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.
“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.”
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?”
“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.