Chapter 124 - Last Stand

Amidst the flood of a hundred or more ferocious wasteland beasts, the three humans were left untouched. It was a miracle.

Cloudhawk was drenched in sweat, he heaved a sigh as finally he was able to let the fear go. Siding with a pack of wild animals was probably the craziest idea he’d ever had.

Roste’s arrogance lead him to believe he had created a new species. He’d even given them a name. These mutated victims looked much the same as their wild counterparts, but in fact they were orders of magnitude more capable. They were changed, but not so exaggerated that they were unrecognizable. The difference lay in evolution versus forced transformation. Both led to improvement, but whereas evolution was always a positive influence, forced transformations were often unpredictable.

The biggest disparities after these mutations were in intelligence, strength and agility.

Cloudhawk didn’t have time to open all the cages before he started hearing footsteps coming their way. They were approaching from several angles amidst shouts and harsh commands. Judging by the sound there was a large group closing in.

Cloudhawk looked to his left and right. “They’re finally here?”

Hellflower raised her guns and Hyena began to slowly shift into his beast form. The beasts around them could sense the danger bearing down and bristled threateningly. The fight was about to begin!

Bang!

Several of the doors to the containment area were kicked open and several hundred fighters poured in. They had crossbows, stun rods and electric nets that they brandished as they flooded both floors. In no time they had the area surrounded but it was clear they were frightened by the scenario they discovered.

“Kill them! Kill them all!” When he recognized how dire their situation was, one of the scientists shouted out the order.

The soldiers raised their guns, loading bullets and winding back arrows as they prepared to fight. Cloudhawk didn’t need to give any orders or warnings for the beasts that had been locked up here were all smart enough to know what was coming.

Squeak squeak!”

Several of the rats chittered and suddenly they were off, almost too fast to follow. In a blink they scurried from the first level up to the second. Moments after the scientist gave the order they were already in the crowd of humans, biting and clawing at crucial areas. A series of pained cries preceded several of the warriors falling from the walkways.

The rest of the beasts howled and joined the fray. The scientists shouted hysterically as they bore down on the humans. “Hurry! Kill them, kill them!

An enormous eagle with golden feathers dove at them. It didn’t look much different than the ones found in the wastelands except for its coloring and the fact it was twice the size. Each feather was a gleaming bronze which was especially bright at the edges of its wings. They were light, hard and sharp like dozens of blades strung together. As it swept by those feather easily cut open the fragile throats of the humans.

It swept through the room like a bolt of blood-tinged golden lightning. In mere moments it’d killed more people than they could count.

It grabbed a man in each of its taloned claws by the head. One was a scientist who screeched piteously as they wheeled high overhead. The bones of their skulls were crushed as easily as eggshells before they were unceremoniously flung away. Fast and agile the bird of prey carved a path through the warriors unscathed despite their guns and numbers.

Wolves, lions, and leopards urged their powerful bodies forward as the fight unfolded. The soldiers had always known these animals were here, but until now they hadn’t need to worry what they were capable of!

These creatures were as different from their wasteland counterparts as clouds and mud. Typical beasts reacted to instinct, but these were not typical animals. They knew to avoid gunfire, seek cover, and cooperate during attacks. They even employed trickery and misdirection.

Although they were smart the creatures weren’t taught how to fight and relied on their feral instincts. Those instincts were powerful and even without training they fought like veteran warriors. It was knowledge that lived deep in their bones, muscle memory evolution couldn’t breed out of them.

The soldiers outnumbered them, but none could compare to the sheer ferocity of these animals. It was a massacre even before they started shooting.

Cloudhawk was surprised at how effective the animals were at killing. More than once he saw a soldier’s head casually ripped off like they were made of paper. These creatures could fight as well and as hard as the likes of Slyfox or Mad Dog, some even better. It was almost more than he could believe.

However, a few minutes after the fighting began, more figures began pushing their way in from the corridors. They leapt over barriers and scaled walls with ease, bounding up to the second floor as agile as the animals themselves. One of them crouched on the iron bars of a handrail and launched itself into the air, leaving behind a dent where powerful legs had kicked off. Fast as a missile it caught the golden eagle mid-flight.

Two powerful arms held tight and ripped.

The eagle replied with a screech as its wings were savaged. However, the creature was not your typical bird. It kicked at its attacker, tearing away chunks of flesh with its talons, but this new foe didn’t seem to feel any pain. They grabbed the eagle by its leg, and between the momentum of their fall and the bird’s injured wing the majestic creature was brought down to earth.

Another enemy leapt at it on all fours. Sharp teeth clamped around the eagle’s throat.

Its head was bitten clean off. Fresh blood splattered over the area.

Aaaooogghh!

