Prologue – Transfer Gone Bad
Two Years Ago
Lightning flashed somewhere off in the distance, brightening the dark night sky, followed several minutes later by the crackle of thunder. A storm was approaching. They needed to hurry up and get this transfer completed before it hit landfall. The oversized forklift carrying the cage appeared from behind the trees. The driver shifted the gears and the engine roared. The vehicle lurched forward, approaching the concrete loading zone.
A thick concrete and metal superstructure surrounded the large paddock. The loading gate was reinforced, and several feet thick. A cluster of men, with heavy cattle prods set to a higher voltage than normally used on livestock, stood waiting on the loading dock. It still wasn't enough to stun the beast, but it would have to do. The beast was of high value to the company.
"Coming in!" one of the loaders shouted.
Two men with red glow sticks stepped forward, and directed the forklift in. Robert Muldoon stood off to the side, observing with a watchful eye, holding his trusty SPAS-12 shotgun at the ready. This new beast was bigger than the rest, and therefore, in his mind, even more dangerous. He had questioned his employer's decision to make another addition to those that they already had in the pen, but his concerns were shut down. Mr. Hammond wanted to impress his investors, and believed that the risks were acceptable.
The cage was lowered without problem, hooking up with the loading track perfectly. Muldoon adjusted his stance, narrowing his eyes at the slits in the cage, listening for the animal. It had been tranquilized, so it should still be asleep. But he heard the low purr of the beast. It was awake. Clenching his jaw and steeling his gaze, he stepped forward, knowing that the transfer process just became ten times more dangerous.
"Docking team, step away."
The docking crew rushed back. The forklift driver shifted gears and pulled away from the docking zone, the vehicle disappearing back into the surrounding trees. Muldoon nodded.
The crew, dressed in uniform dark blue jumpsuits and yellow hard hats stepped forward, clustering around the large cage. There was a hissing purr from within, and then a sharp snarl, low and terrible. The men jumped back, frightened. Muldoon tightened his grip around the shotgun.
"Loading team!" he shouted, though he was sympathetic. He'd sooner kill the beast than transfer it to the main paddock, but he had his orders.
The loading crew heaved in a collective breath, before stepping back up to the cage and gripping the support handles. This time the beast remained silent. Muldoon narrowed his eyes, before nodding to the foreman. The man inclined his head, and the team pushed the cage along the track towards the loading gate. The cage slid easily into place. Muldoon waited for the locking mechanisms to click, before ordering the loading team back.
"Gatekeeper," he called out.
A middle-aged man, dressed in the same uniform as the loading crew, stepped forward and climbed the ladder along the side of the cage. Muldoon watched from below as the man checked on the locks, verifying their hold. The gatekeeper turned his head and nodded.
Muldoon stepped forward, eyeing the cage warily. He listened to the sounds of the beast hissing and purring from within, stalking in its captivity. He gritted his teeth, shifted his hold on the shotgun. "Jeffrey… raise the gate."
The gatekeeper nodded, and stood up on top of the cage. He bent down and gripped the handles, tugging them up. The cage's gate slowly moved up, rays of light shined through the slots. Jeffrey had the gate more than halfway up when everything went wrong. The cage slid back from the seal with a sudden jerk. Everyone startled back in alarm. The locking mechanism had failed. Klaxons blared as the cage continued to slide back.
The beast roared from within, pounding against the side of the cage, causing it to roll off the track. Jeffrey swayed on top, losing his balance, and tumbled over the edge, landing with a hard thud on the concrete docking bay floor. Muldoon shouted orders, commanding the crew to stun the beast, even if he'd rather order them to kill it.
With the shock sticks set to the highest setting possible, the men rushed in, shoving the sticks through the slits in the cage and shocking the beast within. Jeffrey had just climbed back to his feet when the beast let out a low snarl and rammed against the side of the cage once again, incensed by the shocks from the electric prods. Its roar was terrifying to the bone, like the cry of a banshee come to take your soul.
"Jeffrey, get out of there!" Muldoon yelled, but it was too late. The beast snagged the gatekeeper by the leg, and the men collapsed, howling out in pain.
Muldoon rushed forward, dropping his shotgun as he reached for Jeffrey. He locked his arms around the man's torso as the loading crew rushed around the cage, plunging the shock sticks through the slots in the cage and zapping the beast. It only enraged the beast. It roared and snarled, hissing out terrifying sounds that hadn't been heard on this planet for millions of years.
It all seemed so futile. No matter how many times the crew shocked the beast, it kept fighting them off. The cage rocked off the tracks, and the men scattered back. Through the flashes and sparks, Muldoon and the beast locked eyes. He paled, seeing nothing but cruel cunning and intelligence staring back at him. Muldoon shouted orders, telling them to abandon the cattle prods and get their guns.
"Shoot her!" he shouted, desperately holding on to the flailing Jeffrey. "Shoot her!"
Finally some men rushed in with shotguns, aiming them at the cage. But the beast had the advantage. The bullets bounced off the cage, the slits too narrow for untrained men to aim properly. The beast roared and Muldoon stumbled as the cage shook again. His grip on Jeffrey loosened, and the man was violently yanked back, his bloodcurdling cries of pain filled the air, only to end with a sickening bone crunching snap soon after.
Muldoon scrambled on all fours to his shotgun, still lying where he had dropped it. The crew was still attempting to stun the beast with the shock sticks, but it was a futile endeavor. Muldoon jumped to his feet, and shoved his men aside.
He stuck the barrel through the biggest slot in the cage and fired.