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Don't Bug Me A Vignette

Jerry D. Young Library

Home | The Keys to the Kingdom | What is the Password

Don’t Bug Me – A Vignette - Prolog

Ronnie Cobb was a take advantage of everyone and everything, no-good, low-life, but he didn’t deserve to die the way he did. Ronnie was the first in a long line of victims of what become known as the “Big Bug Invasion” by those involved.

But it wasn’t really an invasion, at all. It was, in fact, a bio-genetic program gone horribly wrong. Due to negligence, in part, a lack of foresight, misunderstandings, and sheer bad luck, did the event start.

How do I know this? I was there, for the entire thing. And let me tell you, things could have been much worse. Only through the dedicated efforts of a handful of men was a worldwide disaster prevented and kept limited to a relatively small area.

Though I filed the story, just as it happened, with some names changed, it never saw print. I was told in no uncertain terms that what I had experienced had not actually happened. If I ever said otherwise, the powers that be would bring forth a whole string of experts to testify of my mental illness and the deranged ramblings to which I am prone.

So, the story here didn’t really happen. There is no need to change any names, to protect the innocent, since the people in the story don’t exist. Nor do the places described, or the Big Bugs.


John Needles, ex-reporter, new prepper, ranch hand in training.



Don’t Bug Me – A Vignette

“Hello John,” said Dr. Marcel Kinsington. The two men shook hands. “I’m glad you were able to come out. I’m sorry it has taken so long to agree to the interview and discussion of our work here. It has just completed a key phase and I have a bit more time to devote to you than I would have earlier.

“That’s fine, Dr. Kinsington. Work must come first,” John replied, wanting to get on the man’s good side.

“I go by Mark,” said Kinsington.

“Mark, it is. What can you tell me about the project you are working on here?” John asked as they walked down a pristine hallway to Mark’s office.

“We’re quite proud of the work we are doing here. We are in the forefront of the development of genetically engineered beneficial insects for commercial farming operations.”

“Isn’t that a bit dangerous?” John asked. “What if something goes wrong?”

“Oh, we’re quite security conscious around here. Both to protect our work from industrial espionage and to protect the environment from any possible contamination until we are ready to patent our creations and present them to farmers world wide.”

When they reached Mark’s office, both took seats. Mark behind the desk and John in front of it. John took a moment to peruse the many framed certificates lining the wall.

“Impressive collection,” John told Mark, nodding at the wall.

“I have had the honor of attending, and later, teaching, at some of the finest institutes of learning in the world.”

It struck John that there was a note of superiority in Mark’s words and the way he stated them.

“So, you make beneficial bugs more beneficial…” John said to get Mark talking about his work. John had his digital tape recorder out, as well as his pad and pencil.

“No audio or video,” I’m afraid,” Mark said. “Security.”

John nodded and turned off the recorder and put it in the pocket of his suit jacket. “No problem. Notes are okay, I hope. I don’t have a Memorex memory.”

Mark chuckled. “Oh, I don’t think handwritten notes will compromise security. If I see you writing down proprietary information I’ll have you stop.”

“Fair enough,” John said. “The bugs?”

“Oh, yes. The bugs, as you put it. I suppose I should keep it simple. No long Latin names no one would recognize, anyway.”

John smiled slightly. Mark, John decided, was very full of himself. “That would probably be best. I’m writing the article for the general public.”

“Yes. No big words. Now, what particularly do you want to know?”

“I think first, how safe are these experiments?”

Mark frowned. “Quite safe, I assure you. If this is going to be a hatchet job, we can stop right here.”

“No. No hatchet job. Just the truth. Surely there are concerns about safety?”

“Of course. We take safety here very seriously. Air locked vacuum rooms where the work is done to keep anything that might escape the work station vacuum chambers.

“The technicians wear sealed protective suits and are decontaminated each time they exit the work rooms. In a worst case scenario the chambers can be flamed with a hydrogen and oxygen mix to incinerate any living thing in side. The whole room can get the same treatment, if it came to that. There is almost no danger of anything getting to the outside we don’t want to get outside.”

They were interrupted by a knock on the door, and its opening. “You want me to clean now, Boss?”

“Not now, Ronnie! What’s the matter with you? I’m in the middle of an important interview.”

“Sorry about that, Boss. Guess I’ll go take my break and come back later.”

“Please do so.” Mark’s voice was sharp. He turned to look at John again. “You know the saying about getting good help…”

John smiled and nodded. But that little interplay worried him. If the man wasn’t good help why was he working in a potentially hazardous facility? John found out.

“Lay about, but he’s my sister’s husband. Keeping the work in the family.” Mark grinned conspiratorially.

“Do tell. Back to the safety aspects of your operation…”

Mark cut him off. “I thought I covered that.”

“Well, there are a couple more questions I have.”

Reluctantly, it seemed to John, Mark said, “Very well. Please proceed.”

“When you are ready to introduce the product, these beneficial bugs, what are the safeguards to make sure they don’t just start eating the crops they are supposed to protect?”

Mark smiled. “I see I’m going to have to get very basic with you.”

John didn’t like the smirk that came with the statement, but held his tongue.

“We use bugs that don’t eat crops. We’re not changing their basic genetic make up, only enhancing it. One of our engineered bugs that wouldn’t eat the crops before we change it, won’t eat the crops after we change it.”

“I see. That is reassuring. When do you think you’ll have something to test?”

It was a huge grin on Mark’s face when he spoke. “Oh, we’re already in the testing stage. We had some early success and then accelerated the process. Come along. I’ll show you what I mean.”

John followed Mark silently to another part of the building. He used a card key to open a locked door with a biohazard sign on it. John hesitated. “Biohazard. Should we be suited up for this?”

“Nonsense,” Mark said. “We’re perfectly safe in here. Come along.”

