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Jensen Hunter

The thrill of adventure can only be tempered by the sorrow of loss

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 16

Saturday 25th December 2032, 10:41

Kumeshnee was looking through the Bushnell binoculars that she always carried with her, outside of Shaft-17. She had liberated them from the camping store in the Rustenburg Shopping Mall two years earlier. They had been in perfect condition when she had found them and still in the box. The twenty times magnification lenses were a great asset when scanning the lush green landscape. The InstaLawn she was lying on was starting to make her itch on a grassy hill about three hundred meters from the entrance to the Facility.

 

Mandla was quietly lying next to her before he broke the silence, “They went through grass curtain over there.” He pointed to the entrance of the Facility and continued, “The white woman followed them a couple of days later. There are some other tracks; all from Hilux bakkies like ours and those are all much older.” Kumeshnee was struggling to make out the curtain of InstaLawn that Mandla was talking about when something else struck her.

 

She quickly lowered the binoculars and said, “Wait a minute, white woman? When did she become a white woman?” Mandla shrugged and said, “I figured that out late yesterday.” Kumeshnee pressed him, “How do you know that she’s a white woman?” He shrugged again and said, “I can tell from the shape of her shoes, the length of her stride and how her weight is placed with each foot fall. She’s white, short, she wears a size six shoe but it looks like her feet are smaller than that.”

 

Kumeshnee quickly looked through the binoculars again to try and hide her eyes from Mandla. Her initial deduction had been correct; Leigh, it had to be Leigh. She was the only white person in Jabu’s group and Kumeshnee knew about Leigh’s past with him. The brutal way in which he was murdered pointed to her back at the ambush site. Mandla seemed to read Kumeshnee’s thoughts when he quietly said, “I don’t blame Leigh for killing Jabu. No one liked him very much, I wonder why she followed the vehicles instead of coming back to the Shaft.”

 

Kumeshnee wasn’t at all surprised that Mandla figured out who had survived from Jabu’s team. His nickname amongst the Scavengers was the Sangoma, or Witchdoctor, because he could see things in the InstaLawn that no one else could. He could also disappear into the greenery like a ghost. She quietly said, “We all know what happens to those who either fail or cross the Mistress. If Leigh did kill Jabu then the Mistress would make her suffer. She was awfully fond of Jabu for some reason.” Mandla simply nodded but said nothing. He knew that Kumeshnee was right and he had learned that keeping his mouth shut was one of the safest ways to survive in the Mistress’ ranks.

 

Kumeshnee changed the subject, “Can you tell me anything else about the vehicles that we followed? Are they Hiluxes?” Mandla shook his head, “No Baas, the wheel tracks are different, my guess would be a something like a Defender but these were heavy, too heavy for normal electric engines and the middle vehicle was definitely a truck. Something bigger than a Hilux and a lot heavier. It’s even stranger because they drove non-stop from the ambush to here and they even passed here a couple of times before going through that curtain. The first vehicle made a hard left turn down the track; I don’t think that they knew the curtain was even there at first.”

 

Kumeshnee nodded and said, “I’m not surprised, that curtain makes the entrance really well hidden. If they’d had EVs like ours then they would have had to stop to recharge the batteries at least once during the drive.” He nodded and treated Kumeshnee to a very rare and toothless grin when he said, “Exactly!” Kumeshnee said, “Good work Mandla. I need you to move around this place and see if you can find another way in. Please take Ncube with you.” It was unusual for Kumeshnee to ask any of her people to do anything. She was more accustomed to ordering them; but she knew how to handle Mandla and she knew that he was a tricky person to deal with. He didn’t look happy at the prospect of taking Ncube with him but he nodded and carefully belly crawled off the hill and away from view of the facility.

 

In truth; Mandla was extremely fond of Kumeshnee, she was the only one of the Mistress’ people whom he liked. Everyone distrusted his Khoisan heritage and his propensity to keep to himself. Kumeshnee was different; she left him alone, she didn’t make fun of him and when she did speak to him, it was with respect. This made him fiercely loyal to her but he kept that a very well hidden secret. He had also learned during his time at Shaft-17 that loyalty shown to anyone other than the Mistress was severely punished.

 

The Operative stayed behind on the hill to watch the facility and she was grateful to have some time alone. She was looking for any signs of movement but she was having trouble discerning the difference between buildings and fences. The whole thing looked like a mountain of green that just blended into itself. Doubt started to fill her mind again; what if the people inside weren’t with the government? What if they had left already and there was no one there? What if she had to go back to Shaft-17 to face the Mistress?

 

The binoculars started to shake along with her hands, three years of pressure, tension and frustration were taking their toll. She had been feeling the effects of the stress for more than six months already and she wasn’t sure if she could keep it up for much longer. Every move, every spoken word, even every facial expression had to be carefully crafted before they were made. She closed her eyes and focussed on her breathing; after a few minutes she thought, ‘Pull yourself together dammit, you HAVE to get back to base. You HAVE to warn them about what’s going to happen. You HAVE to see your sister again!’ She opened her emerald, green eyes and a lone tear escaped from the corner of her right eye. Her sister; she must have thought that the operative was dead. She missed her little sister, the Operative had silently cried herself to sleep on more than one night thinking about her.

 

Kumeshnee blinked the tear from her eye and wiped her cheek with her hand. She thought to herself, ‘I don’t care if anyone is in that place or not. Ncube, Bongani and I are getting the hell away from here in the next day or two. No matter what!’

 

Saturday 25th December 2032, 10:42

 

Jack’s breathing sounded magnified in his head like it always did when he wore his SCBA gear. The four of them had spent thirty minutes clearing all of the levels before arriving at the elevator shaft again. They were all becoming more familiar with the subterranean rabbit’s warren that was the facility’s basement levels. Thankfully the booster antenna was still in place and operating effectively plus all of the doors that had been wedged open the day before had remained that way.

 

Jack moved up to the Elevator doors and he checked the karabiner that they had used to effectively ‘lock’ them from the outside. It was still in place and it looked like it hadn’t been tampered with. Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Are you all ready?” Gloria, Vusi and Priyanka all responded with, “Check.” He unclipped the karabiner and unlatched the doors. Everyone stood back with their weapons at the ready and holding their breath, not sure what to expect.

 

When nothing happened for twenty seconds Vusi said, “I guess those creatures need crowbars to open the doors as well.” Jack nodded and said, “It’s starting to look that way.” He and Vusi each jammed a crowbar into the seam that separated the two elevator doors. Using the same technique that Jack and Hannes had used two days earlier they were able to pry the doors open. As soon as the counterweights kicked in the doors moved open smoothly, as they had done in the past.

 

All four team members stepped back and held their weapons at the ready again, watching the shaft opening with baited breath. Nothing happened for two whole minutes and no sounds emanated from the depths where the tokoloshes were. Priyanka spoke up, “I don’t know if it’s scarier that it’s so quiet or what.” Vusi piped up with, “Oh, it’s scary alright.” Gloria cut them off, “Cut the chatter you two, we have a job to do.” Jack said, “Pri and Vusi cover the shaft while G-LT and I check the ropes and anchors.”

 

Priyanka and Vusi didn’t answer, they just moved up and shone the beams of their flashlights down the elevator shafts looking for any signs of movement. Jack unclipped three glow-sticks from his harness, cracked them and shook them before throwing them down the shaft. As they landed, the base of the elevator shaft was bathed in more eerie yellow light. The glow sticks that Priyanka had dropped the day before were barely glowing by now. Jack and Gloria checked the three anchors, they were all still secure; they proceeded to pull the ropes up make sure that they weren’t damaged. Once all of the ropes were checked Jack, Priyanka and Gloria clipped themselves into their grigris and descended down the yellow lit elevator shaft.

 

As Jack’s boots made contact with the InstaLawn covered floor for the second time in that twenty four hour period, he said, “We’re on the ground, Vusi how do you copy?” Vusi’s voice came through their ear pieces, “Loud and clear. Man it’s creepy up here alone.” Jack said, “Copy that, the transponder signals are come through nice and strongly down here. We’re moving out.” The three of them unclipped their grigris from the ropes and moved off down the corridor in tactical formation.

 

The radio transponders were working perfectly and the team were grateful for the high quality of manufacturing that the South African Military held all of their equipment to. Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Yesterday we encountered some kind of fog that blurred our vision down here so be careful.” After they had wound their way to the spot where Jack and Jeff had found Hannes on the previous day; Priyanka spoke up, “I’m not getting any kind of fog on my mask.” Gloria chipped in, “Me either.” Jack said, “Neither am I. Whatever it was it must have dissipated.”

 

They had moved past the last transponder that had been set and Priyanka broke the silence, “Hold up, I’ve got something that isn’t covered in InstaLawn over here. Cecil are you getting this?” Cecil’s voice crackled through their ear pieces, “The video feed is crystal clear, give me all of the angles you can, slow and smooth.” Jack examined the dissolved husk of the tokoloshe that had been bathed in sulfuric acid when he said, “That definitely looks like something that’s been dissolved in sulfuric.” Priyanka panned her Q-5 camera over the husk saying, “Damn, this reminds me the sulfuric acid and sugar experiment in first year.”

 

Jack turned his flashlight beams to the ceiling above the blackened husk and saw the ruptured tank. He said, “Here we have it, there’s an acid tank directly above this thing. The Sarge must have ruptured it with his shotgun trying to fight this tokoloshe.” Gloria was covering the two scientists, her eyes were glistening at the thought of her late lover fighting for his life against one of these nightmarish creatures. She didn’t shed a tear though; she had decided after speaking to Priynaka earlier that morning that she had cried enough tears. Now she wanted revenge.

 

Priyanka broke the ensuing silence, “Do you have enough footage C?” Cecil crisply said, “Affirmative, carry on.” With that the three of them moved down the corridor, scanning every angle that they could illuminate with their flashlights. Gloria said, “Am I imagining things or are there patches of missing InstaLawn on the walls and floor down here?” Jack said, “I can see them too but they aren’t consistently spaced or shaped. Pri get some footage of them for C.” Priyanka had already been scanning the patches of bare concrete with her rifle camera when she said, “Already on it.”

 

The team didn’t say anything but made their way to the next passage junction Cecil’s voice crackled quite badly through their ear pieces, “It’s been awhile since you passed the last transponder.” Jack said, “Check, we’ll set the next one here. C you’re starting to break up. Vusi can you still hear us?” Vusi’s voice crackled through, “I can still make you out clearly and it’s still creepy as hell up here.”

 

As Priyanka was setting the transponder Gloria said, “Cecil, how are our video feeds coming through?” Cecil crackled, “We’re still receiving signal but it’s starting to get a bit hazy.” Jack swore and said, “We’re going to continue down the left passage from here, according to the directions that Cherokee gave us. Vusi check in with us every minute. As soon as we lose comms with you, we’ll head back.” Vusi said, “Affirmative LT.”

 

The team turned left and Jack’s flashlights illuminated twenty pairs of glowing eyes down the corridor. He stopped and hissed, “Shit, we have hostiles up ahead, it looks like at least twenty of them.” Gloria was covering the rear and her flashlight illuminated another five pair of eyes, she said, “We have at least five Tangos behind us as well. What are your orders LT?” Jack was strafing the flashlight on his Q-5 from side to side down the corridor and said, “Pick your closest targets and hold your fire. They seem to be keeping their distance for now. Pri keep an eye on the front with me. Gloria keep an eye on our six. Don’t waste any ammo, let them come to us.”

 

The two groups of creatures seemed to keep their distance from the soldiers and the soldiers didn’t move either. The diversion was working because the soldiers didn’t notice the six tokoloshes that were silently crawling on the ceiling above them.

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The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 15

Saturday 25th December 2032, 05:02

 

Priyanka quietly rolled over and opened her eyes. She looked at Jack’s serene face while he was sleeping, she was happy to see him so peaceful. Taking command of the mission and losing Hannes within the first week of arriving at the Facility had taken its toll. She sensed movement in the tent and smiled, she could hear Watson gently wagging his tail. She didn’t know how he could tell when one of them was awake, but he always could. She whispered, “Merry Christmas to you too Watson. I’ll take you out now.”

 

She quietly slid to the end of the tent and made her way down the ladder, at the bottom she put her boots on and unzipped the tent flap. Watson stole out into the predawn light to do his business. He had been trained from a puppy to take himself far away from camp to relieve himself. Priyanka watched his golden tail disappear around the side of the Unimog. She slipped through the camp trying to bath her mind in the silence of the morning.

 

As she followed Watson around the Unimog she heard Gloria say, “Nice morning for a stroll.” Her heart immediately sank; the two of them didn’t get along at all. Priyanka collected herself quickly saying, “It is, especially for a stroll alone.” She looked at Gloria and was taken aback, the tall black woman looked uncharacteristically haggard. Priyanka gently said, “It’s been a rough couple of days.”

 

In addition to being haggard, Gloria was feeling uncharacteristically open when she said, “Hannes and I, we were…” She stopped herself and said, “Nevermind.” Priyanka finished what she originally started saying, “You two were lovers, despite the fact that it’s prohibited for Recces; especially for Recces in the same Platoon.” Gloria’s eyes clouded over and she said, “He was different. Race didn’t matter, he didn’t ever think that I was gay, he respected me. I loved him…” Priyanka’s hackles raised at the Gloria’s casual homophobic comment but she was able to calm herself down. In a rare moment of empathy for someone whom she didn’t consider a friend, she forgave Gloria and said, “He was as tough as old ox leather, he was a good soldier and above all he was a good man.”

 

Gloria smiled briefly and said, “He would have liked your ox leather comment. He was a good man and he would’ve made a good father. He often spoke of wanting to have kids one day…” She started to cry when she continued, “I always told him to forget it, that I wasn’t interested in kids, especially not in this place.” She gestured to their green surroundings and carried on, “Now that he’s gone, now that that will never happen…” Gloria started to cry uncontrollably.

 

Priyanka found that what she was feeling was completely surreal. She watched the tough Recce crying and suddenly wondered how she would feel if it seemed that her chance to have children with someone she loved was taken away from her? She found herself entertaining the possibility of acquiescing to Captain Labuscagne’s orders for her to have children.

 

Priyanka quickly shook her head to clear these foreign thoughts from her mind saying, “You obviously didn’t want to have kids and I don’t blame you. Look at the state of this place, everything’s covered in this green shit, we’re just learning about a new enemy that’s operating in the area and now we have bloody Tokoloshe’s to deal with? Would you really want to have kids now that you know about those things? And that’s not even touching on what having kids would do to your career. I’m really sorry about the Sarge and I’m really sorry about what you’ve lost, but the best thing we can all do is finish the mission and kill every single one of those fuckers while we do it.”

