“So what’s the distance?”
“About 1.500 meters.” I say.
“Are you sure?”
“I was. About a minute ago.” I say with a sigh at the end. If only he wasn’t so slow.
“This is a serious mission York,” He is obviously annoyed, but then again so am I. “How about you drop that annoying attitude of yours and tell me the damn distance.”
“Sure thing Captain.”
She is barely seeable. If it wasn’t for this eye then I wouldn’t be able to see her, even if it was clear skies. A bit older then me, 20 years of age if I remember the report, hip long hair, brown, about five feet tall. Yeah she’s the one, no one would just wander around these mountains for the fun of it, not if they wanted to get shot or if they were on the run. Just another filthy monster that should be put down.
“1.600 meters. She’s moving out of sight, best take the shot now.” I say, as I follow her every move.
“We’re using live rounds, yeah?” He says as he moved his pointing finger onto the trigger.
“Not this time. Not after what happened on our last mission,” I say, felling remorse for not ending her life right here. “We were told to use tranquilizers this time. That is unless you really want to lose your rank.”
“Fabulous...” Captain says as he unloads the current bullet and puts in a tranquilizer. “What has this world fallen into, when we have to keep these things alive and locked up. The problem would be solved right away if we could just put a nice .50 calibre bullet, straight through their heads.”
“Less complaining and more shooting.” I say. “She’s at 1.700 meters, you don’t got much time.”
I understand him, maybe more so then anybody else. The decision to put me under his command was odd at first, he had a reputation for being less ‘empathetic’ towards Users. Instead of putting them asleep and shipping them to the nearest research lab, he preferred instead to put them to sleep permanently on the spot. But in resent times the liberty of doing so has been highly restricted, in favor of keeping them alive and doing experiments on them. It’s thanks to that rule that I’m still stuck in this realm, walking it as an abomination to life itself.
“Alright where were we,” He says as he leaned into the scope of his sniper rifle. “And a one, and a two, and a three.” As he says that the tranquilizer dart goes flying, completely unnoticeable due to the howling wind outside this cave.
It takes a moment or two until the shot connects, but as soon as it does it only takes a second for the target to go down. “Clean shot.” I say, as I watch her look around frantically and run but a few steps before collapsing on the floor.
The Captain sighs and rubs his eyes and temple, as he lowers his gun. I put down my binoculars and let my right eye rest, I can already feel the exhaustion creeping in.
“So,” He says, without looking at me. “What did you think of her?”
“Of who?” I ask, puzzled as to who he is talking about.
“Of her,” He nods towards the person he just shot at. “The target.”
“She’s just a target. I know as much about her as you do.” Both of us red her file, alongside our two additional teammates.
“Forget it, it’s fine.” He says as he slowly gets to his feet. “I’ll notify Marko to go and pick up the body, you get in touch with Ray.”
“Sure...” I’m still not sure what the question was about, it’s not like him to care about the target in any way, let alone to ask me what I thought of them.
I stay on the ground for a bit longer than him, placing my already throbbing head to the nice and cool rocky floor. It’s been like a year or so and I still can’t get a hang of it. Not that I really want to, what I would want is to be on the other side of Captain’s scope, be done with it nice and quick. But that would be a waste, now wouldn’t it? As long as I’m able to use this cursed ability of mine to take down other freaks like me, I guess I can endure a while longer. But obvious self loathing aside, I have to contact Ray, she’ll get an extract to come our way and get us out of these mountains.
I stand up and walk into the cave where Captain and I have made camp for the past day or two. I’m always surprised that dodgy setups like these end up working quite well, it’s just two sleeping spaces with a short range radio for communication between team members, and a small fireplace in the center. I sit opposite of Captain who’s currently trying to get in contact with Marko, I whip out my diary and find the correct code to get in touch with Ray, as soon as I find it and put it into the machine I dial the number, and after a few seconds I’m greeted by a static connection on the other end.
“About damn... the antenna is... some help...” Says the voice on the other side.
“You are seriously breaking up,” Even though the static I can recognize Ray’s voice, but that static is definitely not a good sign, “What’s going on up there?”
