A World Full of Monsters

Table of Contents

Chapter 32
Out of the Water, Part 7

It’s been a long night.

The elevator came back down before we could get the lobby completely fishie-free, but we’d killed most of them and we’d rounded up all of the fire extinguishers we could find. Jorge, Joey and Ramon came out of the elevator with extinguishers of their own, and Ramon held his up. “You didn’t save us any?”

I waved my handpaw at the front doors, where the outside lights were spotlighting fishies having a feeding frenzy eating their dead siblings. It was full dark now. “Be my guest, just don’t let them back in. Oh, and our tiki torch plan isn’t going to work, but between the extinguishers and the sonar gizmos our two terrorists were using to herd fishies, I think we can get most of them back in the water. As a matter of fact, if I can find some earplugs or something, we could try to broadcast the sonar signal over the outdoor speakers.”

Joey cocked his head. He could hear – and smell, of course – that something was really wrong. “So it affects you too?”

I shrugged. “Don’t know, but those two guys seemed to think it would so I don’t want to find out the hard way. Dog whistles are painful enough.”

Ramon, of course, wasn’t picking up what Joey was. “Wouldn’t the torches be safer, then?”

“Maybe, but I’m not sure we can get to them,” I told him. “Even if we get the fishies out of the storeroom they’re in, we probably shouldn’t move anything around in there.”

Ramon swallowed. “Señora Alvarez?”

Evan shook his head. “Her front desk staff. We took pictures of each room, but it’s…messy. And getting messier.”

His eyes rounded. “You left the fishies…”

“We had to – if we use the extinguishers to kill them in place, we’ll also be coating everything in the room with dry chemical spray and potentially destroying evidence the police might need to convict the assholes who did it. Not that I wouldn’t rather just throw them off the roof to see if we could hit Daddy Fishie’s fin-spike, but I don’t think the police would appreciate that very much.”

“But couldn’t you…” He mimed swatting at them with claws. “You know, like on the beach?”

“Not in such a small enclosed space,” I told him. “But we don’t have to resort to that anyway, at least not yet. The extinguishers will actually kill the baby fishies, they’re the better weapon. Once the sun comes up so we can see what we’re doing, we might be able to go out and kill the stragglers, too.” He didn’t like that – and this time it wasn’t posturing – and I shook my head at him. “Ramon, the only thing we could do is open one door at a time, hope the fishies are willing to leave their food and come out, and then close the door and hit them with the extinguisher. Which would be dangerous as fuck for everyone involved. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do it, or that I don’t want to, but we need to take care of the bigger problems first. The fishie infestation inside the resort. The bigger one outside the resort. The possibility that those two sadistic assholes aren’t the only terrorists here. Oh, and a building full of terrified people with no front-office staff members left to calm them down and keep things running. Speaking of which…Jorge, I’m sure the kitchen has a radio. I think the chef may be the default person in charge now.”

He nodded slowly. “She is dead?”

I waved a hand at the door behind the front desk. “In the stockroom office. It looked like they were trying to get something out of her, but she,” I held back the growl, “wasn’t willing to accommodate them.”

“Are the fishies…”

“No, not in that room. They’d pretty obviously brought one in, but it’s not there now.” He frowned, then shook his head and stepped aside, pulling out the radio and calling upstairs for the chef. Ramon started to head for the employee door, a determined look on his face. “All the way to the end, around the bend to the left,” I told him. “Don’t go in the room. I stepped inside so my camera could pick up everything, but I went right back out again.”

I could smell the hesitation – he’d thought I was going to stop him, and I think part of him wanted me to – but then he nodded and trotted through the door to go see for himself. Joey sighed. “Part of me’s glad he’s that stubborn, another part of me is wondering if he’s going to get himself and Maria killed.”

“Maria can handle him,” I said. “This, though…you know, I think he does need to see exactly what being on the front lines entails. Maybe it will convince him to drop back to the lab and stay there, but it could also make him mad enough to pull himself together and fight.”

“True.” Joey patted my shoulder. “I’m going to go see about the speaker system, the controls should be around here somewhere. But we’re going to test the sonar thing before we deploy it – earplugs may not be enough.”

“We can test it now.” I waved Evan over. “Let’s see if I’m going to have a problem with the sonar thing, if it even still works. Just give it one click.”

He pulled it out of his pocket, taking a look at it. It was a pretty simple gizmo about the size of a garage door opener, with two buttons and a molded speaker grill. Definitely not something someone had cobbled together at home in their garage, at least not without a high-end 3D printer. “Which button?”

