tagNonHumanWork The Problem Ch. 05

Work The Problem Ch. 05


Author's Note: No smut in this chapter, but there is plenty of violence and a bit of gore.


First-Paw Glenn Fletcher was beginning to despair. His line of militia were doing what they could against the horrors beyond the ridge, but it wasn't enough. Anyone that stuck their head up too far got cut apart by the red beams of the invaders. Those large feathered creatures had taken apart the barn of Hadley's farm. Every time Fletcher poked his head above the ridge he saw more of them lining up. They were clearly getting ready to make a push up to the ridge, and when they did Fletcher had no illusions that his little force would be able to keep them back.

And then the second portal had formed behind their position. Whoever these invaders were, it was clear that they were going for an envelopment. But so far nothing had come through this new portal except for a couple of small wheeled tractors. The first tractor had been shot, but then was quickly followed by a second with a truce-flag attached to it.

Maybe it was a trick. Whatever it was, he decided to ignore it for now. Fletcher's big blue eyes shifted back to the ridge. He wriggled forward again and just barely stuck his eyes over the ridge, careful to keep his long ears tucked flat against the back of his head.

There was now a line of the big feathered bipeds, and they were busy moving a bunch of metal crates out of the glowing-edged hole where Hadley's barn had once stood. The crates were being stacked in neat patterns around the portal. Fletcher figured this was as good a time as any to take a shot, and he edged his rifle just over the ridge. He took careful aim at one of the invaders near the portal, breathed out, and squeezed the trigger. He saw his bullet spark off of the thing's armored head, and he ducked back down as several red beams fired right through the space where he'd been.

As he slid back down, his radio crackled. A deep and unfamiliar voice came from it. "To all friendly forces, all friendly forces, this is Brigadier General Darren Gossett transmitting in the blind, repeat transmitting in the blind. Please respond, over."

Fletcher snatched up his radio and held it to his head. "Who is this? Clear this channel!"

The voice continued. "Sir, we stand ready to assist. This transmission is from the portal behind your position. The portal with the robot. Over."

He looked back at the little vehicle with its blue flag. Fletcher felt a little bit of hope mixed with fear. "How do I know your intentions?"

A new voice, higher in pitch and feminine, came on the radio. "This is Holly Arnbock. I'm one of you. I think I recognize some of the terrain there. Are you near Sullivan City?"

By now Fletcher was totally bewildered. The name Arnbock was familiar for some reason. At first he thought about denying his location, but then realized that, whoever this was, they could punch a hole through reality and reach his world. If this new group was hostile there was nothing he could really do. "Yes. We're at Hadley's Farm."

"I know where that is!" said Holly's voice. "I'm from Sullivan. I went missing over a year ago."

He suddenly realized where he'd heard the name. "Yes, I remember the report. Are you with those firing at us? Can you call them off?"

Gossett's voice came back on. "Unfortunately not, sir. As I said, we stand ready to assist you in fighting them. We're sending Ms. Arnbock through the portal, so please tell your men to hold their fire."

Fletcher decided that he'd at least risk that. "All right. But just her to start with."

He stared at the distant portal in astonishment as a gray furred shape stepped through it. Her ears rose up and she gave him a wave. She had a little box in her paw, and held it up to her mouth.

"Do you believe me now?" said her voice through his radio. "Seriously, we're here to help. Please let them come through. And don't worry. They're big, but they're friendly."

Fletcher shook his head in amazement. "They? All right, Ms. Arnbock. I'll trust you for now."

He was astonished again as pair of huge forms emerged from the new portal. They were easily half-again as tall as Holly and much broader. The pair wore strange patterned clothing and had many implements strapped to their bodies. One of them carried what he recognized as a rifle, but it looked more complicated than any gun that he was familiar with.

His radio crackled again. "We're going to come up there, is that okay?"

Well, at least they didn't have feathers. "Yes, come on up."

Holly began sprinting towards him as the two big creatures followed more slowly. As they got nearer, he realized they looked a little familiar, like apes he'd seen in the zoo. But they had almost no fur and sported oddly bulging foreheads.

The first of the creatures to reach him was the one carrying the rifle. He slid to a prone position next to Fletcher, and made an odd gesture where he touched his forehead with the edge of his hand. "Lieutenant Keith Jenkins, United States Army, 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment."

