Instacomic: Meet Teddy
Unwrapped this morning as a birthday present for a 3 year old boy. Teddy has no idea about the TTHQ or the Tedland Wars yet.
You’re probably not too surprised to learn that most Tactical Teddies’ CGN (Child Given Name) is in fact “Teddy”. To combat comms confusion TTHQ began issuing unique CuddleSigns early on.
So Teddy is getting used to the new surroundings, the ability to move and innately understands that being able to walk and talk is a secret to be guarded at the expense of all else. A survival instinct.
The first night is full of wonder and discovery. The bedroom is a huge new world and seeing the young boy sleep soundly gives Teddy a profound sense of peace and calm. Teddy is happy.
A few months have passed and Teddy has settled in well. The once new and daunting house is now a familiar and welcoming home and a special bond has grown between Teddy and the young boy. Teddy is beginning to sense the child’s emotion or pain, even when they are separated. This strong bond comforts Teddy.
They have been sharing adventures and making memories together. A routine has started to form and the familiarity of most days is perfect for strengthening their bond further.
Teddy has even spotted another cuddly looking bear across the street and spends nights wondering what it would be like to meet them! Probably a lot of fun!! Teddy is relaxed.
It has been a week since Teddy has seen the bear across the street. Some nights there is a faint pale light in the neighbours room and it unsettles Teddy.
One night, Teddy spots the same pale light emanating from beneath the young boys bed. It is a cold light, rolling like a light mist. Teddy is paralysed with fear and can only watch as the mist rises over the bed and rests an outstretched translucent limb on the boys forehead. Instantly the child lets out a frightened but muffled cry. Writhing and twisting in discomfort. The smog lingers for what feels like forever, feasting on the child’s suffering until finally and very suddenly retracting and sinking back beneath the bed. The light dims to blackness once more. Teddy is in shock.
The following morning Teddy watches the boy rouse from sleep as normal and go about his usual routine, but something is subtly different. A seriousness about his expression and a numbness in emotion. It eventually wears off but still Teddy knows things will never be the same. Teddy is frightened.
The Nightmarish, dream-feasting apparition makes regular visits to the child’s room. Its feeding habit is erratic which leaves Teddy unable to fully rest, feeling watched, never knowing when it will return. The young boy grows more serious after every visit and has begun complaining about problems with his sight.
One quiet night, Teddy sat on the bed next to the boy. Stroking his short, curly hair gently and fighting off an overwhelming feeling of helplessness; recalling previous failed attempts to stop the smog from feeding. Teddy’s exhausted sigh broke the rooms silence, followed immediately by a horrified gasp as a glow began emanating from under the bed!
The sense of dread was short-lived though, something was different about this light. It was brighter, warmer and most importantly there was no sign of the smog. Teddy marvelled as the room in this light, a hint of nostalgia took hold as though seeing the room for the first time. A small rustling noise from under the bed caught Teddy’s attention and peering over the edge revealed a letter laying on the carpet. It was addressed to Teddy! Teddy is surprised!
Dr. Fuzz Denkenbear is a pudgy little psychoanalyst who has served in a variety of TTHQ operations for over fifty years.
Since his retirement following the death of his charge he has held seminars and produced notable studies on the evaluation and acquisition of new recruits.
One initiative he his famous for introducing is removing any visible signs of weaponry from initial contact with a new teddy. His studies revealed a dramatic drop in stress related issues and a spike in basic training performance.
On rare occasions Dr. Denkenbear will insist on being the Rep for a new recruit but has never revealed what attribute he finds so fascinating. Whatever it is, Teddy has peaked the doctors interest.
We have reason to believe that the Channel attached to your Charge’s bed has become exposed to the Nightmare. The effect of the Nightmare may not be immediately evident but long term exposure will be fatal.
The TTHQ invites you to visit our main base of operations where you will be able to learn how you can protect your Charge from further exposure and see the impressive efforts Teddies from all over the world are making to stop the Nightmare permanently.
A representative from our headquarters will be visiting as soon as possible to accompany you safely through our secure Nexus. We look forward to meeting you very soon.
Sincerely Commanding General Theodor Caedes”
Teddy must have read the note a hundred times, full of questions. But when the light returned and a smart looking decorated bear stepped out Teddy’s stuffing felt like a thousand roiling butterflies and all the questions just faded away.
“Hello, Teddy.” His voice was deep and bassy, but soothing.
“My name is Dr. Denkenbear. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
After a few moments, Teddy found the courage to speak “I’m… Teddy”. But Dr. Denkenbear just smiled. He lifted the draped bed sheet to expose more of the bright light and outstretched a white-gloved paw.
“Will you accept our invitation, Teddy?” He asked calmly and slowly. Teddy nodded and gripped tightly as they both bowed beneath the wooden beam of the bed and stepped into the light.
The sensation that followed was profound. All the exhilaration of rushing forward at speed twinned with the panic of being forced backward against ones control. The bright light faded and all around were what looked like thousands of stars, shooting along side Teddy and Denkenbear. Ahead was another light, as bright as the one they had just stepped through, rushing towards them at such a speed Teddy couldn’t fathom how they would slow down once they were through. Hopefully there was something large and soft on the other side to slam into!
It was with a great thud that Teddy toppled through the light and slid several feet across the floor.
Dr Denkenbear stepped out with a measure of grace. He’d had years to perfect his entrance technique.
Teddy groaned in discomfort and the Doctor chuckled sympathetically.
