The Genocide Condition Part 2 – Hunter’s Bridge
That night was quite a learning experience. I awoke in what you might call an alley, outside one the wardog skinning houses, in a pile of dog guts. My previous nights meal swiftly joined the grime on the ground as soon as I came to my senses. As part of my senses rebellion, I continued to dry-heave for a while, until I was able to leave the alley, and make it to my quarters. I immediately spent some time in the local public showers.
I had a hunt to do that afternoon, with a group lead by a nut-case named Hog. He and his pack decided to try to recruit me and Jaque into their little club, and neither of us wanting to hunt with just the two of us, decided to except the offer.
Jaque and I are simple gents. We both have our pasts. We like to keep them to our selves and watch each others back, just because it is mutually beneficial. I stayed away from clan organizations and the like; fought on one side, my own… the side of Paul H. ‘Acid’ Manning. Being thrown into this job made me re-analyze my priorities, because the enemy was fighting for more than just themselves, it seemed… more than just survival; they were fighting a war.
Hog’s unit was gathering near the west gate, on board their transport unit, a large muddy six wheeled behemoth. There were eight of them, all dressed in hunting rags, and bad attitudes. They all were scarred in some way or another; some still had bandages from the last hunt. That very hunt was the reason Jaque and I were there. They had lost three guys in the last one, and needed replacements. They settled for us two and another lone merc, who walked closely behind us; a strange alien of slight felinoid features in warrior garb. It carried many melee weapons including a very impressive polearm, and a single ranged weapon.
We were welcomed with grunts and groans, and proceeded to load up. I checked my rifles and equipment before loading onto the covered-bay of the ground transport. The group was a mixed bunch; 3 humans, four Glahnites, and a alien I didn’t recognize at first; they called him a Gothrin. He was remotely humanoid, with random ridges and horns protruding from his head and face. He seemed quite rugged and experienced, so I sat next to him and attempted conversation.
The humans introduced themselves as Gret, Borot, and Fish. The glahnites didn’t seem to want to talk or give names, and the Gothrin was named Shoteek. The felinoid alien called itself or her self as I found out, Tresh and called herself a Warrior of the Way. She seemed interesting. Jaque ended up drinking with the humans while I chatted with the two aliens.
They each were very unique. Both had philosophies that almost agreed and conflicted at the same time, but both were opened minded enough to except the differences. They both regarded humans as some kind of lower form; Tresh said her race calls us ssrilik asheel…which roughly translates to “fungus that speaks”. I continued to listen, despite the assaults on my own race, mainly because I agreed with most of them. This intrigued the aliens, and thus, I gained their respect. Shoteek the Gothrin was a hunter in his clan; a calralus in his language. This is a strong part of his religion. Tresh, on the other hand, is a warrior, fighting the War, which in her philosophy, is life. The major conflicts were that Tresh’s race, the Pahkteel, does not hunt for game; to kill is part of the War. The Gothrin separate the Hunt from War, where the Pahkteel did not. That’s what it boiled down to, or at least what I gathered. It was a fascinating conversation I did not expect to find in the company of mercs. As a result of what you might call the bonding we had, we were assigned as a team.
The journey was a long trip through the northern ridge jungle, deep into the jungle beyond. We came to a river close to mid day.
“There’s a bridge about 3 kilometers down stream, if it’s still there.”, Shoteek growled.
I suspected he doubted that it was. When we arrived there, to his surprise, it was. But something made Tresh awfully uneasy. I peered out a portal in the canvas to see the bridge. It was a disappointing sight. It was obviously made by the inexperienced hands of a merc team from the expedition, and did not look safe.
“It may look bad, but don’t let it fool ya. Yadiari Bridge has been there for a long time, and will be for more. The man who built it bet his life on it.” That seemed to mean something to Shoteek.
As the transport crossed the bridge, I had thoughts of what could be in that alien river; stinging slug-like jelly fish, or ravenous flesh eating micro plankton. When the front right tire broke through the wooden planks of the bridge, my mind leaped in fear, expecting my nightmares to come true. I felt another wheel break through… one of the rear one. The bridge was crumbling under our weight. There was a load crack as the last of the planks broke and I felt a hard jolt as the bridge seemed to give way. To my surprise as I opened my eyes, I realized that we had not fallen. I leaped out onto the bridge to see the damage.
