The Last Lord Of Chicago
This is a rewrite of a story called LSD I posted some time ago. I wasn't happy with the way it came out so it has been reworked and in my opinion much improved!
The heavy bullet-ridden troop transports bumped along the crater scared State Street. The one-time oasis of wealth was all but abandoned. Shimmering shards of glass from the large windows displays of the burned out storefronts was spread along the deserted sidewalk like snowflakes that glimmered in the high afternoon sun.
The trucks were something from military antiquity. The conscripts were loaded on the flat beds and carted to the front like bewildered cattle being offered up for slaughter by the mechanized death machines.
The convoy took a sharp turn down Madison, and the giant tires rolled over some corpses softening in the summer sun, the treads ground the flesh into pulp and smeared their red and black entrails along the street like a brush on a canvas.
Louis had just been drafted into the hastily formed city defense battalion not even forty-eight hours ago. Because of his lack of zeal or any personal politics his commanders expected the cannon fodder like himself to be motivated by self-preservation. That is to say, once the enemy fired at them they would have no choice but to shoot back. The promise that they would be executed if anyone tried to wave the white flag left them with very few alternatives.
Louis hadn't shown much aptitude for the demands of modern war. He was issued an old M-16 with barely half a magazine's worth of ammunition.
He clenched the worn out weapon with white-knuckled hands. He silently pleaded with any higher power that might be listening to intervene on his behalf. He had never been religious, but he was willing to explore any route that might get him out of this alive.
The convoy slowed to a crawl against the tide of dismembered blood-soaked soldiers fleeing the slaughter. The road was choked by burning vehicles and charred human remains.
The sound of machine gun fire and the bone shattering air blasts of exploding shells could be heard over the trucks engines. They were getting close. Low flying jets and UAVs flew through the billowing clouds of acrid smoke. The hi-tech ariel hunters bombed and strafed the streets with impunity.
There was a shell burst, and the line of trucks came to a screeching halt hurling the men into a pile.
“Off of the truck now!” Barked an officer standing on the street waving a desert eagle. “Go go right now get the fuck up!” He shouted. The frightened men got to their feet and piled off of the truck.
Louis jumped down. “Hurry up get to the bridge!” The soldier said directing the bewildered conscripts with a shove as they filed past him.
Louis looked up and found himself in the shadow of the towering stone sculpture of Christ carved on the front of St. Peters church. Flanked by two of his saints the Christian messiah looked down on the devastation with a crumbling ash covered face and its bleeding hands bound to the cross seemingly powerless to provide any relief for the grotesque procession of the dead and wounded.
Louis was swept up in the stampede behind herded west.
The Madison Street bridge spanning the Chicago River connects the east and west ends of the downtown area. Government forces, having just captured Ogilvie transportation center were on the west end trying to force their way across with armor.
The glass that covered the train station had been smashed by shells leaving a twisted iron skeleton. The stone sculpted ornamental control station of the bridge were dusty piles of rubble.
The edifice of the Opera House was pockmarked by bullets, and large pieces of the shattering structure fell onto the street below.
Louis nearly stopped when he saw the sandy brown armor of an Abrams tank come into view lurking on the west side of the bridge. Apparently he wasn't the only one showing visible apprehension.
“go go go kill the fucking tank!” The trailing officer said firing his pistol just over their heads like a deranged track coach.
Someone started a battle cry two more joined after that and in just a few seconds they had reached a sustained howl while they raced towards the bridge.
There was a small machine gun nest on the bridge laying down fire. The grumbling monster's engine idled as if ambivalent to the bullets pinging harmlessly off its armor plates. The gun thundered and a burst of fire from the barrel preceded a high-velocity shell that obliterated the machine gun nest. The ground erupted and a cloud of smoke and concrete rose into the air and showered back down on the pulverized bits of blood and bone that filled the crater.
The turret hatch opened, and a gunner emerged to man machine gun hanging limply in front of him. Seemingly unphased by the by the rifle fire from Louis and the other CDL troopers. The gunner raised the long barrel and pressed down on the firing buttons and doused the Louis and doused the area with .50 caliber rounds.
