Even in my old tracks, now more wary than ever, it took more than eleven minutes for all five of us to reach the imagined safety of the grasslands beyond the ploughed field.
"So what do we do now?" asked Rae as we sat together on the cool grass, with me still nursing young Suzette, who showed no indication of wanting to climb down off my lap onto the grass yet.
"We continue with our mission, of course," I said.
"Just the five of us?" demanded Murray Williams.
"Just the five of us," I agreed.
"But we haven't got a hope in hell. There were fifty-four of us to start with. And in a day and a bit, he's reduced us to just five.
"The best five," I said, hoping it was true. "Most of the others caused their own deaths by panicking." Although this wasn't entirely true, I hoped it would reassure the others a little. "So if we don't panic we have a chance," I said, as the pixie-cut brunette finally, I suspect reluctantly, climbed off my lap onto the cool grass.
Shaking his head, Williams repeated, "We haven't got a hope against a monster soldier. That's why they're now the only soldiers used in combat situations anymore … they're so much better than the rest of us."
"He's not better than us!"
"Better at killing than us!"
"Maybe he's right," said Rae, surprising me. "What hope do we really have of fighting him?"
"We don't have to fight him," I explained. "We just have to keep track of him until re-enforcements arrive with rocket-launchers. Even he can't survive a rocket strike."
"Assuming any of us are still alive by the time that re-enforcements get here!" insisted Murray Williams.
This time I did not yell at him. Since I knew in my heart he was right. A hopeless mission to begin with, had become almost certainly a suicide mission.
"And why haven't they arrived yet?" asked Rae.
I only shrugged, careful not to suggest that Com-Sat-Dar had broken down or could not track us for some reason.
So what do we do? I asked myself. Go on to almost certain defeat and massacre? Or risk being court-marshalled for cowardice under fire by turning back?
"Lunch time," I said to change the subject. "Who wants some yummy, scrummy food concentrate."
"I sent mine to the astronauts living on the moon," teased Rae. However, as I started to eat mine, reluctantly Rae and the others took out their own tubes of horrible-tasting food paste and started to slowly eat it.
* * *
I was still sitting on the cool grass, wrestling with my conscience, as we ate the horrific-tasting food concentrate for lunch, when a great series of explosions began far off in the distance.
"Down!" shouted Murray Williams, and we all nose dived the grass. However, as we lay in the cool, slightly damp grass, it became obvious that these latest explosions were nowhere near us.
"What's happening?" asked Rae, through a mouthful of food paste.
"Are they trying to bomb the monster soldier?" asked Deke, sounding hopeful for the first time in many hours.
"Not likely, I'm afraid. They only agreed to airlift us troops and ammo so that we could do the dirty work for them," I said. Reaching into my right breast pocket, I removed a pair on mini binoculars and tried focusing them upon the distant explosions which we still resounding like New Year's Eve fireworks.
I programmed the computerised mini-oculars for distance and received the information that the town of Springfield, in Springfield State, was just under twenty-five kilometres from our own position.
"Springfield," I said, "that's where the explosions are occurring."
"Springfield?" asked Deke. "That's over in Springfield State, isn't it?"
"That's right," I agreed. "Apparently we crossed over the state line at some time without knowing it."
Holding the mini-oculars to my eyes I adjusted them till I could see the town of Springfield.
As I watched the bell tower of a small church exploded, raining debris down onto passers-by. Then a procession of five or six cars outside the church exploding in turn.
"What's happening?" asked Suzette.
"He's blowing up a church," said Murray Williams, who also had a pair of mini-oculars trained on the town.
"Jesus, that's him," I said, hearing Williams gasp as he also saw the monster soldier for the first time since we had started after him.
"Who, Jesus? What's he doing here?" asked Rae.
"No, the monster soldier," said the lance corporal.
"What's he look like?" asked Suzette, although she had seen the other monster soldiers at the death camp.
"One of TV's retard Ninja Turkeys, but in a gorilla suit," said Murray Williams.
And that was pretty much what the soldier did look like. A giant, mutant cross between a super-heavyweight boxer and a gorilla. Wearing a camouflage uniform, carrying a sack of weapons big enough to stop Santa's sledge from taking off in one hand, and a loaded rocket-launcher in the other.
"Shit, look at that bag of weapons," said Williams.
