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.