Lurranus Stories: The Boys Of ‘68 (Part 3)
Everyone and their family was on the street.
Only an hour ago, Ryan and Jack had been on the streets, fleeing from the violence that had overcome their neighbourhood, and they had been surrounded by people in similar situations. But that crowd was dwarfed by the number of people now on the streets. The vast sea of people included families of startled children and their concerned parents, with enough exposed, hastily packed possessions to make a thief pass out with joy. For the most part, it seemed to be people trying to get away from their homes, and cowering under the bright orange lights of the Empirius aircraft whirring above them. But there were also lone individuals, with dark clothes and caps, who weren’t frightened, but seemed uneasy. Constantly looking around, scanning the ground, observing nearby strangers. Looking allies or enemies, Ryan couldn’t be sure. But he sensed they signalled imminent trouble.
The massive body of people propelling forward meant only the six foot tall Ryan had a chance of seeing what was in the distance, but he couldn’t make out much. He also made sure to regularly check for his brother and Craig, as the speed of the group was not up for negotiation, and if their speed fell, it was likely they would be swallowed by the crowd behind them. He felt the constant movement of his body and the rotation of his head would cause him to succumb to nausea.
As they pushed onwards, he suddenly felt someone coming the other way crash into his shoulders, mutter a half-hearted apology, before scurrying onwards. For a second, this remained a random occurrence, before suddenly two more people pushed past them, fighting against the direction of the crowd for a reason Ryan didn’t know.
He turned to look at Craig, who looked at him worriedly for a moment, before breaking eye contact and looking forward, as suddenly a whole surge of people pushed against them. In fact, almost all the people in front of them made a sudden decision to reverse, turning around and heading away from...
Only now did Ryan, Craig and Jack realise they had reached a metal barrier, stretching between the two granite buildings on either side. On the side of the fence that wasn’t packed with the panicked local population, was an empty area sparsely populated with spread out Empirius military forces, holding machine guns and wearing dark blue bulletproof armour, completely with a chest piece baring the company’s name and a helmet that ensued there were no hints as to anyone’s identity. The number of soldiers made have looked underwhelming, but with the aircraft screaming above their heads, pointing accusatory beams at likely innocent men and women, it was still it a truly hostile and unnerving environment.
“Shit...” Ryan muttered. “Where do we go?”
“Give... me... a minute.” Craig said slowly.
Ryan and Jack looked around, while Craig focused his eyes down and muttered thoughtfully to himself. Looking to this left, Ryan saw one of the individuals with the dark, anonymous clothes, concealing their identity in a manner akin to the Empirius outfits. The constant, unmoving direction his hat was pointing in was the same as his gaze, towards an open window to Ryan’s right. From this distance, Ryan could tell a dim light was on, but couldn’t see any people. Turning back to face the individual, his gaze remained constant. Ryan knew something was about to happened. It seemed the figure was waiting for a signal, and doing a poor job of hiding it, although the Empirius forces hadn’t observed him long enough to notice this, if they had observed him at all. More likely, they could only spare quick looks at each individual.
Craig began talking, although his voice was muted by the sound of the aircraft, a problem he made little effort to combat. “They’re here to prevent anyone going to the Parliament building, given there’s that meeting going on right now. Which makes sense, given...”
Ryan didn’t have time for Craig’s thought process, only the conclusion it had brought him too. “Where do we go? Because we need to move.”
“Well, our best bet would be...”
The three of them looked up. The crowd ceased moving and looked up. The slouched soldiers perked up and looked to the source of the sudden noise.
From the window Ryan had been observing minutes ago, a person had just thrown some kind of object and a trail of light had just appeared, rogue red sparks fizzing out from the same source as the noise, with each red flash coming with a startling popping sound. Everyone stopped breathing as the lone hurtling ray of colour soared through the night sky, arcing up and beginning to trail back down again. On a trajectory, Ryan realised, which would see it impact around the positions of the soldiers, who had realised this and had hurriedly raised their weapons in a futile move.
Then the mechanical cocktail landed, a mixture of a firework laced with several miniature explosives. The resultant sparks shot of in every direction, and a huge spell of fire launched out from the landing zone. Ryan, Craig and Jack instinctively ducked, an act made easy by their hefty bags which practically shoved them onto the ground, and covered their heads. At least half a dozen military personnel where blown away by the explosive, and several were gifted with shrapnel. It attempted to make a home in their amour but in most cases left only a dent, bar one man who had the misfortune of the jagged material striking him just below his chest plate.
Several shards of jagged metal also made their way towards the rest of the crowd. Ryan, Jack and Craig couldn’t be sure if anyone was injured. They only knew they themselves were fine, and witnessed the crowd enter a panicked frenzy. Everyone began trampling over each other to escape in the opposite direction.
It was at this moment that multiple individuals in the crowd surged forward, some drawing guns, some alcoholic explosives. As the Empirius forces were in a panicked state, they opened fire, just as another explosive was hurled out the open window.
As Ryan lifted his head up, he saw the Empirius forces turn, weapons raised, and open fire on the suspicious man he had been observing only a minute ago. The man threw an explosive, which impacted a safe distance from any military figures, and was gunned down seconds later. Several bullets erupted out the man’s back, and he crumbled to the floor as Ryan looked away.
Meanwhile, the Empirius hovercraft aimed its gun at the open window. Ryan heard a sudden explosion, and looked up to see that section of the building erupt, spewing out debris which landed on several unlucky people, ducking down just meters from them.
The Empirius forces fired on, their protective gear serving them well, but they were disoriented by the way hostile seemingly appeared from nowhere, with innocent individuals suddenly revealing themselves to be an enemy. There were at least twenty, and they had killed five soldiers, successfully or even accidentally finding their armour’s weak spots. As the Empirius forces became more panicked, their aim grew more erratic, firing randomly at any visible hostile, their bullets scraping innocents within the proximity of their targets.
Bullet after bullet flew above their head. A distant man screamed out “What‘d you do with our money?”. People all around them cried out in agreement. Ryan turned to face Craig.
“We need to go!” He yelled. Craig nodded. “Get my brother, get to the side, stay low!”
Craig turned to face Jack, whispering something in his ear. For a moment, he was still, but he seemed to nod lightly, and the two began scurrying to the wall, near all the debris.
With his bag weighing down on him, Ryan reached the edge of the building a few moments after his brother and Craig. The two had briefly paused, but hurried onwards when Ryan startled them both with a hard push,. At the edge of the building, Ryan was hoping to find a side alley that would provide either an escape route or some shelter, but he received no luck, and their progress was frequently stalled by people in their way. Some winded and gasping for air, some in a panicked frenzy, some not even moving. Some had the same intentions as them, and their memories of common decency had evidently evaporated as they desperately pulled past everyone to get away from the violence. These people were everywhere, and Ryan noticed in shock that they had been enclosed into an extended mass of people.
Suddenly, a whole separate swarm surged into the group of people the trio had become trapped in. Craig sailed over, landing on his hands. Jack and Ryan fell to, as did all the other people. And the Empirius forces suddenly stopped firing.
Ryan looked back. Over the bodies of the many panicked individuals laying around him, he saw the Empirius forces retreating for cover, disappearing behind the building’s edges. The hostiles, now in the otherwise empty middle of the street, moved cautiously forward. The crowd seemed to stall for a second, and initially Ryan didn’t notice the sound of the aircraft as it lowered down. But Craig did, and fearing what was inevitably about to happen, cried out.
The sound got louder, and without thinking a second more, Ryan rose up out of the crowd, and began sprinting. He looked back briefly to see several people follow suit. This breathing grew jagged as his bag wore down on him. Then he heard a gentle noise, as behind him something clattered down onto the street.
It was silent for another moment. Deathly silent, like the world itself had suddenly been muted.
Then the sound returned. And then the screams began.
Several dark vials had landed on the street, and let loose a momentary, overwhelming wave of electric power. Blue lines darted all through the air, seeming to crisis cross and wrap around the arms and legs of the people in the near vicinity. And then the electric sparks seemed to disappear the very instant Ryan’s mind registered they had ever been there at all. And in a single synchronised motion, all the people behind him fell. They legs seemed to buckle around the knees and they collapsed ungraciously to the hard gravel.
A few more vials fell from the sky and emitted another spell of electricity. Ryan didn’t see the people felled by this attack. He didn’t dare look back. Echoing endlessly behind him were screams at every conceivable frequency. Cries for help, cries out to loved ones, cries of anger, cries of pain. As Ryan continued down the street, the cries seemed to dies down and grow fainter, but every so often, they would rise and sound impossibly near.
At one point, he saw an armed group. They looked at him, yelled as if to rally him to their cause, but Ryan only moved faster. Tried to get away from the people that had only caused him grief. The kind of people who no doubt played a role in his parents disappearance. Tears spelled up in his eyes. The sound of gunfire broke out behind him. He kept running.
Ryan finally looked back. He saw nothing.
In shock, he came to an abrupt stop. Fire danced in the distance, but otherwise the grim grey street was empty. Litter trailed gently along the group, continually backtracking on it’s own steps and seeming to go nowhere, and distant gunfire sounded like a thousand popping plastic bags.
Where was Jack? There was no sign of his brother. He cursed Empirius, the government, the locals. He cursed everyone who had in some way ruined his families life.
A silhouette appeared in the distance. To Ryan’s disappointment, it was Craig, alone. Ryan sat down in dismay. When Craig finally arrived, Ryan made no effort to greet him.
“I made it!” Craig cried out in relief, smiling. The obviousness and utter pointlessness of the phrase irritated Ryan. He seemed overly smug, as though his presence should bring Ryan great joy.