“Try the black one first,” Joey suggested. “Danny, step back a little so he can point it at you.” I did that, bracing myself, and Evan pushed the button. Nothing happened. “It doesn’t have an On/Off switch, does it?”

He looked it over again. “No. Maybe that one is low-frequency. Or it’s broken. Let’s try the red one.”

The red one didn’t do anything either. “Okay, I think it’s broken. Here, I’ll put it in my pocket, maybe we can get it working again later.” He handed it over, and I put it in one of the pockets that wasn’t holding my phone – gotta love lab coats. “We’ll figure it out. I’m going to get back to clearing random fishies out of the lobby.” Ramon came out of the employee-only area a lot faster than he’d gone in. “Ramon, see if you can find a key for that door, we need to lock it so no one else can get in.”

He swallowed and nodded. “Tienes razón – nobody needs to. Oh, the fishies in the rooms suddenly became very active, but then they stopped again. What do you think could be happening?”

My ears went up, startling him, and then I grinned from ear to ear. “That would have been us testing one of the little gizmos those two guys had on them. We thought it was broken, but I guess whatever it’s doing just isn’t something that affects primates or canines.” I took it back out of my pocket, aimed it at the front doors, and pushed the black button. And the feeding fishies stopped feeding and moved away from the doors. “Okay, I think that means fishie-clearing just got a whole lot easier. Let’s get them out of the storerooms, shall we?”

“Ramon and I can do that,” Joey said, taking the sonar gizmo. “Jorge can help us once he’s done talking to the chef.” Jorge waved and nodded; he was still on the radio. “You and Evan go back to clearing the lobby, and then we’ll all clear the ground floor as much as we can, release the elevators, and then start killing any fishies we find on the upper floors. Four is clear except for the ones in the service elevator, but…you know, where does the service elevator come from? I know I saw luggage going up in the regular ones. Is it in the kitchen?”

Evan nodded. “Probably,” he said. “I found that door. Did you want to come check before we go in, Danny?”

“Yeah, I’d better, just to be safe.” I jogged over there with him, sniffed and listened, then shook my head. “No seawater, no blood. I can smell fish, but I think that’s food-fish not fishie-fish.”

“They had fish tacos at lunch,” he agreed, and pulled out his camera. “Ready?”

“Hoping I don’t need to be.” He opened the door. I could see and sort of smell where there had been fishies on the floor, but those had probably been the ones they’d driven in to load onto the service elevator. We checked the freezers, and discovered that one of them was where they’d put the boy’s body from earlier. Nobody else was in there, though, and no one was in the walk-in refrigerator either. There had been someone outside the back door…but at this point the only way we were going to know who it had been was from dental records or a really thorough headcount of the staff to see who was unaccounted for. We barricaded the back door so nobody could get cute and use it to let more fishies in, and then I went back out and told Jorge to tell the chef that he could have his service elevator back. Once he’d cleaned the dead fishies out of the car, that was.

There was a sound system behind the front desk, but none of us could figure out how to use it or where all the speakers were, so we pushed a couch in front of the front doors and went upstairs to Three to release all the elevators before heading up one floor at a time to clear out any other fishies that might be hanging around. Everyone was warned not to go down to the lobby, and we privately explained to the chef why nobody should try to go into the storerooms – or the office. An hour and a half later we came back to Four and every member of the kitchen staff was wearing a makeshift black armband. “The staff at a place like this, they all become very close, like family,” the chef explained. He didn’t have a nametag, but the menus said he was Chef Antonio ‘Tony’ Zabala and he’d been trained in France. “I am going to come up to the roof with you, if that is all right; I want to hear what these foul beasts have to say with my own ears. Diego will bring up food shortly.”

“Works for me,” I told him. “I’m hoping we can get them to tell us something useful. Do we know if the rest of the staff is accounted for?”

“I believe a few are missing,” he said, shortening his stride to match mine as we headed for the elevator. “But they may be hiding in fear, and I cannot really blame them. If that is the case, I expect those to come out when the sun rises.”

“Hopefully, yeah – or when help gets here, one way or the other.”

We picked up Jorge along the way and all three of us rode up to the rooftop patio. The doors opened on a very calm scene, just people sitting around tables or standing by the wall taking in the ocean view that was now being illuminated by the tropical moon that riding high in the star-dusted sky…and then of course there were the two guys in waders tied up with strings of solar fairy lights and gagged with bar towels. That part was more than a little surreal. And so was Maria sitting nearby with Les, calmly discussing what she should mod the two of them with to get the most interesting effect. “Can’t use a star-nosed mole, Doc already beat you to that one,” I said. I grinned my full-teeth grin down at our little terrorists. “Hi again, boys. Are you being good?”

