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Old 05-04-2017, 01:23 PM   #143
Icelander
 
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Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Iceland*
Default Way Down in the Hole

Hundreds of tiny eyes glint in the darkness around Chase Taylor as he presents the M67 grenade. The pin is lying somewhere behind him as he walks slowly toward the swarm of rats, driving them backward. The acrid ammonia stench of the rats makes the tunnels feel crowded and rank. The rats haven’t dared to pass Taylor after he took the pin out of the grenade and explained to the rats what him letting go of the safety lever would mean for them, but he can hear them running through service vents and side tunnels, looking to surround him.

Taylor can also hear the high-pitched squeaking of the rats in eerie unison, forming words in broken English. They repeat variations of ‘Kill Man’ and ‘Pain Man’,which might be threats or might just be the names the rat swarm has given him. Taylor can’t really bring himself to care which. All he cares about is that he’s heard the blast door to the cellars slamming, long before the rats running around him could have reached it. Whatever happens, the people who were down the tunnels made it out. Like he told the Doc over the radio, he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be.

Dr. Anderson: “Taylor, are you down in the tunnels?”
Taylor: “Yeah.”
Anderson: “Are you alone down there?”
Taylor: “Naw, there sure is a powerful lot of rats down here with me.”
Anderson: “Damn it, Taylor! Are they hostile?”
Taylor: “They ain’t lookin’ real friendly, doc. Don’t you worry ‘bout it none, though. They’s real smart, these rats, an’ they surely do know what a frag grenade is. Happens I is holding one an’ them rats plumb cain’t figure a way to eat me without being blowed into chunks when I ain’t got the strength left to hold the safety lever.”
Anderson: “Jesus, Taylor! What have you gotten yourself into?”
Taylor: “Sorry, doc, there jes’ weren’t no other way to get them folks out safely.”
Anderson: “Did you even look for another way?”
Taylor: “Wasn’t much time for thinkin’, doc. I jes’ did the best I could an’ I ain’t got no complaints with how things done turned out.”
Anderson: “Stop it, Taylor! Do not dare to kill yourself out of misplaced guilt.”
Taylor: “Don’t you worry, doc. I know the Lord decides when we go an’ I ain’t fixin’ to interfere in His work no more. I’ll jes’ stay down here real cool until them Coasties bring enough ordnance to take care of our rat problem.”
Anderson: “And what happens to you when they do?”
Taylor: “I guess that’s for the Lord to decide, ain’t it?”
Anderson: “No, it is not. Listen to me, Taylor. You are in no shape to make decisions right now. I am coming to get you. I have the keys to the blast doors in the G Wing Cellars. I will be right down.”
Taylor: “No! Doc, I might be dumber than a box o' rocks, but I knows a threat when I see one. If’n them rats get out, what you gonna do? You really wanna see them rats reach dozens of weakened, innocent people? Besides, I ain’t anywhere close to that door anyway, so you’d be killing 'em all for nothin’.”
Anderson: “Well, where are you, then? If you say you are not actively trying to kill yourself, help me find a solution. I know these tunnels a lot better than you do. Maybe there is a way to get you up here safely.”
Taylor: “I’ma walkin’ east down the corridor where the men’s room was in the tunnels. I reckon I’m below the main buildings by now. But it ain't no good, doc. Any kind of way I can take up there is also gonna be wide enough to let them rats follow. I ain’t exactly lookin’ to die, doc, honest. Even somebody like me is gonna feel rotten leavin’ all them folks I love behind. But we gotta face facts here. We cain’t risk y’all up there jes’ for me.”
Anderson: “Mackenzie Chase Taylor, I have followed your lead without question when it comes to tactics, because that is your speciality. Will you allow in return that I know a thing or two about depression and guilt? You are not being objective right now. You are less than three hundred feet away from the next door, to the cellar of C Wing. That wing is empty and I got the key right here. Are you going to let your daughters grow up without a father because you decided not to walk three hundred feet?”
Taylor: “Ah, sweet Jesus, doc. Don’t you go an’ make it harder now. If’n I could see any way clear that weren’t gonna risk others, I’d surely love to get out o’ here. But… my Betty an’ my Savannah might could be better off without somebody like me in their lives. I ain’t gonna be any kind of father… if’n I'ma gonna come home with blood all over my hands.” [Taylor’s voice breaks]
Anderson: “Do they not deserve that choice? Are you sure they want their father dead because he has a hard time forgiving himself? Well, I am not going to let you die. In two minutes, I am opening that blast door.”
Taylor: “Doc! No! They kin hear ya! They understan’ English jes’ fine, doc.”
Anderson: “In that case, you had better be at that door, because it sounds like the rats will be. And I would prefer not to face them alone.”
Taylor: “Please, don’t! I’d really hate for somebody to get hurt on account of me. If’n you open that door, I might could kill every rat in a big circle, but that won’t stop the rest of them from getting’ out.”
Anderson: “I trust that you will find some way to get through. You are a resourceful man. Two minutes. Make sure you are there, because I will open the door no matter what.”
Taylor: “I won’t let you kill everybody up there! I’ll stop you, hold the door closed.”
Anderson: “You can do as you like, but if you want to stop me, you had best hurry to the door.”

