• Chapter 1: The first assault

    “Zephyr… Zephyr… wake up…”
    The man named Zephyr slowly opened his eyes, shielding them with his hand against the suns glare. “Okay Wolf, I’m up. Is it time already?” mumbled Zephyr blinking as the light from the tent flap Wolf had pushed open shone on his eyes. Wolf nodded and left. Zephyr shook himself, then pushed aside the rough sack he had been using as a blanket that night.
    He stood up and stretched, wincing due to his stiff limbs. After this he pulled back the tent flap and stood outside watching the clouds sailing across the blue sky. He was just thinking about what they were going to do today, when he heard a crash to his right. He spun round to find a girl of around eighteen, a few years younger than himself, turning bright red, a metal pot on the floor by her feet that she had evidently just dropped. As he looked at her he suddenly became aware that he wasn’t wearing anything.
    He fell backwards into the tent, zipping it up. He dived for a bag near the end of where he had been sleeping and began pulling on clothes. After looking carefully around to check whether the girl was still standing there he sheepishly pulled open the tent flap and stepped out. The girl was nowhere to be seen, so he strode off down the dirt road towards the largest of the tents. On his way he was hailed by an old woman from inside a ramshackle building, where she had apparently been carefully tending to some sort of meat on a fire, Zephyr turned and raised a hand in greeting.
    The woman fixed him with a shrewd eye “I hear there is something big going on today”
    Zephyr blinked, rubbing the back of his neck as he always did when he was surprised, “yeah, it’s finally time to assault the dome.”
    The woman smiled “You show those Highs a thing or two.” Zephyr grinned and turned to go. “Oh, and…” the woman called after him. He turned. “Come back safely”. In the shadows of the building it was hard to make out her expression. Zephyr nodded briefly and continued along the road.
    He was getting quite close to the tent when he saw something glinting in grass next to the road. He bent down and picked it up, and saw as he did so that it was a shard of glass that had broken away from somewhere. He stared into it, watching his deep blue eyes staring back at him. He automatically raised a hand and felt the stubble that covered the bottom of his thin face. ‘No matter how many times I shave this off’ he thought ‘It’s always there in the morning’. He sighed dejectedly then started as he heard voices behind him. Turning round he saw two men standing over what appeared to be a body covered by a black cloth. As he listened he caught a bit of what they were saying, “…fourth dead on my shift this week, this looks like another case of radiation sickness…”
    Zephyr turned away at this point and continued up the road. It had been three years since the end of that war, but the radiation still lingered to poison those outside of the dome. It was another reason why he resented the Highs so much. His musings were ended when he walked into the tent that he been heading for. Extricating himself from the canvas, he walked through the tent flap. Three people were grouped round a map lying on a rough wooden table. They all looked round when Zephyr entered the tent. A woman on the right grinned and said, “So you finally got here.” She was a thin woman, dressed all in black, and looked to be in her mid-twenties. She had short blonde hair, a strand of which fell over her left eye. She had a rather pale face with a scar on each cheek and perfect, straight, white teeth. Zephyr nodded at her “Good to see you Snake.”
    He turned to the other two people around the table. In the middle was a tall, thin man, his face blackened by oil stains. He was wearing a blue shirt and black jeans, both of which were ripped and covered in oil stains. He had long tangled black hair that obscured most of his thin face. Above his hazel eyes a pair of goggles sat upon his forehead. “Hey there chief” was his first comment on seeing Zephyr. “Spanners” replied Zephyr, nodding his head in greeting.
    The last man at the table made no greeting to Zephyr but continued to study the map laid out in front of him. This was Wolf, the man that had woken Zephyr up earlier that day. He was tall and muscled, clearly very strong. He was wearing a black t-shirt and blue jeans. Judging by the stubble on his chin he hadn’t shaved for a while.
    Zephyr walked forward and looked at the map laid out on the table. It was a map of the dome. It consisted of a circle, which was spit up into five sections. There were the North, South, East and West quarters at their respective points in the circle, and in the middle, dividing all the quarters into equal sections, a central section. In the middle of the central section was the label: ‘Imperial High Command Centre (IHCC)’.
    After studying the map Zephyr looked up “Have you all familiarised yourself with this map?” They all nodded. He folded up the map and stuffed it into his pocket. “Okay, let’s go over this one more time” he said turning to the rest of the group “Snake you’re in charge of stealth, covering our tracks and making sure no-one discovers us” Snake grinned again in acknowledgment. “Spanners, you’re in charge of explosives, getting us into the dome, mechanical repairs and our medic, got it?” Spanners saluted and nodded. “And finally” he said turning to Wolf “Wolf, you take care of weaponry, what do we have in our armoury?” Finally looking at Zephyr, Wolf replied “Four gunpowder rifles, eight shots each with one spare clip apiece. Three pistols, and six grenades. Not to mention a knife each.”
    “No lasers?” enquired Zephyr.