Holy shit, how big was this guy’s bladder? Or maybe it had just had time to fill up again – a question to ask Dave’s dad sometime, I guess. “Oh, they are being very good,” Maria answered for them. “They were very loud at first, but the towels I found in un cubo sucio behind the bar put a stop to that.”

“A nice touch,” Chef Zabala agreed, and gave her a little bow. “I would have sent you up the head from the bathroom mop if you had asked.”

“Don’t encourage her,” Les warned. “We’ve already had to have one little talk about prisoners and why the Geneva Convention is a thing.” One of the terrorists thought that was funny, and he aimed a warning finger and a much more threatening glare. “Little asshole, if I run over part of you the cops are just going to think I’m an old fat guy in a wheelchair who can’t see where he’s going. Do we understand each other?”

That got him a sullen nod, but the guy cringed away from the growl – not from me, from the chef. “Pequeño bastardo!” Zabala exploded. “You work here!”

Oh shit. “What about the other one?”

He looked, then shook his head. “No, not that one. But this traidor, him I know. He is Gabriel Abalos, his family lives in the town. Why?! Why would you do this? Why would you endanger us all this way, even tu madre and tus hermanas!”

Gabriel was making noises like he wanted to answer that, so Maria yanked out the dirty towel to let him talk. A flood of Spanish poured out. The other terrorist was pretty obviously trying to tell him to shut the hell up, but I moved closer to him and held up one handpaw and he stopped. Chef Zabala started arguing with Gabriel, then Maria joined in and pretty soon they were having a three-way shouting match…which ended when the chef spat something out that drained all of the color from Gabriel’s face. He started shaking his head; Joey caught his eye and shook his right back. “Nope, he’s right – this wasn’t about the god-damned resort or the fucking tourists, Gabriel, and these things won’t stop here. They’re growing, they’re hungry, and they’re trying to migrate. If we can’t kill every last one of them – and let me tell you, it will be a miracle if we can – they could end up taking over the whole fucking world. Now you and your dumbass friends did what with who?”

“Some hombre!” he said. “We had been complaining, about los turistas, and then Tomás brings this activista hombre around, and he says we all want the same thing and he can help us! He says this nueva ciencia, it can make things people are afraid of, we just needed to pay him and he would make something for us. It was just supposed to be a little mean fish, like una piraña!”

“If that’s all you think piranhas are, you haven’t been to the aquarium enough,” Joey told him. “One piranha is a little mean fish, but they don’t come in ones very often. How much did you pay him?”

He swallowed. “ten thousand pesos up front. The rest was to come from the safe here.”

“From the safe.” I couldn’t stop the growl from coming out, and I really didn’t want to. “You murdered eight people and tortured Ms. Angelo until she killed herself…because you were trying to get her to open the fucking safe.”

“Most likely so those they got the ten thousand from would not kill them – or kill his family.” The chef was smelling even angrier now. “So this got you in with los traficantes de drogas – there is no other place you could have gotten that much money at once. Estúpido! Where will your mother go now, where they will not find her? You were angry at los turistas whose money feeds your family, so you curse your family to spite them?!”

“Todo el mundo debía morir! They said there would be no one left to tell!”

“Including you!” Maria spat at him. “Look around, idiota, do you see a way out for you? Do you think rubber boots will save you from the big one?”

“I’m willing to put him out there so he can see for himself,” I said, flexing my claws. The fizzing was a burning now: Enemies. But instead of going for Gabriel’s throat like I wanted to – and let me tell you, I was holding it in so hard my arms were shaking – I pulled out my phone, pulled up the video, and turned the phone around so he could see it. “You worked here, I’m sure she knew you. Did she call you by name when she was begging you to stop him, Gabriel? And he just laughed, because he knew you were his bitch?”

From the other guy’s scent, I’d hit that nail right on the head. “She should have just given us the combination!”

“It was her job not to.” Chef Zabato’s scent was changing, shading into something part of me recognized as similar to the feeling I’d been fighting…and I just barely caught his arm before he ripped out Gabriel’s throat with a set of meat claws he’d had hidden in his chef coat pocket. Yet more piss happened; what was this guy, a fountain? “No! He deserves to die!”

