Published in Altered States in 2016, this story came from the Hunter in the video game Dead Space. Once released, this enemy regrows its limbs after you shoot them off in the most violent and graphic way possible. I wondered what the process of sprouting new arms and legs after having just had them blasted off with a line cutter was like from the monster's point of view. Would it be painful, or could it actually be so painful it would feel good?
It ended up so violent (and one part is borderline pornographic) I didn't think anyone would publish it. I even considered using my alt name, Tagenar, but that didn't seem like a good fit either.
13K words, and much improved by the editing it received. Final text courtesy of the publisher (with italics restored, as I noticed they were accidentally omitted from the published text). Very pleased with how it turned out and I'm grateful it found a home.
James L. Steele
The man on the operating table slowly opened his eyes. His pupils squeezed shut, trying to cut out the intense whiteness. White ceiling, white walls, white tiles on the ceiling. The room was so white he couldn’t distinguish where the ceiling ended and the walls began. His eyes wandered around the room for a while. Eventually he could make out the faint shadows that were the lines separating the walls from the floor and ceiling.
The man became aware of his arms. His legs. The slight chill that started at his armpits and spread across his chest, down each leg and arm. He tried to move his head, but it was held in place.
He moved his eyes back and forth, tried to look down his body. He only saw himself in his peripheral vision, but what he saw he recognized. He was naked on a padded, hospital bed. His wrists, ankles and abdomen were strapped down. He tried to move his head, but again something was holding it still. The more he felt the resisting force, the more it felt like a metal clamp. He balled his fists and tried to raise them. He tried to lift his legs. The restraints were so tight he couldn’t even lift them off the mattress.
The man opened his mouth and tried to speak, but his mind was moving in slow motion, and his voice was a bubble of slime trying to squeeze out of his lungs. He moved his mouth, tried to moan, but nothing was coming out. For some reason this made the man panic, though he wasn’t sure why.
He writhed under his restraints, trying to move anything, trying to reach the clamps that held his wrists with his fingers, but they were so taut he couldn’t even rotate his wrist. His chest was held down so tight he couldn’t arch his back. His breathing was partially blocked.
He could not look around the room. His only view was what was right in front of his eyes. The man writhed harder, trying to move, straining to speak, trying to reach out and feel something. He turned his head a millimeter in all directions and strained his eyeballs to look around the room. He could accept the restraints holding him down, he could accept his nudity, but he could not accept that he was blind to most of the room.
As he struggled and writhed and tried to look around, his mouth was working and his voice started to come to him.
“Wrrhh!” ... “Wwwhh” ... “WWAAAHHH!”
The sounds weren’t much, but they were sounds, and he could still speak if he tried.
“WWAAAARR!” ... “RRRUAAA”
He continued exercising his mouth and vocal cords, teaching them how to work together, teaching his brain how to form words again. His struggle against his restraints matched his inward struggle to force his voice to work.
“WWhhheeerr aahhh aaayyee.” He panted a few times.
“Wwhheere... ah... aayye.” His body settled down now that his voice was coming back.
“Hellloo... Heelll... Heeelll”
He realized he couldn’t stop slurring his words. His brain was moving at regular speed but the rest of his body was still in slow motion, and this sent him into another frenzy of writhing and struggling under his restraints.
“HEEEE-OOO! HEEEEEWWW! WHE-MM-AYYE!!!!”
He relaxed again, completely exhausted. He wanted to scream out and demand to know where he was, who was there, what they were doing to him. As he pondered the words he wanted his mouth to make, he slowly realized that he really didn’t remember. He didn’t remember any circumstances that could have landed him here. He didn’t remember his name. The peripheral glance down his naked body was all he saw of himself, and now that he thought of it, he wasn’t sure if he remembered what he looked like.
What was his name? What did he look like? Where had he come from? He sensed he should know these things, but he couldn’t force the memories. They were there. Answers to these questions were on the tip of his tongue, but they wouldn’t rise out of his subconscious.
He settled down on the bed again. He didn’t want to. Doing so implied he was lying down and accepting where he was. But he was tired. His body was moving slower than his mind sensed it should. He wanted to fight it, but as resilient as his mind was, his body was so tired. His mouth made weak noises, which his brain sensed should be loud enough to shake the room.
“Hhhheell... sssmmnnn heelllll mmmm. Nnnnmmm” and on and on. Over and over. He abandoned force and settled for persistence. Maybe if he kept it up long enough his body would catch up to his mind.
After a long time, he heard a soft clang from somewhere. He stopped talking and listened. Footsteps and crinkling plastic echoed around the room. The sounds came closer and closer. Then a plastic figure slid into his vision. The man recognized it instantly as a clean suit. Behind the person in the suit would be an accordion-like appendage connecting him to the world outside the room.
The figure in the plastic suit reached down his arm and did something. It held a needle up. The needle had a little blood on it.
“The I.V. slipped out,” came a faint, male voice inside the plastic suit. “Reinserting.”
The man struggled under his restraints again, trying to project his voice, but all that came out was more mumbles and slurred syllables. The plastic suit’s hand dipped below his vision, the man felt something slip in his arm, and a moment later he went black.
The man’s eyes flew open as he sensed something was in the room with him. He was lying on his back in the hospital bed, but this time there was nothing holding him down. He looked left—
His head wasn’t clamped in place! He took full advantage of his mobility and looked all around. A dozen plastic suits were walking around. Most were yellow, and these suits were accordion-attached to the far wall. Two suits were blue, and two others were red. These weren’t attached to the wall, but they were attached to tubes coming out of the ceiling. Surgical equipment lay on various tables, and he was under a very intense light. There was also a robotic surgical arm poised over his skull.
The man’s head turned in the direction of the faint female voice. The plastic sounds synchronized as all the suits turned simultaneously to look at him. Quickly the man swung his legs off the table and dropped to his feet.
His legs were deformed. He couldn’t think of how to put it in words, but they did not look right. The man sensed he should be terrified, but he wasn’t. This strange disconnect within his own mind was unsettling and confusing, but at the moment he couldn’t remember how to be confused or unsettled.
They were curved backwards, forcing him to stand on his toes. Surprisingly, he stood quite easily on them. Now that he saw them in action they reminded him of a dog’s hind legs.
He stood as straight as his legs would allow, but something was wrong with his back as well. His back was curved forward, and he couldn’t stand as straight as he thought he should.
The suits slowly backed away from him. Some held their hands up.
Who are you?! What are you doing to me?! Why can’t I remember my name?!!
The man thought all this. In his mind he was screaming it at the top of his lungs, but all that came out was “HHrrgguumm?! HRRAA?! WHAHALAAHHHH?!”
Why can’t I speak?! Oh God why can’t I speak?! Let me out of here!
He muttered more inarticulate growls, croaks and whines, and meanwhile the plastic suits were backing away from him. The accordion suits were folding back to the far wall, which the man now noticed was a two-way mirror.
The floor was made of smooth plastic. So smooth he had a hard time standing upright. The man looked around at the retreating plastic suits, filling with undirected rage. He wasn’t sure why he was furious or afraid, but lingering in the back of his mind he had a feeling there was something he was supposed to remember, and these people had taken that from him.
The man relaxed his posture. In the mirror he looked like he was stooping over, slouching, but his spine and legs felt like he was standing upright. Yes, this felt like a natural position—his default posture. He set his sight on one of the yellow suits slowly retreating from him. A dim revelation lit up in the back of his mind: through those suits lay his way out.
Still hunched upright, the man ran towards the yellow suit, yelling and growling. His new legs had a different muscle structure, and the small feet allowed him to run faster than he thought possible. His posture helped with this as well. It felt good to run at full speed. The yellow suit backed up faster, flailing its arms, as if that would speed up its retreat.