 

Gloria’s had stopped crying while Priyanka had been speaking, she was right and it irritated Gloria. She still didn’t like the petit Indian woman but she was developing a grudging respect for her. She especially respected how Priyanka had handled herself in the facility and during their brief confrontation the previous evening. She was embarrassed that he had revealed her secret love for Hannes and endeavoured to change the subject, “How’s Vanilla holding up?”

 

Priyanka exercised a classic feminine intuition as she graciously entertained the change of subject, “He’s holding up well. It’s been a tough being dropped in the shit like this, but he’s taking it like a champ.” Gloria flashed Priyanka a grin saying, “I’m sure that’s not all he does like a champ.”

 

Priyanka was caught completely off guard by the comment and Gloria’s sudden change of demeanour; as well as her attempt at familiarity. She wasn’t ashamed of her sexuality and answered honestly, “I wouldn’t know.” Gloria retorted with, “Oh come on; you know what I mean. You two have been ‘assigned’ to each other. I’ve shared, now it’s your turn.” Priyanka was genuinely amazed at both Gloria’s complete change in mood as well as the fact that she didn’t realise that Priyanka was gay. She said, “We are assigned to each other but I’m gay so no, I wouldn’t know.”

 

Gloria was unable to hide the shock from her expression. She said, “WHAT? You’re gay? Since when?” Priyanka answered incredulously, “Uh, since birth. You’re honestly going to stand there and tell me that you didn’t know?” Gloria retorted irritably, “Of course I didn’t ‘know’, you’re so girly, you can’t be gay!” Priyanka was surprised because no one had every called her ‘girly’, not even her mum or her sister. Gloria’s expression changed to one of complete horror when she said, “Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to say gay like that… …I…”

 

Priyanka just stared at Gloria’s horrified expression and suddenly she burst out laughing saying, “You really didn’t know? I thought that you were just being a bitch.” Gloria’s expression changed from one of horror to embarrassment and she hotly retorted, “It’s not my fault! It’s yours; act more ‘gay’ in future!” Priyanka physically collapsed on the floor from laughter. Watson trotted around one of the Land Rovers and he ran up to Priyanka to give her face a series of generous licks. Priyanka pulled the unsuspecting Golden Retriever into a bear hug and said to Gloria, “And how does one ‘act more gay’?”

 

Gloria just stared at Priyanka blankly before she also burst out laughing and she said, “I don’t know…” The two of them carried on laughing while Watson was trying to decide if he was enjoying the bear hug or if he should extricate himself from his current situation. Josephina emerged from her tent, yawning expansively and said, “Merry Christmas, what’s going on?” The other two women looked at her and both of them started to convulse with a fresh bought of laughter. Poor Josephina blushed because she wasn’t sure what was so funny.

 

Jack also emerged from the his tent and sombrely said, “Merry Christmas everyone.” He was wearing his tac comm microphone when he said, “Cecil, how are you holding up on Overwatch?” Cecil’s voice came through Jack’s ear piece clearly when he said, “I’m knackered J-Man, but Merry Christmas everyone.” Jack smiled and said, “You were watching too many Tokoloshe horror movies last night weren’t you?” Cecil yawned and said, “Something like that, are we sure that those things can’t get out?” Jack said, “We’re as sure as we can be. We closed the elevator doors and latched them with a carabiner. Let’s hope that there isn’t another way out of there for them.”

 

Josephina piped up with, “I doubt it, if there was I’m sure they would have found it by now.” Gloria looked at her sharply and said, “What do you mean, by now?” Josephina shrugged and said, “Leigh says that Jabu was sent to the prison cells at her home base a couple of years ago and before that he was assigned to security for this Devil character. He watched some of the Tokoloshe’s being made.” Priyanka was staring at Josephina with her mouth agape and she finally verbalised what everyone else was thinking, “Well when the hell did she tell you all that?”

 

Josephina blushed again and said, “Last night after all of you left. I was going to report it first thing this morning.” Gloria was livid, Jack could see that she was and he quickly diffused the situation by saying, “Well you just reported it so good work Joe. She said that these things are made? Did she say anything else?” Josephina shook her head, “I just surmised that if they’ve been dumping these things here for at least a couple of years then they’ve probably made the facility as escape proof as possible or someone would have seen something by now.” Jack spoke to Cecil over the tac comm system, “Cecil did you catch what Joe just said?” Cecil’s voice came through clearly, “Affirmative, looks like we were right about these things being manufactured somehow.”

 

Gloria growled, “Maybe these things have escaped and any potential witnesses haven’t survived to tell anyone else about them.” Josephina looked a little uncertain when she replied, “Leigh said that their base is called Shaft-17 and it’s located fairly close to here. She’s sure that if one of these things had gotten loose then it probably would have found its way there.” Gloria snapped, “There’s no way we can know that. If some of them did get out they could be anywhere!”

 

Jack nodded and said, “You’re right, they could be anywhere. But if they had any way of getting out then there probably wouldn’t be any of them left in those lower levels so I think we can assume that the facility is fairly secure.”

 

By this stage, Jeff and Vusi had also risen and joined the conversation. Vusi said, “Merry Christmas, what’s everyone talking about?” Gloria growled, “The prisoner’s been keeping information from us. She knows how these things are made.” Vusi said, “What? When the hell did we find this out?” Jack cut in, “Stop talking crap Gloria! Leigh doesn’t know how they’re made, just that they are made. She mentioned that that Jabu fellow she’s spoken about before used to be on the security detail for the Devil guy.”

 

Jeff whistled and said, “Well that changes things.” Surprisingly, Josephina cut in rather tritely, “Leigh opened up to me a bit last night. She mentioned that her home base is called Shaft-17 and it isn’t that far from here. She also said that her team leader, Jabu, used to work security for the guy who made the tokoloshes. They all call him the Devil. She hasn’t said anything else that’s new.” Jack asked, “Nothing more about this place?” Josephina shook her head saying, “Just what she keeps saying. We can’t be here, we have to leave and more men will come with more tokoloshes.” Gloria shook her head and said, “I’m telling you she knows more than she’s telling us!”

 

Jack nodded and said, “I think you’re right. But I think that she doesn’t know what she knows.” Gloria scoffed and said, “She knows!” Jack said, “This backwards and forwards isn’t doing us any good and it’s just getting irritating now. The simple fact is that Joe has gotten more out of her by being kind than any of us have. Good work Joe and keep at it. I’m sure you’ll get more out of her.” Josephina looked pleased with herself when she nodded saying, “Yes sir!” Jack nodded and said, “Merry Christmas everyone. Let’s get back on track.” Vusi shook his head and said, “I agree let’s get back on track and get the hell out of here. The cost of finding this Osmium stuff has already been too high plus there are probably more of these other people coming back here.”

 

Jack looked Vusi dead in the eyes and said, “We’re not leaving until we’ve completed our mission.” Vusi glared at Jack and said, “What fucking mission? We’ve already lost one of our own, there are weird killer creatures in the corridors down there and there are probably more of these other guys coming back! The best thing for us to do is to get the hell out of here!”

 

Jack spoke firmly, “We’re staying on mission and we’re going back in! We’re soldiers for god’s sake, we’ve trained for this kind of thing.” Vusi cut him off, “Trained for this? Where the hell did you go for killer tokoloshe training, or is that some kind of secret SciDiv thing?” Jack raised his voice, “Don’t interrupt your commanding officer! Pull yourself together man! We have a mission to finish, if we turn and run home now then the Sarge died for nothing! This mission could literally mean saving the world. Getting rid of the InstaLawn, it could be the start of getting everything back to the way it was!”

 

Vusi carried on glaring at Jack, who glared back at him. Eventually Vusi said, “You’re going to get us all killed.” Gloria said, “That’s enough Private! You heard what the LT said. He’s right, we’re staying on mission. The world needs the Osmium and we won’t let the Sarge die for nothing.” Jack carried on glaring at Vusi when he said, “Let’s all get some breakfast and get ready to go back into the Facility. Christmas or not we need to make some headway today. We know that these things can be killed, let’s use that to our advantage.”

 

With that he turned to Priyanka and quietly said, “Let’s go back to the tent, I have something to show you.” Priyanka nodded seriously and led the way to their Rover. Once they were up the ladder, in the tent Jack dug around in his duffle bag and pulled out a box that had been poorly wrapped in ancient and filthy newspaper. He gave it to her with a smile and said, “Happy Birthday.”

 

Priyanka, like all Christmas babies, had always hated her birthday because it fell on such a widely celebrated holiday. She flashed him a brilliant smile and said, “You remembered!” He shot back with, “When have I EVER forgotten?” She grinned sheepishly and said, “Never…” With that she ripped the newspaper off an old, worn-out, cardboard box with the words; ‘Ontario Knife Company’ printed in faded black letters on the lid.

 

She gingerly opened the lid of the box and as soon as she saw the knife that was inside she looked at Jack with her mouth hanging wide. She eventually collected herself and said, “Where the hell did you get this?” It was his turn to flash her a grin when he said, “In the shopping mall. I found it in that old camping store that we ransacked.”

 

While she had been opening her gift he had pulled another, smaller package out of his duffle bag. He said, “That gift I found by accident, but this one I brought with us in case we were still on mission for your big day. So Merry Christmas and happy birthday buddy, from your mum and I.” He handed Priyanka the package, which she opened. It contained a small golden locket that she was all too familiar with. It had been her mother’s locket and Priyanka knew that it contained pictures of her father, who had been murdered when she was a child, and her sister, who had died three years earlier.

 

Priyanka didn’t look at Jack while silent tears of longing and loss ran down her beautiful face. She knew how much the locket had meant to her mother and that Jack had taken extraordinary care of it during their trip. Jack knew how much it meant to his best friend and he quietly moved across the tent’s mattressed floor to hold her while she thought of her family…

 

(The featured image was found using http://www.google.com and I am not presenting this image as my own work.)

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 14

Friday 24th December 2032, 20:12

 

Josephina gently closed Hannes’ eyes with her finger tips and said, “He’s gone.” The eighteen year old medic had the face of a young girl but fatigue had made her slump over like an old woman. Gloria violently said, “NO! He can’t be! He’s too tough, keep trying! KEEP TRYING YOU STUPID BITCH!”

 

Jack stepped in between Gloria and Josephina saying, “Joe’s done all she can, she’s been at it for over two hours and he put up one hell of a fight. He fell down that elevator shaft, broke his back, killed one of those things and we still found him crawling towards where he fell; with almost no oxygen left in his tank. The fact that he survived all of that was a miracle; but no one would be able to survive those acid burns. You’re right, he was tough and he proved that up to the end. Joe did everything she could.”

 

Gloria glared at Jack with tears in her eyes saying, “This is YOUR fault! You were in charge of the mission, YOU killed him!” Priyanka stepped in and shouted, “Shut your mouth! If YOU’d listened to Jack and headed topside instead of breaking formation to go looking for those fucking things then Hannes would still be alive. Jack and Jeff are reason that we found him at all.”

 

Gloria’s eyes went completely blank as she totally lost control and lunged at Priyanka. The tall black woman was deadly at hand to hand combat but Priyanka was no walk over. The Krav Maga and Kalaripayattu training that she had received as a child made her graceful and deadly. As Gloria lunged, Priyanka deftly side stepped her and punched her in the side of her exposed throat. This caught Gloria completely off guard; spinning her off balance and giving Priyanka an opportunity for a snap kick to her lower abdomen. Gloria’s rock hard eight pack stomach protected her from the brunt of the kick. She still felt the excruciating pain of having her ego damaged by a one point six meter tall Indian woman with size four feet.

 

The remaining men in the group all watched with their mouths open, not quite sure of what to do before Jack stepped in and said, “Alright, that’s enough! Let’s all just calm down.” His words seemed to have the opposite effect on Gloria, whose eyes were bulging from her head when she said, “I’m going to kill you, you little bitch!” Priyanka just sneered, “Bring it! You fat Cow!”

 

At this point Cecil stepped in front of Priyanka and said, “Please just let it go Pri.” Watson walked up next to Priyanka with his hackles raised while he glared at Gloria. Vusi and Jeff also decided to join in by stepping in front of Gloria, with their hands up saying, “It’s not worth it Boss…” Jack spoke up again, “They’re all right; it’s not worth it. We’ve lost one of our own to these things! Fighting amongst ourselves isn’t going to bring him back and it doesn’t change our mission!” Josephina had been standing next to Leigh’s camping stretcher during the whole exchange with her eyes wide open. Leigh had also been looking decidedly uncomfortable during the ordeal.

 

Gloria looked away from Jack and Priyanka but unfortunately Leigh caught her eye. She spat, “YOU know more than you’re telling us! Tell us what you know!” She stormed towards Leigh, who was starting to feel even more uncomfortable. Jack sprinted to position himself in between Gloria and Leigh saying, “That’s ENOUGH Gloria! We’ve all had a shit day and taking it out on the prisoner isn’t going to make you feel any better.”

 

The whole interior team had taken their HAZMAT suits off while Josephina had been attending to Hannes. Jack had only changed into his military trousers and boots, leaving his torso exposed in a vain attempt to cool off. Perspiration was still glistening on his chiselled stomach, chest and arms. Gloria had done much the same opting for a sports bra to cover her upper body. She was glistening menacingly in the evening heat when she said, “Get the hell out of my way!” Jack held her glare coolly when he said, “No. Go and help Vusi and Jeff attend to Hannes. NOW LT, that’s an order!”

 

She stood there clenching and unclenching her fists while she glared at him. The heaving breaths of evening air that she was taking slowly started to calm her down. The two commanding officers held each other’s gazes, neither one of them wanted to even blink in case it gave the other an edge. Eventually Gloria capitulated and stormed off to join Vusi and Jeff.

 

Priyanka walked up to Jack; who caught himself unconsciously admiring his best friend’s perfectly formed torso, wrapped up in an olive green crop top. She jokingly said, “Hey, my eyes are up here.” Jack actually blushed, it was the first time he had looked at her in that way for a very long time and he instantly felt ashamed of himself. He replied, “Sorry, I didn’t mean too… it’s been a long day.”

