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The earth rumbled with the roar of giant jet bombers overhead, the red, black, and white symbol of the enemy emblazoned on their frames like medals. Drozdov sat behind a concrete barrier that separated his life from the raining fire down the street. His comrades sat around him, wounded and barely holding on. Drozdov himself was dressed in the long, brown coat and helmet of the volunteer forces, tattered with holes and burn marks from burning homes. He had a thick, black beard and striking green eyes. He held his rifle close to his chest, as if it was his last lifeline. Rain pelted overhead, unable to quench the flames from buildings around them.

His commissar, a tall, strongly built man with a sharp jaw, moved over to him and sat next to him. His name was Kyrlov, who was once a local shipyard worker before the ARWG attacked. Drozdov knew him well, as he had once worked in the same shipyard, moving supplies onto the massive ESF freighters that took food and medical supplies to the frontlines. He spoke in a thick accent as he put his rifle next to him and pulled out a cigarette, lighting it.

“Comrade, do you miss your life before this?” he asked quietly and somberly.

Drozdov nodded and looked down, rain dripping from his helmet. “Of course I do…who wouldn’t?”

Krylov shook his head slowly. “They make us fight this war for some god forsaken who are unable to fight are given rifles and sent down the throats of some fucking german elves, and look at what that’s given us.” he motioned to the other men around them. “Bloodied, broken...walking corpses.”

Drozdov nodded again, understanding his words. “We’re fighting to the last man, right? Like the governor said?”

Krylov nodded and took a drag from his cigarette. “The war is already lost. We’re the last stop before Ethro…”

Another bomber flew nearby, dropping it’s sheet of bombs into a nearby street. Chunks of asphalt and metal churned upwards with a line of fire. Drozdov looked up for a moment before looking back down, sighing. “Did you have a wife? Some kids?”

Krylov chuckled a bit and shook his head. “No, a woman would never take me.”

“My wife is somewhere in an evac ship…” Drozdov looked up for a moment. “Off to Ethro, I suppose…”

Krylov patted his shoulder. “You’ll see her again, friend. I promise you that.”

Drozdov nodded and smiled weakly, looking at Krylov. “I’ll hold you to that.”

One of the other soldiers looked over the barrier with a pair of binoculars and quickly put them down. “ENEMY SOLDIERS!”

Drozdov sprang to his feet in a crouched position and readied his rifle, looking over to see an enemy tank rolling around the corner, followed by a large group of soldiers, armor clad with blackened metal that shone with the rain. The tank turned it’s cannon and started to fire it’s machinegun into the barrier, forcing the men to put their heads down as concrete blew apart and rained down onto their heads. The enemy soldiers charged as one of the volunteers pulled a grenade launcher from his back and fired a smoke grenade in front of the tank, clouding it in black smoke.

The enemy soldiers pushed forwards as the volunteers fired their rifles into their line, knocking a few of them down as they opened fire. The enemy fired back quickly, their rifles cracking through the air and cutting down a few volunteers, their dark blue blood mixing with the rain as they crumpled backwards. Drozdov looked over and fired a burst from his rifle into the chest of a nearby soldier, making them skid forward and onto the ground, dead. He let out a small noise as the enemy finally made it to the barrier, leaping over it and engaging the volunteers with the stocks of their rifles.

Drozdov was knocked to the ground as an enemy soldier leapt on top of him, raising his rifle to fire. He winced for a moment before Krylov tackled the soldier, driving a knife into his side as he shoved him to the ground. He looked down at Drozdov, wild anger and worry in his eyes before his vision was filled with nothing but white, and his ears rang loudly with an ear piercing screech from a flashbang. He felt himself being forced up and back down onto his back, arms placed behind his back. As his vision came back slowly, he could make out the jackboots of enemy soldiers, and the dead bodies of his comrades. He didn’t bother struggling now, he knew there was no chance of him escaping.

He saw Krylov a small bit away, on his knees, bloodied as a tall officer in a pitch black coat stood nearby, gasmasked underneath his peaked officers cap. He looked towards Krylov and kneeled down a bit, speaking to him quietly. Krylov seemed to argue ferociously with the officer before spitting up at him, so he stood up and pulled a pistol off his hip, aimed it down, and shot Krylov through the throat, all in the span of a few seconds. He fell backwards, blue blood spraying upwards out of his throat as he choked to death. The officer nodded towards a pair of tall, wrapped up androids in the same uniform and started to move closer to Drozdov, boots clicking in the rain. He kneeled in front of Drozdov and looked into his eyes through the mask, black and red, glowing as if he was some kind of demon. He spoke in a slight german accent, a hint of aristocracy behind his voice.

“You fight for the ESF, yes?” he asked calmly, not showing any aggression. All Drozdov could do was nod, and the officer nodded with him. “Yet you’re dressed in civilian clothes, like your friends. Volunteers, right?”

Drozdov nodded again and looked over at Krylov’s corpse, lying in the street. The officer let out a chuckle and holstered his pistol. “Oh trust me, the same will not happen to you, as long as you follow my orders. Understood?”

Drozdov looked up at him, a mixture of anger and sadness in his eyes as he trembled. He wanted to live, sure, but he also swore an allegiance to the ESF, to his people, his wife. The officer stood up and motioned for one of the androids to bring Drozdov up to his feet, and it did so quickly and without hesitation, sharp claws digging themselves into his shirt and back.

The officer motioned to the burning skyscrapers around them, ash flowing down with the rain. “This is what fighting gets you, does it not? Fighting against the ARWG gets you a burning city and dead dissidents.” He pulled off his gas mask to show a clean shaven, sharp jawed man with black and red eyes, the same color as his long hair, which was tied back into a ponytail. He took a deep breath of the air and grinned. “You know why we’re invading, right?”

Drozdov looked down at the ground and didn’t say a word, and the officer took a few steps forward and grabbed his chin, forcing him to look into his eyes. “To do what the AIAF couldn’t all those years ago. Finally rid this place of dissidents, like you and your friends.” Drozdov gripped his fists tightly as anger brewed into his heart. The android behind him stood perfectly still, looking at the officer as if awaiting an order. The officer smiled and let go of his chin, turning around and putting his hands behind his back. “Let him go. Toss him over the barrier, let him run.”

The android did as told and grabbed Drozdov again, dragging him over to the concrete barrier he once thought would be his salvation, and tossed him over it, landing with a thud onto the slick concrete. He didn’t hesitate, pushing himself up to his feet and beginning to sprint as fast as he could down the street. Just as he thought he was going to be free, the crack of a rifle filled the air and a round tore through his back and through his stomach. He screamed and toppled onto the ground again, looking back to see the officer holding one of his soldier’s rifles, aiming at him. He looked back down onto the asphalt and began to crawl, using one arm to pull himself forward as his other covered his bleeding wound. The officer fired another round, hitting him in the shoulder, and he stopped crawling, panting with tears streaming down his face. His heartbeat deafened him in his ears, his breathing shaky and scented with blood, trembling as he felt himself getting colder and colder. He barely heard the footsteps of the officer as he approached, rifle in hand. He placed a boot on his back and aimed, not hesitating to pull the trigger, firing one final round into his skull, ending him instantly.

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20 May, 2021
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