The man leaped off the ground, his new leg muscles propelling him high in the air, almost touching the ceiling, and landed on the yellow suit’s chest. The yellow suit fell over onto its back, arms in front of it, yelling various screams and shouts muffled by the plastic.
The man hacked away at the suit as if he had claws. He bit down on the plastic... And was disappointed that the material didn’t rip in his jaws. He sensed it should, so why wasn’t it?
Didn’t matter; he was going to get into that suit! He looked at the short length of accordion attaching it to the wall. He jumped off the suit itself and started pulling and biting at the accordion. It didn’t give, or rip, or tear. The man was frustrated. He felt it should tear in his teeth, or his hands should rip it apart. Then the man wondered why he sensed it should be working. He didn’t have claws or teeth that would tear anything, so where did the expectation come from?
He became aware of rustling plastic around him. The suits connected to the wall with accordion appendages were against the wall, now vacant of their occupants. The remaining four suits, the ones that weren’t connected to the wall but to hoses on the ceiling, were still in the room. Two were on the far side of the room, the other two were holding needles in their hands and were approaching him.
His eyes glanced over the table and the tray of equipment. The surgical equipment! There’d be knives in those tools! The man walked on his toes towards the two suits with needles. He felt light, springy. Completely free to move however he wanted. He liked his new legs and posture. They streamlined his body for forward movement. Time to test that.
The plastic suits flanked him. The man recognized the move and didn’t let them. He ran straight for one of the suits. The suit held the needle up. At the last instant the man leaped through the air, grabbed the plastic tube connecting the suit to the ceiling and held onto it as he landed on the floor. He landed firmly on his toes. The thin tube had come with him. The man let go of the tube, and it retracted into the ceiling, pulling taut above the suit.
The man dashed to the table. He looked over the tools and sure enough there were many knives. He picked two of them up and held one in each hand. He didn’t pause to show the suits what he had; he leaped straight for one of the suits again. The suit ran for him, holding the needle out.
The suit threw the needle at him like a dart. The man saw it coming and sprang off the floor into the air. He caught the hose connecting the suit to the ceiling and cut it. A rush of moist air hit the man’s face as it escaped from both the hose and the suit.
“Shit!” came a radio-quality voice from inside the plastic.
The man landed lightly on his feet and ran straight for the accordion suit hanging limply from the mirror that ran the length of the whole wall. He stabbed the yellow suit with one of the knives. The knife penetrated with no effort, and he gouged the suit through three layers of plastic. Another rush of air hit his face as the smells of the non-sterilized outside world filled his lungs. He dropped the knives on the floor and spread open the rips with his bare hands.
He had just poked his head through the tear when suddenly he felt dizzy. Chills spread over his body like third degree burns. His nose itched and began leaking. Every joint in his body burned and he dropped to his knees, still trying to crawl out, but now it was becoming hard to move.
“God damn it!” came a radio voice behind him. The man felt a plastic hand on his shoulder, a needle enter his skin. “He’s contaminated!”
“What is it? What’s the matter?”
“He has no immune system! It had to be destroyed prior to phase two or his body wouldn’t accept the new DNA.”
“A two-week setback, maximum. Get him to decon. Have antibiotics standing by and I want that anesthesiologist’s head on a silver platter.”
The man felt sleepy. He couldn’t move. The voices faded. The fresh air smelled so good.
I want to go home... There is a war to... fight...
The mirror on the ceiling reflected the view of his entire body back down to him. The room he was in was tiny, white, and clean. The only feature on the wall was a single door on the far side of the room, which the man couldn’t see unless he turned his eyes all the way down and strained.
His body restraints were visible in the mirror. He was held down not by straps, but by metal prongs which were buried into his skeleton, holding him down by the bones themselves. A tube was coming out his throat. He felt another in his anus, and a catheter in his urethra.
His legs were even more deformed now. His feet once had recognizable toes. Now he didn’t know what they resembled. His whole body was lined with small incisions and needle marks. An ugly, red scar ran around his scalp. He wanted to move. He wanted to break free. But nothing would move. His mind was a haze.
It happened over several days. Maybe weeks. His face elongated at the mouth, nose and lips fusing together part way and jutted out in front of him. Two small nubs became visible on the top of his head, and his ears receded three-quarters of the way back into his skull. His toes took on a new shape, as well as his fingers. All twenty of them felt like they had something stuck inside of them. Something solid.
The man’s mouth tingled. His legs tingled. His arms tingled. His face, head, neck, chest and everything else tingled. A very dim flicker of consciousness thought this should hurt, but it didn’t. The nubs growing from the top of his head felt good. The strange thing happening with his toes felt good. Even the metal bars holding his bones stationary felt really, really good.
He felt too good to go to sleep. The man stared at himself for hours. Days. Weeks. His body was changing. He watched it happen. His nose and mouth were indeed merging and it happened in spurts. For hours nothing would happen, then all of a sudden something would move. It was always too quick to see it consciously, but the end result was obvious.
The same thing was happening with his fingers and toes. They were changing. Shifting positions. Something inside was growing. His arms and legs were also changing. The muscles were crawling around underneath his skin. He watched his chest muscles expand gradually. He watched his arm muscles slowly bulk up. Veins rose to the surface and puckered up as the growing muscle pushed them harder against the skin.
His leg muscles grew the fastest. He watched these in real time, not in long stretches of inactivity followed by bursts of change. He watched them expand. He watched them separate, bulk out, separate again, grow even more. His chest and arms swelled. His skin stretched to accommodate the new mass. His bones stretched and grew.
It felt so good. The bones growing, the muscles expanding, the things growing out of his skull, the things growing at the tips of his fingers and toes, whatever was growing inside his mouth. For hours at a time he lay on the bed with an erection. Even that looked different than he remembered.
Days, weeks, months...
Lying on the bed, watching himself grow in the mirror.
The nubs at the top of his skull grew into large ears. The ears that had once been on the side of his head had long disappeared into his skull. His mouth and nose were joined together at the end of a long muzzle.
Something wiggled out from the tips of his fingers and toes. One at a time, claws poked through the skin of all ten of his fingers and toes. Blood ran down his feet and hands as they bored their way out.
Now as he stared at the mirror he noticed fewer changes. The pleasure had waned long ago, and his body seemed solid again. No movement, no shifting, no bones growing and realigning.
He settled back down, relaxed, when suddenly his whole body ignited in pleasure. Hair was growing from everywhere on him, from the tips of his toes to the top of his new ears. It grew in so fast he watched it from sprout to finish. The fur was a muted mix of brown and black with a cream underbelly. His backside tingled and surged him with even more pleasure. Something was growing there, but he couldn’t see it.
It felt so good his eyes rolled to the back of his head, completely awash in ecstasy.
The man opened his eyes. The colors of the room were muted shades of grey and brown. He couldn’t remember being in a room that wasn’t white, and the sensation was disorienting.
The man noticed he was seated in a chair of some sorts. Something about the chair he was sitting in struck him as unusual, but he couldn’t expand on the feeling. After all, he’d never seen a chair before, so how would he know?
The chair was all metal, and it was built specifically to accommodate his posture. His arms and legs were held in place with metal straps. The man looked around the grey and brown room, now realizing he was free to move his head. Three of the four sides of the room had mirrors that took up almost the entire wall. His reflection stunned him.
The man had gotten used to a thin, pale, hairless figure staring back at him. What was seated in the chair looked nothing like what he was used to seeing, even though he’d watched the transition from one to the other. An enormous brown and black canine sat in the chair in the mirror. His arms and legs were strapped down by thick, metal strips. He remembered his former human face. It was flat and drawn back, as if in retreat. The canine face that looked back at him from the mirror was pointed directly at him. Everything from the eyes to the angle of the snout pointed forward in attack. He opened his mouth. Two rows of large, canine teeth lined his mouth.
