The Legacy 4 - Ersatz

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The Legacy team are called to a research centre in the Scottish wilderness when all contact is lost with the place. When they arrive they find that something is killing the scientists there. But what is it?

ERSATZ

 

LOCHY RESEARCH CENTRE, RIVER LOCHY, 2½ MILES EAST OF DALMALLY SCOTLAND 8.30 PM

Troy Dawson stood in the doorway of the research centre listening to the sounds of the nocturnal life in the forest surrounding the centre.  He didn’t like it out here at this time of year.  Spring might have been only two weeks away, but it was still freezing at night.  At this far north spring was often late in coming.  But it was a job.  And he needed the money right now.  Troy and his sister still owed quite a lot of money on the Jet Ranger helicopter.  If this job hadn’t had come along when it had then the bank would have repossessed it.  They were only just managing to make the payments as it was.  As long as they paid him, he would be staying here.  Anyway, someone had to fly these people back when they went for supplies in a week.

Troy didn’t see the movement in the bushes to his left.  The first time.  He stepped away from the open.  Troy up ended his can of diet coke, draining the last of the dark coloured liquid into his mouth, then crushed the can with one hand.  Something he always did when he finished a can.

The bushed to Troy’s left moved once more, only this time Troy saw it.  He began to walk towards the bush cautiously.Troy couldn’t see anything within the bushes, just the bush itself.  It was probably a badger or fox searching for food.  It was spring.  Almost.  Troy had seen one or two badgers around here in the past few days.  Among other animals.

The bush moved once more and this time Troy saw two small shining lights from somewhere within the bush but before Troy could get a good look at what it was, something leaped out and grabbed hold of him round the neck and dragged him back into the bush, disappearing.  Troy didn’t even have time to cry out.

The crushed coke can lay where Troy had dropped it, splattered with blood.

***

“You wanted us all here?” Garion asked as he, Nick and Cai stepped into the library, which was often used as an office when they needed extra room for them all.

“Yes.  We’ve been asked to take a case,” Jack explained.

“By ‘The Powers That Be’, I suppose,” Cai stated.

“Yes,” Jack said casually.

“What is it?” Cai asked.

“A week ago, a helicopter pilot disappeared from the Lochy Research Centre on the River Lochy in Scotland.  No body was found.  Nothing.  Apart from a small amount of blood on a discarded coke can.”

“What are we doing with a missing persons case?” Nick asked as he looked at the photograph of the pilot that Jack had handed round.  “It’s not what they usually send us.” 

“It’s because of the research centre and being so isolated.  No one can get up there without a helicopter,” Jack explained.  “And we do tend to handle the odd strange case that the police won’t or can’t sometimes.”

“I know that, but what’s so strange about this one?”

“It’s strange that C.I.5 have sent it to us and if we can clear this up without the press getting wind of it, they’ll pay us triple the usual rate.”

“C.I.5?” Nick asked.  “I thought it was ‘The Powers That Be’?”

“By way of,” Jack explained.  “I think this research centre has a few secrets they don’t want leaked.”

“Triple?” Cai asked.  “That’s a lot.”

Jack nodded.  “Just shows how much they want to keep things secret.”

“What kind of research does it do?” Cai asked.

“Still working on that,” Jack said.  “There’s not a lot on the internet about it. Can’t even see much of it on Google Earth.”

“That sounds very secret,” Garion said.

“I’m guessing that’s why they called us. The other six people left at the research centre didn’t know what happened to the pilot so five of them went out next morning to search the area.  Only three came back. ‘Scared as hell’.  There words, not mine.  One of them described what they saw as…”  Jack paused as he took the file back from Nick and searched through until he found the page he was looking for.  “…humanoid black thing with glowing red eyes.”

“Glowing red eyes?” Cai asked, more than a little sceptical.

Jack nodded again.  “Then two nights ago, Thursday, at about 10 pm, a Doctor Julia Benton stepped out of the research centre for some fresh air.  The remaining four said they heard a scream.  They haven’t seen her since.”

“Why don’t they just leave?” Nick asked.

“Helicopter is the only way in or out, not counting a long hike.  Dalmally many only be two and a half miles away, as the crow flies, but it’s not very big and there’s nothing but trees and hills and the river surrounding the research centre.  Quite easy to get lost without a guide.  And at this time of year, not a particularly good idea.  It may be almost spring but in Scotland there’s still some snow high up.  Plus, none of the people left can fly the helicopter that’s still there.”

“So, they’re stuck out there until someone comes along to fly them out,” Garion said.

Jack nodded.

“And find out what this humanoid with the glowing red eyes is,” Cai added.

“Maybe,” Jack said, closing he file.  “But I think I know what this humanoid might be,” he added.

“How’d you know that?” Cai asked.

“I’m still working on it, but I may have discovered some of it.  It’s amazing what you can find on the computer.  With the help of Lily.”

“I hope she was careful.”

“She was.  Lily is particularly good with the computer.  I know a little, but she is brilliant.  They won’t know it was Lily.”

“So, what did you find out?” Nick asked.

“Okay.  So, twenty-four years ago the same research centre was used for a group of military scientists doing research into cloning.”

“Cloning?” Cai asked.  “I didn’t think that was possible.  Apart from the few animals they cloned.”

“It’s possible,” Nick said.  “The Na’en and Marubi have been able to clone for a long time.”

“But that doesn’t mean it’s possible here,” Cai said.  “Yet.”

“The military were trying to clone humans,” Jack continued.  “Only something went wrong.  When no contact had been made with the centre for several days a second team was sent along with a few soldiers.  They found them all dead and according to the notes they found a clone had been created but was nowhere to be found.  The project was dropped, and the research centre was sealed.  Until just over four months ago.”

