2309: Sweet Love For Planet Earth

Posted: March 26, 2013 by Kelly in Uncategorized

We’re as good as dead because this is what we’ve done with life.
We’ve chosen to do nothing greater than this with our lives.
For sweet love of planet Earth all human beings must die.

– Fuck Buttons, “Sweet Love For Planet Earth”

Petyr Jovanovich hates waiting, especially in the cold. It’s only September, but winter has come early this year and the ground has frosted over. The chill seeps into his bones while he waits for his appointment to arrive. The abandoned brown coal mine had seemed like a good spot for their rendez-vous, but he had not counted on how the wind would have free play in the clearing. It cuts through his thick clothes as if he’s naked.

He has to wait a long time before Martin’s pod finally touches ground next to him. “About fucking time,” he grumbles, while the dark-haired smuggler jumps out of the vehicle. He steps away from the tree he has been leaning against.

Raoul Martin looks apologetic while he rubs his arms to acclimatise to the cold after leaving his nicely warmed pod. “I’m sorry, I was held up by the border. Things didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped. I wasn’t followed though, I checked. Nevertheless I would like to conclude business quickly before I freeze my balls off.” He grins what is supposed to be a disarming smile, but Petyr is not very impressed.

“Agreed,” he just says. “Show me the goods and I’ll wire the money.”

Martin nods and opens the trunk of his pod. He digs into a couple of crates and drags up the canisters, setting them on the frozen ground. There are four of them, all innocent looking. They could be holding soft drinks or milk from the looks of them. They don’t. These canisters hold death in them. “This is it,” Martin says. The young smuggler looks troubled. “It was harder than I thought, bringing this to Tulun. I don’t think I want to know what you’re going to do with it.”

Petyr stares at the young smuggler. He has nearly twenty years on the Latino smuggler, who has been born either after the war or is too young to remember any of it. “Then don’t ask.”

Martin pauses a moment, meeting his eyes. “Wire me the money and they are yours.”

It only takes a few seconds. His handheld was all set up to make the connection and send Martin the money. His contacts had the right of it; Martin doesn’t have any morals. He just wants to make money and to hell with the consequences, a true child of the new world. It’s just another confirmation, just another pillar under Yulian’s ideals. /We are doing the right thing,/ Petyr thinks as he is given the canisters. Even through the material of his gloves they feel cold and heavy in his hands. He wonders when he will get to use them. /Probably before the year is out./ The government enforcers are nipping at their heels; Yulian relocated to Tulun for a reason. The end game has begun.

Martin’s handheld beeps, an indication that the money has been added to his accounts. “Pleasure doing business with you,” the smuggler says with that shit-eating grin again. That one fleeting moment of troubled thoughts is gone. He’s probably already spending that money in his head.

“Likewise,” Petyr says automatically, turning away towards his own pod to load up the canisters. He’ll be glad to go back to Tulun, back to Yulian and the others. “Now get the hell out of here.”

They both do so.

***

“It’s time,” Yulian says. His voice sounds flat, numb. He sits on the couch with a canister of death between his knees, and stares out of the window. The red-and-blue lights from the sirens outside illuminate his face. “This is the moment.”

The building is full of people; their people. They’ve tried so hard to make their own place in the new world, but it could not be. They’ve told the world that it is rotten and the world doesn’t want to listen. The world wants to pretend everything is fine and there is peace and happiness. It’s cancerous and it refuses to listen. Despairing, they took to harsher measures, because the only thing the world might listen to was their own language. Blood and violence and atrocities. The world had judged them, so they fled. It was only a matter of time, though. There is no way out anymore.

“I’m glad that it’s Tulun,” Yulian continues. “Of all the places where it ends; Tulun is the most like coming home. Don’t you agree, Petyr?”

Petyr is standing next to the window, out of the line of fire. He peeks outside and sees the fortifications, the enforcers getting into position to storm the building. “I don’t think they’ll give us the time we need to come home,” he says sadly. “I don’t think they’ll let us do it.”