God... I’m hideous...
The thought was very faint. As soon as the idea surfaced, it drowned, leaving the man a little curious where that strange, soundless voice had come from.
Lying on the floor elsewhere in the room were large pieces of metal. One of them had the digits 200 stamped directly into its side. Another was labeled 500. The last was labeled 1,000. In the center of the room was a table.
The man leaned forward. Suddenly his nose caught something. He didn’t know what it was, but the smell made him want to go to it. He strained forward, sniffing it, lifting his hands and trying to walk. Something was on that table. He could see it, smell it, almost taste it, but he couldn’t reach it.
The creature in the mirror practically doubled in size as every muscle on his body flexed and struggled in the chair. He was growing frustrated— the chair was holding him back and he had to get to the scent!
The man settled himself and breathed. The creature in the mirror paused as well, massive chest heaving in and out under his coat of fur.
He looked down at his arm. The wrist was restrained by an inch-thick bar of solid metal. He lifted his wrist again it, forearm muscle bulking out his fur as it moved under the metal and pushed up.
A distant connection rose up in his mind: The metal wasn’t too thick. He could break it.
The man turned his arm over and curled. His wrist pushed against the metal. At first nothing happened, but then he felt the metal give. This encouraged him to curl his arm up harder. He glanced at the creature in the mirror. His face was cinched up in a snarl, bicep and forearm flexed to their maximums, veins popping out, visible even under his fur.
The man’s expression dipped slightly. Was that him? He didn’t feel like he was snarling, or angry, or exerting any effort right now. Before he could think on it, the metal bent. He flexed harder, pulled harder. The metal whined and bent and warped. Finally it snapped, and his arm was free.
As soon as he broke the metal and saw his arm free, his body swooned in a powerful feeling of ecstasy. He flexed his other arm, pulled up against the metal, flexed as hard as he could. The metal whined and bent until it broke.
He did the same with his legs, but forced them to move outwards at the same time. The braces on his ankles groaned and snapped easily, and the man leaped out of the chair and ran for the table.
A pile of bloody meat was on the metal table. Mixed into the meat was an extra scent. The scent was arousing and his mouth began to water. Desire to extinguish it overwhelmed him. He opened his mouth, grabbed a hunk off the pile and tore it free. He turned his mouth up and gulped it down.
Sweet bliss came from snuffing out that scent. It wasn’t coming from the meat itself, but from something mixed into it. The man opened his mouth, grabbed the rest and gulped the remainder. The bliss intensified.
When the meat was gone he turned his nose to a new source of scent. It was coming from one of the pieces of metal, the one labeled 200. He crouched closer to it, scenting the air around it. The meat scent hadn’t been there earlier; only after he finished the meat on the table.
He walked around it, looking for the source. He found nothing on any side of the small block. He smelled the top. The only other place it could be coming from was underneath.
The man crouched down and gripped the block on both sides with his clawed hands. The pads on his palms gripped the smooth metal firmly. He tried to push, but the block wouldn’t move in that direction. He flexed his legs and lifted. The block rose easily, and he threw it aside. It clanged on the floor and slid a ways before coming to a halt. There was a small cavity beneath where the block had been. In the cavity was more bloody meat mixed with some artificial odor. The man reached in with his snout and devoured the meat straight from the hole.
He looked in the mirror as he chewed the last bite. The creature in the mirror was covered in blood, matting the fur. He didn’t feel like that creature. Briefly he thought he saw a human figure move as a shadow behind the mirror, but as soon as he thought he saw it, it was gone. He forgot about it.
The scent was back! Instantly he was up, walking in his half-crouched stance, like a permanent stalk, and following his nose to the new source of scent. It was under the block of 500 metal.
He wrapped his paws around this one, lifted with his legs. This block took much more effort to lift, but it felt so good to lift he continued to raise it above his head, working every muscle in his body. This felt even better. He watched himself lift the block in the mirror. The creature in the mirror looked fierce, strong, powerful. The man didn’t feel that way, and yet his body was soaked in pleasure from lifting the block. He set it down gently and gorged on the meat in the cavity beneath the block.
Before he even finished the meal, the scent reemerged. His snout and head rose from the cavity and pointed him straight at the final block of metal. The 1,000.
He rose slightly and ran to it. He watched himself run out the corner of his eye. The creature in the mirror was stalking, running silently on his pawpads. His head never moved, his tail was straight out behind him, keeping his balance.
He stopped in front of the block, crouched down and picked it up. His muscles had to work harder than ever. The creature in the mirror was snarling and straining and flexing his muscles. It felt good to lift this block! Better than eating the meat. His legs did the initial lifting. He raised it over his chest, and his arms, chest and shoulders got involved. He lifted it over his head and held it there. The enormous creature in the mirror was holding the block over his head, muzzle and chest fur matted with blood.
He threw the block aside. It crashed into the floor, made a hole in the tiles and sank out of sight. The man crouched down and devoured the meat in the cavity. Midway through the meal he looked up at himself in the mirror, chewing and swallowing the meat, blood dripping off his muzzle and onto his chest fur. His fur was matted down enough that he could see the definition of his pectoral muscles.
The man reached down, grabbed the last piece and stood up, watching himself eat it. The creature in the mirror chewed up the meat. He liked the way his fur looked when it was caked in blood. He liked the way his body felt when he was lifting the blocks and breaking the metal off the chair.
As he chewed, his mind made the connection. The creature in the mirror was him. He was the creature. He was strong. He was powerful and enormous. That was him. He was proud to be the creature in the mirror.
He swallowed the rest of the meat and looked around the room. No new scents. No more blocks. The room now looked a disarrayed mess, especially with the hole in the floor.
He felt proud of that hole. He wanted to make another one. He walked to the 200 block, picked it up—
He paused. It was so light now. He let go of it gently and held it with one hand. He lifted it over his head with one arm. It felt good to do it with one hand. He lifted it with the other arm a few times. Then he tossed it across the room. It smashed into the floor, making a crater in the tile. His tail wagged back and forth.
He found the 500 block of metal, picked it up and tossed it. Another hole in the floor appeared. He ran to the block, lifted it out of the hole and tossed it again. And again. And again. The block was too easy.
He noticed the chair. It looked like it was welded to the floor. He grabbed it and pushed. The metal legs whined and groaned. The resistance made his muscles work hard again, which made him feel good. He wanted more resistance. He pushed and pulled and twisted. The chair finally bent and snapped free from its welding and he threw it across the room. It plunged through the mirror. It shattered and collapsed in a cascade of reflective glass.
When the glass settled, the creature was staring into another room. There were people standing in the room behind the mirror. All of them were against the wall, shielding themselves from the glass. None had hit them, but they were clearly shaken. The creature smelled shock and fear from them.
The creature heard a sound from his right. A door that had been recessed into the wall was swinging open. In walked a man dressed in business casual attire. Another man stood behind him. They did not smell afraid. The creature stood up straight, which still meant he was crouching, all features pointed forward in attack. Their scents did not change.
“Very good,” said the one in front. “Your body has assimilated the modifications. Come with us now. Time to step up your olfactory and auditory senses.”
The creature understood none of these words. All he sensed was the tone of the sounds. They sounded confident, but not threatening. He respected that. A distant impulse made him hate these men. He sensed he should escape from these horrible men for doing what they did to him.
But nothing these men did to him had harmed him. In fact, it felt good! He wanted more! He ignored the impulse and strode to the men at the door. They stepped to the side and let him pass. The one at the back closed the door. They led the creature down a long corridor.
