Primeval: Primeval Extinction Event

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9780857680624: Primeval: Primeval Extinction Event
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An Enteldon goes on the rampage down Oxford Street in central London, causing untold damage and loss of life. Cutter decides that a new approach to tackling the anomalies is required, and, when a mysterious Russian scientist arrives at the ARC, the Primeval team think they might have found the answer.

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About the Author:

Dan Abnett is a prolific writer of both novels and comics. He has written for a diverse range of characters in comics, including the X-Men, Batman, Mr Men and Dr Who. He is currently writing Superman stories for DC. He has written 25 novels for Black Library. Dan was voted Best Writer Now at the National Comic Awards 03.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

The animal’s lonely voice haunted the mountainside. The melancholy sound rolled across the canopy of wet leaves and dripped down the trailing vines, all substance lost long before it reached the brothers’ ears. It did not matter.
The rainforest spoke with the tongues of Peruvian devils, a thousand sounds competing for attention, and beneath them a thousand more just as eager to be heard. The place was alive with the constant chittering of insects; the deep-throated rumbles of the yellow-backed toads; the raucous caws of the colourful birds as they preened and strutted on the high branches; the scuttle of tuco-tuco, sloths and opossum through the thick vegetation; the slithering of the lachesis muta through the thick grasses; the soft sussurous of the leaves and the silken rush of the rain falling down between them.
Even at dusk, everything was vivid and alive. But night was coming on fast beneath the thick, leafy canopy.
It was hot. Unbearably so. The cotton clung to Cam’s flesh. He plucked at it with sticky fingers. There was nothing comfortable about the cloying humidity. He ran his fingers through his hair. They tangled in a greasy knot that he couldn’t tease through.
“I’m telling you, Jaime, it was like shards of ice spinning lazily in the air.” Cam shook his head, knowing the words couldn’t come close to describing what he had seen.
“Right,” his younger brother said, a wry grin playing over his lips. “Clouds of ice in the middle of the rainforest, and you still say you’ve not been on the whacky baccy?”
“Give it a rest, Jaime. I’m serious. It was weird.”
“You’re telling me.” Despite his words, Cam could tell Jaime was intrigued. “Did you try and touch one? I mean, what was it like?”
It was the obvious thing to ask. It was precisely what he would have asked, if their roles had been reversed. Even so, he didn’t have an answer.
Cam peered across the fire at his brother. How could he admit that the strange phenomenon had actually scared him shitless? He played the big tough guy, but the thought of reaching out and actually touching that eerie light sent a chill running the length of his spine.
“No,” he admitted, a part of him hoping that would bring an end to Jaime’s questions.
He picked up a stick and stirred the fire. The flames had almost guttered out, and they sprang back to life, throwing weird shadows across the small enclave within the trees. It quickly burned low again, its fuel reduced to charcoal. The shadows shrank, becoming hunched and cadaverous as they ghosted across the encroaching foliage.
Beyond them lurked thicker clusters of darkness; the stones of the ancient Incan temple they’d discovered. It was a loose term, discovered; it wasn’t as though they were the first humans to set foot in the place, but with the isolation and lack of anything approaching a beaten track it still felt that way.
With dusk drawing in they’d decided to hold off on exploring the ruin until morning. Without the luxury of electric lights, the risk of injury outweighed their curiosity. So they had bivouacked down for the night, with the promise of adventure waiting for them in the morning.
In the fading light, they had gone to search for enough dry wood to start a fire – more as a deterrent to the insects than as a source of heat. That was when Cam had seen the peculiar light.
He picked up a piece of charcoal, which broke and smeared across his fingertips. It was potent stuff, the essence of life and death in one crumbling stick. As he stared at it, it appeared so mundane, and yet everything around him, even his brother, could be reduced down to this simple dust of carbon, and without it nothing could live.
He shook his head.
Jaime grunted, obviously far from satisfied with his brother’s evasiveness, but equally familiar with it.
“You weren’t in the least bit curious?” he pressed. “That’s not the Cam Bairstow I know and love. Hell, you almost sound like the old man. Gearing up for a career in politics, are we?”
“God forbid,” Cam replied, matching his brother’s grin. He brushed away the dirt at his feet and jammed the stick into the ground. Then he rooted around in his pack for his water bottle, uncapped it, and drained a long swallow of warm water. He missed the simple luxury of ice.
“I’m going to take a leak,” Cam said as he pushed himself to his feet and dusted off his hands on his shorts. “Try not to burn anything down while I’m gone.”
Away from the fire the air was thick with the hum of mosquitoes. One brushed against his face. The tickle of its wings reached his lips before it disappeared. A week ago he would have squashed it or swatted it away. A rash of bites later he’d wised up to the fact that dead mosquitoes only drew more. Now he was content to let it explore the warmth of his face and move on in its own good time, trusting the mosquito repellent to live up to its name.
