Much of the lush trees and natural plant life was destroyed during the original landing; the ground was burned black in a fifty foot circle, charred plants and rocks crunching under the boots of many men. The encampment had a built in perimeter of thick red trees thanks to the first expedition. The trees, they would later find, were one of many natural resources this planet had to offer. Little was known about earth’s newest conquest, most of the men didn’t even know the native name, so they just called it Paradise.
Alan Marks noticed this on the ship over; the other recruits did nothing to boost his sprits. There was a short briefing before they were loaded like rounds into the rocket. The man in charge was General Gold, a massive hulk of a man. He detailed the enemy and the landscape.
“This is thick jungle terrain, don’t get cornered and for your own sake don’t get separated from the team. That’s the most important thing; don’t lose your teammates. If you get cornered alone your laser is useless and they’ll tear you apart. These aren’t just gooks we’re fighting men.”
The new recruits all thought this was a joke, the way he said it, with special emphasis on the word tear seemed like a joke. But then he showed them the only picture they had of the enemy. It was blurred but you could plainly see what it was. A bright blue blur with massive claws and a huge tail was devouring another red smear. The blue monster was obviously female; she was stunning if you could get around the blood, her face seeming to contort to fit her Jurassic mouth. The worst part, the very worst part was the look on the red smears face. You couldn’t see any other part of him, just the look of terror as America’s newest enemy tore him apart.
Alan was still modified. None of the other men even seemed to care that they were heading towards a war zone. They showed the American classic porno Deep throat on the rocket and everyone was completely absorbed. Apparently the lead actress was born with out a clitoris and the only way she could reach sexual arousal was when she did the Deep throat. It seemed ludicrous to Alan but everyone else enjoy it.
The porno lasted the entire trip, and soon the rocket was landing in a burned out section of land. You could see the main encampment far off in the distant as well as other landing sites. The lush forest was littered with charred black circles from rocket ships.
There were seventeen new recruits total. General Gold took the ship over with his men, he was the only senior officer and he ordered them to stand single file and face him. He was slowly unbuttoning his shirt and smile bitterly. No one spoke and soon the man was standing topless in front of them.
“You see this?” there was a scar rippling his otherwise toned flesh from shoulder to stomach. Everyone one nodded dumbly in fear. “Good, I’m glad all you faggots can see my purple heart. I won’t bore you with an old man’s war story, but I want you too look very closely and decide if you want something like this one your pretty boy skin. It’s a choice to fail god damn it and I will not accept failure from my men. What’s your name Faggot?”
“Alan Marks, sir.”
“What they fuck are you doing here boy?”
“I don’t know, everyone said it was paradise.”
“It is son, I hope you live long enough to enjoy it. I hope all of you get to enjoy it and your goddamn babies too. This is your first mission. Ten miles south from here is our base, your new home, you boys are gonna go for a little jog through the jungle. Your performance here will determine your Rank and place in the army.”
No one had mentioned this to Alan however and he looked visible shocked. General Gold turned on him.
“Is that a problem for you Marks?”
“No, sir, I love to run.”
“That’s what I like to hear. Does everyone here love to run?”
“I never liked runner much, it’s my purple heart I think, but you boys run and I’ll see you in a few hours. If you want to survive then I suggest you stay together, the enemy is out there.”
With a self assured smile General Gold throw down a few tins of food and some bottled water and disappeared into the bush riding a beat up all terrain vehicle. All of a sudden the silence was deafening. The wind moved softy through the trees, animals moved noiselessly in the heavy woods.
“Fuck that guy.” This from a man at the end of the line, he was the first to break formation and start heading south. “Isn’t that what book camp is for?” Alan pulled his weapon from its holster and started after him, grabbing a few tins of food and water on the way.
“Atta boy.” The man said and slapped him on the back. He must have been the same age as Alan but he looked like a soldier. Boots laced up and shinning, sweat running down his back. Alan figured if he wanted to live in paradise this guy was his best bet.
“What’s your name?” he glanced behind him and noticed more men coming in ones and twos.
“I’m Henry, your Marks right?” As he spoke he looked straight ahead, scanning the leaves as they moved in the wind.
“Yeah that’s me.”
“I need someone at my back Marks, these guys have no idea what their in for, you either.”
“Gold made it pretty simple.”
“This is my second tour here, I’ve fought these things. They’re not just animals, they think and plan and work together.”
He stopped suddenly, slapping his hand against Alan chest. With lightening quickness he had his weapon ready. They emerged from the plant life like marines rising up from water. There were three of them, all female. Only one walked on her two legs, the others scooted around on all fours. Henry shot the first one through the hip; she darted back into the brush with a burst of blood across the foliage and the other two surged forward. Alan waited, waited until her claws were almost around his neck and then fired. He got her just below her breast, exposing her rib cage to the world.
The other one was on Henry, its tail wrapped around his neck claws digging into his chest. Almost inaudible Alan heard her hiss heart… heart. He showed no mercy and blew her eyes out the back of her head. He was trying to untangle the things tail from Henry’s neck when the last monster stepped from the brush. She had her hands up in a peaceful stance.
Her voice was like water to a starving man. It lulled Alan into a warm safe place, he dropped his weapon. She was saying come to me…come to me…come to me. In his mind he knew this was wrong, he knew she was no friend, no lover, but he could not stop himself from moving forward.
Henry came running from behind him, a piece of dead wood in his hand. With out missing a step he swung sending her reeling to the ground. He raised the stick high above his head and shattered her skull with one fatal blow, the stick breaking with a satisfied crack. He collapsed to the ground and started laughing.
