“He knew he could be killed; it was something he had accepted long ago, and he had grown a shell about that knowledge so that he rarely thought of anything further ahead than the next few minutes…” ― Norman Mailer, The Naked and the Dead
A Time to Fight and a Time to Die
Vika watched from the darkened apartment across the street through parted curtains. The Cybrid set the binoculars down on the nightstand and sat on the edge of the bed. Determined fingers with red nail polish typed a message and hit the send key. She pulled the covers back and slipped under the sheet. A pistol rested on her chest with hands on the grip, ever ready to point and shoot.
The Assassin looked up at the ceiling and thought of her little boy, Nuru. Nuru was the only living soul that could melt her icy heart. Kirill was good to his bastard child and her. Vika was thankful for that. She stared up into the blackness and promised herself she would marry Kirill and spend more time with Nuru. She would teach him to fight Dragons. Someday he would follow his father and lead the revolution to find freedom for their people.
She looked over at the clock. In a few hours, the battle would begin. A low rumble of distant thunder echoed across the neighborhood. Vika grimaced. “I hope they enjoy themselves. It’s their last piece of Dragon ass.”
* * *
Gloria reached for the cell phone in the dark as Raul turned over to get away from the annoying sound. Someone sent them a message.
Cybrid team inbound to your location, ETA 10m.
Gloria shook Raul. “It’s on, let’s go.”
Raul and Gloria dressed, put on their gauntlets, grabbed their silenced pistols and headed to the first room on the first floor.
“This should surprise them if they had an expectation of us being on the third floor for some reason,” Raul laughed.
“Once we kill the lower lookouts, the team that goes up the stairs are trapped unless they are superb at jumping out of third story windows.” Gloria mused.
“I’ll suggest they dive head first to save themselves from a mauling.” Raul’s eyes were beginning to transition to the Dragon as adrenaline flooded his body.
Gloria put her ear to the door and listened as Raul staged himself beside her. Multiple car doors sent arrival notices to the waiting Dragons. She heard muffled voices and shuffling feet then the quick steps up the narrow stairs. It was show time. Gloria’s eyes glowed yellow. She panted in short breaths with a slack jaw. Her sharp incisors hung above her dry lips as she licked them to give her relief.
“There is one or two passing by the door. Probably lookouts.” Gloria warned.
“You open the door, and I’ll aim down the end of the hall, you come out behind me and go toward the stairs. On three, ready?” Raul spoke in a rapid cadence.
“One, two, three – Go!”
Gloria snatched the door open. Raul had darted through the crack before she pulled the door fully back. She jumped into the hall as Raul’s pistol spit two shots into the face of a Cybrid soldier. Gloria’s target wheeled around, his startled face illuminated by the glow of her eyes. He fell dead to the floor, shot through his left eye.
Raul Rushed up the stairs. Gloria followed watching behind them. At the second landing, Raul killed the next sentry as Gloria leaped over him, bounded down the hall, and severed the surprised Cybrid’s throat before he could scream a warning. She held him down as he writhed in her grip until she felt his body relax.
Slick with blood, Gloria was slipping into the beast, her awareness only a thin thread keeping her from an all out attack mindless of any threat to her or Raul.
Raul talked in a calm voice to bring her back. “Now for the fun part, my love. We’ll take out the closest soldiers by hand then shoot the ones down the hall. We still have to find the Cybrid whore and kill her.”
“She won’t be far away,” Gloria replied.
“Don’t stop for any reason until they are all dead.” Raul’s words and fierce eyes turned Gloria’s killer instinct into a burning fire. She nodded, and they bound up the stairs to the third floor.
Raul sunk his talons into the skull of the Cybrid guarding the third-floor landing. He pulled the Cybrid down on the floor and tore him in pieces as Gloria leaped over the struggling mass and hit the next one as four men rushed into the last room.
The last person to enter the room looked down the hall and saw the Dragons ripping into the flesh of his Cybrid brothers. He shouted an alert to the others as he tried to assess the situation. It was a fatal pause. Raul moved up and shot him balanced on one knee.
Gloria jumped up and over Raul and raced down the hall. Raul was right behind her ready to leap as she took down the next Cybrid reaching the door. Her thrashing was like a lioness on a gazelle. Her powerful movements trapped the Cybrid and severed his spine leaving him bleating like a lamb in a wolf’s mouth. Her guttural growls, tearing teeth and slashing claws splashed blood, cloth, and bits of flesh on the walls.
