Jack. The boot variety. Water erupted around the sole as it slammed down hard. Propelled across water, stretching out as far as the mind can see, the soldiers ran. Sweating. Breathless. They were hard trained men. Hunters. Yet, in those waters they were… outclassed. Outmatched. Even if they did not yet realize it.
That’s what they called this place. Russian wilderness of the highest order. Eternal. Endless. Cradle of life. Home of the gods.
These soldiers cocked their guns and ran, their transistors buzzing with excitement.
“We’ve found it.” A voice crackled, twisted and unnerving. “We’ve found the Swamp Thing.”
And they ran that much harder. In their midst, a doctor. Holland. Alec Holland. Dragged by his backpack. Tripping and yelping. A man, certainly, if the irrational distribution of glands be believed, but not much of one next to these hunters.
“Gremo! GREMO!” One of them bellowed in a foreign tongue, in his right hand a rifle, in his left, the good doctor, dragged behind him. Soaked. Cold. Ahead laid the prize.
Holland’s mind raced, confused as to how he got there, logic tracing a slippery path through recent events.
An arrival at his laboratory. A man. A kind of man. He promised funding. Power. Glory. Benevolence and Holland, human that he is, took the bait. I would have … if I were human.
That was the bait. The embodiment of nature, made manifest.
Wouldn’t you love to see it? Practised lips speaking the words. Can you believe it exists? Must see it for yourself. Must be a part of this. Never seen anything like it. Myth made manifest. Never forgive yourself. Never.
Of course, it was really about the formula. It was always about the formula.
More dangerous than fission. More terrifying than cancer. The formula. From the idle mind of a genius. Holland had created an agent which, when properly used, could destroy the green. A chemical response. A chain reaction. Unstoppable. One organic cell falling after the other until an area the size of the Amazon is destroyed within a matter of days. What power could control such an agent? What madman would want to?
Killer. Terrorist. Intellect.
Finder of the Elemental.
As the soldiers, Holland in tow ran across the vast waters of the Vasyugan swamp, they came within an enclave, an oasis surrounded by a great crown of trees. It was there that they saw it for the first time. Glorious. Terrifying. Arcane was stood before it, his twisted air of control wilted somewhat in the presence of such divinity. The swamp thing stood, arms outstretched in a seeming gesture of grace and Anton Arcane responded as all humanity does when faced with such beauty; he betrayed it. On his gesture, the soldiers sprang to life, unloading round after round into the carcass of the creature. They were all aware that this would affect the beast naught, but destruction was not their goal. Not yet.
The swamp thing, for its part, did nothing. Simply stood; expectant. Patient. Its body was thick and viscous with flora, great vines flowering and matted grass and water flowing all about him. He resembled a human, in form at least, a great hulking abstraction of humanity. It was a shape which suited his station, of which all present were ignorant. Holland, to his credit, bellowed in protest as the bullets cut through the things body, yet his cries were drowned out by the cacophony of gun fire which destroyed the eternal silence of the swamp lands. The creature stepped forward, arms outstretched in one final act of pliancy.
Anton Arcane smiled and returned the gesture, taking the hands of the Elemental, he kissed the back of each of his downy hands.
Then he stabbed him with the formula. At first, the creature made no response, the syringe falling empty into the waters of the swamp beneath them. Its face, if you could call it that, a collection of twisted fungi and roots, matted and moist, twisted into a bastardized countenance.
Then it burned. It felt it deep inside the dense, forest of his being. A heat, unlike any made by nature. A chemical burn that grew in size and intensity, until all the fires of the sky seemed to burn within him. It bellowed, the swamp thing, an unearthly sound to human ears, but in actuality, dredged up from the deepest recesses of the earth. A pained, sorrowful drone that emptied the area of animal and reptile, though not the species that combined the two. The soldiers stood back, amazed at the sight, just as Arcane stepped toward it; his head twisted in bemused delight. A chemical reaction. Holland stared in horror, his creation the impetus for the felling of a creature previously unimagined, twisting and writhing before him as it fell into the waters of its home, foam bubbling from its imitation mouth, effluence from its imitation wounds. The green that embodied the creature burnt to white, the green dying, then fighting for air and blossoming emerald before dying again. The cycle of nature accelerated in a desperate act of survival.
The swamp thing arched its back and for the first time in its creation, seemed almost human. The soldiers closed in, the creature powerless and lifted up walls around it, walls of containment, walls against the world around them.
And that was how they did it.
That was how they captured a god.