THE FIRST TWO YEARS
Reveille echoed loudly through the fort. “Wake up you lazy buns! Let’s go! On the double! We’ve got a busy day of training ahead of us. Be outside, geared up, and formed up in no more THAN 10 MINUTES or we’re going to have a bad start to the morning!” Screamed a hog named Sergeant Saul Bartholomew (Sgt Bart for short) to the open bay of 40 junior enlisted who are in the last phase of their training before being called to the front.
“grshsmshms….” Grumbled Caiden as he pulled the blanket over his head.
The grey wolf cub had enlisted just six months ago and was starting to have second thoughts. He heard of the glory and adventure from the recruiters but has yet to see any of that. He mainly joined out of a sense of duty and to get some of the education benefits, but those seemed far away at this point. The last few months have been him waking up early, marching, getting yelled at, and working out. Rinse and repeat almost every day for six months. He thought it would lighten up a bit when he graduated basic training, but it only intensified when he was sent to his advanced job specific training at the 364th Training Regiment at Fort Oby (or Fort Obedience Training as the recruits like to call it). Guess he should have expected that when he signed up for the Light Infantry.
“C’mon Caiden….Get up!” said his bunkmate, a lynx named Grayson, as he violently shook Caiden from his slumber, “You can’t be late again! Sarge said I’d get in trouble too if you weren’t out there and I’m not losing my cookie ration cause of you….Now up!”
“UUuuggghhh….Fine fine! I’m up! Keep your diaper on…” groaned Caiden as he turned to see his half dressed friend glaring at him, “…Or maybe you should take that diaper off before it falls off…”
“Ha ha…You know we don’t get changed until after morning brief, now let’s go!” replied Grayson sarcastically as he threw Caiden’s blues at him.
Caiden gave a quick laugh and hopped out of bed and started to get dressed. He slipped out of his standard issued sleeper, tossed it into the hamper, threw his uniform on, grabbed his pacigun, and slipped his boots on as he walked out the door with Grayson to formation.
“…5…4….3- Oh look who it is! If it isn’t my two favorite Privates…Private Grayson “Forgetful” Rogers and Private Caiden” Red bottomed” Smith. Thank you for gracing us with your presence…” jeered Sgt Bart from the front of formation, “Luckily you two just made the cutoff so we all won’t be having a bad day. However; It seems that having a babysitter assigned to you really improves your motivation Private Smith. Since you still want to take your time getting to morning formation everyone loses their cookie ration tonight. Get in line.”
“But Sgt-” started Caiden before he was cut off.
“Get in line soldiers!” interrupted Sgt Bart with a piercing glare.
“Yes Sgt!” replied Caiden and Grayson simultaneously as they fell in.
Once the unit was formed up, Sgt Bart gave the orders of the day that were passed down to him from the Sergeant-Major in charge of training and the Commandant. It was nothing really different from any other day. They were to first report to the caretaker bots and get their diapers changed. From there they would go get chow and then report back to the parade ground for their training. A typical day’s training would include physical training, drill, specialized field training (today’s happened to be cooking in the field), lectures on strategy, and a small window for personal time. After the brief, they were dismissed to morning change and chow.
The platoon grumbled to themselves and side eyed Caiden as they made their way back to the bay.
“OW!” Shouted Caiden as Grayson came up and punched Caiden’s arm firmly, “What was that for?!”
“You know what that was for!” shouted Grayson back frustratedly, “We only get cookies once a week in this phase of training and you blew it for us!”
“No way!” replied Caiden as they got in line to get changed, “Sarge screwed us. WE met his timeline and his rules. He’s just being a jerk. It ain’t right!”
“Well it doesn’t matter now. I guess we’ll just be happy with our yucky broccoli instead…” complained Grayson and he and Caiden were picked up by two different bots and laid on the changing tables next to each other.
“*Sigh* Listen, I’m sorry this happened but it’s not my, or anyone’s, fault other than Sarge’s….” said Caiden trying to explain to his friend who was still mad as Caiden’s trousers were unsnapped and the bots started un-taping his wet diaper, “Ugh, look. I’ll make it up to you and the rest of the guys too…”
“Oh yeah? How?” asked Grayson skeptically as the bot wiped his bum.
“Don’t worry about it…” started Caiden as he motioned towards the bots with his eyes, “Let’s just say that we’ll all get our just desserts tonight…”
Caiden reached out his fist to Grayson for a fist bump as a sign of reconciliation. Grayson smirked, rolled his eyes, and fist bumped him back as a clean diaper was taped on.
“We better.” Giggled Grayson as both of them were re-dressed and put back on the ground.
The rest of the day went as planned and briefed. They drilled and trained until the sun started to set and then they went to evening chow where they were given an extra serving of broccoli instead of cookies. After that, they headed back to the bay for a change and their half an hour of free time before bedtime.
During their free time the NCOs more or less left them unsupervised so the privates could do as they pleased within the rules of the camp.
“Way to go Smith! Hope you enjoyed that broccoli as much as the rest of us…” chided a meerkat from a couple bunks down.
“Hey leave-“ started Grayson ready to defend his friend before being cut off by said friend.
“Whoa there buddy, easy…” calmed Caiden as he grabbed his friend’s arm and sat him down before turning to the rest of the bay, “Alright guys, it wasn’t my fault that we lost out on our cookies…”
The cubs started to get rowdy at that comment before Caiden got their attention again.
“….Let me finish…Let me finish…” said Caiden trying to calm the crowd, “I was going to say that even though it wasn’t my fault that we lost out on our cookies that I was going to make it right.”
“How?!” asked a piglet from the other side of the bay, a little irritated but also interested.
“He has a plan!” announced Grayson who was standing on the bed now.
“…Yes, I have a plan…” reiterated Caiden as he calmed his loyal friend down again.
“’What is it?’ ‘How you gonna do it?’ When’s it going to happen?’” asked multiple cubs in the bay.
“Everybody relax! You’ll all get some cookies. TONIGHT. You’ll get them an hour or so after lights out so you have that to look forward to. The less you all know about the plan the better. This is a solo operation so if anyone asks you all know nothing. Got it?” explained Caiden to the platoon.
The cubs all nodded and agreed to Caiden’s plan and started getting ready for bed. They all got in into their standard issued sleepers and tucked themselves in. The caretaker bots came by in case anyone needed a last-minute change followed by Sgt Bart who made sure every cub was in their bed before cutting the lights and closing the door.
Caiden waited about 10 minutes before throwing off his covers and rolling out of bed. He never changed into his sleeper but kept on his white undershirt and trousers and grabbed his dark blue trench coat and a tricorn hat that he brought from home out of his footlocker. He also grabbed a large cloth bag and started to sneak out. The rest of the bay was still awake in anticipation of the cookies and gave Caiden a silent nod or thumbs up on his way out.
He made his way just outside the door and hid behind a rain barrel to get his bearings. The mess hall was where the unit's supply of cookies were held and they were almost as well guarded as the munitions and weapons in the armory….Almost. The mess hall was on the other side of the parade ground from the barracks where Caiden was at. He had to stick to the shadows along the edge of the fort walls and avoid the patrols of the Military Police walking the wall. Caiden did just that. He ducked and dipped in the shadows until he got to just outside the mess hall. He could take a quick breather as that was the easy part.
Now he had to get inside and into the secured ration room in the back of the building. There were no guards inside the building but he still had to act quickly and quietly as a night crew is due to come in to start prepping some food for the MPs that are on duty in the next half hour. Caiden was able to get inside the mess hall with ease. The front door was locked, but the side door was still unlocked for some inexplicable and lucky reason. Caiden maneuvered his way through the building and found the room labeled “Rations”
‘Poop!’ thought Caiden to himself.
He had prepared to pick a keyhole lock but it looks to have been switched out with a combination lock. He sat there for 15 minutes trying to crack the three-digit code but nothing was working. He had nothing to go off of.
‘…Wait a minute….” Thought Caiden to himself as he saw the regiment flag on the wall and tried another combo, ‘…It can’t be that easy…*Click!* OK, I guess it is.’
Caiden pulled the padlock off and went inside. He turned the light on and found a treasure trove of goodies. Everything from cookies, candy, and sweets to kegs of root beer, different cheeses, and specialty super soft cloth diapers for the high ranking officers.
‘Maybe I could take a few extra things for myself…’ thought Caiden to himself as he reached for some chocolate but stopped, ‘No no, focus. That’s not the mission here. Get in, take what’s ours, and get out.’
Caiden dumped about 4 dozen cookies out of the jars and into his cloth bag. He then tied it up, threw the bag over his shoulder, cut the light and left the room. Caiden quietly closed the door and put the lock back and headed down the hall. Suddenly he stopped before rounding the corner to the exit.
‘Poop on a stick!’ cursed Caiden to himself as he peeked his head and saw the night crew setting up for late chow, ‘These do-gooders are early’
The only exit from where he was is past the workers and across the dining area. The wolf cub looked around for another way out but there wasn’t and the MPs would be in for chow any moment. He had to create a diversion. He popped one of the brass buttons off of his trench coat and took aim. He aimed for some glassware in the back and nailed it! The glasses came crashing down and while the staff went to investigate Caiden sprinted through the dining area and out the door.
‘Phew! That was a close one…”OOF!” whispered Caiden to himself before running straight into an MP on his way to chow, “H-hey fellas….Nice night for a stroll huh?”
“Well well well, looky what we’ve got here…” said the Doberman MP before he and his partner grabbed Caiden, “Someone is out past curfew AND with some goodies. I’m sure your platoon sergeant and the Sergeant-Major would be glad to hear the explanation on this one.”
Caiden whimpered as he was dragged to the jail and tossed inside.
About ten minutes later the cell door opened to a furious, and half dressed, Sgt Bart. Caiden stood at parade rest in preparation for his tongue lashing but was quickly pinned against the wall.
“ARE YOU FLIPPING KIDDING ME SMITH?! IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?! I GET WOKEN UP TO FIND OUT THAT ONE OF MY TROOPS, MY TROOPS!!, WAS CAUGHT OUT PAST CURFEW! NOT ONLY THAT BUT WITH A LARGE SACK OF CONTRABAND?! GIVE ME ONE REASON! ONE! ON WHY I SHOULDN’T RECOMMEND A PADDLING AND IMMEDIATE DISCHARGE?! HUH!?” Screamed Sgt Bart
“Well sir, it’s simple. I didn’t steal anything. I simply grabbed something that was unfairly taken from us.” Explained Caiden with a straight face.
“UNFAI- UNFAIRLY!!!...” Stuttered Sgt Bart as he was about to pop a vein.
“Yes Sgt, Private Rogers, myself, and the rest of the platoon met all of your demands throughout the whole day, including the time hack you gave us for formation. You then unjustly took our cook-“ explained Caiden calmly before being interrupted.
“UNJUSTLY! I'M THE GOSH DARN PLATOON SERGEANT! IF I COMMAND YOU TO EAT OUT OF THE DIRTY DIAPER BIN THEN YOU DO IT AND YOU DO IT WITH A SMILE ON YOUR FACE!” Rambled Sgt Bart as Caiden started to say something to counter that point when he was cut off again, “WE HAVE A MEETING WITH SERGEANT-MAJOR O’KEEFE A O’ DARK THIRTY AT NIGHT BECAUSE OF YOU AND I’M RECOMMENDING IMMEDIATE DISCHARGE FOLLOWING A PUBLIC PADDLING FOR YOUR INSUBORDINATE, DISRESPECTFUL, THIEVING LITTLE BUTT!”
With that, Caiden was escorted to the Sergeant-Majors office by two MP’s and Sgt Bart.
