Atop an ivory tower of bullets and bombs
They had to stop somewhere around the 70th floor down to rest. There was air again down this deep and they could remove their gas masks again and pass around a bottle of water.
“Maybe there will be another back-up generator that will provide power to the facility” Isaac said, looking to Daniel.
“Perhaps. You can climb these stairs without tiring, you should get down to the bottom floor and try and turn the power back on then meet us at the bottom of the stairs”
The robot nodded and ran off down the stairs. The other set off a minute later, long ago losing count of just what floor they were at but at least the bottom was in sight. As they neared the bottom of the stairs the lights flicked on and illuminated the whole stairwell, a few cheers coming from the group before being cut short by gunfire from below. They all looked to each other and quickly ran down the last stairs, making sure their weapons were loaded. Isaac suddenly appeared through the doorway at the bottom and landed on the floor. He looked up to the others, his left arm missing.
“Isaac what happened?!”
“Security systems...” He replied quickly, standing back up and only just now noticing there was a hole where an arm once was. He took off the huge backpack and left it at the bottom of the stairs, Finley and his friend staying back as Daniel, Emanuel and the three justice soldiers brought their weapons up to their shoulders and filed through the door. The other side was a corridor which went off into two directions, the group split up Daniel and Emanuel heading left while the Justice soldiers went right.
Creeping round the corner into the next room they couldn't see anything akin to a security system. The room they were in was long with stained white walls, tables that jutted out of the walls with no legs all along it and on each table all manner of prototype weaponry that United Arms never got a chance to put into production. Emanuel couldn't help from picking one up, a long rifle that looked similar to an AR-34 but a whole lot sleeker, smaller and lighter. He picked up a magazine from the table and it took him a few seconds to figure out where it slotted in. Finally with it loaded he brought it up to his shoulder and aimed at the furthest wall and squeezed the trigger, almost dropping the gun as it let out an immense bang and the far wall erupted with a flash fire for a split second, a faint heat haze where the weapon's round just travelled.
“Rail-gun” Daniel said and looked to Emanuel, who put the gun down again quickly.
They continued through the room, a clean cut hole visible in the far wall where Emanuel had fired, and another hole on the wall the other and the other side of that. A faint beeping could be heard coming from the next corridor and they approached the door slowly, Daniel leaning his out of the doorway before quickly pulling it back as a round smashed into the door just behind where his head was. Some sort of automated gun with a camera and laser-sight hanging down from the ceiling. He turned and looked back into the room then glanced to Emanuel.
“Find us a grenade. Something we can chuck at it without actually having to go out there.” The Kingdom dragoon nodded and let go of his rifle, rushing off to the nearest table and looking over all the weapons on it before going to the next table. Gunfire could be heard in some other distant area of the facility, followed by the sound of three rifles firing in unison. The Justice soldiers apparently not having as much trouble as them. The red dot of the sentry gun hovered about the door frame seeking the intruders unable to find them behind the wall – or so Daniel thought until the red dot disappeared and suddenly a round cracked through the wall beside his head. Diving to the floor quickly as more rounds pierced the wall and smashed into the floor.
“Si! Got one!” He shouted back from half way across the room, sprinting back and handing the explosive to Daniel. He looked all over it before finding the pin and yanking it out, standing at an angle to the door and lobbing the grenade so it'd be just below the sentry gun. An instant later a loud band shook the room and the beaming sound of the sentry gun stopped, small flames creeping across the floor. Daniel peered his head around the corner again and there was no sign of the gun -not destroyed- it had just vanished completely, disappeared back into the ceiling and the ceiling moving back into place. Stepping out into the corridor with his rifle up ready to fire the sentry-gun didn't come back and he motioned for Emanuel to continue following, making their way down the hallway. A figure appeared around the corner up ahead, a white robot that they almost mistook for Isaac at first. Except it had both arms – and a rifle in them. They dived into the first door they came to as it raised the weapon and let off a shot, a black assault-vest draped over the robot with United Arms printed on it. Daniel thought for a moment before letting go of his rifle and standing back up, heading back out towards the door.
“Amigo! What are you doing?” Emanuel exclaimed, trying to grab Daniel but he was already out the door. He stood still before the machine slowly walking towards him down the corridor.
“Look at my face. Look at who I am.” He shouted to the robot, his hands by his sides. The robot stopped a few feet away from him and tilted its head slightly.
