Dan drove on. His companions occupied themselves as they could. All of them still dealing with the events of that morning.
Tempe took notes and studied the arcane page about the Binder.
Fern occasionally consulted with her, but mainly went back over her gear the martial action making her mind calm itself.
Bono Slept. Pistachio followed his lead.
Milton seamed to sleep, but occasionally checked on the detainee.
A few hours later the silence was broken by the chime over their comlinks that MINERVA was joining the channel.
“I require a status update.” Her voice softly demanded.
Dan coughed, all eyes turned to him. “Um, we encountered a blockade from an exterior force that we later identified as the..” he paused to remember the name of the cult.
“Church of pain in my ass.”, Fern chimed in.
“The Esoteric Order of Dagon,” Dan continued. “We engaged them in combat, killed several and wounded others. We have one detainee for questioning. The van was damaged and we took one of their busses for transport.” Dan was beginning to feel for the shit Teach had dealt with as the lead man in the VDE.
“This does not fully corroborate the video feed of the events.” MINERVA stated flatly. “The damage to the vehicle was majorly caused by a member of the MTF.”
“Correct, to protect secrecy and to not leave behind traces to lead to us or our mission, Milton deployed thermite.” Dan glanced into the review mirror and was met by Pistachio giving him two thumbs up and mouthing the words, ‘Way to bullshit’. How did he become the spokesman for the group?
“Very well. Tactical analysis agrees. Continue on route to Site 305. At this point your MTF has successfully engaged in hostilities, your team has earned the right to have a squad designation.”
“MINERVA give us some time to confer on this team name and we will get back to you.”
“Very well.” The comlinks chimed with MINERVA’s exit chime.
“Congrats,” said Milton, “Just don’t name yourselves the fighting dreidels or some shit.”
Silence settled back into the bus and people settled around. Fern briefly shuffled through the CDs in the front of the bus but the first one was a track of unusual chanting and sound. Fern and Dan looked at each other and stated a flat “no”.
“Someone should try and start working on the detainee.” Dan suggested.
“Can we make her sing? She might know hotel California.” Pistachio added to no one in particular.
“I think I might have an ideal..” Tempe stated, the words escaping her as a secret that she didn’t want to tell. She walked to the back of the bus.
“Let me know if you need anything for enhanced interrogation, I think there is a cigarette lighter up here.” Dan shouted
Tempe sat across from the brooding woman.
“What’s your name?” Tempe asked.
“I’m not paid to tell you my name.” The woman stated.
“Who do you work for?” Tempe tried again.
“I’m not paid to tell you that either.”
“I have ways to make you talk.”
“Do what you have to do sister.” was all the mercenary stated.
“MAKE HER SING!” Pistachio shouted from the front, “FREEBIRD!”
Tempe tried to ignore her and began to reach out in a new way with her power. she used her power to pull the woman’s breath from her lungs.
The mercenary began to choke and strain as she could not pull air into herself.
“Who do you work for?” Tempe asked again as the woman turned white and her eyes rolled up into her head. Tempe was shocked, the ease. The simplicity she had just snuffed out this woman’s life. The woman was collapsed on the floor. Tempe reached down and placed her hand on the woman’s throat. She absent mindedly scanned her face and her fingertips into her glasses.
Tempe stood and began to walk forward, “Guys, I think, I think I killed her…”
“What are we doing with her body.” Fern asked
Dan and the other three had a quick discussion of what to do with the body. It was decided that they didn’t have time to bury her. They would hold on to her body till they could deal with her. Fern sat quietly dealing with this new dark taint that now seemed to show on her gift.
“So what we just fabreeze her?”
They stopped momentarily to wrap her body in what they could find on the bus, and placed her in storage under the bus.
As the day wore on the scenery passed and they crossed into Oklahoma. The scrublands were an uninteresting backdrop. Fern and Dan swapped out, and she pulled the bus back onto the road. She drove on into the night. She glanced into the mirror and watched Tempe. The Mercenary’s death had affected her new friend deeply.
Before she could ponder this further she crested a hill and witnessed a scene out of a bad movie. The road was on fire and there were multiple wrecked vehicles. “Guys, Guys, get up.”
“There are people still alive in there” Tempe stated as she glanced over the wreckage. Fern edged the bus to what she felt was a safe distance.