"Yes, he's got us out-gunned," I said, before I could stop myself.
As he stood there, either defying us, or to terrify the townsfolk, a great series of explosions rang out around the town as schools, stores, and houses exploded into lethal shards of shrapnel. Potentially killing more people as it flew away than the explosions themselves were doing.
"Christ, he must have spent the night planting explosives around the town while we were sleeping," I said.
"But why do that?" asked Deke. "When we're his main targets?"
"Doesn't mean he can't have secondary targets," said Murray Williams.
As we watched, a school bus across the road tried to pull away from the scene of devastation.
Hearing the motor, the monster soldier span around, aimed the rocket-launcher and fired the rocket into perhaps forty or fifty kids.
"Jesus!" I said as the bus exploded scattering about burning body parts of junior high school kids.
As though hearing my curse, the monster soldier dropped the empty rocket launcher, reached into his own breast pocket and pulled out a much larger set of binoculars which he trained straight at me. Obviously seeing me, he grinned like a Cheshire cat and waved toward the burning bus as though asking for my approval of his actions.
"Christ!" said Murray Williams.
"What's he doing?" demanded Rae Lawson.
"He's just blown up a bus full of kids," said Williams, "and now he's grinning idiotically straight at us."
"What?" asked Rae, reaching for his glasses.
"Don't let her look," I commanded Williams, who dutifully held onto his glasses. Not because I didn't want her to see the monster soldier, but rather the burning children.
"Come on," demanded Rae.
"Trust me, you don't want to see," said Murray Williams, unable to take his own eyes away from the devastated town where explosions still rang out all around the soldier.
"Either he knows exactly how far each of the explosives is planted from him," said the lance corporal, "or he just doesn't care if he gets accidentally blown up."
"I suspect the latter," I said. "He's having too much fun to worry about his own fate."
"But if he's got his own binoculars …?" said Suzette.
"That's why he's always been one step ahead of us," Williams finished for her. "While we were following his footsteps he could see us all the time."
"Most of the time," I corrected. "Probably not when we were in the pine forest." Standing to my feet wearily, I said: "Come on, let's get after him again."
"Then why is he wasting time and ammo blowing up a whole town?" asked Deke Becket, as he and the others started to climb back to their feet; trying their best not to shudder each time a new explosion went off.
"To lure us into his latest trap," said Williams.
"I don't think so," I said.
"Then why let us know where he is?" asked Rae.
"To finish us off," insisted Murray Williams. "He's done so well without us even seeing him that he's decided to up the ante."
"I don't think so," I repeated. "Remember he was mutated to kill or be killed. That's all he knows. Whenever he sees someone who isn't another monster soldier his urge to murder them takes over and his instinct for self-preservation shuts down. DARPA has successfully mutated out all perceived weaknesses such as the desire for self-preservation, mercy, smoking, drinking, et cetera."
Perhaps thinking out loud, Rae said, "I bet he still knows how to rape any female troopers he captures alive."
Seeing Suzette looking as though she were about to faint, I put a fatherly arm around her as I said, "Regrettably, yes. The sex urge turned out to be the one human urge too powerful for DARPA to remove from the monster soldiers."
I let them compose themselves for a few moments longer, then said, "Come on, double-quick marching, we have nearly twenty-five kilometres to get through before we can help anyone still alive in Springfield."
"We're not walking straight into his trap?" demanded Murray Williams.
"No, double-quick marching," said Rae, making me smile at her courage.
"Come on," I said starting off. And after a second's hesitation I heard the lance corporal and the others start after me.
Briefly raising the mini-oculars to look through with difficulty as we ran, I could see the gorilla-like figure of the soldier grinning like a Southern diplomat at election time as we trotted toward our first meeting with him.
"Is he still watching us?" asked Deke ten minutes later.
"Yep," I said. "Looks like he's going to watch us all the way there."
Then there was a sudden blast and a great burst of blood flew from the soldier's chest, making him drop his binoculars, which shattered upon the dirty grey concrete where he was standing outside the ruins of the church he had just blown up.
The monster soldier looked down at himself, surprised, as I looked round to see an elderly priest pointing a shotgun at the gorilla-like figure.
Snarling like an angry lion, the soldier raced toward the priest and literally tore him limb from limb as I watched in terror. Too horrified at first to even take the glasses from my eyes.