“Really?” Ryan spat. Craig was silent and walked slowly over to the side of a distant building. “I could’ve sworn it was some specy git.”
“Good to see you to!” He cried sarcastically, and laughed. “Yeah, that’s right! It’s nobodies favourite person Craig. Sorry to disappoint you.” Craig mocking skipped along for a second, before violently kicking over a nearby metal bin, which landed with any ugly thud. Craig kicked it again and it continued rolling down the street.
“Did you see Jack?” Ryan asked.
“No. I overtook him after we fell over. I’d imagined watching out for him was your job.”
“Thanks for nothing, pal.”
The two stayed silent for a while. Ryan clasped his hands together, praying something would emerge from the fire. But nothing appeared. The minutes ticked by.
“What’s the plan?”
Craig stopped, paused and said “What was that?”
“You bloody heard me.” Ryan nearly shouted, gritting his teeth in a last minute attempt to keep his composure. “What’s the plan? How do we find Jack? What do we do?”
“Why would I have a plan?” Craig replied. Ryan stayed silent for several moments, before looking down in dismay. “Are you saying I’m the smarter one? Because if you are, you might be on to something.”
Ryan swore at the obnoxious teen in his head, before continuing out loud. “You had that whole plan with the boat. And you live here. I live hours out, I’ve only seen the city twice.”
Craig though for a moment. His eyes remained lifeless, before his eyebrows briefly raised.
“You’ve only been to the city centre once, but you live just a few hours away? What exactly do you do with your life?”
“It’s Scotland,” Ryan began irritably. “It’s just grey buildings and mountains and fried mars bars and... and what the hell does this have to do with anything?”
“It’s just a query.”
“It’s not bloody helpful.” Ryan growled.
“Neither is being angry.” Craig retorted in an annoying calm, condescending tone.
Then Craig was silent. Ryan thought, and hoped, he was thinking of something useful. He wasn’t.
“So, you do skin art in your spare time?”
“Oh, Jesus Christ.” Ryan sighed. “Congratulations, Sherlock, nice catch. I have tattoos on my arm.” He then gave his associate a slow clap.
“And all over the rest of you body too, actually, in case you didn’t realise.” He paused. “I just don’t like them.”
“I just don’t care.”
“You should. I’m well know for my opinions in the wider Scottish community.”
“What, as in you share your opinions?” Ryan mocked. “Does anyone actually listen to them?”
Craig looked down sadly. Ryan considered himself a reasonable man and his first instinct was to apologise, but he wasn’t sure if Craig was someone he wanted to give one to.
“You have a point, though. People never listen to me.” Craig mumbled.
“Oh, boo hoo.” Ryan muttered aggressively. “People aren’t nice to you. They don’t indulge your petty need to be heard. I’m sorry that this causes you so much distress. But I’ve lost my mum and my dad today. I’m not losing Jack. So please, take your teenage girl attention seeking complex elsewhere.”
“Oh, so you lost some people too.” Craig raised his arms mockingly. “Big whoop. But what makes your problems so much more important than anyone else’s?”
Ryan released an ugly smile. “Ah, ok. So you're one of those people who decided that since people don’t care for you when you’re being nice, you’ll make them remember you by being a complete twat.”
“Well, I suppose it’s worked pretty well this far.” Craig shrugged. “Let’s just move on. Being with people is just a burden. Besides, you can probably buy another brother online.”
At that moment, Ryan let loose. Adrenaline surging through his veins, he gave Craig a vicious push, and stood over him, heaving loudly. Craig looked close to the tears, but Ryan didn’t care.
“Listen to me, you little shit.” He hissed. “You might not care about anyone, but I do. I have lost my mum and my dad, and I have no intention of losing my brother.” He slowly calmed down, but looked a Craig one last time. “You say people are a burden, huh? Well, you certainly make a strong case for it.”
“I’m...” Craig began, breaking into a fit of coughs and tears. “I’m sor... I’m... just use your bloody phone.” He began pulling himself up. “Jesus.”
Ryan backed off, and looked down. Slightly perplexed as to just how he had completely overlooked this very obvious idea, but as he reached into his pocket, a thought dawned on him. “Surely Jack would’ve called me though?”
He looked at Craig. Craig didn’t look back, staring down at his feet instead.
Ryan called, and waited intensely. He put the phone to his ear. It rang for a half a minute.
“Hey, this is Jack.” The monotone recording began. “If you’re hearing this...”
“Shit!” Ryan screamed, almost hurtling his phone at the floor. “Shit!”
He sat down, a good few feet from Craig.
“Families, huh. They just, take...” Craig said, before suddenly stopping
Ryan’s phone started ringing. He jumped up in shock. Craig looked over in newfound interest.
“Jack?” He asked.
“It’s an unknown number.” Ryan replied, before looking up. “Could be him.”
Craig shrugged. Ryan answered the phone.
“Jack.” Ryan asked, trembling in fear. “Is that you?”