Monday, September 1, 2014
“They’re all gone?” Maureen said worriedly. “You’re sure?”
“As can be,” Ewan assured her. “Shaggy and Agent Mulder—I guess that’s Barry and Lowenstein—got run out of town days ago. Jumbo Dumbo’s been sent to a place he won’t be coming back from. Cochrane won’t be back if he knows what’s good for him. Your friend Pete, or whatever he is now, was seen headed for the tiger compound. They’ll deal with him, one way or the other. Zhere Ghan likes to keep a low profile. I think that’s everybody.”
Finally. Now maybe he could stow all this save-the-day scat and get down to the important business of courting his lady. Starting with this romantic breakfast at the Bighorn Diner. The place was packed as usual, but somehow a table for two had materialized when they’d come in. The perks of being a hero.
“Not quite,” Maureen said, still worried. “I wish I knew what happened to—”
“You two ready to order?”
“Ted?” Maureen leaped out of her seat and threw her arms as far as she could reach around the massive bulk of Comic Book Guy. “You’re still here? You’re okay?”
“Yep. Still here and better than okay. Atcheson dumped me here in town, so I figured screw it and went to breakfast. Best decision I ever made. The food here is incredible. And they have all you can eat days. I didn’t want to leave. So the owner, Miss Elly, gave me a job. I work here through lunch, then help out at her husband’s place for a couple hours.” He nodded toward the window, and the Grease ‘n’ Grill visible across the square. “Shifters have been better to me than humans ever were. I’ll be damned if I’ll hunt ‘em any more. I’m out of the cryptozoologist biz. You better be okay with that.”
“Hey, me too.” Maureen returned to her seat. She looked at him critically. “Have you lost weight?”
“Ten pounds,” Ted said proudly. “Miss Elly’s got me on a veggie diet. That’s the only downside. Her boys want me to start working out, and they’re relentless. She’s even got her husband in on it. I’m not allowed to eat over there.” He gazed longingly out the window toward the other diner and its enticing greasy odors. “Vern says he wants me to drop at least a hundred pounds because the way I am now, it’d take a pack to pull me down. He’s joking, right?”
“Oh yeah,” Ewan said. “That’s us. Born comedians.” Except for wolves, who had no sense of humor. No reason for Ted to know that. “We’ll have two specials. Blueberry for me, strawberry for the lady.”
“You betcha. Anything to drink?”
# # #
Eons in the past, in what would one day be Lapland, the mutant creature that had once been Wesley Atcheson surveyed his vast domain. He liked this place. It had the abundant food his mutated metabolism required, plenty of land to roam in, and puny little hairy hominids several hundreds of thousands of years away from inventing the gun. Their arrows and spears couldn’t penetrate his hide. He could stomp them with impunity. And gleefully did, as often as opportunity presented itself.
Best of all, this land was home to a herd of woolly mammoths. They also posed no threat to him, as he was clearly the largest, most powerful male in the territory—a fact not lost on the females. Within weeks he acquired an entourage of cows. Life was good indeed.
Roughly a year from the present day a team of Swedish paleontologists will discover the remains of a monster mammoth preserved in the frozen earth. Their findings throw the world of science into chaos. The human elements in the mammoth’s DNA are attributed to contamination in the lab. The wolf genes aren’t so easily explained. At least one scientist’s career ends in disgrace. The remains are locked away in the hopes they’ll be forgotten.
Reading about the debacle in a scientific journal, Morloxian ponders the discovery, then shakes his head. “Naw. Couldn’t be.”
# # #
“Lord Ghan.” The head of the Tiger Yakuza knelt on the floor before Zhere Ghan’s desk. “We have captured a … creature attempting to enter the compound. It appears to be one of the hated Hancock’s mutant werewolves, but it speaks. It says it is your servant.”
“Indeed?” Ghan’s brain sifted information. He could think of only one “servant” with even a tenuous connection to Hancock’s mutant werewolves. “Where is this creature?”
“Outside. Shall we kill it, Lord?”
“No.” Ghan stood. “Show it to me.”
The mutant werewolf had been bound with ropes and whips. It was ringed by Tiger Yakuza, many with guns. Yet when Ghan approached it, it turned its attention to him and him alone. It bowed as well as it was able. “Lorrrrrrd Ghan.” The Yakuza muttered.
Zhere Ghan stood before the beast. “What is your name?”
Ghan considered this. “Leave us,” he told his Yakuza.
The mutters grew in intensity, but Zhere Ghan’s word was law. The Yakuza agents withdrew. Ghan himself removed the werewolf’s bindings. “Report.”
“This one was unsuccessful in securing Dr. Morloxian,” the werewolf growled in Urdu. “I attempted to bring you the mutant mammoth, but I was overcome and the beast was destroyed. I have failed in my mission, lord. I failed you. I offer you my life, and this, my mutant body, as compensation.” Ranjeet bent his head, awaiting execution.
Instead Zhere Ghan rested his hand on the werewolf-creature’s shoulder. “You’re a loyal servant, Ranjeet. I’m sure you did your best. You are to be rewarded. You are now a member of my Tiger Yakuza. The grounds and the forest beyond are yours. You will patrol them and keep us all safe from intruders. Any creature you catch, you may kill. But not eat, unless it’s a true beast. Drive off any shifters you come across, without too much violence if you can. We don’t want any unnecessary problems. Not unless I order it.”
Ranjeet quivered all over like an excited dog. He even dared to lick his master’s hand. “I live to serve you, Lord Ghan.”
“Then get to work. You’ve a territory to guard. You’d best get acquainted with it.”
The wolf-creature bounded off happily. Zhere Ghan smiled, watching him go. Such loyalty. You couldn’t even buy devotion so strong these days.
So he didn’t have Morloxian. Neither did Hancock. That counted as a victory in Ghan’s ledger. Those idiots in town never would have let him keep the mammoth anyway. This was better. He had his own mutant werewolf now, loyal only to him. And soon …
He opened his hand and regarded the long, loose wolf hairs resting in his palm. He bankrolled his own set of Indian scientists, well-schooled in both science and respect to the ancient tiger lords. They’d assured him they were making incredible strides in cloning.