“Do you think they’ll torture us, Sarge?” The two men sat crossed-legged on an empty floor, back-to-back. They were each other’s support rest that way. Plus, they could scan in all directions, as far as the dim light allowed their eyes to penetrate the darkness. The older one slowly searched for any activity, left to right, then right to left. The younger sat cowering, with a look that said it all. I’m scared. I don’t know what to do. Please tell me everything will be okay!
“I don’t know, Taggart. I don’t know – never been this close to ’em before.” He wanted nothing more than to offer reassuring words but just could not allow himself to share fantasy and false hope. He was scared as well. “No, never been this close to ’em before. I heard back in ’42 they found a half dozen from the Second ID, soldiers from an advanced party we sent out to try and fix their location. All they recovered were those six bodies.” Sitting on the floor, Taggart pulled his knees close and buried his face to hide his expression. This can’t be happening.
“They sent 128 in total; no one has any idea what happened to the rest of them. If those six were any indication, it didn’t go well.” The sergeant continued scanning as he spoke. His detached expression showed no sympathy for their predecessors. “When they were found, they were stripped and half-starved. Four were already dead — the others made it another 36 hours before…”
“Before what, Sergeant Clark?”
Clark wanted nothing more than to reassure his soldier. He could not find the words but finally choked out a response.
“The bastards had ripped out all of their finger-and-toenails, Taggart. One was carved up so bad – head cut up and shaved, ears mutilated — you couldn’t even identify the body as human without…”
The sergeant’s response kept trailing off, repeatedly fighting back the urge to break down and cry; Taggart was already there.
Clark and Taggart were the only soldiers remaining. At least, they were the only two at that particular location. Sergeant Clark found it impossible to tell where they were or why they were being held. The room was large; Clark found it hard to believe it was needed just to hold two naked and frightened soldiers. The plan must have been to capture more. That was, of course, before things got out of hand in the final defense of Perimeter Tango. Clark never saw bloodshed like that before — he never even heard of brutality on such a scale. What the fuck happened? Hell, they’re the Third Infantry Division, the famed “Rock of the Marne” of 1918. Their dogged defense is still legendary. Clark was baffled. “It never should’ve gone that bad, that quickly. What the fuck happened?”
But those famed battles of the American Expeditionary Force were over 160 years ago. Warfare had advanced beyond primitive days of fighting amongst the trenches, scrambling to capture inches of ground. Their unit was Earth’s third expedition deployed beyond the galaxy. This time, 432 soldiers were heavily armed when they landed and went in on foot. Air and ground vehicles proved ineffective against that alien force. The enemy immediately targeted and destroyed vehicles whenever any left the security of their assembly area, obliterated before anyone could get a fix on anything. “Modern warfare” took more than a few steps backward, putting troops back into trenches.
Scouts were advancing. Then came the counterattack…
Clark and Taggart recounted the same story. Both were hit from behind while their attention was focused on chaos to the front. They were losing — the last moment either remembered was their commanding officer giving the order, “fix bayonets.”
The next thing recalled was waking up in that warehouse. Taggart had a nasty welt on his back from some sort of piercing. He looked over his sergeant and found the same, probably a tranquilizing agent. Clark was trying to assess his surroundings. No equipment. No windows or doors. Hell, the room was so tall neither could determine just how high the walls reached until the ceiling emitted its dull brilliance. He paced the empty room’s perimeter, 50 by 75 meters, figuring the dimensions reduced their chances of being underground. There were no doors, windows, or openings on four smooth metal walls. The floor showed signs of recent activity. All they could see in the low light were each other. Stagnant air gave no indication of circulation.
Neither could tell how long they were out, but the men were clean-shaven the morning of battle. Clark caressed the heavy scruff on his face. His stomach was growling as if it had been empty for days. A few days could mean their position is anywhere on that planet, or any of the other four in the belt for that matter. They were alone, confused, and scared. Plus, they were naked.
Without warning, a slot at the bottom of one far wall raised. From it, a metal tray slid into view. Both soldiers ran to the opening, but it closed before they reached the spot. The tray had a pile of what looked like brown flesh next to two bowls of liquid. Water was Sergeant Clark’s guess.
Taggart leaned over the specimen to inspect it with his nose. “Is that shit? Did they just take a shit on a plate to feed it to us, Sergeant?”
