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Tuesday, February 13th, 2018, 2:40 am
Oliver started working on the computer. The computer was locked. Oliver hit the power button and inserted a USB drive. Oliver found the camera on top of the monitor. There was no thumb-pad. When the booting process stopped and showed some Chinese text waiting for a password he waved a picture in front of the camera, but it had no effect.
Oliver took a camera out of the bag and took a picture of the screen. He quickly got the translation. It said, ‘Please print voice password.’ He took out a digital sound editor and played some words he had recorded from Tong’s house.
The screen flashed, and the text seemed to change. Oliver took another picture. The camera’s translation said, ‘Bad inner eye scan.’ Oliver waved the picture a second time in front of the camera. The screen flashed again and the OS loaded with Tong as the logon user.
Oliver opened the USB drive and copied some files onto Tong’s computer. The PAC kept copies of battle orders that often included detailed battle plans in a homegrown database system. Oliver opened the software and uploaded the plans.
While Oliver had been uploading the plans, various sounds of battle could be heard from the hall. Jared and Sarah had got out a small laptop-style computer. Part of the plan they were about to try to execute was actually inspired by Tong’s infamous use of the conference phone.
Oliver asked them, “Ready?”
“Ready,” said Sarah, who held the editor.
Oliver turned on the phone and connected to the PAC outpost at the Indian border. They were all still wearing their translators. Through the speaker the ringing sounded.
Oliver sat at the small computer they brought and quickly typed, “Hello, this is General Tong.” The keyboard was silent despite the extreme speed Oliver typed.
The voice from the speaker was translated as saying, “Hello, this is Captain Yu Ailang.”
This was perfect, exactly who they needed to talk to. Oliver pressed the enter button and the laptop said, in the voice of Tong, the same phrase Oliver had typed translated into Chinese. With their translators on, they heard the synthesized voice translated back into English.
Yu’s poorly translated reply came, “Hello, Sir. Is something wrong for you to be awake so early?”
Oliver quickly replied after typing, “It’s not your place to question the hours I keep.”
“We have just discovered India is moving an army toward our border to attack us. I need you to send your men across the border and attack and destroy as much as possible before they arrive. We will have a larger force there around the time they reach you. I have filed the battle plans, and you should be able to access them now.”
“Sir, we only have a handful of troops. How can you get an army here with them all on vacation?”
“Are you questioning my orders?” After this last message, Sarah poked Oliver as if to say, ‘Don’t lay it on too thick!’
“No, Sir; sorry, Sir. I’ll take it from here, thank you, Sir.”
Sarah pushed a button on the phone to terminate the call. Just as she did, they heard some gunfire outside.
Sarah said to Oliver, “Don’t be too harsh to these people.”
“OK, I’m trying.”
Oliver turned the phone back on and connected to the Russian border patrol outpost. Oliver retyped his greeting message as the phone rang.
A voice through the phone said, “Sergeant’s desk.”
Jared imagined this was a bad start for the second of the calls. The sergeant’s desk was like a secretarial station for the outpost. They needed to speak with the captain, Tai Purong.
Oliver hit enter, and the greeting message played. As it played, he typed, “I must speak with the captain.” Before the greeting message was done being played, he pressed the enter key and the additional text was added to the message.
“Sir, the captain is asleep right now.”
“I said I must speak with him.”
There was a pause, giving Jared enough time to think, ‘Something’s wrong. They know we’re imposters.’ Despite Jared’s concern the reply finally came, “OK, I’ll get him.”
They waited for the captain. While Aaron had an excellent weapon, he was only one person. Given enough time, the soldiers would find a way to defeat him and then the mission would be ruined. Although maybe it would not be so bad since they had contacted the Indian border patrol. Fighting should at least start there. In the end, it just might mean India was invaded instead of Russia. It might mean less for China, in the long run, without easy access to Europe.
A new voice finally came through the phone saying, “This is the captain.”
Oliver quickly typed, “We have just discovered India is moving an army toward our border to attack us. I need you to send your men across the border and attack and destroy as much as possible before they arrive. We will have a larger force there around the time they reach you. I have filed the battle plans, and you should be able to access them now.”
