Future Distorted - Cover

Future Distorted

Copyright© 2011 by Celtic Bard

Chapter 4

Pot, Meet Kettle

I froze. Immortality takes getting used to. Besides, it still fucking hurt to get injured or "die." Maybe over time I got used to it, but then ... then it still fucking hurt. So I froze. He sounded semi-normal, ignoring the slightly slavering slur to his voice. And he talked before shooting, which I counted as another plus.

After a minute or so, I threw back over my shoulder, "Are you planning on holding me here, like this, for long? If so, would you mind if I at least drop the claymore?"

I heard his breath stop short. "Y-you sound normal," he said, making it sound more like a hopeful question than a suspicious statement.

"Well, I guess sounds can be as deceiving as looks. I am most definitely not normal. Not normal like I was yesterday morning," I replied bitterly.

He snorted like an angry bear and, when I shot a glance over my shoulder, that was certainly what he most resembled. A large bearish man in a security uniform which had burst several seams. He held a shotgun awkwardly in hands that were more dinner plate-sized paws with a huge claw hooked around the trigger. His face was heavily furred with fluffy black hair and had mutated into a stubby muzzle filled with omnivorous teeth that were either grinning or grimacing at me rather frighteningly. There was a makeshift bandage around his head with blood soaking though over the right eye. Blood spattered much of the front of the uniform, though I was sure most of it was not his.

"A lot of shit ain't as normal as it was yesterday mornin'," was his biting reply, the barrel of the shot gun lowering. "Yesterday mornin' I was just another pissant security guard just happy to have found someone to hire me after they let me out of Bethesda. Now I look like fucking Yogi Bear on acid and one of my bosses tried to eat me. I've seen shit in the last thirty-six hours that made Fallujah and Tora Bora look like R & R stops. And the best I can come up with to explain why I had to kill half of my co-workers is that those idiots at 1600 Penn screwed the pooch somewhere," he growled, his muscles bunching and the stock of the shot gun creaking in protest.

"Marine?" I guessed.

"Sergeant-Major Matheson, James Buford Matheson, at your service, sir," he said, almost snapping his heels together and stiffening to attention. "Most folks just call me Bubba, lately, though," he said with a pained tone. "I got mauled pretty bad in Marjah in an ambush. Got my boys out but they had to put me back together and were still at it until about seven weeks ago when the head shrinkers and the PT-types finally signed off on releasin' and dischargin' me. Only reason these folks hired me, as big a mess as I was, is a former corps commander of mine sits on the board and the wife of another is the daughter of the former Commandant. It is a shit job, or was, but at least it put a weapon in my hand when I needed it most!"

I figured that all the superb marksmanship I saw on the bodies upstairs belonged to a Marine. It was odd that his mutation was so physically altering but his mind remained. And his healing abilities did not appear to have changed as radically as mine if he was relying on bandages. Even as that thought went through my head I saw him press his hand into his side and wince, coming away with a paw covered in his own blood.

"You all right?" I inquired solicitously.

"Damn mutie got a lucky swipe in while I was cappin' my boss, who appeared to develop a taste for brains," he replied irritably. "There musta been some thin' on his claws, 'cuz this fuckin' hurts!"

"Uh, I'm not a doctor but I could take a look and at least clean and dress it for you. Just from here I can smell that it is not as clean as it should be given how hard antibiotics are going to be to find."

He snorted again and growled, "So that's why you are here? Shoppin' for relics from the past to survive the future? I suppose you gave this some thought and you got a list in that head of yours?"

"Well, yeah," I shot back defensively. "That was my job: to think about shit and come up with plans. Or to tell people why their plans won't work."

He gave me a suspicious look and asked, "You wasn't one of the idiots responsible for this bullshit cluster fuck of a situation, were you?"

"Hell no!" I replied vehemently. "Far as I could tell from the reports and whispers, though, they were working on whatever this is for a long time. Like since the end of World War II. Other than that, you probably know as much as I do about it. Now let's find some place to patch you up and then talk about what to do from there."

I wound up shaving about a square foot of his torso, very carefully, just to be able to see his wound. It was a ragged gash about seven inches long that was bleeding freely and was close to gangrenous. I cut some dead-looking flesh away, squeezed half a tube of antibiotic ointment we found in the infirmary into the wound before sewing it up, slathering the rest of the tube onto the wound, and covering it all up with a bandage.

