“It’s no good, boss. Hellflower has us surrounded!”
Hyena growled like a feral animal but he didn’t lose his cool. There was a string of gunfire from outside, followed by screams and the sounds of struggle. Something hit two of his men so hard they burst through the door. They lay on the ground, still and covered in blood.
Hellflower strut into the room with her safety goggles and white lab coat. An ammo pouch hung from her waist and she held a pair of pitch black handguns, lookeing as valiant as she did beautiful. She’d arrived at the base three years ago, no one knew from where. In fact they knew practically nothing about her.
In all that time she had served as a scientist and researcher. There had been few occasions where she’d needed to fight. As such most ignored or disregarded her. Most of the base’s soldiers had never had an opportunity to see what she could do.
Now the ground before her was littered with corpses, their heads blown apart from gunshots right between their eyebrows.
On average Hellflower was able to kill five targets a second, headshots all. It was a display that made those who witnessed it shudder. Now at last the soldiers knew that this sexy and dignified researcher was also a first-rate killer.
Her empty clips hit the ground. Hellflower slapped the butts of her guns against her waist and pressed fresh magazines into place.
Hyena and the dozen or so men that remained walked out of the room. The two faced each other across a stretch of about fifty meters. When Hyena stepped out to see his people dead all around his anger was restrained. Not diminished, just hidden deep in the pits of his feral eyes. His steady gaze made anyone caught in it tremble.
“Mr. Hyena, our venerable Academician always held you in such high regard. Your actions have hurt him deeply.” Hellflower’s guns were loaded and bullets sat ready in their chambers. She regarded Hyena with a perfectly calm demeanor. “I’m here at the Academician’s request. Will you come willingly, or will I have to smack you around a little first?”
“So he sends his mad bitch to kill me?” Hyena knew the assassination plot had failed. He could no longer remain in Blackwater Base. His eyes began to change, and the muscles all over his body bulged unnaturally. Black hairs slithered out to cover him from head to toe and when he spoke again it was through a throat that was no longer human. “We’ll see who dies!”
Hyena was strong and fast. If they let him leave here alive he was only going to cause problems. Hellflower didn’t want to give him any opportunity and so her modified pistols immediately started spraying. In an instant everywhere he could go was blocked off by gunfire. However Hyena was no less of a threat than the sweeper lieutenants who had attacked Blackflag Outpost. If his enemy were any average marksman – the likes of Slyfox, for example – then even a few well-placed bullets were not insurmountable.
Unfortunately for him, Hellflower was no typical marksman. This woman was many grades better than Slyfox had been and Hyena was not going to be able to dodge her shots. Thus he had no intention of dodging. His hands shot out, and before they even knew what was happening two of Hyena’s henchmen were dragged before him like meat shields.
They were instantly peppered with Hellflower’s spray of bullets.
Hyena’s men were the elite of Blackwater Base, and as such were thickly muscled. Hellflower’s guns were modified to sacrifice stopping power for rate of fire, so they didn’t pack enough of a punch to blow through the beefy men’s bodies.
Suddenly the calm fled from her face. Hyena was fast.
The two of them were equally skilled, but Hellflower wouldn’t stand a chance in close quarters combat against Hyena. Shoving his human shields before him Hyena covered half the ground between him and Hellflower quickly. By now the others were reacting, turning their weapons on the wolf man.
His meat shields were a badly mutilated mess by now. He flung one of them at Hellflower and the other toward the men who’d come with her. She rolled to the side, avoiding the body. However the other group was struck full on by the dead weight flung at them by Hyena. They all hit the ground in a heap of broken bones and snapped tendons.
He certainly wasn’t welcome in the base anymore!
If Hyena was determined to take his enemies down with him he had a chance to kill Hellflower. Only, he had no intention of dying. He leapt over the tangle of bodies, tearing out the throats of any soldier who got too close with his razor sharp claws. Skin split in his grip like it was made of tofu. Their carotid arteries were instantly severed, but before they could start spewing blood Hyena bound past them. He was several dozen feet away and free before the fountains of blood began.
Two green figures who had been lying in wait suddenly made their move.
Hyena knew the moment he saw them, they were the Academician’s bodyguards. Though they’d once been mere beasts the monsters were now incredibly strong. Appearing suddenly they caught Hyena unprepared, blocking his path and dealing him several wounds.
One of the base’s snipers lifted his gun and aimed for Hyena. His finger applied pressure to the trigger, but a slender hand reached out and stopped him. Hellflower slowly lowered the barrel of his gun as she addressed those soldiers still standing. “What’s the rush,” she said calmly. “There are three of them, how can you be sure who you’ll hit?”
“No chit-chat. Sweep his room. Leave Hyena to me.”
Though she said she would take care of Hyena, Hellflower casually walked his way without any hurry. Her guns were lowered with no intention to use them. The soldiers, however, would not dare disobey her orders, so pretending as though they didn’t see her strolling away they entered Hyena’s apartments. Inside they fought the rest of the wolf man’s henchmen and shot them dead.
Hellflower muttered to herself. The skill of the Academician’s bodyguards were impressive and not a little surprising. However, remarkable as they were the things were little more than especially clever beasts on steroids. They were no match for a seasoned warrior like Hyena.
One of the lizard men slammed into Hyena and forced him up against a wall. They struck with such force that they left a crumbling indentation in the sturdy stone. The other lizard snapped at Hyena’s throat like a viper, which the wolf man dodged. He managed to juke around behind one and grabbed it by its tail. He swung it around, flinging it into the wall and causing another cascade of fractured stone to shower over them. He followed by grabbing the second and heaving it into the first, making the dent deeper.