Those who got caught in the gunner's sweep were turned to pulp. It was like their bodies were being torn apart at the seams. They exploded into a crimson mist. The charging brigade scattered. The ones whose brains became paralyzed in the transition from fight to flight were mowed down as they stood their like wide-eyed statutes.
What Louis, what very few people knew was the doomed defense of Chicago was little more than a knee-jerk reaction. Just the final jolts of a corpse.
The only construction project the warlords Commander Daytona CEO of the Hawkwood mercenary company and Army Colonel Gates had finished during the brief tenure as the rulers and occupiers of the city was a reinforced concrete bunker dug out beneath a concrete multilevel parking garage.
The barren and drab catacombs weren't equipped with any communications equipment to keep the commanders up to date on what was happening on the battlefield. There hadn't been time to bring any kind of command center online, but neither one was concerned. Unlike some of their lieutenants the leaders of the short-lived rebellion in the heartland knew they couldn't hold out very long against the superior fire power of federal forces
Commander Daytona had left the military a long time ago to go on his own as an entrepreneur in mercenary services and had flourished once he was free from the rigid restraints of military code and conduct. He was adept at combat, tactics, and negotiation. What he did not do so well with was blind obedience and was now finding out the hard way he was also incredibly short sighted.
His partner in conquest was a young rogue colonel who had usurped the command of the government's emergency occupation forces stationed in the city's airports and inside soldier field stadium. The ambitious officer ruthlessly disposed of his superiors to take control during Daytona's surprise coup.
You've never any psychedelics before? Commander Daytona asked in a tone of surprise.
The Colonel Gates shook his head. “Never.” The young colonel said running his hand through his high and tight haircut. “I smoked weed in highschool. Not all the time but if I was at a party or something, I might get in on a joint or something.” The colonel explained.
“Every should do it at lease once in their life,” Daytona said sitting up.
The colonel shrugged and took a sip from his highball.
“You should start to feel the effects in about 30-45 minutes,” Daytona said. “I would do a dose once a quarter to see if I could get some new ideas to bring to the investors and it worked quite a few times.”
“What kind of shit do you see?” Asked Gates asked staring at the swirling light brown liquid in his glass.
“I usually see lots of colorful patterns, and sometimes I can feel the wall breathing against my hands,” Daytona said holding up his palm. “But it's not just about what you see. Your brain operates on a whole nother level."
The chamber had been furnished with a recliner, a bed, and a table. There was a mini fridge stocked with top shelf booze and another larger fridge brimming with decadent food. It had been Daytona's project. A kind of makeshift hospice for the rebels now turned hunted fugitives. He decided suicide was preferable to prison and the gallows.
He had gotten Gates to agree, but even given the Daytona's heavy influence over him he had reservations.
As an officer, he didn't think it made sense to abandon his troops especially at such a critical even at such a hopeless hour. More importantly, though He didn't know if when the time came, he would be able to pull the trigger. It was something weighing heavy on his mind.
The explosions were getting closer, so close they occasionally rattled the walls of their tiny comfort fortress. It was a stark reminder that the time was fast approaching.
“When do you think you'll do it?” Gates asked.
Daytona was silent for a minute. “Probably once this wears off or once they find us whichever comes first.”
“Doesn't this stuff last several hours? I think their armor has to be getting close.” Gates nervously pointed out.
“Don't worry about that stuff now.” The mercenary said reassuringly. “Just relax for a while. Trust me it will all be much smoother if you just relax.”
Gates nodded and took another sip of his drink. There was the sound of muffled thunder, and the entire room seemed to tremor. Gates watched the vibrations send ripples through his drink and rattle the melting ice cubes.
“Why don't we throw on some music,” Daytona suggested.
“Yeah, good idea,” Gates muttered.
Louis and his unit had failed to hold the bridge. The urban grid was awash in blood. The once glimmering metropolis was turned into a smoldering killing field. The tanks rolled across smashing the corpses underneath their treads into pulp. The infantry that followed casually shot the wounded as the occupied the city.
