The Scarlet Solider by Stephen Rowe

Eight months of experience in the Special Operations unit of Raid Company transformed Eliza Scarlet into an exceptional soldier. Spec Ops squads, as they’re called, consist of five highly skilled soldiers who specialize in fast-paced assassination missions. Scarlet’s eyes resembled that of a lion when hunting its prey, and with her rifle, she was just that — a predator.

Her normal life had ended around the age of nineteen when she was abducted by a man who, at the time, just seemed like your typical monster but turned out to be something much more fearsome. After her rescue, she joined Raid Company and quickly advanced to the position of First Lieutenant. Her resentment for the man who had taken her away from her family, killing her mother and father, molded her mind into the perfect condition for a soldier.

Tonight’s mission, unlike the others, would be conducted in a heavily wooded area, leaving Scarlet in a bad position as a sniper. She would have to move in closer to keep eyes on her four other squad members. Major Victor, the squad leader, gave his usual briefing. Briefings typically covered who the target would be, what to expect, and what roles each member in the squadron would take. Tonight, she would give up her typical sniper rifle for an M4 carbine; something a bit more fitting for close-quarters combat.

“Are you nervous?” Victor asked Scarlet as she leaned against the military vehicle, staring up towards the sky.

“No, why?” she gingerly replied.

“You won’t have your rifle, and you’ll be in the mix this time,” Victor said. 

Scarlet smiled as she directed her gaze towards Victor.

“Are you nervous that I won’t be watching over you all like always?” Scarlet said as she opened the back passenger-side door of the vehicle, hopping inside. “This time I guess you’ll have to watch over me, huh?”

Snipers kept their distance during missions, typically watching over their squadmates, noting enemy locations, and performing assassinations. Victor knew this well. 

“I’ll see what I can do,” he said jokingly, steadily questioning whether she should partake in the mission or not.

As the five drove down the twisted country roads, Scarlet couldn’t help but gaze out the window. Their usual missions took place within small cities, where the abundance of light revealed all that was hidden in the dark. Here the moon seemed to be their only guide. Her mind jumped from one idea to another, seemingly in between each bump they encountered on the terrible roads. No one in the squadron ever spoke on their way to an operation. Was it a sign of respect for the lives that they would take, or did everyone need their own moment of blissful silence before going to work, Scarlet thought to herself.

The vehicle pulled to a stop near a dark tree line in the middle of nowhere. The moon revealed the road quite clearly, yet gazing into the tree line revealed nothing. It was a pitch-black void that they would venture 2 kilometers into by foot before reaching their destination.

“We’re here,” Victor stated, as everyone began exiting the vehicle.

Operating for the first time in a heavily wooded area, tonight’s mission was becoming rather difficult. More trees and brush meant less visibility, and less visibility meant everyone would need to stay constantly on guard. Moving in a “V” formation, Victor assigned Scarlet to the left flank. Treading softly, the mud squished beneath their boots, their green pixelated camouflage becoming one with the trees as nightfall cloaked their presence. A small church was located in an open field five yards from the cover of the tree line. Three children had gone missing and were thought to have been located there due to recent information. Rescue missions meant hostages, which always reminded Scarlet of her past traumatic experience. ‘How can someone do this to a child?’ she would always ponder.

“Begin the operation,” Victor said with a stern yet silent voice, moving his hand in a forward-like motion, instructing them to move. 

The predators were now in action, and all that could be seen were the gleams of the black metallic rifles, dancing amongst what seemed to be moving trees. Scarlet and another member moved to clear the church from the back. The other three headed straight through the front entrance. The busting of the locked back door was masked by the gunfire from Victor and the others.

“Death comes like a thief in the night,” jokingly said the other squad member to Scarlet, celebrating their undisclosed entrance.

Silence fell upon them as the gunfire from Victor and the others halted. Scarlet continued to scan cautiously throughout the room. The flashlight attached to her rifle guided her eyes carefully for the missing children and any possible threats that may be lurking within the shadows. If Victor had already eliminated the target, why hadn’t he reported it? Maybe they were also scanning for additional threats or searching for the missing children. The thought of the target attempting to flee through the back kept Scarlet’s squadmate focused on the dark hallway that led deeper into the church. Yet the chaotic sound of someone attempting to flee for their life was never heard.

“Ru.. re.. Abo.. t! I.. peat.. ourt!” rang through the transceiver attached to Scarlet’s chest. 

It was Victor, and he sounded distraught. He was always calm. Scarlet had seen him get shot in the arm once on another mission, after which he proceeded to remove the tip of a bullet he had taken from his rifle with his teeth, sealing his wound shut with the gunpowder. There had to have been a problem, she could feel it in her bones.

“You’re breaking up. Repeat, over,” said Scarlet, almost in a panic yet calm enough as to not give away their position.

Screams of soldiers now echoed through the church yet were more apparent in the background of Victor’s last reports. Small caliber gun shots blasted as if attempting to drown out the pleas for help. Waiting in the dark hallway, Scarlet shut off her flashlight, cloaking herself with the darkness, leaving only the moonlight from the broken back door to illuminate the way. The chaotic sounds of gunfire and screams had silenced. Her heartbeat was so fierce that she began to wonder if the other soldier could hear it. 

