Contagion - Book Two

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Chapter Ten.

Gemma had watched in utter amazement, with the incredible growth of her babies, already within this short space of time they now resembled any One-year-old human child. Gemma had been warned many times of the various gifts that these genetic advancements had given this family which she had married into. Yet it was not until Gemma actually witnessed for herself that she realised the truth in their words.

As she laid on her bed on a warm and muggy night, her mind drifted back to her giving birth, and it was only then that she remembered the fleeting flash of a face that had almost gone by unrecognised. Again because of the mental conditioning Gemma failed to place a name or memory to this face, however this time she had become aware of his presence, and Gemma determined in her mind to resolve this strange puzzle.

Over the next few days’ small fragments of memory had started to return, as the trauma of the birth had broken through the mental conditioning and although Gemma kept seeing flashes of a face, it was not until on the seventh day a name appeared in her mind, Jamie.

“Jamie…” She thought,

“Jamie who in heavens name are you?”

Later that night she awoke with a jolt.

“Jamie” She screamed,

“Oh, my lord…, Jamie.”

Her desire to overcome this puzzle had developed results; although for now Gemma she had no memory of Mrs Undraus, or of how she became involved with Thomas. Refusing to give in she realised the danger in sharing her thoughts, she was sure her love for Thomas was real and unquestionably strong. Yet why did Jamie hold her heart so tightly that it was his image that she had seen and not Thomas’s in those few seconds of unbearable pain, and where was he now?

News had reached Gemma that Thomas and two others were to return back to the ranch for a few days. Gemma could not contain the excitement, and she had longed to hold him within her arms once again.

It had rained almost none stop for three full days, areas of the ranch had actually turned into mud, this was unusual for this area, as rain was hardly ever seen; and the result had caused considerable amusement to the children.

The fall had lasted longer than expected and had only started the thaw some two months earlier. All snow and ice had long left the ranch land; in past years the transition from the winter fall had been smooth. However, this year, Robert had himself commented that he felt the planet seemed to be out of sorts with its natural flow or rhythm.

Gemma had become concerned, Thomas had been due home early morning, and it was now late afternoon and the family had lost contact with him. Robert walked over to Andrew Undraus.

“I think we may have a problem; Thomas had been travelling back to the ranch for home leave, and he left his military posting yesterday and travelled across the borders and back into Canada. He had noticed who he thought to be Juliet my wife, on the roadside next to a car; I had only become aware of his thoughts when he telepathically, and in jest, he remarked to me that my wife must have left me. I tried to warn him, but it was too late,”

“Why did he not link mentally with her?”

Robert looked genuinely concerned,

“That’s just it, he did, and for a brief moment, even I thought it was my own wife, and then everything simply went blank.”

Andrew looked in disbelief,

“I assure you now we had nothing to do with this, and I need to discuss the matter with my superiors.”

At that he left the area, and Robert looked across to Juliet without saying a word.

It was Katherine that walked into Gemma’s room, she could see from the look on her face that something was wrong.

“He’s dead…, oh dear lord please don’t tell me he’s dead?” enquired Gemma,

She paused for the briefest of seconds,

“Oh, good lord no my child, its nothing like that, I have just been informed he was recalled by military intelligence, apparently his posting had arrived, and he needed to report immediately to the Portland Institute. Had he not arrived we would have lost the opportunity of securing our men into the establishment.”

Gemma looked her squarely in the eyes, she was sure something had happened to him, but her expression and words had been convincing and very plausible.

“You wouldn’t lie to me would you Katherine, that’s something I would find hard to forgive?”

Her friend embraced her

“No, my child, in all the time that you have known me, have I ever once lied to you?”

To the best of Gemma’s knowledge, Katherine had always been blunt with the truth, but then, that was something that had originally attracted her to developing a friendship. Unknown to her, Katherine had been instructed to lie, it was thought preferable than allowing Gemma to know the immediate truth.

The stench was such, that had there been any human or hybrid workers within the area of the sealed off east wing, they would have vomited. Walking through a darkened wood and coming across a pile of rotting damp foliage and stagnant polluted water, would have been more favourable than breathing a single intake of air from the room where professor Lambert had become entombed in.

