Enter a Wolf
|Copyediting is welcome|
|Pig and Whistle story universe|
|This story uses "Commonwealth" spelling, so extra "u's" may show up in some words and not be an error|
I stood outside of the bar and looked at the door whilst one of my ears twitched at the sound of the music coming from within. I hadn’t lived in this city all that long, though I had been here long enough to appreciate the locals’ attitudes towards TFORs.
In my last city I had been treated badly by some of the local bigots, though that was a mistake in my case. The reason was really simple; I was a semi-retired North American Republic Army Officer. My commission in the army had predated the Collapse and thus I was originally a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Now here I was standing outside of bar in a somewhat run-down part of town contemplating my past. I shook my head at the weirdness of the situation and pushed open the door. The first thing that struck me about this place was the multitude of odours that tried to climb up into my nose. The second thing that I noticed was the number of people that were currently in the bar, there seemed to be every single possible form of person that you could imagine in sitting in various seating devices all throughout the room.
I made my way to the bar where I had to wait for the bartender to serve me. I rubbed my upward pointed ears and sighed, the years weren’t getting any easier for me these days, though my age didn’t show at all. I was approaching my fifty ninth birthday without any outwards signs that I was older than the day I had left the forces twenty eight years ago when I was thirty years old. Of course for some people getting a read on my age was pretty hard considering the fact that I no longer appeared human. In fact the only human traits that I had left were my hands, my somewhat human voice, my ability to walk bipedaly, though I was capable of going on all fours if I wanted to, and my ability to see the full spectrum of colours, though my eyesight in the dark was also improved over what it had once been.
Finally the barkeep came over to me and asked me what I would like to drink in a very deep voice that could make James Earl Jones sound like a tenor.
I wagged my tail slightly, since the barkeep was based on a herbivore probably wouldn’t react all that well if I grinned at him like a human and said “I’ll have a beer, still in the bottle if that is possible.”
He nodded and then went back to collect the drink while I thought about my past.
I was sitting in the C-130J Herky Bird with my full halo gear on. All around me were the troopers of D Company 1st Canadian Special Forces Regiment.
The chaos that had gripped the world with the appearance of Blowtorch Fever had resulted in the balkanization of our southern neighbour, the United States. After a time the PMO and Parliament had finally decided that enough was enough and that we had to move against the chaotic elements that were running rampant in the former U.S in order to stabilize our southern border. Our company was part of the leading elements of the PPCLI Regimental Battle Group that was slowly advancing into the northwestern state of Washington State. We were going to be responsible for securing the State Capital Buildings in Olympia.
I checked my silenced C-10A-1 assault weapon, the newly introduced Canadian version of the German G-36C Assault Rifle. Our regiment had been one of the first ones to receive this new weapon to replace our old C-8SFW rifles. Then I checked my respirator gear before I looked back to the lieutenants who commanded each element of my combat team. One of the young troopers in the second file of soldiers abruptly fell onto his knees and I went over to see if he was ok. I was afraid that he might have the Fever. If he did then all of us in the platoon would probably be getting it as well. If that happened we would probably end up being quarantined until we had all recovered. T he trooper looked up at me and then finally said “Sir I don’t feel so good.”
“Ok son you’re staying behind on this drop.” I couldn’t have any sick troops on this drop. In fact allowing this man to drop was against regs. Finally the loadmaster of the place came up to me and said, “Five minutes sir.” I nodded and slipped on my facemask, which contained my high altitude breathing assist unit, my special scrambled comm. pickups, and my NVG array.
As we neared the drop position the loadmaster opened the rear cargo ramp and activated the jump light. The light was currently red, but it would change to green when the pilot gave us a go for jump.
As soon as the light turned green I flung myself out into the pitch black freezing night sky at eleven thousand meters. Behind me the rest of my company soon joined me in freefall. We would continue to fall like this until we reached three hundred meters when we would open our chutes. Finally I gave the signal over our special scrambled comm. and pulled the cord on my chute. The complex nylon black para-foil unfurled with a sudden shock and I was suddenly going a lot slower than before. Below me I could see the lights of the Capital buildings and my primary objective. Surrounding the building there was a number of armoured vehicles of the State Guard. I just hoped that they wouldn’t be adverse to our landings.
