Bogeyman

This is a reconstruction… based on meeting notes and the publicly available log files of the participants. –EAB

Morning …Day 13

About fifty of the colonists were gathered in the town hall for a hastily called Council session concerning the events surrounding Jack Seaworth’s death. The sun had crept above the horizon barely an hour earlier, and few had slept a wink since awakened by the shots and Jack’s last screams. The group investigating the scene had just returned to camp.

“I call this meeting to order!” Lester Reye shouted, banging his gavel. As the crowd quieted down he continued, “What happened last night was a tragedy. But right now what we are most concerned with is understanding what happened so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again. For the time being the fact finding and questioning may only be conducted by Council, representing the citizenry at large, or by those colonists delegated to the initial scene investigation.”

“Ms. Benjamin, perhaps you could start us off by recounting in detail what you saw last night.” Reye continued.

“As I said, I didn’t get the best look in the world at the thing. I can tell you…

Four hours earlier

She started jogging around the tents towards the north. How could she have been so absent minded as to miss the silence?

“Jack,” she said into the pad, “Jack, are you there?” Nothing. She knew what was going to happen now, and she was too late, but she sped up anyway, her legs churning under her. Then a single shot rang out and the night shattered with a scream of pure agony.

She rounded the corner she saw a beast that the denizens of hell would quake before. Its hide seemed the color of dried blood and its eyes glinted red in her light.

She started firing. The thing was a dozen feet at the shoulder if it was a foot, and half again as long with vicious horns atop its gruesome head. Fifteen shots ripped through the night into its hide, but it hardly seemed to care. As the clip emptied the beast shook itself as if shooing away a pesky insect and dropped Jack’s bloody corpse from its jaws. She released the magazine from her rifle and slammed in another, but the thing had already gone.

The meeting

“Now of course you didn’t hit it more than a few times. At that distance…? You have to understand, Ms. Benjamin, that we need all the facts here.” Reye interjected.

“I hit it six times in the head, nine in the chest, and placed them where I figured the vital organs would most likely be,” she replied.

Reye gave a skeptical look and jotted down, “Insists she could not have missed with any of the shots.” He then said, “Comments from the scene investigation team.?”

William Bartlett spoke first. “It was dark out, foggy as all get out, and as you explained last night the distance was about two hundred yards when you shined your light on the creature, saw it, and took your shots. With all of that in mind it is remarkable that your description of the creature is as complete as you’ve been able to make it.”

“What about your bot?” Bartlett asked, “Did it see anything?”

Jaisa went on to explain that she had stationed her robot further south and west of her position and it hadn’t time to get up to Seaworth’s guard area before the action commenced.

“Where was Jack’s bot when all of this happened?” Bartlett asked next.

“I don’t know, never saw it.” Was the response.

Kara quickly scanned the robot database and said, “R.121 — he hadn’t even named the bot yet — is listed as being in the general labor pool at the time Jack was killed.” She then added. “I guess he hadn’t gotten used to working with robots yet.”

Jack the Blade kicked in from the back in a mocking tone, “And now he never will.”

A sharp rap of the gavel and Les Reye spoke. “Quiet in the room. Everyone who wants to say something will get their chance but not until the facts have been established.”

The next question came from Connor Benjamin. “Were any of the other bots in a position to see what occurred? Or did their sensors detect anything unusual around the time Jack was killed?

Robot J.P., acting as the common interface for all of the robots replied, “Every robot, not in sleep mode or undergoing recharge at the time of the incident, has a record of hearing Mr. Seaworth’s shot and all subsequent shots. Two robots report hearing Mr. Seaworth’s screams. None register anomalous readings within the 30 minutes prior to the incident. Earlier in the evening, 47 minutes before the record of the first shot, R. Dan Daily, who was at the time 900 yards south and west of the incident location, registered something large in the forest far to the west of his location. The contact detection was ambiguous and weak; it lasted for 26 seconds and then faded away. As R. Dan Daily was acting as mill guard, and there was no approach made toward the lumbering operation, his instructions precluded leaving position to investigate. There are no other observations by any other robot which would indicate a possible connection with Mr. Seaworth’s death.”

