The man who stepped before the small crowd gathered in the luxurious lounge looked every inch like an exotic game hunter supposed to look, like a Virtu show character come to life.
He wore a wide brimmed hat over his sun tanned face graced with a thin black pencil beard.
Over his khaki colored Bioseal suit ,he wore a leather jacket of scaled leather.
A necklace with long sharp fangs of some predator animal around his neck.
His Terran All terrain boots were black,polished and reached to his knees. The handle of a knife sticking out of the left boot shaft. Thee broad utility belt held the holster of a Remington Thermo Stream and a vibro machete .
His name was Philip Pembroke and would challenge anyone who called him by his very much hated nickname ‘Pi-Pi ’. Fortunately none of the present knew of that name.
Each of them was incredibly rich.
They all looked at him,some with eager anticipation but others with an expression of arrogant boredom, that was the hall mark of what society called the Neo Nobles .
“Can I ask you to put your drinks down for a moment?”
They did but not in a great hurry.
“Welcome Brutos planet . In the name of Exotic Thrills Inc. would also like to welcome you to the ET- hunting lodge.”
A pale and tall young man wearing some sort of red uniform jacket with a stiff mandarin collar and white pants.“Be so good and spare us with the sales pitch. We are here aren’t we?”
“Yes Mr. Carrington , then let me ask you have you been on a big game hunt before?”
“Of course, I hunted and killed the most dangerous game in the galaxy. This is why we came your company promised a worthy prey that offers a challenge.”
“That I can promise you, the local dinosaurs are big, nasty and dangerous predators, but we didn’t leave it at that. We added cybernetics, so these beasts can see better, hear better and we have raised their intelligence and their aggressiveness. In other words you won’t find a more dangerous monster.”
A blonde woman wearing a Gucci leather suit in with some kind of animal fur pattern, cradled a real Kruger 200 Plasma Sniper gun, said. “Even more dangerous than the beasts of Green Hell ?”
“Lady Gloria , I have been on Green Hell and bagged a Water Snake and a Stomper . Our Cyber dinos are a class onto itself.” Philip flat out lied, he never had been on Green Hell.
However that seemed to impress the woman who was the grand daughter of Henry Forster , founder of Forster Industries .Jan Van Anders , looking like a Vac Ball star and a poster child for perfect fitness sitting on the armrest of a leather upholstered arm chair said. “Genetic raised intelligence, how did you get the permission to do that, isn’t genetic tinkering more or less outlawed ever since the Gene Clone revolt ?”
“Restricted, Mr. Anders. Not outlawed completely besides the Science Council is far and we stayed away from the sentience threshold of course.”
That made the blue skinned Thauran sitting by the bar smile. “In other words, your company did not really bother with getting a Cloning permit. That suits me fine, I am tired of blasting mindless beasts and look forward to hunt something that gives me a real challenge. I personally find it a shame that the Togar quit hunting Jooltar and humans ever since they joined, I would have paid much to hunt something intelligent.”
He was one of two Thaurans of this group. The other Thauran said. “Lord Sybor, your taste for cruelty and lust for blood is well known across the Azure Empire ., but then I share your sentiment and hope to gain such a reputation myself.”
The sixth and last hunter was somewhat of an odd ball. She was, in Philip’s opinion the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. She had truly black hair and wore her long hair in thick braids. She was dressed in dark red leather that caressed her body in a most delectable way and of all things wore a sword across her back. Her eyes were yellow and her eyebrows had an almost devilish shape. She must have checked out and had the money to pay for this extravaganza otherwise the company would not have let her come.
She was standing somewhat separate from the others, with her arms crossed.
Philip noticed that neither Carrington nor Van Anders could take their eyes of her.
He said. “I tried to familiarize myself with all of you before hand, but I haven’t seen your name on the list.”
“I am Freya Olafson , it was a last moment decision more the spur of the moment thing, but I paid the 1,000,000 credits.”
Lady Gloria said. “She is here because of me. She laughed when I said I am a Big Game hunter and I challenged her. It is sort of a bet. Don’t worry Mr. Pembroke, she is the heir to the Silver-Hawk empire and perhaps the wealthiest of us all.”
“Well Ms. Olafson, glad to have you, but I must warn you this is for professional hunters and not a luxury resort activity. The prey we are hunting is dangerous. Have you ever hunted dangerous beasts before; have you ever killed?”
“Well then, enjoy the luxuries of the lodge and go to bed early. We are leaving at the break of dawn.”
Philip had left the super rich hunters and walked out on the platform that surrounded the lodge building built into the top branches of a giant Mammoth tree. He was used to the sweltering heat and the dampness of the jungle air that made him sweat despite the climatized suit. He trotted over the swinging rope bridge and entered the operations office.