After sitting in the waiting area for a few minutes, they were called in. Caiden marched in flanked by the two MPs and Sgt Bart next to them, then stopped, turned, and stood at parade rest.
“*Sigh* OK, thank you gentlemen, but I don’t think the private here is a violent threat. You’re free to wait outside thank you.” Commanded a calm, but clearly tired terrier named Sergeant-Major Sean O’Keefe, “Now Sergeant Bartholomew can you please explain to me why we’re in my office, this late at night, with your uniform a mess and the Private in a random assortment of clothes, and a bag of cookies? Is this not something you can take care of yourself?”
“W-well sergeant-major, I felt like this was a serious offence he committed and I’m looking for him to be severely punished and discharged from our great army…” stuttered Sgt Bart as Caiden stood there silently with a stone cold face.
O’Keefe looked at the Sgt and then at Caiden.
“Ok Sergeant. Let me know the charges that you’re bringing against the Private here.” Decided O’Keefe as he sat back in his chair and listened.
Sgt Bart went on and on about how Caiden was a sloppy, disrespectful, and lazy soldier.
“I’m sorry Sergeant, but I’m going to have to stop you right there. None of those things are crimes. They’re some things that shouldn’t be happening but not crimes. I sure hope you’re not wasting my time…” interrupted O’Keefe as he started to sound irritated.
Sergeant Bart apologized and laid out the charges of breaking curfew, stealing, and insubordination. Of course, he put his own spin on it and made himself look like a saint. After the Sergeant finished, the Sergeant-Major paused and thought for a moment before turning to Caiden.
“These are some very serious charges Private. Do you have anything so say to counter these charges or explain yourself?” asked O’Keefe calmly
Caiden remained quiet for a moment and just gritted his teeth. He thought there would be nothing he could say to counter these accusations.
“No Sergeant-Major…” answered Caiden calmly but with a scowl on his face.
“It’s ok Private, you’re free to defend yourself. It’s your right.” Encouraged O’Keefe as he noticed Caiden quickly side eye Sergeant Bart, “Hm, Sergeant Bart, will you please excuse us? I need to speak with Private Smith in private.
“B-but sergeant-“ stuttered Bart before being cut off.
“Sergeant Bart, it may have sounded like a question but I assure you it was not.” Responded O’Keefe with a stern voice.
The Sergeant reluctantly obeyed and left the room.
“OK Private, at ease and have a seat.” Commanded O’Keefe as he poured some water in a sippy cup and passed it to Caiden, “Here, you look thirsty. Now if there’s something I’ve learned in my 17 years of service, it’s that there are always two sides to every story. Before I make any ruling or decision in these cases I always hear both sides if possible. Now take a breath, take a sip, and talk to me.”
Caiden was severely taken off guard. He had been in an intense training environment over the last six months and this is the first time anyone had treated him like a normal person. So Caiden obeyed and took a breath, took more than a few sips of water, and then started to explain himself. Caiden explained the events from that morning and how his unit was unfairly punished despite them meeting all of Bart’s demands and that he was just acquiring what was rightfully his and his unit’s.
“Interesting, so you did all of this because you felt you, and your unit, were unfairly punished?” asked O’Keefe, interested.
“Yes Sergeant-Major.” Answered Caiden.
“Please, just call me Sergeant while we’re in here. Sergeant-Major is such a mouthful.” Started O’Keefe, “So since this was for your whole unit, I’m assuming the whole unit knew and was in on…”
“No Sergeant!” Lied Caiden a bit too aggressively, “I mean no, Sergeant….”
The Sergeant-Major waved his paw to indicate it was ok.
“Now, tell me about this ONE man operation you were running there. How did you break in and get the cookies?” asked O'Keefe, very interested.
Caiden explained that he snuck out of the barracks, how he waited and learned the patrol paths and timing, how he got inside the mess hall and into the rations room before he was stopped.
“Wait a minute, it’s resourceful on how you were able to learn the patrol routes and get inside of the mess hall, but how did you get past the lock? Did you break it?” asked the terrier.
“Oh, no Sergeant, I didn’t break anything in this operation. Well, except for a few dinner glasses….which I’ll gladly pay for!...No, I uh, cracked the code on the lock.” Admitted Caiden.
“Really?...and how did you manage that. As far as I know, only the two day and night shift officers and NCOs had the combo. Am I right in assuming that you somehow coerced them into giving you the combo?” interrogated O’Keefe.
“N-no Sergeant. The code was just too easy…” replied Caiden.
“Oh? How so?” asked O’Keefe surprised.
“Well I guessed the code was something that was easy to remember for those that made it…” started Caiden, “It’s 3-6-4 Sergeant….The number designator of our unit.”
“*Groans* You’re joking…” said O’Keefe as he put his head in his paws.
“…No Sergeant. I’d recommend checking all the padlocks on post. I’m sure there are othe-….Sorry Sergeant, I’m not trying to tell you how to run-“ Suggested Caiden before stopping himself.
“Relax, I know you mean well.” Waved off the Terrier, “Now please finish the rest of your story.”
Caiden explained how he took the cookies and slipped them in the bag.
“There’s a lot of good stuff in that room. What else did you take?” asked O’Keefe intensely.
“N-nothing Sergeant. Just the cookies.” Stuttered Caiden nervously.
“Are you sure?! If I have the MPs check the bag and search you they’re not going to find anything else?!” interrogated O’Keefe even more intensely trying to poke a hole in Caiden’s story or get him to crack.
“No Sergeant! All I took were the cookies that me and the rest of my platoon deserved!” replied back Caiden confidently, “You can search my things if you need to. You’ll only find the cookies.”
“Oh I intend to, Private.” Replied the Sergeant-Major as he calmed down, “Continue please.”
Caiden calmed down as well and finished the story on how he created the diversion, got out of the mess hall, ran into the MPs, and the threats Sergeant Bart threw at him.
“Is that it?” asked O’Keefe.
“Yes Sergeant, it is. I just wanted to say that I’m sorry for the trouble that I caused, but I’d honestly do it again. I believe me and my friends were wronged and it deserved to be rectified.” Apologized Caiden.
The Sergeant Major got up and went to the window at the side of his office. He stood there quietly for what seemed like an hour when in reality it was just minutes. Caiden nervously sat there sipping on his water.
“Ok Private. You’re dismissed for the moment. Go out and wait in the lobby and let the Sergeant know that I need to speak with him. After that I’ll call you back in and explain what’s going to happen.” Instructed the terrier as Caiden obeyed.
Caiden exited the office and let Sergeant Bart know that the Sergeant-Major wanted to see him.
Caiden waited quietly in the lobby while Sarge was in the office. About ten minutes later the Sergeant burst out of the office with a scowl on his face. He stopped at Caiden and glared at him. After a solid two second angry stare, he head nodded in the direction of the Sergeant-Major’s office and then left the building. Caiden nervously entered the office again and stood at parade-rest at the Sergeant-Major’s desk.
“The good Sergeant and I had a good and long conversation on what to do with you. He wanted you publicly paddled and discharged. Are you aware?” asked O’Keefe.
“Yes Sergeant!” answered Caiden.
“Good. Now all the crimes that Sergeant Bartholomew charged you with could very well warrant those sentences….” Started the Sergeant Major much to Caiden dismay, “But both of those sentences would require a court martial with Cub Guard High Command and then I would have to notify the Commandant, and then we’d have to go through a whole circus with a trial. I find that route very messy and tiring when we can just simply deal with this in house.”
Caiden sighed a breath of relief and relaxed just a bit.
“Don’t relax too much Private Smith, there will still be repercussions.” Warned O’Keefe, “Now, when you first arrived at this post there were briefings on how the IG system works and how to use it. In fact, I know I briefed your incoming class. Do you remember this?”
“Yes Sergeant.” Answered Caiden.
“So instead of going through the proper channels when you felt your Sergeant was of line, you decided to take matters into your own paws?” continued the terrier.
“Yes Sergeant.” The wolf cub repeated.
“So you were aware of the IG system, ignored it, broke curfew, broke into a secured area, stole items out of the secured area, and broke mess hall equipment?!” asked Sergeant-Major sternly and loudly.
“Yes, Sergeant…” Caiden repeated again but very solemnly and nervous.
“All of those things would normally go straight to the Cub High Guard with my endorsement happily on it and do you know why I’m not doing that this time!?” asked the terrier even more loudly.
Caiden just nodded nervously.
“Because you did all those things, not for yourself, but for your unit.” Replied O’Keefe calmly, “However misguided your little “mission” was you saw a need for your fellow troops, and put yourself before them by trying this stupid little mission. It was a completely selfless, but again stupid, move getting those cookies and not taking anything else out of there or more than you needed. The MPs say you took around 45 or so cookies and you have 40 cubs in your unit so that checks out. It shows even more about you and the loyalty you have for your men that you didn’t rat out the rest of your platoon for knowing about your little operation-“
“Sergeant it was just me-“ Interrupted Caiden before he was interrupted back.
“Save it Private, I know some or all of your platoon is expecting you to come back with a bag full of cookies. I’m not an idiot and I’m also not going to push the issue. As far as anyone is concerned, you’re the only one at fault.” Assured the Sergeant-Major as Caiden nodded.
“All that being said here’s what’s going to happen. Your platoon Sergeant, Sergeant….Bartholomew! That’s his name. Anyhow, I decided to give him a…promotion of sorts for…bringing this situation to my attention. This isn’t the first time me and Sergeant Bartholomew have had…conversations so it’s been a long time coming. He’s being transferred to the security manager for the fort. He’ll be looking for vulnerabilities and weaknesses in our perimeter and processes…like lock combos for example. Additionally, I’d like to say that he did nothing illegal by taking your rations. This is a training environment. He’s more than within his rights to do so as your Platoon Sergeant, or former rather, to maintain good order and discipline. That being said, I wouldn’t have taken the route he did but it is what it is. Is all of that understood?” Lectured the terrier.
“Yes Sergeant!” answered Caiden loudly and proudly.
“Good next order of business is the stolen goods. Since you went through all of the trouble for your comrades, I see it as fair that they get their just rewards.” Revealed O’Keefe, much to Caiden surprise.
“T-thank you Sergeant..” replied Caiden.
“Oh don’t thank me just yet, I haven’t revealed your punishment yet.” Continued the Sergeant-Major, “I’ve reviewed your file, I see that you’ve already received two spankings in the short time you’ve been in. Both at Fort Soggybottom during basic training. One for sneaking off to the local pub and another for….*snickers* getting caught sleeping with the Commandant’s favorite plushie. It says you were mildly spanked over your pants by the caretaker bots as a warning of sorts. I see you’re going for a record of how many times a soldier can get spanked throughout one enlistment. Three is a good start. Yes, I said three. You will be getting the spanking of a lifetime this evening. I’ll be personally escorting you to the caretaker bots after this meeting for you to be spanked on your bare bottom until I’m satisfied you’ve learned your lesson. As an enlisted member, I can not sentence you to a paddling without an officer’s approval, but I would if I could. This is the next best thing in my opinion. You may have thought your actions were just, but in reality you broke multiple rules. As the Sergeant-Major of this fort I cannot, in good conscience, let those actions go unanswered. Understand?”
“Yes Sergeant…” replied Caiden nervously
“Good. Additionally, you have lost your cookie rations for the next two months to include any of the bounty from tonight as a way to replenish the cookie supply, you will be on diaper pail emptying duty for the remainder of the month, docked a week’s pay for the broken glass, and on probation with regular one-on-one meetings with your new platoon sergeant to talk about your behavior and mentor you. Let me be clear about this, if I get any report, ANY REPORT, about misbehavior or problems coming from you I will raise this issue up the flag pole and you’ll wish you were never born. Is. That. Understood?” asked the terrier very directly.