“I don’t disagree with you,” I told him. Joey had to grab him from the other side when he tried to lunge again, and we dragged him out of range. “But we can’t kill him. The authorities are going to need the information he has.” Maria had taken the phone so I wouldn’t drop it. “Evan and I alternated doors,” I told her, “but we both took pictures of the office. We were able to get the fishies out of the rooms once everyone else came downstairs.”

“Good, las victimas will be easier to identify.” Then she apparently got to the one out by the trash, and her nose wrinkled. “Well, not this one.”

“No, that one had been out there for a while, I think.” Gabriel was starting to smell a little complacent, so I turned the phone around again to let him see that one. “That’s ten, Gabriel. Ten brutal murders with your fingerprints all over them. You really think the authorities are going to cut you some kind of sweet deal for the pitiful little amount of information you have to give them? All that’s going to get you is not executed.”

“Perhaps not even that.” The chef had regained some control of himself. “When the federales are done with him, he will just be trash for them to dispose of. Then la administración will make an example out of he and this other one for those who think terrorismo is something to play with.” He shook his head. “And he still does not think of what this will do to his mother, or his sisters.”

“He is now,” I said, because I could smell it, he was – too late, but he was. “You got through to him that much.”

“Si.” He nodded, sinking down onto the chair Joey pulled over for him. “What about this other one?”

“I think he is un activista,” Maria said. “The things he said before I stuffed a dirty rag in his mouth make me think he was using Gabriel and his friends and their silliness for reasons of his own – he wants to save the planet from los malvados humanos.”

Ooh, smug. “So he’s an environmental terrorist,” I said. “And possibly the one who got our first baby fishie onto the beach and convinced those girls to hop the wall to ‘document’ the arrival of the rest of the fishies. So that’s six more murders for him, sweet. Want to un-gag him so we can find out how stupid he is?”

She did, and he hissed like an angry lizard. “El medio ambiente debe ser protegido! Seré un mártir…”

“You will be an idiot, not a martyr,” Joey corrected. “Terrorism doesn’t protect the environment, dumbass. Or did you not hear earlier about how all the fish in the area are gone now because your little pets ate them? It’s going to take years for a conservation team to even try to fix this, years and millions if not billions of dollars your country doesn’t fucking have.”

“All too true,” Jorge agreed. “For un desastre natural, there are funds we can request. But this was not natural, so there are no funds to be had.”

I made a mental note to check with some of our other international sources about that – this sort of thing was a threat to the whole world if not properly dealt with, after all, so maybe there was something we could get set up through the U.N. And then I picked up the notepad, which Maria had been sketching out some really horrific mod combinations on, and flipped back to our rundown of events. “Chef Zabato, do you know when Gabriel started working here?”

“I think it has been two years now, or perhaps a little more.” He’d been looking at my claws; he’d even pulled his meat claws back out to compare them. “You do not sharpen them?”

I shook my head. I didn’t mind the question, his scent said he was just trying to distract himself to calm down. “I’d get sued every time I shook hands if I did. And the rounded tips let me use the touchscreen on my phone.” Not to mention that they’d been plenty sharp enough to disembowel fishies earlier, of course, but I really wasn’t going to mention that at all if I could help it. “Okay, so Gabriel and his friends were complaining about tourists, and then Tomás brought in an environmental activist who sold them on the idea that genomodding could help make the ‘problem’ go away. Who was the activist, Gabriel? This idiot that thinks he’s a martyr?”

That provoked a flood of very abusive Spanish from said wannabe martyr, and Joey snorted. “Keep practicing, dumbass – my mom threatens people better than that. Do you have a name?”

He puffed out his chest. “I am El Liberador!”

Gabriel actually blushed. I couldn’t blame him. I’m sure in the middle of a secret meeting that had sounded cool and rebellious, but now it just sounded silly. “Okay, we can call you Libby for short.” I made a show of writing that down, provoking yet another flood of amateurish abuse that we all ignored. “So, Libby here is is an environmental terrorist who wants all the people off the beaches, if not off the peninsula entirely, I’m guessing.” And his scent said I’d guessed right, so I put a little check mark next to that. “Which one of you got the local drug dealer involved?”

Gabriel couldn’t distance himself from that one fast enough. “It was not like that! I went with Marco, but it was just his cousin. We helped him do some things, deliver some paquetes – we did not ask what was in them. And then he gave us the money.”

Maria raised an eyebrow. “You did not ask, but you knew,” she challenged, and his scent agreed with the correction even though he didn’t outwardly indicate it. I made another check mark. “So who did you give the money to, this one?”

