Obliteration – Leia Stone

Damien approached Jeremy, who was pacing trails into the carpet of our shitty motel. “It’s okay, buddy. Everything’s okay.” We were all stimmed out, tired as all hell, and nervous to enter the Dream War. The alien bastards had come back. Ships upon ships had landed, and when the doors opened, nothing got out. Just like the first time they came. “Not okay. Nothing’s okay.” Jeremy was on the brink of a hardcore meltdown, tapping out a rhythm onto his jeans to keep calm. We all felt awful for upsetting him, but we needed to move every twelve hours to stay away from the Feds. The FBI was looking for us and I had a sinking feeling it wasn’t to chat. After we’d exited the Dream War, Santiago and his men had said their goodbyes. He needed to go protect his sister and check on their families. Meanwhile, Damien had sent for a private plane to bring Jeremy, Ronnie, and the rest of our crew to reunite with us in Canada among the chaos.

Including Luna, the dreaded cat that could do no wrong. Ever since I’d found evidence that the human government had sold out the American people for alien oil, I no longer trusted a single member of the government. Not to mention Damien was at the top of their hit list. No way was I letting them catch up with us. But I’d lost count of how many days we’d been awake. Five? Six? We were going to crash soon. None of us had slept since I’d opened the portal and chucked the breeder through, watching her shrivel to a pile of ash. More ships meant more ghouls, and I didn’t want to go in to an unknown situation. Why had they come? Damien sidled up to me. “I’m so tired I can’t think straight.

What do we do?” I was still commander of this team. It was left to me to make the best decisions for keeping everyone alive and safe. Problem was, I was tired too and not armed with my normal sharp intellect. What was protocol? I needed to remember my time at the academy. But no one had a protocol for this. No one had thought more would come. My voice warbled: “We obviously need to sleep soon.” “No!” Jeremy shrieked so loud my heart jackhammered in my chest faster than it already was. “There are more of them, they’ll kill us!” He started to pound on his thighs in big fast punches and I knew we were going to have to restrain him soon, possibly sedate him, if I couldn’t calm him. Jeremy being on the autism spectrum meant we had to work around his curveballs.

I’d hate to restrain him again; it usually ended with everyone in tears. Including Damien. It had been a rough week. I zoomed into Jeremy’s line of sight, standing up on my tiptoes and getting way more in his space than I normally would. “No. The Galadrias will help us. Dawn will help.” Jeremy froze and made eye contact with me, which was so rare. “Skyhome.” I nodded.

I’d told Jeremy about Skyhome and he knew that Maxine, Nox, Master Aki, Brisk, Damien, and I had slept there and the Galadrias had kept us safe. “Skyhome. We will fall asleep and go to Skyhome where it’s safe while we make a bigger plan.” That idea had come out of nowhere, but it was the only decent one we had. Please let Dawn and Skyhome still be there. The floating island paradise in the sky was the only thing I was clinging to right now. Master Aki, who’d been sitting cross-legged in the corner of the room, stood and walked over to my toiletry kit in the bathroom. “Master Aki, we’re going to sleep, okay?” I needed my mentor to tell me it was okay, that it was a good plan. I was always seeking his guidance and approval, like a child would from her father. “Yes, Kit.

Let’s sleep. Get everyone ready and I’ll be there in a moment.” He pulled out my dental floss and started unwinding a long six-foot strand of it. I was too tired to ask questions, and ever since Master Aki’s revelation that he saw things, like future things, I didn’t question him. No one argued that we needed sleep. They all just crawled into the large set of king beds smashed up against each other and slipped on their dream bands. Nox and Maxine held each other, looking bleary eyed. Brisk and Ronnie did the same with that psycho kitten Luna right between them. Josephine was just positioning herself next to Jeremy when he cried out. “I want to be next to Kit!” The panic in his voice was real.

He’d never requested me before; it touched my heart. “Of course, buddy.” Josephine rolled over, giving me room, and I sidled into Jeremy’s side, Damien on the other, and Mr. Hansen bringing up the end. The moment my body settled into the bed, I felt sleep pulling at me. Jeremy reached out and clasped my hand, something he’d never done before, and squeezed it, hard. “You’ll protect me, right?” Jeremy whimpered. Being this close I could hear his heartbeat knocking against his chest. It brought tears to my eyes. “With my life.

