‘We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Gun’ (Part Two) 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
Read part one HERE.
That first attack was the stone that caused the avalanche. Whether the remaining scabs sought vengeance or just wanted to eat them, Bill didn’t know. He just knew that all through the night the bastards kept coming.
It was a loud, bloody and never-ending shit-show.
“There it is again!” Boner yelled.
“What’s he on about, Ashman?” Bill yelled.
“Reckons he can hear the volcano rumbling, boss!”
Bill raised an eyebrow before he and Sam brought down a scab Tower. Bill took out its legs and Sam fired half a clip into its face as it fell. The head came apart as it landed, leaking lava that trailed towards their ditch.
“Liam!” Bill snapped. “Trench, over there. Lee, go with him!”
They both nodded. Liam was the finest military engineer Bill had ever come across. A little soft, but not when it counted. For some reason Lee took it upon himself to look after the lad.
“Give ‘em some cover, boys!” Bill roared.
The dead Tower’s head was spilling out more and more liquid fire. If Liam didn’t get a small trench dug double-quick they would all be scrambling out of the ditch. The gap in fire would give the Hoffys time to get closer, and more accurate.
Lee had his shield up while Liam dug frantically with a plasma cutter. Without distraction he could dig a six-by-three-foot trench inside a minute, but Lee was struggling to keep the incoming lava off him.
“What the fuck is that?” Sam yelled.
The whole squad stared ahead, struggling to see past the light of Lee’s shield.
“Can you see it? Over there.”
“No,” Bill said. “Az, what is it?”
Az looked through his scope. “Don’t know, but it’s big and moving slow.”
“I don’t like fucking surprises,” Bill yelled. “Ashman, put a flare on the bastard!”
Ashman searched through his pack. “Last one. You sure?”
“Yes! Light it up. I want to see what it is.”
Ashman shrugged and fired the flare at the slow-moving mass.
It lit up a massive, lumbering abomination at least five scabs wide, shaped like a wedge.
The cigarette Az smoked fell from its perch on his lower lip. He continued to stare silently down his scope.
“Az!” Bill snapped.
“Looks like…” Az paused. “Looks like six towers using Runts as shields.”
“Take out the legs, boys!” Bill ordered.
Bullets cut through the hot air dangerously close to Lee and Liam.
“Oi! Watch what you’re fucking doing!” Lee yelled.
“James, get the Quad,” Kris shouted.
James was a huge bastard, as strong and subtle as a bull. He stood well over six foot and the Quad Launcher looked right at home on his shoulder.
“No! It’s too close to the boys. Spread out, make them bunch up. Small arms only!” said Bill.
“What the fuck is that and who’s got the M9?” asked Lee.
The gun was a relic even before the Flash, a single-shot grenade launcher from WWII. But with pre-Flash tech, the simpler a machine was the more likely you could keep it working.
“Boner! Throw Lee the M9!” Sam yelled.
“What? I heard it again!”
“Shut the fuck up about the volcano, will you!” Sam ducked under the ditch’s lip and swiped the grenade launcher.
“Keep firing, boys!” Bill roared as the now-glowing mass of Towers advanced.
“Where is it?” Lee shouted as Liam continued to dig.
Sam clicked his shield on and scrambled up onto level ground, close enough to throw the gun.
It won’t work, Bill thought. “Boys, on me!” He climbed up out of the ditch and the squad followed. “Shields!” he roared. The men lifted their arms and each shield melded into its neighbour to create a protective wall. “Keep this fucking wall connected. One pace at a time. Advance!”
Sam dragged Liam back to the line while Lee crept backwards, looking for the sweet spot in which to plant his explosive flower.
Ashman deactivated his shield to let Sam and Liam join the line, then rushed to the left to widen the wall.
“Come on, you ugly cunts!” Lee yelled. He fired his grenade into the midst of the scabs. The squad raised their guard as the explosion sent bits of hot scab every which way.
“DOWN!” Az yelled from back in the ditch.
The towers had been a diversion — an escort. As the smoke cleared a Hoffy stood there, head bent back at a perfect right angle, throat wide open. The orange glow of the beach ball it was creating lit up the small battlefield.
