She guessed they had been traveling half an hour when of the soldiers in the lead called out, “Sir! Got something strange here.”
Everyone hurried to the young man who Carli recognized as Paul Bates. All except Arner, who kept his steady pace forward. When Carli saw what was lying on the ground at Bates' feet – no, what was staked to the ground, smelling like burnt meat, she nearly puked.
Sounding furious, Leo rounded on the approaching Arner and said, “Tell me that wasn’t Jeff.”
The sergeant joined them. His face, the night vision goggles rendering it as green as Carli felt right now, was without emotion. “Yes, it was. After I took him out, I planted him here for other passing aliens to see. Pretty potent warning, I think.”
Carli had to look away from the corpse. It was too awful, seeing the charred mass that had once been a man. She choked out, “This is wrong, Arner. Jeff saved half a dozen of us back at Calgary’s Pyramid when those Becomings loyal to their Old Ones came after us. He was a hero.”
Arner nodded his expression steady. “I can understand how you might see it that way. But I think Jeff wouldn’t mind being a warning if it keeps the bugs from attacking Freetown. He’d be happy knowing he’s still keeping us safe.”
Carli stared at his peaceful face, wondering about his use of the word ‘bugs’. Surely he didn’t see the Becomings, their Becomings, the same as the Old Ones. And could a sane man do such a thing? Sure, they'd all gone a little crazy since the invasion. She knew she no longer resembled in any way the quiet, cowardly librarian she'd once been. But this horror spoke of something uglier, something sick and twisted.