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Chapter Two.

Sandra Harrison, a ranger for Wildlife licencing and regulation in Louisiana ensured her staff had everything under control as the privately chartered hunting party for five executives and their partners from Herald Enterprise readied themselves with excitement for the coming days hunt.

“Listen up,” shouted Sandra, “I appreciate you paid a considerable sum of money for this exclusive hunting trip; however you will not leave here if you do not follow my rules and agree by signing your life away,”

There was laughter, however, on the far wall as the lights dimmed a projection slide show started, and the images were far from entertaining.

As there was a gasp from the audience, some tried to look away as the images of a torso showing only the head, chest and one arm was displayed in its full bloody core.

“This was an eager hunter much like you, only he failed to observe our rules, possibly thinking they never applied to him, as he was wealthy and owning five successful companies and an experienced hunter. Only, not in these swamps, so take a long look and allow the image to remain in your heart and mind at all times.”

Sandra paused ensuring she had their full attention and then changed the slide this time showing a trophy twenty-three-foot Alligator suspended from a forklift.

“The locals will tell you tales of even larger beasts, and I assure you this although large is insignificant compared to some of the monsters in these waters.”

The third slide got the reaction Sandra was looking for as it showed slide two next to image three, and the gator was at least a third longer and had the girth of the forklift truck from slide two.

“This species is known only to these swamps and found in a prohibited area, and unless you are licenced and under guard, it is here we intend to end our hunt, you have five days from now, and each stage will become that bit more difficult building your skills and preparing you for the final two nights and days at this location.”

There was a gasp as the Ariel photograph showed dense foliage and one area covering almost twelve miles square blackened out.

“Before you ask the blackened area is not on general maps and officially does not exist, trespass even for my staff is instant termination of life, if you thought Area 51 was interesting, you do not want to venture near here, it is our job to ensure you keep over a mile’s distance from the outer perimeter, mistakes cost lives.”

For some seconds there was stunned silence as the group of would-be hunters took in the presentation.

“Any question?”

It was Derek Aldridge who spoke next, “We paid twenty thousand dollars each for this trip, so…”

“Sandra cut in, “You paid a third of the actual cost, your boss Eliza Smith paid the balance believing you need to learn discipline and teamwork, also placing in writing if you fail to carry through this assignment then your employment is terminated.”

There was a gasp and protests, but quickly the group went quiet as a recording from Eliza Smith appeared on the screen.

“I am pleased you made it this far and each of you in this room is a key and valued member of my team; however, there are two opening for promotions with a threefold salary increase, this is my way of ensuring only the most deserving earns the promotion, so do not let me down.”

It was those magic words threefold increase and promotion which caught their attention.

“OK, for the last time, are there any questions?”

This time, there was not a murmur of protest, and the group got themselves ready to leave.

It was two hours after sunset when Alex Corylus and his oldest son Justin had ventured onto the swamp for a night hunt, both were experienced hunters and had lived on the bayou all their lives with five generations before them.

All the family were vampires and vampire hunters, and still alive, although they lived in such isolation, and living off the bayou that few humans ever learnt of their identity and age.

Only recently their seclusion had been disturbed as a party of unknown vampires had taken residence deep in the bayou and within an area, the Corylus family rarely ventured.

Fifteen years previous the US government had started constructing buildings in the bayou, and five years later the site was in operation, and after losing two boys both cousins for trespassing on Government land, it was quickly understood it was better to avoid the area, and the bodies were never recovered having been fed to the Alligators.

Unknowingly to the government, it was this which caused in part the reason for such monstrous gators appearing. Two pregnant females had eaten the cousins, and the vampiric blood had altered their genetic coding creating a mutated DNA.

Later the military discovered these creatures and started experimenting using volunteers to create a Super Soldier program. Only it had not gone as planned and they lost over twenty of their subjects who failed to return after a night’s exercise.

After five months of failing to locate their subjects and losing seven more, the program was cancelled with orders to hand over control of all five bases to the Home Land security.

The Louisiana base was the only one to have lost control of its subjects, yet by the very nature of their work it had been sufficient to lose their Black budget funding and hand control to another agency.

As Alex waited patiently, eventually five human-looking heads emerged from the swamp surveying the area, on viewing Alex and his son, the soldiers, moved from the cover of the swamp to greet their colleague.

“We have had no further sightings nor activity in this area since the death of Lisa and Ester; you took a significant risk in rescuing them only to lose them as daybreak arrived.” Stated Sgt Thompson.

Alex then extended a hand to Sgt William Thompson while acknowledging his squad, “I know son, but I sensed that girl and her mother were special, and unknown to you my kin have had dealings with their kind before, they are unique in our world, and rare would not start to explain how important they are and through them our race could and is evolving, and that includes your kind as well.”

Sgt Thompson listened, “I would be interested to learn more; however, we do have a severe problem, as the Ranger has taken a group into the bayou and they intend to bag themselves at least one prise gator.”

Alex knew immediately the danger the human hunters were in, and it also meant others of their kind would sense their presence and draw them from their hiding as they could not risk exposure nor tolerate trespass on their chosen territory.

Sandra Harrison and her team guided the tourists to the first of their staged route, “We camp, here tonight and tomorrow I shall introduce you to your prey, they may not be monsters, yet they can kill, and given an opportunity you would make a tasty snack.”

There was nervous laughter as the hunters realised this was no luxury outing, they were not even offered the comfort of tents, rather stretching hammocks high in the glades with fires lit underneath and fuelled by green vegetation, so it burnt slowly causing smoke to deter the insect life.

There first night was disturbed, and they were woken at the break of dawn, fed and set out within an hour, only some of the Rangers had previously baited their route so these spoiled guests could be led in gently to killing their first gators.

By mid-day, seven gators had been culled, and three having broken the line and escaped. There was a level of excitement as the adrenaline sent endorphins into their systems.

After a mid-day meal Sandra caught their attention, the average size was about nine feet, and Sandra drew their attention to her assistant rangers,

“Two of my team set traps some five miles from here which will be our next overnight stop, however, from here onwards your tour becomes difficult, if you look behind you, Simon and John, two of my rangers have caught a sample gator for you to understand the danger you are about to face.”

As the group viewed the gator presented on the ground it was fifteen feet in length, “This is minor compared to some gators in the next area, so take special care you follow our orders,” explained Sandra.

Unknown to Alex, Justin and Sgt Thompson, Jenifer Longman had authorised the hunting trip with all the supposed hunters being on her payroll and chosen for this assignment to gather intelligence.

The charade had been necessary as the Home Land Security required a legitimate reason for apparent public entry into the controlled area of the bayou and with Eliza Smith been one of the assistant junior directors acting under direct orders from Charli Harrison.

Each hunter was an experienced operative containing the DNA and T cells from the failed experiment, along with DNA openly gifted from Liza and Ester and resulting in a new breed of Super soldier controlled and fully compliant with their mission.

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