“I told you, didn’t I Marks? Now help me find my gun.”
“Its right here Henry, Alan’s too.” The other fifteen men were gathered around wide eyed watching the two men struggle but survive.
“Maybe we should all stay together from now on.” After that no one said anything, the silence was deafening.
* * *
There was no trail or path what so ever in the jungle, they stomped through the underbrush southward half lost. Only twelve of the original seventeen made it this far. They could feel them in the flora, limitless eyes watching their every move. All the soldiers now walked with their lasers in hand. It took some time to realize there was no safety in the jungle, there was no chance of rest for the exhausted men, and now every one was on edge.
One man by the name of Peters was close to losing his and giving up. During the last attack he was badly injured. One of the women shoved its tail through his thigh, there was no way to stop the bleeding, they tried to ignore this imamate death so close to them and just get to camp but he wouldn’t stop crying.
He wailed like an eight year old with a skinned knee. Henry and Alan were at the front of the line. Since this morning Alan had five more of the monsters under his belt. He felt the weight of these deaths on his soul, and Peters crying was sending him around the bend.
“Doesn’t someone have any whisky or anything we can give him? Peters shut the fuck up; those monsters are still out there.”
“Fuck you man, I’m dying, I can feel myself dying. You don’t know what this is like.” And on and on and on. He started to talk about high school, and the fat football star that would beat him.
Alan stopped the team, and walked to the dying man.
“Peters do you want us to all die with you?” the man would not meet his gaze; he just closed his eyes and cried out for anyone to hear. Then he spat a mouthful of blood and spit into Alan’s face and just like that he lost his edge. He jumped on the injured man, two other solders had him on a makeshift stretcher and they all went down in a heap.
None of the men lifted a finger to stop him; even the two boys that carried him for hours just hopped up and watched the fight. Peters did anything he could to try and get him off, biting and scratching and wailing like a child. Alan’s laser was lost but he didn’t need it. He reached for a bright green rock to his left. It could barely fit his fist; he smacked him across the face. He smashed the rock against his teeth and nose until blood pooled around Peters like a halo.
The wet smacking nose was like nails on a chalk bored. Some one, no one Alan recognized in his enraged state, stepped forward.
“Come on, he’s had a bad enough time. Just put him out of his misery and let’s go.”
The man dropped Alan’s laser next to him. Alan grabbed Peters and twisted eyes onto him, and then with a twitch of the finger he felt Peter’s life flutter out of him. There was a moment of silence, near by a waterfall could be heard crashing down from the heavens.
“Let’s keep moving men. We should be there soon now that our load is lightened”
This came from Henry, he and Alan took it upon themselves to lead the team. He gave Alan a strange look, but said nothing. After a time Alan looked back at the man he just murdered. One of the blue women swung down from a tree and drug his body off into the forest. He didn’t look back, after this he would never look back.
* * *
Sweating and exhausted the last eleven men made it back to camp. General Gold was waiting for them, sitting on the hood of his all terrain vehicle and chain smoking.
“They only managed to get six of you? I’m proud of you boys. Get some rest all of you, there still might be some food in the mess hall. Henry you stay a while.”
“Yes Sir.” Henry turned to the other ten men, his mouth slack and open like he might just say something, but then he turned back to the General with a bitter taste in his mouth.
“What are you faggots doing, the mess hall in that way.” He indicted with his middle finger. They were all starving; no one mentioned Peters or the other five men. Alan couldn’t even remember their names. He noticed his gun was still in hand, still ready. He had to calm down he was safe here.
The mess hall was warm and modern, a stark contrast to the jungle they spent the day in. The room was mostly empty, save for the single black cook waiting behind the serving counter. His presence was striking; he was extremely tall and well muscled. It seemed like a waste to Alan, such a massive man cooking gruel.
“Are you the new recruits?” he seemed up beat.
“We’re not that new anymore.” Alan said eyes downcast.
“Whatever, General G told me to make something special, something native for you boys.”
He pulled off the top of his steam plate to reveal a thick stew. The smell of warm food wafted over the hunger men and they lined up plastic bowls ready. The stew didn’t taste like anything Alan had before. The broth, vegetables and even the chunks of meat tasted completely new and delicious.
The cook took a seat next to the other men, he eat his stew with effectiveness, scooping up every last drop of broth.
“What’s in this stuff cook?” Alan inquired.
He just smiled a white toothy smile and muttered something about a well-kept secret. Alan finished his stew and served himself another bowl; it tasted like nothing he’d ever had before, but somehow it tasted completely familiar.
* * *
Henry and General Gold were sitting in the truck with the radio on, speaking in hushed tones and passing around a bottle of moonshine. Henry was telling him everything about peters and Alan’s performance in the field
“The other men are just fodder, they never would have made it with out us, but Alan’s a straight killer. You should have seen him when that first bitch jumped me; I thought I was done for.” He raised his head and showed him the purple bruises around his neck.
“What’s your point?”
“My point is he’s the one, I won’t have anyone else for this job.”
“It’s your choice Henry, but you remember the last one, that women you liked.”
“That was different, the bitch fucking seduced me. This guy can do it, I know he can, he’s saved my life already once today. I had him at my back from the beginning.”
“You don’t have to convince me, just make sure you’re one hundred present on this guy.”
Henry chocked down the last of the shine and slipped out of the truck. Leaning against the door for support he said:
“One hundred and ten, is Pierce still in the mess hall?”
