For a split second, Vyanaar could only hear his own footsteps, as he raced towards the abandoned truck, and slid behind it, waiting and listening. The sound of the explosion renewed his faith that his senses were still up. He turned to see the impact of the blast. Two trucks had overturned. Cars around had slid far away from their initial mark, their windows shattered with the blow, and the glass lay melting on the surface. Vyanaar’s radio buzzed to life. “Sovereign – respond. What’s the status?” Kerii asked.
“The barricade is clear. I repeat the barricade is clear. Sending the team now” He gestured towards the five people scattered across the desolate street, who now moved rapidly towards the explosion. The Sovereign joined them, shifting his glances as rapidly as he could, from the street to the windows overhead to the terraces, to the abandoned vehicles and back to the street again. He could hear distant gunfire and felt the tremors when tanks and bombs went off, but he could gauge that they were still far off. His team was in the clear. At least for now.
Vyanaar reached for his helmet and spoke into the radio. “Jermiaani – what’s the status of the Bravo team. I can hear tanks going off in the distance.” He tried to spot people from the team from amid the cracks in the buildings that expanded his view to many streets further. All he saw was the Arvallian force moving, their guns firing at people unknown, the buildings and monuments shattered. At least the ruins gave enough protection, thought the Sovereign. It was easier to use the debris for stealth.
“We are behind you on the opposite flank” came back Jermiaani’s voice, breaking static every few seconds. “I am on the roof, sniping my way through. I can see you.” The Sovereign turned around to catch sight but couldn’t trace the voice. “No point in turning. I am too high up. You won’t see me. Continue on.” The Sovereign had noticed something though, in the far off distance. He barked in the radio “Get off the roofs. All of you. I see a drone fleet coming in from where I stand.”
“Kerii -” he thundered in the radio. “You’re in the control center for a reason. You are supposed to keep surveilling the area for this.” There was silence for too long before the reply came back. “I am sorry. It’s a blind spot. They are still far away for surveillance radius to detect them. You happened to see blips. I have turned the equipment now to get a better understanding of the force. I see 4 jets. Mostly – no pilots.”
“I need a better answer than that” said the Sovereign. “No pilots” came the reply after 10 seconds. “Confirmed”. The Sovereign nodded – “Okay. Great. Jermiaani – engage the people in your team on that. I need those drones down before they are within vicinity of the damage.” “On it” replied Jermiaani. The Sovereign nodded to his own team and they continued to proceed forward. Today would be a pivotal day in the rebellion. If all proceeded as expected, we could transform from rebels to heroes.
The Sovereign heard a soft whirring and buzzing as the wind whistled by. It was enough for him to understand. “Take cover – incoming gunfire” he shouted to his team. The team hid behind battered walls and used the abandoned cars as embankments, shooting and talking at once, trying to get a sense of the enemy guns and their locations. The Sovereign changed his primary and equipped it with the lens in his backpack. He saw two people aiming behind a dirt embankment. He shot one through the head as he was aiming. The other ducked too soon.
Not that it mattered. The gunfire was streaming in from at least three directions now. He looked at his team as they took down people one after the other, even as the numbers kept increasing. War was patriotism for them, he thought blankly, even as he took aim and shot the second target through the neck. Anything for the right cause.
That was good. He truly needed patriots now. The people of Carane were divided into factions. More bullets whizzed by. He killed the last one on the roof in front of him. In a blur, he told his team to move in the direction that had been cleared out. There were those that felt that the rebels were a scourge, fighting for glory and power. But there were those that understood the reality of the situation. That the empire of Carane had been in ruins for many years before the war in the rebellion had begun, destroyed by the Arvallians. Sovereign’s forces were only trying to bring justice back to the society – justice in it’s true form, not just a semblance.
It didn’t matter. “Vyanaar-” the radio came back to life. “We took the jets down but I see at least 3 more coming your way from the far side. We won’t be able to get to you in time.” The Sovereign looked up and tried to hear the planes. He couldn’t – that meant they still had time. “Thanks Jermiaani” he replied. “We will keep an eye out”
The goal for the day was not far off. The building called The Archive, lay a few streets away. If only we could reach the vaults… “No – you don’t understand” Jermiaani replied from the other end. “These aren’t normal drones-”
Jermiaani needn’t have to complete his thought even though the line gave out to static. The Sovereign felt the tremors soon enough, increasing in magnitude with every second. The drones were bombing all along the way, they had probably cleared out the block of the Arvallian’s own forces. He nodded to the team. “Abort.” He had a pit in his stomach – Freedom would have to wait.
The drones surveyed the debacle after the bombings had stopped. Their scanners hit the ruins for biometric signatures; indeed, the Arvallian forces had destroyed a large part of their own city to achieve their goal. They had received word that the Sovereign himself had been fighting in this area. If that were true, then the ruins from the bombings were a low price. The rebellion would end without the Sovereign. But it was all in vain – for the drones couldn’t find the bodies in the ashes. Hundereds of miles below, the Sovereign and his team moved through the intricate series of underground tunnels, known only to the Carsanions, stretching from one end of Carane to the other, hoping that the maze would remain undiscovered…, and praying for the day when they would be able to traverse above ground, their head held high…
Copyright 2016, Vaibhav Thombre
Author’s Note: This post ‘Ashes’ marks the end of the ‘season 1’ series of 9 posts, if you will, of the Empire of Carane series. See you all in season 2…