“Don’t worry Teddy, no one gets it perfect first time.”
He helped Teddy up to take in the view of the Nexus theatre. Computer monitors blinked and flickered for a good few metres in every direction, displaying charts, graphs and co-ordinates. It was an overwhelming technological sight.
Denkenbear walked over to a heavy looking metal door and turned to Teddy.
“This is a Nexus Theatre. There are several more here like this, it is the doorway to all the channels we have collected that connect our worlds. We can use it to travel to any bedroom we have in our database. But through here is where the real stuff happens.” Denkenbear punched a large green button with his paw and the door slid open smoothly.
“Welcome to Tactical Teddy Headquarters.”
Commanding General Theodor Caedes received his first combat commendations as a Private in 1938. The unit he marched in was ambushed during a mission to survey the Eastern Tedlands for possible locations to build a new Medical Facility.
The family of Hunters that set upon Chaplain Squad had stalked them for two days before making their move in a dark canyon. A battle ensued in the shadows for two days, Caedes’ unit had been completely unstuffed in a fluffbath of blades and gunfire in the first day.
Caedes hunted his assailants down one by one until he was the only Teddy standing in a canyon of stuffing and bullet casings. A rescue party arrived to find him collecting the Teddy tags and personal effects of his fallen comrades.
Caedes has since risen through the ranks to become a Commanding General of TTHQ. He has come to the conclusion over the years that any Teddy who peaks Denkenbears interest is worth keeping a buttoned eye on.
Dr Denkenbear stepped across the threshold of the doorway and beckoned Teddy to come forward.
Beyond the Nexus Theatre was an enormous room that ran around the circular cluster of Theatres. A ceiling filled with banners and bright lights hung high above a floor of deep coloured wood and shiny metallic panels with fluorescent lights running along the centre points of pathways and along edges.
The room was a beautiful architectural design but the only thing that Teddy could see was hundreds of Teddies going about their daily duties, marching in groups or strolling in pairs chatting about their day. It filled Teddy with so much excitement that the feeling morphed briefly into fear, anxiety, panic and then back to excitement.
“There’s… So many Teddies…” Teddy just about managed a sentence.
Denkenbear smiled “Even more than you see here. We would like to offer you the chance to join us… But I’m getting ahead of myself. If you’ll follow me, Caedes has requested to meet you in the fluff.” They walked through the hall full of Teddies and through a large archway leading to a number of decorated hallways.
Teddy is fascinated.
After completing basic training, a Tactical Teddy will receive their standard issue kit.
To a certain extent Privates are allowed to edit their kit for comfort and mission specific gear but it is encouraged to keep headgear on since the Head of a Teddy is about the same size if not a little wider than its body, making it an easy target to hit. Privates, of course, often ignore this advice. But they learn soon enough… If they get a second chance.
Teddy stepped through a pair of tall arched doors into a softly lit office, a little smaller than Teddy expected. The walls were lined with bookshelves, paintings and banners and the ceiling seemed to disappear into darkness.
Just ahead, sat behind a serious looking desk was a serious looking grizzly old teddy bear with an eye patch and about as many scars as he had commendations pinned to his jacket. To Teddy’s surprise he smiled.
“Please have a seat, Teddy. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.” His voice was even lower than Denkenbear’s and held an authoritative tone. Teddy sat.
“Tell me about yourself Teddy.” Caedes asked sincerely.
Teddy and Commanding Genreal Caedes talked for an hour about the events that led up to Teddy arriving here at TTHQ. Denkenbear had been sat in the hallway outside the office listening carefully and adjusting his files. Caedes explained to Teddy that a short obstacle course and psych test would need to be completed before being enlisted into basic training.
“I know it seems sudden, Teddy. And you don’t need to decide now. But based on what you’ve seen so far, is TTHQ something you’d be interested in joining?” Caedes asked, being careful not to seem pushy.
Teddy nodded slowly, knowing TTHQ exists could not be unknown. Going home would feel like giving up. “Excellent.. Off to the playground then!” Caedes laughed. Teddy’s ears pricked up, Playground!? That sounded exciting!
The playground was not what Teddy had in mind. There were no swings, just lots of climbing frames and tyres! Other Teddies were running and climbing and crawling but Teddy was out of breath before it was time to climb the first wall!
It was near to the top that Teddy lost grip and almost fell from a pretty terrifying height, when a paw reached out. “I thought you looked familiar.” A calm voice announced, pulling Teddy up onto the platform with a strong tug.
A blue eyed teddy in PT gear raised her eyebrow at Teddy, who remained exhausted into silence.
“Meteor Street, right? I was across the road from you, ya fluff head.” She gave Teddy a playful punch which actually hurt quite a bit.
“Right!” Teddy caught enough breath to exclaim.
“I thought the Nightmare had gobbled you up!” Her blue eyes widened before she let out of short chuckle.
“Wow, you’ve not even been to your first lesson yet! Gobbled me up.. Come on let’s grab a Coffee.”
Teddy’s first lesson was a lot to take in. If teddies are forgotten they lose their minds? Every night on Earth is three days in this world, Sublectus? Every time a bed is set up on Earth it opens a Channel to the Tedlands!? And don’t even get started on the Nightmare. Teddy’s head was spinning, the Playground was starting to seem more appealing in comparison.
Teddy wondered what Blue Eyes thought of all this.
“There will be a separate module on the Nightmare and also on what kind of pathways and opportunities are available here at TTHQ should you decide to enlist. There is something for everyteddy.” The lecturer (who had introduced himself as Crow) announced as the class was coming to an end. “If anyone has any questions, I will answer what I can.” Several paws went up and Crow picked one.
