Axion Fleurdelise from “Brigade: Tears of a Monster”, Illustrated and created by Claude-Robert Policart

The doors to the abattoir slid shut behind Axion Fleurdelise.

“Those are human beings,” she said.

The apple-red balaclava masking all her head, save her eyes, barely snuffed the odor of freshly gutted kills. Axion braced herself, as her sisters, startled by the sound of her voice, popped their heads upward. Algonquin and Huron Fleurdelise spun around. Axion glowered, ice-gray eyes beaming with the radiance of a diamond. Their sudden movement broke the indolent languor of caked ash, dusty remnants of shedded human flesh.

A guttural moan rose from deep in Huron’s throat. “No,” she said.

“They’re just extra bodies—meat,” Algonquin rasped.

“We are the Investigations unit. Carnage is our privilege.”

Bones adorned the walls surrounding Axion. Not brick and mortar but row after row of human skulls had been nailed together with articular cartilage facing outward. Varnished skulls wedged between the ceiling and the twelve-foot walls spanned the enormity of the circular room. The oval ceiling glowed coldly, blurring the outlines of Axion’s body and the silhouettes of her sisters. A chilling, ethereal ivory streaked like rays of the sun through the branches of a winter forest. The room, an unholy replica of the skulls and bone catacombs of Paris, served as the perfect feeding ground for Huron and Algonquin.

Why did they have to wear these awful masks? She knew the answer. It was ritual. This place was the lab in which they were grown, designed, and conditioned. The bones welded into the walls were the remains of every soldier laid to slaughter. Their breeder always played “Die Moritat” by Mackie Messer whenever they fed.

Axion, Algonquin, and Huron had consumed 666 soldiers a day during their seven-day incubation period from test tube to adulthood, the period to which the genetic memories of the progenitor were etched into the codes of Axion’s junk DNA. The life of the progenitor’s childhood in Moscow often flashed through her mind. The immigration to Brooklyn and the struggle to survive alone in Brighton Beach were episodes Axion loathed as if they were her own experiences. The progenitor had married a naturalized Uzbekistani who’d enlisted in the US military and moved her to the Robinson barracks in Stuttgart. The progenitor later became a nurse in the Marien hospital and had twin girls.

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