The-X-Species-Graphic-Novel-Sample

thexspecies

The-X-Species-Graphic-Novel-Sample

The X Species

Neko Sparks 1


The X Species

Neko Sparks 2


The X Species

Neko Sparks 3


The X Species

Neko Sparks 4


The X Species

PROLOGUE

PREHISTORIC NORTH AMERICA

MIDDLE PALEOLITHIC, 40,000 YEARS AGO

Heavy snow blows across the prehistoric Nepalese

landscape. An eerie silence between the violent

flurries.

Shadows from the hearth flame dance on the cave

wall of the ancient dwelling as the shaky hand of an

elderly Neanderthal, the family patriarch, carefully

etches images into a stone wall. A vignette of his

people, a historic footprint to serve as witness to

their time here. Nearby, mothers and children of his

clan scuttle busily about as they carry out assumed

day-to-day chores.

Just East of the village, and far removed from

the warmth and tranquility of the prehistoric den, a

group of Neanderthal men trudge slowly through the

blinding snow storm. It is obvious from their

organized efforts they are searching for someone. The

blizzard bares down on them mercilessly, making the

blanketed terrain increasingly difficult to navigate.

Reluctantly they call off the search and reverse

course head on into the storm. A lone Neanderthal,

NALU, remains behind. He surveys the snow ridden

landscape one last time. Regret, sorrow, and pain

collide simultaneously to visibly carve themselves out

among his rugged, weather beaten features. His heart

cries, but he will not, for here, tears freeze and the

will to live follows. He turns, heads off to catch up

with the group.

Several of the clan women are huddled over the

hearth preparing food. Others are cleaning, and still

others are readying animal hides for wear. A young

clan boy rushes into the cave. He is GRUNTING

excitedly, incomprehensibly, as he motions toward the

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cave entrance. A sense of excitement fills the

prehistoric den as male members of the clan slowly

begin to file in. Covered in snow, they seem to bring

the cold of the blizzard in with them. Their mood is

solemn. Soon, excitement gives way to silence as

anxious clan women search for their mates, brothers,

sons, and fathers. There are many joyous embraces as

long separated families reunite.

A guttural CRY rises among the commotion.

Nalu tries to console his grieving mate, KAL. He

takes her head into his hands, his thick forefingers

stroking her face, his eyes beg for hers to meet his.

And for a brief, passing moment they do. But there is

no hope there, she sees through his crumbling manly

facade. Momentarily, she feels feint, her legs become

weak, limp. She collapses into Nalu’s arms. As the

blackness lifts, she again finds her eyes locked with

Nalu’s. Only hopelessness mirrors back at her. His

thick, powerful limbs envelop her, she sobs

uncontrollably.

Failing to maintain his own faltering composure,

Nalu struggles to fight back tears and in a single

swift motion he pulls himself from Kal, retrieves his

weaponry and heads for the cave entrance. A young

Neanderthal, Etiuk, watches Nalu’s departure from an

adjacent corner, his pregnant mate, Maka, is at his

side. Etiuk glances to Maka, his eyes searches hers

for some type of consent to join his old friend, none

is forthcoming. He glances down at her protruding

stomach, then back up to her. Immediately she

understands, Nalu, without hesitance, would do the

same for their firstborn.

Etiuk turns and rushes to Nalu’s side. Two other

clan members soon follow. The Neanderthal men

disappear into the snowy abyss.

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The intense blizzard bares down on a sole

Neanderthal boy. Slowly, painstakingly, he makes his

way through the knee high snow. His trek is further

hampered by the opposing wind and bitter cold. He

CALLS out into the nothingness of the blizzard, no one

can hear him. Not here. Panic in his eyes, he scans

the desolate tundra for any sign of his clan. Nothing.

A muffled ROAR is heard beyond the howling of the

arctic wind. Apprehensive of its origin the boy

retreats into a nearby crevice. His brief experience

has taught him that bad things tend to follow the

distant calls of the wild. Concealed in the shadows,

he surveys the seemingly vacant landscape.

Simultaneous ROARS. Closer now.

Clearly shaken, the boy instinctively lowers

himself behind protruding rock formations bordering

the snowy incline just beneath him. His trembling hand

grips the spear at his side tightly. His eagerness to

be recognized as a man among his elders and peers has

brought him to this most undesirable fate. Manhood is

forced upon him this day.