“Get the fuck... some assistance...” She says.
“Look, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about but hang in there for a bit. I’m coming up.” I say as I take off the headset. “Fuck me...” I mutter.
My fingers automatically start rubbing my eyes and forehead. As I open my eyes and look out of the cave and into the windy hellscape, my attention is immediately drawn to Captain who lets out a mighty yawn as he stretches his back.
“I’m getting too old for this shit!” He yells out, still stretching one side of his torso and then the next. “What did she say,” He asks, “It didn’t sound good, are there any issues?”
“Something about the antenna, I don’t know, there was more static then usual so I think it’s safe to say that things aren’t perfect,” I say as I start getting up. “But don’t worry, I’ll go check it out and get our asses out of here as soon as possible.”
The mountains up here in the north are really not the nicest place to be, let alone when it’s windy as hell, just like now. I said it before, only people who roam around here are either escaped freaks or people who simply have a death wish. Besides people like my team, the other kind of hunters are the natural ones, wild and rabid animals that will kill anything that moves, sometimes for food and sometimes just for the fun of it. What’s even more fun is this damned wind, honestly that girl would have died to some wild animal if we weren’t sent to capture her, no matter what kind of ability she had, these animals thrive as their surroundings get worse.
As I make my way to the opening of the cave I put on my gloves and cover my nose and mouth with a simple bandana, so as to not get completely shredded by the sand and dust. Before I start making my way through the hellscape outside I feel something suddenly hitting the back of my head and falling to the ground, I turn around to find Captain sitting on a chair facing me and lighting a cigar.
“You’ll need those,” He says, putting the freshly lit cigar into his mouth, “Or do you plan on going out there completely blind?”
Looking down I clearly see the object that stuck my head a second ago. “Goggles, right...” I bend down and pick them up, dusting them off as I put them on and adjust the size.
“For the love of God just please fix whatever needs fixing and let’s get out of this hell hole.” Captain says.
I throw him a thumbs up as I turn around and head outside.
I immediately curse every motherfucker that has wronged me and lead me to this very moment. I’ve been in these mountains a plethora of times before, missions to kill this guy and that guy and so on, but it has never, and I mean never, been this bad. I feel like I’m naked waking through a raging sand storm, no amount of clothing will protect me in this fucking weather, I’m surprised I can hear my own thoughts right now. After an excruciating hike to the top of this mountain I finally make it to Ray’s camp, while I do have goggles on I can still barely see anything in front of me and I just barely see a silhouette of a rather pissed off individual, kicking what looks like some sort of metal box before falling to their knees and continuing to hit it with their fists like some sort of hammer.
As I approach I yell out, “Ray? Is that you?”
After putting in one last hit, the silhouette puts it’s hands on the metal box and then lays it’s forehead on it, in what looks like an overwhelming defeat, and raises one arm with a thumbs up.
“What the fuck are you doing?” I yell out, as I approach Ray.
“What the hell does it look like I’m doing?” She lifts the head and throws her arms up in an exaggerated gesture.
“Well it looks like you’re turning a piece of good machinery into crap metal, or are at least attempting it.”
“Well if we don’t do something about it then it may as well be considered scrap metal!” She says while getting to her feet and keeping her eyes on the box. “The damn wind snapped the antenna in half... It may be fixable but it will take some goddamn luck.”
“Alright, so how do we fix it?”
“Fuck, I don’t know... An antenna doesn’t just snap very often.” She says, putting her hands on her head and looking around, “Here, help me bring the snapped part back up and maybe I can do something about it.”
Ray signals me to come closer as she bends down and picks up the snapped part of the antenna. Both of us grab it on each side and lift it up connecting it with the base where it snapped, Ray lets go to look for any tools that might help fix this issue. As I’m holding this 7 foot tall antenna up, which is not easy at all, I swear that I see some movement through the sand and dust, maybe one shadow, or two or three... well this isn’t fucking good, this is really not good.
“Um, Ray I think we got company!” I yell this out and put the antenna piece down.