As soon as I hit the ground I detached my parachute gear and ran towards the nearest vehicle only to be fired upon. A glowing streak of tracers arched towards me and I hit the ground just as it arched overhead.
“Sir are you ok?” I looked up at the bartender and he smiled and asked again if I was ok.
“Oh I’m all right I was just thinking about something in the distant past before I became what I am today.”
He nodded and then pointed to the beer on the table and told me “That’ll be four-fifty.”
I nodded and pulled out my wallet, inadvertently showing him my shield. I was now a NAR Federal Police Services Officer. I had joined the FPS shortly after I had left the Armed Services to begin a slightly less dangerous profession. Not that I had really noticed a lessening of risk since I had left the Armed Services, perhaps it was because I was the Captain of the Local FPS Regional Station, and perhaps because I was one of those lucky few who could never truly leave the Armed services.
Finally I managed to pay him and grab my drink before I retreated to a booth in the corner of the place where I could watch the goings on in the place. While I watched the people come into the bar I thought more about my past.
The defences around the Washington State Capital Buildings in Olympia were somewhat formidable considered the fact that my unit didn’t possess anything heavier than shoulder-launched rockets. I didn’t want to kill these people but they were asking for it by firing on my troops and I. I looked through my NVG scope on my rifle and found the person that was firing on my. He was using an early series M-16A3.
I shook my head slightly and altered my aim slightly before I pulled the trigger and let loose a three round burst from my own weapon. The burst tracked up his torso, hitting him in the belly, upper chest, and neck.
He fell back and I advanced with four other members of my platoon towards the central building where we could establish a CP from which to begin the orderly gathering of weapons in order to disarm the local militia. All of the heavy weapons would be placed back into their old armouries under the supervision of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Within fifteen minutes we were able to secure the building and I went out to the back lawn to get my breath and look out at the skyline and the lightening horizon in the east.
This was where I found a horror that took my breath away. There were at least fifteen to twenty bodies lying in the lawn. They had all been shot in the back of the head and they were all victims of Blowtorch Fever and its attendant disorder TFOR.
I placed my rifle on the ground began to look around for any sign of the animals who had done this. From my point of view they were far worse then the animals that the poor victims of the torch had been turned into. This was an atrocity and that was the kind of thing that I couldn’t stand.
“Is it anything that you need to talk about?”
I shook my head to bring myself out of the memory to look across the table at the man who was sitting opposite me. He was a large man with the head of a mule deer. I looked into his eyes before I finally managed to say “Not really I’m just recalling something from my past.”
“How long ago was it?”
“Back during the war.”
“You remembering something about the resistance?”
I shook my head softly before I replied, “I was involved in the invasion. I saw some of the worst atrocities during the war.”
“The killing of unarmed civilians by radical racist groups and mobs of wild bandits throughout the former United States.”
The man slowly nodded his head before I took a slug of my beer and pulled out my mini-computer and brought up a picture that had been publicized in the years after the war. It was a picture of a man sitting with his back against a tree with a rifle beside him. In front of him was a pile of dead bodies. I handed the man the device and he looked at the picture before he said, “That was a terrible time.”
“You’re telling me. I was the man with my back to the tree.”
“Where was that?”
“Would you believe that was in Olympia Washington?”
He looked at me for a second as if to confirm what I was saying was true before he finally said, “That was a bad time in history.”
“Yes it was, considering the fact that we thought that the human race was beyond that sort of racism.”
“The problem is that we are inherently an idiosyncratic species.”
“That’s for sure.” I took a swig of my beer before I went on, “I have seen a lot over the past fifty years, and not a lot of it has been good, but then I come into a place like this and it renews my faith in the human race.”
“Renews your faith? Colonel, I’d have thought what you went through getting that second VC would have proven that the human race is full of monsters. And I am no less of monster than any other soldier that fought in the war.”
I looked up at the figure that was now standing beside the deer. Instantly I recognized him. It was Capt. Scott. S. Jameson from a small black ops group that was known as Havoc’s Hounds back during the war.
