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You Get Hit and Your Moose Goes Ping

My teleportation to the past worked perfectly. As soon as I--in my biomechanical moose--arrived, the real bull moose that I would fill in for vanished. My primary mission objective was complete--I'd successfully taken its place, so we could harvest its gametes in the future.

My secondary agenda was to collect information about the soil that the local dandelion, horsetail plants, and other forbes grew in. De-Ex's horticulturists understood the moose's diet perfectly, but they had trouble growing sufficient quantities of their preferred food. An undernourished moose was detrimental to our efforts to bring them back from extinction. So they'd asked me to bring back the plants, complete with their dirt-filled roots.

A half-hour in, I heard a ping on my craft's plating. I heard the gunshot an instant later, and knew that a hunter had fired at my moose.

The heads-up display showed a high-speed impact in the moose's shoulder area that registered just over five thousand joules. A trickle of dread-filled sweat ran down my back. If the round had penetrated the exoskin, it might have ended up in my chest as well. I realized how close to death I'd come.

In the three expeditions to the past I'd already taken, I'd never encountered a hunter before. A regular bullet couldn't seriously damage the moose's exoskin, or so the engineering team had told me. Thank goodness, they were right. A destroyed biomechanical moose, complete with a dead, time-traveling environmentalist inside, would alter the timeline in a terrible way.

The bullet with that energy was probably from a .300 magnum--a hunter's preferred weapon in the early twenty-first century. In the web of extinction that had killed off the Dodo bird, the European wolf, the African elephant, and thousands of other species--including the Eastern moose--hunters were only one thread. One deadly and effective thread.

I turned my head and shut down all my visual sensors, except for the thermals. The yellow, heat-signature glow of the hunter's face shined at one-hundred meters out. I heard another ping, another report from the rifle, and this time, an internal klaxon. I silenced the alarm and realized my hands shook as I did so. The heads-up showed the second bullet had hit the left side of my moose's head, just below the antler.

To Hell with my gathering. I killed all my sensors except the thermals and bolted through the forest, away from the hunter. I fled, hoping to return later when it was clear so the De-Extinction Project could swap me out. Then the hunter could fulfil his destiny and shoot the real moose.

I checked my countdown clock. De-Ex wouldn't pull me out for another hour and a half. One-point-five hours until they summoned me back and returned the real moose--the hunter's intended target--so its fate wouldn't be changed. That was a long time to wait in the wilderness inside a damaged moose.

De-Ex historians had really screwed up on when and where to place me. They were supposed to know the exact history of this particular moose--where it was murdered, what time it had ceased to live, and the hunter who'd ended its life. Supposed to. Obviously, their calculations were off. I couldn't wait until I returned to the future so I could give them Hell.