Author : Timothy E. Bacon & Paul J. Green

Jones lowered the thermal imager from his eyes and wiped the adrenaline sweat from his face. There were still a dozen heat signatures secured down the street amidst the no man’s land of twisted girders and stone rubble. The last of the insurgents were hunkered in, fixed and fortified; it was going to be difficult to flush them out.

He slumped back against the rusted hulk of a car. The rush of the berserker pad he had inhaled earlier was wearing off and his nerve endings were jangling. He fingered the seeping bandage on his arm where he had been clipped by a bullet and a dull throbbing pain settled in at the base of his skull.

They had been dropped hot into the LZ at dawn and Jones had led a frenzied charge through the devastated city. Rebels had overrun the streets and his squad was forced to give no quarter and no mercy. They had suffered heavy casualties, mostly raw recruits fresh out of boot. Sanders had taken one in the throat and had screamed silent and wet. Taylor had lost half his head and had stumbled around like a zombie before dropping. All of them had been noble sacrifices in an effort to liberate a dead city.

Manhattan had been swallowed by a firestorm many years ago. A misguided revolt had left three million souls kissed by flame and fusion in its wake. Buildings had been refashioned and reborn by a madman’s touch; their metal and glass skins flayed open and exposed. Lady Liberty still stood at the mouth of the Hudson, scorched black and pockmarked with shells. Her torch raised high in defiance against the surrounding destruction.

Jones felt tense and cobra-coiled. An anxious silence hung over the street broken only by sporadic gunfire and the sharp squeal of radio chatter. There were no options left. A frontal assault on the remaining rebels was reckless. He would have to call in an air-strike. He punched in the co-ordinates and thumbed his squawk pad. “Bring down the thunder.”

The Valkyries blasted low through the concrete canyons, their triple rotors thrumming whisper quiet, their sleek, dark shapes swooping in and out of the derelict towers.

Jones watched the ships streak past. “Heads up, there’s birds in the canyon.”

The Valkyries chopped in heavy over the target, kicking up clouds of debris, and raining down a barrage of scatter bombs. The world flared white as a dozen small suns dawned on the street smashing and scattering the rebels. The lucky ones were vaporized instantly. The stragglers, screaming and clutching at their burnt flesh and ruined eyes, were left to the wrath of the snipers who dropped them one after another from their perches high above the devastation.

Jones gave the signal to stand down. There was nothing left to do now but a quick sweep to tag and bag the bodies. He started to clamber over the debris. Someone cleared their throat behind him.

He turned to see Corporal Martin tapping his watch.

“Hey Jones, it’s quitting time!”

Jones looked back at his squad. They were a motley group; beaten, bloodied, and tired. They wanted nothing more than to head home, kiss their wives, hold their babies, and knock back a few pints at the local bar. Jones allowed himself a tight smile. They’d earned their pay today. These men of the 83rd Reclamation Division were some of the best he’d ever served with; the very elite that the New York City Sanitation Department had to offer. He was proud of them. They were true garbage men.

“You guys go ahead. I’m going to put in some overtime.”

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows