#ThursThreads Week 133 winner is…me.

ThursThreads MainV2

Since I’ve returned to writing full time I’ve wanted to get back into the mix by reconnecting with friends I’ve met on Facebook and Twitter. One of those is the paranormal romance author Siobahn Muir. Every Thursday Siobahn hosts the #ThursThreads challenge, and this week I was able to submit an entry. I thought my 250 word entry was strong, but I didn’t think it would win over the 17 other talented entries. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done flash fiction so imagine my surprise to find that I had won.

I’d like to thank George Varhalmi for judging, and for Siobahn for hosting the weekly challenge. Below is the story that was submitted. Please forgive me but I feel Rod Serling trying to break through for an intro.

Submitted for your approval, a company of Russian soldiers, men and women dedicated to keeping the peace in the midst of a rebel uprising. But one can’t summarily dismiss the enemy combatants as mere rebels. Especially when the remote outpost borders the Twilight Zone.

“What the hell is he up to?” said Mikhail, watching Sergei walk his post along the perimeter fence. Sergei paused to tug on a section of wire fence. “Stupid’s been doing that for two hours. He walks his post, pauses, and pulls at that section before continuing on.”

“Maybe that’s his escape route.” Lipa peered at Sergei with her scoped AK74. “Perhaps I should do something about it.” She trusted the new transfer as much as Mikhail. “Maybe he’s a rebel sapper.”

Mikhail’s reply was cut off by explosions and gunfire from the base’s west end. “Contact, western sector,” cried their radios. “Rebels armed with RPGs and… Shi-”

Mikhail and Lipa watched their sector. Sergei stood watching them, smiling. A Russian military truck plowed through the fence. Figures leapt from the truck, opening fire as they landed.

“He’s a rebel,” cried Lipa. She fired and Sergei fell. “And that was that,” she spat. She looked to Mikhail, but he was dead.

Lipa sprinted and was almost to her position when something landed on her, knocking her unconscious.

It was nighttime when she awoke. She’d been tied naked, and spread eagle to the ground, illuminated by a spotlight.

“Don’t struggle,” said a voice beyond the light.

Lipa struggled.

“You won’t be raped,” said Sergei, stepping into the light.

“I killed you.”

“Bullets are now ineffective.” His mouth, hands, and uniform were bloody.

“What are you, monster?”

“Dear, clichéd Lipa. You don’t know a damn thing about me.”

And that was that.

 

All content on this page is copyrighted and sole property of author Jason McKinney and cannot be used without permission of Jason McKinney. Images have been used with permission from owner, and cannot be reused without permission of author Siobhan Muir.

 

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Help me spread the word…

This is me. Left outside in the cold. Again.

This is me. Left outside in the cold. Again.

Because the world needs my destructive help.

Have you heard the joke about the husband telling his friends that if he did this or that or the other then his wife would have sex with him again? I’m sure you’ve heard something like it. Well that’s not my problem or what this blog post is about. Not exactly at least. I’ll explain in a moment.

A couple of weeks ago were-fan vargulfen commented on my post, I’ve stepped in it again, that I should give Indiegogo a shot in raising funds for my writing. I’ve been mulling that suggestion over since then and I’ve come to a decision; I’ll do it.

Kickstarter was a bust for me. It flopped because I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved and I was in a pretty crappy mental place when I started it. Now I’m in a better place; a more hopeful place. So that’s why the opening sentence in this post is a link. The link is to my Indiegogo crowdfunding project. Since I’ve left my job I can concentrate on writing, but that takes some backing in some areas. Those areas for me are editing and cover art.

I have friends that can, and have done what they could, for little to nothing, but they have full-time jobs and families, and sometimes I fall through the cracks through no fault of their own. It happens.

The target of my crowdfunding is Werewolves of the Dead. I started this about three years ago, and got halfway through before I had to return to a full-time job. Werewolves of the Dead fell to the wayside and to the demands of Dog World: Gone to Hell. That cost me the greatest beta reader I could ever hope to have; my wife, Tabitha.

Once I pushed WotD aside in favor of DW:GtH she swore she wouldn’t read anything I wrote until I finished Werewolves of the Dead. It’s been three years, and she’s held to that promise. That woman wasn’t kidding in the slightest. “It’s the best thing you’ve written yet,” she said. “Go back to it. Because let me tell you, I’m not reading anything until you finish Werewolves of the Dead.” I asked if she were joking, to which she replied, “Try me.” I told her she was bluffing. “Nope. I’m not going to read anything until you finish that. I’m telling you it’s the best thing you’ve ever done. You’ve done good, great, and shit. This is the greatest. Now finish it.” I scoffed. She didn’t back down one bit. The only things I write that she takes the time to read these days is the occasional grocery list or email. Like I said, she wasn’t kidding.

So now I have picked up were I left off on Werewolves of the Dead. More accurately I am going over what has been written to refresh the story. She’s right. It is good. It’s goddamned good.

So, I would forever be in your debt if you could find it in your heart to spread the word or donate a little to the kitty. Whatever you do, even if it’s just reading this blog, know that I do thank you for your time. And I should mention that there are incentives in it for those that do. If you’ve visited my Indiegogo page then you understand what I mean when I say that I am dying to wear a zombie chicken outfit.

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Hell yeah werewolves are fucking awesome!

Dog_World__Gone_to_H_Cover_for_Kindle

That’s right. Werewolves, lycanthropes, skin walkers, changelings, whatever you choose to call them, are goddamned, fucking awesome like nothing else can be. They’re not even second to zombies, and I love a good zombie tale. Let’s face it, werewolves can’t be beat.

Even as I write this, I’m listening to The Killers’ All These Things That I’ve Done, and the creative juices are flowing. Bear with me, please. I left my job yesterday to return to writing so I’m still all cracked out on my joy-gasm. Yeah, that’s right; I’m off the chain and out of my whole damn mind… again.

So earlier last week I reached out to my Facebook fans and asked what attracted them to werewolves in the first place. It’s a fair question that demands an answer. If not demands, then maybe it’s asking nicely with a bit of gnashing teeth and grasping claw for emphasis.

My lycan buddy and Dog World Grand Poobah, Antonio Jones, said he’d get back to me about that. He’s a true lycan aficionado, and needed much time to think on it. He still hasn’t gotten back to me. lol

Janet Sked, fellow author and all around best friend, points out that , They’re fast, tough, & don’t suffer any of the miserable little diseases that make life painful.” She nailed it there. Anyone that has seen a werewolf film, good or bad, or read any piece of werewolf fiction will know that lycanthrope are some terrible mothers to put down. Their resistance to damage or illness has always been a big drawing factor to me. Matter of fact, I’m returning to finishing my novel, Werewolves of the Dead to see how tough they really are. A word about Janet before we move on; she’s a top notch writer and illustrator. She’s given me no-BS assessments on everything I’ve written. Aside from Tabitha, no other person has said flat out, “All due respect, mate, but this is utter shit. You can do better. Now give us a hug, love.”

Facebook friend and fan, Terry Lane, says, Werewolves are the bridge between our animal and human natures. They are other, and they are us.” That’s a true statement. No matter how far up on the evolutionary chain we may be, we’re still no different in the pack mentality than wolves. The only difference between us and wolves is that wolves don’t turn on each other for shits and giggles. That’s just my take on that at least.

Stuart Conover, fellow author and editor of BuyZombie.com.. Tails wagging.. Panting.. Totally docile killing machines” This may or may not upset lycanthrope enthusiasts. For me, it made me laugh. Stuart is a zombie fanatic. No, that’s wrong. He’s a zombie super-fanatic, and a great guy to boot. He and Angelica Hill gave Memoirs of the Walking Dead: A story from the zombie’s point of view a chance when a lot of people wouldn’t. Even if he hadn’t I still would have laughed at his comments. Thanks, Stuart.

But my favorite comment PERIOD is Dog World Super Mistress Supreme Diane Hershfield saying, How can you not love werewolves? The perfect lifeform- and such badasses!” Too right, Diane! They are the perfect life form and are total unstoppable badasses! This reasoning, and Diane’s devotion to animals, is why she is in the top of my werewolf fan list.

I’ve received a lot of comments on this post, the majority of which came in Facebook private messages rather than public Facebook comments. I used only the public Facebook comments for this post. I’m assuming, that the message was meant to be private so I held those back in confidence. I know someone is reading this and thinking, or even saying aloud, “to assume is to make an ass of you and me.” Well, let me say this, I can make an ass of myself with out any assistance from anyone. My wife will tell you I’ve been doing it on my own since 1975.

Thanks for reading, all, and I’ll be back next week with a post delving into the zombie side of love. Stay delicious, my living peeps.

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I’ve stepped in it again…

DWGTH

And this time on purpose.

And this time with familial support.

And this time on purpose.

I know, I know. I said “and this time on purpose” twice. That’s because I’m found of doing daring (and often times dangerous) things on purpose more than once.

I’ve submitted my resignation from my full-time, 9 to 5 job to return to writing. For the past almost two years I’ve been working full-time outside of the home as a normal, grunt-type office drone, and for a year I enjoyed it. Until my writing went from everyday on lunch, and hitting it hard on weekends to once a week and spending weekends recharging from the work week, to having not written a word in seven months. Okay, I did write within that seven month period, but it was utter shit. By utter shit I mean it was unworthy to be in the Dog World universe and was more or less torture porn with no real heart or story. Even Tale of an Undead Pussy…Cat (a novel centered entirely Charlotte the Undead Feline from Memoirs of the Walking Dead) fell apart like a cheap paper towel at a Southern barbecue. In short, my writing sucked balls. A few chapters of Charlotte’s story need to be deleted and the hard drive possibly burned, and over 60 pages of Dog World: Reclaiming Hell Pt 1 need to be given a lava bath as to never see the light of a metaphorical printed page. The shit was not bad. It was hell-yeah-that-shit-is-fucking-rotten kind of bad.

I’ve been miserable at this job for almost a year. We moved to a new location far enough from my home that we’re loosing money we can’t afford to lose, and yada, yada, yada, a bunch of other stuff I can’t really reveal because we, employees and company, have a nondisclosure agreement with the NSA (that’s right; National Security Agency), blah blah treason if mentioned, and here I am. I turned in my two weeks notice. My supervisor saw it coming, I was so miserable.

But it’s done, and soon I will be returning to the world of writing full-time. I’m already feeling the rusted gears of my mind starting to turn again. The day I put in my resignation I did something that I’d been putting off for over two months; putting Dog World: Gone to Hell up for sale in paperback. Yeah, that’s how unmotivated I was. Oh, and if you head over to take a look at the new DW, try to ignore that lonesome 5 star review. It makes absolutely no sense to me or anyone that I can think of.

With my returning motivation I will be posting more and returning to the twitterverse, Facebook, etc in the next couple of weeks. It also gives me a chance to reconnect with people like my friends over at PromoteHorror.com, and ilovewerewolves.com I hope they do reconnect with me.

In the mean time, I’m going to be posting more often on the blog, and I’m now open for short story commissions, interviews, and the occasional entertaining at a children’s birthdays. I do an awesome balloon Cthulhu.

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Dog World: Reclaiming Hell – Chapter One rough draft

Hello, all! As some, if not all, of you know I’ve been working on the next book to Dog World, and Dog World: Gone to Hell. For those of you who have been wondering what happens next at the end of book 2, you’ll love this post. For those of you who have never read the Dog World series of atrocities against everything clean, decent, and moral, click on the titles above, buy the books, and prepare to be horrified.

Below is a very rough draft of Chapter One. I haven’t had time to clean it up as much as it deserves, but the spirit to release this morsel just won’t leave me be. I hope you enjoy it.

Oh, and as an aside. I received what I believe to be my most favored new review on Amazon. R. Wertz wrote:

“This is one of the weirdest books I have ever read. Imagine our Earth invaded by werewolves and you don’t know who is human and who is Lycan. Not to give it way but the end is a genuine cliff hanger. Read it, enjoy it and then say: What the hell just happened?”

As a wise member of The IT Crowd once said, “I like being weird. Weird’s all I’ve got. That and my sweet style.” Well, I am weird. I’ve never denied that, and I’ve definitely got some sweet style. Again, thanks for stopping by, for reading, and for hopefully enjoying.

Dog World

Reclaiming Hell

 

Jason McKinney

 

For Tabitha with love. You made me do this after all, and now the world must suffer.

 

Chapter One

 

“What the hell did you expect?” screamed Demarti, kicking Bernerd in the side. The British soldier had been receiving Demarti’s abuse for the past several hours. Neither man knew how long they had been at “interrogation” and neither cared.