Pistachio grabbed the trauma bag and headed off the bus, followed by Milton, Dan and Tempe.
Closest to them a woman was trapped under a burning car screaming. As they approached her, they could make out her screams.
“Where is my baby? Where is Matthew?”
Tempe heard a baby cry off to her left in the edge of the woods. She couldn’t let someone else die right now. She ran towards the cry.
At the car Pistachio began to assess his patient. She had major injuries to her mid-section and broken hips. She was not going to last long. He braced her as best as he could then enlisted Milton to help move the car off of her. The weight of the car was now off of her and the blood began to flow freely. Pistachio quickly applied the Quik-clot from the bag and wrapped the wound.
She was ashen and had passed out. Pistachio pulled the emergency Mylar blanket out of the kit and wrapped her up. “We have to get her help immediately.”
Fern watched as she sat in the driver’s seat, clutching the case. Dan headed out of the bus doors to try and help in some way.
Tempe winded her way through some of the brush and stopped to listen. The baby’s cry was moving away from her. Her hand went to her glasses to shift her view into thermal. Ahead of her, from where the cries were coming from, she could now see two forms. They were on all fours but their body temperatures were lower than the surrounding air. They moved smoothly, they had the grace of a big predatory cat.
“What’s going on guys, I’m still on the bus? Tempe where are you?” Fern asked across the coms.
“I have contact. Here are my visuals.” Tempe answered
“Ok, Oh good god.” Fern exclaimed as she could now see the creatures Tempe could see.
“Care to elaborate on good god?” Dan asked.
“Oh god what?” Pistachio echoed.
“We have two lifeforms by Tempe. They are unknown and have a body temp of lower than the surrounding area.” Fern filled in the group.
“Milt, I need you with me!” Tempe cut across the channel.
Milton pulled his .300 Blackout to the ready and headed towards her.
As Dan stood security at the bus door he could hear a voice from the dark to the left hand of the road, “Help. Help, is there somebody up there?”
Milton arrived and Tempe stood up and highlighted one of the creatures with her tactical light. They could see it now. It was hairless and its skin so red that it looked like they had just been skinned. They had a flat head and there was no sign of eyes. A series of spines ran along its back. The eyeless creature gave the impression of looking at them and emitted a whistling chirping sound.
Milton watched the creature he had locked in the sights. He took a step towards the creature. The creature moved a step back and to the right of Milton. “Flanking, huh?”
Tempe scanned across the creatures looking for the baby. Her stomach sank as she watched one of the creature’s throat move as she heard the crying of the baby again.
Milton had seen enough and slowly squeezed the trigger. The compact rifle made a quiet coughing sound, and the bullet found its mark. The left side of the creature’s chest erupted blood. It tumbled twice and rolled into the darkness.
Tempe heard a coughing bark from the other creature as it turned and moved deeper in to the brush.
Dan heard the suppressed shot and drew “The Reverend”. From the side of the road Dan heard the voice again, “Help, Help.”
Pistachio passed Dan as he carried the now unconscious woman onto the bus. Pistachio passed him again as he headed back out to protect the approach of the others.
“Everyone on the bus. 360 perimeter!” Milton called over the comlinks as he and Tempe headed to the bus.
“MINERVA! Can you get me some aerial assets? Anything?” Tempe requested as she ran.
“Uncertain, I will try and move assets into your battlespace.” Was all the A.I. could answer.
Fern felt all of the hair on her body stand on end when she heard the man calling to Dan. “Don’t. Just don’t go over there.”
As the MTF closed in around the bus, the shadows of the creatures, now numbering 6, came into view. The night came alive with the chattering/whistling calls.
Dan seen movement from the side of the road the man had been calling from. One of the red creatures came into view. Its throat moved as he heard the call again, ‘Help me, Help me.’
Dan raised the Rev, “Fuck your help.” And squeezed the trigger. The creature rolled backwards as the bullet impacted it.
Pistachio moved towards the bus, three members of the pack targeted it. Pistachio raised his carbine and shot one of the advancing creatures where its skull should be. The head erupted into a fountain of blood and then as the body collapsed, it burst into brilliant flames. Pistachio’s celebration was cut short as his left femur shattered when one of the creatures bit into him. Pistachio fell and the other two attacker’s jaws snapping in the empty space he had just been occupying.
