A s h e s: Please note that I separated radio chatter as the following : [Radio chatter]
I’m trying to make the visuals more pleasing. If you like it, please let me know where ever you are reading this. RoyalRoad, WordPress, Webnovel. These are the only sites you should be seeing this story on. Unless someone is translating it.
Seven meters away – Seven large bipedal monsters passed beneath a partially fallen pine tree, their skin as green as the leaves around them. The tree rested against their neighbors as a beaten path ran beneath the naturally made archway. My chevron reticle followed them, trained on the lead monster’s face as I tried to process what I was seeing. They stood anywhere from six-and-a-half feet tall to seven feet. The shortest of them was slightly taller than me, but each of them displayed toned muscles, scarred from many battles.
That wasn’t what baffled me. It was that these beings had pig heads. Not the cute cuddly pigs my little brother would fuss over at the local petting zoo, but the ones you see in the slaughterhouses. They had snouts that protruded out by half a foot with small squinted eyes, ringed with pink eyelids. Only a few of the monsters had intact floppy ears. Most were either completely missing or fucked up in some way or another. All of their heads were fuzzed with curly hair like a normal farm pig. Aside from this, they looked like Pig-Vikings.
They wore iron armor that appeared crudely forged, almost similar to cast iron. They were iron suits, rusted and scared, with no sleeves or pants. They wore long pieces of soiled loin cloths. Each of them carried battered axes and swords as they noisily passed by, their language akin to the pigs from my world. Also unlike my world, these pig monsters were not timid in their movements and walked with a confidence that screamed: “We are the biggest motherfuckers in this place.” However, I couldn’t tell if they were right.
The group of UMAs disappeared up the forest trail and I waited for a few minutes, my sight slowly scanning the distant trees for signs of more of the bi-pedal pigs. Once I was satisfied, I turned and slowly picked my way down a few feet until I reached the bank of a dried creek. Birds weaved in and out of the branches overhead as they sang happily as the mangled headless body of a marine gripped my eyes. “Rest in peace, brother.” I sighed as I slung my rifle around to my back and pulled his flag and name tag off. His dog tags were gone, self-evident that they were lost where ever his head had been separated from his body.
I searched the poor man’s body for any usable gear. I took his magazines and his medical pouch since mine were ripped from me in that strange demon dimension we had flown through.
I had managed to kill the demon that pulled me from the helicopter before it could do anything. Then I pulled through another hole and crashed through the trees, luckily, landing in enough branches to kill my velocity.
[“Detecting signals to your eight-o-clock.”]
Steward, the team’s onboard AI, popped over my headset. I didn’t bother to reply, there was no need too. Steward wasn’t an AI like the experimental one we gave to Isaac last minute. While I thought it would have been good enough to link his device to our AI, our father didn’t want Isaac to see the… bad side… of us.
Certainly, we could have imposed restrictions on what Isaac could get out of Steward, but that would’ve been after we got him to a the code-monkeys, if they were still alive. I pulled the thoughts of my family aside and put the task of linking up with the remaining marines and Sentinel squad up first. I knew there were survivors since Steward could pick up their signals, but the range without satellite for a Tact-link was up to two miles, I was just on the outskirts of the range.
I shouldered my heavy heart, put aside my fears, and picked up the dead man’s rifle – another HK416. With the information in hand, I had to make the outlandish claim that I may not be on earth anymore. Those pig-monsters were the last nail in my doubts and we were going to need every bit of equipment we could get out here. While the soldier had more gear it would have to wait until I could get to the team. I was already ruffed up and running low on energy. I just hoped I wasn’t walking into a fight when I got there…
I trekked down the dry creek until it began to bank away from the direction Steward was picking up the signals from. After that, I climbed the creek’s berm and back into the thick forest. Aside from the crackling of the dry foliage beneath my feet and the singing of the distant birds, I never spotted any other wildlife – discounting the green pigs.
[“We’re within range. The signal is five-by-five. Nearby survivors are currently engaged with hostiles. I recommend that we increase our pace.”]
Steward’s robotic voice came over my headset as I began to disregard the minor hazards in favor of following the suggestion. “Let them know I’m on my way.” Static followed as something exploded on the tree beside me. Heat engulfed me as I was thrown aside, narrowly missing the adjacent tree. I rolled a few times before I managed to catch myself and get to my feet just as a searing ball of fire came towards me. “Fuck!” I cursed and jumped aside, letting crash across from where I had been.
[“Julia Squad is-“]
I cut off Steward with a roar. “Not now!”I pulled at my rifle, but inside I ended up pulling the spare rifle with the broken scope. I cursed my luck and felt again for my rifle – only to find it was missing. I looked up, spotted it at my original position and at the foot of a very pissed off green pig with a large stick.
A ball of fire formed above the stick’s end just as several more piggies appeared among the trees with axes and swords. With a single squeal, the orc sent the ball of fire at me as well as his goons. I quickly evaded the supernatural ball and quickly trained the rifle at the magical pig. I quickly threw back some fire of my own. The rifle barked as the muzzle flashed as I let out a controlled burst in the general direction of the big magical pig only for the bark on the tree next to him to shatter. The next segment of fire tore through the pig seconds after the last one with the minor corrections.
