01 Feb Tales from a Rookie Storm Chaser Part 8
For the next hour we hunkered down inside the station and listened as the stronger creatures tore Martin’s body apart like it was a chew toy. Kearny insisted we cover the monitors so we didn’t have to see the carnage play out. Still, with each passing moment the rain pelted the building, the wind howled and then at last, it was over.
In the morning light, we gathered to give the cameraman a small vigil. I wanted to go out and see if anything was left to bury, but Olivia said it still wasn’t safe.
So instead we gathered some of the corpses of our enemies and made a bonfire in the garage. None of the crew really had much to say, it was just a moment of silence. I didn’t know him well but I had to admire and honor his sacrifice.
But some of what he said still lingered in my head and as Jim bandaged the wounds I had gotten on my arm, I reflected on those words.
“What did he mean when he said he was part of them now?” I whispered. Laschar gave me a look, but didn’t respond. I turned to the others for an answer and Olivia muttered, “He was infected.”
I nodded, recalling that was the reason her father had been reluctant to even help the cameraman, but it still didn’t answer my question.
“The signal didn’t hurt them either, what was up with that?“
“Is this really the time for these questions,” she sighed irritably.
“What? It’s distracting me; that’s how I cope,” I muttered as I watched Jim finish the last wrapping.
Nobody said a word so I decided to turn the topic back over to retrieving his body. “It isn’t right for us to just leave him out there to rot,” I insisted.
“It’s what he would want,” Caleb commented.
“You can turn off the broadcast Jim, their done hunting for now,” Kearny remarked.
“What provoked them anyway?” Caleb rolled his eyes. “Oh I don’t know, how about the fact that you snagged one and then brought it back here?”
I felt my mouth go dry again and had nothing to say. I had feared that was the case, but hadn’t wanted to be confronted with those facts.
“We made it out of town… we were in the clear,” I said.
“Told you they could track for miles… but this was more than that, Pruitt. You took what was theirs, they only acted on instinct to get it back,” the older Kearny remarked.
Natalie was doing her best not to cry, both of us feeling like fools for endangering everyone with our foolish behavior.
“What are these things anyway?” I muttered.
Kearny sighed and lit a Marlboro.
“Think of them like a colony of ants or bees. They act as one, using frequencies that help them coordinate, strategize and ultimately attack,” he explained.
“A colony… so the ones we’ve seen so far, they are the drones?“
Kearny nodded and gestured toward the dim light that peeked through the shattered windows. “And the soldiers. That’s why they aren’t harmed by the signal, they are on a different frequency. One we haven’t quite figured out how to interfere with yet,” he muttered.
“You’re telling me that this whole time you’ve been here you’ve never dealt with this before?” I asked in surprise.
“Yeah, you got to bring all the bad luck,” Caleb said with a sneer.
“*Seriously though, it can’t be a coincidence.”
The hunter gave a long sigh. “Of course it isn’t you dipshit. And if you hadn’t been so dense to go play the hero, then maybe you could have given us more time to explain this shitstorm that you signed up for.”
“I’m not the one who was ready to give up on Martin!” I snapped rising to my feet. I saw Natalie growing more emotional as Caleb snarled, “Oh yeah, great job saving him. Lot of good that did huh?”
“It sounds to me like you just feel guilty for not doing shit,” I snarled.
Caleb bounded across the room, staring me straight in the eye. “You know what, you’ve been nothing but trouble since you got here,” he said.
“Enough!” Kearny snapped.
The hunter gave me an icy glare and backed down as the older man grabbed his crutch and walked toward the center of the room. “Dillion did what any of us would have done… or rather, what all of us should have done,” he muttered as he finished his smoke.
I gave him a nod. “I appreciate that, especially coming from you.” “You tried your best, and you failed. I think the guilt alone will be enough to make you second guess the next time you want to disobey an order,” Kearny said evenly.
There was another moment of awkward silence.
Caleb stood up and stretched and muttered, “While I appreciate that we’ve all decided to let bygones be bygones, we do need to focus on our next step. The beacon.”
I felt too tired to fight so instead focused my attention on this turn in the conversation.
“You mentioned that before what is it?“
Caleb looked at me again, clearly not wanting to share anything with me but gestured to Jim before remarking, “Let the man who designed it explain.”
Laschar smiled nervously and then turned on one of the monitors that displayed a radar of the surrounding area. “Okay so, you know how we explained that these things are like bees right? Well, awhile back Martin and I theorized that maybe if we built a type of transponder we could mess with their signal, control the way they move.”
“Well, the beacon was exactly that. We built it to send out a matching signal to the one that we’ve recorded whenever storms roll in. And, if these past few days have been any indication; it looks like it’s working and the storms are becoming more frequent,” Laschar explained excitedly.
“Wait hold on, I don’t understand… are you saying that you actually want the storms to come here?“
“We’ve been tracking them for years, Pruitt. Monitored their patterns and determined how they operate. But for the past four years our goals have shifted to one singular objective,” Mister Kearny said as he gave a wicked smirk and added, “Find out where they originate from and knock out the colony.”
It took me a moment to process all of what they had just said and I sat down on the back end of the weather van.
A few things still weren’t adding up. “Why did we go out and snag one of them then? What was that for?“
“The beacon can only transmit one way,” Jim explained and when he saw my confused expression, he grabbed some paper and cleared off one of the desks.
“Okay, so imagine…. that this coffee cup is us okay?” he muttered as he grabbed a few other items nearby.
“Now this donut here is the transponder, it’s sending out a signal; causing the storm to form one cohesive and predictable pattern…” he paused, drawing a ring around the two objects.
“So, in order for us to receive that message we would need something to coordinate with… which is where the probe came in. Martin sent one out when we were hit by that first storm, and the plan was for it to lead us back to the nest,” he explained. I nodded, the pieces starting to form a complete picture as I stared at the makeshift map he had made.
“But the creature died… so you lost signal. No transmission received so you couldn’t pinpoint where the creatures were coming from,” I said.
“Precisely,” Jim said, surprised that I caught on so quickly. I shook my head and looked toward Kearny. “How can you even be sure there is a nest? You’ve been doing this since your daughter was little, what makes you think you even have a chance of stopping it?“
The old man gave me a stern glare but it was actually Caleb that answered the question. “Because if we don’t, eventually something will happen to all of us; the way it did to everyone else that found this place. Channel 46 will go dark and when that happens… the whole world will go to shit,” he said.
I shook my head in disbelief. “You’re talking about hunting down a force of nature like it’s a wild animal… it just doesn’t sound possible,” I admitted.
“Oh and suddenly you think you know better?” Caleb snarled as he pointed toward Natalie who was still standing dazed in the corner and adding, “Need I remind you what happened the last time you acted on your own?”
“At least I did something! All you care about is this stupid hunt, like you think it’s a big game trophy or something,” I snarled.
“You watch your tone,” he growled.
“I’m sorry, does someone have a guilty conscience?“
That was the last straw for the hunter. He punched me square in the jaw. Before I had a chance to react he was slamming his foot in my chest.
I heard Olivia and Natalie asking for him to stop, but Mitchum wasn’t listening. His anger toward me had finally reached a boiling point.
Then, just as he was about to hit me in the face again; we heard a low growl from outside.
Caleb paused and all of us looked toward the covered up monitors.
“They are still out there…” Natalie said nervously.
“Move the blankets, Jim. Let’s see,” Kearny instructed as Olivia helped me off the ground.
All of us watched in stunned silence at one of the exterior monitors where we saw what remained of Martin’s body.
The drones had torn off both his arms and devoured the majority of his chest cavity. But most of his face was still hanging on along with other vital organs just sagging off the side like discarded trash. Natalie held her mouth and screamed softly as we saw something move in the tree lines.
It was one of the monsters. It had discarded its human flesh and stretched itself to full size, towering over Martin’s body like bear. In another moment, it used its long pincers to drag his body into the woods, leaving the forest floor empty at last.
Jim turned to comfort the blonde as she continued to grieve. After another uneasy silence, I asked the question that must have been on everyone’s mind. “Why would they take his body?“
Kearny didn’t respond but Caleb was checking the radar again. Flashes of activity could seen a few miles north. “I think they’re taking him to the nest,” he realized.
“Let me see,” the old man said, his interest suddenly piqued at the possibility that they still had a chance to find whatever prize he sought to claim.
“Could be… its hard to say. We don’t get good signal here, too much interference from the tower,” Caleb said as he turned off the monitor and had a thoughtful gaze.
“But… if we got out to the transponder… we could track them easily from there. As long as we didn’t lose the signal here, we could triangulate it and then broaden our range,” he said softly.
“You really think that would work?” Olivia said with a surprise.
Jim turned his attention to the conversation and ran a few equations before nodding slightly, “Possibly. Martin did have a tracker on him when he… well, you know. He must have expected this would happen.”
I looked toward Natalie, still trying to come to terms with everything as Caleb set up a plan. “We can move all the equipment we need into the camper and use it to head for the beacon. Jim, you could coordinate from here,” he said excitedly.
“Hold on. You’re seriously thinking about going out there again? We’ve barely had a chance to even recuperate.“
“If we don’t go now the signal might be lost, and this time for good. We don’t know how long that particular beacon will even last. Jim, what do you say; could that work?” Caleb asked, turning back to the stout man.
“Theoretically… yes…” he said as the hunter clapped his hands excitedly. “But… I think I need to be the one going out there. I built the beacon so I’m more familiar with how it works.” “Okay, sure fine; you can go,” the trapper said dismissively.
“Hold on,” Olivia muttered raising her hands and looking toward her father. “We need to think this through. Who’s staying here to man the station? And more importantly, without Martin who will handle the camera equipment?” she asked.
The old man pursed his lips together, considering all of the alternatives and then muttered, “I think it will need to be you, my dear. You know this place inside and out.”
Olivia looked like she wanted to object, but didn’t say a word about that; instead focusing on the issue of equipment. “You’ll need a driver and someone else to help with the set up, Jim can’t handle it all,” she growled.
Kearny took a look at me. I knew exactly what he was thinking. “I can run the camera,” I decided. “All right then. Looks like I’m the driver,” Caleb said excitedly getting ready to leave the room.
“Not so fast,” Mister Kearny declared as he leaned on his crutch and then jabbed a finger toward the hunter. “You’re a much better gun then anyone else here, Mitchum; and that means you would be better suited to stay here and protect my daughter in case those things come back for round two,” he snapped.
The trapper looked offended that he wasn’t going to get to go but instead of arguing he remarked, “Okay, then who do you suggest as a driver?”
Kearny looked toward Natalie. The blonde’s mouth gaped open. “Me..? Sir….”
“You said yourself you wanted to do field duty. This is your chance,” the old man declared.
I didn’t bother putting my two cents in. I knew they wouldn’t listen anyway. Instead I turned to Caleb and said, “I’ll help you load up the camper.“