“What are you talking about?” She looks at me with a puzzled expression and then slowly turns around to see what I’m looking at. As she does, a sudden collection of barks and growls unlike any normal beasts ring out through the obscured dust surrounding, and out step three mutated, four legged monstrosities, cornering us into the edge of the cliff.
“Ok! Ok! Just calm down puppies,” Ray says as she starts taking slow steps back, putting he left hand up in a ‘stop’ fashion and with her right arm starts reaching for the handgun on her right hip. “Just stay right there, thank you very much.”
I already took steps back so I’m behind her, rightfully so considering I have no other way of defending myself, apart from the little knife on my left thigh.
I’ve read about these things and unfortunately seen them on a couple of occasions, Split Fangs is what we refer to them as, mostly because their lower jaw is split in half and the distinct nightmarish fangs that accompany them. I had nightmares for the first couple of nights when I first encountered one, their split jaw and the tongue that just dangles there dripping what I hope is only saliva, and the pure feral look in their eyes, and all off that is just the head. Their bodies are weirdly crushed together like someone picked them up and tried to make them into a ball but stopped half way through. The spine is shaped into a curved arch with the vertebrae sticking out in some parts, the legs short and so thin you would think that there is nothing but bone there. I heard they were made in the image of hyenas so they share a lot of same behavioural traits, like hunting in packs and the female being the leader. No one knows where they really came from, but let’s be honest the only place they could have come from is the various Organization labs in this area.
After carefully pulling her gun out and not making any sudden movements she points it towards the middle beast, “Now just be still, don’t move and it’ll be over quick.” With that she steadies herself, and with a resounding bang and a flash within a second the beast falls down dead on the spot, immediately following the shot she points the gun at the beast on the left yelling, “Don’t you do anything fucking stupid, or you’ll end up like you mother, or father or whoever the fuck I just killed!”
After the shot I quickly take out my knife and point it at the beast Ray isn’t currently threatening, staying behind her of course.
“I swear to God if you fuckers don’t turn tail and run, you are seriously going to end up like that dead family member next to both of you.” She yells out.
But then suddenly another loud bang rings from within the dust storm on our right, and instinctively Ray pulls her trigger, and with that the remaining two Split Fangs drop dead in a flash.
Ray aims her gun in the direction of the noise on our right calling out, “Who the fuck is that?”
“Calm your ass down Ray,” a voice comes through the storm and a figure walks towards us with its arms raised up, “It’s me, for the love of God!”
As the figure approaches I can clearly make out the look of Captain, “Put your gun down Ray, we’re good now,” I say.
She takes a deep breath and puts her gun on safety and back into the holster, “Fucking hell, this day just can’t get any better...”
“What’s happening here?” Captain says as he approaches and puts his gun into the holster.
I put my knife away and approach him, “We are having antenna issues and when we were trying to hopefully fix it we got jumped by Split Fangs. No one got injured so that’s something.”
“Ugh, great... What’s the problem with the antenna?” He asks while rubbing the sides of his temple.
“The damn wind snapped the antenna clean in half!” Ray intersects.
“Well that’s certainly not good.” The Captain says, his voice already becoming more frustrated.
“How did you know we needed help up here?” I ask.
Captain is already looking over the equipment and looking for a solution, he answers without looking in my direction, “I tried contacting you but there was no answer, I figured you either fully lost contact or something bad was going down. Looks like the ladder was right.” He picks up the antenna, inspecting the part where it snapped off. “Oh yeah, that’s right,” He mumbles to himself before looking up at me, “I told Marko you would go down and help him. I’ve been around this kind of equipment before so I’d have more of a chance of fixing it instead of fucking it up. He’s probably already with the body, so hurry your ass down there.”
“Fine...” I sigh. “You could at least give me something to protect myself with, like a gun or something.”
“You don’t even have the right training for a gun, besides, Marko can keep you safe.” He says.
“Hey, I was doing a damn fine job keeping the fucker safe!” Ray shoots up.
“Fuck you Ray!” I say as I make my way down the path I just got up with.