The creature’s mind awoke. The air in the room was different than the air he fell asleep in, and he raised his head instantly and looked around. The creature was curled up in front of a large hallway. The air smelled unfamiliar. He turned his head and looked behind him at a solid wall. No doors. No mirrors.
The creature stood up and scented the air deeper. Everything smelled different now. Scents that had been muted before were loud and obvious now, from the odor of the tile in the floor, to the foam in the ceiling tiles. He smelled metal in the ceiling. His ears picked up a faint trickle of water running through those pipes. The wall in front of him funneled into a hallway, which smelled of metal and concrete.
Suddenly he smelled it. That scent... The one he had to destroy! He looked around him, but the source of the scent was out of eyesight. Something about it... He craned his neck forward, taking in the air in shallow puffs. Every breath he took added the faint scents together and made them more noticeable.
He wanted to find where that scent was coming from. The creature walked into the funnel. The smell of metal and concrete surrounded him, making it difficult to pick out. He walked down the hall until he came to a doorway. Peering around the corner, the passageway extended in both directions, turned corners. There was another door just a ways down the left passage.
He pulled his head back and looked further down the passage he was in. It, too, curved that way. Curious...
And the scent... It was here. Very faint, but detectable. The creature raised his nose upwards and took in the air in short breaths. Each breath added the faint scents together more and more until it became loud enough. When he stopped breathing, the scent began to fall apart and fade in volume. That’s when he realized the scent wasn’t coming from the air. It was coming from the floor.
The creature stooped down and inhaled the air coming off the floor. He had to inhale the floor many times to add the smell up enough for him to identify it through the tile’s odor, but it was there.
The scent didn’t veer down this corridor. It continued straight down the corridor he was in. The creature stood up and walked straight. He turned the corner, followed it to another intersection. Here the hallway broke off into four different directions, each way turned a corner and disappeared.
The creature bent down and scented the entrance of each hallway. Since the scent was still fresh in his mind he didn’t have to smell the floor for very long. He found the path where the scent had gone, turned and followed it.
The creature followed it down several more turns and hallways. By now he didn’t need to bend down and scent the floor to find it. It was so fresh in his nose that all he had to do was inhale the air coming off the floor to find where the scent wasn’t. It was growing stronger. This made the creature feel a sense of urgency, and he ran down the corridors, pausing at gaps and turns, decided where the scent went and ran down that hall.
The hallways and doors were identical to the eye. The only sense that led him anywhere was his nose. Using it made him feel good. Running made him feel good. The scent was strong now, which meant he was close to the source. He was running at full speed, pivoting on his paw and turning sharp corners without slowing down at all. The scent led him. He didn’t have to think anymore. His nose did all the leading. It felt good. The hallways and doors twisted and turned in and around each other. The scent path was practically visible to the eye by now.
The creature turned a corner, and suddenly the hallway opened up. A large slab of meat rested in a corner. He crouched and leapt at the meat. He sank his teeth into the hunk. He tore it to pieces and swallowed them one at a time. Wave after wave of pleasure spread through the creature.
A faint sound came from his right. He turned his head and looked up. A door had opened, and in stepped those same two men from last time. The creature’s stance softened. His tail lowered.
“Congratulations,” said one. “You made it through the maze. Come with me. There’s more to do.”
The creature’s tail wagged, and he walked with the men out of the room into another with a metallic scent.
The creature had a 1,000 block in his hand. He lifted it over his head, paused then lowered it. He then lifted his other hand over his head. It, too, held a 1,000 block. He alternated arms, lifting the blocks again and again, over and over.
As he did he looked at himself in the mirror. He thought he looked good before, but when he woke up in this room he was even bigger! All he could think of was picking up the blocks again and finding out how much he could lift this time. Already the 1,000 blocks were starting to feel light.
He held both blocks over his head, squeezed his legs and lifted the blocks with his legs. He lifted them again and again, watching himself in the mirror. After a while he felt compelled to lie on his back and use his chest to lift the blocks. As many ways as he could. Every muscle squeezed pleasure into his body and made him want to lift more.
He was once again in the large room with many mirrors, but this time there had been no meat under the blocks. The reward seemed to be his new ability to lift the blocks themselves.
It had taken forever. After the men led him from the concrete hallways into the metallic room, he had been strapped down in a bed, bars inserted into his bones to keep him still, and left there for a very long time. There was another mirror in the ceiling, and he watched himself grow again. Slowly, but noticeably, he grew to twice his size, and it felt even better this time. Now he could lift the 1,000 blocks as easily as he’d once been able to lift the 200 blocks. It felt so good he hadn’t stopped since he woke up.
And now he smelled humans behind the mirrors. He heard their voices.
“He’s been lifting those things for hours...”
“That’s good. Means the DNA is working, as well as the neural repathing.”
“How soon until he’s ready for deployment?”
“Only one last attribute to test, regeneration. If it works as expected, he could be in the field by Friday.”
The creature understood none of these words. He didn’t care. He felt so good and he never wanted to stop.
Hours later a door opened. The creature was lifting the weights outward using his shoulders, relishing the powerful feeling it gave him. He turned his head to look. The same two men were standing at the door.
Tail wagging, the creature dropped the weights, making two more holes in the floor and pranced to the door to meet them.
“Hey, big guy,” said the first man. “Six hours. That’s long enough. You’re almost ready. Next test is right this way.”
The creature hopped around, tail wagging, eager to go with the men.
The creature woke up on his back. His nose told him he was in an empty space surrounded by metal walls and the usual tile floors. There were two men in the room. Their scents mixed together. Both reeked of fear, but one of them reeked of...
The creature rolled to a crouching position and looked around. The room was jet black. His eyes showed him sharp outlines of everything in the room. What his eyes couldn’t make out, his nose filled in.
His arm felt different. He looked down at it. Though it was pure black in the room, he could still see it was a completely different color. He reached up and felt it. It had no fur and it smelled new compared to the rest of his body. Hairless and discolored.
He heard a shriek coming from the other side of the room. The creature’s ears turned to face it. His head turned to match his ears. He stalked silently to the source of the scent, towards the outlines of the two men. They were both walking around, feeling the walls.
“What was that?” said one. “Something’s in here with us... It’s moving.”
“I’m serious! Don’t you smell it? Smells like a dog.”
“All I can smell is you. Jesus, don’t they have showers in England?!”
“I don’t know what it is. I just woke up in this room and I’m covered in this smelly liquid. And I’m tellin’ you there’s something in here!”
“Just stay away from me! I’m gettin’ outta here, and whatever trick this is to get me talk won’t work.”
“I don’t know where we are either! That’s the problem with you people. You’re so bloody paranoid, think everyone’s out to get you, the world conspired to bring America down.”
“Everyone in the world wanted the U.S. to collapse! They figured if we were gone, that’d free all the resources for them, and you goddamned Brits were the cheerleading the whole thing!”
“Let’s just find an exit!”
They were on opposite sides of the circular, metallic room. The creature had plenty of time to take in their scents. Drink their fear. The one on his left had a nice, neutral scent. But the one on the right... His scent pulled the creature to him. He was covered in that scent he had to destroy. He walked on his pads towards the man on the right, who was groping and feeling the walls in wide circles from his feet up to as high as he could reach.
“We were your allies,” said man on the left, “and you led the fight to bring America down! We fought back!”
“No one brought the U.S. down. Other nations surpassed you in innovation. The world started buying their products instead, down went your economy, and your bloody government didn’t do shit about it except convince you the world conspired to bring you down. You could’ve adapted to the change, but instead you sulked and blamed everyone else. The world hates you because you started the attacks! Don’t blame us!” The man on the right slapped the wall with his palm. “These walls are solid metal. Where in God’s name are we?”
