The first two guards were Mexican; they’d been hired as cheap and unskilled labor. They were there to raise the alarm if anyone showed up and they were extremely expendable. They were posted in the woods, not far from where the gravel road had branched off the state highway.
Mac knew they’d have handguns and knives, but little else. They were on the bottom tier, guarding the first stretch of road. Further on, there’d be others, local boys—hunters, most likely, who knew the land and knew how to kill. But these two were small-time dealers at most, utterly unable to defend themselves against the sudden, brutal attack about to be unleashed.
One was standing at the bend where the gravel road swung to the west. He was in his early twenties. It seemed to be too cool an evening for shorts, but he was wearing denim ones, his hairy, muscular calves rising from blue hightops. His t-shirt was the same shade of grayish blue as his shoes. His coal-black hair was fine and straight, worn long, pulled back into a ponytail. A faint mustache darkened his upper lip.
The other guard was about a quarter-mile away, where the road bent back to the north again. He was older, in his late twenties, shorter, but more muscular. He wore tight black jeans, a white wifebeater that displayed his tattoos, and work boots. His hair was shorter and slightly wavy, but just as dark.
Each of the guards was patrolling the bends in the road, pacing back and forth around the curves. Clearly no professionals—as Mac watched from the woods, they went far enough around the bends to get out of sight of each other.
That was an amateur mistake that was going to cost them their lives.
Mac crept down to the side of the road, waiting for the younger guard. His gear was all black, gloves, boots, everything. Blackout paint on his face. In the shadows, he was invisible. The kid certainly didn’t see him when he came round the bend.
The boy walked towards Mac’s position, stopped, and made his turn. He was close enough for Mac to see his glazed eyes and smell the weed saturated in his clothes. They’d both smoked out recently and were even more useless as sentries than mere inexperience would have made them.
The Mexican punk never knew what hit him; Mac didn’t give him a chance. The moment the kid’s back was turned, Mac popped up and snatched him back by the ponytail. Simultaneously, his other hand came up, plunging his seven inch serrated Ka-bar utility knife into the guard’s right kidney.
The boy gave a sharp gasp. The overwhelming agony of a steel blade slashing through a major organ induced instant shock. He trembled and moaned, unable to move as Mac ripped the knife back out, twisting the blade to inflict maximum trauma.
Pulling the kid closer to him, Mac reached around and buried the blade into his heaving chest. The Mexican went rigid as the knife punctured his heart like a balloon. The force of the blade penetrating his lung forced his breath out in a deep, vital grunt.
The boy arced back, his eyes staring uncomprehendingly into Mac’s. The pupils dilated as his skewered heart thrashed itself to shreds on the cold steel that Mac ground remorselessly into the wound. The smell of weed was overpowered by that of piss and shit as the guard lost control of his bowels. He kicked twice, violently, his hightops carving furrows in the gravel road.
Mac yanked the blade back out of the boy and dropped him face-first on the road; the kid spent the last few agonizing seconds of his wasted life with gravel digging into his face. He didn’t know he was dying; he didn’t know much at all at this point beyond the agony of massive organ trauma. The cold blackness, when it came, was a welcome relief…
The older guard suffered more.
Since he was just as stoned as his counterpart had been, it took him a few turns to realize he hadn’t seen the other guy in a few minutes. He stopped to ponder for a moment when a gloved hand clamped over his mouth and jerked his head back. In a swift one-two stroke, seven inches of serrated carbon steel punched through his throat and was torn back out.
Then he was free.
The guard staggered forward, scuffling his boots on the gravel, his hands around his neck. The guy’s eyes were wide in shock and pain. He coughed and spit up a gout of blood.
The guard fell to his knees in the middle of the road and held his hands up in front of his eyes, staring at the blood in horror and confusion. He was having trouble breathing—both the carotid and the jugular had been severed but most of the bleeding was internal, down the trachea and into the lungs. The guard was drowning in his own blood.
The realization that he was dying stole over the Mexican along with the creeping gray that froze into eternal black. Someone was there, though. A man had stepped from behind him. Still on his knees, in an instinctual appeal to plead for his life, the guard held his bloodied hands out to the man in front of him, the man all in black, the man with a bloody knife in his hand…
The dying man fell face down onto the gravel road, quivering as he bled out on its dusty surface. His last conscious act was to turn his head to the side—his last view was that of the combat boots of his killer. They turned contemptuously and moved away before he was completely dead. There was no need to watch him die; it was inevitable and he was helpless.