Some gunfire could be heard as the captain said, “Who is this?”
Jared felt his stomach tighten. The captain knew something was wrong.
“This is General Tong,” was Oliver’s reply.
“Why am I hearing gunfire?”
“Does your hearing things cause you to be insubordinate?”
“No . . . Sir, I just want to make sure this is a legitimate request.”
Not good, Jared thought. The captain knew something was wrong, or at least different.
Oliver typed, “If you really must know, I am attending a drill.”
Tai asked, “A drill at 2:50 in the morning?”
“Yes, a drill of the troops we are sending to you at 2:50 in the morning.”
“Sorry, Sir, it just seemed unusual. I will get my troops together and execute the plan.”
When Sarah ended the call, they all exhaled in unison. Sarah said into her headset, “Honey, we’re on our way.”
Aaron replied, “OK, these guys aren’t that bright. They haven’t even tried shooting from the other door.”
Oliver asked, “Should we use the Jammer?”
“No, it’ll screw up our headsets,” Sarah replied.
Jared wanted to celebrate the success, but they had no time. He helped Sarah put the computer away. While they worked, Oliver shut down Tong’s computer
When they were ready, they took their bags and builders and went out to meet Aaron. Aaron was standing back, his body protected by the alcove and the shield. Aaron said, “I wish we could just cut through the building with these,” referring to the builders.
It was too dangerous though. If they took out a support beam, the building could fall in on them, bypassing the shields. Moreover, there were other things they could hit like water pipes or electric lines.
Some noise came from the western end of the hall, their escape route. The soldiers had finally decided to try the other side.
“Perfect timing,” said Sarah.
Jared said, “We can still do this. I’ll take Aaron’s side and we can form parallel walls. You and Oliver can take the remaining sides.”
“How much room do we need?” Aaron asked, as he pointed to the northern side of the alcove, meaning how far out would they have to be without ripping through the building.
Jared said, “You should be fine there. The wall should fit.”
“OK, I’ll turn mine off to get the angle correct. Get ready.”
Oliver and Sarah stood in the middle of the alcove with Aaron and Jared on either side. As soon as they were in place, Aaron said, “Now.” He switched off his builder and turned ninety degrees to face the eastern wall of the alcove. As he turned, the soldiers on the west began to shoot, and Jared turned on his builder. It stopped the bullets, but some of the soldiers began to run toward them.
Jared heard Aaron’s builder turn on and began to move north so he could stop any additional bullets and the soldiers. Aaron started walking as well.
When they were halfway into the hall, the soldier’s were only a few feet away. Jared did not want a repeat of the last soldiers that attacked, but he had no choice. Sarah and Oliver would not be in place when they arrived. Jared quickly extended and retracted the wall, killing the oncoming soldiers.
Jared and Aaron spread apart so that Oliver and Sarah could take their places. Once they were in place, they began to walk slowly toward the door at the end of the hall. Like before, it was a slow deliberate walk. A few soldiers at both ends were shooting from time to time. They seemed to take turns hiding and shooting to avoid crossfire. Of course, there was very little crossfire. The only bullets the walls did not catch were so poorly aimed they would not have hit them anyway.
When the soldiers realized the direction the colonists were going, their numbers increased at the door and only two soldiers, occasionally looking down the hall from both sides, could be seen at the other end. For the most part, the soldiers seemed aware of the fact that bullets were useless, but as the distance to the door was cut in half the soldiers opened fire, as if the only thing previously stopping the bullets had been their range. With several soldiers just inside the door and then the majority outside the door, the doors were closed as the colonists continued their slow march.
The Chinese probably hoped the doors would contain them. Unlike the walls they had worried about earlier, the doors were not a key to the building’s structural integrity. It was also unlikely for there to be a gas pipe, water pipe, or electric wiring though the doors.
When Jared was within ten feet of the door, he extended the shield briefly, killing all seven of the soldiers that stood inside the door. He did it so precisely that except for parts of the door handles, the double doors remained intact. He expected it would be more unbalancing for the soldiers outside if the door was taken down as they went through.
As they continued to walk, Aaron said, “They might use other weapons when we are outside. They are probably holding off for the moment to spare the building. It’s not really the best plan if we had conventional weapons, but either way we’ll be more vulnerable outside. Be careful and move straight for the tunnel. We’ll need to seal it as soon as we’re in.”
Jared volunteered, “I’ll do that; I can be quick.”
Sarah warned, “You’ll need to be VERY quick.”
“I will be.” At least he hoped.
This whole escape was based on the premise that the tunnel had not been discovered. Even if it had not been discovered, their destination might still be guessed. Jared wished they could use a time machine to escape, but he knew they could not, mostly because they would not have time to make them with a builder and then launch them. Even if they had the time, they lacked a safe destination. It could be impossible to go into the past because now China’s past was also their past, and any changes would affect them. If they went forward it would be likely they would be found and killed by whatever Chinese power existed in that future. The very worst possibility was that they would get captured at whatever time they traveled to and the time machines would get into other people’s hands. No, they had to get back to the colony.
When Jared got to the point where his wall was about to destroy the doors he asked, “Are we ready?”
The other three all said in almost perfect unison, “Yes!”
The doors were made of steel. From the inside, they could normally be pushed opened by the door handles. In this case, Jared suspected the soldiers had done something that would prevent them from manually opening the doors. In each door was a thin pane of glass, which soldiers had been peeking through. There were no soldiers now because they had backed away.
At the other end of the hall, some soldiers started shooting at them again. Jared stepped forward and all but the very edges of the two doors disappeared. Some metal clashed as the hinges fell down and in toward them. As Jared had expected, there were soldiers on both sides of the doorway. The soldiers began shooting at the team again; making sure no fellow soldier was in the line of fire.
Oliver said, “Can I kill them?”
“NO,” shouted Aaron. “If you move your shield you’ll expose us.”
They were not far from the tunnel. They began to walk toward it. As the gunfire continued to prove ineffectual, the soldiers regrouped, always leaving several to insure the colonists did not disappear out of sight.
Aaron said, “I’m betting they’ll try gas or explosives.”
Jared said, “If they land a grenade in here, we’re dead.”
“Then we can’t let them,” Sarah said.
Easy for her to say, Jared thought. He hated this . . . there were too many unknowns. The odds were stacked against them. All they had going for them was one invention, one little invention that he had built!
Suddenly, Jared was reminded of playing volleyball in high school. He hated volleyball, but it was a required part of the curriculum. Sure, Jared was fine with being athletic; he was even the captain of his cross country team as a senior in high school. Volleyball, though: he lacked the eye and hand coordination. He felt so bad for whatever team got stuck with him. The opposing team was going to score if the ball went to him; he could not stop it. It was a sure-shot for the opponents.
This would be far worse than volleyball. It would not be a group of teens upset they lost this time; it would be a group of corpses. Even worse, it would leave several children without a parent.
They were making better time outside. Inside they had been constricted by the thin hall and their comparably large walls. Here they could move comfortably. If their walls hit the ground, it did not matter.
“Here they come,” reported Aaron.
Jared tried to push away the nervousness that enveloped him as a Venus-fly trap envelops its helpless prey. Then it came: several canisters of gas were heading their way. A few of the soldiers had masks on, but most of them were a good distance away. The cans began to land all around them. It was like a small hailstorm of cans, all coming from the north where Oliver was facing. Oliver lifted his wall up and caught several that would have landed between them, but as he brought it down a can landed almost between his feet.
“Oh, crap,” he said.
“Speed up in Jared’s direction,” ordered Aaron. They all picked up the pace. The smoke surrounded Oliver as he moved backward. The wall turned the smoke into harmless air, but it was too late for Oliver. He let out a scream of pain. Jared did not look back. They had to keep moving.
Aaron said, “Extend your shields now; they stopped shooting.”
Jared did not bother, there were no cans in front of him. Sarah and Aaron extended their shields. Still, most of the cans were in front of Oliver. As Oliver fell backwards toward Jared, his builder made a noise indicating it had turned off. It was part of the security changes Jared had made with Carmen. Oliver’s hand had gone loose and his eyes closed, causing the builder to cease recognition and shut down.
Fortunately, the soldiers were not shooting. Aaron quickly shut his builder off and turned round to Oliver. Aaron swiftly put Oliver’s builder into his bag, then picked up Oliver’s limp but heavy body. Aaron tossed Oliver’s body over his shoulder as if Oliver was as light as a small child. Aaron reactivated his builder and said, “Triangle. I’ll lead.”
They reformed into a triangle with Aaron on the advancing wall. In practice, they had usually had two people lead as if the triangle was an arrow. With Oliver’s weight on Aaron’s shoulder, it seemed best to follow him.
Perhaps satisfied with the effect of the previous attack, the soldiers let loose another storm of canisters. With the team heading south and the canisters being thrown from the north, they all hit Sarah and Jared’s walls. The smaller area was a harder target and the walls did not even have to be moved to catch the ones that fell close enough. They tried a third attack, which proved equally futile.
Jared wondered how long it would take the soldiers to realize the team was already too adapted for their technique. It did not take long at all, unlike the seemingly endless attempts with assault rifles that had come before. The soldiers were adapting quicker; their leadership had probably been enhanced.
With the gas masks gone, the soldiers now tried grenades. A few grenades were thrown at them. Some hit the walls being destroyed before even exploding. Some hit the ground making a spectacular display by tossing dirt and grass about like firecrackers.
Just as the soldiers gave up on the grenades, the colonists got close enough to the tunnel to see it. It was still as they had left it, which now seemed like days ago. The soldiers did not seem to notice the stack of steel that was over the tunnel until the team was within forty feet of it. As soon as it was noticed, however, soldiers began to run to it.
Three soldiers actually reached it ahead of the team. The three soldiers started poking at it, trying to figure out what it was. Before they could discover the secret, Aaron extended his shield, vaporizing the soldiers’ bodies, excluding their feet. The wall also removed all but one layer of the steel stack.
When they were finally upon it, Aaron cut through the last layer and some of the underlying dirt. Sarah and Jared both turned on their lights with their free hands. Aaron’s remained off because with Oliver and the builder his hands were full.
Aaron said, “OK, we need to get in quick. We’ll have to shut the builders off as we go in. Jared, can you seal it?”
“Yes,” Jared replied.
Aaron was the first to turn off his builder. He quickly ran down into the tunnel with Oliver’s limp body. Sarah went next, shutting her builder off and running in behind her husband. Jared backed into the hole and turned off the builder. As he went, soldiers continued to encroach on the tunnel and began firing. Jared quickly found the right settings when a pain shot through his upper left arm. His body shook back as he pressed the build button and created a new steel cover for the soldiers. The tunnel seemed darker than before with only the two lights and the sudden plunge from light to dark.
Jared let out a scream of pain and sat almost falling onto the ground. Aaron put Oliver's body down onto the floor and then turned on both his own and Oliver's lights. Sarah went and checked Jared.
Jared felt like he had been speared or cut in the arm. As he sat, he cautiously turned to look at his arm. His shirt was red with blood. There was a small hole in the shirt. Jared took his right hand and covered the wound, hoping to stop the bleeding. The pain dramatically increased when he applied pressure to it, and he let out another scream. This is when he noticed Sarah bend down to check the wound.
Sarah moved Jared’s hand away so she could look. She said, “The bullet went through. You’re lucky; it didn’t hit a bone or an artery.”
“I don’t feel lucky,” Jared said.
Sarah opened the bag she was carrying and pulled out a first-aid kit. She got some gauze and began to bandage his arm.
“Is he OK?” Jared asked, referring to Oliver.
“Yeah, he’ll be OK. He might be out for awhile, though.”
A loud steady banging started on the steel Jared had created. Sarah asked Jared, “Will it hold?”
From deeper down the tunnel Aaron said, “Let’s not stick around to find out. Are you ready to move out?”
As she finished with Jared’s arm she said, “Yes, we’re ready.”
She repacked the first-aid kit into the bag as Jared got to his feet. He felt a little woozy as he stood. He fell back against the wall, but then regained his balance and stood straight, or at least as straight as he could manage.
Sarah helped Aaron with Oliver, and they walked as the pounding grew louder. Jared began filling the tunnel as they walked. After a few feet, the pounding was silenced by the steel barrier.
“We need to keep moving,” said Aaron. “They’ll find us if we give them the time.”
They went through as quickly as they could, which was about the speed they had kept going in. With Oliver being carried, it was slower than it could have been. Even Jared was lagging behind dealing with the shock and pain from his wound.
When they got to the section of tunnel that turned up, Sarah said to her husband, “Do you think it’s safe to use the cars?”
“No, we’ll have to use the fallback plan.”
Jared asked, “What if the tunnel entrance is compromised, too?”
“Then we’ll backtrack and tunnel to a safer location.”
With the amount of time it took for all four of them to tunnel before, it would be extremely slow with Oliver injured. They had decent maps of the area, but it would be very difficult to get safely to an area where they could surface.
Aaron added to the concerns saying, “The longer we spend tunneling, the more time they will have to get organized and find us.”
When they arrived at the surface, Sarah used her builder as a shield and took a look around. She said, “Clear,” so quietly that Jared could only hear it through his headset.
Sarah provided cover for Jared as he came up and out of the tunnel. With his builder, Jared created one of the trucks they had used during construction. Jared quickly got into the back seat. Aaron hauled Oliver up, placing the body in the seat with Jared. Oliver’s body slumped with his feet at the door and his head in Jared’s lap. Aaron slammed the door, causing Oliver’s feet to buck forward a bit.
Out of curiosity, Jared checked Oliver’s pulse. He could feel it, but it seemed faint. Jared was not very medically informed, so he assumed it was faint because he was not conscious.
Aaron got into the driver’s seat, and Sarah got into the passenger seat. The truck was replicated exactly as it had been when they sealed the colony. The key was in the ignition. The plates were still Swiss, but the Chinese police were the least of their concerns. Even with the correct plates, they would appear suspicious because the truck was not legal to drive on Chinese streets.
As Aaron slammed his door shut, he turned the key and began driving forward through the artificial forest. The trees were far enough apart so that he could easily navigate through. There was little vegetation on the ground, which allowed them to accelerate quickly to thirty miles per hour.
The truck’s navigation system seemed confused by the fact that the time and location had changed. The monitor simply displayed the word ‘searching’ on the screen. Aaron hit the side of the monitor, which then almost instantly displayed a map of Beijing. Jared thought the system, ‘Must be American.’ On the monitor, there was a small red dot in the center representing their truck. Aaron zoomed out so he could get a view of the closest roads.
Aaron tapped the monitor, which caused a context menu to appear. From the menu, he selected ‘set destination’, which caused the menu to be replaced with a small yellow flag.
“There, that’s our target,” he said of the flag.
The flag was a few roads away from their present location. He drove straight towards it. When he reached the first road that crossed their path, which was also the road they had parked on hours ago, he drove on it for a while. Before they could see the road’s first intersection, after the base, he crossed back into the woods, this time on the opposite side heading toward the flag again.
While they were driving, Jared noticed something white on the floor. He bent over carefully, holding Oliver’s head so he would not fall. As Jared’s fingertips touched the object, he could tell it was paper. He pulled it up and saw it was a napkin from the arcade. It seemed like a lifetime had passed since they had gone to the arcade. Since the arcade, he had had a child and killed several soldiers, soldiers that might not be children but had parents that loved them as children. He stuffed the napkin into his pocket hoping to be as quickly rid of the emotions it had raised.
This side of the road had the same type of layout with trees as the other side. As they got closer to the next road in their path to the flag, the layout started to change. They entered a natural forest. The ride was rougher, but they were able to keep at twenty-five miles per hour with very infrequent detours around thick sections of trees, large logs, and overgrowth.
The road they finally arrived on was much wider and, unlike the other road, packed with fast moving cars. Aaron waited for an opening and merged onto the road. He drove away from the base even though it appeared on the map as a longer drive to their destination.
They continued through the busy city roads until they finally arrived at their destination. As far as they could tell, they had remained undetected.
Copyright (C) 1998-2001 East Coast Games, Inc. and 2001 - 2006 Forest J. Handford