Fletcher was in informational overload, so he just let the words wash over him. It was clearly a greeting of some sort. "First-Paw Glenn Fletcher, Sullivan City militia." He stuck out a paw and was happy to see the ape-being take it and give a polite shake. At least that gesture seemed to be a common one.

"What's the situation, sir?" asked Jenkins.

Fletcher shrugged. "Really fucking bad? We received a call from Farmer Hadley that something was taking apart his barn. The first responders were shot at with some kind of beam weapon. Whoever they are, they're making a stockpile on this side of their portal. And they look like they're getting ready to advance over this ridge and towards the city."

By now the other ape-human had reached them. "Ned Chiang," he said with a little nod of his head. He pointed up to the ridge. "Who are these guys?"

"Your guess is as good as mine," said Fletcher. "They're big, even bigger than you. They have two legs with clawed feet and lots of feathers all over 'em. They're wearing some sort of body armor. That's as much as we're able to see. If we poke our heads up for too long we get shot at."

"We need eyes up top," said Jenkins. "Sir, with your permission we have quite a bit of materiel on the other side of our portal, including recon drones and heavier weapons."

Fletcher stared in surprise at the ape-human. "Why do you need my permission?"

"This is your world, sir. Us monkey-boys wouldn't take kindly to someone just showing up and moving in before asking 'Mother May I'."

Holly put her paw on Fletcher's arm. "They can help, Glenn. I've been in their dimension or timeline or whatever for seven months. They've done nothing but try to help me, and they've got some pretty advanced technology."

Fletcher felt a little despair at having to make this big of a decision. He was a militia leader, not a politician. But he was the man on the spot, and he knew that this is what he'd signed up for when he'd taken the job. "Okay. Bring whatever and whoever you can." He gave another peek up to the ridge. "I figure you have about thirty minutes before they move."


Sergeant Cal Forrester was in full-on 'Get 'er done' mode. "Right, people," he said. "I want a bucket-brigade line set up through the portal. The goal is to get as much shit through that hole as fast as we can, ya got it?"

There was a chorus of 'yessirs' and the platoon shuffled itself into a long line. The first of them through the portal was Corporal Leslie Nowak, and as she stepped through she looked back and saw Grace's pale face among the onlookers. She gave the doctor a smile and a wink, then turned away. Going through the portal felt oddly normal, just like stepping through a doorway. Leslie half expected to feel some kind of vibration or electric shock, but there was no strange feeling at all. One moment she was standing on metal flooring, and the next she was standing in a grassy field with a bright sun overhead.

Leslie and the others took up their positions and the next few minutes was a scene of controlled chaos as a great many hard-shell plastic cases were shuttled through the hole and stacked neatly. As she worked, Leslie looked up to the ridge and saw that Holly and Ned were up there along with the L.T. and a good number of the rabbit-people. The latter were all dressed in some sort of black-and-red outfit that she supposed was their militia's uniform. They all hugged the slope to keep out of sight of the ridge.

Leslie felt a sudden pang of fear at seeing her friends up there. She wasn't afraid for the L.T., he was one of God's own soldiers who could walk through an inferno without getting so much as singed. But Ned and Holly were civvies, and moreover they were her friends. She should be up there in the front lines, not them.

Sergeant Forrester bounded through the portal with a big plastic clamshell case in both hands and ran up to Leslie. "Corporal, you're qualified on a Raven?"

"Sure thing, Sarge,"

"Then gear up and follow me. Morillo, you and Rockatansky get one of the mortars unpacked and get up there ASAP. We have a couple more mortar teams coming through as well."

She slung her rifle and followed the big man as he went at a dead run towards the ridge. Once they were also hugging the slope leading up to the ridge, she gave the civvies and the rabbit-dude they were talking to a friendly wave. "Hey guys," she said casually.

"Hey Leslie," said Holly, and gave her a quick smile. The sergeant set down his case and gave both the rabbit-dude in charge and the L.T. a quick nod, then opened the case.

"You want me to fly or throw, Sarge?" asked Leslie.

"Fly. I'm no good at video games." The case contained the crucifix-form of a Raven reconnaissance drone along with its controller. Leslie plucked the boxy controller out of the case and with practiced ease turned it on and ran through the drone's startup procedure.