“Should be, he loves his work.” The General seemed almost bitter when he said that.
* * *
After dinner the men retreated to what they thought was the sleeping corridors, the cook whose name was Pierce pointed them in the right direction. It was disturbing how little information the men in charge gave their foot soldiers. Pierce said it was just to the left of the mess hall, he was trying hard not to laugh when he said this.
To the left of the mess hall were hundred of bright orange tents, each labeled with a six digit number and a blood type. The problem was no one knew who was who. One of the men didn’t even know his own blood type.
The tents seemed to be pitched randomly, with no order or design in there placement. Alan was getting more and more tired, his eyes burning with exhaustion. He went to the closest tent and unzipped it. The man inside was wrapped up in an equally orange sleeping bag.
Alan cleared his throat several times, then jabbed the man in the shoulder. He started to wake and stared blankly at him for a moment. Then as if realizing he didn’t know who Alan was his eyes widened and he reached for a gun tucked under his pillow.
“Wait, hang one man, we’re soldiers too.”
“What the fuck are you doing kid? That’s a good way to get yourself killed.” He laughed for a moment then tucked the laser back under his pillow and settled down back into the sleeping bag.
“Hang on, we need your help?”
“What is it?” he didn’t open his eyes and his voice was barely audible.
“How do you know what tent is yours?”
“Just look on your dog tags.”
Then rolling over he zipped his tent back up and shut Alan and the tired men out.
“I’m starting to think paradise was a bad idea.”
“That’s exactly what I’d expect a fagot like you to say Marks.”
General Gold and Henry were rolling up in the all terrain vehicle. Henry was driving and the General was leaning out the window and laughing. They stopped the truck and stepped out onto the black charred earth.
“You having some trouble boys?” Henry wondered laughing.
The sun was just peaking over the horizon spilling over the lush and beautiful earth.
“Where are we supposed to sleep sir?” This from the man that didn’t know his blood type.
“Your tents and tags are in the truck, we got a little caught up.” Henry seemed apologetic enough. General Gold was pissing off to the side. “You men get the tents and the dog tags, there in the glove compartment. Alan you wait we need to talk.”
Although Henry arrived with the rest of the recruits they all hopped right up, he was a natural leader and they followed him blindly. Alan started to wonder about who this man really was, he seemed to well polished to be a new recruit. He slung his arm around Alan’s shoulders and led him off away from the others.
Alan noticed the smell of alcohol on Henry’s breath; General gold was slapping one solider then laughing, slapping him then laughing. The other men gathered around with tents in hand and eyed him nervously unsure of what to do. This settlement seemed to lack authority and this was very shocking to Alan.
“Does anyone know what goes on here?” Alan stopped walking and turned to look at the other man head on. He just smiled weakly as if there was some joke that Alan was missing.
“Do you Alan? I think you’re a little to fresh to be saying anything.”
“Your not who you say you are?”
“I never said I was anyone besides Henry.”
“So what’s the deal then?”
“I’m just a cook, like Pierce.”
“That doesn’t make any sense, why did you pretend to be one of us?” until now Alan felt no other connection with the other men, now he was offended for the lot of them.
“This job isn’t what you think; we’re desperate for another cook. It’s just too much work for us and I think we could use you. It’s the best job in the military.”
“But I’m an enlisted man; I don’t even know how to cook.”
“You don’t have too; Pierce is in charge of the actual cooking. We just help with the hunt. But it’s unimportant right now; get some sleep you start tomorrow. Here’s your dog tag.”
He slipped the chain into his hand and pointed him toward his tent.
“If you think you won’t see any action the cooks get more than anyone.”
Alan thought back to that first encounter, the way her stomach just opened to him spilling her life all over the jungle floor. No further death would be enough to lessen that first fatal shot.
“It’s not that, it’s just… we’re the good guys right?”
“We’re American’s aren’t we? Back on earth I read about this thing, a somewhat archaic belief but still relevant.”
“White man’s burden. Look at all we as a race have accomplished, not just the whites, everyone. So maybe I should say earthman’s burden then? The point is, if we don’t teach these monsters how to men then who will?”
He couldn’t get her eyes out of his head. He felt the loss of her life like ice in his chest.
“I guess your right. I just need to sleep.”
* * *
The nine surviving men were assimilated into the machine right away. Despite themselves they had grown used to each other and expected things to stay the same. But harsh military law was proving too much for them. They were separated and neither group would see the other again.
Four of the nine would just be foot soldiers, ammunition, and they were immediately sent into the jungle. One of the many research teams had discovered a massive oil deposit and it needed to be defended. No one was sure if the women knew what oil was but they were sent to defend it.
The other five were trained in demolition. The jungle was the women’s upper hand, and much of the foliage need to be cleared. This process required much research because the jungle was a massive economic resource. Teams would be sent out to study the earth and decide what section could be cleared, depending on strategic value and any potential profit that could be made. If the land proved to be especially valuable but needed for a pending attack then as quickly as possible the resource would be removed. Trees would be cut down, diamonds would be mined, exotic fruits would be altered genetically to grow on earth, and the list goes on.
If the land was just more useless jungle a demolition team would be sent in right away. Early on in the war they realized that burning the jungle down was just not effective. The fire was hard to control and the smoke would often alert the enemy and send the women crashing down on them. Instead they started to freeze the plants.
