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Prolog of a New Novel in the Works: Hunters

Posted by Charles Gray on January 16, 2012


Prologue: Today

It’s dark out.  It’s always dark out here, Shelly thought.  The Shroud wasn’t noticeable everywhere, but where it was dominant, it turned even midday into a gloomy almost dark.  At night, it was dead black– not only did the Shroud block the stars and the moon, but it absorbed nearly all the light from below– instead of partially illuminating the ground, the city lights just vanished into the darkness.

And of course, that didn’t even count the fact that streetlights were the favorite target for the Nightcults and the Stalkers.

Oh, it wasn’t dark to her. She could see the thermal radiation coming off of the police crews, and her eyes collected more light than a cat, which is why sometimes they gleamed to those who were watching her closely.  Even so, she preferred the day. The day was the ally of man, and the people she was helping weren’t so frightened in the day.

“Are you certain you don’t need any escort?”  The police officer loomed over her slight frame, looking worried.  Shelly didn’t know if it was mainly over her, or the fact that it was night and they were still outside.

“No.”  She said, “Anyone else would just get in the way.”

“Well I’m not certain about that. Enough guns and even a V-”

“Stop,” Shelly said, annoyance in her voice. This?  Again?  If even police are doing this, how the hell can we stop ordinary citizens from doing it.


“They’re not vampires.” She turned and poked the officer in the chest. “Stop referring to them as vampires, because they are not vampires.  Crosses don’t stop them, garlic just makes you smell and most importantly, expecting them to act like some B list horror movie monster will get you killed.”  She blew out an exasperated breath. “They’re not supernatural beings.  Weird, yes, not completely understood, yes.  But not supernatural.”

“Okay,”  The officer said, looking nervously towards the building– the objective.

Just Okay.  He doesn’t believe you.  Doesn’t he understand how much power cloaking them in the supernatural grants them?  You can’t fight a magical being after all. Shelly didn’t pursue the point any further.  It wouldn’t do any good.  “Are the seismic sensors deployed?”

“Yes, and the building doesn’t have any access ways into the sewers.”

“That you know of.”  Shelly reminded the burly man.  “This part of the city hasn’t exactly been a poster child for code enforcement.”  Sighing, she looked at the building.  Five stories, abandoned since the housing crash, windows boarded up, and a front door busted in by a local homeless man who was looking for a place to escape the dark.  Two hours ago, the police had been called to collect his various body parts from the front yard by the other terrified inhabitants of the street.

“Fine,”  Shelly finally said, “I’m going in.  If I don’t come back out, regular sterilization procedures.”  She checked the pockets of her armored jumpsuit, making certain all her gear was in place.


“Shelly. The other makes me feel really old.”

“Okay, Shelly.  How long should we wait?”

Protocol was to wait thirty minutes.  He really wanted to avoid possibly killing her.

“Thirty minutes.  It’ll be over one way or the other by then,”  Shelly told him, nodded and turned and walked up to the open door.

-Testing, testing, Jacob, are you there?-  Shelly sent from her implanted communicator.

-A bit hard on the cop, weren’t you?-  The older man’s voice came through like he was standing next to her.  -It’s an easy mistake to make.-

-It’s a stupid mistake to make.-  Shelly paused, peering inside the debris studded foyer.  Even here, she could see clearly, but there was no sign of heat.  The bum hadn’t lived long enough to set a fire and the other thing– or things, that were in here didn’t need heat. -The last thing we need is people running around dunking crazy old women in the water and screaming witch!-

-Well, from your aged perspective that might be true, but I’ll let you know, that sounded more like last minute nerves.  It may be a bad idea to give in to superstition, but it’s just as bad to bite someone’s head off for being frightened.-

Shelly paused.  That was a reprimand. -I understand, Jacob.-

-Good.  Working with local LEO’s is part of the Job, Shelly.- Then, without pausing, Jacob was back to business.  -No team to back you up, not with the problems in Orange County, but the seismics aren’t showing any digging activity. I think it’s a singleton.-

-Think,-  Shelly sent back, -the single most said and least used word in the English language.-

-Heh. Watch yourself.-  Jacob signed off, his presence fading to the back of Shelly’s consciousness.  The telemetry was still running, not simply sounds, but the images her eyes picked up.  If Shelly did lose, they’d know how she died.

Studying the foyer, Shelly discounted the stairs heading up. Thickly covered in dust it was obvious that they hadn’t been used in weeks.

And in any case, the upper parts of the house were too flimsy.  Her quarry feared the light, even the dim light the Shroud let in.  It would head downstairs, into the lower parts of the home.  If she was lucky, it might have even entered metamorphosis.

If she was very, very unlucky it might have completed metamorphosis.

Doorway to the back of the house– hanging on one hinge, like someone smashed it to the side in a frenzy to escape.  The dark stains around it didn’t require any enhancement to tell her how the race had ended.