“Mister Blackwell. My apologies. There are intruders on United Arms premises and all security systems have been activated to eliminate them.”
“You are mistaken. These are new United Arms employees. Deactivated all security at once.” The robot nodded and let his rifle hang from his sling, turning and running back down the corridor to turn off the security at where ever the main control room was. Daniel let out a sigh of relief that that worked, wiping the sweat from his brow and going back for Emanuel.
“How did he know your name amigo?” Emanuel asked, back on his feet and following him along the corridor again, no longer holding their weapons. They turned the next corner and stopped again, seeing Finley's body sprawled across the floor, black holes in his chest where the robot must have fired at him a few minutes ago. Caliban was crouched over him, shaking him desperately and trying to wake him. He paused and glanced back, seeing Daniel and Emanuel standing behind him, quickly standing up and running off down the corridor and disappearing into a distant room.
“If you wanna go get him, be my guest amigo. I ain't go near that bicho raro”
They continued on, leaving Finley's friend to himself for now, coming across another long room filled with prototypes, Emanuel staying behind to investigate them, now that there was no danger and Daniel continued on to the next room.
Before him was a long table covered in hundreds of flash-drives and external hard-drives along with newspapers and various leaflets and posters and right in the middle a single computer with its monitor on. Daniel walked slowly towards it, glancing down at all the things littering the table and sitting down in the office chair before the computer. On the monitor were maybe a hundred video files named 1 – 100. It was touch-screen monitor, he moved his finger over the first file and taped his finger against it before sitting back in the office chair and getting ready.
It showed Napoleon standing before a camera in this very room, all the lights still on and the dirt and grime gone from the walls, what could only been recorded a few decades after 2050.
“Hello. Daniel. If you are watching this, then you have woken up from your cryo-chamber and managed to find your way here after piecing together what little fragments of your past your could. Well don't worry. Because I've gone to all the trouble of putting together the rest for you. Now you can know how much a mass murdering unemotional bastard you really were! Sorry, I promised myself I wouldn't express my personal feelings for you until we finally meet again. And now that you're here that probably won't be long away. I have composited -through old CCTV footage, from news reports and television programs and even satellite imagery and videos – by the time you're watching this I imagine they'd have fallen from the skies- a comprehensive guide to the years 2040 to 2050. Focusing mostly on the exploits of that oh so crazy United Arms Corporation and their lovable CEO Daniel Blackwell. You. Leader of the worse institution the world has ever known. But I've already said far too much. You've got videos to watch!”
He let out a loud breath and moved his finger down to the next video and taped it. An introductory video shown to new United Arms employees.
“Hello there! We're here to welcome you into the United Arms family.” It started, showing the front of a large complex in Virginia with the United Arms logo at the front. “You have been given the privilege of working for the fastest growing, highest profit attaining company in American history! And now you too have the chance to make this company and your country even greater!-”
The video suddenly cut to a news report, a massive burning city somewhere in the middle east.
“-UN has condemned United Arms' bombardment of the Syrian capital – Damascus with the death toll now expected to be in the hundreds of thousands. White House spokespersons however have vetoed the security councils call for sanctions against United Arms”
“-Formed in 2030, the largest defence contractors of America merged their assets and workforce to form a single conglomerate that we all know and love as United Arms-”
“United Arms PR department today denied claims that they have been selling weapons to both sides of the Venezuelan civil war-”
“You will be creating the next generation of military hardware, the logistics and communication and surveillance systems, the next great jet fighters and unmanned air vehicles. Even cooperating with NASA in the further creation of United Arms satellites. With your help, we will win the next conflicts America faces, where ever and when ever they may.-”
“Millions of refugees flee Serbia today as United Arm's new weapon sold to the Romanian army has left many of the eastern towns and cities unfit to live in after discovering the artillery rounds were uranium enriched and have coated the area in radiation.”
“Financial Director of the United Arms Corporation was killed earlier this morning in a hit-and-run collision on Interstate-87 after his 2020 Porsche 911 was side-swiped by an 18-wheeler. NY State troopers are still in search of the suspect vehicle which witnesses have described as-”
“Two members of the United Arms board of the directors -which dictates all major contracts undertaken by the company- have today been arrested in their homes by FBI after an anonymous source provided evidence that they were leaking vital information of the US Army to the Chinese-”
“Soldiers of United Arms 5th Airborne Division have been confirmed to have parachuted into Saudi Arabia to aid US forces in the fight against the rebel forces opposing King Mutaib's rule, marking the company's first use of its military force in a combat situation.”
