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Just Another Moment


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I'm going to do a multi-chapter story about a few characters that can be found on the station, who I will keep unmentioned. Some of you may know who they are based on interactions with said characters, so if you want to discuss them, that's fine.




Chapter 1 - Just Another Night




As he walks towards where he would be calling it a day, exhaustion running rampant throughout his body. It had been a long day and he was exhausted, a lot of running around and physical labor, sometimes he wondered if a more relaxing job would serve him better, but that thought was banished as quickly as it had arrived, he was content with his job and his spirits need to be high come tomorrow, his work isn’t over after all, you don’t simply walk out, a thought for another time perhaps. Once he reaches his spot, he unburdens himself, only keeping his essentials on, and simply lies down closing his eyes, it wouldn’t be long before he was out of it.


It wouldn’t be long before his eyes open, disoriented but not all too unfamiliar with his surroundings, a call for alarm sounding all around him and the distinct noise of things he had hopped would never reach his ears. Though his disbelief would not take long, his muscle memory and training would take over, almost like it was rehearsed, the latter a thought he would against revisit at another time. He rises, grabbing his equipment with well practiced ease and makes his way out of his tent and sets outside, to do what is required of him, or so he hoped and prayed. It was still in the dead of the night, so what illumination equipment he had was brought with him.


Upon exiting his tent, he already notes that the situation is grim, they were close. The firefight had just started but already he could see the mark they had left. Vehicles and men alike, being cut down by beams of energy, others running around rampantly on fire, with their comrades trying to stifle the flames in futility. The enemy still hadn’t reached their lines but at the rate they were whittling them down, that would not be the case for long. Every asset he had was called, the distinct of shells could be heard whistling in arc above them, striking down far enough they weren’t affected but close enough the tremors could be felt. Jets above, strafing and dropping their payloads, some able to pull out and return when their run was complete, others screaming as they plummeted towards the ground.


He was starting to crack, he did not want to but these weren’t men, demons could not hold a candle to them either, he had to do his duty but he was not sure how long he would last. He spotted some of the larger ones having managed to make a dash for their entrenched positions, they were cut down by bullets and mines alike but they weren’t fighting a conventional enemy. They were faced against a chitin horde and their position was unattainable, thin their ranks and soon it would be refilled. A few minutes would pass and the casualties would mount before the battalion net would order a battalion wide retreat. They were being pushed back on all fronts and they were barely putting a dent through them. Smoke in mass was deployed and vehicles mounted, no time to mount their dead and they sped away, military discipline the only thing keeping any semblance of order amidst the sound of their mine field going off as the horde arrived.


They weren’t the only ones with support fire, the enemy was lobbing their own artillery and weapons at them as they were retreating. The convoy was dispersed, spacing accounted for, vehicles swerving to avoid sudden bursts of energy and explosives alike. He wasn’t driving, that wasn’t his job, he was seated in the rear, his radioman next to simply trying to organize, but it was chaotic, he could see little from the window but with the vehicle was driven, the situation was tense. Suddenly the vehicle jolted, a force throwing it aside, time was running slow but the situation very clear to him, they had managed to land a hit close enough and then suddenly, the crash, followed by darkness.


He then wakes, slowly recalling what he had just been through, he jolts up and examine his surroundings, appraising the situation, bewildered and scared. He was in bed, the sheets barely covering him, he was sweating and he hadn’t even closed the lights before nodding off. It was another recollection, one he had been trying to forget but no matter what, it always lingered in his head. He leans forward and covers his face with both his hands momentarily before looking around his room, still apprehensive, in flux of the reality. All he can muster to say is “Just another dream.” before falling back onto the bed, lying there, though sleep would not revisit him that night.


Chapter 2 - Just Another Target


She stands there, staring at the rifle in front of her, bipod deployed and scope attached, ready to be used by anyone but only mastered by a few. She leans forward placing the stock firmly on her shoulder and her cheeks firmly welded to the comb, right eye peering through the scope, the weapon firmly planted and her hands steadily gripping it, not too gently yet not too firm. She closes her eyes for a bit before opening it. It is late in the evening and her spotter is right next to her, both scanning the area allocated to them. They were placed at a more elevated position in the area, not too high as to skyline, not too low as to make observation moot. They’ve been there for most of the day unmoving. Movement meant being spotted, being spotted meant death, and death meant failure in duty.


Suddenly the sky lit up, first barrages of intense energy beams traced the sky hitting positions close and far, yet none towards them, for the time being, their position was uncompromised. Shortly after, the familiar sound of weapons she has seen and trained with spread all along the front, tracer rounds and missiles alike streaked the skies in retaliation. They were coming for them, that much was evident. The front was hastily prepared, they were the quickest forces on the scene and so they prepared best they could. For the time being as both sides clashed, she just watched, she wasn’t here to engage, but rather to provide live time reconnaissance, to best serve the troops on the front. For a time, the tide seemed to be held at bay, but as time progressed, the burning husks of their vehicles and burning encampments signified that the opposite was the truth. They were losing, steadily, yet she still watched.


