Part 14: The Left Testicle of Tiresias: The Battle for Orta
Brief update for now, I'm still working through Balime.
Part 12: The Left Testicle of Tiresias: The Battle for Orta
The combined funeral for Breeham 'Shank' Druz and Greg 'Dynamo' Duncan took place two days after their deaths. Team Statutory Rape had been called in to excise the combat zone of Deidranna's troops and to recover the corpses of the fallen. They came upon Deidranna's men carving vile epithets into the dead men's bodies, and while they were tempted to get in on the fun, Ira realized that the men were likely too far gone to provide much nourishment - better to eat the flesh of the newly-deceased. And so they slayed the soldiers and dragged back the carcasses of their erstwhile-comrades to Cambria, all under the tireless and violent exhortation of Commander Ira.
Ordinarily, Dagny would have left the men to rot in the merciless Arulcan sun, food for the vultures and a feast for the dogs which as of late had taken to roaming the countryside in search of meat, but friends and family of the deceased had insisted on a funeral. Dagny was wary of allowing a religious ceremony to be conducted under her rule - she didn't want to augment or give credence in any way to the meaningless superstitions of the islanders, but she felt that opposing them too strongly would diminish her support. How many otherwise-powerful leaders had fallen by opposing the religious beliefs of the men they ruled? Time enough for that once Deidranna was ousted, she thought. Therefore, she agreed to let the Arulcans hold a funeral according to their own customs.
In an open field north of Cambria's hospital, clad in an airy tanktop and worn combat fatigues, Dagny watched the proceedings with her hands in her pockets, mildly disdainful of all that fell under her gaze. Dark-skinned men sat in a circle beating on drums and singing, while shirtless islanders hoisted the bullet-riddled corpses of Dynamo and Shank on intricately-carved pallets, held low as they slowly walked the inside perimiter of the circle, giving everyone a look at the two fallen soldiers. A small crowd of friends, hangers-on, and well-wishers stood around the circle of drum-beaters, watching intently as the two bodies circulated. The early-morning sun was rising to a cloudless sky, hardly sympathetic to the deaths of two useless men.
The ceremony was intended to fortify the courage of the islanders, to reveal to them the truest aspect of death. By contemplating the expression of terror welded onto Shank's face, and the blistered, pus-filled skin of Dynamo, onlookers were supposed to come to know death intimately, and in such knowing, to be freed of fear. In reality, however, the stark horror of death and war made itself apparent to the residents of Arulco, and their lust for battle was further diminished. Deidranna had already beaten their bold spirit out of them, and in their current situation one funeral was not about to change that.
One of the drummers stood, and his fellows silenced their instruments and turned to look at him, as did the crowd. He cleared his throat and spoke:
"My friends, we are gathered here to give witness to the deaths of two valiant warriors, Breeham Druz and Greg Duncan. They gave their life in service of a higher ideal..."
The man droned on, extolling the virtues of the two fallen fighters. Dagny snorted as the man gracefully sidestepped the fact that Dynamo and Shank had fallen without killing a single Deidrannic soldier, and in their first combat sortie, no less. The onlookers were nodding while looking at the ground, letting the orator's passionate energy enter them. After some time, the man wound his way toward a conclusion, and Dagny once more directed her attention to him:
"...and so, let us breathe life into these warriors once more, that they might do in death what they were meant to do in life: fight."
A quizzical expression settled itself on Dagny's face. 'Breathe life?' Surely he was being metaphorical. She watched, her puzzlement growing, as a group of three men stepped out of the crowd and into the center of the circle, where the two pallets bearing the corpses had been deposited. They stood equidistant around the corpses, forming a triangle inside the larger circle of drummers. The men were attired in large dark robes, and they wore death masks made from the skulls of bloodcats. An ominous wind began to lash their trailing robes, while clouds were forming, obscuring the sun. They raised their hands and began to chant in unison, in some long-dead tongue that Dagny could not understand. A weak blue glow could be seen around their fingertips, while the crowd swayed in unison and moaned softly together, their eyes squeezed shut and their hands locked together. The chanting grew louder, and the moaning of the crowd with it, until they were practically at fever pitch, and the grass itself seemed to bend backward, as if frightened. The wind was at gale force now, nearly bowling Dagny over, though it did not seem to disturb the Arulcans. Kneeling and presenting her profile to the wind, she continued to watch over her shoulder, astonished.
One of the chanters suddenly lowered his hands, and he began to glow all over with a white light. He knelt and touched Dynamo with his left hand and Shank with his right; the light seemed to gather into his hands before being passed into the corpses of the two men. He stood, and the wind suddenly died down, and his fellow chanters also lowered their arms. The crowd opened their eyes and looked into the center of the circle of drummers. The clouds had dispersed. The man who had addressed them before rose and spoke once more:
"It is done."