John followed Mark into the room and found rows of hydroponics tanks growing several different types of typical farm crops, from vegetables to cotton. “Take a close look. We’ve seeded the crops with invasive species of bugs.” Mark stood aside and swung his arm in an inviting motion.

John leaned down and looked closely at a cotton plant. At first he didn’t see anything. But then there was a motion from something tiny and he started to smile. Suddenly a bug the size of a silver dollar flew past his ear and pounced on the small bug crawling on the plant. It startled John and he jumped back.

Mark laughed. “What do you think of our little predatory bug?”

“I don’t think it’s little, for one thing,” John said, edging back a bit closer to the cotton plant. The big bug flew off to another plant. “I don’t remember anything from school about anything that big. At least, not here in the States.”

“Oh, no. It’s a cross of several different bugs, plus it’s been genetically enhanced for size and appetite.”

“What happens when they run out of invasive bugs to eat?” John asked.

“They die of starvation,” Mark said.

“What if they decide to change their diet for other, say, beneficial insects.”

Mark frowned. “The strains of bugs we merged were very specific as to their diet. Each one, in its natural genetic state only eats one thing.”

“How did you get them to eat just what you want?”

Mark shook his head. “I believe it is probably over your head. We chose very specific attributes in the cross and then changed the DNA to create a creature that only eats specific other bugs.”

“I think I understand that,” John said firmly. “It just seems like it would be difficult to limit something like that.”

“It certainly was difficult,” Mark replied, just as firmly. “This isn’t some high school biology lab. It’s taken me years of research and trial and error to achieve what I have.”

John noted Mark’s use of me and I. No mention of all the other scientists that were working with him. “I understand,” John said and started to continue, but Mark cut him off.

“No, I don’t think you do understand. I’ve done something remarkable here. In a few days the world will know just what it is. We have a field of soybeans behind the building that has had several invasive species of bug, as you call them, spread throughout. I was going to wait for some final results, but I’m sure enough of them that I will release the Predator V strain of attack bug.”

“Wait. You mean out into the open? What about controls? What if it goes wrong?”

“Pshaw. I know these bugs like I know the back of my hand. Come along. You’ll be the first to see.”

Reluctantly, yet curious, John followed Mark out of the lab and into another. This one had shelf after shelf of cage after cage of the Predator V. John noticed immediately that they were bigger even that the bug he’d seen in the other lab. He said so.

“Yes. Of course they are. More aggressive, too. They’ll even fight one another over a choice tidbit of food bug.”

“Mark,” John thought, “really likes that idea.”

Mark opened a large tube and began to take the cages to the opening to dump the Predator V’s into it. “Leads outside,” Mark said in explanation. “Right to the soybean field.”

“Are you sure you should be doing this without help at hand in case something goes wrong?”

“I must insist you stop raising unnecessary concerns about safety.” Mark had emptied about half of the cages and closed the tube. “Now come along outside.”

John had to admit, the swarm of Predator V’s were doing their thing in the soybean field.

“Come back in three days and you’ll see a completely bug free field. Good day.”

Mark turned around and walked off. John knew a dismissal when he heard one. He headed for his Jeep, deciding this story could go on the back burner. “I guess,” John said to himself, “I can go see if I can locate that survivalist group that’s supposed to be around here.”

John drove to town, to his motel and got on the computer. Fortunately the motel offered free WiFi so he was able to get on line without a problem. He opened up the file he’d started on the lab and put down the facts from his notebook, and then opened up the file on survivalists. It didn’t have much in it.

Though he found a great deal of information, much of it marked and tagged to go back to at some time, John didn’t find anything specific about a local survival MAG. “Time to pound the pavement,” John said. “Just like the old days.”

With a list of gun shops from the yellow pages, John headed out to do some journalistic sleuthing.

When he got back late the evening of the second day of searching out a MAG, he was tired, but happy with what he’d found. It was going to be a two birds with one stone kind of thing. The MAG was located not too far from the lab. “I bet they have a few choice things to say about the work going on there!” John thought before he went to bed.


The next morning John was up early, breakfasted, and on his way to the MAG compound he’d located the afternoon before. Having learned from earlier research that members of such groups were reporter shy, John had no intention of telling them he meant to do a story about them. Just that he wanted some help on the story about the lab.

When he pulled up to the gate of the property he stopped and tapped his horn twice, pause, twice more, pause, then three taps. The signal one of the gun shop owners told him would get someone to come down to see what he wanted.

A few minutes later a man showed up on a weird looking motorcycle. He stopped at the gate and asked John, who had stepped half out of the Jeep, what he wanted.

“I’m talking to people that live close to the lab up the road what they think about it and if they’ve had any trouble from it.”

The man lifted a walky-talky to his lips and spoke. John couldn’t hear what he said, but after listening to a response, the man pointed a remote control at a gate post and the gate rolled to one side.

“Follow me up to the main house,” the man said and turned the back around to lead the way. It was only then that John saw the carbine slung across the man’s back.

John looked around curiously as he followed the man on the motorcycle. He saw people here and there, going about many different tasks. Some were tending a large garden, others working with farm animals in a large field. He could hear the sounds of a chainsaw in the distance in a stand of trees to his left.

There were two men waiting for him on the porch of the large house the man on the motorcycle led him to. There were five other, slightly smaller houses on the property. John got out of the Jeep and walked up to the porch.

“You armed?” asked the man that had led him to the house.

John shook his head.

“That’s okay Arley,” said the taller of the two men on the porch. “I don’t think he’s going to be a problem.”

John wasn’t quite how to take the man’s words. He went up the steps and shook hands with both men.

The big man introduced himself and the man standing beside him. “I’m Grant Neumont. This is my brother, Paver.”

“John Needles,” John replied. “I’m a reporter for…”

“I’ve read your stuff,” Grant said. “That’s why we let you in. You have questions about Marcel’s lab?” He led the way inside the house and offered John a chair in the living room of the house.

“Yes,” John replied. “You know him?”

