So after Alex gave me their shitty pep talk, and I decided it was better to know more than to take up residence in a Central American rain forest, so I better not give uy, we were heading back. Alex was chattering about source reliability and intelligence contact evaluation rubrics and that kinda stuff, so I tuned them out and thought about what I was gonna say when we returned.
Well, yeah, I couldn’t talk about all that stuff in front of everyone, y’know? Especially, y’know, Mette. But it’s not like I could say I was stepping outside to vape or something. They knew I was upset. So I figured, I’d just leave it as a long walk, clear my head, that kinda thing. Almost the truth. Kinda.
Did you think they wouldn’t understand?
I think they’d understand way too well. They’d – feel sorry for me. Y’know? Worse, they’d be feeling sorry for me 'cause of what I am. Or aren’t. Any more. Y’know?
You might be underestimating them.
Yeah, right up until Roddy says some smart-ass remark, or Kiln starts lecturing me on all the talking animals they knew back in the day, or Mette …
… just looks at me, with those eyes of hers. I couldn’t take it.
Fortunately, none of them except Alex knew how … dark I was feeling. Thank God. So we’re making our way back, kinda cutting the distance since I kinda wandered a bit, and we’re in this clearing, and it’s where Alex parked all their drones, I guess, 'cause they’re in a circle, except all their batteries are dead or something. Alex grabs one, and we keep on walking.
That seems odd.
Yeah, it kinda was, at least Alex seemed to think so.
They said something?
No, but they stopped talking about spy stuff, which told me they were thinking about something else. And I didn’t get the chance to ask the question, 'cause like five minutes later, we hear that “BWUUUUUUUH” sound.
Oh, I didn’t describe it before 'cause it came from the moose.
A moose in --?
Not a real moose. Some giant zombie energy moose.
A … giant …
Alex called it a stagosaurus, if that helps.
Not … really. No, wait, you did talk about a zombie moose before.
Yeah! Except that time I didn’t fight it, I was busy tearing up trees and swinging at butterflies.
But … that was the sound it made. Like a ocean liner horn, crossed with a buzz saw, and so low it made your teeth rattle. It did that when it fired its energy beam out of its mouth.
Out of – and you heard it at that point.
Yeah. Up ahead. In the ruins.
Oh. Oh, my.
Yeah. So Alex is saying something about stealth fields, and I just say “Fuck,” excuse me, and head off at high speed. And my high speed is, y’know, high, once I get going and don’t let anything get in my way. All I can think of is those guys, my friends, up there with that thing, and Mette, and Roddy, and Kiln, too, and I guess that Tahi rock lady, though I figured she was so superior she could deal with it, right?
So I’m about 50 yards away from the central building we’d been in, and I can see there’s this hole in the ground in front of it like a giant gopher’s been at work, except I think it’s a giant moose, right, cause the ground is all burnt and cracked? And Roddy’s backing out of it at high speed, like a backwards cartoon, and I know what’s following him. So I take as big a jump as I can, planning on landing smack-dab on top and driving its head into the ground ten feet.
Well, something like that. Break its back, mess it up somehow. 'Cause it’s a monster and it’s a threat to my friends, so it deserves to be broken.
… Have you considered --?
– how that sounds like me? Yeah.
So I’m flying through the air like a cannonball, and I’m angry so I’ve gotten bigger, and the moose comes out and it’s not quiiiiite where I need it to be, but Roddy sees me at the last second, does one of those crazy acrobatic things he does, leaps toward me, gives me a kick as he passes which is just enough that BAM, I slam down in the ground in front of the thing, driving both fists into its head, and then I ROAR at it.
You know, that big gorilla roar you see in the movies, King King, that sort of thing. Like lots of teeth and all-out aggressive, and man, what I really want is to frighten the shit out of this thing, 'cause now I’ve seen it, it’s awfully big. Not that I can’t take it, but it might get kinda dicey, and I don’t know where the others are.
And it works! I mean, the thing looks like a giant glowing moose that’s been through Frankenstein’s castle and left to sit in the ground for a few years, but I can see it’s actually focused on me, and scared of what I could do to it.
Yeah – except the part where it decides it has to defend itself and it explodes with energy in all directions, and WHAM, I’m hurting and angry and on the ground and maybe a bit worried that I maybe scared it but didn’t stop it, and it’s probably Roddy’s fault the thing’s attacking because, y’know, Roddy, and I yell at him to get over here and help take this thing down, except Roddy got hit in the blast wave and slammed into a tree and he’s down.
But Alex finally shows up, and he’s hopping and rolling, not quite as much the jumping jack as Roddy, but pretty good, and he slaps something on the thing’s front-left shoulder, and then dives into the tunnel, yelling at me to take cover.
Right? And I’m thinking, that must be some sort of mini-spy explosive, which isn’t gonna do much against that thing, but then I catch this twinkle of light light way in the sky and it’s like Holy Shit, Something’s Up There – and I jump backwards, away from the Moose, over to where Roddy’s lying on the ground, and I scoop him up and run and …
Well, y’know those movies where there’s this big explosion and everyone gets blown away from it in a huge fireball and it’s really cool?
It’s not so cool.
So this laser beam, or something, come down out of the sky, with a sound that sounds hella like the moose, y’know, but right on the moose like the fiery fist of God. And I’m thrown fifty yards away, trying to save Roddy, which I do, though of course he sleeps through the whole thing, because Roddy. And when I get up, dusted off, beat down some smouldering gorilla fur, which I also guarantee you you do not want to smell, 'cause that stuff’s nasty, then I head over and –
Well, it’s like there’s a ten foot hole where the moose used to be, though there’s still enough of it there to tell that it got tagged. The trees for twenty, thirty yards, they’re snapped like twigs. Lots of the ruins are just, y’know, ruined. Stacks of rubble.
Yeah. So … we left.
You just left?
Well, Alex made sure AEGIS wasn’t gonna drop lightning down on us again, or send in the Marines, or anything. But … we were all kinda stunned by what had happened. I carried Roddy back to the Excelcior – I had this really bad ringing in my ears for hours – and Mette and Alex, they helped Tahi along, 'cause she’s homeless at this point, right? The others, I mean, they’re okay physically, mostly. Kiln’s kinda banged up from fighting the moose, and got one the thing’s antlers or horns or whatever they are. Were. Roddy’s unconscious, but he comes to in a bit and starts jabbering about missing all the fun. But everyone’s – like I said, stunned. Sore. Wiped out. Like, facing that much power, all the destruction it did, that we did – it took all the power out of us.
It was a long trip home.