In the center of the circle, the hand of Shank twitched. Dagny stood once more and folded her arms, intent on finding out just what was happening. Before her eyes, Shank coughed and sputtered, then rolled over and pushed himself up unsteadily. He stared at Dagny, whereupon she noticed that his eyes were completely blank, devoid of pupils. The animated corpse moaned and began to shuffle slowly toward the edge of the circle. As he did so, Dynamo suddenly took a deep breath and stood up, his eyes similarly blank.
Dagny was amazed and horrified. These men could resurrect the dead! She continued to watch as the orator came rushing up to the two zombies. He pressed into their hands weapons: a ceremonial dagger for Shank, and an ornate club for Dynamo. He raised his hands and addressed the crowd:
"Let this be their final battle! Let them bask in the glory of combat! Give praise to glorious Allasaum of the two-edged sword!"
The crowd pumped their fists and roared their approval. Meanwhile, the orator faced the two undead toward one another, and gave them a firm push. The men shambled forward, unsteady steps carrying them toward an enemy they were barely conscious of. They bumped into one another, and raised their weapons to strike. Before they could, a shot rang out, putting a hole in Dynamo's head and splattering the drummers with gore. The corpse stood stock still for a moment before his eyes rolled up into his head and he collapsed in a heap. The roaring of the crowd vanished as they instinctively crouched, revealing Dagny Taggart, FN FAL held up to her shoulder. She fired another shot, dropping Shank to the ground. Letting her rifle hang by her side, she harangued the gathered islanders:
"Fools, all of you, for thinking to muck about with the secrets of creation like this. If there is a God, he is uninvolved and uncaring, and desires not that we should interfere in the natural order like this. Let men who have died lift themselves out of the grave by their bootstraps. If we forcibly assist in reincarnating them every time they die, they will become sponges, soaking up our good will until full to bursting. They will be social parasites, while we who work hard and produce will be drained of our essence."
She left in a huff. The crowd began to disperse, taking Dagny's lesson home, that it might be discussed over a meal of rationed bread and stale water, where babies wail for the milk that their mother's shriveled breast is unable to provide. They would just have to work harder to wrest success from the iron-tight grip of that cruel bitch-goddess Fate.
This zombie, as you can see, has managed to become a doctor through hard work and discipline alone. A lesson to all those Mexican zombies on the dole
Meanwhile, Team Statutory Rape had decided to conduct a foot patrol of the area south-west of Cambria. Traipsing through the wildlands of Arulco, eating whatever small animal they came across, our elite unit eventually stumbled upon a strange outpost not far to the north of Meduna:
Ostensibly a conservatory of some sort, the illusion was damaged somewhat by the legion of elite troopers surrounding the facility. Ira decided to press ahead and attack the facility without confirmation from Dagny. They spotted a number of Deidranna's troopers milling in the distance, and raised their rifles.
Haywire opened the symphony of death with a soft little adagio, humming quietly to himself. The business of killing was by now so familiar that he felt at quite at ease when engaged in it.
B flat, Salieri!
Razor took up the harmony with his deadly instrument, a Gepard M2, which the team had finally managed to secure 12.7mm ammo for. Whereas it nearly bowled Gumpy over, Razor handled the weapon with ease:
Let's face it: it's pretty hard to argue with a man who carries a sword, a grenade launcher, and a tank cannon around with only mild discomfort
Ira grinned a feral grin, and sprinted forward. Razor and Haywire followed not far behind. They passed the fence and vaulted up onto the roof, where they dispatched a few waiting soldiers.
You can't see it, but Razor is lighting a bag filled with dog doo while Haywire readies himself to push the doorbell
From the roof, they were able to survey the entire surrounding area, and to slay every soldier that they saw. Razor tapped Haywire on the shoulder, and indicated a soldier who had fallen asleep beside a tree with his headphones on. Apparently the soldier was unable to hear the dull roar of a .50 calibre rifle ejecting hot bundles of brass-plated death, so relaxed was he by the soulful singing of James Blunt, bard of the trivial and the inane, and so continued his repose while his comrades fell all around him. Razor whispered in Haywire's ear, tickling the man's earlobe with his warm, fetid breath:
"Hey man, betcha I can shoot him in the crotch without killing him."
Haywire considered the offer, and grinned.
"Alrighty, I bet you a night in the sack with Ira that you can't do it."
