Our attention was immediately back on falling into our training and our duties, as soon as we heard the first explosion farther down the wall and somewhere near another vehicle.
We planted our feet, brought our weapons up to attention, and we were ready to operate as soon as we could acquire target.
We mercilessly scanned the horizon, and we saw no movement. The explosion echoing in the distance was felt like an anomaly. Until there was another one, closer on the other side, and we scrutinized our zones. We were ready for all hell to break loose.
Silently, very silently, the thin report of automatic machine gun fire slowly drifted towards us. At first we couldn't tell where it was coming from because of how it was echoing across the valley, but eventually we realized it was coming from the farther sides of the mountains that cradled us.
Our collars blinked to life, and as lights switched from green to red, they barked small moments of static, and then they seemed to buzz with a sharp energy.
It steadily grew louder, like thunder in the distance, and then we heard the unmistakable sound of artillery fire from one of the towers east of us.
Or west of us.
And that's a weird thing, I remember so much about that day, but I don't remember which way the fighting was starting from. The sun was in the wrong position, and with the stress of the situation, I could barely tell what was up or down. All I knew was "in front".
I damn near jumped over the barricade ran for it when the tower next to me came online.
Dishes rotated into position, Bulky weird cannons that looked like plastic whales with glowing blue teeth drew their full lengths into the still air. We could smell the ozone, and hear the crackling.
Suddenly the my comm collar let out this weird noise. It was some sort of weird frequency static, like some sort of white noise, and it got loud, I mean like it almost hurt.
Then the cannon I was staring at just fired, with this brilliant flash that left some sort of glowing in the air, like the opposite of the inside of an electric toaster.
I realized what the sound from the collar was doing, when i realized that after the cannon fired, I could still hear everything around me as clear as day.
Off in the distance I saw one of the blue cannons from the tower down the wall, and watched as there was no beam or projectile, just that weird glow, and then nothing. A few hundred yards a way I noticed it. The movement got my attention. I guess with being a sniper now, small movements from far away kinda get my attention.
It was if the trees and bushes across the clearance zone seemed to be hit with the swiftly moving cough of a small god. They bended incredulously for just a moment, and then slowly straightened themselves out.
The moans came first. Something was in the bushes. Off a little farther came inhuman screams.
Not constant screams like the battle cry of an approaching army, but the sudden and frantic anquished screams, the short high pitched bark of the mortally wounded.
And the moaning.
At this point the machine gun turrents came to life, swinging their barrels back once or twice in a quick movement of target acquisition.
The guns fired until they barrels practically glowed. Then they would pause unnaturally until they cooled down for a while. Then the cannons would fire again, doing that weird ghostly launching of something powerful and invisible.
Like clockwork, the guns would take their turn a few times winding up and cooling down, and then the cannon launching. Eventually and at different times the turrents would start beeping in defiance and settle down into their locked positions.
Like weird and ugly bull terriers, they sat quietly, waiting for operators to come around and reload their ammo pods.
Training prepared me to move instantly. I immediate set up at a bench position and loaded a round into my rifle, and looked into the scope. At the same time I heard the ATVs disengage from their parked position, and start tearing down the range towards the trees and outcroppings.
The collars didn't do that constant chatter thing like they did in the movies and games. No one said anything. We sat in defensive response positions until the ATVs could recon. Without hesitation I started looking for David's unit.
Just like him, he was one of the farthest ones, racing to get a first glimpse at the horrors awaiting us.
A single rivulet of sweat ran down the side of my neck as I zeroed in the scope, watching every moment of Dave's approach.
He stopped short from a clump of bushes, and he and his wingman lept quickly from their vehicle and approached the edge of the clearing with their SMGs at the ready.
They stopped. They stopped dead in their tracks. I couldn't see what was in front of them. I couldn't see Dave's face, but I could tell by the sudden rigidity of his body that something was very, very wrong.
I saw his partner move first, he dropped he shoulders down, curved his body tightly against his weapon, and fired into the bushes.
Dave snapped out of his shock, and as the echoing of gunfire hit us, I saw David lurch swing his weapon at the man next to him, knocking him off target and sending him sprawling into the dirty.
The look of utter dismay ran across the other soldier's face. He screamed something at my brother in law, got up on one knee, and continued to fire at whatever was in front of him.
A body fell clumsily out of the bushes in front of him, I caught only a momentary glimpse of what looked like rotting and decaying flesh. Or something horribly burned and mangled. I only caught a twisted limb as it landed in the high weeds.
I could hear David's anquished cry, and as I brought my view back to the men, I saw David open fire on his mate, sprays of gore blossoming in the air as rounds tore through the man on his knees.
My heart stopped beating. I couldn't fathom it. Why did Dave just kill one of us? I was absolutely numb with shock.
Another body lurched out of the bushes. All I saw was teeth and claws and movement.
Instinct kicked in and I pulled the trigger, sending a .50 PLUS round down range at nearly the speed of sound.
Whatever was menacing Dave disappeared from the floating ribs up in a thick cloud of gore.
Dave hesistated, firing once or twice wildly into the bushes. But movement came from everywhere.
Dave, seeing something far worse than I could imagine, clumsily fell back, tripping over the underbush, and smacking his head against the ATV.
I pressed my fingers to the collar like they showed us in class, I thought really hard about Dave's name and id number, and I yelled at him to run.
Suddenly the cannon fired again, the bushes shook, and Dave jumped back up to his feet, and then strangely climbed onto the ATV, his feet planted on the rack and the gas tank.
Another ATV raced to his location.
He looked into the bushes, screamed in fury as he reloaded, twisting his body and opening fire on the support team racing up the hill.
The ATV careened out of control, spilling it's two riders into the dirt. As the vehicle rolled to a stop, the driver was gunned down in a hail of bullets from Dave. The other rider opened fire, and managed to hit him once on the thigh as Dave cut him in half from yards away.
I called out to Dave again over the comm, screaming over and over again, what are you doing, what are you doing?!?!
As he brought his hand up to his collar to respond, I noticed every light on his collar was blinking and red.
His hand stopped, I saw him listen to some sort of command only he could hear, and I swear to god he was looking right at me as his collar detonated.
As his headless body slowly sank to the ground, I saw the limbs and claws of monsterous creatures find their ways out of the shadows.
Numb from shock, I felt my arm go through the motions of reloading. I froze just as I was about to finish decisively gliding the action foward.
My collar gently beeped once and intoned:
"Incoming Foot Tangos. Comply with orders or face execution."
I felt my held breath die in my chest as I watched the face of my wife emerge from the bushes.
She was alive. She was hurt badly from a grazing gun wound. She was very very frightened, but very very much alive. She was also holding our daughter against her chest.
She fell to her knees and screamed.
Just as the wind carried her voice to me, my heart broke.
Then the turrets next to me started spinning.
My collar beeped in warning.
Time stopped. I saw the tears in her eyes from hundreds of yards away.
I watched as a leaf gently float past her face, casting a shadow across her.
My mind latched on to the shadow, realizations burned a bolt of lighting into my brain.
I watched the leaf land in the grass. The wind whipped Sarah's beautiful long hair across her face and the face of our child.
I watched as she took in another breath, and my eyes pulled themselves away from her face just for a moment as I looked at the sun.
All this time, I didn't realize it. I don't think anyone did.
Our guns, our weapons, our troops.
Liberty Walls faced inward.
My collar started screaming it's shielding frequency, and the cannons started to glow.