“Mr Lambert…,” called out the demon, momentary the professor shuddered, “Ahh dear Lord what in gads name is that smell?”

It had taken him some seconds to regain his thoughts and posture.

“I pleased to say it is you”, replied the demon.

Lambert momentarily looked confused. “It worked,” He cried out.

“Oh, dear lord, thank you, thank you,”

“Your God had nothing to do with it, unless that is; you are referring to me as a deity?”

Lambert managed to lift his body and stand on his feet, and for the first time now in over nine months he had felt no pain. At least for a few days his flesh was intact and soft in texture, and also no longer falling off in stagnant pieces of rotten decaying skin.

“Your attention to detail, and your strength of will need commending, I usually regard you mortals as week minded and despise all of your breed, why in heavens name he ever created you I can never imagine,” commented the demon.

Lambert found the air foul, yet he was so ecstatic that he was prepared to overlook it.

“Just how long was I dead, or kind of half dead?” asked the professor.

“Basically, you were not technically dead, your heart had been unable to sustain itself, and it was I, that lowered your bodies temperature just enough to keep the maggots feeding on you, and yes your soul is still alive. By your linear time scale, you were gone for nearly four months,”

Lambert looked in utter amazement.

“Oh my, and you found the life source from that quantity of maggots, please…, please tell me how many days we have before I shall start to decay again?” The demon was blunt in its answer.

“To enable me to keep you alive indefinitely your scheme would not in itself work. However, another single regeneration like the one before, and I will have the life force within me to sustain me through the possible months that it would take to reach through their security devices and to inflict your revenge.”

It was those last few words that gave Lambert the strength he needed.

“Tell me, you can take life from almost any source is that right?”

“Yes…for what reason do you ask me these questions?”

Lambert breathed in deeply before he spoke.

“Would it be possible for you to take away my life force now, not enough to actually kill me but to bring forward tissue decay?”

The demon was taken aback by his request, never before had he ever had a mortal actually offer his life force so freely and with such ease.

“I could…but why would you want to die again so quickly?”

Lambert knew the answer to that question instantly; he had no need to take time out to think.

“It’s rather quite simple really, I don’t regard a life worth living to have to suffer such infliction, and to be in such constant agony, you see no matter how badly I treated or thought wrongly of Armstrong, or anyone else at that. I did not deserve to be treated in such a way as to suffer this filthy stinking prison with you as a cellmate, and with no apparent means of ever escaping death.”

The demon was quiet; before Lambert could utter another word, he felt his heart suddenly stop. A shooting pain surged through his chest, like a giant clamp suddenly closing its massive jaws so tightly, that he could no longer breathe, and within a few seconds, he could feel his life force once again trying to leave his body.

Yet he knew already that this was like one endless nightmare and that within a chosen length of time he would once again awake and find the dream to be reality, and not the product of an active imagination waking from a night sleep.

Alex walked over to the tubular apparatus that now entombed the corporals’ body; it had been necessary to keep her mind conscious, to enable her to be aware of the questions that only she could answer. In this semi frozen state of cryogenics. Alex had succeeded in preventing the virus from becoming active.

Cell cultures had been implanted into lab rats and monkeys; and it was from these that Alex had one of his personal teams working a twenty-four hour rotating shift trying to find a cure; and Alex had given the corporal the dignity of informing her of his actions, and allowing her the choice of life or death.

Having apologised for abducting her in such an aggressive fashion and explaining that by the time she had been contained, quarantined and then debriefed, that the virus would have actively invaded all of her vital organs, and then to have progressed to the outer tissues. In brief she would have started dying before the debriefing would have finished.

“Sir if I may ask a question?”

Alex had walked into the room; this was something that he had done on a daily basis. In truth he had no need, as all relevant updating was carried through a similar version of Seth and his Telepathic clones.

Alex nodded indicating yes.

“I have asked your fellow technicians on my progress, but they have refused at times to even talk to me. I’m not meaning to be disrespectful, but I need companionship, as we humans in general are a social species, I’m certainly no exception to that rule. If I’m to survive this ordeal, then I need to have some form of social stimulation, and not just lay here like a brainless dummy.”

