CWCollateral: A Tale of the Resistance
Chapter 5: Jerk Ops
March 22, 2004, CWCville slums, PVCC “Slumberland” headquarters
BANG! BANG! BANG!
“You keep squeezing it too hard,” Zoey warned Kevin, frowning as all three of his shots went wild and cratered the backboard. “I keep telling you – you don’t have to crush the trigger. Just…click it. Like this.” She drew her own pistol and blasted a hole in the nearest wooden Sonee-target’s face. “Click.”
Kevin sighed in frustration, ejected the spent clip, and reached for a new one. Zoey was definitely a good teacher, but he just didn’t connect that well with firearms. So far today he’d managed to hit two targets completely by accident, and only one of them actually counted as a fatal wound.
He needed to step up his game, and he had to do it before midnight. “Operation Rift” was the talk of Slumberland now, and the anticipation of a first mission was nearly killing him. He’d been going stir-crazy in the PVCC headquarters, even though most of the Honey Badgers were more than happy to talk with him. Most. Serge wasn’t particularly good at conversations, Nick wasn’t too interested in him, and as for Sugarplum Fury…well, the less said to her, the better.
In the time between his induction and now, Kevin had quickly grown reacquainted with his long-lost Shopping Center pals. Jake, Matt, and Allie always seemed to have a truckload of stories to share about their experiences - both before and after they’d joined the resistance. Allie still wouldn’t divulge any information about the burn on her face, but he knew from the look in her eyes that it had something to do with the chus. Hell, everyone seemed to have a gripe against them…all but Nick and Serge. The sniper had killed his fair share, true, but then again, he’d signed on with the PVCC as a soldier of fortune. Serge just liked to fight. His beef was with Chandler himself, and if Chandler’s creations got in the way, then it was their own damn fault.
As for Kevin, he and Zoey had spent the last two days shooting off pistols at the indoor firing range and getting him fitted for a set of equipment. The Honey Badgers’ combat outfit was definitely mid-level in terms of gear – a pair of thick leather boots, a shoulder strap with a painted wooden badge, extra clips, a flashlight, dust mask, and of course the leather belt with his hunting knife and pistol. The unspoken rule of the PVCC was that the better a squad you were in, the better the gear you received. The Picklemen were the best of the best, therefore, they got Kevlar, grenades, and M4s. At the opposite end were squads like the BattleAXEs, who were lucky to even get three pistols total.
And as for the gun practice, well…
BANG! The next shot impacted on the backboard and fragmented into pieces. The targets remained intact.
Zoey shook her head. “Try breathing out just before you fire. It’ll get easier, trust me.”
“It’s not,” replied Kevin angrily. “Why do I have to learn this now? If they’re as easy to kill as you say they are, why do we even bother shooting them?”
“The ferals aren’t what you should be worried about,” Steve commented from the doorway behind them. “It’s their parents we’ll be using the guns on.”
“Hey, Steve.” Zoey glanced over her shoulder and removed one of her earplugs. “Any more news from Al?”
“Nah, he’s just been revising our patrol route for Rift,” replied the Jerkop, and nodded at Kevin. “How’s he doing?”
“Terrible,” Kevin spoke up before Zoey could answer.
Steve frowned. “You’ve been at this for two days. You must have improved at least a bit.”
“Yeah, he has,” said Zoey. Kevin wasn’t going to argue with her there. The first time he’d ever fired a gun, the recoil had smacked him right in the cheekbone. Since then, he’d remembered to grip the pistol more firmly.
“If you’re looking for motivation, those little bastards killed Kuri’s family,” added Steve, and promptly left the room.
“Did they really?” asked Kevin, and turned to Zoey. “She never said anything about…”
“We found Kuri living on the streets a while back,” explained the Jerkop. “One feral Sonee had eaten her family into starvation…this was before we really knew the chus were breeding, obviously.”
“Are they really all that bad?” Kevin placed his gun on the table and checked one of the hastily-assembled “field guides” that Al had made for each of the squad members to use. “They just look so damn harmless. Kind of…dare I say it…cute.”
