TEASER - Dominant Species by William Burke
Date Published: 11-09-2022
Publisher: Severed Press
Genetic scientists have created a species of virtually indestructible living weapons, codenamed the Olympians. But they made one mistake: Never create what you can’t destroy.
After surviving his battle against prehistoric scorpions, mercenary Dave Brank sought seclusion—a chance to heal in the arms of his equally traumatized lover, Emily Lennox. Their bliss is cut short when North Korean agents hijack a dozen genetically engineered dinosaur hybrids from a secret lab. Brank discovers that these creatures aren’t just mindless, living weapons—their genetically engineered brains are evolving at a staggering rate, approaching human intelligence. He grapples with the prospect of killing sentient beings that never asked to be created, while Emily discovers secrets hidden within the lab that make her question who the real monsters are. Brank’s hand is forced when the Olympians escape their Korean captors, fleeing into the desert to feed on their mortal enemy—man. But hunting them down places him in the crosshairs of North Korean assassins eager to reclaim their prize.
Humans and Olympians collide in a deadly showdown, with the winner becoming earth’s dominant species.
Emily was halfway to the veterinary lab when the klaxon sounded; laboratory doors on either side of her slid open on their own.
“What the hell?”
The lights flickered and shut off. Wall mounted emergency fixtures kicked in, barely illuminating the corridor. Emily sprinted down the hall, determined to find Kavanaugh and bug out as fast as possible. She rounded the corner just in time to see Dr. Giove running in the opposite direction.
Walsh appeared at the lab window, screaming and frantically pointing at the door.
Emily realized he was gesturing at an emergency release on the door jamb. She twisted it and tried to push the sliding door open to no avail. She grabbed a wall mounted fire extinguisher and hurled it at the window. It bounced off without doing any damage.
Emily drew the pistol, shouting, “Clear!”
Something leapt onto Walsh. In the dim light Emily could make out that the thing was at least fifty pounds and glowing. Walsh’s face slammed against the window, his blood smearing the glass. A moment later, he dropped out of sight.
Emily spotted Kavanaugh at the far side of the room trying to hold back another creature.
It was a losing battle.
Emily took two steps back, raising the massive revolver. She pulled the trigger, but the hammer clicked on an empty cylinder.
The creature reappeared, pressing its face to the window. Bulging pink eyes glared at her with rabid intensity. Its bloody fangs scratched at the reinforced glass.
Emily pulled the trigger again. The pistol kicked like a mule, slamming her against the corridor wall, a sonic boom echoing in her skull.
The massive .454 Casull round tore through the window, blowing the Harpy in half. The flattened projectile continued its trajectory, detonating an X-ray machine in a shower of glass and metal shrapnel.
Emily surveyed the damage, her eardrums throbbing. There was a basketball-sized hole in the window and the remainder had spiderwebbed. After two hard kicks the window collapsed into a thousand shards. She climbed into the dim room, pistol at the ready.
Walsh lay sprawled on the floor, his body wracked with convulsions, face and neck covered in bite marks. Massive boils erupted on his skin then burst, as if he were being cooked from within.
The Harpy at the window had been blown in half; another lay writhing in a pool of blood at the center of the room, its body peppered with shrapnel from the X-ray machine.
Emily’s mind flashed back to her travels in Zimbabwe, where her guide’s car had been besieged by a troop of baboons. The Harpies resembled those vicious primates, right down to the bared canine fangs. But the Harpies looked like they’d been flayed alive, with sinewy muscle and throbbing veins visible beneath milky, translucent skin. Their organs glowed from within, like some deep sea creature.
They were a nightmare made flesh.
The thunderous pistol shot had sent the Harpies into a momentary retreat. Emily heard the clatter of falling surgical instruments near the wall and spotted a glowing shape slipping behind some machinery. Four more were lurking around the perimeter of the room, using the equipment as cover. She heard a crash to her right and spun around, weapon cocked.
Kavanaugh popped up from behind a cardiac monitor, shouting, “Don’t shoot!”
Emily climbed up onto the main surgical table, yelling, “Try to get over here.”
Kavanaugh took a few furtive steps. The boldest Harpy vaulted over a diagnostic machine, coming straight for her. She raised a steel tray, blocking the attack, but the Harpy kept pressing forward, its long fingers gripping the edge of the tray.
Emily lobbed a plastic bin of surgical tools at the Harpy, shouting, “Hey!”
It turned, locking eyes with Emily. A heartbeat later it pounced, landing atop a blood analyzer then launching again, straight at her.
Emily raised the pistol and fired. This round was .410 buckshot. Three of the five lead balls caught the Harpy midair, sending it rocketing backward. It landed in a bloody heap near Kavanaugh.
Emily shouted, “Come on!”
Kavanaugh hopped onto an examination table and grabbed a ceiling mounted surgical light then swung herself over to the next light, latched on to it and swung again. She landed like a gymnast on the surgical table next to Emily who was stunned by the frail-looking woman’s grace.
Kavanaugh pointed at the shattered window. “They’re blocking the way out.”
