Dog of Men
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Part I

A veteran of the War took his usual seat in Sal's Coffee Shoppe. He was tall, if not a bit lanky, and smelled of carbonated sugar water that had been sitting out in the sun too long. No one would have said anything about it of course; most people were too afraid to approach someone who routinely scowled at everyone they came across.

"How do you like it?"


"Your coffee?" The waitress said, pointing at the light brown drink in front of him.

"It's not what I ordered."

"I know, Marty. But you always get the same damn drink. Coffee, black. Not a single speck of sugar. You should live a little, mix things up."

"No thanks, Clarissa," Martin chided, pushing his drink away from him.

Clarissa pushed it back and leaned on the edge of the counter. "Come on, just try it. For me?"

Martin sighed and took the coffee back. "For you."

He braced himself for disappointment, but it never came. Martin smirked to himself as he took another sip. He caught Clarissa's gaze by accident and did his best to maintain his usual scowl.

"It's… good."

"See, I told you!"

The sizzling crack of someone opening a cold can of Cola brought Martin out of the conversation and back to the War. A bottle tab mine had taken his eye from him, and that damn sound was the last thing he heard before it happened. His instincts told him to dive beneath the table or leap over the counter. But if the war was kept secret, then his feelings about it should be too.

At least that's what his drill sergeant told him. Martin knew better than to ask too many questions.

He took his eyes off of the woman and her can of Cola and focused on the coffee Clarissa brought him. Martin felt himself slipping back to the oceans where everyone he knew could die and no one on the mainland would hear about it. His heart beat faster. He wiped some sweat from his forehead and sighed.

Martin's hands started to tremble as he gripped the mug and tried to raise it to his lips. But before he could take another sip, the mug slipped out of his hand. He was drenched, and the mug shattered into a thousand pieces on the floor.

"Clarissa, I-"

The waitress smiled and shook her head, "I'll take care of it. Go home, I'll come by later and we can talk if you want, okay?"

Martin nodded, then rose from his seat and headed for the door, ignoring the eyes staring at him as he walked through Sal's. He checked his pocket, reading over the letter his commander sent him a few days ago.

To: Martin Lupine

I must call upon your services once again. There have been reports of battle ships appearing in the Pacific, commanded by none other than our sworn enemy. You know what must be done. There will be a boat waiting for you beneath the pier.

Go with honor. Remember: You're doing this for your country.

From: The Director.

Martin folded his instructions and tucked them in his pocket. He looked over his shoulder at Sal's, Clarissa waving at him through the window, then got in his car. Martin stuck the key in the ignition but didn't turn it. His eyes wandered to the rearview mirror, Clarissa now returning to her normal duties as a waitress. Part of him wanted to stay, to tell The Director to get someone else to do the job. Part of him wanted to get out and have another cup of coffee. Part of him just wanted to rest.

Martin turned the key and pulled out of his parking spot.

The ocean wasn't that far from Sal's. Martin arrived at Pier 51, alone. Enemy ships loomed out at sea just before the horizon; a day's sail depending on the vessel he was meant to pilot.

There was a small dingy barely large enough for Martin to fit in docked just underneath the pier. Martin slid off the dock and landed in the boat, rocking it slightly with his weight. It definitely would be at least a day's ride without a motor, but at least Martin's handlers were generous enough to give him some provisions and a rifle.

The small metal tin had a label that read: "For Martin" in poor handwriting and even worse marker. Inside was a ham and cheese sandwich with no condiments, some saltines, and a half-drank bottle of water.

A half-drank bottle of water?

Martin shook his head, grabbed both paddles, and started rowing.

The open sea was quiet, save for the noise the gulls made as they flew.. Wind whipped past Martin more than a few times as he rowed to the ships, but nothing else pestered him. At least it was quiet enough for him to focus on the task at hand without having to worry about dodging bullets.

The ships themselves were in worse condition than he could have anticipated, however. Their hulls were torn to shreds, so much so that Martin could see straight through to the frame. Still, they were all floating on top of the water rather than sinking beneath it.

Martin took the last bite of his sandwich.

"Well," He said to no one in particular, "Fuck."

It was at that moment that one of the ships leapt from the sea, backflipped, and disappeared beneath the surface. The waves nearly overturned Martin's boat. He scrambled for the oars and tried to row away, but another ship made a leap out of the water and the undercurrent pulled him back in.

Martin fought with the ocean as more of the ships vanished beneath the surface, just trying to keep his boat the right side up. Eventually all but one of the vessels remained, and on top of it stood a ghost. It looked down at him, frowned, and retreated inside of the ship before it too disappeared.

Martin looked over the edge and squinted, but he could see nothing. The ocean remained as blue as it had been. The waves rippled away as if the ships had even been there to begin with.

As Martin rowed back to the docks, he thought about what he was going to tell The Director. Did she already know this was going to happen? Why else would she send him out here? What other magical bullshit did the enemy have up their sleeve now?

Of course, Martin would never say anything to anyone. He knew better than to ask questions.

Part II

Martin dried off in the car as he drove back toward Sal's. He wasn't exactly sure where The Director wanted him to go, but he knew for sure that he needed another coffee. Hopefully, Clarissa would still be there to make it for him. Martin checked his watch; her shift would be ending soon.

After he stopped at a red light, Martin looked to his left. Another car pulled up next to him, and two passengers were staring at him from inside. Martin nodded. They did not.

The light turned green and Martin pulled forward. Behind him the other car accelerated, then shifted lanes. Martin checked his rearview mirror and saw that the two occupants were still staring at him. They had no emotion on their faces, their eyes were like voids. Martin recognized the look. He'd worn it himself since the War.

He opened his glove compartment and pulled out the pistol he kept hidden inside, resting it in his lap. He couldn't afford to risk breaking the Veil on suspicion alone. The other car was closer now, nearly touching his bumper. Martin's heart quickened.

"Keep it together," Martin told himself. But how could he? The enemy was closing in on him.

Martin looked in the rearview mirror again. The other car was much closer now. Martin turned his radio on, but no sound came out. He changed the station only to be greeted with more static. Sweat formed on Martin's forehead.

The Director's voice started speaking from the radio, muffled by static. Martin turned the dial up, and changed the station a few times before her voice became clear enough for him to hear.

"The enemy has discovered your location, soldier. You know what must be done. Go with honour, for your country."

Martin slammed on the breaks and jumped out of his car with his gun raised. The other car stopped too. The passengers were shaking, but Martin knew that could have only been a ploy to lower his defences. He strode to the car, closing the distance in a few steps.

He pointed the gun at the driver. The passenger was holding a Pepsi can, its contents spilled on their lap. Martin's heart throbbed in his chest. They knew.

Without a second thought, he pulled the trigger twice and shot both people in the head.

Martin snapped back into reality. Two people sat dead in a car, two people whose lives were over the moment they entered his. If they were the enemy, he didn't know. If they were guilty of anything, he did not know.

The only concern on his mind was the destruction of the Veil.

He hurried back to his car, and drove as fast as he could to Sal's.

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