Zoey laughed bitterly. “Harmless? Home-bred larvae, maybe. Not ferals. And as for the cuteness factor…well, you just hang on to that thought until we go out later tonight.” She gestured to the firing range. “And speaking of which…”
Kevin gritted his teeth and raised the pistol. It was going to be a long day.
Eight hours later, 11:43 p.m.
“Lighters, fuel, ammo, canteen refills!” shouted Amanda from her seat behind the card table. “Last chance! Anyone?”
“I’m good,” replied Jake as he buckled his shoulder strap. “Kevin, you need anything? First time, you know…”
Kevin laughed. “The way I’ve been shooting, I’ll probably need about ten extra mags per chu.”
“Oh, stop that.” Allie gave him a friendly punch and resumed tying on her boots. “You’re too hard on yourself. Remember, we all had to go through training too. Most of us flat out sucked.”
“Not Serge,” grunted Kuri in perfect imitation of the large Russian as she pored over her copy of the field guide. “Little wooden shock-pigs no match for Serge. Need better fight.”
“Yeah…anyway,” continued Allie as she turned back to Kevin, “you just stay with Jake and I and you’ll be fine. They’re not all that danger-”
Jake’s face abruptly turned about three shades whiter.
“Oh…right.” Allie smiled awkwardly. “Sorry, Jake.”
“It’s…it’s fine.” The Jerkop sounded as though he’d just had his soul sucked out. “Don’t ever say that again.”
Kevin blinked confusedly. “What’s he…”
“I’ll tell you later,” muttered Allie, and began bunching her long hair into a ponytail. “Don’t worry, just concentrate on…”
“Evening,” a muffled voice sounded from the doorway.
Kevin looked over his shoulder as Al entered the room wearing his trademark welder’s mask. The Legend rarely ventured outside his office unless the situation required his immediate attention, and even then, he usually relied on Steve and Zoey to sort the more minor things out. Matt had told Kevin that Al was in charge of coordinating his tactical plans with the other Jerkop squad leaders like Emily and Blanca, and therefore he seldom went on missions himself unless they were of the utmost importance to the PVCC.
The Honey Badgers turned and saluted as their commander strode up to them. Al raised a hand.
“At ease,” he said, and turned to Kevin, Jake, Allie, and Kuri. “I just wanted to give you four some information before Steve comes to take you out on patrol. He’s going over the plan with the other active squad leaders right now.” The Legend glanced at Kevin. “Shaw, how are you?”
“Uh, I’m fine, sir.”
“I’m Al. Don’t sir me,” Al corrected him. “Now I just wanted to let you know; you might think you know the CWCville slums pretty well, but odds are, you’ve never even heard of the abandoned zone – that’s the place Steve’s taking you tonight. Scrapland’s some pretty rough terrain, and you’ll be taking the old canals to get there. Just follow the others and don’t do anything stupid. As for the chus…” He chuckled. “Use your imagination. I’ll be debriefing you and the others when you get back. Understood?”
“Good.” Al looked at the other three Honey Badgers. “Watch each other’s back and don’t get separated. Chandler knows we’re up to something, so it’s a safe bet that the EHPF are gonna be out in force tonight. We’d prefer that we didn’t need to extract you, but I’ve got Matt standing by with the Battle Bus just in case.” He turned and headed for the door. “Good luck, and good hunting. See you at the debrief.”
Almost as soon as Al disappeared, Steve entered to take his place. The Jerkop squad leader wore an intimidating array of combat gear, including his kukri, a revolver, and a silenced P90 submachine gun that Kevin had never seen before. A black-painted dust mask concealed his nose and mouth, and he’d wisely swapped his white sweatshirt for a dark grey version.
“That’s it,” said the Jerkop with grim satisfaction, and pointed to his four-man squad. “We’ve got the final green light for Operation Rift.” He withdrew a collar and leash from behind his back and stepped over to Sugarplum Fury’s cage. “Kit up and meet me at the garage in five minutes. This city’s full of little chus that need exterminating, and I intend to show our dear administration that the Honey Badgers do not give a shit about how many are out there.”
Fifteen minutes later, CWCville slums, abandoned zone
Kevin thumbed through Al’s chu field guide as the pickup truck bounced and rumbled down the gravelly road through CWCville’s abandoned zone. It was all he could do to keep his mind off the task at hand.