When I finally did, Rae asked, "What's up, Serg?"
"He just … " I muttered, deciding not to tell the others. "Never mind."
With that I stopped using the mini-oculars as we accelerated toward the town of Springfield where explosions were still going off, like the Fourth of July in Hell.
I just hoped that we were not accelerating toward our deaths.
As we ran I wondered, not for the first time, what the Hell chance we really had against the monster soldier? If a blast from a double-barrel shotgun had only made him angry. What chance did we have with three rifles, two machine-pistols, and our sidearms?
"Why so silent?" asked Rae, as we got within a few kilometres of the burning, broken town.
"Just saving my strength. I'm not as fit as you young whipper-snappers." But even Rae did not respond to my false cheer.
* * *
Finally we reached the town of Springfield. Which looked like a scene from a post-holocaust movie. Burning buildings still occasionally exploded. Bricks, girders, planks, corpses, and hundreds of scattered body parts lined the streets.
"Holy … Now I know what it must have been like in London during the Blitz," said Rae.
"Or Switzerland in World War Three," said Suzette Waterman.
"You're not wrong there," I said to both of them, slowly looking around the death blasted town.
Not wanting them to stay too long in any one place, I said, "Come on, we'd better check for survivors."
And slowly we started looking around the town, trying our best not to walk on human body parts. Although in some parts of the death town it was almost impossible, with blood and human entrails seemingly plastered around the streets as though Salvador Dali had come back to life and taken up street art.
"How could one soldier do of all this?" asked freckle-faced Deke Becket. "It looks like he drove a tank through the town … many times."
"He must have taken a hell of a lot of explosives with him from the weapons store," said Rae.
"A hell of a lot more than we've got," I admitted. "Troopers are stronger than weight-lifters. They can carry hundreds of kilogrammes of weaponry."
"Even so, he must be almost out of ammo by now, surely?" asked Suzette Waterman, sounding desperately hopeful.
"Let's hope so," I said to reassure her. However, the bag I had seen him carrying earlier had looked almost full. I turned to smile at her, then seeing movement behind the young brunette warned: "Down!"
Spinning round, we all crouched as low as possible, without nose diving into the blood and entrails.
Aiming my AK-179 at a pile of fallen bricks and masonry, I said, "He's behind that pile."
Then a small voice called, "D … don't shoot!" And a boy of perhaps twelve came out leading two tiny girls and what looked like a tiny Yorkshire terrier.
Straightening up again, we tried to pretend we had not been afraid.
"Kids," said Rae.
"Hello," said a tiny blonde girl, who looked no more than two at most. "My name's Mary. My brother is Don."
Without hesitation, Rae strode across and scooped up the blonde girl, who could easily have passed for her daughter.
"What do we do now?" asked Murray Williams.
Of course, he was right. Although this time he had been careful not to say it, his tone made it plain that the last thing we needed was to have young kids in toe while hunting for a bullet-proof monster soldier.
"Now, we stop chasing him and wait for re-enforcements," I said. Reaching into my left breast pocket I lifted out the small box and removed the tiny mobile phone. I clicked the red button off, counted to five, and then clicked it back on.
"Yes," a female voice immediately came over the phone.
"We're at the town of Springfield, Springfield State," I said.
"We know we've got you on Com-Sat-Dar."
"We're going to wait here for the re-enforcements."
There was a few seconds' silence as though she was checking this with her superiors. Finally she said, "DARPA command thinks you should stay on the hunt."
"No way," I insisted, "he's been leading us round like a three-legged dog on roller-blades, picking us off whenever he feels like it. We're down to five troopers, two straight out of high school. We're waiting here."
"What if he gets away?"
"No danger of that," I said. "Whenever he's got too far ahead of us, he's slowed down to let us catch up. The last thing he wants is to get away from us." I almost added, 'While we're still alive,' but caught myself just in time, not wanting to spook Suzette or Deke.
Again there was silence for a moment, and then she said, "Okay the chopper is in the air. We've directed it to head to Springfield."
"And we've got survivors to pick up," I remembered, hearing young Mary laughing as Rae tried to cheer her up.
"Okay. We'll send a separate chopper from nearby Weaver State Airforce Base for that."
"Thanks," I said. But she had already rung off.