“No, we met un activista hombre, out on the beach, and he took it. He counted it, and then he gave part of it to,” a sideways look, “Libby, for his expenses, and then Marco went with him and Libby came with me.”

Uh oh. “Why did Marco go with him?”

He shrugged. “They said one of us should come, to see los híbridos and learn how they worked. I wanted to go, but they said I should stay at work, so I could help later.” We all looked at each other, and his scent spiked sharply with denial. “No! No, he went to work with them, they said they needed someone…”

“Oh, I’m sure they did,” Joey told him. “They were probably out of cows – that’s what they’d been luring Daddy Fishie up the coastline with, cows.” Gabriel still didn’t want to believe it. “Don’t you remember when we went out on the beach, with the buckets?  What did you think we were doing out there, collecting seashells? Fish are messy eaters, we were looking for parts. And we found some.”

That did it; Gabriel withdrew into himself. Chef Zabato gave him a long look, then stood back up and said he was going back to the kitchen. Libby was smelling smug, and I raised an eyebrow at him. “You got used too, you know, so don’t even go there. Ancient Fire doesn’t give a shit about the environment, they’re trying to scare people into falling into line with their religion and if they bring about the end of the world doing it they don’t really care. They’ve become a full-blown apocalypse cult.”

He tried to argue. “No! No, they are not like that, we have been working with them, and some others we know from across the border also. They believe in our cause, they say they will make los animales stronger, make them better able to survive and protect themselves from us…”

“Make them bigger, so they can eat more of us at once.” I made another note off to the side – Ancient Fire might just have infiltrated one of the environmental terrorist groups on our side of the border too. “They fed you a line, Libby.”

“Stop calling me that!”

“We cannot, you have not given us your name,” Maria pointed out. He shot back with something crude and she laughed at him. “Oh, I will be sure to repeat that one to los federales when they get here, they will like having one more thing to charge you with – even though we all know you could not follow through on that threat with your pito chiquito.”

And then she gagged him again while he tried really hard to call her every different kind of a whore he could think of. Les sighed and shook his head. “Oh yeah, they’re gonna have fun interrogating this one, he’s too stupid to realize how stupid he is. So they’re in with the radical environmentalists in the States?”

“Sounds like it.” I moved back toward the table to get a drink, lashing my tail just a little bit. Ancient Fire running amok in the US we did not need. “Once we have the network back, I’ll pass that along to Interpol and they can pass it back to the FBI or someone.” Les smelled surprised by that, and I thought about what I’d just said. “Oh, yeah, we don’t have any special access or anything at the federal level,” I explained. “We can call the wildlife guys, and I will be, but since this is international terrorism it needs to go higher and faster up the food chain than I can accomplish with one phone call.”

Now Maria was smelling confused. “But GenoMod is the official lab.”

“To Interpol and other countries, yes,” Joey said. “Not at home, though. It’s fine, we have a whole calling chain set up for working around it – that just doesn’t do us much good when we can’t call anyone.”

“I made sure Mike had the number for our contact at the president’s office in Mexico City.” I tried and failed to hold back a yawn. “I told him to call them the minute he had a signal, so hopefully word is already getting around.”

Ramon’s scent had gone…weird, although not the way it had been before. “But I thought you were the official lab, like we are.”

“We are, just not in the United States,” I told him. “The United States doesn’t officially have an official lab, they just unofficially have an official lab.”

“Wait, what?” That was Randy, who I hadn’t even realized was on the patio with us. “I was coming up when the chef was going down,” he explained. “I figured one more pair of eyes on watch would probably be a good thing. And I knew we didn’t have an official lab, but I thought…well, I think everyone just assumed they were quietly backing you guys somehow.”

I laughed; it came out as more of a yip, but that was okay. For everyone but Gabriel, who kind of peed again. Maybe he’s afraid of dogs? Or he needs to pay a visit to a urologist? No telling. “No, they don’t back us,” I told him. “Word is that the government doesn’t want to deal with it so they’re just going to turn a blind eye for as long as they can. They don’t really like us very much, no way do they want to work with us.”

“And of course, one of the reasons they don’t like us all that much is because we sued them for harassment and won,” Joey put in. “But there isn’t another American lab that can do what we do right now, so they’re kind of between a rock and a hard place. Having them ignore us and just let us do our thing is a compromise we can live with.”

“Speaking of, the second we have phones back, call Angela,” I told him. “She’s going to need to do some fast calling of her own to make sure any anti-fishie measures Fish and Game takes won’t affect the selkie colony.” Randy’s scent spiked, he was really interested in that, and I rolled my eyes at him. “Okay, I wasn’t going to say anything…but dude, there is no way you’re not some kind of reporter.”

