I’m an idiot. This is so stupid, I’m going to get myself killed! I wish I could go back in time and stay with the peldaks…
The explosions and gunfire are getting more prominent as I approach the city. I’m running towards the death and destruction. I want to head the other way, but my feet won’t stop.
Maybe it’ll be fine. Maybe I’ll get back home and not even see a gurant or one of their soldiers…
I doubt I’m that lucky.
I need to get my mind off this.
The city of Mae Hiarin consists of four islands. A south island, a north island, an east island, and a very large, mountainous, jungle island to the west. I’m on the south side of the south island. My home is in the middle of the east island, and the military base is on the east side of the east island. Connecting each of these islands are bridges, so that’s my destination.
The bridge for this island is located on the north side. They’re raised, circular roads that touch each island at the points closest to the center, with off and on-ramps to keep traffic running smoothly. So to get north, I can either circle around the outside of the island, or I can make my way through the center, through the high-rises of the city.
The center is probably bad because that’s where I hear a lot of explosions. There could be gurant on the coasts too, but I’d rather take my chances.
I head through the main headquarters of our dock and exit to the street on the other side. The buildings are bright and vibrant, with tall, thin trees rising from patches of soil separating the lanes of traffic. The streets are full of abandoned cars, and there’s only a few people around.
I make my way east, trying to skirt around the sounds of war to my left. The city wasn’t arranged very well, so the roads twist and turn at the drop of a hat. Most buildings are connected side-to-side, so there’s only a few side alleys here and there.
There’s trash on the streets, broken glass everywhere. The city has a PA system, and the gurant’s agent from before is still insisting that we should give up, that the battle is won. I know it’s propaganda, but it’s still unnerving.
Whenever I see someone on the streets, they’re either running east like me, or smashing through the glass of a building to take advantage of the chaos. Disgusting. I see more than one group of youths with bright smiles as they leave a store with armfuls of stolen items.
I glare at one man as I walk by, and our eyes meet. He slides a thumb across his throat, daring me to try and stop him. I raise my pistol enough for him to see, and he quickly turns away.
I won’t waste my time trying to stop their looting. These stores will be destroyed once the gurant take over anyway, maybe I’m just being obsessive.
On the left side of the street, opposite me, a family runs out of a building. They have a few small bags in hand. The father looks over to me and calls out, “hurry!” He points down the street, “get to the harbor, I hear the peldaks are evacuating people there!”
That’s not my goal, but I wave nevertheless, “thanks!”
You’re not a real monsoorai if you own a boat, so there are harbors all over Mae Hiarin. My boat is, of course, on the other island, so it’s not helpful.
Hmm. If the peldaks are evacuating people there, then that means there are no gurant. Did they not invade from the water? I doubt I’ll be able to convince anyone to float me over to the east island, so the bridge is still my best bet.
I follow the road down until I hit the beachfront properties, then continue north. More and more people are around, the crowds are getting thick as everyone wants to make it to the harbor. I push along the sides of the crowd until I reach one of the few alleyways, and from there I skirt from street to street, making sure to stay close to the ocean.
My heart is pounding from all this running, but at least the gunfire is blending into an easily ignorable white noise. The smell of iron and gunpowder is starting to overpower the salty ocean breeze.
Before long, I reach a street full of people, at least a thousand men and women packed together like sardines, all shoving against each other. I notice a few police officers in the crowd to help traffic, though I doubt they’re helping much.
The road is sloped down so, when I look to the east, I can see the harbor and the island beyond it. It’s a sprawling wooden pier with a hundred boats, and heavily armed peldaks standing guard. One soldier has a megaphone and is blasting instructions to people to remain calm and orderly.
Will there be enough space for everyone?
Past the harbor are the crystal clear waters of Mae Hiarin, with thousands upon thousands of ships resting on the gentle sea. Each is packed with people, and there’s so much congestion on the water that it’s a miracle they aren’t crashing left and right. There’s fishing boats, wooden boats, large luxury liners, sail boats, and the multicolored flags make the horizon seem like a dancing rainbow.
