tagNonHumanWith Beam and Fang Ch. 03

With Beam and Fang Ch. 03

byDragonCobolt©

Chapter Three: In Hard

Infected: 21,435,881

Healthy: 7,164,802,686

Day: 11

Corporal Marcus Erwing – or Kiwi to the rest of his platoon – looked up from his dog eared and beaten up copy of H.M.S Surprise by Patric O'Brian and then leaped to his feet, standing to attention as his commanding officer – 2nd Lt. Miguel – strode into the break room. The rest of the 202nd stood as well, all conversation silencing as the Master Sergeant shouted: "AT EASE!"

Everyone relaxed fractionally, and Kiwi heard his bunkmate – a man who went by the name of Oneball for no real physical reason – whisper: "What the hell's the twooie loowie doing here?"

Kiwi snorted, softly, as Lt. Miguel stopped his pacing and started his talking: His voice still held the slightly stick up the ass tone that he hadn't lost after the last tour Over There, but it had definitely become less afraid. The first time Kiwi had set eyes on Miguel, he had been pretty sure that Miguel was going to get at least one person in the platoon killed. The fact that he had managed to keep them all relatively intact through a tour with only a few minor injuries and one serious was why that stick up the ass was...well, forgivable.

Hell, Kiwi was willing to forgive an officer of almost anything, if his leadership kept the whole platoon from getting killed in stupid and pointless ways. It marked fairly high on Kiwi's list of things that he wanted in an officer.

"All right, men, I know that we're back home, but an emergency situation had cropped up and Command wants a squad willing to do some dangerous duty in country," the Lt said, without preamble. This sparked no muttering – the 202nd were Marines, not idiots, and only an idiot would start muttering like this was the middle of high school with the Master Sergeant within glowering reach – but it did produce a lot of glancing and raised eyebrows. "It'll be counted against your current roster of assignments – one less tour before you need to reup. I only want volunteers. Come to my office if you're interested."

"Yes sir!" The marines chorused.

And with that, the Lt turned around and marched out of the room, the Master Sergeant following him with his glower still affixed like a tumor. A face tumor.

"Volunteers?" Kiwi asked as he sat down at his bunk. "What the fuck, command doesn't want volunteers..."

"Sure it does. For suicide missions." Oneball muttered.

And, right on cue, Rodriguez walked past, heading right for the office at the end of the barracks.

Oneball and Kiwi watched her walk past. Rodriguez was one of the five...no, six women who had gotten through Perry Island's training course intact and with ball-kicking boots still attached. Hell, she had qualified higher on the range than most of the marines. At first, Kiwi hadn't been entirely sure...but, well, Oneball had pointed out that they had to pass the same tests as the rest of them. They passed, so they passed, so Kiwi didn't give a shit if they had their genitalia on the inside or the outside.

But some people hadn't gotten that memo. Sadly, one of them seemed to be Rodriguez, as she kept acting like she had something to prove.

Oneball sighed. "You're going to do it, aren't you?"

"What can I say?" Kiwi put his hands behind his neck, then stood. "I'm one of those chauvinist pigs that my college professor kept warning me about."

"...you didn't go to college, dude."

"Fuck you!" Kiwi raised a middle finger as he walked past Oneball's bunk. "I got a BA!"

"More like a BS, if you ask me..."

Kiwi shook his head as he found that the officer's office had a bit more people than he had expected: Rodriguez might have been the first one there, but there were a few other marines from the 202nd, all waiting for a chance to volunteer. Once they had a full squad, the LT gestured them inside.

"This mission is...well, it breaks a few of the standard protocols we're all used to." Miguel made that part sound like the most distressing part of an unknown, most likely dangerous, mission. As he spoke, he handed out a dozen paper packets, which was loaded with information that only someone trained in MABS (Military Acronym Bullshit) could understand. Kiwi flipped through his, and found it less comprehensible than most of the books he read – which was strange, as before he'd started the O'Brian series, he wouldn't have known what a mainsail was if it had whacked him in the face.

"Essentially, a corporation called Dynacore Biotechnology has refused to divulge information that the US government needs to get a handle on. We're going in to get it out of their headquarters."

"Sir!"

The LT nodded to a blond haired kid with spectacles, named Harry. Harry voiced what everyone was thinking: "Isn't this a job for SWAT or something, sir?"

