- Author: Kathryn Hoff
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Copyright © 2021 by Kathryn Hoff.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. All characters and events, and the villages of Rainbow, Cody, and Mankeeta, are the products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, places, or events is purely coincidental.
Cover Design by JD&J Design © 2021 by Kathryn Hoff
Book Layout © 2017 BookDesignTemplates.com
Project Hannibal / Kathryn Hoff.—1st ed.
Dedicated to all those dealing with depression in themselves or a loved one
and to all those left behind when
anyone takes their own life.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
in the US
or beginning July 2022, dial 988
In 218 BCE, Hannibal of Carthage shocked the mighty Roman Republic by invading the Italian peninsula from the north, crossing the Alps with an army of infantry, cavalry, and elephants.
Hannibal is widely regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of the ancient world.
In an observation blind perched fifteen feet above a flower-filled meadow, Dr. Henri Anjou fidgeted while he waited for the rest of the group to catch up. It was the beginning of June and, by Alaskan standards, a beautiful spring day. The hardy grasses had already grown knee-high in the short, intense Arctic growing season.
At the edge of the meadow where the aspen and spruce cast long shadows, a heavy fur-draped body rustled among the drooping branches. A leg as thick as a tree trunk stepped forward. A broad foot flattened the grass.
The cool air stirred with a deep rumbling growl. A low grunt answered.
With a snap, a limb was torn from a tree. It disappeared into a hungry maw.
Magnificent, Anjou thought. Major Butterick couldn’t fail to be impressed by Project Hannibal’s—his—creations.
The portly major puffed up the ladder to the platform, his corporal pausing to lend a gentlemanly hand to Ginger Kim, Anjou’s research partner.
“We’ll tour the laboratory later,” Anjou said, “but this is what you’ve come to see.”
When they’d all crowded into the ten-foot-square blind, the corporal peered around with an appreciative grin. “This is lots better than my uncle’s deer-hunting stand.” He raised his arms as if sighting down a rifle barrel and mimed the recoil of a shot. In the tight quarters, his elbow nearly hit Ginger’s face.
Barbarian. Suppressing his disgust, Anjou nudged the major toward the horizontal window slots. “There, Major Butterick. After twelve years of intensive research, applied science, and painstaking husbandry, Project Hannibal has brought back mammoths, alive and well, resurrected from extinction.”
Lifting his mirrored sunglasses, Butterick squinted toward the meadow. “Where?”
Anjou snapped his mouth shut. They were mammoths, for God’s sake. How could he miss them?
With a motherly smile, Ginger patted the major’s arm. “They’re hard to spot against the forest, aren’t they? Just where the trees begin, see where the branches are moving? The herd is there, feeding on the new growth.” Anjou thought her white lab coat made her resemble a dumpy iceberg.
The mammoths’ long red-brown fur blended into the dappled shadows. They were quiet except for the crunching of spruce boughs between molars as big as bricks and rumbling calls pitched almost too low for humans to hear.
“Right,” the major said. “Got ’em.”
Anjou sent Ginger a relieved smile. The Combat Capabilities Development Command was the US Army’s research arm, created to develop scientific breakthroughs for military use. Project Hannibal’s DevCom grant was up for renewal—it was crucial to get this pea-brained staffer on their side.
Drawing himself to his full lanky height, Anjou began the speech that always impressed visiting dignitaries. “What you see here is a modern miracle, created to avert a man-made disaster. Global warming is the biggest threat humankind has faced since the last ice age. Each one of these animals has been painstakingly genetically engineered from Asian elephant stock and reconstructed woolly mammoth DNA. This small herd will grow to fill a vital environmental role—they are of incalculable value to the future of our planet.”
The mammoths’ heritage was clear: long thick limbs, the rear legs jointed forward like human knees rather than back like a horse’s hock. Backs that sloped upward from hips to shoulders, and huge heads that rose higher still. Fur as long and shaggy as a musk ox’s. Long trunks that reached into the spruce to rip off twigs. And tusks of gleaming ivory, only a foot or two long in this young herd but already formidable scimitar-curved weapons.
Butterick gazed at the animals with a puzzled frown. “But I thought mammoths were supposed to be huge. Those don’t look any bigger than my pickup. Hell, Henry, I’ve seen buffalo as big as that.”
Anjou bridled at the mispronunciation—he’d already corrected the major twice. Henri. On-ree. Was that so hard to remember?
Ginger stepped up, as earnest as if she were still a grad student straight off the plane from Seoul. “Our mammoths’ reduced size is absolutely essential for faster deployment. That was one of Dr. Anjou’s most important innovations.”
“Large size creates large problems,” Anjou explained. “Look at elephants: an elephant cow doesn’t begin to reproduce until she’s fifteen years old, and then she has only one calf every four years. Our environmental problems can’t wait that