He looked a little different from the picture that I had received of him roughly 32 years ago. When I was told that he was making life difficult for the advance on the eastern seaboard. “Captain what are you doing in a dive like this?”
The beer stein that he held in his hand clattered as he set it on the table. “I live in the hotel next door. Damned government gave me fame when I didn’t want or deserve it, and now I’m doing what I can to hide from the cameras so that I can get on with my life. That doesn’t explain you though, Colonel. Thought you’d be down south with the FPS rooting out the last of the ‘New Confederacy Resistance’ group.”
“I got out of the army after the war was pretty much over, but I still have to serve my damn reserve stints every so often. I’ve seen enough death and destruction for one lifetime during that blasted war. As for my FPS posting here, I requested it!”
The wolf facing me laughed, and I could tell that it wasn’t forced. “You know, before Pennsylvania signed the annexation I was worried that you’d be shifted east to hunt for me. Your counterpart on this coast once told me that he’d requested it…Right before…” His eyes seemed to darken for a moment and he chugged half of his stein. “Right before I put my .45 to his head and pulled the trigger. He’d killed the man who’d first given me respect without any fear motivating it.”
I nodded my head. “I was getting ready to move my unit east, when a group in California started executing POWs.”
“That group from outside LA? I heard that action was nasty. Right after we got the news to report in – Pennsylvania had agreed to become part of Canada.” He replied pensively he rubbed his arm. From what I knew of his medical reports he’d broken that arm in several places just before he’d been given his commission in the Canadian Army.
“Remembering old battles?” I asked as I took a drink of my beer.
“Something like that.” He commented, taking a drink of his own beer. “The New York Irregulars had been folded into the army about six months before, but they never forgot how frequently I’d bloodied their noses. One of them almost go me with an IED when I went to commandeer an abandoned truck to move some stores to one of my camps.”
I shook my head; I hated IEDs as much as the next man. I had my own fare share of encounters with the blasted things. “I’d heard that they were particularly vicious just before we managed to pacify the region. They really loved their IEDs.” I told him before I tipped my bottle up, only to find that it had somehow gone empty. “Damn that one went down quickly.”
“Vicious? Bark was bad, but I had a worse bite. I’ll never figure it out, but they’d managed to get a hold of 15 M1A1s about a week before you guys hit upstate. I was sent in to capture as many as I could, and to destroy the rest. If it hadn’t been for old Murphy showing up they wouldn’t have known we were there, until their ammunition, fuel, and remaining tanks went up.” He said as he finished his beer and looked over at the bar. “Gordy, a refill and one for the Colonel here, on me!”
I wagged my tail a little before I commented. “I’ve heard some old stories from some of our old tank veterans that the battles between our Leopard 2s and your M1s were really something else. Two of the world’s best tanks going head to head against one another. The only problem your tankers kept facing was the fact that they were always running out of gas.”
He cocked an ear at me. “To true, until the geniuses in charge remembered that the turbine engines in the M1 can burn almost any type of fuel.”
I chuckled slightly. “The Leopards could also do the same thing, but in reality the tank battles in the war were mainly decided by the skill of our crews. After all when you look at it now both tanks were virtually identical in terms of firepower, armour, and mobility. You guys had the advantage in armour, and we had the advantage in mobility.”
“Well you do know that the Leo 2 had a design flaw? It was something that I discovered during the battle of Stroudsburg. One Heat round to a specific part of the turret would put it out of action.”
“That flaw was rectified in Kodiak 1s that we started sending to the front in the later part of the war. But all things considered most of the battles that we fought in were ridiculously lopsided. Your people always had more, more equipment, more men, and more ammunition. Your only problem was the fact that your battle organization was terrible. I could find better command and leadership in this bar here, not counting us of course.”
“Don’t blame me. Remember, it wasn’t until you put that million-dollar bounty on my head that I was an officer, and even then I managed to keep my team streamlined. But most of the brass hats had come from the old US Military, and the were all mostly what were known as ‘Ring Knockers!” The captain growled the last two words; obviously he still felt some resentment towards some of the officers that he’d served under in the early part of his military career.