Suddenly battalion net flared up, the order for retreat was given, secondary lines had been established as the first lines were not manageable. So she laid there watching, as men on foot or in vehicles drove through the plains away from harm's way, though the end goal wouldn’t be achieved by everyone. The chase was relentless, their mass never stopping, it didn’t matter how many were dropped, they didn’t seem to care. Through mines, men and tanks, they rushed. During her survey, she spots an overturned vehicle, men were crawling out and a few of the enemy had rushed ahead to engage, this was her queue.


Her spotter calling targets for her. She aimed, she held her breath, she fired, she exhaled, a mist of yellow appeared. She aimed, she held her breath, she fired, she exhaled, a mist of yellow appeared. She aimed, she held her breath, she fired, she exhaled, a mist of yellow appeared. She aimed, she held her breath but her shot didn’t come, an explosion landed near them, saved by the virtue of her spotter being next her, whose body was charred on one side. She recovered and aimed down the scope again, finding the last one of the group had already reached the vehicle, throwing a soldier aside that tried to bayonet him almost severing them in half, he was a goner, grim but true. She had to make this quick, they had a bead on her and she had to move. She repeated the motion, this time without interruption, and just like that, the yellow mist paints the hull of the wreck.


Seconds later a trio of motorized vehicles pull up, surrounding the overturned vehicle in a defensive perimeter, soldiers jump out and begin pulling the stranded soldiers out, all conscious and wounded with the exception of one who was knocked out, that had to be carried. And just like that, seconds after surrounding the wreck, they were gone returning fire to the encroaching enemy as they fled. She closes her eyes.



The nervous clerk repeats “Ma’am? Are you still interested in our membership? We also have facilities for long range shooting, if that’s what you want.”


She wakes from her stupor, removing her cheek first and setting the rifle down, she turns to face the clerk.


“Yes. When can I start?”



Chapter 3 - Just Another Call


The sound of a water boiler can be heard, steam emanating from it. Khaled places two mugs down, pouring water onto the tea bags, followed by a drizzle of milk and two teaspoons of sugar each. He removes the tea bags, throwing them into the bin before moving both mugs onto the tray, some biscuits already placed onto a plate. Lifting the tray, Khaled heads to the living room, where his companion is sitting, engrossed with the TV, an Elyran reporter giving live coverage over what is unfolding at New Cairo. He sets down the tray and moves a mug towards Zia, all the while scanning the TV. He speaks up. “Grim stuff.”


Zia, knocked out of her trance, looks back at Khaled, she accepts the mug, cupping it with both her hands onto her lap. “Seems localized at least.” Yet all she can think about is how they were allowed to fester. How were they not caught?


Khaled picks up his own mug, sampling the warm beverage before lowering it, he tries to give a reassuring smile, attempting to cover his concern. “I’m not sure, they must have planned some sort of contingency? Could just be a substantial amount of stragglers. They were digging the land, spreading their filth.”


Zia nods, turning back towards the tv, she leans back into her chair. “Did not think we would be going back, at least so soon, since you know. I just can not imagine our losses. Caught off guard, again!”


Khaled settles into his own chair, watching the TV, he spares a quick glance at the luggage neatly arrayed by the front door. “We should have fire bombed the whole area, truth be told. They shun the light and fire. We had the chance to do it but now they pushed them back.”


He pauses for a bit, continuing on. “I just hope… it’s not a repeat.”


She turns towards him, a look of determination dawning on her face. “It will not be. We now know they are coming. We know what they can do. But they still have not seen what we can fully do. They will be pushed back, until none of them are left.”


Khaled image of uncertainty shows hints certainty following her reply. “For our sake, I hope you’re right.” He sips from his beverage before going on. “It means a lot that you’re going with me. I can’t say I know a lot of people to relate to, with what happened.”


In attempt to boost his confidence she speaks up. “You do not find many functional people willing to go back. This is as much good fortune to me as it is to you.” She can’t help but feel concerned. A piece of her was left in the first conflict, yet she feels Khaled didn’t even leave a large piece behind, he never left. One can only guess how intact he will be after this is all done.


The conversation stops as both of them watch the live coverage. Switching from one channel to another, but each channel dedicated to the crisis. Minutes would pass before Khaled spots a vehicle approaching outside his house, the words ‘Taxi’ painted on the side. He sets his mug aside and heads to the coat hanger, removing both his coat and Zia’s. He hands it over to her saying. “It’s time.” They both put on their coats and move their luggage to the car, which they ride. Khaled pulls out his tickets, a one way trip to home, Elyra, specifically New Cairo. Only God knows when they will be back.



Chapter 4 - The Wheels


Khaled grabs both cups of coffee, he pays the bill and mutters a thank you, walking back to the table, Zia sitting there, idly looking at the flow of people walking about to their flights. He sits down opposite to her, sliding her cup towards her. “Coffee with honey for you.”


