“I’m sick of these fucks grumbling behind my back. They keep doin’ shit I tell ‘em not to and thinking I haven’t noticed. Come up with some way to stop that.”
“I have an idea along those lines. But I want to test it first.”
“Always with the tests. Your tests take too goddamned long. Gimme results or I’ll sew your head onto someone’s butt next time.”
“Ah, I think you’ll like this one. Just wait.”
The pill’s effects were more dramatic than Kierkegaard had hoped. But he did like the results on some level, he had to confess.
Anders twitched violently the second the pill disappeared down his throat, and Kierkegaard swore that he saw the capsule break open at the last second. The colonel’s body spasmed harshly against Kierkegaard’s enormous palm, and Anders began to gyrate rhythmically as whatever was inside the pill went to work. Watching Anders’ face expectantly, Kierkegaard waited for the transformation that he’d seen manifested so many times in Emmett’s animal test subjects.
For a moment, the expected happened. Ochre colouring seeped into Anders’ glowing green eyes, and a serpentine black pupil appeared in the middle of what was normally a clear emerald field. Anders’ mouth worked into a sly grin as purple veins blossomed around the corners and stretched up to the top of his bald head.
Kierkegaard loosened his grip enough for Anders to speak. He managed two words: “Kara lives.”
That’s when it all went wrong. As soon as Anders said ‘lives’ a thick black liquid spurted out of his mouth, fountaining upwards at a dramatic rate. Kierkegaard pulled his hand away as the liquid burned his skin, and he wiped it off on the dirt and yanked his full arm back into codespace. Anders squealed weakly, and his body collapsed in on itself, almost parchment-thin in his final, revolting moments of life. The mass that was a proud military leader only seconds before dissolved into the ground, leaving an oily stain behind.
Pushing his way through the stunned Non, Emmett loomed over the stain, frowning deeply. “Well that didn’t work.”
Kierkegaard rolled his eyes. “No, no it didn’t. Way to fuckin’ go. Back to the drawing board.”
“Yes… hrm.” Emmett scratched his head. “I wonder if the effects on Blue would’ve been different. She’s much larger… could you spare another titan-class?”
“Yeah, sure, go nuts.” Kierkegaard waved a hand. “Don’t give a fuck. Just get me results.”
As Emmett pulled a tube from his body to collect dirt from the ground, Kierkegaard turned to his retinue. All of them had risen to their feet, and he was certain that a few of them had fled. That was fine. The Nothing on the edge of town was no doubt already tracking them, its magic incapable of not searching for targets - even if they were normally branded friendlies.
“My comrades!” Kierkegaard raised his hands above his head, licking his lips. “You’ve all done very well these last few months! Always givin’ me whatever my selfish heart commands without argument! That’s a commendable thing. Don’t get me wrong, I know you did it ‘cause you’d sooner shit your pants in public than cross me, but I still appreciate it. ’n I further appreciate the brave Colonel Anders for what he said to me just now, ‘cause it lets me guess how the rest of you regard this war of mine.”
Almost as one, the Non officers and soldiers began to crouch, legs tensing.
Kierkegaard smiled. “Anders was close to an important question, but he never asked it: ‘What’s your goal?’ ’n by your I mean mine. Everyone’s been wonderin’ for a while, now, and I figure I should be honest. Truth is, I just wanna kill as many people as’n I can. I ain’t racist about it, either - I’d like to see everyone and everything fuckin’ dead. Prejudice is bad, you know. You guys have been pretty good at helpin’ me with that… but, well, you’re startin’ to get kinda antsy, soooo… I need you to go back to not questioning me - ”
The first Non officer made his move. Springing into the air, he flew towards the smouldering remains of a nearby house, doubtless hoping to use it as cover for his second leap. Kierkegaard knew that he would take word of Kierkegaard’s intentions back to the army, waiting a mile outside town, if he were allowed to escape. All of them would take word back to the army, no doubt.
The officer didn’t get far. A pair of badgers and a werewolf, all hiding in an adjacent house, leaped upon him as he landed. With satisfied cackles they tore the Non apart.
That was the signal for the rest. The Non officers tore off in all directions, bounding away from Kierkegaard at insane speeds. Emmett’s animals were always ready, though, always prepared to intercept, and their enhanced muscles brought down Non after Non, killing some, wounding others. Those who survived were dragged away, kicking and screaming, to Emmett’s tent on the edge of town. The few that made it beyond the town’s boundaries became easy pickings for the Nothing, commanded mentally by Kierkegaard to skewer anything that tried to run for the army. None of them got away.
Enjoying the scream of the Nothing’s harpoons in the distance, Kierkegaard wandered over to Emmett. The doctor was still collecting samples in tubes. “Seriously, though, that did not work.”
“I know it didn’t work,” Emmett snapped offhandedly. “I need time to tweak Kara. Non physiology is different from anything else on this planet. We’re good at resisting viral intrusions. S’why we don’t get sick very often.”
“Well, hurry up,” Kierkegaard growled, staring at the oil slick that was once one of his best commanders. “I’m gonna lose my whole fuckin’ army if they find out what you’re gonna do to ‘em. Can’t believe you didn’t even test this shit on Non before now… what a goddamned mess.”
“A few more days is all I need. I’m sure of it.” Capping one of his test tubes, Emmett cocked his head so far to the left that it almost swivelled upside-down. “You seemed prepared for this. How did, ah, how did you know he would question you today?”
“I didn’t. Been ready to murder that lot for a while, now. Was hoping they’d give me a few more weeks, but, shit, what’re ya gonna do.” Kierkegaard shrugged. “Nice touch with your freaky animals. How’d you know to have ‘em in place? Was kinda hoping I’d get to hunt those fuckers down m’self.”
“Best to always take precautions,” Emmett replied. He turned back to the oil stains. “Ah, yes, precautions. Best you go make sure there are no others lurking about this ghost town, still, yes? Best leave me to my work?”
Kierkegaard watched the scientist for a moment longer, then grunted and padded away. Yes, he would have a look around. He would tear any would-be tattle-tales apart with his bare hands, even though he suspected they were all already dead. So disappointing, as he’d already held back on his troops thousands of times over the course of the campaign. It had been so difficult.
And in the meantime, he would keep an eye on Emmett’s quirky pets. They would no doubt unquestioningly assist in Kierkegaard’s campaign, just as he’d hoped…
… but there was a great deal of potential for betrayal, too, because ultimately, Emmett gave them orders. And a person willing to stab his fellow commanders in the back would, no doubt, be just as happy to plant the knife between the shoulder blades of his boss.
Kierkegaard would find a way to deal with that. Oh yes. It was all a part of the fun, happy-go-lucky game of life. Hell, he was already drooling.