“Daniel Blackwell, today, the provisional leader of the United Arms corporation in the absence of its board of directors, has claimed there will be a change to the way the company will be run, with just one sole leader as opposed to a board of leaders”
“Working here at United Arms will entitle you to many benefits. You will receive full health, dental and chiro insurance. Three weeks paid vacation a year, reduced fees if you travel by bus or subway and if you live far enough away we will even provide you with a company car-”
“I believe that United Arms has lost sight of its original goal in recent years. That of, streamlining and simplifying the creation and maintenance of weapons and equipment and vehicles for our brave men and women fighting over seas and for the defence of out great land. The company needs a single leader, a clear minded and decisive one that knows what is best for the company and for this country.”
“And do you think you are the person fit for that role Mr. Blackwell?”
“Absolutely I do”
“United Arms Corporation has today finalized its purchasing of the Freedom Tower in what is reported to be a fifteen billion dollar deal. A UA spokesperson has told Fox News that they plan to turn the former World Trade Centre into the new headquarters of the Corporation.”
“Mister Blackwell, how would you respond to criticism from certain leftist groups and even from many governments that the United Arms corporation is too aggressive in it's goals and has become some-what of a puppet of the US senate and the White House.” The female BBC news reporter asked from across the desk, leaning forward and putting her hands together beneath her chin, the camera waiting eagerly
“I believe that's completely unfounded. United Arms merely does what is necessary to get the job done. These are harsh times the world has found itself in and we are just providing the tools people need to defend themselves.”
“And how would you respond to claims that the total death toll of all United Arm's actions has amounted to almost twenty million people since you took control of the company?”
“Its an absolute tragedy of course, such a senseless loss of life. But unfortunate as it is to a say, a necessary one. Just how many tens of millions of American AND European lives would be lost to those that pose such a threat to our lands is uncountable.”
“United Arms entered a new partnership today with Honda, collaborating with them to create the next generation of advanced android after the success of the Teksarb Corporation's HSP-4 robot, over in Germany. If this is part of UA's rumoured battle droid program is at this time unknown. A prototype of the robot they plan to make is already in use by the CEO of the United Arms Corporation apparently named for his most admired historical figure - Napoleon”
“We can confirm that the United Arms Corporation has indeed built a series of tunnels beneath New York City. Just what is in these tunnels or how extensive they are is I'm afraid a closely guarded federal secret.
The black SUV came to a stop, a million camera flashes barraging the tinted windows as a suited man stepped beside the car and opened the door. Daniel stepped out and looked up to the UA headquarters, thanking the doorman and walking up the steps and across the plaza to the glass entrance, hundreds of news teams from across the world that were usually always outside the United Arms HQ considering the amount of controversy they got in. The reporters shouted all manner of questions to the CEO, all blurring into one just one loud drawl, the odd word recognizable, Daniel still walking forward and ignoring them all, giving the odd glance from behind his sunglasses. Suddenly one of them burst through the security line and stepping in front of Daniel, in one swift motion pulling a pistol from his jacket and firing at his chest. An instant later and the assassin was suddenly hit by several unseen snipers, fallen to the floor in a bloody heap. The reporters fell silent and began feverishly pressing button on their cameras and keeping their video cameras trained on Blackwell. Two dozen United Arms security personnel appeared through the crowds of reporters and rushed to Daniel who was laying on his back and staring up at the sky, fumbling with his suit. He opened the front and felt as his bullet-proof vest, the bullet lodged inside and probably getting a broken rib or two from the impact. One of the UA security picked him up off the floor, the others investigating the dead assassin.
“Sir are you alright?”
“..J-just fine. Who was that?”