I nodded at that; every front line soldier in the history of warfare generally had at least one or two gripes about his senior officers. “Well considering how much your military liked to brag, before the collapse and the war, about how attacking them would be a useless and futile gesture it must’ve been quite a surprise that we managed to pull off as many victories as we did. Of course it probably didn’t help your soldiers on the ground that your Air Force was MIA during the whole war. Our ability to call for reliable air support was probably one of the main factors that won the war for us.” I concluded before I took a swallow from the bottle of beer that Gordy had just placed in front of me.
“Well you can’t fly if you can’t fit in the seat. Really can’t fly if most of your pilots wind up dead from the same disease that gives the rest tails. Of course if our Navy hadn’t turned Privateer, well…”
“You’ve probably heard this before, but for some reason we managed to dig up enough pilots that were healthy, and able to fit into our planes for us to be able to continue operations as if nothing at all was happening at all, other than the war that is.”
He nodded and chuckled dryly. “I’ve heard it all before. Military research seems to half a dozen guys who were up in the Sierra Madres on a survival-training course as the source of the branch of TFORs that took out most of the Air Force. Apparently it was only the bases in Texas and the New Confederacy that had enough pilots left healthy and able to fit into the cockpits of their aircraft. And as we both know Texas stabilized itself about the same time as you started crossing the border and coming south.”
I took another drink of my beer and leaned back in my seat a little, letting my eyes close for a second. “Well our CF-18, and CF-35 pilots did run into some resistance when they first began flying over your border on sorties. But it was never a really serious threat to them. My own wife said that ground-fire, SAMs, and triple A, were a more serious threat then your fighter pilots. Hell the highest scoring ace of the war, Ken Wright was able to bag twenty-seven kills during the whole war. You remember him? Major in the Air Force. He was killed five years ago by some wacko with a misplaced grudge.”
“Yeah. I raised a glass with him once. He saved my ass during the Atlanta Campaign.”
I nodded slowly and raised my beer bottle to honour Major Wright’s memory and drained it before I called Gordy to get me another one. “There was a time that I knew the Major. I did some training up at Cold Lake two years before the war and I met him a few times. He was a nice guy; he had a wife and two kids. He was also was very devoted to his job, flying for 404 Squadron RCAF.”
He quirked an ear at me. “I met him once at the Officer’s Mess at Camp A15 outside of DC. He surprised me by being one of the few people not to be scared by my appearance.”
“Well I did have the privilege of tracking the nut bar that killed him. Turns out it was a young man who thought that the Major been the one to put a bomb through the deck of the former USS North Carolina.”
Scott looked at me, his ears rocking back a little as he shook his head in disbelief. “Wait…The Major was killed because of the North Carolina? I was running the LTAD for that – it wasn’t an CF-35, but one of the F-117’s captured in Nevada that dropped that bomb.”
I nodded in concurrence since I was also familiar with that op. “At that point in time he wasn’t even using an CF-35 any more. 404 Squadron had moved onto the F/A-22 Raptor by that point in the war, and I should know. My wife was a Captain in that Squadron.”
“I know that. Besides that bomb may have caused a lot of damage, but if the limpets hadn’t blasted a hole in her engineering spaces she’s still be floating.”
“Last I heard they did re-float, two years ago, but she was a mess. They say that the restoration is going to take at least another five years before she can go back on display again. It was pity to sink that old battlewagon, but I guess that the New Confederacy would’ve done something awful if they had managed to get her operational”
“Well they deserved it. One of the Light Cruisers that the NC got through the blockade torched Old Ironsides. What a sad, sad loss…” From the tone of his voice I could tell, that like most citizens of the former US that he had a genuine affection for that old wooden sailing ship. In a way his affection for Old Ironsides was like the pride that Canadians had for the Bluenose.
“I know what you mean Scott. The ship that torched Old Ironsides was only a Light Cruiser, now can you imagine if the North Carolina had gotten free? She would have been almost impossible to stop, after all she was a battleship, she was designed to take enormous amounts of damage and still be able to float and fight.”
