The Junction
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The Junction

Jungle Fort

Jennings saw the rex grab Ingmar by the torso. He saw it sink its teeth in and shake Ingmar like a ragdoll. He saw Ingmar’s legs flail and heard Ingmar’s brutal screams. But the rex didn’t swallow Ingmar, or throw him to the ground and rip any meat off.

That’s when Jennings knew two things — 1) the rex was mechanical, and 2) it was poisoned, probably with the green.

“Great,” he mumbled.

This also explained why their rifles were so ineffectual. The bullets clinked off the thing’s hide like it was nothing. Jennings knew there was only one way to take down a mechanical rex with a rifle — hit it in its open mouth, down the gullet, and hope you hit one of the main fuel cables in its throat.

There were other, cruder ways to fall a large mechanical war machine, but the fort had been out of explosives and projectiles for weeks now. The rex was here to stay until it ran out of fuel or damaged itself somehow.

The day was already hot and stifling, but that was typical in the jungle.

The fort was half native, half Amerasian. It was built on the ruins of an ancient sandstone temple, outfitted with plasticore barricades and metal turrets and towers, guns of all ages bristling off in all directions. It was square shaped, with towers on all four corners and a swanky series of penthouse suites meant for commanding officers and visiting officials all set along the north wall between the towers.

They were surrounded by miles and miles of untamed jungle, thick and impenetrable and wild and deadly.

The enemy had sent in monsters before — robots of all kinds, zombie-fied peasants, all sorts of shit, but never a rex.

This one was the same color as the jungle itself, its skin like swamp moss striped with bright green the color of sun-drenched grass, stretched over a clanking skeleton, its laser-red eyes wide and staring. Jagged teeth like shrapnel stuck out of its oil-drooling maw every which way. It was at least thirty five feet long, its tiny claw arms grasping at nothing. A deformed, wretched beast; thrown together and sent on its one suicidal mission.

The fort had once a battalion of orcs try to charge the front gate once, and a bunch of harpy bombardments, but never this. Other than the regular attacks of robotic soldiers and air raids, the fort was usually left at peace. The section of jungle they guarded held no riches or strategic advantages. It was territory alone.

Jennings watched Ingmar’s body begin to rot where it had fallen at the base of the outer wall. Ingmar’s mouth was open and moving like a fish out of water. His shirt had been torn open by the rex’s jaws, and the puncture wounds from its teeth were green and spreading.

Yes, this rex was infected with green.

Ingmar had been drunk again, and he’d leaned over the guardrail to spit on the thing when it had headbutted the wall. The whole fort shook and Ingmar lost his balance and toppled over the edge with a startled, “Oh, shit!” The rex opened its jaws like a dog getting a treat tossed to it and Ingmar had fallen right in.

The jaws closed as Ingmar’s drunken face registered what had just happened to him. A crunch and scream later, and Ingmar was no more.

The rex stomped around the outer wall, headbutting it and trying to get more unwitting soldiers to lose their footing. It reeked of diesel fuel.

There was little chance it would get inside, but this was an unorthodox attack. Perhaps even a diversion of something bigger to come.

The Queen must be notified.

Jennings left his position at the wall, and went to find her.

The Queen was in her chambers, as usual. Fucking another soldier, as usual.

This time it was Longo, whom the Queen liked quite a bit.

Jennings could hear screams and thumps coming from the Queen’s chambers as he approached from the hall.

Baddem was sitting in the chair outside the door, reading a magazine. He was on double duty — guarding the chambers and waiting his turn with the Queen.

No one actually enjoyed sex with the Queen. No one knew how old she actually was, but it was quite old. Most of the platoon liked to say that she was using their spooge as life juice.

As Jennings approached Baddem and did the introductory salute, there was a great smashing from the courtyard. Roars and screams.

Jennings ran to the nearest window and looked out.

The rex had actually busted through the front gate without much effort. It appeared to only have taken a couple slams of its long, boxy, misshapen head. Again, lack of maintenance had done them in. The door hadn’t been serviced in weeks, and it was practically rusting in the jungle humidity.

“I must speak to the Queen,” Jennings said to Baddem. “The fort is under attack.”

“Her Majesty is preoccupied at the moment,” said Baddem, as a different sort of screaming and thumping could be heard from inside the Queen’s chamber. Longo was trying his damndest. If you didn’t make the Queen climax at least three times during your sessions with her, you were subject to expulsion. And the only way back to base was on foot.

