‘We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Gun’ (Part Four) by Kareem Mahfouz
This is a story that, if you read past the first paragraph, you will soon realise does not take itself very seriously. I wrote it pretty much two years ago to the day, and it came about when I was stressing over my main WIP. I wanted something I could let my hair down with, something that was just… fun. Every single one of the characters is a close personal friend, bar Bill, who is my brother. And you’re going to have to trust me when I say they all maintain their real life characteristics. The story is basically Gears of War (which most of the real life characters worship) meets Skyrim. If more than one person reads all four parts and actually enjoys them, then I would very much like to write a follow up, one wherein even dumber shit happens.
And remember, the right path is always the right one. The other one is the left path.
– Kareem Mahfouz
The remainder of the night was a blur. The forest burned, and through the flames the dragon could always be seen striding towards them.
Bill took Toby’s advice and led the squad through the mine tunnels of Vol Haddrak, Tiffany’s much larger neighbour. It was a hard run to the southern entrance and always the ground shook with the pursuing dragon, which seemed to be in no hurry whatsoever.
Liam snagged a foot inside the mines; when he tried to pull it free, he caused a small internal collapse of rock. Ashman sedated him and had to amputate, but when Liam awoke he made do. Lee was with him every step of the way, and when they emerged in the dim light of morning he found a stick to use as a crutch.
They heard nothing of the dragon on the north side, and after Az scouted ahead they trekked their way to the F.O.B.
When it came into view Bill couldn’t believe his eyes. Smoke rose from almost every corner of Hell’s Hub. Charlie squad were meant to provide support, but at a glance it looked like there was nobody to support.
“I know you’ll want to look for survivors, Bill, but should we really head in there while that… thing is after us?” Sam asked.
“Let’s call it what it is, shall we?” Bill snapped. “It’s a fucking dragon. Now, the reason I want in there is because they have an anti-air gun with plasma rounds, right?”
“Aye.” Liam winced. “But it’s been decommissioned.
“Can you get it working?”
“With enough time and no hot gobs? Probably, yeah.”
“Right, Lee. Your job is to keep Liam alive and working. Kris, you go with them. The rest of you are with me. Maybe Anna and the rest of Echo are here. If they are then happy fucking day; we’re gonna need all the help we can get. If not, then we find survivors and kill anything that isn’t human. Got it?”
Everyone agreed, but then a thunderous roar drowned out the men. It came from Haddrak’s summit.
“F.O.B is too fucking far!” Sam yelled over the noise. “We’ll never get there if that fucker swoops down spewing fire.”
James let drop the heavy Quad Launcher. The thud stole the squad’s attention. He removed his and Boner’s tags and strode over to Bill.
“I’ll give you enough time.” He handed Bill his tags.
“Fuck that. You’re not allowed to die because you’re tired, big lad.”
“Aye,” Sam agreed. “Who made you fucking boss?”
“I’m done, boys. I can feel it. Something’s wrong. Maybe some of that shit got in my brain, but I know I don’t have long. Go on. Kill that fucker, and me and Boner will watch.”
Bill felt anger boil up inside him; anger, and grief. There are times when a man, no matter how bad he wishes it were otherwise, has to admit he can do nothing.
He nodded up to James. The big man grinned. Then Bill looked out at the others. A bunch of hard, cold, killers. Bastards all, and Bill could swear most were ready to cry.
“I got three shots,” James said.
“Pride has no room here, bud,” Lee said to Liam as he hoisted him over one shoulder.
James hauled the Quad onto his own shoulder. “Go!” he yelled.
As the squad took off, so did the dragon, beating its wings and coming down into a smooth glide. James let the first missile fly.
It went wide, but the dragon instinctively swerved to the right. The next shot James fired exploded against the beast’s chest. It had little effect beyond pissing it off.
He looked behind. The boys were halfway there.
The dragon pulled up to land some fifty feet ahead of him. It spared the squad a glance then lazily turned its gaze back on James.
One to the head should do it. The dragon’s dully-lit red veins started to glow a startlingly bright orange.
