“With the advent of genetic engineering, the time required for the evolution of new species may literally collapse.”
It was a tiring job being a security guard. Brian Tanner had been promised a lot more by the scientists when he was hired.
He expected to try to fight off burglars, and the promotional sticker which said, ‘So, you think you’re James Bond?’ didn’t help, but he found out too late that his job would only amount to sitting down and staring at a computer screen. Not even security cameras or something interesting like that, but merely a screen with some tables on it.
He sighed in exasperation as he gulped down the third coffee that morning. He hadn’t had any sleep in a couple of days. He recalled how he had tried to catch a few minutes of sleep a couple of times, but he was always woken up by the damn siren.
Why did they need a security guard, he figured, if they were watching every single thing he was doing on a monitor anyway? What was the point?
Brian yawned, taking in another gulp of coffee. Just gotta make it through today, he thought to himself, and I can tell them where to stick this job.
He started to think of what he would do after he quit. He’d always wanted to get enough money to travel the world, visiting places like Machu Picchu and the Caribbean. By now, it seemed he would never achieve that dream.
As this thought crossed through his mind, he was jolted back to reality by the sudden beeping coming from the monitor in front of him. He looked down at the monitor.
|PTB-1||13||Mystacina tuberculata x Mus musculus||Compromised|
|PTB-2||5||Rhinopoma microphyllum x Pygocentrus sp. x Menura superba
|PTB-3||2||Lyroderma lyra x Gymnothorax javanicus
Brian noticed it right away. He really had no idea what any of the charts meant – he knew the term Mus musculus somehow, but that was about it – but that one of the cells said “compromised” was certainly worrying. He reached towards his radio and flicked it on, bringing it up to his ear.
Almost instantaneously, a burst of static erupted from the speakers. Brian recoiled, barely preventing himself from throwing the radio onto the ground. Still, he somehow clung onto his composure and spoke.
‘This is Security Officer Tanner. It looks like–’ He looked back down at the monitor. ‘It looks like PTB-1’s containment has been compromised. Over.’ Really, he had no idea what any of it meant. It just sounded good to him. He quickly pulled the radio away from his ear before letting go of the button. Another blast of static.
‘Is there anyone there?’ There was silence. There wasn’t even static this time, just simple silence. He carefully put the radio back down and looked around the room.
Things were completely silent. All Brian could hear was the sound of his heartbeat and his slightly shaky breathing. But he soon realized that not all was silent. There was a quiet, chittering noise coming from under his desk. It sounded like it was coming from right by his feet. He pushed himself away from his desk slowly and looked underneath.
It was a bat.
Brian stared, bewildered, at the little animal. How did it get in here? How was it making those noises?
It looked up and stared back at him for a moment, before continuing what it was doing. It was chewing one of the computer cables.
Maybe it was the bat that cut off the radios. He looked back at the monitor.
|PTB-1||14||Mystacina tuberculata x Mus musculus||Compromised|
He finally realized what was going on. He could remember very little from biology class, but one thing he did learn was Latin names. Mus musculus.
This creature was part-mouse.
Looking at the tiny bat, or mouse, or even both at the same time, a thought passed through Brian’s head. There must have been a reason that the scientists never told him what he was dealing with.
He heard a slight squeak to his left, looked up, and saw another mouse-bat. He didn’t really have anything else to call them, so he just chose that name on the spot. He looked back up at the table.
It said there were 14 mouse-bats out there, but it also showed something else.
|PTB-2||5||Rhinopoma microphyllum x Pygocentrus sp.
Whatever these next creatures were, there were five of them. And now, they were out. He stared at the graph. Unlike the mouse-bats, there was something else under the Latin names. There were the initials ‘HG’.
Brian sat in total silence, racking his brain to try and find out what HG meant. He could figure out that ‘G’ probably stood for ‘Genome’, considering the circumstances, but he couldn’t figure out what HG stood for.
He heard a bang on the door, scattering his thoughts.
‘Is there anyone there?’ he heard a male voice say outside.
‘Yeah,’ Brian said, scrambling to get up. “Who are you?”
‘We’ll have to make our way out through the fire exit. The PTB-2s are blocking the main entrance.’
Something about the way the man was speaking made him immediately suspicious.
‘Okay, but ... who are you?’
There was silence outside for about a minute.
‘Just come outside,’ the man said. ‘I’ll have us out in no time.’
Brian thought of what he was going to do next. Should he listen to him? Is ‘he’ even a person? He didn’t think it would be that surprising if whatever these people had made could mimic people.