“You were yelling at the dogs instead of killing them. Did you seriously think they would just listen to you and walk away? If so, then you are dumber then I gave you credit for.” Captain says as he’s fiddling with equipment.
“Ugh, whatever...” She says in defeat and returns to fixing the antenna.
I didn’t come to the top of this little creek but 10 minutes ago, and here I am already going to the bottom of it, just my fucking luck I guess. Captain told me to meet up with Marko at the body, that’s going to be a long ass walk till I get there.
After a solid forty-ish minutes I finally get close enough where I can see the outline of Marko setting up some equipment or something. As I approach I try and look around for any more Split Fangs but no luck, this dust storm is really something, haven’t seen one like this till now. Even with my right eye I can barely see a couple of feet further, though I don’t think I’m up for using it right now, I’ve already used it enough today, any more and my head would hurt for the remainder of the week.
As I get closer to Marko I yell out, “Yo Marko! It’s York! Don’t blow my head head off!”
Immediately as I say that he stops and looks at my direction putting his hands up to his eyes to shield them and to have a better look at me. “I thought Captain was coming down to help!” He says, standing up right and crossing his arms.
By now I have reached Marko to where he is clearly seeable, also on the floor next to him the body of our target covered in some sort of a cloth. “Yeah well Ray got into some trouble, the wind managed to snap the antenna clean in half, and then a hunting party of Split Fangs arrived but were driven off by her and Captain. So, because of that I have been sent to help while Captain helps with the antenna.” I say as I come to a stop and bend down in exhaustion from my trip down.
“I’m guessing you were as useless as ever.” Marko says.
“First of all, fuck you, and second of all, it’s not my problem that I don’t have anything to protect myself with! Captain still doesn’t want me to have a gun so I’m just stuck with this little pointy stick!” I say with some annoyance while looking up at him, still not still not fully catching my breath.
Marko laughs for a little bit and says, “Ok there cowboy. Maybe when you master the art of not becoming exhausted form a little hike, maybe then you could get yourself a real gun. Anyway, when you decided to finally catch your breath, come and help me set everything up here.”
I mumble some curses aimed at Marko and after a short rest I decide to help out by making a small tent around the body with a decent amount of electronic equipment inside.
Marko and I have been friends ever since I was recruited into the Organization. He was one of the only people... no... he was the only one who actually approached me and talked to me, most people stayed as far away from me as possible, not that I blame them, I fully understand why they do it. But Marko either didn’t know what I was or just didn’t care, either way he is the first person I became friends with here. We are not alike in any way, he is way more confident and expressive with a much better body and strength, he is always beside me whenever we’re in a camp or any outpost or base. In short he’s the brawn to my brains, but that’s not to say that he doesn’t have his moments, ever since we got picked up by Captain into his own little squad Marko was in charge of being the muscle if the situation required him to, and in these kinds of missions he’s in charge of securing the unconscious body of our target and keeping it in relatively good conditions until our ride comes in and picks us up. In truth both of us could do this job since we are both trained in various medical fields and can work our way around a body, dead or alive, but Captain doesn’t like me being so up close and personal with Users, which Marko is quite capable of doing with his bigger repertoire of skills, that’s why I stay back with Captain and help in a way someone like me only can.
This damn eye... what were the chances of something like that even happening? Why was I the one who survived, and ended up with this God forsaken cures? I’m useful in so many ways, I can learn so many different things and be useful in so many different fucking ways, and yet my role is that of a freak who’s only useful for one thing... It’s like they don’t care and only use me for the one thing I’m useful for...
After a while of Marko and I setting up and making sure the target doesn’t wake up randomly, we got calls here and there form Captain informing us that they got the antenna to work after a couple of hours fidgeting with it, and he told us to stay put until he got information as to when our ride will pick us up.
After a reasonable amount of time passes as Marko and I idly sitting and waiting for Captain’s orders, Marko breaks the silence, “How long is that old man going to make us wait?” Afterwards he throws his head back and lets out a loud growl.
“I don’t know... I kinda wish I brought that comic book with me.” I say.
“Oh yeah? What are your thoughts on it?” Marko says, turning his gaze towards me.
