Dexter was out in the woods for a stroll when he heard the sound of leaves cracking under someone’s feet. He turned around but didn’t see anyone. At first he thought it was just some animals and continued with his stroll. A few more steps, he heard the cracking sound again, forcing him to spin around only to see brown and green that was the forest. He narrowed his eyes as he scanned his surroundings. There was no one there. He swallowed a lump of saliva and gripped the strap of his messenger pouch around his body tighter. He thought about being hunted by aliens or food for some animals lurking in the woods and the nearest help was at least two hundred meters back the way he came. Usually, he would have his afternoon strolls within the five hundred meter wide buffer zone established by the military around the camp. He got tired of being stopped by soldiers from time to time and was bored of the scenery, so he went further into the woods. But he also understood the purpose of the buffer zone was to give the military enough time to react should any alien ever came close. Drones and soldiers patrolled it twenty-four by seven and that meant he would encounter either the soldiers or drones every so often, which kind of defeated the purpose of taking a stroll in the first place. He wanted to clear his head and get away from people. He heard another cracking sound coming from his right and he turned to see no one was there. There were more cracking and crunching sounds but this time they sounded like they were coming from everywhere. He started sweating and regret was settling in. He re-oriented himself towards the direction of the camp. Another cracking sound and he started running.
He ran past a thick tree to his right, not noticing who was hiding behind it. His heart nearly thumped out of his chest when an arm wrapped around his waist from behind, pulled him back while another hand went around his mouth to prevent him from screaming. He felt his back and head pinned against someone’s body. He tried to pry the hand away from his mouth and pounded on the arm to get the person to let him go, all the while never looking up to see who it was. He couldn’t as his head was tightly pinned against the chest of whoever’s behind him. Tears started rolling down his cheek and landed on the person’s hand.
The unidentified person whispered in a low voice, “I’m sorry. I’m gonna let you go now. Please don’t scream, ok?”
With fear being the primary emotion and overwriting his rational mind, Dexter thought the voice sounded familiar. All he wanted was to get away. So he forced a nod and started running as soon as he was free, not even turning around to see who it was.
“Dex! Dexter, stop running!”
Dexter froze when he finally recognised the voice. He turned around and saw who it was standing by the tree. He stormed towards the person with arms swinging back and forth, and his jaw clenched. He shoved Shane who stumbled backwards a little, “What the hell was that?”
Mildly surprised by Dexter’s strength, Shane gestured with both hands trying to placate Dexter, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I was just playing with you.”
“Fuck you, Shane. That wasn’t funny. You have no idea how scary that was!” Dexter started sniffling. “I thought I was going to die in the hands of some humans looking for food scraps, be used as a sex slave or get rape again!” Tears started rolling down his cheeks as the memories of what his father did came flooding back.
Shane went closer to pull Dexter towards him before wrapping his arms around Dexter’s body. Dexter buried his face into that broad, chiseled chest and started crying. Of all the words Dexter said, rape was the most prominent one to Shane’s ears. He had never once heard his boyfriend mention anything about it.
“Hey, I’m here. I will make sure nobody ever lay a finger on you ever again,” Shane’s right hand went up and caressed the back of Dexter’s head, running his fingers through that thick mop of hair. He was suddenly aware of how small Dexter actually was and never really seemed to grow any taller especially for a teenage boy still in puberty. Despite having eaten slightly better meals provided by the military, gone for health checkups and taken supplements, he was still that scrawny kid from before the alien invasion.
But that’s just the way Shane liked it.
They had grown a lot closer over the last few weeks and people rarely see one of them without the other. During this time, the dynamics between the two also settled into something that was not dissimilar from that of older and younger brother. Shane, being the older, one was always leading and very protective but that didn’t mean he was more mature on certain things. He tends to let his fists or sheer size do the talking and Dexter had always been there to stop him from going too far. And never once did Dexter accused him of being unruly, unreasonable or immature. It was almost like Dexter had seen through that facade of his and knew how broken he was. And he still hadn’t forgiven himself for how he treated Dexter in the past and was doing everything he could to make up for it.
At night, it was always Dexter doing all the caring. Shane never quite forgot what he saw or experienced while he was trying to get to school and nightmares consistently haunted him. He always mumbled in his sleep and cried out from time to time. The worse he thought he did was when he woke up violently covered in sweat to see Dexter looking at him with a cup of water in hand and a towel. He only went back to sleep after Dexter climbed into bed with him and they cuddled. Come morning, they pretended nothing happened at night and went about their day activities.
Dexter unburied his head and looked up at Shane with pleading eyes, “Don’t ever do that to me again.”
Shane grew mellow on the inside and revealed a soft grin, “I won’t. I swear.”
Dexter gave a slight nod and Shane kissed him on the top of his head.
“I’m gonna continue with my stroll. Do you want to come?”
“Why not. There’s nothing to do anyway.”
They released each other. Dexter took the lead, heading deeper into the woods with Shane trailing just a couple of steps behind. After flattening countless undergrowth, they came upon an old man-made path and decided to follow it until they reached a wooden cabin. From the outside, it looked big enough to house a family of four. On first sight, it looked like it was abandoned judging from how tall the grass around the cabin had grown. It was like no one did any maintenance work. To be sure they weren’t trespassing, they searched the area around it first before taking peeks into the cabin through the windows. Given how dark it was on the inside, they couldn’t see far. On the outside, they also didn’t find anybody except for the spot a couple meter west of the cabin where a vehicle of some sort had parked. They both came to the same conclusion after seeing the shape of the stunted foliage took. Satisfied that they were all alone, they tried the door and were surprised that it was unlocked.
Shane was first through the door and found himself recoiling from the strong musty odour. It felt rather damp inside too. He called out to see if there was anybody home. Silence. Dexter took it as a signal to enter only to see Shane putting his hand out Dexter’s chest, signalling stop. Shane didn’t want Dexter to come in just yet as he didn’t know for sure if it was safe enough. What if there were aliens? What if some violent scavengers were hiding in her? He called out again. When only silence greeted him, he felt safe enough and signalled Dexter to follow in.