The screen on its front lit up, and the rabbit-dude started back a bit. "Whoa," he said.

Holly gave a little smile. "I told you. They've got stuff we haven't even thought of yet."

Meanwhile, the sarge had moved back away from the ridge with the Raven. He looked over at Leslie, and upon her nod he heaved the drone into the air.

Leslie didn't even look up as he did so. All of her attention was on the screen in front of her, and her hands moved over the small joysticks as she flew the small drone parallel to the ridge.

"I'll bring it around from the side," she said. "Less chance of them spotting it."

The sarge had now rejoined them. "Good. Your feed is going straight to the eggheads on the other side, so hopefully they can make something of it."

She felt the rabbit-dude edge in closer to her as he watched her screen with fascination. Leslie had to resist the urge to reach over and give his furry head a good fondling. These guys were just too damn cute and fuzzy for their own good.

"This vision is from a camera on the flying machine?" he asked her.

"Yep," replied Leslie. "Sorry, can't talk too much. Gotta fly 'er."

The fuzzy dude nodded and kept his eyes glued on the controller's screen.

Leslie flew the UAV around and over the ridge, and they saw their opposition clearly for the first time.

The attackers were big, at least a head higher than any human and much longer. They looked a little like the 'raptors' that Leslie had seen in certain movies about badly-designed theme parks. But these particular dinosaurs were covered in feathers and body armor. Their clawed wing-arms were busy stacking crates and unpacking various unfamiliar but nasty-looking weapons.


On the other side of the portal, there was a collective gasp as the video feed from Leslie's controller was displayed on the big screen.

"Those look like velociraptors," mused John Dengar.

Arnold shook his head. "Dinosaurs have jaws and teeth. These guys have beaks and their tails are just feathers. My best guess is that they're descendants of one of the species of South American terror-bird. They're extinct in our timeline, but maybe they didn't die out in their home dimension."

John nodded. "I'll take your word for it." He looked up at their own portal, where more soldiers were piling through. "If they have portable beam weapons, then their power storage tech is a lot better than ours."

"Yeah." Arnold sounded as upset as John felt, and Daisy gave a little whine upon sensing her human's stress. The dark-skinned man leaned forward and his eyes narrowed. "Did you just see a pulse in the primary power feed?"

"A little," admitted John. "But it's still within safe limits."

Arnold didn't respond, and his eyes went unfocused. By now John knew not to speak to him; that expression meant that Arnold was 'in the zone'. After a bit of rumination, Arnold finally spoke. "We might be getting a resonance from their portal. Let me know if you see any more fluctuations."

"I'm going to start charging up our capacitor bank again," replied John. "Just in case."

On the screen, one of the feathered nightmares looked up at the camera. It raised a complicated-looking metal tube, and then the drone's video feed suddenly cut out. Just before the screen went dark, John saw one of the enemy also moving up towards the ridge.


Holly filled in First-Paw Fletcher on the basics of what had happened to her. Beside her Ned and Leslie used one of his maps to mark the location of the enemy's portal as well as take notes of how many of the enemy terror-birds were on this side of it. Leslie cursed as her drone's feed went dark.

"Bogey on the ridge!" she called out. "Eyes up!"

All of them looked up towards the crest and saw a cruelly-curved beak protrude over the ridge line. It was quickly followed by a helmeted head out of which glared two yellow eyes. A metal tube came up into view...

Any mischief the thing was planning was quickly and literally shot down as Leslie, Jenkins, and Forrester began shooting in quick three-round bursts. Holly pressed herself down against the ground and noted that Ned was also hitting the dirt. Fletcher, on the other paw, was also firing at the shape with single aimed shots. In a few seconds the thing had ducked back out of sight to dodge the hail of metal.

Holly then saw Fletcher's eyes light up as several groups of ape-humans set up behind them. Each group was clustered around a metal tube that tilted towards the ridge.

"Please tell me those are mortars," Fletcher said to Lt. Jenkins.

The lieutenant gave a rare smile. "Yep."

Fletcher sagged a little in relief. "Thank Kas for that. We can't get any decent line-of-sight fire on those bastards."

Jenkins' radio crackled. "All set up, sir," said a tinny voice. The lieutenant made another quick scan of everyone's position, then held up the radio.

"Fire for effect. HE rounds to start with."

