Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Pallbearer: War Part 4

Fishing With Dynamite

I cried for joy as the air was painted with the screams of the dying and the lamentations of those who would soon join them. St. George was far too strong a beast to cry, but it roared its appreciation of the carnage with volley after volley of high explosive. The ground erupted angrily, spewing shards of old car and apartment windows into the Judge army.

It had been beautifully text book. The Judges had made their encampment in a sloping valley of garbage. They had no cover barring the old husks of long dead cars. The Sleepers had held back in reserve as those Errata with long-range rifles came to the fore. The tank-treaded Errata retrofit their grenade launchers to volley fire and positioned themselves as our artillery. Well out of range of the few Repentant pistols, the massacre had begun.

My Errata held their positions by my side, sniping the oncoming fishmen with alarming accuracy. I so adored armies that valued rank. They always made the mistake of clearly marking their officers uniforms. My Errata had already been educated in the importance of killing leaders. There would be no clashing of our forces at even mildly close range. The Judges would die long before they ever got close enough to us to effectively fire their harpoon guns and chloride rifles.

I snickered. What would salt crystals do to steel anyway?

The Sleepers were, I believe, mortified. It was kind of sweet to see. They were positively, one hundred percent, disgusted at the massacre before them. They most likely wouldn’t even get to kill a single fish.

“Enjoying the show?”

The fox, Alithea, was standing next to me. She looked up at my Brute with an eyebrow arched.

“Enjoying? This is a slaughter. They will never even reach us. I do not understand why they continue to fight instead of flee.”

St. George bellowed again and I slammed another HE round into place.

“They don’t have much choice. I would imagine they had a similar deal with West Worthington worked out. That they could have the district for a price. West Worthington is almost certainly going to make out like a bandit in this deal. Ah, you might want to cover your ears.”

The HE round burst from St. George’s shining mouth and blew apart the front of the Judges attempted line yet again.

“But why continue fighting when death is inevitable? Why not retreat and tend to your wounds before attacking again with greater strength and knowledge of the enemy?”

“Two reasons. First, your superiors may kill you for running away. Second, it lacks honor. I’m sure you know just how nobly the Judges see themselves.”

Alithea shook her head in disgust.

“Whoa, whoa, cease fire boys. We’ve got a white flag going up amidst the fields of sushi there.”

Over half of their force was still kicking just fine but the fish were flying the flag of surrender. That had me curious. A figure in golden armor was clearing their lines, flanking on either side by two of the largest Judges I had ever seen. With their black and white colorations, I had to assume they were killer whales. That was new. I hadn’t seen a mammal among the Judges before. Were they getting desperate or just finally bringing all their forces to bear?

The figure in gold was most definitely a shark, and a good sized one himself. From the build, maybe a bull shark. His jaw twitched in time with the tip of his snout as he grew closer, carrying the white flag.

“I am Consular Antilles. We are ready to surrender under certain conditions.”

“What do you want fish?”

“My men are to be allowed to leave without further casualty. Then, you will escort me to the nearest West Worthington building and I will have a word with your superiors. If you are lucky, I will be able to convince them to kill you quickly.”

“Really? Well, I’ll have you know that that’ll be difficult to accomplish.”

“Why’s that?”

“I haven’t met my superior yet.”

Alithea and Landon both began to snicker on either side of me. I was pleased. Landon was developing his own sense of self right nicely. The fish though, were pissed.

“Listen to me, you damned grunt. This deal was brokered weeks ago. We come in, use the Sleeper tunnel in the east to ambush them and slaughter them wholesale. In return, you received plenty of our kind to perform whatever experiments you needed.”

The fox was snarling next to me, and for the first time I think, Antilles realized what was happening.

“You… you aren’t with West Worthington are you?”

I clapped with my Brute’s enormous hands. Antilles eyes were beginning to grow very wide. I think he was beginning to reconsider just how he had phrased his surrender. I was a nice guy though. I’d let him reconsider.

“You, you’re a fucking genius, you are. Now listen here sushi, let’s get us a couple things understood. West Worthington doesn’t run this district anymore, I do. Name’s Neil Anderson, The Pallbearer to you. If you so much as bleed on my land, I’ll cut you up and use your fucking corpse for dinner. Do you understand me?”

Antilles was shaking and his bodyguards had started to back up as well.

“But… we had an agreement…”

“You had an agreement with child-killers that no longer run this place. The Sleepers you were wanting to ambush are standing behind me right now. Their payment for not dying was helping to kill you. If you’d like, I can still ask them to finish you off. I just figure you’d prefer to not be dead.”

Antilles jaw flapped uncontrollably. Typical goddamn bureaucrat. Landon crept forward, grinning eerily, holding up a flamethrower.

“Didn’t you hear the man? Unless you’d like to donate yourself to us as blackened shark steaks, I suggest you get a move on.”

I began to cackle as Antilles and his guards turned tail and ran back to their lines. It took them less than five minutes to sound the retreat and begin racing back to the wall they had come over. They left their dead where they lay, tripping over them as they fled.

“Alithea, you said your people needed to eat. It isn’t much, but I suggest your people salvage what they can. Let a quarter of your force go to take some back to your encampment after they’ve finishing butchering out what they can. After your people have fed, have them head to the base I told you about.”

She nodded and began passing the word amongst her Sleepers. Panting, the ragged, furred troops descended upon the field of Judge corpses. I slung St. George over my shoulder as many of them simply ripped off hunks of meat with their jaws, swallowing the raw flesh whole. They were hungry, but not greedy. After a couple mouthfuls, they began slinging corpses over their shoulders and onto makeshift slings. Alithea whispered a word to one of the better-dressed wolves. He nodded and led those carrying corpses back the way we had come.

“Not going yourself?”

“I lead these people in the hunt. My mate leads them at home. I follow you.”

“Very well then. We make our way east now. A large number of Disciples are making their way into our district. They’re heavily armed and we won’t escape this one without casualties. However…”

I was about to finish telling everyone how easy this was going to be, how the massacre I had envisioned was going better than planned, and how this would all be secure so soon. But then Landon’s ear crackled and popped and he started jumping.

“Bellmaker needs us! West Worthington force sighted coming out of the north. Over ten thousand strong. Numerous walkers, ten Fafnir class helis, and a dozen tanks have all been sighted and confirmed.”

“We can’t take that many. We’ll all die. That’s what this is about. They were going to let us all kill each other and keep the district to themselves anyway.”

Alithea was shaking.

“Pretty much. Landon, you and Alithea take everyone north. Meet up with Bellmaker back at base. Omega configuration. Tell him to hurry, put everyone on hold. Even Cassie if he has to. Alithea, if you need to send some of your people away with the children upon reaching our headquarters, feel free.”

Landon nodded and put his steel arm around her furred one. She jerked her arm away and looked up at me, trying to see my eyes through my massive machine.

“Just what are you planning?”

“To stop the Disciples and make it home in time for my birthday party.”

“You can’t possibly believe you’re going to be able to stop the entire force of Disciples by yourself.”

“Sure I can.”

“And if you’re wrong?”

“Then I won’t be any more dead than I will be when West Worthington kills us. Move out!”

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