They left the front door open to let in more of the afternoon light with hope the musty smell would go out the same door while they searched around for a light switch as it was not by the main door. If not the light switch, at least something like a torch or lamp to light up the interiors would suffice. It didn’t take long before Shane found a switch by the fireplace. He flipped it.
The fireplace lit up immediately followed by the single strip of LED light above the couch.
The square living room had two set of two-cushion couches arranged by side-by-side at a ninety-degree angle. The grey couches themselves looked like they haven’t been sat in a while with a thick layer of dust on top. A single dark-oak coffee table was between the couches and the fireplace. On top was a white table runner that spanned the length with a small pot of fake plant placed right in the middle. Along the wall opposite the fireplace were some pictures of the family that owned the place. Beneath those pictures was a two-door modern-style wooden cabinet.
Adjacent to the living room, directly opposite of the main door, was the kitchen with an island marking the boundary. On the left of the living room was a single hallway leading to the bedrooms.
Shane and Dexter explored the rest of the house and flipped on any light switches they found.
There were three bedrooms. Two of them had beds and were well-made. Unlike couches, the beds looked like someone had cleaned them due to the lack of dust. The cabinets and wardrobes on the other hand were cleared of any belongings.
“Maybe we could stay here for a while and rest up. Just the two of us,” Dexter said in a nonchalant manner.
“Alright. Let me lock the main door first. I don’t want anyone to burst in without warning.”
Dexter nodded in agreement and made his way into the first bedroom on the right. He slapped one side of the bed that was in the middle of the room against the east wall to stir up any dust and fanned the air with his hands. Satisfied, he sat on the bed and took a couple of sips from the small bottle of water in his messenger pouch.
He took off his messenger pouch and placed it on the bedside table before lying down. He straightened his legs and placed one over another while he crossed his arms over his chest, staring straight up at the ceiling. His mind started wandering and didn’t hear Shane come in.
Shane put down his backpack by wall, climbed up the bed from the other side and laid beside Dexter in a similar manner except for the arms. He placed them behind his head.
“What happened to you before the school?”
Shane sneaked a glance to his right to see Dexter looking at him with puppy eyes. It was one of those I want to know how are you conversation. Shane wriggled his jaw and sucked the inside of his cheek.
“I don’t feel like talking about it…I’m…I’m not ready,” Shane took in a deep breath, “What about you? What was that in the woods?”
Dexter stayed quiet long enough until it was getting awkward between them. Shane was getting up to leave when Dexter spoke, “My step-dad raped me at least once a week ever since I turned thirteen. Before that, there were a lot of inappropriate touching when my mom wasn’t looking. He even watched me as I sleep”
Shane laid back down, arms straightened by his sides, speechless. He was horrified and embarrassed. It made him even more guilty. I’m such an asshole! All because he wasn’t ready to accept who he was.
“I’m really sorry. I didn’t know.” His voice suddenly hoarse and weak.
“It’s ok. It’s in the past. My dad is dead so he can’t hurt me anymore.”
Shane’s tongue started licking his teeth and the inside of his cheek because his mouth felt dry. He took a deep breath while recollecting what happened to him. He knew keeping quiet about what happened wouldn’t be fair to Dexter since his boyfriend shared something so private about himself. The most private one since they got together.
“During my journey to the school, there were things I saw that can’t be unseen. Yeah…There were the usual battles between the aliens and soldiers. At first I struggled to hold myself together. Then it got easier as I found myself caught in more of those battles and escaping. I hid for hours and used whatever empty paths I could find. In a way I guess…I was lucky.
“It didn’t take long before I stumbled upon…” Words refused to come out of Shane’s mouth as the memories of what he saw came flooding. “Stumbled upon…” He repeated those words several times and felt his throat tightened. He swallowed a lump of saliva to clear his throat. Still no words.
“Stumbled upon what?” Dexter turned to see his boyfriend sweating and face turning red. He grimaced a little from concern.
“aliens resting and dinning…”
By now Shane who was hyperventilating, his face completely red with cold sweat droplets forming all over the forehead, hands clenching the bedsheet so tightly that veins were about to pop out. Ideas started running through Dexter’s mind about what the aliens were dinning on. Rats? Cats? Dogs? Humans?
“There were bodies…many headless…” Shane took in another deep breath, “strung up by their feet…most were children…no…teens…no…I don’t know!”
He curled up into a ball, faced the wall, and started crying.
Dexter moved closer and hugged Shane from behind like a koala bear albeit a little awkwardly because of their size difference. He kissed the back of his boyfriend’s neck before resting his head on top.
“It’s ok. It’s over now,” Dexter whispered softly.
They laid in that position until Dexter no longer felt his left arm as it was pinned underneath Shane’s body. By then, Shane had mostly calmed down and tried to straighten himself, making Dexter release his grip in response.
Shane turned around to face his boyfriend and hug him, looking straight into those brown eyes. He caressed Dexter’s hair before revealing a gentle smile. A hoarse voice came out of his mouth from all the crying, “Do you know you are really cute?” He could see Dexter’s face redden almost instantly. “And I just can’t say sorry enough for what I’ve done to you in the past. It’s still hangs over me.”
“Shane. Stop. I have already forgiven you for quite some time now. We should move forward and stop dwelling on the past. Can you at least promise me that?”
Shane felt relieved at first then warmth inside knowing now the size of Dexter’s heart. He responded without considering, “Yes. I promise.”
“Good,” Dexter kissed him on the lips, pulled his head back slightly only for them to stare at each other straight into the eyes. As though on cue, Shane’s head leaned closer and caught Dexter’s top lip between his own. Dexter returned the favour. Their mouths, soon, was all over each other’s and tongues swirled. As they kissed, they began to feel as though the temperature around them was rising. Their breathings increased in rate and started sounding like hissings. They both felt their hearts thumping away faster with each passing minute. All from the growing intensity of the desire they had for each other.