A strange blue splash erupted from the pig’s neck and head but dropped afterward. Five more appeared from the trees and charged towards me.
I poured two bursts into the chest of the first monster to my right before he finally flopped over and crashed into a tree. I jumped to the next one, more sure of my aim now, I managed to drop the second one with a single burst – with directed fire towards where I assumed its heart was. By the time I managed to switch to the third, they were already on top of me. A giant rusted war axe, the size of my upper body, came down over me before I noticed. I quickly ducked away and the weapon buried itself down to the shaft in the dirt where I just was.
I thought for a moment one had blindsided me, but it was just that the closest one had thrown its weapon at me. The monsters squealed like dying pigs, their language mixed with a few grunts, and they all rushed me at once.
With only a few seconds to realize what was happening, I managed to pour the rest of my magazine into the closest one who rushed me. The ground shook from its weight as if it was a damn charging bull before its blood splattered the ground around me as it dropped. I quickly vacated my position and as the other two charged after their fallen comrade with enraged snorts. I put everything I could between me and them. The tree trunks and protruding rocks. Gunfire erupted nearby, but I couldn’t find them.
[“Friendlies are nearby in a clearing. Their Black Hawk is downed. They are currently fending off the same monsters – you are currently on your own.”]
No fucking shit, I was on my own – I already was!
I cursed the stupid AI out in my head as an axe smashed into the tree trunk. Splinters scattered, creating small little daggers in every direction. The tree creaked from the violent attack before it began to tip over. “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” I was using the tree as cover from the charging pigs, but I hadn’t expected they could bring it down with a single strike.
The tree tipped towards me as the second monster rammed itself into it and I ran to the side where an arm came swinging at me. I ducked and scrambled away while I fumbled to reload my rifle. I felt something tug in my gut and quickly side-stepped just as another axe cut through the air where I was. I managed to slip the magazine into the well as my heart screamed in terror, but I kept my face hard – a trained response to conflict.
My nostrils flared as the scent of fat and sweat began to fill the air. Mixed with the heavy scent of mixed gunpowder, it was definitely a pungent scent.
I quickly managed to get sight of one of the two monsters as he came charging at me while the other went to retrieve his thrown axe. The sudden split in the duo gave me enough breathing room to deal with the lone monster as it wasn’t agile enough to actually get me, but with two of them, they could bounce me off each other. I let the enraged greenie charge me as I goaded it. “Come at me, you nasty shit!” I yelled at it with a big shit eating grin. I didn’t think it could understand me, but I knew – it knew – that I was taunting it.
Yet, it still hollered like a dying pig and dived at me once it was within arm’s length. I was already ready for it though as I sidestepped its diving body and poured a burst into its back. However, it didn’t die. Its back was unprotected, yet its back muscles were thick and flexed once it felt the pain. The beast struggled to get back to its feet as it squealed again before I placed another controlled burst into the back of its head.
Just as I turned, the last monster appeared as its steps thundered on the forest floor. I quickly ducked behind the tree and ran. While the monster’s powerful legs could have easily caught up to me, the large and unstoppable momentum of its large body made it unable to turn on a dime like my small nimble legs. I easily banked and slithered among the pines while the monster had to keep hooking itself around a tree to turn. With the current situation, I had theorized that the monsters weren’t that intelligent. Otherwise, it would have already retreated once it knew I could kill them. Or maybe… I didn’t get to finish my thought as gunfire quickly exploded around me.
[Friendlies inbound, to your four o’ clock.”]
Steward came over my communication line and informed me. I turned around to see the beast only a few meters away from me, jerk side to side as rounds were pumped into its unprotected back. I could see its enraged and bloodshot eyes as it snarled at me. In its death throes, it tried to ignore the rounds being stabbed into its rear and kept moving towards me. Yet, with each step, it slowed and slowed. Until I saw its eyes glaze over and it fell forward – sending dust up around us.
My rifle was raised towards it as it stopped dead. Its hand was outstretched towards me on the ground, only a few feet from me. Oddly, I felt a respect for the monster foster in my heart. Maybe they were dimwitted, but they possessed a sort of warrior spirit in them. Maybe I was projecting my ideas onto the beast and maybe they were just crazed beasts…
[Sentinel-one, this is Julia-three. Do you read? – over]
The sweet sound of a human voice finally graced my comms.
[Julia-three, this is Sentinel-one. I read you loud and clear – over.]
I turned into the general direction Steward had said the friendlies were and I spotted them nearly a hundred meters away. Four figures in desert MARPAT camouflage quickly working their way towards me. I let out a sigh of relief as I quickly made my way towards them before linking up with them halfway. “It’s definitely nice to see a friendly face!” A marine patted me on the back. “We have two of your guys back at the crash site. The birds still in the air are currently EVACing the other crash to a safe spot. We’re last on the list today.”