“And now people are disappearing,” Cai said.

“And you think this humanoid with the glowing red eyes is the clone from twenty-four years ago?” Garion asked.

“What else could it be?”

“Wild animals?” Garion asked.  “Earth isn’t really ready for cloning yet.  Not to that scale anyway.”

“That doesn’t mean it can’t be done,” Jack stated.  “There’s only Bobcats and Scottish Wild Cats out there.  Plus, the usual wild animals.  None of which are big enough to carry off a full-grown human being.”  Jack stood.  “Okay,” he began.  “The Sea King is grounded so you can’t fly out.”

“I know,” Nick said.  “I grounded her, remember?”

“How can I forget.”  Jack gave Nick a dark stare.  “There isn’t time to hire the one we usually use so it looks like the train this time.  Unless you want to drive all that way?”

“No thanks,” Garion said.

“A chopper will pick you up from Dumbarton, two pilots, one for the other chopper.  You’ll probably need both choppers to bring you all back.”

“Why two pilots?”

“You’re still grounded, remember?”

“How am I going to get my hours up if you won’t let me fly?” Nick asked.

“Wait until the Sea King is repaired, and you can go up again,” Jack said.

“Anyone would think you’re the boss around here, not me,” Nick said as he walked away.

 

“Hi,” the first pilot said as he approached Nick, Cai and Garion.  “I’m Jason McKenzie.”  He held out his hand to them.  “You must be the people from The Legacy Foundation,” he added.

“Yeah.  Nick Youngblood.”  Nick shook his hand.  “My brothers, Cai and Garion.”

“Are you Native Americans?” Jason asked.

“Yes, we are,” Cai confirmed.  “But we’ve lived here for a long time.”

“Where’s the other pilot?” Garion asked.

“She’ll be here in a minute,” Jason explained.  “Just went to the loo.”

No sooner had Jason said it when a woman of around twenty-seven came walking towards them.

“Hello,” she said, smiling, holding out her hand to them.  They shook hands with her, introducing themselves.

“Tanya Dawson.  Your second pilot.”

“Dawson?” Garion asked, remembering the name from the file.

“Troy was my brother,” Tanya explained.  “The helicopter he flew is mine.  We ran the business together.  Flying lessons, trips in the summer.  That sort of thing.  My other helicopter is over there.”  Tanya pointed out a Hughes helicopter.  “But it’s not big enough for all of us, so we’re taking Jason’s.”

Nick could see the sadness in her face and read it in her thoughts.  Tanya had just lost her brother and business partner who was very close to her.

“Everyone ready?” Jason asked, changing the subject.  They needed to get moving if they wanted to arrive before it became dark.

“Sure, you can get us all in the one helicopter?” Garion asked.

“You might have a point there.”  He glanced round at his helicopter then back at everyone.

“I can fly the Jet Ranger,” Nick said.

“Nick,” Garion warned.

“I won’t tell Jack if you don’t.”

“If you can fly, why do you need two pilots?” Jason asked.

“My manager grounded me,” Nick explained.  “It’s a long story.”

“Your manager?”

“I’ll explain some time.”

“But the F.A.A. haven’t?” Tanya asked.

“No.  I still have my licence.  Something happened that my manager didn’t like so he told me no more flying for a while.”

“Okay.  Let’s go then.”  Tanya led Nick and Garion to the Hughes helicopter while Cai got into the Jet Ranger with Jason.  Within minutes the two helicopters were flying away from Dumbarton and on their way to the Lochy Research Centre.

They caught sight of the research centre almost a full minute before thy landed on an area surrounded by fir trees, and an area which had been cleared for a landing pad and were met by the four-remaining people of the centre.

“Hello,” a man said, approaching them as they stepped out of the helicopters.  “I’m Doctor Doug Baker.”

“Nick Youngblood.”  He shook his hand.

“Cai Youngblood,” Cai told him.

“Brothers?” Doug asked, seeing the resemblance.

“Yeah,” Nick answered.  “Garion there is also my brother.”

“Didn’t think the C.I.5 would send so many,” Doug said.

“We’re not from C.I.5,” Jason explained.  “Us two are pilots.”  Jason indicated Tanya standing nearby.

“Neither are we,” Cai added.

“You’re not?  I thought that’s who you were when we saw the helicopters.”

“No, we’re from The Legacy Foundation,” Cai explained.

“Why The Legacy Foundation?  Aren’t you a new company?”

“We’ve been around for nearly twenty years,” Nick explained.  We’re government funded.  We do jobs that no one else wants or wants to keep quiet.”

“The file was passed onto us,” Garion explained.

Doug turned to the other three and began introductions.  “This is Jeff Duggan, our cook.”

Jason glanced at him for a moment. 

“I hope you can cook better than Cai,” Nick joked.

“I can cook better than you,” Cai protested, not taking the joke too well.

“I’m the best self-taught chef there is,” Jeff answered.  “Around here anyway.”

“You bet he is,” Chris agreed.

“And these two are Chris Harvey and Kelly Dowle.”

Garion, Nick and Cai already knew their names from the file, but Garion thought Doug Baker would feel better introducing them himself.

 

Cai smelt cooking when he came out of the small room he had been shown to in the research centre.  He saw Nick and Garion up ahead and began to walk towards them.  Nick turned when he heard footsteps behind him, and they both walked towards the smell of food.

“Have you seen anything since last night?” Cai heard Garion ask as he entered the mess hall.  Dinner was just being served.