"Well, normally, it would be." Lt. Miguel frowned. "But the local government refuses to send the SWAT team in. They cite the dangerous environment, but I've been informed that it is most likely the result of corporate maleficence and corruption."

"Sir?" Gordon, one of the heavy gunners from the 3rd fireteam asked.

"They're bribing the local government something fierce," Lt. Miguel said, sighing. "Fortunately, we don't expect much resistance. But, the important thing is that we go in, full NBC gear, full caution, and take their computers by force. Understood?"

The marines nodded.

"Now, if anyone wants to back out, now would be the time to do it."

No one left.

Lt. Miguel nodded. "Good. Report to the helipad in four hours, full kit, ready to go. And remember...this is a secret. Need to know."

They nodded.

###

In the armory, Kiwi started to regret taking this mission. For one thing, it had been at least a year since basic, and the time he had spent Over There had worn off the sharp edges of memory. Hell, he was sure that if he had enough time to stretch between basic and his present – say, at least a thousand years – he might even look back on the time as a brighter, better time of his life. But still, training in NBC gear had been one of the shorter parts of his time in basic, meaning it loomed less large than Hell Week or crawling through mud under barbed wire or listening to the DIs bellowing at the top of their lungs in the most astounding way: Managing to reduce people to near tears without using a single profane word.

It was really quite impressive – if viewed from a distance.

Still, the training in thick rubber hood and thick rubber gloves and thick rubber gas mask with assault friendly broad face plate and thick rubber boots and a thick set of rubber overalls...it hadn't been pleasant. And strapping down in an air conditioned armory in a military base in the United States, far far far away from the tropical, sandy, and other generally too hot and too violent hellholes that he had been sent to in his career...was still one of the most horrible things that he had experienced.

If you didn't count being shot at.

This was just being drowned in rubber, and suffocated in rubber. Still, he checked and rechecked the containment, while Rodriguez hurried past the window of the armory – already dressed, with her shooter on her back and two spare magazines hanging prominently on her CMB. Kiwi sighed, then dragged on his gas mask, to check the fitting, then tugged it down to hang around his neck, and hurried out to follow the woman.

Once they were all of them dressed and fitted, they were hustled onto a black helicopter that whirred softly as it took off, then zipped away, over the base, then over suburbia.

Looking down at the sweep of suburbia, Kiwi pursed his lips, checked his M16A1 and tried to chill.

Corporate maleficence and corruption? Unpredicted emergency? And NBC gear for going into a biotech firm.

"Please don't say we're heading to Raccoon City next..." He muttered.

The marine to his left glanced at him, then grinned. "Nah, man. There's still plenty of room left in Hell. I know, because I haven't gotten there yet!"

That produced a short laugh, and confused looks from others.

"Romero man! Zombie movies and shit," the joker said.

The confused looks grew more confused.

"Eh, nevermind."

The black helicopter took a hard, banking turn, and then accelerated. Black helicopters – or stealth helicopters, or whatever you wanted to call them – had gotten famous as hell when Seal Team 6 had gone in and taken out Osama Bin Ladin with one. They weren't actually completely silent. Instead, they just dampened the sound to make it sound like they could either be approaching or leaving a targeted location – thus, making it slightly more likely that the bad guys at the LZ would be caught unaware.

Kiwi liked that kind of thing, but...didn't want to rely on it. So, he checked his weapon again and listened to their on the ground commander for the mission, Staff Sergeant Baen.

"All right, when we land, we'll approach it in a low threat posture," Staff was saying at the front of the helicopter. "Until we are notified of any changes in the situation, Dynacore is still an American corporation. But I want everyone to get home in one piece, so keep your gear on and your eyes open."

"Staff, why are we wearing this shit?" One of the marines asked.

"Because I fucking ordered you too, Kowalski. And, because, as your fellow marines have so kindly pointed out, we appear to be in the prequel to a zombie movie. But, see, we have one advantage." He grinned, fiercely, and slid his gas mask on. "We're not fictional."

###

Dynacore's building looked a little bit like the office building from Terminator 2 – where the evil or at the very least misguided scientists were busily studying the robot arm from the future, to make bigger, better weapons. Kiwi wondered, for a moment, if anyone else in his squad was making the mental comparison – all the talk of zombie movies and other bits of joking...it cut down on the strain of walking into the unknown. But the downside was that it crept in these little tendrils of doubt.

