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97 Dolt & Goliath

    "Nobody move; their eyes are based on movement," Sam whines in a small, low cry, "...Please, say their eyes are based on movement."

    Gripping the scythe nervously, I run through dozens of scenarios, everything from attempting to blow the door with blood grenades to Sam's stupid movement hypothesis.

    "Aponi, just let go of the rope and step away gently," I say with a neutral voice.

    Following my advice, she drops the rope tied around our Brutes neck and gently steps away. Meanwhile, the dozens of other Brutes gather around snarling, but...

    "A-are they snarling at him?" Eden asks, pointing at the Brute we followed here. "Cause if so, that would be a relief."

    I glance at Eden, who said something surprisingly cold before turning my thoughts to the situation.

    'As Eden said, they seem angry at the Brute rather than us...' The tied up Brute sits nearby with saliva still dripping from his mouth. I roll my eyes at the display. 'It'll be easier just to call him Dolt from now on, not that it matters since it looks like they are about to kill him.'

    Suddenly, hearing footsteps, I glance behind us to find that a group of brutes have seemingly returned home and are now blocking the door out.

    'I'm not certain if their blocking us is intentional or not, but it's still an irritating variable. Still weren't Eden and Sam out there.'

    Sighing heavily and licking my fangs, I look to the side where I find Sam and Eden have moved through the doorway, seemingly chasing the cubs who have begun to panic. They gather them and hold them tightly. Turning back toward the door, the two frown upon noticing the two Brutes blocking the exit.

    'We really do have some of the worst luck, don't we?'

    Dolt steps forward and grunts lazily, causing many of the Brutes to roar at him. As the two sides grunt, roar, and snarl at one another, I take the opportunity to study the layout of the room for any possible alternative escape routes. The room is circular with various things like mattresses, pallets, couches, and other things dragged in from the surface or other areas of the facility. They've stacked much of this up around the room's outsides to make makeshift houses and canopies. The walls of the room have tons of earthworms digging in and out of the walls moving dirt around. A few massive piles of blankets lay upon the ground for, I'd guess, sleeping purposes.

    'Was this the earthworms again? Why would they dig this for the Brutes? Or maybe they dug it, and the Brutes just wandered in here? It could just be as simple as the earthworms not caring.'

    Abruptly, the ground shakes, and my attention turns to the back of the room. A Brute that I thought was just a large pile of blankets slowly rises. Dolt is already nine-feet tall, but this one has to be pushing thirteen, at least!

    'How did that thing even fit through the door!? Maybe it changed in here and is now incapable of leaving! Actually, it could have crawled through the door, maybe? I don't know, but I don't like this!'

    The blankets fall to its sides, revealing that they're wrapped around it like clothing. The other brutes move to the side, allowing passage for this goliath. As it slowly saunters over, poking out its chest, it gurgles angrily and stops in front of Dolt.

    "Maybe, we should just run. We could probably just slip through those behind us," Sam says in an intense, confident tone.

    "Yeah, not a bad idea. Dolt here doesn't seem to be very popular." I start backing away to abandon Dolt to his fate when Goliath's eyes lock on to me. It glares at me and roars threateningly, spreading saliva and mucus all over Dolt, who doesn't seem to mind.

    "A-actually, maybe, we should wait and see where this goes first," Sam says in a high, shrill tone.

    Dolt grunts and lowers his head. Charging toward Goliath angrily, but his neck is caught. Goliath grips Dolt's neck and smashes his head into the floor. With our only distraction in danger of being beaten to death, I activate the blood collar except in reverse.

    The ends of several spikes abruptly protrude from Goliath's hand as he grunts in pain, removes his hand, and takes a few steps back.

    'I hope that wasn't a mistake.'

    With his arms still tied, Dolt wiggles on the floor, trying to get back to his feet. I move closer while Goliath stares at its injured hand, flipping it over as if he doesn't understand what has just happened.

    Within a few feet of Dolt, I Shove the flat end of the scythe into the ball of cables and jerk upwards, causing the cables to unwind. At the same time, two familiar Brutes sprint out of the crowd rushing toward Dolt with what I assume are grunts of excitement.

    "Those are the two we fought above ground," Aponi says out loud.

    The two try to run to Dolt, but Goliath stops them with a slap from his bloody palm.