Demarti lifted Bernerd’s head by his shaggy hair and stared into the puffy and bloody face. “So tell me exactly what you were expecting, Leftenant.” Bernerd tried to twist his face away from Demarti. Demarti instead pushed it aside in disgust. “I was sure you’d all fracture and go your separate ways, but no, you had to come on anyway. I can’t believe you followed that screw up jarhead and come here. Did you really think you had a shot after you forced me out? Did you think you could sort shit out?” Demarti wasn’t happy with the answers he had been getting, which were none at all. He had started out wanting to know exactly what they had been doing after he left, and had somehow degenerated to brutality for its own sake.

Bernerd’s puffy lips parted and a bloody cough tore from his throat.

“What was that, Ian? I didn’t catch it.”

Demarti leaned an ear to Bernerd’s mouth. Even in human form he wasn’t worried about Bernerd getting brave considering the beating he had been taking.

“Don’t want… fresh…hell.” Bernerd coughed and something that could have been a clot flew from his mouth. “More…” He coughed again. “More like…reclaiming hell from you… bastards.”

“Another fine example of balls of British steel,” Demarti scoffed, punching Bernerd’s throat.

Bernerd fought for breath as Demarti called for a guard.

“Get this back to its cell. I want the woman.”

“Sir,” said the guard cautiously. “General Vance has left us with orders to not leave you alone with Chief Walinski.”

“Not her, you fucktard,” bellowed Demarti angrily. “The bitch Mitchell. Bring her to me. Now!”

The guard eyed Demarti coldly. Demarti stepped up to him and growled deep within his throat. “Now, not later.”

“Yes, sir. Corporal Stannard, give me a hand with the prisoner.”

The guards left with Demarti and five minutes later they returned with Mitchell. The guard that had been insulted treated her respectfully not because she was a lycan or a female, but because he wanted to piss Demarti off.

Demarti didn’t take the bait. “Very good. Dismissed.”

“Sir-”

“Dismissed,” Demarti repeated with a snarl. “Not the reunion I expected, but I’ll take what I can get,” he said once the door was closed and locked.

He moved two chairs from a corner and helped her into one.

Mitchell’s hands were handcuffed and Demarti made no moves to take them off, even when she asked about it.

“I love you, but that doesn’t mean that I trust you.” He sat in the chair backwards and studied her. “You’re looking good, all things considered.”

“Making you was the worst thing I’ve ever done,” Mitchell said, glaring.

“Really?” He grinned slyly at her I saw it as a chance for us to be together without worry about any lycanthropic complications.”

“What I did was against nature’s morality, and my own.”

“In the name of love,” crooned Demarti. Seeing Mitchell had put him into a strange mood and a brief thought of atonement flashed through him.

“No atonement on the menu for you, buddy,” said Not-Kunpai suddenly. “I don’t think our girl her is up to forgiveness today.”

Demarti’s face soured. Mitchell saw it and her eyes narrowed.

“Something wrong, Major Demarti? Am I not responding the way you would like?”

“You fucked him, didn’t you?” barked Demarti in Mitchell’s face.

“What? What are you talking about?”

Demarti’s right open hand lashed out, striking her in the face. “You know damned well what I’m talking about. You screwed Kunpai.”

Mitchell’s head rang and her vision was alive with brilliant multicolored flashes of light. She rolled her tongue inside her mouth. The bitter copper taste of blood washed over it. “Never should’ve-”

Demarti struck her again, backhanded. “Answer me!”

“Dude,” said Not-Kunpai reproachfully. “I’d remember if she did. I seriously don’t think-”

“Shut up, asshole,” screamed Demarti. He grabbed Mitchell by her shoulders hard enough to rattle her handcuffs. “Did you or did you not have sex with him?”

“What does that have to do with anything.” Mitchell’s voice sounded hoarse to her and at the end the words had a bubbling feel from the blood trickling into her throat. She spat a bloody wad into Demarti’s face and screamed no shrilly.

“Cheap bitch,” roared Demarti. He drew his fist back and delivered a blow to her nose, breaking it and sending her and her chair backwards. She rolled limply away from it unconscious.

“Wake up,” bellowed Demarti, dragging Mitchell to her feet by her hair. “Wake up and see what you have coming.”

Demarti struck her again and again until her face swelled and bleed as did his fists.

“You need to stop, buddy,” said Not-Kunpai unemotionally. “You’re going to kill her. None of my business, but hey, whatever gets you off I suppose.”

“I told you to shut your mouth!” Demarti turned his head to face Not-Kunpai in time to see two of Vance’s enforcers rush into the room. One of them ran through Not-Kunpai as easily as a blue jay through the morning air. They had their batons out and weren’t shy about using them. It took them and two others to get Demarti to release Mitchell.

“You’re afraid of the real me,” said Not-Kunpai in a contemplative voice. “Yeah. That’s it. You’re afraid of the real me.” Not-Kunpai began whistling a familiar tune before breaking out into the familiar words. ”Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf,” he sang, following the soldiers as they dragged Demarti from the interrogation room. “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?”

“Not if I’m eating his face,” raged Demarti. “Not if I’m eating his mother fucking face!”

“Damn, dude,” mumbled Not-Kunpai mockingly. “You’re cracked.”

 

***

 

In his office Vance watched Demarti’s out burst on the 62 inch plasma screen TV mounted across the room. His eyes narrowed and lips pursed as he studied the guards’ reactions. Each of the three took a collective step away and eyed Demarti with a mix of contempt and alarm. If Vance could have seen Not-Kunpai he would have agreed before having both men shot. But Demarti was still useful up until the time the remainder of Demarti’s party was captured and then killed.

“Goddamn pup is certified bat shit nuts.”

He changed the view to include a frame work of various feeds from other detention cells. Sims sat in his cell; legs crossed and appeared to be meditating. Vance thought the act was “faggy” at least. He hadn’t known what to expect from Sims, but he hadn’t expected him meditating like a limp dicked Tibetan.

Mitchell hadn’t been returned to her cell, but was placed in Bernerd’s. Lewis was shoved in a moment later with a first aid kit to treat the wounded British soldier. Vance knew he could count on them to form an escape plan to amuse him and the guards.

Tan and Walinski were kept across from one another. Tan had been pacing her cell for hours. Vance had no idea if she were going stir crazy or taking stock of her cell, looking for a weak point. “Titanium reinforced concrete doesn’t have a noticeable weak point, you daffy bitch,” he muttered turning his attention to Walinski.

Walinski was being kept under closer scrutiny than the others. An hour before she’d been bound and gagged Hannibal Lecter style. She’d put up a struggle earlier, breaking some ribs of one guard and the nose and jaw of two others, but it was her singing that had gotten her retrained. Dolly had taken to defiantly belting out alternating renditions of the English and German versions of Lili Marleen. The guards had less tolerance for Dolly’s screeching shrillness than her hand to hand confrontations.

Vance regarded her coldly. He couldn’t wait to start on her. It was going to be amusing to see what made her so intuitive. Breaking her spirit was also an added bonus. But first things were first.

He picked up his phone and toggled the duty NCO. “Sergeant Yamara. Send ‘Major’ Demarti to me ASAP.”

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Image

Hey hey, my lycan fiends and zombie-philes! It’s been a while, but it’s time to post some good news to those who haven’t heard yet. Effective last Monday, Dog World: Gone to hell is available for Kindle. I know I’m more than a year overdue, but it’s finally out! I want to give a special thanks to my friends that have helped and are continuing to help; Janet Sked, Gretchen Stull, and Kriss Morton. I don’t know what I would have done without these three! Visit the link below if you feel inclined to give it a look. I know I’d appreciate it, and I bet Karl Vance and the rest of the Dog World universe would too. There might even be a limited edition Vance bendy straw in it for you. ;-)

http://www.amazon.com/Dog-World-Gone-Jason-McKinney-ebook/dp/B00JSJRDT0/ref=la_B004T4LOSK_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1398380264&sr=1-6

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Dog World: Gone to Hell Lucky number 13

Chapter Thirteen

“Vitals are dropping,” yelled Sutton as the gurney carrying Demarti was rushed down the hallway. “We’ll lose him if we don’t get into the OR now!”

Two medics rushed alongside them, barking for those in the way to make a hole.

Demarti was bleeding profusely; the dark red flow appeared to have no end.

They burst into the underground operating room. The bright fluorescent lighting made everything about Demarti’s condition appear worse.

“You don’t need to be here, Cameron,” said Jeanue, taking her by her blood-covered hands. “Wait outside, okay?”

“I want to be here.”

“I know. I also know you want to make a difference topside. They’re going to need all the guns they can get right now.”

Mitchell considered Jeanue’s words. They held more than a little truth. She knew she would only be in the way. “Right. You’re right. I’ll go topside.” She squeezed Jeanue’s left shoulder, before moving away from the doors.

Jeanue disappeared through the OR doors.

Inside, Sutton and another surgeon had cut away Demarti’s ACU jacket and were swabbing the wound.

Jeanue paused, staring at the surreal scene. It seemed somehow impossible that she was about to assist in the operation of saving another friend.

“Piss or get off the pot,” Sutton called to Jeanue. “If you’re just going to stand there then you need to either get to work or grab a gun and fight. Pick one.”

Jeanue snapped to immediately. She cleaned her hands, grabbed a surgical smock and then cleaned her hands again. A nurse assisted her with putting gloves on, and she took a position beside Sutton.

“What do you need me to do?” asked Jeanue.

“Make sure the incision stays clear for starters. We were able to stabilize his vitals and stop the bleeding but the trick is getting the bullet out.”

“You’re a neurosurgeon, why are you doing this?”

“I started out assisting in spinal injuries before I went into neurosurgery, and my eyesight’s better than anyone here.”

Sutton probed the wound. “Found it,” she declared. “Wipe my forehead please, Maggie. This would’ve been so much easier if we had x-rays.”

Someone knocked at the door. Jeanue turned to see Kunpai’s serious face peering through. “It’s Omi.”

“Get rid of him,” snapped Sutton. “We don’t have time to deal with concerned people.”

Jeanue went to the door and Kunpai opened it for her. He was accompanied by two soldiers that stood in the opposite room. An olive drab case marked Rifle, Individual, M4A1, along with three ammo cans sat between the soldiers. She eyed the containers with a fearful eye. “Sutton wants you gone,” she said pulling her eyes to Kunpai’s. “Whatever you have to say better be said in a minute or less.”

“Vance has brought armor to the fight. What tanks we have are engaging them.” Kunpai fell quiet for a moment. “We don’t know if we can hold him off. Roaches have breached the interior and we’re tied up between maintaining the perimeter and engaging them. Vance has air support, too. We’ve got Hornets inbound from Coffer Airfield. Their ETA is five minutes.”

Jeanue was incredulous. “We’re in danger of being overrun?”

Kunpai cast his eyes away. “Look, I’ve brought weapons. If push comes to shove you’ll have to fight your way out.”

“I can’t bring those into the OR,” she protested.

“And you can’t afford to leave them out here either.” He turned to one of soldiers. “Private, uncrate the rifles. Lock and load each one.”

“Now see here, Omi -”

“No, you see here, Colonel. We’re fighting for our survival now, and if we get overrun I don’t know if we can come for you. You have wounded besides Paul. You take these damn weapons or I’ll take them into that room for you.” Kunpai wasn’t kidding.

Jeanue looked at the OR doors and then back to Kunpai. “Obviously there’s no getting rid of your toys so take them in, but stay out of everyone’s way and don’t stop to…ogle things. Open the crate first, and then place it at the far wall, and stack the magazines on top of them. In and out, that’s all you’ll do.”

“Do as she says,” ordered Kunpai. They quietly and quickly moved past Jeanue and Kunpai. They performed their task in a matter of seconds.

“This makes me feel a bit better, Maggie.”

“Is it really that bad?”

“Vance has a hard on for that Collins guy. He means to get him.”

“Let him come,” warned Jeanue. She returned to the OR, leaving Kunpai and the soldiers alone. Silently they left for the battle that raged above.

Sutton had removed the bullet in the time that she’d talked to Kunpai, and was currently closing the wound. The deformed projectile lay in a sterile solution, trailing red streamers as the antiseptic worked its cleaning magic.

“Why’d you let them bring guns into the OR?” Sutton cast a harsh glance at Jeanue. “They broke a clean environment to bring in a case that undoubtedly contains dust and multiple germs. Not the brightest idea you’ve ever had, Maggie.”

“Omi says that we’re in danger of being overrun.” Jeanue’s voice was flat and sounded tired. Her words caused everyone to stop what they were doing.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” inquired a male nurse.

“It means exactly what it means,” answered Jeanue. “Vance has tanks and aircraft out there. Better pray he doesn’t have bunker busters or we’re screwed.”

