Call Me Joe
My phone rang and I rolled over to answer it.
"Ledger here," I yawned.
"You're needed in Iraq," It was Church of course, or whatever his real name is.
"Who did I piss off and why is going to Iraq the punishment?" I got out of bed and checking the clock, saw it was five in the morning. I had just gotten to bed about two hours ago after taking down a particularly nasty leftover facility packed with 7th generation Sword of Allah victims. I keep dreading that there might be some more of that 12th gen virus lurking around. With 7th gen all you need to do is break the brain stem/spinal link. With 12th gen you have to get really creative. "And what about the rest of Echo Team?"
"Your police skills are needed Captain Ledger, the rest of Echo is not going with you. In fact for this one, you won't be working for me. An old...acquaintance needed someone like you for an operation of theirs. Something messy has happened in Iraq," I heard a faint crunch over the line as Church took a bite of one of his ever present cookies.
"So I won't be answering to you on this one? That's a plus," I put a vaguely hopeful tone in my voice hoping," he sounded calm as to spur a reaction. Unfortunately my boss knows my smart-ass ways only too well.
"You will be flying out of Edwards Air Force Base in two hours. You'll be meeting the rest of your team in Baghdad. You do a good job and I will be making some more friends in the industry from this," he sounded calm as usual.
"They had better be awesome friends. You've always tried to keep us under tight control, why the change and loaning me out?"
"Our agency isn't the only one that cleans up exotic messes. We specialize in biological primarily, but there are others that work on more...esoteric problems. They are smaller and not as well funded, but they often have quite useful assets and more importantly, understand the need to keep certain things, very very secret. Especially the clean-up," another crunch on the line.
"What's MindReader's take on this?" MindReader being the predictive database that holds way more of the world's dirty laundry than is particularly healthy. It's why Church has the job he does, because nobody else can access it without his permission. And also because he is a cold-hearted son of a bitch who strongly believes in the needs of the many over the lives of his people when it comes down to the wire. Of course he doesn't keep himself separate from us if it comes down to laying his life on the line. I can respect that.
"Nothing has popped up in a significant way. And by that I mean it's significant that nothing has popped up except the bodies in the Military Police report. This is something new," Church sounded slightly off his game.
"Anything else before I go for fun in the sun?" I was starting my coffee brewing as I walked around my apartment gathering my gear, "Equipment? Weapons?"
"Take your normal loadout. It's not supposed to be violent, but you have a way of bringing out the very worst in people I've found. Best to be prepared."
I was coming up with a snappy response when there was a knock at my apartment door.
"Did you send a driver?" I asked my boss.
"It seems I have a visitor..."
"At five? Do you need reinforcements?"
"Not sure yet. Stay on the line though," I moved over to the door and passed a piece of paper across the peephole. At that moment my door exploded in like a bomb had gone off.
My arm was caught by the swinging fragments and I was knocked spinning, but if I had had my face in front of it, it would have been really painful.
I grabbed my pistol off the coffee table as I backpedaled into finding some cover and was rolling behind my sofa when it occurred to me that the explosion had been completely silent. In fact, all sound had vanished from my apartment. I even tried yelling, but I couldn't hear my own voice.
The wreckage of my door had finished falling and in walked a kid. He looked like a boy maybe twelve or so with a bluish white pallor and white eyes. His skin looked greasy and strange cuts were all over his face and hands. He was wearing filthy pajamas, a tattered red plaid bathrobe, and had bare feet. Blood was dripping from his hands around the knuckles as though he had hit something very hard.
There was a distinctive lack of the cadaver stink that walkers have so that was a plus, but he was still a kid who had smashed down a solid core door with his bare hands and he looked mostly dead. That was good enough for me so I fired three rounds.