Of course, Haywire meant that the loser would have to satisfy Ira's nocturnal need for violent sexual satisfaction. She was utterly voracious in the bedroom, often leaving her partner with scars both physical and mental - a single session could last hours, and more often than not Ira took the more aggressive role, riding on top while shrieking or even forcing her partner to submit to pegging. Razor shuddered and nodded. He steadied his breathing and focused on the soldier's green pants, dragging the laser pointer from his LAM-2000 along the man's inner thigh, until it hovered just underneath the likely area of the man's ball-sack. He held his breath and squeezed the trigger. The rifle boomed loudly and ejected its handspan cartridge, which easily penetrated the man's protector cup and made mincemeat of his man parts. The man awoke, and looked down to find blood pouring out of the area between his legs. He screamed and tried to stand, but the pain was overwhelming, so he continued to scream while sitting, his arms flailing about uselessly.
Haywire grumbled and closed his eyes, aghast at the prospect of his member having to enter Ira's curiously spiky vaginal maw. Razor basked in the man's screaming for a while, before ending his torment with a well-placed bullet between the eyes, which nailed the man's skull to the tree he was sitting against. Razor clapped his friend on the shoulder.
"Tough luck, buddy. Just think of me while she's pissing on you, eh?"
Team Statutory Rape climbed off the roof and looked inside the facility through the windows. The glass was too dark to see through, so they fired inside, and shattered it. A single soldier was sitting in the corner, terrified, and he raised his weapon too slowly to defend himself:
Was it love, then, at the shooting gallery? Springtime memories of romance, of asses grabbed and men decapitated...
The team entered the facility. They found several bloodcats in various states of dissection. There was only one researcher present, who looked defiant in spite of the fact that a whole host of dead bloodcats and live, feral soldiers surrounded him:
Ira growled, her lips curling back over her blackened fangs.
"What's going on here, old man? It's not just fuckin' cats, we know that. So spill the beans now, or I'm gonna spill your beans."
The scientist was not impressed by her threats.
Ira grumbled and reached into her satchel. She usually carried a large supply of American money, in case she needed to buy her way out of trouble. She thumbed through a thick wad openly, flipping bills until she saw a look of satisfaction on the tech's face. She separated out roughly twenty-thousand and handed it to him, stashing the rest. The man took the wad and grinned.
He motioned them to come closer, and quietly explained to them the significance of the facility:
He then walked over to the stairs and punched a code into the door panel. The heavy metal door slid open silently. Raising his hands, he pleaded for them to forget all about him:
Ira grinned wickedly upon hearing this.
She lifted her rifle and snapped a quick shot into his head, before the man could react.
NO ONE CROSSES TEAM STATUTORY RAPE AND LIVES
He dropped to the ground and expired shortly. Ira stooped to collect the cash which she had given him, spitting on the man's corpse as she put it back in her satchel. She grunted.
They descended the stairs, and found themselves in a strange concrete-walled bunker. A security camera buzzed in the corner, slowly panning from one side of the room to the other. As they entered, it focused on them.
Razor was unsure of just what they were getting into.
Never have I felt my other organs migrating into my stomach, but then, I am no soldier
They moved forward, past the computer terminal, and entered the lunchroom. An unfortunate soldier was waiting on the other side of the door, microwaving a Ding-Dong; doubly unfortunate, in fact, because he forgot to remove the foil from the tasty snack-treat, and it exploded into flames. Ira ensured that the blackened cake would cause the man no grief:
They're obviously not real cops. Look how hot they are!
They moved into the central area, an X-shaped hallway intersection. Haywire spotted a trooper to their right and drilled him:
"X," the confluence of Fate and Desire, of orange vests and green pants, of tiny floating numbers and pools of blood. We are in the presene of Destiny itself...
The *crack* of Haywire's PSG-1 had alerted the troopers in the facility, and they began to pour into the intersection. Ira barked a command, and her men darted north, where they waited. Deidranna's men attempted to rush the room, but their heads kept exploding mysteriously. Razor laughed as skulls shattered into a thousand pieces:
Razor's bravado belies his long, hard fight with bulimia
Soon, the soldiers stopped rushing in. Cautiously, Team Statutory Rape crept back out into the hall, whereupon a klaxon started wailing, and from vents underneath their feet, mustard gas began to pour into the area. Ira shrugged and slipped on her gas mask, as did her companions. The doors beside them opened and Deidranna's elite soldiers, clad in their own gas masks, entered the hall, but they were gunned down just as easily as their orange vested companions. Haywire proved especially adept at plugging the troopers, earning high praise from Razor:
Razor would later explain that he knew Haywire's weight ONLY because they were both on the wrestling team in high school. He was hard-pressed to account for the incriminating pictures in his wallet, however
The team could still hear the movements of soldiers from behind the doors. Razor unpacked his grenade launcher and loaded into it a six-round mustard gas clip. He fired one grenade into each of the side rooms, banking them off the walls. As gas filled the rooms, they heard coughing and sputtering - clearly, Deidranna had failed to provide all of her men alike with gas masks. Lungs began to blister and swell with fluid as they inhaled the stuff. The team moved forward, checking both rooms to make sure they were clear. They found a single soldier sitting in the middle of the eastern room, dazed and barely conscious. Razor drew his sabre and decapitated the man in one fluid motion.
