing aside debris hoping to find her. The more he dug the more panic took hold. She had to be around here somewhere.
One final explosion and the demon tank exploded.
From behind the flaming metal box a figure emerged, tossing aside the used-up tube that delivered the fatal blow and approached the boy.
He was a giant of muscle and everything about him screamed soldier to the boy’s eyes. A mercenary, not that the boy knew this fact.
Minus an indiscriminate pony-tailed hair style, everything from his equipment and demeanor was tailored to war. An American styled M4 rifle was in his hands and a twisted up cheap cigarette in his mouth. Focus dark eyes scanned the battered boy, cuts and scrapes and was bleeding from the side. If something wasn’t done the boy would be endangered of bleeding out.
The boy’s interest was more into finding the owner of the arm he held tightly to. He was a mess. A goner if someone didn’t help.
“Well,” he swooshed the cig from one side of his lip to the other. “I’ve done my one good deed in all this mess.”
He stepped off.
The sound another person’s voice sprung him around with weapon aimed ready to fire. The man couldn’t believe he’d been so careless to let someone get the jump on him. To his surprise there stood another child staring back him with praying hands and desperation in her eyes.
Couldn’t be the one that boy is looking for. She’s got both her arms. And is she glowing?
This new girl was shining with a light even those taintless clothes of hers couldn’t measure up to. It was a heavenly aura that left him stupid for words.
“Please. Don’t leave him.”
His left eyes closed for the well-aimed shot opened and the girl was still standing there, a beautifully shining pearl amidst the dirty battlefield. A cautious hand went out and right through the girl’s shoulder.
“Gah!” He jumped back, ready now more than ever to squeeze the trigger.
“Protect Dallas. He needs you now.”
The distant sound of combat altered his aim for a brief moment before returning back to the strange glowing girl.
“I don’t think you grasp who I am, sweetie. I’m a hired gun. The best even. I don’t deal with…children.” He spared a glance at the boy who was mortified to continue searching the debris.
“Please,” she moved closer, causing the mercenary to step back again. Nearly lost balance as the ground was uneven to his scattered movements.
“Save this one. Just this one. He’s my friend.”
In an instant the girl was gone and the mercenary zipped from one angle to the other trying to make sense to where she went.
Lowering the rifle to at the ready, the world’s more dangerous hired mercenary looked at the broken child.
Sighing. “This is going to be a handful.”
Holstering his rifle to his backside he tried to remove the severed arm from the boy’s grasp. The boy growled and fought with every inch of his strength which was surprising strong against a grown man.
With a single punch to the face the boy was knocked out cold. Tossing the useless keepsake aside he went to work wrapping the wound the boy had sustained. Hoisting the small child on his shoulder, the battle was getting closer.
“They’re going to dock my pay for this.”
The mercenary retreated just as the skies became full with American jets and support helicopters.
“Looks like the Allied forces finally are taking action.” “Hm. Dallas was it? Nice ring to it.”
Abu Pentai’s invasion of a peaceful loving country would be halted on this day. The back of the radical army would be broken with its leader disappearing from the world. Not only would the monster disappear but so too would a small broken boy, carried away into another country in the arms of the world’s most dangerous hired gun.