SIGMA-1 had acquired the target and began to pull him away from the other meat.
Fern pulled open the driver side window and leaned out with her P90 and drew down on the creatures attacking Pistachio. The weapon barked and the creature tumbled away from Pistachio. As it recovered it limped into the darkness.
Milton climbed on top of the bus for a better view. He pounded on the roof, “Pass up Vera!”
Fern left her perch and handed up the large .50 BMG rifle.
Tempe had run around the back of the bus and seen another shape approaching from the rear. She grabbed the flash bang from her vest and tossed it at the shadow. As the grenade went off, all of the comlinks went quiet till the sound was extinguished. Tempe didn’t stop until she reached Dan.
Milton took aim with the Sniper rifle and squeezed the trigger. The bullet ripped past Pistachio and impacted into the creature that had been attached to his leg. As the creature regained its feet it bit into Pistachio again this time crushing his left hip. Pain shot through his body as the iliac crest shattered. Pistachio fought to stay awake as the creature began to pull him away from his friends again.
One of the creatures advanced on Dan and Tempe as they guarded the bus door. Tempe reached out with her power and hit the animal attacking Pistachio. She then reached out to hit one of the creatures that had moved to try and block them from reaching Pistachio.
Pistachio felt the pressure on his hip lessen and took the opportunity to jam the barrel into its face and squeezed. The animal jerked hard on Pistachio. Pain rushed back in to fill all the spaces in his mind.
Dan brought the Reverend onto target on one of the interceptors and as his bullet found its target, the creature burst into flame and collapsed. Dan swung the Rev into place the closest creature and squeezed the trigger. The round struck the rear flank of the creature and it screamed as bone exited the wound.
Fern leaned out of the window and as she raised her P90 to fire, she heard a light snoring sound. “Bono? Get up you stupid damn rat.” She acquired her target and fired as she heard the raccoon yawn. The rounds slammed into one of the creatures in Dan’s way. The body was ripped in half by the stitching of the 5.7×28mm rounds. The body ignited and added to the flames, smoke and stink on the road. Fern heard the sound of her weapon jamming. She pulled back as she cleared its action.
Tempe joined the fire fight and her bullets ripped along the closest creature’s midline. It snarled and jumped back.
Bono leaned out of the window Fern had occupied and brought his 5N7 to bear and placed a round into the body of the one pulling Pistachio away from the group.
Pistachio tried to fire again on his attacker but was unable to get his eyes to focus on his target.
Dan could see the animals trying to pull Pistachio away. He slammed the Rev into it’s holster, and pulled his Dragonov off his back and snapped a shot at the one pulling Pistachio. The creature burst into flames, unfortunately so did Pistachio.
Milton fired Vera, his rounds striking the creatures trying to block the rescue attempt.
Fran glanced up from the conflict, there were now two new much larger shapes approaching from behind the creatures. They were at least hotter than the background, but they were approaching.
She drew down on the knot of creatures and fired. The rounds ripped around the animal, and it lunged at Pistachio and, biting his foot began to pull him to the shadows. The heated shapes closed on them. Bono leaned past Fern and threw a flash-bang.
Dan is able to get past the guards and grabs Pistachio. As Dan pulls, the animal pulled back.
“Milt hold on!” Fern yelled as she gassed the bus. A scream of torn metal screeched inside the cabin as Milton slammed his combat knife into the roof. The bus closed the distance and arrived at her goal.
As they fought over Pistachio, the two heated shapes burst forward. Dan shook his head, were those werewolves? Seriously fucking werewolves?
The giant shapes slammed into the creatures, batting them away like flies.
The chaos allowed Dan to shoulder Pistachio, and head for the bus. As he ran the battered creatures burst into flames. The crowd became an uneasy Mexican stand-off. Everyone watched everyone else nervously.
Tempe finally spoke up, “What do you want?” as she glanced at the wolves, her eyes caught on a brand on its arm. She swore it was a mark she knows. The wolf shifted back to human.
It looked at her, “Temperance?”
“Gwyneth? What are you doing here?”
“Tracking these creatures. Get on the bus, we will try and get you out of here.”
Fern ducked out of the bus to take a sample from the two closest creatures.