“I gotta say, it didn’t disappoint. Lucky for me you always know how to pick out the best ones.” I say.
“Fuck yeah I do!” he confidently proclaims. “Just make sure you give it back in good shape, I like to keep a clean collection.”
“I always do, don’t I?”
“True.” He says as he turns his gaze back to the ceiling.
He looks up for a while and after knowing him for a year or so, I can tell he’s trying to come up with a way to start a conversation on a certain topic. I guess I can help him out.
“So what is it that’s plaguing your mind right now?” I say in a sarcastic tone.
“I don’t know man, I’ve... I’ve just been thinking, what are we gonna do when we retire?”
“That’s a fair question, but let me put your mind at ease and let you know, that we have a good couple of decades to go before we can retire and hang our boots up. That is to say if we live long enough to see that day.”
“Ah come on man, don’t be like that!” He says as turns his whole body to face me. “Yeah I know that we still have a long way to go, but don’t tell me you haven’t been thinking of your life after this at some point?”
I sigh and roll my eyes. After thinking for a second or two I shrug and shake my head in a dismissive way. “There’s nothing for someone like me in the outside world, and you know that. And besides, you already know how I feel about...” I sigh, “Myself.”
“Shit, yeah I forgot for a second...” He turns his gaze and clearly shows instant regret all over his face. “I get where you’re coming from, I really do, and I want to help you! I keep telling you that you’re not a monster or some abomination, you’re just... sick, that’s all. You’ll get better and then you won’t have to deal with any of that.”
“Sick? Have you ever heard of anyone being sick for over a year and some change? Through all of my time here not once, did anyone give me an update or some sort of progression on my situation. They haven’t even let me contact my parents and the people closest to me back home, I’ve basically been taken into the ranks and had my previous life erased!” I say with anger that’s been building up inside of me for a long time now.
Marko says nothing but a sigh. He turns to his original sitting position but now with slumped shoulder and an aura of understanding that he clearly stepped a bit to far.
After calming down a bit, I sigh and say, “Look... I don’t blame you for asking, that’s fine, I don’t care. But you can’t expect me to be optimistic after a year of nothing, no updates, no options, no nothing. I’m getting to the point where I... I don’t even know why I’m here...”
At that moment the radio starts to buzz and Marko being closest to it picks up.
“Captain?” He says. “I see... We are... Stay here for the night... Understood, see you in the morning.” He puts the radio down. He puts both of his hands on the table in front of the radio and he lowers his head into his right hand, scratching his head.
“So?” I say.
“We are to stay here tonight. Watch the body till morning. Our ride will come around nine in the morning.” He says, almost mumbling to himself.
“Great...” I say as I get up and stretch my arms. “What’s the time now?”
Marko brings up his left arm to look at his wristwatch. “Like ten in the afternoon and some change.”
“Well I don’t know about you, but I’m going to sleep in that case.” I say while walking towards the little storage box that has items like sleeping bags, just for situations like these.
“Yeah go ahead, I’ll keep watch for tonight.” Marko says with a gloomier tone than usual.
Marko’s a good friend, and he is the kind of person that wants everyone around him to be in high spirits, so he tries his hardest to keep the mood around him as bright as possible. He’s also the person who takes negative emotions much harder than anyone else, especially if he’s the one who caused them to begin with. Unlike him, I don’t really care, I mean good emotions are good and bad emotions are bad, sure, but that’s just how life works. Sometimes I think he’s the only reason why I was able to stay relatively on the level throughout my time in the Organization, I can only imagine in what mind state I would be without his support and overall friendship.
I set up my sleeping area by the little heater we keep turned on. The wind continues to strike the tent from every direction, and the dust it brings with it completely obscures the vision around us. Before going to sleep, I take out my diary that is always by my side and put down some notes and events that occurred today. My quite frequent entries have become a habit of sorts. I feel as though some day I’ll look back and see where I went wrong and maybe, just maybe, be able to do something about it. I just don’t know where I stand right now, should I stay, or should I leave? Somehow I think I’ll get my answer soon.