Chapter Three: The Annihilation Line
The mission was simple, Rivers thought as he sat against the wall inside of a blown out building to rest, make contact with South Division, and then warn Commander Baron about what happened to Pacific Division… yeah, that seemed easy enough. Unfortunately, as a brand new Private in the Resistance, he had not been told what the secure radio frequencies were for contact between divisions, nor did he know any of the passcodes needed for them to listen, so that was out even if Rivers had a long range transmitter. If that wasn't bad enough, the Private also didn't exactly know where they were located, just their very large area of operation in general.
Pacific Division's area of operation was just as big, or at least it used to be, meaning that he had to cross that whole territory before even beginning to look for any one else from the Resistance. It was still hard to believe that everyone in his own division had been wiped out by a single machine… but machines couldn't talk, could they? A knot still formed in his stomach every time he remembered the way that monster spoke in different voices, including his own, and even Ramirez's plasma rifle hadn't been enough to do anything besides knock it down for a second. Were all the new T-800's that powerful? Had it even been a T-800?
With all the darkness and smoke inside the bunker, the Private hadn't managed to get a good look at the attacker besides its violet plasma weapon, which was just insane, and those awful glowing red eyes. The T-800's he had seen at the factory had red eyes, and the 600 series were a kind of yellowish orange color… damn it, bottom line was that Rivers didn't exactly understand what he saw. All he knew was that he had been on the run for weeks, forced to scavenge for any food or water that was needed, since there obviously hadn't been time to grab anything from the bunker… and he was tired.
Skynet wasted no time in taking advantage of Pacific Division's absence, escalating machine activity across the board to the point where… to the point where it almost looked like the whole territory was being taken over. This was one of the reasons that Rivers had to keep moving so fast, since after getting on the roof of a few taller buildings, he had been able to look and see signs of heavy combat off in the distance back the way he came. Smoke, fire, and lots of red flashes as the new Terminator models marched across the landscape… wait a second, why were the new models using red plasma?
With a half broken pair of binoculars that he found in one of the buildings he sheltered in, Rivers could just barely see what was happening, and only because of the glowing plasma. There were a few violet flashes now and then, but only from the patrolling Aerials and HK Tanks that were rolling across the battlefield… strange, it looked like none of the ground units were using violet plasma… but why? It seemed to pack a much bigger punch than the red stuff, and clearly it could be used with hand carried weapons, so what was so special about the Terminator that carried it in the bunker?
Every thought just made the damn thing that much more mysterious, but right now the Private's attention was on the machines' latest offensive. Not only could he see that a major attack was being carried out right now, but it was a lot bigger than any he had seen, as the line of combat stretched from as far south as he could see with the binoculars, and continued on for as far north as he could see as well. The combat was nonstop, too, with so much red plasma being fired off, as if the offensive was more like a solid line that was just… it was just annihilating everything in its path.
Other survivors that Rivers encountered along the way were getting that idea as well, packing up the little bit of supplies they had and heading east like he was, although the few that had working vehicles never seemed to have any room for him to catch a ride. Nope, they always had plenty of room if a woman needed help, especially if she was attractive, but the Private and the other men were forced to keep walking. Many of them went their separate ways, believing that the machines would have a harder time finding them on their own versus a group, and once Rivers discovered a whole community of people living in the old subway tunnels underground… yeah, they kicked him out.
Did he know what happened to any of these others? No, since with the Annihilation Line always just a few miles away, there was no way to go back and check on any of them… especially those assholes in the subway who took his broken binoculars and all his water at gunpoint. Seriously, the Private would have just left if they said so, they didn't have to put a bag over his head and spend a few minutes kicking him on the ground like he had stolen something. After that they had taken him back to the surface and kicked him in the stomach one more time before taking the bag back.
Was it wrong to hope that the Terminators got a few specific people? Either way, with the time lost while they were beating him up, Rivers had to really move fast if he wanted to get far enough ahead of the Annihilation Line to be able to rest for a while. As was always the case with the machines, they sent Aerials to scout ahead for possible targets, forcing him to take cover inside a small, blown out building. It looked like it might have once been some kind of restaurant, with partially burned pictures of food on the still intact walls, and plenty of seating booths, although they were also right where the Aerial's spotlights could see when it passed by, so no sleeping on them.
He wanted to go up on the roof and see how far away the machines were, but between the patrolling Aerial and no longer having binoculars, that would have been kind of pointless. The Annihilation Line was coming, that was for sure, but he was so tired… maybe Rivers could manage to sleep just for a couple hours. Yeah, he would just close his eyes and rest just long enough to be able to see straight, before continuing east toward South Division's territory. It wasn't like he could just start sprinting there as fast as possible, since there were still plenty of Spiders and Drones around, not to mention the risk of running into any old model Terminators that might still be in service.