I walked across to where Rae and the others were trying to cheer up the terrified children.
"It was a gorilla in a soldier's suit," said the boy, Don, as I approached. "A gorilla carrying a massive sack and half-a-dozen large, wooden boxes."
"I thought he was Santa come early, at first," said young Mary.
Yeah, Evil Santa! I thought, careful not to voice my thoughts.
"But then it started shooting people," said the boy.
"And throwing bombs," said the second girl, a redhead of perhaps four or five, with a great crop of Orphan Annie hair.
We listened to the kids tales in horror for ten minutes or so. Then I asked the boy, "Are you able to help us check around the town for other survivors."
He hesitated for just a second, then said, "yes, sir."
"We can't take them round all of this," protested Rae.
"We can't leave them here," I said.
"Suzette and I can stay with them while you, Deke and Murray check round the rest of the town."
"And help the soldier divide and conquer us?" asked Murray Williams.
"He's right, Rae," I said. "If you two stay here you're at his mercy. And our defences have been cut by forty Percent."
Looking unconvinced, she finally said, "Well … okay."
Walking over to pick up the older girl, I said, "You carry Mary, and I'll carry Annie here."
"My name's Jacqui," corrected the redheaded girl.
"Sorry," I said, although she still reminded me of Little Orphan Annie. "Okay, let's go … slowly, and stay alert."
"Kids, you can help us look for any movement in the rubble," said Rae, making me proud of her, wishing I had thought of that.
"Like a game?" asked little Mary.
"Yes, it's called spot the survivors," I said. Careful not to mention that we also had to be on guard in case any movement signalled the monster soldier waiting to leap out at us.
We had barely started out, when Murray Williams dived to the rubble, saying, "Movement to the right."
Little Mary giggled and said, "He's funny."
Not wanting to spook the kids, Rae and I crouched, putting down the children slowly, pleased when the boy, Don, also crouched low.
Taking up my rifle, I called, "Come out from there."
"Please … please don't hurt us," said a blue-rinsed old lady in her eighties, leading from the wreckage of a fallen garage two elderly men. One of whom looked at least a hundred.
"Relax," said Rae. "We're the first relief here to help you."
"Only five of you?" asked the blue-rinse lady.
"The first wave," I said, "the main team will be here soon from Weaver State Airforce Base."
"I used to work at Weaver State Airforce Base," right after World War Four," said the one-hundred-year-old man. Who then proceeded to tell us a long-winded tale of his working life, while we did our level best not to look completely bored. Which, of course, we were.
Right after World War Four! I thought. Jesus, he must be every day of a hundred!
As we finally moved off again, Rae asked, "Will you get in trouble with DARPA if the soldier escapes while we stay here?"
"He won't escape," I explained. "He's been leading us round on his terms for the last twenty-eight hours. Watching to make certain we kept following, never getting too far ahead of us. When he sees we aren't moving on this time. He'll stay somewhere close by."
"His desire to slaughter us all will override his desire to get away," said Murray Williams, before I could stop him.
Glaring at the lance corporal, I said, "For the first time we're fighting on our terms."
"Maybe," said Williams, refusing to be convinced. "Or maybe we're still doing exactly what he wants us to do."
Refusing to be bated I turned to see how everyone was going.
* * *
With the elderly trio needing to stop regularly to rest, our trek round the township was much slower than I had hoped. From time to time we found terrified survivors, until gradually by mid afternoon we were back to the fifty-plus we had started with. Except out of the fifty-five or so we now had, only five were trained fighters, and many of the others were young children, or the elderly.
Fifty-plus survivors out of a town of fifteen hundred! I thought both terrified and enraged by the monster soldier's barbarity.
Finding the hunt for survivors, with its constant stop-starting, more fatiguing than hunting the monster soldier, by four o'clock I was ready to give it up. When one last time Rae called:
"Movement in the debris." She was pointing to what looked like a pile of firewood to the left of where we stood.
Seeing the broken wooden cross though, I realised that it had been a church.
"No-De-Nom," read Rae. "What does that mean?"
"It's the Non-Denominational Church of Jesus Christ," said the blue-rinse lady.
"We used to go there," said little Jacqui, who I was carrying again.
Putting down Jacqui as Rae put down a little boy she was now carrying, I raised my rifle, and the five troopers started slowly toward the ruined church building.