Cam pushed aside a trailing branch and the leaves closed around him as he moved further away from the safety of the fire. Within a dozen paces the trees became so thick that the night lost all definition, and turned black. The deadfall on the ground crunched beneath his feet as he blundered forward blindly, reaching out until he found a thick-trunked tree. He unbuttoned his shorts, grunting contentedly as he relieved himself against it.
For a long moment Cam felt inconsequential beside the sheer size of the Amazonian giant. It was a lovely moment of role-reversal – now he was the mosquito, grateful that the tree couldn’t squash him.
If a man urinates in the rainforest and there’s no one around to hear it, does it make a sound? He chuckled at the thought. His mind had started running off on so many bizarre tangents recently, a symptom, no doubt, of being a million miles from civilisation, with only monkeys, tree rats, and his brother for company. After a month in Madre de Dios, an ecology reserve in the heart of the Peruvian rainforest, he ranked all three on roughly the same level of the evolutionary scale.
One by one the natural harmonies of the rainforest fell silent, until there were only the sounds of the rain in the high leaves, and his urine puddling at his feet.
Cam buttoned up.
Something was wrong.
He knew it instinctively. Some primal part of his brain responded to the sudden silence. The rainforest was a living thing. For it to suddenly fall still could only mean one thing: there was something out there in the dark that had scared off the fauna.
“Jaime?” Cam called.
His voice cracked. He shook his head, smiling at the silliness that had him spooked by simple silence.
As though in answer, he heard a brief rustle of movement, the tangled scrub shifting as something heavy prowled through the darkness. He turned in the direction of the sound, but there was nothing to see. Blinded by the darkness, he tried to follow the sound with his ears instead.
“Jaime, stop playing silly beggars. It isn’t funny.”
Though he was hopeful that it was his brother, Cam couldn’t bring himself to raise his voice. Something told him that wouldn’t be a good idea.
This time, a low-throated growl rumbled close to his ear. It was a predatory sound filled with the resonances of the hunter stalking its succulent prey. Cam spun around, certain the animal was on his shoulder, but it was nowhere to be seen.
Off to his left, the sharp crack of breaking deadfall snapped his already shredded nerves. He peered frantically at the layers of darkness that lay beyond the leaves.
“Jesus,” he muttered, breathing hard. “Pack it in, Jaime.”
His heart hammered against the cage of his ribs. Warm beads of perspiration trickled down the curvature of his spine. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t see anything; he could feel it. He wasn’t alone.
And he knew it wasn’t his brother.
There was a distinct rhythm to the movement, like something moving on all fours, close to the ground. He was put in mind of a cat, circling its prey; which made him the mouse.
Cam cursed himself for not bringing a torch. Suddenly the safety of the fire felt a long way away.
He dared not move.
“Jaime,” he said, very quietly, willing it to be nothing more than his brother, playing the fool.
The animal moved through the darkness slowly, its passage a threatening whisper as it brushed against the vines and leaves.
And then it was gone – the beast moved on. He was alone with the oppressive silence.
Strangely, that was worse. At once the rainforest felt incredibly claustrophobic, the towering trees and dragging branches pressed in on him, heightening the sound of the rain on the canopy of leaves. It leant the night a nightmarish quality. The chill of dread settled beneath the trickles of sweat pouring down his skin.
“Jaime?” Cam called again, but there was no answer.
Suddenly the darkness erupted with the sounds of violence. And he heard his brother begin to scream.
Cam started to run, blundering through the trees blindly, feeling as if he was moving in slow motion. He pushed aside branches that clawed at his face, ducking beneath the sting of barbs and thorns. His brother’s shrieks were sickening.
Worse though was the sudden hush that followed them.
Jaime!” Cam shouted, bursting out of the trees.
The campfire lay scattered, faggots of wood smouldering, barely casting enough light to hold back the night. Still, it showed too much.
His brother lay on his back amid the ruin of the fire, dark stains all across his body where his flesh had been torn open by tooth and claw. The savagery of the attack was writ in blood and shadow. Cam took an unsteady step forward, unable to wrench his eyes away from the sight of his brother’s broken body, all thoughts of Incan ruins suddenly far, far away.
Before he could take a second step a huge muscular creature hit him, the sheer momentum of its attack hurling him into the underbrush as huge teeth snapped and snarled at his face.
The call came in at midnight, the voice on the other end of the line summoning James Lester to the Under-Secretary’s residence. He knew better than to question the venue or the hour: the more powerful the man, the less he slept.
Lester dressed quickly, adjusting the lie of his bespoke waistcoat and teasing the knot of his plain silk tie. Appearance was everything. He shrugged into his jacket and then into his topcoat, and walked out to the waiting car.