Holly flinched a little at hearing a series of loud foomps behind her, That was quickly followed by a bone-chilling series of descending-pitch whistles which were followed by a louder group of explosions sounding past the ridge. Her fur stood on end as the loud crashing noises were followed by multiple high-pitched shrieks that could not have come from any normal throat.

Sergeant Forrester grinned, and it was the humorless expression of a giant ape getting ready to pull off someone's limbs. "Sounds like we done pissed 'em off, L.T."

Jenkins' face was serene, and his voice was now almost drawling. "Yeeeep. Let's keep up the skeer, as they say." He raised his radio to his mouth as the foomps and explosions continued. "Switch to Willy Pete for two rounds each team, then back to HE."

Several bright flashes now came from beyond the ridge, and the inhuman screaming seemed to go up an octave.

"What's the plan, then?" asked Fletcher.

"We let 'em burn and explode for a bit," replied Jenkins. "In the meantime, we get some heavy machine gun teams up to the ridge while they're keeping their heads down and then we shoot up everything moving. I want anything coming out of that portal to be walking into a stream of bullets."

His radio crackled again. "Uh, sir? We have a situation at our portal. Unauthorized visitor."

Jenkins looked back, and Holly followed suit. She was surprised to see a familiar bear-like shape step through the portal.

The lieutenant sounded pissed for the first time that Holly could remember. "What the shit? Okay. Sergeant, you keep those bastards' beaks down. Holly, you're with me. You're the closest thing we have to an ambassador."

"If that's the case, then I need a pay raise," replied Holly.

Jenkins laughed. "Welcome to the club."

She sprinted back towards the portal, and realized quickly that she was fast enough that she had to slow down to let Jenkins keep up with her. Sure enough, as they arrived they saw Yuri Vassili Sergeyevich looking around in bemusement at the uncertain soldiers facing him. Somehow he'd found an armored vest big enough to fit over his bulk.

"Ah, Miss Arnbock!" he called out jovially as she skidded to a stop. "Requested posting to this side of portal. Request was granted."

Jenkins ran up behind her, looking pissed. "Dammit, Yuri, this area is hot! I can't guarantee your safety."

"Not here as ambassador. Here to help, even if help is mostly symbolic." Yuri tapped a thick finger against his armor vest. "Besides, have plenty of protection. Just need weapon."

"All we have are some spare M4's," replied Jenkins. "We don't have any Russian gear..."

He trailed off as Yuri stepped over to a nearby open crate and plucked out a carbine. The Russian's fingers danced over the gun, checking it then pulling out the magazine to check that as well. He slammed the magazine back in and cocked the rifle in a practiced manner. "Should work okay," he grunted. "Not as robust as Kalashnikov, but suitable."

Jenkins' eyes narrowed. "Let me guess...former Spetsnatz?"

Yuri shrugged and gave a cheeky grin. "Mmmmmaybe. Anyway, we now go kill some big nasty birds, da?"

"Oh fuck yes." Jenkins turned to the other soldiers. "How many Ma Deuces we got on this side of the portal?"

"Four, plus six of the M240s," replied one of them.

"Okay, I need three of the M2s up on the ridge. Keep one in reserve. Support with the M240s. We gotta move while the mortars keep the terror-birds busy."

More crates kept getting handed through the portal during all of this discussion. There was suddenly a 'ripple' in the vision through the portal, as if Holly was looking at the army base through water.

"Get clear of the portal!" yelled Jenkins, and everybody managed to do so just before it irised shut and winked out of existence. A crate that had been halfway through the portal fell to the ground, cut cleanly in half as if by an impossibly sharp knife.


The other half of the crate clattered to the metal floor as many gasps of surprise sounded out. Those gasps were followed by a welter of shouting. John Dengar let out an uncharacteristic curse and lunged for the control board. "What happened?"

Arnold reached down with one hand to scratch Daisy's big square head. The pittie was leaning against his leg and whining at the distress of the humans around her. "A resonance, I think. Having the other portal in close proximity made ours less stable. We should be able to turn it back on, though."

But they both knew that reestablishing the portal would require a fully charged capacitor bank...which they didn't have right now.

General Gossett came bounding over. "Was that a deliberate attack? Did they close it on us?"

Arnold shook his head. "I think it was just a natural phenomenon. Now that I know what to look for we can keep it from happening again."

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