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A Pack of Hyenas panel 1

The Chronicles of the Adventure, Hunting, and Liquidation Committee

Book 1:The Siege of Fort Vagabond

Chapter 5 Part 3: A Pack of Hyenas

It wasn’t the fault of the men in the posse that the cleansing efforts over the last ten years had succeeded so well that an ad hoc cryptid hunt like this hadn’t been necessary for at least four years.

Instead of saying something stupid and sarcastic Bohdan leaned forward, and gently guided the muzzle of the P50 up till the thermal scope was looking right into the top most branches of the tree grove. Mr. Richard’s stiffened. His green eyes bulged, and he started scanning the other treetops with a vigor of a man who had just narrowly missed stepping on a landmine in an artillery shell factory. Bohdan already knew what he was seeing, and soon the rest of the boys who hadn’t done so had scanned the tree crowns with their thermals.

Curses and sailor talk filtered through the posse. If you were patient, you could catch the flash of glowing red eyes in the branches, or the shifting and creaking of a tree complaining about the immense weight in its branches even without the thermals. Up there were at least half a dozen seven to ten foot tall hairy Hyena headed freaks that were almost perfectly blended into the treetops. On thermals they lit the place up like six or so of the wildest Christmas tree toppers straight out of a Halloween movie.

The monsters were not used to better armed and capable adversaries. To be fair, few people who encountered them lived to tell the tale. Dead men didn’t share tactics from beyond the grave. Even Rangers and Game Wardens tended to keep their eyes glued to the ground and trail ahead if they weren’t looking for birds. Thermals, though useful, also had a tendency to create tunnel vision. Couldn’t depend on technology for everything. Sometimes you had to use the senses God gave you to spy out evil sulking in the darkness.

These hairy fellas had been waiting for them as Bohdan had expected. Though the underground forest grove with the strange pale glowing cavern roof some five hundred feet above the mini woodline was certainly a surprise, the President couldn’t help feeling as if his enemy had made a tactical mistake. Around here there were hunters a plenty. Even some used to Boogers and fairies and other nonsense. They were used to the woods, not the caves, but maybe that was the same for the Hyena faces over there. They weren’t crawlers after all, and the treetops were their natural ambush ground.

Mr. Richards whistled, and lowered his scope looking at Bohdan with new eyes. Blood had gotten that look more than he cared to count being born into command the way he had. No one expects the nineteen year old to actually belong in his position.

“I’m glad you're here Blood Jn.,” Mr. Holdfast said with grunts of agreement coming from the tightly clustered posse.

“I’ll second that Mr. Holdfast,” Mr Richards said, his eyes going back to the woods with his hands tight on his machine pistol.

“I’m not,” Karl said from his position stacked on the wall,” If it wasn’t for the Prez’s ability to attract trouble like a dog on a porcupine I’d be topside enjoying a proper blue cheese delight burger at Mama L’s Diner. Instead I’m down here with you old bags.”

“Karl has a point, Prez. Couldn’t you’ve held things off for a day or two after I had The Pride prepped for our field trip?” John asked in a mocking voice eliciting low chuckles, and a few straight up nervous laughs from the gathered men. Even Sarge’s crew joined in as they filtered back into the line with a det cord trailing behind them.

Cellphones and remote detonators were less than reliable underground, and this was a construction workers tool kit not the SEALs with all that gucci explosive gear the Empire can conjure. Not as gucci now that Washington was broke, but still better than what the New Venice militias had. For now at least. Loot was anyones to grab when an empire fell.

“Next time I’ll be sure to time my impromptu rescues around your preferences Saint John, but I think Karl is on to something here.” Bohdan said with a lopsided grin on his face. Gallows humor was always the sweetest when you knew you were going to pull that noose around your hangman’s neck on the way down.

“After we bag ourselves some Hyena dogmen freaks we’re all heading up for burgers on bleu at Mama L’s diner, and make Mr. Duncan pay since he’s the foreman and all.” Bohdan had a light smattering of cheers that were barely whispers in the dark tunnels. Duncan’s son shook his head as his fellow commandos slapped his shoulders with smiles on their lips.

