By: Emily Rudgers
In the war hardened lands of future Earth, humanity has been brought to its knees and tested.
The only possible saviors of the world being skilled soldiers whose abilities are put to the test.
This is the story of the remnants of unit 412.
Authors Note: Again I want to reiterate the warning I issued previously. If language, battle scenes, or mild gore descriptions bother you then please discontinue reading. Otherwise, enjoy the story that follows. I want to thank djkauf for editing and John in Wauwatosa for inspiring my muse. I know I take long breaks between chapters so they may not flow perfectly together since there is a different point of view in this one I think it works. All comments are greatly appreciated.
July 1, 2032
I wouldn’t leave Mast in that god forsaken place. With the war we have had to adopt the policy of leaving our dead because there are so many fallen it would be impossible to save them. However, he is a long time friend I would not see die if I have the option to save him. I made Red carry Mast out of the facility while I took point with the new ionization weapon. We moved as fast as possible back out the way we came, the only sounds our old boots making quiet scuffs and of Mast speaking gibberish in his daze.
“I swear this guy weighs a ton, we should leave him. He will just slow us down and we need to get this weapon and ourselves out of here in one piece.”
Most Determiners that I have come across removed the emotion of losing someone in their unit back when the war started. You go on missions with full strength units of eight or nine and come back as a unit of one or two. Our numbers have dwindled to the point that getting a group of 5 doesn’t happen anymore, it would seem. I have moved through unit after unit, managing to survive constant scrapes and hopeless situations. During my mission with my third unit, number 74, I met up with Mast. Ever since then he and I have gone on missions together. In some of our missions he saved my life; in others I saved his, but over the time we have known each other he has always come to my defense both in and out of combat. I suppose my inability to abandon him is the last shred of humanity I have that I’m not willing to give up or maybe I’m trying to regain.
“We aren’t leaving him, the wound on his neck has closed up from whatever was in that tube. I’m not going to leave him here to die when he isn’t already dying. Now shut up and get moving.” Red has always had some attitude towards me, usually disguised in sexual references or just being an asshole. I’d rather leave him here than Mast, if I could.
We walk out the door we came in after checking all sides. Off to the left on top of the building we see two of the modified warriors. Slinking against the wall we head off to the right. Peering around the corner of the building I see another two modified warriors. One of them spots me looking around the wall and fires at the corner. I duck behind as a large piece of the wall explodes away, the corner of the building is now gone leaving a rounded edge. Standing up from the blast I aim the ionization weapon at the first warrior and pull the trigger. The force of the recoil kicks me off my feet and sends me back a couple yards onto the flat of my back. Slowly I regain my bearings and sit up pulling the gun out from between my legs. The two warriors that were standing there are now no more than a scorch mark and a pile of goo.
The other two warriors on the other end of the building must have heard the explosion from the first shot because they come charging down the roof shooting. One of the shots whizzes past my head and leaves a small crater in the ground. Another hits right behind me and destroys my sniper rifle that has fallen from my back during my fall. I quickly crawl to the wall of the building giving me a small amount of cover. The two warriors effortlessly jump to the ground off the easily ten foot wall. I hear the crack of leg bones as they land squarely on their feet but continue walking unfazed. With both of them now on the ground we are easy prey. I put the butt of the new weapon against the wall and pull the trigger. With an unnatural sounding crack the warriors are no more. I pull the gun up to a ready position and see that the wall bricks now have a miniature crater. That’s a heck of a recoil. With my adrenaline starting to fade from the immediate battle I feel the bruising starting to take place on my left shoulder.
Not taking the time to wait for more warriors to show up we take off in a fast hobble.
We reach the safety of the city before we find any more combatants. A couple Beag scouts are scattered and are easily handled using common weaponry. No need to waste the ionization weapon’s firepower and draw attention to ourselves. As it starts to get dark we set up in an old laundromat. We take the opportunity to change clothes out of war torn rags into clothes that are only a little dusty from debris. Red makes a joke about finally getting the chance to see me in a dress in which I just tell him to stuff it. He grins about to take the freebie I gave him for a sexual joke when I silence him with my hands.
