01 Feb Tales from a Rookie Storm Chaser Part 5
Caleb held the door open once more as we reached Mister Kearny’s office, his steely gaze never wavering.
I did my best to ignore it and go inside as Paul placed his crutch down and then took a seat.
He fumbled in his drawer and got his smokes before offering me one and then turning to Caleb and muttering, “If its all the same to you, I would like to talk to Mister Pruitt privately.”
The hunter narrowed his eyes but didn’t dare argue with his employer. Instead he walked toward the door and said, “Fine. But I’ll be right outside.”
Once we were alone, Mister Kearny lit one of the Marlboros and gestured for me to take a seat.
“I’d like to stand if it’s all the same to you. Nerves are pretty much shot,” I responded crossing my arms.
“Are you second guessing your decision to join KTHU?” he asked.
I let out a long sigh.
“I knew from the moment I got here something was off. But this shit, monsters and who knows what else? I want in, I want to help. But I can’t do that unless someone tells me what the hell this is all about.“
Kearny let out a laugh. “You really are something.” Then he looked longingly toward the blacked out windows of his office.
I let the silence linger for a moment, and then decided to repeat the very same question he had asked me that morning.
“Who did you lose?“
I knew the answer but I still wanted to hear it from his own lips. He let out another puff of smoke before responding, “My wife. Reneé Alastair Kearny. This would have been almost thirty years for us.”
This time I took a seat. “What happened to her?“
“To answer that I’ll have to tell you everything I know about the storm. Why it is we do what we do,” he answered. Then he proceeded to push aside clutter on his desk to reveal a map of the tri-County area. I clung to every word he said.
“It was 1999 when we first encountered the storm. Olivia was no more than a few years old, still nursing. Back then we were just like you, wet behind the ears and searching for a thrill. Storm chasing was Reneé’s idea,” he explained as he pointed toward a red scrawled circle on the map.
“We found Emerald Bay by accident. Followed a tip by a fellow tracker that said he’d seen lots of strange storms in this area. When we got here and checked our equipment, we started to think his claims were an over-exaggeration.”
“It wasn’t long after that we were proved wrong, weather around here is unpredictable because it doesn’t follow the rules of nature,” he paused, staring me down before adding, “As you’ve seen, something else is at the heart of these storms.”
“The creatures?” I guessed to which he nodded absently.
“Course we didn’t know that back then…that first storm nearly killed us. We had to run from town with barely the clothes on our back. Having an infant only made things worse, those… beings, whatever you want to call them; could track us for miles.”
“That was how we stumbled upon this place,” he gestured about randomly and added, “Scrambled inside and managed to turn on the signal. It was the only thing that saved our life.”
“Hold on… are you telling me this station was already here? How long has KTHU been here?” I asked in surprise.
“Hard to say but when we checked the broadcast the last one was from July 12, 87,” Mister Kearny said as he lit his next cigarette and scooted his chair over toward a safe hidden behind a bunch of other clutter. He opened it up and tossed me a VHS tape with that date on it.
“What’s this?” I asked as I noticed that it didn’t have any other marking.
“That… what is happened to the crew before us,” Kearny said and then gestured toward the old TV set on the left wall.
I walked over to it and inserted the tape, waiting as the grainy images appeared.
Several people were appearing on what looked like a closed circuit network. There wasn’t any sound but it was easy to see what was happening. The stations was being invaded, by those strange creatures that held human skin over their bodies like a coat. Their eyes were glowing amid the static as the crew did their best to fight them off.
But it wasn’t enough. One by one they were picked off to be slaughter, the maddened creatures ripping them to shreds like paper. It wasn’t long until none were left standing and the screen went dead.
“The same proved true of every last tape we found. All of them were gone,” Kearny told me and then laughed.
“I almost forgot. Been so long… there was one survivor and you’ve already met him.”
I paused and then remembered a few choice words spoken to me when I had first arrived.
“Jim? But how?” I asked.
Kearny shrugged. “Laschar was barely cohesive, his spine bruised in three places and babbling like an idiot. It took a few days before he finally recovered and once he did, he hardly had any recollection of what had happened.”
I scratched my head and realized that explained why the whole place had so much wear and tear.
“So you just decided to take up the call and do what? What exactly does this station do?“
“As I’m sure you must have guessed, we learned pretty quickly that the signal that the tower emits causes a paralyzing effect on the creatures that masquerade in this town. Jim knew little else except that the broadcast couldn’t be interrupted. Naturally we wanted to leave, but there was a problem… during the initial attack Reneé was attacked. Jim said it was an infection and she wouldn’t last long if we didn’t do something,” he said solemnly.
“That’s exactly like with Martin…. Why didn’t you say anything earlier?“
“Because it wouldn’t make a difference! My wife got lucky because we acted quickly,” Paul snapped back.
“What do you mean that it wouldn’t make a difference?? Tell that to Martin!“
“The only way to stave off the infection is by capturing one of those things alive… I swear we almost lost her anyway,” Kearny looked away and then muttered, “After that we discovered the connection between the monsters and the storms and as dangerous as it sounded, we decided to start tracking it.”
“And that’s all you know?“
“That’s all you need to know,” Kearny said firmly.
“That’s not good enough,” I growled.
“The only thing we can hope for now is that Martin goes peacefully,” the old man declared darting his eyes away.
I slammed my fist down forcing him to keep his attention on me. “You know I think I’ve figured out the real problem here…. It isn’t that these monsters are too dangerous. It’s that you’ve given up the fight before you even get started. Just because your wife died doesn’t mean all hope is lost!“
“Don’t dare lecture me about things you hardly understand! You’ve been here three days and this station has been here thirty years! It knows things you couldn’t even comprehend!” Kearny snapped back.
Caleb was at the door, overheating our outbursts.
“I told you to keep a level head,” the hunter warned.
“Shut the hell up. You’re just as bad as him.“
“Dillion, I understand what you’re trying to do. You want this all to be wrapped up nicely and have a bow on top. But that isn’t how the world works. Monsters or not, people die,” Kearny told me and then sighed and said, “I’m done talking for now. We need to rest and recover before the next run.”
I looked at him with disbelief, and growled, “You haven’t answered all my questions yet.“
Caleb stepped in between us, his hand level with his belt as he muttered, “Maybe you didn’t hear but the boss said he was done talking.”
I gave them both the stink eye.
“This isn’t over, I added and then walked out, frustration and anger filling my every thoughts. It was sickening to think that they would just let one of their comrades die when there might be a chance at saving them.
I walked to the first floor, pacing back and forth randomly as I tried to think of a solution. I came across a vending machine and used it as an outlet for my feelings, kicking and slamming my fists against the old machine.
“Took your money too huh?” a voice said to my right, startling me. I looked over to see Natalie there, her eyes puffy and red from the tears she had shed.
I gave her a half hearted smile and said, “I just needed something to hit.“
She nodded, slumping against the wall and muttering, “I guess I should give that a try sometime.”
I nodded, standing alongside her and muttering, “How is Martin?“
Natalie looked away, clearly not wanting to talk about it.
“It doesn’t look good,” she said finally.
“You two are pretty close, huh?“
“He’s saved my ass more than once. I just wish… I wish I had been there. Mister Kearny says I’m not cut out to be a field agent, but I know that if I had been there things would have turned out different,” she lamented.
I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better, so instead I gestured toward the large syringe she was carrying, “That for him?“
“Yeah. Would you believe this shit is enough to knock down three full grown men? Jim gave him a dose about nineteen minutes ago and it’s hardly even making a dent,” Natalie said with a hollow laugh.
“Its just going to get worse, isn’t it?“
She nodded, trying her best not to cry as she muttered, “And there isn’t a bloody thing we can do about it.”
What Mister Kearny had told me concerning his wife flickered across the back of my mind. “Maybe there is…” I said as I grabbed the syringe and said, “You said this was strong right? Like it could knock out an elephant or something?“
“Yeah… probably. Why?” she asked.
“What if we used this on one of those things,” I said excitedly.
Natalie didn’t seem to follow, her face a mix of confusion.
“Those things can offer an anti-venom for Martin, but only if we bring one back alive.“
“What? How do you know that?” she whispered, her eyes sparkling with excitement and a hint of concern.
“Kearny. He’s told me but he has given up already because he thinks it’s too risky, but with this…” I paused and gestured to the drug. “We can go into town and snatch one of those things.“
Natalie bit her lip, she was excited but also nervous.
“We can’t… I mean, we shouldn’t. The boss would kill us if he found out,” she said anxiously.
“If we do nothing Martin will die.“
She hesitated for another moment but then nodded to show she was onboard with the scheme.
“All right, how do we do this?” she asked with a shaky voice.
“The weather van still has some weapons in the back. If we leave now, we can get back before day break and no one will be the wiser.“
Natalie was trying her best to contain her assignment and we agreed to meet in the garage in ten minutes. I went to the break room to gather a few more supplies.
I thought our plan would be fool-proof but we ran into a snag the second we stepped into the garage bay.
Caleb was standing there, leaning against the van and wiping his hands as he finished refitting new tires on it. He tipped his hat up and gave us a long sigh.
“You know, something told me that you might try something stupid Dillion…” he said and then gave a sneer toward the blonde and added, “But you Natalie, I thought you knew better.” “Caleb… we have a plan. We can save Martin’s life,” she pleaded.
“I’m sure you probably think that you do. But I’m afraid I can’t let you leave. It’s not safe, you know that Nat.”
I clenched my fists and scanned the floor to find something that could cause a distraction. Then I kicked an old oil barrel toward him and shouted, “Run Natalie!“
The blonde hesitate for a moment as Caleb jumped out of the way and the barrel slammed the back of the van. Then finally she got up the nerve and dashed to the driver’s side.
Caleb reached for his gun and aimed for my head as I pulled the passenger door open and told her, “Start the engine!!“
She glanced into the mirror and revved it up as Caleb bounded toward the van again, but she peeled off before he had the chance.
Pressing the button inside the console for the garage door to open, we zoomed out to the dark country roads around the station as Caleb was left watching us from the shelter of the darkened parking space.
“Oh god we are so dead later,” Natalie muttered.
“Not if this works,” I countered as we made our way out of the woods and onto the road that led to town.
I checked the gear we had and muttered, “It’ll be simple. We go in, grab one of the weirdos and get out. They won’t even know we’re coming.“
Suddenly Natalie slammed on her brakes and I shrieked, “What the hell?“
But as I looked out toward the horizon, I saw was she had come to a stop.
The townsfolk were standing there all in a row, almost like statues; staring straight toward us.
And as we looked about I realized there were more of them in the tree line, ready to pounce.
Natalie gritted her teeth and muttered, “Got any more bright ideas?”