I felt like I was leaning over a cliff even on level ground, my new legs mismatched. Body parts are hard to come by and these had come from friends, so I should be grateful. Instead, I was annoyed that I had to make do with throwaways. Even my new arm seemed to have a mind of its own.
Being already dead has some advantages in combat, I thought, glancing down at both of the tight, three-shot groupings on my chest. The penny-sized entry wounds oozed luminescent-blue glop. I knew from personal experience that the six exit wounds on my back would be quarter-sized and dripping even more glop. It was just this kind of damage from a Domeanie needle rifle that had killed me the first time.
But I wasn’t worried about it. The glop would seal up the holes, both front and back. I motioned to my team to take cover, behind a line of large boulders on the edge of the evergreen forest. “Anyone see any muzzle flashes?” I said. “I just took six in the chest.”
“Negative, Gunny,” Corporal Smythe said over my jawbone pickup. “No sounds of small arms fire either.”
“Buggah,” I said. But that didn’t really surprise me too much. The Domeanie were techie wiz-kids when it came to weapons advancements. For example, during the last deployment, Zee Team 24, my twenty-man unit, encountered the Domeanie’s first silent weps. On this one, our first flash suppressors. I said as much.
“Sit tight everyone and let’s see if we can make somebody over there twitch. If nothing happens, whose turn is it to be target?”
“Mine, Gunny,” Private Whitlock said, raising his hand slightly. He got a Domeanie bullet through it for his efforts. Pulled it back down quickly, oozing glop from both sides of it. “They’re there, alright,” he chuckled.
“Not yet, Private,” I laughed.
“There was a time when that would’ve hurt,” he said, turning his hand over, watching the glop seal both entry and exit wounds. I nodded in agreement. While we waited for the Domeanie to show themselves, I allowed myself to muse a bit.
I’d been a war correspondent covering Earth’s war with the alien Domeanie shortly after it started. I wasn’t much of a warrior, then. In fact, if someone would have asked me my opinion of the war I would’ve said something like this:
“Let the Domeanie and humans sit down at a table and place a map of the known galaxy in front of them. Draw a line directly down the middle and let the Domeanie have first choice of which side they want. Then let the two warrior races stay on their own sides and manifest their separate destinies.”
But I was pretty naive back then.
There’s a story circulating around amongst the Zees, that is, the Zombie Corp, about a certain war correspondent, yours truly, who arrived at an engagement site on a little known planet not long after a major battle. He listened carefully as a Space Marine PR guy quoted statistics for numbers of emplacements captured, Marine fatalities, and numbers of Domeanies killed or taken prisoner.
Mind-numbingly boring stuff. He recorded it all but kept his eyes open for things the PR guy wasn’t talking about. He noticed splattered about near some of the Domeanie corpses, little patches of blue liquid that glowed. Not Domeanie blood. Wrong color. Plenty of that in pools of green.
Curious, but not wishing to get scolded for questioning the PR guy about them, he collected some of the blue stuff for analysis and snuck it off planet as secretly as he knew how, in a very small vial concealed up his rectum.
He was fine, well mostly fine, except for being somewhat constipated on his trip back to Earth. After he returned to Earth he tried to reach up and remove the vial, immediately noticing that he no longer had a rectum. In fact, all there was between his butt cheeks was a bit of hair and smoothness, no sign of an anus whatsoever.
Understandably concerned, he visited his physician. That trip triggered a pick up crew of Space Marines that gathered him and the medical records of the visit and shipped them both out on the next Marine troop transport. And that’s how the journalist found himself press-ganged into the Space Marines. It was only years later, after he was dead that he realized that the blue stuff, called glop, plugs holes. The vial must’ve leaked.
Surprisingly, he found himself somewhat adept at keeping himself alive and rose up through the ranks quickly to Sergeant until he was finally killed in a battle on a little known world light-years away from Earth. That should have been the end of his story, but that’s where my story really begins.
Glowing blue everywhere. I pushed my hands through the luminescent, Jello-consistency blueness until they contacted solid metal. I was aware that I was touching, yet I had no sense of feeling—more of a sense of resistant back pressure.
“Hey, you’re awake,” I heard someone say. Next second, light flooded in all around me and I realized I was lying on my back in a metal box, a plain-Jane military casket. I sat up and started wiping the blue gunk off my arms and face.
“How you feeling, Sergeant?” a med officer said, slight smile as he leaned over me, flashing a blue light into my eyes with a little penlight.
“Unsure, sir. Actually, I can’t feel anything.”
“That’s normal, Sergeant.” He grinned at me now. “You’re dead, after all.”
“You took six Domeanie needle slugs in the chest and bled out before you could be evacuated. What you are now is a Zee.”
“Zombie, son.” He scratched his nose with the back of his stylus. “Though most of the troops that have been changed into zombies prefer the name Zees.”