Hovering over their kill the soldiers didn’t see the flash of silver bearing down on them. With a bone-shuddering roar the silver wolf matriarch charged, hurling her burly body into them like a runaway truck. Mighty claws swiped at each of them leaving nasty, jagged wounds behind. These mutant warriors were tough but even their transformed flesh couldn’t protect them. Thick bones couldn’t bear the attacks and splintered. Still they struggled to fight back.

The matriarch belched a fog of acid over them.

Roste’s transformed soldiers did not feel pain or fear. As they fought through the fog there wasn’t an inch of them that hadn’t started to melt.  Skin, fat and muscle fell off in sizzling chunks even as the warriors continued to run ahead. They scampered toward the wolf like a pair of mad, peeled rabbits.

Incredible! What powerful acid!

Cloudhawk had seen the outstanding damage rotwolves could cause with this attack, but even that was hardly worth mentioning compared to the matriarch. In moments her prey’s armor, skin and sinews melted into an unrecognizable mass they certainly weren’t going to survive.

The two mutated fighters were handily defeated. Subject Zero was a force to be reckoned with.

Hellflower’s hands were a blur. She was beautiful and deadly like a flower from hell, and any soldier within her line of sight was shot down. She hardly even glanced at her targets before they were slain, killing more than even the vicious animals could match.

Amidst the carnage of the base’s guards, a frail and thin figure slowly picked its way down the corridor. Seven pitch black mutated soldiers followed. As Academician Roste looked upon the ruin that was his lab his expression changed little. He offered a wheezing cough, then unhurriedly picked off his glasses and necklace and slipped them into his pocket. When he spoke he did so naturally, entirely unperturbed by what was happening around him. “I underestimated you lot.”

Cloudhawk was on high alert. Had this monster finally showed his face? The soldiers hadn’t known what they were walking in to and suffered for it, but Cloudhawk and Hellflower especially knew what Roste was capable of. Neither were foolish enough to consider his presence lightly.

And then there were the dozens of creatures that hated him down to their very core! Could he even grasp that?

Slowly the Academician began to change. His body swelled and color drained from his skin leaving him with a pale blue hue. Meaty hands lifted his staff and pulled, revealing a hidden blade attached to the handle. The blade was no wider than the width of two fingers, thin and narrow, and exceedingly common in appearance. In fact it was a high-frequency ion blade, one that could cut iron as easily as a stick of butter.

Hellflower took the first shot.

Roste moved like the wind, jerking his enormous body from side to side so easily the bullets danced right by. Hellflower’s accuracy was legendary, but even so close and in the narrow confines of the corridor she could not hit her mark. He was too fast, her attacks were hardly worth his consideration.

Three of his animal victims charged, thirsty for revenge.

Roste raised his weapon and swept by, fluid as a specter. All three animals were cut in half mid-leap, discovering firsthand how deadly his weapon was. Their flesh and bone meant nothing to something that could split sheets of iron.

One of the wasteland lizard saw the result of coming in close and instead spat at Roste. A plume of fire consumed the corridor in scorching heat that would cook a normal human in moments. Yet as the fires engulfed the Academician his body’s surface was covered in a heat-deflecting shell. The intense heat caused him no damage.

A flash of steel. The lizard’s head hit the ground with a thud and rolled away.

His movements were as deft and easy as though he were cutting a stick of wood. He buried his sword in the body of a rat that had tried to move in for a sneak attack when it did not dodge. Even impaled by the humming blade the rat lurched forward, desperately clawing at the Academician. Its whole body began to smolder and turned red.

It exploded, flooding the hallway with blood and concussive force.

Self-destruction? Cloudhawk had seen this before. One of these had killed his friend Woola.

These detonating lab rats were much more dangerous. The explosion had blown Roste’s clothes to shreds but he was left without any major injuries. Parts of his body exposed to the blast were covered in a ribbed heat resistant crust. He hadn’t been hurt by it, but the force of the explosion had thrown him into the air.

Hyena raced forward. Strong legs launched him into the air, and when he reached the Academician’s side he swung himself around and whipped his leg at the scientist. Roste was smacked out of the area and hit the ground so he left a small crater.

To Hyena it didn’t feel like he’d kicked a body, but rather a sturdy lump of rubber. Any force from the momentum of his kick was diffused. Roste’s body could adapt to any outside stimulus immediately, rendering all attacks useless. Guns, knives, fire, explosions – even critically powerful attacks were shrugged off like they were nothing.

Then, to add insult to injury, the freak had freakish regenerative abilities as well!

Roste slowly gathered himself up from the ground. His massive, stately, blue-tinged body towered over them like a giant. Every muscle in his body, even his facial features, were finely chiseled so that he looked less like a man and more like a carving of the ancient gods. “I told you it is no use. My body is perfect.”

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RWX's Thoughts

Once again, I repeat, do not fuck with mad scientists...