Tales from Charon – One of Their Own

No rest for the wicked.

Or at least that’s what they say.  Looking at her half-empty bottle Caprice wondered, was she one of the wicked?

Her ribs still ached and because of her unnatural constitution, the alcohol was only slightly dulling the pain.  Blowing her platinum bangs out of her eyes, she took another swig from her bottle when she heard the door to the bar open and then close behind her.

“Alright, give me a pan of all of the hunter-killers and then … hang on,” she heard a woman’s voice say.

Sitting the bottle down, the veteran bioweapon rolled her neck, causing it to pop.  Damn reporters had been showing up like an infestation of blood sucking fleas recently.  Whatever had happened, it had been big and Biocorp must have been in trouble.

“Excuse me, you’re a Beta right?” the woman’s voice asked.

Taking another quick drink, Caprice sat the bottle down and nodded, “Yeah,” she sighed.  “Why?”

Talking made her ribs hurt worse.

“The Betas I’ve talked to have more of their memories back than the Gammas, do you have a little time to talk to the National News Network about what’s happened to you here on Charon and how you got here?” the voice asked.

Caprice didn’t look through her bleach-blond hair to see who was talking to her, “Whatever,” she groaned, taking another drink.

“I’m joined with another Beta Unit …” the woman’s voice started, but Caprice interjected.

“Racist,” she barked, motioning for the bartender.

“What?” the woman’s voice responded.

The bartender, a burly man named Harvey, handed Caprice another bottle as she turned to face the reporter.  Caprice looked her over quickly; a skinny little blond that was showing a little too much cleavage and a maliciously ambitious gleam in her eyes.

“My name is Caprice Parker, not Beta Unit,” Caprice said flatly.  “You wouldn’t call your cameraman Black Guy would you?  We have names, we’re people.”

The woman paused for a moment, considering what Caprice had said.  She wasn’t confused.  No, that woman wasn’t dumb.  She was just mulling over some new information.

“I remember that I used to work for Biocorp until I got a divorce,” Caprice took another quick drink.  “Can’t say as I know what or who I was married to, but I signed up for the hunter-killer program.  I got here, stayed alive for a while and when they came out with the Gamma Units I was promoted to trainer.  That’s about it.”

The woman had recovered quickly, “Are you excited to be going home?”

“Ms. Parker!” a soldier yelled from the other side of the room.  “We need help!”

Groaning, the platinum warrior stood up slowly, “I guess you’ll have to ask someone else,” she chuckled.

She met the soldier in the middle of the room with the reporter and her cameraman in tow, “What’s up Sergeant?” she asked.

“It’s …” he panted, evidently winded from running to the bar, “One of yours Ma’am.  He’s killed five men already and has a hostage.”

“So shoot him in the head,” Caprice shrugged over the whispers of the woman behind her.

“Snipers can’t get a shot Ma’am, he knows what’s going on,” the man was catching his breath.  “And we can’t take him up close.  We need you.”

This is only the third recorded time this has happened,” the woman whispered to the camera behind Caprice.

“Dead or alive?” Caprice asked, starting toward the door.

“Alive if possible,” the soldier responded.

A short drive in the transport took Caprice to a closed warehouse surrounded by soldiers.  Looking at their formations, Caprice chuckled.  The sergeant had been right, they weren’t ready to try to take on a bioweapon.  They were all too close.

Hopping out of the transport with the reporter and camera behind her, Caprice patted one of the soldiers on the shoulder, “Get your people back, if this comes out of the warehouse you’re all too close.”

Shoving the camera back, Caprice approached the closed rolling door and grabbed it by the handle.  With a grunt, she broke the lock and, entering the warehouse, closed the door behind her.

“Caprice!” the bioweapon in the center of the room gasped.

It was a tall man, a Gamma, with long brown hair and striking eyes.  He held a woman next to him on her knees, his sword on the back of her neck.

“Okay Ron, drop the sword and let’s go,” Caprice said, holding her hands up so he could see she didn’t have a weapon in her hands.

Ron had been one of Caprice’s success stories.  She had trained him from the day he arrived on Charon and he had gone on to save hundreds of people.  She had been so proud of him, felt so great to have taught him.  He might have actually been the closest thing she ever had to a real son.  But now he was shaking and sweating next to a terrified dark skinned woman.

“I … I can’t Caprice,” he stammered, blinking back tears.

“You’re going home, now drop the sword,” Caprice said flatly.

He was broken.  Not physically, but mentally.  It wasn’t the first time she’d seen it either.  The stress of the constant nightmarish fighting on Charon was more than anyone should have to endure.  Only the people that eventually hardened their heart so much they didn’t care about life or death were the ones that lasted.

“I can’t go home Caprice … I’m …” Ron was nearly panting while trying to keep from crying.  “I’m a murder back there.”

“So?” Caprice shrugged, “Stay here then.”

“I can’t take it any more,” Ron began crying, “No more death, no more …”

“Ron,” Caprice approached him, her voice as deadly serious as it could be, “There’s only two ways this can end Ron.”

Ron nodded his head.  He dropped his eyes, not wanting to look at Caprice.

“So which is it Ron?” Caprice asked, lowering her hand to her own katana.

“Do you know what Seppuku is Caprice?” he asked.

Caprice’s heart sunk into the pit of her stomach.  She wanted to vomit and cry.  She wanted to run away, but both the woman and Ron needed her.

Drawing her wakazashi, Caprice nodded.  Handing him the small sword, handle first, she bumped the woman with her foot.

“Don’t watch this,” she told the woman.

Obligingly, the woman scooted out of the way and covered her ears while scrunching her eyes tightly shut.  Caprice was glad she obeyed.  People didn’t need to witness death to understand it happened, especially violent and upsetting deaths.

Drawing her katana, Caprice stepped behind Ron as he dropped to his knees.  Holding the wakazashi in both hands, he turned the blade toward himself.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered

Ron drove the blade into his gut without so much as a grunt.  Gritting his teeth against the pain, the warrior ritualistically sliced through his abdomen, disemboweling himself.  Before he could grunt or cry out, Caprice decapitated him with a single smooth stroke of her blade.

Pushing her sorrow into her gut, the blond veteran approached the former hostage.  Taking one of her hands, she helped the woman up.

“Come on,” Caprice grunted.  “On your feet.”

As she lead the woman out of the warehouse Caprice was greeted to cheers and clapping.  Several cameras were trained on her, recording her every move.

She was a hero … again.  And heroes always cried alone.


Tales from Charon – The Hive

“We gonna survive this ma’am?” one of the young soldiers asked.

Caprice couldn’t see the young man’s face through his helmet and didn’t really care to.  For most people, life on Charon was short, violent and nightmarish.

For Caprice it was just another day.

“Listen up!” she barked, turning toward the fifteen soldiers that were packed in the troop transport.  “You’re training until now was useless!  Got it!?”

She waited a moment for a response.  None came.

“Am I understood!?” she yelled again.