“It’s actually pretty good once you finally get past the smell.”
The quip startled both soldiers. They immediately snapped their heads around to see who or what was there. It came from the other side of the room. A man was standing by the wall as if he had been there the entire time. Some part opened then sealed again while they were distracted. Sergeant Clark took the lead.
“Who the hell are you?”
The stranger boomed, “Corporal Victor Hernandez, Charlie Company, Reconnaissance Advanced Force, Second Infantry Division. ‘Second to None!’” He was an old man trying his best to stand tall, snap a salute, and bark the famed mantra of the Second ID, but his body could only replicate a pathetic reproduction of the real thing. Immediately, however, Clark recognized him as genuine.
“At ease, Corporal.” The character relaxed. Even old soldiers find comfort in protocol. “I’m Staff Sergeant Linus Clark, and this is Private Vincent Taggart.” Clark was stunned. He stared for a moment into the geriatric’s eyes. “Have you been here since the First Expeditionary Force?” Corporal Hernandez must have used up whatever military bearing remained within him. He waved his hand like a giddy little kid.
“Yep! Class of 2041.” As Hernandez tossed the two soldiers cloth cut from some animal skin, Taggart gasped and asked if he had actually been held there for 37 years. “We count time a little different out here, but if you say it’s been 37 years, then yes, I have. I probably came to this place much like the way you did. I don’t really know where we are,” he smiled, “but we both know it’s not back on Earth. I go out into the yard every once in a while. The sky is a hazy shade of purple and brown, even in the day, but the sun peeks through sometimes.”
“What are you doing here?” Sergeant Taggart pulled his head through a hole cut into the tunic. Corporal Hernandez described various duties he was either tasked with or instinctively developed. He fancied himself a hospitality director for their new home, often welcoming groups brought in over the years. “There aren’t as many troopers as you might think. Most of the time, what comes through is a roundup of regular people — four or five at a time seems preferred. Children are better than adults since they don’t really seem to have any desire to deal with grown humans.”
“Maybe they can’t.” Clark’s nonsense was just about the only sentence he could form, still trying to come to grips with his new surroundings.
“Oh, they’re actually quite sophisticated with our species! They try to breed us whenever they get a woman of childbearing age or raise a bitch.” As Hernandez kept talking, Taggart returned to the ground and sat, his arms wrapped around trembling knees as he rocked, softly sobbing. “The last one they caught a few years back, her name was Jenny, they kept her pregnant through seven pups before her body gave out. Yep, five full-term, one stillborn though, two rejected.”
Clark seemed confused. “They mate with our species?”
“Oh, no,” chuckled the suddenly energetic corporal. Hernandez seemed entertained for someone who spent most of his adult life as a prisoner of war. His delight grew the longer he talked; Clark wondered if he was just happy to see another human after however long it must have been.
“Oh, no,” he continued. “I don’t think they can mix with our breed. Besides, I’d hate to be the poor female they tried that on. I did the stud role for a while back when I was a young and tough Ranger. You think you would never do it. You know – rape a woman. But that’s what they want you to do. They stick you in one of those ‘breeding rooms’ and don’t let you out until you did it.”
Hernandez smiled. “Until, you know, you fucked her. They brought one through here yesterday. Angela, I think her name was. Yeah. Angela Townes.”
“They got Lieutenant Townes?” Private Taggart was unsure if he should be happy or frightened from that discovery.
“Yeah, they got her. She came in here buck naked, just like you. She’s a fertile one.” Hernandez developed a faraway look as if he was visioning her fleshly form, imagining what he could do with her in his younger days. “She wasn’t here long, probably sent to the breeder.”
Clark was growing tired of the conversation.
“So, what the hell do they intend to try and do with us? They’re breeding our women? For what purpose?”
“That all depends on what you end up with.” Corporal Hernandez explained the situations to which he had borne witness. Humans held in isolation — brought to the brink of starvation before they are caged with another. Two men, one scrap of food, locked up until one is declared victorious. By the third or fourth time any are placed in that scenario, aggression becomes instantaneous and without mercy.
Some live their life in a pen not much different from the one they were currently held, except for the walls. One or two sides might be open. A strange field of energy prevented their escape while alien creatures gathered. Their intentions were never made known. The few people Hernandez ever spoke with after such an experience said they felt like exhibits or observations.