And there were more guards who needed killing.
The kid had dark, straight hair down in bangs over his forehead. He was wearing a light leather jacket over a white t-shirt with a logo—a pair of combat boots—printed on it. He wore tight, torn jeans with a thick brown leather belt, well worn. A large hunting knife dangled in a sheath from the belt. He was wearing combat boots in desert camo, tightly laced, with zippers up the sides. He was about twenty-one years old and had paused, one boot up on a stump, to light a Marlboro. An old hunting rifle was slung on a strap over his shoulder.
He was thinking about getting high and getting laid. There was no hint that he’d be dead within three minutes.
The boy took another drag and stepped forward. Mac was on him instantly.
This one was one of three he’d found farther up the gravel road. Local boys, as he’d guessed, and boys was the operative word. This youth was the oldest; he’d bought the beer. The other two hadn’t been able to, so they were younger. They’d bought their own cigarettes, though, so it was likely they were over eighteen.
They’d passed the beer around, laughing and talking loudly, for over an hour, giving Mac all the info he needed. He watched silently from the shadows as they finished the case, surprised again at the amateur nature of the defense. He’d drop these boys quickly. They ended up getting drunk enough that he could incapacitate them easily without killing them.
But that wouldn’t be any fun.
This one had stood up and staggered in Mac’s general direction. He’d slurred out something about taking a leak as the other two climbed unsteadily to their feet and went in the other direction. They, too, separated after a few yards, each stumbling off into the darkness alone.
Definitely hunters, Mac realized, and despite their youth and their drunkenness, they were confident in their knowledge of the land. Good; that put them at their ease. They wouldn’t know what the fuck hit them.
The boy in the leather jacket propped himself against a tree about fifty yards away. Mac could hear the patter of the kid’s piss on the dry leaves of the forest floor. He approached, swiftly and silently.
The young hunter had zipped his cock back inside his tight jeans by the time Mac got there. The kid turned away from the tree to find a man standing in front of him—the phrase “fuckin’ ninja commando” bubbled through his soused brain.
Then all existence exploded into pain.
Mac punched the kid in the face, the steel knuckles inside his fingerless leather combat gloves breaking the punk’s jaw. The boy spun around and found himself in an iron grip from behind. A hand clapped over his mouth and jerked, hard.
The force applied to his fractured jaw was agony, but it was nothing compared to the electric shock that erupted in his neck and enveloped his body as his head was twisted around backward. There was a sound like an entire bag of popcorn popping at once, the sound of vertebrae shattering and shredding the spinal cord.
The boy stared into the eyes of the killer standing behind him; his neck twisted nearly two hundred degrees. He struggled to breathe but the only things he could feel were the pain in his neck and that in his jaw. The rest of his body was gone. Bloody foam oozed from his nose and the corner of his mouth. His mouth gaped open, desperate for air, but his chest was paralyzed.
As the kid’s body sank to the ground, his eyes remained fixed on those of his killer. He didn’t know exactly what had happened, but he knew that he was dying and that the man with the hard face and the cold eyes had clamped down on him and broken him like a twig. He could smell death in the air but couldn’t feel that he’d shit his pants as organ failure cascaded through his body.
Consciousness ebbed from the outside in, everything fading to bright white. The last things the punk saw were those cold, cold eyes, glowing like the angel of death.
Mac stood up, a pile of human meat twitching under his boots.
There’s another two just ahead.
The second hunter died quickly. Young, dumb, and drunk, he was utterly defenseless and was taken down without a fight.
He and his companion had separated after the older boy had gone off. Mac had decided to follow the kid on the left first.
The punk was playing with his cell phone. They were much too far out of town to have a signal; he was listening to music. Mac could see the kid’s face lit from underneath by the screen; in the pale blue light, he could see the wires running up to the boy’s ears.
This one was wearing a white ball cap over strawberry blond hair. The freckles on his broad face glowed palely in the odd lighting, his half-lidded eyes not really focused on anything in particular. He was a small-town punk and looked the part—white t-shirt showing his developed chest under a worn denim jacket. Tight, stained jeans over a pair of square-toed shitkickers.
