The Dark Horse
Mental ConstructionVaughn woke up, but his brain didn’t.
He was in a small, gray room that seemed to be draining the life out of him. The walls seemed to be slowly closing in on Vaughn like a tiger closing in on its prey.
He was sitting at a gray table. He didn’t remember anything, from how he got there, to his own name.
Vaughn tried to stand up, but he stood too fast, and his femur disagreed. He looked down to address the pain and saw a hole in his jeans stained dark red, and a circular scar on his leg.
He was breathing loudly, and heavily. He was anxious. Slowly, as if taking their time, his memories came back to him.
Vaughn woke up again. He was leaning against a building in a town that seemed familiar to him. His wound was gone and there was a gun in his hands. People in street clothes were running all around, with guns in their hands. One man scampered into the shop Vaughn was leaning against. A man with a shaved haircut and a thin beard ran up to Vaughn with a scowl on his face.
“Vaughn, get up! What are you doing!?”
Vaughn realized the man was addressing him and stood up. He didn’t intend to talk, but words came out of his mouth like he’d said them exactly before.
“Sorry. They’re wearing us out,” he said.
“We have no time to rest, Vaughn! They’re coming around the corner! Stick to it, Vaughn!”
“Yeah,” Vaughn followed the man across the street, gun in hand. The man stopped in an alley between two buildings. An explosion went off somewhere behind Vaughn, but he wasn’t sure where. He heard someone cry out and heard rocks scatter across the ground. He didn’t dare look back.
“Vaughn! See that building over there?” The man pointed to a tall building in the distance.
“Yeah!” Vaughan answered.
“The SSO took that building over! That’s where they’re holding Doc! We need to get there before they kill him! Which I bet it’ll be soon!”
Another explosion went off behind Vaughn, and a man with a ski mask, vest, and fingerless gloves dashed over to the shaved man..
“Rucker!” He shouted.
Rucker, the shaved man, saluted and the man saluted back, briefly before holding his gun in both hands.
“Rucker, sir! They took the Commissionary Office!”
“Canton... are there any more survivors?”
“Only a few sir,” Canton replied. He jumped when an explosion burst in the road behind him. “The Commissioner died , a-and so did Wyatt!”
“Who’s left?” Rucker asked.
“Me, Starr... W-Wilson and Quinn, sir,” Canton said.
“Good,” Rucker said, almost unable to be heard due to the noise. “Vaughn, change of plan. I’ll go to the Commissionary Office with Canton. You go to that building I showed you and rescue the Doc!”
Before Vaughn could ask any questions, Rucker and Canton ran off in the opposite direction, leaving Vaughn behind to complete the task himself.
Vaughn took off and ran anyway, dashing through the alley in the direction of the building.
The alley was curved and uneven, stretching like a snake through forgotten gaps that had been blocked out of reality by the tall, dark spires that superseded them.
Vaughn reached the end of the alley and ran out into the street, almost getting hit by a car that stopped when the driver saw him. Vaughn kept running, but was knocked off his feet by an explosion behind him. He hit the sidewalk hard, and turned to see that the car had been reduced to scrap metal and flame.
Despite the feeling of a punch to the gut in his stomach, Vaughn stood, and observed his surroundings quickly.
The building was much closer now. The section of the city that it was in was across a long bridge that was laid out in front of Vaughn, stretching over a wide river like a tightrope in a circus.
Someone tapping his shoulder grabbed Vaughn’s attention, and he turned to see a short man with a pistol in front of him.
“Come on! For the rebellion!” He shouted.
Before Vaughn could ask, the short man and a number of other people sprinted onto the bridge.
Since it was his only way of getting to the building, Vaughn followed the group of rebels onto the bridge, running as fast as he could.
Suddenly, a gigantic explosion swallowed the group of rebels and Vaughn skidded to a stop. Vaughn had gotten about half way onto the bridge. When the smoke cleared, he saw five of the rebels just before they plunged into the river below.