“Yes then, thank you R. J.P.” Connor turned to Andy Stewart and asked, “Andy, could you fill us in on the conditions and evidence as you saw it this morning?”

“Jaisa didn’t miss; it’s just that she was firing issue penetrators, in fact she probably did hit with all 15 as I found no impact strikes on any of the trees. There was a fair amount of blood out there and DNA scans from the lab show it wasn’t all Seaworth’s. The ground where the body was dumped was still damp from the last few days’ rain, and though it was sandy there, it was just firm enough to hold some of the creature’s footprints. They were indistinct at best… about a foot long by eight or nine inches wide with faint lines still visible in a few indicating claws of some sort or another. More than two legged but just how many we couldn’t confirm. We were able to follow its path for about 150 yards till it reached a rocky area further north. Whatever bleeding it had been experiencing seems to have stopped by that time and we were unable to track it further.

“It is my intent” he continued, “to engage the skills of Sinopia and some equipment I dug out just before coming here for a further tracking effort.”

“Good. I’ve no doubt she can find it if any of us can.” Connor replied.

“Where is Sinopa? I haven’t seen her at the bar in a few days.” Hanna Parker interrupted.

Reye‘s gavel came down again, “You are out of order Mrs. Parker. Questions from the investigation team first. Your turn will come…. Please proceed, Mr. Stuart?— Mr. Benjamin?”

“She’s been in the field tracking and gathering data on the local animals since the eighth. She’s scheduled to be back this morning, so I expect we’ll see her shortly.” Connor replied.

“What? With that thing out there? She was supper days ago you naïve yokel!” Jack t B exclaimed.

“Order!” Reye shouted, banging his gavel. He was beginning to turn red and was clearly becoming agitated.

“I’m afraid I have to agree,” Buchanan chimed in. “While Jack’s outburst lacked a certain, shall we say, compassion, he is right. Even if she was a good hunter back on Earth there’s no way she could survive alone that long in the same forest as whatever killed Jack.”

As Reye raised his gavel once more Connor waved the next ‘order’ away. He said, “While I appreciate your concern, she’s fine. I’ve seen Sinopa sneak up on a wolf. I’ve seen her tend a wild grizzly’s wounds and kill a catamount with nothing but a knife. She’ll be here within the hour.”

“Alright, enough on these extraneous matters.” Reye said, and then nodding towards Kurt, “Dr. Kellerman will conduct an autopsy and the results will be appended to this report.” And then with a look at Jaisa, “Ms. Benjamin, do you have anything substantive to add to what we have already covered?”

Four hours earlier

She sprinted past the tents to Jack’s body. It was hardly recognizable as human, let alone as the man she had started the shift with. Andy and Mariana were already there, with Connor, Ash, Rocco, Joe, Ryu and the Pierces close behind. As the rest of the colonists streamed out of their tents the screaming and sobbing began.

“What do we do, what do we do?” cried one woman, grasping at Lester Reye. He just stared at her, bug eyed and slack jawed. The majority crowd was quickly falling apart.

“Everyone, please return to your tents. It’s unlikely in the extreme that the thing will be back tonight, but for safety’s sake please either return to your tents or go to Hanna’s and stay there until morning. And families, please stay together. We’ll be sending someone around to check on everyone shortly.” Connor shouted above the din, wearing nothing but boxers and an assault rifle.

“We’re setting up a grid with robots around the entire camp as we speak and will have our full guard contingent out, but for your safety, please don’t venture outside until morning.” Andy Stuart reassured the slowly quieting crowd.

“The Council will meet this morning at 5 o’clock. Please come, but for now we need your cooperation to make sure you’re all safe.” Mariana said.

The meeting

“No, nothing substantive, no.” Jaisa replied.

Pounding his gavel again, Reye said, “This session is now open to questions from the floor.”

They all started talking at once.

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Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
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All Contents (written or photo/artwork) not attributed to other sources is
Copyright (C) 2006 - 2011 by Jeff Soyer. All rights reserved.