Mac wasn’t sure where the boy was headed; he’d moved off from his friend at a forty-five degree angle and seemed to be just wandering at random. Mac decided that was probably the case. The kid was very drunk and probably didn’t have a specific goal in mind.
Mac did, though. He knew exactly where the boy was going—down.
Mac stepped out and confronted the guard. The kid stared at him in amazement, mouth working like he was trying to say something, but nothing came out.
Mac kicked the kid in the groin with his steel-toed boot, dropping him to his knees instantly. As the punk tried to catch his breath, eyes wide in pain, Mac stepped forward, grabbed the boy’s right arm and twisted it behind his back, forcing his head down to the ground at the same time. He slammed his boot down onto the back of the kid’s head to keep it in place while he forced the steel tip of his blade into the kid’s skull through the hole where the spinal column enters.
This was a speed shock kill. The process involved some discomfort to the victim, but was curiously merciful in its way. The victim spent his last few seconds on earth in a universe of hellish pain, but was spared the terror of impending death, since each new trauma assaulted the nervous system before it had a chance to recover from the previous shock.
Mac placed the tip of the knife at the back of the guard’s neck, where it met the head, and shoved, hard. The cracking sound of the blade splitting the skull as it was forced through the opening that was too narrow for it was very audible. The kid was certainly still alive when it happened; he not only heard it, he felt it happen inside his head.
There was no obvious reaction; the brain trauma was immediate and overriding. The punk spasmed violently, kicking his legs back from his kneeling position, the toes of his boots digging up the dirt and leaves.
Keeping his boot planted firmly on the back of the boy’s head, Mac made sure he was neutralized as a threat. He ground the blade of his knife inside the young guard’s skull, slashing and shredding the brain to hamburger.
In the mindless static of neurons firing at random, the punk jerked and pumped piss and semen from his dick almost simultaneously. His eyes were open grotesquely wide, rolled back so only the bloodshot whites showed. His arms and legs flailed violently each time Mac twisted the knife inside his skull, with a final convulsion when he yanked the blade free.
Mac’s mind was already on the third boy as he angled off in the direction he’d seen the guard headed.
Behind him he left another quivering pile of human meat. This one still had a soundtrack, though. As quick and as brutal as the attack had been, Mac had been so smooth, the earphones were still in the kid’s ears. The only signs of violence were the cap lying in the dirt, the small trickle of blood at the back of the neck (and from the left nostril)—and, of course, the slowly-diminishing convulsions caused by fatal brain damage.
Mac was improvising as he went along, deciding each takedown move as circumstances seemed to warrant. He wanted to see what the last kid at this level was doing. Surely there were others ahead who were more professional; the ease with which he was moving was worrisome in itself.
The third guard clearly thought of himself as a serious hunter. Mac had never seen so much camo pattern—cap, jacket, boots—and not one inch of it doing the stupid punk any good. Mac could still see him clearly. He was facing away from Mac, leaning with one hand up against a tree, taking a leak, most likely.
Since he was sure this was the last guard along this part of the road, Mac decided he could take a little longer here for the sake of silence. There was a spool of wire on a strap around his right wrist. He wrapped some around his left hand, pulled out enough to make a loop, and crept forward.
He was still five feet from the kid when he realized his target wasn’t pissing. He was beating off. Horny little fucker got drunk and decided to let out a little excess cum. By the sound of his breathing, deep irregular gasps, he was pretty close to shooting, too.
Perfect timing, thought Mac as he dropped the wire over the punk’s head and pulled tight.
And it was tight. Mac jerked back on the wire so hard, the muscles bulged in his arms and the tendons stood out. The boy forgot all about his dick as his hands scrambled madly at the crushing pain in his throat. The wire had sunk so deeply in the kid’s neck that his desperate fingers were unable to grasp it. It had broken the skin in places, too, and the blood made the skin slippery. The kid suddenly realized that he had no way to stop what was happening.
Panic set in. The young guard’s cock was as hard as ever, but a stream of piss shot out, splattering the tree trunk. The boy was voiding his bladder in terror. He struggled forward, arms reaching behind him to seek out some soft spot in his assailant.
There was no soft spot in Mac. He tensed up and tightened the wire. There was a faint crunch as the punk’s hyoid bone broke. He leaned backwards, pressing himself against Mac’s chest as his legs flexed out in front, the heels of his camo combat boots scraping furrows in the dirt.