“If you think this is gonna get me to talk, you’re wrong.” He raised his voice. “You hear that you damn Brits!? I ain’t tellin’ you shit!”
The man’s voice grated the creature’s ears, but he liked his scent. The man on the right, however, made the creature furious. He hated that scent! He now stood in arm’s reach of the man. A low growl escaped his throat. The man feeling the wall stopped dead still.
“Did you hear that?” he said.
“I did... It came from across the room.”
“I think it’s right next to me.” The man slowly rose to full height and looked towards the center of the chamber. “Smells like a bloody dog.”
The creature couldn’t take it anymore. As the man’s fear rose, it affected his scent and aggravated him further. His voice began to shake and that made him want this man dead. He growled again. The man froze.
“Nice doggie...?” he said.
The creature’s mouth watered. He snarled and lunged at the man. His body slammed into the wall and flailed against it. The creature buried his teeth in his soft neck, his teeth piercing a hard tube of flesh, before he pulled back and popped it free. The man choked and squirmed and fell face first on the floor.
The other man was now running along the walls, frantically searching for an exit, panting and crying. The creature turned and ran towards the man. He stopped and stood over his shoulder, taking in his scent and breath. The man clenched his eyes closed and cried.
The creature disliked the fear in his scent... But he didn’t have to destroy it, and he hadn’t stopped him, so he liked this man. He licked him on the forehead, turned around and walked away. The man shriveled up and curled into himself against the wall.
About a minute later, bright light streamed into the room, casting everything in stark light and shadow.
“Mother fu...h...” panted the cowering man as he gazed at the creature standing just a few paces in front of him.
The two men walked in through the doorway. The creature’s tail wagged and he pranced to meet them.
“Final test complete, big guy,” said the first man. “You’re ready.”
The creature jumped up and down through the doorway, urging them to lead him to another metallic room and do something else to him.
The creature’s eyes opened to complete darkness. The scent of the air was wrong. There was no metal or tile. He rolled to his feet and stood up quickly. He held his nose high and scented the area. The creature couldn’t place any of the scents. He’d never smelled these things before.
Everything around him was alive. The thing jutting up from the ground in front of him was full of life. There was no metal anywhere. He looked around for a mirror, but there were no walls. The room was endless. He looked up. The ceiling was so high he couldn’t see it. Having no limits on his environment was disorienting.
Curious, he walked up to the tree, scenting up its trunk. The tree was alive. Living things were crawling around inside and outside. Above and below. The ground felt wrong. It wasn’t solid tile or plastic, but soft and a little spongy. He bent down, scented the ground. He smelled a multitude of scents staining the ground by his feet. His nose was drawn to them and he took them all in.
He took short, quick breaths over the dirt, letting the weak scents build up in his nose. Gradually he caught that scent... The one he had to destroy... It was coming from a place quite a distance from here. His body aligned itself in that direction and he ran with it. His powerful legs propelled him across the land, up the steep hill. His sensitive eyes helped him avoid the trees and branches.
Gradually he realized there was no wall. There were no mirrors. The air... He vaguely remembered smelling this air before, once, a long time ago, when he feared the people in the plastic suits and tried cutting open a suit to escape. The air that rushed over his face now was the same. He was outside the metal walls. Away from the men behind mirrors.
Now he felt what it was like to use his body to its fullest! His legs carried him fast and light. His nimble feet changed his direction with the slightest pivot, avoiding obstacles. His nose kept him oriented with the scent, which pulled him uphill.
He crested the hill and stopped. Before him was more metal scent, but this was different. It didn’t smell like the metal rooms he’d lived in. This smelled lighter, more airy...
He approached it, scenting it. It was simple lines of metal pulled between posts about five paces apart. A light hum emitted from the lines. He recognized the hum as electricity, but he never heard or felt electricity this strong before. The creature lowered his nose closer to the lines, scenting it. The feeling of so much electricity was curious, and he wanted to be closer to it—
Pressure—line pulling him into it—intense pleasure rushing through him!
The creature mustered enough control to back away from the line. He breathed heavily, still unsure of what just happened. It felt good, but the creature didn’t like how he lost control of his body.
He backed away, looking left and right. The metal lines continued onward in both directions, each rounding corners and continuing on. Beyond the metal lines was a large complex of buildings.
And the scent he had to destroy.
The creature’s face curled up in a snarl. He jumped, testing his leap compared to the height of the lines of metal. He landed softly on his feet, crouched down and jumped again. The second jump his legs cleared the top line. Just knowing he could jump over a fence this high made the creature feel good.
He backed up a few steps, ran to the fence and leaped into the air. His legs propelled him up and out in a large arc, he cleared the lines easily and landed softly on his feet.
The ground was asphalt inside the lines. The scent was stronger here. The creature scented the air, letting it add up until he didn’t need to smell it consciously to follow it.
His muscles flexed, his face cinched up, his legs propelled him in its direction, snarling and drooling in anticipation of that scent’s source on his tongue, in his belly. Something told him immense pleasure waited for him when he destroyed this scent. He bounded straight for the buildings.
“What the hell—” “Holy fucking—” “—God—” “—is that!?”
The creature stopped short without sliding on the ground, turned and faced the source of the noises. Three men wearing uniforms were standing a ways off from him. They were staring at him in awe, reeking of fear. One of them stank of urine.
All three men reached for their guns. Two of them were shaking too much to even find their pistols, but the oldest of the three found it and aimed it straight at the creature. Three loud, sharp sounds came from the pistol one of the men was holding. The creature felt pressure on his chest for an instant, and then intense pleasure. Oh, it felt good!
These men were stopping him from finding the scent. He hated them. The creature dropped to all fours and charged towards the group, never making a sound. They fired again. Pressure on his chest changed to pleasure and the creature wanted them dead more than anything else in the world.
He sped up and landed on the man who had shot at him. The man was pinned face up under his paws, struggling and screaming. The creature bent down, clamped his muzzle around his throat and silenced his screams.
“Intruder! Intruder! Unknown threat! Full alarm!”
The creature turned his head and looked at the other two men. One was talking into something in front of his mouth. The other was shooting at the creature.
The creature stood still, blood dripping down his muzzle and onto his chest. Every pop sound was followed by a light wave of pleasure. His erection stirred in his sheath, and he raised one of his arms, hoping to encourage the man to shoot him in the belly.
Three shots of pleasure on his stomach. The creature lifted his head back and panted in ecstasy.
A moment later a loud siren sounded. The creature’s ears swiveled forward. He felt vibrations of footsteps. If these few men were trying to stop him from reaching the scent, others would do the same.
“Outside, third quadrant, Ashton is dead, Reilly just unloaded his clip into the thing and it didn’t even flinch!”
The creature turned, coiled up and leapt at the men. He landed, pinning one of them under each paw. He chewed out the talker’s neck first, then buried his muzzle in the shooter’s neck. Their blood tasted good. When he was sure they wouldn’t stop him from finding the scent, the creature leaped off their lifeless bodies and bounded to a large doorway.
Something felt different as he ran. He felt like there were tiny pieces of metal in him, brushing against his muscles as he ran. Every step he took made him feel good. So good... He wanted to keep running, keep feeling the joy.
He stopped at the door. He remembered men swinging these doors open, but he didn’t know how. He pounded on the door. The metal bent with his fists, and he remembered the chair and metal restraints. He braced himself against the door and pushed. The metal heaved and groaned and puckered inward until finally something snapped and the warped door careened into the hallway inside.
The creature stood in the doorframe and let out a growl. The pleasure he got from breaking that door was so intense, and the little pieces of metal buried in his muscles added spice to it.
