Zero (4/7)

Werner Waltz, Capricornian First Lieutenant

He could see them from where he lay flat against the gravel of the overpass that stretched above the area that was enclosed by walls of rock. The men trudged on below him as rain pelted down into their cloaks that were embroidered with Aquarian violet. Below their stomping feet, the ground had become sludge.

There were precisely thirty-two of them altogether. Their numbers had been halved since the earlier skirmish. It was evident that the battle had worn them out considerably. Despite their stiff fatigue, they still inched slowly towards the enclosement. Too tired to even cast a glance up at the shrubbery that shrouded the overpass. Too exhausted to even suspect. 

There had only been less than a one percent chance that the Aquarians would pass this location by. A chance that he had been considering when devising this plan. It was foolish not to consider these chances. Even the smallest percentages counted. No matter how small the chances, an error was an error. This was why he sent another group of men down the path earlier. They were waiting in the brushes that dotted the pathway further down.

 The Aquarians began to set up camp in the enclosement. Make-shift tents were gradually propped up beside the walls, and a handful of them stole away into the cover the tents provided.

One of the Aquarians below Werner settled down beside a slab of rock and then pulled down the hood of his cloak.

Werner peered at the man through the scope of his conducting rifle. The Aquarian’s cheeks were round, his fingers thin and shaking. His dark blonde hair clung to his face as rainwater trickled down his chin. He was more of a boy than a man, Werner realized, but that did not matter because wrapped loosely around the boy’s arm was a sash emblazoned with a red cross and gracing the shoulderpads of his uniform were a pair of golden insignias in the shape of two waves stacked on top of one another. A medical officer.

Beside him, Werner felt one of his men tense.   

“Do not hesitate.” He stated under his breath. “Hit your mark.”

The pitter-patter of the rain swallowed up his words. But there were no words that truly needed to be exchanged. They already knew their purpose. Their duty. The fact that Werner had to speak such words indicated that the man beside him was still struggling to take on the appearance of a soldier. A foolish mistep. Appearances were everything. 

Lining the mouth of his conductor up with the young medical officer’s head, Werner looked at the boy one last time through his scope and pulled the trigger. 

A brilliant ray of pure blue light cracked through the rainy gray haze and pierced the center of the boy’s head straight on. The force of the ray sent him flying backwards to the ground. The sludge ate up the red that pooled out from the gaping hole in his skull.

The Aquarians who had been setting up tents nearby let out shouts of alarm. Some scrambled for cover, others ran to their fallen comrade’s side, while a majority made to grab the conductors they had cast aside beside them.

But it was too late.

Down came a ray shower of lights. Navy blue. Sky blue. Blue-violet. A blinding storm of color bulleted the clearing and tore up rock and body without bias. In the calculated chaos, the sound of rain was swallowed up by cries and explosions. 

Werner followed an Aquarian who was scrambling towards a stray conductor buried beneath debris with his scope. This one was even younger than the other.  Bright blue eyes that almost glowed in the dark.

Aim. Shoot. Fire.

Another one was ducking for cover behind a large stone slab that jutted out from the rock wall.

Aim. Shoot fire.

Thirty-two men became halved to sixteen. Sixteen became halved to eight. Then four. Then two. Zero.

Werner held up his hand in a fist.

The bombardment of light stopped. Smoke and steam rose up from the clearing as an unnatural silence fell upon them. The tapping of the rain and the heavy panting of the men lined up beside him were the only sounds that reached Werner’s ears.

Peering into his scope once more, he surveyed the ground below. The smoke was too heavy to see through. They would have to wait. They couldn’t risk an Aquarian escaping. If they did, all of their planning would have been for nothing. Perfectionism at this point was key. Error, unacceptable.

The crunch of gravel beside him drew his attention away from the smoke. When Werner turned his eyes from the scope and to his left, he found that one of his men was standing, shaking, hugging his conducting rifle tightly to his chest.

“Get down.” Werner stated.

The soldier shook his head and took a step backwards.

“I said get down.” Werner ordered louder.

Once again, the soldier shook his head. “Soldier”? No, Werner realized, this was no soldier. No soldier would disobey orders like this. This was just a man. No, a boy.

“You didn’t use your conductor.” Werner realized and regarded the boy with contempt.

“I―” Another step backwards.

Werner frowned and reached for the boy’s arm. “I said get―”

Werner should’ve known what was to happen next, but it still alarmed him when he saw a hurtling bolt of violet light burst out from the haze of smoke. There had only been less than a one percent chance that one of the Aquarians could’ve survived. But a chance was still a chance. An error was still an error. And errors were fatal.

The ray of light tore through his shoulder and sent him flying backwards.

“Lieutenant!”

The boy was at his side now as were the rest of the men. He was crying now ― the boy. Werner could see the tear droplets intermingling with the rain.

“Sir―”

“Mark the clearing.” He stated calmly as he gripped his shoulder tightly. It was numb ― from the cold or the pain, he didn’t know. It didn’t matter.

“But―”

“I said mark the clearing, private.”

He didn’t have much energy to say much else and fell back. The cold rain seeped through the fabric of his uniform, seeped deep into his skin, and reached the core of his body where it slowly stole away his movement and sight.

Briefly, he wondered what he appeared like to his men as he was laying out bleeding out like this. And, what was this, exactly?

Was this—

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s