Authors: C.E. Glines
Table of Contents
Hybrid Zone - Recognition
Copyright © 2013 by C. E. Glines. All rights reserved.
Contact C. E. Glines at:
First Kindle Edition: March 2013
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to my husband who read and reread (including the mushy parts), answered silly questions, ate out a lot, sometimes handled the kids by himself so that I could write, and who told me he was tired and begged me not to make him do English. Thanks for all your support.
otential hostile incoming at three
o’clock,” Miranda trumpeted through my earpiece.
Her sudden voice invading the silence succeeded in startling me into dropping my two day old bagel. There went breakfast, if I dared to label it that. I kicked the half eaten bagel aside in disgust and picked up my modified tranquillizer gun.
Turning in the direction she’d indicated, I looked through the scope. It took me a minute, but I found him. The “potential hostile” was my target, Kenny. He was carefully picking a path through the woods that was bringing him slowly closer to me.
Relief mingled with excitement surged through me at the thought of ending my exile in these mosquito infested woods. I’d already been here three days just waiting for him to make an appearance. Hopefully, my patience was now going to pay off.
“Finally, show time,” I said, quietly echoing Miranda’s enthusiasm.
Through a bit of research, I’d determined he came to this particular little patch of woods at least once a week. The reason for his visits was still officially unknown. Actually, all of his unauthorized escapades out of the Colony boundaries were unknown by anyone official, except for me and Miranda, and we weren’t telling. Yeah, we were rebels at heart.
“Got’em,” I verified as I watched Kenny continue to move towards me. “Additionally, I’d like to congratulate you on the nice piece of grammatical lingo work.”
“I know, right?” she said, her voice bubbling with enthusiasm. “Military talk is so cool.”
She’d been at the military movies again. I’d roll my eyes if I wasn’t trying to focus.
“What are you aiming for?” she asked.
Considering the possibilities for a moment, I smiled at my decided point of entry. “As big a pain in the butt as he’s been, I’m hoping to return the favor.”
“Ah, a kiester shot,” she snickered in understanding. “Serves him right.”
I didn’t know if it served him right, but it was what I’d been tasked with. Getting the DNA sample, not shooting him in the rear. I wasn’t happy that I had to be the one going after him like this. But if it wasn’t me, it’d be someone else collecting the sample. Probably a lot less nice someone else. I wasn’t trying to justify my actions, much.
“Yep, right in the kiester,” I whispered. As long as my aim was true. Until the last few weeks, I hadn’t had a lot of practice. I was from Texas, but I hadn’t shot a gun since I was a kid.
“That’s one heck of a gottcha. A big needle in the butt,” she snorted.
Her continued chatter was more evidence of her excitement. I tried to tune her out, but it was difficult. I didn’t fault her for the sudden onset of merriment. Over the last three days, there hadn’t been a lot of conversation or creature comforts, like bathing for instance. Not many gal pals would stick with you through that. But that was Miranda for you. Research partner extraordinaire and the other half of our self-titled duo, M&M, short for Macy and Miranda.
When we met roughly ten years ago while working on another project, I didn’t think we had much in common. I was from the South, and she wasn’t. I was seventeen, and she was twenty-two. I wasn’t even of legal drinking age yet, but she more than made up for my lack of participation. I was so focused on school and research that I had no time for boys, and she spent every free minute she had chasing them. She thought I was a stick in the mud, and I thought she was the mud gumming up my life.
That started changing the day the cafeteria began serving Tex Mex.
When she happened to be the only other person in the room who knew what to do with the grilled chicken, tortillas and fixings, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
She took one look at the confused scientists milling around the lunch line and very dramatically and loudly drug a chair to the middle of the room. She then stood in the chair and yelled, “It’s called fajitas, People!”
After that pronouncement, she began to methodically instruct them in the art of fajita construction. It was so beautiful that it brought tears to my eyes. Well, that was probably due to the jalapenos, but it was still a beautiful thing to behold.
Our friendship grew from there, and we’d essentially been best buds ever since. We were still very different from one another personality wise, but we found that we had more in common than not.
Sometimes, I was certain she put the mental in the second M of our title. Obviously, I was the moxie. My M also currently stood for mosquito bitten.
I winced as I brushed away another grape sized mosquito intent on making a meal out of the only exposed skin on my body, my face. I should have gotten one of those hats with the mosquito netting, but I hadn’t considered their tenaciousness or the impossibility of warding them off while I slept. Maybe next time.
God I hoped there wasn’t a next time. My body itched in all sorts of places from bites where there ought not be bites. I still hadn’t figured out how they kept getting inside my underwear.
Yep, mosquito bite and mental. The meaning of M was a fluid thing.
Miranda was currently positioned in my truck at the edge of the woods where she was working the infrared. Nothing but the best for this operation. That was a slight overstatement of the truth, but I’d learned to work with what I had. Plus, I’d promised Miranda to start trying to look on the “bright side of things.”
Those were her words, not mine.
But, I had managed to gather a certain joy from this on a number of occasions, like after I’ve had to open her blinds in the morning to get her moving. Then, with much gusto, remind her to look on the bright side. I’d also learned to do the reminding while hiding behind the bedroom door. Her aim with paperbacks was painfully accurate.
I was still waiting for the best time to use the new nickname I’d given her, Little Miss Sunshine. Oh, she would rue the day she foisted sunniness upon me.
Realizing my mind had drifted during her monologue, I hissed, “Miranda, be quiet so I can focus on shooting him.”
She didn’t even pause to take a breath, just changed the subject of her rambling. “Yes, Ma’am. General, Sir. Head Honcho. El Capitan…”
“Your respect is touching,” I grumbled.
“Fearless Leader. Big Kahuna…”
There it was, mental. Not sure what it said about me that she was my best friend. But it took all kinds to make the world go round. At least, that was what I’d heard from her. Repeatedly.
“I’m shutting you off now,” I told her as I reached up and muted the earpiece. So glad I sprung for the more expensive model that had this feature. I had a feeling I would need it sooner or later.
Without her distraction, I was able to focus on Kenny again. He was still moving cautiously and constantly scanned the area, like he was afraid of being followed. I didn’t know who would be following him, besides me of course, but we could all leave these woods if he would just come a little bit closer.
I had my suspicions of why he was here, and if I was right, it would open up a big old can of trouble. So, I wasn’t investigating it, officially or otherwise. To report conjecture and suspicion would be unprofessional of me. And that was my unofficial official opinion on the matter.
But, if I let myself study the matter, I would think Kenny was being careless, which was out of character for him. It was almost as if he wanted me to know he was in these woods, perhaps even why. I was really hoping that I didn’t have to delve too deeply into the situation. At least not yet, but I was really in favor of not at all. That might be possible if Kenny would just work with me a little.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t observed teamwork as one of his many skills. On the contrary, he was more the leader type. I knew he was the undeniable leader of the pack of teenage hybrids. For whatever reason, they all deferred to him.
I had to admit that there was something different about him. Like his DNA had made a leap that had bypassed the other hybrids. I was still trying to figure that out, which was why I needed his DNA.
Kenny may not have been the run of the mill hybrid, but he was in possession of the normal teenage boy attributes, which equaled tons of bravado, raging hormones, and not much sense. He wasn’t dumb by any measure, quite the opposite. He was just subject to the lapses in judgment that plagued all teenage boys.
I suspected that he was beginning to figure out things that the government wouldn’t approve of him knowing. Combining that knowledge with not much sense could be a dangerous mix for everyone.
I was purposely ignoring that truckload of dynamite as well. I hoped that didn’t blow up in my face at some point in the future.
I wiped my sweaty palm across my jeans. Wouldn’t do to miss because of a slippery trigger finger. That would give up my location for sure. As it was, it’d be a miracle if he didn’t already know I was here simply by the smell wafting from me.
But, then again, maybe I blended right in with my new woodsy smell, Cologne eau de earth. It definitely wasn’t a scent I’d recommend. I’d stand up wind of myself if it were possible.
My concern didn’t extend to him seeing me. Too much woods gunk was now part of my outfit. I liked to think of it as natural camouflage and not dirt, stuck to sweat, on top of bug bites, and only God knew what else. Choosing to view it that way kept me from running out of these woods like a crazed woman.
I watched Kenny take a few more steps and then freeze. Through the scope, I could see his nostrils flare as he turned in small circles. Crud, maybe he could smell me. This range would have to do. Zeroing in on the target, the back pocket of a worn out pair of jeans, I pulled the trigger.
Seconds later, a chorus of cursing erupted from Kenny. I knew by his particular phrasing that my dart had been right on the mark.
Was it wrong to be so happy about shooting someone in the rear? I couldn’t decide with the thoughts of my impending shower so prevalent in my mind.
“That was uncalled for, Doc!” he shrieked, his voice fading quickly as he increased the distance between us.
I couldn’t blame him for retreating. I had just shot him in his derriere. “Sorry, Kenny,” I yelled. “You could have given it to me willingly!”
I let the gun rest on my hip as I savored my victory. “I didn’t have to shoot you in the butt,” I muttered to myself, and sadly, I realized that I wasn’t very sorry either. I could have been home two months ago if not for his evasive maneuvering.
I understood his unwillingness to participate, even secretly approved of it. But that didn’t change the fact that the government was going to get its sample one way or the other. My boss was already chaffing over the delay in my report and had hinted at a dead or alive scenario if warranted.
Remembering that conversation stirred my anger and made my victory kind of hollow. I knew I was on Kenny’s side. Deciding how to translate that into my job was hard and becoming more difficult all the time.
At least, I had avoided the death part of the scenario. Still alive equaled good. Alive meant there was still a chance of escape.
Escape? I stilled at my own thoughts. Where did that come from?
Still deep in thought, I slipped the gun’s strap over my head. Placing the butt of the gun against my hip, I mirrored the stance I would use if I was holding a heavy fishing pole. Since I’d welded a heavy duty reel to the end of it, I sort of was.
I had tried to make do with the standard model tranquilizer gun, but it was made to fire a dart that dispensed a substance, not collected one. It also had no way to prevent the sample from being contaminated.
The dart I designed did both, and as a bonus, it was attached to a fishing line that could be reeled in quickly. It was red neck engineering at its finest, getting the job done and costing next to nothing. Just like my budget, oddly enough.
It wasn’t that I wanted to gain my samples this way. Stalking through the woods and swamps was not my idea of fun, but Kenny had left me no choice. I had tried to just tranq him and then draw the sample. Actually, I had tried multiple times with multiple drugs. I had even combined them and went way beyond maximum dosages, but still, I couldn’t bring him down. That left me seeking alternative methods of collection.
It was almost like a game now with the goal being to capture the elusive sample. Annoyingly, up till now, Kenny was just as good at the game as I was.
I began reeling in the sample, shifting my stance to gain more leverage as the dart snagged on something. Seconds after I moved, the tree behind me exploded.
“What the…” I shrieked, dropping to one knee.
Covered in bark and wood bits, I turned and viewed the now scarred trunk. I traced my fingers over the area of impact, allowing them to fill the deepest groove in the center of the wound. My fingertips scraped against warm metal. A bullet?
I twisted back to the front and scanned the woods in front of me. Another shot splintered the tree on level with where my head had been just moments before. Had I not swiveled, it would have been a head shot…a kill shot.
Dropping the gun, I scrambled to the other side of the tree. With my back pressed firmly against the trunk, I quickly skimmed the woods in front of me. I knew full well that I didn’t stand much of a chance if I was surrounded.
Re-engaging my earpiece, I filled Miranda in. “I’ve got someone out here shooting at me. Can you see anything?”
“Shooting? Like bullet shooting?”
I tapped my ear piece as her voice came across sounding garbled. “Way like. And a good shot.” Too good. He almost had me twice. Only coincidence or providence had spared my life.
“The only thing I’ve seen is what I assume to be Kenny hauling butt off my screen. I think he’s getting faster.”
She was talking like she had a mouthful of marbles. “What’s wrong with your mouth?” I asked her. Bearing in mind that I was being shot at, I was becoming worried she was in some similar predicament.
“Eating,” came her muffled reply.
Eating? I was brushing off tree, and she was eating? How was that fair? And had she stuffed it all in her mouth at one time?
“Eating what?” I asked bewildered.
Ah, that explained it. The marshmallow got you every time.
“Do you think it’s that extremist bunch we’ve had so much trouble with lately?” she asked.
“Don’t know. They didn’t identify themselves.”
I reached up to brush my bangs aside and realized my hair was still covered in wood splinters. I leaned slightly forward and gave my head a gentle shake, dislodging most of the debris. One particularly large shard refused to let go, and I had to pull it free of my scalp.