“Y-yes Sergeant Major. I-I understand.” Stuttered Caiden.
“Good. Now we’re going to stop by your barracks before meeting with the caretaker bots.” Said O’Keefe as he signed a few documents and shuffled some of his paperwork into a folder and grabbed his trench coat before putting his paw on Caiden’s shoulder, “I believe in rehabilitation rather than revenge. I also believe that you have potential based off of what you did for your comrades tonight. Just be sure that loyalty and love is not misguided. Use your head next time, be smarter and you could be destined for greater things…or you could find yourself in a Time-Out cell for the remainder of your enlistment. It’s really up to you.”
Caiden nodded and they left the office.
“Gentlemen, you’re free to go tonight. I’ll write up a good report to your supervisors. Good work tonight.” Complimented the Sergeant-Major to the MPs as they left the returned to their posts.
Caiden and Sergeant-Major O’Keefe left the headquarters building together and walked to the barracks where Sergeant Bart was waiting with the bag of cookies.
“Ok, Sergeant. We’re ready.” Said the terrier to the hog as they walked into the bay and turned on the lights.
“UP AND AT ‘EM PRIVATES! SERGEANT-MAJOR IN THE BARRACKS!!” Shouted Sergeant Bart as the cubs in the bay scrambled to get up and stand at parade-rest in front of their beds.
Half of the cubs look like they were just awoken by a screeching hog and the others appeared like they were already awake.
“It seems that there was an error earlier today regarding your cookie rations. Luckily for you all, Sergeant Bartholomew and Private Smith brought the issue to my attention and were fortunate in securing the rations that were owed to you.” Spoke the Sergeant-Major to the cubs in the bay as he motioned to Sergeant Bart who in turn placed the bag of cookies on the table, “Also Sergeant Bart has just been promoted to our fort’s new security manager! So let’s give him a round of applause…”
The bay awkwardly applauded the Sergeant.
“You will all have a new platoon Sergeant come morning. Now I apologize for interrupting your sleep. Please, enjoy your rations.” Said O’Keefe as he grabbed Caiden by his ear and left the bay.
Sergeant Bart left as well and headed for the NCO barracks. Once the three left the bay, the cubs raided the bag and made sure they each got at least one cookie.
Meanwhile, Caiden was being led to the Caretaker bot housing, which happened to be caddy-corner to the barracks, by O’Keefe. The Sergeant-Major opened the garage door all the way. Inside was a Caretaker Bot sitting at a table sized for her and reading a book.
“It gets a bit warm in here and besides, I think your platoon would benefit from hearing our…discussion.” Said O’Keefe as he made his way over to the Caretaker Bot at the table.
The Sergeant-Major explained the crimes Caiden had been found guilty of and gave the Caretaker Bot a stack of papers.
“The paperwork seems to be in order and it’s signed….yes by you Sergeant-Major O’Keefe. *Sigh* I hate to have to do this, but you are in definite need of correction young man.” Said the Caretaker Bot disappointedly as she started to untape Caiden’s soaked diaper “How many swats am I to give the young Private, Sergeant-Major Sean O’Keefe?”
“Good question Miss Helen. Continue the spanking until I’m satisfied he’s learned his lesson.” Replied O’Keefe as he sat down in a folding chair to observe.
“Oh dear, come now little cub. It’s time we talked about your misbehavior…” agreed Helen as she picked up Caiden and laid him over her lap.
Caiden whimpered as he was laid over the Caretaker Bot’s lap with his bare butt in the open, and tail pinned back. The Sergeant-Major nodded to the Caretaker Bot and the spanking commenced. The swats could be heard in the nearby barracks and the surrounding area. Caiden held back his tears and crying until about the 20th swat and he broke. His cries could be heard in the barracks and the cubs knew what was happening. After 45 swats, the Sergeant-Major decided that Caiden had had enough and asked Helen the Caretaker Bot to stop. She obliged and let the bawling and blubbering Private with a bright red butt up and led him to a nearby changing table to put him in a new diaper. The Caretaker Bot put him in a clean diaper and set him in front of the Sergeant-Major where he dismissed him and ordered him back to his bed. Caiden made his way back in just his diaper, carrying his clothes in one hand and rubbing his throbbing butt with the other. He entered the bay to find his comrades in arms fast asleep with the bag empty on the table where he left it. The sniffling tot made his way to his bunk, put his clothes away, slipped into his sleeper and settled into his bed. As soon as he laid his head on his pillow he felt something rigid. Caiden opened the pillow case and one whole cookie and two halves of another one. Caiden smiled at the kind gesture and for the first time since he’s been in he’s feeling hopeful. Even after the butt busting he just received he finally felt some hope for the future. Soon, He has a mentor and someone to look up to in the Sergeant-Major and he has the love and support of his fellow brothers and sisters in arms. He quickly scarfed down the cookies and went right to sleep….on his front side of course.
-End of part 1
The Massacre at Ponyton
Ever since Caiden was busted, in more ways than one, for the failed cookie heist things were improving. Like the Sergeant-Major said, the new platoon Sergeant was there to greet them that very next morning. Sergeant Ludvik Baker, a lion cub, was tapped as the new platoon Sergeant. He came over from a HQ staff position at the request and recommendation of the Sergeant-Major. Sergeant Baker was a tough, but fair leader. Not much to Caiden’s surprise, the new Sergeant was all over him for the first month while he was on probation. Pretty much anywhere Caiden turned, whether it be at changing time or chow or emptying the diaper pails, Sergeant Baker always seemed to be there making sure Caiden was doing what he was supposed to be doing. The mentor sessions were intense too. The lion cub was very critical of anything Caiden appeared to be doing wrong. When Caiden started to get annoyed at the situation, he would just take a breath and remember it was his fault that he was in this situation and it’s only making him a better soldier. After about a month, Caiden probationary period was lifted and things started to get back to some sense of normality for him. The constant monitoring and badgering was eased and the other additional punishments he was given expired as well. He even found that the cubs in his unit respected and appreciated him more and more. They all know what he did for them and what he had to endure as a result of it. They knew they could trust him.
About two months had passed since that fateful night and his platoon had finally graduated their advanced training and were officially Light Infantry in everything but real combat experience. Their whole platoon was assigned to the 8th Army/Western Division/52nd Brigade/Lt. Colonel Riker’s Battalion/Bravo Company/Light Infantry Platoon which also happened to be based out of Fort Oby. Normally would be redistributed throughout the Army and fill gaps, but the 52nd Brigade was just stood up so the whole training platoon stayed together and filled that need with a few experienced NCOs to guide them from other units. They didn’t have to move far, just one crappy barracks to a slightly better one. Now that they were out of the training regiments quality of life improved drastically for them. Since the Brigade was not deployed at the moment, they just focused on their training. They did a lot more field exercises and mobility training. Things like wargames, cooking in the field, survival training, tracking, how to set up and tear down camp, and even buddy changes in case a Caretaker Bot was not around. Their work days were cut to 8 hours for the most part as opposed to the 12 hours they endured in the training regiments and they got their weekends back. Caiden and his comrades weren’t the only ones that moved over either. Sergeant-Major O’Keefe was promoted to the position of Sergeant-Major at the Battalion level so he would deploy whenever the Battalion did.
Almost another year passed and there were still no orders to deploy. Caiden and the rest of the platoon were starting to wonder if they’ll go through their whole enlistment without ever seeing combat. At this point, Caiden had been in for just shy of two years.
“Ugh! Are we ever going to leave this place?!” Vented Caiden out loud to his best friend Grayson as he sat down on a log by a campfire before sarcastically saying, “Join the Army! See the World! Fight for glory!...What a joke.”
“Oh lighten up sourpuss!” replied the lynx cub playfully as he warmed his paws by the evening fire, “Things could always be worse. If anything, we’re still getting fed and paid…AND you just earned your next stripe so congrats Private 1st Class Caiden Alexander Smith…”
“Oh thank you sir, but I think you seem to forget that I was promoted four months after you and the rest of the platoon…” replied Caiden sarcastically.
“Hmmm….do you think that had anything to do with the one night you spent an hour over Miss Helen’s knee bawling and begging her…?” asked Grayson with a smirk.
“Ok, first off! I did all those things for the platoon!” replied Caiden with a very serious face before dropping the act and smiling, “…Secondly….It was like 10 minutes at best…and I only cried a little….or a lot a bit…Regardless! You schmucks are four months ahead of me rank wise now!”
“Well, I’ll say it again…It could always be worse. As you could tell over the last four months, none of us cared or picked on you for being a Private so stop your bellyaching.” Laughed Grayson.
“Leave it to Grayson to always find the bright side…” chuckled Caiden as he lightly punched Grayson’s arm only to have the gesture returned.
Suddenly they heard some shouting by the gate and the doors starting to open. Once they were opened two cubs in green uniforms came rushing in on horseback to the HQ building.
“Couriers this late at night? That’s strange…” thought Caiden out loud as the riders rode past.
“Must be important if they’re coming now. Plus, those aren’t our Battalion’s uniforms…I think they’re either the Division’s or Brigade’s colors….” Continued Grayson.
“…Well if it’s important, I’m sure they’ll let us know.” Assured Caiden as he stood up and stretched, “I’m going to pay a visit to Miss Mary or Miss Ani for a change and then I’m hittin’ the hay. Thanks for putting up with me and letting me vent.”
“Huh, oh yeah, anytime friend. Have a good night.” Replied Grayson with a worried tone.
Caiden waved and left. He thought that something may be bothering Grayson but he shrugged it off and went about his business. Caiden got changed into a clean diaper and went to bed shortly after like he said he would.
About 5 hours after Caiden went to sleep the door to the barracks busted open.
“Everybody up! Emergency Commander’s Call at the parade grounds in half an hour. Be in uniform and formation by then. Let’s go! Everyone up!” shouted Sergeant Baker as he made the transfer over from the training regiment as well.
Caiden grumbled as he was loudly awoken. Ever since he moved over to the 52nd there really hasn’t been any surprise wake-ups unless they were in big trouble. Strangely the Sergeant didn’t seem mad, so something else must be going on. Caiden slipped out of his sleeper and into his blues and rushed out to formation with five minutes to spare. The whole fort was outside and formed out. The Battalion Commander, a hawk named Lt. Colonel Riker, and Sergeant-Major O’Keefe were at the grandstand with the rest of the brass. The men were murmuring to each other in formation, wondering what was going on. Right on cue Lt. Col Riker stepped up and got on the microphone.
“Good evening soldiers!...or good morning would be more appropriate! I have called this meeting to inform you that our time has come. General Xavier of the Western Division has ordered the 52nd Brigade, to include our Battalion, to reinforce his position at Cradletop. Over the last few weeks, our intelligence units and scout teams have spotted a large Demon force gathering in the thick forest between Ponyton and Cradletop. It’s one of the largest gatherings we’ve seen in a while with their numbers estimated to be between 1000 and 5000 strong. With the dangers and thickness of the forest it is difficult to confirm said numbers. Intelligence suggests that the horde will move east towards Cradletop. Not only is there a large and generally unprotected civilian population there, but the winds will more than likely carry the scent of the city and lure the demons there. A defensive position has already been established at Cradletop and they are well fortified now that the Western division has moved in. Like I said earlier our orders are to reinforce them at Cradletop. Since our battalion is the furthest away from Cradletop, we will be making camp south of the forest near Ponyton. In the event we’re needed a scout or courier will notify us and we’ll move in to assist. It’s a simple, yet important mission nonetheless. We will be breaking camp in four hours and marching west towards Ponyton. Your C.O.s and NCOs will provide you with specific at the conclusion of this meeting. Thank you ladies and gentlemen. It’s an honor to serve with you. May Mother protect us all!” concluded Lt. Col Riker as he saluted the crowd and dismissed them.