“We’ve had words,” Grant said. “When the lab was built. I’m not in favor of genetic manipulation of dangerous species. Not too much inclined to favor any genetic manipulation. What Marcel is doing is dangerous. He doesn’t have sufficient safe guards to prevent one of his creatures from escaping, in my opinion. From what one our people saw, when she worked there for a while, the chance of something contaminating the experiments is high.”

“I saw the facility. The air locks. Vacuum rooms and work booths. Isolation suits. Decontamination procedures.”

“All very good,” Grant replied. “Have they changed their procedures for entering the vacuum room?”

“I’m not sure. They suit up and go in. Is that the same?”

“That is. You noticed that yes, they decontaminate coming out, but not going in.”

“Oh. Well… No, I guess they don’t, John replied. “But the danger is something getting out, not in. Isn’t it?”

“What happens if someone carries in something by accident and it contaminates what they’re working on?”

“That would ruin an experiment. Wouldn’t they just burn it and start over?”

“Would they? If they even knew? There are lots of things going on in that series of labs. Growth hormone research, for one. Other genetic research. Supposedly better food animals, and crops. You put some of those things together and there is no telling what might happen.”

“But if they keep everything isolated…”

“If,” Grant replied. “If. When Ellie worked there for a while, that dufus that passes for a janitor went from one lab to the next, cleaning, never wearing an isolation suit. There is no telling what he carried from lab to lab.”

“I saw him, I think,” John said. “Mark’s… Marcel’s brother-in-law.”

“That would explain it,” Grant said. “From what Ellie has told me, he wouldn’t be able to get a job anywhere if nepotism weren’t involved.”

Grant suddenly grinned. “Of course, I shouldn’t talk about nepotism too much. I do a bit of it myself, here on the ranch.”

“This is a ranch? Never would have known if you hadn’t told me. I thought it was just a small residential development.”

“Nice try, Reporter,” Grant said with a small laugh. “We’ve been blindsided before about our beliefs. You won’t get much, if anything, out of any of us.”

John managed a small smile. He thought he had been pretty subtle. Grant was an astute character. Nothing like the human apes that most survivalists were supposed to be. “Well, I must say, you don’t seem to fit the definition of survivalists.”

“Not the MSM…” John looked questioningly at Grant. “That’s Main Stream Media. Not the MSM definition, which has little or nothing to do with the core of the movement. The currently accepted definition only fits a small handful of extremists. In no way representative of the rest of us.”

“So you are survivalists.”

 

“Not by that definition,” Grant said patiently. “We’re preppers. We prepare for disasters, natural or human-made. Prepping is just another form of insurance. For use when something bad happens.”

“I see,” John replied. “I’d like to learn more about it.”

Paver spoke for the first time. “The Internet is full of Prep sites. Just Yahoo! the subject.”

“Yahoo!? Not Google?” John grinned.

“Thin ice, there, Reporter,” Paver said. “I happen not to like Google politics. I prefer Yahoo!. Matter of personal choice. We aren’t a bunch of redneck hicks here.”

“I wasn’t trying to give that impression,” John replied. “I’m sorry if I did.”

“Take it easy, Paver,” Grant said with a chuckle. “I’ve read his stuff. He’s okay. Not enough to pour out our hearts to, but okay.”

“I appreciate that,” John said. “And I must say, you’ve piqued my interest. I have done some research. On survivalists. I’ll need to do more research on… what did you call it? Preps?”

“Preps. Prepping. Being prepared,” Grant said. He gave John something of a sideways look. “I’m almost tempted to help you.”

“Come on, Grant!” Paver said. “He’s a reporter. Can’t trust him any more than the last.”

“Last?” John asked. “You’ve been interviewed before?”

“Not exactly,” Grant said. “That ambush I was talking about. Leading questions, veiled accusations. Innuendo. She wanted a MSM, bible thumping, gun toting survivalist out to take down the government with terror tactics. She left without much information.”

“Real witch, she was,” Paver added.

A young woman put her head around the door jamb. “Pappa? You want coffee for our guest?”

“Sure, sweetie,” Grant said without looking around. “Coffee, Mr. Needles? Tea? Fresh from the cow milk?”

“Coffee is fine,” John said. “And please. Call me John.”

“Very well, John,” Grant said. “Now, understanding that you want a story, what assurances can you give me that this isn’t just a hatchet job in the making?”

“If you’ve read my work, I think you can make that decision on your own.”

“Grant…” Paver said, ready to object.

“Come on, Paver,” Grant said, cutting his brother’s words off. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a truthful accounting of some preppers?” He looked at John then. “No names or identifying information.”

“Agreed,” John quickly replied.

“What do you want to know?” Grant asked.

They paused for a moment as the young woman carried in a tray with a coffee and tea service. She poured three cups and then hurried out, Grant’s words following her. “Thank you, Tiffany.”

“Oh, man!” John said, “This is great coffee!”

Grant smiled. “We grow our own here, roast it and grind it fresh for each pot.”

“You can grow coffee here?”

“Special greenhouse we keep for specialty plants like coffee,” Paver said proudly.

“Don’t get much production, but it gives all of us a taste now and again, for those that drink coffee.”

“Oh,” John said. “You probably shouldn’t be wasting it on me.”

“Company gets the best we have,” Grant said.

“Well, thank you. I appreciate that,” John said, and meant it.

“Go ahead and ask your questions,” Grant said. “If you bring up something that is off limits we’ll just say so. Don’t try to pursue it and we’ll be fine.”

“How did you get involved in the movement?” John asked, pulling his pencil and pad from a pocket.

“We’re not too involved with any movement,” Grant said easily, after taking a sip of the coffee. “We are fairly active on some forums, giving our opinions for the most part, based on our experience, but what group we have is immediate and extended family.”

John nodded. “But you had to start somewhere. What got you interested in surv… Preparedness?”