That made him laugh. “Actually, I’m a photojournalist,” he admitted. “They had me down here because someone had heard that something was going on – honestly, though, they thought it was going to be drugs or a corruption scandal, maybe both. And my editor thought she was being nice to me by giving me this one, because I’d just gotten back from Somalia.”

More eyebrows than mine went up at that. Somalia had just tipped itself over into a combination civil war/coastal war again, which meant Randy wasn’t just a photojournalist…he was a fucking war correspondent. No wonder he’d volunteered to help with the sandbags, and keeping watch. I nodded. “Well, welcome to the Fishie Apocalypse Prevention Squad – we won’t have shirts until Jorge gets back to the aquarium and has them made, though.” I thought for a second, traded scent-communication with Joey, and then took my phone back from Maria and handed it to Randy. “The reason these two little bastards are tied up.”

He looked. His scent said he was reacting, but he didn’t react outwardly and I hadn’t expected him to – I’m sure he’s seen worse, probably even recently. He handed it back, shaking his head. “Are the fishies still in there?”

“No, we cleared them out of the storeroom and then locked the main door,” Ramon told him. “The lobby and the kitchen are also clear.”

“Fire extinguishers drive the little bastards back and then eventually kill them,” Evan added. “Hey Les, is there any way we can rig one of those to pop on impact?”

Les shook his head. “They’re designed not to – you’re thinking of extinguisher balls, but even those won’t work without fire to set them off.” He considered it. “If it’s the powder that kills them, though, you could drop a cloud on Daddy Fishie and see what happens. It’s bound to do something to him.”

“Hopefully not just make him angry.” Jorge considered. “He is quiet again now, and there is no wind. We could go back to the third floor and try it.”

“Or we could go to the second floor and try to get it in his gills, or his eyes,” Joey suggested. “Or maybe do both?”

“Both would probably be most effective,” Jorge agreed. “But it will be dangerous – he will thrash around, and use sus filamentos. And he might run away from the water.”

“I think we can stop him from doing that,” I said. “We can use the sonar device…” He shook his head. “No?”

“Daddy Fishie may be too big – for that small device, at least. If we could project it, that might make it large enough…but no one in the kitchen knows how the system works.”

“And everyone else is hiding or dead.” I went over to the wall and looked down. Daddy Fishie was prowling around the pool area, poking at windows and doors with his snout. “It looks like he’s getting more active, probably because it’s cooler now.”

“And since there’s no food he can get to here, our window of opportunity may be closing.” Joey came over and looked himself. “Oh yeah, he’s foraging. So I guess we should grab some extinguishers and hit Two and Three, see if we can at least disable him.”

“Having someone on the ground floor at the same time wouldn’t be a bad idea either,” I suggested. “He’s,” I looked again, “snuffling around those doors and windows, one good hit from an extinguisher – or maybe that and the device – should make him lift his head right into your sights.”

“I still have the rubber boots,” Evan put in. “If we all hit him at once, get enough of the chemical on his skin, we might just be able to keep him from making it any farther than the beach.”

Jorge was nodding. “All right, this is what we should do. Joey, you take the second floor, to target the gills and skin, and I will take the third for his eyes.”

“We should go in pairs,” I said. “We can’t be sure if these two idiots were alone, or when a baby fishie might pop out from hiding. I’ll go with Evan again, because I don’t need boots and I can smell a fishie or a human coming.”

“I will go with Joey,” Maria said. “Ramon, you stay here with Les this time – someone must be here who speaks Spanish. And Randy can go with Jorge, because that will be the more dramatic view for pictures.” Randy looked kind of startled by that. “We need as many pictures as possible – you will take them best. Each squad member to his own specialty.”

That made Randy smile. Ramon wasn’t looking or smelling too happy about being left to guard the fort with Les, but I think he realized that Maria just wanted off the roof for a while. And she was right about someone who could speak and understand Spanish needing to be in each group, too.

We all took the elevator down to Three, and then I blocked that one so it couldn’t be called to another floor and had Joey and Maria take one of the remaining elevators down to Two while Evan and I took the last one down to the lobby and then blocked it too – the kitchen staff had the service elevator if they needed to get somewhere, and since it was nearly one in the morning I doubted any of the guests would be wandering around between floors. Each of our groups also had a radio, so between that and having control of our respective elevators I felt like we had all of the bases we could covered.