First they would dump hundreds of gallons of the freezing agent on the forest with fighter jets. It was beautiful to watch, the whole jungle turned to ice. The process was invented on site but it was being applied on many of earth’s conquests. Once the jungle was frozen trucks would be sent in. They resembled tanks but really were more like plows. This method of clearing the jungle was proving so effect that the women were retreating further and further into the bush, attacks getting less and less frequent.
Soon the last of the nine men were no different from the myriad of other soldiers, and those first few hours in the jungle lost their significance. For Alan Marks however, things where different.
* * *
In the cool grey light of the afternoon Alan felt much better about himself. He thought he would dream of the blue women, but instead his dreams were incompressible and pleasant to the conscious mind. Peirce woke him up for breakfast and tried to welcome him into the business. They were off a little ways in the woods and the dense trees let little light shine through. The other recruits were no where in sight, his tent stood alone in the black field.
They had some lawn chairs set up and were just sitting around drinking coffee. The coffee was cooked over an open fire and tasted better then anything he got at home. Pierce was telling him how he used to be on a research team, before the rest of the team was all killed. His job was to find out what they could eat, what was toxic and what was hallucinogenic and all.
The plants around them seemed almost artificial in their vividness. There were many kinds of berries and fruit bearing trees. Peirce threw them all together in a pot and started it on a low boil over the fire. The mixture was only some fruit and a little bit of water but it smelled great.
“I hope you don’t mind this for breakfast. Henry told me to let you sleep, so you missed the real deal.”
“It looks great.”
Alan noticed a brightly colored snake slithering from a low hanging branch. It was the first animal Alan saw since they arrived. He admired it briefly not knowing if it was poison or not. On earth he was afraid of snakes but this one seemed non-threatening.
“Looks like you get some meat for breakfast, after all.”
Alan was slightly confused by this but didn’t say anything. The snake fell heavy from the tress and started to slither quickly back towards the jungle. Pierce calmly approached the snake on all fours; it seemed unaffected by his presence. He took the metal spatula he was cooking with in both hands and brought it down hard right below the snake’s triangle head.
The snake’s body convulsed and started to shiver, its nerve endings slowly realizing what was happening. Alan was shocked by this, it donned on him that this was the meat he was talking about. Alan couldn’t watch him prepare the snake, even though he couldn’t wait to eat it, instead he decided to explore the forest more.
Last night he noticed there was no perimeter around the base other than the trees. He asked Pierce about this and he said that they didn’t need it, the women were always all around them but they never attacked the base head on. There was no way they could and survive. This seemed far fetched but he did spend the night in a nylon tent so he just accepted it.
The forest seemed stomped over, different trails and paths craved into the foliage. The plant life looked like it was constantly growing over. Different weeds and bushes popping up in the middle of the path, some would break off abruptly and give way to jungle. The forest was dense, he heard a low moaning and then a gurgling noise like some one had been shot in the chest.
He followed the noise deeper into the jungle, it sounded like someone was badly hurt. He stopped suddenly and ducked to the ground. He heard voices and boots stomping through the jungle.
“Come on men, we haven’t got all day.” It was General Gold; he was smoking a cigarette and looking ill tempered. He started to unbutton his shirt when two other grunts came stumbled into the clearing. They were dragging one of the women behind them, she was bond at the wrist and barely able to stand. It looked as if her tail had been cut off and there was a trial of blood behind her. She never stopped struggling but the men held her firm.
General Gold was now standing in nothing but his underwear, his white wife beater was soaked with sweat. The two recruits throw the girl down in front of him and he puffed on his cigarette, then swiftly, he kicked her in the face. Her head swung to the side dramatically with a crack, blood started to dribble and soaked through the gag in her mouth. One of the men pulled out a large hunting knife and cut away the gag, sliding it across against her face before cutting the bloody rag. General gold started pacing back and forth; he was still in just his underwear.
“Well shouldn’t we get this started?” this from the man the cut away the gag, he was crouching on one knee and touching the girls hair.
“What am I supposed to, Williams, Huh? Talk to her like she a god damn ambassador? How do we even know she’s the one?”
“Look at her, she has these strips of dark blue on her side,” He paused and flipped her around so she was lying on her stomach. He pointed to the distinct strips on her rip cage. “None of the other girls have this, we’re sure it’s a sign of authority. When we found her it was like she was talking to the other girls, giving them directions even. They followed her lead all the way.”
The general stopped abruptly, he was standing in front of the girl, his hand’s balled into white knuckled fists. He slapped her hard, and grabbed her by the chin, making her look into his eyes.
“I know you can understand me, and you better just listen, got it?” he pushed her away and she collapsed on the ground, her eyes were down cast she looked defeated.
“I’ll take that as yes. This planet is the property of the United State of America. You animals are now considered American citizens. There are two things you can do, Shape up and join the human race, take this opportunity that was given to you ,or, continue to fight and die under my boot heel.”
She looked up at him and Alan was frightened by the expression on her face. The skin shifting, stretching and widening, she lost her human features; her mouth was a gapping surging hole filled with long sharp teeth, her eyes fierce and cold with animal inelegance. She growled something at the General and the sentiment was clear, it shook the jungle with an animal cry. She would have nothing to do with the human race. With lighting quickness she struggled to her feet and charged forward.
The two recruits reappeared with metal stakes and some rope. They looked confused at each other then General Gold; he was backing away, wincing in anticipation of her attack. The two recruits grabbed her from behind and forced her to her knees. One held her and the other pounded the stakes into the ground and tied her arms and legs to the stakes. She was pinned to the ground spread eagle, Alan got a sinking feeling.