 

She winked at him and said, “I’m just teasing. I can’t get over what a crazy bitch that chick is!” He shook his embarrassed, shame off and said, “It really has been a long day and I think that she feels more than a little guilty.” Priyanka callously said, “She should. If she’d followed you then she wouldn’t have been taken and the Sarge wouldn’t have gone after her.” Jack shook his head saying, “We don’t know that for sure, perhaps if I had listened to you and taken an extra person down there…” She tenderly put her hand on her best friend’s shoulder and said, “Don’t you take this all on yourself, everyone knew the risks and they should have listened to the commanding officer…”

 

In the silence that ensued between the two, they had forgotten that Leigh was plasticuffed to the camping stretcher behind them. She timidly said, “Thank you for stopping her.” Both Jack and Priyanka got a small fright and quickly turned around to look at Leigh. She continued with, “Thank you for feeding me, your food is really good and Joe is really good to me as well. I’m really sorry about your friend but I tried to warn you guys about this place.” Priyanka could tell that Leigh’s gaze was transfixed on Jack’s gleaming abs. She instantly became jealous and stepped in front of Jack saying, “Do you know anything else about this place or what those things are?”

 

Leigh looked Priyanka in the eyes and shook her head saying, “Only what I told you before. We NEED to leave here! The mistress will be sending her special soldiers back here with more Tokoloshes. She always does! There are always more Tokoloshes!” Jack nodded and said, “I believe you Leigh, as soon as we have what we came for we’ll leave and we’ll take you with us. We have even nicer food back at our base.” Leigh’s eyes brightened at the mention of nicer food and she blushed when Jack spoke to her. He carried on, “What can you tell us about the Mistress’ special men? How do they get those creatures here?”

 

Leigh had started to develop quite a crush on Jack. Priyanka could see it and she knew that her friend didn’t, he could never tell when a woman was interested in him. Leigh shrugged and said, “We only ever knew about five of them. Jabu used to be one but he begged the Mistress to let him stop. He didn’t like the Tokoloshes, they really scared him. The Mistress moved him to the cells after that. That’s where he found me.” Leigh’s eyes started to glisten with unshed tears as she spoke about Jabu. It was clear that mentioning Jabu was very painful and uncomfortable for her.

 

Jack had a characteristic tenderness in his eyes as he looked at Leigh. Priyanka looked from one of them to the other. She still had her reservations about the young brunette with the obscure past. She knew that taking her back to Mabuse was the right call but she still didn’t like babysitting a prisoner on a mission like this.

 

Priyanka took Jack’s hand and said, “Let’s go and see what Cecil can tell us from monitoring the footage. Joe, will you keep our visitor company?” Josephina nodded, she had also been looking at Jack’s stomach and chest but she was grateful that Priyanka hadn’t noticed. The encounter between Priyanka and Gloria had made Josephina wary of both women.

 

Priyanka and Jack made their way over to Cecil, who was reviewing key footage from the team’s helmet and rifle cameras. He was nodding to himself when Jack asked, “What are you thinking C?”

 

“Naked Mole Rats…” was Cecil’s reply; he was still focused on the computer screen and he hadn’t actually registered that he had just answered a question. Jack and Priyanka looked very confused; he persisted, “Hey C! You’re doing your whole Rain-Man thing, what does Naked Mole Rats mean?” Cecil shook himself out of his reverie and said, “Sorry. Naked Mole Rats, to date they are only species, other than fish and ostriches, who have been able to naturally survive the rise of the InstaLawn because they can actually eat it. They’re truly unique because they are cold blooded mammals that have a plant like metabolism. They’re able to metabolise fructose instead of glucose. They don’t feel many types of pain that other mammals do, which might explain why the stun pulses did nothing. And they live decades longer than other rodents of a comparable size.”

 

Priyanka and Jack nodded, they both had flash backs to one of their early Zoology lectures. Naked Mole Rats had been all the rage because scientists were convinced that they would rule the planet one day; after humans had finally vanished off the face of the green earth.

 

Jeff had walked into the conversation half way through Cecil’s explanation and he had a blank look on his face when he said, “I don’t know what a naked mole rat looks like but the thing I saw today did NOT look like a rat!” Priyanka shook her head and said, “Naked mole rats don’t look like regular rats. They’re hairless, wrinkly and they have huge, nasty-ass teeth.” Cecil nodded and started thinking out loud, “Could humans have evolved to survive in an oxygen deprived environment? No, evolution in that time frame is impossible…” Jack piped up with, “Do you think that someone could have bio-engineered a Naked Mole Rat/Human hybrid?”

 

Priyanka and Cecil looked at each other; the expression on her face was doubtful and his was contemplative. Jeff backed Jack up, “If someone can make super-grass that can kill the world surely they can make a hybrid thing?” Priyanka looked unconvinced and said, “Look bio-engineering a super grass is not an easy task by any account. BUT bioengineering a mammalian hybrid on the hominid scale really is the stuff of nightmarish complexity. I mean I would confidently say that is essentially impossible to do.” Jeff looked unconvinced and said, “When you see one of these things in person you might change your tune.”

 

Cecil was looking intently at the computer screen where he had paused the footage from Gloria’s rifle camera just before she had been taken earlier that day. Two dreadful visages had been recorded in horrifying high definition. Cecil indicated to the others to look at the screen and said, “What do you guys see?” They all shrugged and Jeff said, “I see two FUGLY things with huge teeth and yellow eyes.” Vusi and Gloria had quietly sauntered up behind the group and Vusi quipped, “The one on the left looks like Jeff’s mom.” Jeff turned to look at his best friend and said, “She looks more like your last girlfriend. Actually that thing might be hotter.” Vusi winked and said, “You might be right about that.”

 

Cecil answered seriously, “Actually, it’s funny that you say that because my bet would be that the one on the left is female. And I would say that she was once Caucasian. I would also say that the one on the right is female and that she was once coloured.” Everyone was quiet for a moment as they studied the two creatures on the screen more closely. Both creatures were completely bald and they seemed to be wearing the remnants of clothing draped over their shoulders. Their skin appeared to be grey in hue but the more everyone looked at their facial features the more they could see what Cecil meant about the two creatures being female.

 

Priyanka spoke, “Okay their features are human-like, BUT there are definite differences as well. Maybe they just look female to us because we’re projecting our ideals of gender onto them.” Gloria said, “Or maybe they were once human like us and they are part rat thing now.”

 

Priyanka gave Gloria a cold look and said, “Okay, I’ll play along. Let’s run with Jack and Cecil’s theory that these things are hybrids; naked mole rat or otherwise. Now from a biochemical point of view doing something like is essentially impossible in this day and age. Why you may ask? Well forget everything you ever watched on those old SciFi movies; there are no killer viruses that will turn you into one of those things. If you want to make a hybrid like what you are looking at. You need some serious human intervention; things like RNA splicing, DNA, gene and stem cell manipulation. Doing just this will get you a goat that looks and acts like a goat, but it will be able to lactate milk that contains spider silk. In order to create the kind of change that you can see on the monitors you’re talking about bone marrow and cerebral spinal fluid transplants and god knows what else to get it right. You’re going to have to tailor your process to each individual that you want to transform. These procedures may have been used to treat and try to cure cancer routinely, fifteen years ago BUT there aren’t any facilities or even any equipment left in the world to be able to do this kind of work. Even the government doesn’t have the resources to do this kind of stuff so how the hell could some Roamers get it right?”

 

Gloria looked at Priyanka with a smirk on her face when she said, “So basically you’re saying that it IS possible?” Priyanka gave Gloria a look that could kill. Cecil’s gaze was boring into Gloria’s eyes while he was deep in thought and said, “If and that is a BIG IF that was possible, then the implications would be phenomenal. I mean, Naked Mole Rats are also resistant to developing almost any kind of cancer. They have an insect-like social structure because their colonies contain up to several hundred individuals underground. So if there are males and females and IF these things manage to procreate… They could produce HUNDREDS of offspring…”

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 13

Friday 24th December 2032, 06:30

 

Kumeshnee stifled another retch as she pulled the thick layer of InstaLawn off the sixth body. After five days in the forty five degree heat of the South African summer sun; the stench emanating from the decaying bodies was putrid. It was enough to make Bongani vomit, more than once that morning. Kumeshnee found herself standing above Jabu’s rotting corpse with a bandanna tightly tied across her mouth, in an attempt to stifle the stench.

 

She spoke to Ncube without taking her eyes off Jabu’s putrefying face, “That makes six bodies in total. We appear to be one short or my intel from the Shaft is wrong.” Ncube had been able to hold his breakfast down with greater success than his son. He also studied Jabu’s face and replied, “Your intel could’ve been wrong. What’s in his mouth?” Kumeshnee shrugged and said, “It looks like his dick.” Ncube shuddered and asked, “How on earth can you tell? And who the hell would do that?”

 

She pointed at Jabu’s massacred crotch saying, “We’ve found him with his pants down and his dick missing so it’s not a stretch to imagine that that’s what’s in his mouth. As to who would do it; I have my suspicions, but without knowing who’s being kept in the cells back at the Shaft, it all remains conjecture.” Ncube looked confused when he said, “You think that it’s one of his people? Which one of them could take out six of their comrades?” She shook her head, lifted up the broken plasticuffs that had belonged to Leigh and lowered her voice saying, “I think that whoever got the six of them; are probably our best bet to get back to our real people. Jabu is the only one of them to be mutilated and this mutilation is personal to say the least. I think whoever killed him is the missing person. I also think that whoever did it hated him and I mean really hated him.”

 

Ncube examined the plasticuffs and said, “Well Jabu was a piece of shit so I’m not really surprised.” He moved over to one of the other bodies, knelt beside it and said, “There is no evidence of trauma on any of them, no gunshot wounds or any other wounds at all. How did they get taken down?” Kumeshnee walked over the same body and quietly said, “Before I left; our research division was looking into the possibility of energy-based weapons; as a solution to the dwindling supply of ammunition. Maybe they’ve gotten it right in the meantime…” Ncube nodded and said, “We heard rumours back in Simon’s Town as well. I thought that it was just science fiction.” Kumeshnee shrugged and said, “Science fiction eventually becomes science fact.”

 

She lifted her head and shouted, “MANDLA! Get over here!” A skinny, prune faced man of Khoisan descent and indeterminate age ran over to where Kumeshnee and Ncube were kneeling over the unmutilated body. He wrinkled his nose uncomfortably and said, “Yes Baas?” Kumeshnee hated being called by that title; she preferred the English derivative of “Boss”. That was mainly because she knew what the original meaning of the word was. She looked at the deep divots of skin on the man’s face and asked, “What have you found for me?”

 

Mandla replied in Afrikaans, “There were three vehicles parked about one hundred meters to the south of us.” He shook his head with a worried look on his face and said, “None of this makes any sense Baas. We have AK shells around the bodies here, a lot of shells, all firing to the south where the vehicles were. Then we have six dead bodies, three here and another three bodies to the southwest of where we are. The AK shells there show that they were shooting to the north east, also in the direction of the three vehicles.” Ncube shrugged and said, “Well there’s nothing strange about that, it’s our standard procedure to look like Roamers.”

 

Mandla gave Ncube a filthy look; he hated being interrupted when he hadn’t finished speaking. He spat in Afrikaans, “I know that! YOU explain how our people were immobilised without a single shot being fired from the vehicles and then how the others were able to plasticuff them before driving off to the east?” Kumeshnee looked at Mandla sharply saying, “East? How do you know they went east?” Mandla calmed himself down before he spoke to her, “The tracks from the vehicles, and the woman on foot, clearly show that they went East. Two of the vehicles were smaller than our bakkies and the third was big, too big for an EV.”

 

Ncube looked impressed, “You found tracks for a woman on foot? AND their vehicles? These bodies must have been decomposing here for at least four or five days, how the hell did you find foot prints and vehicle tracks after that kind of time has passed.” Mandla’s eyes spat another hate filled glare at Ncube when he said, “Because I know what to look for. I’m not blind like YOU!” Kumeshnee put her hand up and said, “Alright, that’s enough you two. We’re all on the same team here.” Mandla turned his glare from Ncube to Kumeshnee, she said to him, “Good work finding the tracks, can you follow them?”

 

He held her gaze and nodded, she looked at Ncube and said, “Get everyone to saddle up; let’s find out who walked out of here, what kind of vehicle is too big to use an electric motor and who it belongs too.” Ncube nodded and shouted, “Saddle up you sacks of shit! We’re moving out NOW!” Cathy called out from a distance, “Where are we going?” Ncube shouted back, “We’re going where the boss tells us to go and she’s telling us to follow the Khoisan. Now MOVE IT!”

 

The rest of the war scavengers moved as quickly as they could to the Hilux pickup trucks. Kumeshnee and Ncube climbed into the cab of the lead pickup. Ncube said, “I don’t understand how that guy can find these tracks…” Kumeshnee replied, “He’s part Khoisan, they can track anything, anywhere, anytime.” Ncube shook his head saying, “I don’t know why he hates me and I don’t really care, besides what kind of name is Mandla for a Khoisan anyway?” Kumeshnee laughed saying, “I don’t think he likes anyone and he’s PART Khoisan. I think his name comes from the other part.”

 

Throughout the whole exchange Mandla was calmly walking east; following Leigh’s tracks towards the divots that had been left by the Unimog.

 

Friday 24th December 2032, 17:03

 

Jack’s thick rubber boots landed with a soft thud on the InstaLawn covered floor at the bottom of the elevator shaft. He was surrounded on three sides by weed covered walls and he swept the beams of light that emanated from his flashlights down the corridor. Jeff’s boots gently thudded down next to him and his flashlight beams joined Jack’s in illuminating the corridor.

 

Jack unclipped the grigri from his harness, set a radio transponder and spoke over the tac comm system, “Pri, do you read me?” Priyanka’s voice came crisply through his earpiece, “Loud and clear.” Jack said, “Excellent, I’ve set a transponder and we’re heading down the corridor now.” Jeff had unclipped his grigri and the extra rope from his harness. The two of them moved down the corridor using their flashlights to illuminate as much of their surroundings as possible. The flat green colour of the InstaLawn seemed to absorb the light from their flashlights.

 

RRRRWWWAAAAARRRRRRRR…..

 

The sound of the scream made the two soldiers stop in their tracks and carefully scan the corridor. The outsides of their SCBA masks were starting to fog up. Jack tried to wipe some of the fog off his mask and he thought that his glove felt sticky as he moved his hand over it. Jeff asked, “Is it normal for there to be fog like this?” Jack shook his head and said, “Negative, my HUD is reading CO2 levels at eleven point four percent, there shouldn’t be any kind of fog formation at these concentrations.” Jeff retorted, “Well we’re seeing fog LT.” Jack nodded and said, “Agreed, limited visibility and weird screaming are not a good combination.” Both of them tried to ineffectually rub more of the unusual condensation from their masks and then they moved out.