Immediately after dismissal everyone scrambled to do what they needed to do. Caiden and Grayson sprinted back to their barracks and started packing.
“I can’t believe it! It’s really happening!” said Caiden out loud as he started to pack his things, “…ok what to bring what to bring….extra socks, ammo pouch…make sure it’s full…it is…, pacigun, sleeping bag…what else…?”
“You may want to throw some snacks and extra diapers in there. You never know with supply…” half joked Grayson as he was doing the same.
“Hey bud, I noticed you were a little off before I left last night. You ok?” asked Caiden as he continued to pack.
“Oh uh, yeah. I’m fine. Haha, I was just a little tired is all.” Replied Grayson nervously as he finished packing, “You almost done?”
“…Yes! Just finished!” replied Caiden as he stood up and turned to Grayson, “Well tired or something else, we’ll get through this you and I. No worries. Heck, we’re not even going to see any combat. We’re just there for moral support.”
Grayson nodded at Caiden’s reassuring words as they left their bags to go grab one last bite to eat and one last diaper change before they headed off.
The battalion was formed up and ready to march half an hour before schedule. Lt. Col Riker’s battalion was 1,100 cubs strong. It consisted of 800 regular infantry, 100 cavalry, 50 artillery with 8 cannons, 50 light infantry (40 from Caiden’s platoon, and 10 NCOs brought in for experience), and the remaining 100 were split between the brass, supply, and other support roles. Unofficially they brought five Caretaker Bots to assist with the needs of the cubs in a strictly non-combat role. Once everyone was ready, Lt. Col Riker gave the command to march and he led the way with Sergeant-Major O’Keefe. Right behind them was the calvary, followed by the infantry, then the artillery, and finally the supply wagons and teams. The light infantry were spread out at various distances around the large formation. Mainly they were in front and scouting the road ahead, but there were also a few sprinkled on the flanks and rear just in case. It wasn’t a dangerous journey to Ponyton but it was still good practice for the light infantry to employ this tactic. They marched from sunrise to sundown and made camp in a clearing about a half days journey to Ponyton.
Caiden and Grayson made their tent and then plopped down in exhaustion. Not long after they sat down, one of the supply Privates came and passed them their rations for the evening. It was some kind of questionable stew, stale bread, and two cookies.
“Wow, one day on the road and the food is already gross and stale…” complained Caiden as he picked up his cookies and put them in his backpack for later, “At least these are still pretty fresh.”
Grayson nodded and they both ate the food the best they could. Grayson was suspiciously quiet throughout the meal but Caiden didn’t mind on account he was exhausted. After they finished, Caiden picked up a coloring book and started doodling. Grayson, on the other hand stepped outside, Caiden looked up and wondered where he was going but figured it out when he saw Grayson’s silhouette on the back of the tent and noticed him crouching. Caiden knew that Grayson didn’t like to do his business in front of others if he could help it, so Caiden went back to coloring and waited for his friend to go get changed. Grayson’s silhouette disappeared moments later, but he entered the tent a few minutes later.
“…That was fast. No line at the Changing tent..?” asked Caiden not even looking up from his coloring book.
“Um, well not exactly. Um, quite the opposite actually…” stammered Grayson as he started to blush.
“…What do you mean?” asked Caiden as he put his book down and looked at his friend.
“Well uh, there’s a HUGE line at the changing tent and it may be an hour before I get through it so I was kinda wonderin’ if you could…-“ started Grayson before he was cut off by Caiden.
“No.” said Caiden flatly as he went back to his book.
“C’mon man! That line is huge and I don’t want to get a rash before we march tomorrow!....I’d do the same for you…” argued Grayson holding the back of his pants.
“Still no. There’s five perfectly good Caretaker Bots that’ll do it. Not my job.” Repeated Caiden coldly.
“You’re something else! You really are! You know I’d do this for you! H-E-double hockey sticks! I HAVE done this for you before. We both used each other to get certified for buddy changes…” argued and cursed Grayson some more as he was on the verge of tears.
“Ok…Ok….relax. We only changed each other because it was our job at the time, we’re fortunate enough to have Caretaker Bots here to help us…” responded Caiden calmly as he noticed a tear run down his best friend’s face, “*Sigh* …but….but…I’ll help you out this time…It’ll cost you though!”
“Thanks buddy, I knew you’d come around. What do you want?” asked Grayson while he pulled out a clean diaper, plastic bag, wipes, and powder out of his bag.
“Your cookies.” Demanded Caiden flatly as he closed the tent door, “Both of them.”
“Oh come on Caiden. Really…?” asked Grayson with an annoyed look on his face as Caiden nodded, “Ugh! Fine here!
Grayson passed Caiden the cookies and he added them to his stash in his backpack.
“Good, now lay down so we can get this over with.” Instructed Caiden as Grayson laid on his sleeping bag and Caiden unsnapped the snaps on Grayson’s trousers, “Whew! You’re really going to make me do this…?”
“I’m not making you…I’m paying you so get on with it!” shouted Grayson clearly annoyed.
Caiden was taken back at his friend’s response. They always gave each other a hard time, but it rarely erupted into shouting. Caiden silently untapped Grayson’s diaper and pulled it back. Caiden winced when the fumes hit his nose but pushed through and wiped the mess away from Grayson’s backside with the front of the used diaper while Grayson laid there with his arms crossed and a scowl on his face.
“…So uh look. I’m sorry for giving you a hard time about this. I was just messing with you (no pun intended)…Is there something else going on? You’ve seemed out of it the last few days…” asked Caiden as he cleaned Grayson’s diaper area with wipes.
“…It’s ok…I shouldn’t have blown up at you like that…even though you’re a butt sometimes…” smirked both boys as Caiden pulled the dirty diaper out from underneath Grayson and replaced it with the clean one, “…It’s just that I’m….nervous is all…”
“Nervous? About what? Fighting in the battle?” asked Caiden concerned as he rolled up the dirty diaper and placed it in the plastic bag and grabbed the powder.
“Well, not just that. I’m nervous, no terrified! What’ll happen if the demons get my soul?!” admitted Grayson as Caiden powdered his butt and front side, “…I don’t want to be trapped like that…
“Wow, I had no idea that was bothering you…I’m sorry..” responded Caiden as he pulled the new diaper over his front and taped it up, “Listen, we’re going to be fine. We’re not even going to be at the frontline. We’ll be nice and safe as backup.”
“But we could still see combat Caiden!” countered Grayson as he sat up.
“You’re right, we could. It’s not likely but we could. Now even if we do get in on the action, we’re going to be side by side and we’re not going to let anything happen to each other…And Mother forbid anything does, the nurses always get our souls back….and then we get rich off of disability and discharged.” Half joked Caiden.
“…There’s still a chance our souls could be taken and the nurses take too long to retrieve them and we go crazy…Then we get our minds wiped and regressed!” whimpered Grayson, “That’s the scariest part for me. Forgetting everything and everyone and starting over…”
“Aw bud, it’s ok. That almost never happens. It’s so rare nowadays with the technology we have. I promise we’ll be fine. We’ll have each other’s back the whole way.” Assured Caiden as he offered his paw.
“Y-yeah, thanks buddy.” Replied Grayson as he wiped away a tear and got helped up by Caiden.
“Good, now take care of this stink bomb.” Laughed Caiden as he tossed the bag at his friend.
Grayson giggled as he left the tent and the door open so it could vent. Grayson returned a while later to find Caiden fast asleep on his sleeping bag. Grayson smiled as he settled in. Right before he laid down he saw a single cookie on his pillow.
‘What a pal…’ thought Grayson to himself as he ate it and went straight to sleep.
The next day came pretty quick as they broke camp early and continued the march. In the early afternoon, they arrived at Ponyton and marched through the streets. Crowds gathered and cheered and thanked the brave cubs that protected them. After marching through the town, they arrived at their destination. Their camp is three miles north of Ponyton along a road and just south and uphill from the forest about a mile away. They set up their camp and dug in for the night. They kept the equipment stowed and ready for transport in case they are called to Cradlepoint. Intel gave the command team an update that the attack is suspected to take place at any moment. The rest of the day was uneventful. The battalion rested their feet and relaxed.
Another night passed and the camp started to stir. Caiden and Grayson had just woken up, got changed, and returned from chow to find Sergeant Baker at their tent.
“Smith, Rogers we have an assignment. Some of the sentries spotted birds and tree movements in the forest below. The Colonel wants a few of us to check it out.” Instructed the lion cub.
“…Do you think the hoard is moving this way…?” asked Caiden nervously.
“Don’t know, probably just some stragglers. We gotta check it out anyways. C’mon, grab your gear and meet me at the north checkpoint.” Commanded Baker as he rushed off to assemble the rest of the cubs he needed.
“Yes Sergeant!” replied Caiden and Grayson simultaneously as they geared up and followed.
Caiden and Grayson caught up to Baker at the north checkpoint which was the position closest to the forest. They waited as around 20 cubs showed up.
“Alright soldiers, bring it in.” announced Sergeant baker as they huddled up, “As I already told some of you, there is some suspicious activity along the tree line. We’ve been tasked to scout it out. This is just a simple monitor and report back kind of situation. We’ll spread out about 30 paces apart and walk the tree line for a click or two. Do not enter the forest. We’re just looking around the area, not for a fight. If you see a demon, don’t fire on it unless you feel threatened. Use the hand signals and we’ll pull back and reassess. If all H-E-double hockey sticks breaks loose, we’ll tactically retreat to the line and regroup at this checkpoint. Everyone understand?” detailed Sergeant Baker as everyone nodded and/or verbally acknowledged, “Ok, let’s roll out.”
The group obeyed and formed a line with Sergeant Baker out front of it.
“Silent ops from this point cubs!” announced Baker as he readied his pacigun and motioned for them to move.
The group made their trek down the slight incline to the edge of the forest that was about a mile away. They were silent other than the clattering of some of their backpacks. The cubs remained vigilant the whole way and finally arrived at the tree line. The forest looked even more menacing up close. The trees were huge and the amount of brush and debris in there made it look more like a jungle. Sergeant gave a hand signal for the whole line to move left along the forest. The group obeyed and had their paciguns drawn and began searching.
Minutes went by but the light infantry team found nothing. They could all hear some rustling, but they weren’t sure if it was just wildlife, the wind, or something far more menacing. They continued a little more before a couple of the cubs around Caiden heard something. It sounded like a broken branch but they weren’t taking any chances. The cub that heard it put a hand signal for them to halt and search. The line crouched along the line and looked around. They waited in the position for a minute or two before the cub that called the halt stood up to give the move signal.
“GAAhh…!” shouted the cub that was standing as he was struck with a barb.
*Swoosh!* Another barb appeared out of the blackness of the forest and just missed another cub.
“Take cover!!” shouted Sergeant Baker.
Almost immediately after that command was given, and every cub was huddled against a tree or rock, a barrage of barbs came flying over them. There had to be hundreds of them.
Shortly after the barrage, Sergeant Baker shouted, “Open fire and fall back to the line!!”