Navitaricius sonee, explained the smudged typewriter print below a hasty sketch of a small fat rabbit-like Pokémon, is the first stage of evolution for the male Electric Hedgehog Pokémon species – the larval form of an adult Sonichu. Better known as Sonees, these small creatures are often easily mistaken for Pikachus or Pichus by uninformed observers, and indeed are closely related due to the merge in 1998. Their female counterpart is the Rosey, better known as Navitaricius rosey. Sonees are recognizable by their Pikachu-like yellow and brown fur coat, their soft, undeveloped headspikes, the presence of armstubs and large blue sneakered feet. Much like the Rosey’s skirt and bow, the origin of said sneakers remains unknown. The normal cry of a Sonee is simply its own name, but much like the Meowth, they seem to possess a rudimentary intelligence which allows them to learn and recite certain words and phrases, most notably a shrill “Yay!” for displays of excitement or happiness. At the age of 3, a Sonee begins to develop a set of small, sharp teeth for defending itself and dispatching smaller prey. Like Roseys, they cannot generate full bolts of bioelectricity, but may generate a small spark from their cheekspots to ward off intruders. A large feral population…
It was still hard to believe he’d never seen even one of these creatures during the year he’d spent in Soup Hotel #4. Kevin and his hobo friends had gone salvaging nearly every night, yet they only encountered raccoons, stray dogs, and the occasional mugger or junkie. Never a Sonee or a Rosey. And now suddenly the PVCC were all up in arms about exterminating the entire population as a sort of warning to the Chandler loyalists.
In truth, Kevin still didn’t understand the hatred for these things. They looked harmless and cute enough to him – no more threatening than a fat Pichu. Yet Kuri despised (and regularly devoured) them, Steve and Al were always talking about the best ways to kill them, and Jake…Jake seemed to be terrified by something about the creatures.
“This is it,” Jake muttered to Kevin as the truck turned a corner and began slowing down. “We’re coming up on the canal entrance now. As soon as we stop, go over the side and assemble on Steve. Watch your footing and stick close to me.”
The Jerkop nodded and flipped the guide shut. Stowing it in his pocket, he flipped open his holster strap and placed one hand on the pistol. Allie glanced at him and gave him a thumbs-up.
You’ll be fine, she mouthed.
Kevin smiled at her. Allie was really starting to grow on him as a friend, not just as a fellow revolutionary. She’d been a big help in his first few days at Slumberland: showing him where the amenities were, sharing information about the squad history and the PVCC in general, and best of all, she always had something to talk with him about. She’d come a long way from the Burger King in the CWCville Shopping Center, that was plain to see.
The truck braked and stopped at the side of a dilapidated gravel road. This was new territory to Kevin. A week ago, he would never have believed that downtown CWCville could contain such a run-down place as this “abandoned zone,” but he was here, he was looking at it, and unless the Honey Badgers were all lying, he was about to walk right into the heart of it.
“Everyone out!” ordered Steve from the front passenger seat as he stepped down onto the roadside with Sugarplum Fury in his arms. “Safeties off! Jake, Kuri, check the perimeter.”
“Got it,” replied Kuri as she and Jake leapt over their respective sides of the truck’s bed. Allie nodded to Kevin, then followed suit, heaving her giant flamethrower over the edge before she herself jumped down. Kevin clicked off the safety on his pistol, took a deep breath, and swung himself down. The gravel crunched beneath his boots as he hit the road.
Looking around, he could barely see the lights shining from skyscrapers and other buildings on the east side. This part of the slums was populated mostly by barren trees and bushes, gravel, rust, and long-abandoned apartments, stores, and hotels. Paper waste and plastic bottles of CWC Cola lined the streets, sometimes piled as high as a man’s chest. There weren’t any people in sight, but Kevin noticed a flaming barrel further up the road. He had a feeling he didn’t want to meet the human inhabitants of the abandoned zone, hobo-friendly though he was.
“Clear left!” called Kuri from behind the truck.
“Clear right!” Jake shouted.
