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Wednesday, July 22

Evil Stars: Prologue

Jatik handed Archive a computer printout.

“Dear Mr. Jatik,” read Archive aloud. “This situation is so upsetting to me that I am unable to work effectively. I really don't know how to reply to your questions. There are so many things to explain, and so many places I could start. Now that I have raised the issue, I need a few days to compose a methodical presentation which you can use to create a plan of action. Per the enclosed exhibit, please follow the instructions carefully. It has to do with the work being done here. Enough of these things have died that I can fake the death of one more.”

Archive hesitated. “There’s a paragraph entitled ‘feeding instructions.’”

Jatik nodded sagely. Hammer encouraged Archive to keep reading.

He shrugged and continued. “The specimen currently eats a diet of 6 parts raw hamburger, 4 parts freshly-killed flies, and 1 part bone meal, in the total amount of 1 kg per 10 kg of body mass. It does not appear to ingest liquids directly, though a colleague believes that it does in higher humidity. Since acquisition, it has grown slowly—weight it weekly and increase feedings proportionately.”

“What eats freshly killed flies?” asked Hammer.

Jatik cleared his throat. “Dr. Gall disappeared approximately a week ago. His dented and damaged car was found abandoned al Seacliff Palisades Park, in a quiet residential neighborhood. Based on evidence found in the car, the police believe that Gall committed suicide. They make that guess mostly from the evidence of Tail's car. I can supply the name of the detective in charge of the case. Sgt. Jack Bolling."

“So someone killed him to shut him up? What did he give you, Jatik?” asked Hammer.

"The affair is even stranger than you may be guessing,” said Jatik. He uttered a brief command into a phone, and two aides pushed in a short dolly. It bore a crate covered by a tarpaulin.

Jatik dismissed the two men. As he swept back the covering. Jatik couldn’t refrain from a flourish, but his "Tah-dah" was flat and ominous, as it might be: inside wriggled an eighteen-inch-high tentacle THING.

As soon as the tarpaulin was lifted, the thing leaped across the container towards Hammer in a single lunge, squeaking fiercely, its tentacles gripping the sides of the cylinder in a fruitless effort to snag such toothsome food.

The creature was in a travel container, a Plexiglas cylinder about a yard wide and a yard high, walls an inch thick, closed at either end by stout hydraulic clamps and double-latched. A few breathing holes broke the seal.

“What the hell is that?” asked Hammer. [MORE]

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posted by Michael Tresca at 6:41 AM


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