Behind Red is Mast lying practically comatose on the floor. What I notice is that he looks different. His once tanned skin is taking a more greenish hue and his face looks distorted. Walking over to him I shine my flash light on his forehead to get a clear view of his skin. I pull back some hair to get it out of the way when I notice it fall off into my hand easily. Surprised I try to pull another chunk only to find that there are a few strands still attached. I look up to Red and he is looking puzzled and uneasy trying to figure out if these changes are bad for Mast or all of us.
Our decision making is cut short as we hear a Facpour make a roaring call in the street. Turning off all lights we quietly pull Mast down the stairs into the basement of the building. As the Facpour walks past I get a bad feeling, it’s walking from the direction of our defensive camp and it’s covered in blood.
July 2, 2032
In the safety of the basement no Beag disturbed us, thankfully. We didn’t sleep because of all the firefights going on close enough we could hear but far enough away we couldn’t help, but the rest felt good.
Just before the sun rises we head out. Red hoists Mast up on his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. “I must be bulking up, he feels lighter and smaller.” Looking over at the two of them I notice that Mast is slightly smaller than before but with all of his gear on it’s hard to tell.
Despite me noticing the difference I give Red a hard time. “Nah, I just decided to carry his sniper since mine got fried.” Red looks at me like he doesn’t believe me but let’s this one go to appease his brain’s inability to explain why his friend would be lighter, turning green, and losing his hair.
Peering out a hole in the wall I look down both sides of the street, the coast is clear. I motion to Red and we start our trek. When we hear noises we scurry into a building, not taking the chance of even fighting a single warrior for fear the Facpour is still lurking nearby. It takes most of the day moving this way since we have to stop often for Beags and even a group of Gremlins searching for gas tanks to siphon. When we finally draw near the defense camp I notice the smell is different. Dead Beags don’t have much of a smell and when decomposing they may look disgusting but they don’t smell offensive. Something to do with their make-up or something, I don’t know. I’m a fighter not a scientist for a reason.
The smell in the air is distinctly foul however. I motion to Red that something is up and act even more cautious than our previously paranoid selves. As we approach the last street corner before the base I carefully take a glance. The sight is an ugly one and it gives me pause. There are no Beag bodies other than the ones that formed the wall. All around there are human bodies, most wearing Determiner’s armor. The cuts and gashes riddling the bodies can have only one source, a powerful Facpour.
After we had left yesterday there must have been another ten or so Determiners that joined the base because the number of bodies was too great. Some split in half could have made it seem like more, but regardless it was a slaughter. Why didn’t they split up after our massive victory, they must have known a Facpour was coming; unless we were supposed to make it back in time with the weapon to defend them. I freeze as I think how my decision to carry Mast may have slowed us down to the point it cost the lives of some 25 Determiners. Red gives me a tap on the arm to snap me out of my trance.
He motions to a building across the street and for a brief moment I see movement. Pulling up my rifle to be ready to open fire I take aim at the window I saw the disturbance. In the window I see the raising of a human rifle in a non threatening manner. Slowly Donc stands up and braces himself on the windows ledge. Looking both ways down the street and seeing no one we cross over to him.
When we arrive we see it is just him and a kid that would have been about Jonas’ age. Donc has the rifle rigged to his good arm with a piece of wire set so all he has to do is make a fist to fire. The kid looks like he is locked up in terror from the battle that took place. Donc gives the kid a pat on the shoulder which does nothing to rouse him before speaking. “I saw this kid run in here when we saw the Facpour show up, I took off after him in a hope we could regroup and hold it off long enough for you all to get back. It’s a good thing he’s a coward, or else I would be one of those bodies out there.”
Mast would have a field day with this one. Donc saved because he’s a hard ass trying to order a kid back to battle and certain death. “We lost Josh when we ran into some enhanced Beags. We found them attaching the spores to the warriors making them a hell of a lot harder to kill. But we managed to find the ionization weapon; it works wonders on a warrior that’s for sure.”