” Master Aki appeared over me then and tied the thin piece of the dental floss around my wrist and then to the front door knob of the hotel room. What in the hell? Was this some kind of ghetto booby trap? It might be genius, but my mind was too tired to think right now, so I didn’t even ask about it. That’s the level of exhaustion I was at. Someone was tying dental floss around my arm and I didn’t even care as long as I could sleep. “Me too,” Damien told Master Aki. My mentor paused for a moment but then nodded, tying a piece of the floss to Damien’s wrist and then to the door knob. If someone opened it, it would theoretically wake us up … theoretically. My eyelids started to droop. “Hurry up, I’m going down,” I told Master Aki. He snapped on his dream band and snuggled into Mr.

Hansen. All heterosexual norms were left at home. We were totally snuggling, boy, girl, old, young, it didn’t matter. Sleep and staying alive were the only things that mattered, and for me to take in this big of a group, we all needed to be close. “See you on the other side. It’s going to be okay,” I told my crew. It had to be. Taking a deep breath, I started to center my breathing. Maybe I should have asked Master Aki to take us in, but it was too late now. We were all programmed into my band and… I harness strength, I project peace, I—couldn’t think straight because I was tired as all hell and sleep pulled me into the Dream War fast and hard.

Would I arrive in one piece? With all my teammates? With all my weapons? Nothing was a sure thing anymore; the breeders were psycho and they controlled everything. THE SECOND I felt my feet hit the ground, my eyelids sprang open and I spun around. We were in the middle of nowhere, thank God, but one of those giant ghouls was nearby, sitting on his butt—and snacking on some humans I guessed. I’d never seen everyone drop in so quickly. Even Maxine, who normally had trouble falling asleep, came in right behind me. This was probably the most sleep deprived we’d ever been. I did a quick headcount to make sure everyone was here. Ten of us, plus the stupid cat. The moment Jeremy turned and saw the giant off in the distance having his human snack, he whimpered and Josephine pulled out the blindfold and headphones, placing them on him. “You’re okay, buddy.

I’m calling Dawn,” I told him. So far nothing seemed different about the Dream War, but I wasn’t stupid enough to believe that. Those ships landed and something had changed. I just didn’t know what yet. ‘Dawn. Kit needs hel—’ Before I could finish connecting with her, a sharp pain sliced through my skull and Dawn’s hurried reply came back. ‘No! Don’t contact Dawn.’ With a deep thud, I was kicked out of her head and left gasping for air. Damien’s worried face swam into view. “What happened?” What had just happened? Dawn didn’t seem mad, more worried.

I rubbed the base of my skull and started walking to a tree canopy, where we could take cover. Damien followed. “I think Dawn has been … I donno, infiltrated or something. She said not to contact her. I think she was protecting me.” Damien swore, looking more stressed than I’d ever seen him. Our crew followed closely behind as I tried to drum up a plan B. Skyhome was the perfect plan, but now that was dashed. “Well, we just need a few hours of sleep to recharge and then maybe you can wake yourself up and then wake all of us up.” He peered over his shoulder to make sure everyone was following.

Master Aki had jumped into the Dream War to teach me that I wasn’t actually being held hostage by the breeders, that I could get myself out. I’d willingly woken myself up for the first time in my life about a week ago, but I wasn’t one hundred percent sure I could do it again. I also wasn’t sure that doom and gloom news would be welcome right now though, so I kept it to myself. “Alright, let’s do inventory,” I told my team as they entered the thick alien tree canopy with us and took cover. The first thing I did was glance at everyone’s wrists and see who had their plasma bands on. Jeremy’s, Josephine’s, Maxine’s and Damien’s were missing. Those damn breeders had found a way to start stripping us of our weapons. I wasn’t worried about Maxine and Damien, but Josephine and Jeremy needed theirs. Pulling mine off, I handed it to Jo. “For him,” I told her.

I knew I wouldn’t have to ask anyone on my team. They would do the right thing. And sure enough, Brisk handed his band to Josephine. “We need you to be able to protect him,” he told her. I smiled at my big tough Marine and he winked at me. Josephine reluctantly took it and Damien reached out, rubbing the small of my back. “If I had mine, I’d give it to you,” he whispered. I knew that. This guy had hired me to protect him and I’d gone and fallen for him. Now I knew he’d do anything to protect me.