The barrel of an assault rifle sprayed Gloria at the same moment Raul killed the Cybrid behind the trigger. Blood splashed on Gloria’s back as the bullets tore into her synthetic flesh. Gloria screamed from the hammering impacts and kicked away from the torrent of bullets.
Raul, shocked by the sight of his love gunned down in the hall disobeyed his orders and sealed their fate as he rushed to Gloria’s side. Gloria looked in his face with a dazed look as he knelt down. He lifted her shirt and turned his head at the sight of the purple and red bruises leaking blood down her back.
The last Cybrid opened up on the two Dragons in a wild frenzy of fear and hatred. Bullets tore through the door jambs and sent splinters of wood and plaster across the narrow hall as more bullets impacted the far wall filling the confined space with dust and debris.
Raul grunted as two bullets tore into his left side and exited the lower right of his waist. Gloria fell to her side as another bullet slammed into her stomach. Her automatic reflexes pointed the pistol and squeezed three rounds in rapid succession. The last Cybrid fell face first and lie still on the floor. Blood pooled around his head.
The dead Cybrid’s radio crackled. A woman’s harsh voice demanded a situation report. Raul picked himself up and helped Gloria sit up. Gloria’s eyes were filled with pain as she looked at her man. He was calm as if nothing had happened. In the back of her mind, she wanted to believe they were both okay.
“I believe our whore is calling us, Dear. I’m in the mood for love. Shall we go to her?” Raul’s joke in their dire circumstance lifted Gloria’s spirits.
“Only, if you promise to let me go first,” Gloria grinned and strained to stand up. She felt like she was drowning in the blood that welled up from her lungs and stomach. Her body ached. She swallowed hard to keep from choking.
“Lady Dragons first,” Raul quipped as if going for ice cream on a Sunday stroll.
Vika ranted on the radio. Raul moved stiffly over to the Cybrid and lifted the radio.
“Wait one.” His short reply was code for wait one minute. The quick response would signal the Cybrids were at a crucial moment and couldn’t talk. He hoped Vika would take the bait.
The garbled answer satisfied Vika for the moment. She situated herself behind one of the parked vehicles across the street leaning against the brick wall of the apartment. The agitated assassin shouted to the last five soldiers to set up a perimeter while they waited.
Gloria and Raul helped each other down the stairs until they came to the landing by the open front door. The light framed by the open door of the dark apartment was bright like the glow of a portal to another dimension.
Gloria touched her wrist and set her endoskeleton to max power. It would shut down in ten minutes before all of her life force was drained, leaving her weak and barely alive. She had to finish now or not at all.
Raul took quick breaths, his face red with sweat pouring down in his eyes. His voice slurred, and his eyes looked weary.
“I hear Vika directly in front. I’ll go out first and move left taking out anyone I see then try to secure the right side next. You drive straight for the Cybrid whore and take her out. Don’t stop until you or she is dead.”
Gloria nodded. Raul crouched as Gloria put her hand on him to move with him when he jumped off on his attack.
“I love you, Raul.”
Raul reached back and touched Gloria’s arm.
“I love you more.”
The Dragon rushed out the door into the light as Gloria followed on his heels. When he cut to the left, Gloria ran and jumped high into the air over the top of the vehicle. She heard shouts and rifle shots, but her focus was on the female staring directly at her as she came over the top of the car. Gloria pulled her knees together under her chin with her arms spread wide and her talons deployed in the form of a winged raptor.
As she descended, her eyes burned like twin suns. Vika raised her pistol and fired twice into Gloria’s legs before Gloria reached her. It took less than a second to close the distance with Vika. It was an eternity to predator and prey.
Three Cybrids engaged Raul hitting him numerous times. The big Dragon fought on, dropping one then another Cybrid before he stumbled and fell to the ground. Two of the Cybrids lay dead beside Raul. The third held his rifle on Raul, not willing to move on until he fired a shot into the Dragon’s head. He never made the shot.
A loud cough sounded down the street. From the attic window, Tesli saw the Cybrid drop dead from her shot with a silenced sniper rifle. The other two Cybrid soldiers closest to her were already dead. Each shot through the head.