All the cubs minus the one that was hit blindly fired into the darkness and started to fall back. All sorts of screeches and hideous noises followed the volley. Two cubs managed to grab the paralyzed cub and they made a run for it. Back at the camp, they could hear the energy blasts from the forest. The Lt. Colonel and Sergeant-Major ran to the line and looked through their spyglasses. They could see the light infantry they sent out retreating with demons on their heels.
“Send in the cavalry! Get some medics out here! We have some casualties!” ordered Lt. Col Riker as the cavalry scrambled and someone went to notify the medical teams.
Meanwhile the light infantry group was alternating fire as they pulled back to the line. One cub would fire and the cub next to them would retreat and reload at the same time to cover the cub that just fired and that would repeat as they ran up the hill. The demons were gaining. There had to be at least 50 to 60 of them on the light infantry’s tail. Caiden ended up tripping as he retreated up the hill. While on the ground he managed to get a shot off and knock out a demon that was close to him. Unfortunately for Caiden, there were two behind the one he just K.O’d and they were closing in with no time to run. He raised his pacigun and prepared to fight the monsters off with his bayonet.
One of the demons fell from a shot coming from his left and Caiden managed to stun the other one with his electrically charged bayonet.
“You ok?!” shouted a familiar voice.
“Boy am I glad to see you!” shouted Caiden back as it was Grayson.
Grayson helped him up and they started to run again but got cut off by some demons and became surrounded. The tots got back to back and prepared to fight off the group in close quarters. Suddenly six cubs on horseback ran past them cutting down the demons in the process.
“Go! Get back to the line! We’ll take it from here!” shouted the cavalryman as Caiden and Grayson bolted up the hill to safety.
Caiden and Grayson were one of the last of the light infantry group that was sent down to the tree line to return.
“There they are!” shouted Sergeant Baker relieved as he turned to the Lt. Colonel, “All my cubs are accounted for sir! We have one cub that took a barb directly to the chest and two that caught them in the arms…everyone else is more or less ok.”
“Holy Mother! What happened down there?! I was told that it was stragglers and not a whole gosh darn hoard!” asked the very concerned Lt. Colonel.
“We thought so too sir. We patrolled the line like you ordered but we were ambushed by hundreds of barbs…It’s a miracle we got out of there with so little casualties…” explained Baker, “Sir, another thing, I don’t think that’s the whole hoard down there right now…I think they’re not far behind the group that’s down there right now!”
“What?! Why do you say this?” asked Riker.
“…There’s maybe 70 or so down there right now, but we were hit by hundreds of barbs on that ambush….I think there are much more and they mean to head this direction.” Explained Baker to the Lt. Colonel's surprise.
“Holy Mo-“ started Riker when the retreat bugle was blown by the cavalry down below.
Everyone rushed to look and saw them being pelted with a barrage of barbs as they pulled back to the line.
“Anyone close by FALL IN! Prepare to give them covering fire as they get closer!” shouted the commander as the remaining light infantry and 100 or so regular infantry formed up and prepared to fire on demons chasing the retreating calvary, “Ready!....Aim….! FIRE!”
Multiple volleys went past the calvary and straight into the demons behind them. The cover fire worked better than expected and the demons fell back into the forest. The remaining cavalry members got together and dismounted to take accountability. The Lt. Colonel ran over to the remaining cavalry.
“…There’s so few…What happened down there…?” asked Lt. Col Riker as he looked on the small group of 15 calvary cubs.
“Sir…ugh!...Sir. We covered the retreat of the light infantry just fine. We thought we had the hell spawns on the run, but we couldn’t have been more wrong…” explained a Sergeant as he sat down as it was revealed he had a barb protruding from his leg, “We were hit by a barrage of barbs from somewhere in the forest…We didn’t stand a chance. We lost most of our guys on that volley alone…”
“I-is this all that’s left…?” asked Riker as he counted 17 cubs out of the 100 he sent out.
“Yes sir…I’m afraid so…” coughed the Sergeant.
“Ok Sergeant, thank you.” Said the Lt Col as he turned to some of the other cubs nearby him, “Get him to the medical tent now! Same goes for any of you who are also wounded.”
Five more cavalrymen went with the Sergeant to get some medical attention leaving only 12 able bodied cavalrymen.
From that point the commander rushed and ordered an emergency meeting with his command staff. They were quickly assembled and met at the northern checkpoint. They all came to the conclusion that the hoard wasn’t heading to Cradlepoint like everyone thought, but instead to Ponyton and they were severely outmanned if the number estimates were true. Especially since they all but lost their calvary capability. Riker instructed Alpha company (a group of 100 regular infantry) to fall back to the city with wounded and Caretaker Bots to start the evacuation while the rest of the army held their position. The C.O. of Alpha company saluted and got to work right away. Lt. Colonel Riker then instructed the remaining light infantry to absorb into the regular army to supplement them along the line. He said the same for all but two of the cavalrymen. The two that he picked out were the two fastest riders and he tasked them with getting a message to the army at Cradlepoint, which was a two hours ride at best, to send forces immediately. Those two left right after they were tasked. The artillery was next. They were ordered to assemble the cannons, but they told the commander that it would take some time as they’re prepped for transport at the moment. The commander understood and encouraged them to make it happen quickly. After that, his command team was released to prepare the rest of the battalion.
The whole camp started to scramble. It didn’t take too long and eventually the whole battalion was lined up along the road at the top of the hill. Their force had been whittled down to just under 900 cubs. Caiden and Grayson found themselves in Delta company and standing next to each other. It was quiet along the front. Hardly a sound coming from the cubs but they were scared for sure. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that there was not a dry diaper amongst the crowd, but they stood fast. As time went on the trees in the forest started to move more violently, flocks of birds could be seen flying away, and the hiss and screeches of the demons got louder. It wasn’t long before the ground started to shake and the monsters slowly marched out of the forest. Lt. Colonel Riker rode out in front of the battalion and looked at his cubs.
“Fellow boys and girls! Servants of Maeria! Today, we are not just Colonels and Privates and Cavalrycubs and Infantrycubs! No, we are a brotherhood! Sisterhood! A WALL and a BEACON of HOPE and SURVIVAL for the THOUSANDS of innocent lives in the city behind us. Each and everyone of you signed up to defend the realm and, by Mother’s grace, that is what you will do today! I can think of no greater honor than putting one’s life before another! I salute you all!” saluted Lt. Colonel Riker as his battalion cheered, “The odds may look against us! BUT I know that each and every one of you are TEN times the warrior those Hell spawns are! We will hold this line to protect the citizens of Ponytown as guardians of this realm! Let’s send these beasts back to the darkness from which they came!!!”
The battalion erupted into a rapturous cheer as the commander rode up and down the ranks to encourage his men. He returned to his position that was between the infantry and artillery and looked on. The hoard continued to pour out of the forest. There was about a mile between the army and the edge of the forest where the monsters were coming from and the hoard was about halfway to them now and still flowing out of the forest. It’s now clear that the hoard’s numbers were closer to the high estimate of 5,000 rather than 1,000. The demons were now about a quarter mile away from their line.
“Cannons! Make ready and take aim!”” commanded Riker to the artillery cubs.
The artillery cubs only managed to assemble four of the eight energy cannons before now. They started with the cannons that had the largest voltage and amperage output and spread them out evenly along the line. They loaded the energy cannons, primed and charged them, and aimed the cannons down range. To be honest, they really couldn’t miss with the ocean of demons in front of them.
“FIRE!” shouted Riker as the cannons lit off and flew downhill.
Each shot was a direct hit and the explosive energy sphere incarcerated or tossed many of the demons about. That didn’t deter the monsters as they still advanced as the shots did nothing more than scratch surface.
“FIRE AT WILL!” commanded Riker as the cannons repeatedly fired.
Riker then gave the command to his bugler and signal flag troops to relay the order to ‘Fix bayonets, take position, make ready, present arms, and hold fire until the command is given’ to the infantry lines in front. The bugler blew his horn and the signal flag troop waved a series of flags to pass on the commander’s orders. The junior officers and senior NCOs in charge of their respective company gave orders that were passed to them and to their formations. Caiden and Grayson were in the very front line of Delta company so they knelt down, loaded their weapons with their energy cells, fixed their electrically charged bayonets, and took aim. Caiden could see Grayson trembling next to him.
“Hey.” Said Caiden simply as he put a paw on Grayon’s shoulder.
Grayson calmed a little bit as he responded with a nod. Caiden was just as scared as his buddy, but he didn’t want it to show. He just brushed off the fear and took aim.
The demons were now 100 feet away and closing fast. The cubs could almost see the monster’s soulless red eyes and long white teeth. Suddenly another bugle call was made followed by, “FIRE!” from all of the Junior Officers and Senior NCOs. A hail of bolts zipped across the battlefield and mowed down hundreds of demons. Unfortunately, just like the continuous cannon fire, the demons pressed on as their only mission was to get those souls.
“FIRST LINE RELOAD! SECOND LINE FIRE!” Shouted the Sergeant First Class in charge of Caiden’s and Grayson’s company.
Everyone obeyed and that alternation of fire continued for four volleys before the ‘Fire at will’ command was given. Every cub fired as fast as they could but the monsters just kept coming and were now within 30 feet of the line.
“BRACE FOR IMPACT!” shouted the Sergeant First Class as he drew his saber and moved to the front of the formation.
The front few ranks stopped firing and braced for the enemy to slam into their line while the lines behind were still firing.
Suddenly, the demon’s slowed and held out their palms.
“Watch out!!” shouted someone randomly in the formation as the poison barbs came shooting out of the Hell spawn’s palms in the hundreds.
“Turn around!” screamed Grayson as he dropped his pacigun and spun himself and Caiden to have their backs facing the enemy.
Right at that time, the barbs arrived and plunged into the lines and nearly decimated the first two ranks. Caiden could feel the whoosh of the barbs flying past him until he felt three thuds on his backpack and one hit his left arm that pushed him to the ground. It appeared Grayson was in the position as he too was on the ground. After the barrage subsided, Caiden got up to check his arm. It was just a scrape, but there is no doubt that some of the poison got inside of him. Luckily it was probably just a little bit and it wasn’t his dominant arm. He then turned to his friend and noticed two barbs planted in his backpack, but none appeared to have hit Grayson himself. Caiden figured he had at least three in his bag as well, but realized there was no time to check as the demons were almost on them. He quickly helped Grayson to his feet, grabbed his pacigun, turned around, and met the monsters head on.
The companies tried to reform the lines the best they could but it was too late as the horde was upon them. They did manage to form a wall of cubs, however unorganized it seemed.
“Corporal! Send up the emergency flare!” commanded Lt. Col Riker to the nearby artillery troop.
The cub obeyed and popped the red flare straight into the sky in hopes that someone, anyone, would come to their aid.
“Hold the line! Don’t give an inch!” shouted Riker as he fired his pistol at the enemy.
Caiden and Grayson were now in the thick of it. They slashed and swiped at the demons with their bayonets but after they incapacitated one, it seemed like three more appeared. They held their ground heroically against the onslaught of demons and it seemed like they just might even win this fight. Just when things started to go their way another barrage of barbs came in and mowed down another chunk of the battalion as well as some of the demons too. It seemed like the demons weren’t in the mood for a roadblock and started firing on their own in hopes of hitting the cubs. They must be getting soul hungry and desperate. Caiden and Grayson were lucky enough to not get hit, but now the barbs seemed to be coming in at random rather than in volleys. The demons were firing at will and Caiden and Grayson moved back to fill the gaps as they fought on. Things then went from bad to worse as the demons started to make their way around their flanks and completely surrounding them. With the sheer size of the horde, there was not a lot they could do.
“Corporal! Send up anot-AGH!” started Lt. Colonel Riker as he suddenly took a barb directly to the chest and fell from his horse.