The entire bridge before him had been blown out. Vaughn heard a strong whirring sound, but couldn’t figure out what it was. His entire body was stiff like a flagpole. He was inches from the edge of the bridge, and he was shaking so much that he nearly pulled the trigger to his own gun.
Suddenly, a dark gray helicopter arose from the cloud of smoke and dust below like an eagle, hovering in the air until it spotted its prey.
But it didn’t take long to spot Vaughn, who was standing straight up with his gun quivering in his hand. He wanted to run, but he only managed to take a few steps back.
There was no honor in being a coward. This was his fight to win.
The helicopter hovered directly at eye level with Vaughn now. Under that visor and helmet, Vaughn could almost imagine that crooked evil smile and those bloodthirsty eyes that the pilot showed.
Vaughn made the first move, hardly a move at all, by showering the helicopter with his whole first clip. But it didn’t do much damage because the windshield was bulletproof.
Vaughn could imagine the pilot’s sneer now as the helicopter descended slightly so it had a good shot at the bottom of the bridge. The missile chambers opened, and the helicopter opened fire.
Vaughn was ready, though. He dashed forward, lunging off the bridge just before it exploded. He flew through the clouds of dust and ash, without any way of knowing where he was.
He aimed his jump perfectly. He fell just out of the range of the rotor blades and grasped the handle of the sliding door on the helicopter. It slid open as he grabbed it, and he flung himself into the helicopter, all in one motion.
The helicopter suddenly accelerated, and the helicopter leaned forward, causing the door to slide shut again.
The pilot hadn’t heard Vaughn enter above the noise of the engine. He was cackling to himself, thinking he’d won an easy victory.
Vaughn silently crept forward and leaned up against the back of the pilot’s seat. Not too hard, though, or the pilot would notice.
Quickly, Vaughn found a gap in the pilot’s armor. In the middle of the back of his neck. Vaughn quickly aimed, and fired.
It was a perfect shot, going through the pilot’s neck, ricocheting off the bulletproof glass, and streaking into his chest. The pilot didn’t even cry out, and lay limp in the pilot seat.
Vaughn pushed the body out of the seat and gained control of the helicopter. He felt a uneasy feeling in his gut, though. He didn’t like to kill people, but Vaughn quickly dismissed the thought.
Anyone from the SSO wasn’t a person. They were a cold-blooded murderer.
Vaughn smoothly maneuvered the helicopter back above the broken bridge and proceeded in the direction of the building. It wasn’t over yet.
The helicopter leveled out at about three-hundred miles an hour. Vaughn flew over the river that had once been covered by a bridge. Suddenly it all came back to him. Being a school boy. Marching across the bridge. Field trips feeling like they were always at army camp.
He remembered that bridge, but he was forced to push his mind off of it when a voice came over the radio on the dashboard in front of him.
“Rebel, this is Captain Bauer, SSO. I have strict orders to shoot you down unless you surrender your weapons and land your helicopter immediately.”
Vaughn didn’t answer, and all the Captain said was “suit yourself.”
Vaughn instantly knew that he was in danger, and started flying in a zig-zag pattern with his helicopter. The first missile flew just to the right of his helicopter at incredible speed. Vaughn followed the smoke trail with his eyes and fired a missile at the first tank. He heard a distress transmission start, but end in a chorus of static.
A monster explosion arose and the tank blew up, its explosion burning everything in its path.
Vaughn took advantage of the situation, and advanced over the city. All below him, streets were in flame.
He continued flying towards the building, which was only about a minute away. He prepared his landing gear and was pleased to see that the helipad to a hospital across the street from the building was vacant.
Vaughn sprinted out of the helicopter right when he landed. The SSO would be right on his heels by now and he knew it. He’d been lucky. If he had been shot down before he destroyed the tank, the rebels would’ve lost for sure. There was still hope. Vaughn just had to use it.
He sprinted down the stairwell of the hospital, thankful it was only three floors. He was also thankful to see that the SSO hadn’t blocked him off at the ground floor. He ran out the door, back outside onto the street, immediately shooting the two guards standing in front of the building he was supposed to go to.