Sutton growled. Most eyes in the room went wide and to her. “Out-fucking-standing. The only way we find out that Vance is here is by getting Paul sent to us with a bullet in him, which leads to us being told that the literal wolves really are at the gate. And now they tell us he’s got tanks. Can this day get any better?”

“What’s his status?” asked Jeanue, changing the subject.

“He’ll live. We have plenty of his blood type on hand so that’s a blessing. As far as walking goes… it’s 50/50. If Vance’s people breach then it won’t matter either way. He’ll never realize he’s dead until he’s meeting St. Peter.”

“Get his transfusion going,” ordered Jeanue. “Christ, get a freaking poodle to donate if you have to. I don’t care what you do, I just want him well.” Jeanue ripped off her surgical gloves and smock and threw them into a bio-waste can. She only stopped to snatch up a loaded M4. “If anyone wants to help set up a defensive perimeter in the hall they’re more than welcome to join me.”

Jeanue stuffed spare magazines into her pockets before checking the rifle’s chamber. It had been loaded and she caught the round before it hit the floor. Her dexterity surprised her more than anyone else.

A male nurse followed Jeanue’s example. He stripped off his surgical gear, picked up a rifle, three magazines, and offered to move any patients quartered near the entrances.

Jeanue didn’t answer the nurse. She spoke only to Sutton. “Patch him up. We’ll be down the hall if you need us.”

She exited the OR, briefly wondering if she had made the right decision in picking up a weapon. In the end she knew it be the right call. If Vance breached the building he would kill her just as surely as he would anyone else he found on the floor.

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Dog World: Gone to Hell Chapter Twelve

Chapter Twelve

 

Detrick was alive with activity. Civilians outside of shelter were ushered under cover to mess halls or to nearby underground facilities. Gunfire from somewhere on Detrick’s grounds punctuated the urgency for cover.

Hughes entered his quarters and hurriedly donned his boots and war gear. He was sure that battle would be close in and had armed himself with an M1087 automatic shotgun for his use. He snapped his helmet onto his head and picked up the shotgun.

Kunpai waited outside in Kunpai’s command vehicle. “All stations this net, all stations this net. Report status. Over,” he called into a handset handed to him by a radioman.

One by one the various outposts, sniper positions, and patrols called ready for action. Kunpai felt better in the knowledge that the troops were in a state of readiness. He hoped Hughes would feel the same.

A soldier ran to Hughes as he left his quarters and handed him a small stack of reports. He glowered at what he’d been given. “When did this happen?”

“Less than five minutes ago, sir. They overwhelmed Gate Two. We’ve secured the area. We have four KIA and three walking wounded.

“Shit.” He paused. “It’s all a diversion.” Hughes knew what was coming. He hoped that FortDetrick was prepared for it.

Hughes and the soldier stepped into the late afternoon sun, and looked for any vampires that might be nearby. Sporadic gunfire stuttered in various areas. He looked at the other reports. “Civilians were taken? How did this happen?”

“An unknown number of roaches overran a squad in route to their positions, sir. They’ve taken some of our people along with civilians.”

Hughes’ stride slowed as he read the reports. He grimaced as they moved toward his command vehicle. Belle waited in the driver seat and kept a watchful eye on Kunpai.

“Colonel Belle,” snapped Hughes coldly. “Secure a vehicle and break off a machine gun team. I want you to visually inspect the perimeter. Report any contact.”

“Yes, sir,” answered Belle.

“Gimme the radio,” said Hughes, sitting in a command Hummvee’s back seat. “All stations this net. All stations this net. Standby for sitrep.” He hurriedly looked through the papers once more. “Enemy elements have breached the perimeter and been verified as vampire in nature. Enemy is numbered between eighty and one hundred. Contacts are unarmed, but should be considered hostile. There have been casualties, and civilians have been taken along with three of our people. Do not engage if you are confronted by hostiles with hostages. I say again, do not engage if hostiles have friendlies mixed in. Contain them but do not agitate them. Hoo-Ah. Detrick Actual, out.”

A call came over Kunpai’s radio. It was Zellar. Her voice was tense, bordering on stressed.

“Say again,” said Kunpai leaning an ear toward the radio. “Copy that. Out.”

The sudden crump of detonating grenades and more gunfire mixed ominously with Hughes’ and Kunpai’s words. The noises of battle sounded closer than before.

Kunpai tapped Hughes’ shoulder and leaned toward him, whispering.

“All stations, all stations, standby.” Hughes looked at Kunpai. Disbelief crossed his face. “What? Where?”

“All stations, all stations. Do not engage new contacts in route to Gate Four! I say again, do not engage new contacts approaching Gate Four. All units on perimeter security secure your areas and stand by for further instructions.”

Kunpai whispered to Hughes once more.

Hughes was about to speak to Kunpai, but was interrupted by a call from Belle. Belle’s news confirmed Zellar’s.

“Mount up everyone,” called Hughes to the men and women.

The drive to Gate Four left the occupants of the Hughes’ vehicle wishing that the approaching column had been Demarti’s.

The unknown column had arrived and a number of soldiers had dismounted and taken firing positions three hundred meters away. A lone figure dressed in Army camouflage stood between the gate and the halted vehicles.

“They arrived a few minutes ago.” Mitchell gave the situation report. Mild agitation tinged her words. “They stopped at their current position and troops took up positions outside the perimeter. They’re being reined in well. No one’s fired a shot or given any Demands. I’m betting the bulk of their forces are here.” She cleared her throat. “He’s been standing out there alone since they got here.”

Hughes and Kunpai didn’t need binoculars to tell it was Vance that stood alone in the road.

Vance’s stance was akin to Clint Eastwood’s in one of his Man with No Name movies. His absolute arrogance outraged many at the gate. He stood in the open, defiantly daring anyone to shoot, though he knew no one would. It was fear of Vance that stayed the numerous trigger fingers, but Hughes’ order and the question of what repercussions Vance might have planned should happen if someone take the wrong initiative.

Zellar was one of many that itched to take a shot. “I can drop him easy, sir,” she said to Hughes, taking a prone position.

“Negative, Private. There’s a good chance you’re being sighted in, too.” Hughes smelled more trouble than he cared for. He knew the best Vance would offer FortDetrick in an attack was death for everyone within. The worst would be allowing the humans to remain alive with a select few lycans, such as him, left for torture.

Walinski and Tan jogged to Hughes and Kunpai. Tan raised her M4 to her shoulder. Looking through the scope she couldn’t believe Vance was there, leaving himself open for revenge.

Walinski felt his evil intentions burn into her mind. Behind her eyes, Dolly and Clarice vied to be released. The internal conflict for violent action was all together new to Walinski. Seldom did Clarice and Dolly agree on anything.

“Well?” asked Walinski impatiently. “What are we going to do?”

“We,” Hughes stressed the word, “aren’t going to do anything. I’m going to hear the man out.” Hughes’ eyes remained on Vance as he spoke.

“All due respect, General, but fuck talking,” blustered Dolly. “We have an opportunity here. Let’s not squander it…sir.”

“She’s right, General,” added Walinski.

“Suggestion noted, Chief. Now, until you’re in charge this is my call.” Hughes licked his lips. “What do you want, Shepherd?” Hughes’ yelled to Vance across the space between them.

Vance appeared to laugh before he began walking toward the gate.

“What’s he doing?” asked Kunpai, sighting his own weapon on Vance.

“I think he wants to talk, General.” Tan nearly said that she could talk fine with her weapon.

“Ka-pow,” whispered Zellar. She gave another mock squeeze of the trigger, and another ka-pow drifted from her lips. Her M16A4 was on safe. Still she uttered the word and squeezed the resistant trigger over and over again.

Hughes looked down to Zellar. As much as he wanted to order her to stop, he couldn’t. In theory, and in practice, he agreed with her. Still, he knew that even with her safety on there was a danger the rifle could discharge. “PFC Zellar. I’ve given out some promotions lately. How would like to become a Specialist?”

“You’ll make me an E4 if I shoot Vance?” she answered hopefully. She kept the scope to her eye, and spoke without looking at Hughes.

“No. I’ll make you an E4 if you don’t.”

“Thanks, but I’ll stay a PFC if that’s your deal, sir.” She uttered Ka-pow again, faking slight recoil with the pretend shot.

Hughes grunted. He’d come to like Zellar, mentally unbalanced or not.

“Hey, hey, Timmy boy,” called Vance jovially, stopping thirty feet from the gate. “Are you certain you have enough guns on me? You act like I’ve just killed the world or something.”

“What do you want, Shepherd?” Hughes spoke through gritted teeth, and thinned lips.

“Why are you using that name, Timothy?” growled Vance. The sound of his true name infuriated him.

 That’s your God-given birth name, isn’t it? Reginald Vancey Shepherd?” Hughes’ teeth unclenched as he taunted Vance.

“I’ve got a lost puppy in there. I’ve come to collect him. He’s so loved and I miss him so much. I’ll even pay you a finder’s fee.”

“Who are you referring to, Shepherd?”

Vance’s eyes narrowed. “Don’t play games you can’t afford to lose, Tim. You have my tech head traitor, and I want him back.”

“Or what? You’ll kill us if we don’t give him up? I don’t even know to whom you’re referring to.”

“Again with the games, Tim. You have Collins and I want him. I know you personally killed Rexler. That twat didn’t matter much anyway. I have to give you credit though. I never thought you’d put a bullet in her. Either way, we both know you have him.”

Hughes looked over his shoulder. “Lieutenant Colonel Kunpai. Do we have any new personnel on base?”

Kunpai joined Hughes. He didn’t like the Hughes’ game either. Why deny something that everyone knew to be true. Still, Kunpai forced himself to play along. “White guy, my height, kinda good looking? Let’s see, an Army captain and a lycan, right?” Kunpai momentarily played at giving it thought. “Nope. The description doesn’t ring any bells.” Omi Kunpai had said very few things that he regretted in life, and he regretted what he had just
said immediately. For someone that hated vicious games, he was certainly excelling at making a shit situation worse.

“Smartass lap pup, aren’t you?” Vance made a melodramatic show of smelling the air. “I smell newborn all over you, boy. I’ll gladly deal with you later. Tell me something. Had any cravings yet, Major? Oh wait. I see you’ve been promoted. How does it feel being the bitch? That’s right. You. A bitch. With cravings. They look tasty, don’t they?”

Kunpai bristled at the insult, but he contained his knee jerk reaction to defend himself against playground taunts.

“We have your boy,” said Hughes, breaking in, “and you can’t have him back. Finder’s keepers, Shepherd.”

“Oh, I couldn’t agree more.” Vance toggled a small hand held radio. “Bring ‘em,” he growled. “Remember what I said about playing a game you can’t afford to lose? You really should’ve just given me my dog back. I would’ve given you yours.”

It was a heart stopping moment. A military deuce and a half truck ground to a halt behind Vance. From the truck’s cargo bed came four of Vance’s soldiers, and three hooded prisoners.

Mitchell couldn’t help her change. It overtook her with all its pain and glory. “You son of a bitch! You goddamn mother fucking son of a bitch! I’ll fucking kill you!” She lunged forward but was restrained by Hughes, Kunpai, Walinski, and Tan.

Mitchell fought against them, viciously trying to get free. “You know who that son of bitch has! Let me go!” Tears stung her eyes and she fought against those as well.

“Who does he have?” screamed Walinski. “Calm down!”

Vance removed the hood from the first prisoner. Walinski’s heart froze before dropping to her feet. It was Demarti. “Oh Lord no,” she whispered.

Kunpai’s grip tightened on Mitchell’s midsection. A harsh low growl came from his throat. He could feel his own transformation spreading through his body. He snarled, “Let him go,” at Vance.

“Oh, ho. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I never knew Captain Demarti was both a ladies man and a man’s man. You swing both ways, Captain?”

Mitchell lurched forward, almost pulling Walinski and Tan off their feet.

Hughes asked for Mitchell’s forgiveness before bringing the grip of his Sig down against the back of her head.

Mitchell’s body relaxed as Walinski and Tan guided it to the ground. Kunpai stood erect, his lips drawn in, his hand tightening on the grip of his M4.

“What do you want?” asked Hughes. He kept the Sig pistol in hand, sorely tempted to shoot Vance where he stood. But to shoot might needlessly end lives.

“You always were either deaf or stupid, Tim.” Vance moved to the prisoners. “And behind door number two we have…” He pulled the hood away, revealing Sims. “And our next surprised guest is…” Lewis was underneath the last hood. “Give me what I want or I kill them in front of your eyes. Each and every one of them.”

