This article is part of the That Insidious Beast series.
It isn't long before our way is barred by rough-looking soldiers overloaded with weapons. Special Forces. I recognize them by their long beards, utter calm, and ritual scars on the hands. They sniff the air like tomcats and then step aside to let us past.
We pass through a heavy door and on the other side it is, comparatively, very quiet. We are in General August H. Hargrave's private map room.
Men and women lounge, nude, on couches. It stinks of human exertion. A phonograph is playing an inane Sousa march, but it keeps skipping. The walls are festooned with antique weapons, bizarre trophies, and maddening religious icons.
A sprawling map table dominates the rear half of the room. The disposition of units in the field is not reflected in the toppled models and scattered tanks and little soldier figurines. Trash and empty liquor bottles have arrived to reinforce an objective.
A large TV hangs next to the table, presumably some form of intelligence feed, but it is displaying nothing but a test pattern that periodically ripples and hisses with static. There is a large hand print on the glass in what appears to be jelly.
"General!" Fatso shouts.
General Hargrave shoves his way up from a tangled pile of naked limbs, both male and female. He's pale, thin-limbed, and drenched in oily sweat. And he is stark naked save for a pair of paratrooper's jump boots and his trademark pearl-handled lash pistols. He hitches his gun belt up around his pot belly and climbs out from behind his desk.
Hargrave has a bristly white mustache and a crooked smile, but you notice facial features last when a man is completely naked and coming straight at you.
"My God, is it you?" He asks. "You're come to take- well, you're come to go see the Hero-font. He called on you. That right, boy?"
"It's him," Fatso affirms.
Hargrave flashes him an expression of annoyance and then recovers his awkward smile.
"There's some dried jerky in my desk drawer," he says to Fatso. "Why don't you have yourself a snack and let me talk to the boy."
General Hargrave waits for Fatso to shuffle over to the desk and begin searching the drawers for the jerky.
"Don't you get it? What we have to understand is it's them or us. It can't be all of us, or one. It's got to be us, or they become it. Then we lose what makes us we."
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