“Yes sir!” the soldiers responded in unison.

Shaking her head Caprice sighed.  They were dead.  Like so many times before she would be the only survivor.

“You will be flanked, you’ll be attacked from behind.  This is not a ‘keep moving forward’ situation!” Caprice continued as the transport rumbled across the barren land.  “This is a hive of skrill!  Skrill only do two things; eat and mate!  Listen to my orders and follow my lead and you’ll stay alive.”

Caprice took a moment to look out the front of the transport, the computers were adjusting nicely.  They would reach the hive soon.

Blowing her platinum bangs out of her eyes Caprice sighed, “You ladies keep firing until there’s nothing left.  If you don’t, you’ll get butt-fucked to death.”

Behind her, she heard a chuckle.

“Think that’s funny kid?” she asked without turning around.  The mound that was the entrance to the hive was just ahead.

“Just wondering ma’am, who’s gonna be doing the ..?” the man started to say as Caprice patted the driver on the shoulder letting him know to stop.

“I just told you, skrill eat and mate,” she grabbed the automatic plasma rifle the military had given her.  “While one is eating your face, another will be fucking you like a two credit whore.”

The back gate dropped and Caprice walked past the soldiers.  Pausing at the exit to the transport, she looked up at the sky.  Whatever had happened, something had killed the sky.  It looked like it was rotten and it undulated like it was filled with parasitic worms.  The death of the sky had put the entire planet into a perpetual twilight and the shadows seemed longer than usual.

“Ma’am?” she heard a voice over the communicator.

What now?

“Yes?” Caprice sighed.

“Why do you have swords ma’am?” the voice asked.  She wasn’t even concerned with who asked the question.

Raising her rifle to her shoulder, Caprice began moving deliberately toward the mound, “Because rifles run out of ammunition.  Before you ask, the katana has a molecular edge, they don’t make them anymore.  It takes technique to use it.  The wakazashi is for me.”

The soldiers followed as she lead them to the entrance of the hive, “For you ma’am?”

“To kill myself with before they rape me to death,” she sighed, stopping at the entrance.

Where were the skrill?  They should have been flooding out of the entrance the minute the soldiers disembarked.

Leaning over the edge, her rifle at her shoulder, the platinum blond waited for her helmet to pick up some kind of movement inside the hive.  Where were they?  It was silent all around them except for the rumble.

Shit!  The skrill were waiting for the Bardo!

“Three cover the back!  Don’t let anything behind us,” Caprice ordered, moving into the hive, “Two on each side, watch the walls!”

Pushing into the tunnels, she heard the thunder of a thousand storms roll over and Charon went black behind them.  Shrieks issued through the tunnels and the sounds of scampering echoed through the hive.

Taking a deep breath, Caprice pointed her rifle around a bend to see a horde of skrill scampering toward them.  Bigger than a man with four back legs, two arms and an insect-like carapace, the creatures charged toward them.  Caprice squeezed the trigger, firing round after round of plasma into the insect-like creatures.

“Behind us!” someone yelled.  The electronic sounds of plasma rounds being fired echoed from behind the veteran bioweapon.

“Don’t stop until they quit twitching!” Caprice yelled.

The male skrill were easy to identify.  They were rushing toward her with their over-sized and armored genitalia erect and ready for mating.  Ignoring the disgusting display, Caprice kept firing, blasting holes into every skrill she saw.

Noting her plasma battery, Caprice yelled, “Second row!” and stepped back into the middle of the group.

The soldiers in the middle stepped up and began firing while Caprice and the other front row soldiers grabbed magazines off their belts.  Slamming the next battery into her rifle, Caprice turned to a new set of screams behind her.

One skrill had gotten through.  It was on top of a soldier, chewing on his face and trying to tear off his armor.  It was trying to rape him, driving its erect penis into his armor.

“He’s dead!” Caprice yelled, firing into the skull of the skrill.

Taking the fallen soldier’s position, she quickly fired into the man’s head, ending his life.  The remaining skrill would have eaten him alive.  Caprice had watched it happen numerous times, one of the worst ways to die possible on Charon.

“Get moving!” she yelled.

The group kept pushing through the hive, deeper and deeper into the tunnels.  The corpses of the skrill were piling up like leaves.  Blood formed rivers, flowing down to the heart of the lair and soldier after soldier felt the fangs of the rabid beasts.

Seven soldiers had been killed by the time they reached the heart of the hive, “Where’d they go!” the lead soldier yelled as the skrill withdrew.

“The queen is ahead!” Caprice yelled over her shoulder.  “Kill her and you kill the hive!”

Wiping blood off her visor, Caprice moved to the front just as they entered the egg chamber.  The walls and floor were covered with white, leathery eggs and a layer of slime coated the dirt room.  In the center was a huge female skrill attached to a massive abdomen.  Egg after egg poured out of the queen and she turned to the soldiers, shrieking at them.

Pushing through the stunned soldiers, Caprice began firing at the twenty-foot tall monster, “Shoot you idiots!  Shoot!!”

But the woman quickly saw that plasma rounds were the wrong answer.  One after another, they bounced off the glistening armor of the queen as she continued laying eggs.

“Fuck it!” Caprice yelled, tossing her rifle to the ground and drawing her katana.

Made from Charon steel and laced in black hyper-alloy, the molecular blade gleamed in the darkness.  An elegant weapon, the katana relied on technique and sharpness as opposed to the traditional weight and technology that the normal swords and axes relied on.

While the soldiers continued firing, Caprice charged forward, slicing into the queen’s belly.  The beast screamed and thrashed, shocked to be injured.  It snatched out at Caprice, but she twisted, slashing off one of its limbs.  Before the twitching arm had hit the ground, the blond woman drove her blade into the beast and carved upward.

Shrieking in pain, the queen lashed out, hitting Caprice in the chest.  The bioweapon could hear her ribs break as she was flung across the room.  With a thud, she hit the wall of the cavern, the impact knocking the wind out of her.

As she hit the ground, Caprice looked up to see the soldiers moving up on the queen.  They were getting too close!

“Get back!” she yelled through the pain of her shattered ribs, but the queen grabbed one in her maw.

Chewing and grinding, the queen crunched the soldier into a pulp as if he were a simple kernel of popcorn.  The man’s screams were cut short as his head fell to the ground.

Limping and trying to catch her breath, Caprice closed the distance to the queen while the soldiers fell back, “Aim for her eyes!”

Her injuries were slowing her.  Caprice couldn’t react like she had to.  The queen knew who the real threat was and grabbed her in a taloned hand.  The beast squeezed the thrashing woman, collapsing her broken bones.  The platinum woman’s breath left her again as the broken ribs punctured her lungs. Her vision was fading and stars were flashing in her line of sight.

But it was only a moment before Caprice had her chance.  The queen brought the bioweapon to her maw and Caprice drove her blade up through the creature’s bottom jaw.  One simple shudder as the sword entered its brain and the monster fell, dropping Caprice to the ground.