Louis was part of a long procession trudging north on the heavily shelled lake shore drive. The tattered and broken army was being pushed east into the cascading waves of Lake Michigan. Louis had contemplated disappearing in the chaos of the retreat until he found out federal forces were executing all military-age males they happened across. Besides a few a small pockets of resistance, the fighting had abated, but the fleeing men could still hear the popping of rifles mowing down row after row of captured enemy combatants.
There was a rumor an evacuation was being staged north of downtown on a beach in Rogers Park out of the enemy's gun sights. Haggard and dismembered and mutilated men hobbled along the street hoping to be a part of the exodus.
The northbound vehicles racing past them seemed to confirm the rumor. The burning skeletons of tanks and humvees littered the famous lakeside road. Some of them filed with the grinning corpses of immolated men.
Besides some murmuring, the downcast mass moved in quiet dejection. Any cohesion that bound the men as a fighting force had dissolved long ago. They were in a heard, but they each of them was alone. Cloud of flies feasted on bloated corpses as well as the dying laying forgotten in pools of blood on the side of the road.
“please help me.” came a weak, raspy voice.
Louis looked down. A legless soldier was crawling towards him. Streaks of blood matted down the grass where he was pulling himself along. He had stone gray eyes and quivering blue lips. Maggots writhed in his discolored flesh.
“Sorry,” Louis muttered quickly looking away.
“Don't leave me,” He pleaded.
Louis started walking faster. Until he could hear the strained voice begging the next people who walked by.
“nothing I could do for him.” Louis murmured.
He could hear the rumbling engines of approaching trucks. He looked over his shoulder three heavy troop trucks were being besieged by the desperate crowd. The mass of bodies brought the vehicles to a grinding halt. The drivers started blaring their horns as they inched through the clawing hordes.
“Get the fuck out of the way!” Shouted a driver.
“Get us out of here!”
“Help me please!”
“They're gonna kill us!”
These were the repeated cries of the doomed men.
“Move!” The lead driver barked pressing down on the horn.
An explosion shook the road, and everyone hit the dirt. Sharp high-pitched screeching cut through the air and three more shells smashed into the road sending plumes of limbs and blood into the air.
The trucks tires shrieked, and the trucks rolled over the men laying flat to avoid the shrapnel. Louis bolted to the west across the road before hurling himself into the grass. He watched the trucks bounced up and down over the bodies as they sped away.
Gates and Daytona were sitting cross-legged on the floor staring at a military map of the city. The blue mass of ink that represented the lake was like a pulsating slug slowly writhing on the floor. The gray grids cut across by white lines bled into each other and reworked themselves into new patterns that spontaneously glowed vibrant alien colors unlike anything Gates had ever seen.
Now and then their chemically altered brains would reconnect with reality. The walls stopped breathing, the refracting beams of light that fragmented into distinctively beautiful patterns along the floor came back into focus, and everything became still.
“How long have we been staring at this map?” asked Gates.
Gates checked his watch. Barely 2 hours had gone past. “I think it's wearing off,” he said.
“Just wait,” said Daytona. “It kind of works in waves.”
Gates stood up and his knees buckled. “Woah.”
“You feeling ok?” Daytona asked.
The question made gates stomach tie itself into knots. “What do you mean?” He stammered.
“You're pale as hell.” said Daytona.
Gates could feel his clammy hands trembling he struggled to clench his fists, but his fingers felt like they were locked. He could feel creeping nausea rising from his gut.
“I'm gonna go to the bathroom.” he said in a quivering voice.
Gates closed the door behind him. It was a small half bathroom. Just a toilet, sink, medicine cabinet and immaculate white tile flooring. The music Daytona was blaring in the next room sounded like it was echoing from inside a distant stadium.
Gates knelt in front of the toilet and stared at the still water waiting for the surging bile, but it never came. He wiped the sweat from his brow and sat on the cold tile. He watched his shadow on the floor melt away and suddenly reform before beginning to snake its way across the floor and up the walls like vines crawling across the room.