The ground swells to a TREMBLE beneath his feet.

The continual ROARING is upon him now. He tells

himself he must not fear for the men of his clan are

known for their prowess, he is kin to the bravest

warriors of the land. He will do what he must, as a

man, as a warrior. Slowly, he backs further into the

crevice to secure a more advantageous position in the

event the unthinkable occurs. Momentarily, he loses

his footing in the uneven snow. As he struggles to

regain his balance, he gazes out in amazement at the

scene unfolding in front of him...

A herd of Mastodons stampede across the frozen

terrain. They move swiftly, frantically, exerting all

possible effort in a futile attempt to avoid becoming

prey. The saber-tooth tigers are upon them.

During the chase a trailing Mastodon is mortally

wounded and hopelessly surrounded. No hope for escape,

the Mastodon is viciously attacked. Flesh, skin, and

entrails are gorged upon. Bloody, foot long canines

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are bared and used upon both pack and prey as they

feast.

Pungent steam rises into the frigid air, as heat

escapes the mangled flesh of the once mighty beast.

Taking deep shallow breaths to mantain his composure,

the boy remains motionless in the sparsely lit cave.

So distracted by the horrific scene unfolding before

him, the young Neanderthal fails to recognize the

shadow that has now eclipsed him.

Across the valley, perched on a distant ridge,

Nalu and his search party watch the vicious mauling of

the lone Mastodon.

Senses on high alert, a peculiar smell captures

the boy’s attention. Nostrils flared, he turns his

nose skyward. Immediately he recognizes the stench,

sheer terror in his eyes. He senses something behind

him, he can feel its odoriferous breath on his nape.

This ancient beast that his clan both hunts and

fears will surely diminish their numbers by one this

wintery day. The boy readies his spear at his side and

turns slowly... his horrid SCREAM is met by a deep

ferocious GROWL. A single vicious blow brings

instantaneous silence. The sheer velocity of claws

tearing through flesh sends a massive swath of blood

across the dirt cave floor. The boy’s lifeless body

falls to the ground.

Eyes fixed open, parallel gashes intertwined with

gaping flesh are visible to the bone. The Neanderthal

boy - en route to manhood - is no more. A fierce ROAR

emerges from the boy’s slayer, echoing from the mouth

of the cave to the farthest reaches of this ancient

land.

At the moment of the boy’s passing, across the

vast snowy landscape, Nalu and his search party hear

the distant ROAR of the beast. They move with a

unified sense of urgency descending from atop the

ridge.

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The blowing snow has reduced visibility to near

zero, still the Neanderthals press on. In the

distance, they catch a glimpse of a dark silhouette

against the backdrop of the pristine snow. It is

hunched over, tugging at something in the snow. Still

unable to make out who, or what it is, they cry out in

a series of threatening HOWLS to alert the distant

being of their presence. Alerted to the group, it

stands and faces them before disappearing into the

storm. The group presses forward.

The group is closer now. They can see the body of

the bloodied Neanderthal boy laying prone in the snow.

Complete carnage. Nalu rushes forward, stopping

several feet from his son, he stares. He fights the

wave of nausea that passes over him, his knees nearly

give beneath him. What manner of beast could do this

to his son, now reduced to an amalgamation of steaming

flesh and bone pressed into the crimson snow

He steps forward, oscillating fits of anger and

disbelief both propel him, and give him pause, as he

takes his son’s limp body into his arms. He CRIES out

in agony.

The body of Nalu’s son is suspended over an open

fire pit. Constructed of carefully placed wood struts

and stretched animal hides the makeshift crematory is

the boys passing place. Mother, Father, and elder

clansman stand solemnly over the body as they are

offered condolences by passing members of the clan.

In a procession that seems to last forever to the

boy’s kin, the last members of the clan have passed.

The elder clansman leans over the boy’s body UTTERING

several indecipherable words as he dips his arthritic

forefinger into the frayed animal hide medicine bag

hanging from his neck. He strategically dusts the

deceased boy’s brow with the powdery white substance.

Placing a reassuring hand on Nalu’s shoulder he

turns to leave. The grief stricken couple briefly

embrace before Nalu breaks away. Grasping a nearby

torch, he reluctantly lights the pit beneath his son.

The couple grieves as the flames engulf their son's

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body.