It didn’t take long before their hands and legs were entangled. In the heat of moment, Dexter rolled on top of Shane and sat on his toned abdomen, his legs bent by the side of Shane’s torso as though he was kneeling. He bent down to kiss Shane’s face and neck while resting his hands on that broad chest like a cat resting its paws. Shane felt Dexter’s penis becoming hard against his abdomen. Instinctively, Shane wrapped his arms around his boyfriend’s body before his right hand graduated to grope Dexter’s erected penis and massage his balls through the dark-grey jogger pants. It was obvious Dexter didn’t wear any underwear because of how easy it was for Shane to play with those organs. He knew he had achieved the right level of pressure and stimulation when Dexter started moaning. It got intense enough for Dexter to stop what he’s doing, sit up straight with an arched back and let Shane do his thing.
Dexter enjoyed how his sex organs was purposefully yet gently squeezed and massaged by a bigger hand. He couldn’t help but moan louder in a higher pitch. Despite the intense sensation, he maintained enough awareness and self-control to take off his shirt which prompted Shane to peel the front of his pants down to release the erected, upward-pointing penis.
Seeing that five-inch erection and a nearly hairless pubic area made Shane’s eyes sparkle. He grinned. He excitedly pulled down the rest of the pants to the knees. He yanked that erection down like a level and let it flopped back up. The penis glans, though wrapped in foreskin, was sensitive enough to make Dexter winced when it struck his body.
“You like that?” Shane asked with a playful face.
Shane giggled when Dexter slapped the side of his body in response. Then he got off and sat on the bed to take off his pants and shoes, tossing them to the floor.
Shane sat up and started taking off his clothes, tossing them to the ground to the floor too. He also cleared the bed of anything that would get entangled up or dirtied.
They went back into each other’s arms again and started kissing, rubbing their now naked bodies against each other. They rolled on the bed with each other embraced before settling down with Dexter sitting on Shane’s pubic area. He reached down to pull down Shane’s foreskin, revealing purplish yet shiny glans. Dexter sat on Shane’s penis before sitting moving his hips around to rub his scrotum, perineum and anus against the head of Shane’s penis, smearing pre-ejaculate all over. Shane used the chance to stroke Dexter’s penis, pulling the foreskin down and behind the glans before pulling it back up again, using the pre-ejaculate now gathering at the tip of Dexter’s penis as lubricant.
With the knowledge that Dexter was raped by his dad at the back of his mind, Shane didn’t take any more lead as he wasn’t sure if he would do something to upset Dexter. It was Dexter taking charge throughout the whole thing. It was a weird sensation when he found himself loving the fact he’s not taking charge.
Then this boyfriend of his decided to push that eight-inch erection into that small ass, simultaneously delighting and worrying him.
With the penis halfway through his anus, Dexter looked at Shane with an intensity that would burn through any soul, “Fuck me.”
Shane swallowed a lump of saliva before thrusting. At first the motion was slow and deliberate as he didn’t want to hurt Dexter in anyway. After a few more thrusting motions, it became obvious that Dexter was ready. Shane went in harder and faster, making Dexter groaned and moaned louder.
He felt the pulsating sensation in his groin and knew he would ejaculate anytime. He called it out and was ready to pull his penis out when Dexter stopped him by slapping his hand away. Shane ejaculated a moment later.
Dexter’s penis remained rock hard throughout intercourse because Shane was good at it. His prostate gland was stimulated well enough for him to achieve orgasm at the same time as Shane. Ropes of milky white fluid flew out of his penis and landed all over Shane’s body. They started giggling as they looked at each other.
Shane tapped on Dexter’s thighs, “Come closer, let me clean up your willy.”
Dexter pulled out the semi-hard penis from his ass and went closer. Shane pushed himself up to rest his back against the headrest in a semi-sit up position. He took Dexter’s penis into his mouth, started sucking and licking the penis while one of his hand went to massage those low hanging balls.
It didn’t take long for Dexter to reach orgasm one more time, dumping more white fluid into Shane’s mouth. Shane gladly swallowed everything.
They French kissed for a little while longer.
“Time to clean up,” Dexter said with a wink before ruffling Shane’s hair. He got off the bed and picked up his clothes from the floor as he made his way out of the bedroom. He turned right and continued towards the bathroom at the end of the hallway.
Shane sat up and found himself smiling as he watched Dexter walked out. He had never felt so happy before in his life. Once Dexter was gone, he went grabbing a towel he packed earlier from his backpack and took his clothes from the floor. He joined Dexter in the shower.
As the water ran down both their bodies, they scrubbed each other in every crevices and corners. They engaged in another kissing session to end off their shower before towelling dry and got dressed.
After gathering their belongings, they picked the other room to rest in as both of them were exhausted from that sex. Shane climbed into bed first, laid on his back and waited for Dexter to climb in. Dexter rested his head and his right arm on Shane’s chest while Shane wrapped his right arm around Dexter’s body.
Before Shane could say anything, Dexter started snoring and was in deep sleep. He giggled to himself and kissed the top of Dexter’s head before dozing off a moment later feeling content.
Dexter stirred and opened his eyes to find himself looking at a mostly dark room. The sun was halfway below the horizon but it didn’t matter in the forest. The trees were so tall. He sat up and found his stomach growling. It struck him that he hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast.
He walked slowly towards his messenger pouch while feeling his way across the room. He was afraid of falling down. When his toes struck something soft on the ground, he knelt down and started touching. It was the bags. It took a while before he found own. When he did, he rampaged through it searching for a high-energy snack bar he packed. He found a small torchlight first and used it to help him in the dark. When he found the snack bar, he heaved a sigh of relief and undid the wrapper.
The sound of wrapper opening must have woken Shane up, who stirred and groaned in bed. He sat up and saw a small patch of light with some kind of shadow near where their bags were placed.
“Yeah,” Dexter responded and went back chewing. He pulled out another snack bar and went over to the bed with the torchlight and snack bar in one hand, and another holding hold to his own bar, taking a bite from it as soon as he finished chewing and swallowing. He climbed into bed and handed over the packet of snack bar to Shane. He didn’t wait and got down to eating too.
