Delta One looked like [censored]. They might have done the business when called upon but right now they looked dead on their feet.
We probably look just as [censored], I thought, Scratch that, we do. Looking at my team I could see just how much the stress of the situation had taken its toll. Driffel especially looked like utter [censored]. His clothes were shredded and covered in blood. Badass.
‘Take a knee people. ‘Fraid we don’t have much to offer you, our supplies are probably back in a hangar across the bay,’ I waved them in to what used to be the living room. The chairs there weren’t too chewed up, ‘There’s a drop just opposite. We’ll do a supply run once we’re all introduced.’
‘We’ll take what we can get,’ a hard-bitten man said. He looked and sounded like the sort of man every drill sergeant wishes they could be, ‘Frank Castle, call sign Punisher. Yes, before you say I know and no, my father wasn’t into comics.’
He offered his hand and we shook. It was like gripping granite. His hands were huge. I couldn’t help staring as we shook.
‘Lime and concrete. I worked in construction as my cover. Damned dust causes calluses, makes your hands bigger.’
Looking at his shoulders I shuddered, the power of his punches would immense. This guy really deserved the team call-sign of Alpha. [censored], he’d give Vin Diesel and Chuck Norris a run for their money. At the same time.
‘Ericksson. Call sign Beaker.’
No way was I gonna to explain that name to him. He’d work it out if I had to shout for any length of time. I felt decidedly … small, on all counts.
‘That’s Prof, Mad and Templar,’ I said pointing to Driffel, Zendar and Knight.
Punisher nodded to each in turn, eyeing Knight up and down for way longer that necessary. I was surprised he didn’t lick his lips whilst going ‘mmmm, mmmmmm’.
‘Like what you see?’ She asked. I grinned, this was going to be good. Her kinesthisia was a hundred times more developed than anyone I knew. She could catch a knife thrown at her with full force between both palms and send it back to any target straight after without even blinking. And what she could do with a rifle was even more impressive. We used to laugh at the ‘Marine sniper holds world record for kill shot’ headlines. Whatever they quoted, she would be able to beat.
‘Damn straight,’ said Punisher, as Knight sashayed over towards him. Petite, dark haired, with pale coffee skin and dark brown eyes she drew the eyes of every man in the room, even wearing a winter parka, armoured vest and carrying a plethora of weapons. Then again, there were a lot of men that found that sort of thing sexy. YouTube was full of videos of chicks with guns. Well, so I’d been told.
‘Right, if you can take one punch from me, you can have me. Any. Way. You. Want.’ She ran her hands down her body, writhing in a way I never thought she could. It was both alluring, and damn scary.
‘Oh, this is going to be so [censored] funny,’ said Driffel, chuckling.
‘Shush, don’t spoil the fun. Five bucks she goes for the throat,’ said Zendar, grinning through his thick beard.
‘You’re on,’ said Driffel, giving our medic a high-five.
I looked at the rest of Punisher’s team, they were enjoying the show. For now. I saw a couple of side-bets being made there too.
‘What, a little thing like you, hurt me?’ Punisher opened his arms wide and turned full circle. He was like the Rock, only far, far Rockier. I doubted that he could clap his hands above his head, and I didn’t want to think about how much food it took to keep such a frame going.
Bet his cardio is [censored], I thought. Rather pettily to be honest. But hey.
‘Take your best shot.’ He clasped his hands behind his back, leaned forward and jutted his chin out.
Knight was blindingly fast. One moment her hands were by her thighs. The next her shoulder twitched, a blur, and Punisher was on the floor, choking as he clutched at his throat. His feet made tracks in the dust covering the carper as they kicked feebly.
‘Damn I love that woman,’ I said the words before I could think. Knight looked over at me and winked.
Punisher’s team was hooting with laughter, some bent double.
Thank [censored], didn’t want things to get out of hand, I thought. There was way much too much testosterone and weaponry in the room for that. Still, Knight had established us as the dominant team without too many people being hurt.
‘Vector Five Alpha, this is Major Dansky, 6th Rangers, how copy?’ My radio squawked in my ear. I gave the go ahead, pressing my ear bud in a clear signal for everyone to shut the [censored] up.
‘Reports of sanitary workers killing anyone they believe infected with the Green Poison. Burning them alive. Need you to clean them up, sweep the [censored] from our streets.’ He chuckled, but there was [censored] all humour in it. Danksy had a [censored] up sense of humour. One that I could appreciate. I wondered if the enemy would appreciate the irony.
‘Copy that. Location?’
‘Three blocks east of your location. Leave Delta One at Vector safehouse. JTF reinforcements are on their way. Dansky out.’
‘Vector Five, with me. Delta One, help Punisher back to his feet, then clean this place up. JTF are inbound. Can’t have them thinking we’re bums.’
The smell of burning flesh brought back memories I’d spent a lot of time trying to forget. No good, all those memories came flooding back. Gatecrashers smashing into my supposedly well-ordered mind like Delta [censored] Kappa frat boys on acid.
‘Damn, why does it have to smell so good?’ Driffel muttered, putting his mask on.