General gold coughed and hacked something up, then whipped out his business. Alan understood what was coming; he could barely see her sex under her matted blue pubic hair, but he felt sick just the same.
She squirmed and tried to break the ropes, the stakes holding her arms started to come out of the ground. Her wrist were bleeding, one of the men gave her a boot to the face. They seemed like they were having a great time. He had to do something; he couldn’t just wait and watch while the general took her.
He pulled out his laser and tried to form a plan. He got the feeling that if he charged in there laser in hand they would just kill him. Instead he aimed for a low hanging branch and fired. It made a loud cracking sound and fell toward the ground. Then he fired again, barely missing one of the men, he stood and looked right at them. He was maybe twenty yards away; he waved once and made a break for it. He could hear them coming after them crashing through the jungle.
The jungle was dense; there was a path with long bushes on either side. He barely noticed it while he was running, he stopped, the recruits were no where in sight. The bushes concealed the path completely; it was more like a ditch with plants growing on all sides. He went inside and ducked down, holding his breath.
From a moment her heard nothing, he thought his planned was ruined, that they just went back to general gold. But then, very faintly he heard the padding of feet. He wrapped his hands around his head and tried not to make any noise. Their feet got louder and louder until final he heard them running past and talking lauding. He couldn’t hear what they were saying but they seemed anger.
They didn’t even glance at Alan bush, he waited until her was sure they were gone then made his way back to the clearing. The General was waiting and staring at the girl, he had his back to Alan and looked like her was struggling back into his pants. Alan walked out into the clearing and stuck his laser into his back.
“Don’t turn around.” General Gold stiffened up and then relaxed.
“Looks like you caught me with my pants down, won’t you let me pull ‘em up?”
“Don’t fucking move. WHAT WERE YOU GOING TO DO TO HER?” he jabbed him hard with the laser.
“What do you think faggot, I was gonna give her the treatment. Those boys ain’t dumb ya know, they’ll be back, and they’ll see you and then I’ll kill you.”
“How can you do something like that to her?”
“This is war son; she’s a casualty, fuck you.”
“You’re a monster, how can you do this?”
“Is that you Marks? Henry’s new boy? This is a riot. You think this is bad? You don’t know what you have coming.”
Alan pulled the trigger and watched the brilliant white beam tear through his skin. He crumpled to ground and groaned, blood pooling under him. Alan panicked, he was dead for sure. He saw the knife General Gold used to cut the girls gag, she was purring at him, eyes wide. He grabbed it and cut her lose and helped her to his feet. She looked at him and then smiled and that made Alan fall in love. She leaned in and kissed him on the lips, long and soft. Her mouth tasted like blood, she turned as if to go but Alan grabbed her arm.
“This isn’t done yet.” General Gold was crawling across the ground and swearing. “We have to do something about him.”
She looked at Alan, and gave another knowing smile. She seemed so human, with her muscular body and matted blonde hair. Her missing tail only added to the illusion. She reached down to the General and pulled a pack of cigarettes from his front pocket; the General swore and struggled to get away from her touch. She lit a cigarette, and inhaled deeply, she even offered one to him. Alan couldn’t explain what he was thinking; she looked so elegant, so human. He couldn’t let this keep happening, he couldn’t spill anymore blood.
Suddenly she got very still and pointed for Alan to run. He did, he could hear the boots too. But it was too late, the two confused recruits walked into the clearing stared awe struck at the Alan and the women, then at the general crawling across the ground. Before Alan could react she surged forward, her claws swept across one of their bellies and his guts spilled to the ground. The other recruit screamed and punched her in the head, she turned, and he got her again he the nose. She seemed unaffected, and he realized this. Just as he was pulling out his laser she finished him, biting into his throat. She ate his throat like he was her date. It was disgusting, Alan vomited on the ground.
The general was at the side of the clearing, he was almost to the open jungle. Alan walked over to him; he was still cursing to him self. He had his laser in his hand, but Alan snatched it from him with no problem.
“Don’t worry, I’ll end this now.” He fired once, blood and bits of skull splattering his shirt and pants.
The Girl was sitting on the ground, she hand a pile of stuff in front of her. It looked as if she picked over the two recruits and took what ever she could. She fastened one of their holster around her waist like a belt, she picked up a laser, admired it then placed it in the holster. She even went as far as putting one of their helmets on. She looked like some porn star. That was what Alan thought; she looked like something from deep throat.
Two more girls fell elegantly from the trees; one landed right on the general and started dragging his body over to Alan and the other girl. He didn’t know what to call her, but he noticed none of the other girls had strips, and they did seem to be waiting for her signal.
They looked at him suspiciously, clicking and growling, the tailless on gave them a look and silenced them. Alan felt ill at ease. The girls were striping the mean, putting on their cloths and donning their weapons just like their leader did. Then they started to feed, the tailless one started the feast, she tore the general’s arms free and started munching on it. Blood splattered one the other girls. They looked like kittens with catnip. He started to back out of the clearing.
“Thank you, I guess.” The leader flashed him a look them got back to her meal.
* * *
When Alan finally found his way back to the fire he was sweating, the jungle was very hot all of a sudden. The full impact of his actions had not yet sunk in. He helped kill, pulled the trigger even, on a commanding officer. He helped the enemy, and now there was more blood on his hands. He was starving, but after the ordeal he lost his appetite.