“Fuck you!” James yelled, and fired his last missile.
The dragon’s mouth opened, showing off huge onyx fangs, and then the lava came, this time in a constant blast. The fire consumed the missile and kept going.
Bill looked back to see James completely blanketed in lava. Without realising, the squad had stopped. When the smoke cleared, James lay there — or what was left of him. Remnants of flesh crackled within a pool of blood and blackened bone beside a white-hot Quad Launcher.
“Move! Into the hangar,” Bill roared, running once more, his rage burning hotter than the fire that just killed James. But he had no time to plan his revenge; Runts were roaming the landing strip and gorging on dead flesh in between a thousand small fires. The squad were clinical in their execution of them, short but constant bursts of gunfire putting each one down.
“Az! Come on!” Sam screamed, then fired a single shot into the head of a lumbering Runt at Az’ six. The sniper was still staring at James and the dragon; the beast had let go another gout of flame.
Az put a hand up for quiet, like the world hadn’t gone to shit and he was trying to listen to the news. Then he spoke into his radio.
“It’s just like normal scabs; it can’t singe you if it’s moving! It has to be still.”
“Yes, Az! We can use this,” Bill answered. Out of ammo for his rifle, he was now splitting heads with the Undertaker. “Stay spread out, boys. Keep her moving. Toby, get in the watchtower. If she flies, I want to know where she is. Do not draw attention to yourself! Liam, get to that anti-air gun and get it working; that is mission priority! Everyone else — bound to be some heavy arms lying around here, so tool up and stay alive!”
“Whoooooo!” came the unified reply.
“Incoming!” Sam yelled.
The dragon landed on the runway. Dan clicked his shield on but it did little good. The dragon’s tail slammed into the pulsing plasma and Dan flew fifty-odd feet, crashing into the wall of the guardhouse.
There was a long, drawn-out beep on the squad monitor.
Sam screamed, throwing a frag grenade that exploded near the dragon’s head. “Die, fucker!”
It turned on Sam and began to glow, but quickly dimmed back to charred black. Az had managed to get aboard a mounted .50 Cal and was drilling into its hide. It wasn’t penetrating skin, but it saved Sam as the dragon turned to face the sniper.
“That’s it, boys! Don’t let the bitch get comfy!” Bill yelled over the radio. A Runt stumbled around the corner. Bill didn’t even look at it, but a second later the scab had no head and the Undertaker’s barrel was smoking.
Az took that as his cue and leapt off, but the dragon was already looking at Ashman, who was cursing at the top of his lungs. When the beast turned to him he fired his newly acquired RPG, tearing a hole in the dragon’s wing. It shrieked in pain.
“How’s that, you overgrown fucking gecko?” Ashman yelled. Then he realised he’d become the dragon’s sole focus, and legged it.
“Is the gun operational yet?” Bill asked over the radio.
“Need a few more minutes,” Liam said, his injured leg throbbing.
“Come on, lad. Don’t let me down!”
It was just bad luck that the gun was surrounded by scabs. The pop of Lee’s M9 made their surroundings look like a busy day at an abattoir, but eventually the grenades ran out and the two of them were struggling to fend off the scabs.
Nearly got it.
Lee and Kris were forced back towards Liam, and then Kris ran dry. He looked pissed off, and that was never good. Kris’ sense of self-preservation was lacking at the best of times.
“Fuck this!” Kris said, and ran at the nearest Runt, his rifle swinging uselessly by its strap.
“The fuck is he doing?” Lee mused.
Kris punched into the midriff of a Runt, clicking his plasma shield on at the last second and cutting it in two. He spun around with a look of maniacal joy.
“Did you see that? Did. You. Fucking. See. That?” he said, hopping about.
As he celebrated, another Runt was preparing to singe him. Lee fired, but the only sound his rifle made was an empty click. Liam drew his own sidearm quicker than he ever had and put two into the Runt’s head via the glowing open throat.
“For fuck’s sake, Kris! Get back here! Lee, I got four left.” He passed Lee four rifle mags. Lee shared them with the little psychopath while Liam got back to his repairs.