"That is about as good as it is going to get, James," I told him dubiously. "I took a few first aid classes a while back, but they did not really cover this sort of thing. We probably need to change it every day or so until I take the stitches out in a week to ten days."

"How you know that?" he demanded in his growly voice.

I opened my jacket to show him a scar I got from something stupid I did in college but all we could see was soft, downy fur and longer hair. I rifled through the hair for a second before shrugging.

"Sorry, I was going to show you a nice scar I got in college that require thirty-eight stitches, four staples, and minor surgery to repair but it would appear that the scar is as gone as my injuries from yesterday," I explained ruefully.

Now I could tell he was scowling at me. "Seems you got a better upgrade than me," he growled crossly. "By the way, what'd you say your name was?"

Realizing I did not introduce myself when he gave me his name made me flush with embarrassment. Even being thirty, I still have the ingrained manners and responses my parents gave me. "Sorry, Seamus. My name is Seamus O'Neill and I suppose I was lucky in how this thing hit me. I would probably be dead at least twice already if it had not," I replied. "Yesterday was a bit traumatic for me and today did not start out all that great either."

He snorted and got off of the exam table, pulling his uniform shirt back into place as best as he could. "Well, perhaps you should enlighten me as to your grand plan," he grumbled. "Especially since we seem to be stuck with each other for now and the way I figure it, two heads and sets of eyes are better than one. I may crash on you soon, so don't be surprised if I fall asleep. You woke me up when you came crashing into my place here. I seemed to have gone nocturnal and have trouble keeping awake. I got a bunker of sorts in the basement that is pretty safe for day-time sleeping."

His drooping eyes told me he wasn't kidding so I went with him to his cave in the basement where he laid out while I shared my thoughts about the future with him. Somewhere between getting out of DC and finding someplace up in the mountains of Appalachia to hole up, he was asleep. Stentorian snoring interrupted my musings on fortified villages and the workability of underground towns and cities in the mines that crisscrossed the mountain chain.

The bunker was actually a walk-in refrigerator that he had rigged to lock from the inside and disabled the locks on the outside. The refrigeration unit was disabled as well so the temperature in the room was cool but not cold. Probably somewhere in the mid- to low-60s. Given our new bodies, we were both more than comfortable and James was sprawled out on his back, snoring energetically. Since I could not lock the room from the outside and he would not be safe asleep and alone should someone find him were I to leave, I decided to sprawl out myself and doze.

I don't know how long I had drifted in semi-consciousness, dreaming of my research and, more importantly, my research assistant, when I realized James' snoring had stopped and I was hearing other noises from above us. Starting awake, I looked up to see James had turned up the lantern we had used to light our discussion before dozing off.

"Company," he muttered laconically, rising from his bedroll and hefting his shotgun.

"I don't suppose you have a watch, do you?" I asked, suddenly wondering whether the sun had gone down and hoping it had not. "I lost mine on the roof of the Department of Labor."

"Just after dark, boyo, just after dark," he replied ominously. "Been able to feel the sunset since I was a raw recruit just as easily as I could feel it rise."

He eased open our bolt hole and sniffed quietly. Waving me to follow, he slowly and silently began moving out of the kitchen storage area and moving toward the stairwell we used to come down here. I followed, hefting the claymore I still carried and cursing the fact that I did not have a gun. Never mind that I did not know how to use one. I just would have been more comfortable with a gun. As we slowly made our way up to the next floor, I was suddenly catching the reek of rotting blood. There were no corpses on that floor. Everyone had been up on the main levels when things went to hell and James had to kill everyone who turned out savage after the change.

James eased open the door to the first basement level and took a sniff. He glanced back at me and nodded, making an obscure gesture that I took to mean we were going to check out whoever or whatever was on the floor. We eased around two corners, James sniffed before each one and making obscure gestures. I had a feeling he had mentally morphed back to the Marine he was before being injured. We were coming up on the last corner before the stairs to the first floor and he gave another sniff, suddenly holding up his hand in the universal signal to stop. Several more sniffs followed before he raise four fingers and pointed around the corner and then up. I took that to mean there were four of them somewhere near the front door. The logical next question was what were they? The follow-on question to that was how the hell they got it? I had a guilty flash of memory: there were savages who saw how I got in to the building.

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