He felt his stomach tighten again, and he gagged but still only a dry heavy. The nausea was not abating, but it was merely the precursor to the self-inflicted psychological torment his malfunctioning brain was conjuring up.
Gates perception of time changed from moment to moment. He could not recall specific points in time's flow. The album playing in the next room seemed to be one continuous piece, hours were only minutes, and The afternoon had spanned over the course of days.
He looked at himself in the mirror. His pupils dilated into two large discs that colored in his eyes. Like the other colors in the room, they throbbed and pulsated, breaking apart and molding back together.
In the concrete walls of their subterranean chamber, it would be impossible to hear one of the machine guns firing on the street, but his brain reproduced the sound convincingly enough to make the commander take cover.
He could hear the whistling of artillery shells, the air burst of IEDs, and the screaming of men being eviscerated by a storm of projectiles. He could hear the forlorn men crying out for him, for his leadership. Why had he abandoned them? That was the punishing question his introspective thought process kept punishing him with.
He looked at the polished decoration on his pressed and creaseless uniform. These were all symbols of his valor and leadership qualities, but it had all a lie.
He was no conqueror only a follower. He had followed his commanders into the hopeless blood-drenched urban labyrinth of Chicago, and he had followed Daytona when he promised to rescue him and his men from their trap. He had never been prepared for any real responsibility only to carry out the order of others that felt like they had a plan and they could use him to their ends.
He imagined the defeated soldiers cursing his name. The coward that didn't even show up to back up the brash and stupid idea that hadn't even really been his own. They would realize he had only been Daytona's lackey. His stomach twisted itself over, and Gates quickly opened up the toilet lid and planted himself onto the seat.
Cold sweat poured down his waxy skin as he loudly emptied his bowels. His stomach felt like it was pouring out. After a few contractions of his gut, he felt a wave of relief. He sighed and rested his elbows on his knees and his forehead in his palms.
He was lucky he was on the toilet when his brain produced the hallucination of Marines clearing the room next room.
“They're here!” he squeaked.
Daytona was laying flat on the twin sized memory foam mattress staring at the ripples working through the gently waving gray paint. The bed felt like it was floating on a stream. He could feel it gently dip into the rushing waters before leveling off again while the current carried him to nowhere.
Unlike the nauseated and panicking colonel Daytona's body felt heavy and relaxed. He was unusually serene for a man mere hours from death, but it was a prospect he had been thinking about long before Gates. 30 years of combat had pretty much shown him the lay of the land.
Besides Daytona's greatest comfort when simply remember who he was. Commander Daytona the mercenary who captured the heart of the Midwest. If he could do this well in life he was certain death would be easy enough, and if it turned out there would be nothing to do well he had already cemented a very memorable legacy.
The drug altered mind tends to confuse coincidence with Providence. It was at this psychological height in the experience the music began to crescendo, and Daytona congratulated himself on picking the perfect album for the experience.
“to the moon.”
“do do do do.”
“to the moon.”
do do do do do
“To the moon oooon.”
When the guitarist hit the first screeching note, Rich felt the whole room shake. He could see his energy materialize into a multicolored crystal that exploded all over the room. The puddles of glowing plasma ran into each other and became a network of interconnected routes that flowed back into him. He could feel his body rising off the bed. The ceiling dissolved and a warm light flooded the room.
The light seemed to be calling him. He drifted higher and higher into embracing energy. He couldn't feel his body anymore, but he could see it being held by the beam. He had detached from his shell of flesh! He ascended higher, and higher and the light became brighter, and brithter....he could feel himself slipping into something he had never seen before, something unfamiliar, but somehow welcoming. He could almost see it....
“I don't want to die” Gates sobbed in the doorway of the bathroom.
Daytona jolted. He was still on his bed. The light was gone, the ceiling had returned, everything was back to normal, and the music had faded out.
“Fuck.” muttered. Daytona
“I just can't go into the darkness forever Rich I just can't go there forever.” The commander said with tears streaming down his face.
