In crafting “Unnecessary Warfare, An Incidental Reaction,” I have purposed to run a series of war-focused science fiction, war in fantasy and war in horror. This free to read short sci-fi is my first entry toward full engagement. Take a read. It is free. However, it would do me a world of great encouragement if you take time to post a few comments. Let me know how you like the close-combat focus of this Incidental Reaction. Let me know if you would like to read more such content.
So now, with not further ado, here is the story. Enjoy.
Unnecessary Warfare, An Incidental Reaction
Bryson ran along a narrow path of packed dirt wedged between two blown-out concrete buildings. It was a dark night, the moon a waning crescent shadowed by drifting clouds, smoke and ash. At the end of the pathway, he paused, looking out over a large burned out garden surrounded by multiple apartments. Wilted or ash-dusted grass, shrubs and vines silently declared the after effects of a recent explosion. In the hot smelly air, charred gazebos jutted up from the scorched soil like petrified tree stumps rearing out of black swamp water. This was a nasty place, lighted mostly by wood embers and a few lingering flames.
Walking between the coal corpses of trees leaning against crumbling garden walls, he moved towards the entrance of one of the apartments. He was clad in beige: uniform, color-matching plate carrier and helmet. His weapon of choice, a M4a1 with a CQBR upper receiver was complimented by a holstered pistol strapped to his plate carrier. From foot to helmet, a thin exoskeleton consisting of hydraulic dampers and load-bearing joints embraced his body. Therein was the strength that supported a large ocular device on his helmet. For resistance to the ashes whipping around in the night winds, he wore a balaclava.
“Uniform incoming. Turn it on and engage Alpha complex, over,” a voice sounded from his radio.
“How’s backup looking?” Bryson asked, speaking through a throat mic.
“We have Echo team on standby, quarter klick to Northeast-east, over,” said Uniform.
“Going in.” Bryson pulled the ocular device on his helmet down over his eyes.
“Looking for discrepancies between day-performance and night-performance. Keep us advised,” Uniform said. “Over and out.”
Shouldering the M4, Bryson hunched low while entering the pitch black apartment complex through a collapsed wall. Vision through the ocular device’s FLIR imaging illuminated nearby walls with an eerie transparent liquid-glass glow. Three floors up, the weak shimmer of a heat signature caught the soldier’s attention. Roughly eight signatures, moving about the third floor of the building. He pressed the PTT button on his radio: “Uniform, Uniform. Bryson incoming Intel is off. Reporting 8 signatures on third floor, ground floor being first floor. Over.”
“Uniform here. Move up and make ready to breach. Echo team just dispatched a medium-grade assault drone to your location. ETA 30 seconds. Over and out.”
Callsign Bryson located a functional outer-perimeter staircase, climbed to the third floor landing and took in basic surroundings. No immediate threats stood out so he eased into the adjoining hallway. He walked slowly, slicing the pie as he turned into the corner leading to the 3rd floor.
“Bryson, Bryson. Incoming Echo drone operator here. I made a thermal sweep of the third floor. There is nothing here. No other heat signs on any spectrum. You are alone, buddy.”
Bryson was quiet for a while, watching obvious movements via the ocular device’s FLIR imaging relay.
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“Acknowledge, Bryson,” the drone operator repeated.
“Copy that.” Callsign Bryson eventually responded. He had no desire to move. Somehow, he sensed that moving a single muscle could cost him his life. The thermal signatures were definitely there. They were walking around, talking to each other. With one hand slowly leading to open the nearest door, rifle on the ready in his other hand, he moved to advance upon the nearest thermal signatures. They were mere meters away, just inside the room.
Callsign Bryson drew a deep breath of readiness. Something was crazy wrong, but he ignored the feeling that he was overlooking a serious piece of information. Sweat trickled down his forehead and onto the rubber eye guards of the ocular device. Instinct called for him to break off engagement. But the mission called for a full testing of the experimental imaging relay. He turned the knob and pushed through the door.
The wide range vision of the device gave him a constant positioning of eight signatures. One was in an adjacent bedroom, one in the bathroom and the other five were actually spread out over the entire third floor. His rifle held up by his right hand, he tapped a button on his ocular device with his free hand. A cross-hair corresponding to the focus of his rifle sights appeared in his vision.
“Uniform. I will be engaging eight tangos. Room is surrounded by presumably drywall. Challenge me in one minute. Call for immediate extraction if I do not answer the countersign.”
Callsign Bryson aimed the cross-hairs through the door of the bathroom, switched the M4a1 to fully automatic and settled on the head of the entity therein. But the enemy surprised him into momentary restraint. Each one, even those in other apartments suddenly turned in his direction. They knew he was there and seemed shocked by his presence, his awareness. Some attempted to run away. Others came charging. The one in the bathroom was a charger, a very quick charger.