Victor’s voice once again echoed through the transceiver, this time clear and crisp. He just said: “Run.”

The sound of him gasping as if he had just been stomped on was followed by the static of transceivers cold silence. 

The mission had gone sour, and without knowing how many targets were located inside the church, thoughts of turning back plagued their minds. 

“My name is Marcus,” the soldier stated. 

He had never formally introduced himself to Scarlet before due to his belief that women didn’t make great soldiers. Something so trivial as to state his name to her out of fear sent chills down Scarlet’s spine. She turned to him and saw the eyes of a man who had lost hope. Maybe he introduced himself because he believed that they wouldn’t make it out. Hell, if Victor died, the chances of survival were slim.

The thought of turning back and running away, leaving the kidnapped children with the monsters who just killed three highly trained soldiers, felt like a knife through her heart.

“I can’t just leave them,” she stated, visibly shaken by the unforeseen situation her and her squadron had been placed in.

“We’ll die a warrior’s death,” Marcus noted as they began to move in.

Turning right down the dark hallway, they faced what looked to be an audio room for gospel music. The smell of mold from the damp wet air seeped through their nostrils. The church was old, but if you were only viewing from the outside, you would have never thought it was this bad. Graffiti painted the walls like murals, beer cans were scattered about, a wooden cross that had once been on the wall was broken, and the names of teenagers had been written in permanent marker on the back of one of the chairs. “Emily + Johnathan forever” had been carved into one of the walls, and Scarlet let out a small chuckle for how stupid teenagers could be. Well, either that or the situation had finally gone to her head. 

A set of double doors separated the safety and isolation of the back audio room from the altar where Victor and the others had lost their lives. With the slow turn of the handle, their hearts raced until the pressure of each beat became so overwhelming that their bodies began moving on their own, and they burst through the doors.

The roof was wrecked, and moonlight kissed the chapel floors. Smoke from the gunfire still lingered, creating a light fog that blanketed the room. The sounds of animals chewing their prey accumulated within Scarlet’s ears, and the smell of blood was almost overwhelming. On the ground laid two men from their squadron. The light in their eyes was gone, and the blood that stained their necks confirmed her suspicions. They were no longer with us. 

Shifting her eyes towards the sounds of animals, she saw Victor’s face was dry and lifeless. Victor was being cradled in the arms of his killer. Like a child who had fallen and scraped their knee, the tears in his eyes screamed that he didn’t die peacefully. The thing drew its blood-stained fangs from Victor’s neck as it began to stand. Victor’s blood had been sucked dry, and the stomach of the vampire who fed upon him was now full. 

Turning towards the unwelcome visitors, the vampire smiled. Wrinkles formed around its eyes as it laughed. It laughed at what it had done. At the mess it had created out of the squad members. Scarlet opened fire in a blind rage, tears in eyes, each bullet spitting from the barrel as she remembered the fate of her late family.

Scarlet’s father sat there watching the History channel when a knocking could be heard from the front door. 

“I’ll get it, honey,” her mother spouted as she approached the door. 

Scarlet, sitting on the couch next to her father and reading a mystery novel, glanced towards the sound of a vase smashing near the front door.

“Help! Help!” her mother screamed.

Scarlet’s father bolted towards the door yelling for Scarlet to run to her room and call the police. She ran, hearing the curdling sounds of her mother and father choking on their own blood. Looking back was a sight that she would never forget — the man’s haunting red eyes. Eyes so red that you would have sworn that it had to have been a demon. 

After that, everything else leading to her rescue had been a blur. In her training with the Spec Ops unit, she learned that children who are kidnapped are typically farmed. Raised in horrible conditions, treated only as nourishment for these beasts. Scarlet would not allow that to continue. Not when she’s so close to her target.

Firing her rifle and staring at the vampire’s scorching red eyes, she told herself, ‘I will kill it.’ Marcus rushed diagonally, approaching the beast. Rifle in hand, he fired too. The beast moved like a leopard, and with a quick thrust of its hand it shredded through Marcus’ neck with ease. Scarlet’s gunshots were followed by the clang of the bolt in her rifle locking back, awaiting the next magazine feed. Shakenly, she fumbled for her next magazine. Shifting its attention towards Scarlet, the beast began sprinting towards her. Turning in a panic and attempting to run, Scarlet felt the beast’s claw slice her right arm, flinging her to the ground. 

Lying on the floor, she faced the podium. A large cross could be seen, yet it wasn’t wrecked like the one in the audio room. The golden paint, which had begun to flake off, glistened in the moonlight. Tears began to roll down her porcelain cheeks. ‘Will I die here?’ she thought to herself as the beast approached, its footsteps growing louder.  No, the training Scarlet had undergone taught her that women would be kidnapped by these beasts. Women have babies; more babies would mean more farm animals to harvest. The beast would keep her as its prize until she could no longer bear children.