Something was still bothering: Is that you Marks? Henry’s new boy? You think this is bad? You don’t know what you have coming. What could he possible have coming? He had to be careful; he realized that he wasn’t at all safe here. He had made himself the enemy. He emerged from the brush and saw Peirce and Henry sitting around the fire and laughing. The snake had been chopped up and skewered on sticks then placed around the fire. It looked just like stake now; the berries had melted into a bubbling paste. All and all it looked delicious to Alan and he felt hunger rise up in him again.
Alan was so hungry he completely forgot about General Gold. Or at least he convinced him self he did. He had to act natural or he was dead, a traitor. They drizzled the berries over the snake and it tasted amazing. If this was the life of a cook he was fine, the General was just talking shit.
A thought occurred to him, the things the general was saying seemed pretty important. He doubted anyone but the men in the clearing knew. Maybe no one even knew were the general was, and surely the girls would get rid of the evidence. He relaxed a little, he didn’t feel the least bit bad, but he couldn’t even imagine his punishment if he was caught.
Henry was telling him about what their actual job was. Peirce of course was the chief; this whole venture apparently was his brainchild. When his entire team was killed by the women he was stuck in the jungle with no way out. All he had was a binder full of research and a few pots and pans. At this same time earth was having as extremely hard time shipping more supplies to the planet they called Paradise. When Pierce stumbled into camp a few weeks later he had the perfect solution. He gave general Gold lists of recipes, animals, and plants with a wide range of uses. The planet was rich in many way and they knew this.
“..and now it’s the three of us.” Smiling Henry lit a cigarette and handed one to Pierce. “You want one?” Alan nodded and lit up. His mind was racing the General was gone, his boys were gone, eaten, there was no way any one would ever know. Still he felt on edge.
Is that you Marks? Henry’s new boy? You think this is bad? You don’t know what you have coming.
“Hey Alan, get your head on straight. After breakfast we hunt.”
You think this is bad? You don’t know what you have coming.
“And what exactly are we hunting Henry? Anything I should worry about?”
“I have to get something out of the truck. You two finish up and come on.” He walked back toward camp and said nothing; Alan didn’t know what to think.
* * *
Alan felt peaceful driving in the huge truck through the jungle; it was better then stomping through the underbrush with nothing but a pair of combat boots. The truck had a tape deck and Henry was blasting country. The jungle seemed like little threat through the tinted windows, every now and then Alan would see a blue face pop up behind a tree and then dart back down out of sight. This was disturbing to him; the creatures seemed to be following their decent into the jungle.
He wondered if anyone had taken the time to actually study them. He didn’t know where he stood with them, just an hour or so ago he saved their leaders life. But so what? He was still an invading American. He didn’t know what to do; the thought of another conflict with the girls was terrifying. He kept looking out the window. There was a small girl sitting in the tree, she looked like she was only thirteen. She was young and under developed. She was the youngest girl Alan had seen so far. He realized that he had never seen a male of their race, or one by her lonesome. They seemed to come in threes and fours, walking on hind legs or seeming to slither across the ground on all fours.
The truck stopped and Alan panicked, paranoia rising up in him. The young girl vanished from the trees.
“We can’t stop here, those things are out there.”
“Calm down Alan, well keep you safe.” Peirce said reassuringly
“But why can’t we drive the rest of the way?” He felt trapped on all sides; he didn’t want to be forced to kill again.
“Look ahead.” Henry indicated with a machete. The small trail was littered with holes and roots, occasionally a large bolder or two.
“No matter how many times we clear this road they fuck it up again.”
“You mean they did this?”
“Yeah.” Henry seemed bitter.
Alan went to investigate further, some of the holes where covered with derby and leaves. He kicked then aside to reveal sharp spikes planted into the ground, one looked like a sharpened human leg bone.
He felt tired, like his mind was working at half capacity. What were these blue women? Was what General Gold said true? Were they given a chance to live a life of technology or had Alan blown that for them? He was regretting his decision more and more. This obstacle meant moving through the forest with little protection. The trees all around them started shaking, not from the wind, but from something else. A low rasping sound was drifting through the trees and gaining intensity
Henry pulled out his laser; Pierce loaded two rounds into a shot gun and smiled wilding chewing on a cigar. Alan felt the color drain from his face. His laser was in the truck, he could see it sitting on his seat from the door he left ajar. He didn’t know what to do, he had to defend him self, right? The rasping got louder, it sounded like hundreds of them. He looked at Henry, and pointed to his laser sitting on the sit. Henry shook his head and handed him the machete.
“We don’t have time.”
With animals like elegance one of the women dropped from a tree, landing only a few feet from Alan. She didn’t move, no one moved. Two more of the women landed next to her, and they all huddled close together. The shaking in the trees was getting worse, Alan took a step forward and two of the women growled at him, and trashed their tails.
“Hold you position solider.”
Even with the three of them things could go wrong very fast. The three women were standing, a smile spilt their identical faces as Alan retreated back. One of the women took a step forward and started to purr at Alan her arms out stretched. He was determined not to lose his grip. He wondered if this was a sign of friendship, of acceptance. But he couldn’t take her hand, not with the others here. He shook his head no to the woman and she surged forward claws ready for Alan’s throat.
Suddenly he realized this was different then what happened in the clearing. This wasn’t a man raping a woman while she was being held down. This was war and he had to defend him self. She was close enough to him that he could smell her. Quickly he whipped her across the face with the machete; she retched back and bore her teeth to him, blood dripping onto her breast.