All the tires had caused the planks around them to collapse, leaving the transport resting on it belly, stranded. No amount of wheel-spinning could dislodge the vehicle from the holes. Hog jumped out of the cab in frustration, and ordered all of us to prep for a walk. This worried me… but not quite as much as the evidence I found around the holes. The planks in the bridge seemed to have been tampered with… weakened by some sort of clawed tool… or claws.
“IT’S A TRAP!!!” was all I could get out before they came.
The first one I spotted came from the opposite side of the bridge, launching itself from atop a tree onto the top of the truck, roaring fiercely, venom dripping from it’s bellyblades. The thing turned to stare directly at me. I froze. The next few milliseconds seemed like hours.
The beast prepared to leap onto me when it suddenly and violently flinched and convulsed, as two long barbed blades cut through the roof of the transport, through its body, its blood splattering in all directions. That moment I was able to snap out of my daze and raise my rifle. The wardog was attempting to tear itself free from the alien polearms… the thing was still alive! I primed by blaster rifle to open fire, when I felt an incredible weight on my back. I was able to twist around as I fell to the hard wood floor of the bridge, and placed the rifle across my chest like that trained us on board the corporate transport. The axial tummy-blades of the attacking wardog extended in an attempt to impale my chest, but met the rifle instead. Both hands on the rifle left my face wide open for an attack. Before I realized this, the creatures jaws lunged forward. With all the strength I could, I dodged the bite that could have swallowed my head, and lifted to throw the beast off and over the bridge. To my amazement, the creature fell to the water below, yowlling. Momentarily exhausted, I rolled back over just in time to see a second attacking dog leap at me. This time I was able to get in a position to fire, and burned several holes into the alien dog’s flesh. It fell on top of me with a disgusting sound, dead from a shot to the head.
I struggled to push the dead beast off me while I felt its dying muscles bend and retract in reflex, its bellyblades flexing dangerously. Even in dying, the beast tries to kill its prey. I finally was able to shove it over the bridge and into the mysterious waters below. The assault of wardogs was suddenly increasing as I saw two of the hunters already dead and bleeding rivers of blood, and several others fending off large groups of the beasts. Hog himself was on the other side of the bridge, severely wounded in his arm and chest, fighting off two ‘dogs with is large vibro-bayonet and cursing his jammed Wolfarms GP1. I leveled my blaster and aimed at one of the beasts on him. It fell silent with a severe burn on the side of the skull. The other, distracted by the sudden attack from behind, was struck hard in the skull buy the butt of Hog’s GP1, and then cut deep with a follow-through strike with the vibro blade. Hog saluted me silently as he ran to clear the transport of creatures.
Suddenly, I heard a loud high-pitched wail-hiss as I turned to see Tresh leap out of the transport and over me, with a bloodied polearm and attack a wardog that was on its way into the rear of the vehicle. The polearm impaled the beast’s spine and went deep into its back. With an amazing show of her alien strength, she lifted the creature with the polearm and through into the river below. Unwavered, she charged into a mass of ‘dogs that seemed to from around her. It seemed that many of the ‘dogs attacking other hunters ceased their attack and turn to face the battle cry. I stay prone on the bridge , in amazement and admiration. All the ‘dogs were suddenly ceasing their attack and turning onto the berserk warrior. Her battle cries were echoing off the mountain ridges as she slaughtered one ‘dog after another with that single polearm. With returned faith and fervor, the hunters began to attack the distracted pack.
As I attempted to get up, I felt a hand under my arm helping me up. Hog hefted me up with a grunt and spoke a word I couldn’t hear over the battle cries and ‘dog wails. He and both stood back and watched the hunters finally slay the last beast.
The ground was wet with a mixture of blood, and sweat as we all regrouped near the transport. Unscathed, Tresh sat, surrounded by her kills, and fell into a mysterious trance. She made no noise, but sat in a strange squat position with her eyes closed and her breath very slow. A warrior’s ritual, I figured. Hog and I both stared carefully, admiring her cool, unwavering ease she went from battle ready to the trance. True control of the will, I thought. I’ve got to learn that trick sometime.
“This is only the beginning, newbie.” Hog said, “These beasts like these kind of games. It’s only the beginning….”