Skip to main content


The convoy of 18 wheelers racing along the road were nestled between armored humvees. Painted across the black metallic doors in bold font colored a steel blue was the name Hawkwood. Gunners stood half emerged from their steel-plated, watching ahead with vigilant eyes tightly gripping the handles of their mounted .50 Cals. UAVs hovered silently overhead, stalking the ground below for any prey that might scurry into its panoramic field of vision. Every now and again, they passed an abandoned gas station or burnt-out house. LT Col Levinson, formerly of the marines, was the commanding officer of the convoy. His extensive military career was spent on the receding boundaries of a crumbling empire. Once retired from the military, he went to work for Hawkwood. It was similar work, with more than three times the pay and the added perk of being closer to home. His eyes were covered by a translucent visor attached to his helmet. He could view, in real-time, the flow of intelligence flowed into the battlenet either through radio chatter, electronic messaging, or through the electric eyes of the drones scouting ahead. The majority of Levinson's military career had been counterinsurgency work. He fought against guerillas in deserts, jungles, and cities. He had high confidence in his men and the automated systems, but one thing he knew about insurgents is no matter how tight you made the net, they always found a way to slip through. There was always a hole. Still, no one seemed worried. There had only been a few casualties in the no-mans-land far outside the city. Most of these were officially written off as "accidents." "Sir, there's no response from checkpoint alpha," the driver informed Levinson. "Shit, their comm equipment probably just fucked up again," Levinson shrugged. "What the hell?" Levinson muttered A dense layer of thick black smoke obscured the road ahead. A warning message in bold red letters flashed across his visor, and he connected to the drones' live feed. Less than two kilometers up the road was a barrier of burning cars. "Oh, fuck," said Levinson. "All units, all units, we have a roadblock up ahead-" He was interrupted by a rocket streaking out from the trees and striking one of the drones. The flying robot burst into flames and showered the area with jagged shrapnel. The gunners started laying down fire into the forests as they continued to drive head-on into the burning blockade. "Fuck, we're stuck. We gotta turn this motherfucker around!" Levinson shouted. The forest was lit up by muzzle flashes. The automatic fire made a high-pitched clinking sound as the bullets struck the armor plating. The gunner fell back into the vehicle with his neck spraying blood. Robert laid his yoga mat across the grass and inhaled the crisp morning air. It was a mild morning. The temperature was in the mid-fifties, but the bountiful sun combined with the slight chill in the air evened it out nicely. Billowy white clouds lazily drifted across the sky, being carried by the wind as they slowly dispersed across the blue canopy. Robert's wife, Rachel, was already sitting cross-legged on her mat and well into her breathing exercises. His eight-year-old daughter Theresa was busying herself, organizing irregularly shaped blades of grass on her mat. The only noticeable absence from the daily family ritual was Robert's teenage son Chester. Salutations to the sun were an integral part of the morning routine in the Pak household. Lemniscate sustained itself on the energy provided by the ever-abiding orb of fire. The city was built on the principle that a settled society should function on the resources nature provided. Exceeding these limits could only lead to destruction, and thanks to some breakthroughs in engineering, they had done quite well for themselves. Lemniscate had all the trappings of modern life and still even managed to provide the little extras the generation that built the burgeoning solar utopia were hopelessly addicted to. There was no industrial agriculture in Lemniscate. In fact, most people didn't even eat meat besides the occasional grass-fed beef. What could be grown in the vast greenhouses was distributed with some perfectly safe nutrient-rich food substitutes. Substances that claimed to be indistinguishable from dishes they were imitating. They weren't bad, but they usually fell just a little short on delivering the promised flavors. People in Lemniscate had no use for markets like previous generations. They saw this system of food distribution as wasteful and inhumane. Instead, a family's nutritional requirements were carefully calculated by artificial intelligence that delivered the food via a solar-powered drone system. Chester Pak was the fifteen-year-old son of Robert and Rachel Pak, two of Lemniscate's most respected citizens. They were also the engineers behind the revolutionary solar technology that was the foundation of the high-tech bastion. Without their contributions, a self-sustained city that offered all the amenities of modern life would never have evolved into anything beyond a quaint idea. Their combined life's work was the very existence Chester had grown accustomed to and, in his adolescence, had come to take for granted. Thanks to the machinations of genetics, Chester's intellectual potential was a far sight more impressive than most of his peers. The only way Chester could think to rebel against his brilliant, goal-driven yet very liberal and open-minded parents was to adopt an attitude of apathy. His ambivalence to the world around him was considerably exacerbated by the numbing lifestyle his parent's life's work had managed to keep going in their little corner of the country. Robert knocked on Chester's bedroom door. Robert was very conscious about respecting his son's space and tried to remember this was just a phase. After all, rejection of the way of life of his parent's generation led him and Rachel to take such an active role in building Lemniscate. Despite this, though, he was irritated at having his authority as a parent willfully ignored. He knocked again more firmly. "Chester," he said in a stern tone. "What?" the boy replied sleepily. Robert rolled his eyes and opened the door. Chester was lying face down in bed with the shades drawn. "What's up?" Chester asked, not even bothering to turn his head on his pillow. Robert pulled the shade up, and sunlight flooded into the room, striking Chester's squinting eyes. "Ah, close that up," Chester said, turning away from the light. "Why aren't you up for salutations to the sun?" Robert asked. "I don't know. I just feel like we've said hello to the sun plenty of times already. I don't think it'll take it personally," Chester replied dismissively. "Hey, we didn't raise you to be an ingrate," Rachel retorted. Robert hadn't even noticed her standing