In one liquid motion she slammed her tail into Alan, the blow sent him reeling to the ground, he couldn’t breath. Everything happened so quickly, only a few seconds went by. Henry and Pierce were firing at the other two girls; Alan watched the bright beams of light crisscrossing above his head. He was trying to catch his breath.
More women were falling from the trees, or stepping out from the brush. Alan struggled to his feet, and was knocked down again right away. Someone kicked him hard in the chest, drawing blood with her ragged toe nails. She was standing above him and laughing. All around him was chaos; he heard Pierce’s shotgun cracking the air like thunder. Dead bodies littered the ground, and more women kept falling from the trees.
Alan’s head was spinning; he was still clutching the machete in his hand. Slowly the woman in front of him was advancing. She was playing with him, like a hurt mouse, she was only a foot from him now. He didn’t move, just waited, then, with all his strength he kicked her knee out with his steal toes. Her scream echoed in the jungle, sending birds and other animals running though the underbrush, away from danger.
Right away all the women around them stopped, all eyes were on the two on them. Her writhing in pain leg bent at an unnatural angle, Alan finally on his feet, abandoning the machete. She wouldn’t stop screaming, the women were retreating. Slowly they started to leave, a few tried to get to their leader and help her out, but Henry and Pierce were laying down a suppressing fire and they couldn’t get to close.
Only three of the women remained, and Alan’s still screaming in front of him, they all had striped patterns of their stomach and breast. They stood on their hind legs, clicking low in their throats. They were moving forward slowly aware of the power the men held in there hands. Alan’s heart was pounding in his chest. The downed women stood between him and the open door. He tried to jump over the injured monster but her claws caught his pant leg. Because of this he fell short and smacked his head on the side of the truck. Henry was screaming something as the rest of the women surged around them.
Alan couldn’t understand anything; his brain felt like it was on fire. He put a hand to his head and came away with blood. The woman was only a few feet away from him but she couldn’t stand, instead she pulled her self across the earth her tail thrashing angrily. Alan was lying on his stomach; he quickly rolled over and smashed the bottom on his boot heel into her nose. Blood spurted out and she screamed again.
Using the truck as leverage Alan got to his feet and started to stomp the women into the forest floor. She wouldn’t stop struggle, he tail whipped her in the legs, and she scratched at him, he felt he teeth puncture his leg more than once. But soon she stopped moving. He watched her ribs splatter and poke through her blood stained skin. Shaking he fell into the car.
Henry was on the ground, his was bleeding from his stomach and trying to fend one of them off with the machete Alan tossed on the ground, his laser was lost somewhere. Pierce had one pinned to the ground, he was half crouched with his knee on the throat, his hands were shaking at he reloaded his gun. They both looked like they were having the time of their lives, Alan felt sick, he couldn’t be part of this. Peirce emptied both rounds into the things face and reloaded again, whipping blood from his eyes.
Alan could the young girl from the car, she sitting up in her tree again. She had something in her hands, Alan relied she was smoking a cigarette. Where could she possible get cigarettes? He realized he made a huge mistake, the women he just killed was reaching out to him, he neglected her offer and now she was dead. He felt lost, like he didn’t know what to do.
Pierce was laughing and lighting a cigarette, two of the monsters lay before his feet. Both had smoke curling up and away from them. Alan pictured this as their souls leaving their bodies. Henry was still having some trouble with his, it looked like he finally got the upper hand and she was trying to run. He raised his weapon over his head and chopped into her leg. She collapsed, the machete stuck into her calf. Alan got a look at her face right before Henry pulled out the blade and finished the job. She looked like a child, like something warm and clean. Henry dislodged her head from her shoulders splattering blood all over the windshield.
No one made a sound, Alan jumped out of the car; he dropped quietly to the ground. There was no one left, just the three exhausted men. He crawled on his hands and knees over to Pierce and Henry. His head hurt badly, he looked at the seat of the car and noticed it was covered in blood, his blood. He tried to put pressure on the wound, but he couldn’t tell where he was bleeding. His whole head ached where ever he touched it.
“Are they gone?” there was still a shifting the trees and a heavy breathing.
“Yeah we got them.” Henry helped him to his feet and bandaged up his head.
They took sometime to gather the dead women and throw them in one of their own traps. This was Alan idea; the others just went with it to calm him down. He seemed spooked and the constant moving and thrashing sound in the brush wasn’t helping. After they were all loaded in they set them on fire, the shifting sounds in the trees faded into the wind.
* * *
It was fairly easy making their way through the underbrush, the traps were obvious and easy to avoid. Alan walked close to Peirce his head was still aching. The women so far made no further appearances; because of this the mood was quiet and expectant. Peirce was the only one that still seemed laid back, but Alan was starting to expect he had fun were ever he went.
The road stretched for about half a mile and then the beaten path stopped abruptly. They were back in the wilderness; the last bit of civilization had been overgrown. Near by water could be heard, and the soft crackle of some animal. They pushed past some trees and stepped into a wide clearing. Henry was leading the way and he seemed to have some sort of plan.
Peirce leaned over to Alan and whispered this is where the hunt begins. Just beyond the next set of trees was a massive lake, expanding as far as the sun. Alan still wasn’t to sure what it was they were hunting, maybe some sort of viscous water buffalo.
Instead of heading straight for the beach they found a ridge that provided a clear view of the lake. Surrounding the lake were natural pools of water, from above it looked like a bombsite filled with rain water. Alan pictured the lake as an atomic bomb crater and the image stuck with him. Henry was surveying the land with a pair of expensive binoculars, he seemed distressed.