Baffled beyond measure, I was quiet for some time. The med officer smiled reassuringly and spoke again.
“You are understandably at a loss for words. I know, it’s quite a lot to take in. Tell you what. Why don’t you just listen a bit and I’ll try and make things a bit clearer for you by telling you what happened.”
I nodded, unable to come up with a reply.
“First thing, a little history. You might be wondering about the blue stuff you woke up in, right?”
“That’s glop. Stands for Gelatinous, Living, Organic, Porridge.”
“Say what, sir?”
The med officer laughed. “Yeah, I know. Military acronyms suck eggs.” He sat down and then sat back in his chair. “But in this case, it’s really not too bad a name. Sorta fits, actually. Glop plugs holes, heals you, and feeds you at a cellular level. You’ll never need to eat by mouth again. Hence, the porridge part of the name.”
“Okay-y-y-y…,” I said.
“Glop was discovered shortly after the war began by a Marine researcher looking for a better way to preserve the bodies of casualties.” He shook his head in mirth. “All the guy was trying to do was develop a cellular-based way to keep corpses fresh, rather than relying on embalming fluids.”
The officer handed me a towel. I continued to remove the glop from my face and hair.
“The first trials at a cellular level looked promising. The researcher could rejuvenate dead tissue and keep it in a kind of pseudo-stasis. Neither truly dead nor truly alive, but in any case, the cells no longer putrefied. Encouraged by this, he moved on to field trials.” The med officer put his hands behind his head and rocked back in his chair.
“Imagine the researcher’s surprise, when one of his treated corpses sat up in his coffin and started asking him what the hell was going on.” The doctor chuckled. The guy fainted dead away and both he and his research were hidden away from common knowledge.”
“Huh,” I said, not really feeling too articulate.
“So that brings us to you. When a soldier dies in this war; if he dies with his brains intact, that is, he is rushed into a glop box to rejuvenate.”
The doctor stood up, pressed a button on his desk and a holo lit up the air between us. “This here is a graph showing the healing rate of tissues with glop. I’ll dumb it down for you a bit and just say that in almost every case of battle trauma, a soldier is fully recovered and combat ready after three days in a glop box.”
“Sir, it’s only been three days since I was killed?” I said.
“That’s right soldier. Even if both your legs and arms were blown off and destroyed, if we took the limbs from a BD, and sewed them back onto your stubs, the glop would knit all the tissue and bone back together in just three days. A miracle, really.”
“BD, sir?” I said.
“Brain Dead. The glop will do wondrous healing, but once a brain is destroyed, it won’t make one out of nothing.
“What if someone catches a round in the head?” I said.
“As long as there is some brain tissue to work with, the glop will restore the brain to full functionality.” He gave me an intense look. “Now, soldier, it’s up to you. You can go on fighting the good fight for Earth or you can stay in your box and we’ll space you.”
“You don’t have a lot of options, now son. Those ran out when you were killed. As far as any friends and family are concerned, they will receive official notice that you were Killed in Action, no matter what you decide.”
I shook my head in disbelief while the doctor continued.
“Your Zee body will only stay stabilized if you return to your glop box every three days. If you don’t, you will begin to putrefy.”
I was quiet for a long time after that.
“Gunny, I think I see a–,” Corporal Smythe said, just before he pitched over backward, the back of his head sporting a quarter-sized hole oozing glop. I crawled over to where he lay and put direct pressure on the wound, helping it to seal over more quickly. Glop trickled through my fingers, plugging the hole and re-growing what was now missing. Smythe whispered.
“Pink dot. Muz…flash, pink dot.”
“Got it, Smythe. Pink dot instead of muzzle flash. You rest now. Pull yourself back together.”
“Aye, aye, Gunny.”
“Everyone catch that? When the needle guns fire all you see is a pink dot instead of a muzzle flash, now.”
A round of rogers and copies from the team.
Back in the present with a vengeance, I considered our next moves. I scanned the surrounding terrain.
We’d been moving through heavily timbered coniferous forest, clearing out small pockets of their entrenched black teams.
Their black teams were their best, just like our own Zees, in that they were the first-in fighters dropped on a new planet to establish beachheads for later reinforcement by Marines and army regulars.
This was the ideal set up for us. Though the Domeanie black teams almost always held a numerical advantage, we were extremely hard to kill permanently unless you destroyed our brains.
There were just as many Zee teams on planet now, dispersed across a small continent wherever the Domeanie dug in and turned to fight us. The closest friendly team to ours was several hundred klicks away from our own.
I watched the large boulders a hundred yards away from our team closely. They’d be a perfect place to set up an ambush, providing both concealment and protection against our heavy weapons, which besides our Zee durability, swung most engagements in our favor.
That’s not the way it played out on our last team deployment, though. We took four BD casualties; two of them close friends from the days when we were alive.