He turned his head back and to the side in an attempt to get a look at his attacker. Mac obliged; it wasn’t like the fucker was gonna be able to tell anyone. He stared icily down into the pleading, confused face of his victim and watched as life drained out of him. The kid could only see the dark silhouette of a male figure, but his questing hands could feel the rock-hard muscles that were wringing his life out of him.
The boy’s face was already red and as Mac watched, it darkened to black. His eyes, already bulging in horror, became monstrous as oxygen deprivation caused them to swell. His lips, too, swelling and darkening until they were separated by his tongue, forcing itself up in a fount of foamy drool that dangled from the dying kid’s chin.
As the guard sank into darkness—a loud, excruciating darkness—he reached one hand up to the face of his killer. Much of his brain was already dead at the time, so it was an instinctual gesture, at most—the submissive male ape brain submitting to the alpha male—as he gently stoked Mac’s cheek and shot his last seed out of his rigid tool. A solid jet of semen splattered on the trunk of the tree, in the same spot his piss had soaked.
The wire was so embedded in the meat’s neck that Mac had to use some force to pull it out. Like the others, this one was dead but not quite still; it jerked and twitched from time to time. Even the dick on the meat spasmed and leaked another wad of cum occasionally.
Mac left the meat to rot where it was. There must be others ahead, and surely they would be better than these useless assholes. He needed to stay on his toes.
Mac nearly walked into a trap himself. If it hadn’t been for his hunch that he’d find more professional guards ahead, he’d have been the next victim of sudden, brutal death.
He almost didn’t see the next guard. It had been a brilliant ploy; placing untrained expendables on the outer boundaries to lure any attackers into a false confidence. This guy wasn’t a local kid. He was a grown man, and one whose original locale was likely glad he wasn’t there at the moment.
He was down on one knee, listening quietly. Late twenties, early thirties maybe, slim and wiry but very fit. He was quiet, disciplined—very obviously professional. He had on camo cap, worn backwards over his black curly hair. A bulge on his nose showed where it had been broken once. He had hard, narrow eyes, glinting as they scanned the darkness in front of him. This was a man who had been paid to kill.
And he hadn’t been killing animals.
The guard was wearing a dark t-shirt tucked into a tight pair of jeans; since he had approached his target from behind, Mac could see a pistol tucked into the waistband in the rear. It was a small revolver, a .38 maybe. Length of the barrel made Mac think there was a silencer on it. Perfect.
The guard shifted, moving one rubber-soled boot up to take pressure off the other. He was about to stand up—Mac poised himself to spring.
It was quick and efficient. The moment the merc got vertical, Mac was on him. Clamping his left hand over the man’s mouth Mac pulled him back and rammed his blade into his back.
The guard stiffened in agony. He knew, as physical shock held him in its iron grip, that he was about to die. He’d done this to others; now it was his turn.
He was right. Mac left the knife in the merc’s back as he reached down and pulled the guard’s own weapon out. He placed the barrel of the silencer against the back of the man’s head, angling it upward to avoid his hand that was still covering his target’s mouth.
A quick jerk backwards and a quiet coughing sound and it was over. The merc grunted as the slug tore through his brain pan. It exited with a remarkably small hole from the front of the man’s head, above the hairline. A fine mist of blood and brain hung in the air for a moment.
He fell back into Mac’s arms, shuddering as his brain began to die. Mac continued to hold him tightly by his head, supporting the twitching meat as he dropped the gun and jerked his knife back out of the dying man’s back. Mac then dropped the body; it hit the ground like a sack. He knelt down and wiped his knife off on the guard’s clothes. He glanced casually into the man’s face.
The merc’s eyes were half-open, staring without focus. Blood leaked from both nostrils and from the one visible ear. He was still breathing, but just barely. It was difficult and irregular, causing deep involuntary gasps and gurgles. Massive brain hemorrhages were shutting the body down and the arms and legs flailed uselessly as random signals fired down the length of the hardman’s destroyed nervous system.
The professional gave one long last gasp and pissed himself.
The meat still jerked and twitched when Mac left it behind. He had other things to worry about; this was becoming more dangerous with each step he took. He was leaving a pile of meat behind, not something that needed attention.