Once they filled their stomaches, they decided simultaneously that it was time to go back to camp. It was early evening when Dexter and Shane leave the cabin and began walking back towards the refugee camp.
They managed to find their way to the man-made path in the dark with just that small torchlight to light the way. They followed it back.
As soon as they leave the path, a series of fiery explosions from the direction of refugee camp lit up the forest. They froze, feeling both dread and awe. Startled animals called out. More explosions came and suppressed their calls.
Shane pulled Dexter back just in time; if not a deer would have run him over. After catching a breath, Dexter spoke excitedly masking the anxiety he was feeling beneath, “We should go back! We don’t have supplies to last us out here!”
“It’s not safe! At least we can get away first before the aliens find us! We can go to the next refugee camp.”
“I know. We can only hope the next refuge camp is not hit in the same way. I am scared. And buddy, I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Dexter gritted his teeth, “Fine. Let me call someone first and we will go.”
Dexter pulled out a military-grade communicator from his messenger pouch. It was a rectangular piece of polymer-glass with metal edge and double as a portable computer. His thumb and index finger manipulated the graphics on display until he found the one number saved in its memory. A quick suck of air through the gaps in his teeth, he dialled the number.
He waited for the connection to go through. At first he wasn’t sure if anyone would pick up. Concerned grew as the ring tone continued for nearly a minute before someone on the other side picked up the call.
A familiar voice came through, “Sergeant Amin speaking.”
“Help! The aliens just hit the refugee camp. We can’t go back.”
“Is that you, Dexter? Which camp?”
“Yeah. It’s me. Camp Sierra, California. We will travel to the next camp.”
“Do you have enough food and water until then?”
“Enough for two days max.”
“Hang tight and keep the communicator with you at all time. I will find your location using that and I will be there as soon as I can.”
Dexter put the communicator back, stuffing it deep into the pouch so that he doesn’t lose it and pulled out an old-school compass from his pouch. He placed it in his hand and oriented himself as as he began recalling the geography of the area and the location of the remaining refugee camps.
“This way,” Dexter pointed straight.
He started walking and Shane trailed behind. It didn’t take long before they walked by the cabin. They turned east and continued their journey. It didn’t take long before Shane started to doubt the direction they were taking.
“Dex, you sure we are heading the right way?” He tried very hard not to sound whiny or dismissive of Dexter’s ability. He had seen first-hand the level of his boyfriend’s intelligence and knowledge during those months together.
That confident response was enough to subdue any doubts Shane had.
They didn’t know how far they went when they heard rustling coming from around them, causing their hearts to skip a beat. In the distant, explosions were still going off but albeit softer. The forest at night did get echoey and nearby sounds were especially loud. Accompanying those rustling were some low growls.
“What’s that?” Shane asked with eyes wide open scanning his surroundings, hoping to catch a glimpse of shadow of something.
More thumping sound came from the rear that sounded like footsteps followed by more rustling. This time the growling became louder. They could hear the rhythm in those growls. A sign of intelligence. Dexter reached out to grab Shane’s left arm and pulled as he moved forward. It didn’t take long before they broke into a run, crushing undergrowth beneath their feet, ducking underneath any low hanging branches and jumping over fallen logs.
Multiple explosions went off behind them as plasma bolts struck the trunks and branches around them. Birds in the trees, awoken from their slumber, gawked loudly followed by loud flapping sounds. A few bolts struck the ground near where they were, flash turning the soil into glass and the micro explosions sent debris flying through the air.
With adrenaline coursing through their bodies, they didn’t even feel anything when flying glass and other debris cut their arms and bodies.
They came upon a stream with water heading east. They looked at each other, then at the water. The night was dark, making it impossible to gauge the depth of the water or if there’s something in there that would harm them. The good news? The water wasn’t gushing.
Behind them, the rustling sound continued as aliens made their way through, hunting their target with excitement. They didn’t take too long to think and went in together. With hands interlocked, not wanting to lose each other, they waded across to the other side, all the while huffing and puffing as their legs struggled against the water pressure.
Midway across, the water reached above their chests and their feet struggled to find any holding as their bodies’ natural buoyancies took over. They lifted their legs and swam across until they were in shallower waters.
The aliens reached the stream bank at roughly the same time when Shane and Dexter climbed out of the other side. They started running the moment aliens started firing. It was an arduous task running up the incline with their drenched clothes but they didn’t complain. They just kept going.
Dexter went over the slope first. Shane was about to go over when a plasma bolt whizzed by just inches away from his left forearm. He cried out in pain and instinctively pulled his arm close to his body. He studied his arm as he went down the other side of the slope. His arm was already showing signs of second-degree burn. Any attempts to move the arm made Shane whine.
Dexter turned around to take a look,”Are you okay?”
“I’m fine! Just keep going!”
Their physical fitness and adrenaline kept them running for another forty to fifty minutes not knowing if the aliens were still after them. After that, their mouths and throats started to feel dry. Hypothermia was also settling in, especially for Shane, with the overall temperature in the forest near zero. The cold had an equally numbing effect on the second degree burn that Shane’s brain didn’t seem to register as much. Even so, they knew they needed rest and warmth but the area they were in was so dark and thick with vegetation that it was impossible to make out where to go. Not even the compass could help. They tried scanning the area with their torchlights but those light beams were barely enough to penetrate through the darkness and allow their eyes make out any features beyond twenty meters.
“Whaaaa…whaaattt…shouuld…weeee…do…do?” Shane asked as he crossed his arms, gripping his elbows, shivering intensely from the cold, “I can’t…can’t…continue any more.”
“Me either,” Dexter replied as he tried to scan the forest with his torchlight but the light beam was unsteady from all the trembling. Despite that, it was enough for Dexter to see there was some sort of a fog starting to form and couldn’t see what’s beyond. He turned his attention to the compass in his hand and looked up. That’s when he saw some kind of clearing in the northeast direction. “Let’s try this way. There’s some sort of clearing. Maybe we can find a spot to rest for the night.”
