01 February 2012

Chapter 7: A Dish Served Cold

(Chapter 1) 
(Chapter 2)

Copper Center, Alaska:

The team was huddled in a hunting cabin on the Klutina River, most of them sitting near the fireplace. Two-inch-thick hoar frost coated everything, the world seemingly one shade of white with the sky, trees, buildings, vehicles, and ground all matching. It made their eyes hurt to stare too long, as optic centers worked in a vain attempt to perceive depth.

"What's the temperature out there?" Tom asked for the third time. 

"About 48 below," answered Jim. "Practically break-up* weather, pilgrim." Everyone laughed, but not for long. "When you go to the outhouse, you'd best wear snow goggles, and take along a few sheets of newspaper to spread on the seat. You don't want the 'ring of shame' from frostbite around your backside."

"Dude, TMI!" and other remarks and catcalls greeted Jim's announcement.  "Fine, gentlemen. Go ahead and freeze to the toilet seat. Then we'll see how tough you really are.
   "Hey, speaking of people ... has anyone heard from Jamie or Sandman?"

Rick looked up from the e-mail reports he'd been reading. "They've got their hands full in Angoon." He pushed back from the table and stretched his long legs. "You guys want to hear the rest of the story about Harvey?"


At that moment, the two Hunters were face-down in a clump of tall grass near the floatplane harbor. Flaming debris sailed over their heads, splashing into the water behind them. 

"What the heck WAS that thing?"

Sandy shook his head. "I've never seen anything like that. It's the size of a luska, but ..."

Jamie asked, "Isn't a luska that giant-squid-with-a-shark-head thing?"

"Yeah, and they can be anywhere from the size of a car to a bus. That thing's the right size, but it looks ... frozen. It doesn't have tentacles, either."

"Then what's it using to throw that stuff in the air?"

"I don't know, Jamie. Did your dad ever mention anything like it?"

"No, he never fought anything from the ocean at all. The teams in his day were busy with were-creatures: bears, moose and a few vampire salmon."

"Vampire salmon?  You're just making that up."

She grinned. "You wish. Come on; I've got an idea."

Copper Center:

"Come on, Rick, don't keep us in suspense."

"Okay. Where was I?  Oh, right, the attacks on the hunting cabins...   Zeb Cavanaugh taught Jake to be a Hunter, and told him about the things they'd caught - and the things that got away. Jake always hoped he'd get a chance to find out about that 'moose with the glowing eyes'.
"They had the usual monsters: were-bears, ice zombies, wolf packs that would suddenly attack settlers for no reason ... stuff that we've all seen. No reports of a zombie moose, or any other kind. Then shortly after I came up in '75, we started hearing the stories again. A hunter or trapper would fail to check back in, or a popular hunting cabin would be found in splinters, that sort of thing. 

"We'd check 'em out, and sometimes found some really large moose tracks mixed in at the scenes, but there were never any survivors to tell us what happened. We took a few of the were-bears, and the PUFF bounty was coming in steady. It kept us in equipment and food, and we were able to improve our gear and equipment. Bought some better weapons, too. It was a good time to be a Hunter.

"Then a family in Kenny Lake told us they'd seen a big moose with red eyes. A guy had gone out with an M1 Garand to track the moose, but didn't come back. His wife told us she'd heard a few shots fired, but then nothing else. We searched the area and finally spotted tracks along the ridge above the river. We found some empty brass, and prints from hiking boots, but no blood or other sign. The strangest part was ..."

"C'mon, Rick, don't leave us hanging again!" said Dusty. "You can't rightly jus' stop there."

"Sorry; got lost in my thoughts for a minute." Rick walked to a frosted window and tried to see out without success. He moved his chair closer to the fire and put one foot up to rest his aching knee. "Anyway, there was the strangest feeling in the air, like the first breath of cold air when you open a freezer door. Weird thing was, it was already cold out, probably ten below. But this air was really cold. Freeze-your-face-off cold.

"We tracked that moose, or whatever it was, for a day and a half. Near sunset the next day, we finally got close enough to see it. Jake Cavanaugh spotted it first, and motioned for us to get low. There it was, on the next hilltop, making huge puffs of frosty air when it breathed.

"Now remember, it was already -10. Well, when Harvey exhaled, we could see frost forming on nearby trees, and could even hear the branches cracking from the cold. I'm talking intense cold. And this thing was HUGE ... seven feet tall at the shoulders."

Jim held up a hand. "Why'd you call it Harvey?"

Rick smiled. "You remember that movie with Jimmy Stewart, about the guy that could see an invisible rabbit he called 'Harvey'? Here they'd been chasing rumors about a big moose that no one could actually say they'd seen ... and one of the Hunters decided to call it Harvey, too. Jake never said who came up with it first.

"So we fanned out and tried to flank the moose, and for whatever reason, it didn't move. The first Hunter to get close was about 15 feet away - his name was Dodger -  just raising his rifle when that moose was suddenly facing him. We didn't see it move; one second it was facing away, and the next second it was facing him. I swear it didn't move; it just ... changed. 

"It gave one snort, and the edge of that cloud reached Dodger. He must have felt something, and turned to look at us. His head was just starting to turn when ... you know those movies where someone gets 'flash-frozen' and you a sound like ice crinkling and cracking? ... that's what happened. He went from pink, to greyish-white and frosty ... and then he just shattered. He literally fell to pieces. It was the most horrifying thing I'd ever seen, at the time."

Rick's voice trailed off as he stared at the opaque window, then shook himself and looked around. "It was awful to see a friend crumble into a pile of ice cubes, but it explained why we hadn't found any bodies at the other scenes.

"Well, Jake and the others kept their wits, and they all opened fire at the same time. They must have put 30 or 40 rounds into that thing. I wasn't sure we could kill it, but down it went. We took pictures and wrapped it up for study and the PUFF submission. No one at Treasury knew what it was, and finally decided to lump it into the same category as ice zombies. We made a lot of money on Harvey, but a lot of good folks died before it was all over."

"Whatever happened to him?" Jim asked.

"We gave the skeleton to the history museum in Anchorage. He's still on display there," Rick replied. 

"You should check it out, next time you go through there."


Jamie and Sandy removed an M1919 from her floatplane, and carried it into a shed. There, they worked quickly, mounting it onto a powered-parachute. They pushed the craft into the yard, and examined the mounting in the waning daylight.

"Jamie, I think you've outdone yourself. Let's just hope the ... what did you call it, again?"

"Ice crab."

"Okay, let's hope the ice crab isn't full of hydrogen like the blimp thing was."

"You're not big on remembering the names of things, are you?" she asked with a smile at her partner. "Let's hope it doesn't blow us out of the air; this craft doesn't move very fast. But it should make a stable shooting platform."

"I like the way you think, lady."

* "Break-up" is the Alaskan term for spring, when the ice on the rivers and streams begins to, well, break up.


DISCLAIMER: I do not own MHI or any of its characters; those are owned and copyright Larry Correia. I only claim the ones I've created. And a BIG h/t to Mr. Correia for creating such a wonderful universe in which to play, and for his kind permission to use his concepts here.

A h/t also to Jenny S., who contributed a couple of crucial ideas to improve this short story and the book cover & team patch above. Her help has been invaluable, both here and in my first book.