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Thing Wars: Northern Encounter
Part 1: By Steve Davis
There was nothing out there but snow, snow, and more snow. Sergeant Lindt huddled deeper into the drift beside him, fighting off the temptation to turn up the heat on his battlegear, while the merciless wind cut into all exposed surfaces.
The Meebs might be able to see infrared, the eggheads had told him before sending his squad out into the featureless icefields of Northern Ontario. No doubt they were doing their part for the war effort, in a nice warm lab down in North Bay.
Lindt tongued the switch for his squad's secure channel.
"Sound off, Infernals!" he ordered, trying to keep the shivers out of his voice.
"Left flank, nothing but snowdrifts." came Corporal Brocker's voice, hoarse from the dry air in his battlesuit.
"Right flank, same. Much longer an' I'm gonna be seein' beach babes." complained Corporal Ford. Lindt grinned, in spite of the breach of radio protocol. Ford was a Southerner, from Leamington. He was probably dreaming of Rondeau in July. Couldn't blame him, but..
"If you do, roast them. Remember last month!" They'd been taken by surprise during the first engagement, the Meebs had taken some locals and had them walking around nude in the snow.
It was a dead giveaway, and the aliens had learned. They never make the same mistake twice.
Lindt's shiver suddenly had nothing to do with the cold.
Those creatures had come up from the States in cars, trucks, planes..they looked like people. Hell, maybe they WERE people, but damn..what they could do to a man was enough to give anyone nightmares.
Someone on TV compared them to amoeba, formless shape shifting parasites. It was a convenient name, and now all Canadians called them Meebs.
The ill-equipped Canadian Armed Forces had at least been able to get some advanced gear from the Americans fleeing north, as well as some warm bodies to use it.
Problem was, no one knew who or what to shoot at. Bullets didn't kill the Meebs, nor did knives or axes. The pieces just got up and kept coming at you. That was about the only reliable way to tell if someone was human or not.
It was definitely not the kind of war Infernal Squad had trained for. No simple targets, oh no..this enemy could be a dog, or a squirrel, a bird..or your best pal.
Naturally, the public had gone ballistic and the media fanned the flames gleefully. Paranoid didn't begin to describe the situation, people killing each other left and right, cities raging with riots, refugees pouring in every direction, running from an enemy who was probably right in their midst. Nobody dared to own a dog or cat. A few idiots launched a worship cult, declaring the Meebs to be our alien guardians come to take us into the fold. Meebites didn't last long if they went out in public, but in a twisted sort of way they were right. These things did want to assimilate the whole race..
Somehow, things kept going. The military tested every man, woman and guard dog every day; blood tests seemed to identify the real from the Meeb'd. Slowly, resistance organized.
Today, Infernal Squad was patrolling the snowbound wilderness north of Thunder Bay. Aerial spotters had reported seeing a herd of deer, with some rather unusual characteristics. Lindt had been hunting, but he'd never seen a deer with a human head or a woman with antlers and hooves. These abominations were supposed to be heading in this direction, in the hope of getting into Thunder Bay's refugee camps. As if anyone could tell what a Meeb was thinking.
Brocker's voice broke the eerie silence. "Movement on IR, half a klick northwest!!" he screeched, "magnification shows they aren't anything like the folks back home!"
Lindt checked the charge on his wide-dispersion laser rifle. "All right, everyone, this has to be it. Shoot first and ask for ID later, and NONE of those damn things get past us, understood?"
A chorus of fervent agreement crackled in his earphones.
"Spread out, use your IR, and let the lasers fire first. Flamers, finish the job." he ordered, and crawled up the snowdrift until he could see clearly.
The Meebs moved quickly; Lindt stared in horror at the approaching monsters. Centaurs, he thought. They look like centaurs. Half horse, half human..ideal for rapid movement outdoors.
Damn..had to be a dozen of them. An evil thought entered his mind; "Watch your high twelve!! Even a drop of bird shit means you change sides!" he warned. The battlesuits were supposed to be impervious to the Meeb's cellular invasion, but no one wanted to be the first to test that.
The things were upon them. Lindt, Brocker and Ford all stood up and hosed the aliens with their bulky rifles, a wide cone of laser light silently emitting from each weapon. Snowflakes flashed red and vanished, and the enemy appeared to be totally surprised.
The air filled with inhuman howls of pain and rage as the hot light evaporated alien flesh. The centaur forms changed almost like a flipbook cartoon, trying to find a shape that would tolerate the burning heat. Tentacles, arms, fingers and limbs not seen on Earth sprang out, only to char and burst into flame.
"Watch the right!!!" Lindt screamed, as two of the abominations sprinted toward the right flank. "Get those flamers up NOW, NOW!!"
He swung his rifle in a careful arc, not wanting to roast any of his own men. The closest Meeb fell into the snow, a smouldering mess of exposed bone and ash.
To both sides, the high-pressure liquid fueled flamers roared to life, and the grey winter day erupted in fountains of orange fire and black, oily smoke.
The two flanking Meebs caught the fire full on their..chests..and screamed like all the damned souls of Hell. Heads, torsos and alien body parts formed and fell off the main body, streaming liquid fire. The squad could hear dogs barking, and chickens squawking..the smoke caught the laser cones and turned the whole scene into a surreal setpiece taken straight from Dante; everything was orange and flickering red, overlaid by a thick pall of smoke as the flamers washed back and forth over the Meebs even after they'd been reduced to ash.
Lindt felt a mild amusement as he noticed the snowbank that had been freezing his balls off had melted into a patch of hot muddy grass. Revenge, of sorts..
"I think we got 'em all, Sarge" called out Brocker.
"Maybe. Scan the area, and get those flamers to cremate anything that looks like it might move."
At last, the flamers fell silent, and Infernal Squad stood amid the smoke like wraiths, weapons ready to kill in an instant.
"Fry, fry, oxidize and DIE, fuckers!!" Ford yelled exultantly. There was nothing left but ash thickened with melted snow. The skies were clear of life, and nothing showed on the northern horizon as far as his battlegear could see.
The audiosensors picked up familiar sounds..Coyote LAV's coming their way. Lindt grunted with satisfaction; the smoke must have been visible for miles. The cavalry was coming. But the whole thing seemed a bit too..convenient to Lindt. The Meebs had run right into the ambush and didn't even fight back. Something wasn't right about this..maybe months of forced paranoia were getting to him, but Lindt felt spiders crawling up his spine.
The men watched as the agile 8-wheeled vehicles approached, mostly relieved that they wouldn't have to walk home.
But Sergeant Lindt double-checked the charge on his rifle and watched the LAV's with apprehension. If the crews so much as blinked wrong, he had enough charge left to fry a couple of them before they got him and the squad.
It's like his old man had always said. You just can't trust no one these days...