She began to breathe heavily, tears and snot pouring down her face. Scarlet knew that if she were to live through this, she would not live well. The vampire came closer, and Scarlet’s rifle was too far for her to be able to fight back. Using the hunting knife strapped to her leg would be suicide, yet her hand felt drawn to it. A quick death or suffer, living a life birthing children to feed these demons? Scarlet wouldn’t have it. She thought about the children who were still somewhere within the church. Reaching for her knife, she cried out softly. 

“Sorry everyone… sorry momma… papa.” 

Unstrapping the knife, she touched the cold steel handle, the vampire now hovering above her. As it began reaching for her, a loud creak screamed from the front double doors of the chapel as they swung open, drawing the vampire’s eyes and hers.

The sound of footsteps flooded the sanctuary as a lone man in all black began slowly approaching her. In an attempt to ward him off, she tried mouthing for him to run, but the vampire began lifting her. Scarlet’s face was now inches away from the vampire’s mouth. So close in fact that she could smell the sickening aroma of iron from her squad’s blood on its breath.

“Will you kill her?!” The vampire taunted.

The man held but a single pistol, a large silver revolver with the words Mortem Veniet carved along the barrel: Latin for ‘death will come.’

As the clouds began to part, moonlight fell upon the lone man. The man bared the Raid Company patch on his left shoulder, yet, it was black with gold lettering unlike her and her squadron’s green and yellow patches. This man’s eyes rang with fire too — he was no human.

“Do you wish to live, girl?” the man asked.

Silence rang, and time felt still. Scarlet focused on the soldier in all black, his eyes resembling burning coals.

“Do you wish to live?” he questioned her again as if wanting to confirm that she still had the will to carry on.

Scarlet took a deep breath in and yelled, yelling as if she had never yelled before.

“Kill this bastard!”

Using her body as a shield, the vampire attempted to taunt the man. 

“You wouldn’t kill one of your own, would you?” 

The vampire poked fun, wishing to witness a human terrified of accidentally killing one of their own soldiers. Wanting to see the man attempt to run away in fear so that it could hunt him down. The man in the black smiled, his fangs now clearly visible. He was definitely not human.

“This may hurt, girl, but you will live,” he stated.

A bright light flashed from the man’s pistol, fully illuminating the room for a split second. Scarlet’s chest felt hot and wet as if she was melting. Looking down, her chest looked empty. Her blood poured, the hole in her chest hardly visible due to the amount of blood flowing from her. Glancing back towards the man in black, she saw his eyes were creased, gleaming with joy. The bullet had pierced Scarlet’s chest, barely missing her heart, and entered the vampire behind her, killing it. Falling to the ground, she felt the dust of the now vanquished vampire rain upon her. 

The man in black approached Scarlet, her nearly lifeless body lying on the cold chapel floor. She was no longer conscious at the time due to the blood loss. He took her into his arms and pierced her neck with his fangs.

Awaking in a hospital bed in the infirmary room at the Raid Company headquarters, Scarlet’s mind was in a daze. The brightness of the lights stung her eyes. Lifting her arms to adjust herself sent a pain through her chest. Shifting her neck to examine the hole in her chest revealed nothing but bandage wraps.

“General!” Scarlet yelled after glancing over and catching General Novikov in her gaze. Scarlet’s attempt to sit up and greet General Novikov properly was met with orders to remain where she was. One of General Novikov’s armed guards shook his head with sadness in his eyes, as if he was sorry for what had happened.

“You were badly injured back there, damn near didn’t make it,” Novikov stated.

“How are the children?” Scarlet asked.

“They’re fine. Tell me, do you still wish to serve your country after all that has unfolded?”

A stupid question, Scarlet thought to herself.

“Yes ma’am, I’ll fight till I die protecting this country,” she said, giving her response with little to no hesitation.

General Novikov stood up and placed a black and gold military patch next to Scarlet’s pillow.

“I expect great things from you in the future,” Novikov stated.

“Your being assigned to a different squadron, rest easy till then. You’re going to need it.”

The patch was the same as what the man in black wore, and fear struck her. She had been shot intentionally by one of their own soldiers. An act which would be deemed as treason. She had bled to death. How was it possible for her to be alive at this moment? Fate?

“This will be your introduction ceremony. Welcome to the Dark Ops Sector of Raid Company.”

After those words, General Novikov grabbed her jacket and left with her armed guards. 

The bed felt comfortable, more comfortable than the bunk she had typically slept in previously. Tears rolled down her face as Scarlet reminisced on the past eight months she had spent in her Spec Ops squadron with Victor, Marcus and the others. The thoughts of how everything ended brought out tears Scarlet never knew she had. Sluggishly lifting herself out of bed, she grabbed a box of Kleenexes to blow her nose. Tossing the used Kleenex tissues into the trash can, she pulled another to dab the tears away from her eyes. Glancing towards the mirror, she saw it again.

The face peering back, she had always known, yet its features left her bewildered. Her eyes gleamed of fire, and at that moment Eliza Scarlet knew she was no longer human.

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