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Psy Zombie

Original poster
"I can't believe you let him get out."

Two people hiked through the underbrush. The woman led the way, grumbling angrily to herself as she stalked through shrubs and past snares that her companion stumbled over and swore at.

"It's not my fault!" he insisted, hopping briefly on one foot as he sought to free the other from some trailing branch on the ground. "That horse is crazy, he charged at me!"

"Which is why you're supposed to get out of the corral and shut the gate behind you, not take off like a cat with it's tail on fire!" Climbing up the hill with the roots of trees for footholds, she continued, "Do you realize... what kind of hell it's gonna be... to try and rope him and bring him back?!"

"Well then why didn't we bring some of the other horses to catch 'im with?" the man whined; the woman only glared back at him venomously, not even dignifying that with a response.

"If he's broken his leg on one of these tree roots, so help me Marcus..." As she reached the top of the hill, she came up short, oath left unfinished.

"Trish? Hey, Trish!" Marcus finally stumbled to the top of the hill and came up next to her, bending over and resting with his hands on his knees, gasping for air. "C'mon Trish, let's go back," he pleaded. "He'll come on back on his own when he gets hungry and wants his bedding, and this place spooks me, you've seen the news-"

"If you're spooked now," she interrupted, "Don't look up." Marcus turned to stare at her in confusion, then followed her gaze. The colour drained from his face.

"Oh, God, I'm gonna be sick," he whimpered faintly.


The 1989 Jeep Cherokee looked like it belonged perfectly to the small town of Meadow Bridge. Just like many of the buildings around it, it was old, the paint was chipped, and in all probability about half it's functions were shot and it was in desperate need of being mercifully put-down. Yet unlike everything (and everyone) else in Meadow Bridge, it had actually just arrived, carrying with it the one cargo that probably every single person over the age of forty (in all probability about 80-90% of the town's population) would hate most: a pair of college students from one of the not-so-nearby cities.

"...So you're positive we didn't get lost?" The girl said, peering out the permanently-stained and grimy windows at the surrounding structures.

"Of course I'm positive! When have I ever led you astray?" her male companion asked delightedly as he pulled up to the only motel within several miles of the place.

"Don't get me started, Ian," she said, jabbing a finger in his side as he laughed and parked the car and got out to unload it.

"Sooooo..." he began once everything was inside, having set his laptop on the coffee table and waiting for it to finish powering up. "We've had about a dozen lost animals, and one dead sheriff. I'm thinking we'd want to head to the freshest kill site, right Yuu?" he asked, quickly pulling up the most recent news report he'd saved. "That would put us at... investigating one farmer Duchesne, who lost one of his cows three days ago and just discovered the remains some time yesterday. His place is located about a mile down the road, we can check it out after we unpack..."

The distant wailing of a siren steadily becoming louder distracted them; moving to the window, Yuujirou opened the blinds in time to see a police car blaze past the motel at high speed. The two students looked at each other.

"How often do they have robberies in towns like this?" Ian asked.

"Probably not often," she replied. "Think it has anything to do with...?"

"Only one way to find out, right?" he grinned back, before slamming his laptop shut again and racing out the door to the jeep, Yuujirou right behind him.
It was the strangest thing...

There had only ever been two smells in the Meadow Bridge Sherriff's Station (not counting body gases), and that was coffee and tobacco. The ratio between the two aromas was as delicate a balance as the ratio between boredom and aggression. When the cops were angry they smoked and when they were bored they brewed coffee. Regular visitors to the cells (of which there were many, owing to the fact that there wasn't much to do around here after work except get drunk and pick a fight) could usually tell what kind of treatment they were going to get just by sniffing the air in the parking lot. Some said coffee days were worse than tobacco days, because on those days the sheriffs would be looking for a reason why you tripped over and bounced a few times, as the saying went.

This morning would have been a tobacco morning for sure. But that was the strangest thing... because this morning the air didn't smell of cigarettes. It smelt of strawberry. Sickly sweet, artificial strawberry.

This was a serious break in routine.

Two of the deputies paced around, both smoking like fiends and casting glares to the other side of the room. Every now and then they would drop ash into the tray on Chief Dobson's desk, stubbing out their cancer sticks with angry twists before lighting up again. It was only Chief Dobson who didn't smoke. He was more of a burger man, which wasn't too hard to work out from the sight of him. The lardass sat in his chair with his hands clasped around his belly, and while his deputies glared at their new guest, Dobson simply watched with the cold distrust of one predator seeing another stalking his kill.

From the other side of the room came the occassional sucking sound, punctuated by snatches of tunes and tutting. Agent Bowman was on his third lollipop, keeping pace with the locals and making sure the room smelt permenantly of strawberries. He rolled the stick from one side of his mouth to the other, sucking as he pondered the photographs pinned to the wall.

These were the recent victims, or rather the parts of the recent victims that they never would have wanted to be photographed and stuck to a wall.

A chihuahua, a tabby cat, a pigeon, two badgers and a mountain deer, all half as cute as they once were.

It was like Noah's evil twin had decided to quit the post office.

