The Lock - Short Story (WIP)

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The Lock - Short Story (WIP)

Post by Fleetwolf on Sat Aug 12, 2017 1:48 pm

The Lock
By: Sean M. Walley

The chatter of .50 caliber shell casings ringing off of the deck of the Huey chopper seemed to be a challenging howl to the weaker yips of AK-47 rifle fire from the tall grasses below. I shifted my weight to lean into the banking slide the chopper went into as we came in for a hot landing. A rookie Leonossai next to me was clinging to his flight harness.

“Is this your first time in combat soldier?” I asked the Leonossai.

The feline humanoid nodded his short furred head, green eyes wide with terror. Lovely, I get sent to suppress Vietcong attacks on Bravo 3 Delta base and they pair me up with a green horn cat. I just shook my head and wondered if this was Uncle Sam’s idea of a practical joke. Still, I better say something to the kitty before he gets shot, or worse pukes all over me.

“Listen to me soldier, what is your name?” I asked with a slight growl in my voice, my canine muzzle making my tone seem harsh.

The harshness seemed to snap the Leonossai out of his panic. “Private Narse, LI150, sir.” Narse stammered.

“All right Narse just relax and remember you basic training. This is a simple mission. We are going to…” my words were cut off as my paw grabbed for a hand rail to keep me from being flung out of the open side bay of the chopper. Violent shudders rocked the chopper and a glance told me the human working the .50 cal machine gun was dead, red goo and bone marking where his head used to be. The chopper started to spin for the ground that I could see between clouds of black smoke. Looks like we lost the tail rotor and I hung on tighter.

I continued my little chat with Narse. “As I was saying, we are going to drop in and clear out all Vietcong presence within a one click perimeter. If you hear something in the grass or bushes shoot first and never ask later.”

Narse, I could tell was panicking again with the chopper spinning out of control. “What.. what do you mean drop in? We’re going to crash sir!” he all but roared in horror.

“That’s where you’re wrong Private Narse. I never crash land.” I made sure my gear and M-16 rifle were all strapped in place then unbuckled my flight harness.

“Are you crazy sir?” Narse asked in shock seeing me holding on to just the hand rail now.

“Just a little.” I said with a grin to Narse. “You are feline right? Hope you land on your feet.”

“Wait, what?” Narse asked in confusion soon replaced with terror in a split second as I unbuckled his flight harness and flung him past the mounted .50 cal machine gun.

His screams were accompanied by my exuberant “Wahoo!” as I followed him out of the spinning chopper. We were only 20 feet up when I made us bail. Narse did what any feline in nature did. He managed to rotate, land on his feet and roll with the impact. I on the other hand managed to get my feet somewhat under me when I landed and rolled hard. I came up on one knee, grass and mud smeared on my helmet and worked into my black fur. I could hear Narse was still screaming in terror.

“Narse, shut your muzzle and go hot!” I shouted at the private un-slinging my M-16.

A quick scan placed the smoking hulk of the chopper one hundred feet off to my right. Narse was thirty feet to my left and behind me. In front, about twenty feet the rustle of dry grass was heard and the scent of an unwashed human hit my nose. With the safety flicked off I gave the grass a poke of flying lead and grinned hearing screams. Blood was in the air now.

I didn’t hear Narse screaming anymore. Good. The kid’s senses must have kicked in. LI150 was his number? Guess the Box got the Lions to cooperate. A burst of rifle fire sent that thought hitting the dirt as I flattened out on the ground and returned fire to my right. More screaming was heard. I listened for the span of a few heartbeats. More rustling was coming from straight ahead. We picked a good hunting spot.

I crawled forward two feet and started to squeeze the trigger when I heard screaming followed by wet gurgles. I gave a short baying howl and was met with a fierce roar. I didn’t even hear Narse move for the Vietcong. Damn, the Leonossai are good. Moving into a crouch I scanned the tops of the grass. I didn’t see any more movement nor did I hear any more rustling. The sound of bone and flesh being torn drew me back to the grass that hid Narse and by the sounds of it his Vietcong meal.

