A YEAR UNDERFOOT – entry #52

A Year Underfoot

 

September 12th, 2033

Four days ago I stuck three pounds of C-4 onto a transport heading for the air base and watched as it rolled inside. One hour and forty-seven minutes later, I saw the biggest fireball these eyes have ever seen.

It was awesome! Completely freaking awesome!

I got the ball rolling with a chance encounter along the interstate north of Santa Clarita. A northbound transport had evidently broken down and had pulled over to the far right hand side of the road. The vehicle was lightly guarded by a trio of troopers and from my vantage point in the weeds to the southwest, it looked like easy pickings, just a few overconfident troopers mucking about and not another soul in sight.

I had to jump at the chance. It was the first time I’d seen so few troopers, so far from others of their ilk. I had to seize this opportunity. I owed it to those who had been killed, or captured.

They wouldn’t leave the transport out here overnight, that much I knew, so, it stood to reason, at some point they’d have it towed back to the base. A golden opportunity if ever there was one.

If I could just get close enough.

I was all set to move on it when the hairs stood up on the back of my neck. It was a trap. Oh, my God, it was a trap. As soon as the thought flashed through my mind, I knew it to be true.

It was a trap.

I kept low and brought my infrareds back up and looked through them with new eyes. I paid close attention to the sides of the interstate, particularly the areas where the land rushed up to meet and support the road.

And, come to think of it, where were the warbirds?

I kept the glasses trained on the shoulder of the road and in due time my suspicions were proven right. I picked up movement along the interstate and spotted a shard of light reflecting off of a highly polished helmet. That sealed the deal. The Threak were out in force.

The disabled transport was a plant and I had almost fallen for it.

I lay still and got to thinking. If they were playing this game up here, then traffic is backing up somewhere else. It had to be. The transports had been rolling up and down the interstate like clockwork, – six per hour, eighteen hours a day, seven days a week.

There had to be a massive backup somewhere down the line.

I slowly backed away from my position and made a large loop to the south. I knew the Threak wouldn’t keep the road closed for too long, so I broke into a easy run following a route I’d scouted on the way in.

If they were indeed holding traffic, I was betting they’d do so at a particular spot over the next rise. It was a logical place for them to do so, – and low and behold, when I crested an adjoining hill, there they were, a line of transports stretching out for miles.

I had no time to waste.

I dropped to one knee and reached into my pack. I pulled out the three pounds of C-4 and set the watch timer. Three hours, plenty of time, I hoped, for the transport to clear the roadblock and return to the air base.

I placed the C-4 back in my pack and fell into a steady run.

The end of the line lay two miles south and I had to stick the C-4 on the last of the transports to avoid being seen.

Twenty minutes later, I crawled up to within fifty yards of the end of the procession and pulled the C-4 out of my pack. The charge itself had been hand-dyed jet-black and shaped like a thin brick with the watch/timer pressed securely into the center.

With the setting sun behind me masking my advance, I began creeping forward in earnest. The last golden rays of the day were peeking over the western hills and, beaming in at eye level, they proved to be both strong enough and harsh enough, to effectively blind the troopers to my approach.

I crawled up to the last transport in the line sight unseen and stuck the C-4 to the underbelly of the vehicle.

Package delivered.

Exit stage left. I crawled back the same way I came in, careful not to draw any attention, but fast enough to get out of harm’s way.

I had less than three hours to put as much distance between the air base, and myself as possible. Either way, if they found the charge, or if it went off, the place would be flooded with warbirds and troopers. That much was certain.

Three hours wasn’t much time.

I figured returning to the hills around Point Magu was my best bet. I knew my way around the area and I had a few places I could revisit for supplies along the way.

Night fell and I trudged on. Clouds had long rolled in and it made for an especially dark night. I walked on in silence, keeping one eye on the skies and the other on the road ahead. I grew tired as the night drew on and I found myself thinking about the very first vision I’d received from the Retratti.

It seems so long ago.