Steve nodded and raised a fist. “Assemble.” Kevin and the others obediently gathered around their squad leader to await his orders. For their own sakes, they made sure to stand outside the radius of Sugar’s leash.
“Right,” continued Steve, scratching the honey badger behind her ears. “We’re on our own for the next four hours, or else until I say it’s time to go. Unless you’re bleeding out and about to die, we’re continuing this patrol. Kuri and Allie, you’re Team One, Jake and Kevin, you’re Team Two. If I ask you to go recon an area, you keep one eye on your teammate’s back at all times. Understood?”
The Jerkops nodded.
“Excellent.” Steve gently placed Sugar on the ground and gave his revolver’s cylinder a quick spin. “Let’s have some fun. Sugar, seek.”
Sugar let out a savage growl and spun around once, then trotted off away from the road. Steve and the others began following her at a safe distance.
“How come she doesn’t attack him?” Kevin whispered to Jake.
“Sugar’s known Al and Steve since they found her,” the Jerkop explained under his breath. “They somehow managed to domesticate her, but she doesn’t usually let anyone other than Zoey, Nick, Al, or Steve actually handle her. Kuri nearly lost a finger yesterday, or so she says.”
“Damn. I’d hate to see what she does to th-whoa!” Kevin stumbled over a small pile of trash, but kept his footing. Jake grinned and kept walking.
“Watch your step,” Kuri advised him as she passed. “It only gets worse where we’re going.”
Kevin nodded and hurried ahead to catch up with Jake.
They’d reached a place that could only be the entrance to these canals everyone had been talking about. Beyond the gate of a rusted chain-link fence lay a large concrete channel and a few metal ladders. A hastily spray-painted sign that read TO SCRAPLAND hung from a cord between the two highest gateposts.
“Good to be back,” commented Steve as he reeled in Sugar and nudged the gate open with his boot. “Come on.” He tugged at the honey badger’s leash and nodded to his squadmates. One by one, Kuri, Jake, Allie, and Kevin followed their leader through the gate.
The Scrapland pathway itself looked like something out of a classic post-apocalypse setting. Piles of rusting metal and paper waste lay strewn all across the bottom of the dried-up canal, making it resemble a giant clogged artery. Given the state of the city and the person in charge of running it, this was actually quite the fitting comparison.
There was no direct path down into the canals from where they were, but Steve led the squad over to a small open utility hatch a short distance away. Kevin leaned over the side and shone his flashlight down into the darkness below. He could just barely make out the floor.
“All right, single file down,” ordered Steve as Sugar leapt up into his arms.” Kuri, you first. Scope it out.”
“Gee, thanks.” The Jerkop rolled her eyes, grabbed the sides of the ladder, and slid into the access tunnel. In seconds, the darkness had swallowed her up.
“Okay, clear,” Kuri called out from what seemed like miles away. “Send the rest.”
Steve nodded to Jake, who quickly hopped on the ladder and climbed after his squadmate. Allie quickly tied a rope around her flamethrower and lowered the bulky weapon into the hatch, then followed Jake as soon as it was safely down.
Kevin took a deep breath and lowered himself over the edge. The steel rungs were coarse and rusty, but they held his weight all the same. Hand over hand, he climbed down, keeping his eyes fixed on the world above as Steve and Sugar grew smaller and smaller. After what seemed like five minutes, he felt the ladder give way to solid concrete, and stepped down to the floor.
Click. The Jerkop switched on his flashlight and clipped it to the handy attachment on top of his shoulder strap. The PVCC ran a lot of late-night operations to mess with Chandler’s biological clock, and as such, they needed their operatives to have both hands free, even in dark places like this. Kevin let his eyes adjust for a few moments, then walked over to join Jake again.
Once Steve had safely climbed down with Sugar tucked under one arm, the hunt could resume. As the Honey Badgers made their way further into the underground canal, Kevin began to notice a few strange and unsettling signs of human presence. Graffiti covered the smooth concrete walls in a colorful mix of profanity, anti-Chandler slogans, and sloppy pornographic drawings of various combinations of male and female chus in various sexual positions. Many of them portrayed the Rosechus as having male genitalia. Further down the tunnel, the content of the drawings began to grow less and less juvenile and more ominous. Signs like TURN BACK NOW, SCRAPLAND IS DEAD reigned supreme, and the furry porn gave way to unsettling drawings of small pink and yellow creatures covered in blood.