Hyena fought like he’d lost his mind, slamming his fist into his enemy again and again. Each strike spread the cracks along the wall farther. Both lizard men were reduced to pulp, smeared across the stones.
With a clear shot Hellflower planted bullets in his shoulders and legs. Hyena, unable to dodge, collapsed to the ground with an impotent roar.
A self-satisfied grin on her face, Hellflower slipped her guns into her holsters and absently waved at the wolf man. “Tie him up.”
Eve after being shot four time Hyena would be quick to recover. He was set upon by the base’s soldiers quickly and had his limbs bound.
Hyena was carried to the labs and brought before the Academician. Hellflower reported what had happened. “Academician, Hyena’s been captured. He resisted quite forcefully, and in the struggle I’m afraid your bodyguards…”
Roste, Chimp and Cloudhawk were all within the laboratory.
When Roste saw the sorry state Hyena was in he broke into a fit of coughs. His withered chest heaved as he fought to catch his breath. It wasn’t clear whether it was Hyena’s betrayal or the death of his guards that set him off.
“Hyena, you ungrateful wretch!” Chimp glared at him with two black eyes. Portions of both sides of his face were swollen with patches of blue and purple. He looked in bad shape, but right now no one was paying any mind. Before the Academician could get a word in he was verbally abusing the traitor. “You dare betray the Academician, betray Blackwater Base?! We should never have saved you!”
“Saved me?” Hyena slowly lifted his head, revealing his ugly and savage face. “You think you saved Hyena? No! You only kept Hyena in pain and prolonged his death! For a year Hyena died, little by little, piece by piece. His thinking and behavior twisted – now I am monster in human skin. Every day is torture, a struggle! This is what you call saving?!”
Cough, cough! “I… see.” Academician Roste’s coughing subsided. He looked over the bloodied, manic face of Hyena while his every wrinkle was writ with disappointment. “I thought you would be special. I never expected… ugh!” 
Cloudhawk felt a creeping uneasiness.
“This traitor has caused many losses,” Chimp said to the Academician. “We can’t let him go unpunished!”
“Enough! Enough…” Roste looked exhausted. He waved his hand in exhaustion as though wiping away the matter. “Send him below. Heal his wounds, then wipe his memories.”
When he heard the verdict Hyena’s face twisted into a mask of rage and despair. He roared at them, “Kill me! Kill me!”
The brainwashing process involved infusing Hyena’s body with drugs that did irreversible damage to his brain and synapses. He would lose all emotion but retain his combat abilities. He would become a puppet soldier like the ones he often sold.
Puppet soldiers had a very limited capacity for independent thought. They were weapons and little else, incapable of performing any order more complex than murder. Sending Hyena down to get brainwashed was a great loss for Blackwater Base. With his strength and capabilities he had been one of their most effective agents, but once the process was done he would just be another tool.
Hyena screamed in anguish as he was dragged away.
Cloudhawk could hardly believe it. The Academician didn’t even ask him any questions, meaning that his excursion into the secret labs would remain unknown. His task had been entirely successful.
“Academician, what is going on…” Hellflower still seemed at a loss. “Why would Hyena want to kill Cloudhawk?”
Roste cast a glance toward the young wastelander before answering. “Our young guest has been hurt. Chimp, if you would see to his treatment?”
Cloudhawk only shot Hellflower a glance before leaving with the lab director.
“Hyena was unable to resist the beast in his heart. His mind was separated from his body and now he sees himself as a creature and not a man. He may have looked human, spoke like one, but he was no longer anything like us. He now has more in common with the animals locked away in our lab. If it had not been for Cloudhawk’s arrival speeding up our process, he might have been able to resist for a while longer.”
Academician Roste stopped to hack and cough, continuing after a moment.
“As you know we used Subject Zero in our experiment. Physiologically speaking she is tied to Hyena, she is like a mother. This, along with outside catalysts have affected him fundamentally. It awakened the creature within him. This is why he tried to kill Cloudhawk.”
Hellflower suddenly understood. “I didn’t think we would lose Hyena.”
“It doesn’t matter. We will try again.” Roste no longer seemed troubled by the loss. “He was responsible for administration of the base’s soldiers. Now that he is no longer capable the men will need a leader. I must request you take on that responsibility for the time being.”
A light glimmered in her eyes, but beyond that she betrayed nothing on her face. She respectfully bowed before him. “Don’t worry, Academician, I’ll take care of it. I’ll take my leave.”
“Wait a moment.”
Academician Roste slowly turned around, leaning heavily on his cane. His face was pale and sickly, but the weakness of his body never took away from the keen bite in his eyes. He fixed Hellflower with his stare, like a pair of scalpels that cut down to her soul.
Hellflower froze, meeting his gaze with a puzzled expression. “Is there something else you’d like me to see to, Academician?”
“Do not disappoint me.” He held her frozen for a moment longer and then the strength drained from his gaze. Once more he seemed to the frail old man. “You may go.”
Roste shut his eyes and quietly listened to Hellflower’s receding footsteps. Her gait was perfectly even, in speed and rhythm, all the way until she was out of earshot.
When Hellflower was free from the labs she picked the glasses from her head and wiped her brow. Beads of cold sweat had accumulated on her forehead.
Strange… how could this feeble old man be so imposing?