by O. J. Anderson
|part 3 of 9|
Jack Creed and his squad are under attack from hordes of giant beasts and are running out of ammo. But don’t worry, their troubles are just beginning. They’re up against the World Order: a mad scientist’s combination of man and animal, with weapons on full automatic.
Peru. Ayacucho Region.
They have a pretty good idea what they’re up against when they see the two winged monkeys fly by with AK-47s.
The vans accelerate and spread out automatically along the narrow dirt road as the monkeys flap around to their left flank. They begin squeezing off bursts, but the bullets only bounce off the vans’ heavy armor.
“Take ’em out,” Jack says over the radio.
One of the monkeys glides in front of Jack’s van. Flying backwards, the monkey does a quick magazine change; slaps it, and yanks the charging handle to the rear. Switches to semi. Begins touching off rounds straight at Jack and Simmons.
Pretty good reload for a monkey, Jack thinks, nodding in approval as the rounds carom off the three-inch thick polycarbonate windshield. That’s a well-trained chimp. But not well enough. Lucky opens up from the roof hatch with the Kore minigun: belt-fed 5.56, 100 rps — a real hard-on weapon for the crew.
The burping sound of the Kore fills the van as Jack watches the monkey take it center mass. Doesn’t go down though; the chimera climbs and banks away. Lucky tracks it. Keeps on it with the Kore. Manages to remove a leg.
As the vans continue on. and the forest on either side of the road gives way to a grassy clearing, two green streaks shoot up into the sky. Hit the monkeys. Entangle them in green gooey blobs. They fall to the ground. Get hammered by the miniguns.
Up ahead, Jack can now see who did the shooting. Black vans on both sides of the road tucked into the treeline. It’s Jake Brogan’s crew.
A dozen gooey mounds litter the area. More high in the trees. Winged monkeys, rhino-goats with missile packs, six-legged viper-dogs, et cetera.
They roll up to a stop as one of Brogan’s team leaders jogs out to meet them, G-9 slung across his chest. Signals for Simmons to roll down the window. He says, “We control the airspace for one square kilometer.” He points across the van. “Boss is at the three o’clock. Watch out for the hedgehogs.”
* * *
Jake Brogan is a big bruiser with a head shaped like an upside-down bucket. Wearing a Kevlar assault helmet with the chinstrap hanging down General Patton style. His mouth permanently positioned in a sour scowl like he was born with the taste of lemon in his mouth. Unlit cigar sticking out of it. He’s a good operator with an experienced crew. But Jack has seniority.
Brogan nods as Creed approaches. “Creed.”
They shake hands. From the cupola mounted on Brogan’s van comes a soft whirring noise as one of his troops rotates the glue cannon securing the east side pre-operational area.
Brogan turns to the map lying on the hood of his van. Points to their current position. “One mile north up this road is a castle on a butte. It’s called The Home of the World Order. A real spooky Xanadu kind of place. It’s run by a creep named Balthazar. No first name, no last. Just Balthazar.
“Got a recon drone circling a thousand feet overhead. Too high for the monkeys. We get about ten minutes warning before each assault wave.” He checks his watch. “Last one was fifty-seven minutes ago.”
“Right.” Jack pulls out a toothpick. “Patch the drone feed into my vans.” One of Brogan’s men comes around the van with a mug of coffee. Hands it to Jack, who nods his thanks.
Brogan says, “Heard you had a problem with crabs recently.”
Shaking his head, Jack says, “No, just a bad rash was all.”
Brogan looks at him funny, like he was asked to combine ruthenium and scandium to see what happens. “Hm?”
After a sip of coffee, Jack realizes what he meant. “Oh, that. Right. More big creatures. But nothing a two-thousand pound thermobaric bomb couldn’t solve.”
Jake nods. Says, “We’ve been on site for five hours. Got a call that villages in the surrounding areas have been undergoing sustained, random attacks by armed animals. Three days ago we began surveilling the area. One of my recon teams tracked them back to the castle.” He points down the road toward the Home of the World Order.
Brogan continues: “Didn’t take long to figure out that most of them have an armor-like hide. Burned through a lot of ammo before we uncased the glue cannons. Haven’t used those in a while.”
“This Balthazar clown is 93 years old. But no one has seen or heard from him in a long time. The rumor is that he’s probably dead or frozen in a cryogenic life pod; that would be my guess. These rich people don’t like the idea of dying much. Always trying to live forever so they can protect their dough. Whatever the case with Balthazar, someone’s in there continuing his work developing these militant hybrids.”
“Motivation?” Jack asks.
“Two that I can think of,” Brogan says. “First is spite. People like this have more money than they can ever spend, even with an extended family full of heroin addicts. They’re angry that it’s going to end. They want everyone else to suffer after they’re gone.”
Jack completes the idea. “Right. Burn down the house before the enemy takes it. Starts sleeping in your bed. Using your razor.”
“That’s it. These people think they own the world. The rest of us savages are only tenants.”
One of Brogan’s men makes a chirping sound, signalling an assault wave en route to their position. Jake nods and tells Jack, “Let’s get inside. Have your men button it up, we’ll handle this one.”
Once they are seated inside Brogan’s command van, Jake removes his helmet and says, “Second, and the more likely, I think, is that Balthazar was probably little more than a useful idiot. A mere appendage on a much larger and uglier organism. He had the bucks — family oil — and owned a lot of real estate in strategic places that world law enforcement agencies aren’t too concerned with. Lots of natural resources, cheap labor, and nobody looking over his shoulder. He was probably offered a seat at the insiders’ table a long time ago. They made him a member of the club, and if he didn’t already think like them, then he soon would.”
Jack doesn’t need to ask who they are. But it could be much more complicated than a nefarious old man with a grudge. And Creed’s Laws of Combat states that if it could be more complicated than that, it usually is.
The possible parallels to Orwell’s Animal Farm are obvious here, if not an outright rip-off, with a twist. Those animals may have gotten hip to the twist and taken over the farm. Killed Balthazar and all the other humans. He pictures in his mind various livestock sucking down teatfuls of hormones and reloading magazines. Could be dicey in there.
“But who knows, really,” Jake says. “That’s just what I’ve been kicking around in my head.”
“Sounds about right to me, Brogan. I’ve got an experiment in mind too.”
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“I want to see what happens to a ninety-three year old frozen man when someone drops a thermite grenade on top of his life pod.”
Brogan smiles, like he just figured out how to combine ruthenium and scandium, and it’s really cool. “Nice.”
* * *
Copyright © 2007 by O. J. Anderson