He was moving as I brought my sights to bear. dodging up the wall and across my ceiling like some kind of freaky human-spider splice. I'd seen and killed freakier so it didn't bother me as much as it probably should've, but being on the ceiling meant I couldn't just indiscriminately blaze away with the tenants above me in the potential line of fire. I scooped up an end table in with my left hand and threw it at him while dodging right. I'm a big guy with decent upper-body strength, but that table smacking into his face didn't do anything more than split his upper lip.
He dropped down to the floor and started walking towards me. Casually. Carefully.
I could tell he was probably keeping an eye on my gun hand, so I laid my pistol on the floor. He nodded approvingly at that action and slowed, bringing his hands up in front of him.
They were streaming blood now and I thought I could see white bits of bone protruding out. Obviously whatever gave this kid that kind of strength didn't reinforce the body to any significant measure. When he had punched in the door he had broken both his hands, which is probably why they were flopping limply at the end of his arms. At that moment he charged. All fury and no skill, typical. He was stabbing at me with the shattered ends of his fore-arms, trying to use the broken edges as knife points I guess. I could easily parry him but the amount of strength he possessed with incredible. He was easily two or three times stronger than me and as was clearly evident, totally immune to pain.
I had fought things like that before. Maybe not as strong, but easily as resilient if not more so. I've even had to put down walker-infected kids before. Not one of my favorite things, but when something's mostly dead, you really need to step up your game and make it really dead.
So far all I'd gotten were some bruises and the loss of my security deposit, but this kid kept coming and I kept blocking while trying to come up with a plan.
Finally we had maneuvered by the entrance to the kitchenette, so I grabbed a butcher's knife from the block on the counter and began slashing right back. With my longer reach plus the length of the knife I was starting to cut him up really badly, but he just didn't seem to care. I kept trying for the neck shot without much luck as his neck was so short it made a terrible target. Finally he slipped up during a lunge and I took the opportunity to tip the refrigerator on top of him. That pinned him down long enough so I could decapitate him. As his blood continued to flow out all of a sudden sound came back and a gutteral voice emerged from the kids mouth as his eyes blinked and watched me.
"Not bad Joe. I'll give your mother a good ass-raping when I see her tonight. Enjoy your flight!" with that, a swarm of spiders, centipedes, and flies started pouring from the two halves of his neck and began covering my kitchen floor, where they soon started twitching and dying before turning into a green horrible smelling sludge.
I walked back in to my trashed living room and picked up my gun and my phone.
"Church, you still there?"
"Yes. Do you need reinforcements?"
"Nah, just forensics and a clean-up team. Somebody knows I'm going to Iraq and tried to stop it," I pulled my pants on while balancing the phone on my shoulder.
"What?" Church sounded surprised. That's never a good sign. "I just found out about this an hour ago. How did they know so quickly?"
"I don't know, but the assassin looks like a variant of the Walker Prion. Enhanced strength and normal intelligence. Not as tough as 12th gen though. Had a couple of interesting tricks in its repertoire. Walking on walls and ceilings and suppressing all sound around it up to the level of a gunshot at least. Oh yeah, when it's finally down it's a piñata of self-destructing insects."
"Never any of those modifications to the virus before. What was the host?"
"Twelve or so year old boy in his PJs. When will the crew be here? I have a plane to catch you know."
"They'll be right there Captain. Finish packing and I'll make sure the spots are out of your rug," with that he hung up.
I sighed and after propping up the remains of my door back in its frame, finished dressing and got my gear together. I had missed combat duty when I was still in the service from my initial enlistment, but man I was going to make up for it now. Vaguely I wondered who I was going to be partnered with, but with everything else going on that kind of slipped my mind.a/n
Alternating chapters will be from Buffy's and then Joe's perspective. Not sure on the update schedule of this one due to the scripting of two different POVs on some of the same stuff.
Joe Ledger is property of Jonathan Maberry. Think of the Joe Ledger stories as a cross between Jack Bauer from 24, the Andromeda Strain, and the TV series 11th Hour. There are only three novels so far, but I enjoy them.