Victor had hated this mission. From the moment he had drawn the short straw to the present, he had hated every fucking second of it. But for all that hate, he knew it had to get done. For the good of Rome and its continued prosperity, this mission had to get done.
The Society had arrived on the borders of Rome in force and, at first, fear of a new attack was sent skyward. But the attack never came. In fact, most of the Society personnel headed for Lindale leaving only a token force to make sure Rome didn't make any major moves. While it was a relief they didn't attack, it was pretty obvious that something important was in Lindale. And whatever it was, Rome did not want them having it. Which was why Victor and the rest of his squad were out here, far from home and far from help they desperately needed.
"Keep running! Don't stop!" Victor yelled as he and his squad continued their mad dash for safety. The mission had gone well up till a few hours ago. Just as they were nearing the border of Lindale, a fairy managed to spot them and raise the alarm. They had chased it off with some gunfire, but two Society-trained catmonsters arrived soon after. Now they were fleeing as fast as they and their glide suits, could go, desperately searching for a place to hide.
Victor eyes scrambled to scan the horizon as he keep moving and managed to spot an abandoned gas station of to their left. It wasn't perfect, but it should have some good hiding places and, hopefully, the gas and rotting food would cover their scent.
"Head for the gas station!" Victor yelled as he changed direction and started to thrust glide toward his target. His squad followed behind and they all leap off a large rock to get the air they needed. Using the small compressed-air thrusters built into the legs and arms of their suits, they each soared up into the sky before their wings caught the wind. Once they leveled out, they thrusted forward and began to, slowly, glide down while shooting forward at speeds their legs could never reach.
Victor looking back and cursed as he saw the catmonsters still gaining on them, despite their increased speed. Unless they could slow the freaks down, they would catch his squad long before they had a chance to hide. Turning back to the station, he scanned the outside of it for someway to buy them more time. Fuck, there had to be a way!
"Sir, the window!" his second, Chandler, yelled out. Victor looked up and smiled as he spotted the window. Something had cracked, but not broken, the window. Lord willing there would be a crack big enough for them to slip through. If not... well they would have as good a place as any for a last stand.
"Everyone, head for the window!" Victor ordered as he aimed his hook toward the window's ledge. He fired the hook and its tethering line and breathed a sigh of relieve as the line went taut. The other's managed to hook into the wood as well and all of them used their thrusters and winches to soar up to the window ledge.
Pulling himself up onto solid ground, Victor thanked God as he saw a crack more than big enough for them, but not for the catmonsters. He pulled a few of his squad up and sent them sprinting to the crack. Just as he pulled the last member up, however, the catmonsters arrived and leap up toward the window ledge. Victor cursed as he scrambled after his men before a massive quake nearly sent him tumbling. Chandler and two others stuck their assault rifles back through the crack and opened up causing hisses of anger to echo from behind Victor. The barrage of fire keep the catmonsters back long enough for Victor to drive through the crack and to safety. One of the dumb things tried to reach in after them, but recoiled back when it cut its hand on the broken glass. It hissed in fury at them before leaping down off the window seal. The other followed it a moment later.
"Those things will figure out that there is a door, eventually, we need to hide," Victor said as he moved to look down into the store along with the others. The gas station looked to have been ransacked by both the Society and outsiders. Most of the food was gone along with the vehicle repair stuff. Many of the shelves had collapsed from weathering and lack of upkeep while most of the floor was littered with various garbage and junk. It was the perfect place to hide... if they had had more time. But as it was, they needed a place they could reach in seconds that would provide some kind of cover.
"There, lower shelf on the right," Mandy, one of his few female soldiers in the squad, said. Victor followed her finger and smiled at her chosen place. The shelve hadn't collapsed, but the one above it had and created a perfect little hole for them to duck into. Even better, the shelve above still had some packaged food on it that was sure to be rather rank by now. Rank enough to disguise their smell.
"Good call. Let's move!" Victor said as they all glided their way down to the shelve. Just like he had hoped, the air became more and more unappealing as they closed in and Victor was having to cover his nose in a vain attempt to breath. It was painfully bad, but if anything was going to defeat the catmonsters' noses, this was it. The rest of his squad looked just as horrified by the smell as he was, but got into cover just the same.