    "Gruh! Gah!" Goliath roars.

    Waving my arms and shaking my head. "Alright, alright! I think I know what's happening here. It's some kind of alpha male or female malarkey, and we are not interested in being involved."

    Dolt and Goliath ignore me while growling and grunting at one another. This goes on while I keep eyeing the door, preparing to make a break for it until finally, Dolt shouts, "Guh!"

    "Guh?" Goliath Brute responds with a pound of its chest.

    Dolt points at me and shouts even louder, "Guh!"

    """Guh!""" the room of Brutes explodes together.

    "Guh!" Goliath throws up his arms with a roar.

    The other Brutes follow suit, shaking their fists to such an extent that, for a moment, I think they might actually be suffering some type of group seizure. Suddenly, the room starts to form a circle.

    I look around stiffly. 'I don't like where this is going.'

    So following the others, I attempt to back into the ring, but Dolt stops me with a pound of his chest and a thunderous, "Guh!"

    "Not, Guh!" I yell, throwing up my arm.

    Hearing me the Brutes cheer again, """Naht guh!""" They all enthusiastically nod their heads in agreement as if I've blown their fragile minds by adding a second word.

    'Great! All I did was invent a new word and advance the Brute language apparently!'

    Goliath steps in front of me and pounds the ground. "Naht guh!"  he yells with a hoarse voice staring at me as if he's impressed.

    "Yeah, you can convey more things with two words instead of just one!" I shout, raising the scythe.

    "Eira!" I hear Eden cry.

    I glance back to see Dolt seems to have Aponi and Eden on his shoulders with a big grin. He taps other nearby Brutes' shoulders, pointing at me proudly, "Nagt guh," he declares.

    I grit my teeth angrily, glaring at Dolt with a fierce scowl.

    'Dolt! Dolt! That moron! Did he tell them I'd fight or something?! Is that why he's been so compliant because he thinks I kept him alive to be his alpha or something stupid like that?! I mean, I did save him from the Crawlers, beat him to near death, and then gave him delicious food instead of finishing him off... His pea-brain wouldn't be able to comprehend what was happening! I just wanted to see how they were getting through or around the warehouse!'

    Eden and Aponi struggle, but Dolt seems to be holding them as if he's worried about them falling. Meanwhile, Sam is being held on a short Brute's shoulder with confused eyes and as he tries to see what's happening.

    'We have Brutes beat in just about everything except strength. They aren't going anywhere.'

    Suddenly, Goliath loses patience and charges forward as I jump and roll to the left. I again raise the scythe, glancing at the door.

    'I can't afford to use blood magic or even the scythe's own magic. I need everything for saving Kardama and Jimmy.'

    Goliath kicks at me, and I swing the scythe putting a cut into one of its exposed toenails. As blood leaks from the cut, he roars happily and proceeds to swing his fist savagely. Luckily my agility seems to be better than his. I dodge his fat fists over and over. Finally, he stops and yells toward the crowd, seemingly attempting to hype them up.

    I eye the dinguses closely. '...If I kill this guy? Then what? Does that mean they'll listen to me?' I stare at Goliath. 'I could probably just run him dry. From what I've seen, my endurance and agility are better than his.'

    Goliath turns and charges me again like an American-football player looking to tackle me. He leaps stupidly, and I jump, landing on its back. I place the scythe blade down and run, putting a long shallow cut on the thick skin of its back.

    'Still, am I supposed to kill him? Or am I just supposed to defeat him? I'll just do what I did with Dolt, wear him down. I doubt a creature like him has much variety in their movements and attacks. Plus, the reason Dolt was so hard to fight was because of all the other stuff going on at the same time.'

    Goliath swings. I extend my claws gripping the scythe with one hand. Dipping to the side, I use my claws to put a long cut down his arm.

    'Yeah, let's just bleed him into unconsciousness.'

    A drawn-out battle of endurance starts in the inconspicuous broom closet.

    __________________________________________________

    --Dr. Camila "I'm just a veterinarian" POV--

    My body aches as I walk at a near jog through the corridors of the research center.

    'For all I know, this research center is the only place that hasn't been overrun by rogue experiments or those Crawler things. Then this horned guy shows up, murders two people, and injects me with poison! Why did I ever have to come across this job?!'