"Is anyone out there? Please respond." A girl's voice crackled through the radio, startling him. "This is Private Amy Sellers of Resistance Division Pacific, please is anyone there? My sister hurt her leg, I think it might be broken… please, we need help."
"Give me that thing before you start crying again." A second, more confident girl's voice interrupted. "This is Sergeant Sellers, Resistance Division Pacific, DN10281… I hurt my leg saving this weakling from a Spider. I can't walk… the machines are getting closer… I need assistance."
Part of him was afraid that it was that new Terminator trying to trick him again, but there were two voices this time, and they were a lot more believable than the way that thing had been speaking back in the bunker. Yes, it was a risk, but if there were survivors from his division, then the Private had to help them, so he responded to the call, identifying himself while carefully looking outside. He must have been asleep for longer then planned, since the sun was still up before, and now it was pitch black, and… and now the Annihilation Line was a lot closer, looking now like it was only a mile away, maybe two if he was lucky.
"Rivers?" A somewhat familiar male voice answered. "Hey, aren't you that guy we beat up earlier? Don't bother with a wimp like him, girls, just tell me where you are, and my boys will come get you."
Oh, damn it, it was one of those guys from the subway station, not exactly the type of people that the Private wanted his comrades to be found by. He tried to warn Sergeant Sellers about them, but now he was being ignored as the Sergeant told them exactly where she was. Growing up as a scavenger, Rivers knew what happened to girls who were out alone, especially the vulnerable ones, for instance someone with a broken leg with only a sister who wasn't exactly tough to look after her… and then the radio went silent. He knew their location now, but there was no way to get there first, since it was farther back than the subway, but… but he had to do something.
Waiting until the next time that Aerial passed overhead, the Private left the building, and headed back the way he came. The subway couldn't have been too far back, since his ribs had been pretty sore after getting beat up by those guys, and Rivers hadn't been too excited about walking a long ways. The location Sergeant Sellers gave was only a block or two from the subway entrance, but there was no activity that he could see between those two points, even when an Aerial was good enough to illuminate the whole place with its searchlight. Well, the Private was moving pretty slow, they must have already taken the survivors underground.
The Annihilation Line was getting closer, with the distant sounds of a Tank's heavy plasma fire starting to be heard in the distance, so Rivers was either going to have to rescue his two comrades quickly, or hide down in the tunnels until Skynet's battle units passed by… hopefully without discovering them. The same barrel fires were burning down at the end of the rusted old escalators just like they had been before, only much more visible now that the sun had gone down, and… and the Private wasn't exactly sure what he was going to do once he reached the bottom. It was possible that his comrades weren't even in trouble, he thought, crouching down to not be seen while rounding the corner past the barrels, or he could… he could… he…
Losing his night vision for a second after passing by the barrels, as soon as Rivers was able to see again, he couldn't help but gasp at the scene that lay out in front of him. The well organized and laid out shelter looked like it had been ransacked, with burn marks all over the walls, and spent shell casings from small caliber guns lying all over the floor… scattered among the weapons that fired them… and the dead bodies of the people who had beat him up earlier. Like the bunker, small fires were burning from where plasma had ignited flammable materials, and standing in the center of this carnage was a shadowy, yet familiar figure.
"Look, Amy." It said in Sergeant Sellers' voice while turning to face him with those awful red eyes. "Private Rivers has come to rescue us."
"We're saved." It continued in the other sister's voice as it aimed its weapon. "You're my hero, Private Rivers."
If he hadn't known what that canon was capable of, the Private might have been killed right there, but instead he dove back behind those barrels just as violet light began to illuminate the subway station. Unable to keep himself from letting out a high pitch scream of fright, Rivers scrambled up the stairs, having to stay low since the barrier between the two old rusted escalators was giving him some cover as the plasma shots tore into the concrete walls around him. Bits of debris were raining down onto him as he made his way up toward the surface, and his mouth ran dry from fear that the machine would reach the bottom of the escalator before he got past the top.
Screaming again when more plasma fire started tearing up the top of the escalators just as he was throwing himself over the top, the Private tried to run away, only to end up tripping and falling on his face after two steps. Staying on the ground, he frantically crawled off to the side, managing to hide down an alley just as the Terminator reached the surface. Staying against the wall to not let it see his movement, Rivers crept over to the end of the building, and moved around the corner, sighing with relief when he saw the machine going the other way.
"Private Rivers, please come back." Sergeant Sellers' voice crackled over his radio, more calmly this time. "Please help us."
"We need you, Private Rivers." The other sister's voice added, just as calm. "Don't leave us here… I'm so scared."
Pulling the radio off his belt and tossing it as far away as he could, the Private took off running blindly in the direction he was already headed in, while the faint voices of the two probably long dead soldiers continued to call after him.