It didn’t take them long to find an area that had thick undergrowth and multiple fallen logs surrounding an oak tree with trunk that was thick enough to hide two person behind it. On closer inspection, there was a gaping hole in the trunk that was wide enough for both of them to enter. Dexter looked up with his torchlight and realised the tree was dead with no leaves yet he couldn’t see the night sky due to the thick black canopy.
Shane went through the hole first after checking it to make sure there was nothing hiding in there. He picked a spot and put his things down. He grunted from the sudden pain that surge through his arm. He rampaged through his bag with his good arm to find a picnic mat he packed earlier. After laying the mat down on the ground, he stripped naked slowly. He struggled the most freeing his left arm from the shirt and needed Dexter’s help. After that, he sat down on the mat.
Dexter went out to collect several branches and dried leaves for the fire they needed. When he came back, he dumped them on the ground in front of the mat before joining Shane on it. Like Shane, Dexter stripped naked too. The clothes were laid out on the mat to the side. Then, he went ahead to setup a mini campfire before sitting down on the mat with his legs crossed.
That was when Shane realised Dexter wasn’t affected by the cold as badly as he was despite that scrawny nature. He was equally amazed by how calm Dexter had been throughout the ordeal.
“Who the hell are you?” Shane asked with a raised eyebrow.
Dexter turned his head to look at Shane with a cocked head, “What you mean? I’m me.”
“Look at you, the cold doesn’t seem to affect you as much as it did me. And I’m like dying over here.”
“Really? I didn’t notice…” Dexter trailed off when he saw the red blisters forming on Shane’s arm, “Your arm looks pretty bad. Are you alright?”
“It still hurts but I think I got some medical sprays for the pain in my bag. I think they can also disinfect,” Shane turned around and started fumbling through. With one disabled arm, it was a slow process.
“You sure have a lot of things in that bag,” Dexter said wryly before getting up, “Let me help you.”
“We are in a middle of an alien invasion. One can never be too casual when it comes to surviving in the wild. But in hindsight, I should have packed two more sets of clothes.”
Dexter took over the search and pulled out a bottle of military-issued medical spray, a grayish-sliver cylinder with the words ‘Medical Painkiller and Antiseptic’ printed across the top in green and LED strip beneath on the side indicating the solution volume in the cylinder. He knelt down in front of Shane and aimed the nozzle at the wound before pressing down on the top button. A blast of aerosolised solution struck the skin, rapidly cooling it while the chemicals went to work by inhibiting the nerves endings, making Shane moan from pleasure. Unseen to the naked eye, the antiseptic killed off any bacteria, viruses, and spores gathered on the red, blistered skin.
“Thanks. I feel better already.”
“The first chance we got, we are seeing the doctor at the next camp.”
Shane smiled and stared into the gentle fire. Although the fire was small, it was enough to heat up the space inside the tree trunk and he doesn’t feel as cold anymore. In the meantime, he was worried that the aliens would see the fire and come after them. But it had been maybe two or three hour since and there hadn’t been any sound in the forest other than those of the animals and insects making mating calls. Dexter on the other hand fed the fire with more dried branches and leaves from time to time as he sat on Shane’s left, contemplating what’s next.
Later that night, Dexter took the first watch shift that lasted four hours while Shane went to sleep. During that time, Dexter looked out for any alien activity and keep the fire going. After that, Shane would take over for another four hours. As it got closer to dawn, the four hour shift became two hour shift so that both of them got at least six hours of rest.
Dexter kept watch until the sun was up. He patted his clothes and found them dry. As he slipped on his shirt, he gave Shane a gentle kick in the butt to wake him up. Shane groaned for a bit, refusing to get up. Dexter gave him another kick.
“Alright, I’m up. Jeez.” He saw Dexter all clothed and did the same.
While Shane put on his clothes, Dexter pulled out a pair of snack bars from his pouch, which happened to be the last two. He handed one to Shane who grabbed it readily and didn’t hesitate to strip the wrappers.
“It was quiet night huh?” Shane asked as he took a huge bite out of the snack bar.
“Yeah. I don’t know what happened to the aliens. Maybe they lost interest.”
After they were done with their mini-breakfast, Dexter helped Shane packed up the rest of the stuff. He then gave Shane a helping hand by holding the backpack up from behind so Shane had an easier time to put his arm through the strap. They stepped out into the woods and Dexter gave the compass a quick study before setting off on their journey east towards the next refugee camp.
Unbeknownst to Dexter and Shane, the reptilian aliens did manage to cross the stream but didn’t make it further than five hundred meters when they were killed off one by one and their bodies liquified into natural fertiliser for the plants with special chemicals.
Once the area was safe, the enigmatic helper got up into the trees to follow the two boys in secret, watching where they were going. When it became clear they were stopping for the night, the helper chose a tree that overlook the dead oak tree and stayed there all night to make sure nothing got near it.
When dawn came, the helper continued to monitor the area up front and around to make sure it was clear of aliens. Then the helper watched in amusement as the pair went about their morning. The moment they sets off towards the camp, the helper did another sweep of the area with the help from the array of sensors deployed around the woods and satellite imaging. Although it was only another two-hour walk to the next refugee camp and the area appeared clear, a lot of things could still happen. A recent report of the aliens deploying highly advanced cloaking technology across various combat theatres had the helper concerned. Especially since the satellite imaging couldn’t see cloaked objects and even though the sensors could detect movement, their coverage was limited in scope.
The FVH-88 Armoured Transport VTOL carrying a squad of marines approached the refugee camp with two VTOL gunships by its side for support and two fixed-wing combat drones for air-defence.
At one kilometre out, the transport VTOL came to a stop in the air while the gunships continued forward and followed a delta-shaped flight path before coming to a stop four hundred meters from the edge of the camp. While hovering, the gunships fired their air-to-ground radars that swept through the camp. Given the fan-shaped radar output from each gunship, the signals overlapped each other in many places and generated strong echoes for each gunship that the onboard computer was able to render all detected objects in three-dimension on the consoles for the pilots to see.