Kal stares blankly into the dancing flames of the

hearth. The pain of her loss is reflected in her worn

face. In a show of companionship, Maka gingerly makes

her way over and places an animal hide over Kal’s

exposed shoulders. She eases to her grieving friend’s

side, the two women embrace.

After several seconds, Kal pulls back from Maka

and places an open hand on Maka’s jutting stomach. The

inference is immediate, a soul freed, a life gained,

so goes the circle of life.

Several feet away the male members of the clan

surround the elder clansman. They watch intently as

the elder clansman paces before them, a makeshift cane

of hand carved, antiquated wood, aids each carefully

placed step. He pauses on unsteady legs and leans

forward, his jagged cane tip meticulously pushing

loose earth into segmented fissures. A plan of attack.

He lifts his eyes from the dirt and glances

around the ancient den, all eyes are on him. He points

to several members of the clan, gestures aggressively,

pointedly. His eyes come to rest on Nalu, a momentary

pause as their eyes lock. Nalu turns over his shoulder

to Kal, near tears she nods. He turns back to the

elder clansman and after a moment of contemplation, he

thrusts his spear skyward. The clan erupts as battle

cries echo throughout the cave. Both victory, and more

importantly revenge, will be theirs.

That intoxicating fusion of adrenaline and

purpose that accompanies a call to arms, and

subsequently gives rise to bravado, is unfortunately

for them short lived. Fear permeates the Neanderthal

dwelling as the opposing battle cry of their ancient

foe emanates from just beyond the cave entrance. An

uneasy, collective silence, they wait…

There enemy is among them.

Closer, and more ferocious than the first, a

second primitive bellow soon follows. The inhuman HOWL

bursts forth from the beast’s powerful lungs, echoing

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throughout the cave. Pandemonium.

In hushed, barely audible GRUNTS, the elder

Neanderthal orders the clan to take cover. Swiftly,

they extinguish all fires and take refuge in the

shadows. Smoke from the smoldering embers fill the

room. Visibility limited to slivers of moonlight

carried on plumes of swirling dirt and smoke, they

wait.

Several anxious moments pass and still no sign of

the beast. A single entrance in, a single exit out,

just beyond the darkness the beast awaits them. Long

known to navigate these archaic catacombs, surely it

too knows that passage without bloodshed is an

impossibility.

Hominids have long encroached on the territory of

the ancient beasts, driving them further into the

darkness where evolution has nullified their once

great eyesight. Their numbers have dwindled and seldom

do they freely roam the fertile land outside as they

once did, before the dawn of the ice age, before the

rise of the hominid hunters, before fire.

A long, uneasy silence.

Etiuk, is huddled in the corner with Maka.

Clutching her stomach, she wenches in pain. Maka is

clearly in labor and makes every attempt to suppress

the involuntary vocal wails associated with every

increasingly intense contraction. Bad timing. Unsure

of what to do Etiuk braves the darkness and crawls

over to the elder Neanderthal.

They argue intensely in hushed GRUNT laden

voices. Etiuk glances over to Maka who is breathing in

and out rapidly in an attempt to slow her

contractions. Her eyes meet his, a nauseating mixture

of disbelief, sorrow, and inevitability is momentarily

shared between them. He will not stand idly by as the

cruel intentions of fate unfold. Etiuk turns to leave,

the elder Neanderthal reaches out clutching his

forearm. Etiuk stops mid-step turning to the elder

clansman. Their eyes lock, each pleading with the

other.

The two Neanderthals are joined by Nalu. More

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ARGUING. Again, Etiuk looks to his pregnant mate.

Maka, now joined by Kal and several other clan women,

is in unbearable pain. It’s now, or never. His mind

made up, Etiuk turns and rushes to his cherished mate

and unborn child. He does this despite the objections

of the elder...and his longtime friend.

Back at Maka’s side, Etiuk helps her to her feet.

Cautiously, the couple make their way to the

smoldering hearth. Etiuk sticks the charred end of a

recently extinguished torch into the embers. Fire

illuminates the cave.

Still no sign of the beast.

Fellow clansmen watch from the shadows as the

couple exits the cave. After hurriedly gathering some

of their belongings Nalu and Kal soon follow. Nalu

abruptly stops, turns over his shoulder to take one

last look back at his fellow clan members dispersed in

the scattered recesses of darkness. Uncertainty and

regret visible on his harshly shadowed features, he

disappears through the cave opening into the darkness…

Several seconds pass. Nothing.

