Fucking cows.
Dim moonlight shone in through the frames of broken windows, mixing and coiling with the shadows on the floor like oil with water.
Fucking cows. What, d'they think they're better than me?
A piece of glass shook and tumbled out of a window frame, knocked from its perch by the frenetic shaking of the shed's frame. It shattered into neat slivers on the rotted wooden floor.
I grew up on a fuckin' dairy farm. I bet these pricks didn't even know what a goddamned holstein is.
The damp timber ceiling-frame vibrated spasmodically, sending dust and cobwebs drifting to the floor.
I worked my hands raw buildin' myself up. I put my heart and soul into my work.
Terrence's fingers cracked suddenly, and he stopped slamming his fists into the wall, and the shed slowly settled around him, the warbling creaks and groans of wood past its prime settling into a dull echo.
Now look at what they made me do. That's my good hand.
The small, mousy man stepped back from the wall, cradling his bleeding, broken hands.
All I wanted to do was make my goddamn cheese.
Terrence stepped over the now-slumped body he had been beating. The man's once-impeccable suit was now stained with blood, his holster lying open and unreached underneath the silk lining.
Some fucking foundation. Doesn't even support local business owners.
Terrence stepped over the body and grabbed his bag. Turning to the door, he stepped over the man's body again, tracing an outline of his boots into the growing pool of blood. Stepping out the crooked front door, he took a deep, calming breath, tracing his thumb around the stinging wounds in his palm. He turned to close it, but it broke from the hinge as soon as he touched the handle, slamming loudly to the floor. Terrence shrugged and stepped into the crisp air.
Wouldn't even try a sample. Ungrateful dick.
The rat-like figure began walking casually to the man's sedan, a newish Mercedes, the bloodstained keys now twirling around his pointer finger.
Bet he regrets that now, doesn't he? All he had to do was try the gouda.
He stepped into the car, relishing in the smell of the pristine leather.
It was good fucking gouda. His loss, though - woulda gone well melted on rye - some corned beef…
Terrence slipped the keys into the ignition, smiling widely at the powerful hum of the car's engine.
Or smoked, with some balsamic, or with some charcuterie…
Terrence turned to look back as he reversed, but paused. His eyes focused on the polystyrene container in the backseat, and he felt his cheeks flush with anger. A fast-food cheeseburger sat resplendent in the backseat, half-eaten, orange waxy cheese having settled into a cold, oily mess, staining the packaging. Terrence's nostrils flared as he reversed.
So he'd eat that shit, but he wouldn't touch my fucking gouda?! MY fucking gouda?!
Terrence pulled out of the rough gravel park that the shed sat in and set out through the wooded dirt road, his rage building as he drove. He opened the glovebox, searching for a flask or bottle that could calm him down, and pulled out a carton of milk. He slammed on the brakes at the outskirts of the wood, staring at the milk in his hand. The cow on the carton was taunting him, laughing with its stupid, fat, ugly fucking cow face.
Fucking cows.
Terrence rolled down the window and pegged the carton out the window. He stopped, then reached into the backseat, and pegged the burger out after it. He pulled out of the sheltered road and onto the highway, heading into Seattle.
Who's superior now, huh? I've got the opposable thumbs, not you, you motherfuckers. You dopy pricks only have hooves. Can't drive a car with hooves. Only we can do that. Dumb fucks.
The lights that ran along the highway flashed by, painting and masking Terrence's face in a haunting manner, making him blink and shield the side of his face. Terrence's eyes settled briefly on a billboard before he sped past, and an idea began to form in his mind.


Only for a limited time at McDonald's!

Nearest location, next right!

Terrence smiled.
They'll eat that, but not my fucking gouda.
Terrence flipped the turn signal and turned right.
Oh, they'll eat the fucking gouda. It's good gouda. Better than that fucking gorgonzola.
Terrence pulled into the McDonald's carpark, and eyed a pair of teenagers as they walked out of the stout brick building, chewing on paper-wrapped burgers.
Fucking cows.

