Read Dominant Species Volume One -- Natural Selection (Dominant Species Series) Online

Authors: David Coy

Tags: #dystopian, #space, #series, #contagion, #infections, #fiction, #alien, #science fiction, #space opera, #outbreak

Dominant Species Volume One -- Natural Selection (Dominant Species Series) (3 page)

BOOK: Dominant Species Volume One -- Natural Selection (Dominant Species Series)
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What she heard was the deepest, lowest harmonic she had ever
heard. It contained such bass that she didn’t so much hear it as feel it. The
sound literally rattled her teeth and vibrated her bones. At first she thought
it must be thunder rolling in from the distance, but the sound was too even,
too regular and too long to be thunder. She stood there and let it rumble her
until it stopped. The sound, combined with the earlier ion charge, had given
her a genuine case of the heebie-jeebies. She shuddered involuntarily then
shook it off and willed her mind to the task at hand.

She had just tugged the hose free from its coupling and dodged the
stream of escaping hydraulic fluid when the shadow came from behind her and fell
on the tractor. She had been sure it was Jack, so much so that she didn’t
bother to turn around at first. “Go back to bed, Jack,” she’d said to the
coupling, “I’ve got it under control.”

She still didn’t turn around when she asked, “Did you hear that godamned
noise. What was that?”

She’d started to run the o-ring up the flange for a test fit when
she realized that she hadn’t received an answer to a direct question. No one
had ever accused Mary Pope of mumbling, and she was sure she had said it loud
enough and clear enough.

It was standing on its back legs when she turned and was about the
same height as a person. The high, bright lights on the top of her truck were
full in her face, and she couldn’t make out its shape exactly. The only thing
she was sure of was that it wasn’t Jack, and fear hit her like a brick. It was
something about the electrical charge and the rumbling sound, and now this
thing twenty feet away that coalesced to form the bomb of fear that went off in
the primitive part of her brain. The feeling of panic was so strong that she
felt her bladder start to let go a little, a feeling she’d felt only as a child
when her father was about to strap her.

She got the sense of an animal from it, and an alien muskiness
drifted to her to confirm it. When she said the words that reflex demanded,
they came out more as a choked sound than an order.

“Get outta here!” she’d screamed at it.

She’d shielded her eyes from the truck’s lights and stepped
sideways to get a better look at it. As she moved, she could feel it tracking
her. As her viewing angle improved and the details of it gave way to the light,
she tightened the grip on the heavy spanner in her right hand and felt her
mouth going dry.

The creature had been oddly familiar to her, and when she was at a
right angle to it, and enough of its form was showing, the fact of it occurred
to her like a bird tweet over the pounding din of her fear. The thing was a
construction, it was a living thing that had been fabricated somehow, like the
tractor.

Godamned motherfucking
things! Godamned things!
she thought
,
wringing water from her hair.

The need to
do
something was at the core of all mechanical things. You could
tell what a thing did if you just looked at it. If you could touch it and move
it, even better; but the interconnect of parts was always logical, and
eventually these told you what force went where and what did what. The creature
had not had a Frankenstein’s monster look about it, with its kludgey, sewed on
parts and fat stitches. Quite the contrary. To an untrained observer, the
creature would have looked perfectly organic and natural, if not horrible. To
Mary’s experienced eyes, the key had been visible in the relationships of the
components and a
slight
lack of smoothness to the transitions one to the next. The relationships
had been sound, but the whole had lacked unity and polish. Unlike some
inherited flaws in an otherwise perfect representative of a dog breed, these
flaws couldn’t be accounted for naturally and had to be the result of a
trade-off or compromise in the mind of the builder. Although she couldn’t put
her finger on it exactly at the time, she had been certain the monster in front
of her possessed some of those kinds of flaws.

Things!

The thought that the thing had been physically modified for a
purpose had pushed her terror even higher. If she was looking at a made
thing,
who or
what
was the
maker?

Her instinct had been to get away, to flee. The strength in the
thing’s limbs told her it would be impossible to bolt past it without being
intercepted. As a test, she had feinted toward the door; and her fears were
confirmed when the two-hundred pound creature dropped down into a crouch and
moved almost in synch with her to head her off.

Then the creature had opened a mouth full of sharp teeth, raised
its head and bayed. The sound wasn’t so much a bay but a long grunt. She began
to inch her way toward the door. With each step she took toward freedom, the
creature closed in, forcing her into an empty stall.

She could see every detail and tried to find some weakness in its
anatomy she could exploit if given the chance. All she saw was virulent
strength.

The creature’s gray skin was mottled and wet from the rain. The
head was connected to a long, strong neck and seemed to be much smaller than it
should have been. It didn’t look too bright, something like a sloth. There was
an overall froglike wetness; an amphibian-ness about it that went beyond the water
dripping from its limbs. In a crouch, the creature’s forelimbs or arms balanced
it forward and the stubby fingers remained flat on the ground. Its rear legs
remained tensed, and the small feet constantly searched for good traction in
the soft dirt of the barn’s floor. It seemed to be fighting some instinct to
pounce and tear her to shreds with those teeth in that terrible little head. It
continued to bay, and Mary remembered thinking that she wished to hell Jack
would hear this damned mutant or alien or whatever, get dressed and run to the
barn with his shotgun and shoot it. Just then, the creature snapped its head
toward the barn door and sprinted out it on all fours, raising divots of dirt
and clouds of dust as it went. Mary had never seen anything move as fast that
wasn’t made of steel and rubber. She thought at first Jack had somehow done as
she’d prayed, and the creature had sensed him and fled for its demonic life.
She smiled out of relief that it was gone and took a step or two toward the
open door half-expecting to see Jack Delacroix with his shotgun.