“I heard that you were on the short list of people that they were thinking of using to track down the Enterprise and the America. They ever find those two ships? Two rogue flat-tops, even after all these years of peace, is a problem. Hell, Europe is still pretty quiet, the countries in Africa and South-am are still trying to settle their borders…”
I nodded before I twitched an ear slightly and said in a low tone of voice that was not meant to be overheard. “Well my sources inside of Military Intelligence tell me that the Germans have managed to pull themselves together again, with Austria, Poland, Denmark, and Belgium all included in their borders. Now they are all under the command of a new Human Centric government that is stirring up echoes of the past. To tell you the truth that scares me quite a bit!”
Scott nodded, took a drink of his beer before he pointed out. “What really scares me is that after the Soviet Union collapsed back in the early 90’s there was barely any control on their Nukes, and now… Think about it – the rest of the world went the same way we did. What do you think happened to all of those weapons in the international arsenal?”
I nodded slightly and rocked my ears at the same time. “You think that the government is going to try and do something to secure all of those weapons of mass destruction?”
He shook his head and frowned a little before taking a drink of his beer and saying. “There is no way that we can. We’re already having enough problems with the NCR’s running free, and even if they had somebody like me or you put together a powered TFOR team to work in the bag there’s the question of diplomacy.”
I finished off my beer and ordered yet another one before I slowly said, “I don’t want to have to fight again, not like that. I would rather live out the rest of my days here in peace, well relative peace at least.”
“I have to agree with you there. Back before the collapse I considered myself a pacifist.”
“Yeah now I believe that any politician who want to start a war should go out and spend some time on the front lines and live a few days in the shoes of the soldiers that he or she is sending out to do the dying. See what the war that he or she is voting for is really like!”
“Yeah, better yet, put them in a black-ops guerrilla team.”
“Like my boys in the 1st.” I commented before I took a swig from my new bottle of beer. “The worst part of the whole god-damned war was the letters that I had to write.”
“I got lucky there. I only lost one and she had… She was my fiancée. I’d even tried to getting her to stay back at the base that day – one of those gut feelings you start getting after a while.”
“I know what you mean. There were times when knew that one of my troopers wouldn’t be coming back even before we moved out.” I took a drink of my beer before I gazed wistfully at the ceiling over my head. “My own wife, Captain Elizabeth Strong, also died during the war, and our only son caught the torch and died from it just before I did.” I felt a pair of matching tears run down both sides of my cheeks as I said that.
“Jen was… She was a wonderful person and a hell of a soldier. Her mother had been in South Carolina when the collapse hit, in a hospital, recovering from the Torch as one of the first thousand survivors of TFOR. The last contact to come through before the phone systems failed was from the aunt that had been providing housing for her. NC goons took both of them to one of their ‘Quarantine Facilities.” Scott’s eyes had gone cold and hard and I could feel raw energy that seemed to crackle around him for a few seconds.
I shook my head. “Those places had a very, very bad reputation.”
“Sorry… The Hounds freed one of those places. Remember Hitler and his concentration camps from WWII? Well the Quarantine Camp was like that, only worse. The food-animal teefers were turned into food for the carnivore teefers.”
I let out a low rumbling growl off my own and I could feel the fur on the back of my neck starting to stand up. I forced myself to calm down before I finally managed to say, with a hitch in my voice. “My wife died in a mission over Tampa Bay three days before the cessation of hostilities and the end of the war. Her wingman told me that triple A from near the Tampa Bay Convention Centre hit her F-22 as she was making a bombing run on the place. That was where the remnants of the 13th Confederate Armoured and 5th Confederate Infantry divisions were holed up.”
Scott’s ears pricked up. “Tampa? I was in the hospital during that one, recovering from almost killing myself taking out those NCA Tankers that had killed Jen. She died in my arms and I couldn’t do anything about it. But I did avenge her, as much plasma as I could muster. You must’ve seen some of the pictures of those tanks after I was through with them.”
I laughed a little and wagged my tail. “Yeah. You really didn’t leave much there that could be identified as tank, other than the craters, and a few pieces of melted metal. From what I know the Satellite Intel boys said that they were able to pick up your heat bloom on their orbital scans.”
Scott chuckled as well. “Almost killed my whole team with that idiocy.” His tone turned cold as he continued. “I’d gone to offer those tankers a chance to surrender, and they opened fire! I was carrying a fucking flag of truce, and they opened fire!”