“I see some when they are brought back to my little sanctuary. Their bodies are mutilated.” Private Taggart began to cower and cry at the notion of that fate. Hernandez seemed to show some sympathy. “Those examples are few and far between. Most of the time they come back, they’re old, fat, and happy! I’m sure you’ll be with the second group.” It was not much of a consolation.
At that moment, a most displeasing guttural howl came from across the room. Hernandez jumped with glee, grabbed an arm of each soldier, straining to lift and guide them across the floor.
“Ooh! It seemed you’re about to have your answer, Sergeant. Here! Come here.” He directed Clark to a spot on the ground, well stained and reeking of piss and shit. The Sergeant growled.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Clark snapped as he struggled against the man’s grip.
“Trust me,” the corporal insisted. “I’ve done this thousands of times before. This is my job. I’m supposed to prepare you for a presentation.” He continued his positioning, coercing Clark over to his intended location. The private was an easy move, broken and unwilling to wage a fight against this inconceivable situation. The two were placed about seven feet apart, facing the commotion.
“Just stand there and don’t do anything stupid.”
They were ready.
Hernandez’s eyes lit up as he bounced on the balls of his feet in anticipation. “I love this part. Good luck, gentleman.”
The image of a wall seemed to disappear. In its place, four figures loomed. Sergeant Clark figured three of them must have been at least twelve feet tall, while the fourth was smaller. He never saw a real Junket up close before. The pre-mission briefing pictures and videos never quite captured the matted hair on their lean, muscular frames. Covered in secretions, the hair seemed to knead and manipulate their four limbs across the floor. Like a fucking rotting corpse dipped in barbecue sauce was the description he remembered.
“Jackpot!” Hernandez began to run around in a frenzied craze. “I know them! I know them!” Clark and Taggart remained put as their suitor continued to dash about. “The one on the left, the striking one…”
They were still tall when moving, only leaning forward slightly onto their second pair of legs. The Junkets reminded Sergeant Clark of a praying mantis in that position. Clark could not understand what, precisely, was striking about any of them. They were hideous. Plus, there was that smell.
“…he’s my master. He is the one who has taken care of me since I got here.” Hernandez was indeed subject to whatever influence these aliens held. “I know the other two tall fellows. They’ve been here before, coming every two or three seasons to get a couple more humans. I don’t know the last one. He looks familiar, though.” The aliens’ liaison stared silently for a moment until he remembered.
“Wait! Is that Bobby?”
Clark asked, “What the fuck’s a Bobby?”
“I don’t know his real name,” Corporal Hernandez chuckled, “or if he even has a name, but when they call out to him, I hear ‘Bobby’ in my head. Wow, it must have been,” Hernandez paused. “23… It’s been 23 harvest seasons since Bobby first appeared on the farm.
“Wow! We’re both getting old, Bobby. Aren’t we?”
Two of the creatures moved forward. Clark and Taggart felt it was wise to do as advised — stand there and not put up a fight. Their hair was tussled. Taggart’s cloth was pulled aside as his genitals were lifted. It was almost as if they were inspecting the offerings. The two stepped back and conferred with “master” while Bobby moved in to explore the two.
Horrific screeches erupted between the three taller Junkets. Bobby seemed more interested in the new humans, slowly inching closer. One “adult” emitted a guttural yelp, and Bobby immediately stepped back to rejoin the herd. She must have been the mother. Only a mother has such control over their children.
Mom and dad made their way towards the wall where they entered. Bobby followed close behind, screeching and spitting back towards the humans.
Hernandez was sure a deal was set!
“A deal for what, Corporal?” Clark burst into anger.
“For you. A deal for you,” the old man rambled. “One of you. Maybe both.” He began to jump in excitement at the thought. “Maybe they’ll keep both of you!”
Maybe they’ll keep both of you. The phrase snapped Private Taggart out of his trance.
“Keep us?” he asked. “You mean, like pets?”
The Sergeant erupted, “At ease, Taggart! No one’s keeping us as fucking pets!” As Sergeant Clark turned to move towards the aliens, Corporal Hernandez was already standing in his way. He anticipated the reaction, one he had probably seen before. He herded the two together while working to soothe them.