    I sigh heavily and remove my glasses. Gazing at the dark shadow beneath my feet, I wipe my tears and then clean my lenses.

    'I'll never forget when they told me this was a job in Anchorage but failed to mention it was actually a job underneath Anchorage! I was fresh out of college then and desperate for money. Once you've accepted a position like this, leaving it is another thing entirely. People just forget their time here once they leave. I've been here for years! All the memories, all the experience, just disappearing if I choose to leave.'

    Shaking my head pitifully, I continue.

    Entering a small room with a sealed door and two guards, I'm unsurprisingly stopped immediately. Glancing between the two, I recognize a brawny guard immediately, but the other is one I've never had any interaction with.

    "Stop. Do you have the credentials to enter this area?" the unknown guard looks me up and down, saying, "I've never seen you before, and we aren't getting any noobies right now."

    I adjust my glasses with an awkward smile. Ignoring the unknown guard, I stare at the brawny one. "Don't you remember me? We've met once before, although the situation was a bit chaotic."

    He raises an eyebrow, studying me closely. Abruptly his eyes go wide. "You're the one who saved Mr. Whiskers! I've been meaning to thank you!"

    "Yep, I'm the facilities personal pet veterinarian. If I remember, your cat ate some thumbtacks," I reply, holding my smile.

    The other guard looks between the brawny guard and me. "Wait. This is the one you told me about? Who did the emergency surgery on your cat?"

    "Yeah! This is her, but she was wearing a mask with a hair net at the time. I didn't recognize her!" The brawny guard stares at me with a big grin, but it fades into a furrowed brow. "Thanks for saving him... but, uh, why are you trying to get into Dr. Wrights and Dr. Falenoz's research area?"

    "Hmm, that's a good question; you shouldn't even be in this research center at all now that I think about." The unknown guard pauses for a moment and nods as if understanding. "I assume you're only here because of what happened to the rest of the facility?"

    "Yeah, I was here on a call when things suddenly started going wrong, and..." I pause, clear my throat, and put on a doctorly facade, "...that's actually why I'm here right now. Apparently, they needed a second opinion on something they're doing, but then it got temporarily pushed back after everything happened. They told me it could no longer wait, and I needed to hurry over immediately."

    "No offense, but why would they call you for an experiment like the one the two doctors are working on? Aren't they more humanoid-ish?"

    "Simple! Because there is no one else!" he looks unsatisfied with my explanation, so I continue, "Besides, it's not the experiment itself they needed help with, but an unrelated animal."

    Mr. Whiskers' owner looks at me with worry. "What? An animal in the off-limits area? Why would someone do something so stupid, and how did they even get permission? Why would they wait so long if it's an emergency?"

    Shrugging nervously, I reply with a small voice, "...I-I mean, I don't know either. I'm just doing what they asked."

    The unknown guard looks at me with renewed suspicion. "Let's just call it in. It'll take a moment to get confirmation, so sit tight while we wait. We're actually under lockdown right now, which honestly, makes it even more suspicious that you'd be out right now."

    "No time!" I shout with urgency, "If it takes too long, the animal could die!"

    The burly guard looks at me tensely before turning toward the other guard. "Listen! I trust her, so I'll escort her and get confirmation."

    The unknown guard sighs, staring at him. "I understand that you feel indebted to her because of your cat, that apparently eats thumbtacks, but that's against regulations."

    "It seems like an emergency to me, and the situation is anything but routine," he states firmly.

    The two guards stare at one another in silence, drowned out only by my pounding heart's beat. Finally, the unknown guard rolls his eyes. "Y'know what, go ahead, but I'm still calling it in either way. I'll let you know when they get back to me. Oh, and if you get stopped by any of the vets, I'm going to tell them I wasn't involved."

    "10-4. Let's go." He stares at my badge near my chest. "Dr. West... I was never able to get your full name back then."

    With relief, I use my lab coat to wipe the fog from the glasses. "Yeah, you just called me doc back then. Anyway, I prefer Dr. Camila over Dr. West."

    "Alright, Dr. Camila, let's see if we can find where it is you're supposed to go," he says with a smile.

    With a cold sweat, I nod, ignoring my shivering shadow. The door opens, exposing a long white hallway with researchers walking to and fro as if a different world, from the hushed halls I've become accustomed to, has been revealed.
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