“Got it!” he said eventually. “Kris, load the gun!”
Liam got on the radio. “We’re ready to go. Gun won’t come down to ground level, though. Need to get that bitch in the air, and we need support — like, yesterday!”
“On my way,” Bill said. “Toby, tell me we have active drones on base.”
“Can you get one in the air?”
“Aye, should be able to.”
“Impress me, Tobe,” Bill finished. “You get that, Az?”
“Go. We’ll be fine!” Az replied.
Up in the watchtower, Toby readied the drone for flight. Getting it off the runway was a bastard what with all the shit the destruction had wrought, but a great deal of obscenities later he had it airborne. After gaining altitude, he put the nose down and let the bombs drop.
“Better take cover, boys!”
On the ground, the men scattered.
The dragon fell on its side with the twin explosions, its reptilian head turned skywards. It charged itself with the familiar glow and fired high into the sky, but the drone was safely out of range. The dragon bunched its legs and leapt high, its damaged wings still able to carry it up.
“Yes, Tobe! Now bring her here!” Liam yelled over the airwaves.
Bill joined Liam at the AA gun as the drone banked left towards their position.
“Don’t miss,” Lee said to Liam, now sat in the gunner’s chair.
“Here she comes!” Kris bellowed.
“A little closer…” Liam whispered. Then: click.
The shell exploded into motion.
“Direct hit!” Toby yelled in triumph.
But no corpse hit the floor. A shriek filled the sky as the behemoth hovered above.
“Wheel her around for another!” Bill yelled into his radio. The drone didn’t change direction.
Bill looked up. The watchtower windows flashed with gunfire. “Fuck!” he cursed, then got back on the radio. “Who’s near Toby? Get up there!”
The dragon banked sharply towards the flashing tower.
“Liam, hit that fucking thing!” Bill roared.
“I’m not fucking asking, damn it!”
“It’d kill Toby!”
“FUCK!” Bill roared.
He watched helplessly as the dragon threw its weight into the building. Brick, glass and furniture exploded in a shower of debris. It dug its claws in and clung to the building like an enormous bat. Its ugly head darted inside the hole and whipped back out. Toby’s body was airborne for the few moments it took the dragon to push off the tower, snake its huge head out, and pluck the cartographer from the air.
“Shoot that fucking bitch!” Bill screamed to anyone who could hear.
Liam fired another plasma round but it glanced off the beast’s black hide.
“Fuck this!” Kris roared, and started running, patting his breast pocket as he ran.
What’s he doing?
“You boys have a minute, maybe two to get in the bunker,” Kris said over the radio. “I love you all. I fucking mean that!”
Kris mounted the .50 Cal and started spraying the dragon. When he got its attention, he hopped off and started running. The dragon’s roar was skull-splitting as it swept down and, without touching the ground, scooped Kris off the runway and swallowed him whole.
Bill did as Kris asked, knowing full well that if he’d told them to run then something bad was going to happen.
“You heard him, lads!” Bill roared. Lee had Liam over his shoulder and Bill followed, running with every bit of strength he had left. Thankfully, everyone still alive made it down.
Out of breath, Sam asked, “The fuck is the mad bastard doing?”
“He’s dead, mate,” Lee said, eyes downcast.
They heard the dragon bellow its fury — or victory — once more. And then all was quiet.
“Hold on!” Bill said. “Who’s got the plucap?”
“Charlie squad, do you read me? This is Sergeant Page of Echo squad. We’ve sustained heavy casualties and we need immediate support! Charlie squad, is anyone there?”
“Bill, it’s Anna . . . are you there? Bill, if you’re hearing this, Hell’s Hub is destroyed. The Scabs have a new weapon. They’re huge, and they fly, and they breathe fucking lava. We killed one, but we’ve seen two more shoot out of Andria and Eleanor. They just keep popping out of volcanoes all over the Hot Fields. If you get this, we’re heading to Lucifer’s Chair. We’ll wait two— Shit! Here she comes. Ru—”