 

RRRRWWWAAAAARRRRRRRR…..

 

They came to a T-junction at the end of the corridor, Jack quietly said, “I’ll sweep left, you take the right.” Jeff just nodded and they moved to cover their respective directions. After a few seconds Jeff said, “Clear.” Jack responded, “Clear, cover me while I set another transponder.” He gently set the transponder down and then…

 

RRRRWWWAAAAARRRRRRRR…..

 

Jeff swivelled and let off three rounds from his AA-12. Jack immediately brought his Q-5 pulse rifle up to fire but the terrifying creature had taken all three rounds in the chest and dropped.

 

RRRRWWWAAAAARRRRRRRR…

 

Jack said, “Good shot, how many of these bloody things are there?” Vusi’s voice crackled through their ear pieces, “We can hear gun fire, report back you two?” Jack responded, “Check, we’re okay, Jeff took one of these things out and we can hear more of them down here.” Priyanka crackled over the tac comm system, “You two need to get back up here NOW.” Jack’s flashlight beam skimmed over what looked like hazy orange movement about thirty meters down the corridor and he said, “Negative, I see a HAZMAT suit.”

 

Without a second thought he and Jeff sprinted down the corridor to the form of Hannes, who was painfully pulling himself towards them. As they skidded to a halt in front of the broken Recce, Jack saw a pair of eyes light up in the beam of his flashlight another fifty meters down the corridor.

 

Whzzzt-whzzzt-whzzzt

 

Three full power pulses shot from the barrel of his Q-5. The charges of energy seemed to crackle as they ionized the air ahead of him, following their trajectory towards his intended target. All three glowing, blue pulses found their mark in between the eyes of a tokoloshe down the corridor and it dropped from sight. Had he not been preoccupied with trying to save Hannes’ life, Jack would have been quite impressed with the shot, especially considering the fog that clouded his vision.

 

Jeff immediately bent down to try and pick Hannes up, Hannes screamed in agony as Jeff twisted his back. Jack was covering the two Recces when he said, “Sarge, is your comm system working?” The only response was incoherent crackling through his ear piece, he spoke again; to Jeff this time, “Jeff can you see what his O2 level is?” Jeff checked the analogue gauge on the top of Hannes’ O2 tank and said, “Too low LT.” He unclipped a miniature O2 tank from his HAZMAT that would have enough air for approximately twenty five minutes, if used sparingly. Jeff held the minitank in front of Hannes’ face and said, “If you can hear me Sarge, hold your breath.”

 

Hannes couldn’t hear a thing that Jeff said but he knew what was coming so he nodded and held his breath. Jeff quickly disconnected the air hose from the front of Hannes’ SCBA mask and replaced it with the minitank. Hannes took a grateful breath of fresh air and closed his eyes. Jeff looked at Jack and said, “We have to get him out of here NOW.” Jack nodded saying, “I heard that, my caffeine tablets are starting to wear thin so you’re going to have to drag him to the elevator shaft.” Jeff didn’t bother answering; he grabbed the straps of Hannes’ O2 tank and started to drag his comrade down the corridor towards the elevator shaft, with Jack covering both men.

 

Another tokoloshe appeared at the end of the corridor. This creature wasn’t like the other ones the soldiers had encountered; it was patient, cautious and quiet. It watched the three orange bodies, retreating down the corridor, with something akin to curiosity. The creature almost seemed to disengage itself from the wall it was clinging too and it started to follow the men, keeping a safe distance from them. The water vapour from the dissolved husk of the tokoloshe that had attacked Hannes was what had fogged up the outside of the soldiers masks. Even though the tokoloshe didn’t know it, the reaction of the sulphuric acid with the dead creature’s flesh meant that following the soldiers was safer than it would have been without the cloud of water vapour.

 

Jack was struggling to see through his SCBA mask as he swept the corridor with his flashlight beams. The eyes of the creature that was following the rescue team were lit up by the beam of light more than once but none of them noticed because of their obscured vision. As the three men turned down the corridor that would lead them to the elevator shaft the creature quickened its pace without making any noise at all.

 

Jeff’s breathing was coming through in labored gasps as they reached the ropes that had been left hanging down the shaft. Jack knelt down to stabilize his Q-5 and tried to rub the fog off his mask. He seemed to be having more success with it now, he guessed that the wherever the water vapor was coming from it was escaping up the elevator shaft. While Jeff was busy securing Hannes to the spare line, Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “We have the Sarge but he’s in bad shape. Jeff’s securing him to the safety line and then he’s going to climb up to help Vusi pull the Sarge up the shaft. Vusi get on belay for Jeff.” Vusi replied, “Check that LT. I’m on belay, OMO you can climb when ready.”

 

Priyanka’s voice came over the tac comm system, “As soon as the Sarge is up here I’ll be on belay for you Jack.” Jack just said, “Roger that, until then I’ll cover the Sarge. Get him up there ASAP!” Jeff was breathing even harder as he climbed up the elevator shaft, he had thankfully found an access ladder to climb up but the weight of his gear made the activity feel insurmountable. The fact that his whole body was burning from dragging Hannes’ massive frame down the corridors didn’t help either. He was grateful for the rope that he was clipped to, just in case he slipped and fell.

 

As Jeff pulled himself over the top of the ladder Vusi said, “What took so long? The Sarge is waiting for us.” Jeff was gasping for air and all he could manage was to give Vusi the finger. Vusi took up his position on the safety line and Jeff joined him, the two Recce’s started to pull Hannes up. At the bottom of the shaft Hannes groaned in pain as he started to ascend and he passed out. The agony that he was experiencing was too much for his body to bear after the ordeal that he had endured for more than an hour.

 

As soon as Hannes’ feet left the InstaLawn covered floor Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “His feet have left the ground, for god’s sake don’t drop him.” Vusi and Jeff just grunted and Priyanka said, “Let us worry about the Sarge, you take care of yourself down there.” Jack had just clipped himself onto the last rope that was hanging down the shaft when he said, “Check, I’m clipped in and waiting for the Sarge to be secured.”

 

As he said the last bit his flashlight beams illuminated the eyes of the tokoloshe that had been following them. The dissipating water vapour had caused the fog on his SCBA mask to clear up and he could clearly see the glowing eyes staring at him. Jack stood dead still and kept his Q-5 trained on the creature. The beam didn’t move from the creature’s face and Jack watched as it moved towards him. The creature moved with a fluid grace that reminded Jack of the ballet dancers that his mother had made him watch as a child. The gait and stride of the creature did not seem menacing, but rather curious. He kept his pulse rifle completely steady and aimed at its face.

 

It continued to approach him with that haunting grace that completely contradicted the hideous visage that his Q-5 was aimed at. Jack could clearly make out that the creature had once been a Caucasian female. She stopped two meters from him and tilted her head to the side. Jack felt as though she was studying him as closely as he was studying her; though his trigger finger was ready to end the encounter at any moment. She tilted her head to the other side and Jack was amazed that the powerful flashlights from both his helmet and his Q-5 didn’t seem to bother her yellow eyes at all.

 

She looked him up and down, seemingly taking in every detail. Then she opened her mouth, hissed at him and turned around to walk, gracefully, back down the corridor. Jack watched her as she reached the end of the corridor where she turned to look at him one last time before disappearing.

 

He spoke over the tac comm system, “Cecil, please tell me that you got all of that.” Cecil’s quivering voice crackled through the interior team’s ear pieces, “We did, what the hell just happened LT?”

 

(The image that has been presented has been taken from https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com; I am not presenting this image as my own work)

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 12

Friday 24th December 2032, 16:23

 

Gloria was collapsing onto Jack as they reached the top of the stairs on the ground floor. Her life support system had been beeping furiously at her for the last ten minutes because her O2 levels were dangerously low. She stood a full five centimetres taller than Jack and weighed six kilograms more than he did. Exhaustion as well as the combined weight of the gear that he was carrying and his compatriot made walking up the stairs feel almost impossible.

 

Jack could see sunlight spilling through the open doorway at the end of the corridor that they were travelling down. He knew that the CO2 levels in this part of the building were elevated; but the complete absence of oxygen that Gloria was beginning to experience would be deadly very soon. As he was half carrying her he reached over to her SCBA mask and detached her oxygen pipe. Gloria gasped in a lung-full of air and she started to cough and splutter. This made her movements jerkier at first but soon her foot falls became more certain.

 

They burst into the sunlight outside the main building where; Priyanka, Vusi and Jeff were all geared up in their HAZMAT kit, waiting for the two of them. Jeff was holding a spare O2 tank and Josephina was there with a cup of water and two tablets. Jack passed Gloria over to Vusi, who pulled her SCBA mask off and helped her to lie down on the ground. Jack pulled his mask off as well, his face was drenched in perspiration and he was breathing heavily. Jeff walked up behind him and disconnected the nearly empty O2 tank from his SCBA rack. The full tank was quickly clipped and screwed into place. Jack immediately felt the increase in weight on his already aching back.

 

Josephina came in front of him to say, “Take these.” She showed him the two tablets and he obediently opened his mouth. She popped the tablets into his mouth and held the cup of water to his lips. He enthusiastically drank the warm, soothing liquid and then asked, “What did I just take?” Priyanka winked and said, “Caffeine tablets, I knew that you would be going back in.” Jack nodded and said, “Thanks,” he looked at Josephina and said, “take care of the LT while we look for the Sarge.” Josephina nodded saying, “I’m on it sir,” and she quickly moved over to Gloria. Vusi had rolled her onto her side in the recovery position.

 

The four team members in their HAZMAT suits pulled their masks on and Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Talk to me Cecil.” Cecil’s voice came through loud and clear, “All of your voice and data feeds are coming through loud and clear LT. We’ve gotten some unsettlingly crisp video of the things that took G-LT and the Sarge.” Jack’s stiff legs were moving swiftly up the stairs into the main building of the facility when he said, “Good to hear, at least we can prove that we aren’t completely crazy. Stack up you lot; I’m taking point, followed by Vusi and Jeff, Pri cover our sixes. Everyone stay close and follow my orders for god’s sake.” The remaining three members of the new interior team said, “Check,” in unison.

 

Jack was grateful that he could feel the caffeine tablets starting to work as they moved down the corridor. He spoke again, “What are we doing about monitoring overwatch?” Jeff replied, “I set up a camera as soon as I heard that G-LT was taken, Cecil and Joe will keep an eye on it as soon as she’s stable.” Jack responded, “Good work, that was some quick thinking. Let’s hope that we don’t have any more visitors.” They were all coming up to the end of the corridor and the flight of stairs down into the basement. Jack spoke again, “Cecil what’s happening with my boy?” Cecil’s voice came through their ear pieces saying, “He’s keeping an eye on our unexpected guest, I’m trying to decide if he looks unnecessarily cute or unexpectedly deadly.”

 

Jack and Priyanka could tell from the tone of Cecil’s voice that he was worried about Hannes and that he was trying to keep his own spirits up. Jack said, “He can be either, depending on what the situation calls for. Thanks for taking care of him. We’re going to keep the radio chatter to a minimum from now on. Let us know if you see anything. LT out.” Cecil’s crisp rely was, “Copy that, kill any of those things that you see. Surface Team out.”

 

The interior team were moving down the steps quickly with their weapons at the ready. Jack and Priyanka had their Q-5 pulse rifles set on lethal pulse mode while Jeff and Vusi were carrying AA-12 automatic shotguns. The staircase was completely devoid of movement, though the flashlights that all of the team members were carrying kept throwing eerie shadows. Their eyes were still adjusting to the darkness after they had spent time in the sunshine. This and the flat shade of green that covered everything lent to the foreboding atmosphere that the team found themselves ensconced in.

 

Once they had moved through the doors into Basement Level 2; Vusi spoke, “Damn, this place is creepy as hell.” Jeff chimed in with, “You’re telling me? Respect for coming down here four times LT!” Jack simply said, “Keep your eyes peeled. These things could be anywhere; Pri can you find something to wedge this door open with? I want to make sure that we can get the hell out of here quickly.” Priyanka took a scrap of metal off the harness she was wearing and said, “Already ahead of you Vanilla.” Jack was too focused on the scanning the surrounding area to be irritated by Priyanka’s use of the nickname that Gloria had graciously bestowed upon him. As soon as the piece of scrap was in position, Priyanka kicked it into place and said, “Door secured, we can move out.”

 

Jack moved off towards the next flight of steps without any unnecessary lingering. The caffeine tablets had kicked in with full force by now, his entire body still ached but his senses were running overtime. Halfway to the next flight of steps they came across the booster antenna, it was still in position and it looked untouched.

 

Jack checked in with the surface team, “Cecil, how are things looking?” Cecil’s voice came through their ear pieces with absolute clarity, “Nothing’s showing on the monitors up here LT. Jeff will you please switch your weapon’s scope to thermal imaging. I want to see if we can see these things early using that.” Jeff flicked the switch on the scope and said, “Roger that.”

 

One of Cecil’s monitor’s immediately switched from showing green InstaLawn to various shades of blue and the dull yellow blurs of the team members in their HAZMAT suits. Cecil’s voice came over again, “Solid copy Jeff, the scope is sending back thermal feed. Move up front with the LT so that I can see up ahead.” Jeff smoothly moved up next to Jack and he swept his AA-12 in a series of graceful, horizontal arcs. Jack asked, “Anything?” Without thinking Cecil shook his head and then said, “Nothing is coming up on the thermal LT.” Jack kept moving towards the stairs to basement level 3 and said, “Solid copy, let us know if anything changes.”

 

Vusi spoke again, “Do we even know if these things have a thermal signature?” Jack fancied that he’d heard a trace of fear in the Recce’s voice. Vusi had been the most outspoken opponent of the very existence of the creatures that they were all scanning the room for. It had appeared that he found merely mentioning the word Tokoloshe unsettling and offensive. Jack assumed that Vusi’s change of heart had come about after seeing some of the footage from their cameras when Gloria and Hannes were taken. “We have no idea, it’s up to Cecil to monitor that and we’ll monitor real life down here,” Priyanka said, then she asked, “Cecil, are you receiving any signal from the Sarge?” Cecil responded, “Negative, we received some video just after he fell, but that was it.”

