K9 the Iron Terrier
Legacy Name: Bomb Squad
The Graveyard Clawsion
Age: 12 years, 4 months, 2 weeks
Born: April 1st, 2010
Adopted: 12 years, 4 months, 2 weeks ago
Adopted: April 1st, 2010
- Level: 1
- Strength: 10
- Defense: 10
- Speed: 10
- Health: 10
- HP: 10/10
- Intelligence: 0
- Books Read: 0
- Food Eaten: 0
- Job: Cleaning Crew
When I disarmed a fused switch sitting over twelve kilos of highly explosive chemical components with the lives of sixty children at stake and the whole world watching, I thought there was no better definition of a living hell.
Why couldn't I have just made one mistake? A flash of bright light, one moment of pain, and my problems would've ended right there. The honest truth is, those kids would've been better off too. Better they earn their wings that way than living through a real hell on earth.
I wonder if even one of them made it to Safety. I doubt it.
Fig pops the tab on a can of Pepsi. "You know, this really may be the last can of pop on Earth. It's not like they'll be cranking 'em out and shipping to the local gas stations. Anybody want a taste?"
Spike holds up his half-finished beer can. All good. Trigger rolls her eyes and shoots Blitz a look that pretty much sums up her opinion of grunts. Locke and Lode are in the middle of another debate and Steele is driving.
These are the men and women I've shed blood and crawled through mud with for three years, ever since the start of this forsaken war. It's January 3rd and even with the jeep's heater cranked to max, we can all see our breath. The highway that once got us from A to B now looks like the surface of the moon. Black craters have taken out exit ramps and large chunks of asphalt, forcing us to detour through farm fields that haven't grazed any cows in years. The sun never comes out anymore, a result of the round of nukes that had absolutely no effect on the Hydes our brilliant leaders were trying to destroy. The best weather we get is a hazy pink glow that looks like the skin around a newly formed scab.
They call me Sarge. I'm the leader of the last true army squad in America, a survivor of the Evo virus that turned 99.5% of the population into human-animal hybrids and left the survivors to die of starvation or to be ripped apart. These creatures are not zombies. Zombies have no malicious intent in trying to eliminate their prey.
There's nothing Hydes hate more than the smell of pure, untainted human flesh. We've got only rumors of Safety, a little installation thrown together to take in the Pures before they go extinct. Every member of the squad but me is among this shrinking populace.
For their sake, I will fight and we will win this war.
We weren't good at our jobs, we were the best. Men who are only good didn't dine with the presidents of seven different nations and they certainly didn't have plaques of their own in Hollywood. I'd even heard rumors that a screenplay was being written about us. Fig insisted there wasn't an actor suave enough to play him and joked that he would have to make his acting debut. His own mother couldn't convince him he's ugly as sin.
None of us paid much attention to the early stories about the Evo virus. Some backwoods idiot from Kentucky went to Arkansas to camp in the Ozarks. He managed to get bit by a rodent because he was drunk and decided to wander into the brush instead of down to the rest stop half a mile down the road. He told the doctor it was a rodent that bit him though he couldn't identify the species and possum-rabbit-thing didn't give local biologists much to go on. He was admitted in the middle of the night and by morning he was running down the hospital corridors on all fours, biting anything that crossed his path. They quarantined the place but one little girl didn't say anything about the man who bit the tip of her finger.
It was one of those stories you read and get a good laugh from. It isn't like the new bug is going to spread to your little town. Plagues are only fuel for the plots of bad sci-fi movies.
It wasn't until the media ran a story about Humanimal cases popping up in half the states that the panic really snowballed. We refuse to use that stupid term. In this squad, we call them Hydes, short for Hybridized Dehumanized Sentients. They're not all animal but they are far from capable of human intelligence.
We were on our way back to Base when the message came in from HQ.
***start of message***
Do not return to base.
EVO1 case identified in Delta 2 Corridor.
Proceed to Station #4498 and await further instructions.
***end of message***
My family was living in Delta 3 Corridor, one block down the road. Blitz, Locke, and Steele all had families living on base. We could not follow that order.
The gates were a tangled wreck of steel as we pulled up to Base. Blitz didn't even wait for the vehicle to stop. She was off and running, desperate to get home and tell her little boy that everything would be alright. He tried to bite her when she lifted him out of the crib. Lode was able to separate the two before the child succeeded, saving her life. She owes him and hates him in equal parts. I never send that pair on patrols together.