The pilots, who also doubled as gunners, manipulated the graphics on the consoles in front of them to bring up the weapon system to start tagging the aliens who were out in the open. As the gunships were sharing data in realtime via a proprietary wireless protocol, both pilots could see what each other was doing and synchronise their actions.
They squeezed their respective triggers at the same time.
The 30 mm auto-cannons under the crafts’ nose roared to life spewing out armour-piercing and high-explosive rounds. With muzzle velocity of 1200 metres per seconds and at the distance of 400 metres, the rounds had more than enough kinetic energy to punch through majority of the materials on the ground while the high-explosive aspect did the remaining damage.
Aliens stood no chance. The covers they picked to hide behind also stood no chance. After the cannons were done, what’s left of them were just puddles and splatters of blue blood, and chunks of fused inorganic and organic material.
Meanwhile, the fixed wing drones circled around an area five kilometre wide in a staggered formation to ensure no alien aircrafts came close.
Two alien transport crafts, which looked like they each had the body of an elephant and the head of an eagle, came soaring out of the woods some six kilometres east of the VTOLs with their plasma cannons armed. One of the alien craft shot and missed the nearest drone. The second drone, following closely behind, unleashed its payload of two anti-aircraft missiles. Just moments before the missiles struck, the drone unleashed a two-second burst of rounds from its 25 mm chain gun. Unlike the alien spaceships, these in-atmosphere transport craft don’t have shields or particularly heavy armour. The transport craft lost most of its rear when the missiles struck with its’ front pockmarked by the bullets. It went spiralling towards the ground with a trail of smoke following behind.
The other transport craft performed an evasive manoeuvre as the drones flew past. It then chased after the drones with surprising speed and fired again. A few plasma shots got close enough to sear away layers of armour on the first drone, causing multiple malfunction across its various sub-systems. But the drone was designed and built with multiple redundancies, especially in the area of flight control and weapon system. As long as the drone had functional engines, retain its wings and tail, and decent functionality of both wing and tail flaps, the drone would continue to fly. And it would continue to engage any enemy until it ran out of ammunitions.
The drones executed a tight turn, something that only autonomous drones could do as the resulting g-force could easily killed human pilots. Missiles surged out of the wing pylons and punched multiple holes on the side of the transport craft, sending it careening towards the ground with smoke streaming out of the holes. A quick scan of the airspace showed the sky clear and the drones continued their patrol.
After the gunship pilots reported that the camp was clear of aliens, the VTOL transport moved closer and landed in a small clearing one hundred meter northeast of the camp.
The ramp opened.
A squad of marines equipped with exoskeletons poured out of the VTOL and beelined for the edge of the clearing, going down on one knee with their weapons raised as the marines swept their surroundings for enemies.
The transport lifted off when its passenger bay emptied and went on a circular patrol around the camp with its side gunners scanning the ground with the fifty-caliber machine guns.
That liftoff served as a cue for marines to execute their plan. Amin gave the signal and the squad broke up into two fireteams of six marines each, designated Alpha and Bravo.
Amin, now a Gunnery Sergeant, took Alpha into the forest first. The team maintained a single file as they went in. Staff Sergeant Landon Boey took Bravo and followed after.
The fireteams advanced through the forest in single files and maintained a distance of twenty meters from each other with their ears and eyes wide open for any potential threat. The HUDs on the inside of their helmets showed them multiple blue blips moving in a diamond formation overlaid on a square graphical panel at the top right hand corner. Every couple of seconds, a white circular ring swept across the panel and any moving object larger than a rat showed up as white blips. Even larger ones like a humanoid could show up as red unless they were marked as friendly via some kind of chip implant or without signs of weapons. The latter were marked as green. Thus far, there was only blue and the occasional white.
Halfway through, Alpha team stumbled upon on the bodies of four soldiers in their combat suits. They showed signs of plasma burns. Nearby was the carcasses of two combat drones, also showing signs of plasma burn.
Bravo team reported they found three dead aliens within the undergrowth moments later. Unlike the ones from the initial invasion, these were wearing a different set of combat armours. On closer inspection, the armour looked thinner, lighter, and darker. Even the weapons they carried were different with a longer barrel and bigger stock. One of the corporals jabbed the armour with the tip of his carbine causing the armour to shimmer before reverting to its original dull blackish-grey. He staggered back fearing further reaction.
Landon eyed the aliens with a raised eyebrow. He had seen these before. The thought finally came to him. “Scouting party,” Landon commented, which was broadcast over the radio. “Looks like they had all been shot. One in the head, the rest in their bodies.”
“They must be good. We got four dead friendlies and two downed drones,” Amin responded. “There’s nothing we can do here. Continue with the mission.”
Amin took the lead with his team trailing behind. As he walked through the forest, index finger on the trigger guard and watching his surrounding with intense eyes, there was a thought that kept nagging at him. He couldn’t stop thinking about what happened to Dexter and Shane as it’s been almost two days since that phone call and there hadn’t been any further communication. He hoped the aliens hadn’t found them yet. Initially, he had wanted to come down here on his own because he didn’t have the authority to call for a mission. He would do so once he’s done packing up his bags for the next three days as he was given time-off to rest up. His superior wanted to make sure he had sufficient rest since he had been participating in combat operations against the aliens for three weeks non-stop. As luck would have it, E.U.S.N High Command received the call for help from the refugee camp but they didn’t agree at first because of other higher priority missions. When the camp stopped responding to any communication hours later, they finally decided to deploy marines to find out what happened and rescue any survivors. Once he knew of the mission, he signed up immediately and refused to back down.
Now he’s here and he couldn’t be happier that he got also support from his fellow marines. He just hopped he wasn’t too late.
Bravo team reported they found several more bodies, both aliens and humans. It looks like they were engaged in close combat. The fight was obviously a draw but not a fair fight since there were more human bodies. To be precise, it was three humans to one alien. And there were two dead aliens.
