Chapter 17 – Masters

D+200 found Arnold and I on one of our longest trips yet. We had driven up into North Carolina in the missile Humvee, and had stopped at a gas station to stretch our legs and relieve ourselves. After jogging a few times around the building to warm up (the Humvee’s heater was pathetic), we headed inside to scavenge for food.

As expected, most of the food was either stale or moldy. There was a surprising amount, though, as apparently the store had been locked on D-Day, and animals had been thus been kept out. I set about dismantling the cash register with a hammer while Arnold dug through the beer cave.

“Hey! Does beer get better with age like wine does?” He called from the back, “It seems a shame to waste all this. I mean, it’s cold and everything.”

“Dunno,” I responded, absentmindedly counting bills, “There any soda? We know that’ll be fine.”

“Yeah, there’s plenty. Help yourself, I’m just going to drink some cheap wine.” He emerged from the cooler with a bottle of wine in his hand. “What’s the world coming to,” he wondered out loud, popping the cork, “Gas stations selling wine?”

I ignored him and dug out a few bottles of soda for myself. I tested several bags of chips, and found one that was almost edible, so I settled in on the counter to eat. Arnold pulled out his battery powered CD player and had it playing quietly in the background.

Several minutes later, Arnold had finished and gone outside to smash the wine bottle through the window of a car that had bumper stickers against his political views.

“Todd, come here.”

“What’s the matter?” I asked, getting off the counter to find him crouched behind the Humvee, looking through his rifle scope at the darkening evening sky. I dropped to my knees and pulled my rifle as well. “What do you see?”

“Well,” he said slowly, not looking up, “I thought I saw a flash over there, towards the mountains. Up in the sky.”

“Probably just a helicopter,” I said, getting up, “Come on, let’s go.”

“No, man, that can’t be right. The Guard’s shut down their flight ops for a while. Who else would be flying?”

I froze. “You think?” I asked, suddenly scared.

“Yeah,” he replied, shifting his position, “I do. It could just be another survivor with a pilot’s license, though, so may- Whoa!”

“What? What?” I asked, startled.

“I saw it!”

“Saw what?” I asked exasperatedly.

“I saw what made the flash,” Arnold replied excitedly, “I saw it! And dude,” he turned serious, “It’s not an airplane.”

“Oh heck. What is it?”

“I’m following it now,” Arnold said, adjust his scope a little, “It’s a shiny thing, long, and shaped like a triangle with a tinted windscreen. I can’t see any wings or engines, though.”

“Okay, that’s definitely alien,” I said, pulling out my radio, “Time to call in the cavalry. Sierra Niner to Guard, over.”

Nothing happened. I tried again, “Niner to Guard, over.”

Still nothing. “Must be in a dead spot,” I said, smacking the radio furiously, “I can’t get them.”

“Well, that sucks,” Arnold answered. “Know why? ‘Cause they just turned around and are headed towards us now.”

I swore. “That’s just wonderful. Think they picked up the transmission?”

“Probably. Come on, get in the store,” He straightened up. “If they just fly by, peachy, but if not, then we can surprise them first.” We rushed into the store and took up positions. I got behind the counter. Arnold turned off his CD player and turned the volume knob to maximum. I rolled my eyes at him, but Arnold just grinned.

“This’ll surprise them,” he whispered, laying down on the far side of the door, “Wait for it . . . wait for it.”

The craft was close enough now that we could hear it’s whining engines. Then, with a whooshing noise, it shot overhead and circled back. It settled in the parking lot, landing gear protruding from its belly. It was about the size of a Learjet, and a door hissed open and several Masters emerged.

They were tall, bipedal, and had greenish-brown skin. They were barefoot, had three toes, and carried long knives and scoped hunting rifles. Their faces had prominent features and cruel, sharp teeth and yellow eyes.

They moved slowly towards the Humvee, growling at each other in what seemed to be language. The Humvee was about ten feet from the door to the store, with the driver’s side facing us. The Masters surrounded it, and one banged his rifle on the side and snarled loudly, almost as if ordering whatever was in the vehicle to exit.

Nothing happened, and the aliens clustered around the vehicle, conversing loudly.

Arnold caught my eye and nodded. “Now,” he whispered. He slammed his hand down on his CD player, and the Scorpions exploded from the speakers at stun volume.

My blood is burning
It starts to shout
Desire is coming
It breaks out loud

I fired through the window, the M4’s bullets striking the Humvee with loud clangs. Some didn’t hit the Humvee, though, and buried themselves in the now roaring Masters.

Lust is in cages
‘Till storm breaks loose
Just have to make it
With someone I choose

Arnold, armed with a long-range rifle, had gone to his pistol and was firing at the aliens in precise double taps. Two of the six went down under his fire, and two more under mine.

The night is calling
I have to go
The wolf is hungry
He runs the show

 

One of the Masters leapt into the air, did an astonishing backflip, and landed behind the Humvee, where it raised its rifle, firing with loud, high-pitched cracks. It fired into the store, but the angles of the firefight kept it from bringing its shots anywhere near me or Arnold. I switched magazines and went full-auto, now firing at the craft as another alien emerged, firing a silver handgun of some sort.

He’s licking his lips
He’s ready to win
On the hunt tonight
For love at first sting

Arnold switched magazines, swiveled and fired at the alien ship, shattering the glass. He pulled a grenade from his vest and hurled it through the hole he had just made, ducking down to avoid the Masters’ withering fire. The grenade fell short and blew a parked car to shreds.

Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane

I slammed a 40mm grenade into my launcher and fired it towards the skiff. It sailed spectacularly into it, knocking it sideways and blowing a giant hole in the side. The skiff now destroyed, Arnold turned his attention back to the two aliens by the Humvee while I reloaded. One was behind it, firing into the store, and the other was lying under it and reloading. Two quick shots finished it off.

Here I am, rock you like a hurricane
Here I am, rock you like a hurricane

Seeing it was alone now, the final Master backpedaled rapidly, still firing. As it went, it pulled something round from a pocket on its vest. Something small and cylindrical, rather like a radio . .

“Take him down!” I screamed, running out from behind the counter, “Don’t let him transmit!”

 Arnold dove out the store doors, landing on his belly and firing frantically under the Humvee. Miraculously, he hit the Master in the leg, and it staggered. I emerged from the store, leveling my rifle at the alien’s head, ready to finish this, but it was faster than I was. Almost faster than I could see, it yanked it’s knife from its belt and hurled it at me. It slammed into my left shoulder and I collapsed back into the store with a scream.

Arnold rolled out from under the Humvee, dropping his empty pistol and drawing another. As the Master raised its radio, he coolly shot it through both eyes.

The sudden silence was deafening. Arnold ran back into the store. “Are you okay?” He gasped, panting.

I groaned. “It’s in pretty good,” I managed to say.

Arnold knelt, examining the wound. The knife was long, and a wide and slightly curved blade. The worn handle appeared to be made of bone.  “It’s  not bleeding too bad,” he said, “I think you can hold on. Come on, we gotta get out of here. Can you move your arm?”

I tried, but I couldn’t. The knife had dug itself into my shoulder pretty well, and it was all but immobilized.

He lifted me in a fireman’s carry and jogged out to the Humvee, where he unceremoniously dumped me in the back seat. He handed me a first aid bag. “Here, treat yourself. I’m going to destroy the Masters’ bodies and their ship.”

While I gritted my teeth and sprinkled Quick Clot in my wound, Arnold rushed back into the store and grabbed our dropped weapons. Running back out, he tossed them in the trunk and jumped in the driver’s seat.

The Humvee started with a roar, and Arnold put it in gear and started forward. Instead of heading for the road, though, he spun in a tight curve and got behind the Masters’ ship, where he leaped out again, snatching a camera from his pack. He raced to the ship, snapping pictures as he went, and then ducked inside for a few seconds. After emerging and taking a picture through the gash in the side, he ran out and began dragging the Masters’ bodies to the ship and hurling them in. Once he was finished, he sprinted back to the Humvee.

“We have to hide the ship,” he panted, “Hold on.” Arnold punched the gas, smashing straight into the aliens skiff. He pushed harder, and the skiff began to slide along the concrete with a grinding screech. It was a very slow process, and Arnold swore repeatedly, glancing at his watch.

“Ten minutes since the first shot,” he muttered, “If the alien in the ship got out any sort of distress signal out before shooting at us, we’re doomed.”

Finally, though, Arnold had pushed the skiff through the plate glass storefront. He backed up to the road and went around to the back of the truck and started punching buttons on the launcher. With a whoosh, two Stingers launched and slammed into the wreckage of the skiff, but they didn’t explode.

“Too close,” I grunted, now trying to bandage myself around the knife one handed, “You have to be farther away.”

Arnold swore again. “You have a grenade?”

“Yeah.” I stopped my feeble efforts at first aid and pulled two off my gear. “Here.”

“Thanks. Listen, I’m going to pop the lid of the gas tank and pull up next to it. You drop the grenade in and we’ll have five seconds to get away before it goes. If we’re lucky, it’ll start a fire that will destroy the whole place.”

Arnold pulled the lid off the tank and then idled the Humvee right up next to it. “Fifteen minutes gone, man, hurry!”

I popped my door open and leaned out over the opening. “Ready?”

“Yeah! Come on!”

“Okay, fire in the hole!” I pulled the pin with my thumb and dropped the grenade into the gas tank. Arnold stomped the gas and the Humvee left the parking lot on two wheels before the remaining gas in the tank exploded.

We drove a hundred yards down the road before stopping again. Arnold turned the Humvee around and launched three more Stingers at the conflagration down the road. This time, they flew straight into the fire and exploded, adding more smoke and flame to the mess. Our work finished, Arnold turned the Humvee around again and roared off.

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7 Responses to Chapter 17 – Masters

  1. […] 17 is online right here. Now, concerning the new writing technique I tried out (you’ll know it when you see it) . . . […]

  2. Jeff says:

    I like the “new” style! Great chapter!

  3. Jay says:

    New style is good really enjoyed the chapter.

  4. Jeff says:

    Uh, dude, you are kinda leaving us hangin’ here..not meaning to complain but…..

  5. Yeah, I am kinda leaving you hanging, sorry about that. I’ve been incredibly busy over the last few weeks (bringing work home because I have too much-kind of busy) so I haven’t had a chance to buckle down on the next chapter.

    It’s mostly there, though, just needs a few more goings-over. I’ll try to have it up within the week.

  6. Jeff says:

    Ok, man, just checking on ya, I’ve been left in the lurch to often in the online fiction/blog genre and I have really been enjoying your stuff.

  7. Glad to hear you’ve been enjoying it. 😀

    By the way, Chapter 18 is up now.

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