Victor motioned for everyone to stay back as he risked a quick glance out. He leaned out just past the shelf's edge and swore as he saw both catmonsters already entering the building. Both were sniffing the air, but didn’t seemed to have picked them up yet. It was looking like this nose-burning hiding place had been the right call. Victor pulled himself back before either turned his direction and moved back into the shadow of the shelve.
"Keep," Victor had to stop as he fought back a gag from the smell entering his mouth, "quiet." The others nodded as he buried their noses in anything they could find: their arms, torn clothing, anything really. Victor did the same as he clamped his hand over his nose, but even that couldn't keep the rotten, molding stench out.
The group stayed hidden and silent for what seemed like eternity. Victor tried to keep an accurate count of time, but the smell was just so bad that he couldn't keep on task. He was considering going to look again when a rumble shook the shelve causing their ceiling to give a worrying creak. The group raised their weapons on instinct, but Victor flagged them down. One of the catmonsters was close... close enough to rock the shelve, but it hadn't found them yet. If they could stay hidde-
A sudden gag followed by the splatter of liquid dashed Victor's thoughts and hopes away. He turned to see Mandy having reached her limit with the smell and losing her lunch because of it. Victor swore as he spun back around, hoping to be able to lure the catmonster away. But his attempt at sacrifice was doomed to fail before it even began.
The shelf shook violently as the sounds of various junk crashing to the ground came from behind them. Victor and his squad had to fight just to stand as the shelf shook like it was ground zero in an earthquake. The ruined food was sent flying as the broken shelf above them began to snap and creak. Fuck, it was above them! Worse, the sounds of slowly snapping wood began to fill the air.
"EVERYONE OUT!" Victor yelled as the shelf began to fully cave in from the weight of the catmonster. His squad rushed forward, Gordan and Nancy helping Morgan along, and leap from the shelf to escape the falling plywood. Victor leapt last and swore as the plywood collapsed completely behind him. He was about to glance back, but didn't get the chance as a huge hand clamped down onto him.
Victor cried in pain as the hand began to crush him and he heard the compressed air tank bend and release the air it still had stored. He tried to pull his gun up, but the fleshy walls had his arms pinned to his sides. Victor felt his stomach rocket up into his head and a loud crash echoed out from the walls of flesh. Dammit, no, it was going after the others! Victor redoubled his efforts to free himself, but still the hand refused to budge. Gunfire began to sound from outside along with screams and yells, but Victor knew it was pointless. They hadn't been equipped to fight a single catmonster, much less two. And if that second one wasn't already in the fight it would be soon. They were doomed...
Suddenly, a loud WHOOMP noise blasted through from outside and a sickening crunch erupted out an instant later. Victor had just enough time to be confused before he felt himself falling again. He yelled out in panic before the hand crashed down into something, jarring him, but not injuring him thanks to the bit of give in the flesh. Victor shook the dazing impact off and turned to listen.
More rumbling and the loud footsteps of catmonsters echoed in... but it still sounded like there were two of them. A flurry of hisses confirmed there were still two, but... but that didn't make sense... How could there still be two when he was sure he wasn't moving? Had Chandler and the others managed to blow the thing's arm off?! No that couldn't be right, they didn't have any explosives and that weird noise was no explosion. So what the hell was going on out there?!
Putting that mystery aside, Victor focused back on trying to get free. He tried to shift around to free his arms and was surprised to find the catmonster's grip slackened. It wasn't enough to slip out, but it was enough to get his arms under him. Taking a deep breath, Victor began to push with all his might against the hand. But even with his arms help, the huge fingers were just too big to move.
"Colonel? Victor are you in there?!" Chandler's voice, suddenly, yelled from just outside. Victor's despair at having failed vanished to be replaced with relief. Chandler was still alive!
"Yes, what the hell is happening?!" Victor yelled as the hisses and rumbling began to sound more and more like some kind of fight. Had the two catmonsters decided sharing was no longer an option?