Compared to humans, the aliens were much stronger in every way. No single person would stand a chance engaging in a fist fight without some kind of help. Even a marine equipped with exoskeleton would have a hard time fighting head-on.
Landon would know that because he fought one before. He managed to hurt the alien in a few places with his fist and knife. He thought he was invincible and allowed his ego to get the better of him. So he didn’t react in time to dodge a punch from the alien. That punch landed on his chest that sent him flying backwards through the air for a couple of meters. He then crashed into an abandoned car and caused his exoskeleton to malfunction. He also knew that if it wasn’t for the exoskeleton’s chest plate to absorb the full force, his chest would have caved in and he be dead now. It took him two weeks to recover from the injury and that was under specialist care with the latest medical procedure. Of course he did kill the alien with his sidearm just in time, after he freed his arm from the exoskeleton.
The fireteams continued their journey through the forest, crushing grass and branches underneath their boots. It didn’t take long to reach the edge of the camp as it was uneventful.
From above, the camp resembled a malformed because of the wavy placement of the shoulder height concrete wall surrounding the center. During the operation planning stage, it was pre-divided into east and west sectors down the center along the northeast-southwest axis. Alpha would take the east and Bravo would take the west sectors.
They didn’t take long to sweep through their respective sector. All they came across were bodies after bodies. Adults or children didn’t matter. The aliens didn’t discriminate and were thorough in their extermination of the camp. And judging by the number of soldiers, at least sixty and most of whom looked like they were fresh out of bootcamp, guarding the camp using the type of equipment they had, there was just no way for the camp to effectively fight off the aliens although there were only eighteen of them. Then there was a lot of civilians. In large number, especially if there were lots of children, their presence could also affect the soldiers state of mind in combat situations. That much the marines knew since they had seen for themselves such situations over the last few weeks.
What they didn’t know was there were more aliens that participated in the attack only to break off to hunt Dexter and Shane through the forest.
Amin was in the midst of updating High Command of the situation at the camp when he received an incoming call. He recognised the number shown and accepted the call.
“Dexter, where are you?”
“We are in the woods. We are almost at the next camp.”
“I’m coming to get you. Camp Sierra is gone. No survivor.”
Dexter’s voice went a little high pitch, “What?”
Amin kept his voice calm, “Don’t worry about it. I will come get you. Just focus on staying alive.”
“We will…what’s that…”
“Oh shit! Dexter, run!” Shane called out.
What Amin heard next were the sounds of explosions followed by rustlings.
“Dexter!” There was no response and the call ended. “Shit!”
He turned his attention to his wrist computer and activated the communicator’s tracking function. A red blip, representing the communicator, showed up on the map he brought up on his wrist computer indicating it was moving eastward and fast.
Knowing there was no time to waste, he called for the VTOL to land in the camp while he gathered his men. He gave them a quick brief of what’s happening before they all climbed onboard the VTOL and off they went.
During the flight, Amin kept a close watch on the red blip as he directed the VTOL pilot where to go. The red blip came to a stop in an area that was below a thick canopy, which prevented anyone from seeing what’s going on. He requested the pilot find an opening for the squad to rappel down.
The pilot found a good spot a moment later. There was a clearing fifty north of the last known location of the communicator. The VTOL went over and hovered while the rear ramp lowered. Two of the marines hooked up the rappelling ropes before pushing the coils out and let them unravel with the help of gravity.
In the meantime, the drones had to fly back to base to refuel while the gunships remained behind to watch the clearing.
Two by two, the marines hooked up their military-issued belay devices to the ropes and went out of the VTOL, sliding down the ropes. The first four marines spread themselves around in a circle with the rappelling ropes in the center, establishing a defensive perimeter as they waited for the rest to come down. They kept a close watch on the forest around them for any sign of movement. Once everyone was accounted for, Amin took the lead to guide everyone to the spot.
While advancing through the forest, they encountered several aliens in front of them and put them down rapidly. Then they jogged towards the communicator’s last known location while maintaining high levels of vigilance. Make one mistake, it would be their deaths.
Amin’s radio crackled to life.
The voice from the other side belonged to one of the gunship pilot, “Sergeant, we can see smoke coming from the second refugee camp… we are getting radio chatters of an ongoing attack.”
“Go. Help them. We will find the civilians on the ground.”
The engine roars gradually became softer as the VTOLs flew ahead. Along the way, every time the pilots saw any alien out in the open on the ground below, they opened fire. Aliens who didn’t find cover in time became shredded chunks.
After killing two more aliens near the spot where the communicator was left in a grass patch, the marines spread themselves around and scanned their surroundings for any threat.
Amin picked up the communicator and found it non-functional with a crack spreading downward from the top like vines. He looked up at the forest around him and called out, “Dexter! Where are you?”
One of the marines, who was the furthest from the group, called out, “Sir! They’ve gone this way!”
Amin jogged over and looked at what the marine was looking at. A section of undergrowth seemed like something heavy stomped on them, forming paths headed deeper into the forest. Their helmets picked up on the sounds of micro-explosions coming from the same direction.
Amin turned around to look at the rest of his men, “They are headed…”
A plasma shot sizzled past above Amin’s head. He dropped to the ground immediately. As he fell, he pulled the marine beside him down to the ground. When he turned around to see how was the marine doing, he felt his heart ached. Another plasma bolt had struck the marine’s upper body during the fall. The ceramic-based armour on the back absorbed most of the heat and prevented the plasma from causing serious injury but the titanium helmet simply boiled away, allowing the remaining plasma to burn through the marine’s neck and lower skull.
Multiple marines yelled the same thing into their microphones, “Contact!” The sound of carbines firing followed next, reverberating across the forest as the marines engaged the aliens. They used the trees as cover even though wood don’t really stand a chance against plasma. But it was definitely better than being out in the open. Trees and branches around the marines exploded into splinters from the hot plasmas. However, it didn’t reduce the marines’ overall effectiveness. One by one, the aliens dropped dead on the ground as high velocity projectiles punched through their body armours and hides, shredding organs.