He was right. It smelt like a hog roast. My stomach rumbled, reminding me that it had been hours since our last meal.
‘That’s why cannibal tribes call it long pig.’ Zendar was full of facts. This was one I could have done without.
‘Look sharp. If we can smell it it can’t be that far.’ Knight had her Vector tucked tight, jaw clenched as seen scanned the street.
‘Pulsing.’ I was keen to get this mission over and done with. I needed … we needed, downtime.
Targets popped up into my lenses, hidden behind two garbage trucks parked across the road.
Should have guessed, I thought. We were all tired and it should have been obvious. There was no way those trucks had accidentally ended up parked like that.
‘Sticky ready, I don’t want to get any closer than we have too,’ said Driffel, moving out to the right. I could see that he would have a good angle from there. With luck this would be over as soon as it started.
‘Knight, go left, see if you can get up the scaffolding,’
As she sprinted off I gave Zendar the “on me” signal, tapping my head.
‘We’re going down the centre, get eyes on before we fire. Huaah?’ He nodded, no need to anything else.
Trotting quickly through the slush we tucked in behind the trucks. They were nose-to-nose with each other, just enough room for someone to squeeze through.
‘What the actual [censored]?’ Zendar’s polite facade dropped at the sight before us.
What appeared to be Demons walked before us. Thick armoured scales and neon bright skin covered them. Their faces were long, ending in blunt snouts, their eyes as wide as saucers. Grunts and voices that seemed to issue forth from the depths of hell carried to us. Standing before a pyre, they poured flame onto it, turning their victims into ashes.
‘[censored] [censored], that was a bus full of kids!’
I looked again, seeing the shot up school bus a few metres past the pyre, how small the corpses were. The packed lunches strewn across the ground confirmed it.
‘These wankers die badly. Liver and kidney shots only. The pain will stop them from shooting and they can die screaming,’ I shook my head to clear the red mist from my eyes, wiping away tears from my cheeks. For the first time in my life I truly understood what it was to hate someone with every fibre of my being.
‘Confirmed. If I wasn’t one hundred percent dedicated to being a [censored] eater, I’d have your babies,’ said Knight. Her voice sounded strangled. Turning I saw that she was able to scope the entire scene, seeing it in far greater detail than I could, or wanted to. Not even her legendary cool could stand against such a sight.
‘You get first shot Knight. On your mark.’
‘Die screaming [censored].’
Her first shot took the cleaner pouring fire onto the pyre. Muffled squeals came from his mask as he collapsed to the ground, his flamethrower washing over one of his comrades. Blood gushed over the bright yellow vest he wore, she had shot him in the kidney.
‘Let the other one burn!’ I ordered. The [censored] needed to suffer, and his agonised attempts to extinguish the flames was hampering the ability of the other cleaners to react properly.
Zendar was the next to fire, his target wailing as bullet tore into his bowels. Dark blood and intestines spilled out of the holes torn in his flesh.
Only three cleaners were left. One tried to make it to a barrier, Driffel blasted him to the ground, kneecaps shattered. He lay shrieking, hugging his legs to his chest, rocking in agony. Before today I would have felt sickened at what we were doing. Now, I just felt a grim pride in our accuracy.
The remaining two returned fire. They were panicked, spraying their shots all over. With a clinking sound, one of their tanks suddenly spouted flame.
‘[censored] have some!’ Zendar punched the air, it was an excellent shot.
Screaming, the cleaner leapt to his feet from behind the barrier he was using as cover, grabbing at the numerous buckles that fixed the homemade flamethrower tank to his back, twisting back and forth as he tried to find them.
The other cleaner popped up, pushed his friend away from him and then tried to make a run for it. I stitched a burst across his lower back, sending him tumbling to the floor.
With a massive explosion the burning tank exploded, spreading the smoking remains of the cleaner across the street.
‘Clear! Guns up!’ The whole skirmish had taken just seconds, but those first steps from behind the trucks took everything I had.
The surviving cleaners writhed in agony, pawing at us as we stood over them, screaming.
Driffel drew his pistol and walked over to the cleaner he’d crippled. Blank faced he knelt next to his target, placed the muzzle of his pistol over where the man’s liver would be, and shot him.
‘Please, God, please, help us.’
My first target had ripped his gasmask off. He reached out towards me.
‘We had to do it. They were ill. We have to stop the Green Poison. Burn it. We’re helping!’
‘You’re not helping! You’re killing children!’ Knight bulled past me, smashing her rifle butt into his face. Teeth skittered across the frozen ground. Taking a step back, I placed my hand on her shoulder.
‘Easy pretty lady. Don’t finish him off.’
Spinning to face me she snarled, ‘I [censored] know! They killed kids! They [censored] killed kids!’
Wailing she flung her arms around me, burying her head into my shoulder, her whole body heaving.
I don’t know how long we stood there. Long enough for the cleaners to stop screaming. Long enough for Knight to pull herself together.
She pulled away, wiping her nose on her sleeve, ‘Thanks.’
Nodding, no reply needed, I keyed my mic.
‘Vector Five Alpha to Major Dansky. Clean sweep confirmed. We are RTB. Out.’