NEW YORK CITY, BUNKERLAND
Soldiers swarmed Bunkerland, rounding up whatever human beings they could and herding them towards the Teeth.
VT never knew where these tips came from, but they were usually very, very lucrative. The timeline had been moved forward. The guns had been printed much sooner than expected, and now, the opportunity had presented itself sooner than they had expected.
They had fought off a couple of creatures on their way to the Two O’clock building, but got there unscathed. A line of heavily-armed guards from both the Murray and Meatpacker camps kept any approaching creatures of any stripe from climbing up to the eighth floor where VT and Wilhelmina had a command center.
The Broker had given them a handful more of the communication rings, which they had given to their respective field commanders. It had been a while since they had to wage full battle, and they had never done so on this scale.
It would be very interesting, indeed.
“Poleax is in position now.”
“So are Imida and Lawrence’s guys,” said Chuck. “And Potato.”
“Hamburg and Hertz and Olive are ready.”
VT looked through the farvision that The Broker had also provided them with. Yes. Everything looked like it was in place. The gang troop signals glinted in the rising light of the sun from strategic spots across the Plains and rubble hills around where soldiers had amassed Bunkerfolk. The gangs were waiting in hiding for VT’s signal.
He waved his comm ring on and set it to broadcast just as The Broker had instructed.
“Well,” said Wilhelmina. She was also looking through a farvision. “What are you waiting for?!”
“We need to wait,” VT said, “for the last of the troops to get into the position where they are about to send the citizens of Bunkerland into The Teeth. To their death. That way, they will be largely out of the way. We’ll have to make some sacrifices, but…” He spoke in a distracted whisper. “We need to make sure that the creatures won’t bother us.”
“Oh fuck it!” yelled Wilhelmina. She activated her ring onto full voice and shouted, “Murrays, Meatpackers on the field. Charge!”
VT fought to contain his anger. But there was nothing to do now. She had given the order before the bulk of the bunker folk had gone into The Teeth.
He and Wil watched their strategy unfold.
Leekman herded the last of the bunker cows into the pathways around the hills surrounding The Teeth. They knew better than to run; the soldiers would shoot them. They had already done so for a few hard-headed trash folks. That ought to learn them. Leekman patted his side. He swelled with pride at the new firearm he had waiting in the wings. After the creature bastards had had their fill with –
Pain bled into his leg, and it only registered in his mind that he had been shot a second later. Where the hell had that come from? Some stupid-ass new recruit was probably –
Another shot, this time into his stomach. He looked up just in time to see a ragtag group of men and women with shotguns, pistols and even rocket launchers swarm over the hill beside him. He tried to shout out a warning. He held his bleeding stomach.
With a gurgle and groan, he slumped to the ground.
“Good morning, people! Hello!” A rough hand reached into Leekman’s side, claiming the first prize of the day. “And hello, Mister Gamma Goblin. Come to Mama.”
The gangs shot at the soldiers, felling the surprised group one by one.
Screams and shouts started to rise from the direction of The Teeth. The creatures had begun to feast on the home delivery service that the army had brought them.
The trouble was that the army wasn’t expecting another attack themselves.
It only took a few minutes before the surprise wore off. Half of the soldiers received new orders from their invisible commanders and turned back to fight, ignoring the crowd of bunkerfolk. A handful of soldiers still detailed on Operation Hideout continued to herd humans into the Teeth.
But bit by bit, one associate after another acquired ray guns, and soon, shotgun and rocket launcher blasts that pierced the air were punctuated by the whizz of lasers.
Soldier after soldier exploded into smithereens.
“Call the trainers! Why won’t they use the rayguns?”
The General cursed into the comm ring as soon as someone answered.
“Nutter! What the FUCK did you program them to do?”
“Sir, part of the failsafe that was handed down to us included only using the rayguns against creatures to preserve power.”
“SO THEY CAN’T FUCKING DRAW THE GUNS AND SHOOT AT THESE FUCKING GANG ASSHOLES?”
“… No, Sir.”
The General slammed his fist into a wall and continued to watch. The soldiers were doing reasonably well against the gang members, but with each ray gun being used against them, the tides were going to turn soon.
“Where are those rocket launchers?”
“The uh… the enemy has secured them.”
The General looked again and zoomed in on another part of the battlefield. The gangs had been well-deployed. How had his troops not been ready for this?
Mounted rocket launchers that had been in reserve against the creatures were turned towards the soldiers themselves, manned by dark-coated gang members.
The General held back another wave of expletives. Because the soldiers who weren’t busy fending off the gangs had lost control of the vagabonds. The human shield had broken. And out of The Teeth started coming the first of the Creatures. And it looked like they were still hungry.
“Hmm. Things seem to have gone a bit pear-shaped,” VT observed.
“Yeah, it’s a shitshow! What the fuck, creatures are coming out!” Wil railed. She screamed. She shouted.