“Colonel!” shouted Sergeant-Major O’Keefe as he rushed to the commander’s side.
It was too late though. The commander was immediately paralyzed from the shot. The Sergeant-Major removed the barb and then took a look around. The line was starting to crumble and he knew they wouldn’t last much longer. He could also see that the demons were now attacking from both of their flanks. He thought about a full retreat but that would only end in slaughter and he still needed to buy some time for the city to be evacuated. He then started to notice the chaos around him as well. As soon as the Lt. Colonel fell, the rest of the command seemed to be in disarray. He grunted to himself, pulled up his diaper and hopped on the Lt. Colonel’s horse.
“Alright! The Colonel is down but we’re not out of this. I’m taking the lead.” Announced Sergeant-Major O’Keefe.
The officers around him looked puzzled as command would pass to them in the event the commander is incapacitated. However, given the danger of the situation and the multiple years of service and combat tours the Sergeant-Major had on them, they allowed it.
“Corporal! Send up that flare and if you don’t hear otherwise, continue shooting them off every 5 minutes! You two, send a signal for a wagon circle formation! If we’re going to be surrounded, we might as well be back to back!” commanded the Sergeant-Major as they all obeyed.
“Sergeant-Major!” shouted a Staff Sergeant from the artillery corps, “We’re dangerously low on energy cells for the cannons! What do you want us to do?!”
“Use what you’ve got and then grab a pacigun!” replied O’Keefe as he turned to him, “We’re going to need every one of you in the poop if we’re going to get through this!”
The horn was then blown and flags waived and the company NCOs and Officers started organizing the remaining force into a circle. They did it by pulling the ranks in the back of the formations and having them make a new continuous line around. The lines were thinner now, but the army was in a protective wagon circle type of defense. Unfortunately, they were now completely surrounded with no way for escape. The only way out now was to take down every demon, get taken out themselves, or hold out until reinforcements arrive. In the midst of the fighting and reorganizing a gap started to form between Caiden and Grayson. They had managed to stay upright despite the never-ending waterfall of demons. Caiden could feel his left arm start to go numb and get weak. The poison was starting to take its effect. Suddenly he was pounced by a demon and it sent Caiden to the ground. He wrestled with the creature but it looked as if the Hell spawn had the upper hand. Then out of nowhere, Grayson came and tackled the beast off of Caiden. Unfortunately for Grayson, the tackle sent him tumbling down the hill and away from Caiden.
“GRAYSON!” screamed Caiden as he got to his feet, grabbed his pacigun and started swinging again.
It was too late though, Grayson rolled with the demon all the way to the company next to his. There was no way to get to him right now. At least Grayson was still conscious and fighting. Caiden continued to hold off the demons but his left arm was all but useless at this point and swinging a pacigun was not going to cut it for him much longer. He looked around for a minute and spotted a saber next to a fallen Captain. The blade of the saber was electrically charged and made it a very effective weapon in close quarter combat. Unfortunately, they were expensive to make and produce so sabers were usually given to just the officers and some NCOs . Caiden considered himself lucky to find one….even if it was unlucky for the previous owner. Caiden dropped his pacigun, quickly grabbed the saber, and got back in the fight.
The battalion continued to hold but they were losing cubs left and right. Flares continued to be shot but there seemed to be no one coming. As the battle continued, the demons seemed to be more and more desperate. They started volleying their barbs again with devastating effect. Finally, after holding out for so long, a gap was made in the line and the monsters wedged themselves into it. The creatures swarmed in and divided the army in two. The structure of the defensive position had crumbled and it turned to chaos. The two sections of the army naturally formed themselves into two clusters that were separated by a river of demons 50 feet wide. Caiden, whose left arm was dead and himself exhausted, was on the side with the Sergeant-Major. Still no sign of Grayson either. He slashed with his saber and tried to hold the demons from gaining more ground. He could hear small explosions popping off just in front of him. Some of the artillery cubs had a stockpile of stun grenades and were tossing them. Caiden then heard a horse whine and run past him into the sea of monsters. He looked back to see the Sergeant-Major with a barb in his left leg and fighting off a demon that was starting to drag him off into the horde. Caiden jumped into action and slashed the creature unconscious and dragged Sergeant-Major O’Keefe to the center of the group and onto one of the artillery wagons.
“*Pant**pant* Are you ok Sergeant?” asked an exhausted Caiden as he ducked some incoming barbs.
“Agh! Does it look like it?!” replied O’Keefe sarcastically yet still in pain.
“You’re right, stupid question. We’re not going to last here much longer. We need a new plan…” said Caiden as he looked to his leader for answers.
“The only chance I see us having is if we could somehow get to the other group…GAH!” started O’Keefe before shouting in pain when Caiden removed the barb, “*pants**pants* It’s impossible with the amount of demons between us though.”
Caiden’s spirit dropped with that statement. He looked around and was about to give up hope when something caught his eye.
“….Maybe not…Wait here!” shouted Caiden as he ran towards the nearby artillery cubs.
“Really?!” shouted the Sergeant-Major as he pointed to the gaping hole in his leg.
Caiden mouthed sorry and continued to the artillery cubs.
“Stop! Stop!” shouted Caiden as he ducked and weaved to the artillery wagons.
“Whatdoyamean stop!?!” asked a very confused artillery Staff Sergeant as Caiden looked inside the two wagons the artillery cubs were huddled in.
“I’ve gotta plan that can get us over to the other group.” Started Caiden as he snatched the stun grenade from the Staff Sergeant’s paw, “But we’re going to need every one of these. Help me load all the grenades into one wagon.”
The Staff Sergeant was initially pissed when Caiden snatched the stun grenade from him, but quickly got over himself when he figured out what Caiden was doing. The Staff Sergeant and the remaining artillery cubs quickly loaded all the remaining grenades and powder into one cart.
“OK, now give me a fuse that’ll last…20 seconds.” Requested Caiden to the Staff Sergeant as he programmed an electronic fuse, “There, that should give us enough time.”
“Perfect, push the cart over there and wait for my signal.” Commanded Caiden as he pointed to a nearby incline and then ran off.
Caiden fought his way over to one of the remaining officers that was managing the battle. He quickly explained his plan and sprinted back to where the Sergeant-Major was.
“I’ve got a plan.” Said Caiden as he wrapped O’Keefe’s arm around his shoulder and lifted him up, “Lean on me, we’re reuniting with the rest of the army.”
Caiden then made eye contact and nodded to the artillery cubs on the incline.
“MAKE WAY!” screamed the artillery Staff Sergeant as he and his fellow artillery cubs activated the fuse and pushed the wagon down the incline. The wagon picked up speed and the cubs parted to let it by. The steady decline mixed with the sheer weight of the wagon gave it plenty of momentum as it plowed through the sea of monsters and rolled until it was right between the two groups of cubs. The demons swarmed it thinking that there were some desperate cubs on board.
“TAKE COVER!” shouted one of the officers right before the wagon exploded.
The explosion was huge and left a gaping hole where the wagon once stood. The demons that weren’t immediately incinerated by the blast were tossed back or knocked out.
“NOW’S OUR CHANCE! BREAK THROUGH AND REUNITE WITH OUR BROTHERS! TALLY HO!” Commanded one of the Captains as the group charged.
Caiden ran as fast as he could with the Sergeant-Major as he slashed at anything that came close to them. The group Caiden was in easily managed to push their way through the remaining soul suckers at first. Many of the demons they encountered enroute to the other group were already partially incapacitated from the blast. However, that was short lived as the enemy quickly regrouped and started to fill the gap. Most of Caiden’s group managed to reunite with the other group, but at a great cost. They lost about a quarter of the cubs when the demons caught back up to them following the blast. Caiden and the Sergeant-Major were among the lucky ones that made it to the reunion. The wolf pup dragged the barely conscious terrier to the center of the group. He looked around and his heart sank. The wagon was a success in regards to unifying the remaining army, but it may have been too little too late. The demon army didn’t look any smaller and the cubs were fading fast. Only one hundred or so remained. Caiden looked at his Sergeant-Major who propped himself on a rock. Caiden handed O’Keefe a detached bayonet and had a nearby cub reload the two pistols that O’Keefe had.
“LAST ONE!” shouted the Corporal who had been shooting off the flares.
The Sergeant-Major nodded at Caiden and he returned to the fight with saber in hand. The fighting continued and the demons pressed on. The battalion had been reduced to fifty cubs and dwindling fast. Another volley of barbs came in and hit many of the remaining soldiers. Caiden managed to not get hit in the volley somehow and kept slashing away.
“GAH-UH!” yelled Caiden as he fell to the ground.
He somehow missed every barb in the volley, but got nailed in the gut by a stray one. Caiden tried to get up but it was no use. The barb was lodged in his stomach and the paralyzing poison had already taken its effect. All he could do now was lay there and watch as the remainder of his comrades fell one by one. He then felt the cold touch of something on his leg. A demon slowly made its way up Caiden’s body until it was staring at him with its soulless red eyes and large teeth.
‘This is it.’ Thought Caiden fearfully to himself as the demon opened its mouth, ‘Here comes the long nightmare.’
A faint ray could be seen coming from the mouth of the demon as Caiden started feeling something pull at his chest. Caiden felt cold and the world started going black.
Suddenly the coldness subsided and his chest felt better. Caiden panted to catch his breath as he noticed the demon had been shot with an energy cell and was laying unconscious next to him. The wolf pup felt a rumbling on the ground and looked to his right. In the distance he could see a blob of something coming towards the hoard and them….it was a cavalry squadron. Reinforcements have arrived! Caiden was elated, but still immobile from the poison and he was fading fast. The last thing Caiden saw before passing out was a cavalryman standing next to him and giving him aid.
“*Groans* W-where am I…?” asked Caiden as he opened his eyes to find himself in a hospital gown and in a crib with an EKG machine beeping over him.
“Welcome back sleepyhead.” greeted a cheery female squirrel nurse who let down the side of the crib and placed a damp cloth on Caiden’s head, “You’re at Mother’s Mercy Military Hospital in Cradlepoint.”
“C-cradlepoint? No, I was in-“ whispered Caiden before being cut off by the nurse.
“Yes, you were near Ponyton, but you were injured in battle and brought here. Don’t worry though, you’re safe and we’re going to get you back on your feet in no time.” Squeaked the nurse as she wrote some things down on his chart.
“Battle…Grayson…Sergeant-Major! I gotta-Hey! Whatareyoudonin??” rambled Caiden before flinching as the nurse reached up his hospital gown.
“Relax Private, I just have to check your diaper. It’s all part of my rounds.” Assured the nurse as she pulled her paw back, took off her rubber gloves, and tossed them in the trash, “…and it’s a good thing I did. I’ll tell one of the Caretaker Bots to come by and change you.”
“But, but my friends-“ started Caiden before getting cut off yet again.
“Not now Private Smith. Right now you need your rest. We can check on them when you’re a bit more healed.” Shushed the nurse as she pulled the side of the crib up.
“…Is that really necessary…?” asked Caiden about being locked in his crib.
“Shh!” chided the nurse, “…and yes it is. Can’t have you wandering around the hospital in your condition. Now rest. A Caretaker Bot will be around shortly to change your pants.”
Caiden laid down per the nurse’s orders and tried to rest. As she mentioned, a Caretaker Bot came by and changed his diaper. Caiden winced as his rear was lifted in the air to remove the wet diaper and it compressed on his stomach wound.