"Come on out!" I called, just praying to the Non-Denominational Jesus Christ that it wasn't the monster soldier. Recalling how he had charged the priest after being shot with both barrels of a shotgun, I realised that our AK-179s would be as effective as pea-shooters against him.
Finally, as we approached, the planking fell away and we saw three elderly ladies purple-rinsed, pink-rinsed, and lime green-rinsed respectively.
Suddenly I stopped as I noticed something strange about them.
The three old ladies all had masking tape across their mouths.
"Stop! Stop! Stop!" I called to the others and Rae and Murray Williams stopped and looked back toward me.
"Everyone back," I called and Rae and Williams started back toward me, although Suzette Waterman and Deke Becket seemed not to have noticed anything out of place yet.
"Hit the ground!" I shrieked and Suzette and Deke span around, almost in time to save them as the three old ladies suddenly burst outwards in an explosion of blood, bone, and entrails, like the living bombs that they were.
Not for the first time I was hurled through the air, this time with Rae and Murray Williams following me, along with the shattered remnants of Suzette and Deke.
This time my fall was broken by the survivors, six of whom died as Rae, Williams, and I were fired into them like living bullets.
"Oh, Jesus!" I cried/prayed certain this time that I must have been killed.
At first it was impossible to distinguish the screaming of the survivors we had ploughed into from the screams of Rae, Suzette, Murray Williams, and Deke behind me.
For minutes we lay upon the injured survivors many of whom were now crying, before finally I regained enough strength to try to crawl out of the pile of human debris, hoping that I was not doing any more injury to the damaged human beings as I crawled across them.
"Rae? Murray? Are you alive?" I called. Then less hopefully, since the pixie-cut brunette and redheaded youth had been the closest to the three old-lady-bombs when they had detonated, "Suzette? Deke?"
"No, I'm dead," said Rae, like Murray Williams and myself starting to crawl out of the morass of mangled survivors.
"Same here," said Williams, "or at least that's what it feels like."
Their black humour fell like lead bars, however, as we looked round and saw Suzette Waterman and Deke Becket lying face down as though dead.
Although my first instinct was to go to my fallen troopers, I knew that I had to tend to the Springfield survivors. That was one important difference between monster soldiers and human soldiers; we recognise the importance of protecting innocent civilians at all costs. Monster soldiers do not recognise the existence of innocent bystanders. If you are in their path and are not a monster soldier yourself, then you are a viable target … to be killed both mercilessly and ruthlessly.
"Come on," I said to Rae and Murray Williams, "the civilians come first."
"But Suzette and Deke?" protested Rae, looking to where they both lay facedown.
"They'll keep," I said, thinking, They're probably dead already by the looks of them. I could see that Deke Becket had lost most of his right arm, but no blood was flowing, from the stump, telling me that he at least was dead. I just hoped that I wasn't dooming Suzette to die waiting for our help while we attended to the survivors.
"Civilians come first," I repeated.
"He's right," agreed Murray Williams.
And looking unhappy Rae joined Williams and I in tending to the townsfolk.
"There, there," I said to a crying child, trying to calm her, wondering what we could really do for the more badly injured survivors.
Seeing twelve-year-old Don, I asked, "Are you all right?"
"I think Mary is dead," he said ashen-faced as he held the tiny corpse of his youngest sister up for inspection, as though he believed I was the Non-Denominational Jesus Christ and could somehow resurrect her from the dead like Lazarus.
"Shit!" I hissed, angry now at DARPA that they had thought that they could morally justify the evil concept of creating genetically mutated, bullet-proof monster soldiers, without conscience, without compassion, without any moral sense of right and wrong.
As Don started to cry, I put an arm around him saying, "Don't worry we'll see that she gets a proper Christian burial. I'm sure her soul is with God now."
As Don pressed against me I wondered if this is what it was like to be a father. Not for the first time I wondered why I had married the army instead of finding a loving woman to marry to have a son like Don and the daughter I had always wanted like Rae.
I hugged Don for as long as I could, but finally had to let go to check out the rest of the survivors. Most of whose screams had abated to sobbing, or low moaning by then.
Altogether six people had died and seven were injured. One of the deaths was the blue-rinse old lady, who lay at the feet of the hundred-year-old man who was her father. His hangdog expression told me what he was thinking: that there's nothing worse than a man living old enough to see his only daughter die.