I could feel the air beginning to crackle around him as he said that in a tight, angry tone of voice. “That was a stupid thing that they did, but then again war is probably the stupidest thing that the human race does.”
“Like I said before, humanity is composed of monsters. Some move beyond it, but not many.”
“What about us old soldiers?”
“I think that we’re both monsters who have had our fill of the normal things that monsters do. And we’ve done what we could to make the world a place where more of humanity can grow beyond being monsters.”
I morosely finished my beer and said slowly. “We keep this up much longer and Gordy’ll have to carry us to a room to sleep it off.”
Scott laughed. “Suite 10F in the hotel next door is mine. Besides Gordy wouldn’t be carrying either of us – that’s what the elk over by the door is paid to do.”
I nodded and pulled myself to my feet before I staggered to the left a little. “Damn if the change didn’t make me a cheap drinker. When I was still human I could drink most of my boys under the table, but now a field mouse could out drink me.”
“Comes with the territory, Colonel. Dire wolves never did carry much body fat. Look it up sometime – body fat slows the absorption of alcohol, if memory serves.”
I chuckled a bit before I shook my head and asked rhetorically. “How is this old wolf going to get home now? My house is on the other side of the city out in the suburbs.”
“If your not going to be able to make it home safely…” He turned to the bar and asked, “Gordy, overnight 3 is still open, right?” He turned back to me once more. “C’mon, Colonel, we keep a few rooms in the hotel open for emergencies like this. Just take it easy and follow me, I’ll show you the way.”
I took the smaller wolf’s hand in my own and grinned a little, my long sharp teeth showing a little. “At least I don’t have to worry about reporting in late for work tomorrow, after all I am the local station chief.”
Scott was a lot steadier on his feet than I was as he showed me to a door that connected the bar to the hotel next door. “Colonel, this place here – the Whistle and this hotel next to it – is what keeps me sane. I can still remember every battle, and most of the faces of the guys that I took out.”
“You too?” I asked, wondering if he had my kind of memory.
“I don’t think any of us can forget. The war was terrible – worse than any that had come before.
“Well I was referring to your memory Captain. You see I have perfect recall, and I always have had it. So you can only imagine what it is like for me?”
“That is much worse than mine. You spearheaded the Olympia Campaign, didn’t you? God, even in the bone-dry military reports it sounds like it was horrific.” He paused in front of a door. “And here we are, Colonel. Overnight 3 – one of five rooms set aside for bar patrons that can’t make it home. I’ve got to get to bed myself – the lines crossing into Pennsylvania were blown all to hell, and even now we’re still putting ‘em back together.”
I paused at the threshold of the room and pulled my mini-comp from my jacket pocket and handed it to Scott. “Look in the image files under O-Camp and you’ll find some images that you’ll never forget, and neither do I. Image 14 is the worst.”
He looked at the device for several moments and frowned at what he saw on the electro-polymer screen, his eyes seemed to lose their life with each image. The air around him began to crackle with energy and little charges of blue white electricity danced in across and through his fur. The air was beginning to smell of ozone when he finally said, “Sir, I don’t know if I’d have left that city standing.”
“I know exactly what you mean, but I had orders to take the capital buildings and hold them until the PPCLI got there to relieve us. They wouldn’t have been happy if they had found a crater where the city was when they got there. By the way the man in that picture with his back up against a tree and the rifle at his feet was me.”
Scott paused for several moments as if regaining his composure before he said, “Sir… Let me just say that you are a better man. I would not have held back at all. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go blow something up. The charge has been building in me for a while, but tonight…”
I took back my mini-comp and staggered into the room. “I understand completely Captain.”
He stalked off down the hall trailed by the slight smell of ozone behind him.
I closed the door and shucked my greatcoat and suit jacket before I removed my two old Sig-Sauer P-229 .357 automatics from either shoulder holster and placed them on the bedside table. With the weapons removed I pulled off everything else and flopped down into bed.
I knew that in the morning I would suffer for my actions tonight but for some reason finding someone to talk to about my wartime experiences felt good.