Now, enjoy your reward!
One Month Ago
“WERE ALMOST there.”
“Sir, are you sure these are the right co-ordinates?”
“The intel is from a trusted source.” The holographic map showed they were almost right on top of the landing mark. “The laboratory is somewhere close by.”
In the night sky, cloud covered the moon from showing its face. A slight wind rustled the leaves in the trees and caused the tall grass to dance.
The helicopter emerged from above the treetops, scaring away a family of deer.
A burly pilot manned the cockpit, straining his eyes to see in the dark.
Alone in the back seat, another man studied the map while giving directions. He flipped the hood of his black jacket over his head. “You can drop me off down there, in the clearing.”
The pilot prepared to land the vessel. “Yes, Sir.”
As the helicopter descended, the hooded man braced himself for a slight jolt as they touched down on the ground. After unbuckling his seatbelt, he patted the pilot on the shoulder. “Wait for me here until I return.”
The side door slid open, and he found his footing in the lush tall grass. Holographic map in hand, he gained his bearings, turned it off, and tucked it under his armpit. He headed straight toward the woods, eager to find the person who could aid him in his objective.
As the light from the front of the helicopter waned, his eyes adjusted to the dark. The top propeller had finally died down.
With a couple of steps into the thick bunch of trees, it suddenly hit him.
No typical woodland wildlife noise whatsoever.
Perplexed by the eerie silence, he swallowed a lump of apprehension in his throat and continued on.
After trekking some distance further, he noticed a faint light off in the distance. Like a beacon, the light soothed his anxiety and bolstered his drive. A large boulder half-blocked his way, and with careful steps he made his way around it.
A figure dashed through the bushes behind him.
The crackle of twigs made him plaster his back against the boulder. Frantically glancing left and right, he couldn’t make anything out other than the trees.
A low, resonating snort came from a short distance away.
As he inched around the boulder, a wide tree trunk came into view. His heart beating fast, he took a moment to calm his nerves and to regain feeling in his legs which seemed almost paralyzed from the fear of what could be out there.
The light in the distance became clearer. A metal door stood beneath it, built into a rock face. When he pushed his fear of the unknown aside, he carried on.
Once he came around the broad tree, he stopped in his tracks.
Something was there.
He could sense its presence. It stood no more than ten feet away from him.
His legs starting to tremor, he turned to see what had him in its sights.
The monstrous creature looked unlike anything he had seen before. It had the body and build of a grizzly bear, but had a greyish hide on its back. Two horns protruded from the head. The smaller of the two between the eyes, the large one above the nose, like a rhino.
“What the heck?”
Adrenaline entered his veins, strengthening his legs to run as fast as he could. But he knew the freakish animal gained on him.
Only twenty feet away now, the metal door represented safety.
While glancing behind to see how close it was, he tripped over his own bumbling feet. The wind was knocked out of him. On his back as he gasped, his jaw trembled as the creature stepped forward until it stood right above him. As it bellowed into the night with a victorious roar, he saw the sharp, bear-like teeth lining its jaws.
The creature’s piercing stare met his eyes.
“Oh, dear God—”
Its clawed paw raised, the creature gazed past his victim. It snorted in reply.
“That’s no way to treat our guest.”
Someone stood in the doorway.
The man on the ground scrambled to his feet to identify his saviour. “You…you know this…thing?”
Dressed in a white lab coat, the man in the doorway chuckled. “Well I should, I created him. Move along now, Bruno.” With a sway of his hand he directed it away. “Go eat a deer or something.”
The hybrid creature obeyed its master without a questioning growl, disappearing into the brush.
On stepping away from the door, the man inquired, “Are you the man I’ve been expecting?”
The hooded man stood up and brushed himself off. “How many people know your laboratory is located in the middle of nowhere?”
“Good point.” The scientist nodded. “Come on inside.”
As the metal door closed behind him, the hooded man exhaled with relief. But his throat had become dry from running. “Could I have some water, please?”
“My brhino gave you a pretty good scare, huh?” The scientist handed him a bottle of water.
“It’s a mix between a bear and a rhino, I call it a brhino for species.” The scientist spoke as if he was making normal, everyday conversation. “And I named him Bruno.”
In a matter of seconds, the hooded man downed most of the bottle. Refreshed, he shook his head in fascination. “An army of those would put fear in any man.”
Another scientist strolled around a corner. “Uh, who’s in the hood?”
“I represent a classified organization.” The hooded man wanted to keep things vague. “Names aren’t important at the moment.”
The first scientist chuckled. “Well in that case, I’d like you to meet my apprentice, Adrian Alchemeezy.”
“Hey, I thought he said no names.” Adrian gave his co-worker a shove.
“The way I see it, your importance is limited, therefore your name doesn’t matter to him.” He placed a hand on Adrian’s shoulder. “Mr. Alchemeezy here has much to learn from me.”
As he finished the water, the hooded man realized a line of cages ran along the back of the laboratory. Each cage held creatures he’d never seen before, or even imagined. Some of them glared at him, wondering who this new person was in their midst. He stared in awe. “You created every single one of these?”
“We’ve even tried to make our own winged monkeys,” the scientist stated with a grin. “You know, like, from the movie with Dorothy and the witch. Nasty little buggers though, they get into all sorts of trouble. Had to use a taser on the last one.”
“This is amazing. I’ve been here less than five minutes, and I already know you’re the man for the job.”
“Only him?” Adrian seemed slightly disappointed. “What about me?”
“The less people learn of my organization, the better.” There was a super serious air to the hooded man’s reply. “No offense.”
The scientist had one question on his mind. “I’m sure the job is good and all, but what exactly do I get out of it?”
“My resources are unlimited. The goal is simple.” The hooded man grinned, holding out his hand to shake. “And I am willing to give you complete funding for as long as you live.”
The scientist shook his new employer’s hand with excitement, since there was nothing more to discuss. “How can I even think of saying no to that? When do you want me to start?”
“My people will contact you when I’m ready.”
Once the conversation ended, the hooded man exited the laboratory. With wary eyes, he scanned the area.
The brhino—nowhere to be seen.
The journey back to the helicopter seemed longer, considering he didn’t have to run from another encounter with the monster-animal. Once he had hopped back into the small aircraft, he slid the side door shut. “Take us home.”
No one answered from the cockpit.
“Are you sleeping?”
Still no response.
Popping his head into the cockpit, he discovered the pilot slumped in his seat. Slash marks on his chest. The door had been ripped off its hinges.
The man stared out to the field of grass.
Motionless, the hybrid bear-rhino Bruno bared his bloody teeth.
“Guess I’m flying this thing back.”
Ten minutes later, back at the laboratory in the woods, a pounding echoed from the metal door. Adrian had gone to the back to check on some things, so the head scientist went to answer it.
On opening the door, he found a figure standing five feet away. In the person’s hand, gripped by the horn, hung Bruno’s head.
The scientist stuttered in disbelief. “W-what did you… how d-did… who are you?”
“Whatever the other man offered you for your work, I assure you I can offer you so much more.”