“Being a rancher, being prepared for natural disasters came pretty natural. As did putting up food by home canning. My father lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Made a small shelter in the basement of the original house here, according to plans in a Civil Defense booklet I brought home from school. That was the start of the family’s prepping for human caused disasters.”

“I see. So you’ve been doing this for a long time.”

“Not as the project and lifestyle it has become, but in a very basic way, yes.”

“As a lifestyle?”

“Yes. We live a prepared lifestyle here. We do many things as a matter of course, that were originally thought of as a specific part of preps. Now they are just part of our everyday activities.”

“Such as?” John asked.

“Keeping up with the weather news, which we have always done, for the obvious reason of being a working ranch. But we also keep pretty close watch on local, state, regional, national, and international news. By broadcast TV, but also by listening to Shortwave stations almost every day.”

“And Amateurs,” Paver said.

“Amateurs?” John asked. “Amateurs at what?”

Grant smiled. “Amateur Radio Operators. Often called Hams.”

“Oh. Hams. That I understand.”

Paver added a bit more. “They are a good source of information you won’t hear or see from MSM.”

“What else do you do daily?” John asked.

“Always conscious of security,” Grant said. “Shop for food, that we don’t produce ourselves, with long term storage in mind.”

“Security,” John said slowly. “Do you have guns?”

“We do,” Grant said easily. “Several of us carry a handgun all the time when we’re out and about on the property.”

“I see.”

“I’m not sure you do,” Paver said. “We work with large animals every day. Get caught out in a pasture around a bull, or between a cow and her calf, or a sow and her piglets… Things can get serious quickly.”

“And we have coyotes trying to get to the young stock and the chickens,” Grant added.

“So the guns are for protection from your animals and wild animals. Not people.”

“Oh, they are for protection against bad people. We had an escapee from the prison take up residence in our firewood coppice area. He’d had a gun smuggled in and killed a guard getting away from the work gang. We found him and held him until the State Police could come take him off our hands.” Grant gave a little shrug and added, “We carry for protection from four legged and two legged problems.

“Did you shoot him?” John asked.

“No, we didn’t shoot him!” Paver said. “Grant got the drop on him and didn’t have to shoot him. We use the minimum level of force we need to accomplish whatever goal we have. We don’t use an elephant gun to kill a rabbit.”

“Don’t use guns at all, unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Grant said, giving Paver a cautioning look. “They are just another tool we use, just like a hammer or tractor.”

“What crops do you grow?” John asked.

“A variety. Hay for one, for the stock and to sell a little. Wheat to sell and to get straw. Soybeans, another commercial crop, plus oil for our biodiesel operation. Corn, mostly for silage and feed corn for the farm. We sell a little. Turnips as a cover crop and food use for the family.

“Then there are the truck farm crops. Vegetables, melons, strawberries, black berries and the fruits and nuts from our orchard. And our greenhouse products. Besides the coffee we grow some exotics for our own use. Miniature bananas and citrus, plus some more vegetables, and our primary winter crop, salad vegetables.”

Grant and Paver both noticed that John was writing everything down as he listened. Catching up with what Grant had told him, John asked, “What about animals? You said you had fresh milk.”

“From a small dairy heard. We also ranch beef cattle, swine, chickens for eggs and meat, and fish in the greenhouse tanks. It all goes to a local dairy or meat processor.”

“From the looks of things, you do okay.”

“Thank you. Our family has been farming and ranching on this land for five generations. We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t. We’re proud of our ‘green’ efforts to help the environment and our almost off-grid existence.”

“That is interesting,” John said and meant it. But he had to say, “I wish I could stay longer, but I’m supposed to meet Mark to see how his latest experiment goes.”

“What’s he working on now?” Pave asked. “More magic bugs?”

John smiled. “So to speak. He’s released a strain of anti-bug bugs into his soybean field, that he’d seeded with invasive bugs.”

John saw Grant’s eyes widen slightly. “He’s put some of his creations into the environment?”

John nodded.

“This could be bad,” Grant said.

“This is bad!” said Paver.

“Well, I guess I’ll find out soon enough.” John got up and reached for Grant’s hand.

Grant held his hand out and the two men shook. A bit reluctantly, Paver shook hands with John when John offered it. “Thank you for the coffee and your time. I’d like to come back later and get more information, if I might.”

Grant was showing John the door. “On a condition,” Grant said.

John didn’t like conditions being put on him, but he asked, “And what would that be?”

“That you do a thorough decontamination of yourself and wear different clothes than what you wear to the lab.”

“Oh,” John replied, expecting something else entirely. “I can do that. You really are worried about what Mark is doing, aren’t you?”

“I think it shows,” Grant said.

“Good-bye, and thank you for your time. It may be a couple of days before I get back here. I hope that is okay.”

“Decontaminated in the meantime,” Paver said firmly.

John nodded and got in his Jeep to leave. He saw Paver lift a handheld radio to his lips and assumed Paver was telling Arley to let John out. The thought passed through his mind that no one knew where he was, and if Arley was getting orders to detain him, there wasn’t much John could do about it.

But the gate was open and Arley gave a friendly wave as John passed.

Fifteen minutes later John pulled into the parking lot of the lab. He walked into the office and asked for Mark. The receptionist looked a bit upset. “He’s busy.”

“He asked me to come back to see him, today.”

“He’s busy. He doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“I see,” John said and turned to leave. When he went outside, on a whim, he headed for the back of the lab where the soybean field was. “That’s odd,” he muttered upon seeing the Mark and another man, apparently his brother in law, going through the field with a butterfly net and one of the cages.

“Mark!” John called out and headed for the field.

Mark looked up and saw John. “Go away! Come back in a week!”

John slowed his pace but then Ronnie let out a scream and began running toward the edge of the soybean field. John ran to where Ronnie would exit the field. Mark was making his way there, too.

Ronnie slapped something and John thought a cat had jumped on his back. But it was no cat. Whatever it was flew away. Ronnie made it to the edge of the field and went down, slapping at more of whatever it was that was attacking him.