Besides, it would keep twitching and jerking for a few minutes anyway, no matter what he did. He just needed to make sure he didn’t end up the same way himself.
Mac moved silently through the forest, leaving twitching piles of human meat to mark his progress. He was on his next kill before he knew it. This forced an improvised attack; it was lucky he had trained himself to a razor sharpness—to the point where he could kill automatically, without thinking about it.
There were two of them, both professional hardmen. They were dressed similarly. The one closest to Mac had on jeans, laced-up hiking boots, a white t-shirt with a black leather jacket and a knitted cap. The other man had on jeans and combat boots. He wore a black turtleneck but he also had a black knitted cap. They were both in their early thirties and well built.
Mac had just cleared a thicket when he stepping into an open space too small to be called a clearing. The hardman in the jacket was there, staring at him in surprise. The other guy was facing away and unaware of Mac’s presence—for the moment.
Mac’s superior reflexes allowed him to neutralize the first hardman quickly. He stepped forward, straight-arming the seven-inch serrated blade of his Ka-bar knife into the guard’s throat. It came in at an angle, deflected off a vertebra in the neck and punched out the other side of man’s neck. Mac jerked the knife back towards himself with a slashing motion, cutting the blade free of the guard’s throat in a single tear, ripping the larynx into useless strips. Knowing that this guy would have no further interest in his activities, Mac turned his back on the man so he could take out the other guard.
But it took a while for the first hardman to die. He knew exactly what had happened; he had done this to men himself and knew how fucked he was. The pain was more incapacitating than he had known it could be. He grabbed his throat in an attempt to slow the bleeding, but his fingers felt the mangled edges of torn flesh as the sensation of warm blood flooded down his hard chest and taut belly, mingling in his crotch with the warm flow of urine.
Pissing himself in terror, the merc fell to his knees. This all occurred in the space of about a second and a half. The guard could see the dark figure of death close in on his companion.
It can take up to a minute and a half to bleed out from a slashed throat. There was plenty of time to watch his partner die.
Not that he could think of it in those terms. He had been rigidly trained in how to kill, not how to die, and the physical shock had rendered him helpless. As he knelt and choked on his own blood, he watched his buddy die in agony.
Mac rammed his forearm against the back of the second guard’s head, slamming him face-first into a tree. He only needed to pin the stunned hardman there for a moment, giving him time to thrust his knife into the merc’s back, puncturing his lung and forcing out his breath in a deep, startled grunt. Mac whipped the blade back and flipped the blade around in a blur as he spun his target around. Leaning forward, Mac slammed the hardman back into the tree with his forearm across his chest. The knife darted up and speared the guard’s head under the jaw. A momentary resistance followed by a faint crunching sound and the blade was lodged firmly in the man’s skull.
The first guard had fallen on his side; the continuing drop in blood pressure had made it impossible for him to remain upright. But despite the icy haze that was creeping in from the edges of things, the merc was still conscious. He saw his buddy’s death blow. He heard the sound of the blade penetrating the cerebrum, he knew what kind of damage was being done when Mac ground the knife in the wound, clamping down on his victim’s head and reaming the knife around like he was stirring a mixing bowl, churning the brain into hamburger.
As he bled out, the first guard sobbed silently, wondering why death would not come and release him from this agony and this horror. His severed windpipe squealed impotently with each breath after his esophagus collapsed in on itself. The hardman thrashed in the dirt, trying to claw open his blocked airway, but the loss of blood prevented anything more coordinated than a general convulsion.
But he was still there. He could smell the scent of death when his partner, deep in the throes of brain trauma, lost control of his bowels. He could see the rhythmic kicking of his boots, the random flailing that accompanied brain death. He last hope, useless as it had been, that his buddy would somehow be able to save him…
Everything was going gray. But the dark man, the killer was gone. His partner was slumped in a sitting position with his back to the tree and his legs straight out in from of him. His head was tilted back, showing blood tricking from the hole torn under the jaw. His eyes were rolled back, showing nothing but white.
The first guard was almost gone. Everything was cold and dark. Down a long tunnel, he could still see his buddy, kicking and jerking, a large dark circle spreading in the groin of his jeans.
It still hurts, he thought. Why does it still hurt? Oh god why can’t I die…
And then there was just more meat, rotting in the woods. Mac moved on.