“Algerian sir!” Another called, looking up from beside the body “Likely hired by the new prime minister in retaliation for our involvement in the war last year”
“Fire my current head of security, and call the president-” Daniel said and panted, winded by the bullet “Tell him we invade Algeria next week”
“Sir we should get you to a hospital at-”
“No.” Daniel cut in, looking round at the news reporters still flashing away with their cameras, picking his sunglasses back up and putting them back on “Just get me to my office”
“United Arms ground forces have now reached over 40,000 active personnel. UA soldiers have fought alongside US and NATO forces for almost 7 years now, and they are quickly becoming a formidable force of their own-”
“You will face many challenges and problems may occur during your time with us at United Arms. But with teamwork, perseverance and good old American spirit we will pull through the hard times and become the best thing that has ever happened to America – and possibly the whole world”
It was a cold October morning. The morning the end of the world began. Outside of the United Arms HQ in lower Manhattan various cars and limos were pulling into the underground parking lot. The army of news reports that always stood outside the building snapping away and speculating at these new arrivals. The vehicles parked in spaces allocated just for them amongst the posh European saloons and executive cars of the high-ranking officials and directors of United Arms. Bodyguards in suits and shades walked beside the new arrivals and opened the doors for them escorting the VIPs to the elevator and and up to the 105th floor. Blackwell's Office.
The doors open to the massive space Daniel used as his office, half the top floor. Black ceilings and floors that were as reflective as mirrors and not a single wall inside except for the one that split the floor in half, only the tall glass windows the only barrier between outside and the world of Blackwell's office. A long conference table had been laid out in the middle of the office, his own desk and lounge chairs the other side up against a window.
“Mister Blackwell will be with you in just a moment. Refreshments and drinks have been left on the table over there, please a take seat when you're all ready.” One of the bodyguards said and motioned to a long table filled with snacks and alcoholic beverages before turning and walking through the door with the other guards. Daniel appeared through the door a minute later, dressed in his expensive suit and carrying a glass of his whiskey.
“Gentlemen. So glad you could make it. Take a seat and we'll get this show on the road.”
The various suited men took their seats around the conference table with drinks in their hands and looked to Blackwell who stood at the end.
“I have called you all here this fine morning; Generals, Senators, Chiefs of Staffs and Secretary of Defence to finalize and put into motion the plan I have discussed with you all previously. As I am sure you all aware this age of prosperity America is currently experiencing is drawing to a close. The People's Republic of China who have been hot on our heels since the turn of the century are once again about to surpass us in productivity and gross domestic product, something of which they only reached the months before I took charge of this company back in 2040.
And what about us? Overpopulation, exceedingly diminishing resources. Increasing lack of space, food, fresh water and no where to dump our waste, increasing infant mortality and rampant crime and pollution. We lost 12 national parks just last year to make room for new agricultural areas. And frankly its unacceptable to see our great nation fall like this after we have risen so high.
For the first time in two centuries it is time for The United States to begin expanding its borders again. The USA desperately needs new land, new resources, and it needs it now before it dies.
Of course, in today's world a nation of our size cannot expand it's borders without garnering the attention of the whole world. We have an army which is more than capable of taking on any other this planet has to offer, and might I just say, with United Arm's help could take on the whole world if it so wished. But has as been demonstrated so many times in the past, long-scale occupation has never worked out as we wished. Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Venezuelan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Colombia and so many others, we lose so many men, lose so many trillions of dollars and gain so little in return for the price we pay.
It was then that General Thompson here had me look at our approach to this differently. Not to make use of the military, the navies or even the air force. To reach our goal without the need to fire a single shot or lose a single US servicemen in the process. A disease.
One that will take hold and cripple our enemy before they are even aware what is going on. But fear not, this will be a completely manufactured virus, we will have the vaccines, the cure. And we will only allow the disease to run as long as it needs to. When our foe is crying and begging for salvation, we will release the cure, our hardy scientists just lucky finding a cure in time for them. In exchange for the cure they will give us anything. And if our foe is so incapacitated that they can no longer function. Our forces will swoop in, humanitarian aid, and we merely take what we want.
I had originally thought the Russian Federation for this plan. But the General advised against it as our little incident last year with them in St. Petersburg would make us too suspect if our disease appeared there. And then came the next obvious choice – China. We would be killing two birds with one stone. We would remove our biggest competitor, and gain the land and resources we so much crave.”
“Is such a plan really feasible General?” One of the senators asked, leaning across the table.
“I have discussed it at great length with Blackwell. He has spent the past half a year planning this inscrutably. Even if we gained just a few thousand miles of the Chinese East coast we could gain what we need to sustain our current growth for another one or two hundred years.”
