A squat, very square building comes into view. It looks like concrete, and much newer than anything else. The lower sections are covered in mud and moss, it looks cheaply made, but it’s standing. I trudge my way over. As if by magic, the door opens and like all magic, is revealed to be some guy you can’t quite see. He’s also wearing coveralls and a vest, but he doesn’t have nearly as many… additions, just a gun. He gestures for me to enter, and I wipe my feet on a welcome mat with little hearts on it. Huh.
The inside is a bit better looking, but not much. It looks a bit like a dirty classroom. A bunch of folding chairs and tables, some cabinets, and a suspiciously clean couch. I opt for one of the chairs and take stalk of my situation. Ten other guys are here including the doorman, nine who look like they’ve been surviving this fresh hell, and one who looks like a salesman. The hairs on my neck stiffen when I look at him, so I pointedly don’t. It seems everyone else is ignoring him, squeaky wheels and all that. Everyone else is muscular, dirty, and tired looking. Beards, shaggy hair, and uneven buzz cuts abound.
A really tall guy with a pack of cigs walks up to me and asks if I have a light. I ran out two weeks ago, so I comply after he hands me one. Two other guys walk over, one with more cigarettes, and the other with a hip flask. We pass it around, smoke, and don’t talk. Nothing like shared addictions to bring people together.
Everyone has nasty scars, bruises, and one guy is missing a hand. He’s attached a clamp in its place and seems to be doing alright. No one could be over thirty, and everyone is either drinking, smoking, or possibly sleeping. It certainly feels like a classroom now. No one is talking, beyond asking for a flask to be passed, or for another cigarette. The suit just looks around, with a big fake smile. Everyone flinches whenever he looks at them. The same guy goes to the door at a gesture from him, and waves in another man, who's carrying a sledgehammer At that, the suit claps his hands, causing all of us to wince.
“Okay, now that everyone’s here, let's get started!” he oozes artificial excitement, like a teacher. What’s with me and all these school metaphors. “You’ve all been selected by the W.S.Y.P. to be the saviors of this world!” lots of waving arms and gestures, none of them at quite the right times. At least his voice sounds normal enough. “You are all the most powerful humans in a thousand miles, all of you strong and reasonably sane. Now, while Johnson told you all to get here, they probably didn’t explain to you why. Gentlemen, you are being invited into a grand opportunity! One you can’t possibly refuse! You’ll have the privilege to work for the W.S.Y.P. and ensure the continuation of your species.”
Everyone is staring into the middle distance, pointedly avoiding eye contact. This is starting to feel less like school and more like prison. I can now see the green alien, “Johnson,” standing in the corner. I don’t know if they just arrived, or I didn’t notice them before, but damn if it isn’t creepy. Their many eyes are glaring at all of us. Nothing like absolute terror to bring people together. The suit keeps talking.
“Your duties and tasks will vary but don’t worry, the system network will be able to inform each of you and keep you in communication,” he hesitated at that, quickly glanced at each of us in turn, sighed and continued speaking, “but because you are all antisocial, none of you have the system network connection. FUCK!” he kicks a table and it goes flying. We all cower away from him as he rants. His face distorts, ripples, and resumes a calm expression.
“We can fix that. Gentlemen, I’m going to be honest with you, you are not normal. All of you have been in prison, eight of you were murderers before the invasion, one of you is a serial killer. But none of that matters, because you are strong, resilient, and within allowable ranges for sanity and/or brain damage. You have survived the hell this world has become and you have thrived. Gentlemen, you are the greatest of humanity in the northwestern world. You’ll have to do.”
He smooths his hair, which doesn’t move and continues. “You’ll receive a myriad of payments. The first and least is a five hundred, what are they calling it here? Experience a month, which will add up in dry spells. You’ll get access to an enormous amount of resources and skills, some of which aren’t yet available to the public, and others which will never be. In addition, you’ll receive several powerful skills right out the gate from signing up.”
Tensions continued to rise. We’re only hearing good things, which means the terrible news has yet to come. Every hair on my body is standing up, and I can feel the restrained violence. The suit’s rapid mood swings are making everyone, including me, very nervous. The feeling I’m getting, he could kill all of us without even a struggle.
“Now, you will have responsibilities, and frankly, quite a lot of them. You will be responsible for dealing with all Adversaries in this section of the world, most of the west coast of this continent, the islands in the Pacific,” he pronounced that very wrong, “and pretty much everything west of the mountains. It won’t be easy but it will be doable. You will also be required to undertake tasks to safeguard your planet and the W.S.Y.P., as well as mounting offensives against various Adversaries. You may even be called to fight on other planets or even galaxies. There really is a lot of room for advancement.”
The tension eased ever so slightly. Knowing what we had to do was a bit of a relief, and the mention of traveling to other planets is honestly exciting. However, I could see a few people getting ready to make a problem. I don’t need any of my skills to tell, I can see it in their shoulders and eyes. As I’m sizing them up, the suit continues.
“There are some downsides though, I must be honest. If you fail in your duties, you will probably die. Hey, that’s life now, at least you’ll get paid for it, eh? This next bit I’m contractually obligated to inform you about. If you deliberately disobey an order, you will be killed. We can’t exactly tolerate traitors, can we? Furthermore, if you do anything that runs counter to the interests of the W.S.Y.P., you will wish they just killed you. And Xodgolo help you if you try to help an Adversary. You will wish you’d never been born. Now, unless there are any questions, you must now decide whether you’ll take this opportunity, or leave through that door there.”
His tone didn’t change during his whole speech, just a vaguely apologetic, mildly upbeat monotone. He kept changing which person he looked at, trying to make eye contact, but no one looked back. The tension rose, the sledgehammer guy stood up. The pressure skyrockets.
“Well, I don’t think we’ll accept that deal, will we lads?” he looks around, evidently expecting support, and finding none. On the contrary, everyone shrunk away from him, not looking at him. The tension keeps rising, like a flooding basement.
The suit, still blankly smiling, looks straight into sledgehammer’s eyes, and speaks, “what is your name, my friend?”
“I am Sam Davis, and I-.” the suit cuts him off with a chopping motion. Fear blossoms in his body language and I can feel the tension meeting a breaking point. The salesman talks again.
“Gentlemen, would you all kindly tear Mr. Davis apart limb from limb?”
This isn’t a compulsion, at least not like before. This was someone directing a mob, using a strong personality, peer pressure, and fear. The same energy that causes fights at football games, that causes prison riots, and gang beatings. No one wants to be seen as not obeying, so everyone leaps to attack. No one wants to be the odd one out, they could be next. My rational brain is running through all this and it agrees that it would be the best course of action to obey. Long before I reach that conclusion, I am moving.
I’m about fifteen feet away from Davis, a table, two people, and several chairs are between us. Within the first two beats after the order, I’m out of my chair and beginning to sprint. By my second step, I’ve made a knife out of glass. The third step, I leap onto the table and tense for another jump. I pounce at Davis. He, not having time to pull out his weapon, tries to punch me. I duck around his haymaker and slash along his arm as my body slams into him. Within a few short heartbeats, another guy is here and helps me knock Davis to the ground.
What happens next is not a clean process, nor is it quick. I stab him over and over. My knife keeps breaking off and I have to keep remaking it. I cut open my hand on the edge, but I keep stabbing. Eventually, Davis stops screaming.