Gang members started to go down.
VT held his tongue. It wouldn’t do to upsed Wil further. “Potato.” He barked off a few more names. “Use the laser guns against the creatures.”
They watched again as more creatures swarmed out of the hideout. Raw, red, oversized creatures, grimly determined soldiers, gangs and confused bunkerfolk were mashed up in a melee around the Teeth.
It was difficult to tell how things were going at that moment. But one thing was for sure. Gangs had control of more and more ray guns.
This would work in their favor. Easier to obliterate the enemy.
Potato and his contingent, on the West end of the battlefield, were very well-organized. They had already taken control of three mounted turrets, and still had all four of their rocket launchers. Potato was a great leader.
He exalted on the top of the rubble hill from which he commanded. His runner returned.
“Just treat them — soldiers, creatures, everyone — as the same enemy. We’re in a fuckin’ good spot here cos we’re not surrounded. Push ’em back. Tell Yorkie we got his back.”
Yorkie’s group, just next to Potato’s, slightly further East, was being attacked from one side by creatures and the other side by soldiers. The runner nodded and sneaked off.
“WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING?” The General was livid. A force from the West was pushing his guys over. And more laser guns being used against the soldiers — not to mention the creatures that were eating them — was tearing morale into shreds.
The battle raged on. And then the tide turned. The General yelled into his comm ring. “Do not retreat!”
Where would they go?
Fuck. Fuck. He made a call upstairs. Where the hell were the reinforcements he had asked for half an hour ago?
Seamus turned and pirouetted with glee. Fuck that fight. Fucked fuckety! He would go this-away. Then that-away.
No way would they go to the house not as guests. They would go this way.
“Come on, you fuck faces, no where to go but pizza here!” He waddled away from the fight, towards the light. The light the light. The offices. His offices.
“Bob, we best follow him again this time.” Delilah skirted around the rubble hill, huffing and puffing. Soldiers ignored them now, but they were still too close for comfort. And then these things were suddenly all over the place…
“Coming, Delilah. I coming.”
Balooz cringed in the dusty air, watching is fellow soldier go down with a bullet in the chest. Shit. Shit. He scrambled back. There were creatures! He drew his new ray gun and shot. And shot and shot and shot. Boom. Spatter. Boom. Spatter.
There were a lot of them. But these guns were like magic.
Mid-day, high noon
Suddenly, something strange happened. “Give me that back!” Wil said, snatching the farvision away from Chuck. “What the fuck?”
“It appears as though we’re losing our creature friends.” The sky darkened over with clouds.
And it was true. Big hulking bodies started to lift into the air as if pulled by some invisible external force.
The battle lulled for a moment as human mouths dropped open. They stared at the figures that started to float into the air in an unseen column towards the stormy gray that swirled now above them. Lightning flashed and the wind picked up, but there was no rain.
“Attack! Don’t stop, what are you doing! Attack the soldiers!” Yelled Wilhelmina into the comm ring.
Soldiers still kept shooting at the creatures floating into the sky with bursts of laser gun fire. But then the gangs listened to their boss, and as the message trickled through the gang troops, the battle began to take shape in their favor.
“Billoxi, stop staring! The gangs! Don’t bother with those bastards up there, they’re no longer a threat!” The commander on the ground pulled his soldiers away from focusing on the creatures, just as they had been ordered. Whatever the hell was happening was no longer their problem.
These gangs, however, still were.
And then the soldiers listened. But not quickly enough.
The gangs were too powerful. A sweep of firepower from the West, along with more and more laser guns were being directed at them.
He had to make a call.
“Retreat!” the ground commander yelled. He would have to face hell later, but at least he and his men and women would be alive to face it. Another soldier next to him vaporized in an explosion of flesh and blood. “Retreat!” He yelled into his comm ring and around him, to anyone who would listen.
The command to retreat rippled through the ranks. Some soldiers stuck to the order of standing to fight, which came from above, but most turned to run. This had not been in the assignment of the day. The ones who fought were gunned down, their ray guns picked up by more gang members.
There was only one way to run — they were closed off by gang troops to the west and south. So they ran.
VT, for once, held a hand out and stopped Wilhelmina from shouting into the comm ring. She spouted random words of no direction or consequence. “Madam, I see a development that may be of great interest to both of us. Will you allow me to give some directions?”
“Look.” VT motioned towards the battlefield. “We can perhaps be rid of our adversaries in a more efficient way.”
Wilhelmina looked at the mass of humanity roiling over the hills and plains, shifting towards the north and east. The bunkerfolk were running away from the soldiers who were running away from their troops. “VT, you know. This one great idea makes up for all the stupid shit that comes out of your mouth. Okay, tell the folks what to do.” Wil sat back and started to cackle.