Albert and Ahmed stepped into the fluorescent-lit elevator. Ahmed was fidgeting nervously; in stark contrast to Albert, who was calmly smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. The pair stood in a tense but understanding silence, watching the impossibly slow elevator-counter tick slowly up from 1. The dull hum of the elevator provided a fitting soundtrack of monotony for the ride; Ahmed reached for his phone instinctually, then remembered it had been confiscated in the lobby. He instead settled for leaning against the railing, whistling to himself. Albert mashed the butt of his cigarette into the brass leaning-rail of the counter, and dropped the but into his coat pocket. He removed his hand from the pocket, bearing another cigarette, and lit it with a beaten zippo. The elevator filled with an acrid smoke, and Ahmed let out a couple of weak, passive-aggressive coughs.
"Oh, blow it out your ass." Albert said, through a haze of smoke.
"You'll be soon enough," Ahmed said through a barely-hidden smile, "When they have to cut a hole in your throat for you to breathe through, and the only place left to stick those Lucky Strikes of yours is where the sun doesn't shine."
"Lucky Strikes?!" Albert said through feigned horror. "I wouldn't touch that shit with a ten-foot-pole."
"You can touch my ten-foot-pole."
Albert broke out in booming laughter as Ahmed chuckled into his suit-sleeve. The pair giggled until the doors opened, and the air in the elevator became suddenly and shockingly clear and breathable. The two stepped out into the steel-and-glass receptionist's area, stepping through the quickly-dissipating smoke. The area was white, and sterile - it stunk like a hospital waiting-room, and was about as ominous, despite the plastic ferns that dotted the room. A long wooden desk stretched along one end of the room, manned by a haggard-looking receptionist, who looked at the two men balefully, the laughter and stale cigarette smoke filling the room.
"Hello. Welcome to the Stoltz Community Protectorate. How can I help you?"
Albert stepped forward to the desk as Ahmed inspected one of the ferns.
"We're here for a meeting with Dr. Plummer. We were summoned from Portland."
The receptionist smiled.
"All the way to London from Portland? That would make you -"
"Doctor Donovan and Doctor Faisal."
The receptionist nodded.
"Excellent. Dr. Plummer's office is down the hall, past the atrium. It's the big office; you can't miss it."
"Thank you."
The pair began walking down the hall, Ahmed a few steps behind Albert. The two men were equally superior within the Foundation, but Ahmed was young, and inexperienced - the young doctor regarded his colleague with a sort of student-teacher admiration, and the older Albert enjoyed mentoring the man - Ahmed was quick-witted and clever, and wasn't a kiss-ass, like some of the other researchers Albert had been stuck with, and the kid wasn't afraid to speak his mind - too many people had died in the Foundation because people had been unsure of themselves. The kid acted when he had a hunch - that's why they were here.
Albert stopped front of the door marked Director of Mobile Task Forces and reached for the doorknob.
Albert looked at Ahmed questioningly.
"The cigarette?"
Albert quickly snatched the cigarette from his lips and looked for an ashtray, or a bin. He settled on one of the pot plants, dabbing the cigarette out on a leaf and dropping the butt in the thin layer of dirt. He turned to Ahmed and offered a faceless thumbs-up.
"For someone who claims to be seventy," Ahmed said through a grin, "You certainly act like a toddler."
Albert flipped his hand from a thumbs-up position to a middle-finger, and blew a raspberry. Ahmed shook his head in mock disappointment and reached for the door.
"Hold on."
Ahmed looked at Albert exasperatedly.
"Forget the silly shit for a second, Ahmed. These guys are upper-proper-echelon, and if you say something out of line or see something you ain't meant to they're like to bathe you in amnestics and drop you on a curb somewhere. As soon as we cross that threshold -" Albert pointed to the bottom of the door - "We are the two classiest, most professional, most trustworthy-of-handling-a-paramilitary-unit-operating-on-est motherfuckers to have ever stepped into this building. You understand?"
Ahmed nodded. No words were needed.
"Alright." Albert said, breathing deeply. "Let's go."
The pair stepped through the door and entered the spacious office.

"So, what makes you qualified to work at McDonalds?"
Terrence blinked at the teenager. The boy sat in a ragged leather desk chair, his feet up on a couple of milk crates, with a demeanour and confidence that didn't match his spindly frame and acne-ridden face.
"I think you misunderstand me. I don't want a job. I want to know who you local supplier is - does that make sense?"
The boy smirked, lowering his feet to the floor and steeling his hands on the desk in front of him. It looked like he was trying to imitate Tony Soprano, but instead he looked like the bad lead in a middle-school play.
"I don't think you understand. You want help, you come through me. You scratch my back, I scratch yours…" The boy faltered briefly. "Capische?"
Terrence looked at the boy with a sort of awe. He wasn't aware people like this existed outside of Michael Cera movies, and it made him forget about the cows for a moment.
"What the fuck did you just say?"
The boy narrowed his eyes.
"That's no way to get my help, pal."
"You know I could google it, right? This way is just quicker, and I can get some fries."
"No, only we know our suppliers. Company policy."
Terrence sighed.
"As much as I know that is bullshit, I'll bite. What do you want?"
The boy stopped and the confidence briefly ran from his face.
"Well, uh, I-"
"Right, so, you don't know?"
Terrence stopped and sighed again, louder and longer than the first time. He looked at his broken, bloodied hands, then raised them to show the boy.
"Alright then…" Terrence peered at the boys nametag. "Dennis. I've already beaten information out of somebody today, and to be honest, it fucking hurts. It isn't like the movies. It hurts a lot. So I'd really appreciate if you made this easy for me, because I'd have to use my feet to beat you, and I had a pedi yesterday, and it was expensive, and the place I go is really out of the way for me, so if I kicked the shit out of you I'd have to go back, and that would be fucking frustrating."
The boy had lost all of his confidence and atmosphere. He was shaking.
"D'you get me, Dennis, old buddy? D'you get where I'm coming from here?"
The boy nodded.
"Then tell me who the district supplier of dairy products for this McDonald's is, or I'll be forced to inconvenience myself."
The boy franticly shuffled through a rolodex and pulled out a folded slip of paper. There was a number, email, address, and an official-looking heading on it. He practically threw it at Terrence, who took with a smile and a thanking nod.
"Thanks be to you, Dennis, old boy."
Terrence stood and began to move to the door. He let his hand rest on the doorknob and paused, turning back to Dennis.
"And, uh, Denny? Den-Den? If I have to come back here, I'll come back and kick the shit outta you. Then I'll go to my pedicure place, which is in Tacoma, so it's a long damn commute for me, and I'll get another pedicure. Then I'll take my pedicure lady, her name's Sasha, she's great, and I'll bring her back here with me. And I'll kick the shit out of you again. I'll get her to give me a pedicure on the spot, then kick the shit out of you again, then I'll beat you with Sasha. Do you get me? I'll beat the ever-loving fuck outta you with another human being. Just to make sure you're one-hundred-fucking-percent-sure, I will physically lift and swing a petite Russian woman into you, many times, until either you or her break. And she's a tough lady. She lived through the battle of Stalingrad. And that was a brutal fight - hand-to-hand in the streets and shit - the fucking germans- you know what, I'm getting distracted. Just understand, I'll beat the shit outta you. Toodles!"
Terrence stepped out of the office and into the bustling backdoor kitchen. He nearly slammed into a teenage girl who was walking out of the freezer, carrying a tall stack of something orange and waxy.
Terrence kicked the office door back in and raised a finger towards the cowering teenage Dennis.
"And you'd better get rid of that processed shit just in case I ever come back. NO FUCKING CHEESE!"
Dennis let out a pathetic whimper and nodded, acquiescing.
"Good. We understand each other. In a way, we're brothers now. Don't call the cops, beatings, yadayadayada, toodles!"
Terrence stepped out of the office again. This time, he left using the back door.
Seems more appropriate, he thought contentedly. Don't wanna spook the cows.

Albert and Ahmed stepped into the bright office. It was just as sterile as the waiting room and the hall, with the prerequisite amount of plastic ferns and plush leather chairs. The room was small, and the only seeming transgression in the atmosphere of the room was a thin plume of cigarette smoke drifting lazily from an ashtray on the resplendent desk that dominated the room. A thin, waspish lady in a pantsuit turned to them with a smile as they entered, stepping back from a recessed bookshelf behind the desk. She approached the pair with an outstretched hand, walking with a confidence and purpose both Albert and Ahmed knew was only found among the Foundation's senior echelons.
"You two must be the two doctors!" She said, with a subdued French accent. "Albert Donovan and Ahmed Faisal?"
The pair nodded and took their turns shaking the woman's hand.
"And you," Albert began. "Must be the Director of Task Forces?"
The lady nodded slowly and began walking back to her desk, motioning for the two men to sit down.
"Yes. Director Ava Le Gal. But please, just call me Ava."
The two men sat in a pair of lush leather seats facing Ava's desk. Ava sat down in her own chair and, reaching for a manila folder, settled into her chair.
"So, gentlemen, I'm sure you were already made aware of the fact that your task force, Rho Eighty-Eight-"
"Eighty-Seven, ma'am."
"Eighty-Seven, yes. It was approved before you got here, and before you were even summoned here. This more of a post-selection process. I have some questions I wanted answered in person."
"Well, Ava," Albert said. "Ahmed would be the man to talk to. This task force was his concept, the work done to develop it was done based on his work on 2867. Any questions you have, Ahmed can give you the answer."
Ava turned her focus to Ahmed, and sat forward in her chair.
"Well, Doctor Faisal, my first question for you, is why you requested the personnel you did? The researchers and soldiers you requested are all either retired or unimportant to their respective departments. With the exception of Agent Lyndon and yourself, Albert, the elected personnel are, for lack of a better term, expendable."
"Well, that is a two sided coin. For one, I believe that these specific individuals are perfect for selection and service in regards to our task force's task. And secondly, I thought that the… expendable… nature of these operatives would increase the likelihood of the task force getting selected."
Ava nodded slowly.
"That is fair enough, I suppose. Supply over demand."
The two men nodded.
"I'd assume that you've already began requisitioning my personnel."
"Yes, Doctor Faisal, all your personnel except for Captain Judd and Agent Moretto are presently in transit to Seattle. There's a setup team prepping your workspace as we speak. Agent Atkins is overseeing CBRN materials on-site, and your researcher team is calibrating all your equipment. Judd, Moretto, and Lyndon will begin weapons preparation when they arrive."
Ahmed frowned.
"What's the delay with Judd and Moretto?'

Do you wanna play with my Tonka Truck?
He's lying prone on the roof of a Brooklyn apartment building. It's the dead of winter, snow's falling, there's a garbage truck making the rounds down on the street five storeys below. He can hear the faint sounds of cursing as two men haul overfilled bags from the curb to the truck. He breathes out and fogs up the scope of his rifle.
It's yellow!
He peers through the scope, into a playground a block away. A seesaw coated in a thick layer of burgeoning snow is shaking almost imperceptibly in the breeze, and he can see the growing rust on the rivets in a swing-set, and the dissipating footsteps of children who'd gone home, and the dead leaves of the tree that floods a corner of the playground in shade, and a walking anthropomorphic bunny.
C'mon, dad! It has lights and everything!
He traces the reticle to a young boy, sitting alone on a bench. He's wearing a yellow beanie with a little green pom-pom (god didn't jamie wear that beanie) and he's staring at the bunny. He's laughing. He sneezes and the bunny becomes a tissue. The boy claps and laughs and the bunny is back. The playground distorts and leaks, like a liquid, becoming a small cottage surrounded by a meek garden, snowflakes drifting down from the (real) sky and painting this new real estate in a growing blanket of white. The boy stands, with wondrous eyes, and approaches the bunny, who is waving him over.
Can we use it outside? Please dad? Please?
The rifle puffs and a round slams into the bunny. There's no blood, but the bunny shatters, then liquefies, then disappears, shedding itself into the snow. The boy recoils (fuck he looks just like jamie) and screams. The cottage falls away, and suddenly the boy is back in a shithole playground in Brooklyn, and the snow isn't special anymore, it's just snow, and he turns the rifle and taps the trigger twice, and then the snow looks like a (candy cane jaime loved candy canes red and white he'd make a point from them) as the boy drops and the playground grows silent.
Where's dad? We were gonna play with my Tonka truck!

Judd jerked awake. The smell of the airport bathroom was strangely comforting, like a chain tethering Judd to the real world, and he listened to the echoing sound of his breaths as he slowly came back to reality. The cold weight of the pistol in his hands became suddenly, and uncomfortably, obvious, and he hurriedly stuffed it back into his holster, his hands shaking as he rushed to hide it. Reality began to rush in, faster than it had been, and he began to cry softly, his breath hitching in his throat.
"Judd? You okay?"
Moretto opened the door and stepped into the bathroom, peering under the stalls to spot the familiar Blundstone workbooks Judd was always wearing.
"I'm fine, Frank. Just- just give me a minute."
"We're boarding man, we don't have a minute. Wipe and get out here."
Judd listened to the door swing closed as Moretto left and he breathed deeply. He stood and left the stall, stepping into the airport wing and walking to the gate. As he walked, three thoughts flashed through his head at once, forcing him to blink and walk quicker, as the thoughts flooded the space behind his eyes.
You abandoned them. You abandoned them for this, you pathetic shit. Remember that next time you feel sorry for yourself. You did this to yourself, and they resent you for it, dead man, you did thDo you wanna play with my Tonka truck? It's remote controfools rush in where angels fear to tread, so tread carefully, because the fools might have claymores.
Judd walked to the gate and passed a small café, peering briefly at the collection of sandwiches as he passed.
Tread carefully? Tread Caerphilly. Man, I could go for a cheesesteak right now.
Judd walked over to Moretto and picked his carry-on back up.
"Alright. I'm good."
"What, were you shitting or writing a sonnet in there?"
"I was losing my shit, Moretto."
"Damn well better have, that much time in the shitter."

"So, you ready? To command a task force?"
"You sure Ahmed? This is big shit right here. They don't give these away for free."
"Isn't there one dedicated to stealing mail?"
"It's a little more complex than that, but that's not the point, the point is-"
"I wouldn't have proposed it if I didn't think I was ready."
"I- Just… I'll be right there with you. I'll be there to help."
"Thanks, Al."
Albert and Ahmed stepped into the Site-64 meeting room, and smiled in unison at the small group gathered together.
"Hello everyone! Raise your hand if you like dairy."
Everyone in the room raised their hand, with the exception of a young woman in the front row, who shook her head solemnly. Ahmed smiled at the hands.
"Well, you're going to hate this assignment!"