He allowed himself only a moment to swim in the joy before the scent overtook his nose again. He bounded on all fours down the hallway, letting the scent decide which direction to go. The corridors were exactly like the concrete and metal maze he navigated before, so this was easy and familiar. He turned several corners. The scent he was tracking wasn’t getting any stronger, but he stayed with it, not letting any of the other scents or sounds distract him.
The creature rounded a corner and halted, rearing back on his hind legs. Down this hallway was a team of two dozen men, all reeking of determination and confidence.
“Fire!” shouted a man in the rear.
Loud blasts and pops filled the creature’s ears. A dozen pricks hit his body simultaneously, washing his mind out.
“Oh my God...” someone said.
The creature looked down at them. Smoke was leaking from the tips of their guns. Fear leaked out of their bodies.
“Fire at will!” shouted the man in the back.
The shots rang out again, but this time they weren’t synchronized. Pellets pierced his hide, knocking him off balance briefly as they impacted. They felt so good the creature’s tongue fell out the side of his mouth. Gradually the firing stopped. More fear leaked out of the men in the hallway. The creature looked down at them. He snarled.
The men stood up and backed away. A couple of them fired at the creature. He dropped to all fours and ran headlong into the crowd. He didn’t have time to taste their blood; he settled for stepping on them, breaking their necks, arms, shoulders and legs as he passed. For the talker at the front of the retreat, the creature jumped and landed on his back. It cracked, and the creature bounded onward down the hall.
He ran through the entire building, following that scent. He ran into many men trying to shoot him, and though he wanted to stand still and swim in the pleasure of being shot, they were slowing him down, keeping him from destroying that scent, so he ran past them, breaking their bones so they wouldn’t bother him later.
He rounded a corner. A man threw something down the hall at him. It exploded a few paces from the creature. Thousands of shards hit him in the chest and legs. The creature stood still, relishing in the pleasure of it. The man threw another one, and again the creature didn’t want to be slowed down, so he ran past the exploding pieces of metal, leaped on the man and continued.
The scent wasn’t in this building. The creature found the nearest window and smashed through it. He was three stories up, and the pavement rushed to meet him. Alarms sounded from loudspeakers all around him. People were scrambling about, filling the cold air with panic, which made the creature happy. He landed hard on all fours, making a few cracks in the asphalt, but the creature felt as if he’d just hopped off a chair to the floor. He dashed to another building, smashed the door in and followed the scent again. It was stronger in here.
He had an extra problem. There were so many pieces of metal stuck in him that every step he took was orgasmic. He was having a hard time moving through all the pleasure. He wanted to lie down and let the erotic joy take him, but he kept following that scent.
More men were in this building than before, and the creature didn’t even let them make a move. He killed them all as he ran by. He turned corners into rooms, searching for the scent. Some of the men who got in his way threw smoking bombs at him, but it didn’t slow him down at all. Still others threw pods filled with acidic liquid in them. Fur and skin melted off parts of his body as he passed through the clouds of acid, and it made him feel good, but the men were only in the way, trying to distract him.
This building had multiple levels underground, and he followed the scent down five floors down. He could smell damp concrete and soil just behind the walls, but the scent he was looking for was here. It was getting closer! The scent down here was more recent, and it pulled him faster down the levels.
The creature burst into a room. No one was here, but the scent had been in this room. He was about to turn around and follow the scent again when his eyes caught a glimpse of something familiar. There was a mirror in here. He ran into the room and stood in front of it.
He was covered head to toe in blood. Most of his fur was missing. Large chunks of skin were missing, revealing the muscle underneath. His body was riddled with holes and bleeding gashes.
They felt good. He felt powerful. Strong. As he watched, some of the fur was growing back. The skin that lined the edges of the holes was growing inward. It itched, and felt good. Confidence renewed, the creature turned from the mirror and ran back into the hall.
He felt footsteps behind him. He spun around. A man was leaping in the air, swinging an ax. The blade disappeared into the creature’s chest. The creature tipped over and crashed on his back.
Moments later another man appeared, stood over him and swung another ax down on his arm. He chopped his shoulder once. Twice. Three times. His shoulder and arm fell free from his body.
The creature’s eyes rolled back in his head. He wanted to get up and find the scent, but this felt better than being shot! The same man hacked off one of the creature’s legs in the same way, taking ten swings before it was completely severed.
The creature ejaculated.
“Oh my God…” said the man holding the ax.
“Get the head! The head!” shouted the other.
The creature’s eyes opened. Something clicked in place. He didn’t understand the words, but he did recognize there was danger if he let them bring the ax to his neck. He rolled over and grabbed the ax-man by the leg. The man’s eyes swelled to three times their size and he dropped the ax. He squeezed the man’s thigh. Bones snapped. The man screamed and cried. The creature squeezed harder. His hand clenched together, and he let go. The man fell to the ground, whimpering and crying helplessly. He crawled away.
The other man was reaching for the ax, but the creature raised his remaining leg and kicked him in the stomach. The other man fell backwards and rolled around on the floor, spitting blood.
The creature lay still. Something inside him told him he should.
A tingling sensation began from his severed shoulder and leg. Blood shot from the holes where his arm and leg had been. The creature writhed and moaned. His penis swelled up again. He turned his head to watch what was happening. A bone was growing from his shoulder socket. He looked down just as a bone shot out of his body where his leg had been severed.
Muscle and flesh grew from the hole. Blood shot out and covered the walls and floor. His penis was completely out its sheath and throbbing. Multiple bones grew at once. Flesh grew rapidly to cover the new bones.
The erection throbbed. A knot at the base swelled.
New fingers were starting to grow on the new arm. New toes were sprouting on the foot. The claws were growing inside the flesh of the toes. They pushed through solid skin and muscle and emerged in sprays of blood.
The creature ejaculated again.
The pleasure waned. The creature lay on the floor panting for a moment. Suddenly the scent hit him. He rolled to his feet and crouched on the blood-soaked floor. Both men were still here, looking up at him in awe. The creature looked at himself. His arm and leg were hairless. The skin was a different color than the rest of his body. But they were just as muscular and functional as his old limbs had been.
The creature was hungry now. He crouched over the man with the broken leg, tore his neck free, chewed the flesh and swallowed. He pulled off an arm and a leg with one hand and ran down the hallway, chewing the meat.
Though the alarm was still sounding, he didn’t meet a single person. The scent was strong in this building, so the scent he was looking for must be here. He descended three more levels. The scent became stronger than ever. He turned a corner and entered a large chamber. One man in a uniform was standing in front of him. He held nothing in his hand.
His scent! His horrible scent! HIM!
The creature charged.
The creature’s legs gave out from the pleasure of being shot. He slid on his stomach across the floor. His prey ran out of the way.
This felt different. The pleasure was coming straight from his head. They shot him in the head with something... And it was still in there. He reached back and felt it. There was a long, metal rod sticking out of his skull. It was attached to a wire. The creature looked behind him. The wire ran the entire length of the room and was attached to an enormous box. Standing at the box was another man. The creature rolled upright and charged for him.
A wave of electricity surged through his brain. His muscles vibrated. His legs turned to jelly and he collapsed on his stomach.
So much pleasure...
The creature lay on the floor, brain swimming in bliss. His limbs were stiff and immobile, but felt like they were flailing in all directions.
The two men approached and looked down at him. The creature hated them. He wanted to destroy them. He tried to move, but his muscles weren’t responding. He tried to think, but nothing happened. Everything felt so good.
“Maximum voltage,” said one of the men.
The second man disappeared. The creature looked at the face of the man he wanted to kill. Even with his mind drowning in pleasure he wanted this man dead. Even more pleasure awaited him when he destroyed this man’s scent. In his mind the creature was snarling, but none of the appropriate muscles responded.