“Ignore them,” Allie suggested reassuringly. “Just a few coked-up salvagers letting off steam.”
Kevin gave her a weak smile, but he felt his fingers tighten further around the grip of his pistol all the same. This was an evil place – an art gallery of nightmares. By now, the city lights were a mere blur behind them, and nothing lay ahead but darkness and uncertainty.
After about fifteen minutes of following Sugar through the canal’s many twists and turns, Steve raised his hand and called a halt. The Jerkops immediately stopped and assembled around him.
“I think we’re at the old junction to the sewers,” he mused, and tossed a piece of beef jerky to the honey badger. “Jake, remember that old stairway shortcut I told you Al and I used to take?”
Steve pointed to a rusty door and some stairs set into the side of the tunnel. “Take Kevin and see if it’s still standing. Meet us up ahead at the halfway point when you find it.”
Jake glanced over at Kevin, then looked back to his squad leader. “All right, we’ll check it out. Don’t leave without us, okay?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” replied Steve. “Watch your step.” He nodded at Kuri and Allie to follow him, then continued on down the canal.
“Good luck, you two,” Allie called over her shoulder, and disappeared after Steve. Soon the three Jerkops were nothing more than flashlight beams moving back and forth in the darkness.
“Ah, I was afraid he’d have us doing this,” muttered Jake as he walked over to the doorway and began gingerly climbing the metal steps. “Okay, looks like these ones are safe. Come on.” He shoved the door open with one shoulder, provoking a sharp squeal from the rusty hinges. The two Jerkops quickly stepped through the doorway into the sewer junction, leaving the dark canal behind for a while.
The dilapidated metal walkway was lit by the faint yellowish glow of utility lights overhead, but at least it was more comforting than the pitch black canal. Kevin followed Jake closely, keeping an eye on the tunnel behind them as they made their way toward the sound of rushing water. The smells of sewage and decay hung thick and heavy in the air, even through the dust mask covering his nose and mouth.
“Goddamn it.” Jake waved his hand in front of his face with disgust. “Smells like the mayor’s office in the Shopping Center.”
“No, this is…cough…this is much nicer,” replied Kevin.
Jake laughed. “Ah, it’s good to have you back. We all missed you, you know that? Matt and Allie and I? We never forgot.”
Kevin smiled, touched by Jake’s kind words. “What are the odds, huh?”
“Oh, probably the same as…” The Jerkop stopped so suddenly that Kevin nearly collided with him. “Wait. Don’t move.” Taking a few steps forward, Jake reached over his shoulder and slid the shotgun out of its straps. “Okay, stay close. We’re definitely in feral territory now.”
“How do you know?” whispered Kevin. His heartbeat quickened as he steadied his own pistol.
Jake pointed to a small scrap of pink fabric wedged between one of the walkway railings and the floor. “Skirt cloth. Roseys never travel alone. There must have been a whole pack that went right through here on their way up to the surface.” He chambered a shell with a loud click-click. “Keep your eyes open. Blue plastic, pink cloth, hair bows, candy wrappers, chu shit…you see any of those, you let me know.”
Kevin was beginning to have serious second thoughts about the whole “cute” aspect of Sonees and Roseys.
The next few minutes passed in terrifying silence as Jake and Kevin made their way through the deserted sewer tunnels. The rushing water sounded extremely close now; perhaps it was flowing down though some pipe next to them.
“Runoff from the Hogwash area, probably,” explained Jake. “These pipes were abandoned back when Chandler closed off this section of the city. We think it had something to do with the ferals. The chus breed so fast…they needed a safe place to dump their bastard offspring without drawing attention from the humans in CWCville.”
“Well, it worked on me,” Kevin muttered. “I’ve never even seen a live one yet.”
Jake flashed a sinister grin. “Oh, you will. I bet you twenty bucks they’re watching us right now.”