Soon, other members of the clan begin to follow

suit, the elder clansman is helpless to stop the mass

exodus. During the commotion, Nalu has stumbled

undetected back into the cave. He is bloodied and

badly wounded. The others do not follow.

Claw marks, like those made by the talons of a

giant eagle, streak his broad sternum. He presses

firmly, instinctively, on the shards of crimson soaked

animal hide and loose flesh jutting from his chest.

Blood flows freely through his fingers, down his

forearm to the cave floor. He’s lost too much blood.

Darkness sets in on his periphery, enveloping

him. Nalu opens his mouth in an attempt to warn his

people, but nothing emerges. A portion of his severed

vocal cords exposed, his once strong voice fails him.

Again, he opens his mouth and speaks, only an

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unrecognizable whimper emerges. It’s too little, too

late…the enemy has entered behind him.

Utter pandemonium.

The clan is viciously attacked. Gruesome shadows

of violence dance on the cave walls. Splattered blood

runs down the hand carved rendition of the clan.

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SARAH

WESTERN UNIVERSITY, PRESENT DAY

“Long considered brutish cave dwellers,” Dr. Sarah

Parker surmised as she strode confidently across the

dimly lit stage. A slide of a life-like Neanderthal

with piercing eyes is projected on the screen behind

her.

Oft regarded as a faculty outcast, Sarah revels

in the euphoria of holding center stage as the packed

room of her fellow Archaeologists, and most abhorrent

critics, hang on to her every word.

Sarah pauses mid-step and turns examining the

Neanderthal on the screen to her rear. Briefly, her

eyes trace the primitive features of this early

hominid that has brought her much publicized academic

accolades as well as professional condemnation.

She turns back to the audience, an illustration

of a cartoon Neanderthal dragging his mate by her hair

appears next. Sarah offers the audience a slight

smile. “...and evolutionary challenged step-cousins.”

Slight laughter from the audience. Again she turns her

attention back to the slide. “We've come a long ways

girls.” More laughter.

A third slide materializes, this one depicting an

illustrated evolutionary time lapse from Ape to

Neanderthal to Modern Man. “Neanderthals were believed

to be bred out of existence by modern Homo Sapiens,”

Sarah continues in a tone that conveys her skepticism.

“In 1921, influential Geneticist and Military

Strategist, Colonel Nikalov Sarkowsky, chronicled his

team's experience while on an Everest Reconnaissance

Expedition for the Russian government,” An aged black

and white photo of Sarkowsky and his team from atop a

snowy ridge on Mt. Everest emerges on screen.

“In his writings, Sarkowsky maintained his team

was attacked by, and I quote, 'An unknown hominid,

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half-man and half-beast that outmaneuvered us at every

turn. In these ungodly conditions we - despite our

specialized military training - became easy prey at

the hands of the beast.' End quote.”

Another image materializes behind her. This one

of a bespectacled man, with a scholarly air,

delicately palming a partial skull. Workers at various

stages of the excavation process are visible to his

rear. “Ahminhar Cave, Eastern Nepal,” Sarah pauses

momentarily, part for dramatic effect, part due to

nerves. “Ahminhar Cave was Discovered in 1925 by

exiled Russian scientist Dr. Mikhail Ivanhoff,” Again

the slide changes, this time unveiling an antiquated

map on frayed, aged paper. Details of the planned

expedition route, topographical landmarks, and

Sarkowsky's faded scrawling are still visible.

“Ahminhar Cave sits just a quarter of a mile to

the East of where the Sarkowsky team went missing.”

Murmuring amongst the audience members.

“Intrigued by the encounters of Sarkowsky, as

well as Darwin's writings in The Origin of Species,

Dr. Ivanhoff began his foray into a series of highly

confidential genetic engineering experiments based on

his expedition finds. He did so, I might add, with the

blessing of the Polit Bureau of Moscow, and it is

rumored Stalin himself...”

Within a stones throw of the Kremlin, Dr.