Then, his arms stiffened and tensed even more. His mind squeezed in on itself. The world turned black.
The creature lay on a bed. This bed wasn’t nearly as comfortable or well-designed as the beds he was used to. Those beds felt like they were designed especially for him. This bed felt like it was worn out years before he ever lay his back on it. It was propped up partway, facing a plastic window cut into a wall. A metal prong protruded from the back of his head. There were no bars or straps or needles holding him down. Only the metal prong humming directly into his skull.
The hum of electricity filled the creature’s head and danced inside him from his chest to his toes. He felt calm. At ease with everything. He still wanted to destroy all the foul scents that surrounded him in this building. Those scents were keeping him from destroying the scent he had to reach, but he felt so good he couldn’t move at all.
The room smelled different. It didn’t smell of sterilized metal and mirrors. This room smelled like many people had been in it before. Various medical instruments lay on tables and trays. He smelled them in drawers and desks all around the room. There were other beds in this room, all recently emptied.
Hour by hour people walked by the window, stood and stared at him. He heard their whispers clearly through the plastic and brick walls. They were always a mixture of fascination, hate, curiosity and fear. The creature wanted to destroy all of them, but his muscles weren’t responding to this desire.
He watched the people. They walked by and looked at him. No one entered the room, but many lingered at the window for a long time, studying him, speaking to each other about him, giving off their foul scents.
Hours and hours.
Men finally entered the room. They had needles. They had knives. They injected things into him, injected things out of him. They cut fur from his body. It grew back in minutes, and they watched in amazement. They cut through the fur and pierced the skin. They cut off larger and larger chunks, then stood back and watched the skin grow back.
One of the men took a large knife and sawed one of the creature’s fingers off. The creature’s tail would have wagged if it could, anticipating the feeling that would follow. One of the men clicked his watch, and they observed the bone grow out of his hand, muscle and flesh twist and build up around it, out and out and out until the whole finger had grown back. The fur was the last to return. The creature moaned and panted the whole time. He hoped they’d cut off his whole leg again, or an arm. It felt even better when those grew back. The man clicked his watch.
The men wheeled in a large machine. It spun around the creature. Many other devices came and went. Many different men. The creature wanted to kill them all, but he didn’t want to move either.
More people walked by the plastic window. More men came in and examined him. They talked to each other in front of him, and the creature felt every word. They were fascinated and curious.
He’d been alone for a long time.
Then, a familiar man stepped in front of the window, looking in on him. The air vents above carried his scent to the creature. He wanted to kill this man. Above all else he had to destroy his scent! The creature tried to get up. He tried to move his legs, but nothing responded. Every time he tried to move, his thoughts were interrupted by the pleasure humming deep in his skull. The creature lay still. He had never moved, even though in his mind he was struggling and fighting and writhing on the bed to stand up and attack.
“Lieutenant Westing?” asked the man.
He paused, as if expecting something to happen.
“Marty?” he said, and waited.
A while later, a second man walked up next to the creature’s prey. He was holding a clipboard.
“Is that the report?” said his prey. “What in God’s name is this?”
The man with the clipboard looked through the plastic at the creature and spoke. “There’s no doubt about it. That is Lieutenant Westing. Residual DNA testing confirms traces of his human chromosomes... alongside canine genes as well.”
They were both looking through the plastic at him. Their scents were remorseful instead of terrified.
“God...” said the prey. “He was captured by the Americans last year. He’s still in the official P.O.W. list issued last month. Is the biological study complete?”
“Well, lay it on me.”
“Where do I begin?”
“Just pick a place.”
The person next to his prey held a thick stack of papers up to his face. He flipped through them.
“His DNA has been rewritten multiple times. It looks like the Americans used several different kinds of canine genes as the baseline for the initial phase. After that, they went back and hand-spliced the genetic sequences for his hearing and olfactory. Possibly the muscle structure. It looks like it’s been augmented two different times.”
“And the self-regeneration?”
“Yes, that.” He flipped a few dozen pages, stopped and read for a moment. “Every cell in his body is a stem cell. His cells recognize when, say, a finger is missing, and know how to grow it back.”
“How is that possible?”
“It’s light years ahead of our gene research. But it’s obvious they haven’t perfected the technique for their soldiers to use. The process must be incredibly painful, as all of the lieutenant’s pain receptors have been rewired directly into the pleasure center of his brain.”
“Yes, sir. It would’ve been one of the first things they did. This kind of physical change... There’d be no sleeping through it. The pain would be so great it would wake anyone out of the deepest coma. He was awake for the whole process. And it must’ve felt really good. His gonads produce no sperm, but they pump out testosterone in ridiculous quantities. His adrenal glands are also hyper-stimulated, probably to keep the senses sharp.”
“But why? Can you tell me why?”
He lowered the papers to his side and stared at the creature. “This is not a science experiment, sir. This thing is a biological weapon. Missiles and bombs are nearly useless these days, so it’s reasonable to conclude the Americans set out to create a weapon that can follow its target quickly and stealthily, adapt to any situation, and be unpredictable. Canines are much more maneuverable than the human body, and the canine body and brain structure can better handle the sharper senses. They began with a human brain to retain the intelligence and innate knowledge of human environments. His dense muscle structure doubles as body armor. But that’s not all.”
“It gets worse?”
“Yes, sir.” He briefly consulted the papers again. “His olfactory and auditory senses are tied directly to a specific clump of cells in his reasoning center. This cluster is not natural. It was pieced together deliberately, programming him to seek and destroy a specific scent. The lieutenant’s brain activity peaks whenever you’re around, sir. In a nutshell, you’re his target, General Stagris. Every modification done to his body is aimed at maximizing survival through the most brutal attacks just to get to you. His brain is designed so his only purpose in life is to track his target and kill it. He’ll never stop until he finishes his goal. When he does, his brain is programmed to overload his pleasure center, then the immune system severs the nerves to the medulla and cannibalizes the cells to destroy his DNA. And if he should die before reaching his goal, we’re pretty sure his immune system will destroy the body, too.”
“Didn’t expect us to figure a way to capture him alive, did they?” said the General.
They were both silent for a while.
“This war has been in stalemate for twenty years,” his prey continued. “They’re too scared to use the Bomb. Everyone has defenses that can intercept all ballistic attacks—they’ve been useless for decades. Every nation has the antigens for biological and viral weapons. For years all the Americans could do was demonize the world, posture and make threats. So what do they do? They create a living, breathing weapon as unpredictable as life itself, designed to feel no pain as it suffers through its suicide mission.”
They both stared at the creature for a while longer.
“Was the lieutenant married?” said the prey.
“Yes, sir. I took the liberty of looking her up. Gloria Westing, also a lieutenant.”
“Correct, sir. Apparently they met on a base in the Middle East five years ago and decided to say vows. Managed to transfer together the last three deployments.”
“Somebody had a few friends in command...” He sighed. “Bring her here. Fast as you can. Let’s find out if there’s any part of lieutenant Westing left in there.”
The other man nodded and walked out from the view of the window. The General leaned closer to the window, still peering at the creature.
In his mind the creature was writhing and kicking his legs and running and breaking through the window and chewing this man’s throat out. But he only lay still in bed.
Days and days and hours and days... Still silence and humming. No one had come to the window since the General walked away. No one came in to poke or prod or cut anything off him.
Then, a woman walked in front of the window, wearing standard military clothes. Just behind her was the General, leading her to the window. He stood against the wall and let her approach the window alone.
“Marty...?” she said.
She turned around, looked at the General.
“He can hear you. These walls aren’t soundproof. And his hearing is hundreds of times more sensitive than ours.”
She turned and looked at him again. Her face was contorted in a mix of disgust and curiosity. And even hope.
