On forum: 08/13/2007
Before you read on, I would like to warn you that this is a work of utter nonsense, silliness in some manner, so to speak. So take it in stride, and remember: life isn't just about getting your face eaten by an obese snork, it's about enjoying the good times.
It was a bright - yet very cold - morning, and Zakelina was saddling up for the big drive.
In the Zone, nothing could be taken for granted. From bandits to mercenaries, from controllers to blind dogs, every bullet counted, and every stride taken slowly. And in her case, every flesh herded.
You see, dear reader, the flesh wasn't just your average mutant, it was something so much more. Beginning as a collection of pig sounders, the flesh began their lives as malformed piglets, born right after Chernobyl let loose for the second time. Their simultaneous arrival into the world went ignored by the sows, even as the original hogs died and were slowly supplanted by their hardy mutant offspring. Capable of withstanding lethal radiation and possessing amazing recuperative abilities, the average flesh spread across the Zone, and even drifted in large sounders out into the rest of Eastern Europe, grunting, shitting and mobbing their way into the "normal" world.
Something had to be done about these filthy, spindly-legged freaks of nature. And that's where the Fleshboys came into the picture: lone stalkers and biologists - sometimes Texans - that moved at the sides of the skittish fleshes, chasing and corraling them into large, fenced-off fields, where they would be picked up by research facilities and secretive military trucks.
And Zakelina was one of the best Fleshboys out there, despite not being an actual boy. Dressed in an SEVA suit and armed with a gauss gun, she secured the saddle to her pseudogiant and pat him on the head. His gray eyes and goofy grin told her he was ready too. "Okay, Burly," she said cheerfully, "let's go round up some fleshes!"
Burly had metal shinguards and kevlar plates wrapped about his back and thighs for protection, not that he needed it; Zakelina's gauss gun more than did the trick at keeping harmful troublemakers away.
Zakelina sat atop her pseudogiant, as her ten friends did the same, all dressed and armed like her; they left behind the quartet of burned-out trucks that constituted a camping ground, heading towards the gulch where the fleshes had spent the night.
There were about ninety fleshes still dozing away, firmly wedged together in a crude defensive formation to deter predators. They were of all subspecies and sizes - swamp, prairie, urban, hill - and they were just beginning to wake up. Zakelina reached the southern ridge of the gulch, accompanied by three others, as four went to the northern ridge, and three went to surround the sounder on one side.
The sounder awoke with a slow series of snorts, grunts and squeals, as the three nearby Fleshboys whooped and hollered to bring them about. Their pseudogiant mounts belched and bellowed as well, one actually slamming the ground with his foot to startle the fleshes. All ninety of the thin-legged mutants hopped up, turning away from the Fleshboys to stagger through the gulch, squealing and grunting all the while. With cries of elation, the Fleshboys followed their quarry.
Zakelina scanned the surrounding area with her binoculars, seeing nothing out of the ordinary. It would be an easy drive, only a kilometre left before they reached the holding pen. Of course, this was barring a storm or a migrating troop of snorks.
She tapped Burly with her heels, which made him wander along the ridge with the other three, occasionally bellowing to scare stray fleshes back into the herd. One would usually try to dart up the ridge and past the Fleshboys; Zakelina could actually see a twinkling light of hope in its larger eyes, bulbuous and gelatinous as it was. That twinkling would vanish when Burly scowled, replaced by a bright light of horror before the flesh turned tail and ran back to the herd.
Zakelina heard the faint boom of thunder and groaned; there was a storm coming, and fast. A spring rain, of course, as you could never predict it. She saw the approaching ceiling of dark clouds, the bright flash of lightning apparent within the billowing blackness.
"C'mon, boys, there's a storm coming! Move 'em out! Faster, faster!"
Her alto voice rang through the head radios, causing the other ten to quicken the pace of their mounts; the fleshes seemed to grow more frenetic, bumbling against one another in their blind rush forward. The gulch didn't seem to end, it seemed.