Reaching out, Agent Bowman straightened the pictures again, making sure they lined up with the edge of the corkboard and were equal distances apart. He had done this a few times now, as well as rearranging the items on the two desks he was stood between. The sheriffs glared at him from behind as he repeated the ritual yet again, his fingers lingering on the photo of the seventh and final victim.

Officer Daniel Wilson.

The man's wife, Catherine, had come in last evening to help clear his desk, and the memory was still sore - a memory of helpless tears and awkward silence. Daniel's colleagues hadn't put up the photos of his remains, out of respect, but now Agent Bowman had made a point of asking for them and pinning them up next to the others.

They all hated him a little bit for that. And it wasn't not just the usual hatred that locals had for the Feds. Bowman was special...

The well-dressed agent turned and removed the lollipop, his lips and tongue stained strawberry red, and his soft voice sounded across the office. "You estimate four hundred pounds?"

The deputies stared back in hostile silence, as if the meaning of the question was lost on them and only the impertinence of asking it remained. A few of them looked to Chief Dobson, who left just enough time before speaking to ensure the perfect measure of disrespect.

"Yessir. We got Grizzlies twice that in these mountains."

Bowman straightened a calendar then ran his finger along the blinds, grimacing at the dust as it caught the morning sun. "Grizzly bears that can run 40 miles per hour?"

Another hostile silence. And this time even Chief Dobson had to frown a little. The chair creaked under his weight as he leant forward and planted broad forearms on his desk. "How d'you figure, Mr FBI?"

Bowman picked up a case file and crossed the room towards the sherriffs. "Well, these tracks you found tell the whole story. For a standard quadraped to weight-bear upwards of 400lbs, the spacing between the limbs would have to be a quarter of what these tracks were, which means it was running at a speed of over 30 miles per hour to leave these impressions. The forumulas are all here."

He put the file down on the Chief's desk then stared at him while sucking the lollipop. But the Chief ignored the scribbled page of equations and refused to break eye-contact. "Well fuck me," he answered sarcastically. It must be a cat."

"Big fucking cat," added a deputy over Bowman's shoulder, as if it was somehow meant to provoke him. But Bowman simply glanced at the man and carried on rolling the lollipop stick around his mouth.

"Your shoelace is untied. And no, a feline does not attack in this way. You can tell by the pressure-punctures on the upper thorax of the victims." He pointed again at the case file. "Particularly with Officer Wilson, the shallow wounds on the chest imply that the predator didn't use its front limbs to pin the victim but rather the lower limbs. This isn't something that bears or felines d--"

"Hey RainMain!" snapped one of the deputies, finally subsiding to the grief and stress of the last few days. "That's our partner you're talking about! You show some fucking respect!"

Before an argument could break out, the phone on Chief Dobson's desk rang. Bowman glanced at it as the chief lifted the receiver. "You know how many germs are on a normal office phone?"

The Chief gave another sarcastic half-smile, half-sneer before putting the receiver to his ear. "Dobson... What? Jonesy, that you? ... Okay, slow down. ... Where are you? ... It did what? ... Shit on a stick! Okay, lock down that hillside Jonesy - no one gets in or out. We're on our way."

The Chief slammed the phone back down then, a little more slowly than was dignified, pulled himself out of his chair and put on his cap. "We got another one. The Henderson Stables. Saddle up, boys."

The deputies rushed into action, leaving Bowman frowning. "Stables? What?"

Chief Dobson pushed past him. "Son of a bitch got one of the horses."

"A horse?" As the officers got their gear together, Agent Bowman looked back at the photos and sucked long and hard on his lollipop. "Hmm," he muttered, "It's getting braver... going for bigger kills..."

He heard the doors swing open and rose from his thoughts, suddenly noticing that Dobson and the others were halfway to the squad cars.

"Hey! Wait! Wait!"

He dashed after them, pulling on his trenchcoat and leaving the office.

A few seconds passed.

He rushed back into the office, lifted the receiver of the chief's telephone, and wiped it with a handkerchief.

Then he dashed out again.
Elizabeth Rayne walked through the front door of her home, tired and exhausted. The light inside was too bright, just as it was outside, and caused her to outwardly wince at the sudden attack on her retinas. She snapped her eyes shut, feeling along the wall for the light switch, quickly finding it and turning off the headache-inducing sight.

She placed her gun in its' customary position next to the door and then eased her aching muscles onto her worn out couch, grabbing the remote that lay on the floor, beginning to flip half-heartedly through the channels. She was grateful for the suffocating was comforting.
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She paused briefly on channel three as a report flashed across the screen...the information was rather intriguing. Something about a mysterious animal and some attacks. She muted it, watched it for a few moments, and then continued to change channels. However, her eye was caught once more by the same report on a different station. They flashed up a picture of the paw-print up onto the screen. She hit pause, suddenly thanking the powers-that-be that she had digital video recording.
As <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /><st1:City><st1:place>Elizabeth</st1:place></st1:City> stared, she slowly moved from the couch onto the floor directly in front of the television, her hand reaching out and just barely brushing the screen with the most inquisitive of touches. She'd never seen anything like it...and she knew her animals.