“When do I get a gun!?” Bellowed the large teddy near the back of the class. Crow narrowed his purple eyes for a moment. “Everyteddy will be trained in firearms during basic training. If you decide to go into a combat role then you will be issued your rifle once you have proven you do not need it. Mission success relies on more than grenades and bullets.”
Teddy had never seen a gun before and was pretty confused by the whole conversation. After the lecture was over Teddy went straight back to the playground.
Denkenbear and Teddy sat together in one of the large mess halls on the third morning. Denkenbear was impressed with how quickly Teddy had handled the fast pace of TTHQ, attending every available lesson and still making time to hit the playground with a new friend. It was no wonder home time had come around so suddenly.
“In a few hours your Charge will wake up and you need to be there.” Dr Denkenbear looked seriously at Teddy for a moment. “There may be times when the best way to protect them is as simple as being there when they need you…” It seemed like advice from experience and it gave Teddy a chill for some reason.
“So before you leave…” The Doctor said with a little more warmth. “Is there anything you’d like to do?”
“The playground.” Teddy didn’t hesitate. Blue was waiting at the climbing wall when Teddy arrived and they ran the whole assault course in their fastest time yet.
Early in his years of service, Fuzz Denkenbear became addicted to the rush of combat and the high of successful missions.
In 1946 Denkenbear learned of TTHQ’s strategy to launch a series of assaults on northern regions of the Tedlands and intended to be part of every phase. He filed a faked LBNF-003 claim (Lost But Not Forgotten level 3: lost outside the town of residence) in order to be available for the almost decade long plans.
Upon returning from the successful missions Fuzz was immediately subjected to a court martial for forging documentation and knowingly abandoning his Charge.
In the 3 Earth years of Denkenbear’s absence his charge had done something seemingly arbitrary: she had purchased a new bed. In turn this opened a new Channel in the Tedlands, one that had remained undetected. The Nightmare had fed on the young woman’s dreams for two years before TTHQ acquired the frequency, pairing it with Denkenbear’s Charge details but by then it was too late.
Fuzz Denkenbear was sentenced to five years in a Nursery School before being accepted back at the rank of Private and being assigned to a new charge, who lived a long happy life and passed peacefully of old age.
“The teddy who tries to protect its charge from all the evils of the world will save them from none.”
Dr. F. Denkenbear.
Teddy had to admit it felt pretty strange being back. Arriving just in time to see a soft ray of daylight fall from the gap in the curtains and lay a neat strip of warmth across the room.
The day that followed was full of wonderfully familiar events. At the breakfast table it was easy to see the young boys appetite and playfulness had returned to normal high functioning levels which meant Teddy felt excitable too!
At school Teddy sat in the backpack and watched the boy with a new sense of purpose. This wonderful child was Teddy’s Charge. Teddy would no longer just be a companion but a guardian, a fearless protector!
Teddy relaxed and dreamily pondered on what the future could hold.
A few nights passed. A week or so in Tedlands time. Just as Teddy started to worry, a letter came through the Nexus, spinning out from under the bed and across the room. It was an official application to serve in TTHQ. Teddy had passed the screening and could now begin basic training if the application was submitted. Teddy grabbed the smallest pen in the room (still comically large for Teddy’s little paws) and filled it out immediately.
The following night there was a visit from a familiar face, Dr Fuzz Denkenbear had come to collect the application and was pleased to see Teddy was prepared to sign up. They spent a few hours that night talking quietly about what Teddy could expect, and Denkenbear reassured that he would be keeping an eye out for Teddy’s progress and to come to him if there were any questions. Denkenbear was becoming a mentor to Teddy.
Teddy is happy.
It was a week into Teddy’s basic training. Firearms, maintenance and endurance fitness was the focus of this week. If the new recruits weren’t field stripping rifles, doing workouts or tabbing for miles in the rain then they were field stripping rifles after tabbing to an outdoor gym to workout in the rain.
It was tough but Teddy actually quite enjoyed the change of pace and that rewarding sensation of actually improving at new skills. Teddy was already the fastest in the class at mag changes and was getting pretty good at firing accurately.
Next week would be drills for room breaches and two Teddy team fire and manoeuvre patterns!
It was almost time to leave the Tedlands and return to Teddy’s charge for a human day when Blue Eyes walked across the training ground.
She was geared up, carrying a short barrelled M4 and walking with five or six other teddies also geared up to their fluffy ears.
Blue approached Teddy and explained she had been drafted to assist the Teddy Templar in a mission that would take her to one of the farthest reaches of the Tedlands. Her aptitude for combat had fast tracked her to becoming a prime candidate for this kind of mission straight out of training.
“In case I don’t see you again I want you to have this. A good luck charm.” She reached into one of the many pockets of her smock and pulled out a spent bullet casing attached to a braided paracord necklace. This seemed like it would hold far more sentiment to Blue than she was letting on.
“It was my first shot in training. I carried it everywhere with me to remind me of what I signed up for. But where we’re going I don’t think I’ll need reminding anymore.”
A lump was forming in Teddy’s throat, taking the charm and remaining speechless for a moment.
“… You’re coming back though, right?” Another geared up teddy glanced over to them as if to say something but stayed quiet. Blue smiled and gave Teddy one of her painfully playful shoulder punches. “… Of course.” She hesitated.