“I thought I saw something two nights ago,” Kelly said as she helped herself to some mashed potato.

“This place can get a little stuffy at time.  Even at this time of year.  It’s the heating system.  I went outside for some fresh air.”  Kelly paused as she put the potato dish down and picked up the peas.  “I didn’t want to get too far from the door after what happened before.  And the weather can change so easily up here.”

“So, what did you see?” Tanya prompted.

“I was just standing there, by the door, when I saw these two red lights in the distance, real close together and quite small.  I ran inside before I got a better look at it.”

“Do you know what this place was used for before-“Cai began.

“Before us?” Doug interrupted.

Cai nodded.

“All I know is that it’s been closed down for over fifteen years and it was used for research back then as well.”  Doug glanced round at them all.  “Do you know what kind of research went on here?”

Nick nodded and began to fill them in about what went on here.

“Human clones?” Chris asked, sceptical.

Cai nodded, taking a sip of his water.

“And that’s what this thing is out there?” Jeff asked.

“We don’t know for sure,” Garion answered.  “But from past history it seems likely.”

 

Jason saw a shadow standing by the open door of the research centre.  He could feel the cold wind blowing in through the open door and shivered.  As Jason stepped nearer, he saw that it was Chris standing in the moonlight, his hands in his pockets.  Chris turned when he heard Jason approach.

“Seen anything?” Jason asked.

Chris shook his head.  “Not a sausage.  But then I didn’t come out here to look for the thing.  I came out here for the fresh air.”

“Some fresh air.”

“It might be cold but it’s better than the air inside sometimes.  That heating system dries the air out.  Makes it a bit stuffy.”

“Is it always this cold?” Jason asked.  He didn’t like to fly out here in the winter, in the country.  The weather could change so easily.  It may not be winter anymore, but it often took Scotland a little longer to catch up because it was so far north.

“You should’ve been here last month,” Chris said.  “It was much worse.”

A movement suddenly caught Chris’ eye and he turned towards it.  At first, Chris couldn’t see anything.  Then, he saw the bushes move again.

“Over there!” Chris said, pointing to the bushes and attracting Jason’s attention.

“Yeah, I see it,” Jason said, seeing the bush also move this time.

Not taking his eyes from where the movement had come from Jason made his way across the clearing towards his helicopter.

“Jason!” Chris called quietly.  “What are you doing?”  Chris turned to the movement in the bushes then ran after him.

“We should get back inside,” Chris told him.

“Yeah, in a minute.”  Jason opened the door of the helicopter and reached under the seat for a gun, plus extra bullets.

As Jason was placing the bullets in his pocket, he heard something behind him.  He thought it was Chris approaching from behind.  But when he turned it wasn’t only Chris he saw.

 

As Nick heard the gunshots, he picked up his stunner and ran out of his room.  He saw Garion and Cai along the corridor, their own stunners in their hands.  They all stopped and looked at each other.

“Who’s doing the shooting?” Cai asked.

The question was met by silence.  None of them knew the answer.  The ran along the corridor towards the external door to find it standing open.

“What’s going on?” Tanya asked as she came out of her room.

“Kelly just stared at her and ran after the others.  Within seconds everyone was outside in the cold and darkness.

“Where’d you get that from?” Garion asked Jason when he saw the gun in his hand.

“I always keep a gun the chopper,” Jason answered, not meeting Garion’s eyes.

“Do you realise it’s against the law to keep handguns like that?” Cai asked.

 

“I know.  Bit it comes in handy sometimes.  Like a few minutes ago.”

“What were you shooting at?” Cai asked.  As he glanced at Jason, he saw the shook and fear on his face.  Cai began to read Jason’s mind and saw what had happened.  H relayed this to Nick and Garion.

“It took Chris,” Jason finally said.  “It came up behind us and took him.”

“Which way did it go?” Garion asked.

Jason indicated the direction he had seen the clone vanish, not daring to glance that way.

Cai began to walk in the direction Jason had indicated but Garion stopped him.  “Cai we’re not going to find him tonight,” Garion said.  “I will go.”  Garion began to walk towards the nearby bushes when Nick stopped him.

“Are you sure you have to go now?” Nick asked.

“Yes.  If I can find out where he hides during the day...”

Nick nodded, understanding.  Garion was the only one who could do this right now.

“Are you just going to let him go out there on his own?” Kelly asked, pointing to Garion entering the bush.

“Garion is military trained.The best.  He can take care of himself,” Nick informed her.

“That thing has managed to drag off half of our people and disappear without a trace and you’re just gonna let him go?” Doug asked.

“Garion is very good at what he does,” Cai added.  “I doubt even the best trackers in the world could find him if he didn’t want to be found.”

Cai and Nick turned as they heard a flap of wings and saw an owl fly from the bushes and into the air.  Cai smiled.  There he goes, he thought to himself.  He stepped away from Nick and knelt as he saw something on the ground.  He touched it and took a closer look.

“What is it?” Nick asked, approaching from behind.

“Looks like blood,” Cai answered.

“It is blood,” Nick confirmed.

“This is crazy,” Jeff suddenly said.  “Are we just gonna let that thing take us one by one?”

“What else are we supposed to do?” Kelly asked, starting to shiver, whether from the old or fear she did not know.  But what she did not know.  But what she did know was she did not want to stay out here much longer. 

“Try leaving for starters,” Jeff suggested.

“We can’t leave with that thing still out there,” Doug said.  “But we’ve got no idea where he is.  We’ve searched everywhere.  He could be anywhere.  We can’t find him, but he knows where to find us.”

“Garion is searching for him now,” Cai said.  “Hopefully, he’ll find his hide-out.”

“Hopefully,” Nick added, staring into the distance.

“I still think we should leave,” Tanya said.  “Just pack up and go before anyone else gets killed.”

“We could do that,” Cai said “But- “

“But if we leave,” Nick interrupted, “it will still be here and leaving is not going to stop I from killing anyone else.”

They had to stop it before anyone else was killed.  Whatever it really was.  They did not really know if it was the clone from all those years ago or some other experiment gone wrong.

“We better get back inside before he comes back,” Tanya said, glancing nervously around her, and hurried to back to the door where it was safe, warm, and dry.

“He won’t come back tonight,” Kelly said, following her.  “He never comes back more than once a night.”

“What about Garion?” Doug asked, indicating the direction Garion had taken moments earlier.

“Garion’s fine,” Cai said.  “He’ll be back soon enough.”

“Aren’t you the least bit concerned for him?”

“No,” Nick answered, taking one last glance into the bushes before following Kelly and Tanya inside.  He knew his half-brother was safe now he had shapeshifted into an owl.

 

Nick and Cai glanced up from their coffee when Garion entered the dining room, looking a little damp.

“Did you find him?” Nick asked, placing his cup down.

“I found where he has been taking the bodies,” Garion said, sitting down at the table.  “But I don’t think he’s living there.”

“Where else could he be staying?” Jeff asked.

Garion just shrugged, helping himself to coffee.  “Is this decaf?” he asked, indicating the coffee pot.

“No, it’s not,” Kelly answered.  “Is that a problem?”

Garion quickly put his cup down.  “Allergic to caffeine,” he added.

Nick and Cai stared at their cups and quickly put them down also.

“You too?” Kelly asked, pointing at the cups.

“Yes,” Nick answered.

“Where is this place?” Cai asked after a moment.

“It’s about a mile away,” Garion answered.  “I saw him go inside a cave but didn’t see him come back out.  I went inside and had a look around but didn’t see him.”

“And you did all this in an hour?” Kelly asked.

“Yes,” Garion answered.  “I’m very fast.”

“And he didn’t see you once?” Doug asked.

“Not once.  He was looking in the wrong direction.”

“Then the military must’ve trained you very well.”

Garion glanced at Nick and Cai for a moment.

“I had to tell them something,” Nick explained telepathically.  “And it’s not entirely untrue.”

“What are you going to do about this thing now we’re not leaving?” Jason asked.  He was still a little nervous about staying here now he knew the reason for all this and had witnessed an attack first-hand. 

When the Legacy Foundation had called him to fly the three of them out here, along with a second pilot, who used her own helicopter in the end he had no idea it would turn out like this.

“It only comes out at night?” Garion asked, looking at Doug.  The doctor nodded.

“As far as we know.  None of us have ever reported seeing it during the day, apart from when we went searching for Troy when he disappeared.  And we didn’t find that cave then either.”

“It’s well hidden,” Garion explained.  “I wouldn’t’ve found it either if I hadn’t seen him enter it.”

“That’s when it took the two others right?”

Doug nodded.

“Maybe he suffers from light blindness,” Nick suggested.  “I mean, his eyes do shine in the dark.  Maybe he has a problem when the sun’s up.  Or he chose to be nocturnal.”

“Is that why you always wear sunglasses?” Kelly asked, indicating the sunglasses Nick, Cai and Garion wore.  “You haven’t taken them off yet.”

Nick nodded.  “We do have sun blindness,” he explained.  “It’s a family thing.”

“When it took the other two,” Doug continued, “that was the only time it has attacked during the day.  And we didn’t see much then either.  We just saw something vaguely human grab them and vanish.  He’s very fast.”

“What about an ariel search?” Cai suggested.

Tanya shook her head.  “This forest is too thick.  We’d never see anything.  Anyway, it’s best if we save fuel.  I checked the other helicopter.  There’s only enough fuel to get us back.  Just about.”

“And there’s no use doing a ground search,” Kelly added.  “We’ve tried that and look where that got us.”

Nick nodded in agreement.  It would be easy to become lost out there.  And Garion had followed him to the cave where he had hidden the bodies but hadn’t found his home.  Unless it was deeper in the cave where Garion hadn’t ventured.

“He knows this place much better than we do,” Nick added.  “He’s had over twenty years to get to know this place.”

“Exactly,” Cai agreed.

“Have you searched this place?” Garion suddenly said, a thought coming to him.

“This place?” Jeff asked.

“He has to be somewhere during the day if he’s not living in that cave.  What better place than right under your noses?”

“There is a sealed room no one has been able to open,” Kelly pointed out.

“Then that’s where we’ll start,” Cai said, with a nod.  “But in the morning.”

“But what if he’s there?” Doug asked.

“That’s what I’m hoping,” Garion began.  “Catch him there and then.”

“And what if he’s not?” Tanya asked

They hadn’t thought that far ahead.

“There’s another thing we could do,” Cai thought.They all turned to him.  “Wait for him to come to us.  Leave the door open and wait for him to come inside.”

“Are you crazy?” Jeff asked, jumping to his feet, and knocking his chair over.

“We can’t leave the door open,” Kelly agreed.  “It still gets very cold here at night.”

“Then we’d better wrap up warm, hadn’t we?” Nick said with a smirk, also getting to his feet.  “We came here to do a job and we’re gonna do it.  To the best of our ability.”

“Even if it cost us our lives?” Jeff asked.

“It won’t come to that.”

“It already has.”