“You got it ma’am!” Caprice heard someone say as she struggled to grab a syringe on her belt.

“I got you ma’am,” she heard as warmth poured through her body.  Someone had given her a shot of regen injection.

Her ribs were moving back into place and her breath returned as she smiled through her helmet, “Sergeant?”

A voice responded through the communicator, “Yes ma’am?”

“Let’s get out of here,” she sighed.  Only fifty percent casualties … a pretty good day actually.


Tales from Charon – Old School

The “Tales from Charon” series isn’t just about Ascheya and Lieutenant Jack.  There are so many stories to be told on Charon that I’m going to introduce you to someone new this time.

The sign would have said Processing Center 8, but like most government ideas, they didn’t think it all the way through.  So the glowing neon lights over Caprice’s head were nothing but a jumbled mess of red lines that swirled and changed constantly.

Caprice blew her platinum bangs out of her eyes while twisting the ace of spades in her hand.  It was torn in one corner from a plasma blast.  That card had stayed on her helmet until the day an Alpha Unit nearly took her head off.  Now it stayed by her heart.

“I didn’t catch your number last night,” she heard a voice say behind her.

What was his name?  Bob, Berry?  Who cared?  The night before some Gamma Unit had been hitting on her.

Bill, his name was Bill.

“No, you didn’t,” Caprice groaned, tucking her card into her armor.

Bill stepped out of the door and put his arm over her, leaning on the wall.  To be fair, he was gorgeous; tall, long blond hair and  a body that could grace the cover of a romance novel.  But all Gamma Units looked like that.

“So Jennifer gave me her room number, what d’ya say?” Bill smiled down at her.

Caprice was a Beta Unit, obsolete.  She had been designed with function in mind, not to look pretty.  She was broad and strong, built like an elite athlete.  Small chested and barely six-feet tall, she didn’t compare to the model-esque gamma units with their long hair, lean legs and big breasts.  Why was he bothering her?

“I say back off,” Caprice grunted, pushing Bill away with her free hand.  Even the bioweapons had their douche-bags and one was in front of her.

There were three production generations of Hunter/Killers made by Biocorp.  The Alpha Units were cyborgs made from cybernetic parts and dead bodies.  They hadn’t adapted to Charon so they were mothballed and replaced by the Beta Units.

Betas like Caprice had been designed from living people and their strength, speed and healing were increased through a genetic and physical protocol called The Archangel Protocol.  When the Beta Units weren’t enough, Biocorp had released the Gamma Units.

Gamma Units like Bill were upgraded to be able to charge their weapons into laser cutters and power their armor through an internal battery.  They were given a better protocol called The Seraphim Protocol and were actually given an appearance that Biocorp thought would endear them with the Earth public.

But they were just annoying to the veteran trainer Caprice.

“Come on,” Bill cooed, “Let’s get you out of that armor.  You can’t be comfortable in that.”

Caprice was wearing a black, obsolete armor called ES Poly; Extreme Service Polymer.  Not as strong as the current Hyper-Alloy armor used by the Gamma Units, it was lighter and allowed her to move better.  It was complete with interlocking panels covering her entire body and a electronic helmet that helped her target enemies and see during the Bardo.

The tall blond man put his hand on her waist, “I love those abs you Betas have.  Let’s see ’em.”

“Take.  Your hand off me,” Caprice growled, “NOW!”

She might have been alone outside Processing Center 8.  She might have been outclassed and obsolete compared to the bigger, stronger and faster Gamma Unit in front of her.

But she was far from defenseless.

“Come on baby, Jennifer is waiting for us,” Bill cooed as Caprice adjusted her grip on her helmet.

Twisting, she slammed the helmet into the side of Bill’s head with a satisfying crunch, staggering the big bioweapon.  He stumbled to the side and the smaller woman spun, kicking his feet out from under him.

But he was ready.  Just as Bill hit the ground, he kicked himself back up to his feet and elbowed Carprice in the side of the head.  The blow was worse than being kicked by a bull.  He was so strong that his strike caused her vision to go black and her ears to ring.

Stumbling back, the platinum blond felt Bill grab her from behind and slam her into the wall of the Center.  Her vision was already clearing, but her ears were still ringing.

“Now,” Bill groaned, pressing into her and sniffing at her hair, “Let’s just see if we can’t get that old armor off …”

Jerking her head back, Caprice smashed her skull into her attacker’s nose.  Feeling the satisfying crunch of bone breaking bone, she donkey kicked backward, driving her heel into Bill’s groin.

The Gamma Unit collapsed and Caprice jumped onto him, punching him in his broken nose, “NOBODY!” she yelled punching him again.

“NOBODY DOES THAT TO ME!!!  YOU TRIED TO RAPE … A GODDESS!!” Caprice bellowed, elbowing the man in the face.

As she reared back to hit him again, she was caught and pulled off of the man, “Whoa there little lady!” a voice said from behind.

Struggling and kicking at the bleeding man on the ground, the woman tried to get back to him.  How dare he try to rape her!  She wasn’t just some little whore in a cantina!  She was Caprice Parker, the best Hunter/Killer trainer on the planet!

“Get him out of here,” the soldier holding her said, nodding at three others who were gathering around the fallen fighter.

Calming, Caprice pulled away from the Earth soldier behind her and snatched up her helmet, “I was fine!” she huffed.

Her heart was still racing and she was so mad that she was seeing red.  Nobody touched her without permission dammit!  Nobody!

“Listen Miss,” the soldier Caprice noticed was a sergeant said.  “We’re trying to find your records.  You’ll be headed home soon okay?”

Shaking her head, her short platinum hair waving in front of her face, Caprice groaned, “How far back have you gone?”

Motioning into the Processing Center, the sergeant shook his head, “Ten years so far.  We haven’t matched your DNA yet though.”

Caprice and the soldier walked into the dark Processing Center.  It was actually a bar in New Boston that the military had converted into a processing center, but the good part was it still had ice and alcohol.

“Lemme buy you drink,” the soldier chuckled.

Groaning, Caprice rolled her big green eyes, “You’re so cute,” she said sarcastically.

He actually was kind of cute.  Even though everything on Charon was free of charge to everyone but the HK’s.

Grabbing a bottle of black-label whiskey and a towel full of ice, the soldier … his twisting and swirling tag might have said his name, gave her the bottle.

“How long have you been here?” he asked, pressing the cold rag against her head.  “Maybe we can start farther back in the records.”

Taking a long drink from the bottle, Caprice sloshed the alcohol around her bloodied gums and spit some blood and alcohol out of her mouth onto the floor, “Before the Gamma’s.  Time doesn’t make sense here though.”

Handing her the ice pack, the soldier offered her a chair, “How much do you remember?  The other HK’s have said they have some memories left.”

Looking around and taking another drink, Caprice watched the other biological weapons giving information to a collection of soldiers.  They were all trying to get their identities back so they could go home.  Something had happened, she wasn’t sure what, but something had happened to Biocorp and the Earth military was trying to bring them all home.