Teddy watched her rejoin the group making their way to some large gates. At the head of the sleuth was a tall, stocky panda bear teddy wearing a deep red shemagh and a huge sword. Teddy stared on, fascinated and heartbroken. Yet a gleam of pride for what Blue was doing shone through it all. Perhaps one day they would meet again.
Teddy looked at the training with a new perspective after Blue left. When it was time to take on live firearms training Teddy kept the casing from the first round and attached it to the paracord necklace, never taking off the charm while in the world of Sublectus.
Teddy had a new mission. A personal one. To become the best damn soldier a teddy could be and one day soon fight alongside Blue in the toughest missions TTHQ had to offer. It was a rosy romanticism but Teddy couldn’t help it.
After hearing war stories told by Denkenbear after a whiskey or two those kinds of missions seemed filled with heroes that Teddy dreamt of becoming.
With Denkenbears extracurricular classes and training, Teddy was excelling in most classes and even earned a silver medal for fastest Mozambique-style firing drill. Teddy feels pretty bad ass.
The current Tedlands record holder for sidearm speed shooting is a TTHQ instructor called Zilch. He’s been training teddies in entry formations and fire and manoeuvre drills between his tours with his team (Fluffer Tactical) for ten years now.
His charge is an Italian ex-military man who still stays sharp with his firearms skills. When Zilch spends a day or two back at home (a TTHQ requirement even after being “indefinitely stored away”) he sits in the attic window to watch his charge train techniques in the garden. Zilch is proud of him since he’s becoming quite a hit on some kind of internet video site.
It was Teddy’s first training exercise outside of the high defensive walls of TTHQ. Joining a supply convoy from HQ to a command post 30 miles away and returning. It would be a short exercise and Teddy’s unit were there mostly to observe and get some wild Tedlands exposure. Teddy could hardly contain the excitement, helping to load the trucks and even getting to ride shotgun. Teddy found it funny and kind of fitting to see a shotgun strapped to the inside door of the front passenger seat, then a little nervousness overshadowed that thought, seeing wear and tear marks over the stock and barrel. This shotgun has been useful to someteddy in the past.
Once the trucks were fully loaded it was time to rock and roll. The fluffy butterflies were going nuts in Teddy’s stomach as the gates parted and the horizon was visible to Teddy for the first time. A sprawling grassland lay ahead of the truck and beyond that were beautiful trees and towering stoic mountains before the land met the crisp blue stretch of clear sky.
Teddy could see other vehicles bearing the Tactical Teddies HQ crest zipping around the roving hills. Leaving a trail of dust in their wake.
They drove on, following a broad gravel track that left the gate and safety of HQ behind them. Teddy remained speechless despite the driver, a large smiley Panda Teddy, chatting, laughing and asking questions that seemed to need no answer the entire time.
Teddy is awestruck.
Hunters. Criminals and deserters of TTHQ. Scavengers, thieves and murderers. These Teddies live in the vast wastelands of the Tedlands in tight knit groups they call families. A lone Teddy in the wilds is unlikely to survive the harsh environment for very long. Whether it’s the ravenous wildlife and corrosive weather conditions, abominations of the Nightmare or another group of Hunters. But in a family there is protection, shelter and a strong sense of camaraderie and Teddyhood.
The Tedlands outside the gates of TTHQ is a demanding world. Survival comes at a high cost and payment is often bullets and stuffing. They keep stocked up on ammo and gear by carrying out merciless and precise raids on outposts and supply convoys, using smoke screens and IEDs. There is a twisted bet placed between these families as to who can pull off a heist closest to the Headquarters.
TTHQ have had to learn quickly never to underestimate Hunters, no matter how small the family.
After all… They trained them.
The last thing Teddy remembered before hitting a tree and passing out was the Panda. Chuckling to himself at something he’d just said and shaking his big fluffy head, turning the wheel of the truck to avoid some fallen branches on the road.
Teddy found the strength to stand up, dazed and confused, ears ringing. The bark of the tree had shattered where Teddy had struck it. The stench of gas and smoke filled Teddy’s heart shaped nose.
Another memory. Glass shattering, Teddy could see the truck on the road, spinning? Even the sky and the ground was spinning! Hurtling away from Teddy, or so it seemed. The distinct pop of a smoke grenade followed by the crackling of rifles before Teddy impacted with the tree trunk and the whole world switched off like a TV set.
Teddy’s necklace! Teddy tried to reach up and grasp the two empty shells but felt nothing but agonising pain. What was this!? Teddy looked down, stuffing and tree bark littered the ground.
By Teddy’s side where an arm and paw should be was just loose thread and more stuffing. Teddy clutched the open wound with the surviving paw and let out a cry. Groaning in pain Teddy turned to face the wreckage and fell immediately silent.
The pain seemed to fade into numbness as Teddy took in the scene of carnage, the fates that had fallen to Teddy’s unit and the seasoned soldiers who fought for the cargo that had filled now empty and mangled trucks. All was still for what felt like hours before the thudding sound of helicopter propellers filled the sky.
Racing towards the billowing smoke that continued to reveal teddy limbs, pooling stuffing and twisted metal.
The Teddy Templar. Nomads of the Tedlands since their home was besieged and taken by forces of the Nightmare so long ago.
Their ultimate goal is to reclaim what is known now as the Cathedral of Lint and make it the beacon of hope and strength it once stood for.
Though they are few, the Teddy Templar are a force to be reckoned with, every member leaving a trail of legendary tales where ever they go.