“Calm down, Goddammit. Calm down.” Hernandez’s demeanor was firm. His manner changed in an instant. “Let me tell you what is going to happen.” The Corporal bent down and patted his palms onto the stone floor, directing the two to take a seat. They had no choice. It was just the three of them alone in the warehouse again. Sergeant Clark and Private Taggart complied and took their place in front of the old soldier. Hernandez comfortably placed a hand on each of them as he continued.
“This is what I do, gentleman. I welcome people to this godforsaken world and try my best to help them make sense of the rest of their days.” He rose and slowly circled the two, gently brushing his fingers through their hair on each pass. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I’m pretty good at my job. Master has kept me in this role, so it must think I’m doing good.” The crazy old man they first met was no longer in front of them. Instead, they were taking direction from the noncommissioned officer in charge.
“Here’s what’s going to happen. In a few minutes, that wall will open again, and they are going to bring in a cage.” Before Sergeant Clark had a chance to recoil from the word cage, Hernandez cut him off. “Don’t interrupt me, Sergeant.
“They will let you know who’s going in the cage. They’ll be gentle if you don’t put up a fight. They won’t be gentle if you resist.” The Corporal placed his hands together in prayer. “Please don’t resist. Trust me.”
Private Taggart raised his hand as he posed his question. “What are they going to do to us, Corporal?”
“I don’t know where you’re going, but I know that you will have it good. I have seen people after they’ve gone with this family. Life will be as best as it can get for you on this planet. There will be chances to see that glorious brown sunset. You’ll get good food. You’ll get used to it.
Corporal Hernandez continued to circle as he let the words sink in.
“If you resist… If they don’t take you… If any others come for you… I don’t want to share the horrors of what will happen if you don’t go into the crate.”
The corporal stopped in front of Clark. Hernandez’s somber look changed with the slightest hint of a grin.
“Sergeant Clark, you said you are with the Third Infantry Division?”
“First Battalion, Second Regiment, Exo-Planet Task Force!” Clark boasted.
Hernandez paused like he was struggling to recall his old army days.
“Third ID? ‘Rock of the Marne?’”
“They still call you Dogface Soldiers?”
“Only in history books,” Taggart replied.
Corporal Hernandez did not need to provide any more clarification. There was nothing left to explain. He continued to circle his two soldiers as the reality of their fate firmed.
Neither Dogface Soldier reacted when the wall faded once more, opening just enough to allow a dilapidated flatbed vehicle through. It seemed to float inches above the floor, elevated by a sputtering cushion of air. Its cargo was a square metallic crate with dozens of fist-sized holes perforating the walls.
The vehicle went silent as it settled. A Junket exited without a sound and came around back, tracing one of its thin upper limbs across the crate’s top. Unlocked, one side fell to the bottom of the truck bed in a violent sound that broke the silence and set Corporal Hernandez to action. He knew just what to do next.
“Let’s go, Sergeant,” he whispered while gently tugging Clark’s arm. There was no fight left in the man. He sheepishly rose and followed. Hernandez herded him to the crate, grabbed the nape of his neck, guiding him into a sitting position with his knees folded. “Make some room,” he ordered while pushing Clark deeper into the crate, then returned to retrieve Taggart.
“You’re up, soldier.” The process was repeated without resistance. Hernandez backed away as the Junket closed its crate; nothing remained for hospitality to do. He turned, forgoing any “fond farewell” or “bon voyage” for his fellow soldiers. Walking over to the untouched food on the tray, he sat down and treated himself to his reward for a job well done.
The vehicle looked as it had seen better days, slowly sputtering to build enough cushion and lift itself off the ground. While the engine was straining, Hernandez took one last look at the two new family pets. He could barely make out their faces through the air holes. Softly, he began to hum a tune both soldiers were sure to know. As the engine grew louder, so did Hernandez’s tune. When the vehicle broke free from gravity, he burst into song:
“I Wouldn’t Give A Bean
To Be A Fancy Pants Marine
I’d Rather Be A
Dog Face Soldier Like I Am
I Wouldn’t Trade My Old OD’s
For All The Navy’s Dungarees
For I’m The Walking Pride
Of Uncle Sam
On Army Posters That I Read
It Says “Be All That You Can”
So They’re Tearing Me Down
To Build Me Over Again”
The engine howled louder. His song grew bolder.