But she didn’t have a home to go back to.  She remembered.

“My name is Caprice Parker,” she offered, “I worked for Biocorp on the Alpha Unit project.”

Shaking her head and taking another long drink, she groaned, “I’ve already told you guys this three times.  I remember getting a divorce, I remember volunteering when the Betas went active.  I told you my identity. I know who I am.”

“You’ve been here that long?” the Sergeant asked, scratching his flat-top.

Her memories were still sketchy, but more complete than anyone she had yet met.  According to Biocorp, the process of becoming a bioweapon was so traumatic it destroyed their memories.

Caprice nodded.  Caprice was the Betas “Ace of Spades”.  She had been on the planet long enough that she knew the ins and outs of pretty much every place they had explored.  She knew how to handle all of the monsters, how to work their technology and even how to speak their language … Latin.

“Yeah,” she nodded.

When the Gammas had gone into production, she had been promoted to a trainer’s position.  She had taught more Gamma Units than she could count how to survive on Charon and more than a few of them were still alive.

“Man, we sure could use someone like you,” the soldier said, standing up and pushing his chair in.  “We’re lost all the time, can’t handle the local animals, speak the language, nothing.”

Caprice dropped her rag and grabbed him before he could go back to the information terminals.  That was it!

She didn’t have a family to go back to.  She didn’t have a job waiting for her.  There was nothing for her back on Earth … but they still needed her help on Charon.

“So what’s your offer?” she grinned.

“Ma’am?” the confused soldier twisted up his face.

“You need a Sacagawea?” Caprice thumped her chest, “I’m your girl.”

“A sack-of-what?” the man turned back to her.

Caprice rolled her eyes, “You guys give me room and board, I’ll train your soldiers and be your guide.  Deal?” she asked, spitting into her hand and then holding it out.

“That’s unsanitary,” chuckled the soldier.

“Yes,” Caprice was laughing inside, “Yes it is,” she smiled.

She hoped he didn’t notice her missing tooth.  Getting kicked in the head by a bloodmare can easily loosen an incisor.

Shaking her hand, the soldier laughed, “You just stay here miss.  My C-O will be out to talk to you shortly.”

So that was it.  Caprice had her calling again.  She remembered how excited she had been receiving her PhD and never thought it would lead to training soldiers on an alien hell-hole.  But there she was, nursing a sore head and watching the sergeant hurry to his commanding officer … and his butt looked nice in his fatigues.

 

I’ve quoted some song lyrics somewhere in this story.  Like before, if anyone can find them, point them out and give me the name of the band you’ll be the star of an upcoming story that appears on my blog!


Tales from Charon – No Place Like Home – Part 1

Long time no update huh?  Needless to say, overtime at work is killing my ability to think.  Anywho, here is one I’ve been working on and I’ll try to get another out this weekend as well.

 

“Did I tell you I know a magic trick?” Ascheya asked me while giving me a devious grin, one fang bared.

Leaning around the corner in the foundry, I waited to see if there was any movement.  We hadn’t been able to find Samantha Schmidtweiler anywhere and the last place we had decided to look was at the power plant.

Gently, I tried to take my hand back from the unblinking child at my side, “I’m guessing this doesn’t involve doves?”  The little Andarain girl wouldn’t let me have my hand back.  Damn.

Looking back to Ascheya, I never saw it coming.  I felt Ascheya’s fist smack into my eye causing it to swell instantly.

“Nope, but I can make you’re eye swell with a wave of my hand,” she laughed.

“Ow!” I barked, covering my swollen eye with my free hand, “Why the hell would you do that!?”

“Oh you pussy,” she groaned, “I’ve seen you slap fight the guys back at the base.”

At the end of the hall were the steel doors to the power plant, “Jacob, what are we going to do with this girl? I asked, holding up the girl’s hand.  “I ain’t exactly the motherly type.”

“At ego non sum hædum,” the little girl next to me said, tightening her grip on my hand.  She must have been scared.

“Nolite solliciti. Curabo te,” she smiled up at me, but didn’t blink.  Her one human eye and one Andarain eye were always staring at me.

Ascheya snickered.

Reaching the doors, I looked down at the little girl, “Yes, we’ll get you a kitty when we get out of here.  Pointing at Ascheya and staring at her through my swollen eye I grunted, “And no, you can’t eat it.”

Leaning on the door, Jacob looked at the three of us, “You two are giving me diabetes and you,” he pointed at our little tag-a-long, “You can open this door can’t you?”

“Non est ostium. Morbi porta mente tantum percipiat,” the little girl replied, letting go of my hand and stepping up to the doors.

“Do any Andarains speak Earth standard?” I asked as she tapped the steel with her clawed right hand.  “I don’t know Andarain …”

Wait.  Why didn’t I notice that before?  Well, because I’m not a linguist, but it sounded like the same language that Ascheya was using when she talked to the hackers we fought.

“But it’s not Andarain is it Ascheya?” I asked.

“Course not stupid,” Jacob groaned.  “It’s that language everything here uses.”

With a splash, the door fell to the ground like it was made from water.  And not surprisingly, the little girl smiled at me.  Inside, facing a bank of what appeared to be computer monitors, was a man that I assumed was Andarain.

His skin was like out little friend’s; covered in tiny, iridescent black scales giving it a pale dark coloration.  His shoulder-length hair was the color of virgin snow and his feet were propped up on the keyboards.

Clapping slowly with his hands high over his head, the man chuckled, “Well done, well done,” he snickered.  Pointing to a young, blond woman hanging by chains on the wall he said, “But you wouldn’t want anything to hap …”

The Andarain man stopped in mid-sentence as he spun around in his chair.

The young woman looked up, “Daddy?”

Jacob stepped forward drawing his sword, but the stunned Andarain man raised his hand, “Alright, I’m sure we can reach a gentlemen’s agreement here.”

Ascheya drew her blades, but the Andarain flexed his hand toward the woman on the wall causing her to spasm in pain, “Whoa there, we don’t want this to end badly now.”

He relaxed and so did the girl on the wall, “You just let my mother go and I’ll give you this human okay?”

“Wha ..?” I stammered, but realized he was looking at the girl next to me.  “Her!?

Andarain women looked like children!?  She was full grown?

“Velles iniuriam. Mihi Legiones conatus es,” the girl … or woman next to me said in her childish voice.

With a flick of her wrist, the chains suspending the human woman turned to powder and she fell to the ground.  Jacob rushed over and grabbed her while the Andarain man stepped back.

“Mother, you …”

“Perime magi domino. Vos defecerunt me interficere quod interpretatur …” the smile evaporated from the woman’s face.

In unison, the skin began melting off the Andarain man’s face.  He might have been made from wax by the way his flesh poured away from his musculature.  Screaming, the man collapsed.

Writhing in pain the man called out, “Mother!”

Blood erupted from his mouth as his mother stepped forward, “Te fragilem ignavus. Te volo me occidere aliquem se non sperant.”

