He turned up the volume of the TV, as the news was about to start. He quickly humped into the kitchen and grabbed the half-empty bottle of juice standing on the counter. He humped back to his old leather chair and climbed on it. His stumps were sore and itchy again, so he took out the lotion after he filled his glass with the juice and had taken a sip.
He was half-consciously watching the news while massaging and creaming his two stumps. Afterward, he had to do it for his arms; they were the most irritated after using the prosthesis for the entire day.
The young Russian news show host was coming into sight and greeted the viewers with the usual phrase. He still remembered when the term was used to swear loyalty to the country; now, it had become more of a greeting than anything else. He was about to take off his first prosthesis, but his attention shifted to the TV. Something important was about to be announced.
The text was clear and bold, and a red news bulletin was passing on the bottom of the screen, translating the news into English, Mandarin, and several other languages. He only needed to see the first few words to understand what was going on.
They were sending out troops. But not just a few. It was a full out war. Thousands of miles away in a foreign country that most had never heard of. They were mobilizing the reserve.
His phone was starting to turn on fire. Notifications were popping up by the second. This was not only big news; this had also been kept secret up to this point. Nobody was expecting this move. Even though he had lots of old contacts in the military and international connections, none mentioned anything. Even social media had no clue about it.
He turned on his laptop and synched it with his phone. Now he could see all the messages organized. The messages all had the same theme: confusion and panic. He logged into the website that was used anonymously by him and several other veterans and insiders. It was a secure server outside of government jurisdiction that deleted all messages a few minutes after being posted. He was not the first to log in, but nearly all of the 82 members were online over the next few minutes.
They were posting quick polls to keep the information organized. None of them were aware of the news beforehand. A third was going to leave the country within the next week. He counted himself to be one of them.
They all remembered what happened the last time. All the people who were openly criticizing the government and condemning the war had disappeared one by one. The government had confiscated their belongings; they were openly accused of supporting the opposition and leaking information. They had been arrested, and nobody could find them after the war. It was easy to understand what the government had done; it had done way worse in the past.
He checked his social media. His feeds were blowing up, and he received lots of messages within the minute. After he had lost all his limbs and part of his torso in the war a few decades ago, he had become a public figure. His speeches had been seen all over the world, and tens-of-thousands were following him on social media. He was a clear target.
He was known worldwide, so he was too big to get rid of, but they would torture him and keep him under house arrest till people would forget about him or he’d kill himself. They were usually counting on the ladder.
He switched back to the forum and pinged several of his foreign contacts. He only knew most of them by their aliases, but they were higher-ups in foreign governments. He could not share his full identity, but he requested asylum for a grade 3 VIP in their country. The first of the three immediately responded. Five people had contacted him about it in the past few minutes. He would get back to him ASAP. The other two had not responded yet, so he got to work.
It was a pain having to sort and pack using only arm prosthetics. He ended up throwing everything that he needed from his apartment on the floor, then he made another round with his large duffle bag and threw everything inside.
His phone pinged. It was his daughter living abroad. She got woken up in the middle of the night by emergency broadcasts. She asked him what he was going to do and if he would come to her. He told her that he could not get asylum in her country and that he was busy packing. He would contact her as soon as he could.
His friend Jim messaged him. Jim was part of the forum, but they also knew each other in person. He kept it short and precise.
„Car in 15, plane on standby. Leaving in 60. There will be five other. See you soon.”
Jim was part of an unofficial military branch that had prepared months for this moment. They were getting VIPs out of the country as fast as possible before they would be the first casualties. It was worse and earlier than they had expected, but they were prepared. They had several planes on standby all over the country and were now managing the logistics of getting all the VIPs to the locations.
He finished the rest of his juice after he had unplugged and turned off electricity and water. Maybe he would someday live here again. He got on the small electric scooter that was standing in the hallway. It was a custom build version with four wheels, a comfy seat, and a place for luggage. He speeded down the hallway and got in the elevator. He wanted to take the scooter with him, but he did not know if they would allow it.
A black SUV turned up in front of his house. A bold, muscular man got out and jogged towards him.
“Jim is missing his sheep.”
“I haven’t shaved since 9/11.”
Those were the passphrases. The man picked up the scooter while he was still sitting in it and carried them into the trunk of the car, then grabbed him and took him to his seat. The bold man seemed weirdly familiar with this situation.
“Did somebody teach you how to handle amputees? You were more considerate than all the people the government had sent out over all these years.”
The bold man was checking his mirrors, then started to drive.
“I had to care for my mother several years before she died.”
They were silent on the way to the airport. The raindrops started to hit. It had been 48 years now since he came back from war. He had been hit by a grenade close by, and his arms and legs were torn into pieces. They had managed to take him back to a doctor and did immediately amputee his arms and legs. He could not say if it were necessary to amputee all of it. He could only remember pain, confusion, constant screaming, and morphine flowing through his body. A few years after he had adjusted himself to his new life, he became more public about it. It helped him to accept and gain closure.
After he became prosthetics for his arms, he had started to write on his blog and social media. He shared his story and experiences how it was to kill people and then get torn apart himself. The changes he had to experience, but also the changes he had caused. The people he had killed had families as well. They had wives, kids, parents.
It always made him tear up when he thought about it. The memory of a young man came to his mind. He had shot and wounded him in his chest. He was slowly dying while he had to stay in cover next to him. He had begged him to kill him several times, taking the barrel of his gun and pointing it at his head. In the end, he had taken his hand and was squeezing it as hard as he could. Even after the man had died, it took him a while to loosen his grip and move on. The man had no family picture or dog tag on him, which made it even worse.
After he went public, he became a popular guest on TV and an influencer on the internet. While at first, it was only his story, he had found himself more and more advocating for peace. After all, we are the same; we only have different mindsets.
He had been calm and reserved in his approach, so nobody labeled him as an extremist, but that would not help him in front of the government.
They reached a small private airport. They got waved through and drove towards the small plane sitting on standby. He had never seen the other five that were standing outside the plane, but they all had seen him and seemed surprised. They looked like business people, not like people who would get arrested by the government. But he did not know and did not care at this moment.
He got out his laptop once they flew over the borders of the country. The rest of the world was waking up, and the news was spreading like wildfire. The next few months would be intense. He hoped for the best.