“Frogs,”
that
what she called the gray hunters,
“frogs.”
Mary knew about frogs, she’d put one in her mouth once.

Then there were the goons.

“Goon” wasn’t exactly accurate, but that’s what Mary called them
anyway. They weren’t goons like a thug or hoodlum was a goon, but were huge,
misshapen things, powerful and small-headed like the goons in the old Popeye
cartoons.
Grunt, worker, peon, big
bastard, drone
—she’d heard them called many things since she’d been taken,
but she liked
goon
best. It was an ugly name; just ugly enough to dull by insult
some of the horror they created.

There had been two of them that night and one of them carried Jack
Delacroix’s body in a woven sack draped over its massive back like a toy. One
of Jack’s arms had been torn off at the shoulder, and she could see the white
bone. Blood flowed down the goon’s back and leg from the ragged wound. The goon
was almost casually holding the severed arm out to the gray creature that sat
on its haunches gnawing and pulling off pieces of meat from it. The other goon
had its attention fixed on Mary, riveting her with a predatory stare from deep
sockets where its eyes should have been.

Mary had never screamed in earnest in her life that she could
remember but she had screamed then. It was more of a “whoop” than a scream, and
it came out completely with a will of its own. Some governor truncated the
energy-wasting whoop before it was completely done. She raised the spanner and
threw it with the force and accuracy that only the short stop on the Honey
Bee’s Butt Busters softball team could achieve. The closest goon dodged the
wrench with a quick twist of its ugly head, and that’s all she could remember.

Goon-things.
Frog-things. Things, things, things. Ugly damned gray hunter things.

Pushing the memories of that awful night from her mind, she slid
the last of the gunk off her calf and foot and walked out of the tube into the
adjoining chamber. She shook and wiped off what water she could as she looked
over the pile of clothes in the center of the floor. She picked up a big soft
cotton shirt and dried herself off with it, then chose another to put on, a
plain blue work shirt. She skipped right over the dresses and soft blouses. She
couldn’t understand how anyone would even think of putting on a little
sleeveless blouse here, but she had seen that woman Nancy doing just that.

The pants were a little more difficult but she finally found a
pair of denims she thought would fit pretty good and put those on. Socks were a
real problem: socks were underwear, and she refused to put on someone else’s
underwear. She dug around until she found a matching pair of high-top canvas
basketball shoes and put them on—without socks. The shoes were big, but to hell
with it, at least they’d keep her feet off the sticky floor. The pants were
long, so she bent over and rolled them up a time or two. She looked down at the
effect. She liked the look.

There,
she thought.
Sweet enough to kiss.

When she turned around she saw Tom Moon sitting in the curve of
the wall. He had that shit-eating little smirk on his face and it occurred to
her that he had been there silently watching and smirking all the time she was
getting dressed. Her anger flared up, but she kept a lid on it. There was no
way she would let this wiry little prick get to her. Better to let him think he
was so insignificant that he had exactly no impact on her, even when he watched
her naked.

“Can’t you announce your presence, creep,” she said easily.

She ambled over to within a few feet of him and continued to
button her shirt, hoping the stringy prick would get a last little glimpse of
her tit—just as she covered it up from his nasty gaze.

“When I want to,” he said.

Mary saw a piece of goo on his cheek. On Tom it looked oddly like
an identifying badge or namesake. She grinned at it.

“You’ve got some slime on your face.”

Tom found it with his fingers and wiped it from his face to his
pants leg. She was sure that in his former life, he’d made the habit of wiping
food there in the same way.

“There, you happy now?” he grinned back.

“No, but the slime’s off your face.”

“How come you don’t like me? You don’t like me, do you?” he said,
sneering.

“Not much.”

“I bet if we was back on Earth, you’d like me just fine. I bet I could
make you like me.” A look of lasciviousness crossed his broad, thin mouth.

Something inside her groaned. He was at least thirty years old,
and she was fairly certain he hadn’t been raised on Mars. She considered him
for a second, shaking her head in disbelief. Not only was he thinking about sex
in this place, he was thinking about it with her, Mary Pope, who had felt a
male’s stubble on
her
mouth—for the first and last time—at age thirteen.

Mary smiled big and innocently and blinked. That was it. He was
plumb stupid. The wiry bastard was all wound up, like springs inside, with hate
and mean desire, and he capped it all off with stupidity. She wished she could
feel sorry for him. She’d seen lots like him drifting through Trader in the
fall and early winter, all wrapped up in ratty clothes and dirty caps with
cigarettes behind their ears. They’d stop in Trader long enough to panhandle
some money, eat and catch a lift westward. The musky fuckers could live for a
week on a couple of Twinkies and some pond water. She’d always known his kind
were capable of survival anywhere, and this particular drifter was absolute
proof of it. For all she knew, this might be the best, warmest place Tom Moon
had slept in for years.

“I doubt it,” she said and headed toward the tube out of the
chamber. “Get those thoughts out of your little head,” she added over her
shoulder, “It ain’t healthy.”

She could feel his close-set eyes on her butt as she walked out.
Amazing,
she
thought. She hoped he’d die right there where he sat. She stuffed the borrowed
shirt in her pants as she walked and guessed it was feeding time because she
was suddenly hungry.

BOOK: Dominant Species Volume One -- Natural Selection (Dominant Species Series)
7.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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