“Back away from the gate or I will shoot you!”
“No, don’t!” the girl shrieked with tears streaming down her face. She appeared no more than fifteen years old, and the boy with her couldn’t have been over ten. Both had obviously been traveling over rough terrain for quite a while. Their clothes were dirty and torn. She continued by pleading, “Please don’t kill us! Let us in; they’ll be here soon!”
Sentry Corporal Soto sat atop the wall mounted in his Individually Operated Cannon. He looked down at the kids through his reflective visor which obscured his eyes. Though he kept his left hand on the IOC control stick, he used his other to point a sidearm at them.
“No exceptions!” he shouted. “Turn away—now!”
“What’s going on here?” a new voice asked.
SC Soto glanced over his shoulder to see Sentry Sergeant Badu bobbing next to him. SS Badu operated a Piloted Hover Pack, which allowed him to quickly cover the half-mile distance between each IOC.
“Please!” the girl wailed through the gate. “Let us in! They’ll kill us!”
SS Badu briefly studied the kids and then faced SC Soto while saying, “I’m opening the gate.”
As SS Badu began to input the authorization codes on his wrist unit, SC Soto yelled, “Stand down, Badu! You’re breaking protocol!”
“We don’t have time for procedure!” SS Badu shouted as he pointed beyond the wall to the south.
There it was, just a tiny speck on the horizon but approaching quickly—a thornship.
The kids started crying even harder. The little boy covered his eyes.
“They’re terrified!” SS Badu yelled. “I’m letting them in!”
“They could infect us all!” SC Soto roared. “You want a repeat of what happened in Florida? This is exactly how we lost Georgia!”
“We’re not infected!” the girl howled. “We escaped Carmargo–we just want the cold! Please, let us in and you’ll never see us again!”
SC Soto sneered at SS Badu as he said, “Have you forgotten the Weedies infect humans and try to get them into the FHZ? The aliens can’t go north themselves, so they count on our bleeding hearts to do the job for them by letting in their infected prisoners.”
The girl declared, “Our parents told us you’d protect us! They died getting us out!” She next reached for the bars on the gate.
SG Soto barked, “Do not touch that gate or I’ll shoot you in the head–do you understand?”
SS Badu ordered, “Put that gun away, Soto.”
“Screw you–you don’t outrank me,” SG Soto returned.
“If that ship reaches them, they’re dead,” SS Badu said.
SG Soto replied, “Only if they’re not infected.”
The girl cried, “We’re not infected—I promise!”
SS Badu flew the PHP closer to SG Soto and asked, “You’re willing to let them die?”
“Better than being the guy who lost Texas,” SG Soto declared. “How can we be a Free Human Zone if we don’t have any free humans left alive?”
“It’s getting closer!” the girl screeched. “Please!”
“We’re letting them in,” SS Badu said.
SG Soto shook his head while arguing, “No one gets in who hasn’t been scanned and verified by the big brains–no exceptions!”
The girl wrapped her arms around the little boy as she bellowed, “We’re begging you!”
SG Soto said to SS Badue, “You do this and I’m filing a report that you broke procedure and allowed them in. If they’re infected, it’s all on you. Are they worth it? Thousands of free humans for two kids who have been sent to kill us all?”
The girl looked up at SS Badu with pleading eyes.
SS Badu landed his PHP and approached the gate. He placed his helmeted forehead against the bars, lifted his visor, and made eye contact with both children. After a few moments, he simply said, “I’m sorry, kids. I’m so sorry.”
The girl’s face went blank. She grabbed the young boy’s hand and started running west along the wall.
SG Soto and SS Badu watched the thornship approach. They knew it wouldn’t dare cross the border, but SG Soto prepped his IOC nonetheless. As expected, the ugly shaft of a craft banked west. Minutes later, the men heard the unmistakable sound of disintegration.
“Told you,” SG Soto seethed.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” SS Badu asked.
“That thornship was going so fast, it would have been way past the kids. They were infected, just like I said. Weedies don’t vaporize the infected. They’re counting on some other idiot like you to let those kids through.”
“It could have slowed down,” SS Badu said. “We might have just sentenced them to death.”
SG Soto holstered his sidearm, shrugged, and said, “Guess we’ll never know.”
SS Badu knew he could review the video after his shift. The entire wall was monitored at all times from California to North Carolina.
He knew he could … but he also knew he wouldn’t.
Copyright © 2021 by Scott William Foley
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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