Alex had never given the matter any real consideration; his entire world had been generated around that of Peter and having been born with his full knowledge and memory, he knew only the world as Peter had endured.

It had been agreed in the very early stages of his mature life that it was wrong to tap into the social life of Christine. Like a loyal servant he had respected that, yet as he cast his mind back into Peters early childhood. He could see the times of great joy and of interaction with his sister and other children and people.

Telepathically speaking to Christine, Alex briefly explained the situation,

“Do I see more than a technical interest in this human?” Christine asked.

In the gorilla culture it was not uncommon for a male to have several females within his pack. Alex actually blushed,

“You are astute in your observations; I just don’t know how to treat her, or what it is that I need to do.”

Christine gave him permission for Alex to search unrestricted through her mind, within a few seconds he had mentally transferred the data that the memory retains in the section of one’s brain which controls pleasure, and from such social interaction.

“I had not realised you humans led such a complex social structure,”

Christine smiled.

“Although my partner is female, the basic same principles apply, Catherine like’s me to read to her, or to just spend time listening to music and enjoying each other’s intellectual company.”

“Thank you,”

Alex severed the more intimate mental connections,

“Yes, my friend, I agree my life is dull and lonesome by comparison,” said Peter.

Alex had not realised, that he had allowed his mind to drift, and that Peter had picked up his conversations with his sister, and of his thoughts of how Christine life was so much more active and social to that of Peters.

“I did love at once when I was in university, her name was Juliet, and incredibly she saw through my physical restrictions and even though there was an age difference she actually enjoyed my company. We had spoken even of marriage, that is when I was to be legally old enough, and of the possible difficulties that we would have to be overcome.” He paused as he thought of his lost love, and then continued talking.

“Sadly, her mother had become seriously ill and as a result, she had missed several months of her studies.”

He paused, only momentarily yet again reflecting back on those early years.

“Professor Lambert had learnt of her emotional connection to me, and that we were in love and wanting to marry. Unknown to me she had been given a university place through a scholarship, financed through the university, and in her childish pride she had not wanted me to know of her families’ poverty, in case I thought she was only after my family’s money.”

Those last few words started to cause peter considerable emotional and mental pain.

“Ever since her childhood she had dreamed of earning an honours degree in genetic research, and to also release her family from poverty. Professor Lambert terminated her scholarship and had security intercept her mail and refusing her entry into the university. Her mother died and in her confused state of mind she committed suicide thinking I had no longer wanted to hear from her.”

Alex could sense the bitterly deep hurt from within his friends’ soul.

“When I eventually learnt how to succeed, and then create you and our extended family. I decided from the beginning that there were areas within my personal life that I wanted kept private. Juliet was one of them, I guess from your conversation with Christine that possibly I should have foreseen your need for such information.”

Alex walked over to his lifelong friend, placing his large muscular arm across his shoulder with the gentleness of falling snow.

“My dearest friend, it was you who gave life to my brothers and me, I have a wife and even children. I have known nothing but joy in your presence, do not apologise, even you could never have foreseen the need for my having wanted such emotions or memories to draw on.”

His huge size dwarfed Peter, as his frail body could now barely support his own skeletal structure. Yet such was his desire and enjoyment of life that he rarely ever looked at his limitations, instead concentrating and developing the one only remaining functioning organ that he had conscious control of, his brain.

Within the realm of Peters mind, he needed no care persons to wash and dress him; he needed no one to toilet and care for his every breathing need.

His mind had developed, taking the unused energy that his body no longer required and diverted it into its own needs.

In his early childhood his mother had learnt of a procedure used by the ancient Greeks, it was highly controversial and illegal, none the less she had her private clinic to carry out the procedure.

Peter had three holes drilled into an area of his scull that were kept open by gold grommets and covered with a very fine sterile membrane that would only allow air through. It was thought among intellectuals that by allowing the brain a greater blood flow and giving the brain more unrestricted oxygen, that it would greatly enhance the brains ability to grow and allowing the individual to use a larger percentage of his intellect.

Mensa had already granted Peter full membership at the age of seven years; his mother was aware of his physical restrictions and that by early adulthood he would be unable to support his own body. She also knew her son needed an advantage over that of other children; and it was for that reason that Elaine took the risk of having the procedure carried out.