They survive against the odds but not without aid. Their close relationship with TTHQ keeps them in reasonable supply of consumables and gear in trade for assistance with particularly perilous missions where small, low profile units are the best option.
Teddy was patched up almost perfectly while unconscious at the medical bay back in TTHQ. The medical bay houses a fur and fluff donor bank which teddies can opt into to receive extra benefits and to extend their purpose and service beyond fighting the Nightmare.
Teddy could not help but revisit the memory of turning to see the wreckage frequently. And through it all, Teddy couldn’t help but think of Blue. Hoping beyond hope that she was ok. If this carnage could happen on the doorstep of TTHQ then what was waiting in the wild lands for her squad and the Teddy Templar?
Teddy shook off the thought for a moment to focus on the surroundings. A sterile looking room, mostly white and chrome. Teddy was sat up in a bed, a cast over the stitched shoulder to stop the new threads from over stretching or getting caught on anything. Just a precaution for a few days.
Someteddy is talking, a deep tone muffled by the distracting thoughts. Shattered tree bark, turn, missing arm, burning vehicles, Blue. Teddy shook the images again and looked around the room.
It was Denkenbear. He was smiling. Somehow that made everything both better and harder to hold in.
“Teddy… You’re awake.” Denkenbear maintained a reassuring smile, explaining that a furrensic crew had examined the scene and they were confident they knew exactly which Teddies had been involved; old files were being drawn up to affiliate them with the Hunter family tag found sprayed on the wreckage.
TTHQ were already assembling a squad to track them down and apprehend or destroy them.
“I want to be on the team!” Teddy blurted out, almost involuntarily.
“We’re sending you home for a few days, Teddy.” His words were like a tranquilliser. “It’s important that you spend some time with your charge and rest up. I’ll keep in touch.”
Teddy inhaled slowly, held a breath… And wept.
The order of The Teddy Templar are said to be the oldest faction in the Tedlands, emerging from the original Nine teddies charged with keeping The Nightmare in Sublectus.
These stoic teddies have an unmatched propensity for aggressive combat. Their overwhelming strength and accuracy is a result of constant training and application, making even one Teddy Templar a crushing tide in the flow of battle.
However, this great gain is born from great loss. Every Templar has felt the pain of their human charge passing from life. Be it from age, illness or a more sudden tragedy. In death, the teddy has not been forgotten.
The love that drives a teddy remains, but with no charge to return that love there is only solitude, silence and time.
Time enough to train the mind to bear the sadness. Time enough to train the body to fight on when other teddies have exhausted their strength.
But through the sorrow comes this resolve: the Nightmare can never own them. With no one to remember them they can never be Forgotten.
And so they step into the darkness unafraid and fight. For their heritage, for their lost charge and for all those that the Nightmare would seek to claim.
Fear not child the coming night, With dark that takes away your sight, The Templar watchful ever bright, Will be your guardian shining light.
– Lullaby for the lost.
It had been three days of travelling by paw.
The Templar didn’t talk much, Blue had managed get his name at least. It was Jacob. Blue didn’t mind voicing that Jacob was a strange name for a teddy bear.
“Why not fluffles? Or pudgy!? You are pretty pudgy.” Jacob expelled a short huff and explained in as few words as he could.
“Name of my charge… From before I was Templar. Most Templar do the same.” That created more questions for Blue but it was clearly not a tactful time to ask as they skulked through a dense copse of dead trees.
After two more days the huge panda slowed his pace ahead of Blue and her team, took his map out of a large trouser pocket and scanned it carefully. Blue raised a clenched paw to her group and they all took a knee a few meters back from the Templar.
“This way.” Jacob turned West and followed the rocky face of a small cliff, keeping below the crest of the cliff top until finally reaching a grassy plateau.
A light grey smoke was trailing into the sky from somewhere close by.
“We are here.” Jacob narrowed his green eyes toward the smog. “Distress signal… Teddy Templar.” Blue dumped her pack and grabbed a pair of binoculars from the side pouch.
As she approach the edge of the hillside a ruined town slowly revealed itself. Not what Blue was expecting. She scanned the buildings carefully. Broken windows, crumbling brickwork and streets in ruin. But no teddies.
“What is this place?” She asked quietly.
“Novum Star… The first settlement to fall after we lost the Cathedral to the Nightmare.” Jacob answered rather seriously which made Blue feel anxious.
How does a town full of Templar lose a fight? And what was a Teddy Templar doing sending distress signals out of an abandoned fallen town?
Jacob interrupted her spiralling thoughts. “We wait for nightfall. Then we cross the wall.”
Blue blew out a slow, focussing breath before inhaling again. “Sounds like a plan.”
Treading quietly through the ruined town of Novum, Blue and her team stayed out of the moonlight and kept a good few paws of distance between them.
It was eerily quiet, the high walls kept the breeze above the rooftops and the rubble was perfectly settled in place. The town possessed a stillness found only in photographs.
Blue noticed red triangles painted on doors of some of the buildings but couldn’t spot a common denominator, some buildings were almost levelled where others could pass as untouched. She wanted to ask Jacob but he seemed distracted by something. Stepping out into the dilapidated courtyard, Jacob sniffed at the air towards the Templar sanctuary and scowled.
In two precise paw motions Blue ordered her team to stack up to the Sanctuary doors and prepare for a breach. The two bears raced forward before splitting off and flanking the doors, shoulders to the wall and rifles at the ready waiting for Blue to give the order.