A single phrase made up his mind for him.
‘Okay, but ... who are you?’ It was his voice. The thing outside was mimicking his voice. It must have picked up his voice from the radio or something. Brian didn’t know, and frankly, he didn’t care.
He made his way cautiously to the door, grabbing his radio. He had a plan. ‘Okay, I’m coming out,’ he said.
There was silence on the other side of the door for a few seconds.
After about ten seconds the tapping started. It was light, and barely perceptible, but Brian knew he wasn’t hearing things. He slowly bent down and peered under the door. There was nothing blocking it, but he could still hear the tapping.
‘Three,’ he whispered to himself.
There was another tap right after he said this.
He threw the door open as wide as he could, flinging himself behind it as he did so. He couldn’t see much, but he could vaguely make out something behind the door. It was another bat. He quietly took in a gulp of air – as quietly as he could, at least – and waited for it to go back out. If it’s anything like the others, he figured, as soon as it realizes something else is here, it’ll leave.
Brian carefully peered around the door, trying to confirm what he had hoped. Sure enough, the mouse-bats had vanished into the numerous holes they had made in the wall. He couldn’t see the new bat, though.
Then, he heard the last thing he wanted to hear, coming from inside the room.
‘Is there anyone there?’
It was the voice. The same bloody voice he had heard outside. Brian let out an audible gasp as he realized this.
The voice came yet again. ‘Just come outside. I’ll have us out in no time.’ The radio suddenly came to life as the seemingly-disembodied voice stopped.
‘Tan— Tanner, are you there?’ the voice on the other side of the radio said. Brian recognized the voice as the head scientist. ‘Tanner?’
‘I’m in here,’ Brian said. ‘The hell’s happening out there?’
There was a brief pause. ‘Try not to panic. There’s been a sitewide breach in containment.’
Brian spent a moment trying to comprehend what was going on, when he remembered something. The creature was still in the room.
‘We’ll have to make our way out through the fire ent–’ The voice suddenly stopped. Then, it flew past the door, and landed on the ground in front of him. It hadn’t seen him. Not yet.
The creature was a bat, all right. It was nothing like the others, though. Its snout was much longer, and its eyes faced forwards, rather than to the side.
What struck Brian the most, though, were its teeth. They were huge, triangular things, which almost looked too big to fit in its jaws. And they were already covered in blood. The bat turned to face him, and instead of hissing or squeaking, it did the one thing Brian hoped it wouldn’t.
It spoke. ‘Okay, but ... who are you?’
The creature that had been copying his voice, and presumably someone else’s, was a bat. Brian and the mimicking bat stared at each other for a few moments. Then it went for him.
The bat catapulted itself into the air with its powerful wings, flying straight at him. He flung himself sideways as it flew straight at him. The bat hit its mark, leaving a large gash in Brian’s arm. Now forced against the door, Brian tried to slap the bat away, but it managed to dodge.
A deep slash across his forearm caused an immediate sting of pain. He gritted his teeth in agony and slammed his other fist into the skull of a second bat. The creature slumped onto the floor.
This was no time to think, though. Brian sprinted out to the door and ran out. ‘Hello! Hello!’ he shouted. ‘Is there anyone out there?’
From outside, he heard the sounds of another struggle. Brian pushed open the door and ran out, then paused. Something was off. And then he saw the shadow of something coming down the hallway, something that very clearly wasn’t a human.
There was nowhere to go. And he was too weak. He was going to die. Then his gaze was drawn to a large window in the far corner. Something, some movement, there, in the corner. Something big.
Something moving fast.
A door burst open. Brian ran to the window, throwing it open. The moonlight shone bright on the street. He tried to shout at the top of his voice, but he could only croak, the noise raw and painful.
Something grabbed the back of his shirt and he was hauled away from the window. He hit the floor hard, and he was still. A huge, hunch-backed creature stood over him, pinning him down with forelimbs which were somehow both abnormally slender yet muscular.
Brian couldn’t breathe. Then, something grabbed his leg. He tried to kick, but it was too late. There was a sharp sting. He cried out, but then the first creature clamped its jaws down around his throat. As it bit down, he felt a second pair of jaws inside the creature’s oesophagus as it tore out his throat.
Through his blurring eyes, he could faintly discern the forms of guards in body armour running down the corridor, opening fire on the creature. One of them ran up to Brian and knelt down beside him. And then, the pain suddenly stopped.
So, for that matter, did everything else.
Written by Palaeontologica