I watched as the man’s entrails crawled out of his mouth.  He was folding inside out!  Blood poured out in torrents and even as the man’s intestines looped out of his mouth, the small woman next to me stepped over him and looked at the monitors.

Ascheya patted me on the shoulder and followed her, looking down at the gore, she curled her lip, “Gross,” she commented.

Staring up at the monitors, the Andarain woman adjusted the monitor so the symbols on the screen stopped changing.  Typing on keyboard she grinned to herself.

“Vos potestis statuit eam ..? Ascheya started to ask, but the woman nodded.

“Puteus ‘procul sit cum uacuatur,” the small woman responded.

Stopping by Jacob and Samantha I patted the large man on the back, “I don’t know what they’re up to, but I think we need to get going.”

“How did you know?” Jacob asked Samantha, helping her to her feet.

Smiling gently, the young woman stared at the giant man that was her father, “How could a girl not know her own father?”


Tales from Charon – The Lost Child

Sorry it’s been so long since my last update.  Work has been … well, the last two weeks have been quite an eye-opener.  So without further ado, the next Tales from Charon.

She did it on purpose.  Had to.  Stepping into the front doors of the foundry, I was still wiping the blood and entrails of two guard lizards off the armor I borrowed from Jacob.  Jacob?  He was still covered in crusted muck, but nothing new.  Ascheya was as clean as a whistle, but I was covered in gore.  Like I said, she did it on purpose.

“So Jacob,” I was still asking questions, “What was the deal about the landmark getting us lost?”

The long fluorescent bulbs above us flickered and snapped.  They cast long dark shadows from the dried blood and dirt that covered them and our footsteps echoed through the tile hall.

“The deal is shut up or they’ll know we’re here,” Jacob whispered from inside his helmet.

“Shit moves,” Ascheya answered, still seething from her mistake.  “Nothing is static on Charon.  Objects move around.  They’re always about the same distance away, but if you miss one, you’ll get lost ’cause all the other stuff has moved.”

Jacob shook his head.

“What?” I gasped.  How was that possible?  The terrain moved around?  That didn’t make sense at all.

“You ever look at the sky Lieutenant?” Jacob said, looking around a corner.  “Ever see the monsters living here?  Shit, why would rocks moving around surprise you?”

Jacob’s hand shot out and caught me, putting his hand on my chest, “Hang on chief.”

Ascheya stopped next to us, “Wha ..?”

A door clicked far down the hallway.  It had just closed.

Shouldn’t Ascheya have heard something else?  She always seemed to smell or hear things that most of us couldn’t.  But she had missed something moving around a few doors down?

Jacob motioned for us to follow him and, with dexterity surprising of a man his size, he slunk silently to the door.  Pausing next to it, he leaned close to it as if he was listening.

Clumsily drawing the sword he had given me, I motioned for us to enter.  In one smooth motion, Jacob kicked the door open and drew his own sword.  With red and blue bolts of energy coursing up and down his blade, the big man charged into the room.

There were two saurian beasts, like those we had seen at the site of the ambush.  The turned away from a cage and rushed toward Jacob, but he caught them unready.  He brought his blade down through the skull of the first dinosaur-like creature, nearly splitting the beast in half.  Before he could withdraw his sword, the man grabbed the next creature around the neck.  Wrenching his sword freed, Jacob twisted the neck and head of the second monster, nearly pulling its head off and crushing the vertebrae of its neck.

I was ready … not that it mattered.  When I was in the military, I was a badass.  But with Ascheya and Jacob, I was a tag-along.  The truth on Charon was that I was the exact opposite of what I had been on Earth.  On Earth I was strong, decisive and physically dangerous.  On Charon I was confused, weak and slow.  I was once a leader of men.  Now I followed people like a lost puppy.

Wanting to be of use, I ran to the cage while Jacob stomped on the skull of one of the hackers.  Reaching the cage I peeked inside … and dropped my sword.

There was a child inside!  But not like any child I had ever seen.

She stared out at me with one eye that looked like a gleaming green human eye and one black and blue eye that looked like it had come from Ascheya; black outside and a black pupil with a sapphire sclera.

Her skin was dark, black, but oddly pale.  Looked at from straight on, her skin was the color of pitch, but shined with a white reflection.  Looking closer I could see tiny scales all over her body; soft, gentle scales.  In contrast to her skin, the child’s shoulder-length hair was the color of polished platinum.

Asheya leaned over my shoulder, “What the hell ..?”

Jacob had said the hackers would carve pieces off some monsters and graft them onto other creatures.  This poor child had suffered from their slipshod work.

The right side of her face, the part with the human eye, was covered with lightly tanned human skin held in place with rough and rusted metal staples.  Her right arm had been replaced from the elbow down and her legs were replaced from the knees down.  Her arm had a black exoskeleton covering her hand and the bones in her forearm.  The exoskeleton had black spikes jutting out of her very long hand and fingers and around the site where it was attached her arm.  Her legs likewise had the black exoskeleton and ended in two-toed feet, much like hooves.

Unblinking, the child smiled out at me.

Jacob stepped between us and raised his sword to smash open the cage, but Ascheya grabbed his arm, “Whoa big guy!”

Jacob turned and stared down the dark woman who quickly responded, “We can’t just take home every stray we find.  We don’t know anything about her.”

I kept watching the child, I guessed her age at the human equivalent of thirteen, as she watched us.  The same calm smile decorated her face and she would move her eyes to the person that was talking.  She hadn’t blinked yet.

“One, she’s a child,” Jacob barked, “Two, she Andarain.  Three, the hackers have been working on her.”

Andara was the first planet humanity had discovered after opening the jump.  I don’t think anyone had ever seen a female Andarain, but a few of the males had decided to help Earth on Charon.

But this Andarain in front of us didn’t seem right.  She didn’t have the body of a child, just the size.  Her build was like a twenty-year-old women, complete with hips and breasts.  And she still hadn’t blinked.

“We can’t leave her here …” Jacob started to say, but then the child moved.

She lifted her black, taloned hand to the lock and, smiling up at me, pushed gently on the door of the cage.  The bars and lock melted like wax, dribbling and running off the edge of the steel table, they fell into a thick pool on the tile floor.

“Battle mage,” Asheya whispered in awe.

Battle mages were almost legends.  Only Andarains could become battle mages.  They had a strange, psychic ability to warp and change reality around them.  They were horrifically dangerous and only a handful had ever been documented.

The child crawled out of the cage and stood next to me.  Without blinking, she took my hand in her creepy, long and bony fingers and smiled up at me.

“Uh,” I stammered.

“Put her back,” Ascheya whispered.

But Jacob chuckled and shook his head, “Looks like you just adopted a battle mage there Jack.”

“What do I do?” I asked.  The little girl was really, really giving me the creeps.  Her unmatching eyes wouldn’t blink!