 

The team reached the stairs to basement level 3 and Jack said, “Cut unnecessary chatter now everyone, this is where most of the fun seems to happen. Stay frosty and stack up.” Jack and Jeff took point and started to move down the stairs towards the waiting darkness. At the bottom of the stairs they found the steel door just as Jack and Gloria had left it; open wide enough for one person to squeeze through at a time. Jack knew the layout of the basement level and so he ventured through first, followed quickly by Jeff. Vusi came through and Priyanka was the last to enter basement level 3.

 

As the four of them scanned the area Jack said, “Jeff and Vusi, do you two think you can open that door anymore?” The two of them set about trying to move the storage cabinet that had been pushed in front of the door. Jack tried the tac comm system, “Sarge? Sarge, do you copy?”

 

 

After three attempts to contact Hannes Jack checked in with Cecil, “Cecil, are you getting any readings from the Sarge?” Gloria’s voice came through the tac comm system as a dry rasp, “Negative, we have no information on his vitals, comms or his video feed.” Jack said, “Welcome back, but you should be resting.” She irritably replied, “I’m sitting down, I’m resting plenty up here.” During their conversation; Jeff and Vusi had been able to drag the storage cabinet further away from the door and open it wide. Gloria’s voice had come through more clearly as the conversation progressed. Jack finished with, “Copy that. Pri, wedge the door open with more of that scrap metal if you have it?” Priyanka nodded and proceeded to unclip another piece of scrap metal from her harness while the three men covered her. As soon as she was done Jack said, “We’re heading to the elevator now, everyone stay frosty.”

 

The four of them moved out in tactical formation, covering every angle. As they moved through basement level 3 Jeff signalled the others to stop and said, “I’m seeing a patch of what looks like tar over here, did you see this before?” Jack shook his head saying, “Negative, or at least we didn’t notice it before.” Jeff said, “Well it appears to be in a straight line between the door and elevator shaft so I doubt that you would have missed it.” Priyanka nodded saying, “He’s right, it is in between the door and the shaft and it wasn’t here yesterday.” Jack also nodded saying, “This would probably be close to where we found Gloria and she did kill at least one of those things.”

 

Vusi scanned the area with his flashlights and spoke up, “I see something on the floor up ahead.” Jack instantly moved up and said, “Cecil, are you seeing this?” Cecil’s voice came through their ear pieces, “Crystal clear, please get some close up footage for the video log.” The four soldiers moved over to the shape that Vusi had pointed out. The tar like substance covered the InstaLawn on the floor, from the pool that they found to the shape that he had pointed out.

 

As they drew closer their flashlights illuminated it in stark and unsettling detail. They were confronted with a dead Tokoloshe; the creature was humanoid and just as Hannes had described it on the previous day. The creature’s skin was grey in hue, completely smooth and its dreadfully yellow eyes had been frozen open in death. Its mouth was hanging agape showing awful teeth. Jack and Priyanka moved the cameras that were attached to their Q-5s up and down the creature’s carcass.

 

Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Have you gotten enough footage Cecil?” Cecil responded, “Not nearly enough but it’s good enough for now LT.” Jack said, “Good. Let’s move out people.” The team moved out and the open doors to the elevator shaft soon came into view. Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Surface team, we are coming up on the elevator shaft. Have you picked anything up that we missed? Anything on Thermal?” Cecil’s voice answered, “Negative LT, but since you got that door open we’re getting intermittent video feed from the Sarge’s helmet cam. He appears to be moving.” Jack nodded and the team came up to the open elevator doors.

 

RRRRRRAAAAAAWWWWWWRRRRRRRR… …BOOM-BOOM-BOOM-BOOM… …RRRRRRAAAAAAWWWwwwrrrrr…

 

Vusi’s voice came over the tac comm system, “Did anyone else hear that? That sounded like an AA-12!” Jeff said, “I sure as hell heard that, definitely screaming and a shotgun! The Sarge must be alive down there!” Priyanka’s voice cut in, “I hope he is but that might be those things playing with his weapon, be careful everyone!” Jack backed her up, “She’s right, we’re going in after him but we don’t know what’s happening, stay clear headed you lot!”

 

As they reached the shaft, Jack and Jeff leant over the edge and shone their flashlights down into the darkness. The elevator shaft disappeared two stories further down into the bowels of the earth. Their powerful, LED flashlights scanned the bottom of the shaft and all they could see was green, InstaLawn staring hatefully back at them. Jeff checked to make sure that the rappelling anchors were still in place.

 

Jack contacted the surface, “Surface team, we can’t see anything. Do you pick anything up on Thermal imaging?” Gloria’s voice came through their ear-pieces, “Negative, you have to go down there to check it out.” Jack said, “Copy that. Vusi and Jeff, get the ropes ready.”

 

Vusi and Jeff had each been carrying two, thirty meter long, static ropes slung around their arms and necks. The two of them worked quickly to tie two figure eight knots to two of the anchor points. As soon as they were done, Vusi secured a pulley to the middle anchor and threaded a rope through it. The two rappelling ropes were thrown down the elevator shaft. Priyanka cracked and shook three glow-sticks and threw them down the shaft as well. Soon the bottom of the elevator shaft was bathed in eerie yellow light.

 

Jack attached his grigri, an assisted-braking belay device, to one of the rappelling ropes and clipped the grigri onto his harness. Jeff did the same as well as clipping the rope that had been threaded through the pulley to his harness. Both of them pulled all of the loose rope or slack through the devices and Jack said, “Check your O2 levels everyone, I’m sitting on seventy four percent. CO2 levels are sitting at nine point two percent now. That’s higher than when we were here last.” Priyanka could tell that Jack was nervous and he was trying to make himself feel better by focusing on science. Everyone else’s O2 levels were similar and they all confirmed his CO2 reading. Jack and Jeff stepped off the edge of the elevator shaft to be suspended in mid-air from the rappelling ropes. Jack looked at Priyanka and spoke over the tac comm system, “We’re going to follow the corridor at the bottom of the shaft as far as we can, look after yourselves up here.” Priyanka nodded and replied, “Don’t take too long down there, if you start to lose signal then come back. We can’t afford to lose you as well…” Jack nodded saying, “Yes, ma’am.” Jeff winked at Vusi and said, “See you just now Boet, don’t be a Doos.” Vusi gave him the finger and said, “Just come back so that I don’t have to take my black ass down there to rescue you, Doos.” They all chuckled at the exchange between the two friends.

 

Jack aimed his Q-5 pulse rifle down the elevator shaft so that the under-barrel flashlight would illuminate the shaft; while Jeff followed suit with his AA-12. Each soldier brought their thick rubber boots together around their individual ropes in order to manage its position as he descended. With their weapons in a single hand they used their spare hands to control the break lever of the grigri.

 

Jack and Jeff looked at each other; nodded and began their descent down the eerily lit elevator shaft.

 

(The featured image has been modified from http://www.englishrussia.com, I am not presenting this image as my own work)

 

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 11

 

Wednesday 22nd December 2032, 16:59

 

The Operative was leaning against the cool, moist wall outside the Mistress’ War Room. She had been called for a meeting at 17:00 and she had learned that the Mistress detested people being late for any meetings that were called. The Operative was the first person outside the War Room. Though the Mistress was not very adept at communicating information to people, so it was entirely possible that the Operative was the only person who would be present. She would only discover this when the meeting started.

 

The heavy bolt on the inside of the steel door was wrenched back and the door was pulled open with the loud screech of metal, promptly at 17:00. The Mistress’ most trusted bodyguard, Kgosi, stuck his head out into the passage way. He saw the Operative lurking in the shadows and motioned for her to enter the War Room saying, “The Mistress is waiting for you.” He turned around and announced loudly, “War Scavenger Pillay is here my Mistress.” As the Operative entered the War Room the Mistress brusquely said, “Kumeshnee! What’s taken you so long?”

 

Kumeshnee calmly replied, “I’ve arrived at the time that was communicated to me my Mistress. If I’m late then Tebogo must have been confused about the time for this meeting.” The Mistress’ eyes narrowed; there was something about the thirty year old Indian woman that she distrusted and despised. She couldn’t put her finger on it, but something about Kumeshnee’s bearing vaguely reminded her of someone from her past. The Mistress chalked it up to her own distaste for anyone who wasn’t meek and black. The Mistress distrusted most people and absolutely loathed anyone who didn’t share her own ethnicity.

 

The Mistress waved her hand at Kumeshnee to indicate that she wanted the War Scavenger at the table where she was busy. Kumeshnee obliged the Mistress and strode over to the table with a natural grace that was reminiscent of royalty. She elegantly leaned over the table to look at an old topographical map of the surrounding area. Kgosi took the opportunity to openly admire Kumeshnee’s perfectly formed posterior.

 

The Mistress accusingly asked, “Do you know where Jabu’s team is?” Kumeshnee shrugged and lied, “I have no idea my Mistress; they aren’t part of my team.” The Mistress levelled a stern glare at Kumeshnee saying, “They are now. So where are they?” Kumeshnee casually looked at the Mistress and replied, “If they had been mine when they left I would be able to answer you my Mistress.” The Mistress smiled at Kumeshnee, Kumeshnee always thought that the Mistress’ smile was more akin to a grimace. She also knew that the Mistress was at her most dangerous when she grimaced.

 

The Operative had lied to the Mistress; she knew that only eight members of Jabu’s team had returned to the mine three days earlier and a further seven remained unaccounted for. The Operative made sure that she was up to date with all information pertaining to the mine that she was stationed at. The Mistress had put the eight in holding cells for failing to secure the supplies and prisoners that she wanted. They were all being thoroughly debriefed, an unpleasant experience at best. The Operative was also well aware that the Mistress distrusted anyone who appeared to be too intelligent or curious. The Mistress enjoyed giving orders and surrounding herself with people who followed them without question. Anyone who questioned her was swiftly and permanently dealt with.

 

“No one has returned since they left just over a week ago, it’s your job to find them,” the Mistress’ orders were given curtly. Kumeshnee nodded and said, “I will find them my Mistress.” The Mistress grimaced again and continued, “They were last seen in this location.” She briefly waved her hand at the map; it had been drafted nearly fifty years before this day and it covered roughly six hundred and forty square kilometres of the surrounding area. In short the ‘information’ that the Mistress had just provided Kumeshnee with was completely useless. The Mistress grimaced yet again when she said, “You have your orders; be off Kumeshnee.” Kumeshnee nodded and left the room.

 

As soon as she was out of the room the Mistress spoke to Kgosi, “I don’t trust that little bitch.” Kgosi asked, “Do you want me to question her personally my Mistress?” The Mistress shook her head and said, “Not yet, I want to see if she can find the bodies of Jabu’s team. I’ll see how I feel about her when she gets back.” Kgosi nodded, he was disappointed because he was absolutely desperate for some time alone with the beautiful woman. The mistress looked more closely at the Topographical map and ordered, “Have the Devil brought to me; I want to know how my latest batch of Tokoloshes are coming along.” The Mistress relished being dramatic. She was immensely proud of the fact that she had turned a local myth into a real and terrifying nightmare. Kgosi nodded again and picked up a telephone handset that was attached to the wall of the War Room.

 

Kumeshnee was moving swiftly down the corridor, she knew that she was in trouble. The Mistress was becoming suspicious of her and she needed to either placate the Mistress of get out of there ASAP. Kumeshnee knew that placating the Mistress was essentially impossible now that her suspicions had been aroused. Her mind was racing as she reached the staircase near the far end of the old corridor. The first thing Kumeshnee needed to do was to find the team she was in charge of; they would be the ones whom she would take with her into the lush, green wasteland of South Africa.

 

The Operative had been planning her escape from the old mine since before she had arrived at Shaft-17, nearly three years before. The Operative had worked out a rough escape plan using the intelligence that she had been given by her superiors. She had learned in her first two weeks at Shaft-17 that the intelligence had been complete rubbish. Everything that the South African Armed Forces, Intelligence Branch, thought they knew about the Mine, or the people who had taken it over, was utter nonsense.

 

The Operative had been sent in there to assess; who the new faction in the area were as well as the extent of their influence on the local population. The character, Kumeshnee Pillay, was created and inserted into the local population with comparative ease. The Operative had joined the Mistress’ Faction and she was able to move up the ranks of the group with extraordinary difficulty. Life at the mine was far from easy; especially for a covert operative who was attempting to gather intelligence on the area and its people without anyone being the wiser.

 

The original method designed for the Operative to communicate with her superiors in Roodepoort worked well for the first six months. Letters were written in Fanagalo and dropped off in specific ‘black box’ areas for collection by the Recces, who were active the area. The letters were written in such a fashion that anyone, other than the intended recipient, would think that they were from one of the miners from the area’s past to either a brother or father back in their home town.

 

The Operative had a very productive first six months and she was able to inform her superiors that there was a new person of influence in the area known only as ‘the Mistress’. This person had developed a fearsome reputation for brutality. She was able to take complete control of one faction before conquering the second. Eventually both factions were consolidated into a single, ruthless entity. As soon as this was accomplished the Mistress put an end to all fighting in and around Rustenburg.

 

All of the people who had survived the conflict were conscripted into the Mistress’ ranks, in one way or another. She was then able to reopen and repurpose the Mines in the area as housing, agricultural, research and para-military facilities. Shaft-17 had been chosen by the Mistress to be her primary facility; where she would stay and where all major scientific research would be conducted. The Mistress also kept her most highly trained militia there. This system closely mimicked what the Joint People’s Liberation and Climate Change Co-operative Government had accomplished.

 

As the Mistress’ influence in the area grew, the Operative’s opportunities for leaving the mine at night grew few and far in between. The locations for leaving the letters had also become far more difficult and dangerous to reach. Eventually the Operative had no choice but to leave one last letter, in the coded language, to her superiors. The final communication informed her superiors that she wouldn’t be able to communicate with them anymore and that Recce activities were becoming unsustainable in the area. Two and a half years later the Operative had managed to survive in the brutal hell that the Mistress’ faction had created. Unfortunately due to the complete absence of any further contact, her superiors had no choice but to assume that the Operative had been killed in action. Her surviving family had been given this news and they believed it for the last two years.

 

Kumeshnee made her way to the canteen that her team usually frequented, it was located a full kilometre under the surface of the earth. The air-conditioning units that were used to moderate the temperature down there were nowhere near as efficient as the ones that were used for the Mistress’ private level in the mine. Kumeshnee could feel perspiration start to form on her face as she ascended the staircase. She arrived at the canteen and found the eleven members of her team lounging on some ancient and filthy couches.