Yulian nods sadly and rakes a hand through his grey-streaked blond hair. “I know. Which is why I have to ask you the hardest thing I’ll ever ask of anyone.”

Petyr tears his eyes away from the window and looks at his childhood friend. “What would you have of me?”

“We’ve come so far together, Petyr. You’ve stood by me through everything, through hell. And I know you can handle it. You’re the best of us and I wish you could share in our mercy, but…” Yulian’s voice trails off. He looks up at Petyr with all of the sadness of the world in his eyes, in the lines of his handsome face, and Petyr knows what he is going to say. “You want me to hold them off,” Petyr finishes his sentence.

Yulian nods. “I want you to live so we can die. Can you do that?”

Petyr glances out of the window again. “I can do that. I’ll do anything for you, for all of us. I’ll take as many of them with you as I can.”

“When the time is right, join us. We’ll wait for you on the other side.” Yulian hands him the gas mask with a sad, slight smile on his face.

“I don’t think you’ll have to wait long.”

***

The gas mask limits his field of vision. The sealed rubber and glass encases his face and makes him feel claustrophobic. The air he breathes is filtered enough to keep him from dying to the nerve gas exposure that Yulian should be initiating any time soon now, but not enough to block out the stink of rotting eggs that trademarks the nerve gas. He hates the feeling of the gas mask. It makes him flash back to this place; to Tulun nearly thirty years prior.

How he was only twelve years old and he was at Yulian’s place, because he always was. His own parents were fighting in the war and Yulian’s mother was dying of cancer. Radiation exposure twenty years ago was eating her up from the inside, as so many were and still are these days. Technically she wasn’t his legal guardian, but Petyr had always preferred Yulian and his mother to his own grandparents. They should have gotten out of Tulun months ago. The war had been coming closer and closer, and now it was right at their doorstep. It was just that they had nowhere else to go and no way to get out of here – the area had been occupied by the Eastern Federation for months. And really, even if they could leave… where could they go when the bombs would fall? So they stayed for as long as they dared. And with the battles taking place only twenty miles from here, it was time to go now.

Yulian’s mother had asked them to pack supplies. Clothes, food, water. Anything they could carry or fit in their rickety pod. They were in the garage when it hit. The door was open, there was an icy wind blowing through the garage and Petyr’s hands were numb. They could see the city street easily from where they were standing. The wind was toying with litter in the otherwise empty streets. The smells of far-off battle. And then a siren going off.

Yulian looked up from where he was fitting a box in the storage area of the pod. “Is that…-” he started, and then the door banged open and his mother barged into the garage. She was stumbling, her eyes wide open and terrified. “Mom, you shouldn’t be up-” he said, turning around and reaching towards her. She beat his hands away and Petyr suddenly saw the gas masks in her hands.

She thrust them out to them. “Put these on, there’s no time,” she said more forcefully than Petyr had ever heard her. He immediately obeyed and put it on, securing the straps around his head.

“But mom, shouldn’t you put them on?” Yulian protested, still confused. He was only eleven years old, and despite being born during battle, knowing nothing but war, he still balked. He didn’t listen. He never did; he always did what he wanted. Petyr nudged him to put it on. His mother had said there wasn’t any time. They needed to act, now – and the alarm was blaring, echoing through the streets…

“Put it on, Yulian,” his mother said hoarsely. “If you love me, you’ll put it on.”

And as he did, as he secured the gas mask over his face, she smiled a heartbreaking smile at them. “We only have two of these in the house, so they are for you. I couldn’t think of a way to use these better,” she said, tears shining in her eyes. “I love you boys, so… so much.”

“What?” Yulian whispered. His hands returned to the clasps on the back of his head, but Petyr took a hold of them and pulled him away. His friend struggled, but Petyr had always been bigger and stronger.

Someone on the streets started screaming.

The wind blew into the garage, the smell of rotting eggs filled the air and Yulian’s mother took a step back, against the wall. She gagged as she breathed in the nerve gas. They both watched her die. Every awful second of it.

