My writing coach suggested I add a scene to The Augmented Man that demonstrates Trailer’s “alpha-ness” in the woods, basically that he’s the uberpredator and even top predators fear him.
But Trailer, in the woods among wildlife, isn’t feared in the way my coach wanted me to depict him. Animals in the wild acknowledge each other and little more. They do not threaten unless they are threatened, they do not attack unless there is no other choice. They won’t attack you unless you’re stupid and they are ravenously hungry or diseased.
So I wrote the following because it 1) depicts Trailer’s status in the wild, 2) shows relatively early on that he’s not the monster everybody assumes he is.
And then I pulled it because – even though I like it a lot – it didn’t fit. It added a scene that is demonstrated elsewhere in the book and at a better place in the narrative.
Meanwhile, here it is. Let me know what you think.
Trailer in the Wild
Fives miles further in he slowed. There were blood signs on the trail. Deer, definitely. And coyote.
And bear. He inhaled deeply. A sow and two cubs.
He stopped running silently. He kicked up brush and pine cones, let twigs snap under his feet, slapped trees as he passed them.
He came through the trees low to the ground. The sow faced him, stared straight at him but didn’t challenge him, her two cubs feeding on the carcass behind her.
Trailer evaluated the scene rapidly. A coyote pack had downed an aging buck, filled themselves: vines and leaves, most undergrowth, flattened for about ten feet around. Tufts of coyote fur here and there. Paw marks, some deep, preceding blood smears where the coyote had dragged a hank or rib to suck out the marrow.
Then the sow arrived with her two cubs, drawn by the smell of warm blood and probably the howling of the pack announcing their kill.
Wise coyotes and probably already gorged, they left momma to feed her children.
And now she stared at Trailer, showing no fear.
Animals, he’d learned, never showed him fear. Humans always. Or mostly always. Animals, never.
Long ago he’d been tracking in the Orinoco. A Pancho Pathfinder team were fleeing ahead of him, no longer attempting stealth, now knowing only fear, knowing they would die and wanting to prolong their lives by as many seconds as possible.
Trailer, keeping their scents fresh in him, encountered something new, something different, a smell he’d never encountered before.
To the left. A hundred yards or so off the Panchos’ trail.
A jaguar and newborn kits, their eyes not even open, mewling as she licked them clean of natal fluids and nuzzled them to her teats.
She spotted him as she ate the afterbirth.
She snarled, her whiskers flashing forward from her muzzle, her ears pulled back against her head.
She was still exhausted from delivering her kits. And they would die if she didn’t nurse them.
But she would die for them.
“It is dangerous here, Little Mother,” Trailer said. The scent of the Panchos was still strong, although fading as they continued their flight through the jungle. He could still track and sanction his target, preferably while the others watched.
He knelt before the jaguar. “Feed your children, Little Mother. I will stay and keep you safe but then you must go.”
He turned his back to the big cat and listened until all the violence was far, far away. Then he stood and left.
Now the bear stared at him while her cubs dined. “It is dangerous for you here, Mother. You’re too close to civilization to not be noticed. Then they will take your cubs from you and kill you.”
He somersaulted into the trees, over the sow and next to her cubs. He picked up one in each arm and took the remains of the carcass in his hands, then continued running the trail, now slowly enough for the bellowing sow to follow him.
Thirty miles in he picked up speed slightly. The sow shrieked her rage as her children left her line of sight.
Then Trailer stopped. He put the carcass and the cubs down.
The sow raged through the trees and reared up, her claws slashing in front of her.
“Mother, your children are safe.”
As if she understood, the sow lowered herself to the ground and licked her cubs, first one then the other then the first again, as if joyful and relieved to discover they were safe.
“This will be better for them and you, Mother.”
And Trailer was gone.
You can read The Augmented Man – Surface and Patreon patrons (thanks!) can read more at Frontmatter, Surface and In.