Ivanhoff's clustered early twentieth century lab

fosters the perfect environment for hoped for advances

in human genetic engineering. Windowless, sparsely

decorated and heavily guarded, Ivanoff can work in

complete autonomy here. At this moment, Inga, a twenty

two year old pheasant from a neighboring village

cowers in the corner of the dingy laboratory. A

perfect specimen. Weary, and somewhat catatonic she

watches Ivanhoff from the shadows. Not even the smell

of feces from her neighboring primate cellmates, nor

her own vomit dried and caked beneath her, is enough

to rouse her drug inhibited senses. Her wrists and

ankles scarred and bruised from her cast iron

constraints, she has learned from times past that

escape is futile.

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She stares long and hard at her distorted

reflection in the tin plate, from what seems days ago

from which she ate. Her blue eyes sunken and listless,

her once youthful skin ashen and gaunt, she mourns the

loss of her beauty. And a youth long gone. Ivanhoff

lifts his eyes from the antiquated microscope

viewfinder and levels his indifferent gaze on Inga.

Mustering all her strength and resolve, she stares

back.

Still seated, he roles his chair over to a test

tube rack, carefully removes a single tube and raises

it to the light examining it. A feint smile crosses

his thin, chapped lips as he stands and moves

purposely toward a bank of uniform metal cabinets at

the far end of the tiny lab. En route, he stops

standing first in front of the caged primates, then in

front of Inga. Though a tiny, slightly frail man in

his late fifties he is gifted at the art of

intimidation. He stares at her, this time she dare not

stare back. Her defiance and resolve now replaced by

unadulterated fear, she can no longer lift her eyes to

meet his.

Now shuffling through the multiple vials in the

medicine cabinet he removes one, plunges an inch long

syringe into its rubber top, and slowly extracts the

milky white substance emptying the vial. Ivanhoff

theatrically sprays the excess into the putrid air for

all to see.

The end goal -- a form of biological warfare. A

super soldier combining human intelligence with

superior primate physical agility and strength.”

Dr. Ivanhoff moves slowly, menacingly, towards

Inga. The syringe protruding from his fingertips...

“A last ditch effort to boost Stalin's faltering

troops, turn the tide of the war.”

Inhuman primate cries as Ivanhoff approaches the

cages. The deafening clanking of fearful primates

violently rattling their cages. Trapped. Inga

unleashes a horrific scream. She screams for her life.

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Sarah scans the audience letting her impromptu

history lesson settle in. “When the politically

influential Russian Orthodox Church caught wind of Dr.

Ivanhoff's forays into interspecies breeding, he was

admonished by his political backers and imprisoned.”

Curled in a fetal position, as if to rekindle the

primordial security of the womb, Dr. Ivanhoff shifts

unconsciously on the dusty cell floor. Manageable

comfort was not among his captor's priorities. A

circular grotto, far too cramped for a grown man, the

abutting stone walls and low ceiling further add to

the inescapable sensation of claustrophobia. Except

for the scant swathes of light from an adjoining

corridor there is only darkness. A desolate space

reeking of rot and mildew he is not alone.

At this moment as he drifts between dream and

semi-consciousness he watches in the distance as an

insect he can't quite make out hastens up an adjacent

wall, followed shortly by a mangy rodent who too

thought it the ideal time to emerge from the bordering

shadows. As it emerges from the recess it levels but a

cautionary glance to the human before him. Stilling

himself, Ivanhoff watches the rodent crossing mere

inches from his bound feet. Aware of the abundance of

diseases carried by creatures such as these, Ivanhoff

jerks reflexively startling the rodent and sending it

scurrying back into the darkness.

Malnourished, his physical condition has

deteriorated to a point beyond recognition. Matted

gray hair, bruised skin caked with dirt and dried

blood, and a thick beard hiding his once dignified

features, hopeless and dying he is a mere shell of the

man he once was.

“So impressed with Dr. Ivanhoff's pioneering

discoveries in the fields of genetic engineering and

human and primate reproduction...” Sarah continues.

Blood is everywhere. Inga cries out in pain as

she gives birth. The doctors gaze down in disbelief at

the newly delivered infant. It's body partially

covered in deep brown fur, an inhuman cry escapes its

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part human, part primate lungs.

“...that the political powers to be secretly released

him from prison.”

A soldier kicks Dr. Ivanhoff to rouse him.

“Helping him to flee his native Russia and

continue his controversial experiments far from the

watchful eye of the Russian Orthodox Church.”

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