“Do you know what’s in there?” Blue asked the Templar.
“No.” Jacob spoke quietly. “But it’s not good… It’s moving…”
“PULL YOUR TEDS BACK!”
Blue barely had time to raise a signal before the heavy ornate doors flung open, shattering against fur and stone, Blue heard her soldiers cry out before being silenced abruptly by the impact.
Out of the mouth of the Sanctuary heaved a wave of Forgotten Teddies. Starved looking they thrashed forward.
Blue opened fire and in one strong sweep Jacob cut down the first row, around twenty Forgotten fell, stumbling the second row. But the wave of claws and matted fur washed over them both in seconds, tearing their weapons from them and leaving them close to oblivion. In her last waking moments Blue heard a voice boom from within the hall of the Templar Sanctuary. “Bring them inside…” and with that she fell into a gaping pit of unconsciousness.
Somewhere in the vast and varied landscape of the Tedlands there lies an artefact. A tome from one of the Nine original Teddies, said to give the frequencies of the very first channels opened in the Tedlands.
The channels the Nightmare and its cuddly wardens were sent through before it was closed behind them.
This relic will not itself turn the tide of war in anyteds favour, but rather open an opportunity to gain information about the origins of the Tactical Teddies and of The Nightmare, to learn where it all began and perhaps uncover more by sending Teddies to the frequencies point of origin on earth.
And so every faction has an eye on clues to its location, whether to study, store, trade or destroy it.
Tyres screeching against break-pads.. Metal colliding and bending on metal… Glass shattering, explosion, gunfire, the sound of rushing air… Mediiic! … MEDIIII
Teddy jolted awake with the disorientating sensation of falling for a split second, it took a few moments to become accustomed to the stillness in the bedroom.
Teddy had been sent on a fortnights leave from training. It had been over a week; that was almost a month in the Tedlands. It was hard for Teddy not to think about the attack on the supply trucks, the unit tracking the Hunter family responsible and not a night went by without a hopeful thought for Blue.
But even with all these thoughts, Teddy did find a profound relief in his charges embrace. It made Teddy happy to see the young boy as playful and mischievous as ever. He imagined other Tactical Teddy charges were just as care free and healthy.
The thought gave Teddy some respite, as though it validated the sacrifices of conflict somehow.
Teddy’s fluffy head rested against the pillow once more, nestling a single encouraging thought.
“… Three more days.” Teddy whispered softly, staring at a bright star visible through a crack in the curtains.
It is said That to be Forgotten is to lose ones sense of purpose, compassion and self. It could even be said that becoming Forgotten is to also forget.
To forget duty, forget camaraderie and forget love. Instead there is only a gaping, silent hole in the mind. An opening for the Nightmare, that faceless apparition of fury and dread, to creep into.
In this void of insanity a voice can still be heard, at first only one. Beckoning and welcoming. Then more, speaking in unison.
Vision and smell seems to change and yet stay the same. An overwhelming feeling to see through the eyes of thousands of Teddies. To smell the acrid, damp halls of the Cathedral of Lint and the scent of flowers in the fields near HQ. The pungency of sulphur, iron, smoke. The sound of wind, rain, ringing gunfire, screaming, laughing, crying, ripping. A Forgotten teddy will feel the pain of abandonment in one instant and then in the next feel welcomed into a new kind of embrace. One that will never forsake them.
In the hive mind you are never alone.
When Teddy arrived back at TTHQ the sense of relief didn’t last long. Dr Denkenbear gave Teddy a warm welcome before taking him to see Commanding General Theodor Caedes.
They explained they had lost contact with Blue and her unit a few days ago and a search and rescue team had scouted their last known location. An abandoned Templar settlement called Novum Star.
The settlement was completely deserted but a lot of fresh stuffing outside the church led the response team into the hall of the building where they found something…
Denkenbear coughed ubryptly, stopping Caedes delivery the response teams action report so far.
“Teddy I think it would be best if you take a seat.” Teddy’s mind raced
“We’ve examined the stuffing…” Caedes proceeded slowly.
“It doesn’t match Blues. That’s important to bear in mind. The only polyester type Teddies were sadly the two other Recon Soldiers. Not a drop of cotton was found at the scene…”
A prolonged silence fell on the room for a moment before Caedes found the right words.
“Inside the Sanctuary. On a pedestal at the head of the hall. The unit found an eye… It’s one of Blues, Teddy.” The sense of dread that Teddy had been fighting since the raid returned at once.
Denkenbear handed teddy a glass of water and kept Teddy’s mind focussed.
“We’re gearing up an elite task force who are trained to deal with situations like this.” Denkenbear assured Teddy.
“They’ll find Blue and the Templar and bring them home.”
Teddy inhaled sharply and composed the spiralling thoughts.
“I want to complete my training.” Teddy said with a focussed and calm exhale.
Commanding General Caedes was sad to deliver the news of Teddy’s close friend Blue. But there was something he neglected to mention. This is not the first time this has happened. But when a horde of mindless creatures start to leave a pattern, a taunt or message, it complicates things.
In the medical science wing there is a lab dedicated to collecting any data on these eyes to determine a common denominator.
Caedes is confident they will unveil the meaning behind this taunting behaviour and put an end to it, but he is troubled every day by what has become of the brave owners of these now empty gazes.
A TTHQ unit known as Wolf Spider arrived at Novum Star days after the event to examine the scene. Captain Lemondrop, a battle hardened polar bear teddy, stepped coolly out of the HunchbackMK1.