Outside of the barricaded lobby doors, the baby fishies were still milling around, some of them still gnawing on the bones of their dead siblings. The glass door that led to the poolside atrium and various other little rooms like the one we’d been using as a makeshift lab some eight hours before was barricaded too, but we moved the furniture aside. Not a fishie in sight. I opened the door just slightly and took a deep breath, then made a face. “Daddy Fishie’s scent is pretty much drowning out everything else,” I told Evan. “We’ll just have to stay alert.”

“I’m not sure I can get much more alert than this,” Evan told me. “Now let me get in front, I have the boots on if one of the little ankle-biters surprises us.”

I let him go past me, then made sure the door had fully closed behind us – we’d just gotten the lobby cleared out, I didn’t want to have to do it again. Fire extinguishers at the ready, we cautiously made our way down the short hallway with its muted safety lights to the place where all the windows started. The internal ones were all intact although most of the external ones were shattered, and in the moonlight we could see Daddy Fishie’s legs and the ends of his barbels as he snuffled around trying to figure out where the food was at. I pulled out the radio. “This is Ground Floor, we’re in position – he’s right in front of us.” His snout abruptly dipped down, a huge eye looking in right at us, and I swallowed. “Oh, and he apparently has pretty good hearing.”

Whatever they’d responded with was drowned out by the sound of Daddy Fishie trying to get at the food he could now see. His mouth was huge, like a cave, and his teeth were really obviously not fish teeth up close. His barbels, at their bases, were bigger around than one of Mike’s arms. I pulled out the sonar device and tried it, just to see what it would do while we still had glass between us. The black button had no effect at all, just like Jorge had said, but the red button made him twitch just a little. I put the device back into my pocket. “He reacts to the red button just a little bit, not at all to the other one,” I said. “Get ready, he’s about to break this glass and then we’re going to let him have it with the extinguishers, right in the mouth.”

We’re ready on Two,” came from Joey.

We are also ready on Three,” Jorge responded. “Play a tune, make him dance for us.

Evan was keeping Daddy Fishie’s attention by moving back and forth. “Dance fishie dance,” I said, watching the glass crack. Any second now…the pane cracked more, but the frame gave way before the glass did and Evan and I both jumped out of the way to let it fall. I felt a few tiny shards sting my skin, but most of them didn’t make it past my fur and then I was aiming the extinguisher right into the creature’s mouth.

Yes, creature. Even now, not five feet from that cavernous mouth with its massive carnivore teeth, huge barbels wiggling at the walls that were holding them back from finding out exactly what kind of food I was…I couldn’t call Daddy Fishie a monster. The monsters were the people who’d created him.

Didn’t mean I had a problem with killing him so he wouldn’t kill me, though. Evan and I fired at the same time, releasing a cloud of dry yellow chemical spray right into that mouth and the throat I could see behind it, and the huge snout jerked back, barbels flailing. One got in a lucky swipe and I went flying, luckily not very far because the hallway wasn’t that big, and I rolled back to my feet and yanked the sonar device out of my pocket. Baby fishies were waddling through the wreckage, and I turned the red button on them; they fell over each other trying to reverse course. One of them speared itself on a piece of the window frame, and I let go of the button so the others could cluster around to eat it. And then Evan hit them with some more chemical spray. I retrieved my fallen extinguisher and we both backed against the wall.

It was shaking. Outside, Daddy Fishie was stomping around like an injured elephant – just a hell of a lot bigger. He sent out his call again, begging his missing mate for help, then stamped around blindly, crushing baby fishies under his feet. I saw what was probably some dry chemical drifting down from above. And then one of his stomps went into the pool, throwing him off balance, and he fell heavily onto his side. Everything shook, and we also heard an audible crack. I pushed the button again, driving the baby fishies away from the broken window, then held it out to Evan. “I have a really bad idea.”

He took it, nodding. “I think I know what it is. We’ll clear a path over there…and I’ll keep them off of you.”

“Sounds good.” We stepped over the broken frame, crunching glass underfoot, and once we were clear of the building we both started in with the extinguishers again. Up close Daddy Fishie’s feet were really odd, he almost had paws. “I’m sorry, big guy,” I said, and then I set down my extinguisher and swiped his leg with my claws. His hide was pretty tough, but three swipes got him bleeding and then I was dodging gigantic, glistening tail filaments to go for his belly while the babies started converging on his leg. Daddy Fishie started to thrash. He was a little softer underneath, but I didn’t let myself get carried away – stopped after one howl – and just opened up as many slashes as I could before getting the hell out of there. My extinguisher wasn’t retrievable, being surrounded by baby fishies, and Evan’s died after about thirty seconds more, so after that he just aimed the sonar in front of us and we both ran like hell. We didn’t stop to look back, we didn’t stop until we’d hit the lobby and jumped into the elevator, kicking the chair out of the doors to let them close behind us.