I almost said, "Don't worry she's in the arms of God now," but realised in time, how banal it would sound. So I settled for patting him gently on the shoulder, saying, "I'm terribly sorry." That's when the tears started to stream down his cheeks.
Fortunately by then some of the survivors had calmed down enough to be able to help us as we eventually patched up the injured as much as we could.
* * *
Finally we started across to where Deke Becket lay face down, silent, beside him Suzette Waterman was trying to sit up without much success.
"Hold on, honey," called Rae as she and Murray Williams hurried across to the young brunette, while I went to check out Deke.
"Deke, are you?" I asked taping his cold shoulder. Then gently turning him over, I looked away hurriedly dropping his carcase in my haste to get away, as one look at the empty hollow where his face and brain had once been told me that the redheaded youth was dead.
Trying my best not to throw up, I turned him again so he was face down, and then almost ran across to where Ray and Murray were looking at Suzette. "Will she be all right?" I asked.
Obviously not wanting to speak in front of the pixie-cut brunette who was only just alive, ashen-faced Rae turned to look at me and shook her head slowly.
"You … you were right," said Suzette, "when we didn't follow after him the monster soldier stayed by the blitzed town."
Then she shut her brown eyes and died in Rae's arms.
"Jesus!" said Murray Williams, just beating me to it.
Not sure if the brunette's last words had been meant as a rebuke to me, or just a statement of fact, I blushed in shame. But I was saved from having to consider it at length by the sound of rotors overhead as the pick-up helicopter approached from the direction of Weaver State.
"Help is on the way," I called to the traumatised survivors, raising a wild cheer. Then putting a hand on a shoulder each of Rae and Murray I repeated more softly, "Help is on the way."
They looked up at me with war-weary looks as though once again the cavalry had arrived too late.
Looking around the ravaged town of Springfield for I hoped the last time - having decided that the three of us would be airlifted out with the others - I thought, It's more like a wrecker's yard than a rural town! Piles of bricks, lumber, broken furniture lay everywhere in sight. On second thoughts no wrecker's yard would be this messy! I decided. Also, of course, a wrecker's yard would not be splattered in blood, entrails, and human body parts. And would not have almost fifteen-hundred corpses spread throughout its piles of bricks and lumber.
"Come on," I said to Rae and Murray, as the chopper started to land, fifty metres from where we stood.
"I thought we had to stay and wait for re-enforcements?" asked Murray Williams.
"Just the three of us?" I asked. "No, let the re-enforcements tackle the monster soldier."
Yet, when we reached the chopper, where cheering survivors were being helped aboard, the crew refuse to allow us to enter.
"Sorry," said a black-leather-clad soldier, looking like a storm trooper out of Blake's 7. "We're heading straight for Station 19."
"Station 19!" said Murray Williams, sounding as shocked as I felt.
"What is Station 19?" asked Rae.
Trying not to let the townsfolk hear, I whispered, "Station 19 is the official designation of one of the death camps. The largest camp in the U.S.A., with the greatest capacity for torture and mass murder."
"What!" shouted Rae in disbelief, making some of the survivors hesitate and stare at us for a moment, before allowing themselves to be herded aboard the giant chopper.
"'Fraid so," said the trooper quietly. "Not the sort of place you three would want to go to. But the second chopper should be here in less than an hour. Once they unload, I'm sure they'll be only too happy to take you three straight back to base … Jesus you three sure look like you need relieving, where have you been, Hell?"
"Yes," said Rae and Murray together.
I almost barked the trooper out for his remark, then realised that he was probably right.
"Okay, come on," I said, and reluctantly we stood back and watched, occasionally waving back, as now happy townsfolk were helped aboard the chopper, grateful to be out of the death zone. Unaware, that they were being taken away to be slaughtered, so that they could not tell the world the dreadful truth about the evil of DARPA and the genetically mutated, never-dying monster soldiers.
"Station 19," said Rae. She started forward as though to snatch up little Jacqui, as my Little Orphan Annie started up into the massive helicopter.
With a heavy heart I grabbed Rae's arm, seeing her wince in pain, to stop her.
"Don't," I whispered, nodding to where the storm troopers had weapons greatly superior to anything that we had. "You wouldn't stand a chance."