Rich threw his feet over the bed and sighed. “Here let me get you something to take.”
Gates didn't answer he fell to the floor crying. Daytona patted him on the back and showed him two blue pills he was holding. “Take these and you'll feel way better,” Daytona said.
“R-really?” The crying boy dressed like a soldier whaled. “I promise,” Daytona assured him.
“O o ok.” Gates stuttered taking the pills with a trembling hand.
The Northern shores of Chicago were brimming with people trying to escape government forces.
Whenever a boat came, no matter how small the vessel men wild with fear raced out into the water and tried to claw their way on board. Often getting shot or clubbed by frightened passengers and drivers.
Soon the water was full of floating men being washed back up onto the beach by the waves. Discarded uniform sat in the sand and soldiers turned their weapons on each other when vying for a place on one of the few boats that came to save them.
When Louis arrived, the spectacle made him lose all hope of escape. He found a spot on a nearby bench and rested his feet. Louis hoped if he stayed out of sight long enough the heat would die down. He looked at the empty condos looming over the sand. There were plenty of vacant buildings he could hide in. He checked his magazine. There were three rounds left.
“might need them,” Loius said to himself.
He didn't know how many buildings might be new nests for human rats now forced to forage the devastated urban landscape for scraps of food. How long was that a way he could live?
“Incoming!” A soldier screamed at the edge of the water
Louis hit the dirt, but there was no explosion.
“Bats we got fuckin bats someone!” yelled out.
The crowd began to disperse in every direction as the sharp contours of the ebony machines appeared low in the sky to descend on the beach like a cloud of locust. The semi-autonomous SACM-1 BAT as it was called was an artificial combat intelligence. Its smooth black surface and the jagged points on its wings earned the nickname The Bat.
The mechanical birds of prey swooped down on the hapless men unloading dozens of rocket pods that exploded in plumes of sand and blood. They rocket volley was followed by their miniguns. Hot lead rained down shredding everyone in their path. In moments, the ebony scythes had cut down a field of corpses.
Louis bolted away from the beach towards Sheridan Road. He didn't look back. He ran away from from the explosions, the electric buzzing of the miniguns barrels, and the sound of the men bleating cattle in a slaughter house.
His quaking legs were unsteady at the speed he was moving. He was too panicked to breathe his whole body was trembling. He slipped and his the sidewalk. He could feel the warm blood rushing from the fresh scrapes. He turned over and looked at the sky. A bat was bearing down on him from the cloudless blue plane. The whirring of its gun warming up was the last noise he ever heard.
Gates woke up on the twin bed. His shirt was plastered to his body by a pool of sweat. Everything was quiet. He looked around the room. The dull gray concrete stayed flat. The walls were still, and the light had been turned off.
He slowly swung his legs over the bed. The nausea was gone and his body while feeling tired felt normal. He stood up. His motor skills had returned. The silence was eerie, like that which follows a violent storm.
“Rich?” he said. There was now answer.
“Rich?” He repeated louder still nothing.
There was a handwritten note on the mini fridge. Gates unfolded the paper.
If you're reading this, I'm already gone. I decided to find a high rise and dive head first onto a tank or something. They won't be expecting that! Anyway, I'm sorry things did not work out like I said they would. To be honest, I was never as sure as I might have lead you to believe, but I don't think I could live the rest of my life thinking about what might have happened you know? Either way, it was a wild ride. Just remember for a brief period you were lord of Chicago!
P.S. There are some beers in the fridge. I don't know what you'll decide to do from here. Just remember you don't have a lot of time to figure it out.”
-commander Richard Daytona 25th Airborne and CEO of the Hawkwood Company
Gates felt the tears welling in his eyes. He crumbled the letter and tore it to shreds.
“That asshole.” He hissed throwing ripped up paper into the air.
He returned to the bed and sat back down. They would find him soon. He would be court-martialed and executed. That is unless he decided to do himself in. It was what he had originally planned but without Daytona to see him though he didn't know if he could. He was an abanded yes man forced to let time and circumstance make his last decision on earth for him.