The marine smiled as he shook my hand, a handshake I happily took. His name patch read M. Harrison with the rank of Corporal. “What happened to the rest of your group?” The fact that his callsign was Julia-three gave away that he wasn’t the leader of the group, that was if the other two before him didn’t die. “Dead. Morris was killed by one of those white monsters and Bennet was killed during the first fight with the Orcs.” I saw his eyes gleam with a mixture of emotions. A break in his happy expression. I knew at that moment this man was carrying a heavy burden on his shoulders.
I looked at the other three. One was a held an M249, the other had an M110, and the third had an M16A4 like Harrison had. “This all of your squad…?” There should have at least been nine men. “Yeah… We lost most of them when we fought the orcs.” Harrison said, his smile finally slipping away for good. I felt his pain. You weren’t just losing soldiers, you were losing brothers. Family. I could feel his pain, but the current situation didn’t allow us to grieve for our loss. So I quickly tried to divert the conversation “You keep saying orcs, why?”
“Come’ on, you haven’t read any fantasy books? These definitely have to be Orcs, or maybe Goblins? Hell, some stories even make trolls green.” He gave me a side eye like I was out of the loop of the world…
I disregarded it and just nodded my head. We’d be calling them Orcs for now then.
We quickly wrapped out the conversation, retrieved my rifle, and Harrison led us up back the way he came. Up to a slight incline before we climbed up to a decent sized glade where a black hawk rested at the very edge to just on the other end. Tens of dead orcs littered the clearing leading up to it were even more laid strewn around the smoking bird. Several other marines and a few of my guys were standing guard.
The glade reeked of fat, blood, and burning oil along with the distinct scent of spent gunpowder. It wasn’t a smell foreign to me, but it definitely was a new one to have the dead bodies of what was generally considered a creature only seen in the tales of Hollywood. I had to pick where I stepped as pools of dark blue blood filled the gaps between the line of dead Orcs and I wasn’t keen on getting any more foul smells on myself.
The surviving soldiers grouped around the tail of the Black Hawk as both Harrison and I linked up with them. “Hey, Boss!” Hernadez shouted out to me. An MK-20 rested across his chest, a chest splattered with blue blood. Dark red bandages covered a stump where his left hand where his hand used to be. His rifle was noticeably covered in blue and red blood as well. “What happened to you…?” I felt my eyes narrow as I gripped his vest to pull him close to examine his injuries. “I got off easy…” His solemn voice stole my attention and he took that moment to direct me to where the front of the bird was.
One dead orc was slumped against the pilot door, face against the window. Its weapon was lodged half lodged into the door gunner’s port where red blood dripped off the unmanned weapon. “Son of a bitch got lucky.” Hernadez grinned like an idiot, a common trait among the soldiers when something really bad happened. I had to admit, it was an unhealthy habit – a habit borne out of necessity. At closer inspection, there was also a dead Orc inside the cabin.
I didn’t want to know the details of what happened. I could already see the chaos they must have had to deal with… After a few minutes, we managed to square away ourselves and began to collect any useful gear we could just as Steward came through with the best news I’ve heard in a while. “Oracle-three is inbound. They are requesting SOS flare.” Luckily, I had that ready.
Having Steward around was convenient, to say the least. He was a simple AI designed to help manage communications, task management, and elevate the amount of thinking we actually had to do in the moment of a firefight. While there were many who disagreed with having an onboard assistant on our tact-links, Steward – a personal callsign given by my team – actually managed to reduce the stress I had to deal with during a given moment during the fight. As he was designed to do. A rare occurrence with government equipment, I know.
Though, Steward was completely different from the AI that we gave to Isaac. Steward wasn’t there to give emotional support. He was cold, calculating, and most of all didn’t feel. “Logging KIA. Log completed.” Steward chirped. And that was the hardest part sometimes, how he treated our dead like just another number…
Harrison shot the flare into the sky, its red smoke trail cut through the sky like a comet towards space, only to fall short and began its rapid descent back down to the silent battlefield. We all watched the flare rise and slowly fall. I stored my thoughts away as the beating of helicopters’ blades began to rise from the forest.
Soon, three helicopters appeared overhead. Two kinds of transport and one black hawk outfitted with Hellfire missiles and two GAU-19 rotary cannons. The clearing was so crowded, that the transports had to take turns loading in gear until eventually, everyone was loaded in. The whole process two an entire twenty minutes. Surprisingly, nothing went wrong and we managed to load everyone, and everything aside from our dead. Unfortunately, the gear was too valuable in our current situation that sentimental wishes had to be forgone for the survival of everyone.
It was only as I sat on the Black Hawk’s cabin floor with my feet dangling and an arm holding the railing did I see another pack of Orcs mulling on the edge of the glade. I could see their eyes gleaming and their disgusting maws. They were probably squealing like the big fucks they were. “Who’s in the Predator?” I radioed Steward. “Sikorsky MH-60L DAP – Scanned. Designation Oracle six.” I huffed air out my nose as I called out to Oracle six. Just as the Black Hawk was turning away, I three missiles fizz through the air and explode on the group on the edge. All the threes shook, dust and sparks filled the forest as two pillars of fire rose.
By the time the bird had begun to leave, a smile floated over my lips.