Poking the barrel of my rifle into the grass I parted the strands. Yep. Narse was feasting on a freshly killed human.

“Honestly, Narse, I would spit him out. You don’t know what he’s been crawling through. Besides, it’s just not good policy to eat your enemy.” I grinned at him.

Narse looked up at me lost in blood fever covered in blood. A lick of his muzzle and he blinked a few times. Glancing down at the body he suddenly moved and started retching. I sighed and scanned the area some more. The kid was definitely new to war and blood fever. I was the same way though I can’t remember how long it’s been or how many tours I’ve made to several countries. Vietnam was just the newest stop on the long train of war and violence the United States was funding. The absence of retching noises pulled my thoughts back to the present.

“Feel better Narse?” I asked.

“A little bit sir. How do you manage to fight without sinking into your primal being?” he asked moving away from the savaged body.

“Time.”, is all I said. I could see Bravo 3 Delta set on a hill with a half click of brush and grass burned away for a nice kill zone. I could hear more rustling off in the distance, maybe three or four hundred feet to the left of us.

“Let’s go Narse. We have more Charlie’s to flush and kill. Next time use your rifle. It’ll give you some distance from the blood and help take the edge off of the blood fever.” I said as I moved in a low stalking crouch that my digitigrade legs made easy.

Narse simply nodded and followed me. I heard him readying his rifle. Smart boy, if he keeps listening he’ll live for a few more tours. The rustling of grass was getting louder as well as the fluent rush of Vietnamese dialect. I raised my paw up, made a closed fist, and then lowered my arm. We both stopped and listened. There had to be a small supply trail here as I could pick out the sounds of thirty Vietcong as well as the smell of caribous.

A glance to Narse and I gestured to him to pull out a grenade. He nodded and pulled one grenade from his belt while I did likewise. A few more hand gestures told him that we would throw first, wait, then open fire. Hopefully the explosions would stun the group, take out a few of them, and leave a ragged group that could be mowed down. Well, here went nothing. We pulled pins and threw the grenades.

The few seconds we waited felt like years but the resounding blast of the grenades alerted everything and everyone around that we were here. I broke left, Narse broke right and we charged through the grass while opening fire. Our grenades were well placed. The caribous were all dead as well as ten of the Vietcong. The rest of the Vietcong were stunned and bleeding. They all went down like fleshy dominoes. Narse did better this time. He left the bodies alone.

The heavy thrum of chopper blades was music to my ears. Reinforcements were on their way from Bravo 3 Delta. Narse looked up at the chopper and started to wave his arms in the air to signal them. I wasn’t fast enough to stop him. I heard the crack of a sniper rifle and Narse looked at me in shock and disbelief. A red blot was spreading quickly where his heart was. I hit the dirt pulling Narse with me.

“You idiot! Don’t flag down choppers. That’s rule number one!” I growled into his face.

Narse didn’t respond. He was going into shock. I started cursing and broke out the measly first aid kit I had. I pressed gauze over the chest wound but I might as well be trying to stick my finger in a dam. Another crack of the sniper rifle followed by a ricochet off of metal told me the sniper was getting cocky aiming for the troops in the chopper. The heavy bark of .50 cal rounds saw to it that the sniper didn’t fire again for this war.

Narse drew my attention to him with a few gasps, his eyes already going wide with death. “I’m sorry sir.” He stammered.

I didn’t hide my grimace from his sightless eyes. “It’s okay Narse. We’ll get you patched up and soon you’ll be out in the fields killing again.”

“You really think so? Can I ask your name sir?” Narse’s voice was weaker now.

“Lieutenant Lupis. You can call me Lupis, son. Now just hang in there.” My words were empty soft pillows to smother his fear of dying.

Soon a field medic was behind me but he was several minutes too late. Narse was dead. I snapped off one of his dog tags and pocketed the small steel disk.

