Thirty years ago Auhangamea Pitt invaded the Soviet Union. It wasn’t his first time, and even though he ended up getting shot through the brain, this trip wouldn’t be his last.
His team had been sent by an agency with no name, snuck there in a submarine that had traveled beneath the Arctic ice. They were all pros, collected from various elite units, and given this temporary additional duty. Pitt was the senior NCO, but when you got loaned to Special Task Force Unicorn you no longer held a rank. Everybody was Mister whatever their assigned fake name was for the duration of the operation.
Only Auhangamea Pitt had been loaned to STFU so many times now, the full timers just called him the Destroyer. He had developed a reputation over the years. He’d get the job done with minimal drama and could be trusted to never speak of it again. There were plenty of men who were just as good at covert operations as he was, but many of those would be tempted to ask questions afterwards, like how did that guy with the scales breathe fire? Not the Destroyer. Monday morning he’d be back at his day job preparing to fight normal Communists, and he wouldn’t give Unicorn another thought until the next time they needed some regular human soldiers to babysit one of their special snowflakes.
They carried no identification, their clothing had no tags, and they were armed with subguns manufactured without serial numbers. They were sanitized. If captured, their existence would be denied, and the rest of their miserable lives would be spent being interrogated by the KGB. There would be no international incident, just a shallow grave…if they were lucky.
The mission was comparatively straight forward this time. A Task Force asset had been spying on a secure military testing area on an island. The team would take a raft to shore, go inland, and retrieve him. They weren’t told why he was there, or why it was important enough to risk sending an attack sub into the Barents Sea to pick him up. Frankly, Destroyer didn’t want to know. Nothing good ever came from asking too many questions about Task Force business. He had seen some weird things while assigned to Unicorn, and didn’t like to dwell on it afterwards.
The team had been briefed aboard the sub, given a pick up location, and the code phrases to make sure they had the right man. The Destroy had violated his personal rule against asking too many questions, because he needed to make sure this particular asset wasn’t too special. Not that he minded, but if the asset turned out to be a five-hundred-pound monstrosity with a bull’s head again, they’d swamp the raft. Plus, the horns might poke holes in the rubber.
However, they were told that this particular asset would appear and act like a normal man for the duration. Whatever the hell that was supposed to mean.
It turned out that none of those details mattered anyway, because they walked right into an ambush.
* * *
Two minutes into the hopelessly outnumbered and lopsided fight, a rifle bullet struck Auhangamea Pitt through the base of the skull. The 7.62x54R round was fired from a Dragunov rifle approximately two hundred yards away, but it still retained enough destructive energy to easily shatter the bone and fling blood and brain tissue ten feet. His spinal column was severed, and the medulla oblongata—the part of the brain which regulated unconscious functions like respiration and heartbeat—was completely pulverized.
He had been running. Moving target and poor light. It was either a really lucky shot or the Russian sniper was damned good. Either way, it didn’t matter, the base of the brain was the best target in the human body. Hitting it with a bullet was like flipping a kill switch. He’d made that shot several times over the years, and knew that it meant instantaneous death. Lights out.
Only somehow the lights stayed on as he’d toppled over the edge of an icy cliff. The sixty foot fall would be more than sufficient to break most of the bones in his body. Going down, he knew he was double fucked, but it wasn’t like you could be extra dead. He hit the rocks like a trash bag full of stew.
So when Auhangamea Pitt found himself lying broken in a puddle of blood, paralyzed, but still somehow conscious of the world around him, his first thought was well, this is bullshit.
He laid there for a while, listening helplessly as the rest of his team perished. Once the gunfire tapered off, the Russians walked to the edge of the cliff and shined a light down on him, but it was obvious that he was dead, so they didn’t even bother to climb down. Once the flash lights weren’t pointed at his eyes, he was able to watch the northern lights. The aurora borealis was so beautiful, this wasn’t the worst place to die. There had been plenty of close calls in stinking jungles and third world back alleys that would have been worse, so he watched the pretty lights and waited for death, more mystified than frightened.
He was a warrior and warriors die in war. There was no reason to be a big baby about it. Or maybe the bullet had torn out the part of his brain that processed fear? There was either going to be something next, or nothing. All he knew was that he should have gotten on with it by now.
The being that appeared above him was made of light. At first he thought his brain had finally run out of oxygen, and this was that light at the end of the tunnel thing that the near death experience people always talked about. He’d always thought that sounded like bullshit. Only this wasn’t a tunnel, this light was walking toward him. It was a man made of light, so logically the Destroyer figured it was an angel…Considering the life he had led it was a little surprising it wasn’t a devil. Most of the people he’d offed must have had it coming after all.
You are trapped between the world of the living and the world of the dead, the blob of light said. Fate has brought you here before us because your bloodline is the key. We will postpone death until the cycle is complete. In exchange you will prepare the God Slayer for the final confrontation between good and evil.
Which all sounded like hippie nonsense to the Destroyer, but it wasn’t like he was in any position to argue semantics. More of the beings had gathered around him. It was a glowing angel beach party.
