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Part human. Part animal. These are the genetically-engineered races of the Creatura, the only survivors of a global pandemic, who slowly try to rebuild a world left empty and devastated by the death of the human race three hundred years before. Shana Feles, a scrappy Felinoid relic hunter, just wanted to finish the mission to the Buffalo ruins, collect her money, and maybe snuggle up to that cute medic Twilight. But then she and her friends stumble across an ancient secret dating from before the Pandemic. A secret some of her fellow Creatura will do anything--and kill anyone--to gain for themselves. In a perilous quest across a new American frontier, Shana's small band of outcasts try to stay one step ahead of a murderous conspiracy to discover the last great secret of their creators--a secret that may threaten all Shana holds dear...

A Hard Shell Word Factory Release

Paul Lucas

    Paul Lucas grew up in the wilds of Dunkirk, NY, just a few snow drifts away from Buffalo along the shores of Lake Erie. Having an irresitable urge foist bizarre ideas on to perfect strangers, science fiction writing seemed like a natural career choice. Now a freelance writer and artist, his work has seen the light of day in publications such as Challenge, Shadis, Hadrosaur Tales, EOTU Online, The Fifth Di, Literotica, and others. He currently resides in the Dark Abyss of Eternal Despair, known on some maps as Erie, PA.


"Creatura illustrates the common line of questioning that plagues humans today as it has since the beginning of our race. Where did we come from? What happens once we die? Do we have a spirit? In this case, however, humans were the creators so the question is are humans gods to their creations? This leads to a whole new set of questions such as what makes a person human? Ultimately, asking whether humans, creatura, etc have the right to create new life, to clone, or to genetically alter existing genetic groups. Some very intriguing lines of questioning and some very interesting concepts presented with a new twist on the planet of the apes notion."

Tami Brady -- TCM Reviews

Chapter One

I HUNKERED LOW BEHIND an ivy-choked corpse of brick wall, a quiet prayer to Saint Cobain on my lips. Appropriate, since I hid in the shadow of a crumbling human church. The wall fragments bled gold blurring into red as the sun descended behind the steeple.

I carefully slid the guass pistol from my hip holster, hoping the low whine of the magnetic coils priming would not give me away. Meters away, my pursuers, four Lupinoid mercenaries, snuffled loudly at the cool spring air for my scent. Their own unwashed wolf-smell, pungent with wet fur and rank sweat, burned in my nostrils.

Damn Roadkill and her stupid tests.

The gruff voice of the largest Lupinoid, Frostbite, boomed off the rotting buildings. "Hey, kitty! Come on out! We got some catnip right here for you!" The other Lupinoids snickered. I could imagine the lewd gesture Frostbite made to accompany his taunt. He had quite a talent for them.

My muscles tensed as I heard their feet scuffle on the rubble just beyond the wall. I would be their prey in seconds.

Doubling my legs under me and uncoiling them with all my strength, I vaulted straight up and over the two-meter high wall. I barely cleared it. By some miracle I landed nimbly on the uneven rubble, facing the Lupinoid pack. Startled, their triangular ears tapered back. Their kind always seemed so surprised at a Felinoid's natural agility.

My gun roared a wide arc on full automatic fire. The needle bullets exploded through them, giving each a halo of crimson sparkling in the rays of the setting sun. They crumpled, one still trying to bring his rifle to bear.

Whistling low, I shook my head at their still-twitching carcasses. I was surprised that worked. My old Militia sergeant would have screamed my tail furless for trying such a stupid and reckless stunt. These Lupinoids were idiots anyway, falling for so basic an ambush. Being Man's Best Friend once upon a time obviously didn't require much in the IQ department.

Wait. Only three of them? Weren't four after me?

I whirled to my left just in time to see the blur of a rifle stock and Frostbite's wicked, yellow-toothed grin. A freight train slammed into my chin, and the whole world exploded into a roar of static and leaden darkness.

* * *

GRAY STREAKS OF LIGHT slowly, slowly trickled back into the world. Consciousness was trying to claim me again, and I was very sluggish to respond.

"Frostbite, what the hell do you think you were doing!" a female voice barked, close-by.

Frostbite piffed, unconcerned. "Hey, you said you wanted her sim to be realistic."

"That didn't mean rifle-whipping our guide, dumb ass! You've just kissed bye-bye to a thousand credits of your pay! More if she's seriously hurt! And you're on latrine-pit duty for the rest of the mission!"

Frostbite growled. "What? Like hell…"

"Commander!" A new voice sounded, right over my ear. "She's waking up!"

My eyes fluttered open, revealing a universe full of fuzzy shapes pulsing in rhythm with the throbbing in my skull. It took many long seconds for my eyes to finally focus and bring the world around me back into some semblance of clarity.

We were back at base camp, with the rest of Roadkill's mercenary company. The collection of rag-tag tents was located in a decrepit, overgrown parking lot in some obscure suburb of the ancient city called Buffalo. Trees and underbrush surrounded us on all sides, but if one looked hard enough one could spot the remains of a stone foundation here, a heavily cracked sidewalk there. At the far edge of the clearing, a rusted-through chain-link fence leaned like a friendly drunk against a towering maple tree.

Five meters in front of me, framed by my boot-clad feet, were the sources of the two shouting voices. The taller Lupinoid was Frostbite, sporting a coat of pure white fur under his faded camouflage fatigues. Like all Lupinoids, he possessed an angular wolf's head, made proportionately bigger than nature intended to support an enlarged bio-engineered brain. He walked upright, like all Creatura, but stood with a slight stoop to compensate for the digitigrade stance unique to his race. A bushy tail poked out of his fatigues just below his belt. He clutched his assault rifle hard in three-fingered hands to contain his boiling rage.

He still wore the VR goggles we used in the sim, flipped up onto his sloping forehead. The goggles used computer imaging to "paint over" images from the surrounding environment, to simulate gunfire and other effects of mock-combat. They could network with other goggles in use, and went completely opaque if you were shot in the sim and didn't lie down and pretend you were dead. My own goggles lay orphaned and forgotten several meters away.

Facing Frostbite was a smaller Lupinoid, female, with scraggly brown fur and an eye patch over her right eye. She stood toe-to-toe looking up at the male, nearly twice her size, with crossed arms and a nonchalant stance, like he was no threat. Only her deep scowl and twitching tail gave away just how pissed she was.