“Sorry love.” Apologized the Caretaker Bot dressed in a white medical lab coat as she started being even more gentle than before, “Your wound will be mostly healed in a day or two. Our medicine is pretty potent, but it takes a lot out of you. That’s why you need your rest.”
“But my friends-“ started Caiden again before being cut off by the Caretaker Bot.
“Now now, I know the nurse already instructed you to rest.” Scolded the Caretaker Bot as she finished taping up a new diaper on him, “We can get to the business of your friends after you’re healed up a bit. I don’t want to hear anymore about it or you’ll lose your cookie privilege this evening.”
Caiden crossed his arms and pouted. The Caretaker Bot cleaned up the area around him, wrote on his chart, pulled the side of the crib up and left. As Caiden crossed his arms he noticed the bandages on his left arm. This was the first time he noticed how hurt he actually was. Caiden turned his head to see who was around him. He didn’t recognize any of the other cubs but most of them looked worse than him. Caiden yawned and got tired again. Maybe it was time for a nap as he closed his eyes and drifted to sleep.
Another day passed and Caiden awoke feeling much better than the day before. He sat up and scratched his stomach. The bandage that was covering where he was struck with a barb was gone and so was the open wound. All that remained was a bruise. Additionally, his left arm was completely healed. He looked at the clock on the wall and noticed that it was noon.
‘Man, I’m starving….I bet I’ll need to get a change first…’ Thought Caiden to himself as he shifted around to see if he needed a change, ‘Oh, I guess I don’t. They must have changed me when I was asleep…They weren’t kidding about those drugs…”
Caiden then stood up and leaned against the rails of the crib. He took a look around and noticed the infirmary was much more lively than when he was last awake. Some of the cubs were awake and even had the sides of their cribs down with no supervision while some were still out. Caiden waved his paws out of the side of the crib to catch the attention of any of the staff. He was tired of being cooped up and he was hungry.
“Well, you’re looking much better today.” Squeaked someone from behind Caiden as she made her way around to him.
“Oh it’s you! I really am.” Replied Caiden cheerfully as the nurse, that helped Caiden the other day, lowered the side of the crib, “Thank you Miss…Miss….You know, I never did ask for your name…”
“It’s Vicky.” Giggled the squirrel as she grabbed his chart, “OK Private Smith, since you’re awake and smiling now we can clear you out of the healing phase and start the observation phase of your treatment. First thing we’re going to do is get your diaper chang-“
“Oh I’m good!” blushed Caiden, “One of the Caretaker Bots came by earlier this morning…”
“Hmm…” thought Vicky out loud skeptically as she checked the chart, “Ah! It appears you weren’t fibbing. Caretaker Bot….Dr. Dotty came by around 10:30 and took care of that. Well! Since that’s taken care of the next order of business is to make sure you can eat and hold down food.”
“Perfect! I’m starving!” replied Caiden delightfully.
“Good. You sit tight then and I’ll go get Dr. Dotty and we’ll bring you lunch.” Giggled Vicky as she raised the side of the crib back up.
“What!? Is that really necessary?!” asked Caiden grumpily.
“…It is until we’ve cleared you.” Replied the nurse with a glare, “…and I’d suggest you sit down and cut the attitude if you want to get out of that crib anytime soon…”
Caiden was taken back by the nurse’s rebuke, but then took a deep breath, put on a fake smile, and sat his diapered butt down. Vicky giggled at his response and left to get the doctor. About ten minutes later, Vicky returned with Dr. Dotty.
“Hello there Private Smith, I hope that we’re feeling better than yesterday.” Greeted Dr. Dotty as she lowered the side of the crib.
“Yes ma’am, I sure am!” replied Caiden politely as he sat on the edge of his crib.
“Good, I’m glad to hear it. Well, I’m just going to review your chart real quick and run a few tests. After that, we’ll get you that lunch.” Explained Dr. Dotty as she grabbed the chart.
She studied the chart for a moment before examining Caiden. The doctor gave him a full check up to include checking his heartbeat, reflexes, down his throat and the inside of his ears, his blood pressure and temperature (thankfully it wasn’t rectally), and lastly his wounds.
“Good news Private, you’re right where you should be. In fact, I’d say further along than I expected you to be.” Announced Doctor Dotty as he took off her gloves and tossed them, “Let’s get some food in your belly and that’ll be the last thing and I can sign you off.”
“Great!...Then you can leave the side of the crib down?” asked Caiden as a bib was put around his neck.
“Well if you can behave yourself there young man. I’ve seen your file, I know what you’re capable of…” giggled Dr. Dotty as Caiden blushed, “That being said, I’m sure it won’t be an issue.”
Dr. Dotty turned around and took a couple of jars that the nurse gave her. Caiden didn’t know what they were at first but when the doctor opened them Caiden realized what was going on. Now the bib made sense.
“Ugh! Baby food, really?...” complained Caiden at the sight of the green and orange mush.
“Yes it is. We need to see if your body can handle food and the best way is to start with mushy food and work our way up to solids. If you do well with this meal, you can have solid food for dinner. Now open up…” explained Doctor Dotty as she made a flying pattern with the spoon and flew it towards his mouth.
“Oh come on! I can’t even fee-! Ugh! *Gulp*” griped Caiden some more as the mush was shoved into his mouth.
“Hospital policy. Can’t have you choking now. Again, get through this meal and we can let you have solid food AND feed yourself. Open up.” Replied the doctor a little more irritated as she reloaded the spoon.
Caiden grumpily accepted as he opened his mouth and let her feed him. It didn’t take long and Caiden managed to eat the first jar.
“…Dr. Dotty. Now that I’m feeling better, and almost finished here, I’d like to look around and see how my friends are doing…” asked Caiden as he was fed the first bite of the new jar.
“Sorry honey, you’ll be limited to the infirmary and that’s it until you’re released. You’re not allowed into the ICU or private rooms.” Replied Dr. Dotty as she continued to feed him, “You’re more than welcome to mingle around here though. Just don’t disturb the sleeping cubs or we’ll have to confine you to your crib again.”
That wasn’t quite the answer he was looking for but it was better than nothing.
“…How about a list then? You’ve gotta have a list of those down here and in the ICU.” Asked Caiden as he was fed another spoonful.
“Yes, there’s a list, but it’s only for the officers and senior enlisted eyes only. It’s not finalized at the moment.” Said the doctor a little annoyed as she continued to feed him.
“*gulp* Bu-but why-“ started Caiden before being cut off.
“Because it isn’t and that’s the end of this conversation unless you’d like to be stuck in your crib the rest of your stay…?” threatened Dr. Dotty as she fed him the last bite.
Caiden scowled and shut up as the doctor cleaned the area and took his bib off.
“Ok Private Smith, you’re clear of the healing phase and you’re now in the observation phase.” Dr. Dotty signed off and put the chart back, “Am I going to be able to trust you to behave if I leave the side of the crib down…?”
Caiden nodded ‘yes’ in response.
“Good, one of the staff will come by in a couple hours to check on you. If you need any of us, just press the button on the side of your crib.” Instructed Dr. Dotty as she left with the nurse.
Caiden hopped off of the side of his crib and landed on his feet before catching himself on the side of the crib.
“Oof, still a little tender.” Grimaced Caiden as he clutched his stomach bruise and started slowly walking around the infirmary.
He started checking every crib for someone that he knew, particularly Grayson. Caiden figured that Sergeant-Major would be in a private room near the higher ranking officials on another floor. The wolf cub found many of the cubs from his platoon but no Grayson. Caiden zigged and zagged his way through the aisles looking for his best friend, but still no luck.
‘There must be hundreds of us in here…’ thought Caiden to himself as he stopped and looked around, ‘There’s got to be an easier way.’
Caiden then noticed an office across the room and it was currently unattended.
‘…The doctor said there was a list, I bet it’ll tell me which crib he’s in. I’m tired of just wandering around.’ Thought Caiden to himself as he snuck into the office.
He looked on the desk and a few filing cabinets for a list but found nothing at first.
‘Poop! I thought for sure they’d have one….there it is!’ thought Caiden to himself as he noticed it hanging on the wall next to the door and grabbed it, ‘They really should hide this better if they don’t want me to see it *chuckles*’
Caiden plopped on his diapered rear and started combing through the list. The list was huge as it was seven pages long and full of names.
‘Dirty diapers! Where is he…” cursed Caiden as he looked and looked through the infirmary list for his best friend, ‘Maybe he’s in…Mother I hope not…’
Caiden started to worry as he skipped the pages listed Private Rooms/Retirement and went straight to the ICU. Sadly there were four of those pages as Caiden nervously scanned the pages. About halfway down the second page Caiden’s heart dropped. There it was, ICU Pod 168 Grayson S. Rogers- Condition Unknown.
‘Condition unknown?!’ thought Caiden to himself, ‘When was this last updated….two days ago. OK there’s still hope. I gotta get to him.’
The ICU was on the floor above them. Caiden dropped the list and made his way to one of the exits. The doors were monitored by a medical staff worker at a desk next to the door itself. He looked around for a way by but it seemed like there was no way to sneak past. He then got an idea, and moved to one of the cribs of a sleeping cub that was around the corner and out of sight of the door. Caiden pressed the button on the side of the crib, the same one that Doctor Dotty told him about earlier, and pressed it like 20 times hoping the worker at the door would get up to check it out. Sure enough that’s what happened and Caiden just casually walked past the worker and straight out the exit.
Caiden was now in the hallways of the hospital in his white hospital gown. He wandered around until finding the stairwell and made his way up it. Each step was more and more painful as the stomach wound was not quite healed yet. He made it to the second floor and found the ICU. The door to the ICU was strangely unguarded and he got in with no issue. The ICU was a lot more depressing than the infirmary below. The lights were dimly lit and instead of cribs, the cubs in there were laying in plexiglass pods of some kind and hookup up to all sorts of machines. Caiden made his way through the aisles looking for Grayson. Sadly there were hundreds of cubs in there, but Caiden pressed on.
‘166…167…There he is.’ Thought Caiden to himself as he found Grayson’s pod.
Caiden put his face to the plexiglass and saw his friend laying there unconscious and hooked up to all sorts of lines and monitoring equipment. Grayson had some cuts and bruises that were bandaged up and he was wearing a red hospital gown. The lynx cub’s fur looked ruffled and he was taking deep breaths as he appeared asleep. Caiden started to tear up at the sight of his friend. He quickly grabbed his chart and started to look through it.
‘Multiple cuts and bruises….three barb wounds….soul detachment syndrome? What’s that mean.’ Thought Caiden to himself as he started to breathe heavily.
“Hey! What are you doing in here? You’re a white gown, you’re supposed to be downstairs.” Whispered a tall figure loudly as Caiden was startled and dropped the chart on the ground.
“I-I’m sorry, I was jus-..I was…” stammered Caiden as he looked at Grayson's pod and the figure.
“Private 1st Class Smith…Is that you?” asked the figure as she came into view and was revealed to be Doctor Dotty, “I thought you may have something to do with the commotion downstairs. Care to explain yourself?”
“No, I-uh *ahem* I was just checking on um, on my friend…” choked Caiden on the verge of tears.
“Oh. Oh no sweetie. Come here. It’s ok…” responded the doctor as she sat down next to him and held him as she just realized what was going on.
“I-I was right next to him in the battle but we got separated and and and…*sniffles* I dunno, something went wrong! I was supposed to protect him! He saved my life early in the fight…twice! He’s gotta be ok! Tell me he’s gonna be ok…!” vented Caiden as he handed the doctor the chart with tears streamed down his face.
The doctor took the chart and began reviewing it but her face never changed from a sad one.
“You’re friend, um, Grayson…he’s been through a lot-“ started Dr. Dotty before being cut off by Caiden.
