Alpha, p.21
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       Alpha, p.21

           Daniel Schmidt

  Chapter 21

  The Alpha’s skin looked marbled and glossy. A fresh gash from Walter’s blow ran down his face, starting above his eye and across the left side of his nose, finally ending at the chin. Blood poured down the gash and off the chin in spurts. It was dark blood, almost black.

  The Alpha’s gaze passed over us, and when his eyes stopped on mine the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. His right eye was entirely black. Around his left eye I saw dark gray skin, spreading in streaks across its face. One dark streak ran from the socket, down the cheek, over the mouth, and onto the chin. Another ran up over the eyebrow onto the forehead. The left eye itself was dark… purple. Darker than an Alvar purple, but purple all the same.

  The Alpha spoke as blood ran into his mouth. “I want the Alvar, not you.”

  “You can’t have her!” Walter bellowed.

  “We are brothers, not enemies!” The Alpha yelled.

  “You just murdered our brother!” Carlos screamed.

  The squad hurled curses at him. I let out a roar and charged, and the squad followed.

  I swung my bayonet low, aiming for the Alpha’s stomach. My blade only penetrated slightly. The Alpha swung his sword down toward me but the blade skipped off the side of my helmet. Everyone converged again onto the Alpha, stabbing, slashing, and cursing. The Alpha swung his sword across his body, knocking our bayonets away before rolling away again.

  We pressed toward him quickly. He stabbed forward but found no flesh. The entire squad pressed shoulder to shoulder and held out our bayonets in front of us, forming a wall of steel. The Alpha tried to break through us, but our blades kept him at bay. He roared, brought his sword above his head, and brought it down onto us with the blade turned sideways. Several men were knocked down but they quickly rejoined the fight.

  We kept pressing forward, keeping our bayonets raised and stabbing forward at the Alpha. The Alpha tried to break through us, and after he failed, he rolled again, separating himself from us and then… he backed away quickly, keeping his sword raised. He kept backing away until he disappeared into a thick grove of trees.

  We watched in shock as the Alpha disappeared into the trees. Our stupefied gaze was broken as someone fired down the hill at the Legion men who were still advancing towards us. Everyone raised their rifles and sent more bullets down the hill. The Legion scattered towards the scant tree cover, and after a few of them fell they headed back to the bottom of the hill to retreat.

  As I watched the Legion disappear from sight, I collapsed onto one knee. My hands shook so violently I could not longer keep hold of my rifle. A man vomited next to me, while many more knelt down or fell into a sitting position. I painfully became aware of the burning pain in my chest and the fact that it felt like I was breathing through a very small straw.

  Walter, breathing heavily, walked over and picked up the Alpha’s shattered mask.

  He raised it above his head and let out an “Allll!” The squad, although exhausted, followed with a loud and thunderous “Varrr.” Walter yelled it three more times, and each time the men echoed with a “Var.”

  I turned and found Christine patching up the wounded men. To my utter amazement, David had been the only person killed. I directed the rest of the squad to assist Christine with the wounded men. Walter, with the Alpha’s mask in hand, staggered back up the hill to David’s body.

  Walter knelt down and pulled David’s body into an embrace. A few moments later I saw the huge man’s shoulders shudder and I heard sobs. I rose to my feet and made my way to him. Tears streamed down his face as he rocked David’s body back and forth in his arms.

  What David had told me echoed in my consciousness, but I knew I could never tell Walter or anyone else about what David had admitted. I knew without a doubt his secret would die with him. Walter rocked back and forth several more times and then gritted his teeth and roared. He slowly let David’s body back down to the ground. Then Walter turned and let out animal screams as he bashed the mask into the rock with both hands, trying in vain to break it. After a few more strikes I reached out and stopped him. I pulled him into an embrace, one that he returned. He still sobbed.

  After a few minutes Carlos joined us and Walter stood to embrace him as well. The tears stopped and after a few deep breaths Walter handed me the Alpha’s mask without a word. He bent down and scooped up David’s body again. Walter mumbled a few words, held him a few moments longer, and then gently laid the body down, crossing his arms on his chest.

  One of the other men brought David’s rifle down and Walter carefully placed it on David’s chest. Walter gripped David’s hands, took a few deep breaths and then stood. Carlos bent down and took one of David’s hands while holding his crucifix in the other. Carlos said a few prayers, shed a few tears, and then stood to give Walter a hug. The two huge men patted each other on the back and then stepped away to let the rest of the squad pile wood over David’s body.

  Someone handed me a thermite grenade as the rest of the squad continued down the hill, heading in the original direction we had been going. Denise stood next to me, staring down at David’s body.

  “What was he fighting for?” Denise asked, her face tensing up.

  “His buddies… and you,” I said softly.

  She clenched her jaw for a moment, and then said, “But, he didn’t know me, he didn’t know why I’m here. He didn’t know what the prophecies would tell. None of you do.”

  I looked at the ground and then back up at the rest of the squad, my mind searching for something to say. I stared at the squad for a moment, watching them walk away, and then turned my eyes back to Denise. “These men have faith in you, they believe you are here to do good things,” I said.

  “I’m not quite sure I understand faith,” she said.

  I let out another long breath. “A lot of people don’t… and I don’t think it’s something you understand, it’s something you have. They choose to believe in you, they believe that your kind is here to do something great and their lives are worth protecting that. They don’t need science, prophecies or miracles to believe it; they just know and believe it,” I said.

  Denise’s eyes slowly moved to meet mine. “And what are you fighting for Paul?”

  “I’m fighting for them,” I said, motioning to the squad.

  “But you hardly know them. You have only been here a month,” she said.

  To my surprise my response came easily, possibly because it was true. “They placed their trust in my leadership. If I fail them, I will never be able to live with myself. That’s why I’m fighting for them, because they are depending on me. A long time ago I failed the men I led; I did what was easy and not what was right and because of that, men died. I won’t make the same mistake again.”

  Denise looked away and seemed satisfied with my answer. A painful knot twisted in my stomach as I remembered where I was taking these men. She spoke again, “Do you have faith in me?”

  “I don’t even know why you are here,” I said.

  Denise straightened up. “We Alvar are here to change this world, change it for the better. We are here to lead mankind into the next age, the golden age.”

  I pulled the pin on the thermite grenade and dropped it onto David’s body. “I can only hope what you say is true. Now, let’s get going, that Alpha can’t be too far off.”

  We rejoined the squad and after a few hundred meters Carlos called me over the radio and said a wounded man was falling back. It was the man who had taken the Alpha’s sword through the shoulder. I kept the squad going but moved back towards the rear. Carlos and I picked up the wounded man and carried him for a hundred yards or so and then had to stop. The man begged us to leave him. Christine gave him a shot of morphine and Denise offered to carry him. We refused her offer and carried him another hundred yards before having to rest again.

  Before we could pick him up again, Denise took hold of the man’s arm. She bent
down and slid her arm underneath his leg, then hoisted him up onto her back. I thought for certain she was going to crumple under the weight. She started walking with seemingly little effort, her thin frame handling the weight just fine. We followed and Denise kept going and going, showing no signs of fatigue.

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