With no head to shoot at, Az fired into the monster’s chest, but the Hoffy’s thick, charred hide stopped the bullet before it could hit anything vital.
“Lee!” Liam screamed.
Lee looked behind him.
“Shell!” Bill roared. The men were already in motion. James, the strongest at the centre, raised his shield directly above his head. The rest positioned their shields with practised efficiency so they would cocoon them in what looked like a tortoise’s shell. They left a hole where the head would be on the aforementioned reptile, and as Lee slid in at a sprint he clicked on his shield and sealed the plasma shell.
The beach ball was arcing through the air on a direct trajectory for the hardened soldiers.
“Brace!” Bill roared. The massive sphere smashed into the shell, making the men strain with effort.
“Watch your gaps!” Sam added.
They heard three pops as Az fired into the Hoffy’s torso. It wasn’t enough, and the hot gob was charging for a second attack.
“We can’t take another hit, fellas,” Toby grunted.
“On my signal, break cover and fill the bastard with a day’s ammo,” Bill said.
The men came apart and unleashed hell, a firing squad that tore limbs and leaked glowing fire into the Hot Fields.
Clips were emptied, reloaded, and emptied again until the firing stopped. Smoke crept from rifle barrels like so many horizontal candles that had just guttered out.
The silence stretched. And then the volcano rumbled.
“Told ya!” Boner said with smug satisfaction.
That one is supposed to be inactive. Bill looked around at his men, all adjusting to the loss of adrenaline.
Sam shouldered his rifle, scratched his bollocks, and said, “Brew, anyone?”
Back in the questionable safety of the ditch, all was quiet. Well, except for the volcano rumbling. It was becoming more frequent, and though nobody said anything Bill suspected it was unnerving the whole squad.
Sam was busy boiling water for tea, which was never that difficult out in the Hot Fields. He had a blacksmith’s smelting cup on a set of iron tongs, having rushed to Liam’s trench and filled it with the scorching contents of the Tower he had earlier emptied.
“Circle of life and all that,” he said on his return, then set to making everyone a brew. Bill would have helped, but Sam would pop a bollock if anyone touched his brew-pot.
“Got any milk, Sam?” Toby asked.
“Not unless you’re lactating, sweetheart.”
“Can men do that?” Dan asked in earnest, a big chap, not much upstairs but loyal as a Rottweiler.
“Dan,” Bill said. “The day will come when that hollow head of yours will have an idea; when it comes, I want you to do something for me.”
“’Course, Bill. What is it?”
“You forget it ever popped up there, ‘kay? ”
“Alright, gorge,” Dan said, his monobrow knitted in profound confusion.
James, the only man bigger than Dan, put a hand on his back whilst chuckling. “Come on, big lad, let’s get a cup of Sam’s petrol.”
“Toby, you found out whether that volcano’s likely to burp?” Bill asked, supping soup from a battered steel pot.
“Can you believe a phone used to tell you everything you ever needed to know?” Toby said. “God, what I’d do for some tech right now.”
“Toby, be a good little cartographer and answer the bloody question. I haven’t got time for your hopes and dreams, tit!”
“By the time you get that stick out your arse I’ll have found it.”
Bill was about to reply but apparently Toby had found what he was looking for amongst his charts.
“Here it is. Tiffany! Popped five years back. Should be inactive, boss.”
“How comes you call ‘em girls’ names?” Dan asked.
“Girls scare me, big lad.”
Dan nodded his agreement and carried on sipping his tea.
Bill stood, careful not to stand too high in case the hot gobs were back. But when he peered over the ledge he couldn’t see any sign of scabs. He walked over to Az, who had his eye to his scope and a finger hooked through the handle of his teacup.
“Can’t hear the hot gobs,” Bill began. “That’s usually bad news after a skirmish like that. What do you make of it?”
“Aye, it’s not like them,” Az replied.
Bill knelt down. “What are we dealing with, Az? I’ve never seen hot gobs strategise. Using their own as shields and hiding that Hoffy… got me thinking they’re not as stupid as we reckoned.”
“Not sure, but after the night we’ve had I’m inclined to agree.”