Sims looked to Hughes. Anger and sadness filled his eyes. “Sorry, General. Bastard got the best of us.”

“Whoever he’s after, you keep them, sir,” spat Demarti. “Don’t give-“

Vance kicked Demarti in the back, knocking him to the ground. His hands were bound behind him and he couldn’t do anything as Vance fired his pistol.

Hughes didn’t blink, and was silent as Walinski, Tan and Zellar screamed “no” together.

“You have one hour, Timmy boy.” Vance spat on Demarti’s back. “Consider this a good faith payment.” He then ordered his men to load up and fall back. Sims and Lewis were loaded onto the deuce and a half. The truck made a Y turnaround and trundled back toward the other vehicles.

 

*******

 

It was only by chance that Vance had stumbled across Demarti’s column. He had smelled the odors of overworked engines, death, and blood fifteen minutes before coming across the bogged down vehicles. Vance had no idea what lay ahead though he was certain that he could make it work to his advantage.

The vehicle behind Demarti’s Hummvee reported an overhearing engine and that it needed to pull over for inspection. Demarti didn’t like the idea of stopping with less than an hour from Detrick.

He grudgingly called a halt. He knew the vehicle’s engine was in a bad way. Steam poured from under the hood and two soldiers stood over it, waving the hot fog away. The air stank of the sweet smell of boiling antifreeze and acrid burned oil.

“Good thing for me this happened, Captain,” remarked Charles from the passenger seat. “I could use the bathroom break.”

“Don’t stray far,” warned Demarti. “You’ll need an escort too.”

“I’ve got no problem with that.”

Demarti called for a soldier to escort him across the blacktopped highway. “Try not to be longer than ninety seconds, sir,” he called after them. He approached the crippled vehicle, inquiring if it could make it to Detrick.

“We can add more water, sir,” answered the vehicle’s driver, “but in ten minutes or less we’re going to be at it again,” He took a drink from a two quart canteen. Demarti knew that between men and machines overheating, he would always pick a machine over a man any day.

The engine was on beyond salvage, and Demarti knew that. “Understood. You men ride in the Piranha with the Marines. I know it’s crowded, but it beats the hell out of the alternative.”

He looked at the vehicle. It sat askew blocking the vehicle next in line. He was on his way to order the driver to drive it off the road when someone called out, “Hostiles, nine o’clock!”

“What?” exclaimed Demarti. From twenty meters away a rocket streaked out from the brush. It detonated against the Piranha’s wheels, sending burning shrapnel and rubber out wards. The blast pushed the vehicle halfway across the road. A second rocket followed the first. It struck the turret, destroying it before it had a chance to turn toward the incoming fire.

He searched for the female Daytons. His inability to find them melted his worry into fear. “Where’s the Daytons?” he yelled. “Anyone got eyes on the Daytons?”

Several soldiers answered with negative reports. The day had gone from shit to worse. The reason they were out in the boonies had vanished into thin air.

A soldier working the dead vehicle’s .50 caliber machine gun called out that he’d seen them moments after the shooting began. “The women ran off toward where the hubby went to piss. Past that, your guess is as good as mine, Cap’n!”

Demarti yelled obscenities as he broke cover from behind the Hummvee. He tripped over his own feet, cursing himself for his clumsiness. Rounds impacted on the vehicle’s body where he had been. His cursing was quickly replaced with muttered thanks to God. He crawled under the vehicle as machine gunfire kicked up dirt around his feet.

Another rocket took out the vehicle he’d been riding in. He looked to it, knowing that Urbane’s body had been inside. What ammunition had been with Urbane exploded. The smell of burning flesh and hot metal made him want to expel his stomach’s meager contents.

Demarti swallowed the bile in his throat as he went fired his M4 on full auto.

“Where are they?” yelled Lewis, firing his SAW over the Hummvee’s hood. “Who’s shooting at us this time?”

Sims called out target locations, and add, “It’s lycans this time,” he said, dropping beside Demarti. “They sure as hell ain’t friendly either.” He squeezed the M14’s trigger in successions. From Demarti’s right Shelby shouted a suggestion to pull back.

Demarti gave the order to retreat. The fire was too concentrated and as long as they had an exit to the opposite side of the road he would take it.

“Get our wounded and fall back, Colonel Shelby,” yelled Demarti above the din.

“Most were in the Piranha, Captain. We’re what remain,” answered Shelby.

Demarti calculated his assets, and realized that those able to walk were fewer than before. Fall back to the tree line at our current six! Sims, Lewis, and I’ll cover you and the others!”

Shelby crawled to Demarti. “We’ll fall back and cover your exit once we get to safety. Don’t be long.” He patted Demarti’s arm. Even under fire the Brit’s smile made everything seem okay.

“Copy, now go!” Demarti swapped magazines. He threw the empty behind him and zeroed in on the figure that had suddenly appeared in his sight picture. He gave two quick bursts, dropping the enemy in the middle of changing positions.

Shelby assisted a soldier with a leg wound. Bernerd, Mulcahey, and two others ran toward the trees. If it weren’t for their wounded the column would have traveled a more overland route, bypassing the paved roadways. The return journey had been risky to begin with, and hadn’t paid off in the least.

“To the tree line, lads,” screamed Shelby. “We’ll be all right once we make it to the trees. Then we’ll cover Captain Demarti and the others.”

Shelby and the other survivors had gone fifteen feet inside the tree line before being attacked. Seven lycans leapt out and surrounded the six men.

“One time offer only,” said one. “Drop your weapons and the fight is over.” The lycans wore black combat uniforms and were armed, as any soldier would be.

“Piss off,” screamed Mulcahey, firing his L85. His fire impacted a magazine in the vest of the lycan that had spoken. The rounds set off the ammo, sending detonating rounds through the lycan’s body.

Shrapnel struck a lycan on its left. It went down screaming as it clutched its bleeding face.

The denial of surrender outraged the remaining five. They lunged forward. Shelby dropped one, but a second grabbed him, and threw him into the air. Shelby’s finger was still on the trigger. The finger’s position was more accidental than intentional. A three second burst tore into a lycan that grappled with one of the surviving soldiers. The shots instantly killed both.

The second column survivor had had enough fighting. He retreated further into the trees.  A lycan overtook him before he could disappear from within sight of the skirmish. With his last effort of fighting, the solider pulled the pen on a grenade, killing them both. The wetness of the crump it going off made the explosion sound duller than normal.

Mulcahey dropped to the ground, and rolled away from a lycan’s attempt at grabbing him. He fired into its rear end. He was about to finish it, but another grabbed him by his ankle. The first thrashed around, crying out about its wounded ass.

“Fuck taking them alive,” roared the ankle grabber. “And shut up about your ass, Noddingham!” He raised Mulcahey as a cudgel, slamming him into the screaming, fallen lycan.

Mulcahey’s rifle flew out of his hands. Two more times the lycan used him to club its friend.

Mulcahey felt that he would suffocate. The blows didn’t allow him to catch his breath. Then something cracked in his back. The sound was loud and painful, and he hoped whatever it was wouldn’t leave him a cripple.

A burst of automatic fire caught the lycan in mid swing, collapsing its head. It collapsed, sending Mulcahey crashing one final time into the beaten to death lycan.

The last lycan stopped its attack against Bernerd. It stared wide eyed, amazed at how the battle had turned against him and his teammates.

“Now you surrender,” called Bernerd, underneath a lycan. He raised his Beretta to its head. He looked away as he squeezed the trigger. Blood, fur and skull fragments fell to his face. He hoped that none would seep into his ear, infecting him.

Bernerd pushed the body away. He panted heavily from the exertion. “Now that’s how-”

“Shhhh,” called Shelby. He motioned for the Mulcahey and Bernard to follow further into the treed interior. Bernerd and Mulcahey understood the order.

Mulcahey’s back protested the movement. If he stopped they would die, and he wasn’t yet up for that exercise.

They moved as best as they could, and stopped after arriving at what appeared to be a quarry. “What about Cap’n Demarti and the others?” gasped Mulcahey, fighting for breath.

Shelby sighed. “I don’t know. We have to trust that they’ll be fine. We’re in no shape for a rescue.” He looked at Mulcahey. The soldier’s face advertised that pain was up for sale. “What’s wrong, Sergeant?”

“It’s me back, sir.” He grimaced against the pain. “Something snapped there when that poodle used me for a hammer.”

Shots from the former battle space rang out. They looked back in that direction. There were no answering shots. Shelby assumed that whoever had been charge had executed the lycans for their failed mission to capture them.

“They’ll be coming along soon,” said Bernerd. “I think we should duck into that water down there. Might be safer to use it to mask our scent.”

“Good call, Captain,” agreed Shelby. “Can you make there, Sergeant?”

“Still in it, sir. I’ll make it.”

They made their way to the murky gray water. It carried the smell of things that all three dared not imagine, but it offered the best chance for survival.

“Helmet’s off, lads, and gas masks on. If you have earplug with you, now’s the time to use them.” Shelby took his helmet off, and slipped his mask on. He checked the seal and stared at the others.

“All due respect, sir, but what is a mask going to do for us? Water can get in through the filters,” said Bernerd.

“Cut some of your uniforms off , and stuff them into the filters. Afterwards grip the drinking apparatus in your mouth,” Shelby’s voice muffled by the gas mask, “ and hold the end of the drinking tube a tad beyond the surface. Use it to breath.”

Bernerd’s face lit up. “Brilliant, sir.” He donned his and helped Mulcahey.

Mulcahey couldn’t raise his left arm enough to get the mask on. He was thankful for the help, but felt like a he had become a hindrance. Masks on and earplugs in place, they submerged into the stagnant water.

They stayed close to each other near the surface. Even at four from the surface the dark water all but suffocated the light trying to filter in.

Dull machine gun fire echoed around the quarry. It lasted for a minute before deafening explosions took their place. Their pursuers took no chances and had begun lobbing fragmentation grenades into their liquid shelter.

The shock waves shook them and the explosions battered their barely protected ears. Mulcahey receded further into the water than he wanted. Water flowed into his drinking tube and he was near to panic by the time Shelby reached him, putting his tube against Mulcahey’s.

Water splashed into his mouth, followed by Shelby’s breath. Shelby helped the wounded solider back into position.

Grenades and gunfire shook the quarry for another five minutes, and then it abruptly stopped. Ten minutes later, Shelby motioned for them to surface.

Bernerd climbed out of the murkiness first and lifted Mulcahey out with Shelby’s assistance.

Mulcahey collapsed on the rock and clay bank, fighting to breathe while Shelby and Bernerd surveyed the pit’s brim.

“Think they’re gone, sir?” asked Mulcahey, sitting up.

“I’m willing to bet they left some rear guard action.” Shelby raised his rifle to his shoulder. He scanned the top through his Sight Unit, Small Arms Trilux scope. From what he could see nothing moved. “Plan of action is to get our happy asses back to FortDetrick. As far as I’m concerned, the fun is well and truly over.”

“Escape and evasion,” mused Bernerd, looking through his own SUSAT. “No engaging unless absolutely necessary. Standard op crap from here on out, eh?”

“Spot on as usual, Captain,” answered Shelby.

“My back feels funny,” muttered Mulcahey, standing. He wobbled but gained his balance after some effort.

“Ian, you’re on point. I’ll assist Jon.”

“My back’s not that bad, sir,” protested Mulcahey. “I can walk.”

“Now’s not the time to be John Bull, son. You need help and we’re here for you.”

“Thank you, sir, but I want to walk as far as I can.” Mulcahey grinned at Shelby.

Shelby had been correct that he needed help, but like the thickheaded soldier Mulcahey was he didn’t want to be a burden on his team. “I’ll sing out when I need help. Promise.”

“Good on you, Sergeant. I’m holding you to that. Let’s move out. Remember sound discipline. Ready, Ian?”

“Ready here, sir.” Bernerd moved up the man-made rocky ramp. His boots squelched as he walked forward. The sun was setting and he hoped that what night vision goggles they’d packed had been safe in their airtight, water proofed containers.

Mulcahey suffered through the agony his back gave him. His steps were measured and he prayed they wouldn’t have to do any running. He wasn’t sure if he could move any faster than an extremely lazy jog.

They crested the ridge and turned their attention to where they’d entered the quarry. The area appeared deserted, but none would have taken a bet on it.

It took half an hour to recover ground that had once taken six or seven minutes.

The bodies of the lycans they’d fought lay where they had fallen. The wounded had been executed where they fell.

“No time for the wounded,” remarked Bernerd. He checked the bodies for spare magazines. The British L85 rifle took the same magazines as the American M16 and M4, but he found none. The bodies had been stripped of all things useful.