The Institute had assured her that they had the technology to prevent infection and that with suitable specially made wigs, the child’s care persons could ensure in the public’s eyes that the operation had never been carried out.

Incredibly Christine in turn was in time able to benefit from the procedure, their telepathic connection was able to expand, and had enabled her to benefit from Peters advanced abilities.

Alex had Corporal Whitby moved into a more suitable environment, it had only been a matter of searching through her belongings to discover her taste in music, also from the reading material that he had found within her room. He had asked Seth to suggest a range of literature that he could acquaint himself with and to read to her. The results in time had justified his concerned efforts, to have improve her comfort; and their interactions were becoming mentally intimate and resulting in her looking forward to his daily visits.

Unknown to the demon, Elaine had suffered her first full heart attack; the stress of everything had taken its toll. Her wealth had ensured she received the very best medical attention that money could buy. Within three days she had received a triple bypass operation, and was once again actively living her life, technology meant that such an operation, although complex had become almost general procedure.

However, Elaine had come to realise the futility of death, and instructed her technicians into cloning a genetically enhanced copy of herself. Having the ability to transfer her collective memory and knowledge had now become a normal procedure for her technicians, however she had wanted to take this procedure one step further; and by not only having an exact replica of her, but to also capture her very soul.

The Institute in Wyke in Dorset England had been researching into life itself, not just the genetic building blocks. But the very point in creation when the sperm fertilised the host egg, then in that split infinite Nano-second of time, the process had been filtered out leaving only the very life-giving process when the soul is gifted to that individual. It was as if their research had reached into heaven itself, such was their advanced technology.

Jethro and his family had fought a brave fight, four of Michael’s brothers were wounded, from two or more-gun shots yet none had died. Jamie had volunteered to use himself as bait and had used his scent to attract the hounds to the barn where he lay in ambush with Michael.

“Now you ensure no harm comes of that young one,” Cried out Mary Jane.

“Or you’ll be sleeping in another room.”

Michael had taken her threat seriously and had fought by his side. As it was, it was Jamie who saved the day for Michael, three of Jethro’s brothers had charged him, and more by chance than force had somehow managed in knocking him to the ground.

Jimmy Bob the oldest of the three stood at nearly seven foot and weighed in at some three hundred and seventy-four pounds, and his two younger brothers were only some inches shorter and weighed in excess of two hundred and eighty pounds each.

Jim Bob as his brothers had called, him picked up a hayfork, and had managed to pin it through Michael’s neck and into the ground. Fortunately, and more by a miracle than anything else, it had gone straight through without ripping out his throat, and missing his vertebra, by only a fraction. However, the result was that Michael was forced to lie still; yet even then he had called for help telepathically to his brothers.

By the nature of the fighting it had taken them some minutes to arrive, and as they stormed through the barn doors, there before them was Jamie holding two twelve bore shot guns one in each hand.

Jim Bob and a brother had the barrel of a gun fixed firmly inside their mouths. While Michael still with the hayfork through his neck, held the remaining brother suspended some two feet from the ground, by Michael’s left arm, and while he held the hayfork handle in his right hand, and trying to stop the movement from tearing out his throat.

Mary Jane had been unable to cope with the suspense and had run into the barn carrying her own shotgun, and upon seeing the view before her she spoke.

“Ah heck boys you could have saved some of the fun for me,” she said.

The brothers looked in amazement and then laughed.

“Oh, dear lord what’s this then are you taking to wearing some kind of fancy city jewellery or something?” enquired Mary Jane as she saw the hay fork in Michaels neck.

She had seen the fork with blood dripping along the handle still embedded in Michael’s throat. “Mary Jane can we not kill these men folk?” enquired Michael, “No…no”

Cried out Jamie.

“I have a better idea for them.”

The brothers were as interested in Jamie’s thoughts, as was Mary Jane.

“Heck son, I think after what they have done to your new Pa like and his brothers, it’s sort of up to them.”

Michael was unable to talk directly so he instructed Andrew to speak for him.

“Jamie, I owe you again my life, I’m not just saying this, I am more than proud to call you my son. If you have a worthwhile suggestion, then spit it out.”

Jamie grinned.

“Ah Mr, I did only what any hill family member would do in protecting the ones he loves,”

Michael and the others knew he was referring to the family as a whole.

“I want to revenge our family with old Minstrel. He’s taken the last of our kin folk, we know he has a tasting for human blood, and now the thaw has reached these mountains he will soon be back looking for an easy meal.”

Michael could see where he was leading and let him continue.

“I say we keep these pigs in the barns root cellar and prepare a trap using them as bait.”

There was a unanimous cry of joy at the idea.

“So be it,”

Replied Michael as blood trickled from his lips.

After tenderly supporting the hayfork, Mary Jane asked Jamie to bring in a bottle of Pa’s home brew. She carefully cleaned the prongs then liberally soaked them in the valuable alcohol. Michael flinched as the liquid flowed into his open wounds, without hesitation Mary Jane had taken a firm hold of the handle and removed it with a single motion.

Michael gasp as the pain surged through his body; he was not sure which hurt the most, the forks removal, or the home brew. After dressing the wound Andrew walked in.

“I have been in the military first Aid box; I think this is some kind of Antibiotic’s.”

Michael accepted the bottle from his brother and looked at the label, although his knowledge was extensive, he knew even he was limited in knowing the name of all such medication.

“Hell, I’m not sure myself, but it had to be there for a reason, my guess it is either a pain killer or some kind of antibiotic.”

He decided to risk it, knowing the military would not keep such unnecessary medication for emergency use.

Jamie was right, Minstrel had woken from his winter slumber and was now hungry and very dangerous, and Michael took four of his brothers into the forest and dug a serious of circular bear pits, then ensured they were covered with foliage to hide any sign of their presence.

Still having a hatred for Jim Bob, he had taken him and Jethro and bound them hand and foot, then suspended them upside down from a tree, and taking hold of the hayfork that he had purposely brought with him, Michael put the point to Jim Bob’s throat then slowly drove it through until it came through the back of his neck, ensuring he missed the jugular.

“Now you can have a taste of what it feels like for yourself, and if you keep real still like, then it won’t tear your throat out.”

He then retreated with his brothers and Jamie, to a high rock vantage point that overlooked the immediate area.

“Now all we have to do is wait, the blood will soon draw Minstrel or something.”

He was not wrong, the wind had carried the scent several miles, where it was picked up by the wolves, it had not taken them long to arrive at the site.

Frantically Jethro thrashed his body trying to undo the binding that secured his arms behind his back; the gags prevented him from shouting.

The pack had found a new Alpha male, and it was he that sensed the ground was baited with traps, at first, he circled the outer perimeter of the traps, stalking the two men as they hung so helplessly suspended from the limb of a tree.

Then in a single bound he leapt over the bear pits and tore into Jethro’s throat, within minutes the rest of the pack followed. The hayfork prevented the wolves from securing a good grip onto Jim Bob’s throat, so they tore chunks of flesh from his face and started biting into his arms. The noise and smell of blood had attracted further attention, and the female bear that had lost two of her cubs appeared, and now the cub was himself a formidable size.

The two bears charged head long into the pack of wolves; amazingly both bears miraculously avoided the covered bear pits. However, the wolves were not so ready to give up their free meal quite so easily and fought frantically.

“My Lord, would you look at that,”

Cried out Jamie,

“Yes, but where is old Minstrel?”

Asked Andrew.

As it was Minstrel had wondered into the lower valley and came across Jethro’s homestead, not having the men folk return, had meant the remaining kin folk were now at risk.

The dogs had all, but one been taken, and leaving only five women and thirteen kids, and all were too young to have accompanied their Pa’s. Although the family was armed, old Minstrel had viewed the family over some four days and had quietly familiarising himself with their habits. On the fifth day he killed himself two adult women and three of their children, as they had gone down to the broke to wash some clothing.

Professor Lambert choked, he could feel his lungs grasping for air, and it took him some minutes to fully come around. “I have decided to give you the choice,” said the demon, Lambert raised his body from the floor and pulled over a chair, the floor was covered in millions of dead flies, and the stench caused him to vomit.

“Did it work…tell me did it work?” enquired the professor.

The demon waited for him to stop vomiting and accustom himself to the foul stench.

“It did professor Lambert; I now have enough life force to survive over a year in your time scale.”

“Is that long enough?” Interrupted Lambert; he was so intent on revenge that he could think of nothing more important than sustaining the demon’s life.

“That is a variable outside my control, all I can say is it is thanks to you I have a chance of avenging our anger. “Replied the demon.

“That’s not long enough,” demanded Lambert, “What if it takes longer?”

There was silence in the room.

“If you were to take my full life force now and leave my body as we talked about, would that increase your survival time?” asked the professor.

The demon never answered, he already knew his thoughts, and within seconds the professor found himself struggling to breathe. This time he smiled, as he knew he was to no longer wake, from this eternal nightmare.

Even with the reduced temperature, Lambert’s body started to decay seconds after the demon vacated its old host which had sustained him, looking around the demon could see millions of maggots devouring the rotting meat of rats, which were still on the conveyer belt. The sensors had long become accustomed to the numerous millions of maggots that daily swarmed over its surface, and at times found their way into the internal mechanisms.

Slowly a single fly made its way unnoticed until it finally managed to break through the confines of the first room. It had been over fifteen months now since professor Lambert had been locked into his tomb.

The automated feeding mechanism had failed to stop supplying its host prisoner with food, resulting in dead decaying chucks of rotting flesh stretching its way through five rooms, and for a single small life form the journey may as well of represented two hundred miles, and with millions of wriggling bodies to overcome before it reached each and every new security door, and then to finally transverse itself up the walls and into the adjoining feeding mechanisms.

The Portland Institute had a new visitor, Thomas walked into the room carrying a package very carefully.

“Juliet asked me to bring this to you personally, it had gone against Juliet’s basic instincts, but she had managed in keeping her actions from Robert and the others.”

Alex looked at the man before him, he then accepted the package and placed it carefully onto a table, and then turning back to Thomas he embraced him.

“Oh, my just look at you, I know we have never met personally but I followed your birth through your mother’s eyes and have watched you grow into adulthood.”

Peter sat quietly knowing the two men had much to talk about, Thomas looked over to Peter,

“Sir if I could I would hug you; we owe you so much and can never thank you for all that you have done.”

Peter blushed,

“Mother has told me, how Juliet planned with her to leave the Institute and start a community of your own. Knowing that one-day, there would be certain people that would be trying to destroy us, as it is now, I have no need to tell you, that she was right.”

Peter was unable to even move his head but managed to telepathically talk to Thomas.

“So, I was correct in assuming that the opposition would be using an advanced version of Seth. That is why I had all external phone lines running through a different system. I feared Seth would try to access our database covertly through a system back door. Anyway, since those days, we have engineered some rather clever modifications of our own, in both software and hardware, the old Seth as they originally knew, is in comparison dead next to our model.”

Thomas nodded in agreement, then he warned Peter.

“I must also warn you that the version of Seth, which they are using, is at least 10 years in advance of the basic model available to the military today, oh yes, also Juliet gave me this.”

Thomas lifted an advanced pocket prototype of Seth from the package.

“I managed to access one of the Undraus foundation’s offices; it had taken some time to learn where the blue prints were kept. I memorised every detail and passed the information to some of your technicians, but only to later discover that that information had been outdated. Juliet felt it was becoming imperative you had active use of the new Seth, as things are becoming very dangerous out there.”

Alex took hold of the bio computer. It was no larger than the old cigarette packages, which were used to hold twenty cigarettes’ before they had become outlawed, and eventually banned from world consumption. Peter was pleased, now we have some additional real power.

“I shall instruct the technicians to connect it to an outside line, using this unit which you brought to us, and we shall be running selected parts of our own software.”

Alex had been working on a serious of bio-genetic programmes that would infiltrate themselves into the mainframe unnoticed and lay dormant until activated. Their function was one of intelligence gathering, and to dull the mainframes senses, without it becoming aware of what was happening.

The program had been tested and re-tested on the old Seth, having secretly infiltrated itself into various world government and military systems that were still using an old but equivalent system. The programmers had found a way of disguising their version of the new Seth, and to give the genetic imprint of been an older version. Yet now having the ability of accessing the very latest of the Undraus system, they also knew the moment that it was discovered to be missing that all efforts would be placed into securing its return.

Mrs Undraus became aware of a system requesting access to one of the families’ military contract companies.

“Seth who is requesting this access?”

Seth had traced the multi-diverted line.

“It is from the Portland Institute in New Mexico; they have tried to conceal their involvement by diverting the call through several sub companies.”

“What system are they using Seth?”

“It is a system seven model, about nine years old,”

Undraus smiled.

“At last, they have made a mistake, wait, are you sure it is safe to access their system?”

Seth paused momentarily re-checking everything;

“It is not possible for an older version to over write or to hide any form of data from me.”

Mrs Undraus acted instantly,

“Then do it, give them access and establish a rooter program into their system, so any time now that it is used on an outside line, you can gain access to it.”

Seth did this in an instant; it was then that he severed the connection, and unknown to him the Institutes programs were now already in place. From that moment, slowly and with stealth the Portland Institutes Seth penetrated its way ever deeper into the Undraus system, and with every new connection multiplying and leaving the system and its users fractionally less aware of what was happening each time that they accessed the data.

Peter was pleased; his mother had taken a considerable risk in sending his hybrids into the world. He had felt it better to keep everything from Robert as it heightened the risk of having his plan discovered. As it was, it now meant that Thomas could not return to the outside world until his plan was complete, that depending on the human’s progress could be years away.

Thomas had accepted the responsibility, which was, once Juliet had secretly explained Peter’s greater plan to him and had acted strictly on her instructions without informing any one of his intentions. He had made only one request, that he wanted Gemma brought to the institute along with his children; he had taken considerable risk in acquiring a new version of Seth, so Juliet had agreed on his request. Knowing full well that it would take time, none the less she assured Thomas that she would find some way of bringing his family to him.

Jim Bob watched in horror as both bears fell backwards into two of the pits dragging several of the wolves with them.

“I want that one kept alive shouted Michael,”

As he raised his rifle and shot at the remaining wolves. They separated and then left the area; Jamie and the others raced to the pits and killed the animals that were still fighting.

“This one’s well dead,”

Said Andrew as he lifted what was left of Jethro’s body that now hung limp from the branch.

“Shall I cut him down?”

Michael looked at Jamie,

“No what the heck, the animals have to feed just like us.”

Somehow Michael knew he would say that,

“What do you want this one alive for?” asked Jamie as he held Jim Bob,

“I want him alive for Minstrel,” replied Michael, and Jamie could see the hatred in his eyes.

“Heck he sure upset you,” and then looking over to Jim Bob, Jamie decided to torment him some more, he could see he was barely alive, and chunks of flesh had been ripped from his body.

“I guess now you wish that you and your kin folk, had never kept trying to steal our women.”

He grinned as he spoke those words, Jim Bob was lifted from his bindings, and then had the fork removed, he had his neck dressed in the home brew, and was taken back to the homestead. Andrew and his brothers handed him over to their brothers while Jamie and Michael brought in the skin from the animals and their backpacks which were full of cut meat.

Old Minstrel had not finished with the homestead and had wanted to secure another meal before he left the area. The women and children had been missed, and night had fallen, and as they had not returned the family knew something was wrong. Knowing that either humans had taken them or wild animals; if not, then they knew at least one of them would have returned for help.

By daylight the remaining women grouped together and found the remaining firearms, three set out each armed, the remainder locked themselves into one of the homesteads, armed and ready. Minstrel watched from a distance then decided the sight of the guns was not worth the risk. Grudgingly he returned to his old hunting ground.

The next day he came across the remains of Jethro, finding only the legs with any real meat left, as various scavengers had taken advantage of the free meal including the remaining wolves.

Looking down into the various pits Minstrel sniffed at the ground and picking up the scent of just who had walked the area. Once he was satisfied there was no trace of humans around, he pulled the carcass with comparative ease from the branch and carried the broken pieces away to finish a meal in safety.

Michael looked at Mary Jane; and he could see she was with child,

“How are you feeling?”

Mary Jane could read the expression on his face,

“Oh, not so tired, but strangely I have a craving for smoked porcupine.”