Vaughn rushed into the building to find the man who was Doc with a gun to his head. It all happened in the blink of an eye. Doc immediately elbowed the man in the stomach, then took the guard’s gun out of his holster and shot the guard while Vaughn shot the man with the gun in the head. The two men crumpled to the ground just seconds apart.
The Doc was a middle-aged man who looked as fit as he was smart. He started to thank Vaughn, but Vaughn stopped him.
“We need to get out of here,” Vaughn explained.
Doc nodded and the two ran back out the door.
They stopped in the middle of the street to think of where to go next. Suddenly, they heard guards shouting orders down the road, but they couldn’t see them through the cloud of dust.
“Go. Up to the hospital’s helipad,” Vaughn said. “There’s a helicopter there. Use it to get out of here. Go somewhere safe and fly as high as you can. I ‘ll make sure no one follows you in. Go quick.”
Doc nodded again, and ran off quickly. Vaughn was alone again.
And then the guards came through the cloud of dust.
Vaughn shot as many as he could. Four. Maybe five. He emptied clips until he pulled trigger and no bullet came out.
That was when the bullet went into his upper right leg.
He couldn’t help it. He cried out in pain. The pain was too unbearable for Vaughn to endure. He knelt down slowly, holding his leg in one hand, and grabbing a fallen SSO’s gun in the other. He put the gun to his head, figuring he was going to die either way.
But no bullet came. A guard ripped the gun out of his hand. Three other guards grabbed him, and hoisted him up on his bad leg. Then four guards. Then five.
The guards practically carried him into the back of a truck as dark as space itself. Vaughn didn’t think of fighting back. It was useless.
Vaughn hopelessly watched as the guards lined he sides of the truck. Two guards grabbed the handles on the door to the back of the truck, and slid shut the last remaining light Vaughn expected to see his whole life as he spiralled into darkness.
Vaughn hopped in his chair this time. He’d fallen asleep again, and the city had been nothing more, or less, than a flashback.
Now he knew how he got here. His name was Vaughn. What was the SSO? Why were they doing this?
His pondering was interrupted by the opening and closing of a door. He looked up to see a tall man who he could’ve mistaken for a businessman.
But what would a businessman have to do with him?
The man didn’t look up at Vaughn, but read off an electronic tablet in his hand. He looked to be in his thirties, with brown hair and a black suit and tie.
“Matthew Vaughn... age 20... recently involved with the rebellion attack on Haven...”
The man looked up at Vaughn, and smiled.
“You’re awake,” he placed the tablet on the table and sat down opposite from Vaughn. “How’s that leg?”
Vaughn didn’t answer. He stared down at the ground.
The man sighed and swiveled in his chair.
“Look... the only reason your still alive is ‘cause I’m fond of your skills,” the man explained. “If I wasn’t impressed, you’d been dead before you jumped in that helicopter.”
“I’ll die anyway,” Vaughn said. He didn’t dare say more.
“Why is that, Matthew-”
“Call me Vaughn.”
“Vaughn, why is that?”
“Since when does the SSO let their prisoners live?”
The man chuckled.
“This is different,” the man replied. “You have talent.”
Vaughn shrugged and stared at the ground again.
“Not much of a talker, are you?” The man asked.
The sighed again, and leaned casually in his chair.
“My name’s James Bult, by the way. I am more than willing to offer you a job as an SSO Officer. At your age, that talent is very rare. We could use you. You could be great, Vaughn,” Bult said.
Vaughn laughed quietly, but turned his expression back to serious quickly.
“I’m a rebel, and I’ll die a rebel. I’m sorry a waisted your time, Mr. Bult.”
Bult nodded slowly and gravely, then stood, turned and opened the door.
“Then I’ll schedule for your execution,” he said.
“Wait... you said I was different. You said I had talent,” Vaughn argued.
“Yes,” Bult smiled. “But I don’t want you to waste that talent and die a rebel... no stories have happy endings, do they? You could’ve been a great SSO. A true legend!”
The door closed, and to Vaughn, the room looked even more lifeless than before.