By: Dylan James Harper
The banging grew louder, as did the wind and the rain. Rachel sounded like she was trying to say something, but it was muffled. The storm must be interfering with the equipment. There were muffled noises, almost as if the undead were fighting with one another. It was a fool's hope. The undead rarely harmed each other. Still, something was going on. It shouldn't take them this long to push a door open.
Rachel had a better view of what was going on, but her radio cut out so she wasn't able to tell Jade. Right after she had replied to Jade, another ship, very small, only big enough for one person, had come out of nowhere, parking itself in the air, right across from the Hachikō. Rachel, her confusion dampening her relief, got on the radio.
"Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is the Hachikō. Please help! We have three stuck in the gas station."
Rachel could see through to the cockpit. It was tinted, and visibility was still low, but she could make out a red figure. Where the pilot's head should be there was a long, oval mask, with a heavy red tint. The mask nodded, and then disappeared. Rachel picked up the microphone again, but before she could say anything, she saw a door open underneath the other ship.
A long red rope, so thin it was barely visible, dropped down to the ground. The figure, in a black suit with red lining, slide down the rope gracefully. Once on the ground, they pulled what looked like another rope out, walking straight towards an undead. Before Rachel could even process what happened, the figure snapped the rope like a whip, which seemed to harden in midair, and swung it at one of the undead, who didn't even have time to turn before he was sliced in two.
The figure went to the next one, and repeated the process, quickly, almost beautifully. There was an effortlessness to the figures movements that reminded Rachel of a ballet dancer or gymnast. At this point, a few of the undead, who previously had been lumbering on behind the group towards the gas station, turned and began to approach the figure.
Without hesitation, they pulled a staff off their back, crouched down, and swung it. As it flew towards an undead, a curved blade swung out, and hooked into its leg; the figured yanked back and dropped the undead to the ground, and then thrust the staff towards its head where a blade extended, ending the undead's movement. They stood back up and continued swinging the rope like weapon and using the staff to trip up any that got close. After the last one dropped, the figure disappeared into the gas station. Rachel sat there, staring at the screen, in awe and confusion. Who was this?
After a tense few minutes, the figure emerged again, this time with the taller of the two kids leaning on them. Jade was right behind, holding the shorter kid. Jade followed the figure over to the side of the gas station, where they easily tossed the taller kid onto the roof, followed by the shorter kid, and finally, despite her visual protests, Jade, jumping up themselves last.
Rachel came to her senses, suspending her amazement long enough to get back on the radio.
"Jade, are you okay?"
"Who is this?" Jade replied.
"I don't know."
Jade turned to the figure to ask, but the figure was pointing behind Jade. The horde had finally caught up. At least a hundred were on their way. They probably wouldn't be able to make it on the roof quickly, but they would eventually, piling up on another like ants.
"This is the Pacific Coastal States Hachikō, calling the Wall Guard, do you copy? Over."
Rachel hoped against logic that they were close.
"This is the Wall Guard extraction team; we are on route. I'd say a couple of hours, what's the situation. Over."
Rachel's heart sunk all over again.
"We have four on the roof of a gas station, a horde approaching. Please advise. Over.
There was a long pause.
"We‘ll get there as soon as we can, but we will not be able to land with a horde. Any chance you can move to a safer landing zone? Over."
"Negative. Get here. We'll take care of it."
The horde didn't seem to see the group yet, it was just reacting to noise.
"Jade, if we can make some noise elsewhere, we can lead the horde away."
"How are we gonna do that?" Jade asked.
"I'm not sure. Anyone down there have any ideas?"
Rachel could see Jade asking the figure, who didn't seem to respond.
"Maybe we can just lie low?"
"They won't land with the horde this close. We need to move them off somehow."
The figure looked up at their ship, then at the two kids. They pulled what looked like a small phone out of their pocket. They did something, and their ship started to move. At first, it looked like it was heading straight toward the Hachikō, but it flew over it, back away from the gas station. After it was a dozen or so yards away, it made a low, but loud noise, like the bass drum of a symphony. The undead immediately began to turn, chasing the noise.
The ship repeated the noise a few times as it flew further away, when it was at a hundred yards, it suddenly took a nosedive. The ship slammed into the ground, loudly. The last few undead stragglers turned and followed the rest of the horde away from the gas station. The Hachikō, idling quietly above, was once again the only ship in the area.