A marine cried out in pain when a plasma bolt struck his arm. Another marine engaged the aliens as he ran over to provide medical attention. Two other marines closest to Amin went down immediately when aliens blew their heads off from the right.
“Fuck!” Amin cursed as he rolled over to a nearby tree, went on one knee and killed the aliens with his carbine. He was both angry and upset. Those were good marines who had been fighting alongside him since the school. A plasma bolt struck the tree he was hiding behind. The explosion knocked him off his feet. Wood splinters struck the visor of his helmet, cracking it. He shook his head to recover from the blurry vision and shock, got up and engaged a couple more aliens.
“Grenade!” another marine in front of Amin shouted when he saw an alien grenade landed beside him. Instinctively, he used his body as a shield and laid on top of the grenade. The grenade exploded with the ceramic plate in his chest absorbing most of the damage but it wasn’t enough to stop the remaining blast energy from shredding him into unrecognisable pieces. The remaining blast wave radiated outwards, carrying pieces of the obliterated exoskeleton and bone fragments along, striking the marines around at roughly the same time and knocked them off their feet, causing severe heat and penetrative injuries.
Amin too was thrown backwards from the blast. He suffered multiple cuts, second-degree burns, and contusions all over his limbs. As he was only a couple of meters away, the blast damaged his exoframe. The whole left side was non-functioning. The good thing was he had the tree to protect him from most of the blast and adrenaline was numbing most of the pain.
He struggled to get up. With his right hand, he tried to release the exoskeleton. Midway through, he heard a crack in the woods in front of him. He saw the head of an alien approaching him with a raised plasma rifle. He fumbled for his sidearm, a .44 Desert Eagle. He managed to get it out of its holster just in time and shot the alien a few times. The first few .44 Magnum armour-piercing rounds didn’t pack enough penetrative energy to go all the way through. They struck the thick alien armour and ricocheted but did their job of slowing the alien down. The gun finally clicked when he squeezed the trigger.
It was empty.
Amin realised that was it for him as the alien raised its rifle with the intent to kill.
Then the alien grunted and arched backwards before dropping to the ground limp. Its rifle dropped to the ground with a clatter.
A wave of panic struck him. Amin fumbled as he got himself out of the exoskeleton and tossed his helmet aside. He reloaded his sidearm as he got up, leaning against the tree and scanning his surrounding for signs of the enemy with his gun raised. He didn’t know what had just happened. He wondered who was it that killed the alien.
When he realised it was clear, he went down on one knee, picked up his carbine, flipped the switch just above the trigger guard, so that it showed ‘Unassisted’. This meant that the carbine would now fire with reduce muzzle velocity as the average human won’t be able to handle the recoil without suffering from kind of injury. Without the exoframe and only his standard-issue combat suit protecting him, death would come rather easily but it also meant he could move around less encumbered.
He got out of his hiding spot, running from tree to tree as he engaged the aliens. Above the sound of carbines firing, he could hear the groans and moans from around him. A quick count showed there were only five marines who remained standing and uninjured. They spread themselves out to help the rest as they engaged the aliens as best as they could. Those furthest away from the blast—about four of them—got back into action relatively quickly and provided covering fire for the rest.
The battle finally ended after lasting for what it seemed to be hours although only a few minutes had past. During all that time, there were signs that somebody else was out there killing the aliens swiftly and silently. Not wanting to fight on two fronts, the remaining aliens stopped and retreated.
Amin did a quick assessment of his squad and determined there was just no way any one of them could go after Dexter and Shane. He also couldn’t believe he led his men into an ambush that killed most of them. But what’s done was done. He focused on getting the rest of his men out alive and started attending to the injured, patching up wounds as best as he could. He was joined by the only still standing medics on the squad. The other medic was the one who decided to use himself as shield against the grenade.
It took a couple of hours before the squad was able to move back to the landing zone, carrying the dead with them. The VTOL pilot made a smart call to fly further away from the combat zone so that the aliens don’t get a chance to shoot the VTOL down. When Amin called, the pilot came back and landed the VTOL at the clearing.
The injured went onboard first while the rest scanned the forest for more threats. When everyone was onboard, the VTOL lifted off and flew back to base.
On the way back, Amin continued to wonder about what had happened. There was no trace of anyone out there and yet the alien dropped dead without any signs of physical trauma.
Dexter kept running. Even after tripping over rocks and fallen branches, and bloodying his legs and arms, he picked himself up and kept running towards the sound of gushing water. All the while tears rolled off the side of his cheeks.
The forest gradually gave way to a rocky cliff overlooking a river with a waterfall fifty meters east.
He came to a stop just as he was about go over the edge off the cliff. A couple more steps and he would plummet a hundred and fifty meter into the river below. Chances of his survival would be low. But he wasn’t sure he even wanted to live. Not after what had happened. He broke down and dropped to all fours. Tears flooded his face just as memories came flooding, reminding him of both the good and bad times in his life.
The last thought he had was about the run through the forest.
Both of them were trying to get away from aliens. The aliens were relentless. In the heat of the moment, they didn’t know where they were going but they didn’t care. They just wanted to get away. Dexter led the run. Plasma bolts were striking near them, causing them to cringe. They didn’t know how far they went.
Then he heard it. A couple of explosions that sounded too close followed by a loud cry.
He stopped and turned around only to see Shane down on the ground with his left arm and right leg blown off. He wanted to help but Shane kept yelling at him to run. He cried even harder. He forced himself to run and never once did he turned to see what was happening.
Then he thought about the very idea of him surviving all by himself during this alien invasion. It was simply unbearable. And pointless.
He got up and wiped away the tears with the back of his hands. He turned around so that he faced the forest. He eyed the forest in front of him with both marvel and sadness before taking two steps back and went over the cliff with his hands spread out. Just before he closed his eyes, as he didn’t want to see how far he has gone, he caught a glimpse of a flash of light on the edge of the cliff. He ignored it, thinking it must be an illusion created by his fear-filled mind…
You have reached the end of The Tainted Forbidden Love.
Click here for Chapter 4.
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