The Hatching - Ezekiel Boone

PROLOGUE

Outside Manú National Park, Peru

The guide wanted to tell the group of Americans to shut up. Of course they weren’t seeing any animals: their constant complaining was driving them away. Only the birds remained, and even they seemed skittish. He was just a guide, however, so he said nothing.

There were five Americans. Three women and two men. The guide was interested in how they were paired off. It seemed unlikely that the fat man, Henderson, had all three women for himself. No matter how rich he was, shouldn’t two women at one time be enough? Perhaps the tall man had one? Perhaps not. As far as the guide could tell, the tall man was there to act as Henderson’s bodyguard and servant only. He and Henderson did not act like friends. The tall man carried the fat man’s water and snacks and did not let his eyes linger on any of the women. There was no question that he was in Henderson’s employ. As was the guide.

The guide sighed. He’d see how the women were portioned off at camp, he thought. In the meantime, he would do what he was paid for, which was lead them through the jungle and point out things that were supposed to impress them. Of course, they’d already done Machu Picchu, which always left tourists feeling as if they had seen everything Peru had to offer, and now there were no animals to show them. He glanced back at Henderson and decided it was time for another break. They’d had to stop every twenty minutes so that the rich man could run into the brush and move his bowels, and now the guide was worried Henderson might be overexerting himself.

It wasn’t that Henderson was grossly fat, but he was definitely large and clearly struggling to keep pace with the rest of the group. The tall man and the three women, though, were all in good shape. The women, in particular, all looked embarrassingly athletic and young, twenty or thirty years younger than Henderson. It was obvious the heat was getting to him. His face was red and he kept mopping at his forehead with a damp handkerchief. Henderson was older than the women, but looked too young for a heart attack. Still, the guide thought, it wouldn’t hurt to keep him well hydrated. After all, it had been made abundantly clear to the guide that if things went well, Henderson might be persuaded to make a sizable donation to the park and the scientists working there.

The day wasn’t any hotter than normal, but even though the group had come directly from Machu Picchu, they didn’t seem to understand that they were still at elevation. They weren’t actually inside Manú National Park, which they didn’t seem to understand either. The guide could have explained that they were technically allowed only in the larger biosphere area, and that the park itself was reserved for researchers, staff, and the indigenous Machiguenga, but all it would have done was disappoint them even more than they already were.

“Any chance we’ll see a lion, Miggie?” one of the women asked him.

The woman next to her, who looked as if she had come from one of the magazines that the guide had kept under his bed when he was a teenager, before he’d had access to the Internet, swung off her backpack and dropped it on the ground. “For God’s sake, Tina,” the woman said, shaking her head so that her hair swung around her face and her shoulders. The guide had trouble not staring down her scoop-neck shirt as she leaned over