Bart, the company manager greeted him with a lazy nod. “Ready to take the Richies on their adventure trip. Pi-Pi?”
“Being my boss doesn’t give you license to insult me. You know how much I hate that nick name.”
Without responding to Philip’s complaint, Bart pointed to a set of control screens. “They get a nice thrill before they kill their prey. The latest batch of Cyber Dinos is particular nasty and vicious. We released them near the Verde River delta and they already tearing local life forms to bits.”
“Why the Verde Delta? It’s a particular dense region with lots of Buzz biters, not to mention the Ravagers in the river.”
“We wanted to give them a bang for their money, make it look and feel like a real challenge. You know Carrington is well known in the Big Game hunter circles and if he spreads the word among his super rich friends, we won’t have to worry about bookings for the next ten years. Besides nothing adds realism as a few itching insect bites. Besides as long as you don’t plan to have them take a bath, they won’t be bothered by the Ravagers. Not even our Dino nasties are brave enough and now smart enough not to enter the river.”
“You increased their intelligence again?”
“Not on purpose but our Bionetic engineers reported that the latest bunch turned out a little smarter than the last batch. Not to worry, they are still big , and thanks to our trackers can’t really hide. Besides what does it matter? You can send the kill impulse,just don’t do it unless absolutely necessary. We want our guests do the killing, each Cyber Dino sets us back 80,000 credits.”
“I am not worried about the Dinos, but Union authorities. If we keep making them smarter, they might make the jump to sentience. You do know the penalty for cloning sentient beings, right?”
“We pay you to provide those richies an adventure of a life time, don’t concern yourself with things that are not your business, Besides the next batch is going to be stupid again, the Bios are certain. ”
The taste and smell of blood was intoxicating and satisfied its urges on a level that included all it was. Bits and pieces of whatever it just killed still dangled from its terrifying fangs. It was amazing how clear and in what detail he perceived the surroundings. It could sense the frightened heart beats of a pelted being several paces to the right behind dense bushes. He could see everyone of those little flying things that seemed to appear whenever it killed and buzzed and hummed around the gory remains of its prey. It should be content and yet there was a gnawing sensation deep inside, almost like a pain. The feeling could be summoned up with one word, Why?”
“It had no recollection of anything. It just was.”
In its mind, a new concept grew and as it starred into the reflecting surface of a stagnate puddle of water and saw the thing inside , it realized it was an image of itself. The new thought started with I...
A crashing tearing sound made it whirl around, its massive tail whipping bushes with a violent snap.
There was another I.
No it was just like itself but it was not I.”
The other was identical to the image he had just seen in the water’s reflecting surface. At first a tremendous urge to attack and fight came over it, but it stopped.
They both stopped in their advance and stared at each other, hissing grunts of primeval intensity made everything around them flee in sheer panic.
Yet it somehow understood that the sounds the other it, made were not just senseless grunts and prelude to violence, but something else.
It grunted too,warning the other it, not to attack.
Everything in it urged to lunge forward, to attack and kill. Kill that was its purpose, or was it? Why?
The other It, appeared to have the same hesitations. It was unlike all the other Its. It would not be easy to kill it. It was the same as It.”
The urge to convey its uncertainty to the other It, was almost painful in its urgency.
More grunts left his maw, and were answered by the same grunts.
Yet another new concept dawned in its troubled mind: Us.
Rise and shine blared throughout the lodge, accomplished by the rousing theme music of the union wide known opera “Stahl’s Attack”
While Lady Gloria seriously considered to forgo the hunt and sleep in, questioning the reason why hunts had to be this early, the wake up call found the two Thaurans and Jan the Colonial Terran from Maastricht Planet already at the breakfast table.
Archie Carrington entered the breakfast room only moments later, he too was obviously not caught sleeping by the wake up call.
The leather clad raven haired beauty joined them moments later coming from in from the outside. Her faint fresh perfume was mixed with the scent of the jungle.
Archie Carrington got up and pulled a chair for the woman. “What a sight you are, indeed Ms. Olafson. We have not yet officially been introduced. I am Archie Carrington of Pleasant Glen Colony. ”
“Good for you.” The gorgeous woman said giving the man a gaze down her nose of utter arrogance that made the man sigh with deepest admiration.
Jan helped himself to a slice of Andorian spice bread and passed it through the toaster field. “Don’t be impressed by this upstart family of his, only 500 years of un-noteworthy family history and just barely scratching the five billion level. Now I am sure you heard about Van Anders freight lines and we are in business for a good 1500 years.”
“It is quite dangerous to insult a Carrington, my dear Van Anders.”
Just then Lady Gloria entered the room, she had decided to get up after all.. “Boys behave, you both didn’t impress me very much and I if you knew who my new friend really is, you’d realize you have even less of a chance doing that.”
Philip came in and said. “Good morning ladies and gentlemen. Please wrap up your breakfast, we are going to leave in ten minutes.”
It and the other it had just killed a large thing together. It was surprisingly easy. The large thing first tried to run , but the the other it coming from the other side blocked its way.
It had killed one of this big things before, it was not an easy kill but the big thing stood no chance as they both attacked.
They had met yet another it and this time the acceptance of cooperation happened much faster and together they had discovered yet another new way of killing. Something one It alone could not do.
Because one it would hide while the other two drove prey towards the hiding one, uprising the fleeing prey. It was an exciting feeling of accomplishment, even more than the kill itself. The concept of Us, was now easy understood. Us was better as I.
They also discovered that there were things very dangerous to them. In the big wet,there were little things, but very many and they were fast. A fourth of It was killed as it entered the big wet, and all its strength was useless against the many little ones. But they could do that too, together they were better as one.”
“Shit, we just lost number five-teen. So much for them supposedly being smarter. That dumb thing went into the water and got ripped to the bone by these vicious Ravagers” Steve one of the Mission observers said to Bart who yawned as he came in.
“Those Ravagers are quite similar to Terras Piranha.”
“A carnivore fish on old Earth, these Ravagers are about four times their size,though.”
“Pff, Earth. I have no idea why everything is always compared to Earth.”
“It might surprise you but the DNA we use to clone our vicious Cyber beasts comes from Earth’s Dinosaurs, specifically the Tyranno Saurus. Of course we spliced in some Maggi Suron DNA as well.”
“We should maybe Cyber enhance those local Fur beasts as well. I noticed they give our Dinos a good fight.”
“Way ahead of your idea. The lab boys already working on it. Anyway call the farm and have them drop a replacement, our rich guests would be disappointed if one would have to go home without a trophy.”
Bart looked at one of the observation screens while Steve made the call and he noticed that three of the Cyber Dinos were very close to each other.
Steve distracted him by confirming that the farm would release a new Dino and he forgot about his observation.
The flyer had deposited the six hunters and their guide at a little clearing at the banks of a mile wide river.
Philip had to admit he never lead a group armed as well as them, with the exception of the black haired beauty, they carried enough fire power to depopulate half the planet. The Thauran lord sported a real H&K Raketengewehr, complete with Cyber link for aiming and ammo programming. That weapon was a Class V and considered military grade. To get a permit for that thing wasn’t easy.
His friend had a beautiful antique Shrap Gun. Exquisite engraved silver panels, despite being a half a million credits antique a terrible deadly weapon firing shards of super accelerated metal pieces. He would not have much of a trophy to take home if he used that thing.
Carrington had bragged during the entire flight about his TMI-Gauss gun. Terran Military Industries was famous for their weapons and the near light speed accelerated plutonium slugs it fired could go clear through an unshielded landing tank.
Jan was similar proud of his Saran Horus beamer. The gun was more a piece of art than a weapon, shaped like the head of a bird of prey, with golden wings that covered most of the underarm of the shooter. That the weapon was gleaming in pure gold made it of course completely useless in any combat situation, but Horus beamers had been the parade weapons of the Saran Palace guards for thousands of years, and quite likely the most expensive weapon of the lot.
Lady Gloria had perhaps the most useful weapon, her Kruger 200 had been used by the space marine corps as a sniper gun about five hundred years ago. Despite its age whatever the Marines found useful was unquestionable a deadly tool of war and more than enough to kill a Dino.
The black haired woman carried her sword and some hand gun in a hip holster.
“Miss Olafson, we are about to hunt cyber enhanced Dinosaurs, I can loan you a real weapon.”
“No need, I am more than adequate armed. She pulled the massive looking handgun and only now did Philip recognize it. It was a genuine SII TKU 12.
“Holy Mickey, how did you get hold of this?”
“It was a gift of my grandfather, but I only carry it as a back up.”
“You are not intending to use the sword, right because that would frankly be insane.”
“It’s a family tradition.”
Philip shook his head and was certain he had to use the kill impulse today,.
Then he said. “Let’s go and keep your eyes and ears open, the Dinos aren’t the only predators out here, and whatever you do,stay out of the water.”
Steve popped a lemon guzzle in his mouth while he looked at the seven icons representing the hunters entering the jungle and checked the whereabouts of the closest Dinos. There was still a good distance,
What a boring job, he thought and turned to see what Bart was doing. His boss was snoring in his seat. Perfect, that would give him a chance to tune into GalNet and watch a few minutes of the currently ongoing match between the Midway Bashers and the Saran Satans. The winner of this game would face the Terran Terrors in the Galaxy Champion game. He had sixty credits on a clear win of the Midway Bashers, last seasons champions.
Because of this he almost missed the request of the Farm team that inserted the replacement Dino. They wanted to take the main control off line for a few moments so they could add the new Dinos control to the system. He felt annoyed by the routine interruption, because of it he had missed Karuk Narir’s scoring a spectacular goal.
He keyed his authorization code, but forgot to deactivate the carrier signal of the dead Dino. Its cyber gear, not devoured by the Ravagers was still active.
The computronic noticed the double signal and classified it as system error, and requested a reset, by flashing a sensor light on Steve’s input interface.
Keeping his eyes on the game, following a nail biting counter attack of the Saran Satans he mistook it for the Farm team request and approved request. He did not notice the seven dino icons disappearing from the screen.
Lady Gloria had spotted the Dino first and knelt down to take careful aim.
Suddenly two Dinos broke out of the thicket, so close to them, they were completely surprised.
Philip panicked and pressed the kill impulse on his wrist control. The two Dinos did not collapse as they should have. The Dino was blinding fast and snapped his enormous jaws, tearing Philips arm clear off, leaving only a few strings of bloody sinew. Philip’s brain shut down in an explosion of pain and the hunting guide collapsed.
Lady Gloria distracted missed her target by a mile, turned to see Jan Van Anders upper torso completely disappeared between the jaws of the second Dino.
Archie Carrington screaming in fear, fumbled with the safety of his weapon, he did manage to fire a projectile before the first Dino raked its razor sharp claws across his body spilling a ghastly mess of bluish guts over the jungle floor. The near light speed projectile perforated the jungle canopy and had left the planets atmosphere.
Everything happened so fast.
The Thauran Lord in sheer terror fired his Raketengewehr, completely ignoring that his friend was right before him. Two of the micro missiles killed the other Thauran, the third one however did hit one of the Dinos and the small but powerful explosive shredded the Dino’s head.
Lady Gloria watched as black haired beauty attacked one of the Dino’s with her sword, Jumping agile over a whipping tail and swiping the blade across the snapping jaws being showered with blood , bits of cyber gear and teeth.
In all this chaotic event of primeval bestial violence both the Thauran and the blonde stared in unbelieving awe as the dark haired woman fought and killed the Dino with her sword.
The Olafson woman now had her blaster freed and a thundering blast of a beam focused thermo nuclear blast rendered the head of the third dino that was just about to snap at Carrington into a cloud of molecular ashes.
Burt stared at the handcuffs around his wrists as a Union Ranger declared him to be under arrest.
Steve right behind him sported a black eye and hung his head. He too wore handcuffs and had no illusions that he would be able to see the Championship game.
That Burt hit him after he realized what he had done, was something he felt was deserved.
Freya Olafson had made an emergency call on her GalNet enabled PDD and rendered first aid to Carrington and Philip.
Lucky for both men, a Ranger cruiser was only eight light years distance and responded right away.
Now, ten hours later, Union Police had joined the Rangers and had arrested the entire staff of Exotic Thrills Inc. for illegal Genetic tailoring.
Both Philip and Carrington, barely alive and nearly bled to death rested in zero stasis and were on their way to the next Union hospital.
Lord Sybor also faced charges for the possession of an unlicensed weapon and man slaughter.
A Klack insectoid wearing the uniform of Union police and the rank pins of a Lieutenant stood in the lounge of the hunting lodge with the unharmed survivors, Lady Gloria and Freya Olafson and made final notes for his report.
Lady Gloria said. “I have never seen anything like it. She attacked those beasts with just a sword.”
The Klack said. “She is an Olafson, Lady Gloria., a Neo Viking from Nilfeheim, you know the Grand daughter of Captain Eric Olafson and Admiral Har-Hi the Dai is her other grandfather.”
“You mean, the Olafson?”
“Yes the Captain of the famous Tigershark.”
The black haired girl grinned sheepishly and spread her arms. “Told you this sort of thing is sort of a family tradition. That is why I laughed when you said you were a big game hunter. Sorry I don’t mean to offend, but I was right you guys are anything but hunters. Just rich spoiled kids with fancy guns.”
The Klack closed his PDD and said. “Well you didn’t commit any crimes and free to go Justice Central just verified it. On a personal note, Miss Olafson, don’t take any vacations in my precinct if you can. ”