The two kids sat together with Jade, as the red figure stood guard. After a few hours of tense silence, which was occasionally interrupted with brief conversation, the Wall Guard radioed in.
"Hachikō, this is Wall Guard, do you copy? Over."
"We copy Wall Guard, the horde is gone. Extraction should be safe. Over."
"Copy that Hachikō. ETA five minutes."
Rachel looked back down to the roof. The red figure was gone. Jade looked up at the ship and shrugged, Were they even real? Rachel looked back down at the pile of sliced up undead.
The Wall Guard arrived. They were able to load up the two kids and Jade. They transferred Jade back over to the Hachikō, before departing. When they saw the sliced-up bodies of undead, they asked if Jade was the one who had done it. Before Jade could answer, she heard the same smooth, firm voice in her headset.
"Uh, yeah. It was me. I did some survival training before we left."
Initially confused, but picking up on Jade's look, Rachel took the hint.
"Yeah, she was amazing."
"Didn't you say there were four on the roof?"
"No, I'm sorry, I meant four people total including me. Only three on the roof."
The Wall Guard had no reason to think they would lie and dropped it.
"You two sure you want to stay out here?" The leader of the extraction team asked.
"Yeah, we have more work to do. Thanks for the refuel!"
Jade and Rachel watched together as the ship departed, the kids safe.
A few days went by. Jade and Rachel kept up their research but lowered their pace a bit so they could work together.
"You know they were brother and sister," Jade told Rachel.
"Yeah, they said they were with a convoy from Florida, but got separated when the convoy was attacked by some militia group. That's how the boy got hurt."
"What do you think happened to Red?" This was the nickname they were calling the mysterious figure.
"I'm not sure. I wonder why they didn't want the Wall Guard to see them."
They shrugged it off and started to get ready for bed. As soon as Rachel got comfy, she heard a voice from the radio.
"Hachikō. 29 North. 95 West. Roof. Over."
Rachel leapt out of bed, as Jade sat up.
"This is the Hachikō, please repeat."
The smooth, firm voice replied.
"29 North, 95 West. Roof. Over."
Jade had gotten up and punched the numbers into the positioning computer. She turned to Rachel to mouth twenty.
"Copy that. ETA, twenty minutes."
There was no reply.
As the Hachikō approached the incredibly tall building, Rachel and Jade debated how they should approach this.
"It could be a trap?" Jade pointed out. "What if they were part of the group that attacked the kids convoy?"
"I don't know. I saw them in action. If they wanted to kill all us, I think they could have."
As they pulled even with the roof, they found it empty.
"Hello, anyone copy?" Jade said into the radio.
Several minutes went by.
"I don't like this," said Jade. Rachel was starting to agree.
Finally, the radio sounded again.
"Open the back door."
Rachel and Jade looked at each other for a long time, before finally silently agreeing. Rachel pushed the button.
The door slowly opened outward, to form a ramp. Before it could even finish opening, however, the red figure landed it on it.
"Where did they jump from?"
They walked into the ship, complete with their red mask and black and red suit. Jade had put her handgun in its holster, and her hand wandered down towards it. The red figure froze, and let out what sounded like a laugh, muffled by the mask.
The figure pulled off the red mask, to reveal a perfectly human head, with black skin, sharp green eyes, and short locked hair. She wasn't as intimidating without the mask, but still had a commanding presence.
"Uh, hello," said Rachel, nervously.
"I saw what you did for those kids," she said, very matter of fact.
"We saw what you did for those kids," replied Jade.
"And us," laughed Rachel.
"There are more," she continued.
"The convoy?" Jade asked.
"Yes, but even more than just that. Doing this alone is difficult."
Rachel and Jade looked at each other, having a wordless conversation. They had come out here to research. They wanted to be passively curious, bring clarity to a dark and dangerous world, but nothing more. Helping those kids was terrifying, and tiring, but it also felt right. For the first time, the red masked figure betrayed the slightest sense that she didn't have one hundred percent of the power in the situation.
"I'm not asking you to fight, I'm just asking for support. It was clear this ship was made to understand life beyond the wall. Just help guide me, and I can do what needs to be done."
Rachel gave Jade a smile.
The figure smiled. She took her mask off and extended her hand.