 

Canteen was perhaps too generous a name for the area that the meagre food rations were served in. Kumeshnee and her team’s fearsome reputation as some of the most vicious war scavengers of the Mistress’ Militia; earned them first choice when it came the food rations. Several years of eating cans of expired baked beans and corned beef, had caused the team’s enthusiasm for mealtimes at Shaft-17 to wear somewhat thin. They were all casually watching the newest members of the war scavengers earn their meals by fighting. This was a barbaric practice that the Mistress insisted on using. She felt that it ‘encouraged’ the newly promoted war scavengers to toughen up before being released on the outside world. The rules simply precluded the fighters from killing, or otherwise permanently damaging, each other.

 

Kumeshnee glanced at the fighters as she made her way over to her team. She momentarily felt ashamed at how desensitised she had become to the environment that she found herself surviving in. When she had first arrived at Shaft-17 she had been horrified by the pure savagery that the Mistress had enforced on the people there. Kumeshnee had no choice but to adapt and survive in the horrendous environment. Some of the actions that she had been forced to take haunted her dreams most nights. She looked at the young coloured woman who was pitted against a massive black man. Kumeshnee was incredibly grateful for her martial arts training. The curious combination of Kalaripayattu and Krav Maga made her the deadliest fighter that the Mistress had ever seen.

 

Kumeshnee’s second in command, Ncube, saw her making her way towards the team and said, “Look lively you sacks of Shit.” The rest of the team turned to look at Kumeshnee walking towards them saying, “We’re up, get your shit together and let’s go.” One of the younger members of her team, Cathy, piped up, “Aw Boss, the fight’s about to start…” Kumeshnee levelled a dangerous glare at her and said, “Get your shit together NOW! That wasn’t a suggestion you Idiot!” Ncube was the first one to snap into action saying, “You heard the Boss, get moving NOW people!” The ten War Scavengers jumped up and started to snatch up their meagre belongings. “Meet up at the vehicles in twenty minutes,” Kumeshnee snapped at her team. She gave Ncube a meaningful look, lowered her voice and said, “We’re on.” Ncube just nodded and followed her as she walked away from the team.

 

Kumeshnee had been able to bring Ncube over to her side nearly eighteen months before. The Mistress used truly brutal tactics in order to dehumanise people before forcing them into her faction. Ncube had been a Recce from Simon’s Town, he and his family were taken prisoner while they were being transferred to Pretoria. Shortly after being captured, he was forced to watch Jabu beat his wife to death in the prison cells. He absolutely despised Jabu and the Mistress, with a burning passion, ever since that day. Ncube had only agreed to join the Mistress’ ranks after his son, Bongani, had been threatened with the same fate if he refused.

 

Ncube had been looking for a way to escape the Scavengers ever since that day. Eventually it was Kumeshnee who had presented him with a golden opportunity. Kumehsnee knew that she would have to escape Shaft-17 and that she would need help to accomplish this. The revelation of Ncube’s background and the knowledge of what had happened to his wife made him the obvious choice.

 

Ncube had joined Kumeshnee with more than a few reservations. He had first thought that she was working under the Mistress’ orders to entrap him and his son. The prevailing atmosphere in the Mistress’ faction was thick with suspicion, not unlike East Berlin during the Cold War. Kumeshnee was able to convince Ncube of her authenticity using her intimate knowledge of; Recce training, tactics and details of certain missions that had been as successful as they were top secret. The final ace that Kumeshnee had played in order to sway Ncube to her side was to secure Bongani for her scavenger team. She had convinced the Mistress that uniting the father and son would make both of them more loyal to the Mistress.

 

The entire Scavenger team made it to the surface of the mine nearly twenty minutes after Kumeshnee had found them in the canteen. They walked to the garage that housed the vehicles they would be taking. Two Toyota Hilux, single cab pickup trucks were fully charged and waiting for the Scavengers. The para-military faction had been able to jerry-rig electric vehicles using large truck batteries and existing electric motors. The Scavengers travelled at night so that they could charge the batteries during the day; using photovoltaic cells that were fastened to the canopies on the backs of the Hiluxes. The lower ranking Scavengers would travel in the load boxes of the pickups, a sweaty prospect on a regular day.

 

Once all of the Scavengers where loaded into the Hiluxes, the vehicles pulled out of the Garages and started making their way to Jabu’s Team’s most regular areas of operation. Kumeshnee, Ncube and Bongani were in the cab of the lead truck. As soon as they were out of the gate to the mine Ncube said, “So when are we doing this Boss?” Bongani looked at his father with a confused expression on his face.

 

Kumeshnee just said, “At the earliest available opportunity. First we have to find Jabu’s team.”

 

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 10

Friday 24th December 2032, 15:44

 

Jack, Gloria and Hannes reached the elevator shaft on Basement Level 3. Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Surface team, how do you copy?” Priyanka’s voice crackled through their ear pieces, “Solid Copy, Interior team. The signal is starting to break up a bit on the audio but the video feeds are still clear. We suggest you seal the elevator doors and head back.”

 

The three members of the interior team looked at each other and checked the O2 levels of their tanks; each of them was sitting at about fifty percent. Jack responded, “Negative surface team, we have plenty of O2. The elevator doors are still open, as you can see. We’re going to set up three rappel anchors here and then head back.” Priyanka tried to dissuade them, “Interior team, we suggest you seal those doors and come back, you’re burning daylight.” Gloria answered, “Surface team, we haven’t seen anything unusual down here. There is plenty of daylight left; we’re going to set up the rappel anchors, over and out.”

 

The three of them were exhausted, this was the third trip they had made into the main building of the facility that day. The first had been to sweep the ground floor of the building, to make sure that it was clear, and to install the radio uplink booster. Vusi had accompanied them as far as the stairs of the ground floor wearing a simple face mask and filter cartridge. The data that the team had collected from the previous day indicated that the CO2 levels were high enough to warrant concern over long term exposure but that was all. His time had been limited to less than half an hour and he had carried the heavy booster antenna for them. He had been particularly annoyed by Leigh’s revelations of the Tokoloshe. He kept saying that they were just a myth and she was crazy. The others were starting to think that he was trying to convince himself more than them.

Swabs had been taken of the team’s HAZMAT suits on the previous day and they had tested positive for sensitising chloride salts. These salts meant that using HAZMAT suits in the lower levels would be crucial. They would ensure that the interior team would be able to survive, unscathed, in the corrosive atmosphere of the facility’s lower levels. As soon as Vusi was back outside his skin and clothes were swabbed and checked for sensitising chlorides, the tests came back negative. The team was satisfied that the ground floor was clear and that all doors leading to the upper levels were closed and showed no signs of tampering. They had moved back outside to rest, hydrate and refill their O2 tanks.

 

The second trip was made without additional assistance. Jack and Gloria had covered Hannes while he carried the heavy antenna down the two flights of steps to the second basement level. The flash lights strapped to the barrels of Gloria’s AA-12 automatic shotgun, Jack’s Q-5 pulse rifle and their helmets had thrown light on the green interior. The group had kept all verbal communication to an absolute minimum, relying solely on hand signals to communicate. The three of them carefully scanned the second basement level before moving the antenna. They installed it where communication with the surface had been lost on the previous day. As soon as the battery pack for the antenna was attached and it was switched on, Jack briefly spoke over the tac comm system. Everything was in working order.

Throughout the entire exercise Priyanka and Cecil were glued to computer screens on the surface. Their eyes were interrogating every pixel, waiting to see the grey faced creature that only Hannes had seen the day before. Watson was lying at Priyanka’s feet keeping a careful eye on Leigh, who was resting while plasticuffed to a camping stretcher. She had seemed transfixed by the Golden Retriever and he was equally as interested in the new arrival.

 

The third trip had the specific goal of reaching the elevator shaft, which the team had just accomplished. All of the radio transponders were still in the places where they had been left on the previous day and they were all in working order. All of the SciDiv members were in absolute awe of how the big Afrikaner was handling the stress of going back into the facility, after what he had seen. Jack had approached him early, Thursday evening and asked him if he was up to the task saying, “After what went down yesterday, no one will think any the less of you for being on Overwatch tomorrow.” Hannes held Jack’s gaze with a stoicism that was characteristic of his Afrikaans heritage when he said, “I’m not backing down from some grey faced thing. We need the stuff that’s in those vaults and I’m going back in there to get it.”

 

Once the rappel anchors had been set Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Surface team, the anchors have been set. We’re going to head back to surface. Everything is quiet down here; we aren’t even hearing any structural settling.” Gloria inadvertently said, “What the hell?” Jack and Hannes both pointed the barrels of their guns in the direction she was looking. Hannes spoke earnestly, “What? Did you see something?” Gloria was straining her eyes and scanning the far wall with her flashlights, “I don’t think so, for a moment I swore I could see glowing eyes. Like blondie’s when he’s wondering around at night and you shine a torch on him.” Cecil’s voice crackled through their ear pieces, “Affirmative LT, we saw it too. Get out of there interior team.” Jack crisply said, “I’m taking point, Gloria in the middle, Hannes bring up the rear. Stack up people, let’s move NOW!”

 

Gloria moved off to where she saw the eyes saying, “Negative, we need to investigate.” Hannes instinctively moved after her, he was so accustomed to following her orders that he didn’t even realise he had disobeyed the commander of the mission. Jack moved to catch up saying, “That was a direct order Lieutenant, what the hell are you playing at?” Priyanka’s voice crackled over the tac comm system, “We see movement in the left peripheral of the Sarge’s helmet cam.” All three of the interior team members immediately turned to investigate.

 

SCREECH…   BANG, CRASH!

 

The noise came from the direction of the staircase. The team changed direction again to have a look. Jack said, “On me, no more dicking around!” The three of them moved smoothly towards the stairs, Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Surface team, how do you copy?” Cecil’s voice came through as barely audible crackle, “Rep..t y..r …t Int.r..r team. I ..y ag..n, r.peat yo.r ..st?” Jack just said, “Shit, we’re losing comms. Are you three still online?” Hannes and Gloria both said, “Check.” As they came up to the doorway of the stair case the source of the sounds became evident. Gloria was the first to speak, “What the shit?”

 

The doors to basement level 3 had been closed and a large, steel, storage cabinet had been pushed over to block the entrance. Jack quickly said, “Hannes do you think you can move that?” Hannes said, “Not on my own. We need to use the crowbars to force it away from the door.” Jack quickly said, “Copy that. Gloria, cover us while we move this thing.” Gloria turned around saying, “Check,” and she was earnestly scanning the room behind her comrades. She quietly cursed herself for not following Jack’s orders. She tried the comms again, “Surface team can you hear us? Surface team?” Another crackled response came over the comms while Jack and Hannes were struggling to move the heavy cabinet, “G-.. w. s.e mov.…nt t. ..ur .i.ht! Rep… ..ere i. m..veme.. on t.. r..ht!”

 

By this stage Jack and Hannes had been able to pull and drag the cabinet far enough away from the door for Jack to wedge his crowbar in and force it open. As soon as the door popped open Priyanka’s voice came clearly over the tac comm system, “GLORIA LOOK OUT!” Jack and Hannes brought their weapons up to where Gloria was standing. Within seconds they saw two tall, partially clothed, grey skinned and skinny human-like forms lunge from the shadows and pull Gloria completely off her feet. The surface and interior teams heard her scream with surprise and anger. Gloria wasn’t the type of woman who got scared easily. Hannes bellowed, “LT!” and bolted off after her, while jack followed hot on his heels.

 

Gloria’s partially muffled voice came over the tac comm system, “Get the fuck off me you son of a bi…” The next thing Jack and Hannes heard was Gloria’s AA-12 loudly discharge three rounds; the two headed straight in the direction of the gunfire. Cecil’s voice came over the tac comm system, “They were taking her to the elevator shaft, she seems to have killed one and the other one has disappeared down the shaft.” Jack and Hannes met up with Gloria, who was back on her feet and going back to the stairway. “Are you okay LT?” Hannes asked. Gloria’s voice was muffled through her SCBA mask and Priyanka’s voice cracked like a whip over the tac comm system, “Interior team her O2 levels are dropping way to quickly, her SCBA has been compromised. Get her topside NOW!” Jack grabbed Gloria’s arm and started to drag her towards the stairs.

 

As Hannes turned around to cover their rear Priyanka and Cecil helplessly watched the footage that his helmet camera captured. Four of the skinny, grey-skinned monsters leaped out from the elevator shaft and grabbed him. Hannes bellowed his characteristic war-cry and discharged ten rounds from his AA-12, literally cutting one of the terrors in half. Priyanka cried over the tac comm system, “Jack, they’ve taken Hannes!”

 

Jack and Gloria turned around to go after their comrade but it was too late. The three surviving monsters were able to overpower the massive Afrikaner just long enough to pull him down the elevator shaft with them. “HANNES!” Gloria screamed as his luminous orange HAZMAT suit disappeared through the open elevator doors. Hannes screamed as he fell three stories down the elevator shaft to the bottom.

 

Gloria sprinted towards the elevator shaft with Jack close behind her; they both skidded to a halt at the doors. They looked down the shaft and saw Hannes’ HAZMAT suit at the bottom as their flashlights faintly illuminated him. They heard the strange monsters shriek as Hannes’ orange form was dragged out of sight. Gloria screamed his name again and moved to start climbing down the shaft. Jack grabbed her by the arm saying, “What the hell are you doing? We haven’t set the ropes yet and you have an air leak!” Gloria yelled back, “One of my men is down there, I’m getting him back!” Jack fired back, “You won’t make it down there! You’ll either fall while you climb or you’ll run out of air and collapse. Either way we’ll be left with two comrades to come after. We’re going topside to fill up on air and then we’ll come down for him!”

 

Gloria glared at him and Priyanka’s voice crackled over to the tac comm system, “He’s right Gloria, your O2 levels are plummeting, if you don’t get out ASAP he’ll have to carry you out, both of you need to leave NOW!” Gloria swore, pushed away from shaft door and started running for the staircase. Jack stayed close behind her, just in case she ran out of air and collapsed.

 

Friday 24th December 2032, 16:46

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

 

Hannes slowly tried to open his eyes but his brain was a fog of agony. He couldn’t discern where the pain was coming from it just seemed to be everywhere. He tried to open his eyes again, this time his eyelids obliged but he was greeted with dark, blurred red filling his vision.

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

 

Hannes blinked his eyes and the blur came into stark focus, his HUD was showing him that he had four percent O2 left in his tank. The source of the irritating beeping noise became apparent; Hannes’ life support monitor was warning him that he was running out of air. He focused past his HUD and saw that his headlamp was illuminating a group of the grey skinned monsters, huddled in a circle around something. Hannes carefully counted at least six and they were all skinny, grey, smooth and hunched over. He knew that he wasn’t going to be able to survive much longer. His O2 levels were too low and he was too far away from any breathable air.