Bryson squeezed the trigger fully, holding the recoiling gun’s sights down on target. One down. Others coming. The M4a1 had negligible recoil. The soldier managed to send accurate lead down range, piercing through the thin drywall and hitting the aggressive entities in the adjacent rooms. Three more enemies dropped and remained still like loosed bags of wet sand. Instantly, Callsign Bryson aimed down at three entities running away. Due to their relative distance, he switched his rifle to semi-automatic and took well-aimed shots at their torsos. Three more dropped.
The moment he saw no thermal signatures standing, he grabbed a spare magazine from his waist holder and reloaded his M4a1. The moment he fed the magazine into his rifle, he realized that only seven targets were down. Where was the last? And his mind clicked through locations. Then it thundered through his memory. One in the bedroom.
He felt it too late. The pressing weight of another person standing behind him, breathing down his neck. But this sensation was more powerful than any he had ever known, like the headwind of a hurling train coming in from behind quick and hard. He whirled around, rifle leveled high. Yet even with the ocular device geared for auto adjustment, a bright, white light enveloped his sight.
Something stomped him in his face, sending him flying against the drywall. The force of it pushed him through into the adjacent hallway. Two of the devices three lenses broke. His spectacular thermal vision narrowed into a near useless obfuscated monocular, and his ears were ringing. Smoke hit his nostrils and his legs felt like fire. His rifle was missing and there was no way he would rise up quick enough for a second round with this enemy.
Worse. He was now surrounded by hulking bright thermal signatures and more were approaching. They seemed to emit an exothermic aura. Heat within the hallway felt suffocating. The air stank with the hot rank odor of after battle. And as the temperature rapidly increased, his thermal vision could no longer differentiate between the entities and the surrounding walls.
Reflex took over. Callsign Bryson stopped trying to think. His right hand reached for the Glock 17 in the holster on his chest. No more time for analyzing the enemy. Fight of die. He drew and mag-dumped scattered fire into the last place he had seen an entity. Seventeen bullets exploded from his Glock 17.
The heat dissipated from the hallway. A humanoid thermal signature dropped down before him. He dropped the empty Glock to the hardwood flooring and leaned his head back against the crumbling wall.
“Swordfish.” He heard through his radio. It was Echo team.
Callsign Bryson reached for the PTT button on his radio. A faint shimmer of light danced through the remaining lens of the broken ocular device. He looked for the source. Across the way an interior wall was out. Beyond that, a balcony with missing windows overlooked the wasted garden.
The entire city skyline was ablaze with a ghostly white light. It was not the lights of anti-air systems nor helicopters and planes scurrying about the city. It was one, massive glob of light in the air, an alien light like that brilliant glow that had knocked Callsign Bryson on his butt.
Ignoring Echo team’s countersign, he struggled to his feet and limped to the edge of the balcony. He wanted it to be his broken goggles, but the truth made him question his own beliefs. The war-torn streets were filled with thermal signatures, very much alike to those he had just now neutralized. All of them radiated heat. All of them seemed to move about in a mob-like fashion. Angry. Bee like. A horde of destruction coming from someplace not here.
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As flying thermal signatures originated from the glob of light, Callsign Bryson pressed his PTT button. These things were too big and too fast for any man-made aircraft. “Sushi,” he said.
“Knife. Echo team radio operator here. The rest of the team went out to investigate a strange noise from outside. No response from them ever since. Do you know what is going on?”
Rather than respond, Bryson attempted to contact Uniform.
“Uniform, Uniform. Callsign Bryson here. Are you listening?”
“Uniform here. Yes, Callsign Bryson. Come in.”
“Hear me well,” he began. “If you do not immediately outfit this device to enough troops, we are proper bagged and buried. I identified eight enemy hostiles within the complex. Neutralized them all and then more. One look outside to the area between Echo team and me shows a mass of thermal signatures converging. Unidentified bogies are occupying the airspace. It looks like there is an entire nation of unknown hostiles coming at us.”
“Are you talking about Coalition forces?”
“Not Coalition,” Bryson said. “Inclined to think I just awakened a whole new enemy. Also inclined to say they’re not even human.”
Perhaps when you think of unnecessary warfare, you overlook the possibility of an incidental reaction.
I do hope that this free to read science fiction short story expands your interest in other possibilities. In this world we stand on the edge of a great catastrophic possibility. At any moment, someone, somewhere and in some hidden bunker may engage in an incidental reaction. Let us hope to the contrary, but let also work to eliminate all unnecessary war and the tools thereof.