Jacob shrugged, “I’ve only known three battle mages and one was her sister,” he said, pointing at Ascheya.  “Looks like she’s taken a liking to you L-T.”

“Why’s she looking at me like that though?” I asked as she laid her head against my arm.  Her skin, even with the gentle scales, was as soft as cotton.

Jacob plodded back to the door, “My understanding is that their minds fracture.  They don’t see reality anymore, just potential and I’m thinking she’s completely gone.”

“Possum venire vobiscum?” the little girl said to me.  Still not blinking!

Sighing I shrugged, “Okay, let’s get Samantha and get this kid back to her parents before she completely creeps me out.”

If we were going to be one big happy family, we might as well have a Wednesday Addams with us.

“Parvulus sum, sed amicus ero tibi in praesidium invenerit,” the little girl said in her cherubic voice.

“Yes, we’ll get you a kitty after we kill the bad monsters,” I chuckled, leading the girl into the hall.


Harold the Cat and the Bogus Case of the Bogey Dog

I got this story done early so I’m going to publish it today instead of tomorrow.

I love visitors.  I’m a Labrador retriever so guests are always great.  New people to meet and new people to scratch my ears are always welcome.

People.  Not dogs.

I’m not really fond of animal visitors.  There was one time that a Mary Kay lady brought her dog over to visit, a forty-seven year old Boston Terrier by the name of Humphrey Bogart … or Bogey for short.

Okay, he wasn’t forty-seven, but that dog was old.  I’m pretty sure he was alive when they invented time.  He was almost blind, scrawny and trembled even when he was hot.

Bogey was sitting on the couch next to me when he woke up and declared, “Bring the puppies to me.  I must share my wisdom.”

I’m pretty sure he was looking at me, but his eyes were on the side of his head.  For all I knew he might have been watching television and looking outside at the same time.  Prey animals have eyes on the sides of the head, predators have their eyes facing forward.  I wonder if there was a correlation.

“Uh, there aren’t any puppies here Bogey.  I’m ten, Ben is two and Harold is a cat,” I explained patiently.

“That’s fine, gather the Harold!” Bogey announced.

Ben rolled his eyes, “Dude, get him yourself.  He smells like urine and motor oil.”

But as if on command, Harold wandered into the room and sat down, “‘Sup?”

“Excellent,” began Bogey.  “Then I must explain the value in taking a cricket for a roll.”

“Yer old,” Harold noted for no particular reason.  I would like say Harold pointed out the obvious, but unfortunately it was obvious to everyone but Harold.

“You see children, there was once …” he took a deep breath.  “A cricket.”

“Dude, really?” Ben groaned.  Ben was the only dog I ever met that had ADHD.  He was a total spaz and could barely pay attention long enough to go to the bathroom.

“I stalked it for weeks, followed it, hunted it,” Bogey explained in his raspy old-man voice.

Laying my head down I sighed, “You never hunted anything in your life.”

But I was pretty sure that more than one hawk had seen Bogey and thought he would make a nice snack.  Snack.  He wasn’t big enough to make a meal for a bird.

“I caught it,” Bogey continued.  He must have been deaf too … or ignoring me.

“Tossing the cricket high into the air, the second it hit the ground … I pounced. I rolled over on the cricket in the same way that you puppies roll over on something to get its scent  on you,” the terrier explained.

“Uh, but Ah’m a cat,” Harold raised one eyebrow, genuinely confused.  Looking at me, he cocked one ear, “Aren’t Ah?”

“Yes Harold, you’re still a cat,” I groaned.

“Quickly snatching the cricket, I tossed it into the air again and the moment gravy took over …,” Bogey smiled.

“Gravity.” I corrected him, “Gravy is for biscuits.”

“The moment gravy took over, I rolled over on the cricket,” Bogey finished.

“Why?” Harold was entranced.  He would have made a good puppy … a dumb one, but a good one.

Bogey nodded knowingly, “Ah, but that … that is the important question isn’t it?

“Nope, not at … Bogey?” Ben asked.

Bogey had fallen asleep.  I didn’t want to wake him up, but Harold seemed genuinely interested.  Dang Harold.

I kicked Bogey and he opened his big gold-fish eyes, “The reason you take a cricket for a roll,” he continued as if nothing had happened, “Is because …”

Bogey paused for dramatic effect, “they deserve it!”

“Ya gotta be kidding meh,” Harold groaned.  “That’s it?”

Bogey stood up and shook, “I will now demonstrate.”

What!?  I picked my head up just as Bogey launched into the air.

“AH HELL!” Harold bellowed at the sight of the flying terrier.

I’m pretty sure Harold was still trying to figure out what was happening when the Boston Terrier landed in the middle of him.

“Get ‘im off meh!” Harold bawled as the old dog rolled over on him, rubbing on the nasty cat.

Ben broke down in insane laughter.  I’ve never seen a dog laugh like Ben did.  He couldn’t even hold himself upright.  Rolling on the ground, the overweight yellow Labrador howled.  Tears rolled out of his eyes while Bogey rolled over on Harold again.

I couldn’t help but snicker.

But then it happened.  Bogey stopped and licked Harold as if he was a cricket.  He wanted to throw the vile cat into the air, but the instant his tongue touched the yellow … ish … fur of my feline friend, Bogey stopped.

The Boston’s eyes grew even larger.  I didn’t think the bug-eyed dog could look any more shocked, but there it was.  The combination of cockleburs, Pennzoil, tomcat musk and other unidentified vile-tasting chemicals hit Bogey like a Mac Truck.

The small dog coughed lightly while we all waited to see what would happen.

Yipping and gagging, Bogey broke into a run.  He was sprinting around the room dragging his tongue on the floor.  I honestly never would have thought the old man could move that fast.

When Bogey shot past Harold, the cat looked up at me, “What happened?” he asked.

“I guess your armor worked this time Harry.”

“It worked!?”

“Yes Harold,” I smiled and laid my head down again.  “Your armor worked.”

I guess there’s a first time for everything.

Poor old Bogey dog passed away a few days ago at the ripe old age of forty … er … fourteen.  We’ll miss you buddy, but will do our best to keep back the cricket and peach pit hordes.


Sorry, No Update Today

I apologize for not being able to provide an update today.  I was wrapping up the next Harold story last night and came down with a nasty stomach bug of some kind.  I’ll have it ready for everyone tomorrow though!


Harold the Cat and the … uh … Catnip … wait, what?

The use of recreational drugs is bad.

I know you’re wondering how I, Liza Jane, would know this.  How would a black labrador retriever know recreational drugs are bad?  I’ll tell you how I know …

Catnip.

You see, the family was gone one evening and there was a nasty storm raging outside.  Harold, Ben and I were all inside and I was doing what I always did when I was home … sleeping.  Sadly, having to live with Harold and Ben meant “was” was the key word.

The strangest sound drew me out of my heavy sleep.  A purring, meowing, purring sound was coming from the other room.  Harold was known for his purring or lack thereof actually.  Most people like to say that when a cat is purring, their “motor is running”.  If that was true, then Harold had a rod knocking.  His purr would miss out, sputter, cough and sound generally sick.

Stretching and yawning, I crawled off the couch to the rumble of thunder.  Turning the corner around the couch, the lights flashed and rain hammered against the windows.  The purring meow was accompanied with a strange scratching sound.

Scratch, scratch, purr.  Scratch, purr, meow.

The lightning flashed again, lighting up the house and I saw a form on the floor. It was rolling on the carpet and twisting in strange shapes.  The strange sounds seemed to be coming from the form.

Stretching my nose out, I tried to catch the scent of the object.  What was it?  It didn’t quite sound like Harold and if it was, he would have said something.

Trying not to get too close, I leaned far out and sniffed out at the air.  Ugh!  Yep, it was Harold, but what  was wrong with him?

“Harry?” I whispered, “You okay buddy?”

Another flash and he looked up at me.  His eyes were huge!  They were dilated wide and he was purring … well … choking … okay, whatever that sound was he made.  Then I saw it.  Catnip.

Harold was high on catnip!

“Heeeey Liiiiiiza,” Harold cooed, “How ya doooooin’?”  His words were slurred and he was drooling on himself.

“Harold,” I laughed and grabbed him by the scruff of his neck.  “Time for bed,” I said out of the corner of my mouth.

“Beeeeeed,” he slobbered, “Beeeed sounds goooooood.”

“I’m sure …” but something stopped me in mid-sentence.

There was a heavy clunk from the other room.  Then another.  It sounded like someone was beating something against the wall.  Clunk, clunk.

“Harold?” I asked, “You hear that?”

“I … can heeeeear colors,” Harold snickered.  “Do yooooooou smell that … ssssssss …. sssssound?”

I dropped my drooling companion and he fell like a heap into the pile of catnip.  Something was coming.  Clunk, clunk.  The thunder rolled outside and the windows flashed from the lightning.  The clunking grew closer and closer.

I took a step back and the rain slammed into the windows.  The lightning flashed and something appeared at the end of the hallway.  The dang lightning was messing up my vision!

It was as big as I was and walked on four legs.  It’s head was round like a fish bowl and it banged into the walls over and over again.

“Harry!” I barked, “Run!”

Harold rolled over, rubbing himself on the nip.

The beast came forward and I barked again, warning it.  I hadn’t ever bitten anything in my life, but I wasn’t going to let it get at my stoned friend.  I would bite if I had to.

It stumbled and banged its head into the wall again.  Clunk!  I rushed forward.  Maybe I could make it run away.  Maybe I could …

“Ben?” I stopped, curling up a lip.

Dad enjoyed giving Ben and I dog cookies when we were … well, breathing.  They came in a large plastic fish bowl, a fish bowl that was now on Ben’s head.

“What the hell Ben!?” I exclaimed, “You scared us …” Harold was asleep, “me, you scared me to death!”

“I was just sooooo hungry dude,” Ben’s voice echoed in the bowl.  “Harry and I found the nip dooooood.”

The dumb yellow labrador retriever was looking out at me from the jar, his eyes dilated just like Harold’s.  He would randomly lick the bottom of the bowl as if he was trying to find some remnant of flavor.

“That doesn’t explain why you’re head is in the cookie jar,” I said, cocking my head to the side.

“Dooooood,” Ben’s tongue lolled around in the bowl, “the nip gave me the munchies dude.”

I blinked.  Seriously?

“Ben, catnip doesn’t affect dogs,” I explained.

“It doesn’t?”

“No Ben.”

Ben looked at me through the bottom of the cookie bowl, “Then why do I have the munchies huh?”

“You’re fat Ben,” I groaned, “Being fat gave you the munchies.”  Rolling my eyes I padded back to my couch.

“Um,” Ben followed me, “Can … can you get this thing off my head?”

I turned in a circle twice to be sure I wouldn’t lay down on anything and looked up at him, “I don’t have thumbs Ben, you’re on your own.”

The patter of rain lulled me into a gentle sleep while Harold slept off his nip and Ben developed an appreciation that humans had thumbs.


Tales from Charon – Shadows of the Past – Fin

The following contains adult language.

 

“But how did you even know?” I asked Ascheya while stumbling over large rock.

I still didn’t understand how she knew that Samantha Schmidtweiler had been on the transport.  She was out investigating when Kelly had found Samantha’s name.  It didn’t make sense.  Well, that and the fact that no matter where I went, I was falling over some kind of rock.

Damn desert.

“We already went over that,” Ascheya dismissed me with a wave of her hand.

Jacob just shook his head while I continued my line of questioning, “You said it yourself, I’m a ‘by the book’ kind of guy.  Procedure is that our mics aren’t cued when communication isn’t required.”

Groaning, the hematite skinned woman next me rolled her eyes, “I guess you messed up.  I know I made a mistake once, maybe you made one huh?”

“Because I don’t make mistakes!” I barked, “Mistakes on Charon get you killed!”

I felt a thud in the back of my head and saw Jacob’s hand returning to his side.  He’d slapped me upside my head!

“Either get a damn room or shut the fuck up,” he ordered.  “One thing you need to know, she’s a girl.  She makes up rules on the run and changes them on a whim so she’s always right even when she’s wrong.”

“Hey!” I exclaimed, but before I could say anything, Ascheya spoke up.

“In your dreams buddy,” she snickered, “This body is a temple and I won’t let you or anyone else desecrate it.”

“What the hell!?” I shoved them both.  “No!” I pointed at Jacob, “And hell no!” I responded, pointing at Ascheya.

Jacob stopped, causing me to stumble again, and looked around, “You sure you got your bearings Ascheya?”

“Yeah, why?” she asked, likewise stopping and turning to face Jacob.

Looking at the rocks and stones that surrounded us and then looking up at the sky, I noticed a slight grin on his haggard face, “You were what?  Twenty five kliks from the base?”

“Uh huh?” Ascheya nodded, looking around herself.

“What do you think L-T?” the right side of Jacob’s grin grew.

Shrugging I kicked a rock, “This place always looks the same to me.  Let’s see; rock, rock, dirt, another rock.”

“You sure it was twenty-five kliks?” Jacob asked, looking over his shoulder.

“Yeah, right …” Ascheya paused and turned her attention to Jacob.

“You … sure?” Jacob asked again, raising his right eyebrow.

Ascheya stared at Jacob for a moment.  Her face was blank.  Expressions are our methods of communicating with the outside world.  She had stopped communicating with the outside world, everything was inward … just for a moment.

“FUCK!” she suddenly bellowed and kicked a rock hard enough to break it into pieces.

Jacob just laughed.  I watched him laugh at the woman that everyone feared.  I watched him laugh at her folly.  I watched Jacob make a victim out of her.

She had left so many in her wake, so many corpses, so many upset people.  She had dedicated her life to making other people her victim in whatever way possible.  She had told me she wasn’t her sister.  Maybe she was more like her sister than she wanted to be.