The Queen’s appearance and the sex itself notwithstanding, sessions with the Queen had their benefits. You were allowed to eat and drink whatever you liked, and the Queen’s chambers were the only place in the fort where the air conditioning worked on a regular basis.

Jennings faced Baddem.

“I’m afraid I must insist,” he said. “As you can hear, the gate has been breached. Those restraints and hinges I suggested replacing appear to have given way, if I’m to take a guess.”

“Did someone say restraints,” said a voice.

The Queen herself stood in the doorframe, smirking at them. Her eyes glittered.

Longo darted out from behind her with his clothes bundled over his crotch, still naked and sweaty and with the thousand yard stare one always had after a session with the Queen. He padded swiftly down the hallway toward the stairs and out of sight.

“Baddem, darling, you’re up next,” said the Queen, in her lace lingerie, arcing a leg up the doorframe.

Her face was a wrinkled horror, her hair long and black and hanging to her sagging ass. Her skin was the color of Halloween chocolate left out till Thanksgiving. It stretched off her bones like badly-aged leather, and her eyes were twinkling flecks of ebony set in sockets that looked like soft clay. She wore a golden tiara, thin and elegant, and a black lace onesie that dangled below her flaking kneecaps.

Screams and growls and mechanical clanks could be heard from the courtyard. The air smelled like smoke and sulfur.

“Your Excellence, the fort is under attack,” said Jennings. “The gate has been breached. Weapons supplies are dwindling. If we do not act immediately it would appear we will lose the fort to a single aggressor.”

“A rex?” said Baddem.

“Yes, an old one, life-molded, and its jaws have been laced with the green.”

“There’s always time for intercourse, Jennings, dear,” the Queen said. She grabbed Baddem by his ear and tugged him toward her. Baddem stood up and obeyed.

“Jennings, be a darling and find Yates for me,” said the Queen. “Tell him he’s on deck.”

Jennings gritted his teeth.

“Your Excellency, Yates is manning the left flank turret. I’m afraid he’s preoccupied, and from the sound of things he may not even be alive anymore.”

“Was that a question?” the Queen said, turning to him.

Damn this entire world, thought Jennings.

“No, your Majesty,” he said.

He turned on his heels and went to find Yates.

The Queen tugged Baddem into her chambers and slammed the door.

Outside, the rex was feasting on the soldiers unfortunate enough to have been trapped in the courtyard when the fort went on lockdown. The left side of the front gate was smashed in, twisted like tin foil as though rammed by a giant fist.

The unlucky soldiers were all bunched up against the exit doors that lead to the inner bunkers, some firing their weapons at the thing as it bent and picked them up with its noxious maw and threw them to the side for the green to ravage their flesh and foam their lips and convulse their backs until their spines snapped. Most were just pounding on the door or curling into a fetal position on the ground, crying and waiting to be killed.

Jennings watched as the rex bent down to grab another one of the unfortunate men. The only noises were gunshots and screams and shouts and the steampunk racket of the rex. The rex threw the soldier away and he slammed against the eastern wall with a thud, falling to the dirt and shaking, his skin already foaming an algae green around the rex’s puncture wounds.

Bite and throw, bite and throw. Throw to the left, throw to the right. Destroy and advance.

The soldiers on the fort’s walls were firing at the rex. Their bullets clinged and zinged uselessly off its metal flesh. The rex didn’t even seem to notice.

Jennings went to the left turret on the south tower and found Yates staring blankly, his gun in front of him, unloaded and unfired.

“Why aren’t you firing? Why isn’t anyone on the gun turrets firing?!” Jennings yelled.

“We’ve been out of ammo for days,” said Yates, looking at Jennings as though the captain had suggested Yates get a sex change.

He looked at Jennings, his eyes like lonely planets.

“We’re all going to die, aren’t we? I knew it the second I was stationed here.”

“Quite possibly,” said Jennings.

He shoved Yates out of the way and manned the gun.

He pulled the trigger. There was a clink. Nothing.

“Christ,” said Jennings in disgust.

He turned to Yates.

“The Queen requires your presence once she’s finished with Baddem. I’m only telling you this because I have to.”

“She’s still sticking to the routine even during an attack?”

“I do believe she’s lost her mind. This jungle does that to a person. And to think, she was once the top general in her field when the Capital sent her here.”

Jennings surveyed the courtyard. The rex, the diminishing number of live soldiers, the smashed front gate, and the strewn bodies, piled and rotting every which where.

The rex had tired of its biting game and was now crushing the unfortunate soldiers as they bunched up into the door, head butting them and stomping on them with its metal talons. Its feet were the size of dinner tables and they came down again and again on the cornered soldiers, who squirted like burst fruit upon impact. Only a few remained, soaked in gore from their fallen brothers and staring and wailing like trapped children.

No one on the walls fired at the rex now. Most of the soldiers had given up their futile game and just watched as it carried out its programmed massacre.

A few moments later and the soldiers in the courtyard had all been reduced to scraps of pulp and meat and bone, turning the dust in front of the inner gate red and spongey, so many splats of dead sentience. The rex began headbutting the inner gate itself, trying to penetrate even further into the fort.

The other gun turret operators at the other three towers stood staring like Yates, dumb and damned.

“Standing here will do us no good,” said Jennings. “I suggest we get you to the Queen’s chambers.”

They ran from Yates post, the screams in the courtyard silenced, the only sounds now the deep rhythmic thunder of the rex banging its metal head against the metal door, which fortunately had been reinforced much more recently than the outer door.

Jennings and Yates could hear Baddem and the Queen going at it from within the Queen’s chamber when they arrived back at the penthouse. The whole fort was shaking with every headbutt from the rex. It was like an earthquake set to a metronome.

“So are we to just sit here and wait for that monster to run out of fuel?” Yates said, still with his sad child-like marble eyes. “I can’t have sex with the Queen at a time like this. Everything is failing. It was breaking down for so long and now it’s finally falling apart.”

“Fear not,” said Jennings. “I have an idea.”

He kicked open the chamber doors — the jambs were practically rotted away, one more neglected thing in this godforsaken place.

Jennings walked right into the chambers, savoring the cool air upon his arms.

The Queen was on the bed with her legs in the air and Baddem on top of her, the sheets damp with sweat and semen and vag juice.

She sat up and threw Baddem off her when she saw Jennings standing at the foot of the bed. Baddem lay on his back next to her, staring up at Jennings.

“How dare you,” hissed the Queen. She grabbed a glass from the nightstand and threw it at Jennings. He dodged it easily and it shattered against the wall, spraying crystals that twinkled in the sunlight from the window. The fort continued its rhythmic shudder from the rex’s attempts to break in.

The air conditioning was lovely, and Jennings let it soothe him. Yates stood in the door, peeking like a shy child.

“How are we to fuck with these constant interruptions,” the Queen wanted to know. “I was nearly to my second climax!”

“Madame, I am rescinding your command,” Jennings announced.

“You’re what?”

“You are no longer fit for command, and I am taking over.”

“How dare you,” hissed the Queen again.

Baddem lay next to her, unmoving, his eyes on Jennings, his penis softening and glistening with sex.

“I am rescinding your command and calling in reinforcements,” said Jennings with authority. “You are no longer fit for command of this fort. I, as captain, am next in the line of succession.”

“There ARE no reinforcements, foolish man!” yelled the Queen. “The Capital was taken over a month ago! All time is lost! All there is now is to wait until death!”

Jennings heart sank into the mushy pit of his stomach.

“What?!”

“We must enjoy the time we have left, as we see fit!”

So that explains why all she does is fuck, thought Jennings. He’d suspected the war had been lost.

“So you mean to tell us we’re doomed,” he said.

“We’re all doomed in the long run,” said the Queen. “All we can do is seize the time we have left.”

She reached over and grabbed Baddem by the balls. His whole body jerked.

Baddem reached down and jacked his wilting dick, eyes on the ceiling, trying to keep it hard for the Queen. The Queen massaged his testicles, her eyes on Jennings.

“If the Capital has been captured, then the war is over,” said Jennings. “You were required to inform us. You did not. I am rescinding your command.”

“I’m not required to do anything,” said the Queen. “I command here. And my superiors have been gone for weeks. I will live out my final days as I see fit. One hundred and thirty five years I’ve lived now. A few days or weeks is nothing to me.”

Jennings thought.

“Baddem, Yates, attention,” he yelled.

Baddem lifted his head. His eyes were wet. He didn’t move except his jacking hand. The Queen continued fondling his balls.

Yates stood in the doorway, unsure. His eyes darted from the Queen to Jennings.

“We’re weakened, out of supplies, out of morale,” said the Queen. “It’s hopeless.”

“You are absolutely right, Your Majesty,” said Jennings.

He kept repeating himself.

“This is why I am rescinding your command. Baddem, Yates — escort the Queen down to the Chop Room. We’ll wait out this attack there.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” snarled the Queen.

Yates came into the room and stood next to Jennings.

Baddem took the Queen’s hand from his crotch and threw it away like it was an insect he’d found in his bed. He stood and pulled on his pants.

“Mutiny,” screeched the Queen. “You will fuck me this instant, Private Baddem!”

Baddem stood next to Jennings.

“What are we to do now?”

“Mutiny,” screeched the Queen. “Mutiny!”

Her eyes bugging out, she tore at her hair and flopped about the bed, her hideous, shriveled nakedness on full display. She rolled and clawed and shrieked something awful.

“Let’s get the fuck out of here,” said Jennings.

========================================

The Chop Chamber was a room in the basement of the fort, filled with rotting heads on rows of wooden spikes — former prisoners of war conquered and catalogued. There were something like thirty of them, and the place was lit by yellow electric lights on the walls. The floor was dirt.

Jennings, Yates and Baddem dragged the Queen in. She was weak, and beat her withered fists against them but they moved her easily enough. Her skin felt like wilted flower petals. She calmed at the sight of the severed, decaying heads.

The room did not smell, as the air ventilation was still functioning. The Queen calmed at the sight of her conquests.

“The Centurion,” she said, reaching out an touching the rotten apple cheek-skin of the nearest head. “My first capture, my first execution. How time passes…”

Thank the Lord for small favors, thought Jennings. At least she’s quiet now.

The upstairs floors were filling with smoke. The rex had succeeded in knocking through the second gate but was too small to get in to the hallways at the other soldiers. It didn’t stay long anyhow.

The Queen had screamed for the other soldiers to come to her aid as the three men lugged her down to the Chop Chamber. None had come to her assistance. Most were abandoning the fort, jumping or climbing from the walls and disappearing into the jungle with weapons in hand.

The rex noticed the deserters and turned to chase them all, charging back through the courtyard and out the front gate again, taking its infernal sounds and acrid smells with it.

Jennings and Baddem and Yates and their former commanding officer made it to the Chop Chamber and slammed the heavy metal door shut. Jennings pocketed the key.

As Jennings stood with his two fellow soldiers and the Queen in the dim room, he realized the four of them were likely the last people in the fort.

“I shall have your heads in this room, as well, my little traitors,” said the Queen. She was going down the rows, touching the cheeks of those she had bested in battle.

She smiled sweetly at the three of them.

Baddem and Yates looked nervous, but Jennings snorted.

“By whose authority?” said Jennings. “You yourself just said your superiors have been vaporized or captured or some such thing. You have no power over us any longer. We are the last four souls left in this pit.”

The Queen spit at his feet.

Jennings said no more. He had to think. What now?

He observed the heads on the spikes. All conquered generals, pirates, rebels, terrorists, people of importance. They’d rollicked and pillaged and killed and fucked and tortured and maimed and they’d all ended up here.

“First you called me General, and now you call me Queen,” said the Queen, walking along the rows and stroking each of the decaying cheeks with her fingers.

“Now we’ll call you nothing,” said Jennings.

“Mutinous swine,” the Queen hissed, her eyes dark and angry.

“Oh, shut up,” snapped Jennings.

“Silence is all you’ll have once I’m through with you,” whispered the Queen, stroking cheeks.

“The rex is gone,” said Baddem. “Why are we down here?”

“The rex will be back once it’s finished picking off all the soldiers who ran into the jungle,” said Jennings.

He sat down on the floor against the wall.

As if on cue, there was thumping and roaring overhead.

“We’re really trapped now,” said Yates.

“No, we are not trapped. We’re hiding out until we formulate what we do next,” said Jennings.

“In a hole,” said Yates. “With nowhere to go.”

“And only severed heads as potential sustenance. If we’re stuck here for days, we’ll die of thirst or starvation.”

“You shall not consume my trophies,” snarled the Queen, down at the other end of the room. “I’ll see you starve before you swallow one scrap of flesh.”

“How long has she been completely insane like this?” Yates asked. “I hadn’t had a session with her in a couple weeks — she was fine, then. A weird, horny old lady, but not… this.”

“We lost the war,” said Jennings. “The Capital has fallen. The knowledge cracked her skull and let the jungle air in.”

“Why didn’t she tell us?”

“That is a question we will probably never have the answer to.”

“So what’s the rex doing here, then, if the war’s over?”

“I’m guessing some joyriding war lord set it ahead to see what kind of damage it could do before the troops arrive to announce victory and demand surrender. Our fort must be one of the last to be captured, as we’re not guarding anything other than Capital territory. I’m guessing they’ll be here any time now. Do we have any weapons?”