“Okay,” I told our group, “Dawn might still be coming. She just won’t be able to tell me. So let’s sit tight and camp out so long as it seems safe.” Everyone nodded, and Maxine and Brisk started to walk the perimeter with their semiautomatic rifles. Master Aki and I luckily both had one katana each. That was enough to do some serious damage up close. Josephine sat Jeremy down and loosened his blindfold but kept his headphones on. She started to play cards with him. I peered over the tops of the trees and into the distance. “Feels too quiet,” I told Damien.

He nodded. “A new ship landed in every major city across the world. There’s got to be at least a hundred thousand more ghouls.” A hundred thousand flesh eaters? Did he really think that many more had arrived last week? The thought made me sick. “Think they are a new kind, like invisible or something?” Suddenly I felt like I was being watched, but I wasn’t sure if that was just me freaking myself out. Damien’s eyebrows rose. “Anything is possible at this point.” Master Aki sidled next to me and bowed lightly, his way of apologizing for interrupting. “No sense in worrying about things we can’t see,” he said sagely. I swear that man never panicked.

He was always cool as a cucumber. I opened my mouth to speak, then Dawn’s consciousness merged with mine. It felt frantic and rushed. ‘Dawn doesn’t have much time. Breeders have linked with Galadria hive mind. Watch everything we do and think.’ My stomach dropped. ‘Oh God. Are you safe? Skyhome?’ If anything happened to those adorable baby dragons on Skyhome I was going to go majorly postal. She must have been fighting them off mentally so that we could speak for a moment.

‘Dawn is safe. Younglings on Skyhome are safe. Some Galadrias are not safe. Breeders know that Galadrias are friends with Kit. Breeders want Kit dead.’ That wasn’t exactly new news, but it still made my stomach turn. ‘Dawn, new ships came. On Earth. Hundreds of them.’ If she had any insight at all, I needed to hear it.

There was a pause and I sensed she was struggling to fight off the breeders from the mental invasion. ‘Dawn has news for Kit. Kit will be scared and angry.’ Fuck. My heart jackknifed in my chest and both Damien and Master Aki stared at me now; they knew something was up. I tapped my forehead hoping they got the point, and walked a few feet away so that I could try to control my reaction. ‘It’s okay, Dawn, you can tell Kit anything,’ I told her, easily falling into the habit of speaking in third person with her. ‘Kit needs to know everything so Kit can keep friends alive.’ There was a moment of silence. ‘Scout ships came back.

No new planets found. Earth is last food source ghouls can find.’ The whole world spun in that moment and I thought for sure I was going to fall over. Ever since Dawn told me that the ghouls went planet to planet harvesting bodies as a food source, it gave me hope that they would one day find another planet with a more plentiful supply of… meat, and leave ours. ‘You mean… they’re staying?’ Anger and fear, just like Dawn predicted, rolled through me in equal measure. ‘Yes… forever. Breeders are talking about culling their own population and going on a ration diet to allow humans enough time to reproduce.’ Bile rose in my throat and I wasn’t sure I could hear any more of what she had to say. I wanted to shoot things and kill people and light this entire freaking world on fire. Forever.

Dawn said forever. No child of the Earth would ever know a time without the Dream Wars and I wasn’t okay with that. The breeders were smart, too damn smart. They were willing to cull their own population to allow time for more humans to breed so they always had a food source. It was beyond horrifying. ‘We have to stop them,’ I said to Dawn, but really it was for myself. ‘Kit will stop them. That’s why breeders want Kit dead. Dawn knows things, Dawn knows Kit will end Dream Wars.’ A chill ran up my arms and then our connection broke off as a massive headache slammed into me.

I hissed, grabbing my forehead, and dropped to the ground. “Kit!” Damien slid onto the ground and took me into his arms. The headache eased a little. The breeders, they were searching for me. I don’t know how I knew it but I knew. Taking in a few deep breaths, I opened my eyes to see everyone but Jeremy and Josephine surrounding me. “What happened?” Damien asked, hauling me up. Did I tell them the truth? God, it sickened me to think about it, never mind to speak it aloud. But this was my team, my family. I had to tell them everything so we could make a plan together.