The elevator was shaking. In my mind’s eye, I could see the baby fishies finding those slashes, burrowing into the softer flesh, eating their parent alive. His thrashing would kill dozens of them, but there were thousands on the beach and they’d keep coming until he was worn out. And then they’d still keep coming, keep eating. The elevator doors dinged open on Two, and we both ran for the balcony. “Joey! Maria!”

“Down here!” They were on the balcony, watching. Joey glanced over at me. “Only one howl, I’m impressed. I’ll get you a treat later.”

I showed him one canine fang. “I am so shedding on your bed.”

Maria was on the radio. “Danny and Evan are here with us now. The downstairs?”

“Hopefully not caving in from him thumping,” I said, loud enough so Jorge and Randy could hear me too. “But we didn’t stick around to see if it was going to.” A particularly big shake rattled the balcony, and I pulled everyone off of it. “Okay, I heard metal screech,” I said, rubbing my ear. “Jorge, Randy, get off the balcony, it might not be safe. I’m going to stop at the suite to clean up again and then I’ll meet you on the roof.”

“Hopefully there will be food waiting when we get there,” Maria said – after she’d let go of the Talk button, of course, because the chef did have at least one radio in the kitchen and he was stressed enough already. The building shook again. “Quickly, I do not want to climb all of those stairs.”

“You aren’t the only one.” I was definitely starting to notice that I hadn’t eaten anything for almost twenty hours, and the fizzing in my blood had died down to a tired buzz. We got onto the elevator and everyone kept their fingers crossed until it hit the suite’s floor, which was just below the rooftop patio. I heard metal again and noticed the floor indicator flicker, so I herded everyone out. “Come on, I’ll walk up that last flight with you,” I told Maria when she groaned theatrically in protest. “I just want to clean my handpaws and change my lab coat.”

I washed up as fast as I could, switching out the contents of my pockets into a clean lab coat and then giving myself a quick brushing before I put it back on. “I think I may have left some glass shards in the floor,” I told Maria apologetically when I came out of the room we were sharing. “I forgot they were in there when I started brushing. Evan, you didn’t get hit, did you?”

He shook his head. It looked like he’d used the other bathroom to wash his hands and face, and he was currently sunk halfway into one of the couches. “Holy shit, next time I’m paying the extra money to get a better room, this couch is amazing.”

“It’s more amazing than just sitting on it can convey,” Joey told him. “It doubles as a bed. I slept on it last night, and now I’m wishing I could take it home with me.”

“We’ll find it online and get you one,” I said. “It’ll be a wedding present.”

“You already gave us a wedding present,” he reminded me. “But we could get one for each house at the new place, I think Dave and Pete and Hana would all appreciate it.”

“As long as you don’t put one in the lab,” I warned. “Nobody would ever get any work done. Okay, are we all ready?”

“Food is the only thing that could make me pry my ass out of this couch,” Evan said, suiting the action to the words. “Let me know where you find them, I want one on my boat.” My ears went up, and he laughed. “My houseboat, I mean. I live where I work, it’s just easier that way.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean – I live above our lab.” Joey ushered everyone out of the suite, making sure the door locked behind us, and we headed for the elevator…and then aimed for the stairs instead when we saw that the floor indicator light was still flickering. “Oh, Joey, before I forget: Daddy Fishie’s feet looked almost like paws up close, and he definitely has carnivore teeth.”

He sighed, rubbing his eyes. “Crap, this thing is a mess. Hopefully a contained one.”

The building shook again, and I grimaced. Poor Daddy Fishie. “It should be, for the time being. At least until they’re all full.”

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  1. Toby

    That may be the only way to take daddy down, though scary as heck. I do hope help comes soon with mommy still not seen…

    I just hope the government doesn’t go for the ‘only way to be sure’ solution a la ‘Aliens’ to contain the fishes.

    I love how Danny sticks to his guns on the creature/ monster debate.

    • lol, No, I don’t think the government would go for the ‘take off and nuke the site from orbit’ option, at least not without evacuating all of the people first – wealthy guests aside, the two geneticists from Mexico’s official lab are there, half the team from GenoMod who they called in to help, and Jorge, who makes documentaries with National Geographic. None of those people would be an acceptable loss, because there’s no one who can take any of their places.


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