“You missed a landmark,” Jacob chuckled, watching her rage boil.  “We went the  wrong waaay …”

She stopped her blade just under his chin, “You think this is funny!?  HUH!?  WE COULD BE ANYWHERE!?”

“You’re fast,” Jacob grinned, “But you’re still predictable.”

She didn’t see it, but I did.  His dagger was pointed at her heart and he tapped her to let her know she’d been caught.

“And we’re not just anywhere,” he continued grinning.  Taking his dagger off of her heart, he motioned to the ridge of rocks we were standing next to.

Shaking with rage, Ascheya dropped her weapon to her side.  Walking to the stones, she peered over the edge, “What is that?”

Jacob sat down, the smile having vanished from his face, “It’s a foundry.  You know why I got the drop on you Ascheya?”

She didn’t look back and only shrugged.

Standing up, Jacob grabbed me by the collar and pulled me over to the ridge of stones.  Below us was a huge steel building with stacks that tried desperately to reach the rotten, rolling sky. Smoke billowed out of the stacks and the rancid stench of burning blood and flesh filled the air.

“You desperately want to live,” Jacob said flatly.  “Just like you’re sister.  She taught me something though.  There’s no guarantee I’ll live to take another breath, I’m not scared any more.  Just waiting.”

Jacob sighed.  It was one of those contented sighs of someone who knew something nobody else does.  He leaned on the rocks and hung his head, his matted hair falling over his face.

“I wasn’t worried about whether or not you would be able to kill me,” Jacob explained.  Slapping me on the shoulder, he took a deep breath, “Draghixa wanted to level that place.  Come on Lieutenant, let’s see if there’s anything left of Samantha.”

So I blundered down a hill behind the most advanced killing machine ever created and an obsolete cover model comfortable with his impending death to face beasts that created horrific monstrosities out of the pieces of their victims.  It was going to be one hell of a day.


Harold the Cat and the Benign Case of Ben the Dog

Plump.  Chubby.  Let me check my thesaurus … buxom, portly.  Those words don’t bother me.  But fat.  That I bothers me.  Of course, as I got older, I got fa … chubby.  This is Liza Jane again and the life of a black labrador retriever can be trying, especially when you share a house with Harold.

No wonder I got fa … plump.  I started eating to relieve stress.

But Harold wasn’t my only source of tension.  He was a good one, but not the only one.  We also had … Ben.

You see, the best trainer for a hunting dog is another, more experienced hunting dog.  So as my muzzle got gray and my belly rounder, Dad got the idea that he would get a noob for me to train.  I was sitting on my couch, my couch, when that doofus came blundering into the room.

“Dude!” Ben exclaimed while jumping onto the couch with me.  My couch. “‘Sup?”

“Pickle!” Dad yelled for the boy.  “Come check out our new dog!”

Looking at the yellow labrador retriever sitting next to me, I laid down the law, “Okay kid, here’s the rules.  This is my couch.”  I stared at him, waiting for him to get down.

“Okay,” Ben responded, sitting quietly next to me.

“Down boy!” I barked and Ben quickly hopped down onto the floor where he belonged.

“Okay,” I explained, “Second, you follow my lead and you’ll be okay.  I’ll keep you out of trouble and show you the ropes on how to fetch birds the right way okay?”

“Dude,” Ben nodded.

“Dude,” Harold chuckled as he padded past, “Gotcha a winner der Liza.”

I looked at the slobbering yellow labrador in front of me.  Harold was right, we now had two of them.

Pickle, the son, walked into the room, “What’s up?”

“Hey, lets take Liza and Ben to the pond, let them get out and let her start working with him you know?” Dad offered.

“Sure, I’ll grab my pole,” Pickle responded, bounding out the garage door to get his fishing pole.

Standing up and stretching, I hopped down off the couch, “Alright Ben, let’s go.  I’ll show you what to avoid out at the pond and stuff.  We won’t fetch anything, but we’ll get out and stretch a little.”

“Dude!” Ben exclaimed, “I love ponds!”

“I’m sure you do,” I groaned.

Harold padded past, “Dude.  Gotcha a mental giant der.”

Shaking my head, I headed out the door with Ben where Dad already had the tailgate down on the truck.  Hopping into the back of the truck I turned around to see Ben sitting patiently.  Genius.

“Go on boy,” Dad waved for him to jump into the back of the truck.

Pickle snorted, “What the hell?”

“Oh!” Dad, groaned, picking Ben up, “He was trained for dog carriers.”

Unceremoniously dumped next to me, Ben smiled, “Dude, that was fun.”

Shaking my head I groaned, “Okay, good lesson.  Jump in the truck when Dad opens the door.”

“Got it,” Ben nodded.

He didn’t got it … get it.  I had only seen the first ridiculous quirk of “Gentle Ben”.

When we got to the pond I figured I would hop out and Ben would sit there waiting for someone to lift him out of the truck.  I was wrong.  I was horribly wrong.

I should have known by the way that Ben set up in a sprinter’s starting stance and announced, “Green light stop.  Red light go.  Red light stop.  Green light …”

The tailgate went down and Ben bolted, “GO!!”

He shot out of the truck at warp speed, running as fast as he could around the pond.  I hopped out as he started his second lap, a dirt cloud kicking up behind him and his tongue lolling out.  He was breathing hard and stretching out as far as he could with each stride.

I had to laugh as I sat down by Pickle.  There was no way I could train this dweeb.  The only thing keeping him from being bitten by a rattlesnake was his sheer speed.  Any rattler that was out there probably never saw what went past.

“Run boy!  Run!” I barked, laughing at his antics.

“You’re dog sure likes to run,” Pickle snickered.

“Ben!” Dad yelled, trying to slow his new retriever, but Ben was just hitting his stride.

Rounding the corner, Ben leaned into the turn.  Dirt rolled out from under him as his paws slammed the ground.  I swear I could hear him grab another gear as he picked up speed.

Now, as puppies, we labrador retrievers are born with the ability to swim.  We love swimming.  The only thing better than fetching is more fetching, but right after that is swimming.

But I think someone forgot to tell Ben.

He easily cleared six feet as he launched himself into the pond.  A great wave of water erupted around Ben and he paddled twice before promptly sinking like a rock.

My humans were stunned.  Slack jawed and confused, they stood there while their swimming-impaired dog disappeared below the surface of the pond.

“Alright!” Pickled laughed loudly, “Who ever heard of a dog that can’t swim!?”

Charging into the pond, I dove in. Even though I couldn’t see under water, I snapped my jaws quickly like an alligator snatching at something in a pond.  Snagging a loose spot on his collar, I grabbed the furry bathing beauty and dragged him to shore.

Pulling the sputtering and paddling dog to safety, I plopped him on the beach, “Can you honestly not swim?” I asked.

“Duuuude,” Ben coughed, “Guess not.”

Shaking the water out of my fur I knew that Harold and Ben would make sure my life was always interesting.

Dude.


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