When she looked like trying to break out of my grip, Murray Williams grabbed her other arm and whispered, "He's right. They'd kill us as soon as look at us if we tried to interfere."
I was able to forgive the lance corporal for all of his faux pas for that one act.
Backing away a little, we waved back at the smiling faces of the forty plus survivors, who would not be surviving much longer, thanks to the malignant organisation that we were employed by.
"But … but they all say it was a gorilla that came into town," Rae tried reasoning with the last of the storm troopers as he was heading toward the chopper.
"That's what they say now," he agreed, as the gangway to the main-body of the chopper was slowly raised and locked into place. "But in time they'll think back, talk amongst themselves, and finally work out what they really saw happen to the town of Springfield."
"But …?" protested Rae as the storm trooper started into the cabin of the Lockheed trooper carrier.
So, with Rae still half trying to break away from our grip, Murray and I led her back out of range of the chopper's rotors, just in time before they roared back into life.
With Rae and Murray looking as depressed as I felt, we watched as the chopper turned, not toward Weaver State, but in the more ominous direction of Dane County - which DARPA employees called Death County, since it had three times as many death camps as any other similar sized part of the U.S.A.
Then, releasing Rae at last, I took out my mini-oculars and started scouring round for the monster soldier.
"Any sign of him?" asked Rae as Murray Williams seemingly reluctantly took out his own binoculars to join in the monster soldier hunt.
"No, but he's out there not far away, I can almost smell him."
"You've got smell-o-vision binoculars?" asked Rae in a desperate bid to raise our spirits.
"Just a figure of speech," I said with a half-hearted chuckle as I continued to scan the piles of still burning debris, which only hours earlier had been a small rural American town.
* * *
Darkfall was descending when we finally heard the far-off sound of rotors whirring in the twilight sky.
Seeing Rae smile in relief I smiled back at her and said, "Don't worry, it'll all be over soon."
"Don't say that, Serg," said Murray Williams as thought he had developed precognitive powers, "you never know when you might be right."
I tried to smile at him, but my attempted bonhomie fell flat as I realised that he could be right. We had lost sight of the soldier hours ago. Despite sensing his presence ever since, we had failed to spot him again.
For twelve minutes we watched as the distant chopper became larger and larger until it was almost on top of us.
Forgetting all of Murray Williams's seemingly prophetic cynicism over the last day and a bit, I foolishly said, "Once the chopper lands we'll be home safe!" shouting to make myself heard over the near-deafening roar of the rotors.
Then the lance corporal said, "Unless the monster soldier is hidden nearby and shoots it down with a rocket-launcher, when it's right above us … !"
We stared at each other in shock for a second or two.
"Jesus! Run for it!" I shouted, and we span around and raced off to what we desperately hoped was a safe distance. Let's just hope the chopper seeing us run away doesn't think we're the enemy and decide to machinegun us down! I thought, careful not to give voice to my fears.
As we started running we heard a loud whoosh from the edge of town. Followed by a massive explosion as the rocket struck the chopper overhead.
"Holy mother of God!" shouted Rae as the chopper plummeted toward us.
Even as it fell, a great series of after explosions began, lighting up the sky as the crates of ammunition aboard the Lockheed detonated with enough force to have levelled the entire town of Springfield. If the monster soldier had not already levelled the town twelve hours earlier.
For minutes that seemed a lifetime, and for one of us were, the explosions went off, even as shrapnel, body parts, burning troopers, and exploding weapons rained down upon us.
Two more rockets whooshed into the night sky, making Rae shriek, "What the hell is he doing? He's already killed them!"
"Now he's just having fun," guessed Murray Williams.
"It's not him," I shouted as the main portion of the Lockheed troop-carrier started to plummet toward us. "They're ammo in the chopper, detonated by the explosions."
"So now we're being bombed by DARPA as well as the monster soldier?" shouted Murray Williams.
"Afraid so," I said as I picked up my mini-oculars, despite searing pain in my lower body, to have one last look at the mutant killer.
This time the monster soldier was not trying to hide. He stood out in the open, grinning like a Megamouth shark on dope, all but doing handstands in delight.
"The bastard!" I hissed, dropping the binoculars as the pain became too bad to stand and I finally started to pass out.
END OF PART THREE