“Nick,” Cai said, placing a hand on his arm.  Nick sat down again.  The eight of them were in a situation a lot worse than Nick had anticipated.  He was feeling tense and nervous, and Cai sensed it.

“He’s got a point,” Doug began.  “We can’t leave with that thing out there, whatever it is.And we can’t continue things the way they are.  We have to do something.”

“Some kind of clone,” Cai reminded him.

“Because he’s not going to stop killing just because we leave,” Doug added.

“No, he won’t,” Cai agreed.  “We’ve got to stop him.  And finding where he stays during the day is a good place to start.”

“Why is he doing this?” Jeff suddenly asked, more to himself than to anyone.  “I mean if he is a clone then he’s still human.  Isn’t he?”

“If he’s a clone,” Cai said, taking a sip of some coffee.  “Then it could be fear or hate for this place and hates those that created or mistreated him.”

“But he killed all those people years ago from what you told us,” Tanya said.

“But if he’s also insane,” Cai added.  “Maybe he doesn’t realise what he’s doing.  He just associates this place with the people who created him.  To him he’s just-“ Cai stopped mid-sentence and looked down at the cup of coffee in his hand.

“Cai?” Nick asked, suddenly becoming a little concerned for his son.

“Is this decaf?” Cai asked.

“No, why?” Jeff asked.

Cai put his cup down and pushed it away.  Nick and Garion pushed their cups away also, after drinking some if it also.

“We’re allergic to caffeine,” Cai explained.

“That’s not the first coffee you three have had.”

“I know.  And I think I’m starting to notice.  Excuse me.”  Cai got up and left the dining room.

“Is he alright?” Jason asked.

“He’ll be fine.  Cai’s probably just drank more than we have,” Nick explained.

“What does caffeine do?” Kelly asked.

“Makes us drunk,” Garion explained.

“Make’s you drunk?” Doug asked, with a slight laugh.

Nick nodded, beginning to feel the effects of the caffeine.  “More than alcohol does,” he added.

“Caffeine is a drug,” Doug explained.  “You three must be more sensitive to caffeine that’s all.”

“What’s that?” Jason asked, pointing to the stunner.  “I’ve been wondering what that is since I saw you three with it.”

“It’s a stunner,” Garion explained.  “Knocks people out with a jolt of electricity.  Not like the one the police use.  These can shoot out a beam of light.”  For emphasis Garion aimed his stunner at a box on the floor and fired the stunner.  A blue light shot out and hit the box leaving behind a burn mark.

“Wow!” Kelly said, amazed.

“You use that instead of a gun?”

“Yes,” Garion said.

“What range does it have?”

“About thirty to forty feet.  Depends on the direction of the wind.  A strong enough wind can alter its direction slightly.”

 

“You must’ve drunk more caffeine than us,” Nick said as Cai came back to the dining room and sat down at the table.

“Want some breakfast?” Jeff asked as he popped his head round from the kitchen area.

“No thanks,” Cai answered.  Just a drink without caffeine thanks.”

“You look terrible,” Garion observed.

“I feel terrible,” Cai answered.  “I don’t remember a hangover from caffeine like this before.”

“Neither do I,” Nick agreed, coming closer.  “I drank almost as much as you did, and I feel fine.  I think this could be something else.”

“Like what?” Cai asked, looking his direction.

“Ashley,”

Cai stared at Nick confused.  He hadn’t heard that name for a few months.  His ex-girlfriend had just walked away from him, leaving a note.  Cai didn’t understand why she had left after telling him she was pregnant.

“What has this got to do with Ashley?”

“Her time must be close.  This could be- “

“You mean I can feel when- “Cai asked quietly.

“You didn’t know that?”

“No.  You never told me.”

“I forgot to mention it.  I wasn’t sure it would be the same with Ashley not being Na’en.  But this might not the real thing,” Nick continued.  “I had it several times when Miaha was expecting you.”

“What’s he talking about?” Garion asked.

“Cai’s ex-girlfriend left about seven months ago.  She had just announced she was pregnant.”

“And you think this hangover could actually be her getting ready to have the baby?”

Nick nodded.  “Could be.  It never occurred to me to tell you about this.”

They all glanced up as Jeff entered the dining room. 

“You look terrible,” he observed.

“I didn’t get much sleep last night,” Cai answered.

Jeff stepped into the kitchen and returned a moment later with two jugs, one of milk and the other containing orange juice.  He placed them on the table.

“Sorry, but this’s all there is to drink that doesn’t have caffeine in.  Unless you’d rather have water.”

“Milk and orange juice will be fine,” Cai said, and poured himself a glass of juice and began to drink, finishing it in one go.  Then pour himself another.  They all just stared at him.

“What?” Cai asked.

Jeff just shook his head and walked away.

“I was thirsty,” Cai answered.

“When do we start the search?” Jason asked as he entered the dining room along with the others.“You’re eager,” Nick said, looking up.

“The sooner we find him, the better.  Then we can get out of here.”

“Where is this door?” Garion asked, getting to his feet.

Doug began to lead the way out of the dining room and along the corridor.  Cai, Garion and Kelly joined them. Doug led them to the other end of the research centre and stopped at a door.

Nick stepped up to the door and pushed against it.  “It’s sealed alright,” he said.

“Like I said.”

“All we need to do is get the door open,” Garion said.

“How are you going to do that?” Kelly asked.

“Like this.” Garion stood back from the door and began to kick at the it.  Eventually, the lock gave way and the door opened.  But only a fraction.  The hinges had rusted and Garion had to push hard to open it enough so they could enter the room.

“We’ve been trying to get this door open for a while now,” Doug began.  “And you get it open just like that.”

“Bit of brute force works every time,” Garion said with a smile.  They didn’t know that Garion was much stronger than they were, and he wasn’t about to tell them.

“Smells a bit,” Kelly said, wrinkling her nose.

“Just a bit,” Garion agreed.  But because his senses were stronger than humans the small seemed stronger to him.  And he knew Nick could smell it more as well.

They stepped into the room and began to look around.  The room looked like some kind of lab.  There was a door at the far end of the lab that had been left open and looked out to the forest beyond.

“Looks like that’s where he gets in,” Garion said, indicating the door.

“So, where is he now?” Doug asked.

“Gone out for food?” Cai suggested.  He began to look around also.  Was this room where the cone had been created, Cai thought.

As Cai came to the far end of the lab, he saw what appear to be a bed.  “This is his room,” he said, crouching down to take a better look.

They came over to see for themselves.

“Great,” Doug said.  “Now what do we do?”

“Try the other plan,” Garion told them.  “He probably ran off when he heard me kicking at the door.  He probably won’t be coming back here in a hurry.”

Cai stepped up to the door and stared out.  He couldn’t see anything but tree and bushes.  But then, Cai thought he sensed the presence of the clone watching them from somewhere among the bushes, or it could have just been his imagination.

 

Nick stood by the open door glancing out.  It was starting to rain but he didn’t mind.  Sometimes he liked the rain.  As long as he wasn’t standing in it and getting wet.  That, he didn’t like.  But what ick really liked most of all were thunderstorms.  He loved to stand by a window and watch the flashes of light that lit up the sky.  It could be quite beautiful at times. 

Nick began to recall the first time he had seen lightening.  He had been a child not long after the Mothership had first come to Earth.  It had been quite hot that summer and a lot of thunder that year.  He was amazed by the site, not knowing what it was the first time.  He just couldn’t stop watching.

Nick turned as he heard footsteps behind him and saw Kelly approaching. 

“See anything?” she asked, wrapping her arms around her to keep warm.

Nick shook his head.  “Not a thing.”

Kelly handed Nick a cup of hot milk she had brought along, taking a sip of her coffee.  “Tastes better when it’s hot,” she added.

Nick nodded in agreement.  It tasted better than coffee sometimes.  Even though he’d become used to coffee after all these years.

“I noticed you’re married,” Kelly observed, glancing at the gold wedding band.

Nick shook his head.  “My wife… she died a few years ago.  I just haven’t taken the ring off. “Nick felt better to say that than to say he didn’t exactly where Maiah was.  From what Garion had told him Maiah could be on the Marubi mothership.

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“It was a long time ago.  But I have found someone else now.”

“Do you have children?” Kelly asked.

“On from my first wife and another on the way,” Nick explained.  Nick couldn’t really tell Kelly that Cai was his son from his first marriage.  That would be a little hard to explain.

“I hope you don’t mind me asking you all this?”

Nick shook his head.  “No, it’s alright.  I don’t mind.”  Nick took a sip of his milk and thought about Dael.  For the first time he admitted to himself that he did love her.  It had gone beyond just living with her a while back, but he wasn’t ready to admit it because of Maiah.  She was still his wife if she was still alive on the Marubi Mothership.  And he still loved her too.  But Maiah wasn’t here.  Dael was.  And she was having his baby.

“What about Cai?” Kelly asked.  “Is he with anyone?”

“No.  He has just come out of a long-term relationship.  She left him.  Just walked out one day.”

“What about Garion?”

Nick turned to her.  “Looking for someone special?” he asked, curious about all the questions.

Kelly smiled.  “You all are kinder fit,” she answered, taking another sip of her coffee.

“We are always active,” Nick answered.

Kelly laughed.  She was about halfway through her coffee when she saw something in the distance.  “Nick,” she said, pointing something out in the distance.

Nick stared where Kelly was pointing and saw the two points of red light in the distance.

“Looks like we’re in business,” Nick said when he saw the points of light also.

They both backed into the research centre, not taking their eyes from the strange red lights that probably belonged to the clone, shining in the dark like fireflies.

As they continued to walk backwards, they almost bumped into Tanya.

“Is he out there?” Tanya asked when she saw Nick had his stunner in his hand, having removed it from his belt.

“Yeah, he’s coming,” Kelly confirmed.

***

Cai and Garion stood and looked at each other as they received Nick’s message he had sent them both telepathically.  Cai unhooked his stunner and checked the power level.

“Cai?” Jason asked and he saw the look that passed between them.

“He’s coming,” Garion said as Tanya came running through the door.  Closely followed by Nick and Kelly.

“He’s coming,” Tanya said, not having heard Garion’s comment.

“How’d you two know he was coming?” Doug asked, staring at Cai and Garion.

“Heard running,” Cai explained.  “Assumed that was the reason.”

Nick glanced at Cai and Garion for a moment then turned to Jeff and Doug.  “Are there any other weapons around here?” he asked.

“Not unless you want to include kitchen knives,” Jeff said, holding up a deadly looking meat cleaver in his hand.  “We’ve never needed any before.  Not even a shot gun.  All there usually is out here are a few wild cats and foxes.”

“Has he come in yet?” Jason asked.

Nick put his head round the corner carefully and slowly he could just about see movement in the darkness.  But most of all Nick could see his eyes.

“He’s coming towards the door,” Nick said.

“He’s a she,” Garion said as he also looked around the corner.

“Female?” Cai asked.

“I can see her clear enough to know the difference,” Garion said, not taking his eyes from her.

“You must have good eyesight,” Jason said, trying to penetrate the darkness of the corridor.

“Good enough in the dark.”

“Even wearing sunglasses?”

“Have to wear them,” Garion said, still watching the approaching figure.  “Light blindness.”

“It’s dark.  No sun in here.”

Garion ignored the statement.  The glasses didn’t obscure his sight at all.  Even in the dark.

Nick held his stunner ready, his thumb near the firing button.  And he was ready to use his telekinesis if he needed to.

Cai wished he was stronger in the dark like Nick was, but his abilities were still growing.  They were fine when it was light because there was enough energy to draw from but still lacked something in the darkness.  He was still too used to drawing on the energies of the sun an any other light source that was around.  Nick had been trying to teach Cai to draw on his own energy instead of relying on other sources, but so far Cai hadn’t been able to accomplish it to its full extent.  Except when he was under extreme pressure.

Doug suddenly grabbed the gun from Jason’s hand, tired of waiting, and ran down the dimly lit corridor, firing randomly at the clone.

“Doug!” Kelly cried and tried to run after him.  Cai grabbed her by the arm and pulled her back before she had time to get more than two feet away.

“You can’t- “Kelly began.

“We can’t go after him,” Cai said.  “Go into the kitchen, get a knife each or something and stay there.”

Nick glanced round the corner once more as the shouting suddenly stopped and saw Doug being slammed against a wall, the gun flying from his hand.  The clone vanished through one of the doors nearby.  Nick turned and saw Tanya was still with them.

“Go with the others,” he told her.  “You go as well, Garion.”

“Nick,” Garion began.  “You two can’t- “

“Yes, we can,” Cai interrupted.  “If she gets passed us at least she’ll have to get through you as well.”

Garion nodded as he understood.  Cai and Nick had skills he didn’t have.  Skills that could be used against the clone.  Garion wouldn’t kill and Nick didn’t want to put him in a position where he would freeze, trying to decide what he should do.

Just as Garion was about to leave for the kitchen all the lights were extinguished.

“That’s all we need,” Cai said, glancing up at the ceiling.  “She’s learned how to turn the power off.”

“You ready?” Nick asked.  “I know you’re not as strong as I am in the dark but you’re not defenceless.”

Cai nodded, even though he wasn’t sure if he was defenceless and knew Nick was just as nervy as he was.  But better at hiding it.  Nick hadn’t been brought up to do this kind of job.  He had been trained to be leader of his people.  Not a fighter of evil, but he had been doing for almost twenty years now.  And he was damn good at it.  Much better than being a leader.  He had never wanted that job in the first place.

Slowly, Cai and Nick walked along the dark corridor.  A cold breeze was blowing through the open door.  And along with the breeze came a little rain.  Cai shivered when he felt the cold but that wasn’t the only reason for his shiver.

Nick knelt when they reached Doug and felt for his pulse.  He just shook his head when he didn’t find one.  Cai understood.  “Looks like his neck is broken,” he added.  Nick picked up the gun and withdrew the clip.  It was empty.  He put it back on the floor.  It was useless to them without the bullets.  Even if there were any bullet’s left Nick wasn’t sure if he could use it.  H had never killed anything real before that wasn’t a demon and he didn’t want to start now.  No matter who it was.  He wasn’t like his father.

“Maybe if I’d go to hi earlier,” Cai began, “I might – “

“I don’t think so, Cai.  It looked like he died instantly.  You can’t heal someone if they are already dead.”

As Nick stood, Cai edged into the room he had seen the clone enter.  Nick was close behind.  Suddenly, they heard a banging.  It seemed very loud and very close.  The banging stopped for a moment, then continued once more.  It didn’t sound like it was coming from this room but close, nevertheless.

Nick found the main power switches for the generators and was about to switch them back on when he saw that the wires had been torn out.

“She certainly knows what she’s doing,” Cai said, glancing at Nick.  Cai turned away from Nick and saw what all the banging had been about.

“Nick, look at this,” he said.

Nick turned and saw what Cai was looking at.  The clone had battered a hole at least six feet high in the far wall.

“Do you know how much strength it would take to do something like that?” Cai asked.

“Yes, but we could do that.  Well, I could, with a bit of an effect.  I don’t know if you’re telekinesis is strong enough for that yet.”

“But she did that with her bare hands.”

“Did she?” Nick asked.  “We could only hear the banging.  We didn’t see her do it.”

“Must have.  That’s probably what the banging was.”

“You’ve never heard telekinesis used to do something like this have you?”

“No.  I’ve never had to use it for anything like that before.”

“It can sound like this.  Unless you’re very good then it only takes one blow.  I can’t do it in one blow.  I don’t know about Garion.”  Nick swept a hand threw his hair.  It was starting to get a little long and kept getting in his eyes.  He tried to remind himself to get it cut soon.

“What did they do to create this clone?” Nick thought out loud.  “What did they mess with?”

Cai couldn’t answer.  Perhaps no one could.  Except the people who created her.

As Cai leaned forward to look through the hole the banging stopped once more.  The room appeared empty but there was another hole in the wall opposite.

“Looks like she’s making her way from room to room through the walls,” Nick observed.

“Why go through the walls?” Cai asked.  “Why not along the corridor?”

“To by-pass us, that’s why,” Nick answered.  “She knows we’re here, behind her and she’s avoiding us.”

Nick and Cai stepped through the second hole in the wall to find this room in perfect order; the opposite wall hadn’t been smashed through.

“Where’d she go?” Nick asked, looking around.

Cai noticed that the door was half open and he pulled it the rest of the way open.  The corridor was empty and deathly quiet.