“Is that really him?”
“The DNA tests confirm it. There’s just enough of your husband’s DNA left to match it up.”
“What’s that thing he’s hooked up to?”
“The power grid. When he invaded the base, bullets didn’t stop him. Two of my men cut off an arm and a leg, and they both grew back in about two minutes. We figured his brain had been rewired to feel pleasure instead of pain, so we’re injecting current directly into his brain. It keeps his pleasure center occupied and disrupts motor functions.”
“That can’t be my husband...”
“That’s why I brought you here, lieutenant. We want you to meet him. We’ll be watching for any change in brain activity.”
He walked behind her, to a small door next to the window. A lock turned, a bolt unlatched, and the door swung inwards. The General held the door for her. The woman walked away from the window, behind the wall and reappeared in the door. She took a couple deep breaths and slowly approached the bed. The General closed the door and stood in front of it, arms folded. She stood next to the bed, looking down at him. The creature could only move his eyes and look at her.
“Marty?” she whispered.
Her breath washed over the creature. It stank. He stirred in his mind, willing himself to get up, but all he could do was lie still.
“Do you know who I am?”
The creature blinked.
She looked at his eyes for a while. She squinted at them, as if trying to read something written on his pupils. Tears shined at the corners of her eyes. She raised her arms from her sides and leaned on the bed.
“What did those bastards do to you?”
She leaned harder on the bed. She looked closer at his muzzle. She raised an arm. She held it over his chest, hesitated, then placed her hand gently on his chest. The creature writhed and flailed and grabbed her face and twisted her head off... In his mind. She was between him and his prey. She had to die.
She rubbed his chest. Her hand migrated up to his face. She held his muzzle in her hand, turned his head slightly to look at her directly. The creature felt his arms and neck rising up to meet her neck and rip it open, but nothing was moving.
She said many more things. She kept talking. Kept feeling him, stroking his fur back and forth. He didn’t hear her anymore. He just wanted her hand off his chest and her scent extinguished so he could reach his prey.
Finally, the General placed a hand on her shoulder. She turned to face him.
“I’m sorry, soldier. But the doctors have told me that brain activity has increased. The pattern matches what he feels when he catches my scent.”
She turned to him again. Her jaw was clenched and tears shimmered at the corners of her eyes but never escaped.
“He wants to kill us.”
She clutched the mattress, then spun around and stormed out of the room, behind the wall, past the window and out of sight. The General remained there for a moment, eyeing him.
“I know what the doctors say, but I don’t believe them. You’re still in there. Somewhere. And I know you’re not going to understand this, lieutenant, but I am so sorry. I promise I have a plan. It will give them what they deserve, and it will make amends for what they took from you.”
He turned around and walked out the door, closing and locking it behind him.
The creature was up, smashing in the door, running on all fours to catch up to the General, grabbing his body and silencing that scent forever...
The creature lay still in the pleasant hum. The scent of the women lingered in the room. He breathed it in, nose twitching. The longer he breathed it, the more familiar it seemed, but his prey’s scent also lingered in the room and the thought was quickly buried beneath desire to destroy it.
Men and women entered the room often, extracting tissue and blood and other fluids from him day and night. Many times he lost consciousness, falling into a waking sleep. Men and women poked and prodded and cut pieces off him. Those parts grew back, and it felt as wonderful as ever.
They moved him from room to room often. They switched beds a dozen times. More people came and observed him. More men talked about him while they looked at him.
In the beginning, the creature willed himself to get up and kill them, but as the months passed, the less intense the desire to break free and kill them to get to his prey became.
The hum of electricity never stopped. The gentle massage in his brain that wrapped his body in joy was ever present, and with the desire to kill everyone slowly decreasing, he was free to enjoy it without the impulse getting in the way. It had brought him pleasure before, but gradually he forgot it ever had.
Then, one day, the General and a doctor walked in the room, leaving the door open. The doctor walked around one side of the creature’s bed, the General walked around the other side.
The doctor raised the bed until the creature lay upright. He reached behind the creature’s head and—
The humming stopped.
Enormous pain gripped his body as the rod slid out of his skull. The creature had never felt this before and he didn’t like the feeling. Immediately the doctor wrapped the creature’s head in a bandage. The creature moved his arm again. He spread his toes. He looked at the General.
The General smiled.
The creature swung his legs off the bed and stood on the floor. He stretched to his full height, towering over this man. His prey. His...
He felt nothing.
The General’s scent. The doctor’s scent. They surrounded him, filled his head. He felt no reflex to kill it. Nothing. The creature stood still, looking at the General.
“Hello, Marty. I’d like you to meet someone.”
Through the door walked in...
The creature thought he was looking in a mirror. Another furred creature walked through the door, arms held by two men in camouflage uniforms. She walked skittish and unsteady, scenting the air and looking around as if expecting everything to reach out and attack her.
One of the uniformed men closed and locked the door. When they did they stood still about five paces away from the creature. The creature’s eyes met the female creature’s eyes, and they stared at each other.
“This is Gloria,” said the General.
The creature turned and looked down at the man. Strangely, he felt nothing, so he stood still.
“We’ve been working on you, Marty. It’s taken nine months, but we not only reverse engineered the technique used to create you, we removed most of the programming they added. The nerve complexes that made you want to kill me and everyone who stood between. Everything we could do to give control of your mind back to you.”
He walked up to the female. To Gloria.
“Your wife didn’t need much persuading, especially when I told her the mission I had in mind for both of you. We extracted your DNA and applied the same changes to her. Everything you have, she has. Indestructible, unstoppable.”
The General stepped forward and stood between them.
“The timing couldn’t have been better. Since I’ve been playing dead for the better part of a year, the Americans think their plan worked. They have begun dropping more canines like you on the British Isles. We have more than a dozen confirmed sightings and attacks. I anticipated this move.”
The General had begun pacing back and forth across the room, voice growing more and more menacing and angry.
“We are capturing these creatures, taking them to our secured labs and modifying them as we have modified you. The enemy doesn’t know we’re on to them, and they probably didn’t think we could figure it out.”
The words were not entirely lost on the creature now. Somehow, in a way he couldn’t remember consciously, they made sense. Yes... Someone had done this to him. People... He couldn’t escape... They turned him into this. He loved what he’d become. He really did... But... They did something to him, and because he couldn’t remember what, or why it should anger him, it enraged him even more.
He looked at the female before him. Gloria. She smelled nice. He walked closer to her, scenting her air from this distance. Her scent was so familiar. He felt like he should remember it, but the memory was not there anymore. The emotion it produced still was. This person was the anchor who kept him sane no matter what he saw in the field, what horrors he witnessed in whatever hellish place he deployed. He couldn’t imagine a day without her. She walked closer to him, also scenting him. Her body language told him she felt the same way.
Their noses touched. They reached out and touched each other. The touch turned into an embrace. An overwhelming desire to protect her filled him up. Her scent expressed she was filled with a similar desire. They agreed.
The creature looked at the General. He was smiling.
“We reconnected your pain receptors to allow you to survive long term, but when you regenerate after injury, they will shut off completely. We will do the same for the ones we capture as well, then drop them over American soil. Both of you are going to do your country a great service. Give them a real enemy to fight. Give them hell, lieutenants. That’s your mission.”
The creature didn’t catch every word, but in a subconscious way, he understood. The idea excited him. If any of those people came near his mate, he’d kill them. He’d kill them until their scents were so far away they’d never be a threat again.
The creature rose higher. He wasn’t sure where that thought came from, but it felt good.
He looked over his mate’s shoulder at his vague reflection in the plastic window.
That’s me... Marty.
For the first time in as long as he could remember, it felt right.