“I’m Just A Dog Face Soldier
With A Rifle On My Shoulder
And I Eat Raw Meat
For Breakfast E’V’RY Day
So Feed Me Ammunition
Keep Me In Third Division
Your Dog Face Soldier’s A-Okay”
“Good luck, men,” Corporal Hernandez whispered to himself as the vehicle pulled away and exited.
Neither Clark nor Taggart could make out anything during their trip. As the engine choked, its speed increased. A bitter wind blew through the crate as turbulence tossed them about. The men were frightened, cold, and disoriented. Taggart threw up twice, spewing bloody bile from his empty stomach. By the time the trip was complete, about 45 minutes, hyperthermia had begun to set in for both.
Nighttime set upon a world 350,000 light-years away from home.
While Papa Junket guided the metallic crate into a well-lit, heated barn, Mama and Junior watched from the main house. Taggart peered through the ventilation hole and watched the younger one. As its mother stroked her elongated antennae across its thorax, the child mimicked the same motion across the back of a rather plump elderly woman. Their eyes met for just a moment.
She did not appear amused.
The crate settled to the ground in synchronized unison just as all lights extinguished. One side open, spilling its contents of one Private Vincent Taggart, one Staff Sergeant Linus Clark, and a foul stream of human secretions. Taggart rolled onto his knees, trying to stand as he peered into an empty void.
“Stand fast, Private,” were the first words spoken. “You have no idea what’s out there.” Clark placed his hand on Taggart’s shoulder. He was still charged with the health and welfare of his subordinate, but this time, there was no sense of a chain of responsibility. The Sergeant was not caring for his soldier; he was not soothing a scared boy. Linus was reaching out for security and comfort from another soul.
“We’re better off staying put,” Clark reassured himself aloud. “At least it’s warm. We’ll take shifts tonight — I have the first hour, so get some sleep. At first light, we’ll recon the area and assess our next move.”
Taggart confessed, “I saw something in the other structure when we arrived. It looked like a female, Sarge.” Clark did not respond. He just propped himself up against their crate. There were no words to offer, only the comfort of sliding his arm around Taggart’s neck and chest as the private leaned back and relaxed every muscle in his exhausted frame. “Bobby was holding her like they were buddies forever. They looked happy,” his words trailed off.
“Do you think they’ll be as good to us, Sarge?”
Sergeant Clark held back. He wanted to tell his soldier to toughen up and quit whining, to share his plans of escaping and killing every last Junket they found. He thought about making it to the rally point and rejoining their unit for a second assault. He wanted to share something positive, something decisive, but he could not lie to his only friend.
“Get some sleep, Taggart. We’ll talk about everything at first light.”
That was enough for the young soldier. Tucking his arms under the flimsy garment, he turned his head into Clark’s chest and closed his eyes.
“Good night, Sarge,” came a soft whisper.
“Woof,” Clark sobbed as he wrapped his arms tighter around Taggart, gently rocking the young Dogface Soldier to sleep. The only sounds were his melodic hum and occasional words of their beloved lullaby.
“I’d rather be a dogfaced soldier like I am…”
What if it was you on the other side of the cage?
“We fight the big fights to end suffering for all animals.”
Together with millions of supporters, the Humane Society of the United States takes on puppy mills, factory farms, the fur trade, trophy hunting, animal cosmetics testing and other cruel industries. Through our rescue, response and sanctuary work, as well as other hands-on animal care services, we help thousands of animals every year. We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: a humane society.
Learn more here: www.humanesociety.org/all-our-fights
The Dog Face Soldier Song was written in 1942 by Lieut. Ken Hart and Cpl. Bert Gold, two U.S. Army infantry soldiers. It is the official song of the 3rd Infantry Division.
Rocky the Bulldog is the symbol of the 3rd Infantry Division. He was created by Walt Disney himself in 1965. The 3rd Infantry Division gained the right to display Rocky through an exchange of letters between Disney Productions and the 3ID commander at the time, MG Albert O. Connor.
“Rocky the Bulldog.” Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield, home.army.mil/stewart/index.php/about/history/rocky
Words and Music by Ken Hart and Bert Gold, additional lyrics by Jack Dolph
© 1956 SHAWNEE PRESS
All Rights Reserved
Reprinted by Permission of Hal Leonard LLC