I’m walking through the snow. The crunch of my footsteps creates a slow, yet persistent rhythm, the lack of a breeze allowing the sound to carry surprisingly far. My name is Neil, and I am hunting a flying deer across a mountainside in early January.
It had been a full six hours earlier that one of the Special Containment Procedures Foundation vans had pulled up to the loading entrance of Sector-28, a horse trailer running doggedly along behind it. Given the weather, I was surprised that whatever they had brought with them was still alive. The heating must have been excellent.
Just when I think I’ve lost my way, I spot a solitary set of hoofprints. It had touched down in this direction recently, and I’m fairly proud of myself for being able to track it so well. Silently praying that the wind doesn’t pick up, I continue my trek and increase my pace. I’ll pin that furry bastard down eventually.
Had I been briefed on what was in that trailer, I wouldn’t have been so forward in my decision to throw open the doors once the van was parked. Immediately, what looked like a whitetail deer had leapt out at me, catching its footing on the edge of the doorway long enough to vault over my head. It had time enough, then, to deploy those eerie skin flaps that flying squirrels have, and glide off toward the woods.
The trees get thicker in front of me. I hope that the poor thing hasn’t landed in one and broken its neck. Letting it escape is one thing, but having it wind up dead would probably mean the same for me. The snowbanks sloping gently from the pine trunks mean more effort in every step through the deepening white. A slight clearing appears up ahead, and I decide to wait. It has to land sometime, and I might as well capitalise on that.
The deer, if that is in fact what it is, is a strange one. Other than the obvious ability to remain off the ground, it can rotate its shoulders and bring its legs out perpendicular to its body, in order to unfurl the usually-hidden skin folds. As I hurriedly dig myself a spot to hide in the snow, I sift through memories of classes and lectures in order to find out what that skin is called. Soon enough, an idea comes to me: The patagium, that gliding membrane, is useless without the ability to adjust its tautness. All I would have to do is hop on the flying ungulate, and hog tie it with my belt. Easier said than done, I presume.
Suddenly, a shadow runs overhead, and my eyes are drawn upward. It’s the deer, and that flying Bambi son-of-a-bitch has decided to land at the end of the clearing opposite from where I’m hiding. He lays down, though; the cold is tiring him out far too quickly. I guess it’s now or never: Belt in hand, pants precariously dropping, I spring toward my quarry with the loudest obscenities I can manage.
Three more hours later, and I’m back at Sector-28. The sun’s going down, it’s colder than a snowman’s rump, and I’m carrying an unconscious deer. I only managed to tie two of its legs together, but it wasn’t in much shape to reach cruising altitude anyhow. Handing it off to the crew inside the loading doors, I make my way to my office-slash-quarters, for a shower, change of clothes, and hot pocket. No sooner am I in the fancy door with my name across the front than I wonder what exactly is going to be done with my fuzzy-tailed foe, and what number it’ll be assigned among the mounting hordes of crazy crap that we have to deal with.
I’m awoken at some unacceptably early hour by the ringing of my interoffice telephone. One of the research directors launches into a thanks for my retrieval of Seven-Twenty-Eight, and asks me quite politely to handle the three more like it arriving later in the week. It’s not like I have a choice, I suppose. I stretch out my arm to hang up the phone, but the director interjects with another fun piece of information: I’m needed to round up a retrieval team and investigate claims of a living breakfast somewhere in the States. I think I might resign some time in the very near future.