When John got a bit closer he realized that it was the Predator V’s all over Ronnie. John came to a sliding stop. He just realized that the bugs were three times the size of the ones Mark had released.

Ronnie screamed again and writhed on the ground, trying to crush the bugs under him or sweep them away with his hands. But it wasn’t working. Mark got to Ronnie the same time John got there.

“Get the cage! Get the cage!” Mark yelled and snagged one of the bugs with the butterfly net.

John went into the field far enough to recover the cage that Ronnie had dropped. If there’d been anything in it, it was long gone. The cage had landed on its side and the door flipped open.

John held the cage and let Mark empty the butterfly net into it. There was no longer any sound coming from Ronnie. Mark kept transferring the Predator V bugs from Ronnie to the cage. There were only three left when one of them left Ronnie and landed on John.

It was all he could do not to scream in pain and drop the cage as the bug’s sharp mandibles tore a hole through John’s pants’ leg and into his flesh. “Get it off! Get it off!”

Mark turned to him and grabbed the bug with his bare hand and threw it into the cage. Two more grabs and all the visible bugs were captured, leaving Ronnie a bloody mess on the ground.

“What happened?” John asked, carefully putting down the cage, and going to one knee to check on Ronnie. “Are those the same bugs you released three days ago?” John felt for a pulse in Ronnie’s neck. Nothing.

After rolling Ronnie over, John lifted one of his eyelids. Just a blank stare. Ronnie was dead. John said as much.

“He can’t be!” Mark said loudly. “The Predator V’s aren’t capable of attacking anything except small invasive bugs!”

“Well, they sure were attacking Ronnie,” John said, turning his attention to the bite on his leg. “I want to get this washed out and something on it. It’s beginning to burn.”

“That’s the Predator’s venom.”

“Venom? They’re poisonous?”

“Only to other insects… Normally,” Mark replied. “But… come inside. We have a first-aid kit.”

“You haven’t answered me, Dr. Kinsington,” John said as he limped behind Mark, the casual mood gone completely. “Are those… things… the ones you released three days ago?”

“Yes. Yes. They are. If you must know. And I must remind you that you can not say anything about this.”

“But a man is dead! We have to notify the authorities.”

“No! I’ll handle this.” Mark led the way into a back door in the lab and to a small lab room. There was a first-aid kit on the wall and Mark removed it.

John sat down in the only chair in the room and Mark tended to the bite, cutting a large flap in John’s slacks to get to the skin.

“Geez!” John groaned. “That hurts worse than the bite.

“I have to get as much of the venom out as I can. It shouldn’t be affecting you at all. Something has changed the Predator V’s.”

“You think?” John asked sarcastically as Mark positioned a large pad bandage on the site of the bite.

“I’m going to call the police,” John said, standing up and stepping to the telephone on the wall.

“No!” Mark said. “You aren’t.”

John looked around and saw the small semi-automatic pistol Mark was pointing at him.

“Aw! Come on! You have to be kidding!” John lifted his arms even with his shoulders when Mark made a motion with the gun.

“Over there.” Mark made a motion toward a door to one side of the room.

John opened the door. It was a closet. “Now, wait a minute!”

Mark gave John a shove, closed the door, and locked it all before John could react.

“Hey! Open this door!” John yelled, throwing his weight against the door. It was fruitless. John kicked the door in exasperation.

“Criminey!” he said a few seconds later. He took out his cell phone and tried to call out. No signal. The steel reinforced construction of the lab was blocking the signal. He kicked the door again.

John finally sat down on the floor and made himself as comfortable as possible. And waited. He checked his watch every few minutes, fuming as the time passed. After an hour and a half in the closet, he heard someone in the lab outside the door.

“Hey! Let me out of here!” John called, banging on the door with a fist.

The door suddenly opened and John blinked at the bright lights of the lab, his eyes adjusted to the near total darkness of the closet. It was the receptionist. She looked terrified to John.

“Where’s Dr. Kinsington?” John asked.

“Outside! Something is wrong. The phones don’t work and everyone is outside. They told me to stay inside. I’m scared.”

John went to the wall phone. No dial tone. John didn’t think it was a coincidence. He pulled out his cell phone again.

“Cell phones don’t work in this building,” the receptionist said.

“I’ll go outside and use it,” John said. “What is your name?”

“Priscilla Harding.”

“Okay, Priscilla. Don’t worry. I’ll figure out what is going on.” John hurried toward the front of the lab building and went outside. He got three bars of signal strength. With a sigh of relief he dialed 911.

 

When the dispatcher answered, John said, “There is an emergency at the research lab out on…”

“Sir,” the female dispatcher said, “ There is a significant penalty for fake 911 calls. I suggest you hang up and think about what you are trying to do.” She hung up.

“She hung up on me!” John said, turning a stunned look on Priscilla, who was standing in the entrance of the lab building, holding the door half open.

John shook his head and then ran around to the back of the lab. There were the other lab workers. They, with Dr. Kinsington, were in the process of capturing more of the Predator V’s. John slowed to a stop. It seemed that they were having success.

And to his surprise, there was Ronnie, working alongside the other. “You were dead!” John exclaimed when he came up to the group. Ronnie didn’t answer. Dr. Kinsington did.

“You’ve been out of your head. Ronnie is fine. The bugs are fine.”

“I was attacked by one of those things!” John insisted. “Look at my leg.”

“You had that when you got here,” Dr. Kinsington insisted. “There is no problem here.”

“Yeah, and these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Move along. Something is going on here!”

“Droids? What on earth are you talking about?” Dr. Kinsington said. “You should go home and take a rest.”

“You’ve obviously never seen Star Wars. And one thing I can see for myself right now is those bugs are three times the size they were when you released them.”

“You are quite mistaken,” replied Dr. Kinsington, netting another of the bugs.

John didn’t know what to do. He was sure he wasn’t crazy, but there was Ronnie, perfectly fine.