Mulcahey kicked at one of the dead out of frustration.

“Steady, Jon,” warned Shelby. “Don’t want to go pissing off any injuries more than needed.”

“Right, sir,” he answered in a sour voice.

“Now we got you, you rat shit bastards,” came a voice coming from the trees.

Five more of Vance’s black clad warriors appeared from the growing gloom. They moved with a silence that left Shelby envious.

“Weapons on the deck,” said a female lycan. “Now, I’m not going to ask again.” She motioned slightly to the ground with her bayonet fixed M4. Three of the five’s rifles were fixed the same.

“Do it, boys,” ordered Shelby. “Looks like the fight’s over for us.”

As they laid their rifles down another female lycan remarked, “Now’s as good a time as any.” She turned her rifle on a male lycan to her right, and bayoneted him the neck. She swept the blade outward, and bubbling gurgles accompanied by a surprised look illuminated the lycan’s face.

The other two alternated in stabbing the second to death. Both lycans died with a look of surprise etched onto their faces.

Bernerd reached down for his rifle but was stopped by the female pointing her rifle at him. “Don’t,” she urged. “We may have killed these two, but we’re a long damn way from being friends.”

Bernerd righted himself. He stared cautiously at her. “If you’re going to shoot, do it.”

“Speak for yourself, Ian,” said Mulcahey. His pain forgotten, he stood erect, waiting for the shot.

The female lycan that had first spoken resumed her human form. She moved forward to Englishmen’s rifles and kicked them to her friends. She then demanded the three to sit cross-legged on the ground.

“Keep your hands behind your head.” The woman spoke with a slight Texas accent. “We’re gonna have a little palaver.”

The Brits did as ordered. They had little choice in the matter, and each wanted to see where the encounter was going.

“The name’s Abigail Darmond. As you’ve guessed, I work for General Karl Vance. But that’s on the surface. In reality I work for a lycan named Victoria Pegg. She was a colonel in the British Royal Air Force before Vance started his shenanigans. But make no mistake, boys. She hates you pigs almost as much as she hates Vance.”

“Why spare us then?” asked Shelby. “If she hates us as much as Vance then why help us? Why do you even care what happens to us?”

“I said almost. You’re right though. I don’t care much for ya’ll, but what I do care about is not destroying the world. I don’t think we can live alongside each other at any given time. Up to me, we’d still be a secret. But it ain’t up to me and the cat’s outta the bag now, and what Colonel Pegg wants is set things to right.”

“How does she propose to do that?” asked Mulcahey. His vision swam with sudden lightheadedness and he felt himself wobble.

“You’re not doing to well, are you, boy?” Darmond sniffed him. “You’d best get that back of yours looked at. It’s starting to get infected with something. Best do it soon or you’ll end up gimpy.”

“Why do you fucking care? Why tell him what’s wrong with him when you just told us that you could care less about us?” inquired Bernerd.

“I don’t care, but I don’t believe in cruelty for the sake of itself. Your boy’s all messed up, and it’s starting to make my stomach turn. Now fucking listen to me ‘cause I’m only gonna say this once. Me and mine are going to escort you home. Then we’re gonna let you go and you’re going to give a message to your General Hughes. Got it?”

“I understand,” said Shelby, stiffly. “What’s your message? And how did you even know we’d be here to get it? All this seems a little too convenient.”

“You people are like the vampires. Fucking cockroaches scurrying around, doing your thing, oblivious to how you’re spoiling everything around you. There’s no balance to anything anymore. Originally I was supposed to infiltrate your base and hook up with Hughes when Vance sent the sappers in to extract that nerd boy he’s so hot after. We found your convoy instead and that was like a goddamn Godsend to Vance. After that, the plan changed. Now I can get the message to where it needs to be without running the risk of getting my ass shot off. As far as I’m concerned, you get to live and so do I. It’s a win/win situation. Now shut your dick hangar and listen.”

Darmond leaned to Shelby’s ear and relayed the message that Pegg had given her. Her injured side grumbled at position. She was mostly healed from the self-inflicted wounds, but had still volunteered to join Vance’s column. It was a risky venture, but those were the chances Darmond took as Pegg’s go-to woman.

She leaned back and stared at Shelby with her steel blue eyes. “You get that?”

“I’ve got it, Ms. Darmond.”

“My first name is Tech Sergeant, Colonel. Now get up, we’re moving out.” She turned to her comrades. “Clear their weapons. Condition four for each of ‘em.” She turned to her prisoners. “You’ll get full magazines when reach Detrick. I don’t expect you to play nice, but I want your word that you won’t do something stupid like open up on us once you’re home free. It don’t mean much to most folks these days but a person’s word means something to me.”

“You could promise the same to us, but your two mates could,” said Bernerd, taking an empty rifle from the second female lycan. Suspicion filled his voice. “Or you could turn, and rip us a new one, or turn us. Hell anything-“

“Goddamn but you love to talk, don’t you? Now I think you got a pretty voice and if you were like me I’d go out with you, but you need to shut that gapping pussy in your face. Nothing’s going to happen to you so long as I’m around. I’m not planning on dying anytime soon and Parkes and Laskle aren’t either. You’re fucking safe. Now move out before I forget that it only takes one to deliver a message. Now give me your word. Each of you.”

Mulcahey, Bernerd, and Shelby promised they wouldn’t fire at their escorts once they reached Detrick. Shelby was reluctant to follow through with his promise as his word was one of the things he was proud of. Bernerd felt the same, but Mulcahey was sure he’d fire on them if he had a chance. He lived by the all’s fair in love and war rule and he’d give as good, if not better, then he got.

Darmond on the other hand would’ve shot all but Shelby if Bernerd had spoken again. She didn’t have any ill will toward them personally aside from being human. After living for over ninety years she’d seen what mankind was doing to the world, and it sickened her. In some circles, lycan or human, she would’ve been called a tree hugger for her beliefs.

She didn’t think any plant or animal was worthy of needless killing any more than she believed that lycans were superior to humans. Darmond simply recognized that the world couldn’t sustain any more growth. If keeping populations under control meant killing a few million humans and lycans then so be it. In her thinking, Vance was right in a lot of ways but genocide wasn’t anything that she or Pegg wanted a part of. The planet needed all species to live if for no other reason than its own continued survival.

All content is copyrighted 2011-1014 by Jason McKinney Reproduction is prohibited unless otherwise authorized by the author.

 

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Dog World: Gone to Hell Chapter Eleven

Chapter Eleven

 

FortDetrick’s gates had been empty since the assault by Vance’s people. Sutton and Mitchell took the time waiting for Walinski’s arrival to allow Kunpai to test his new lycan abilities.

All three were changed and save for Kunpai, Sutton and Mitchell ran barefoot.

“Why do I have to wear boots,” groused Kunpai. “My freaking feet are killing me.”

“It’s to get you used to the feel of your feet being restrained by the extended growth,” answered Sutton.

Sutton loped along to Kunpai’s right and Mitchell on his left. The three hurtled over downed trees and brush as they tore through the surrounding woods.

Mitchell added advice as they ran. “From now on you’ll need boots at least a two sizes larger in the event that you need to transform.”

Kunpai’s feet thumped on the forest floor. They ached with each step and he was sure that sooner or later he’d either break a few toes or burst through the suede.

“It’s obvious that you’re stronger than most, but what you don’t know is that sex is going to be a problem.” Mitchell leapt onto a tree and then sprang from it, landing beside Sutton.

Kunpai skidded to a halt. “Hey now,” he growled. “Let’s not go there, all right? My love life isn’t anybody’s business.”

Sutton and Mitchell hadn’t expected his sudden stop. They’d run ten feet ahead before realizing he wasn’t with them. They walked to him, chests heaving with the run’s exertion.

“You’re right,” panted Sutton. Her clawed hands rested on her hips. “It’s your business, but think back to the weight room. Think about what you did there. Now, think about an activity that you normally just go along with. Imagine what you could do.”

Kunpai went to scratch his nose, but ended up smacking his muzzle with his calloused hands. “Damn, that hurts.”

“See what she means?” added Mitchell. “Things you once took for granted no longer apply. You have to be mindful of every move you make, every emotion you have, and everyone you come into contact with.”

“Are you saying that I could kill Tori while we’re…you know? That.”

Sutton and Mitchell exchanged looks. Mitchell shrugged her wide shoulders.

“It’s happened,” answered Sutton. “Sometimes by accident, sometimes on purpose.”

“Well do me a favor and don’t take the fun out of things.”

Sutton spread her hands. “Just a warning.”

“Oh, and buy condoms. Lots of them if needed.”

“What the fuck?” exclaimed Kunpai. “Now I’m getting the sex talk from you? What the hell does that mean? ‘Buy condoms’?” He spoke in a mock impression of Mitchell’s voice.

“You can infect Tori, Omi.” Sutton stepped toward Kunpai, and looked him eye to eye. “Oral gratification for both
parties is now a thing of the past unless it’s with another lycan.”

“Hey now,” he said, holding his shaggy arms out. “I like you both, but not like that.”

“Be serious,” said Mitchell, punching his left arm. She pulled the blow just enough to be affectionate while trying to get him to take their words seriously. “This isn’t anything for you shrug off. With great power…”

“Comes no felattio,” finished Sutton. She shrugged her shoulders, and held her palms out once more. “I’m just saying is all.”

Kunpai jerked his head away and rolled his eyes. “This conversation just took a turn for the mucho uncomfortable. How’d we end up talking about things in the first place?”

“I don’t know, but I’m enjoying seeing you blush. It’s kind of cute.” Sutton moved to his side, and slapped Kunpai’s rear. “Nice. Very nice.”

Mitchell laughed with Sutton as Kunpai nervously shifted away from them.

Kunpai wasn’t sure if lycan’s could blush, but he felt his face fill with blood. “And Tori tells me that I’m not right.”

“That’s us,” said Mitchell. “Always wrong and never right.” His lycan face spread into an unmistakable grin.

“Listen,” grunted Kunpai. He looked to the sky. “Inbound helo.”

Mitchell and Sutton looked up as well. Sutton’s left ear perked higher. “I don’t hear anything,” she whispered.

Sutton was about to lower her head when she registered the far off sounds of a helicopter. “Do you hear that, Cameron?”

“I do.”

Both women looked at Kunpai, wondering how he was able to hear it first.

“What?” he asked innocently. “I’ve always had great hearing.”

“Maybe, but now its better than most.” Sutton wanted to perform more tests on Kunpai. Some lycans had better hearing than others, but Kunpai had heard the approach minutes before Mitchell and her.

“Let’s get to the flight deck,” urged Kunpai. “That’s gotta be our girls.”

“You go on,” responded Sutton. “We need shoes first.”

“Right.” He smiled. “I’ll see you shoeless hippies there.”

They watched Kunpai run away. He remained clumsy on all fours, but was still fast.

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it odd there’s nothing special about any of us being silver in the past and yet he seems to be?” Mitchell found Kunpai’s developing abilities interesting if not befuddling.

 Sutton crossed her thoughtfully arms. “No, you’re right. Silver’s the albino for us, but him… Omi seems to be maturing at a rate that should be impossible. He’s still clumsy on the move, but am I out of shape or did he not seem bothered on the run? No panting, no tiredness, nothing. In fact, he halted so perfectly that I’d swear he’d been doing it for years if I didn’t know any better.”

“What did you do to him?”

“Nothing that I know of. I guess I elevated him to greatness.”

Mitchell laughed. “Greatness? The newly minted Lieutenant Colonel Omi Kunpai? He’s exceptional, but great? Really?”

“I think so. And that’s what scares me.”

Mitchell didn’t know how to react. Even as they changed on their way back to post, she was at a loss on how to respond. She had no idea why Sutton should be concerned let alone scared, but it worried her. It didn’t worry her enough to lose sleep over, but enough to make her want to assist Sutton’s research.

 

*******

 

The rescue helicopter touched down and Kunpai greeted it. He shook each of their hands, pleased to have them returned in relatively one piece. Hughes’ executive officer, Lieutenant Colonel Belle met them as well.

“General Hughes wants an after action ASAP,” snapped Belle.

Kunpai was about to say something rude to Belle but didn’t. He thought that the time had come for him to take Mitchell’s advice on watching himself. He said nothing, surprising even himself, and watched the base XO walk away. “Rude little prick,” he said, giving into the urge.

“What was that?’ yelled Walinski over the sound of the rotors. She twitched her shoulders. Dolly groaned and Clarice gasped as they all realized what had changed about Kunpai.

“Nothing.” Kunpai ushered the women to the hangar.

Once clear of the noise, Tan had to ask about the new rank and his torn uniform. “Get into a fight after getting your new brass?”