Despite the sheer numbers, the peldaks are quick to move civilians along, and those in the crowd are getting closer to their escape.
I take the opportunity to sit down, letting the shade of a building cool me off. I’m not built for endurance, but thankfully I ate lunch today. I’m happy to see so many families escape, but how many live in this city? Half a million? I can’t imagine everyone will get out by boat.
The crowd doesn’t seem to get smaller, families arrive just as soon as others depart. I push my way out of the alley and continue walking. There’s still plenty of people, but there’s room to move, and only occasional shoving.
Then there’s gunshots, just down the street. Panic surges through my veins as everyone starts screaming and pushing, I’m caught in the center of a huge crowd and I don’t have the strength to force my way through!
The gunfire just keeps coming, and I hear these blood curdling screams of horror and pain. The cries almost drown out the gunfire. I look out and I see the peldaks and the police push through the mass of bodies, but they’re too slow! Even if peldaks stand a head taller than any of us, there’s only so much they can do.
I wiggle my way to the left side of the street, trying to push that last bit until I’m against the pane glass window of a store. Everyone is trying to head down an alley or to the harbors, but there isn’t enough time to get clear.
With pistol in hand, I blow apart the glass and throw myself inside. The sharp pain of broken glass stabbing into my arm and leg is immediate, but manageable. Some others jump inside too, I scoot over to the corner, near the wall just under the window.
I shouldn’t be here and I shouldn’t be doing this, but I raise my head from my little hovel on the floor. I have a perfect view of men and women, my countrymen, getting gunned down as they try to flee. This is what the gurant do to those who dissent. This is why we need the Protectorate. The crowd is quickly being cut down, and some try to cower behind abandoned cars, or play dead.
I… I do have a gun in my hand. Wouldn’t firing at the gurant’s troops give them… At least a moment of pause? Enough for the peldaks to get through the crowd, I mean.
I hate this. I should be on a boat and escaping.
Slowly, I poke the side of my head around the lip of the store wall. I see four men with guns.
Huh? They’re not wearing armor. Just t-shirts and shorts, and they all have dark skin, like most monsoorai. Shouldn’t they be in uniform?
Doesn’t matter. No armor means nothing in the way!
I pull my pistol, it feels heavy in my hand, and I shoot. The explosion pounds my shoulder back, and while I don’t hit anything, the shot shatters a car window, and they duck behind a car for cover. I did it! I gave them just a moment of hesitation!
I don’t stop, the peldaks haven’t arrived. Another bullet flies down range, then another. One of the soldiers pokes his head up, and the bullet I fire in response blows a large crater in the metal next to him. Just like whacking fish as they poke their heads out of the water!
Two jump out of cover, their guns raised and pointed my way. I clench my teeth, and throw myself onto the glass-covered a second before gunfire rips through the wall above me.
The others hiding in the store scream, while I’m curled into a ball, huddled in the corner. Bullets don’t stop blasting holes in the wall for at least ten seconds, and I’m left covered in a mist of dust and wood chunks.
When it finally ends, I crawl towards the back of the store as fast as I can. My body trembling, my arms and legs cut up, I’ve never been so close to death before. If I backed down even a second later then I’d be dead! I can’t believe I did something so stupid!
I’m never sticking my neck out like that again.
As I’m trying to calm myself, the rate of gunfire increases. Looking back, I see a peldak standing by a car outside, opening fire. He’s hit in the bulletproof vest and stumbles for a moment, but stands and continues the fight soon after.
Good. The peldaks are here. I did all I can, I’m free to leave!
I see a door at the back of the store, then run and bash my shoulder into it, knocking it open. It leads to a shaded back alley, with knocked over garbage cans and trash all over the ground.
I run away, my chest on fire. No point staying in the store. I still can’t believe I’m such an idiot. I need to keep my head down until I get home!