“I know that! I know that already!!” shouted Caiden frustratedly, “Tell me about soul detachment syndrome. What does that mean?!”
“Ok, ok. *sigh* when those creatures attack you they’re really attacking you for your soul…” started the doctor softly as she held Caiden firmly, “It’s what they crave. When that happens, the soul is trapped in the demon and in cold darkness for them to feast on. Thanks to you, and the rest of our armed forces, we combat that by stunning them with our paciguns or cannons or sabers or whatever and we’re able to retrieve the souls and return them to their body. The medical corps is usually able to return the souls back to their appropriate body relatively quickly. Unfortunately for your battalion, you were ambushed far from a medical center and it took some time before they were able to get out there to start that process. Thankfully, we were able to retrieve all the souls from those wretched creatures and return them to their original bodies. Sadly, for about 237 soldiers….the soldiers in this room….there were some complications…”
“Complications! Wh-what kind of complications…” asked a distraught Caiden.
“Well, because the medical staff was so far away, and there were so many casualties, it took some time to find all the soul and find the right body. For the soldiers in this room, and your friend, I’m afraid, it took about 6 hours or more to get their souls back from the demons. If the soul is not returned to the body after an extended period of time there are, well, some very unpleasant side effects. For many cubs, it feels like they’re in an endless nightmare….even after they’re returned to their body. They start screaming, hallucinating, crying as soon as they’re conscious and there’s no consoling them…”
“Bu-But, there’s gotta be something you can do! There’s gotta…It’s YOUR fault he’s like this…you, you, you took too long to get there!...No, no it’s my fault! I should have fought harder…” yelled a tearful Caiden, “I-it’s bad but but but there's treatment right!? He’ll get better right!?”
“Shh…Shhh…It’s no one’s fault but the demons…We did all we could. YOU did all you could…you can’t blame yourself for this…” soothed Doctor Dotty as she rocked the crying tot, “Yes there is a treatment and we’ll get your friend better, but it’ll be at a cost…”
“Wha-what c-c-ost-tt…?” asked Caiden.
“The only cure we have for soul detachment syndrome is an age regression and mind wipe-“ started to explain Dr. Dotty before being cut off.
“Mind wipe! N-no, he’ll forget everything! H-he’ll forget his family and friends…and me…” sobbed Caiden.
“I’m so sorry sweety, but it’s the only way. The memory of the time spent in the demon has to be erased in order for him to be at peace. Sadly we can’t just pull that memory so we mind wipe him to an infant…which is why he’s regressed as well.” Explained the doctor as she stroked Caiden’s headfur, “Fear not though, the procedure is painless and he won’t feel a thing. The town of Ponyton won’t forget Grayson’s and the rest of the cubs in this room’s sacrifice either. As we speak, they’re tripling the size of their care homes for the young and are willing to accept and give each of these cubs a good home. They’ll be raised happily and healthily as they grow up again.”
Caiden just buried his face in the doctor’s bosom and cried himself into a slumber. The doctor stood up and carried Caiden back to the infirmary. She laid Caiden back in his crib and put the side up. Caiden was awake and sniffling again, but didn’t care one bit about the side of the crib. He just missed his friend.
The nurses and doctors came by for their rounds to check on Caiden but he just laid there and didn’t talk much. The meals were brought to him but Caiden only picked at them and hardly ate. He only wanted his friend back, but that wasn’t going to happen. Days passed and much was the same for Caiden. He’d be checked on, changed, and fed, but he offered little to no interaction with the staff. This worried the staff and made them come by more often, which just irritated Caiden more and more. Finally, he had enough of it. One early morning, Caiden tied his bedsheet and blanket together and made a rope to climb out of the crib. He scaled the railing and plopped down on the other side. The wolf cub had been cooped up in that place too long and needed some fresh air. Caiden managed to slip out the door the same way he did the other day by buzzing someone else’s crib button funnily enough. He snuck his way to the stairwell and started to climb. Caiden decided the best place for some solace would be the roof so that’s where he was heading. He got to the third floor but, all of a sudden, started hearing voices coming down the stairs. Caiden bolted to the third floor and ran down the hall. He ran into more bad luck as there were hospital staff around just every corner. He looked around for a place to hide and found an open room. Caiden jumped in it and closed the door.
“Well, this is an unexpected surprise…” said a familiar voice from behind Caiden.
“Sergeant-Major O’Keefe….Good to see you…?” asked Caiden nervously as he was hoping he wouldn’t get ratted out.
“I see that your sneaking skills haven’t improved since our last disciplinary interaction…” started O’Keefe with a scowl on his face before chuckling, “Oh, I’m just pulling your leg. I haven’t had any visitors so you’re welcome to stay as long as you like…”
“Well…” started Caiden as he could hear hospital staff talking on the other side of the door, “…Maybe for just a little bit…”
Caiden pulled up a chair and sat next to the Sergeant Major. O’Keefe was laying in a normal bed but was pretty beat up. His left leg was in a cast and suspended in the air, his left arm was in a sling, and he had random cuts and bruises along his body.
“So what brings you to my room…Miss me?” asked O’Keefe.
“…Not exactly. I was trying to get to the roof. I need to just get away for a bit…from all of this.” Explained Caiden as he motioned to the whole hospital.
“I see…Well you seem pretty healed, I’m sure you’ll be out of here soon.” Said O’Keefe as Caiden just sat there with a frown, “…Is there something else bothering you?”
“No, yes…I dunno….I just can’t be here anymore.” Stammered Caiden.
“Why? You’re getting good medical treatment. You need to be here.” Replied O’Keefe.
“No! I can’t-I just can’t be here. It’s driving me crazy!” said Caiden agitatedly.
“What’s the worst part? Is it the nice and pretty nurses, the food, the medicine, the fact you’re healing real quick…?” asked the Sergeant-Major sarcastically.
“NO! It’s the fact my best friend is downstairs right now in a tube and getting his mind wiped because I couldn’t protect him!” shouted Caiden.
“Ah, so the truth comes out. I’m sorry to hear that. It must be hard for you…” replied O’Keefe soothingly as Caiden calmed down a bit and sat down, “You do know it’s not actually your fault right…?”
“*sigh* Yes, the doctors and clergymen came by and told me the same thing…” replied Caiden.
“I get that. Trust me from someone with years of experience in this, things will get better. Once you realize this is best for him, it becomes a little easier.” Explained the Sergeant-Major.
“Better? How do you figure that? He’s going to forget all of us…me…and it’s the one thing he was afraid of going into all of this…” asked Caiden.
“Well, say he doesn’t get the treatment. He’s going to be in terror for the rest of his life. No one should have to live that way. No one. He still might not remember any of us too. There’s really no other treatment outside of regression.” Said O’Keefe, “Thankfully he’s going to get the treatment he needs. Sure he’ll have no memory of you or me and... well... that sucks. The bright side is he’ll be happy. He’ll be healthy. He’ll be able to have a life outside of these walls. That’s the best way to think about it. So chin up, you’ll get through this.”
Caiden smiled at the genuine words of his mentor. He didn’t feel all the way better, but it helped.
“Besides, he’s not the only one getting regressed…” added O’Keefe.
“Yeah I know, there’s like 200 or so others downstairs…Sergeant Bart and eight others from the light infantry are down there as well.” Replied Caiden.
“No no….I mean yes, they are too, but I meant ME.” Announced O’Keefe to Caiden’s surprise.
“Oh come on now! You!? You seem….fine-ish….definitely not like the guys downstairs! So why are the docs deciding to regress you?” asked Caiden very confused.
“First off it’s not the doctors decision…It’s mine.” Revealed O’Keefe before being interrupted.
“You mean you WANT this?” asked Caiden
“Sush! I’m trying to explain.” Scolded O’Keefe as he continued with a little sarcasm, “SECONDLY, it’s a personal decision. I have abused this body for years…I’ve been in the military for almost 19 years, been in many battles and wounded many times. Had my soul sucked out myself on two occasions. My body just doesn’t heal like it should. I may recover from these injuries, but I’ll be using a cane the rest of my life.”
“Yeah, but you can still heal. Your friends and family are around aren’t they. Won’t they miss you?” asked Caiden
“I could still heal, but I would rather have the chance to be young again. Start over and live a better life. As far as my family goes…I have none. I was an orphan and grew up in an orphanage my whole childhood. It wasn’t a loving one either. I never got that childhood you kids always go on about. Now I’m going to get that chance. I arranged it to where I’ll be placed in a home with a mother and father. I’ll be able to grow up in a happy home with loving parents…Something I wish I had.” Said the terrier with a tear in his eye.
“Wait, how did you swing picking your own caretakers…Isn’t supposed to be random?” asked Caiden skeptically.
“All that about my very good reasons for wanting to regress and that’s what you focused on…?” asked O’Keefe with a smirk as Caiden shrugged, “*sigh* Let’s just say rank has its privileges.”
The Sergeant-Major winked at Caiden and got the wolf cub to laugh.
“Well, it seems like your mind is made up, Sergeant. I’m glad you’re on your way to happiness.” Said Caiden as he saluted the Sergeant-Major.
“Ah cut that out. That saluting stuffs for officers anyhow….but thank you.” Laughed O’Keefe as he returned the salute anyhow and then grabbed a piece of paper from the nightstand next to him, “Oh, before you leave, I should just give this to you now. I was going to have the staff deliver it to you but since you’re already here…”
“Oh, what is it?” asked Caiden as he opened it and started to read.
“I don’t know, why don’t you tell me…Corporal?” asked the Sergeant-Major with a smile.
“Corporal? Me?! But, I just put on Private 1st Class a few months ago…” stated Caiden confused.
“I know, but I saw what you did on the battlefield and your gallantry and ingenuity did not go unnoticed. Trust me, you are very deserving of this. Show this to your next C.O. at your next unit and it’ll be put into effect” explained O’Keefe.
“Next unit, but what about..” started Caiden before being interrupted.
“The brigade is gone. There’s nothing to go back to. You’re going to have to be reassigned. Like most things in the military, assignments are usually random…Unless you have a recommendation from a senior enlisted or officer. I’m putting you where I think your talents will be best used. It’s a good thing you’re a Corporal now because you need to be at least that rank if you’re going to be a part of the Scouts.” Continued O’Keefe.
“…I don’t know what to say other than thank you…” replied Caiden as he was shocked.
“You’re welcome. Consider it a parting gift. Take all the lessons you learned here and go and do great things with the Scouts.” Encouraged O’Keefe as the door opened.
“Private 1st Class Smith! What are you doing in here?!” asked a very agitated Doctor Dotty.
“He’s technically a Corporal now ma’am.” Commented the Sergeant-Major with a wink to Caiden and a smirk to Dotty.
“I don’t care if he’s the General of the Army. He has strict instructions NOT to leave the infirmary. Not to mention the other rules he broke by hitting some other cub’s panic button so he could sneak out…again. If you weren’t still healing, I’d have half a mind to bend you over my knee and set you straight!” threatened Dr. Dotty as she grabbed the wolf pup’s paw.
“Oh trust me dear, he could definitely use a good spanking!” commented the Sergeant-Major half-jokingly as Caiden and Doctor Dotty were leaving the room.
Caiden spun his head around, stuck his tongue out at the terrier and nodded at him. They made eye contact one last time as Caiden left the room. Nothing had to be said, but that was the last time they would see each other in their current state. Caiden was still a bit sad at the fact he was losing his best friend and his mentor, but he was also starting to feel something else. He started to feel happy. Happy for the time he had with those two and happy for the new lives they get to start.