A light drizzle began, moistening Burly's skin and leaving Zakelina's SEVA suit slick and shining. The sky began to darken, tone by tone, as the rain intensified. One of the Fleshboys ahead of her cried out in horror. "Oh no, fuck no!"
"What is it?!" she demanded worriedly.
"Oh shit. Pyotr, Vlad, get to the front, on the double!"
Snorklords were horrific obscenities, beasts beyond compare. Rare as they were, they obviously led whole troops of snorks on hunting trips and calculated assaults against small stalker camps. And as she cleared the first hill, she saw it with her own two eyes.
Bloated and cruel, a snorklord would measure two and a half metres tall if it stood up straight, which it almost never did. It was the closest a human being could ever get to being an actual bear, such was its ferocious might. It was a male, as it had broad shoulders and thick fingers. With arms as long as its legs, it was quite comfortable moving in a quadrupedal fashion, dressed in the remains of what appeared to be an old military uniform, forest camouflage pants and a tank top, with a shredded backpack and rusted ak-47 to go with it. Leathery, flabby rolls of blubber hid a musculature that would have any bodybuilder cry in jealousy, with a rotund body attached to massive upper arms and thighs. A torn gas mask hid its upper face, the tube hanging off the front like a tiny elephant's trunk. Its lower jaw had grown very thick and muscular, with iron-hard carnassial teeth replacing its original set.
And it was heading right up the southern ridge from the southeast, accompanied by six snorks. Zakelina readied her gauss gun, a bead of sweat rolling down her forehead. Vlad and Pyotr readied their own guns, taking aim at the snorklord that rumbled towards them. It sniffed the air a bit as it went, snapping its head in the direction of the two Fleshboys. Shaking its prodigious rump from side to side, it took off with a powerful shove of all four limbs, sailing through the air like a zeppelin of raw anger. Its troop scuttled along after it, with two rushing towards Zakelina.
The fleshes ran on, as the other Fleshboys did their job, yelling and whooping to keep the mutants going. They were almost there...
Lightning struck only a few hundred metres away, right as the snorklord narrowly missed impacting Pyotr; when he hit the ground, he caused a local tremor to shake the ground, surprising the two Fleshboys. Vlad spun around on his pseudogiant, shooting a sliver of metal at the beast's arse. With a roar of pain the snorklord reared up, grabbing its now-bleeding right buttock. It turned just as quickly, leaping right into Vlad and knocking him off his mount. Vlad could smell the horrific body odour of the thing, even through his SEVA suit; lipless and seemingly mindless, the snorklord growled and swung its arm back to strike him. But Vlad's mount was quicker; reaching out with its foot, it grabbed the foul mutant and threw him off of Vlad, sending the snorklord rolling down the hill. Vlad got back on his faithful pseudogiant and took aim at the big brute, sending a round right between his eyes, stilling him forever.
Zakelina took aim through the downpour of hard-hitting raindrops, sending a gauss round right into the head of the two snorks that leapt at her, ducking as the flying corpses went over her and stumbling across the muddy ground chaotically. She rushed to the aid of Vlad and Pyotr, as the other four snorks began what appeared to be a crazed combination of the sabre dance and an aerial mosh pit. Pyotr shot one in the groin as it leapt at him, his mount grabbing it in mid-flight and tossing it into another leaping snork. Shooting one herself, she watched as Vlad's mount crushed the last snork's skull underfoot. With the brief skirmish over, they returned to the flesh drive.
The sounder reached the end of the gulch in record time, even as the ground turned into a vile stew of mud and grass. Right at the gulch's end was a wide field of grass and bushes, five hundred metres wide and surrounded by a wooden fence, topped by barbed wire and tall enough to keep predators out. All ninety of the pig-mutants waddled into the enclosure, the fence gate closed and locked behind them.
Zakelina looked up at the sky, as it cleared. The sun shone down on them in all its glory, drying them in its wonderful heat. With a sigh, she gazed out at the meandering groups of flesh. Besides the snorklord and his entourage, it was an excellent drive.
THE END (and done in one hour)