“That’s a serious wager,” chuckled Kevin. Real US currency was something of a rare item in CWCville at the moment, especially since the mayor had implemented his new C-Quarter and W-Quarter-based economy. The custom-minted coins held next to no value in the international market, so therefore many of the wealthier and more sensible human citizens chose to store their money in other Virginia-based banks, and pay smugglers to transport suitcases of cash in and out of CWCville. And yet Chandler continued to wonder why the economy of his city was so awful.
“Just don’t get too worried,” continued Jake as he ducked through a small opening in the dry sewer pipe. “They might be small, but they’re slow. If they’re here, we’ll see ‘em soon enough.”
Kevin followed him through without a word. His heart was still hammering against his ribcage. Up ahead was a larger room with a rusty, half-destroyed stairwell on the far wall. Looking up, he could see that it presumably led to either a higher level of the sewer, or else to the surface itself.
“Is that it?”
“Looks like that’s our way up,” Jake said with a satisfied smile. “We should probably test it first…see if it’ll still hold our weight. We wouldn’t want Steve or the girls breaking a leg, now would we?”
“Definitely not.” Kevin walked up to the stairwell and scratched a bit of rust off the rail. “Want me to go first?”
“Nah, I’ll do it. You follow me and hold on to my shoulder strap in case it collapses, okay?”
Step by step, the Jerkops began ascending the stairs with the utmost caution. Kevin stowed his pistol and grasped his partner’s shoulder strap just above his shotgun holster, keeping his other hand on the railing in case he needed to act as a human anchor. Jake moved slowly, delicately, testing each step with his foot before pressing his entire weight down on it.
About thirty feet up, they came to another door that led further away into the CWCville underground. The stairway continued on past, and Jake was adamant about reaching the top prior to any further exploration. But first, he insisted they take a breather.
“You sure that’s a good idea?” asked Kevin, eyeing the wobbly stairwell suspiciously. A rusty creak echoed through the room as some ancient beams above them ground against one another.
Jake nodded. “Better supports. We haven’t broken it yet. Here, sit down and have some water.”
Kevin obediently sank to the floor and unfastened the canteen from his belt. The cool liquid was a small measure of relief against the cloying sewer stench at the back of his throat. He gulped down a few mouthfuls and leaned back against the loose metal railing.
For the first time, he noticed the rusted pipes running around the stairwell from the second floor. What looked like a pair of fat fleshy maggots or worms squirmed disgustingly around the edges of the largest rust hole, presumably foraging for nutrients in the sewer waste that accumulated in the pipes. Kevin winced in revulsion and took another swig from his canteen.
“So, how do you like it so far?” asked Jake, oblivious to the worms in the pipe behind him.
Kevin swallowed the water. “I thought there’d be more shooting and blowing up cars.”
Jake laughed. “Not so much these days. We’re seriously outgunned because of all the loyalist mercs running around, but as for cars…did Amanda ever tell you what a Baby Boomer is?”
“Nope.” Kevin shook his head. “Do I want to know?”
“Let’s just say that it’s a surprise that’s worth the wait.” Jake stood up and grabbed his shotgun. “Okay, let’s keep moving. They’re probably wondering why we’re taking so long.”
“Yeah, I kinda want to get out of here ASAP,” admitted Kevin as the Jerkop helped him to his feet. “This place just plain creeps me out. Hold on, I need to stow my canteen.” He looked down at his belt and began reattaching the grey plastic container.
Jake smiled and took a careful step forward onto the next set of stairs. “No worries. Take your time, Steve said we’ve got all night if w-”
“AAAAAHHHHH! FUCK! GAAAAAHH!”
Kevin’s head snapped upright at Jake’s scream of panic and the thunderous shotgun blast. The Jerkop’s face was covered in what looked like a misshapen blob of yellow, brown, and black fur with two of those fat pink worms sticking out of it. Not worms, he realized with sudden terror. Arms. Armstubs.
“JAKE!” Abandoning the canteen, Kevin leapt forward to help his friend. Jake had gripped his attacker in both hands and was trying to pry it off his face, but its teeth were sunk deep into the flesh of his cheek, anchoring it firmly in place. Drawing his hunting knife, Kevin swung the blade in an arc, directly toward the center of the creature’s back.