“How many of those tear bombs do you have, Pierce?” He took off the binoculars and started writing in a note book.
“Ten, it should be more than enough.”
Alan noticed dark blue shapes moving in the tiny pools, he reached for the binoculars Henry had been using and got a closer look. They were expensive and zoomed in like the sight on a sniper rifle. In each pool there were three or four blue children swimming and one other more developed monster, standing as if on guard. It occurred to Alan that these were the males; they stayed at home watching the children.
They looked like people in the same way the women did. They had long thin bodies and sharp angular features. Their skin however was a darker blue tone, giving the illusion of an African completion. It was shocking how similar they were to human men, Alan put the binoculars down.
“The trouble is we never know when the women will get back, or even if they’re all gone, we have to pick the perfect moment to strike.”
Henry’s eyes seemed intense and passionate. Alan picked up the binoculars again and looked at the shallow pools of water again.
“You can’t mean ambushing them, what would be the point?”
“We tried to eat the women, but they must have a different diet, they’re rank.” Pierce said this with a sneer.
“You mean we’re hunting them?” Alan didn’t know what to think, he said it so causally he thought he was joking. Then he remembered General Gold and the first glimpse they got of the women.
“What do you think was in the stew white boy?” Peirce was laughing and slapping his knee.
“Shut up both of you, we have a job to do.”
“You fed me those things; you fed them to all of us. Look at them, their people, this is wrong. I feel sick.” Alan’s eyes were wide, and panicked.
“You didn’t seem to have any trouble killing them before.” Henry was furious.
“They were attacking us.”
“Of course they were, we invaded their planet, destroyed their forest and eat their young.”
“Their young?” he got to his feet.
“Haven’t you ever heard of veal?” Pierce apparently was having a great laugh at his expense.
“I won’t let you do this, it’s not right.”
“Try and stop me.” This again came from Pierce; Henry was studying the pools through the binoculars intently. Pierce reached into the huge pack he was carrying and pulled out what looked like a soup can. There was a dangling tab on the top of the can, and he pulled it off with a sneer. Issuing a purple gas he tossed it down to the pools, and then he threw a few more for good measure. Alan pulled out his laser, Henry didn’t say anything he just looked sad and tired.
“Put it away kid, I wouldn’t want to hurt you.” Peirce got to his feet, he and at least a foot on Alan, and was defiantly in better shape.
“What was that?”
“What’s it fucking look like, its tear gas and it doesn’t last long if we don’t go down there now the women will come.”
“How can you do this, it isn’t warfare?” Before Pierce could say anything Henry socked Alan and sent him to the ground, he hit his head and groaned.
“What do you know about Warfare?” he kicked him in the ribs and put the machete to his throat. “I asked you a question faggot.”
“You’ve been a lair sense the very beginning; this whole operation is a sham.”
The smoke from Pierce’s bomb was slowly fading with the wind. Peirce reached for the binoculars and watched three of the blue men make their way up the ridge, slowly heading toward them teeth bared.
“I don’t have time for you; I don’t have time for any of this.”
Alan kicked him as hard as he could in the knee; he felt it give way under his boot heel. Henry fell and started screaming, everything comes full circle Alan thought then scrambled to his feet and brought his forehead down on his nose. His plan didn’t take him much further then that, he pushed Henry down, Pierce seemed shocked.
“You shouldn’t have done that.” He started to step toward him, Alan turned and ran. He made it to the very edge of the ridge and was stuck. He didn’t have time to think his heart was pumping in his throat. He stepped off the edge of the ridge and started to slide down the hill. It’s wasn’t the best plan but it put some distance between them.
Pierce helped Henry to his feet, not knowing what to do.
“Should we go after him?”
“No, if he wants to help these monsters let them kill him.”
That was actually his plan, to somehow warn them of the danger; he was regretting his choice now. It was easy to slide down the ridge, but he was getting scraped up by sharp rocks slowing his descent. The ground seemed to level out toward the bottom and the lush foliage returned. Tear gas stung his eyes and he wondered toward the pools, looking for something to save.
* * *
The tear gas was completely clear; the air was clean and smelt like spring. Things weren’t going well, Henry’s leg was broken badly, and the enemy was advancing. At first there was only three of them, now there was twelve, just watching them and licking their lips. Pierce was desperately trying to get through to the base, but there was no answer.
“I don’t now how much longer I can take this, why are they just fucking sitting there.” He fired his shot gun into the crowd but missed. “Fuck. I just can’t take this. Can you walk? Fine then wait here and I’ll get help; the truck is still there waiting.”
“Unless Alan took it.” Henry was sitting on a stump; his leg was sticking out unnaturally, and wouldn’t stop the bleeding. Pierce tossed the shot gun on his lap and he winced.
“You wait here.”
“No, they’ll kill me.”
“Then come on.” He stretched out his hand.
He was silent; Pierce waited for a moment then walked away his arms up in the air. In a moment Henry was alone. The men started to advance, tails thrashing back and forth. He waited for as long as he could then fired into the crowd. Two fell, their chest stained with blood. The others swarmed forward and started to tear him apart. They started with his fractured legs, breaking it free.
A small blue child took the leg and started munching on it. Henry vomited and started to cry. He didn’t feel any pain. He was numb, all this was a movie and he was the main character. Its okay for the main character to die, it’s heroic.
They stripped him down, took his laser and cigarettes, and then the children came. There must have been fifteen in all.
* * *
Pierce was running through the jungle,