"Good question, sir. But let's get you out first," Chandler said before yelling orders out to others in the squad. Victor felt more and more relieved as the names were said and he gave a silent prayer of thanks to the Lord for his mercy. Chandler gave a short countdown and Victor joined in with forcing the catmonster's hand open. Even with what seemed like the entire squad lifting, Victor had to crawl out from under the huge fingers as they couldn’t lift them full off. Victor couldn't express his surprise at seeing everyone still alive, but that shock would seem small as he started to take in the scene.
Victor got back to his feet and looked at the catmonster that had grabbed him. His eyes widened to see her head nothing more than a bloody mess of broken bones, crushed organs, and slowly leaking blood. Victor had seen such damage before, but only from the defensive guns set up around Rome and those were anything but portable. So how had- His thought screeched to a halt as his eyes widened even further. A few yards away were two catmonsters locking in combat, the brown haired one from before and a larger, blonde haired one. But more shocking than the catmonsters fighting one another was what was on the blonde one. A massive turret, still smoking from having fired, sat on her back along with what looked to be some kind of mobile base. Even more shocking, though, was that Victor could make out the forms of people on the...the...whatever it was.
Victor stood there in a stunned stupor as the catmonster-base...thing, grabbed some junk on the floor and tossed it at the other. The brown catmonster hissed as it swatted the paper away, but the distraction was all the other needed. It slipped under the guard of the brown catmonster and plunged its claw into the throat of the other. It struggled to fight for a second more, but soon bleed out leaving the blonde one the victor. With the brown catmonster dead, the huge thing turned toward them and...and smiled.
"Colonel..." Chandler asked, finally snapping Victor out of his amazement. Victor looked at the huge thing starting to move toward them and the, obviously, outsider-style equipment it had. Escape was not going to be easy, but hiding from one catmonster would be easier than two. Even if it did have outsiders with it.
"Get ready to run on my order. Chandler, you're in charge," Victor said as he motioned for his people to start to back up. He knew his chances of escaping were practically zero with his glide suit crippled, but the others still had a chance. Victor's hand drifted toward his gun an-
"I wouldn't if I were you," a voice said from behind them. Victor and the rest spun around and came face to face with a large group of outsiders, all wearing hand-made camouflage and all armed with jury-rigged rifles. A young man with blonde hair was standing in front of them and had a pleasant smile on his face, at odds with the grim looks of the people behind him. How in the hell had they got behind them?!
"You think those pipe guns are going to scare us? Get out of our way, outsiders!" Gordan said as he leveled his gun. A few of the others began to do the same, but the blonde boy's smile only spread. And Victor already knew why as the shaking stopped.
"I REALLY wouldn't do that, either. And if we don't scare you, she should," the boy said before motioning behind them. Victor didn't have to look to know the catmonster was behind them. A sudden blast of hot air was more than enough, but Gordan and the others who had raised their guns looked anyway. Their guns lowered as they stared up at the massive catmonster now looming above them. They were trapped and resisting would be a death sentence.
"What do you want, outsider?" Victor asked, unwilling to make small talk with a damn outsider, but also unwilling to get his people killed. The boy shook his head in response.
"Oh it's not me you should be asking that," the boy said as he nodded forward. Victor turned and, despite himself, couldn't help but looked surprised. The catmonster was lowering a man down toward them and the man didn't seem in the least bit scared or worried about it. In fact, he looked like he had done this many times. Despite being an outsider, his clothing was nicely made and the pistol he wore at his side seemed almost of Roman quality. Whoever this was, it was obvious he was a high up leader. Interesting...
"You asked what we want, correct?" the man asked, his eyes locked on Victor's own. Victor nodded and the man's glare softened ever so slightly.
"We want you to see the truth, the truth about the Society and the injustice they have done to the entire world. We want you to see the true face of the evil you and your city have tried to bury your heads from. And after you see it, we want you to choose to either continue to cling to your illusion of safety, or to help take vengeance on the Society and regain our lost pride as humans," the man said with a determined look.
"We can still be friends either way, though!" the catmonster added, causing the enter squad to question their sanity.