Dr. Kinsington gave John a hard look. “I must ask you to leave. We have important work to do.”

“I’ll be back,” John replied and turned on his heal to leave. “That’s another movie quote, by the way.”

John went back to the motel and plopped down on the bed. “I know I’m not imagining this.” Bouncing off the bed he left the motel room and headed for the police station.

“I need to report some suspicious goings on at the lab out on…”

“Get lost, buddy. We’ve been warned about you. I’m doing you a favor. If I let you make the report I’ll just have to arrest you for making a false police report, and for harassing Dr. Kinsington.”

“Kinsington called and warned you about me?” John asked, shocked.

“That he did. Said you were trying to get the lab shut down and were telling tall tales about monster bugs and dead bodies. I suggest you go take one of your Valiums or whatever your psychiatrist has you on for your delusions.”

“I am not delusional!” John said, louder than he intended. The look on the desk sergeant’s face was enough warning for John to turn and leave before he got arrested. He went back to the motel.

“I know what I saw!” John said aloud. “Something is going on there. I’m sure of it.” He pulled his computer out of its case and went on-line. “There has to be something I missed,” he muttered as he looked for additional information on Dr. Marcel Kinsington.

Finding nothing useful, John went out to get some supper. When he got back to the motel he had determined to continue to look into the situation. Give it a couple of days, and then go back to the lab. Perhaps in the dark.


John gave it a few days and then went back to the lab, under cover of darkness. There didn’t seem to be anyone around, but he was no B&E specialist. He didn’t even try to get in. He did look around the outside of the building for unlocked doors, but found none. He went out to the soybean field and looked around with a flashlight. John checked several of the plants closely in the light from the flashlight. No signs of invasive bugs, nor of the Predator V’s, big or little.

“Maybe I was dreaming it… No! I know what I saw!” John muttered to himself and then went back to his Jeep, to return to the motel. He was going to have to decide what to do soon. He was running out of expense money for the two stories.

“Best go back and see the preppers tomorrow and call it good,” John said to himself and went to bed after a light supper.


John was parked at the gate of the Neumont property and gave the horn signal again. A few moments later Arley opened the gate and waved John through, then disappeared into the trees on his funny looking motorcycle.

It was almost a duplicate of the scene of a few days earlier. Grant and Paver were waiting on the porch of the house and welcomed him back to the ranch. Grant didn’t lead them into the house. Instead, he and Paver stepped down off the porch. Grant asked, “What did you find out at the lab?”

“That’s… kind of confusing…” John said slowly. Not quite understanding why he was telling Grant and Paver what had happened, he did so. About Ronnie’s death… Supposedly. And the attack on John. He showed them the marks after he took the bandage off.

“Could have been anything done that,” Paver said.

“Yeah,” John said. “But it wasn’t ‘anything.’ It was one of those Predator V’s. Things were big as cats.”

“Cats?” Grant asked.

“Look!” John insisted, at the look Grant gave him. “I am not making this up!”

They’d been walking down to one of the several barns on the property and continued to talk as Grant checked on a few things.

“I’m inclined to believe you. But Kinsington has a lot of pull around here. Didn’t bring a lot of jobs with him for the lab, but the people he brought in do spend their money in town.”

“I don’t know what to do,” John admitted. “They’ve already discredited me. Unless I can get some hard evidence…”

“Well,” Grant said slowly, “We might just be able to help you with that. Do you think they got all the bugs when they were rounding them up?”

John shook his head. “I don’t see how they could have. That’s a big field. I just don’t think they could have found every one of them, even as big as they are.”

“What say we pay a little visit to the property? Check on that soybean field ourselves,” Grant said. “I’ve got a lot to protect here, and I aim to do it, if that loon has turned something dangerous into the environment.”

“You’d go with me?” John asked, surprised.

“Sure. Why not?” Paver asked. “We are as concerned about the environment as anyone. Maybe more so than most.”

“Aw, Cool down, Paver,” Grant said. “You need to mellow out. John is okay.”

“Yeah. Well… I’m going up to the house to get something besides my pistol.”

“Guns?” John asked.

Paver gave him a pitying look, and Grant smiled slightly. “You want one?” he asked.

John started to say, vehemently, no, but he thought about the size of the bugs and the pain of that first bite. And the fact that Kinsington had pulled a gun on him. “Yeah. I think I will. What do you have?”

“Oh, we have a selection,” Grant replied, still smiling. “Paver, get him a Glock 21 and half a dozen magazines.”

“Grant, are you sure…”

Grant gave his brother a look and Paver headed back to the house. Grant, satisfied with the operation in the barn, led John back to the house more slowly.

Paver handed Grant two long guns and turned to John. The decision made, Paver carefully led John through the workings of the Glock. “It’s simple. Rack the slide to chamber a round, squeeze the trigger. There are no external safeties. Just aim and squeeze.

“When the magazine is empty, the slide will lock back. Push this button to drop the spent magazine and slide a full one in, firmly. Press down on this small button and the slide will go forward, chambering another round and it’ll be ready for another trigger pull.

“Do not, under any circumstances, put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot. That little lever you see in the trigger is the safety. If it is flush with the trigger, the trigger will pull.

“Here’s a belt, holster, and magazine carriers with six loaded magazines. Ninety-one rounds total.”

“I doubt we’ll need these,” John said. “Though Kinsington did pull a pistol on me.”

“So you said. Come on. Let’s go.” Grant led the way to a light gray Suburban SUV parked in the house parking lot. Paver got into the front passenger seat and John took the back seat and buckled up.

It was only a fifteen minute drive to get to the lab. There were several cars in the lot, and Grant parked in the slot nearest the front door. “Let’s take a look out back, first,” Grant said, leaving the Suburban.

The three walked around the building to take a look at the soybean field. There were three people there, two with fish nets, and one with one of the cages.

“They were using butterfly nets before,” John said.