    “Nah” Wolf replied gruffly, Zephyr ran a hand through his close-cut hair. It was so dark as to be almost dyed. He turned to Spanners again, “what’s our equipment like?” Spanners placed four objects on the table “What you see is what you get. Three high explosive charges and a standard medic kit. I’ve got a wrench and Snake has her night-vision goggles. Apart from that we’re bare.”
    Zephyr rubbed his eyes with his hands and said, “Okay, the plan is to infiltrate the IHCC and try and collapse the High’s comfortable way of life. Try and steal any technology you can get your hands on. Any questions?” They shook their heads.
    Zephyr rubbed his forehead with his hand “Okay, let’s do this”. The four of them left the tent and began to walk down the road that would take them out of the small village and onto the dome in the distance. People gathered on the side of the road to watch them go, cheering them on. A solitary crow detached itself from a withered tree near by and flew low over their heads towards the dome, small in the distance.


    After some time they reached the side of the dome. They chose a spot halfway between the North and West entrances and examined the side of the dome. Zephyr turned to Spanners “What do you think?” Spanners tapped the side of the dome and gave his verdict “Looks like it’s made from toughened plastic, very strong. I reckon they made it see-through so we people could see the riches they there living in. One charge ought to do it.” He fumbled a charge from his pocket and began to set it onto the wall of the dome. “Okay” he said “It’s set for one minute, when I push this button we’ll have a minute to get the hell away before we open a door into the dome.” They all nodded and he pressed the button. They all ran for cover.
    After a minute there was a large explosion and a hole wide enough for 3 men opened in the side of dome. “Oops” said Spanners “too much C4”. He grinned nervously. “Too much noise” growled Wolf “someone must of heard”. Zephyr grimaced “Yeah, you’re probably right. Let’s make this quick.” They all climbed in through the hole. They were round the back of a tall building with several floors, which people clearly lived in. They went right, round the building, and found themselves in a narrow alleyway with the backs of buildings on each side.
    The crept down this path cautiously, readying their weapons. At the end of the alleyway the path split. “Which way now?” asked Snake. Zephyr thought about it. He pointed down the right hand path “Right, we need to get to the centre.” They began to walk along the path for some time, each immersed in their own thoughts. They had been walking for just under ten minutes when the path suddenly led into a clearing with a magnificent fountain in the centre. There was a large building at the end of the clearing, seemingly important. Near the top there was a balcony with a white railing running all around it.
    They advanced cautiously into the square, their guns at the ready. They had just reached the fountain in the middle of the square when a figure appeared on the balcony. He was dressed completely in white, with a white shirt, trousers and cloak. On the cuff of the man’s shirt, which was blue, was the number ‘24’. “Well, well, well” he said, sneering down at them, “What do we have here? A few Lows. You’re not even worth my time. But I have my orders. You’re not to make it to the centre.” He raised his right hand and they saw that his index finger appeared to be made of metal, with a slight protrusion out of the fingernail. At the end of this protrusion was a small hole. A wire came out of the back of the finger into a blood red ring he was wearing on the same finger. “This” he said, indicating the finger “is a Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Or, as it is more commonly known, a ‘laser’.” He waved the finger so they could clearly see the hole at the end. “It emits an extremely concentrated beam of light. Normally it would take a lot of energy to power a laser, but we have recently discovered a new element, which generates the power we need. And a piece of it is here, in this ring;”
    “We haven’t thought of a name for it yet, so we simply call it ‘Element U’. The ‘U’ being for unknown.” He continued “But rather than me explaining it to you, let me give you a demonstration” He pointed his finger at Spanners. Before he could do anymore however Wolf fired, aiming directly for the man’s head. However before the bullet had even left the barrel, the man had ducked, and the bullet sped into the wall. He stood up, brushed a speck of dust of his sleeve and smiled. “So glad you could give me a chance to try out my new reaction enhancing implant. Significantly improves reaction time. I can dodge anything you can throw at me without trying. Now where were we?” Again he pointed his finger at Spanners. There were a few seconds where the silence seemed louder than usual.
    Then a beam of light, so small it was hard to make out clearly, shot out of the end of the man’s finger and onto Spanners’ chest. There was perhaps half a second when there was merely a red dot on spanners chest, then the light burst through. Spanners gave a single yell of pain and crumpled, blood already starting to pour from the small hole in his chest. Zephyr ran to his body and supported his head, all thoughts of the man forgotten. “Spanners! Spanners! Speak to me!” The man of the balcony laughed softly and quietly “There’s no point. Its gone right through his heart. He’ll be gone soon.” Sure enough when Zephyr looked back down at Spanners face, his eyes had already started to go cloudy. “It takes several minutes for someone to die when there heart has stopped beating” he continued brutally “Imagine the pain he must be in. Well, I must be off, I wouldn’t want my colleagues to miss the fun.” He left the balcony.