Then a light touched his head and filled the bullet wound with dreams.
He saw so much, so fast. It wasn’t a glimpse into the future, so much as a mission packet, and a demonstration of the serious repercussions of failure. He would have a son. That son would die saving the world or he would die trying and the world would fall. It was all or nothing. He was shown the signs which foretold the end, and then he was given a glimpse of the end.
That little peek into the future demonstrated that the part of his brain that processed fear was working just fine. What he saw scared the hell out of him.
War is coming. The demon beneath the mountain will rise. The Chosen must not be given the truth until then. Once you reveal the truth, we will no longer stave off your death, and death is a jealous thing. The Chosen must find the truth of things on his own. You will prepare him so that he may survive the crucible, but you must not ever fight his battles for him. Can you do this?
What did they expect him to do with a shattered spine and collapsed lungs? Nod? Sure. And then he hoped the light got the message. I got this.
We can only hope so. It is a terrible burden, sending your son to die so that others may live.
* * *
“So then I woke up covered in blood and otherwise fine. I got back to the raft, signaled my ride, and went home. Before that mission I used to say there wasn’t a godless heathen communist born who could kill Auhangamea Pitt. Turns out there was, but even then it took the jackass a few decades to get it to stick. So that’s it, boys.” Dad sighed as he leaned back in his chair. “That’s how we got to this. Now you know.”
My father, my brother Mosh, and I were sitting around Dad’s kitchen table. We had been there listening to him talk for an hour. I had absorbed the story better than my brother—who was looking incredulous and bewildered—but to be fair, I’d seen a lot more supernatural stuff than he had.
“That’s it?” Mosh asked. “Holy shit, Dad, you just told us a story about you coming back from the dead, war angels versus mountain demons, prophecies about the apocalypse, and that’s it?”
Dad shrugged. “I don’t think they picked me because I’m inclined to be flighty.”
Mosh just sat there, mouth open, trying to come to terms with what he’d just heard. “Okay…That is so metal.” Then Mosh asked the question I lacked the courage to. “So the story is told. Do you really think you’re going to kick the bucket now?”
“Aren’t you scared?” Mosh asked.
The tough old bastard actually laughed. “More like relieved. I’ve been carrying this secret a long damned time. Those things haunted my dreams off and on your whole lives. Little glimpses of the world dying if I dropped the ball. I guess they thought I needed the reminder to stay on task. Look, dying don’t scare me. I’ve been retired for years. It’s basically the same thing. By the way, don’t you dare tell your mom I said that.” Dad turned and looked me square in the eyes. “Better question, are you?”
“Scared?” I asked.
“Sure.” He’d figured out that I was the son this all fell on. If his supposed angels were telling the truth, I would be the one giving up my life to save the world. “Are you scared?”
“I’d be a fool not to be.”
“Good answer. It’s on you now. I did what I could. Was it perfect? Hell no. But I look at you two and how you turned out and all I can do is hope it’ll be good enough. I didn’t know exactly what was coming, and I didn’t just want to raise killers. That’s easy. I tried to raise good men.Owen, from what I’ve heard, you’ve seen some shit. You’ll be ready to face whatever comes. Remember, you’ve got the training, the skills, and a hell of a good crew at your side. You’ve got enough stubbornness to never back down, but try to have enough humility to learn from your screw ups.” Then he looked toward Mosh and scowled. “David…Well, you’ve still got a lot to learn.”
If he had said that to the old Mosh, it would have turned into a protest, and then a fight against the man who never thought anything was good enough. Maybe my little brother would storm off for a few years and become a rock superstar just to spite him or something…Only a few days ago my brother had watched a casino get sucked into another dimension, so right now he conceded the point. “Fair enough.”
“So what happens next?”
“They didn’t exactly brief me on the timeline. There are signs. Some have happened.” He began ticking off on his fingers. “Time got broken. That demon’s symbol began appearing. More bad things are coming. You’re going to make them right. It is time you take the fight to him.”
“Anything in particular I should be watching out for?”
“I’ve got a general sense of dread and a suspicion a whole lot of bad things are involved, but it’s fuzzy after the demon starts putting his mark on things. Destiny only gets you so far. My gut feeling is that what happens next is still up in the air, but this son of a bitch is so evil, nothing is off the table. He’ll hide in plain sight. Come at you sideways. There’s nothing he won’t do against you. You’ll figure out the rest as you go…Anybody else want a beer?” Dad got up and walked to the fridge.
“No thanks, Dad.” Mosh had been steadily drinking himself to death since the Condition had cut off his fingers, but I think he’d gone cold turkey since we’d escaped Las Vegas, so hopefully he was getting his life in order. To be fair I had to remember I had a head start in the apocalypse business, my poor brother was still playing catch up.
Dad opened the refrigerator door, stared at the contents for a moment, and then collapsed.
Published by Baen Out 1st August 2017
The Monster Hunter SeriesMonster Hunter International
Monster Hunter Vendetta
Monster Hunter Alpha
Monster Hunter Legion
Monster Hunter Nemesis
Monster Hunter Siege
Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge