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The Hand That Feeds

“Need I remind you that I am your master?!”

The smell of blood fills the air as I find my dog running wild in the trenches. Friend and foe alike lie dead, strewn all over the place in various states of mutilation.

“You will withdraw immediately!” I shout with as much anger as I can muster.

Reluctantly, she gets off the man barely clinging to his life and returns to me. The look on her face… it shakes me to my very core. Such violent fury would scare anyone senseless.

“You will obey me!” I shout as I beat her head with my pistol, trying to mask my fear.

I gesture towards the nearby armored vehicle and she clambers to her feet. It’s the major’s vehicle. For him to be here, I must be in some serious trouble again. As we climb into the back of the vehicle, the major turns to me.

“I have given you so many chances, corporal, and you continue to disappoint,” he barks.

“I’m sorry, sir. I-”

“I don’t want to hear it. You’re only here because you made some very big claims and the higher-ups were stupid enough to believe them. Things were not in our favor today, and you only increased our losses!”

He looks over the bloodied girl, now bleeding quite heavily from the forehead. She scowls fiercely at him.

“Can you really control that hellhound?” he says with intense disdain.

I couldn’t find an answer. I’ve been wondering about that myself. I bow my head in shame and can feel both her and the major’s scorn burning through me. As the major was about to speak again, an explosion rocked the vehicle and sent it onto its side in midair. In that split second, I caught a glimpse of the shrapnel that found its way into the major’s head before the vehicle crashed to the ground, throwing me into the seats on the opposite side. I don’t know how much time passed since that instant, but being frozen in pain appears to have played to my advantage as the attackers must have believed I was dead along with the major.

The pain is so intense I can’t begin to guess the extent of my injuries, but I can’t bend my back or move my right arm without another paralyzing flash of pain. The girl is nowhere to be seen. Finally forcing my way out of the vehicle and onto my feet, it looks like I’ve been out for half a day. The moon is full and distant gunfire echoes from over the hills, but all activity in this area seems to have ended.

¡Lo encontré!” yelled a voice from behind the tree line.

Speak of the devil. A small team quickly rushes out to surround me, guns drawn. I can’t speak the language so I just raise my good arm and give up. I guess my luck has finally run out. As one of them approaches me and puts his pistol to my head, I get a good look at his armband. There’s no flag on it, only a star-shaped symbol I’ve never seen before. What are mercenaries doing here, let alone looking for me? The man pulls his gun back and smirks at me.

“I’ll feed you to the dogs, bastard,” he says before pistol-whipping me in the forehead.

“Wake up sleepyhead.”

I open my eyes and see that I’m surrounded by mercenaries in the back of a truck. They didn’t even bother to handcuff me, but I have no idea where we are and am in no shape to resist anyway. I comply with every order as they take me into what looks like an old bunker. Fully prepared to be interrogated or even tortured, I was quite surprised when they simply left me in there alone for hours with only one guard outside. I was even more surprised to then turn around and find that the girl had walked in without me noticing, making me flinch.

“This is supposed to be your master?” said a female voice in a condescending tone. “The little one’s shaking like a leaf!”

Behind the girl, a woman walks in with mocking swagger, despite being completely unarmed. She’s taller than the girl and even me. She’s wearing the same armband as the mercenaries, and her eyes… somehow, even though she’s smiling, those eyes make me feel the same fear as the girl does.

“I am your master,” I bark at the girl, beckoning her to my side.

“I don’t know,” says the tall woman, “do you really think you can control her? What gives you that right?”

Once again, I can’t find an answer. I glance at the girl scowling at me with more anger than I’ve ever seen. The tall woman must have cared for her, because her forehead has been bandaged and the blood rinsed off of her. Now I see why the tall woman is so cocky… I no longer have control.

“Nothing,” I whisper.

“Hmm, didn’t quite catch that. Could you speak up a bit?”

“I lost that right long ago.”

The tall woman grins and snaps her fingers, and the girl responds by throwing me into the wall by the neck. Before I can fall down, the girl grabs me by the neck again and holds me against the wall, just off the ground.

“I’m glad you understand,” the tall woman chides. “Don’t worry, I’ll take good care of her. Now, is there anything you want to say before you go?”

With great struggle, I force out the words, “I was afraid.”

“And?” she says in a singsongy voice.

“I’m sorry,” I choke out.

The woman begins laughing maniacally at my words. “Oh, what a heartwarming moment! I almost cried for a minute there!”

She throws a pistol to the girl, who lets me down and puts the gun in my hand, then forces it to my head.

“You will obey me,” says the girl.

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