Taylor shouts for Dr. Anderson through the radio, but receives no more answers. He looks around him at the glittering eyes in the darkness. While he was speaking, more rats have arrived behind him and he is completely surrounded. Those in front skitter away as he approaches with the grenade held in front of him, so that they are always the same distance away. Almost like they are trying to stay just out of explosive range. With a wry grimace that may be the closest he can muster to a smile, Taylor notes that the rats seem to believe that the safe distance from a grenade is about ten feet and wonders if their previous experience with explosives has been exclusively with flashbangs. While continuing his slow forward process, Taylor addresses the rats, pitching his voice so that they all hear him.

Taylor: “Right. I expect y’all heard that. In case it ain’t clear, I’ma gonna trigger this here bomb afore I let the Doc open up an’ let you through. I wonder if’n you even care ‘bout that. Do y’all value your lives individually or is it maybe some sort hive?”
Rat swarm: “Kill Man. Hurt. Pain.”
Taylor: “Yeah, that figures. Well, what is it you want, anyway?”
Rat swarm: “You Kill. Pain. Blood. Why Kill? Why Pain?”

Out of the swarm of rats in front of Taylor come several rats bearing a hunting knife between them. It’s covered in blood and Taylor recognises it as the knife he picked up in the barracks and threw at the rat scout when he was last in the tunnels.

Rat swarm: “You Kill. Blood. Pain.”
Taylor: “Yeah, I done that. I sure am real sorry 'bout that, but he were gonna attack us. Y’all figure I oughta make up for it, somehow? I reckon that ain’t unfair.”
Rat swarm: “You give man. Give man.”
Taylor: “Y’all want me, here I am. Sorry ‘bout the grenade, but I guess maybe you figure killing me is worth however many o’ y’all gonna get chunked.”
Rat swarm: “You give other man. You live.”
Taylor: “Y'all want me to give somebody else to you? That ain’t never gonna happen. Y'all wanna get payback, y'all kin get it from me.”
Rat swarm: “Blood for blood. Flesh for flesh.”
Taylor: “Sounds fair enough. Any time y’all feel like it, we sure kin dance. Or… what do y’all mean?”

The rats carrying the bloody knife walk closer to Taylor. He stops in front of them, looking curiously at them. Moving his hands slowly, Taylor switches the grenade from his right hand to his left.

Rat swarm: “Take knife. Blood for blood.”
Taylor: “Aw, shoot, y’all jes’ had to say so.”

Taylor bends down and takes the hunting knife in his right hand. He looks around. As far as he can tell, there are more rats than ever before all around him, maliciously glinting eyes and a rank odour closing in on him like a black cloud. From where he is now, Taylor can see that the blast door to the C Wing is only about fifty feet away and he really hopes that Dr. Anderson isn’t going to open the door if he doesn’t hear anybody on the other side. Placing the razor edge of the bloody knife against the ballistic fabric of the sleeve over his left arm, Taylor gives the ring of hungry eyes around him an insincere grin.

Taylor: “Y’all kin have as much of my blood you want.”

Cutting down, Taylor carves through tough para-aramid fibers and opens his arm. A single drop of blood lands on the floor.

Taylor: “Hope I don’t go an’ cut through something important or I'ma fixin' to lose my grip on this here grenade.”

Taylor cuts deep into his lower arm just below his elbow, ripping through muscle to hit bone. Blood spatters out, enough to drench the rats standing on the floor. Taylor lets out a grunt and staggers. He maintains his grip on the grenade, but his left arm sinks downwards and starts trembling.

Taylor: “Gosh darn it, that hurts! ...Well, I reckon it’s a matter of minutes now before I gone an' lost all strength in that there arm. Or if’n y’all want more blood, we kin jes' finish this right now.”
Rat swarm: “Good. Blood for blood.”

Several rats approach Taylor and the foremost of them raises itself up to its hind legs, motioning with its paws. When it speaks, all the surrounding rats speak in unison, a chorus of screeches.

Rat swarm: "Give. Knife."
Taylor: "That it? An' what happens now?"
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Last edited by Icelander; 05-16-2017 at 08:47 AM.
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