Having the gas mask on his face brings the memories back, crystal clear like it happened minutes instead of decades ago. He swallows as he remembers every heartbeat of that…indicent. /Collateral damage,/ that’s what they called what happened in Tulun. /A regrettable chain of circumstances. It shouldn’t have happened. Horrific./ Yet someone had issued the use of the nerve gas. Someone had taken a gamble, and it hadn’t been the first /regrettable chain of circumstances/ in the war, either. Petyr’s parents had never returned from the war either.

Everything had gone to shit. The world should have ended, but it just kept existing, a burnt out cancerous shell of what could have been a paradise. The people kept on having children, living their lives, acting as if nothing had happened. As if the war hadn’t twisted their humanity into something filthy, something rotten. As if they were still in paradise.

They didn’t want to listen when Petyr and Yulian told them the truth. Nobody wanted to listen. So they had taken their own people and tried to shield them, tried to keep them safe from reality. It had been a stupid dream. They weren’t safe. Nowhere was safe.

Petyr knows that now. He’s standing in an alcove next to the third story window with a sniper rifle in his hands. His comm beeps; Yulian has done his thing. /See you in the next life,/ flashes on the screen. He smiles sadly and breathes in deeply through the gas mask.

/I’ll live so you may die, my friend, my brother,/ he thinks, aiming his rifle at the enforcers that are shouting through megaphones that they should come out, that they will keep them safe, that they don’t have to die. Stupid fools.

He pulls the trigger and the first enforcer dies as his head explodes in blood. He shifts his aim slightly and takes out the second enforcer. Not a headshot, but right in the chest. Good enough, Petyr supposes, and goes onwards to the third enforcer.

By then they are taking aim at him, but they can’t see where the shots are coming from. He doesn’t waste any time and uses one of the explosive bullets on the enforcer pod, which explodes prettily. One of the enforcers catches on fire and screams loudly. /That’s one way to exit this world,/ Petyr thinks. He wonders if it’s better than rotting away with nerve gas.

Downstairs in the building someone is screaming. He remembers this scream. The same screams have echoed through the streets of Tulun a couple of decades ago as well. These are their own people, joining the dead in Tulun twenty seven years later. It’s the end for them as it is for the enforcers in the yard. It’s mercy, even if they do not see it that way.

Suddenly the door busts open and one of his people runs out. A young woman, dark curls bouncing on her shoulders as she runs, arms outstretched as if she wants to embrace the enforcers. She’s screaming and crying. He knows her well. Yelena. He hadn’t thought she’d balk at the prospect of mercy and eternity. She had seemed so dedicated to their cause. She had believed so strongly. She had loved Yulian so much. Yet now she runs, she flees her destiny. Petyr doesn’t let her. He takes her out next.

/I live so you can die,/ he tells her in the silence of his mind, in the confines of his gas mask.

He has to shoot down two more of his own people escaping the building, as well as two more enforcers, before one of them aims a rocket launcher in his general direction. He sees the rocket coming at him, too close for comfort. Too fast to dodge, even if he could get out of this enclosed space easily. It’s not directly aimed at him, but it is enough.

It buries itself into the wall only a couple of feet away and explodes violently. The explosion rings his ears, and the impact rattles his bones. The wall explodes with him, he’s flying, and the next moment he finds himself in the yard, buried beneath rubble. His body is broken and there is so much pain – but he is alive.

He blinks the blood from his eyes and looks up at the enforcer that is staring down at him. He holds a gun pointed at Petyr’s heart. “I should kill you now, right here,” the man snarls. Petyr can’t see his face. The light from the afternoon sun is too bright behind him and he is having problems with his breath. He needs to breathe through the pain, but he is coughing up blood. His breath is rattling in his lungs.

“Do it,” Petyr tells him through the pain.

And for some reason, the enforcer just shakes his head. “Enough people died here today. You killed enough people. You and Yulian Sedyev, you crazy fuckers. We’ll let the court decide whether you can join him.”

So Yulian is dead. /I live so you could die,/ Petyr thinks and closes his eyes. He wonders when he can join him, and who he can take with him. All he has to do is wait.

—-

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