Hero

War stories lived on long after the last of the spores had been choked by Agent Red or incinerated in nuclear fires. One of the most famous was the story of Private John Farmer that appeared on a military website. His tale was related by Corporal Earnest "Curley" Jansen, who could be a bit colloquial at times.

Fourth Life

Private Farmer was a genuine certified Miracle Man. You wouldn'ta known it to look at him, just a skinny guy in his 30s, looked a little older than he was. Had a limp, but not so bad that he couldn't hump it with the rest of us in the platoon.

Farmer was a little slow and a lot quiet. Walked around with a grin plastered on his face, 'cept when the shit was really up around our ears. Those times he just buttoned up, went all hard in the face and didn't say nothin'.

Talked to him one time, not long before his last mission, and he started jawin' about his "third life". It was his way of coping with it. He said he had these two other lives before this one, all sort of jumbled up in his head. Parts missing, parts wrong, but he knew he had lived two lives before.

The first one he was a green piece of meat with 3rd ID. One of the poor bastards at the Atlanta cordon. He had a wife and newborn out in Minnesota or Montana or one of them "M" states. Shit starts going crazy, you remember, on the news. Everything is falling apart, only back then the honchos thought they could just contain it. So they send 3rd ID down to close it off in Atlanta.

Embedded journalists, the works, you know the story. So he gets down there and the perimeter is already leaking like a sieve. 3rd ID goes in with some ratty ass NBC gear, not even enough to go around, and poor Farmer ain't there ten minutes when he gets the Nuss.

He don't remember much about right then and there. Things got ugly, I do know. Watched it on the TV. You had people going crazy trying to get away from it, Army freaking the fuck out, shooting, rioting, it all built to a grade-A shit tornado and then...snap! Like that it all went quiet. The Nuss won, the Cee Bees won.

He fell in with the rest, pushing and doing what they told him in that weird voice in his brain. That little kid's voice is what the eggheads say. Thing is, most of them guys was so far behind the actual Nuss they didn't do much. Maybe tore open basements and the like, making sure it got to people.

Next thing he knows Farmer is in some town, up north somewhere. Quiet little town, like in a picture postcard or something. Only it's a fucked up postcard, on account of everyone has got the Nuss and is following them weird ass orders. He had a new wife. Never met her before, but he says he loved her. Don't know how or why. They had a baby together, regular like, and then she got pregnant again, only it wasn't his. It was some fruit she ate or something. I didn't understand that part of the story.

He said he rang a bell and she went out the door and he heard a sound like wet leaves, thousands of 'em, dragging across the asphalt. And he wanted to look out the window and see her go, only he knew he shouldn't, so he didn't. But he said he never forgot he looked in a lamp on the table in the living room. And it was all polished up real nice and he could see a reflection. And he said in that window, that big bay window behind him, looking out on the street, all he saw was red. Moving red. And when it was gone so was she.

Y'all know what it was already. Big Red. Huge one, doin' whatever those motherfuckers do with people down in that building they got in every town. Ain't never seen her again, Farmer said, but he also said the voice told him to be happy about it, and he sorta was, only he sorta wasn't too. And one day when his kid, a little girl, ate the same fruit his wife ate and rang that same bell, he just ran. Ain't nothin' the voice could say could keep him in the house.

Not much later our guys found him. Reclaim II team from Woodstock. Pure recon teams back then. Kill on sight hardasses.

Poor Farmer was running like a maniac through them weird ass blue-green trees around the river. Just by chance their sharpshooter missed and hit him in the neck as opposed to the head. For some reason the CO didn't finish him off and instead he bagged him and ran him back to the outpost. Lucky for Farmer again, Woodstock has one of them full level five labs or whatever they call it. Doing research on a cure.

So they take him in there, and I mean, Farmer nearly bled out. So they close him up and start filling him back up with blood and while they're at it they test out one of them drugs. Whatever came before it was called COUNTERACT. It sorta works, so the eggheads keep juicing him on the stuff. Takes months, but they find the right shit and he comes out of it, only he's all fucked up from the drugs and the Nuss and on top of that he's crazy.

But there was something in Farmer, something in his head that let him get over it. You see them poor fuckers we brought back nowadays and they just stare at a wall all day long or never even come out of that coma. And those are the lucky ones that don't just drop dead from the drugs. I guess there's gotta be some other ones it worked on or why even bother bringing them poor bastards back. If it was me and that was all there was for me then just shoot me in my fuckin' head.

So Farmer, yeah, our Miracle Man. Came out of it. Even got re-certified for duty. Volunteered for it. He was a badass, only you wouldn't know it if you didn't know his story. Always quiet and smiling like a retard.

About six months back, that was Reclaim V shit. We was with the 43rd out of Woodstock and was supposed to join up with 6th Mechanized from Maple Leaf. Y'all know how that went. Cee Bees was wisin' up by then, figuring out what we was up to.

Truckloads of them walkers came at us. Truly. They was in trucks. They drive at us and, we had a couple Bradleys with us, they'd just tap 'em with the 20s and them things would come apart like dry biscuits. Only the Nuss got 'em so good they'd come out on fire and missin' body parts and just run at us.

Shoot to kill. Farmer was a good shot, maybe not the best, but he never lost his shit. So he is up on the back of one of them Bradley's and just poppin' them poor bastards. Center mass at a range and head shots when they started getting' close. I was too busy to watch him much, but last time I actually seen him he was kickin' the ones what tried to jump up on the Bradley and shooting them with his sidearm.

By then we was overrun. They was in there with us grabbing people and tearing off their masks. Some guys fight for a while even without them, maybe stick their arm with that injector like it's gonna do shit when they're breathing the Nuss still. Other guys, like the guy next to me, just drop like a sack of potatoes.

We could hold out in the Bradleys for days, but them walkers wasn't what got us scared. Big Red was comin'. Even if the overwatch bird wasn't yellin' bloody murder about it on every channel you could sorta sense it. Like you know, I know you gotta have them fucking spores in you to hear that shit, but maybe Big Red got so many in him you can just tell when he is getting close. Or maybe I just ain't remembering right. I dunno.

Anyway, what was left of us was buttoned up in the Bradleys we had. Crammed in them like catfood 'cause we didn't have enough for full mechanized, just a few to bring the pain. Them crews was shittin' themselves, popping off rounds until they was all dry.

And then I hear on the radio them fuckers got one of the Bradleys open and it was the one with Farmer in it. Those poor bastards was screaming and yellin' and nobody gave a shit because right then was when Big Red showed up. Popped up down the road from underground like he sometimes do and come at us like a freight train.

But Farmer, however he done it, he got in the seat on that Bradley and he just said "I got it" over the radio. Drove straight at that fucker. Straight into it. Knocked it senseless. Crumpled up the Bradley, caught it on fire, on account of it was maybe the biggest red son of a bitch I ever seen. But whatever that hit did to it the fucker was thrashing and rolling around like it hurt.

The rest of the Bradleys burned in the other direction, but I know it was still there hurtin' when CAS put a couple JDAMs up its shitter. Could see the smoke on the horizon, all oily black from the fucker burnin'.

Found Farmer a couple months later. Guess he survived that crash with Big Red. Walkers musta come in after and pulled the poor son of a bitch out of the Bradley, tore off his mask.

Farmer was stickin' out of a pile of bodies 7th Rocky dumped at the airport. We was dousing them in gasoline before they went sour and there was Farmer, lookin' up at me, his eyes open even though he was missing half his face. He was covered in blood and that soot from the Agent Red but his eyes were white as rice. He was wearin' a suit and tie.

We killed him. Got him on his fourth life. Fuckin' Miracle Man.

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