“At least you managed to make it back here. We’re supposed to have a complete evac this morning but it looks like it will just be the five of us.” Not giving me the chance to respond he taps on his wrist comm. and speaks. “Determiner Unit 412 reporting a success in retrieving the ionization weapon. The defense base was hit by a Facpour last night and was wiped out. I have a kid here going by the name Tap from another unit, please advise on exit route.”
The comm. comes to life in my ear. “Atace to 412, we have a safe LZ two blocks from your position. Make it to the roof in 15, be advised enemies have been spotted in your area.”
“Roger that command, Determiners out.” We all look at our own GPS and grumble. The landing zone for our pick up is on the other side of the wall of bodies. “We have 15 minutes. No point wasting time trying to go over the wall, we plugged up the crawl area yesterday to prevent another rear attack. We are going to go east one block to go around. Let’s move out.”
With aching muscles we carefully and quietly move from one building to another. Not taking a chance to be caught out in the open. Tap was roused surprisingly quickly once we started walking out the door leaving him to follow. He kept up and was very alert, paying extra attention to Red’s danger zones since Red couldn’t defend himself while carrying Mast. We go the block and cut the two blocks and are in sight of the building. At the base of the building we see a small Beag warrior party sitting fortified. With Mast out of commission there are only four of us, and going against a well fortified area would be a bad idea. With only 5 minutes before our chopper comes in to carry us out we have to hurry. Donc signals to Red the sign for grenade then hands him four. Red gets the idea and sneaks across the street using cars, trashcans and building debris for cover. Once he is at the alley running beside the fortified building he chucks two of the grenades on the unsuspecting Beags. Two are taken out in the explosion while the remaining three are only stunned. Red runs forward enough to blast a stunned warrior then throws the remaining two grenades through the door of the building and runs down the alley. As one remaining stunned warrior rouses a handful of well armed Beags who pour out of the building joining up with the one and take off with him after Red. As they disappear down the alley I move up with Donc to check out the building while Tap stumbles along with Mast. We move through the first floor without an issue. Arriving at the stairwell for the second floor I motion to Donc that more may be upstairs waiting to blast whatever walks up the stairwell. After all, that’s what I would do in this situation. Donc hands me his shot gun and motions for me to move up. I get to the turning point in the stairs and wait just out of view from above. I hear Donc go over to the elevator and start to try opening the door using his one good arm. I hear the door start to slide when I hear the one upstairs starting to be pried open. I motion to Donc and he smiles.
“Hey you bastards, why don’t you come down here and take your beatings like a man.” His provoking words fall on uncomprehending ears and all grows silent upstairs. Donc quietly sneaks over to where I am and grabs the shot gun from me and gives me the ionization rifle. Throwing a rock into the elevator we hear the sound of the it hitting metal and then falling to the ground. At the sound we walk around the corner and start blasting at any movement. Donc takes the first shot and shreds the warriors arm holding the weapon causing him to drop it. I brace the rifle against the wall and fire; liquefying two Beags. The one remaining we can see from our position fires a round catching Donc in the same position as his first hit causing him to stumble forward falling up the stairs. I fire another round and the Beag is no more.
Donc stirs and crawls up the stairs with his shot gun being loosely held in his hand. He flops around the corner and blasts another shot as a warrior’s bullets travel where a standing person would have been. I quickly ascend the stairs and peer to the side with his back which turns out to just be a window. In the window I see Red running down the street quickly towards our building. I look down at my GPS and see we have 3 minutes to get to the roof. I put Donc’s arm around my shoulder and hoist him to a standing position much to his complaint. We go up the remaining six flights of stairs as quickly as we possibly can while being careful at every turn. We hear the sounds of a chopper as we are going up the last set of stairs. As the chopper lands I see Red still bolting up the stairs. I get Donc to the chopper and get him in and I see Red and Tap both carrying Mast at a jogging pace as they leap into the chopper. I jump in and we start to take off. The first Beag walks through the door as we lift from the ground and the 50 cal unloads on him laying him to waste. Several more burst through the door but are no match for the powerful machine gun. As we veer away from the building I see a Facpour climb over the edge on the far side. By now we are twenty feet from the building and getting further away but it decides to take a running leap swinging its mighty arms to put one blow on our vehicle. It falls short by inches and lands hard on its feet on a building below. Warriors are now pouring out onto the roof tops nearby and firing away trying to hit something vital. Some of the bullets whizzed by as near misses. As we get further from the LZ, I take in the sight of the city. Flashes of gunfire can be seen but there is no escape helicopter for them. You can see hordes of Beag marching down streets looking like ants ready to swarm and Facpour towering as tall as some of the buildings scattered all over. Sometimes the explosion of Terrorlings can be seen before a building collapses from too much damage. And to think we once called this home.