“My rifle is still in the hallway,” said Baddem.

“I think I have a plan,” said Jennings. “It’ll probably be the last thing we ever do, but it’s best we got.”

“I knew moving to this fort would be the last thing I’d ever do,” said Baddem.

“Same,” said Yates. “I knew it the second I kissed my girlfriend goodbye.”

“But what do we do with her,” said Baddem, nodding at the Queen, who was now at the far end of the Chop Chamber, speaking in a soft, loving voice to a freshly severed head that Jennings recognized as Groggington the Naughty, who was captured and executed less than a month ago, probably not too long before the Capital fell. Their noses nearly touched, and as the three of them watched, the Queen planted a long-lasting liplock of a kiss on the head’s blackened lips.

“She’s the most important part of it all,” said Jennings. “Do we still have the north catapult rigged?”

“It should be.”

“No one fired it during the attack — we’ve been out of firestarters for weeks now,” said Baddem.

“Then let’s hope this works,” said Jennings. “She must be immobilized.”

“I’ve been wanting to do this since I got here,” said Baddem.

The three of them walked down the corridor to the Queen.

She turned and saw them coming.

“Mutinous bastards,” she whispered. “Bow to me.”

========================================

From the courtyard, they heard the tromping of boots, shouted orders. The enemy was inside the fort.

“There’s only one shot left,” said Baddem, clutching his rifle. He’d retrieved it from his quarters.

The fort was indeed deserted. The four of them had traversed the hallways. There was no one left, no hiders, no survivors.

“One shot is all we need,” said Jennings.

He took the rifle from Baddem and handed it to Yates.

“Yates, you’re the best shot among us.”

“Only one shot, sir?”

“Yes. You know where to aim.”

They crouched on the battlement of the fifth tower, the tallest tower in the fort and the one above the Queen’s chambers.

The enemy battalion had flooded into the courtyard below, hundreds of green suits laughing and cheering and joyfully kicking the remains of the soldiers around like old laundry.

The rex had returned with the battalion, standing in the middle of the group of soldiers. The soldiers were petting the rex on the legs like it was a dog.

The general himself lead the way, and stroked the t-rex’s chin.

“Boys, this is it,” said Jennings. “It’s been an honor to serve with you. May your souls be light.”

“And yours, colonel,” said Baddem and Yates, their hands over their chests.

Jennings stood.

“GOOD MORROW,” he boomed down to the enemy general.

The rex looked up first, growled.

A hundred heads followed, a hundred faces blooming upward in the jungle sun.

The soldiers cheered and jeered, but the General calmed them down. Jennings didn’t recognize the General as anyone of importance. He was some low-ranking nobody, sent to collect the last few scraps of territory won in the war.

“Do you surrender?” he yelled up at Jennings. “I am General Nobody. Where is the lady general? We wish to gaze upon her mighty cunt.”

His underlings guffawed.

“She is no more,” said Jennings.

The entire battalion took a moment to bow their heads in respect. Jennings remembered what a revered soldier the Queen had been before the madness had taken her.

“We are the only survivors,” Jennings announced. “The only survivors of this fort.”

“Poor babies,” said General Nobody. “Out of ammo and out of hope.”

The soldiers laughed and laughed.

“Not quite,” said Jennings quietly.

He produced a small white flag from his pocket, waved it.

The battalion in the courtyard cheered. The rex gave a tremendous roar of triumph. Jennings looked at the rex, with its diseased, dripping mouth and its sick eyes and it’s stupid, clanking, clumsy body, meant to maim and destroy in whatever way possible. So predictable. Any type of flesh could trigger it.

“Now!”

Behind him, Baddem threw a switch.

From behind the fort, a catapult was sprung. Inside the cup, the Queen was trussed up like a turkey, and she was thrown shrieking into the air, offered flesh, aimed directly at the rex.

She flew in a perfect arc, her lace nightgown rippling in the fetid jungle air.

General Nobody saw what was coming. His face registered what was about to happen to him, just like Ingmar, the futile recognition of sudden and imminent death. In seconds, Jennings knew General Nobody had seen the plan and knew the outcome, and in doing so he also knew it was too late.

The Queen flew down at the rex.

The rex opened it’s mouth. It was programmed to do so.

Yates rose from behind the battlement, aimed, pulled the trigger. The shot was true. Jennings saw the spark as the bullet met its target — a fuel tube in the rex’s throat.

Jennings could hear Baddem and Yates yelling battle cries.

He closed his eyes as the world roared fire, and he was very thankful this was all over.

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