    By this time Spanners’ eyes had become fully glassy. The wound in his chest had stopped flowing as violently, and they knew he was dead. They laid him by the fountain, and Zephyr placed fingers on both his eyelids and closed them. He then took off his jacket and laid is across Spanners’ face and torso. Then he stood up and, wiping his hand quickly across his eyes, began to walk towards a road on the left. Snake and Wolf followed him.


    They had been walking for some time down this new path each of their thoughts on Spanners when Snake spoke “Where are we?” Zephyr looked up.
    “Close to the centre I think.” He replied. They walked for another ten minutes when, turning a corner, they came face to face with a man, dressed the same way as the man earlier, except he had a ‘13’ on his cuff rather than ‘24’. Zephyr immediately raised his gun, but the man kicked it out of his hand. He was shuffling a pack of playing cards. He was a head shorter than the man before and kept his head tilted downwards, so his face was in shadow. “Ladies and Gentlemen, let us try not to cause unnecessary bloodshed. I have an idea, let’s play a game. You win you live.”
    Wolf gritted his teeth, “And tell us why we shouldn’t just kill you now?” The man continued shuffling his cards.
    “As I see it, playing my game is the only way you can live. Your primitive weapons couldn’t harm me. So here is my game. Each of these cards” he held up the pack “Is made of an explosive. The back of a card serves to ignite another, if it is forcibly rubbed against it, say, when a card is drawn from the top of the pack. The number on the card corresponds to how explosive the card is. Get below a four and you should live” He grinned.
    Before they could register much more than shock he said, “Okay, let’s play!” He drew a card from the top of the pack. “Oh, hard luck, it’s a nine.” He flicked the card expertly at Wolf. It ignited in mid air, and a second later exploded. The force of the explosion slammed Zephyr and Snake into the wall on their right. Zephyr slid to the bottom of the wall, his ears ringing, blinded by smoke. As the smoke cleared, he saw that the man had disappeared. “S-Snake?” He wheezed.
    “Here.” Came Snake’s faint voice to his right.
    “Wolf?” Said Zephyr. There was no answer, “Wolf?” He asked again. Still no answer. Gradually the smoke cleared and he saw Wolf. Zephyr fell to his knees. The man had thrown the card at Wolf, intending him to bear the full brunt of the explosion. It had worked. A hole had been blown in Wolf’s right side, and his right arm was missing. Blood was pouring out of these wounds. Zephyr could tell that he was already dead. He got up and turned away, suppressing the urge to throw up. “Come on” He said to Snake and together they made their way up the road.
    They turned round a corner when Zephyr felt he could go no further. He pressed his head against the cold stone wall next to him. “I think were close now, Snake.” He said. All he got in reply was a gasp. He turned round and saw Snake standing with her back to a narrow alleyway, her eyes wide. Together they both lowered their eyes to the knife protruding through her chest. “No…” breathed Zephyr as he looked back up at Snake. A trickle of blood oozed from the corner of her mouth. The knife was withdrawn and she crumpled.
    Behind her was a woman dressed like the two men, but in black. On her sleeve was a white ‘8’. She stepped over Snakes lifeless body. “Number eight. Pleased to make your acquaintance.” She advanced on Zephyr. He stepped backwards then ran sideways as fast as he could, not sure where he was going. He ran for another fifteen minutes before he stumbled into a clearing. Ahead of him were ranks of white clothed men and women, and six black clothed people, two women and four men. Zephyr turned back to run down the road he had taken and saw the woman that had killed Snake blocking the way. He turned back to the ranks of soldiers. A man dressed in black with a two on his sleeve began to walk forward. As Zephyr looked down at the man’s hand, which was swinging slightly at his side, he saw that it was encased in metal, like the man who had killed Spanners’ finger had been, with a blood red ring on each finger. “Stay back!” shouted Zephyr.
    The advancing man laughed, “Surely you are not even considering fighting. You don’t even have a weapon.” Zephyr seemed to see Wolf’s killer kicking it out of his hand again. The man walked towards Zephyr, pulled back his metal fist and punched Zephyr full in the stomach. There were a few seconds where the place where the man had punched glowed, then four beams of light burst out of Zephyrs back.

    As the man withdrew his fist, Zephyr fell. It seemed to him as though he was falling through thick treacle. The world was moving 5 times slower than usual, the ground getting slowly nearer. He hit the ground facing upwards. Through blurry eyes he watched the man walking forwards and levelling his finger at him. Then, far off in the distance it seemed, a voice called out “Sir, surely you’ve done enough!” Zephyr couldn’t be sure, but it seemed female. He struggled to keep a hold of his rapidly slipping away senses. “Hmm” the man said thoughtfully “Perhaps you’re right thirty-seven. Okay, men. We’re done here, move out and call the clean-up squad.”
    There was a loud stamping as the soldiers filed out of the square, leaving Zephyr alone. It all seemed far-off to him, distant. As the darkness gnawed at the corners of his vision he gazed up at the white clouds sailing across the sky. Far above the dome, a cloud shifted and a ray of sunlight shone down upon the misty eyes of Zephyr. He lay looking at the sun, his clouded eyes unseeing.