Tesli watched through her scope as Gloria attacked Vika. The Dragon Sentinel snapped her legs out in front of her at the last moment as she descended driving Vika into the brick wall snapping her collarbones in half and shattering her shoulder blades. Gloria flipped backward in the air on the rebound and landed on her feet. The Apex Predator immediately speared Vika before her body hit the sidewalk. Gloria’s talons tore into the Cybrid’s broken shoulders as her thumb claws sliced under the shattered clavicles.
The Sentinel pivoted, swinging Vika’s stunned body in a wide arc and smashing her to the ground, breaking her ankles. Vika’s broken arms twisted and flailed at the sidewalk as the Dragon wrapped her legs around Vika where the legs join the hips. Gloria clamped her legs on full power as Vika’s bones snapped like dry wood. The Cybrid contorted and screamed in pain, fear, and mindless terror.
Gloria slammed her mouth down on the exposed throat of her enemy and pressed with all her strength. The two struggled until the ridge of the assassin turned prey’s throat filled the Dragon’s mouth. Sharp incisors dug in closing off Vika’s windpipe. The Cybrid continued to scream like a wild animal eaten alive, the sound strangled in her chest.
Gloria dammed her throat with her tongue as blood filled her mouth sending her into a wild frenzy in the dance of death. She reached under the Cybrid’s head and dug her talons into Vika’s skull and pulled her head back to expose her throat better.
Claws ran down the crease between Vika’s buttocks and then penetrated her pants. The thumb hook entered the doomed Cybrid’s anus before cutting through the vaginal wall. The middle talon slid under the clitoral nerve across the pubic bridge and plunged into Vika’s bladder. The other claws dug into soft flesh anchoring in the Cybrid’s crotch. Vika twisted her broken and shredded body to get away and tried to scream, her agony beyond measure.
Blood from Vika’s torn flesh and urine from the ruptured bladder soaked the hand that tortured her completing the circuit Gloria needed to fire her lightening bolt through Vika’s body from the throat through her organs to the destroyed flesh between her legs.
Tesli watched as a blinding flash then a loud pop signaled the final stage of Vika’s slaughter. Gloria struggled to lift herself from the convulsing killer. She clamped her hand around the Cybrid’s neck and leaned over.
“For the children,” she whispered in Vika’s ear as Vika’s wide, bulging eyes stared into the sun.
Gloria squeezed until her talons met at the back of Vika’s throat and then she snatched her hand back. Vika’s gaping mouth opened and closed as if to protest her manner of death. Her pupils spread open in the bright light across her dark irises like spilled India ink. Vika was dead.
Tesli watched the scene unfold then took out her phone and hit the send button on a coded message.
Gloria tried to stand, stumbled and fell. She leaned up against the brick wall and pulled herself up. Weakened from her injuries and loss of blood, the exhausted Dragon fell against the car and pulled her way around to the other side of the bumper. On her hands and knees, she made her way to Raul. She leaned across his body, lifted his head from the road, and kissed his ear.
“Tell me about Monaco again, Darling. Tell me how we’ll rock each other to sleep under the stars and make love in your captain’s bed on the Black Sea as the moon peeps through the portal.” Gloria held Raul and waited for his answer.
“I can smell your delicious coffee swirling in that funny glass coffee pot of yours.” The trickle of blood from her wounds slowed.
Gloria lifted her captain’s face to hers and kissed him with desperate longing, smearing his face and beard with her and Vika’s blood.
“I love you, Raul. I don’t want to live without you.”
Gloria rested her cheek on her Dragon’s face. She felt cold, and the sun seemed to set leaving her in a quiet darkness alone with her lover. She saw them walking on the beach arm-in-arm. Gloria smiled as her heart fluttered one last time. The two Dragons lay still, locked in their embrace in the morning sun.
* * *
Val looked down at her phone to read the message. She felt neither elated nor sad. Val wanted to feel something but could not. She looked up at the pilot and nodded then put the phone away. Val had to focus on how to get close to Kirill. Perhaps when he was dead, she could afford the time to let her emotions find the light of day. For now, she had to lock them away.
Val looked out the window of the chopper at the rolling landscape, and distant mountains shrouded in a smoky haze and thought about what Gloria had said about turning away from violence and living out her life with Raul in peace. She wanted to know peace and solitude too.
“Nothing ever turns out as planned,” She whispered to herself.
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