Suddenly the back door of the lab opened and a man stuck his head out to yell, “Get in here! We need help! Another batch transformed!”

Before anyone could do anything, the man screamed and fell in the door. The door was held open by the man’s body as he writhed in pain. It was a bit difficult to see, but there was movement on the man’s back.

As the lab techs ran up, so did Grant, Paver, and John.

“I thought you said they were the size of cats!” Grant exclaimed, taking careful aim with a pistol that was suddenly in his hands. He fired and the bug went tumbling without a sound. “That thing is as big as a big dog!”

“No!” yelled one of the techs. “You can’t kill them. We have to capture them.”

“Tell that to the dead guy,” Paver said, as he stood back up. “Thing ripped him open in the back. The skin is burned like acid burns.”

The three lab techs looked back and forth at each other and to their dead colleague. Without a word, all three turned and ran toward the front of the building, dropping the nets and cage.

“Hey!” John yelled, but dived back out of the way as a dozen of the big bugs flew through the partially open door. They didn’t fly far, but seemed to land, hop, and then fly again.

“Close it! Close it! Close it!” Grant yelled. He dropped to the ground and pulled the dead lab tech out of the way and Paver closed the door, leaning against it to hold it closed until the lock latched.

When the screams came, Grant, Paver, and John all ran toward the front of the building. The three lab techs were under attack by the bugs. “Get the shotguns!” Grant yelled to Paver and then advanced on the closest man. He was trying to fight off two of the bugs.

Careful not to hit the tech, Grant aimed and fired three times. Both bugs fell away from the man. John got a look at his face as the man collapsed. His face was ripped viciously, as was his belly. There was blood spurting in several places.

“Come on!” Grant said. “Snap out of it. He’s dead.” He advanced on the other man and fired.

John heard a shotgun boom and one of the bugs now bounding and flying toward Paver disappeared in a spray of bug parts. John looked around and one of the bugs had left a lab tech and was coming for him.

Feeling infinitely slow and awkward, John pulled the Glock from the holster on the borrowed belt and fired at the bug just as it landed, in preparation of bouncing up to fly again. John was well aware that it had been a lucky shot, but it gave him confidence and he advanced side by side with Grant, firing at the other bugs. Paver was doing his part with the shotgun.

The bugs seemed to understand where the danger to them was coming from and all the remainder left the bodies of the lab techs and launched an attack on the three men firing at them.

The last one flew into John, but it was dead, with one of Grant’s bullets in it.

Following Grant’s and Paver’s examples, John reloaded the Glock before he did anything other than look around for any additional bugs.

“Okay,” Grant said. “This is going to be bad. But there could be people alive in there. And we need to destroy every one of the bugs we can find before more of them get out.”

Paver nodded. It was a second or so, but John nodded, too. Grant holstered his pistol and took the second shotgun, which Paver had slung over his back while using the other one.

“Let’s see if we can get in,” John said, taking the first steps to the front door of the lab building. He almost got sick when he looked through the glass and saw two of the bugs devouring the body of Priscilla.

“Don’t let it get to you, man,” Grant said. “This is the Doctor’s responsibility, not ours.”

Paver looked a little green around the gills, too, but stepped forward when Grant grasped the handle of the door. When he opened it, Paver and John stepped inside and began firing. It was over before Grant could get inside.

But a bug came running from one of the hallways, and all three men fired at once. It disintegrated from the two shotgun rounds and single forty-five slug from John’s Glock. Ears ringing from the shots in the enclosed space, they didn’t hear the screams coming from deeper in the lab for a moment. When they did hear them, the three ran down the hallway, guns up and ready.

When they got close they realized that there was more than one person screaming. Paver, a step ahead, opened and went through the door from behind which the closest screams were coming. The shotgun boomed, but Grant and John were advancing down the hallway.

Grant nodded at the next door, though there was no sound coming from it. Grant continued toward the other screams. John opened the door and almost lost his head. The bug was clinging to the wall above the door and made a swipe at John with one foreleg covered in razor sharp spikes.

But the bug wasn’t silent when it moved and John heard the motion and dived to the floor, sustaining a painful scratch across his shoulders, but still with his head attached. Scooting backwards on his rear, John lifted the Glock and fired three times as the bug leaped toward him. John was covered in green bug slime when he rolled out from under the dead bug.

Climbing to his feet, John checked behind the counter in the lab. Another dead lab tech, this one almost completely consumed. He heard more firing and carefully left the lab he was in, so as not to get shot by accident.

He moved down the hallway and suddenly squatted down when Grant yelled, “Incoming! One got past me!”

It wasn’t trying to fly, John saw. It was running a funny, six-legged gate. But it was fast. It was almost on him when John hit it with his third shot. John quickly reloaded. The shot that had killed the bug just before it got to him had been the last one in the magazine.

“It’s me!” Grant called out and stepped around the corner of the hallway.

“Me, too!” said Paver, joining them from one of the labs between them.

“What do you think?” Paver asked. “We get them all?”

“I don’t know,” Grant replied. “We just reacted to the screams. You find anyone alive?”

Paver and John both shook their heads.

“Okay. Let’s check the rest of the place…” Grant was speaking when a flurry of scrabbling sounds came around the far corner of the lab, from the reception area.

All three men spun, but more sound came from behind them.

“They’ve trapped us!” Paver said, turning toward the bugs further in the lab. John and Grant began firing at the five bugs approaching from the reception area. Paver did the same behind them.

The hallway was littered with slippery, slimy, smelly bug guts when the firing stopped. Grant and Paver were covered in the slime now, too, just as John was.

“How you doing for ammunition?” Grant asked, as the three stood back to back.

“Still have ten rounds for the shotgun and thirty-nine for my Glock,” Paver replied.

“Three clips left,” John said.

“Magazines,” said both Paver and Grant.

“Three magazines,” John said.