“Lefty, Stallion. Perimeter check, you know the drill. Five minutes.” The moment Lemondrop finished her order two teddies jumped out of the mounted ATV and jogged quietly into the ruined centre of the town.
The teddy sat in the passenger seat pulled a cigar out of a black pouch. The familiar clinking of a lighter followed by the striking and frazzling sound of the heat burning the foot of the cigar was a meditative series of noises. Ticklebomb took a drag on the cigar, rolling it as he did so.
Lemondrop considered having the same conversation they have every time. She could sense him looking at her, waiting to deliver one of his sassy comebacks.
“Bring the map into the Sanctuary.” She ordered sternly.
“If I stopped then you wouldn’t have anything to whine about!” Ticklebomb sneered… Then realised that she hadn’t said anything about the cigar and quickly left the Hunchback with the map.
The unit regrouped at the ATV after a thorough sweep of the buildings. “It’s a ghost town… 2 stars, would not come again.” Lefty reported.
Lemondrop spread the map of the Tedlands out on the Hunchback bonnet and weighted it with a compass.
“We think we’ve figured out the message.” She looked to Ticklebomb, who nodded. “The eye here faced the door of the sanctuary. That’s west south west… The eye in Trifectra faced sunset. That’s west. Then the eye in the mouth of the statue at Giant’s Valley faced north west.” She drew lines across the map in their configurations.
“They’re all pointing to… Wait, we can’t go there.” Stallion frowned. “Says who…” Ticklebomb answered with a sarcastic smile.
“We can’t go there before making sure this intel gets to HQ.” Lemondrop added, ordering the team to get in and driving the Hunchback to a teddy sat on a hefty motorcycle. “What took you so long? Find anything?” Sgt. Marshmallow called them, pulling out her notepad.
The Wolf Spider Taskforce are a top secret TTHQ unit made up of teddy bears with just the right amount of crazy to take on high-risk missions that may well turn out to be a one way tickets into the beckoning jaws of enemy territory.
Every member has taken it upon themselves to get a fur-dye tattoo of the Taskforce crest only visible under a blacklight (Run a UV light over your teddy to see if they’re part of this exclusive unit!)
The day had finally come, Teddy was graduating from training and gaining the crest to serve as a Private in the TTHQ.
There was a tremendous sense of pride, counterweighted perfectly by a humungous sense of fear. It was a terribly vexing emotional cocktail but Teddy chose to focus on the pride as much as possible. After this, Teddy could choose which direction to take the Tactical Teddy Career in.
Join the Rapid Armed Response Unit and be prepared to jump into the action to save teddies in a situation all to familiar to Teddy.
Join the recce’s and report the Hunter families movements in the Eastern deserts.
Join the Southern Tedguard and work closer to the last bastion of the Teddy Templar. They seemed like a pretty useful bunch to have close by!
Join the West-Tedlands Weapons Development Facility in the hope to visit the nearby town of Novum Star just to be where Blue was… Teddy’s mind drifted from reason for a moment.
The choices far from ended there, it was quite overwhelming. Teddy thought it was time to seek the council of Doctor Denkenbear. Teddy stared into the crowd of suited and decorated Teddies who were saluting the new recruits and listening to Commanding General Caedes captivating speech.
Teddy realised very suddenly that the speech was almost over and not a word of it had sunk in while being lost in thought!
“… AND MARCH WILLINGLY INTO THE JAWS OF DEATH!” Caedes raised a clenched paw both resolutely and defiantly and the crowd of orderly tactical teddies erupted into excitable cheering.
*Holy fluff* Teddy thought, really wishing the context of that had been clear.
Don’t you hate it when a bit of tech stops working unexpectedly and you can’t find the receipt to take it back… It’s so frustrating it almost seems orchestrated.
Most of the tech and weaponry in the Tedlands has been designed and built by mechanics, technicians and scientists within TTHQ, but the materials are often salvaged from charges homes.
But simply taking them would draw attention, nothing a small EMP shot can’t un-fix. After that it’s a simple task of retrieving it from the trash and taking it back to the Tedlands for salvage.
For specialist items TTHQ have trained individuals who are highly skilled at infiltration and extraction missions outside of the Tedlands, it’s always a high risk operation but it often yields a high reward.
Black Stallion spoke quietly as he released the surveillance drone humming into the air.
The Teddies huddled together around the remote feed, watching as the drone gained some serious height, then with a few clicks zoomed in on their location to check the clarity of the picture. Crystal clear.
“OK Send it.” Lemondrop ordered. Stallion carefully navigated the drone to fly over the ruins of the Cathedral.
Scanning the area revealed more Forgotten than a teddy bear usually survives the sight of, but the Wolf Spiders were well hidden and well trained. If the stuffing hit the fan there’s a small chance they’d make it out alive. That’s more of a chance than most teddies.
“Wait. Pan back, what’s moving in that trench?” Lemondrop gestured to the dark line trailing along the edge of the cathedral and disappearing into what looked like a mine shaft. A few adjusting zooms and switching to the night vision cam revealed something deeply concerning.
A long stream of teddies with pick axes were being marched into the entrance of the mine. Eyes missing, shackled to one another. These teddies didn’t move like the Forgotten and it didn’t take the Wolf Spiders a moment to realise what the situation was.”
“This explains a few things. Bring the drone back, I’ve seen enough. We have to get this intel back to TTHQ which means we need to get out of Westreach alive.” The team gathered themselves and started making their way back to the hunchback in total silence.