“How can you know the Chinese would be so willing to give up their land, no matter how bad this disease of yours may be?” Someone else chimed in. “And I'm sure Russia wouldn't be too happy with us gaining new land on the other side of the Pacific”
“We've had some of out best people inside the PRC government the past two decades. President Ying does not suspect a thing and in the event of this disease taking hold of the country he would most likely listen to them, we relay our demands to them and the President would give us whatever we wanted.” The Secretary of Defence replied before Daniel could.
“This is something I need us all to agree on before it begins.” He started again “Because once it does. There won't be any turning back”
On October 19th an epidemic took hold of Shanghai. In one day nearly an eighth of the population of the city were admitted to hospital. A severe flu spreading amongst the citizens of the city. By October 21st Half the city was ill and all along the coast others in the other minor cities and towns began to get sick. October 24th and it became apparent to the People's Republic of China that this was no ordinary flu. Maybe ten or eleven million Chinese were now bed-ridden, unable to move and barely able to communicate. 25th The PRC began quarantining the Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang regions of China as the infection worsened, panic beginning to take hold of the people of China. October 25th and the first deaths began. And then by the hundreds of thousands the citizens of south eastern China perished.
When November came round the world was fully aware of what was happening in China. All Chinese planes and boats were stopped from docking at foreign ports. It had quickly spread across the mainland through, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand all falling victim to it as well. A little spill-over of the disease into surrounding nations was too be expected, so this wasn't call for alarm. What was, was the silence from the PRC. The Chinese President, despite all best attempts, had too fallen ill to the “Shanghai Virus”. And despite receiving vaccinations, as had the PRC double agents working for Washington. The time had long pasted for United Arms to release the cure for their disease. Almost three thirds of China were infected. Almost a billion people with only a week to live. Two weeks if they were lucky. Despite desperate orders from his peers in Operation Aeries, Blackwell did not release the cure yet. There was so much more they could get. So much more power Blackwell could obtain.
“It's... almost beautiful in a way. This disease of ours has become so much more powerful than we ever could have hoped.”
“Beautiful, sir? Is that the word to use in this situation?” Napoleon asked, slightly perplexed, looking across to Blackwell who was staring out of the window at Manhattan.
“Yes, Napoleon. Because of fear. Fear of the disease has become a more powerful weapon than the disease itself. There are reports of tens of thousands dead in various Asian cities. And not one of these dead actually infected. People are so afraid they are killing each other in fear that they may have the disease. Whole families.. neighbourhoods.. butchering each other to stop this disease reaching them.” He took a drag of his cigarette and smiled to himself “Beautiful”
“This is Secretary of Defence John Truman. Put me through to Daniel Blackwell right now”
“Of course, Mister Truman. Mister Blackwell has just finished a meeting with the the US Army chief of staff and was going to call you later this evening. I'll just forward you're call now. “ Napoleon held the phone receiver against him and pressed a button on the phone set on his desk.
“Mister Blackwell. The Secretary of Defence is on the line”
“Well put him through. Hello?”
“Blackwell. You have to end this now. The Chinese government isn't going to contact us about help, never mind think of giving us their land. There is barely a China left! All of Asia is in turmoil, Europe and South America are closing all their borders. I suggest we do the same in the mean time.. You must release this cure now.”
“Patience John. Was this all not part of our big plan? Can you not see the big picture here? I have just met with the chief of staffs for the Army and Navy, we have began mobilizing USMC and UA forces. We will be stepping foot on Chinese soil before the year is over. And before even half of next year has passed, we could have half of China waving beneath the American flag”
By the 15th of November all communications with China had ceased. The status of the rest of the Far East was not good, but the worst was to be expected. The 2nd USMC MEU and 3rd and 4th UA Marine Divisions were half way across the Pacific and ready to take hold of the Chinese coastline. A day later and communications with Japan and the Koreas were lost. It is not known if they were even infected, their borders closed only days after it appearing in Shanghai. Disease or not, both nations were still in chaos. Before the end of the week The Russian Federation and India both enacted a state of emergency as the disease appeared in their lands.
The US general, Thompson, stormed into the high-rise office atop the Freedom Tower, passed the two United Arms soldiers stood either side of the door and towards the desk where Daniel was sitting, Napoleon behind the General, unable to stop him barging in.