in the doorway. She arrived just in time and seemed to be in good parental form. Just from the tone of her opening line, she made it apparent she wasn't in the mood for angsty teenage nonsense. "We pay our respects because if it weren't for the sun none of this, and certainly not, you would be here now," she said. "The sun didn't build the solar cells," Chester mumbled. "That's not the point," Robert said with frustration. Rachel sighed. "Look, I know you're going through that phase where it's cool to think everyone else is an idiot but believe me, there is a fine line between being rebellious and independent and just being a jackass." "What does that mean?" Chester said defensively "If you had any idea what it's like out there, you would never question why we express gratitude to the natural world," said Robert. "You have no idea how good we have it." "Yeah? And what is it like out there? Why is it so terrible compared to here?" Chester asked. Robert's ringtone interrupted the conversation. Robert knew it wasn't the best time to take a call. Still, it was from a number designated strictly for emergency purposes. "Shit, I gotta take this," said Robert. He didn't see his son rolling his eyes. "This is Robert Pak," he answered as he stepped out of the room. "Robert, this is Greg. You have to get here quick. Hawkwood packed up and left this morning. We don't know what to do. We need you down here now!" Greg was an anxiety-ridden individual, but his voice conveyed genuine panic. "Just hang on. I'm heading over," Robert replied authoritatively. A driverless car pulled up in front of the house just as Robert walked out the front door. The car greeted him with a friendly female voice. "Hello, Robert," "Hi," he replied. "I have calculated the shortest route to your destination. Is this ok, or do you have a preferred route?" Asked the computer. "That's fine," replied Robert reaching for his phone to dial back Greg. The phone rang one and a half times before Greg answered, sounding even more terrified than before. "Robert, are you almost here??" "I'm on my way now." "You have to get here fast. None of us know what to do," Greg wailed. "Greg, what's happening over there?" "There's some kind of army heading this way. Apparently, really well-armed, and they're almost here." Greg explained in a shaky fluctuating voice. "What about Hawkwood? What are they doing about this?" Robert asked calmly but firmly. "They left Rob! The assholes fucking left," Greg sobbed. Rob shook his head. "They can't just leave. We have a contract. This is the kind of thing they're supposed to deal with." "I know that's what I told them," Greg' wined. "I guess they got attacked this morning. They said it wasn't worth what we're paying! "We're so fucked, we're so fucked!" Greg said as he broke down sobbing. "Greg, calm down. We can't panic. Remember, there are always solutions; it's just a matter of finding them." Rob ended the call and looked around with confusion when he saw they hadn't moved. "What's going on? How come we aren't going anywhere?" He asked visibly, frustrated. "Sorry, I didn't want to interrupt your call," the car apologized. "I noticed your phone only has fifty-six percent battery life. Would you like to plug into my power source?" Just drive. This is an emergency!" Rob snapped. The car pulled away from the curb and sped down the road. Robert pulled out a tablet from his shoulder bag. He started going through his messages, hoping to get a better idea of what was happening. Through the windshield, he could see the sleek metallic body of a small jet gleaming in the sunlight as it ascended into the sky. Another followed in the wake of its exhaust trail, and another closely tailed that one. The exodus was underway. Robert's presence only provided momentary relief. The brain trust got down to the business of thinking about how they could save their city from the wave of marauders, and morale quickly plummeted. Despite the robust, cutting-edge security systems and protocols they put in place, they never had any idea of the danger forming out in the wastelands. Now all they could do was watch helplessly as an army of barbarians marched towards Lemniscate. The rats were quick to desert the ship. After every break, they took one or two fewer of them came back. Soon word came the city's airfield was going to be out of aircraft before the day was through. Robert had dedicated his life to Lemniscate, but now the time had come where the safety of his own family superseded the much-lauded greater good. Now it was time to break the news to his wife. He didn't know how such a willful woman would react to the idea of abandoning her home. So he made sure to make all the arrangements beforehand. "I arranged passage for you and the kids on a plane out of here," he whispered into the phone. "Just leave? Where would we even go, Robert?" She asked in a tone that was a combination of fear and anger. "North to Vancouver," Robert replied calmly. "This is our home!" Rachel fired back. "I'm not just going to let a bunch of red neck militia assholes take it from us! "We can't stop," Robert sighed. "The security forces left already. We don't have the weapons or the expertise. There's nothing we can do." She was silent for a moment. "Robert, how are they moving?" she asked. "What do you mean?" Robert asked. "Are they marching single file, or are they moving as a large huddled mass." Robert thought about it for a second. "I suppose they're pretty close together," he said. "Well, if there are no guns, we can still use explosives," she suggested. "How?" asked Robert. "We don't have any bombs, and even if we did, we have no way to use them." "The food delivery drones," Rachel said. "We can fly them right into the middle of those assholes and blow them the fuck up. I bet they'll disperse and run off if they had suicide robots coming down on them." Robert was skeptical, but it was the best suggestion he had heard so far. He brought the plan back to the rest of the committee, and by default, it went forward. Instead of food, the drones were loaded with makeshift bombs. They launched the fleet of suicide machines and watched from the basement of the office complex as the flying bombs headed east to find their target. They had a bird's eye view of the morbid pyrotechnics display. The drones flew over the mass of people hovered for a second before plummeting to the earth and exploding. It was just like Rachel said. The fiery explosions broke the enemy's cohesion and sent them scurrying in all directions. Robert and his colleagues cheered as they watched the fire destroy the horde, but the celebration was short-lived. The fires didn't stop burning. The flames began to consume the surrounding forests, and soon the landscape was set ablaze, and the wall of flames began its own march towards Lemniscate.