Taking a deep, cleansing breath, I told my team exactly what Dawn had said. They listened with horrified expressions and I finished with Dawn’s prophecy that I would somehow change it all. These were my people and I wanted to be honest with them so they could help me brainstorm. “So they’re here. Forever?” Maxine’s voice shook with anxiety. Nodding, I reached out and squeezed my friend’s shoulder. “That’s what Dawn said. They’re going to take precautions so that humanity doesn’t die out too quickly, so that there’s always a food source and—” I stopped mid-sentence as the feeling of waking up came over me. What the…? We’d just dropped in? I looked down at my left arm, which felt like it was being yanked into the air. Damien’s head snapped up to mine.

“Someone’s in the hotel room.” His warning was the last thing I heard in the Dream War, but before my body dissolved there, my gaze flicked over Maxine’s head to see a breeder weaving through the trees, coming right for them. “Look out!” I screamed, but it wasn’t heard. I was already out of that world but not yet back on Earth; I’d said it somewhere in between. The moment I felt my body jerk awake, I popped my eyelids open and leapt off the hotel bed and right at the small group of soldiers in black army fatigues who were opening the door. They weren’t ready for me, they didn’t expect this. I had no weapons and my heart was hammering in my chest as adrenaline pumped through me. I turned into a human bowling ball, flying toward them in an effort to knock over as many of these bastards as I could. Just as I crashed into two of the soldiers, a shuffling noise sounded behind me, which I assumed was Damien waking up as well. Master Aki had totally known what he was doing when he’d tied our hands to the door.

I had little time to plan my crash. I tried to tuck my chin down on impact to minimize the face smashing, but it did little good. Arms outstretched, I took down two of the men, my shoulders slamming into their chests and knocking them backwards. My eye impacted one of the dudes’ helmets and I felt the skin rip open immediately. Damien was next. I saw him as a blur of motion trying to disarm one of the other men. I counted six of them inside, with more outside no doubt. Two of us against them were not great odds, but I’d take it. Rolling off the two dudes I’d knocked over, I rammed my knee into the nearest guy’s crotch as he tried to get up. “Stand down!” a man outside yelled.

“We aren’t here to hurt you.” I realized then that the men I’d floored had flashbangs and Tasers but no lethal weapons, and they weren’t fighting back. I looked up to the old timer who’d spoken and didn’t recognize him. He was a tall white dude with gray hair, and reeked of upper military. I could see it in the way he stood, in his haircut and the crispness of his ironed clothes. I stood then and Damien backed away from his fight to step in front of me. “Then why the hell are you here?” Damien growled. The man snapped his fingers and his men flanked us, one of them holding a pair of handcuffs. “We just need to talk. It’s a matter of national security.

” I full-on belly laughed. “Oh fuck national security. You sold us out years ago.” His eyes widened before he recovered. “We’re just going to take you in for a little chat. Alright?” It wasn’t a question. The men were already moving to cuff us. Damien looked at our friends asleep on the bed. “Let us wake our friends first. They’re in a bad spot in the Dream War.

” Oh shit, I’d forgotten about the breeder. The man raised an eyebrow. “You think I’m stupid? They will try to help you escape.” Panic flooded me as one of the men yanked my arm and slipped the handcuff over my right hand. “WAKE UP!” I shouted to my friends, but their bodies just lay there, going through God knows what. We’d only been asleep maybe twenty minutes and I was still tired as hell, but that breeder… Damien tried to fight, and the sound of a crackling Taser filled the room as they took him down. I didn’t fight, I knew there was no use, and my mind was on other things. Reaching through my bonds with my friends, I found Master Aki’s energy ‘WAKE UP!’ I shouted mentally, and then I did something awful, something I hoped he could forgive me for. Pain. I pushed the thought of pain into his Earth body, hoping to slam him with the biggest headache known to man that would wake him up so he could wake the others.

The army guy gripped me hard under the armpits and started to haul me outside, but I caught a glimpse of Master Aki stirring. ‘Pain. Forehead explosion. So much pain you think you might die!’ I slammed the thought into him and then they shut the door, before pushing me and Damien into the back of a van and peeling out. Oh God, I hope they woke up in time.


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