This was large, at the very least four-hundred pounds, probably three to four feet high at the shoulder, possibly larger depending on how the weight was distributed across the unknown creature's frame. But from the shape of the pad, it was most definitely feline.

The sight of the print seemed to stir something within her...a memory perhaps; she wasn't sure. Whatever it was, it eluded her like smoke drifting through the eaves and cracks of a tightly sealed door.
She slowly stood up, working out the kinks in her legs and in her back, and then suddenly winced at the short stab of pain that accompanied the brief twist of her shoulder. Too long in any position could do that to a person. Her joints, in particular, were rather complaining.

She needed to start training again; a year ago she wouldn't have been this lazy. She hadn't properly trained in almost six months and it was getting to her body in steadily increasing increments over time.
<st1:City><st1:place>Elizabeth</st1:place></st1:City> glanced over to the door, reassuring herself that her weapon was still there and at hand...but that wasn't good enough. She walked over and lifted the strap to her shoulder. The gun would be staying with her. As she began to walk across the front room, she glanced out the front window into the woods beyond, pulling the shade down to block the glaring light.
'No such thing as too much precaution,' was the only thought that passed through her mind as she headed off to bed.<o:p></o:p>
Maersk Kingland
Near Somalia
2 years ago...

They announced their arrival with gunfire. A few pops from five or six AKs and the ship's captain brought the cargo ship to a crawl. They had lowered their accomodation ladder and the pirates scrambled aboard, shouting at the crew. The civilians complied with all their requests save for one.

The part about not resisting.

Unbeknownst to the pirates a group of six contractors were aboard and stalking the pirates.

"Tangos, main deck... Count two near foc'sle..." one of the contractors reported from his vantage point in the ship's crane. He watched them both strangled from behind by two of his coworkers. The observer shited to look at the superstructure. Three pirates were in the pilothouse, shouting at the watch team. They never noticed the two man team easing the door open and tossing a flashbang in. The observer looked away as the grenade went off, disorienting the pirates as the contractors entered, dropping the pirates with aimed fire.

"Tangos down, pilothouse." the contractors reported.

"Copy that... Break, got one more up on the accom ladder. My kill." the observer said as he set his binos down and brought an M-21 rifle up, shouldering it. He adjusted the scope then put the pirate's chest in his crosshairs. The pirate was floored as a fully jacketed, boat tailed 7.61X51 round slammed into him. "Target neutralized."

"What about their boat? I see it circling." one operator from the pilothouse team asked. The observer looked out over the ocean with his rifle and saw the boat.

"Give them a reason not to come back. Put Joseph up on the pilothouse with the 'pig.'" he replied. The observer watched one of the contractors leave the pilothouse and take a position up in the bridgewings with an M-60E4 maching gun. The belt fed, gas operated gun, the latest in a line of machine guns descended from the German MG-42. The observer watched tracers zip to and past the boat, some falling short. He saw one pirate drop, possibly hit. The skiff turned away from the cargo ship and sped away.

"Great job, people. Gather the bodies and prep them for burial. Once that task is done-" the observer was cut off by a single shot. "What the hell was that?"

"Son of a bitch... There was one left. Damn near got me." one of the contractors replied over the radio.

"What's your status, Carter?" the observer asked.

"I'm good... He's not... Blew him over the side with my shotty." Carter replied.

"Saves us time burying that skinny." another added.

"Stow that talk." the observer chided his coworker. "All hostiles are to be respected, regardless of the circumstances."

"Copy that..." The observer relaxed, letting out a sigh before opening up a small cooler and taking out a dark colored bottle with a yellow label. He took his pistol out and locked the slide to the rear, using his sidearm to open the cap before taking a quick swig of Shiner Bock.

"Captain Arcturus, I must commend you for your work." the ship's captain said over the radio to the observer, Captain Hayden Earle Arcturus.

"We're just doing our job, sir." he replied. "Nothing more, nothing less..."


5 miles from Meadow Bridge
Present day...

"Colemeyer, you guys come up with something?" Hayden asked over the radio. He and four other contractors were in a converted 1998 Toyota 4Runner, the all wheel drive vehicle much different from those one would find in a car lot. It had been uparmored, the frame strengthened and a special hatch in the roof that could have any number of mounted weapons fitted up to it.

Said mount was empty. They had no need for a fifty cal or Minigun Stateside.

"Negative, sir. We just picked up Roberts and DeJong. They found animal tracks but nothing like what we're after." Colemeyer replied. Hayden swore, his driver negotiating a sharp turn in the jeep trail. Before Hayden could reply the police scanner started squaking. The sherrif's department was mobilizing in response to someone losing a horse.

"The menti are moving." Misha said as he negotiated another sharp turn in the trail.

"So are we..." Hayden replied, keying the radio. "Colemeyer, you hear the sherrif's chatter?"

"Lima Charlie. We're Mike Oscar." the other contractor replied.

"Copy that. Bear in mind, sherrif's department knows we're here, they just don't know we're listening in on them." the contractor added. He then turned to the other operators in the truck. "Lock and load."