Miles, his driver, nodded and opened the rear door for him. The interior was pleasantly warm against the chill of the night; Miles had obviously set the heater running while Lester had dressed again.
“Where to, sir?”
“The Under-Secretary’s in Belgravia.”
“Very good, sir.”
London might not sleep, but it most certainly dozed, Lester thought as the car left the South Bank, swept over the Thames and turned onto The Strand. The quiet street was bathed in the yellow glow of the lights. The legal district was dead, though some of the usual tourist spots were still isolated hives of life.
Peering out into the night, he was sure some pseudo-scientist must at that very moment have been studying the social strata of the city, and drawing the same conclusions as the anthropologists studying the apes of deepest darkest Africa. Man was, after all, a beast. The city at night showed just how little the species had truly evolved. And of course, it boasted other denizens, populating the darkness that surrounded the pubs, the clubs, and the restaurants.
It was a different breed that came out after dark. The street people, invisible during the day, could be seen huddled in their doorways wrapped in blankets and newspapers while the twenty-four-hour party people danced, drank and acted as though they owned the city. They had all the rituals of their jungle counterparts, banging their chests to attract a mate.
It was all quite pitiful, really.
The car negotiated the kinks around Charing Cross and took the turn onto Pall Mall. Here the street retained much of the dignity it must have known in the days of Gentleman’s Clubs and hansom cabs. Even this late at night the immaculately tailored doormen stood beside the gleaming porticoes, playing guardian to the last bastions of entitlement. Behind those doors lay other worlds of charm and old money. Those portals were, Lester thought wryly, every bit as paradoxical as any anomaly that opened into the Permian. Polite society had its own magical rifts that only a certain class of traveller was allowed to enter, where the Hoi polloi were about as welcome as a plague of locusts.
They turned right on St. James and entered the heart of Belgravia.
Sir Charles Bairstow’s residence was a three-storey Edwardian townhouse in a narrow mews. Within a hundred yards it was as though they had driven into the land that time forgot. Everything was transformed, right down to the faux-gas street lamps and the planters dripping colourful lavender Bougainvillaea, their petals like tissue-paper flowers.
Miles pulled up to the curb, and kept the car idling while Lester clambered out. Standing on the sidewalk, he looked both ways, not really sure what he expected to see.
The street was empty.
He walked up to the door and rapped on it, using the lion-headed brass knocker. The noise was shockingly loud in the quiet residential street, like the report of a gun, or a car backfiring. Lester winced, half-expecting a dozen curtains to twitch in response.
He heard someone fiddling with the security chain, and then the latch, before the door opened.
Bairstow’s housekeeper peered myopically out into the dark street.
“James Lester to see Sir Charles,” Lester said, adjusting the knot of his tie. “I’m expected.”
“Yes, yes, come in, Mr. Lester. Sir Charles has retired to the smoking room. He is expecting you. May I take your coat?”
Lester entered the warmth of the old house, wiping the soles of his shoes on the mat despite the fact that he knew they were immaculate. He gave his topcoat to the old woman, who said, “Second door on the left, on the first landing.” She nodded toward the narrow stairs.
Before proceeding, Lester took a moment to look around, taking in the impracticality of the thick champagne pile of the carpet, the ostentation of the heavy chandelier, and the delicacy of the armoire. Several large oil paintings lined the stairs, the familial resemblance obvious in each, from the current Sir Charles at the foot of the stairs all the way back through the generations to wigged ancestors along the landing.
Another anomaly.
Lester nodded to the old woman and went up.
A night-light illuminated the landing. The second door was slightly ajar. He pushed it open and entered.
The old man was sat in a wing-backed Chesterfield armchair with his eyes closed. Logs crackled and spat in the open hearth, the fire providing the room’s only light. This chamber was the living embodiment of Victoriana, with antique maps and leather-bound books decorating the walls, the bookcases augmented with a variety of mounted animals and other curiosities. A glass-fronted cabinet contained various lepodoptera specimens, their thin membranous wings providing a splash of colour to the dour setting.
Lester coughed politely into his hand.
Sir Charles Bairstow was as much a throwback to those quintessential times gone by. He sat beside the fire in his plush smoking jacket, a thick cigar clutched between equally thick fingers. Ash gathered in the small silver tray balanced on the arm of the chair. He had a silver-grey tonsure and thick bushy mutton-chops. All of his sixty-one years were etched deep into his face as he opened his eyes.
“Ah, James, come in, come in.” The old man gestured toward the second empty armchair.
“Sir Charles,” Lester said, joining him beside the fire....

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Dan Abnett
Published by Titan Books Ltd (2011)
ISBN 10: 0857680625 ISBN 13: 9780857680624
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