The entire section of stairway in front of him buckled and collapsed in an explosion of rust and metal, taking both Jake and the little animal with it. The two plunged silently down the shaft, still locked in combat as they vanished into the large cloud of dust rising up from below.
“JAKE! NO!” screamed Kevin as he grabbed the railing and peered into the darkness. There was a muffled thump, and then nothing but the groans of unsteady metal beams. As the dust cleared, his friend’s broken body slowly came back into view. Jake lay still and unmoving, sprawled across a large pile of rubble. His face was drenched in blood, as was his left leg. Kevin felt his stomach churn as he realized a jagged chunk of steel had plunged straight through the Jerkop’s calf. A dark red pool was already beginning to spread beneath him.
Suddenly, horrifically, Jake began to move. His arm flopped limply at an angle usually reserved for double-jointed people. Kevin could see a white shard of bone protruding from his elbow.
“Kevin…” choked the wounded Jerkop as blood bubbled from the corners of his mouth.
Paralysis and fear had Kevin firmly in their grasp. He couldn’t move a muscle. Every ounce of his willpower was telling him to run down and help Jake, to move him away, to go get Steve and the others…to do something, anything. But all he could do was look down in horror as his friend gasped and coughed beneath him.
Then a new set of noises reached his ears. At first, they sounded like the squeaking of mice or rats, but Kevin quickly picked out individual words in the midst of all the distant chatter below.
Oh, fuck me, he thought as he recognized the sounds.
First one, then three, then a dozen, then a whole crowd of pink and yellow chu larvae spilled from the mouths of the pipes below, converging on Jake’s body with shrill cries of glee and excitement. As the injured Jerkop struggled and groaned in agony, a single Rosey toddled forward and sat down beside his impaled leg.
“YAY!” it squealed happily, and sank its piranha-like teeth into the ragged flesh, ripping off a bloody chunk of exposed muscle.
“EEEEEEEAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHH!” shrieked Jake as the feral swarm descended upon him with the enthusiasm of jackals who had just discovered an entire elephant carcass. Kevin let out a choking, strangled sob as he watched his friend vanish beneath a writhing sea of fuzzy bodies. A hand broke the surface for an instant, but a Sonee quickly leapt up and gnawed Jake’s thumb off at the base. The hand shuddered and flopped back down. It was quickly absorbed into the frenzy.
Kevin couldn’t watch any longer. Jake Linneman was done for. He had to get out of this death trap before more of the larvae decided to go for him instead. Wiping the tears from his face, he drew his pistol and staggered upright toward the door.
A piercing pain shot through his leg. Kevin yelled and looked down to see one of the fuzzy yellow abominations biting at his jeans, its sharp white teeth shredding the denim to ribbons as it tried to get at the tender flesh beneath. Its fleshy pink armstubs were firmly wrapped around his boot.
Bracing himself against the railing, Kevin raised his other foot and brought it as hard as he could directly onto the little chu’s head.
The Sonee let out a shrieking cry of pain, but was quickly silenced when one hundred and sixty pounds of force crushed its entire skull like a tiny watermelon. Blood squirted out across the brown leather boot as Kevin stomped down again and again, smashing the creature to pieces between the floor grating with each frenzied blow. Finally, nothing remained except a few scraps of skin and a crushed green eyeball floating in a puddle of gore.
The thick pipe beside him began rattling up and down. Inside, he could hear more of the bloodthirsty chu larvae crawling towards him. Kevin kicked his way through the weakened metal door and broke into a panicked sprint down the adjacent sewer tunnel. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a Rosey jump out of the pipe opening. The little creature’s skirt billowed open like a miniature parachute as she gently floated to the ground and began waddling after this new prey.
“Wosey!” she cried, and raised an armstub toward the fleeing Jerkop.
With a chorus of squeaks and cries, an avalanche of Sonees and Roseys poured out of the pipe and immediately set off after the lead Rosey. Their stunted legs were pathetically unsuited for chasing down fleeing victims, but Kevin had a feeling that they knew the layout of this sewer a whole lot more than he did. Steve, Kuri, Allie, and Sugar were on their own now, but at least they were together. Without Jake, Kevin’s odds of survival had been drastically cut down.
He had to get up to the surface, and he had to do it fast.