“You've gone to far! We have to end this madness now. Russia and the nations of southern Asia are all in a state of emergency and there are even reports of the disease appearing in Europe.”
“Do we really need Russia and India?” Daniel asked, calmly standing up from his desk and walking round to face the general.
“What?!” The general asked in disbelief, staring to Blackwell.
“I mean.. what is it that those two countries actually provide for the US, General? Would we miss them if they were to no longer exist tomorrow. And just think all that oil, gas, coal, uranium! All for the US. All that land, all the food we could grow and all the millions of new Americans we could accommodate there”
“Just who do you think you are?”
“I'm Daniel Blackwell! I am the leader of the most powerful institute this world has ever seen. I have dragged this country from the pits of recession and brought it into a new golden age! I am the man that can destroy a nation with the utterance of a single word. When I say jump, the world says how high.”
“You're mad!” The general went for the pistol in his thigh-holster but Blackwell had already pulled a pistol from his jacket, firing a shot into the US officer's chest. The man crumpled to the floor as another round then another hit him until Daniel's gun dry-fired and he chucked it aside. He looked up to one of the two soldiers at the door.
“Get Napoleon in here. Tell him to dump the body in some alley and make it look like a mugging gone wrong”
“At once sir”
Later that day Blackwell released the cure. But it did nothing. The disease's spread did not slow, never mind stop. No one who was on the inside on Project Aeries knew why it had not worked, but they had come to the conclusion that the disease had been in an open environment for so long it had grown an immunity to near enough everything it could come across. The numbers of infected continue to grow. Ever higher every day. Europe fell just as Asia did. The US borders became a warzone. Everything approaching was destroyed. Anyone trying to cross the Mexico or Canadian border was killed on sight by the patrolling squads or the passing helicopters. The people were ordered to keep calm. And that is just what they did. They went on, pretending like the disease did not exist, that the world beyond the edges of America were was not crumbling and burning.
But when it appeared in Los Angeles in early December, they could no longer go on ignoring it. No one knows just how it got into the country, whether across the sea from Asia or south from Mexico. But it was here now, and America was to fall just like the rest of the world. The name Los Angeles fell out of favour over the coming days, instead only refereed to as Ground Zero by the top government brass and the UA officials. They had planned on the chance that the disease may occur in America, on either West or East coast, and put the plan into action only an hour after it became apparent the disease was here.
A 1000 mile long cordon was set up straight down the middle of the country. It took only a week for two-hundred thousand US and UA soldiers to put it up. The UA military renamed to the United Arms Biological Containment corps in light of what they'd be doing from now on. Citizens of the West Coast and Mid-West had already began fleeing eastwards and when they reached the cordon they began a slow process of screenings and tests to make sure they were uninfected, all the while the disease crept in from behind.. LA burned to the ground, the streets and parks torn up with many a mass grave. The dead and the dying shovelled and bulldozed away and covered over, there was nowhere else for them, so many dying so quickly.
Fear of the disease had spread quicker than the disease itself. And with it the hate and mistrust of any Chinese-Americans and soon enough all Asian citizens altogether. As far as the people knew the disease was still natural, and occurred first in Shanghai. So it must be something wrong with the Asians they thought. Riots broke out, mass murder and systematic killings taking place in China Towns, Korea Towns and other areas where high numbers of Asian immigrants and citizens lived in the US cities. The authorities and law enforcement stood aside and let it happen.
The cordon did not last. Like everything else the disease had come to, the cordon must fall as well. Huge sections destroyed in Texas somehow (crazed infected with weapons? rouge soldiers? No one knew how) and the infected spilled in, only wanting help, sanctuary from death. But it would be they'd find. The loss of the cordon meant only one thing for the government. The loss of control. The soldiers began firing on sight. Tanks rolled through the streets; machine-gunning all that were unlucky enough to be in their sights, the dying and wounded crushed beneath their tracks, the buildings where they hid blown up. And then the planes took to the skies.