“He’s dead medic. Get him on a chopper back to HQ. I’ll organize what we have left to sweep the area.” I told the human medic with a solid, unconcerned voice.

The man nodded and shouted for a body bag. I left Narse to his permanent dreams and rallied the new supply of troops the chopper had belched. All of them were humans. I sighed knowing more were going to die. I quickly got us under way and by the end of the day Bravo 3 Delta was a Vietcong free zone.

* * *

Papers hit the surface of the desk with a loud smack. A harried looking colonel glanced up from his paperwork to scowl at the major. The major suddenly blanched from that gaze.

“My apologies sir, but a request has been made to pull a soldier from the lines.” The major, Melvin Brigby, said in a tight voice.

“Oh really and just why does state side want one of my desperately needed boys back home so soon major? Is he homesick? Has the sniffles or is bucking for a section 8?” the colonel asked with an irritated snarl.

“No sir. None of those reasons apply sir. The request has come from the Pentagon itself.” Brigby answered quickly.

“The Pento’s want this boy really bad eh? He must be some gun ho then to get top brass to pull him.” He flicked open the file and stopped reading after seeing the serial number and the name.

“Oh, they want Lieutenant Lupis back. Guess they have some other war to parade their marvel of genetic weaponry in. All right, get on the horn and have Bravo 3 Delta ship his mangy ass back to HQ then ship him state side. I never liked talking animals but I will have to admit he’s the best killer we have in the jungle. It’s a shame to lose him.” The colonel sighed and slammed a red inked stamp on the first page. ‘Relocation Discharge’ glared up from the white paper in angry red letters.

Major Brigby nodded once and collected the file from the colonel and left. He paused by the military clerks desk. “Corporal, get me a chopper out to Bravo 3 Delta. I need to retrieve a soldier then route the chopper to HQ. Understood?”

The corporal nodded and cranked up the transmitter. Within five minutes Major Brigby was on a Huey flying out over the jungles of Vietnam.

***

“So there I was standing in a foxhole up to my knees in water and Danny next to me asks if I’ve seen his lucky dime anywhere.” A lively captain was regaling his buddies around a small card table in the makeshift mess tent.

“You serious? Danny is too damned attached to that dime. Just because he almost choked to death on it as a kid doesn’t mean it’s lucky.” A sergeant snorted gruffly.

“Well Danny isn’t so attached to it any more. He went looking for the dime in the water and a grenade plunked right in front of him. The dime must be lucky at getting him killed though it had to try twice.” The captain laughed.

I growled softly under my breath and choked down the sludge the mess cook called coffee. I found the blatant jokes over a fellow comrade’s death distasteful, but then again humans had funny coping mechanisms. Laughter and macabre humor seemed to be a standard fall back during war. It was easier to laugh at death then feel crushed by the loss of most of the company you start out with; far easier and more forgiving than swallowing your own gun.

Another sip of coffee and I pulled out the dog tag that Narse had worn. It was so new, unstained with blood, dirt, and the enemy’s guts on it. I wondered how much lament the government book worms would have over the loss of another Lupinoss Project trooper. I suppose we’re not cheap to make though if we did cost a lot, why didn’t private Narse get better training. You don’t send green horns into combat if they haven’t finished basic. Yeah, I could tell he knew little combat protocol. He didn’t deserve dying that young.

Setting my mug down, I pulled a small cloth pouch off of my belt and opened it. I dropped Narse’s dog tag in with a muffled clink. Snapping the drawstring shut and held the bag in my paw jostling it. The clinks of sixty dog tags, no, wait; sixty-one dog tags greeted my ears with the music of death. I’ve managed to outlast sixty-one of my comrades ever since the Box shipped me off to the fledgling laboratory known as Black Ark. Black Ark was more or less boot camp for those who survived the Box. The laboratory was still in boxes from what I could see the few times I snuck out of quarters at night. Though it was newer and bigger, Black Ark seemed to be just another Box; underground with no scenery though a few of us have heard faint echoes of people above us and heavy traffic.