That was probably enough to distract them from their shadows and terror screaming into their ears. They were too wound up before. They were even starting to add to the layers of stress Bohdan had beaten down beneath the surface. Being in command was trying on a man mind. It was hard enough concentrating on acting and worrying about making mistakes for when they were eating burgers and shakes topside even without these guys stressing Blood out.

“Alright, positions gentlemen. Holdfast, start this party at your pleasure,” Bohdan called in his quiet command voice that Charlie always mocked for its posh flavor. The President could see the little noise they were making was nonetheless disturbing their quarry as the trees began to bend and rustle under the immense weight of the shifting monsters in their leaves.

All the men switched off their safeties, and put their game faces on. Sarge had his finger on the detonator. Mr Richards was giving Holdfast a thumbs up, and with a final nod from Bohdan slapped Jerimiah’s shoulder. They called him Big Boy Tony in Holdfast’s football days, and he was the glue that kept the defensive line together back when they still had sports teams playing other towns. Today he was going to be the tip of the spear as the foreman’s son made up for his father’s timidness by unloading all six bear pepper spray canisters into the designated treetops where the beasts laid in wait. For the briefest of moments the canisters seemed to slow as Bohdan followed their path as he let out a long breath. The grenades blew on contact.

The resulting howls and inhuman demonic screeches must have shattered spleens in China. Cries like that of a woman mixed with a screaming beast rose to such a pitch that the electronic ear protection they all wore fritzed out as the octave hit levels the devices were never meant to contain. Then howls of anger rolled from the grove that vibrated through the men’s chests. The vibrations rising into their throats like one too many drinks on prom night. Thunderous crashes marked trees being smashed as the infuriated beasts jumped to the ground to escape the burning gas in their nostrils and eyes.

For a moment Bohdan worried the freaks were gonna retreat farther into the wood, but right when the President thought they’d wasted their charges he saw a tree get ripped from the grove, and thrown like a javelin right for their hidie hole in the cave. The aim was off. The tree shattered into splitters and screaming bark on the solid cavern wall a yard or two from the cave entrance. Bohdan was never so glad he’d decided to stage his counter ambush from heavy cover. Even when you’d fought these freaks before their strength was always shocking to see. A fact that he could see was unnerving the greener men in the crew. Karl was all over it.

Strong and wild was the laughter of Karl Bergman when his blood was high in battle with unfathomable monsters. Even as the splitters sprayed them and bounced off their hardhats and helmets the laugh took on a life of its own spreading from man to man under the hail of trees and stones sent their way. Battle energy was a funny animal.

Sometimes it destroyed a man. Other times the coursing adrenaline and overwhelming desire to render destruction on your enemies brought you to life. Karl was always brought to life. Something of the Norse of old was in him. That spirit of joy in the midst of destruction and wrath was insatiable, and more continuous than herpes amongst horny teenagers at a frat party. Bohdan would have joined in if he didn’t know somebody had to keep their head around here. Blood still allowed a mad smile to fill his face despite his responsibilities. He wasn’t completely devoid of feelings no matter what Hiedi’s younger sister always said.

The laughter antagonized the aggressive beasts. Formed in a lab in an experiment meant to breed weaponized monsters these things were used to being the predators amongst the squishy humans. Being laughed at by one, Bohdan figured, was what an exterminator felt after a solitary roach had dodged his spray and trappes for the fifth time while laughing in a high pitched voice. The monsters charged.

The Story Will Continue Every Saturday.

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A Pack of Hyenas panel 6
Bohdan Blood was a busy young man. Being the President of the AH&L Committee in the middle of World War Three did that, but now rumors of witchcraft and Cartel incursions around his Ozark home were making things downright unhealthy. Together with his wily friends Bohdan and company will dodge drafts, hunt cryptids, and burn witches in style to keep their neck of the woods from looking like a New York hellscape. Just another day for the Adventure, Hunting, and Liquidation Committee.
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