The Last Best Hope
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D-3672 sighed anxiously as he sat alone on a bench in the staging area. For the past two hours, half a dozen technicians had been hard at work on him, making the final adjustments on the skin-tight suit he had been fitted into. Only the breathing apparatus and the goggles remained to be fitted to the apparatus that covered his entire body from head to toe. Between the suit itself, the weapon now attached to his right arm, and the massive air tank and power source strapped to his back, he felt like he weighed a ton. One way or the other, at least, it would be over soon.

After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened and Dr. Andrews stepped in. "Good morning, D-3672," he said. "We've dosed your target with a tranquilizer it hasn't adapted to yet, so it should be out of commission for the next hour or so. I trust you've been fully briefed on what to expect today?"

"Yes," D-3672 replied. For weeks they'd been training him how to use the suit, how to swim, how to activate his weapon. They'd shown him film footage of the creature he was intended to use it against, and lectured him forever on its behavior and its weak points.

"Good. As I'm sure you know, the suit you're wearing took us years to design and is specially customized to your body. It's airtight, skintight, highly resistant to cutting and tearing, and won't be affected by the acid in the containment tank."

"I know, doctor."

"I just want to remind you how critical this mission is. We only have one shot at making this work. We've tried everything we can think of over the years to neutralize this threat, even things the Ethics Committee didn't want us to try. You, today, are our last, best hope."

"Then I hope you'll remember our deal, doctor."

"Of course. If you make it out of that tank alive and the target is found to be dead, you're a free man. And surf-and-turf is on me."

Dr. Andrews lead D-3672 down the hallway, past the final checkpoint where the armed guards stood watch, into a room with a large, deep, acid-filled tank sunk into the floor. D-3672 could see his target crystal clear through the acid - a giant reptile, mostly bones and rotted flesh, bubbles percolating off it as the acid ate away at its exposed tissue, new flesh knitting itself into place almost as fast. A technician made the last adjustments, inserted the breathing tube, and placed the face guards in place, sealing him in. D-3672 looked down, took a breath, and dove in.

D-3672 swam through the acid like thin air, and in seconds he found himself floating in front of the rotting behemoth. This should be easy enough, he thought to himself as his left hand made its way to his right wrist and powered on his weapon. D-3672's optimism was shattered, however, when the creature's half-decayed eyelids suddenly darted open, and he found two yellow orbs staring right at him.

"The fuck is this?" D-3672 heard the creature's question clear as day through his suit. Frantically, he punched in the codes to power up his weapon. Red and green lights flashed up and down his arm as he felt the power cells charging, and within seconds, the Anti-Selaschic Kinetic Force Delivery System Mark 17 was active. D-3672 balled his right hand into a fist, cocked back his arm, and with every ounce of strength that he could muster and the weapon could deliver, drove his fist straight into the creature's face, forcing it backwards and taking off a chunk of its skull.

The creature's blood tinted the acid and D-3672 breathed a sigh of relief. His relief was short-lived when the creature's half-demolished head turned back towards him, one good eye still staring him down. "Pathetic," it said. D-3672 barely had time to power the ASKFDS-17 up again before it lunged.

—-

Dr. Andrews stood by the edge of the tank, his head hanging down, a disappointed look in his face as pieces of D-3672, and of the suit and the weapon, floated lazily to the surface of the now pinkish acid tank. A research assistant approached him, carrying in his hand a bulky and ancient satellite phone. "Dr. Andrews?" he said. "I have O5-3 on the line. He'd like an update on the termination attempt."

"Thank you, David," Dr. Andrews said as he took the phone from the intern. "Would you file a requisition for another D-Class, please?"

David nodded and made his way toward the door slowly, not relishing the paperwork ahead of him. The facility had been going through D-Class like water recently, and this wasn't going to help their situation with Human Resources. David stopped a moment by the door, listening in to Dr. Andrews' side of the phone conversation.

"This is Dr. Andrews. Yes. Yes. No, sir. Yes, the device functioned as intended. No, he's dead. Still alive. Yes, it's conscious. I'm sorry to have to say it, sir, but it appears that SPC-682 cannot be terminated by any means available to the Shark Punching Center."

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