He loved her character; she was strong and spirited, yet enjoyed life, especially the company of her new partner. Later Michael rested; and his various wounds had now almost fully healed.

“Evolin will deliver her child in a few days,” said Michael.

Mary Jane looked in amusement,

“No, she must have another three months to go.”

“No, I should have told you sooner, but our kin our born much earlier than your folk, but human women take a little longer to deliver. Had it been Ann carrying she would have delivered the child by three of your months,”

Mary Jane had learnt much from Michael and his family, and had learnt not to disagree with these matters, as she had come to learn that he never joked about such things.

“Well my, you certainly have us humans at a disadvantage, I sure hope my one comes sooner rather than later.”

Michael could sense the excitement in her voice.

“Tomorrow I shall take Jim Bob and four of his brothers to another spot, old Minstrel is bound to be back in his hunting ground by now. He will be aware of our presence and of the pits; we shall have to find another way of attracting him.”

“How do you intend to capture him?” asked Mary Jane,

“I think we could try a few drops of Pa’s home brew.” Mary nodded.

“I think he would have agreed, as he hated that monster, and to know something that he made finally killed that beast, would have made him very happy.”

As the morning sun broke its way across the valley, old Minstrel sat quietly some two miles away hidden in the Pine forest. From there he overlooked the homestead; quietly he watched Michael and three of his brothers leading Jim Bob and four brothers at gun point, along with Jamie out from the vast triple gates.

Each gate was closed before the next gate was opened; and on a huge tower that sat in the middle of the homestead, was one of the sisters on watch duty. At the last gate was a smaller tower where one of Michael’s brothers sat armed and on permanent watch. The last gate was not opened until he gave the clear sign; they had made it impossible now for old Minstrel or any other wild animal to gain entry into the homestead.

Minstrel watched the party head north and followed very slowly keeping his distanced. He had learnt their reactions were different to that of other humans, they also had a different scent, which he was unable to place or recognise, but he had a distinct feeling that it was dangerous.

For two days Michael led the group deep into the Northern Mountains, as he wanted to be far away from the homestead. It was on the third day that he viewed an area that overlooked a cluster of rocks and trees, there was a small broke that rippled its way down the mountain.

“There, over there by those trees, that is where we shall prepare a trap for Minstrel.,” said Michael.

He led the group to the area, and re-secured the prisoners, and binding them securely to one of the trees. His brothers sat and pulled out some food from their backpacks; and between them they ate and drank from the brook.

Once refreshed the group set about preparing various traps, using the boulders to house the brew, then Michael and Andrew tethered the prisoner’s upside down and suspended them bound and gagged from the tree.

“This is for you”

Said Michael as he pulled out the hayfork from his backpack, he had broken the handle to about two feet in length.

“I can sense that old beast to be close by,”

Jim Bob tried to wriggle but knew Michael’s strength was such that he could hold him firmly in place with a single arm.

“I know this will hurt, so I shan’t pretend it won’t…but then you already know that don’t you?”

Carefully he placed it into the old wounds, re-opening them and forcing the re-sharpened prongs through his neck. The scent of blood almost instantly reached Minstrels nostrils; he raised his immense body until he towered now some fourteen feet high. Weighing in at over a thousand pounds, he was an incredible animal and only once before had such a beast been seen in that area.

Minstrel was a direct descendent from its bloodline. Its mother had been used in early experiments with a genetics laboratory, and who at that time had been connected to the Portland Institute. Only one of the human team members, had developed a conscious, and had released a pregnant female, and which had been injected with an advanced genetic modification formula.

Her cub eventually grew to be larger and even more powerful than old Minstrel, and in time he disappeared in some forest deep in the further most Northern Mountains of Canada. He had impregnated several bears; and some of the many cubs that were born that season, had modified intelligence. Minstrel however managed to survive the many hazards and had grown into the beast that he was today.

Slowly Minstrel made his way into an area out of view from the weighting party and entered a concealed cavern, several minutes later he stood quietly behind Michael and his brothers, having left the serious of sub-terrain passages, and from an exit concealed by a cluster of bushes and boulders. Only some thirty feet away Minstrel quietly paced himself, deciding whom he wanted to reach first.

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