Jacob slowly regained consciousness at last.
It had been days since being overpowered by Forgotten at the abandoned ruins of Novum Star.
The walled cell was dimly lit, a cold night breeze swept in from the smashed ornate window and pushed the acrid smell of damp stuffing around.
Jacob squeezed his eyes shut a few times to try and force his focus back. His vision remained blurred and it felt like all the stuffing had rushed to his head. That wasn’t the case luckily but being upside down didn’t help at all.
Jacob flexed his paws and wriggled his little fluffy toes. Everything seemed present and responsive, though shackled together, of course… Things could still be worse. Jacob closed his eyes again, letting unconsciousness claim him once more.
Though morning had come, the light still remained dim in the cell Jacob was becoming well acquainted with. He awoke once more to the sound of the lesser Forgotten teddies, screaming and tearing at themselves and one another, echoing through the hallways of the Cathedral.
Jacob tried to focus on the closer noises in his cell. The pattering of large spiders racing between deep, dark cracks in the dilapidated masonry. The chalky sound of soft rubble crumbling and peppering the stone floor, booted paw steps pacing through the hallway just outside the cell.
Jacob’s vision finally began to sharpen, the first thing he saw was his longsword. Like an old friend, leaning against the wall across the room from where he was suspended.
Sure, the teddy was chained to the wall and the blade was way out of reach, but Jacob still cracked a defiant smile. He was Templar; this cell would not hold him for long.
It has been three weeks since the TTHQ search and destroy team picked up the trail of the Hunter family responsible for the supply truck attack. The team travelled to a secret outpost on the edge of Eastreach, an outpost dedicated to reporting Hunter movement, or as much as they can document without alerting the families to their location
Tracking Hunters through the Eastern Tedlands is impossible since the sandstorms keep the ground mark-free. The outpost supplied intel on a Hunter family boasting over shortwave frequency comms channels that they have recently acquired a new cache of weapons and supplies matching the description of the cargo lost weeks ago. “Sounds like our guys.” Sgt. Grit announced to his team. “Our Intel teds say the transmissions are coming from a ruined outpost not far from here. Gear up, let’s bring the pain.”
Teddy had returned to the young boy for a couple of days. This is a mandatory requirement by TTHQ but most teddy bears do want to and look forward to their visits. The bond between a teddy and their charge is strong and it is maintaining that connection that gives a teddy bear that drive and momentum to fight.
One night during Teddy’s leave, Fuzz Denkenbear paid a short visit. They sat on the cill and Teddy pointed to the house across the street. Explaining to Fuzz that the neighbouring house was Blue’s. It troubled Teddy that the poor child across the street might never see Blue again, that Teddy might never see Blue again. Denkenbear sighed, sipped from his hip flask and patted Teddy on the shoulder. “The Wolfspider Task Force found where Blue might be.” He spoke quietly. Teddy knew right away with was confidential information. “Blue wasn’t sighted for sure but it’s clear she’s part of whatever the Forgotten are planning. I know the division that will be drafted for the Op to bring them home and, if you’d like me to, I can get you on that division.” Teddy looked up at Denkenbear, who met the gaze.
“I thought so… I’ll get the paperwork sorted. I’ll need you back in Sublectus tomorrow night.” Said Denkenbear. Teddy looked back across the street to the window where Blue stood once so many months ago, and smiled.
Teddy arrived back at TTHQ in plenty of time to fill out the necessary paperwork with Denkenbear and fast track an application to join the Rapid Armed Response Squad, which was part of Fox Company, which in turn was part of the infantry division selected by Caedes to carry out Operation Blindside, the objective being to locate and evacuate the captive tactical teddies.
Lt. General Crow, the lecturer who took Teddy’s first class was stood at the front of the war room, guiding the furry crowd of teddies through the plan of attack. “I want you to study these maps, the action plan and the rules of engagement until you can recite it from memory. This is the Nightmare we’re dealing with. We all remember the siege at Razor Rise, Operation Darkwater and of course, T-Day…” A momentary silence fell on the room. “If we fail this… We won’t get a second chance. And neither will our brothers and sisters in Westreach.”
Crow dismissed the session and the sleuth of teddies dispersed into their companies and squads to look over the numerous maps and documentation spread out on tables all across the hall.
The operation would begin in two days.
It was time.
Teddy took a seat as the chinooks blades began to roar into action, gripping the M4 and listening to the teddies around, whispering prayers, tinkering with their weapons or lighting up cigars in a chorus of clinks and strikes. Teddy closed his eyes and thought of the young boy, Teddy’s charge, Teddy’s purpose, trying to imagine what many other charges might be feeling having lost their teddies, never knowing what terrible fates may have befallen them.
Teddy remembered awakening that first night, looking around the boy’s bedroom that seemed so enormous and new, remembered feeling excited to see a fluffy neighbour for the first time from the window, and meeting Blue, getting to know her. Teddy thought of Denkenbear, Caedes, Crow, the Panda and all the other teddies met who gave wisdom and encouragement so freely, training Teddy to be a brave, smart and fast fighter.
Watching the Tedlands race by beneath the helicopter Teddy recited the plan quietly, making sure there was no question what they were all marching into and comprehending the chance that Teddy may never return, but the fear of that outcome was outweighed easily by the chance that Blue, the Templar and all the other tedknapped bears might be freed and mended to return home safely to their relieved charges.
The thought brought smile to Teddy’s face for a moment before the helicopter slowed and began its descent.
It was time.