The Domeanie had adjusted their tactics to counter our hell-bent frontal assaults by introducing a new equalizer. That new equalizer had blown both of my legs and an arm off; as well as my genitals.
Pop-Flies, we called them. They were silver baseball sized proximity mines that leapt up into the air before they detonated, much like the Bouncing Betties did back in the old World War II days.
And that’s why I’d held the team up after I took the six slugs in the chest. I’d learned something from the last time I got suckered into charging in.
Two of the BDs that had been my close friends supplied me with my two new legs. With glop, you didn’t have to worry about limb rejection; glop worked with any freshly severed limbs, once the limbs were stitched back on.
One of my legs is now significantly shorter than the other, though. It came from Spider, our shortest BD team member. Spider had been caught hacking into a defense computer back on Earth for kicks.
He was about 5’4” and used his incredible brain to fleece all of us in cards. Back in those days, when we were all still living, he’d take his winnings and spend them all to get us all drunk.
The other leg came from Mule, our tallest and strongest. Once a professional football player, after he’d killed three guys with a chair in a nightclub, he’d taken the death penalty out and joined up. Exiled from Earth forever, his first death occurred at the same time mine had.
Now when I run, it feels like I’m running side slope even when I’m on level ground.
My new arm was now a problem also. I’m normally a rightie. Now, my new left arm reaches for stuff automatically because O’Hannon, Irish Republican Army volunteer and limb donor, was a leftie. Perhaps in time I can retrain my mind to be ambidextrous.
I didn’t want new genitals sewn back on, however, even ones taken from a friend. Somehow, that just didn’t feel right to Frankenstein myself a new Willy and teabags. Just too personal. So, at least for now, I’m sexless.
I carefully considered our options. The Domeanie obviously wanted to annoy us into charging across open ground where, no doubt, numerous Pop-Flies laid in wait.
Nope, no can do, I thought. We have to draw their fire. I considered telling Private Whitlock to play target, but then decided to do it myself. I already had six new bullet holes in me. Hey, what’s a few more?
“Guys, listen up. I’m going to Rambo these guys into giving away their positions and see how many Pop Flies I can set off before I go limbless. Hold your positions, but give me some cover fire once you see the little pink muzzle flashes showin’.”
“Roger, Gunny,” everyone checked in. Now, normally before pulling a stupid stunt like this I’d take several deep breaths to psych myself up. I tried to, but since I hadn’t breathed since I’d died, I just ended up lurching to my feet in a coughing fit.
I drew most of the fire like I hoped, though. I took off all a kilter, like I was a sailing vessel, three sheets to the wind, due to my catawampus leg setup.
Pop Flies jumped up and detonated all around me, as I zigged and zagged. Shrapnel tore my flesh into shredded meat, but I kept my limbs. I ran faster.
Surprisingly, the Domeanie were having an awful time trying to hit me. Most of that due to the suppression fire that my team was laying down.
One second I felt delirious in my invincibility as I ran, the next, several Pop Flies sprang up all around me and detonated simultaneously.
I hit the ground hard.
“Gunny, Gunny! You all right?” Private Whitlock shouted into my ear, his face just inches away from mine.
“Yeah, I think so,” I said bongo drums still ringing in my head. “What’s the sitrep?”
“We got em’ all, Gunny. Just piling up Domeanie body parts, now,” he said.
I tried to sit up. He pushed me back down. “Sorry, Gunny. You lost those new legs and that arm again. Corporal Smythe is on the horn trying to round you up some new ones and get you on a shuttle ride back to your glop box. The old limbs are pretty mangled.”
“Mangled? How mangled?”
“Uh, well. They would be useable, I suppose, once you got them sewn back on and you back in your box,” he said.
“Fetch em’,” I said. “They were good enough for our team before this. I’ll use em’ till I can’t use em’ any more.”
Private Whitlock nodded. I don’t know if he understood that I wanted to honor our fallen Zee team members as best as I knew how, or was just obeying my orders.
I wanted to keep their memory alive by using their limbs in our future battles.
In either case, as long as Zee team members served Earth, if I had any say in it, we would honor our fallen and our motto.
“First in and recyclable. Zoo-rah!”
Food for Thought
I wrote this story some time back. Two different “zombie” anthologies had it on their short lists then decided not to publish it for reasons unknown to me. I think the story might have been a bit too dark in this time of wars and crippled veterans returning. On the other hand, I realize that with the recent news on head transplants – that dark or not, this is a subject that forward-thinking folks should be discussing. While written in a humorously dark vein, the story leaves one thinking.
About the Author
Mark Wolf has stories published with bizarre titles such as “Bubba Versus the Werewolf,” “Killer Krill from Outer Space,” ”Flat-Cat Frisbees and Bullfrog Amputees,” and more recently, “Revenge of the Rabid, Killer Werepossum.” He would write more such stories if his attendants will ever give him back his crayon during activity time.
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