The flight feels long from all of the intense fighting we have been through. We fly to the Redas Armor company thankful we didn’t have to walk the 120 miles. They don’t usually waste helicopters on people, it’s only because we carry this weapon they gave us a ride because we were in a bad spot. Chances are we would have been killed and the weapon would have been lost. It’s bad enough the facility was on the other side of the city as the armor company. We had to go through heavy Beag territory and then had to double back to the base to go through to the other side. I look around at my companions. Donc is pretty beat up but managing to stay on his feet, one point for stubbornness. Red must be tired from all the physical strain but otherwise is no worse for wear. Tap is unscathed, probably from running from every confrontation while others fight to survive. I’m bruised, cut, hungry, tired, and worn out from constant exertion. Mast has seen better days. He is definitely turning green, and all of his hair has fallen out by this point. The bone structure in his face seems a little different and his eye brows look more like hard masses than hair. The rest of him is covered in clothing but if that’s how his face looks then the rest can’t be good.
We unload as the chopper touches down and then takes off. We hop into one of the medical RV’s and head off to the temporary camp. I hand off the ionization weapon to a general and we each go our separate ways to clean off a bit, address wounds, and change clothes. Looking a little more presentable we all convene in the mess hall. The four of us now look worse, bruises and cuts that were covered in dirt or old enough to have healed some now carry white bandages making us all look more damaged than we are.
With food in our stomachs we hop in the back of an RV and get some sleep while the camp breaks and moves on to prevent unwanted company. After seven hour of restless sleep where I relive the horrible parts of past missions I decide to be up for the day. In my sleep we have set up another very temporary camp far from the city. I head off to the medical tent and get my wounds checked while I check on Mast. I notice that there aren’t many people in this camp, no more than a half dozen. With two tanks and a couple RV’s with mounted machine guns they aren’t much to look at. Clearly they aren’t Determiners since they ask questions about fights and marvel at ‘veteran tales.’
With all of Mast’s gear removed and him wearing plain civilian clothes I can see the extent of the changes taking place more clearly. His eyes no longer open in the traditional sense. The first time the doctors opened them to check the pupil dilation I was shocked to see they opened more in a four pointed star manner. The eye itself has taken a reptilian like yellow in the white part and a red iris when there isn’t light but changes to yellow when there is light. His jaw is set differently, placed more forward but with the changes in his facial structure it flows naturally. His ears have repositioned a little higher on his head and look to lie a little more flat against his head each ending in a two points.
His mouth and nose have all but vanished under a plate of hard tissue with three small soft tissue breathing tubes sitting on either side of the plate. The doctors say it is just a defense mechanism and that his mouth and nose are still there, if shaped a little differently. The rest of his body is rather similar to what it was. His bones are denser, there are more sharp rises in his spine, his hands have taken a slightly more clawed shape without the long claws and his skin feels more like hard tissue than soft sometimes.
It wasn’t until I saw the doctors checking his chest and lower region after they thought I had left I noticed something else was indeed different. He had boobs, small ones to be sure, but they were covered in the same hard tissue that covers his mouth. According to the doctors the downstairs region has the same shielding mechanism but underneath is no longer an outie but an innie. Needless to say I didn’t believe them and called bullshit until they showed me the x-ray. His, now her, hips were shaped differently to allow for full flexibility around that joint, even the spine could be bent straight backwards without damage. It was the organs that were the most surprising. They pointed out female reproductive organs instead of male ones, plus some organs for which they had no clue.
I walked out of the tent wondering if I had lost my teammate or if his brain managed to remain intact.
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