Popular posts from this blog

On the Eve of Extinction

The river was like a massive indigo snake coiling in the shadow of the canyons its eternal flow cut out of the very earth. Somewhere along the watery corridor, settled human life grew out of the muddy banks. The tribe sustained itself on the arterial river, steadily expanding and contracting with the rhythm of its flow like a beating heart. As far as anyone in the tribe knew no other arrangement had ever existed. The river had birthed them, molding sand and clay into flesh, and infusing the husks with its life-giving waters. Life under the desert’s smooth turquoise sky seemed safely stagnant. There was no inkling, no deciphered omens, absolutely no hunch of the approaching cataclysm lurking just out of sight obscured by the landscape’s jagged ridges. Not far from the isolated patchwork of green and brown earth settled by this tribe, the scion of ancient god well into his twilight years was on the cusp of fulfilling his divine purpose. Harmakar was sitting in the dust staring into t

In the Blink of an Eye

 Until now, the gears of history had ground at such a slow pace our perception of it was like a puzzle. The constantly shifting pieces created an eternally changing picture inhabited and shaped by generations. Progress made it possible for the change to arrive in the form of a flash just a millionth of a second long with a blinding light and the pain of flesh-searing fire that burned away the world I knew as if it were covered in lighter fluid. For us, there were no blue skies. Daytime was just when the sun was shining bright enough to penetrate through the acrid black clouds that had consumed the sky and mingled with the distant glow of the burning horizon, painting the atmosphere with blood. For an indeterminate number of hours, maybe as long as a day, it was the only thing I saw. The constant screams became white noise; as I spiraled into death, my perceptions continued to dim until there was nothing left but fear and pain. Every hour the world became dimmer, and I saw everything t

Too Little Too Late

“Ichika, Ichika wake up!” The six-year-old girl was jolted away by her father’s hands. Her mother was standing in the doorway, clenching her little brother Reo against her chest. The majority of Ichicka’s short life had been against the backdrop of total war. She dutifully kept her boots and shelter knapsack ready to go at the foot of her bed and made sure never to let go of her father’s hand in the crowded shelter. Reo was even more accustomed. The desperate stampedes to the overcrowded shelters were becoming his earliest memories. Her father grabbed her by the hand, and they rushed out into the street. Ichicka’s father was walking too fast for Ichika to keep up, and the girl stumbled. Without a word, her father picked her up and started walking faster than before. “Please hurry,” he urged his wife, who was also struggling to match his pace. Despite her father’s panic, the city seemed peaceful. The streets were virtually empty, and the sirens were silent. “Hideshi!” Aiko called to h