The earth gently trembled as the volcano groaned.
“Smells like trouble to me,” Bill continued once the tremors subsided. “That many Hoffys and Towers in one place — and that volcano is sending my internal clock right to FUBAR.”
“Want me to take a look?” Az offered.
Bill nodded. “We can’t stay here. The hot gobs are getting closer and closer. For it all to go quiet … I don’t trust it. Here, take this.” Bill handed Az his rifle and two mags.
Az gave Bill a look as if to say, You aint using my long shot while I’m gone.
Bill just grinned. “Don’t worry, brother. I’ll see she’s not touched; besides, I’ve got the Undertaker to keep me warm.” Still smiling, he tapped at his hip. There, nestled in a weather-worn holster, sat his .357 Magnum, a veritable hand cannon with a barrel that nearly reached his knee. If anything got close enough for a kiss, well… it was one they never remembered.
Az gave Bill a nod and crept out of the ditch. Bill watched him stay low and hurry to the charred forest at Tiffany’s base.
“Its quiet, fellas,” Bill said. “Let’s turn in while we have a minute. One-hour rotation. I’ll take first watch.”
He watched his men take out their bedrolls and use them as pillows. One of the Hot Fields’ only redeeming features was that they were never cold. The earth was warm, like under-floor heating back when mankind had time and money to spend on such luxuries.
Bill paced the perimeter of the ditch they had called home for the last day and a half. It had been hard graft — sweat, fire, bullets and bombs — but his men were alive. He thought about the mission.
The distress call from Hell’s Hub had stopped transmitting thirty-six hours ago. How could anything threaten Hell’s Hub? It was the biggest forward operating base in the Hot Fields. It had enough ordnance to deal with a small country.
On top of that, Echo squad should have reported in by now. Anna and her girls had a two-day head start on Charlie squad. Bill’s bad feeling was only getting worse. His guts grumbled, echoing loud in the quiet night. Then his arse gave vent to a savage fart that put an end to another pair of boxers.
The hour passed uninterrupted. Bill had hoped Az would return before his watch ended. Anxiety gnawed at him. He took out his squad monitor; everybody’s vitals were normal. Except Az.
He’s just out of range . . .
Boner took second watch. He yawned as he paced, hunched below the lip of the ditch. After half an hour of nothing and no one he decided it was safe to get out and have a stretch.
Back is killing me from all this bloody crouching!
Up top, it was much the same only without the spine ache. Boner gazed long at the volcano’s crater, wondering at the rumbles he had heard, and later felt as they became more frequent and violent.
He checked his watch and decided fifty minutes was enough. He was deciding who to wake next when he was violently jerked backwards.
“What the f—”
All of a sudden, his face was held in a fierce grip. He tried calling for help but only managed a muffled grunt.
He couldn’t see, couldn’t speak, and heard nothing. He fought for freedom with the ferocity of a netted shark, kicking and punching, but whatever held him had him fast.
His back was slammed into the ground. Boner squeaked in agony, and then again as something smashed into his chest. Blood flooded his mouth and he had to fight to remain conscious.
Something grabbed his right wrist. For a moment, Boner dared to hope his brothers had come to his aid. Then the rough hand squeezed even tighter and he screamed like a stuck pig as he realised his arm was being torn free.
The massive clawed hand pulled free of Boner’s face, and now he was silent while he took in the scene before him.
A Tower had a foot on his chest, pressing him hard into the hot ground, and a Runt to his right had his arm hanging in its grip.
Boner’s vision blurred and his hearing turned inwards. The Runt flung the arm, dropped to all fours and started biting into Boner’s stomach. Biting… and feeding. Feeling came and went, and every time he thought he would pass into blissful death he would spasm and shriek loud into the night.
His head lolled towards the ditch, and with fading sight he saw a huge figure running towards him. James…
Back in the ditch, Bill awoke to the sound of a rapidly increasing beep. As he came to, he realised the squad monitor was going crazy. Someone was in trouble. The others were already up and doing a head count.
Bill panicked. His monitor was to hand in a split second. He heaved a massive sigh of relief as he saw Az’s heart beating smooth and steady.
He’s on his way back.