Suddenly, Cai and Nick heard a scream and something crashing to the floor.  There was also a flash from a stunner.

Nick and Cai ran along the corridor towards the kitchen just in time to see the clone vanish through another door carrying someone limply under her arm.  In the darkness they couldn’t see who it was apart from being female.

“Kelly!” Cai said.

Nick glanced at Cai for a moment then turned to the clone, firing his stunner, but missed.  The beam hit the wall, lighting up the corridor for a moment.

“She took Kelly,” Tanya said, approaching them.

“She was so fast,” Garion added.  “I didn’t get a chance.”

“Stay here,” Cai told them and ran through the door.

“Hey, we’re supposed to be a team, you know,” Garion complained.

“Just stay here in case she comes back your way,” Nick said and ran after Cai.

The corridor was almost silent.  Somewhere in the darkness Nick and Cai could hear running feet on the tiled floor.  The followed the sound, trying not to make too much sound themselves.

Cai saw something lying on the floor up ahead.  As they came closer, they saw it was Kelly.  Neither of them had to check her pulse to know she was dead.

Around two minutes earlier Kelly had been alive.  Now she was dead.  If they’d arrived just a little sooner, then maybe they could have saved her.  Nick crouched down and closed her eyes.  Nick could see Cai was having trouble with this because he wasn’t getting to the people in time to heal them.

Cai and Nick continued down the dark corridor, finally coming to a dead end without see the female clone.

“She must be in one of the rooms,” Nick said.  Cai nodded in agreement.  Nick began to walk back along the corridor they had just walked along, passing a closed door.

“Nick!” Cai cried as he saw the clone come crashing through the door.  Nick spun round but not fast enough.  The clone took hold of Nick’s shoulder and slammed him into the wall.  Nick fell to the floor, unmoving.

Cai began to back away and with all the telekinesis he could muster, Cai through the clone up against the dead end.  The clone got back to her feet almost immediately.

Cai fired the stunner which knocked her to the floor.  Cai thought that was it when the clone didn’t move.  But suddenly, she got back to her feet once more.  The stunner hadn’t worked.  But Cai didn’t notice straight away.  He’d turned his attention to his father.

“Nick?” Cai asked.  He just lay there on the floor.  Cai didn’t see Kelly’s body behind him and tripped over it.

Almost immediately, the clone ran for Cai and taking hold of his arm she threw Cai against wall, lifting him off his feet.  As Cai fell to the floor the clone rushed at him again but was thrown back by a bullet from Jason’s gun.  The clone stood there for a moment, staring at them, then she began to run towards Jason.  The pilot fired a second time and a third before she had taken more than a few steps.

Nick began to regain consciousness and saw Garion kneeling in front of him.  He glanced over and saw Tanya kneeling in front of Cai.

“Cai!” Nick suddenly cried and tried to get back to his feet.  He made it with Garion’s help.  He could feel a little blood dripping down his forehead and felt a little dizzy but ignored it.  His son was more important than a small cut.

“He’s starting to wake,” Tanya said.

Nick saw the clone lying on the floor near Cai.

As Tanya lifted Cai’s head, his eyes began to open and he glanced up at her, smiling weakly, then turned to Nick.

Tanya helped Cai to sit up and he winced as pain surged through his arm and shoulder.

“You alright?” Nick asked.

“I…think so,” Cai answered.  “But my shoulder doesn’t feel too good.”  Cai saw the clone lying on her back close by and glanced at Nick.

“You didn’t, did you?” he asked.

“I shot her,” Jason said, coming forward.  He held up the gun.  “I reloaded it.”

“Let me take a look at your shoulder,” Tanya said as she came closer.  She placed her hand on Cai’s shoulder and felt around.  “It’s dislocated,” she said.  “It’s gonna hurt.”

“Just do it,” Cai told her.

Tanya took a firm hold of Cai’s arm and quickly put it back into place.  Cai cried in pain and without thinking pushed Tanya off him.  Tanya hit the wall opposite.

“Sorry,” Cai apologised.

Tanya got back to her fee, a little dazed and unsure of what had just happened.  Cai ignored the stare from Jason and stepped over to the clone, staring down at her.  The clone looked almost normal, apart from being very dirty.  That was the reason why they had seen her as black.  It had just been dirt.  The clone’s nose looked like it had once been broken at some point.  There was also a prominent scar along her right jawline.

“She almost looks normal,” Tanya observed.

“What’s normal?” Garion asked.  “No one is normal.”

As Cai continued to stare at the clone her eyes suddenly opened and her head turned to face him, making them all jump.  Nick reached for his stunner and Jason aimed his gun, ready if need be.

The clone just smiled at Cai, then closed her eyes once more.  Cai checked her pulse but didn’t fine one.  He shook his head.  Cai had read her mind before she died.  This was what she had wanted all along.  She had thanked Cai in her own way.

The five of the walked along the corridor to the kitchen.  Now they could leave and go home.

 

Somewhere out in the forest, hidden by the many trees, a howl could be heard in the distance, followed by a second howl.However,  this howl didn’t come from a wolf.  The moment the clone had died her offspring had sensed her passing.  The two of them were now alone.  They had to survive, had to carry on.  Their mother had taught them well, but they hadn’t been quite ready for life on their own.  Now they had to be ready.  There was little choice in the matter.  They had felt her passing.  And were sad.  She had taught them not to seek revenge for what these people did.  She had wanted something better for them.

They crept close to the cave entrance that had be their home from birth and glanced out.  It was time to get some food.  They needed to stock up a little.  And they knew exactly where to find it.

 


Submitted: November 02, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Sharon Fletchby. All rights reserved.

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