Reasonably sure that they had downed the last enemy, they began to explore the rest of the facility. To the east lay a curious laboratory:
"WMDs in Arulco?" George Tenet said, eying the men warily from across the boardroom table, "It's a slam dunk." Rumsfeld cackled with delight
As they entered the lab, Ira suddenly froze, gripped by a strange sense of deja vu; all of it seemed so familiar somehow. The vats, the assembly line, the furnace. She blanched, and the room spun, while images flooded into her mind: a young girl, strapped to a chair, as fearsome, faceless men surrounded her, men in white coats holding gleaming instruments and syringes full of glowing material. Her brown eyes were filled with terror, but the men were merciless: cutting, probing, injecting. They muttered approvingly to one another:
"We can make her stronger, faster."
"Mercy will be bred out of her."
"She will be the perfect predator."
"The Bloodcat Mark II will change warfare as we know it..."
They seemed to melt into one another, to become a vaguely-defined, ominous blob.
"Ira," they hissed. "Rage. Resentment. Wrath."
The vision dissolved, and Ira found Haywire and Razor looking at her, concerned. She steadied herself and slapped both of them.
"Get the fuck out of my face, you poofs."
The men rubbed their sore faces and turned away, while a wave of nausea passed over Ira. What was this place?
To the north, they came upon a number of smaller, private labs. In one of them, they found one of Deidranna's weapons scientists:
The man tried to push them out of his office. When his hand touched Ira's shoulder, the same feeling of deja vu tingled the back of Ira's skull. She shivered, and a memory surfaced, a name. Involuntarily, she turned and spoke:
The man stopped, his arms falling to his side. His mustache quivered, and he looked into Ira's eyes. They were placid, brown pools of stillness. Reaching out, he touched her chin, and ran the tip of his finger over the muscled lines of Ira's jaw. He spoke softly, so softly that Razor and Haywire, standing behind Ira, could not hear.
"You've returned to us, dear Ira. My most beloved creation..."
More visions threatened Ira's sanity. A younger Ernest Roehm, brandishing a whip, screamed at Ira in a muted, distorted voice. Ira, the young Ira, clad in filthy rags and a metal collar, forced to jump expertly through hoops and over sawhorses, lest she bear the lashes of her tormentor. Ira, always hungry and cold, trained to be the perfect weapon. Ira, with her fangs and thick muscles, her mastery of death. Ira, who slept in a pile of her own filth, and gnawed relentlessly on the meat-flecked bones dropped into her cell. Ira, who bayed mournfully at the moon every night.
Ira suppressed the vision, and grasped the arm of the doctor tightly. His eyes watered at the pain. She spoke softly, her own eyes wide and moist:
"Where are the weapons, doctor? We know what's going on here."
Roehm pointed to the west.
"The crates!" he croaked.
Ira put the man's arm behind his back and marched him forward, following his directions. They stood before a door in the western wing. With his free hand, Roehm punched in the code, and the metal door slid open silently. They entered. Roehm indicated the crates and spoke to them in a strained voice:
Unless those crates are full of fine British Columbia wine and kielbasa, then I seriously doubt that
Ira released the man, who turned to face her. She wanted so very badly to gut him, to rend his flesh with her razor-sharp talons, to snap his wrist bones and suck out the marrow within, to cause grievous harm to her former tormentor. Roehm saw the look in Ira's eyes, and clasped his hands together, pleading for mercy. His features softened:
"Ira, Deidranna's reign has done damage to us all. We have all done things we didn't want to do. The second generation of bloodcats was Deidranna's dream, her holy grail: the perfect soldier, with the strength and agility of a mountain cat and the intelligence of a man to make use of it." He pointed to her. "How could we know it would go so wrong?"
A sigh escaped his lips.
"They paid us so much. They drove an ice-cream truck full of money up to my door. I was sleeping in piles of coke and bathing in heroin. Who could refuse? But..."
I think you gave up dignity when you purchased that bow-tie
He turned and walked out of the room. Ira, somewhat shaken, directed her men in a cracking voice to open the crates. They found within a half-dozen of Deidranna's rocket rifles and some ammunition for them.
Ira picked up one of the rifles and slotted a clip of rockets into it. Somehow, she felt innately comfortable with this weapon, knew how to activate the fingerprint ID and to arm the laser sight. She stuffed her backpack full of rocket clips, and shouldered the rifle. Much like her, the rifle was a product of Roehm's twisted research; perhaps it was entirely appropriate that she make use of it.
She turned to Haywire and Razor, who had been standing silently throughout the entire affair. A soft smile lit up her face, and she moved past them without saying anything. The two men shrugged and followed along.