What if we open the doors and find a load of zombies, huh? What if?

The helicopter came down in the mostly abandoned car park...abandoned despite it being the middle of the day.

Okay, seriously, Kiwi thought as he stepped off, his M16A3 hanging around his neck, his hands cradling it gently. He wanted to sweep it around – but, again, they were in the good old US of A. And he didn't really want to shoot any part of it. And, as he'd been taught by every father figure in his life: Don't point your gun at something unless you plan to shoot it. The other marines stepped off, and Staff – clearly not liking what he saw – made the hand gesture to indicate dispersal.

The squad split up, moving forward in a jagged, broken line, ducking behind cars for cover. Fuck the low threat posture, it seemed.

No one fired on them, and things seemed awfully quiet. Out of the corner of his gas masks' foggy visor, Kiwi saw that some civilians were watching from the edge of the parking lot, their mouths agape. One of them held up a phone and recorded the whole thing.

This is fucking nuts! He thought. Where the hell is the police? What is going on?

"Kowalski, Simmons, breach." Staff said, after he tried the door – locked solid.

The two marines stepped up. One of them slapped on a breaching charge, and they lined up, each at the ready. The door blew inwards with a harsh, sharp BANG, followed by a sudden blaring alarm, howling loudly. The marines rushed in, and Kiwi spotted a great place to take cover – in the corner near one of the potted plants. He dropped to his knee and swung his weapon around, aiming at the whole room. It was empty, save for the front desk, the corridor heading back further into the building, and a large Dynacore logo in the back, which rotate slowly.

"No one's home, Staff," Rodriguez said.

Staff nodded. "Kiwi, shut that fucking alarm off. Rodriguez, Simmons, watch his back."

Kiwi sighed. He didn't even bother asking how Staff knew that he had been an electrical technician for two years before he signed up.

Yes, an electrical technician with a BA in Creative Writing. Life was fucking weird sometimes.

Together, the three marines headed down a side corridor, following signs that claimed this route lead to security. The signs were right and the door to the security office opened to a quick boot to the knob. Once inside, Simmons stood at the door and Rodriguez walked with Kiwi to the console. There was a cup of coffee sitting on it. Kiwi prodded it, but didn't feel any heat or cold through his gloves...but the mold made him say: "A week or so?"

"Yeah...though, who puts in that much sugar, huh?" Rodriguez muttered as Kiwi spotted the flashing red light on the console that indicated the alarm. He shut it off, and then looked over at the screens, trying to read what they said through his mask. He reached up and rubbed at it with a rubber clad palm, muttering.

"God, I fucking hate these...what the FUCK!?"

That brought Simmons and Rodriguez to his side and both of them said...well...about the same thing.

One of the screens in the security office was a security camera feed, which flicked from corridor to corridor, from room to room, with about a ten second view on each – panning back, then fourth, then switching. But the third room looked like a break room: The door looked heavily dented, and several bodies lay on the floor...but they looked wrong, mutilated. A sign had been scrawled in what looked like...blood -it was hard to tell, due to the grainy image of the security camera. The sign had been left on a chair and angled at the camera.

It said: HELP US.

Then, of course, the camera shifted away.

"Get it back!" Rodriguez said, while Simmons put his finger on his radio.

"Staff, this is Simmons, something is seriously wrong here."

"Oh, sure, I'll just figure out how to use a console in five seconds! Because that's how this kind of thing works..." Kiwi muttered, tapping at buttons carefully, unsure of what the markings meant – so many were abbreviations or acronyms.

"Seriously wrong? Didn't you learn to give a proper sitrep, Simmons!"

"Come on, you're the egghead...ish." Rodriguez said.

"Uh, well, Staff, a break room with the doors closed and a bunch of bodies on the ground-"

"Ish?" Kiwi hissed.

"-and a sign written in blood-"

"Well, you were only an ET for, what, a month?"

"A year!"

"-in blood!?"

"GOT IT!" Kiwi laughed as he stepped back, the screen set firmly to the camera, which had stopped panning. He put one rubber clad hand around a joystick on the desk, then started to tilt it around. He looked at the bodies. "...what the fuck..."

The door opened and the Staff stepped in. He moved around Simmons, then ducked around to look over Kiwi's shoulder.

"Son of a bitch," Staff said.