Three medics approached Tan and Zellar. Both women were in pain, but were more curious about Kunpai. The medics accompanied them as they walked to the hangar. Neither woman wanted to miss Kunpai’s tale.

Kunpai looked to the three soldiers walking with them. One was a male lycan while the remaining two was male, female, and human. “There’s been a few changes in the time you’ve been gone,” he answered cautiously.

“We’ve only been gone for eight and a half hours, sir,” observed Tan.

“Aren’t you supposed to be gravely wounded or something?” Walinski grabbed Kunpai’s left arm. She stepped in front of him, and turned his head to see his ruined left ear. “What’s this?” she said, stepping back, motioning to his face. “When did you turn?”

Zellar and Tan took a collective step back. Tan’s hand went to her pistol while Zellar rubbed her hands through her hair, exhaling in mild shock.

“He’s a poodle?” asked Tan. Her hand gripped the pistol tighter.

Kunpai looked left and right, annoyed at the proverbial cat being let out of the bag prematurely. “Yes I am. Thank you very much, Walinski spoilsport. I am now, officially, irrevocably a car chasing, ball licking, fetch the stick poodle.”

“He’s okay,” said Dolly. “If he weren’t I would’ve dealt with him myself.”

“With your kind permission I’d like to conduct this little interview in privacy.” Kunpai wasn’t in the mood to discuss any new occurrences in the open air.

Walinski slipped her arm into Kunpai’s. He had a feeling he wouldn’t like what was coming. “So? Are you housetrained or do you need puppy pads? What is the standard length of time to housebreak a poodle anyway?” said Clarice in a mocking tone of sweetness.

“You’re not funny,” scowled Kunpai. “If it’s not blowjob advice from those other two supposed lycan trainers, I’m getting shit from Donna Reed and the walking wounded Brady Bunch. Don’t you have a report to fill out and injuries to have tended? Get them to sick bay,” commanded Kunpai to the medics.

“Maybe so,” answered Walinski, “but this is much more fun. Come on. Buy me a cup of coffee.”

At the medic’s urging, Tan and Zellar allowed themselves to be led to the infirmary. They did so only after Kunpai’s promise to catch up to them later.

“Your turn, Brenda.” Kunpai waved his hand in shooing motions that Walinski ignored.

“So who was it? Mitchell? No. Not her. She’s working on turning Demarti.” Walinski teased. “Oh, I get it. It was Sutton.” She sniffed Kunpai’s ruined ear. He recoiled at her closeness. “Yepper. It was Sutton all the way.”

“And? Look. Did you kill Cotton and that kid that went with you?” Kunpai hoped to change the subject.

“No. Tan and Zellar topped them. I was knocked out the whole time.”

“You got sucker punched? Seriously?”

Yeah and if you tell anyone about it, I’ll make your ears match,” warned Dolly. “By the way,” broke in Walinski, “I thought werewolves were supposed to heal from almost anything.”

“The ear is the almost part. It came off. It was destroyed and there was no bringing it back.”

“Wow. I actually like the scarring. Makes you more… dashing.” Walinski widened her eyes as she spoke.

“Flirty little thing, aren’t you?’

“Not really. Just stating a fact.”

“You seem to be taking the whole Cotton and his kid partner thing pretty well.”

Kunpai looked around, realizing that they had arrived at the commissary. The smell of food hadn’t registered to him until they came to the front door.

“How else should I take it? The guy tried to kill the girls and me. I’m not about to waste tears on him for that.”

“So what now?”

“Coffee and some kind of sugary treat for me.”

Walinski and Kunpai entered the cafeteria and were startled to see it filled to near capacity with civilians. The smell of baked ham and vegetable soup filled the air. A third of the refugees were children. The sight made Kunpai grateful that his family wasn’t in a similar situation.

To Kunpai’s horror he caught himself looking at the adults hungrily. Here and there his rebelling mind picked out which man or woman might be the most delicious.

“I have to go,” he stammered. “I…I need to get some air.”

“Not hungry?” asked Dolly. She sensed a sudden change in Kunpai that alarmed her greatly. “Or maybe you just had a sudden ravenous urge?”

Kunpai’s breath became ragged. “I need to leave.” He walked briskly for the door.

Walinski grabbed his shoulder, stopping him. “It’s harder than you thought, isn’t it? You’ve been okay around people you know and love, but it’s only around strangers, right? Strangers bring it out, don’t they? They bring out the desire to feed. Like they’re the fucking cattle that Vance and his bitches believe the human race to be. Tell me I’m wrong?” There was a pleading need to know in her, they’re, eyes.

“Get your goddamn hands off me, meat.” Kunpai growled deep within his throat. “Get it off or I swear to whatever God may exist that I’ll rip your esophagus out through your ass.”

Dolly didn’t blanch at the threat and her grip tightened on his arm. She had threats of her own to level at the man that all Walinski’s called friend. Her right hand went to the 1911 in her shoulder holster. She saw the change slow in coming.

Clarice and Brenda screamed for her to release Kunpai. “If he turns right here and now it’ll panic the refugees and it’ll be your fault,” they screamed in unison. Dolly wasn’t in the mood to comply. She further tightened her grip.

Kunpai’s lips parted slightly, his eyes narrowed. He reached to her wrist, grabbing it tighter than he wanted. Dolly grimaced, but held tight. “Turn me loose, Chief. Last warning.”

Walinski’s brown eyes replaced Dolly’s lavender one. “Think of the kids, Omi. And get help. I don’t care where you get it, but get it. Otherwise I’ll bury you myself.”

Walinski’s words made him blink rapidly. He looked around the room at the children eating at the long horizontal tables. Some spoke in longing voices to their parents. A few sat alone save for a soldier or another adult that had taken charge of them. The questions that his hearing picked up were split between, “When can we go home?”, “Is Mommy okay?”, or “Where’s Daddy?”

Kunpai released her wrist. Walinski freed his arm once realization of what had almost happened crossed his face.

“I’m sorry, Brenda.” His voice was low and his face showed the emotional devastation he felt. “Please. I need to go.” He rushed through the doors. As they swung shut she saw him moving at a full run.

“I don’t want to kill him,” she muttered aloud as the doors clanged shut.

“Like we do,” said Clarice. “Why didn’t they tell him this would happen?”

“Seems to be a lot of no communication going around these days.

Walinski refused to say anything more. Ultimately she agreed with Dolly. Too many secrets and things left unsaid always had a way of destroying cherished things and peoples’ trust. The world situation merited a new move to nothing being held back. Yet the Walinski sisters knew that it was hard to let go of the old ways. Especially when everything you’d once taken for granted was gone.

 

*******

 

Kunpai ran into the woods that he’d raced through an hour before. He’d gone in deeper than he’d meant to, but it was for the best. He raised his head to the late afternoon sky, howling with rage filled madness.

He paced back and forth, furious at what the world and fate had thrust upon him.

“Son of a mother fucking bitch,” he spat, punching a tree. “Why me goddammit? Why me? I didn’t ask for this shit. None of us did!” He beat against the tree and in time his knuckles split under the blows. The chipped and damaged wood and bark dug into the wounds, but Kunpai refused to acknowledge the pain.

Kunpai ran into the woods that he’d raced through an hour before. He’d gone in deeper than he’d meant to, but it was for the best. He raised his head and howled his fury toward the uncaring late afternoon sky.

He paced back and forth, furious at what the world and fate had thrust upon him. Filled with hate he began punching nearby trees. In time his knuckles split under the blows. The destroyed wood and bark dug into the wounds, but Kunpai refused to heed the pain.

Exhausted he finally collapsed against a battered tree. “Why me?” he grumbled, looking at a nearby skittering chipmunk. The chipmunk stopped, its curious and nervous noises fading in the air. It sniffed the air, but not at Kunpai’s rage, but at something else.

“It’s okay,” Kunpai grumbled to the chipmunk. “I’m done hitting shit so you free to return to whatever you were doing.”

He’d been so wrapped up in his own emotions that he hadn’t noticed Hughes, Sutton, and Mitchell’s nearby scents. Their musty lycan scents stung his nose, and he found it pleasing.

“I was worried for the chipmunk,” said Sutton, emerging from the shadows. “I’d hate to beat you up because you killed the cute little critter.”

“I’m not going to eat it,” answered Kunpai. His strength was returning. He chuckled, looking at his hands’ healing wounds. “I don’t think you could beat me up anyway. You’re a lab jockey. I’m a Marine.”

“You’re acting more like a kicked dog in the street, Colonel,” said Hughes, sitting down beside Kunpai.

“Walinski told us what happened at the DFac.” Mitchell joined them.

“You know what? Being told that little tidbit about the possibility of looking at people like a side of beef would’ve helpful.”

“It’s something you had to find out for yourself,” explained Mitchell. “It’s like the old saying of trying to explain green to a blind man. You had to experience it yourself. No amount of warning in the world could’ve prepared you for the first time it hits.”

“The point is you didn’t give in. You fought it,” added Hughes. “The next time it hits, and there will be a next time, it’ll be easier. Before you know it, the urge won’t even exist. All three of us have tasted a person. That’s a stain you don’t want, son. What’s that saying you Marines use when going through Boot or OCS?”

“Live every day chow to chow and every week Sunday to Sunday.” It was a phrase all Marines, regardless of rank, knew.

“Right. And that applies to now more than ever before.” Hughes patted Kunpai’s knee as he spoke.

“Still would’ve been nice to know.” Kunpai stared at his knuckles. The healing was complete. It was like he’d never bashed any trees to begin with.

“I still want to kick his ass,” said Sutton gleefully. She stood as the others sat. Her hands opened and closed into fists.

The three looked up at her, confused.

“May I ask why, Doctor?” said Hughes, climbing to his feet.

“He’s never had to fight another lycan before. I want to see what he can do.”

“Let me,” volunteered Mitchell. “I’m a soldier. I’ll do it.”

Hughes padded to Sutton, and whispered, “You’re in heat. If I can smell it so can he. Let Mitchell do it. Remember, he’s married…with kids.”

“Who? What? Hold on.” Kunpai was alarmed. “She’s in heat? No fucking way. Uh-uh. This ain’t happening.” He backed into the tree.

“No, I don’t want to mate with you!” laughed Sutton. She gave a quick shudder as she thought about the act. “Okay, maybe a little, but it’s that time of the month anyway. No, no, no on that. He’s my ‘brother’ now. It’s my blood in his veins and I only want to see how he can handle one of us in a fight.”

Hughes looked over his shoulder to Kunpai. “Fine. You can have him.”

“What?” exclaimed Kunpai. “Is this a joke?”

Sutton roared, and leapt at Kunpai. Her speed was amazing. After all he’d seen and done it still startled him. As astonishing as it was he felt his instincts cut in.

Kunpai moved left, avoiding Sutton’s body. She landed where he had been. Kunpai raised his left leg to deliver an axe kick to Sutton’s shoulder, but she moved quicker than he’d expected.

Sutton went to all fours, and jumped away from the kick. With a series of rapid slashes, she tore open the front of his uniform blouse. He felt her nails scrape against his hardened skin.

He balled his right hand into a fist, and moved to punch Sutton in her upturned face.

With the grace of a gymnast she flung her back to the ground, stopping herself with her hands. Swinging both feet into the air, she clipped Kunpai in the jaw. She was shoeless and her toenails racked the underside of his chin. In a stunning display of skill, Sutton allowed the swing’s momentum to carry her to all fours. She held her head high, and a ravenous grin split her face.

Kunpai’s strike hit the tree again. He wondered whose side the tree was really on. He’d done nothing to it yet it had worked against him twice.

“I’m no tactical expert, sir, but I do believe she’s kicking your ass,” chided Mitchell. She and Hughes leaned against another tree, watching. “Is it your plan to beat Sue by bleeding on her? By the way, watch the tree. I think it’s working with her.

Hughes laughed. “Maybe he should move to a pet shop. Lord knows she’s making him her pup.”

Kunpai roared defiance. There was no way he would allow a civilian, even if she were former Air Force, to beat him. He ran at Sutton. Closing with her he threw a series of uppercuts and crosses.

Sutton blocked or ducked his blows. He included kicks in his attack, but she jumped, blocked, or rolled away from those also.

He had thrown another unconnected right cross when he felt her hand reach past his armpit and grab his throat. It was then that she made the only two fighting moves he could understand: a shot to his testicles, and a punch to his diaphragm.

The air left his lungs and his eyes widened. He felt like his eyes were about to bulge from their sockets. As far as he was concerned, either shot would have dropped him just fine.

“You kicked me in the balls,” he whined, sinking to the ground. “Dirty boxing, bitch.” He didn’t mean the insult. He respected her triumph even though he had no idea how she did it.

“I must agree, Doctor.” Hughes was applauding. “As a male the knee was a bit much.”

Mitchell laughed. “Oh boo-hoo. They’ll grow back.” She knelt beside Kunpai. “Are you okay, sir?”

“She kicked me in my man-gina!” The pain was already fading slowly. It was the mental sting that was the worst to bear. He pushed himself to all fours. His breath was returning, but stars still danced before his eyes.

Sutton changed to human form. She brushed her hair from her eyes, revealing sweat on her forehead. The chest of her t-shirt was soaked as well. “I bested you-”

“Bested?” interject Hughes. “I haven’t used that word in that context in over a century. What year are you from?”

“Shhh,” Sutton said, placing a finger against her lips. “Class is in session.” She turned her attention back to Kunpai. “Now, I beat you…” she looked quickly to Hughes, “because you fought with a human will. If you want to win, you fight as what you are, and what you are is a wolf. You fight like a wolf that happens to have human tendencies. Don’t fight with only grapples and punches and the like. You also fight with tooth and nail. You become an animal because that’s what you are.” She moved to Kunpai, and helped him stand. She tensed slightly, expecting a retaliatory punch.

He performed his own transformation to human as he rose. “I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

“Please do. If you fight against one of us, acting like you’re any old human then you will die. If this had been that type of fight I’d have done more than tag you a couple times.”

“I have so much to learn,” Kunpai groaned.

“If you feel the urge to sample anything past a cow, you come see me,” said Hughes, taking Kunpai’s hand into his. “You think she gave you what for…” he smiled at Kunpai, realizing for the first time that Kunpai’s mind was elsewhere.

A new smell had entered Kunpai’s nose. It was acrid, musty, and had a tangible dirty feel to it. He didn’t know how he knew what the odor was, but he did.

“Roaches.”

The word felt filthy to Kunpai. To him the wooded area seemed to be teeming with them.

“Vampires are in the area, sir. I can smell them.”

Hughes sniffed the air, and he caught their scent as well. It was faint, but there.

“He’s right.” Hughes uttered the words, knowing more than anything else that something he wanted dead was approaching.

Hughes looked at the hand he still held. It was human again. The owner’s face was twisted into a sneer that meant war had been declared.

Hughes pulled a radio from a cargo pocket. “Colonel Belle, Hughes. State base sitrep, over.”

The radio crackled before Belle’s voice came forth. “Belle here. Area’s secured, General. Is there a problem? Over.”

“Go to condition one. This is not a drill. I say again, not a drill. We have hostiles in the area. Out.”

The order to move out didn’t need to be given. The four lycans hurriedly ran through the forest. Halfway back to Detrick they came across five vampires clothed in filthy rags, clustered in a circle. The lycans heard their high-pitched unintelligible babble as they entered the vampires’ line of vision.

Two of the creatures turned, startled by the werewolves approach. One screeched in panic, alerting the remaining three. They looked confused for a moment before attempting to flee. Mitchell leapt onto the one that had sounded the alarm. She tore its throat out with her nails, and then leapt to another.

Hughes took a third as it turned to run away.

Sutton’s target was feeling rather brave. It was clothed in what had once been a red evening gown. She threw the vampire to the ground and began pounding on it with her fists. She found it strange that she should notice the dress.

The dress had once been green, and the red was only old dried blood. She found it fascinating in some strange way. That fascination gave way to a semi-controlled rage.

The vampire’s soft head gave way under her assault. She looked to Kunpai and his vampire.

He held it by the wrists, and was twisting the arms together. The intertwined limbs resembled a rotten Twizzler. The arms made wrenching, ripping sounds as they snapped off at the shoulders. The vampire squealed in pain and then fell silent.

Kunpai held the arms over his head, arched his back, and howled in victory. The bestial scene froze Sutton’s heart for reasons unknown. She’d killed, and seen killed, vampires and lycans before, but there was something different in Kunpai’s case.

“Come on,” urged Hughes. “We need to get back!”

They sprinted off, determined to meet whatever lay ahead.

All content is copyrighted 2011-1014 by Jason McKinney Reproduction is prohibited unless otherwise authorized by the author.

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Dog World: Gone to Hell Chapter Ten

I’ve been terrible and derelict in my duties. I haven’t posted a new chapter in a month. Exactly. Bear with me. We’re undergoing some changes here on Planet McKinney, but we haven’t forgotten you, are faithful readers. Here is the latest installment of Dog World: Gone to Hell.

Chapter Ten

 “Timmy boy thinks he’s got this figured out,” whispered Vance. He rose from his chair in the communications room. “Well he doesn’t.” Rage crept into his tone as he looked around the room. The radio that Hughes had found on Rexler was a meant to be found. It transmitted a signal but the real radio had been a micro implant in Rexler’s neck.

The radio signal had transmitted until Rexler’s body was cremated. Letting Collins escape with Rexler had not borne the fruit Vance had wanted. He hadn’t expected Hughes to be so brutal. The risk of letting the tech go had been outweighed by Vance’s certainty that Hughes would accept the young pilot.

Vance felt that he was allowing himself to get too lackadaisical in his operations. He hadn’t known until it was too late that Collins had transmitted the data of sleeper agents to human and Underground forces. Vance had suspected that Cotton was compromised and that he might lose him, but the reward of getting another agent on the inside of Hughes’ group was too great to pass up. Now he had no one on the inside on top of his increasing doubt that the encrypted, time triggered Trojan viruses on Collins’ laptop had gone discovered. Hughes’ hubris caused him to perform against type.

“Arnolds,” he snapped at a nearby soldier monitoring satellite communications. “Get the roach wrangler and Lieutenant Colonel Pegg to my office immediately.”

Vance left for his office; content that Arnolds would do as instructed. Within three minutes a lean, muscular female and a slight unassuming male entered his office.

Vance looked the two over appraisingly. Of all the lycans he’d known, these two were the ones he kept close and a close eye on.

As far he knew, both harbored a hatred of humans that bordered on sociopathic. They were aggressive when it came to performing their jobs and both had flair for brutality that Vance was certain could be turned on him at a moments notice.

The female lycan, Lieutenant Colonel Pegg, and the male lycan, Oliver Dabney, stood quietly in front of Vance’s desk. Vance stared quietly at them.

“Lieutenant Colonel,” he said finally. “What’s the status on locating the three little pigs?”

“We’ve got a ground team moving to intercept. They appear to be traveling on a west by northwest track, but they’re clever pigs.” Pegg’s voice never ceased to surprise Vance. She sounded like a phone sex operator with a hint of grating glass underneath. “They’re well versed in escape and evasion, even against us. Our people will pick up a scent only to lose it a few yards later. I believe they’re masking their scent somehow.”

“Well fix it and fast, Colonel. I want that pilot bitch and I want her forty-eight hours ago. She’s the most valuable of the three.”

“The order to shoot the two with her still stands, sir?”

“That goes without saying. They’re worthless. This bears repeating, Colonel. You bring me a corpse and I can assure you that not even DNA tests will be able to ID your body.”

“Understood, sir.”

Vance eyed Pegg suspiciously. As good as she was he had grown paranoid since Collins had performed his double cross. Could Pegg be allowing the three through the net? Were there others like Collins looking for Walinski, Tan, and Zellar with the intent of letting them escape instead of capturing them? It was at times like this that he had no doubt Stalin was justified in purging the very navy that had put him into power.

“Mr. Dabney. I need you to wrangle up some roaches for me. I need fifty of the most emotionally unbalanced critters you can find.” Vance didn’t understand why he spoke to Dabney differently from everyone else.

Oliver Dabney was a civilian, but that wasn’t the reason Vance treated him differently. He’d found Dabney through law enforcement channels in Australia. Dabney was well on his way to becoming the most notable serial killer in human history. He would have had a more infamous form of notoriety if his lycan nature had been exposed. That is if he’d been captured. Dabney was a different kind of sickness. He enjoyed hunting humans, lycans, and vampires alike. The man loved to kill and the competition of brutality Dabney provided was something Vance wanted to keep close, hence his recruiting Dabney for the organization.

The slight man raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Why so many if you don’t mind my asking, boss?” Dabney’s voice was the opposite of Pegg’s. It was high pitched and harsh on the ears. Vance often pondered why he couldn’t bring himself kill the lycan on that basis alone.

“We’re making a trip, and I need the expendable element more than I need our people. Is it a problem to gather so many from the pens?” Vance hoped the low growl in his voice would startle Dabney, but it didn’t. Dabney continued looking at Vance with his trademark vacant stare.

“No, sir, boss. Won’t be a problem at all. I can get fifty easy. I’ll need troops to help keep them in line though.”

“You’ll help with that, Colonel. Make sure he gets what he needs.”

“Roger that, sir,” answered Pegg.

“Dismissed. Both of you.” Vance waved a hand at them.

Pegg snapped to attention and gave a salute that irritated Vance while Dabney flicked the brim of his battered cowboy hat to him. Both left to him brood on what he was planning to do.

Vance’s plan daring but at the same time he was bored. It had been almost a week and he was already becoming complacent with being a world ruler. The excitement hadn’t lasted as long as he’d expected. His plans would fix that nicely though.

 

*******

 

The extraction of Walinski and the others occurred without incident. During their travels, Zellar couldn’t escape the feeling of being followed.

Being on point gave her a chance to keep her guerrilla skills sharp. More than once she stopped them, sure that somewhere within two hundred meters multiple sets of eyes watched them. She’d given the signal to halt and get low five times in the first hour of their journey.

Each time she and the others visually swept the area, certain that an attack was imminent. None came, but Zellar was confident that hostiles loomed at the razor’s edge, straining for the order to attack. None came and that made Zellar all the more paranoid. “Is it really paranoia if you’re truly being stalked?” she muttered more than once.

Time and again she gave the clear sign and they moved forward toward the extraction site. By the time they arrived, Zellar was keenly attuned to her surroundings.

Urban warfare was vastly different from fighting in a wooded area, but the basis was the same: Know your surroundings. Listen to anything out of the ordinary. Animal sounds are your best alarms. The problem was once they left the helicopter animal sounds had become scarce. It was like the wildlife were watching what was watching them.

A Marine Corps Huey touched down, accompanied by three friendly Cobras. The sight of the helicopters set Tan and Zellar on edge. The memory of two of their kind trying to kill them was too fresh.

The three took position at the doors as the helicopter rose into the morning light. No one spotted movement below nor did any gunfire or rockets scream at them from concealed positions. Still, all three knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that in the last hour of their trek they’d been observed on two different sides.

Below, watching the helicopter rise, were six lycans. The six were the team that Vance had sent to intercept the female soldiers. They maintained position away from the three. The refrained from attacking under Pegg’s orders.

“Accalia Six, Hunley two-six. Do you copy, over?” The leader of the hunting party watched the helicopters until they faded over the horizon.

The leader, a female lycan named Abby Darmond, had never taken her eyes off of Zellar. She couldn’t solve the puzzle of how Zellar had known about their presence. Four of the five times Zellar had called halt, she’d been correct that the lycan hunting party was nearby. Of those four, three times Zellar had looked directly at her. Even at 120 meters away, Zellar’s sight had somehow rested on Darmond.

Darmond’s blood ran cold the second time they’d locked eyes. She was sure they’d been spotted. She was also sure that Zellar couldn’t have seen her. She was convinced of it. The first time gave her heart a start.

“How can a human know we’re here,” wondered Darmond. “It’s inconceivable.” The second time Darmond was sure the literal jig was up. She breathed easier once they moved on, but the subsequent times left her feeling vulnerable in ways she’d never experienced. In her mind, Zellar was as big a threat as Walinski.

Pegg’s voice came over the radio, pulling Darmond from her thoughts. “Hunley two-six, Accalia Six. Standing by for sitrep, over.”

“Targets have been extracted,” reported the male lycan leader. “No contacts to report. Am standing by for further orders.”

“Initiate alpha contingency. You know what to do. Accalia Six, out.”

The team leader handed the receiver back to his radioman. “Wait here,” he said, moving to the edge of the brush that concealed them. Thirty-five meters away sat the three other team members that had lain in wait.

He rushed to their position, sliding to a stop in front of them. “Alpha contingency is a go,” he said to the fire team leader.

“Roger that,” answered the female soldier. With no consideration whatsoever so turned her squad automatic weapon on the two soldiers with her.

Both men died with a look of utter surprise as the machine gun fire tore through their bodies.

“Cover right, I’ll flank left.” The leader said moving away from Darmond. He toggled his radio, screaming that enemy infantry had compromised their position. “Hostiles, left flank,” he bellowed, and fired his rifle away from his original position. “Contact! Contact!”