I was shown the Earth, and then an alien race, one that I came to know as the Threak. And, I was shown what would happen when they arrive. I saw the battle plans. I saw them massing their forces. I saw their incredible armada slicing it’s way through the stars toward our innocent and defenseless planet.

I saw it all. But, I didn’t know what I was seeing. What was the context? Was it an epic dream, or a prophetic warning? I was so confused.

It all makes sense to me now.

KA-BOOM!

At my back, a great explosion tore through the night and snapped me back into the here and now. A fireball shot a thousand feet into the air and I heard secondary explosions as well.

Had my C-4 yielded unexpected dividends?

Another terrific explosion rocked the night, and I let out a war whoop loud enough to wake the dead.

Apparently so!

My celebration was short-lived. I had to find cover, and I had to find it fast. The skies would be filled with warbirds soon enough and here I was stuck out in the open.

I broke into a light sprint and after cutting across a small pasture I came upon an old farmhouse.

I stopped and had a look around.

The house itself had seen better days. The windows had been busted out long ago, and it was evident that the damage done to the century old, off-white abode had taken place well before the invasion. I took a cursory look inside, nothing but graffiti, broken glass and feces. Pass.

I slipped past the place and kept moving.

Further back on the neglected property sat an old pole barn. I made a break for it, and had almost reached the warped wooden door when the first of the warbirds screamed overhead.

I ducked inside and was drawn to the loft. I scrambled up a wooden ladder and nestled into a pile of rotted hay and hoped for the best.

One hour later the door burst open and a trio of troopers filled the doorway.

How did they get here so fast?

I was torn between leaping out of the second story window, or laying low in the hay and hoping they’d move on.

I dug deeper into the loose hay and prayed for the best. Making a run for it now would be suicide. I had no choice but to wait them out.

Down below, I heard the troopers falling about the place. The sounds of glass lanterns shattering on the dirt floor, and of stall doors being ripped from their hinges filled the dilapidated barn. Nothing was left unturned.

Then silence. Had they left?

The first wisps of black smoke told me all I needed to know.

The barn was on fire.

From the safety of the shadows, I peered out the loft window and watched the troopers retreat to the half-track parked at the end of the driveway.

The crackling of dry hay meeting hungry flame drew my attention away from the window and back onto more immediate concerns. All around me, angry flames were licking their way up the rotted wooded walls and the temperature in the room soared exponentially. I could feel the heat of the inferno searing through the creaky, dry boards beneath my feet. I had no choice but to jump.

I leapt out of the top window and hit the ground hard, rolling in a ball until I found my feet and broke into a sprint. Behind me, the barn was fully engulfed and the main house was ablaze as well. The troopers had left no stone unturned. I’d jostled their hive and now they were out for revenge.

Whether or not they had a bead on me, or were just out torching the countryside, I hadn’t a clue. I just ran, and when I heard the now familiar whine of an approaching wardbird, I dove into a thicket bordering the property and burrowed in as best I could.

I hadn’t been spotted.

Minutes turned to hours. The area was locked down, no two ways about it. Troopers on the ground, warbirds in the sky, and I was stuck in the middle. I wasn’t about to move a muscle. I had already done the best thing I could do, crawl into a hole and pull it in over me. I had a couple granola bars, a can of stew and enough water to last a couple of days. I wasn’t worried. Maybe it was the adrenaline talking. Whatever the reason, I knew I’d be fine as long as I kept out of sight.

That was three days ago.

So, here I sit. It’s the second time I’ve gone to ground in the past week and a half and I’m hoping this doesn’t become a habit. It’s been three days of laying on my back, twiddling my thumbs and waiting for the enemy to clear the area. It could be worse. I could be dead. I’m not complaining.

I’ve had Bagman on my mind and hoped he got wind of the explosions. I wonder how he’s getting along. I’m sure the Threak are all over him as well. I hope two days was enough time to get the hell out of Dodge.

amazon.com/a-year-underfoot

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About paul nevins

Fiction writer, reader and baseball fan.
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