"Took the words right out of my mouth..." Kiwi whispered.

On the screen, they saw that the bodies that lay on the ground were all undressed, and showed no sign of being hurt. Rather, they were breathing shallowly, but seemed to be laying around more due to lack of energy – they seemed to be starving. Each had several water bottles nearby, and there were a half a dozen bowls filled with water as well, all from the break room sink. The only one who seemed to have energy at all was...was...

"Look at that bird," Kiwi said, his voice dazed.

...a crow.

A...walking crow.

A walking female crow.

She had a beak and intelligent looking eyes, her head mostly humanoid, her body sleek and curvaceous at the same time. Rather than feet, she had broadly spread claws, scaled like a that of a bird, and colored a dark black to suit the feathers, which smoothly flowed along her body as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Her hands were clawed as well, five fingered – well, five fingered and a thumbed – and scaled. Her wings spread from her back, like a cloak that wrapped about her shoulders. She glanced up as the camera focused at her, then cocked her head.

She then stood, hurried over – well, more like staggered – over to a collection of white tiles, which looked like they had been pried off the ground.

She held it up, and it had words written on it in blood: STARVING!

"...what do we do, Staff?" Kiwi whispered.

Staff frowned, considering. Kiwi could almost hear him, talking to the Lt and could almost hear the Lt saying: You risked your marines' lives for a bird?

"Get your MREs ready," Staff said. "We need to find out what the fuck is going on here."

###

The door opened and Kiwi stepped in holding up an MRE and not a gun. It was a trick he had learned in Over There: Guns produced shooting. MREs produced at least delayed shooting – if only out of confusion. This time, it produced a large, fur covered hand grabbing his MRE out of his hand and then ripping the tab on it, and they went to town. They, in this case, were a walking cow girl, a bear, the crow girl from the monitors, and a horse. They actually weren't naked – their clothes had just been mostly removed, leaving only underwear, though the cow girl was going without a bra, meaning the most astounding pair of Double Ds that Kiwi had seen in all his born day were out and free.

And were also black and white.

And on a cow girl.

"This day is getting seriously weird..." Kiwi muttered, as Staff and the rest of the marines entered the room, their gas masks giving the entire place a very Darth Vadery backdrop.

"It is about time someone came!" The crow girl said, her diction remarkably good, considering the beak. "It is about FUCKING time! Those goddamn, pencil dick, greedy shits, those motherfucking suit wearing assholes, those-" She stopped herself, holding up her clawed, black hand, and then breathed in, waited five seconds, breathed out, and clearly counted backwards mentally. "My name is Dr. Clara Redfield. I am the project manager on Project Scoop. And my bosses just tried to have me, my co-workers, and the rest of the building staff who knew what was going on killed to cover up for the fact that they just WIPED OUT THE HUMAN RACE AS WE KNOW IT!"

She paused.

"Any questions?"

Kiwi managed to not raise his hand and ask Why are you so stupidly hot when you get mad?

Somehow.

Because, when she got mad, her firm, curvaceous breasts jiggled oh so fetchingly, and he saw that her feathers actually only spread along her back – her front, and her thighs, had smooth, black skin, pure black, not the black of an African American. Or...African hyphen Wherever Else African people were. Or, even, Africans themselves. The black ones at least.

Kiwi realized that his mind had been completely derailed by noticing the tiny, hard, blue nipples – dark, dark blue – that tipped each of her breasts.

And now he had a hardon in NBC gear.

Because of a walking raven. Or...crow. Or whatever.

Fucking fantastic.

"Ma'am, can you start from the beginning?" Staff asked, his voice gruff and remarkably calm behind his gas mask.

Dr. Redfield rubbed her beak with a palm of her scaled hand, then said: "All right. Come with me."

She turned and walked off, her tail feathers twitching – which showed hints of a tight, tight ass that put most strippers to shame. And Kiwi knew a lot of strippers! They were generally nice people. He shook his head, reached up to make sure his gas mask filters were on and he wasn't suffocating himself. Finding he wasn't, he realized that all of his inane thoughts were really his own. Fuck.

"Project Scoop was initiated in 2004 by our CEO, Mr. Freeman," Dr. Redfield said, reaching the exit door, stepping out into the corridor, and continuing on. "He wished to undercut the costs of developing new biotechnologies via outsourcing our research to...alternative methods."

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