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

 

Hannes tried to ignore the throbbing pain that was blurring his vision. He didn’t know at that point that the fall had broken his pelvis. His bottom two vertebrae had also been crushed leaving his legs completely useless. He quietly flexed his hands to make sure that they still worked, they did. He slowly ensured that he could move his arms by quietly gripping his AA-12. Without moving his head or disturbing where the headlamp beam was pointed, he brought his shotgun up and pointed it at the group. As his index finger closed around the trigger he heard a low growl right by his ear.

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

 

Hannes slowly turned his eyes to the side and in his peripheral vision, he saw a dark form bending over him. He slowly turned his head, moving the beam of the headlamp, towards the figure. As the beam illuminated the creature’s face, Hannes could have sworn it was the female he had shot the previous day. The beam of light didn’t seem to irritate her eyes at all. Her mouth was hanging open leaving her horrid, rotten teeth completely exposed. Hannes tried to ignore the pain that enveloped every part of his mind and concentrated as best he could on the creatures features.

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

 

Hannes could see that she had once been beautiful, though all traces of that beauty had essentially been stolen from her. A long trickle of drool escaped from the creature’s open mouth and started to run down the visor of his SCBA mask, blurring his vision further. Hannes looked past the creature’s face and the blurred section of his visor. He could clearly see a tank secured to the ceiling above himself and the creature. The tank was almost completely covered with InstaLawn, except for a single word, Acid. He slowly started to move his AA-12 over in order to protect himself from the creature.

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

 

As soon as the creature sensed Hannes’ movement she shrieked insanely and dug her clawed fingers through his HAZMAT suit and deep into his sides. Hannes screamed and wrenched the shotgun into a position where he hoped that he could shoot the creature. She dug her claws deeper into his flesh and he involuntarily pulled the trigger. The automatic shotgun shot off four successive and deafening rounds, all of which completely missed the creature. The slugs found their mark on the tank of acid above both of them.

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

 

Sulphuric Acid burst out of the ruptured tank, bathing Hannes and the creature. The creature screamed again, this time in agony, as one of the strongest acids on earth burnt her in the most agonizing way possible. Her flesh was turned to almost pure carbon as the moisture content of her body was liberated as water vapour. Some of the acid flowed into Hannes’ HAZMAT suit, where the creature had punctured it. The acid started to burn him terribly and he screamed. The acid fumes and the agonized screams of one of their number caused the other creatures to dart off down the corridor and into the darkness.

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

 

Hannes blinked tears from his eyes and he looked down the corridor in the opposite direction to where the creatures had run. He mustered the last of his strength and pushed the dissolving husk of the creature off himself. He started to drag his broken and burning body down the corridor into the darkness. Hannes knew that he was dying and that moving was futile but the extraordinary will power that he possessed drove him forward. This was the strength of will that had driven him through special-forces selection and training. This was the will power that had saved his life on numerous missions outside of the military complexes. This was the strength of will that was the hallmark of special-forces soldiers all across the world. This was the force that would drive him on despite the pain that he was experiencing, or the fact that his legs no longer worked.

 

Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…      Beep-beep…     

(I usually use free stock imagery for my blog posts but I sourced this image from Google.com I am not presenting this image as my own work)

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 9

Thursday 23rd December 2032, 14:28

 

Gloria grinned as Jack was speaking to the team, “Alright, we’re going back in tomorrow morning, first thing. Joe will stay out here like she did today, Jeff and Vusi will have to double up on over-watch duty. Cecil and Priyanka will be responsible for monitoring the data feed out here. Gloria and the Sarge will be coming into the facility with me.” Priyanka did not look happy when Jack said this last bit, “I don’t think that a three person team is the right call Jack, we should be sending more people down there,” she said.

 

Jack shook his head and said, “Unfortunately that isn’t an option Pri. We’re in hostile environments up here as well as down there. Plus we have a prisoner to monitor and I want both of you to keep an eye on the video feeds that we send back. Whatever is down there has found a way to survive in an environment with an atmospheric CO2 content above six percent. We NEED a Zoologist and Biochemist to safely and critically evaluate what these things are.” Priyanka cut him off, “We can do that down there with you.” Jack cut her off, “Not if we’re all shitting our pants and running for our lives. I want you both here where you can objectively make your observations and record the data. You two are the only qualified people here who can do that.”

 

Priyanka was glaring at him and spoke through gritted teeth, “You are also qualified to do that.” Jack shook his head, “I don’t have a biological background, it has to be you two.” Priyanka was losing her temper when she said, “And what are you guys going to do when these things find you? The pulse rifles didn’t work last time.” Jack started to say, “We only know about one creature and we won’t be using stun pulses this time…” It was Gloria who cut them both off, “We won’t be using the Q-5s this time. Jeff, show the nerds the little care package we brought along.”

 

Jeff had disappeared behind the Unimog during the course of Jack’s conversation with the group. He reappeared carrying two very large pelican cases. He walked into the middle of the group and carefully placed the cases on the floor. Jeff looked at each member of the group in turn and a huge smile covered his face. As he opened the first case he said, “Ladies and gentlemen; when you absolutely, positively have to kill every whatever the hell those things are in the room…” Jeff flipped the lid of the case open and continued, “May I present to you all; the AA-12 automatic shotgun.” The team were looking at two automatic shotguns in pristine condition. Each weapon had a barrel magazine secured next to it in the case.

 

Gloria carried on where Jeff had left off, “No offense to your Lab Rats and their fancy pulse rifles, but we ALWAYS carry our own kit with us. Sometimes you need some old school ballistics and cordite to do a job properly.” The SciDivs looked on implacably while Jeff resumed, “This tough, son-of-a-bitch, belts out three hundred and sixty rounds per minute. We have a barrel magazine with a thirty two round capacity. The solid slug ammo will literally blow a limb off ANYTHING! The entire weapon is designed to absorb recoil so it feels like you’re firing a Q-5; it’s just a smidge louder. If one of you shoots at something down there, you’re all going to know about it.”

 

Priyanka had the dreamy look in her eyes that always surfaced when she was examining firearms. She said, “Now I REALLY want to go back down there!” Jack ignored her comment when he said, “Now THAT is quite the care package you guys brought along. G-LT and the Sarge will take the AA-12s…” Gloria cut him off, “There are two more in the other case; plenty for us all to take down there.” Jack held his hand up and said, “I’d rather have a Q-5 at this point. With that rate of fire and magazine capacity that thing will be empty in less than six seconds.” Gloria scoffed, “There a single shot setting Vanilla, or are you scared of blowing your wad too quickly?”

 

Priyanka bristled at Gloria speaking to Jack that way but he was quick to retaliate, “No. I’m scared of YOU blowing your wad too quickly and not being able to reload in time. I’ll stick to the weapon that has a hundred kill pulse capacity and extra battery mag. You and the Sarge can stick to the heavy fire power.” Gloria just smiled, she seemed to prefer it when Jack gave her the same rough talking that she gave him.

 

Vusi was in the crow’s nest on over-watch but he had been listening to the whole exchange. His voice came over the tac comm system, “Why don’t you guys just go back in today? You have plenty of daylight left.” Jack involuntarily shook his head, a fruitless gesture considering that Vusi wasn’t near them. “Nope, we have preparations to make for tomorrow. We need to find a way to make sure that we don’t lose comms again like we did this morning. We need to rest properly before we go back in there, those suits get bloody hot. We need to analyse the swabs we took from our HAZMAT suits to see what the atmosphere is like down there. If we’re VERY lucky we might not even need the suits,” Jack said.

 

He looked over at Leigh, who was sleeping and now plasticuffed to a camping stretcher under a tarp.  Jack continued with, “We also have a prisoner now. I want to speak to her again before we head back in there, she seems to know something about this place.” Priyanka shook her head and said, “She seems delirious and crazy to boot. Whatever crap she was talking about earlier was probably from a bad dream she was having.” Josephina spoke up, “The Second Lieutenant is right, she is delirious. She was badly dehydrated when she was neutralised by the stun pulse and it looks like she hasn’t had a decent meal in years.”

 

Jack looked at Josephina and said, “When she wakes up, make sure she gets a decent, warm meal in her, perhaps we can win her trust a little bit. Then she’ll be able to confirm or refute what she was saying about this Mistress character and who, or what, exactly she keeps here.” Gloria echoed Priyanka’s sentiment, “She was probably talking crap. I wouldn’t trust a Roamer anyway; they’ll say and do anything for a bowl of pap or half a glass of water.” Jack fixed Gloria with a very level stare when he said, “I thought that there weren’t any Roamers left. And weren’t you the one who said the group that attacked us was unusually large.”

 

Gloria’s eyes spat a look of pure venom at Jack. She couldn’t stand having her own words used against her, unless she was in the mood to play. She steadied her voice and said, “Until we know otherwise, she’s a Roamer.” Jack’s voice was completely calm when he pointed out, “We won’t know otherwise, until we question her and we’ll get a lot more out of her if she trusts us.”

 

Cecil cut in at this point, “Look, Jack is in charge while we’re here so we’ll do things his way. We’re losing daylight while we argue about this and she isn’t even awake now anyway. Surely we should be preparing for tomorrow?” Jack and Gloria held each other’s gazes and they both start to feel a little sheepish about their exchange in front of everyone. Jack broke the silence, “Cecil’s right, there’s no point in arguing about this now. Gloria, you’re our communications guru?” Gloria rolled her eyes and said, “You know I am Vanilla, what do you want?”

 

Jack nodded his head at the datalink antenna that had been set up to communicate with Roodepoort from where they were. “Any luck getting in touch with Mabuse and the base?” He asked. She shook her head and said. “No. It’s weird, we should be able to get a signal just fine from here. I’ve run all of the diagnostics and everything comes back normal, except for the absence of a signal. There is a lot of steel around us, in the facility, but that shouldn’t be an issue. In cases like these I would normally think that someone had set up a jammer but there’s no one here and all of our transponders seem to be working fine.” Jack carried on, “Is there any chance we can jerry-rig that thing to boost our comms in the basement?”

 

Gloria flashed him a grin, Jack was starting to think that she was bipolar with her mood swings, and said, “Actually yes we can, that antenna is so powerful we will definitely not be losing comms anywhere down there.” Jack nodded and said, “Excellent, please will you get onto setting that up for us?” Gloria did a mock curtsey and strode over to the antenna.

 

Cecil walked over to Hannes and said, “Sarge, may I ask you a few questions about what you saw this morning?” Hannes looked at Cecil somewhat suspiciously; the two of them had started to form a friendship. Hannes was used to Jeff and Vusi’s wise cracks and he didn’t appreciate them very much; so he was wary of anyone asking him questions. He carefully said, “That depends on the questions.” Cecil looked a bit confused but pushed on, “You say that the creature had a girl’s face?” Hannes nodded and said, “Ja.” Cecil carried on, “When you say girl, do you mean like a twelve year old, or a nine year old?” Hannes shook his head, “No man, girl as in a woman. I couldn’t tell how old she, or it, looked.” Priyanka walked up to join the other two for the conversation.

 

Cecil nodded and continued, “Grey skin and yellow eyes, did it seem at all perturbed by your flashlights?” Hannes nodded at the first part and shook his head for the second saying, “I’m not sure hey. I didn’t really wait to see if light would irritate it before I shot it. I don’t THINK the light bothered it; it just kind of stood there looking through me until I shot. But it all happened so quickly, I’m not too sure.” Cecil nodded again and asked, “The big rotten teeth, would you say that they were actually rotten or just yellow?” Again Hannes shook his head, “They were big and yellow, they looked rotten to me but…” The big man just spread his hands. Cecil nodded again and Priyanka asked, “What are you thinking C?”

 

“Nothing yet,” Cecil said looking off into the distance. “Rubbish. You’re always thinking something,” Priyanka said playfully. Cecil’s mind was far away when he mindlessly replied, “I don’t have enough facts just yet.” He shook his head and continued, “I want to see this thing in ultra-high definition before I think anymore about it.” Priyanka winked at him and said, “I know, but I hope that we don’t see anything else before we find the Osmium.” Hannes nodded and said, “Maybe taking three stun shots to the chest will make it think twice before coming after us tomorrow.”

 

Cecil and Priyanka looked unconvinced. Jack had sauntered up behind them and said, “Well only one has been seen. And we don’t know what it is so let’s just take it easy until we know more about it.” Cecil, Priyanka and Hannes all gave each other knowing looks. Josephina and Gloria had come over to call Jack, Josephina said, “Leigh is awake LT.” Jack nodded saying, “Have you given her something to eat and drink?” Josephina shook her head and said, “She says that she’s not interested, she wants to speak to you.” Jack said, “I’m coming now.”

 

He walked off to where Leigh was secured to the stretcher, she saw him approaching her and tried to sit up straight. Before Jack reached her she said, “I want my stuff and I want to go please. I promise I won’t tell anyone that you’re here. I just need to get away from this place.” Jack simply replied, “Why do you want to leave here so badly?” She looked genuinely worried when she said, “I don’t know much about this place but I know that we NEED to leave here!” Jack looked her in the eyes and asked, “Why?” Leigh shook her head and said, “PLEASE! I can’t be here!” Jack remained implacable and said, “You’ve said that several times, if you want us to trust you or to cooperate then you need to give me something to work with.”

 

Jack kept his eyes locked with her’s and gave her a level stare when he asked, “Why do you feel that you need to leave here? Who is the mistress? Who does the mistress keep here?” Leigh looked surprised and asked, “How do you know all that?” Jack replied, “You told me all of that earlier.” Leigh looked genuinely scared and said, “I shouldn’t have said anything, she’ll kill me if she finds out.” Jack kept his gaze level and said, “The Mistress isn’t here and I have no intention of telling her what you said.”

 

Jack smiled at Leigh and it had the desired effect, she blushed and looked away from him. He persisted with Leigh, “Who is the Mistress?” Leigh looked at Jack with shy eyes and said, “She’s the Mistress, she’s the queen of this area. At least that’s what she wants us to believe.” Jack asked, “Then why doesn’t she call herself the Queen?” Leigh shrugged and said, “I don’t know, but she isn’t a nice person.”