I could only think about Dee and my own pair of kids. Sometimes I was a lousy father. I had no patience for tears and I was much more accustomed to giving orders than giving hugs. I loved my kids no less when they screamed "Daddy's Home!" and insisted I give them an airplane ride on my shoulders. The girl was dead when I walked in the door. The boy was still gnawing on the bars of his crib though it was obvious he didn't have much fight left in him. Dee was wary in her approach. I could hardly blame her for hating me, leaving her alone to live through that. She wasn't foaming at the mouth or shrieking. She showed no signs of infection at all. It wasn't until I leaned in to give her a kiss that she attacked.
The virus always kills eventually. The mind doesn't always go right away, but there does seem to be a limit on the body's ability to fight. The oldest carrier I've met to date was infected for a year and you could see he was losing ground. He begged me to put a bullet in his head. I complied.
I seem to be the only exception. I waited for death to come, lying in a makeshift bed in Steele's basement and thinking about the bat I'd used to end my wife's rampage. It had been a Christmas gift to my boy. I'd promised him that in a few years when he could lift the thing, we would make baseball games our father-son tradition. I'd scream at the members of my squad to leave me alone, not wanting to be responsible for more deaths. I couldn't convince them to kill me, not even Steele who had never before failed to live up to his name. I had to accept that mocking my wife's belief in curses all those years had brought a whopper down on my own head. I was infected but I did not turn.
I've got a picture of her in my wallet, one that I never look at. I didn't have time to look for one of the kids. I was in too much of a hurry to burn those houses down before I had to kill anyone else I knew.
I wish I knew if other Hydes grew these blasted wings on their shoulders. We've never let one we encountered live long enough to affirm or deny the possibility. I've tried cutting them off, burning them off, even searing them off with a laser. They're awkward, heavy, and they stink when they're wet, to say nothing of the fact that they're completely useless. I can no more fly than I can breathe underwater.
It took three full weeks until I was strong enough to walk again. My squad was wary at first but they still refused to end my curse. We made it a point to bury our dead before we assigned ourselves a new mission. It's not like we have to worry about being court-martialed when all we've had from HQ in the past three years is a constant stream of static.
I may be willing to show defiance, but I accept no defiance from those who follow me.
When I say drop, you drop. When I order you forward, I don't want to hear you whine about your wet socks or the fact that you have blisters on your feet. It's why my squad and I are like one organism when we move. I've got them trained to my signals so well that I could blindfold the lot and guide them safely through a mine field.
Our glorious leaders didn't just try a-bombs to subdue the growing threat of Hyde population spread. They also created what they called "human mousetraps", clever explosives that use a trip-wire and a whole lot of fire power. Unfortunately, the Hydes have an excellent sense of smell. They must have learned to identify the explosive components because we haven't seen a Hyde corpse at a blast sight in the last year. We have encountered a few fully human skeletons that lack the telltale skull ridges which is what convinced us to deactivate as many of the devices as we could locate.
We're still the best at what we do. Unfortunately, my companions are lures for roving bands of Hydes.
They attack without making a sound. My own brush with death has given me enhancements of my own, allowing me to shove Trigger out of the way and take the brunt of the attack. Steele and Locke blast a pair of female Hydes away with well-aimed shots. There are a full three dozen Hydes and only eight of us. It's hardly worth the bother of dirtying our gun barrels.
Spike is a madman when a fight gets started, his spiky black hair whipping around in the wind as he snarls a wordless challenge at a man in a dirty green robe. Trigger did ballet before she decided to serve her country. The Hydes can't even keep up as she zips around, stinging them with pellets to lead them to Steele's machine gun fire. Blitz has a preference for grenades. Don't let her platinum locks fool you. This girl could take down a rampaging elephant without blinking.
There are four left and they all come for me. One manages to sink his yellow teeth into my arm. My knife is in my hand before I have the thought to grasp for it. It's a blade I acquired in a tiny Asian town twenty years ago. The hilt is shaped like a dragon though this clever beast spits steel instead of flame. My aim sinks the blade right in the meaty part of my attacker's neck and it takes him only a few minutes to die. The other three are downed before I can even wipe the blood away.
We didn't see the sleeper. She comes at Fig from behind, crawling out of the brush to latch onto his ankle. He cries and stumbles back, tripping over a wire.
The detonation leaves my ears ringing. Blitz begins to wail, freezing in place at my signal. She will want to look for his remains, to give him a proper burial and say a prayer over him like she did for her little boy. We're all well aware that one band of Hydes will soon attract others and that blast created quite an effective hole.
They return to the jeep at my hand signal, most still rubbing their ears. I've still got six good men and women I intend to see to Safety and I'll take out as many Hydes as I can for the few left to follow.
Profile by Shantal
story by pureflower
art by TrinitySilph
background images from pixabay.com
Badge image from eodgraphics.com
Major Drills Badges Of Honor