Christmas 2050. The last one man would ever have. Along the snowy streets of Chicago and amongst the Christmas decorations and buried in the fresh white snow. A million bodies. Freezing to death. Dying of disease. Riddled with bullets. A line of restrained infected stood atop a ledge, below them a dug-out mass grave, the bulldozers and diggers still around it, their operators dead at the controls. Black bags covered their heads as they shivered in the cold, barely the strength to stand . Their skin covered in a sores and welts, their tattered clothes stained with their blood. A UABC soldier walked behind them slowly, one by one placing his pistol to the back of their heads and pulling the trigger. Watching from behind stained murky gas mask lenses as each body tumbled into the ditch and went still. He reached the end of the line and shot the last one, turning and looking into the mass grave. Before placing the end of the pistol against his own head and pulling the trigger.
Operation Bastion began 28th December. The cordoning of Manhattan. Mankind's last refuge. For another month those that had made it to the island staved off the disease and the chilling winter. Seven million people packed into the island where only three million would live normally by 2050. The food ran out. The water ran out. Any hope of surviving ran out. The constant barrage of guns and artillery keeping the deranged infected at bay driving the people of Manhattan themselves insane. Blackwell and Napoleon had formed five protocols. Five unthinkable final solutions to the disease. And on Day 37 of Operation Bastion, Protocol-U5 was enacted. 2nd February 2051.
Daniel stared out from his office over the streets of Lower Manhattan below, the streets filled with a million panicking, screaming people as the sirens sounded. Signalling the end. The end of this horror for good. The other United Arms executives rushed about the office around him, talking on their phones, saying their last words to their loved ones. The elevator doors opened and Napoleon ran out, standing beside Daniel's side.
“Sir. It's time to go.”
Daniel took a final sip of his whiskey and took a last look out the window, everything beyond The Hudson river was ablaze. Orange flames that licked at the darkened smoke choked sky as far as the eye could see. He turned and walked beside the robot, putting his glass down on a table and joined the other execs inside the elevator as 'PROTOCOL-U5' blared out from the siren system. The UA bodyguards and some of the soldiers could be seen hurrying about the office, collecting all evidence of UA's involvement in the disease and destroying them – for whatever good it would do -Just who would be left to find them. The doors closed and the elevator descended. Down the entirety of the Freedom Tower in only a minute. And then kept going, down into the bowls of Manhattan, where the miles upon miles of United Arms tunnels and secret facilities lay. Another warning from the sirens and then the doors opened again, out onto the glistening white walled United Arms research and development facility. They went westwards through the facility, hurried along by men in white overalls and black gas masks. Somewhere far beneath the Hudson they stopped. A room lined with cryogenics chambers. A room just for the top United Arms personnel, anywhere up to a million other cryo-chambers in other areas of the facility but those were for the normal people, the lucky few allowed down to be saved from what was to come. The chambers opened and they all stepped inside and got comfortable as the doors closed behind them. And then the video feed cut out as the security came began to shake.
The last video file on the computer was from a hand-held camera, in the hand of an astronaut aboard the International Space Station, as he and his co-workers stared in sombre silence at the darkened Earth. Orbs of immense fire and light appearing across the surface of the planet, spreading out and rising into the atmosphere. Hundreds of mushroom clouds blossoming all across the globe. The sound of crying could be heard from someone beside the camera and the camera man's hand began to shake nervously, curses and cries of disbeliefs in various languages coming from behind the camera before it suddenly cut out.
Daniel sat motionless in the office chair, his eyes still fixed on the screen. Still minutes after the videos had stopped playing, breathing deeply and covered in sweat. The others had entered the room, probably some time ago and stood silent as well, watching behind Daniel the end of the world on the computer screen. He stood slowly from the chair, turning and looking to them, all of them staring back. He opened his mouth to speak, but the words wouldn't come, nothing he could say to these people. Grant shook his head slowly and closed his eyes.
“There is nothing you have to say to us 'Blackwell'.”he said quietly, refusing to call the man before him comrade ever again and getting ready to walk off again, back down south away from this horrible place.
“I.. I am not that man” Daniel eked out. “Not any more. I did not wish I were the man in that video, but it is true. But I was just as horrified at that as you lot”
“We're not really the ones you have to be apologizing to are we cabrón?”
“Turns out the 'Fire Merchant' walks amongst us. And he's a cunt” Powell remarked bluntly, turning to walk out with the others as all the lights suddenly went out again, only the faint light from the monitor illuminating the room. The sound of footsteps all around them before they felt something thrown over their heads, their senses dulled and suddenly feeling drowsy. They dropped almost in unison to the floor as the faint silhouette of figures could be seen all around them as their eyes closed.