 

She dropped her voice and said, “I don’t like her.” Jack dropped his voice and said, “I don’t know her but I don’t particularly like her either,” he winked at Leigh. This also worked; she blushed again and let a shy smile slip from her lips. Jack persisted again, “Who does she leave here?” Leigh allowed herself a quick glance at his sapphire blue eyes and said, “I don’t know who they are; all we ever heard were rumours from her special guards. They would tell stories about how they protected the Devil himself and how he was making Demons for the Mistress.” Jack tilted his handsome face and gazed intently at her when he asked, “Making Demons? How was he making Demons?”

 

Leigh shrugged and carried on looking into Jack’s eyes, she found that she quite enjoyed doing that. She was also enjoying the fact that he was interested in what she had to say. Men had never paid any attention to her mind; only her body and she started to enjoy this kind of attention for a change. She carried on, slightly more enthusiastically, “None of us knew how he made them. All we ever heard was that he was making them. The guards called him the Devil, the father of the Tokoloshe, and this is where she keeps them. Away from the rest of us.”

 

Jack looked at her and just said, “Tokoloshe?

 

(I usually use free stock imagery for my blog posts but I sourced this image from www.landroveraddict.com, I am not presenting this image as my own)

The Green Apocalypse ~ Chapter 8

Thursday 23rd December 2032, 07:53

 

Jack spoke over the tac comm system, “Good work guys! The elevator shaft is exactly where Cherokee told us it would be.” Cecil fired back in Afrikaans with, “Thank you Grandma Cherokee.” Hannes allowed himself an audible chuckle and he said, “Nice one Cecil, we’ll make a proper Boertjie out of you yet.” Everyone laughed at that, they were feeling pleased with themselves and rightfully so.

 

“This just keeps getting weirder and weirder,” Priyanka said as she was looking at the padlocked elevator door. “I wouldn’t worry too much,” Hannes said, “Most mine security was composed of ex-servicemen, they’re probably the ones who padlocked the door.” Priyanka said, “That makes sense to me; but the fact that these doors were only covered with a thin layer of InstaLawn is what worries me. I have a feeling someone has been here before and recently.” Jack said, “I agree with you but that doesn’t change the fact that we have to continue until we get what we came for. Cecil get ready with the bolt cutters; Hannes and I will open the doors using the crow-bars.” Cecil obliged by cutting the padlock off the doors. Priyanka covered all three of them while Hannes and Jack took up their crow-bars.

 

Jack looked at Hannes as the two of them were holding onto their crow-bars and he said, “Alright in three, two, one.” Both men pulled on their respective crow-bars with all of their strength. After considerable effort the doors to the elevator shaft grudgingly started to give way. Hannes grunted, “Don’t stop, keep pulling!” Jack grunted and kept pulling, suddenly the counter weight system on the elevator door kicked in and the doors slid open. Cecil stepped past Jack to hold the doors open while Priyanka stuck a wedge of scrap metal at the base of the doors to keep them open.

 

The interior team had been in the facility for nearly an hour and a half. They had followed Cherokee’s instructions to the letter; at basement level B2 they had gone through the double doors, covered in InstaLawn since Cherokee had worked at the facility. They moved through the primary storage area for platinum and palladium solutions and it was at this point that their tac comm system had started to lose signal with exterior team on the surface. By the time they had found the rear access the stair case that took them down to level B3; communication with the surface was impossible. Jack had already used seven of his transponders to mark the route that they were taking.

 

Thunk…             Thunk…             Thunk…

 

Cecil’s voice came over the tac comm system, “Am I the only one hearing that?” Priyanka answered him, “Nope, I can hear it too. Anyone have any ideas what the creepy knocking noise is?” Jack said, “It’s probably some kind of structural settling. This place has been abandoned and not maintained for more than a decade. We were told to expect it.” Hannes piped up with, “My Pa was in construction I’ve never heard any kind of settling noise like this before. And it sounds too regular to me” Jack was feeling uneasy, he wasn’t convinced that it was structural settling but the team couldn’t go back topside simply because of a creepy noise. He looked at the O2 levels in his tank, he had thirty percent left.

 

Everyone stepped to the edge of the elevator shaft and shone the flashlights attached to the barrels of their Q-5 pulse rifles down the shaft.

 

Thunk…         Thunk…         Pwing…         RRRRRAAAAAAWWWWWRRRRRRRRRR

 

Priyanka was the first to voice what everyone was thinking, “Is it just me or do the noises sound like they’re getting louder? And that last one sounded like a scream…” Hannes and Jack nodded while Cecil’s eyes were glued to the bottom of the shaft. “Guys, I really don’t mind being the wuss in the group because I am very nervous right now,” Cecil informed his team mates. Priyanka obliged him by stating the obvious, “I’m not scared or anything. But this noise has changed, it has been a bit too regular so far and I’m convinced I heard screaming!”

 

Jack silently cursed, he was also quietly freaking out and Hannes seemed to be the only one of them who wasn’t perturbed. Or maybe he was just hiding it well. “I’m going to set another transponder here and then we will head topside to refill our tanks and rest up for a while,” Jack said. He carried on with, “I read the ambient CO2 levels at seven point six percent, what do the rest of you get?” Everyone else confirmed his number. He set the transponder and as he was laying it down he saw a flicker of movement in his peripheral vision. Hannes said, “Whoa, what the hell was that? Did anyone see that?” All four of them had their Q-5 assault rifles at the ready, scanning the elevator shaft.

 

Eight flashlight beams were illuminating as much as they could of the weed covered interior of the shaft as well as the rest of basement level 3. Jack calmly spoke over the tac comm system, “Hannes, take point and lead us through back using the transponders. Pri get in the middle with Cecil. I’ll bring up the rear. Let’s get topside ASAP.” Hannes didn’t need to be told what to do twice; he followed the directional arrow flashing on his heads up display (HUD). They headed straight for the transponders that would get them out of the facility. All of them were scanning the area with their headlamps and sweeping the peripherals with their Q-5s. Cecil’s voice shakily came over through their ear pieces, “I’m seeing definite blurs of movement on the far left and I don’t think it’s just shadows playing on the walls.”

 

Thwunk, Pwing…   Thwunk, Pwing…   RRRRRRRAAAAAAAWWWWRRRRRRR…

 

Jack was checking the rear and he said, “Just keep moving and don’t shoot anything unless you’re sure of what you’re shooting. I don’t want us to rupture a compressed gas cylinder or a tank of acid.” Jack caught a blur of movement that seemed to come out of the elevator shaft, just out of reach of his flashlights. He kept it to himself so as not to alarm the others. He spoke to the interior team again, “Let’s keep it tight and quick people, move!” As they drew close to the stair case he said, “Cecil get ready to pull the left side door closed to this level, just in case.”

 

As they entered the stair case and Jack was pulling his door closed, he glanced into the vacant space one last time. He could’ve sworn he saw a pair of eyes be illuminated by his headlamp, just for a split second. The doors clanged shut and the team high-tailed it up the stairs to the storage areas of B2. As they entered B2 they all heard the doors that they had just closed; creaking open, loudly. Jack said to them, “I definitely heard THAT, let’s get the hell out of here NOW!” The interior team started to sprint through level B2 as fast as their chunky HAZMAT suits allowed them too.

 

Hannes was out in front when he skidded to a halt half yelling, “What the fuck?” He was staring at a grey, emaciated face with sallow, yellow eyes. Its jaw was hanging open; exposing massive, jagged, crooked and rotting teeth. He brought his Q-5 up and fired three stun pulses directly at the thing’s chest. The creature absorbed all three stun pulses without dropping. It bellowed out a blood curdling screech before darting off at an incredible speed to their right. “RUN!” Hannes screamed as he sprinted at full tilt towards the next transponder. All four of them had heard the scream and saw the blur of movement. They carried on sprinting as fast as they could to the next set of doors and the next stair case. Jack’s lungs were burning and he could taste blood at the back of his throat as his legs pounded up the stairs. Priyanka was starting to fall behind and Jack could swear that he heard heavy footsteps just behind them. He slowed down just enough to grab Priyanka’s arm and haul her up with him.

 

As they reached the top step back at ground level of the main building they could see glorious sunlight pouring through the entrance a hundred meters in front of them. Cecil stumbled and fell, dropping his Q-5; Hannes skidded to a halt and went back to haul Cecil to his feet. Priyanka pulled out of Jack’s grip to scoop up Cecil’s fallen Q-5. She still had the presence of mind to ensure that one of their weapons didn’t fall into the hands of whatever was chasing them. Jack spun around, as Priyanka was going for Cecil’s assault rifle, and fired a volley of stun pulses to the rear of group, just in case anything was there.

 

Within seconds all four of the interior team members were sprinting towards the entrance of the main building again. They burst through the entrance of the main building into the sunlight of the glorious morning. Jack and Hannes turned around again and fired several more volleys of stun pulses into the main building. When they were satisfied that nothing was coming out to attack them, they backed away slowly to the rest of the team. Gloria was looking at the four of them like they were completely insane but she had her Q-5 raised and ready. Josephina was setting up a drip on a young brunette woman that none of the interior team recognised.

 

Jack pulled his SCBA mask off and said in between heaving breathes, “The doors… We have… to… seal the doors… NOW!”

 

Thursday 23rd December 2032, 12:51

 

Leigh was having the same dream. She was trapped and bound in the darkness, she was trying to move, to see but she couldn’t. The dream started to change, she started to hear voices; she heard an argument raging.

 

“That’s complete bullshit you idiots!” Leigh heard a man’s voice say angrily. “I don’t know what you THINK you saw Sarge but it wasn’t what you’re telling me,” Leigh heard the same man say. She heard another man with a deep voice and a thick Afrikaans accent retort, “I’m telling you what I saw; it had girl’s face, grey skin, yellow eyes and fokken big, rotten teeth. I shot it three times in the chest and it look off like a springbok!”

 

The first man spat, “Bullshit!” Leigh heard a woman say, “Shut it Private! We were all there, the Sarge isn’t lying!” “Did you actually see it?” the same man said, “Did you see this so called monster?” The same woman replied, “If you had been down there and experienced what we did, if you had heard what we heard Vusi, you wouldn’t be questioning anything!” Vusi said, “Well isn’t it convenient that the Sarge’s helmet camera wasn’t working when he saw this thing? While you lot were pissing in your panties I was up here dealing with a real threat!” With that he pointed at Leigh, who was propped up in a sitting position next against the Unimog’s rear wheel.

 

Leigh opened her eyes and she saw a pretty young black woman leaning over her with her fingers on Leigh’s throat. Leigh instinctively tried to pull away from the woman but she was too weak. Josephina gently said, “Relax, just relax, I’m just checking your pulse.” Leigh blinked several times and groggily said, “Who are you, where am I.” Josephina replied, “I’m Josephina and you are in our camp.”

 

“That’s enough Corporal,” Jack said, he knelt down next to Leigh and said to her, “What’s your name and how did you find us?” Leigh looked at Jack and blinked several times before saying, “You have a pretty face.” Priyanka smiled, she could just imagine how her best friend felt at being called pretty. Jack’s expression remained deadpan when he responded, “Thank you, what is your name and how did you find us?” Leigh smiled groggily at him and said, “Leigh, my name is Leigh. I followed your tyre tracks.” Jack’s expression didn’t change when he said, “You followed our tyre tracks? That’s quite impressive. Where are the rest of your friends? Should we be expecting more company?”

 

Leigh smiled and at looked at him with glazed eyes when she answered, “I don’t have any friends. None since my parents were killed by the Mistress’ men.” Jack kept his tone and gaze level, “What happened to the people you were with? Can we be expecting them anytime soon?” Leigh looked at Priyanka now, “I like your hair.” She looked back at Jack to say, “They’re all dead, at least Jabu was when I left him. I made sure that Jabu was dead. The rest were unconscious and covered by the grass. Where am I? What’s your name pretty man?” Jack answered her, “My name is Jack, you are at the facility that you followed us to.”

 

Leigh smiled at Jack again, “I like you, you’re pretty and nice. You’re not like Jabu, I hate Jabu.” Leigh blinked a few times and she seemed to gain a greater appreciation for where she was, “I remember, I remember I followed the tyre tracks here.” She started to look around with fear in her eyes, “My stuff, I need my stuff. I need to get out of here, WE NEED to get out here. This is the Mistress’ secret place. This is where she puts them!” Jack’s eyes narrowed, “Who does the Mistress put here? Why do we need to leave?”

 

Leigh’s eyes started to roll into the back of her head, Jack spoke to her more sternly, “Leigh? Leigh! Stay with me, who is here with us? LEIGH?” It was no use, the young woman passed out. Jack turned to Josephina, “Is she going to make it?” She nodded and said, “She was badly dehydrated when she was stunned by the Q-5. She’s lucky the second stun didn’t kill her. She could also use something to eat when she’s strong enough.” Jack nodded and asked, “Do you have any idea when she’s going to be strong enough to answer my questions?” Josephina spread her hands and said, “Sorry LT, I’m just a medic. I know how to save a life. If you want a more detailed prognosis you’re going to have to ask a Doctor.” Jack nodded in disappointment, “Thanks Corporal, I appreciate it. Good work on bringing back from the brink. You’re doing well out here, keep up the good work.” Josephina straightened and her cheeks flushed visibly, she saluted Jack smartly and said, “Thank you sir!” Jack saluted her back and said, “Carry on.”

 

He made his way back to the others, Vusi was still going on, “There’s no way I’m going to believe a word of this crap!” Jack cut him short, “Stop your bitching Private! How long have you served with Sargent Vermaak? How long?” Vusi glared at Jack defiantly and said, “Three years.” Jack scoffed, “Three years? Three years, Private? In the last three years have you EVER known the Sarge to lie? To exaggerate in any way? To waste any words, other than discussing Rugby, at all? How many times has he had your back? Huh?” Vusi continued to glare at Jack and then he looked away. Jack carried on starring at Vusi when he said, “Now the Sarge is telling us that he saw something. There were three of us with the Sarge and even though we didn’t see it, we heard something and we saw movement down there. As Priyanka said, we all experienced something.”

 

Jack turned to look at Hannes, whose hulking shoulders were stooped and he had an uncharacteristically troubled look on his face. Jack said, “I believe that the Sarge saw what he said he saw.” Priyanka spoke loudly and clearly, “So do I!” Cecil spoke up with, “The Sarge saw what he saw and I believe him.” Hannes looked up at them and Jack could swear that he saw a flicker of gratitude cross the big man’s face. Gloria had been listening in over the tac comm system from the crow’s nest and contributed, “So what are we going to do Vanilla?”

 

Jack held Hannes’ gaze and calmly said, “We’re going back in.”

 

 

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