VT nodded his head in a small bow and activated his comm ring. “Murrays and Meatpackers. Push the soldiers and bunkerfolk into Times Square forcefield. Corner them and use any means necessary.”
And then the plan went into motion.
Paolo Gosetti hummed to himself, but couldn’t hear anything amid the loud buzz and crackle of the three Forcefield Emission Nodes ten feet above his head. He had been a Perimeter Guard since forcefields were invented, and he killed himself a good number of creatures. Today he was happy to have been posted on Emission Tower V — it had a lovely view of the southern part of Manhattan Island and everything on it. Including several creature columns. He had never in his life seen this many creatures — they were all getting sucked into the sky. Along with his beautiful new gun.
He had gotten his pistol ready in the meantime, but no one had foreseen losing all of their high-powered stuff. His new standard issue raygun was a beautiful thing. He had been looking forward to telling his teenaged son all about how the gun was.
He yawned. Mayor Fakhoun had given standing orders a few weeks ago insisting that the PGs must be fully armed and alert at all times. She repeated it this morning, when they received their new rayguns, saying that the old Titan Tips should be used as back-up. Gosetti scoffed at the thought. Armed and alert? What for? All the ugly monsters were miraculously disappearing!
Anyway, since there weren’t any more creatures, his buddy Hoffman was in no hurry to get back with the Titan Tip shotguns. Hoffman was stopping by the store to grab some drinks and had asked if Gosetti wanted anything. It would be nice to have an ice cold beer while watching those suckers get pulled into a storm cloud. There were only so many hours you could watch this kind of thing before it got boring.
Gosetti stretched and yawned, swinging his arms back and forth for a stretch. On the second swing, he noticed a dust storm somewhere in the distance, coming from the Penn Plain. The tower was only twenty feet tall, but then again, there wasn’t a need to make the towers any taller. The forcefield emanated from six Emission Towers and covered the entire sphere of the SafeZone. And they couldn’t be too high up, or creatures that were trying funny stuff would be out of range.
It was a little bit strange to see a dust storm on this day — there wasn’t any wind.
At least the creatures were gone. Whatever it was that was happening, Gosetti hoped the ugly bastards never came back. Good riddance.
Seamus was flying. This was glorious! The moment of bursting glory would be his in two hills. He slid down the next rubble hill. He felt like an animal. Wild. There it was. He knew he would burn his balls and brains. He could almost touch the shock of that thing in front of him. But it was better than all other alternatives. It would be glorious.
And they still hadn’t found him.
But as he got to the top of the last hill, he suddenly felt weird. His body cramped, then started tingling.
Oh, those fuckers.
“NO! I DON’T WANT TO GO!”
Seamus twisted and screamed. He grabbed and held onto a bent metal bar sticking out of the top of the hill. It pulled at his hand; he was too weak. The thing was too strong. His hands were slipping. He tried to hold his feet under another bar that was stuck in the hill. But his feet slipped.
While he was trying to hang on to the bars, people rushed around him to his glory. That was his glory. He saw people race past him. He screamed as he heard zaps and booms and cries. He was hit by blood and skin. He smelled things burning.
“NO!” He screamed. And he screamed and he screamed and he screamed until it felt like his throat was bleeding.
And then suddenly, his grip broke. He couldn’t do anything.
He was floating. They had found him.
He threw his arms and legs around. He kicked. He punched. He kept screaming. Babbling, now.
They had found him and they were taking him.
If he had known how to cry, he would have. But he couldn’t. So he did the next best thing. He pissed all over everyone and everything.
Fuck everyone. Fuck the world. Fuck the universe. Fuck them all.
Below him, he saw a wave of people flow along the last few hills and hung his head and closed his eyes. He heard what came next, then couldn’t hear anything anymore.
“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” Paolo Gosetti screamed at Hoffman. The hapless Perimeter Guard trooped down the rampart with a bed of silver cases in tow. Gosetti and the five other PGs stationed at the top of Tower VI scrambled to collect Titan Tip shotguns and machine guns, cocking their weapons just as a fifth boom filled the air. It was the sickening sound of people jumping into the forcefield.
“I had to distribute the first three beds to the guys on the ground. They’ve redeployed eighty percent of all PG’s to help us and Tower VI and our section of shield…” Hoffman mumbled as they hustled to load their weapons.
“There is a fucking battle out there!” The other PGs were ready and had already scrambled to take positions.
“I know, I know…” They were locked and loaded.
“Is that beer I smell on your breath?” Gosetti asked incredulously as he stood up to set himself up over the low wall.
“Shut up and do your job, asshole! You asked me to buy you some, too.” Hoffman stood up and looked out in time to see a tsunami of crazy-eyed people surge towards them over the smoky, blood- and flesh-spattered hills below.
There was no stopping the wall of mass desperation that came crashing into the stretch of crackling forcefield. A femtosecond of silence whispered the warning of change before a roar ripped through the air and the world shattered around them.