The clinking of the dog tags had drawn the other table’s attention. The four men sitting around it just stared at me with hate.

“Enjoy collecting dog tags, Lupis?” The sergeant muttered blackly.

“Manage to lose another partner today I hear.” The captain sneered.

Putting the pouch back onto my belt I fixed both of the men with a cold stare of blue eyes that had seen more wars than the two could even imagine.

“I wouldn’t call losing a partner that the Grinder sent to me untrained as a mark against me. The others just had their clocks run out faster than mine. I am sure I’ll bite it soon enough and you lads can dance all over my grave. Until then, I am a higher rank than you and you will do well to watch your tones with me.” I growled.

One of the other guys, a private, was slowly reaching for his sidearm. I couldn’t believe how young and dumb some of the recruits were.
“Private I would advise not reaching for your pistol. Shooting me will just get you court-martialed or executed for treason.” I warned the idiot.

The private blinked and stared in disbelief that I could know what he was up to. Rolling my blue eyes I went back to choking down coffee. The heavy whumps of chopper blades caught my ears. The chopper was a good three clicks out by the sound. I left the cup on the table and headed out for the tarmac to watch the chopper come in. The sound was almost loud enough to mask the grating of dirt under boot heels behind. Almost was only good for horseshoes and luck. The private really did want a crack at me. I kept walking forward and bided my time listening to him trying to sneak up on me.

The chopper was just about to land when the private made his move. I heard the slow treading of his boots quicken followed by the rustle of his fatigues alerting me to something being swung. I pivoted while dropping into a crouch, sweeping out with my leg catching the private across the shins sending him face first into the dirt. A tire iron clattered from his hands. Well, at least the private was thinking about not trying to kill me right off. With quick movements born from my time in the various jungles and hell holes of the world I had the private pinned down and screaming like a little girl.

Military Police came running hearing the screams then stopped and began to laugh seeing the private on the ground squealing.
“Let me guess, another grunt with no respect for superior officers?” the lead MP asked.

I just chuckled and stood. The lads knew about my reputation and the sort I attract. Walking away, I left the private to their care. I wanted to see what was on the chopper and if I got a replacement for Narse. As I drew closer, seeing a human major in the chopper and no one else but the pilot my ears flattened some. Looks like no replacement today. That was fine. I could manage with a few humans in my command.

Stepping out of the chopper the major looked right at me and started walking my way. By the way he walked something was up and it had my name and serial number. Shit. I stood at attention and gave the major a salute. He returned my salute.
“At ease, Lieutenant Lupis, I am Major Brigby. I’ve come to take you state side.” He said.

Feeling a case of stupidity coming, I asked, “State side? Why?”

“You’ve been reassigned to a mission at the Box. Grab your kit and get back here on the double.” He said assertively.

“Yes, Major, sir.” Lupis dropped his salute, about faced and left for the mess tent.

The private and MP’s were gone by the time Lupis reached the mess tent. Shoving an olive green flap aside, he ducked in not paying attention to any of the personnel inside. He grabbed his pack, M16 rifle, and his helmet then left the mess tent. Shoving the helmet onto his head, he ran for the Huey, slinging his pack in mid stride. Major Brigby was already waiting for Lupis inside the chopper as he darted in, sitting and slapping his flight harness together.

“Major, why I am I being pulled from the killing fields?” Lupis asked as the Huey took off dropping his stomach into his seat.
“I can’t tell you much, Lieutenant, but it involves Black Ark as well. You’ll just have to wait till you reach the Box to get more intelligence.” Major Brigby said.

*****

The hard bump and rattle of the transport plane’s cargo woke me up. A quick check out the window showed me the blurred red lights of the tarmac and runway. Blinking a few times to clear the last dregs of sleep from my blue eyes I unbuckled my flight harness. Muscles sang up and down my back and legs to the joy of movement again. I really hated long flights. Being cooped up in a plane reminded me way too much of the cage I had left years ago.

