War Torn

War Torn by J.M. Snyder
In a not too distant future, the island of Manhattan has been commandeered by rebels aided by terrorists who have set themselves against the U.S. government. The Brooklyn Bridge, now fallen into disuse, stands as a sort of "no-man's land" between the island and the military that patrol the Hudson River. When the rebels bomb the Bridge, the nation is plunged into what might become a second Civil War.

Captain Jace Rickert is a grounded pilot whose Army lover, Second Lieutenant Tomas Tait, is sent on a routine reconnaissance mission. When Tait disappears and the military can’t stop the impending war to find one missing soldier, Rickert takes matters into his own hands.

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When I open the door Alden whirls into my house like a dervish. "Are you seeing this?"

One look at his wild eyes and I'm awake. "Seeing what?"

I watch him fumble with the remote, and then the TV's on, a cacophony of noise that fills my house like the dread bubbling within me.

"Al? What's --"

"It started," he says, stopping at the first news channel he finds. A windblown reporter covers one ear and talks into a microphone, his words staccato bursts that explode in my mind. Bombing began last night...

In a daze I walk over to the TV, mesmerized by the images of blood stained men in camouflage and fatigues, stretchers and weapons and my God. Oh my fucking God.

I wrest the remote from Alden's hands. "Bombing where? Turn it up, Alden, I can't hear it. What did they hit? Turn it up!"

"It is up."

But I still can't hear it, I can't hear anything and all I can see is blood. "It started last night, sometime after midnight, caught our camps off guard. They say almost a hundred dead, a few dozen missing, and that's just the beginning. Jace --"

He starts to flick to another channel and I punch him in the arm, hard. "Stop it! Jesus, just let me hear it, okay? Don't go changing channels just yet. I don't know the whole story --"

"They say --"

"Shut up!" I push in front of him until the TV fills my entire world.

What about Tomas?

I want the reporter to stop talking about the casualties and start naming names, even though I know they don't do that on national television. I want to be there, at the Bridge, amid the blood and the dead and the dying, I want to know ... "Jesus." There's nothing else to say. "Where the fuck is he?"

Behind me Alden answers, "I don't know."

With one hand I wipe my face, surprised when my palm comes away slick with sweat. "Tomas," I whisper, but it's more of a sob and when my deep voice breaks that's it, I can't deal with this. I can't handle not knowing.

Sinking to my knees on the plush carpet, I tell myself the sting in my eyes is more sweat, not tears. I'm not crying because I don't know anything yet, and I'm not going to give in until I know what's happened. Please, I pray. I'm not sure who I'm praying to or what I'm praying for, but I'm not going to stop until I see my boy again. Please.

Alden makes me a strong cup of coffee; even though I can taste the brandy lacing the brew, I drink it down without a word. Together we sit on my couch and watch the TV, changing channels during commercial breaks and learning nothing new, nothing at all. Outside activity has picked up -- we can hear large transports rattle past my quarters, heading for the barracks and the squads ready to join in the fight. Choppers fill the skies, the heavy beating of their blades drowning out the TV when they fly overhead.

On every channel it's the same thing -- different voices but the same images, the same words. American forces were bombed shortly before dawn ... shelling hit the middle of our military camps ... those at the center dead, dying, or wounded and not expected to survive ... the death toll over a hundred now and rising as rubble is cleared away and more bodies found ... For the hundredth time, I ask, "What about Tomas?"

"I don't know," Alden says. "I'm sorry, Jace, I just don't know."