The two left behind quickly broke cover, changing as they ran toward the sound of the guns. “What’s the enemy numbers,” called one over the radio. “What’s their disposition? Over!”

“Enemy numbers are-“ began the male. He sighted in on the farther of the two and fired a burst. The rounds hit the soldiers face, reducing it to pulp. The one in the lead turned swiveled his head to look at his fallen friend. He died running as the female fired on him with her SAW. The rounds cut him to shreds and he fell with a terrible sound, firing his weapon.

The male and the female left their positions. They walked to the last to fall, and the male poked the lycan with the muzzle of his weapon. The dying lycan’s last word was “Why” before the male fired a round into his face.

“Call this in,” he said, turning to Darmond. “Alpha contingency accomplished.”

“Not yet it’s not.” Darmond fired her unholstered pistol into his head. She watched with icy eyes as his body slumped to the ground.

She reached into a pouch, and retrieved a radio. “Accalia Six, Aria one-one. Alpha accomplished. Moving onto Bravo. Out.” She tucked the radio away and moved to the dead RTO. She flipped him onto his front and switched the radio off. Distraction was not part of the coming action.

She moved to each fallen soldier, taking an occasional grenade and/or spare magazine from their gear. She hurriedly taped up the safety levers to four grenades and pulled the pins once satisfied that the tape would hold the levers in place.

She picked up the M16 rifle from the lycan she’d killed last, as well as the rifle from the lycan he’d killed. She laid rifles close to the bodies after making sure that the magazines were a quarter to half full and then dropped empty magazines around the bodies.

With her subterfuge complete, Darmond pulled out her map and calculated her position, taking care to memorize it.

She breathed deeply, knowing that the easy work was over. The hard part to come was what worried her.

Calmly she propped her weapon into a limb, the barrel facing her left midsection. She began transforming and searched for the perfect sized branch. Halfway through her transformation, she positioned her body a foot from the barrel and pushed the trigger with the branch.

The pain was excruciating as the assault weapon’s burst impacted or grazed her side. She collapsed, grabbing the hot barrel of the weapon for support. It fell on top of her as she sank to the ground. “Jesus Christ,” she moaned as the pain seared itself into her mind.

Her body was caught between healing as a lycan while transforming back to human. She made sure to retrieve gather the spent brass even as her vision blurred. Wobbly she made her way to the radio, dropping the shell casing onto the ground.

Nestling the handset into her helmet she picked up her SAW with her right hand. The pain screamed at her as she squeezed bursts into the air. Switching the radio back on, Darmond screamed about her ambush.

“Echo four, Sierra six, do you copy? We’ve been hit by a counter-ambush! Neilson and Prentice are down! Do you copy, Echo four? I say again, we’ve been counter-ambushed!” As she spoke she fired her SAW and one of the rifles into the air. Her nail sliced through the tape on a grenade. The lever flew off and she tossed it for added effect. The pain of the movement was excruciating, but she had to get lower as the grenade went off closer than she had her intended throw.

“Copy, Sierra six. What is your status, over?” The answering voice wasn’t Vance’s, so the female lycan could get away with what she was about to say.

“Are you fucking stupid? We’re under attack!” She read off the pre-memorized grid reference as she fired a burst from the M16, and another from the SAW. Tossing the spent M16 aside she threw another grenade, and then another. “Request immediate air support and evac,” she screamed. “I say again, request…” she toggled the radio off in mid sentence.

She stood, exhausted from blood loss. She repositioned the radioman into a sitting position and fired her last burst of the morning. It destroyed the radio. The rounds knocked the lycan’s body face first into the dirt.

Darmond shambled to her original hiding spot in the tree line, dragging her weapon along. She collapsed to her knees, and removed the hand held radio. “Accalia Six, Aria one-one. Bravo accomplished. Out.” With her last amount of strength she tossed the radio into nearby underbrush.

 

*******

 

Hughes stared at Collins from across his desk. Both men had sat in silent since entering the office. Hughes was taking his time appraising the young lycan just as much as Collins did with Hughes.

Finally Hughes spoke almost congenially. “So, what brings you to FortDetrick, Captain Collins?”

“I thought it was the end of the world, but what do I know?” Collins tone held bitterness and defiance.

Hughes laughed. It bordered between hollowness and insidiousness. “Fair enough. Now my next question is what can we do for each other?”

Collins reached into his flight suit’s left breast pocket. The two MPs behind him moved forward, rifles pointed at Collins’ head. Hughes waved them back as Collins froze.

“Please. Finish what you were about to do.” Hughes no longer smiled widely, but the small grin was hard to miss.

Collins produced a flash drive. “This,” he said, leaning forward,” contains the remaining names of sleepers within the remnants of humankind’s governments.”

Hughes plucked the drive from Collins’ hand. He held it up to his office lights, turning it over as if it were a rare gem. “This could come in handy if what you say is true. More so if it doesn’t contain something that will compromise my installation. You know we have our own lycan sniffer on station, don’t you, Captain?”

“I do. Our…” Collins hesitated at the use of a word that no longer applied. “That is, Aberration intel suggests that Chief Warrant Officer Walinski is only ninety percent effective. She can be fooled or thrown off track with the proper mental conditioning. What I’ve just handed you is one hundred percent effective.”

“We’ll see. On an up note I do want to thank you for the intel you provided when this mess started.”

Collins sat still, looking at Hughes, confused about what he was being thanked for. “Intel? General, I didn’t provide anything to you before now.”

“Hmmm? Really? That wasn’t you?”

Collins couldn’t read Hughes’ expression. It appeared to be one of indifference, but could have been contemplation instead.

“Do you have any idea who did send it then?”

“It was Ella Daughtry.” Collins’ head dipped for a moment. He jerked it back up.

“And she is?”

“’Was’ is the best way to put it. She sent the information to you before hanging herself over Vance’s desk.” Collins’ voice was sober as he recounted what had come next.

“She sounds like a remarkable woman. Human?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, her death won’t be in vain. And if her actions elicited that strong of a reaction from Vance then I owe her more than you know.” Hughes stared at Collins for a time that felt like hours.

Collins had no issues with breaking the silence. “What else do you want from me?”

“I want to get into his network.”

“I can do that.”

“I’m sure you can, but I have zero assurances that you’re truly a defector. For all I know you could be a sleeper yourself.”

For both, the psychological war of lycan will and intentions had been a long running game.

“If I was, I’d be dead and you know it.”

Hughes scoffed. “Maybe I’m keeping you around for-”

“For what? Torture? You could, but then you’d have no way of knowing that the intel I’d give you would be any damn good. No, sir, General. You’re keeping me around because you trust me. You have to trust me and you know for a fact.”

Hughes rolled his aching shoulders. He didn’t know whether to admire Collins’ pluck or dislike him because he had called his bluff. Hughes knew that anyone closely associated with Vance would have stones made of titanium. Hughes settled on liking Collins. “You win this round, kid.”

Hughes rose from his seat and extended his hand. “Welcome to the Underground, Captain. Make no mistake though. You double cross me or my people and I’ll end you like I did Lieutenant Redwall.”

“Rexler,” corrected Collins. He stood and took Hughes’ hand.

“Whatever.” Hughes smiled.

Collins looked at the smile and knew that if a fight came down between Vance and Hughes, then he’d put his money on Hughes. The grin made Hughes look as evil as Vance. It gave Hughes the appearance of a cornered dog that was fully capable of doing anything to break free.

The game was on and Collins hoped he could deliver on Hughes demands. The problem with being the best was staying the best. Being such meant that you’d have to stay on top of your game and constantly be looking over your shoulder.

 

*******

 

Charles Dayton first heard the cacophony of battle in the distance. Even though the sounds had been well over two miles away, to him it might have been at the front door. “Maddie, get Lucy to the room.”

In the back of the main bedroom was a small, well-stocked panic room. It had been built by a contractor friend with the intention to sustain a hit from a 40mm high explosive grenade. Dayton wondered for the first time if the walls would be enough to protect his family. It was commissioned for a “what if” he’d hoped would never come.

Madeline Dayton moved toward their daughter Lucy. The slight twelve-year-old girl resisted her mother’s touch. “No,” she screamed before demanding a weapon.

“Not going to happen,” answered Maddie. “You’re going to stay out of harm’s way. Do you understand, young lady?”

Far off the sound of 20mm guns barked, chasing the sound of an explosion.

“Mom, I want to fight. I want to protect you and dad.” Lucy was small for a girl her age, but she had the strength of a lower class weight lifter. And her mother was far stronger.

Charles joined the conversation by placing a gentle hand on Lucy’s shoulder. “Listen to your mother, Lucy. You get to safety. If worse comes to worst, you’ll get your a gun. I promise.”

Charles then moved from window to window, looking for any indication of approaching unfriendly forces. He’d known Demarti and the others were coming to evacuate them, but hadn’t expected them to be welcomed in such a way.

In the past few days he’d seen no activity indicating that they’d been discovered. He wasn’t confident that the battle involved Aberration forces though he could think of no one else that would be engaging the relief forces.

“No, I won’t,” defied Lucy once more. “Mom’s got a gun and she’s ready to fight. I want to help.” She crossed her arms and defiantly stood against a wall separating the living room from the kitchen.

“Here take this then,” relented Charles. We can’t have you being stubborn and unarmed in a fight.” He slid a Glock 23 to her.

With knowing hands, Lucy dropped the magazine and checked the chamber. It had been loaded and she swiftly snatched the .flying 40 caliber round from the air.

Charles smiled at Lucy and the scowling Madeline as he moved to the front windows. Charles looked out a window and felt sick at the sight of smoke drifting over the treetops. He knew at that moment his family’s rescuers were having a difficult time reaching them.

“Did you hear that?” asked Maddie.

“Engines,” he answered.

The sound wasn’t close enough for human ears to hear, but the Daytons heard it clearly. The area beyond the house had gone quiet save for the roar of approaching motors. The revving vehicles stopped and Charles swore that he’d heard a collision of some kind.

Ten minutes later the sounds of revving engines resumed their cadence.

Charles lifted his scoped G33 to his shoulder. Two Hummvees jumped into the scopes reticule. “They’re coming,” he muttered to Maddie.

As practiced, Maddie took a firing position in the den, and sighted in with her M40 sniper rifle. An M16A2 leaned against the wall beside her. Maddie Dayton had trained hard to be a better shot than her husband and had succeeded. The assault rifle stood ready as back up in case of an interior breech. In the house, the bolt-operated sniper rifle would be useless.

She looked at the lead Hummvee, blinking to make sure that she’d seen correctly. “It’s Patrick,” she shouted happily.

“Who?” Charles was confused by her declaration.

“It’s Lieutenant Lewis. And Captain Demarti is with him!”

Charles moved to another window. He looked at the passenger seat of the first vehicle. The sight of Demarti gave him ease he hadn’t felt in days. He looked to the vehicle’s turret and spotted Sims manning the machine gun. The sight of the friendly lycan eased his mind completely.

Troops secured the home’s exterior as Demarti leapt up the steps two at a time. His booted feet clumped heavily, coming to a stop at the door. Charles rushed out, and shook his hand.

 “What’s your sitrep, Captain?” Charles looked to the two Hummvees. He instinctively knew there should have been more vehicles.

“We’ll brief you on the way, sir, but right now we have to leave. I’m calling this area a hot zone and extraction is the priority now. Please, Mr. Secretary, gather your wife, child, and whatever you need. You’ll be in the second vehicle and we’ll be wheels up in five.” Demarti spoke urgently. He went down the stairs as quickly as he’d come up, shouting to the men that they’d be leaving in less than five minutes.

The Dayton’s gathered what they couldn’t live without, and mounted the vehicle in less than three minutes.

On the way out, Demarti informed Charles of the ambush by friendly troops and the prisoner they’d taken.

Charles was stunned by the news. He’d thought he’d smelled people close by, but the scent was faint and enigmatic. He’d assumed that whomever had been about had simply moved on.

Charles looked out the rear window and his breath caught in his throat once he saw the still Urbane.

Charles looked to Demarti. “Is he going to make it?”

Demarti looked up to Sims, who’d bent down into the passenger compartment.

“He died about four minutes ago.” Sims voice held an uncharacteristically solemn tone. “I’m sorry, sir.” Sims returned to the gun’s position.

Charles wanted to howl, wanted to lash out at any and all nearby. Leonard Urbane had been his friend for far more than a century. The loss was almost more than he could bear.

All content is copyrighted 2011-1014 by Jason McKinney Reproduction is prohibited unless otherwise authorized by the author.

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