Rhythmic whirring drew my attention to a seam of light spilling in from the rear of the plane as the aft cargo bay was opening. Grabbing my pack, M-16, and donning helmet, I jogged between supply crates held in check by netting. I was glad to be leaving this flying cage though I was running back to a place I never thought I’d return to. Major Brigby waited for me at the foot of the curving bay door. I choked back a growl and gave Major Brigby a salute. The Major was privileged to fly on civilian airliners while I slunk around like baggage on multiple military cargo runs.

Major Brigby held the salute then dropped his hand. “Follow me Lieutenant. I trust the ride wasn’t too unbearable.” The Major gave a thin smile.

“At least I got to ride in a seat this time. I am not fond of dog carries no matter what size they are.” I replied with distinct disgust. Two legs of my flight back to State side had me shoved into a huge kennel for a St. Bernard. Roomy for the St. Bernard, cramped for me.

The Major looked like he was about to say something sarcastic then stopped. It must have been the ‘I dare you’ look in my eyes that stopped him. We walked quickly for a plain looking gas station that was a bit worse for wear on the paint job. Nevada winds and miles of sand will just about strip anything bare if it stays rooted in one spot. The Major opened the heavily tinted glass door and ushered me in. Inside the gas station the feel of normality shrank into the dust filled corners of the unused building like a child who’s been beaten by an angry father.

We both ignored the empty shelves for consumables and supplies. Stepping behind the counter, Major Brigby depressed a concealed button on the underside of the counter top. Soft hissing wafted up from my left and a six foot square panel popped open, rising with a creak of rarely used hinges. Rusty stairs leading down into a small room barely lit with an orange glow greeted us with sickly warmth.

“Major, why are we taking the rear entrance to the Box?” I asked finding this alternative route a bit alarming.

“Most likely the reason for this route is tied to why you’ve been brought back. You’ll be briefed once inside. Now follow me.” The Major descended the stairs, his dress shoes clanking on the rust metal.

I followed keeping my senses about me. Usually when an officer retrieved me, they had all of the needed information for me upfront. This lack of briefing and dodging of my questions was making my paws itch to hold my rifle. As we reached the floor of the small basement, the trap door hissed shot and clicked. A small section of railing squared off an area where a service lift was waiting to be used. Major Brigby stepped to the center of the lift and I was right behind him. The orange cast of the room was making my fur bristle.

The clank of a large gear being released persuaded the lift to descend taking us into a dark shaft. White lights spaced every twenty feet played tag with the darkness illuminating us in ghostly outlines. The lift was still descending. We were going deep into the Box and the lift stopped before I was convinced Nevada swallowed us for good. Doors split open and we stepped into a will let hall, the hum of fluorescent lights greeting all who came with cheery familiarity. The floors were still as cold and white as he remembered them.

Only one door was present and at the other end of the hallway. We were soon before the door and Major Brigby rang for us to be let in. I was hoping all of this secrecy was worth keeping me in the dark. The door, steel and about six inches thick, swung open. Major Brigby indicated with a wave of his hand that I was to enter alone. Great that made me feel less comforted and more paranoid. Once I was inside the door closed leaving me in the presence of a small board room, the round mahogany table was already occupied by five men and one woman. They all sported white lab coats. Taking a long, dry swallow I took the only empty seat left when the woman directed me to it with her eyes.

Sitting down I looked at each person at the table. I knew the woman, Dr. Agatha, from my days as a test subject. The men though all seemed to be new faces. Hardly a one of them older than thirty if I had to guess and they all looked nervous. I could smell fear and hear the nervous tap of dress shoes under the table. No one spoke.

Snorting, I decided to break the ice. “I’ve had a long trip from Vietnam and no explanations that would justify my ordeals during that trip. Someone speak up or I’ll give you all a reason to talk.”

(Unfinished)

Fleetwolf

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