His vision was still blurry from sleep, but he could see whose heart was beating like machine gun fire. Boner!
“We got action! Up and armed, now!” Bill roared.
James was already moving. Bill scrambled out of the ditch hot on James’ heels.
The Runt’s charred head was tearing into Boner’s side, ripping at flesh with its blackened teeth.
Why haven’t they burned him? They never get this close.
The Runt carried on eating into Boner’s stomach. James roared and speared his great weight into the Tower, sending them both tumbling to the ground.
Bill burned with rage. One of his brothers was being eaten alive and the other just ran head-on into a fucking Tower! It took a lot to make James look small, but entangled with his huge enemy he looked like a child.
Bill moved quick, sprinting like he was eighteen again. He lined up the Runt’s head and swung his steel-toed boot into the creature’s temple.
The kick connected. The Runt rolled free of Boner, clearly dazed, but now eager to get up and attack Bill.
Need to put this fucker to bed before he starts glowing, Bill thought, despite wanting to take his time with the prick.
When the Runt tried to get back up, it met the sole of Bill’s boot and its head bounced off the ground. Bill drew the Undertaker and put a crater-sized hole in the Runt’s forehead.
Ahead, the Tower’s claws had raked James’ face and arms, but he didn’t seem to care. Bill rushed to help, hoping he wasn’t too late.
James saw red. He punched, bit, kicked, elbowed, kneed and head-butted the Tower, fury lending him impossible strength. But despite being able to break a man’s neck like twigs underfoot, he couldn’t match the Tower’s impossible strength.
The Tower got its claws around James’ neck and began squeezing. James had seconds before his own neck snapped. He reached around to his back and yanked his sawn-off shotgun free, pressed the barrel into the nook of the creature’s elbow and fired, the shot reverberating like thunder in the night. Its forearm hung by pieces of shredded tissue, and with a yank backwards the arm came free. The Tower emitted a horrid gargling hiss. James pulled hard on the dead fingers about his neck, the claws biting into his skin in final defiance.
James felt his crotch warm up as the Tower began to glow beneath him. Its body began to rise. Its head snapped back. And then its throat opened.
“Argh!” James cursed, struggling to stand with burning legs.
“No you fucking don’t!” he spat.
He shoved the barrel of his gun into the furnace of the beast’s neck, heedless of the searing heat.
“No, James, don’t!” he heard Ashman yell.
Ashman saw it all in slow motion.
James’ finger on the trigger. The slight contraction of the finger as he squeezed. And then the barrel belching fire, spraying lava back onto the big lad. James clicked his shield on quick enough to save his torso and half his face, but the other half was burning. His pain-filled shriek was cut off as Bill speared into him, sending them both rolling along the hot earth.
“Out of my way!” Ashman yelled as he ran. “Dan, get water, quickly! You idiot, James! You stupid fucking idiot!” He pulled a small bag from his pack. “Someone hold him down!”
Bill, Sam, Lee and Liam leapt to help. Ashman was readying a syringe when Dan returned.
“Good lad, Dan. Pour it over his face, steady-like.” Dan nodded and did as instructed.
“Toby, Kris, make sure we have no more visitors,” Bill ordered.
Ashman had the syringe ready. “I need him still for this, lads.”
The boys all pressed their weight onto the big man. Ashman pushed the needle into his neck and in moments James was calm and still.
The squad took a unified breath.
“You okay, Ash? Or do you need more help?” Bill asked.
Ashman knew Bill wanted to see to Boner. “I’ll be fine. You go on, boss.” Bill gave a nod.
“I can see his skull,” Dan said.
“I know, mate, but we’ll fix him. The prick owes me a tenner,” Ashman said with a smile. Dan laughed, but the concern on his face did not abate.
Ashman grabbed the SkinSeal gun from his kit. He squeezed the trigger and coated the burned side of James’ face in a strong local anaesthetic. Next, he switched cartridges and applied an antibiotic gel. The two substances mixed and formed a hardened protective barrier.
“That should do till we get you to an infirmary, big lad.” Ashman turned to Dan. “Come on. Let’s get James in the ditch and help with Boner.”
END OF PART TWO
Read part three HERE