Zia turns around to face him, she puts two fingers to the cup, testing its heat. “Shukran.”


Khaled nods, he copies her gesture and promptly pulls his fingers away. “I’ve been meaning to ask you. How was it… for you? The first day.”


She looks away momentarily then locks her eyes with Khaled. “Just like everyone else. It was hard, but we pulled through.” She begins to recount the events in her head, her eyes closed. It gives her a shiver down her spine but does not let it show. Then show opens her eyes and begins speaking. “Mostly on a hillside, between some trees, we had been there all day watching, my spotter and I. The weird thing was you could not find any birds in the sky, like some corruption gripped the land and they went away.” She wraps her hands around her cup, removing the top lid. “It was around night time when they attacked, I am sure you remember. That is also when we figured out they prefered and excelled in the dark. They pushed the front line all at once and we had to retreat.”


Khaled takes a sip from his coffee, his eyes appear heavy, lack of sleep being the likely culprit here. Throughout their trip so far, he had been extremely jumpy and watchful.


Zia goes on. “I mostly watched as there was little I could do without revealing my position. Though later on I got told to leave with the retreat itself. But before I got up and left, I saw this overturned nimr, they managed to land a shot near it and flipped it over, there were people alive crawling out, one of them was even unconscious. I gave what help I could until reinforcements came, but they shelled my spotter and almost got me, so I pulled out when help arrived. After that I got picked up and got to our second line. I do wonder if they made it out.”


As she speaks, Khaled’s face goes blank, his breathing getting heavy as she goes through her side of what happened. He recognizes himself. Another life lost because of him, another one to weigh him down. He abruptly stands up, almost knocking the chair over, he quickly mutter an “Excuse me” before walking away. He finds himself the restroom, opening the tap water, cupping his hand together, he sprays his face with water, drying himself afterwards. He looks over to his right hand, erratically shaking. He slides both his hand into his pocket and waits for his breathing to normalize. It almost happened again, and this time in public. A few minutes later he’s seated in front of her, taking a sip from his coffee, trying to appear calm and collected.


She can’t help but feel like she touched on a sensitive topic with his sudden departure and reappearance. An episode of sorts? Perhaps he was there. Concern, that’s what she is feeling right now, but what could she possibly say? They are cordial at best. Now is not the time for that, yes, another time.

Both would sit in relative silence after that, each sipping from their own beverage. A few minutes pass before Zia looks at her watch. She stands up and looks at Khaled. “We better get going, almost boarding time.” Khaled nods sheepishly, standing up. Both begin walking towards their gate. Home beckons.



Chapter 5 - Just Another Meeting


Saturday, a day like every other to him. Same routines, same plans, little deviations ever since he got here two years ago. Rise at six, freshen up, morning workout, shower, breakfast and so on. Every saturday he heads out at nine in the morning, a walk through a park and then towards a center, just another meeting for him, in another week. He arrives early, as he usually does and sets up the room, chairs in a circle, coffee and tea brewed at the side, though he wonders why he always comes in early for this, he doesn’t lead the meetings, he’s here for help as much as some of the others.


Once he is done preparing the room, he picks his usual seat, the one overlooking the door. He doesn’t rise for people, just a slight wave, acknowledging the others as they trickle through. Truth is, he has barely said anything ever since he’s attended these, never feeling the need to speak, more content to listen to others speak their worries and problems away. People from all walks of live sit down and begin talking. A Biesellite lady speaks, talking of her woes, her family, the rift between her and her brothers, as she speaks, Khaled closes his eyelids.


A moment passes and he opens them. Familiar ground, familiar surroundings, it’s his backyard, occupied by his family, gatherings that used to occur often. In the distance, he spots himself, his brothers and cousins playing football in the field, the joys of youth. He finds himself smiling, reminiscing the joys of youth, such blissful ignorance of the outside world, of what was to come.


He blinks, the scene shifts. Sat in a lounge, eyes fixated on a screen giving live coverage of an event. He cannot see what is being displayed, but he remembers, minutes go by and suddenly his heart sinks, he didn’t need to see it again to experience it, a memory so perfectly imprinted in his mind. The scene goes dark, his focus disrupted, he blinks and the scene shifts again. The circle is looking at him, the counselor calling his name to get his attention followed by a question.


“Do you have anything say Khaled?”


Instinctively, he moves a hand to his left abdomen, he loves over the crowd, hesitant. Should he speak? Does he have anything to add? Does he even have a problem? He defaults to what he always does. He shakes his head and replies.




To speak, would acknowledge has he a problem, and he knows he has none. A fallacy by all accounts, since he still comes here, barely missing any of these meets. Still, the power of belief does have a hold on the mind and spirit. He spends the rest of his time listening to what others have to say. Some he found to be mundane issues, others worthy of respect and some even contempt. Afterwards, as he usually does, he cleaned the room out with the counselor. Being given the same speech as always, about the need to open up. Time passes and he’s back in his apartment, moving on to his other routines.


Edited by Aboshedab
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