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Hard on the heels of the multiple cliffhanger ending of Followers of the Gray, the fantastic adventures of Rex Gardner, his wife Winnie and his sister Clarissa continue in Extinction Events, Volume Three of The Ultimate Alpha.
Trapped in the shape of a gray wolf, Rex finally gains an ally. Or does he?
"Seymour? Are you here?"
The stairs creaked again. Vickie paused at the landing. A few steps more brought her to the computer room.
Tense seconds passed. I kneaded an ornate moccasin with my paws.
She sees the screen . . . She reads the message. It must be a joke. She wonders if Seymour came to check on "his" wolf and wrote it. A joke on his old school marm.
She moved somewhere. A drawer scraped open.
“All right,” said the woman softly.
A faint creak of boards, then she addressed the house from the hallway.
“All right. If you are here, show yourself.”
My move. I didn't want to startle her by popping up right at her side. I let out a yip.
"What the –"
The door to the storage room swung inward with a rush of wind.
Here goes nothing.
I crept forward, jaw almost brushing the floor. I nudged the dusty beige curtain and slipped out nose first.
Miss Vickie stood at the door in her long skirt, the picture of a stern frontier teacher. She held her mouth in a puckered frown, but her eyes revealed her astonishment.
One hand hung loosely on the doorknob, but in the other she gripped a small, steel-bright automatic!
Winnie is possessed by a living Hide – or is she?
I landed deftly well into the trees, then I trotted forward, dodging branches somehow in the night darkness of a thick forest.
Stop! Stop! I told myself.
Trees loomed up, but I ducked them. My legs chugged tirelessly, and I bent low under branches as if my back had turned to rubber. Air hissed through the Hide's fur, and clawed slippers tufted on the forest floor. My ears twitched (or the mask’s ears did). Something loped along close behind, matching my speed easily.
I reached a long, low rise that barely qualified as a hill. I paused at the top and flared my nostrils.
I mean, the mask flared its nostrils. I drew in air as if forced by an iron lung. I caught a swirling profusion of smells, woody and acrid and meaty.
I (or "Arshyr") turned in a slow circle, scanning the forest, listening with sonar-ears and sniffing all at once. I/we threw a sharp glance at our follower, who slowed from a blur to a dim red glow. It was the cat-costumed man – a cheetah, surely.
It occurred to me that I could see in the dark.
These Hides are incredible! I admitted silently. If I could control them, instead of the other way around, I might want one, myself!
The wolf-suit sprang down and loped on, and I mimed its run helplessly, a prisoner of fur.
Clarissa rejoins her OMNIBUS friends – but for how long?
The tip of a long, stiff leg, like twenty feet of rebar, plunked down through the hood of the Pontiac. Three humans screamed and one feline snarled.
Another silver-steel javelin whacked through the roof as if through Kleenex and buried itself in the front seat between Romano and Jace. A third punctured the trunk.
Romano shot into reverse so hard I almost tumbled into the front seat. The leg between her and Jace raked metal and fabric on the way out with the sound of a crosscut saw on stiff cardboard.
With a triple jerk, all three legs popped loose. Romano backed up fifty feet along the highway, and for a second we saw the spider-thing in all its towering, silvery glory, like a Tripod from War of the Worlds.
DRIVE, McCormack Energy, the sorceress Circe, the Followers of the Gray, the Cronati and a bewildering variety of creatures comb the countryside for Rex Gardner, the Ultimate Alpha, a major chess piece in a world wide game. But you know what happens when you corner a wild animal:
The blood beast stabs out like a barracuda and snags the Texan’s leg. The man topples and slides up to the waist under the bus. The wolf seizes his belt and pulls him farther. Jaws snap on his arm and yank him. A piranha attack rips his nose and cheeks and ears and chin, the last lowering as he screams. With a crunch, an unbelievable gush of crimson pours out on the concrete. The guard can’t scream again.
I watch from my distant point-of-view as the last guard, skinny and long-haired, bangs on the green bus’ door.
“Open up, goddammit!”
The driver obeys, and the cowardly guard barely jumps in before the door shuts again with a glassy rattle.
"Drive around front!" orders the guard.
"What about Frank?"
"He's dead! Drive!"
The starter scratches and the motor coughs. Behind the green bus, the purple bus growls to life as well. The Ultimate Alpha, blood pouring from his jaws and fur, shoots out from under the first vehicle.
The long green bus lurches forward. The heavy double tires thump over Frank.
Fun to play with prey before killing it. Let it scamper away, then drag it back. Let it believe it can escape.
The first bus takes a tight turn around its fellow vehicles, to the left then the right. It rolls onto a narrow service road, black tarmac that leads around the main building. The wolf cuts across the grass, his little present gripped in his teeth. He charges in front of the bus, gathers himself, and leaps.
The grill and hood bang him near the hips, so he is knocked up rather than away. He lands flat on the warm green hood. He hooks his paws over the back of the hood, his metal egg slobber-coated but safe in his jaws. The mustached driver stares, aghast. Those nonplussed expressions make it all worth while.
There is a gap between the hood and the windshield through which the carbon monoxide and antifreeze smell of the engine pours. The beast stuffs the warty egg in the crack. It sticks as if welded. The wolf catches the brass ring in his eyeteeth, sets a paw hard against the grenade, and pulls.
The driver stomps on the brakes. The Ultimate Alpha slides forward like a jet catapulted from an aircraft carrier. He turns in mid-air and hits the road running. There is a dull boom and fragments of hot metal pelt his ass.
"His is the tongue of healing and succor. He is the guardian of the flock and the hearth," Warren’s voice echoes.
He is a killing thing of fang and claw and the occasional antipersonnel explosive device.
This is just a taste of the wild action and breath-taking suspense awaiting you in the apocalyptic climax of Extinction Events, the final volume of The Ultimate Alpha!
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