But no sounds other than the wind blowing through some gaps in the wall. Even with full enhancement, Shelly couldn’t hear anything unnatural.

Kneeling down, she undid the flap of her thigh holster, pulling out a wand like device with a rugged handgrip. A systems check later and the dim READY light gleamed, showing her that the cutter was ready.  Another moment and what looked like brass knuckles adorned her other hand.

“Fine,” Shelly murmured to herself, “time to finish this.”

The steps to the basement had been used– the dust was badly disordered.  Shelly switched to thermal for a moment, enhanced eyes peering into the gloom, but there was no sign of ambient body heat.

Which rules out any more transients, she thought.  The basement was crowded with damaged furniture and old debris, a perfect hiding place.  It would probably attack if it was aware of her, the moment she stepped onto the floor.

She was right, but even being on alert, the creature which erupted from the far end of the room very nearly caught her by surprise.  A normal human would have been doomed, but then no normal human moved like she did.  Nanotech enhanced muscles and nerves and long practice let her dodge back, the air displaced by the filthy claws stinking in her nostrils.

She clenched her hand and the cutter hummed, a hair thin ‘blade’ emerging from it, made of aligned molecules and magnetic fields projected from the hilt.

-5 minutes until recharge- the status alert whispered in her mind.  That was fine. She wouldn’t need more than thirty seconds.

The thing in front of her had been human, once, before the infection set it.

Almost to first stage change.  Shelly thought calmly.  An eternity and six months ago, she’d needed sedatives when she’d started thinking about the life and story behind every one of her enemies.  Now it was enough to remember that the person– the soul was gone. What she was facing simply was a body.

The creature was moving towards her again, more carefully now that its first rush had failed.  Arms wide in a parody of asking for a hug, Shelly could see the ovipositors in the palm of each hand.  Ah.  You want to create another one. It had been very close to first stage change.

It rushed towards her, faster than any human.  Shelly moved faster still.  One arm went flying, blade slicing through decaying flesh and bone like it wasn’t there.  It also sliced through the bundles of vine like growths– the real muscle of creature, feeding off the decaying flesh of the body just as the central growth was feeding off the remains of the brain.

The smell filling the room from the wound was overpowering– more than a few had actually lost conscious from it.  Now it was charging her again, eerily silent.  Shelly backed off, and a moment later, its other arm fell to the ground. She’d been trying for the head, but the creature was dodging and weaving to stay away from her.  Unlike a human, the amputation of both arms wouldn’t necessarily be fatal.

Shelly had another tool to solve that.  Whipping out with a feint from the sword she charged in, delivering a gut punch with her knuckles, as the sudden shriek of compressed gas echoed through the room.  Smiling, Shelly stepped back, as the creature staggered towards her.  Moments later, it fell, twitching helplessly as the enzyme did its job. While verifying that it had been the only one, Shelly opened the link up again.

-It’s done, Jacob,- Shelly sent.  -Get the clean up team down here.-

-Good job,-  Jacob said, -oh, and happy birthday.-

Shelly blinked and checked her watch. 12:01 AM.

-Thanks, Jacob,- she replied, as the first biosuited men entered the room, summoned by Jacob.

As she came out of the house, Shelly watched as the body of the creature was loaded into the containment van.  “Dead” with an infestation meant “burned to a cinder” and it would be treated as a potential biohazard until that was done.

“There’s a car waiting to take you back to the hotel,”  the police officer said.

“Thanks.”  Shelly replied, “I ah, didn’t get your…”

“Collins.  Steven Collins,” He said.  Looking embarrassed, he continued, “Ah, the curfew– if anyone gives you any trouble just have them call me.”

“I will,” Shelly said, “thanks.”

Nodding the Collins headed off to talk to some reporters– evidently braver than others, or at least trusting in the mob of people around them. Shelly sighed and looked up to the sky before heading off to the hotel.

“Happy 16th birthday.”  She murmured to herself.

End Prologue


2 Responses to “Prolog of a New Novel in the Works: Hunters”

  1. Looks pretty decent to me, if I was going to point at one thing, it feels to me that you are being too implicit about some stuff that the reader will probably get very easily from context.

    Take the first paragraph

    “It’s dark out. It’s always dark out here, Shelly thought. The Shroud wasn’t noticeable everywhere, but where it was dominant, it turned even midday into a gloomy almost dark. At night, it was dead black– not only did the Shroud block the stars and the moon, but it absorbed nearly all the light from below– instead of partially illuminating the ground, the city lights just vanished into the darkness.”

    I’m not sure you need anything after the first sentence. You probably want to work the name in there, but it’s clear what’s going on way before the end of the paragraph.

    • happyhyena said

      Thanks! That’s always been a problem of mine– what is too much, or too little description. I’ll be working on it and hopefully have the redone example posted soon.

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