Kaife Walker is a lucky man. Relatively wealthy, he has the
luxury of pursuing his many interests with lavish attention. Several of his
hobbies are old things, antiques as they are called. He collects antique
aircraft, antique statues and antique firearms. The weapons are not his
favorite, but they do get him outdoors which sparks the adventurer in him. Of
course trophy hunting went out of style long ago and for a couple of
hundred years the only hunting that happened on Earth was for survival. But
during the last century or two, the increasingly wealthy people of the planet
went looking for more space in their lives. Some of them took up the mantle of
the big game hunters of old. Kaife Walker is one of those.
particular week he was in the far North, roaming the moraines pushed up at the
feet of Californias Sierra Nevada glaciers. To his left stretched the
vast wasteland of the central valley of California. Even with the help of his
display it was barely visible from within the blizzard they were struggling
through. Modern gear or not, only strong people with stronger constitutions
purposefully ventured out on foot in raging blizzards Nature is
Kaifes right towered the western edge of the Sierra ice cap, which he
caught sight of occasionally through the flurries. It was the hilly zone below
it that attracted his attention; high enough to get some precipitation and yet
low enough not to be frozen all year round. This strip of land still hosted
quite a lot of wildlife and the plants they needed; what few plants there were
that could survive the freezing winters, erratically torrid summers and titanic
storms. The top of the food chain in this region was the grizzly bear, which
had survived other large species due to its leaner diet, smaller size and
sturdy constitution. In Kaifes opinion it was also the grizzlys
generally nasty disposition that helped. Whatever the reason, the grizzly was
now king of the hill in the post-glacial wilds of North America.
along behind the hunter were his expedition leader, tracker and several
helpers. Flanking the leader stalked a pair of gun bearers modern guns
that is, not antiques like Kaife had. His gun dated back several hundred years
and fired rounds with no guidance. Such weapons usually hit their mark, but
only usually. This compared poorly to modern hunting weapons which always hit
their mark and guaranteed a kill. Only the relatively low popularity of hunting
and the now sparse surviving human population kept grizzlies from being run
into extinction. Kaife wondered if that had been a problem before, when there
were more people on the planet. He thought idly to himself Thats
probably something they taught me in school.
So far the
day held promise. The weather was going to improve and when the blizzard
lifted, animals would leave their cover in search of food. Kaife would be
waiting for them.
paused to eat, and even as the leader checked his reports the wind began to die
down, gusts became easier and less likely to knock everyone off their feet.
They spent the next hour resting; after that, the march north would resume
until late afternoon. Kaife lay on his back on the soft ground and
absentmindedly scraped his heels in the snow as he watched shredded clouds
flying overhead it was still high winds up there; occasionally some
fleeting patches of vivid blue showed through the overcast. Down on the ground
it remained wickedly cold.
while he got up and returned to the expedition leader, who sat munching quietly
on a bit of food as he continued to skim over his reports. Everyone was
slightly listless and tired from the long exertion. Suddenly one of the gun
bearers held up a hand; all of their internal networks came alive with a
warning: "Alert! Bearing 52 degrees." followed immediately by a tactical map of
movement to the northeast.
party froze. At some distance, the sound of a large animal thumping and
thundering along could be heard. Four weapons came silently up as the party
waited. But the sound passed and the bearer spared a few seconds to look back
and motion to a nearby cut. All four men stalked slowly and quietly up the bank
and peered over the edge. They were greeted by an astonishing sight.
meters away was a large male grizzly bear, standing off against its wild
opponent. The grizzly stood on its haunches for some seconds and roared,
dropping back onto all fours and putting its head down as if to receive a
This was all
fine and normal. What was not fine or normal was the grizzlys opponent.
Standing up on the rocks was an animal nobody in the hunting party had ever
seen. It stood about the same height as the grizzly, but looked for all the
world like some strange cross between a cape buffalo and
maybe a leopard
or lion. Its sides heaved in and out, revealing heavy overlapping ribs. The
color of its hide was difficult to distinguish; it had dark cream colored
flanks which gave way through a line of jagged stripes to a deep blue-black
down the length of its spine. Baring its teeth, it gave a roaring, screeching
hiss at the bear. It displayed by raking its stout claws on the
rock, drawing small sparks. Kaife and the leader looked at each other in
disbelief. As if a statue from the ancient world had been brought to life and
dropped into the rock and snow, the animal lowered itself and stalked heavily
but steadily closer to the bear. Looking at each other and back at the
expedition leader, nobody knew what to do. One thing was certain, the slightest
noise was totally out of the question, and Kaife looked back at the rest of the
team with his finger to his lips.
Back on the
flats, the grizzlys opponent stepped slowly off the rock outcrop. As it
slunk onto the hard ground, its foot sank deeply. Whatever this thing was, it
was heavy. Making an odd grupping noise at the bear, the giant predator lowered
its head and conducted a short mock charge. The bear unwilling to give
ground and too mean to do nothing countercharged and headed straight at
its bristling enemy. With a quick jump revealing agility one would not expect
from something so large and heavy, the creature kicked forward and rushed the
bear, head down with all of those lethal claws plowing gaps through the hard
slowed, maybe expecting to swat its opponent aside before breaking its neck.
Instead, the creature gave a quick thrust of a claw-armed paw and flayed the
bears front leg wide open. The grizzly roared in pain and lashed out with
the other claw, but its attacker jerked upward and with lightning speed gored
the bear right through the throat with its horns. Using the impetus it had
built up in the charge, it rammed the bear and smashed it onto its side. The
grizzly collapsed as the other animal twisted its head and literally tore the
bears throat out in one unstoppable movement. The creature pulled loose
from the bears convulsions and stood, sniffing into the wind.
Unbelievable. Walker thought. This thing is a real
animal. Now he was afraid. If
it had been some kind of stupid robotic project that would be one thing, but
this creature looked and acted
well, terrifyingly natural. He didnt
care who designed it or whether they had done it without the proper licenses.
The problem now was it being only two hundred short meters away.
Walker, the right gun bearer quietly waved forward one of the helpers who gave
him a spare weapon. He gladly abandoned his replica antique in the snow and
accepted the new gun along with military ammunition that the expedition leader
was handing out.
The left gun
bearer hissed something inaudible at the others, who looked out to see the
giant animal standing motionless, looking directly toward them. It was no
longer sniffing at the wind. Damn. the hunter muttered.