Song of the Red-Legged Birds: Chapter 6: Chula Vista
We could be heroes
Last week, in chapter 5 Takeda took a Flyer to work
Chapter 6: Chula Vista
Takeda’s parents met during World War 4. His father, Sargent Jared Hill, was part of the 343rd Mobile Drone Assault Unit stationed in Southern California. The group hadn’t seen any action in about six months when he met an infantry soldier named Dalia Sun one day at the PX. She’d been shopping for new boots and was sitting down to try them on when Jared tripped over her outstretched leg. He landed hard on the floor and rolled onto his back in pain. When he opened his eyes, Dalia was hovering over him and smiling. To hear him tell it, she was an angel. As if in a movie, a Muzak version of the old song Dreamweaver started to play over the store speakers. Jared was inseparable from Dalia from that day until he died.
They enjoyed telling stories. People often weren’t sure where the line between reality and embellishment was, but it didn’t matter. They loved each other and could finish one another’s sentences in every wild and weird tale they told. Within their first year together, they married and moved into a small apartment on the base. The plan was to have careers in the military. Following in the footsteps of their parents and many family members who had fought - and died, in World War 3.
World War 4 started with the unlikely alliance between Russia and North Korea. Together they destroyed a UN fleet in the Pacific on a peacekeeping mission. Jared and Dalia had enlisted the next day before the President declared War. The country needed able-bodied troops, and they didn’t hesitate to do their part even though they were in their mid-thirties. They both had a strong sense of patriotism even as the United States had become more or less united in name only. Several states had seceded from the Union but remained friendly.
The two happened to be stationed in Southern California, a hotbed of early action. North Korea began sending wave after wave of drone missions from carriers off the coast. That kept Jared busy as a Private in the 343rd.
Dalia was a part of the ground forces that won the Battle of Chula Vista. It was the site of the first landing of foreign soldiers on American soil in hundreds of years, and the Russians lost severely there. They gambled on intelligence which led them to believe Chula Vista and most of Southern California was a weak point. In fact, that false intelligence (planted by the Allies) had the desired effect of seeing how far the Russians and North Koreans were willing to go. Both countries suffered from this grave mistake, but neither surrendered.
Dalia was wounded at Chula Vista in an action that won her the Congressional Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart. She crossed Silver Strand Beach for several hours under heavy fire, dragging wounded to the rear with no regard for her injuries or safety. Having secured the soldiers, she stormed back down the beach alone and against orders.
A reporter later quoted one of the injured soldiers that heard Dalia say, “Not done yet,” as she headed back out.
She went back into the line of enemy fire, lobbing grenades at one of the heavily reinforced gun positions. They detonated just after she took two grazing hits to her vest that sent her sprawling. Battered but undeterred, she crawled to the next enemy bunker, inch by inch, over the following fifteen minutes under a baking sun. The intrepid soldier mounted an assault by slipping through a side opening and clearing it of the enemy while taking a direct strike to her left leg. That bullet left her with a permanent limp. She exited the reinforced enclosure with the smell of burnt cordite and crawled forward along the beach. A trail of blood colored the sand as she continued along a depression. Dalia destroyed the final gun position with her last grenade a moment before passing out from dehydration and blood loss. With the path now clear, another squad bounded forward. Upon finding her face down in the sand, they loaded her onto a litter and shuttled Dalia to the rear. The rest of the platoon surged ahead and secured a dominant location on the beach. This new strategic advantage turned the tide of the battle.
Jared also fought at the battle of Silver Strand, but he did it from the confines of a Mobile Drone Command Vehicle a mile away. It was a tricked-out Armed Personnel Carrier that could launch hundreds of drones simultaneously. Each drone had different capabilities. Some could rain 7.62mm rounds at close to 1,000 per minute, returning to the Carrier for reloading when needed. Others dropped grenades and higher-powered explosives with pinpoint precision.
What made the drones themselves most valuable was the invention of Active Dynamic Camouflage. Even if the enemy heard them, it was already too late. The bottom of the death machines mirrored the sky above. The drones reflected a brilliant, clear blue sky on that bright, sunny day at Chula Vista. The enemy’s only clue about where the flying machines were was hellfire pouring from the heavens.
The Russians tracked Jared’s vehicle as it moved to support the mission where Dalia was pinned down. They launched a short-range missile that struck the armored beast and brought it to a standstill. The explosion started a fire that took out its communications system. The drones noted the loss of their base and switched the comm link to a backup vehicle further away. Jared and his team scrambled out, lucky to escape burning alive.
Weeks after the battle, Dalia was finally released from the hospital. Jared had been by her side as much as possible. Having come close to losing each other, they talked about starting a family once they could go home. She’d need physical therapy to help her walk again and reduce the limping as much as possible. Jared helped with her recovery, which was frustrating for Dalia, who had always been independent. Reluctantly she consented to be cared for. They caught up on old movies to pass the time between therapy sessions.
Both Dalia and Jared had an interest in martial arts. Dalia had studied Aikido, a Japanese style, and Jared practiced Mixed Martial Arts. Many of their movie choices reflected this. Karate Kid, Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, The Matrix, Rashomon, Enter the Dragon, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and their retro cult favorite, The Hunted. On one of the many rewatchings of The Hunted, Dalia proclaimed if they were to have a girl, she wanted to name her Kirina, after Joan Chen’s portrayal of the fearless character. Jared loved the idea and added that if they had a boy, he would like to name him Takeda, after Yoshio Harada’s depiction of the unwavering samurai. Dalia loved that idea too.
Baby Takeda, Tak for short, was born almost a year to the day after Dalia and Jared married. She’d planned on making a career in the military, but from the moment she saw Tak, that all changed. It changed for Jared as well. He hadn’t been as dead set on a military career but figured it was the best thing for their relationship. Now that her mind had changed and he had a little one to live for, he felt differently.
Dalia’s injury made it necessary for her to take a desk job. She took it gladly, happy for the change of pace and simplicity of work that was less life or death. Takeda would spend the day in base daycare until she or Jared could come to pick him up.
It was at this new desk job she got a call that changed her life. Jared had been ‘killed in a training accident’ that morning. That’s how matter-of-factly it was related to Dalia. Her ears filled with high-pitched screaming. She wondered where that sound was coming from until blacking out from the exertion.
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Next week in Chapter 7 “Deja vu” Chimera meets Takeda, again?