“I’m down to five shotgun shells and a single magazine for my Glock. I think we’d better make a strategic retreat, get some more ammunition, and decide what we do next.”

Grant carefully led the way toward the reception area again, trying not to slip in all the slime. It was difficult. But they made it without falling or running into any additional bugs. “You don’t think these things can open doors, do you?” John asked as they went out the front door.

“They can this one,” Paver said. “It’s a push to open. But surely they can’t open the doors with regular door knobs. Can they?”

“I don’t know,” John said. “One laid for me above the door of one of the rooms. And I think that last attack was orchestrated.”

“Intelligence?” Grant asked.

“More likely instinct. I don’t know enough about bugs to even guess what insects they started with. If any were social and worked together as a matter of course.”

“Guess it doesn’t matter,” Grant said after a pause. “We must assume some intelligence. They’ve sure shown it, or a good facsimile of it. Let’s find something to block these doors. Paver, get the rope out of the Suburban. And some more ammunition.”

“What if there are more people in there?” John asked.

Before Grant could answer, three more bugs charged the door. But they weren’t after the door, not initially. They were chasing Dr. Kinsington. Kinsington was firing back over his shoulder with his small automatic.

John grabbed the door and flung it open as Grant raised the shotgun. “Down! Down, Doc!”

Either he was too panicked or simply didn’t hear Grant, but Kinsington continued to run. Grant only had a shot at one of the bugs and took it. The other two were behind Kinsington and Grant couldn’t get a good shot at either of them.

Both bugs leaped and landed on Dr. Kinsington, one slashing down his back with mandibles and forelegs, and the other on the doctor’s head. Grant couldn’t shoot either one of them with the shotgun without hitting the doctor. He started drawing his Glock.

John lifted his pistol and fired at the one on the doctor’s head, killing it and knocking it off the doctor. But it was already too late when Grant shot the other bug in the process of ripping the doctor’s back. Dr. Kinsington was dead.

Paver came running up and handed Grant and John three filled magazines each, and Grant a box of shotgun shells. Grant holstered the pistol and put the magazines in the empty pouches on his belt. He reloaded the shotgun as John added the magazines Paver had given him to his own empty magazine pouches.

“Okay. We can’t wait, I guess,” Grant said. “There could be more in here. Let’s lock the doors and go through the place, locking doors behind us, until we’ve cleared the entire building.”

John and Paver both nodded. Grant closed and locked the front doors from inside. “John stay here and cover the doors in here. Paver and I will go the same way we did before. Kill what we find or drive them into here. You okay with that?”

 

John nodded.

“Good man,” Grant said. “Let’s go, Paver. Forget the rope. We’ll lock from inside until we get back here.”

It was like being on pins and needles, John decided, standing there, gun held down in front of him in a two-hand hold, just waiting. He jumped once when one of the shotguns fired. And then again when three quick shots were fired from one of the pistols.

He hesitated for a fraction of a second when a bug came out of the far hallway, but he got the gun up and fired twice before the bug spotted him and started forward. Three more times lone bugs came into the reception area and John put them down.

“Don’t fire, John!” Grant called out, his voice coming from the hallway from which the bugs had come.

“Come on out. Everything is okay in here,” John responded.

“I’m going to get the first aid kit out of the Suburban,” Paver said. “This scratch is burning.”

“Okay, Paver. We’re right behind you. Come on, John. I think we got them all.” Grant unlocked the front doors to let Paver out and ushered John out, too.

As Paver went over to the Suburban, John helped Grant tie the doors firmly closed, just in case. The task done, the two went over and began to treat each other’s sundry cuts, scrapes, and bites.

“You hear that?” Grant suddenly asked, cocking his head slightly and putting one hand up behind his ear to amplify the sound.

“Quick decision. That’s choppers on the way in. Dollars to donuts someone did call someone of importance about this. We stay or go? Paver?”

“Let’s boogie.”

“John?”

“I should stay. There’s a story here that…”

“Okay. Paver and I are out of here. Keep our names out of it.”

“Wait,” John said, looking toward the now obvious sound of approaching helicopters. “I’m going with you, if that is okay.”

“Get in,” Grant said. The three scrambled into the Suburban and Grant took off. Paver and John were watching for the helicopters. They were on the road, well on the way toward the Neumont compound when the sound of the helicopters changed. They were landing.

“I don’t think they made us,” Paver said.

“I don’t know,” Grant said. “If they were looking, they saw us. We’ll just have to wait it out and see what happens.”

Grant turned slightly in his seat and looked at John in the rear seat. “You feel like a short vacation. A few days at the ranch. Might be a story in it.”

John smiled. “I can handle that.”


“You know,” Paver said a few minutes later. “I think I solved your dead Ronnie puzzle. I found a body just like you described. Been in cold storage, but it was obvious it had been dead a few days. But there was another body, fresh, that matched it. I think Ronnie had a twin brother.”

“That would explain it,” John said. He’d been trying to figure out that point ever since Ronnie had apparently come back to life.



Don’t Bug Me – A Vignette - Epilog

It was a week before anyone left the ranch. No one had come by asking questions. When John drove past the lab… or, actually, the bare ground where the lab and soybean field had been, he decided he’d made the right decision. To get involved. He was thinking that Grant and Paver and their family had some pretty good ideas. Big bugs hadn’t been on their list of things to prepare for, Grant had told him, before all this happened. It was now.


Another week went by before John submitted the story, or a version of it, to his paper. No mention was made of Grant or Paver or the ranch. “Unknown persons, passing through,” was the term John used to refer to the help he had dealing with the situation. An hour after he transferred the story to his editor, two guys in black suits and mirrored sunglasses showed up at the paper and asked to talk to John.

John went quietly, listened to the harangues and threats, not answering any questions along the way. A day later he was released, not having been charged with anything. He went back to the paper. His desk was already occupied by someone, and his final check was waiting for him. John decided to change careers.

Copyright 2008
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Jerry D Young