Emily saw that three of the Harpies had circled around, strategically blocking the only exit.
Emily muttered, “So much for being afraid of guns.”
One of them bounded across the room on all fours; Emily kicked a nearby gurney sending it toppling over, pinning the Harpy under the dead security guard. Emily shifted her focus to three more clustered near the containment area entrance. One charged at the operating table, shrieking like a banshee. It covered half of the distance on all fours before leaping. Emily fired, hitting it midair with the buckshot load’s full force. The Harpy burst like a piñata, chunks of it flying back into the pack. The others shrank back, but Emily knew their retreat wouldn’t last long.
Kavanaugh said, “Shoot the rest!”
“I’m out of bullets.”
Emily glanced around her for some kind of weapon. In the dim light she spotted flashing green LED lights on a tall, wheeled machine. It was the laser torch’s DC power supply.
The laser cutter was mounted on an articulated arm suspended from the ceiling. Emily grabbed it, asking, “Does this thing work?”
Kavanaugh nodded while throwing a trio of switches on the console. “It’s still holding a charge.” She tossed Emily a set of welder’s goggles.
Emily glanced at the laser torch, relieved to see there was just a single trigger switch.
She heard a loud clatter, followed by a chorus of squealing. The Harpies were on the move. She swung the laser torch towards the window, slipping the goggles over her eyes. For a moment everything was black, until she pressed the trigger.
The room lit up with the blinding light of an extended camera flash. The silhouetted shape of a Harpy near the window exploded in a burst of smoke and flame. A shower of sparks erupted from the wall behind it. The second Harpy’s shoulder ignited in a flash of blue fire.
Emily swung the laser towards the containment area, blindly firing bursts. Acrid smoke filled the air, but the high-pitched squeal and the stench of roasting flesh told her she’d hit something.
The Harpies scrambled for cover, momentarily blinded by the laser torch.
Emily pressed the trigger again, but the battery was drained.
She yelled, “Now!” while jumping off the table and making for the broken window.
Kavanaugh grabbed the laser torch’s articulated arm and swung over, landing, knees bent, a few feet from the window. A wounded Harpy blindly lashed out, raking its nails across her ankle. Kavanaugh shrieked and dropped to the floor. Emily latched on to her arm, dragging her into the corridor.
Kavanaugh said, “It got me!”
Emily helped her down the corridor.
“It’s okay, it just scratched you,” but she could already feel Kavanaugh slowing down.
“They spit on their paws to spread out the venom.”
“Well, the good news is that I nailed a couple.”
With a groan, Kavanaugh said, “There are twelve of them.”
Emily thought, Good news dies fast around here.
Kavanaugh’s knees buckled, nearly dragging Emily to the floor.
She said, “Just leave me, the venom’s going to get me anyway.”
“Screw that. Even if I got away, Torres would kill me.”
Glancing back, Emily saw a cluster of Harpies emerge from the smoke-filled lab. She dragged Kavanaugh along, the woman growing heavier with each step. She saw labs to their left and right, but all of their sliding doors were locked open. Death traps.
Someone yelled, “Over here!”
Emily saw Ace up ahead waving his arms.
Emily shouted, “She’s hurt!
Ace seemed to float towards them; then Emily realized he was riding the Segway. As soon as Ace reached them he hopped off, letting the Segway continue zipping down the corridor.
Slinging Kavanaugh over his shoulder, he said, “Follow me,” and started running.
Emily looked back and watched the Harpies descend on the unmanned Segway. The ruse had bought them a few seconds.
Ace stopped at a doorway, yelling, “In, in!”
“But the door won’t close!”
The Harpies were now charging down the corridor en masse.
Ace shouted, “Just do it!” and shoved her through the door.
The doorway led to a short corridor, emptying into a larger room crammed with rows of computer servers.
The second they were through Ace slammed the steel door shut and threw the bolt. They heard the Harpies throwing themselves against it, screeching in rage.
Ace laid Kavanaugh on the floor and said, “This server room still has old-school fire doors that weigh a ton. The army engineers bitched so much about removing them that they finally just left them in place.”
Emily knelt down over Kavanaugh, saying, “Well, at least they can’t get in.”
“The only problem is that we can’t get out.”
About the Author
DOMINANT SPECIES is William Burke’s fourth novel, following a long career in film and television. He was the creator and director of the Destination America paranormal series Hauntings and Horrors and the OLN series Creepy Canada, as well as producing the HBO productions Forbidden Science, Lingerie and Sin City Diaries. His work has garnered high praise from network executives and insomniacs watching Cinemax at 3 a.m.
During the 1990’s Burke was a staff producer for the Playboy Entertainment Group, producing eighteen feature films and multiple television series. He’s acted as Line Producer and Assistant Director on dozens of feature films—some great, some bad and some truly terrible.
Aside from novels Burke has written for Fangoria Magazine, Videoscope Magazine and is a regular contributor to Horrornews.net.
He also served in the United States Air Force, reaching the rank of sergeant.
His YouTube Channel is http://www.youtube.com/c/BillBurke