His breath had never left him and thinking back on it JD was sure that despite the effort he exerted during the training session with Joc he had not even broken into a second wind. As he rose from his sitting position against the arena’s wall he smiled thinking about the abilities he was slowly coming to know. He wondered if what his human mind had thought was a beast that now resided in him was something more than that, something that was becoming a unified whole, each half tempering the other. He adjusted the tunics and mail that rested against his scales. JD made a point of noting the weaknesses that were explained to him, thinking he would have to alter some of his technique. Joc had made a comment about him having fighting experience and JD nodded his head, a faraway look entering his eyes for the briefest of seconds.
The metal door crashed in violently with a twisting metallic shriek as the breaching charges obliterated the doorframe in a shower of mud and stone. The home was suddenly flooded with blinding LED light that poured in from flashlights attached alongside gun barrels. Deafening noise echoed in the wake of the blast as Marines piled into the structure, muzzles first shouting at the top of their lungs for anybody and everybody to get down. They peeled off one by one entering the structure. The number one and two men digging the corners of the entry room the number three man pressing through into the main room. As Sgt Maddox entered with his squad as gunshots echoed from the main room, the walls of the room being lit by the double orange flash from an M4 that indicated a controlled pair into a target, the follow up shout came from the Marine that fired. “One down! Pushing!” Sgt Maddox knew his lead man was moving into the next room and he moved from the entry out of that fatal funnel and into the room to cover his lead Marine.
It was what westerns would call a living room, a woman and two small children were huddled on the ground in one corner covering their ears and shouting. A body lay against a wall, AK-47 fallen beside its limp arm, a small streak of blood tracking down from where the man tumbled back and slumped against the wall. Maddox looked back at the Marine that followed him taking his left, none firing, hand from his rifle, pointing to his eyes with his index and ring finger and then pointing to the woman and children shouting back at the Marine, “Cover her! If she moves light her the fuck up!” Two weeks ago they had been conducting a similar raid and the woman of the house had held a grenade until the Marines had past, killing two Marines once everything had gone quiet.
Sgt Maddox pressed into the next room, a kitchen with stairs leading up. His lead Marine was already pressing up the stairs, two more Marines that had followed Maddox in were pushing to cover their ascending buddy. Maddox barreled into the kitchen and saw the flash of gunfire as he turned the corner. Knowing, in that fraction of a millisecond, that if he gave ground he could be trapped in that entry way he pressed on towards the shooter. The enemy’s rounds smacked into the plaster around the door frame, the panicked shots from the hip missing wide and left. JD was shooting from the shoulder, JD was one of the best shots in the company, JD, while bombarded by adrenaline and breathing hard, was not panicked, and JD did not miss. The brilliant explosion of muzzle flash cast the shadowy silhouette into sharp relief, a young man with an RPK. Two rounds impacted hard into his chest, the last punched into his face just under his left eye, three 5.56mm casings tumbled through the air away from JD’s M4 and towards the ground. JD advanced on the body keeping his eyes on the target while another Marine entered the kitchen, his M249 barking off two quick bursts of automatic fire that stitched a line across the chest of a man JD had missed in an alcove. In the back of his mind JD knew the Marine had saved his life but his attention did not divert to from the target until he could confirm it was down.
The raid had taken 46 seconds, had netted nearly 300 pounds of IED components, and had resulted in six known Taliban fighters dead. As JD and his Marines finished calling in the after action and were stepping off he could not ignore the violent, sobbing shouts of the woman they had left shocked and terrified but unharmed. If any man in her family was not a Taliban fighter already they would be once they heard about this.
JD blinked and came to at the sound of approaching horses. “Yeah, not exactly a cherished hobby but I’ve had a lot of practice. Seems the world is only making me better as times go on instead of just letting me get old and relax.” JD was clearly commenting to Joc on the natural factors that seemed to lead to kin being more apt to combative natures than anything else. It was hard to tell if his tone embodied a subtle happiness or a growing reluctance but before anything more could come of it he moved on towards the approaching vanguard of troops. As everyone approached he walked out and around the group, coming up on the left side of the horse that the woman addressing Joc had just dismounted. A brute of a draft, the horse was massive and if JD had been human he had the idea that it would have been even more impressive. When he had been growing up JD had ridden a number of draft crosses when he fox hunted and this horse looked as if it would have been magnificent. He walked around to the front of the horse, noticing how its left ear had tracked him the entire time he walked until it could catch JD in its eyes. He stood looking at the animal but not making a move to touch someone else’s horse, especially one that may be trained to resist the advances of anyone but its rider, as many war mounts are. “Your impressive buddy.” He said as the horses ears flicked forward. Too bad, I think I am a bit big even for you. JD stepped back away from the horse and watched as the pair of human women that were a part of this group mounted up, one much steadier in the saddle than the other. To her credit the one with the skill began instructing the other and soon it seemed neither would be in danger of tumbling to the ground.
As everyone began moving off JD took a spot at the front of the column at Joc’s insistence. Joc had told him that he would be able to keep pace with the column on foot now that he was a kin and JD knew, instinctual on a level he would have once called his gut, that Joc was telling it true. Moving through the urban areas it was easy enough for JD to keep pace by lengthening his strides a bit. As the streets opened to a road the Joc called the Scale Road the pace picked up and JD matched Joc’s which kept them in the lead of the horses.
The run revitalized him, as a human JD had loved running and this was one thing that did not fill him with trepidation when it came to his kin abilities. His feet hammered along the ground and his legs carried him without significant fatigue. His lungs filled with air that almost tasted sweet to him now as he huffed out the excess in deep long exhalations. JD wondered what his old marathon times would have looked like if he had had this kind of ability during the races. This thought gave him the idea to test just what these abilities were when it came to running and endurance. He spent some of his time farther ahead but within sight of the column. At times he would take off a bit, testing the limit of his new endurance before falling back to the group. Other times he would run closer to the rocks and pillars of stone that they came upon on their journey. He would test the limits of his agility here, getting used to not only his new form, mass, and center of gravity but the gripping power of his hands and feet on the stones and getting a feel for the weight of his clothing, weapons, and mail as he moved. He felt how the heavy hammer on his back slowed his ability to rise up from a crouch ever so slightly, an important discovery. He also found the limits of the power of his grip as he moved along some of the lower ground stones before coming back to the column.
JD returned as Joc and Mithnal were having a conversation concerning a word he did not recognize. Tyrix. He fell in to the pace that Joc was keeping along the column and cast his glance out in the direction he had been looking. JD could see nothing of consequence out there and focused his eyes back on the road ahead. “So what are the Tyrix? Is it something we should worry about?”