Shes a gem, Khas. Breathable
oxygen nitrogen skies near one G and shes generating myriads
of advanced life forms. How could our probes have missed this
Khas was busy running a sweep of the planets
Northern Hemisphere, looking for any signs of industrial development.
His sensitive instruments detected no fluorocarbon buildup or
artificial chemicals. This system was too far outside the
primary theaters of the war. Its unlikely that anyone ever
made it out this way. Put us into an equatorial orbit, please.
Szeredy rolled the tiny delta winged scout
into an equatorial vector and was soon mesmerized by the colorful
blue and white cloud patterns that whipped past her tinted canopy.
Occasionally, the opalescent blur would dissipate enough to reveal
dense rain forests and cobalt tropical seas.
Isnt it gorgeous? she
breathed. Born and raised in deep space, she had only been planet
side once, and she was too little to remember the experience.
Khass black eyes were focused on the
glowing magenta view panels before him. The scouts powerful
scanners were piercing the atmosphere and sending back real-time
heat imprints of the fauna and animal life forms inhabiting the
planets surface. Eerie shapes moving through shades of red
Its a jungle down there, a real
classifiers dream, he said, switching to a narrow
beam for even greater detail.
Szeredy forced her pale blue eyes away from
the show, down to the flight controls before her. The scouts
Core Control, a cybercell sentient, was essentially flying itself.
All she really had to do was relax and enjoy the view, but the
professional in her demanded to know what was happening. A darkened
screen caught her undivided attention.
CC, whats wrong with the stern
deflectors? Im not getting a reading on the short field
set, she said, the urgency clearly detectable in her voice.
The Core Control registered the concern
from its human pilot and executed a diagnostic check on thirty
holo-cells before answering in a relaxed, almost indifferent female
voice. Internal diagnostics read normal. It is probably
a frozen crystal matrix. I have added it to the post flight checks.
Szeredy nodded, and the CCs photovoltic
sensors read the non-verbal move. Tilting her head back, Szeredy
caught sight of a meteorite grazing the upper levels of the atmosphere
and spraying apart like a hand tossed sparkler. She looked back
down at the darkened screen on the control panel. It really bothered
her now. CC, can you switch over to the side-to-side deflectors?
Im seeing rocks outside at twenty Klics.
Confirmed. Do you wish a course adjustment
to compensate, the CC asked her.
No. Im not finished with my
sweep, that from Khas, sitting with his back to Szeredy
in the diminutive cockpit.
CC, can you widen the side-to-sides
enough to cover our six?
The ship was silent, presumably executing
the request. Not that it had to be silent; it was programmed to
mimic human and Votainion mannerisms. People were generally quiet
when they were thinking.
Szeredys head was sweeping from side
to side. Wing tip to wing tip, her old instructor
used to drill into her. She could even hear his scratchy voice
as she searched for more meteorites. You never see the one
that gets you, Major Pasquil used to say. As a student,
she always had complete faith in her instruments, despite the
simulators intentional malfunctions. It wasnt until
she got out by herself that she began to second-guess the CC.
There was nothing like the fear of dying to make you pay attention.
I have widened them out to ninety-eight
degrees; that is as far as they go, the CC finally said.
Szeredy knew that already; she was hoping
the cybercell would pull a miracle out of its proton cell memory.
Thats not good enough. Khas, how much longer?
Khas tweaked a virtual slider switch before
answering her. Just give me five more minutes to complete
Youve got two, she said.
Khas grunted as he redoubled his efforts.
I have calculated the rate of incoming
meteors to our present course and believe there is a 95 percent
chance of a fatal hit in the next two minutes, the CC stated.
Szeredy thought she heard a note of concern in its lofty, synthetic
Khas, hurry up, Im getting a
bad feeling about this.
Suddenly, a bright blur zipped past her
canopy, causing her to flinch and let out a startled scream. Thats
it, were out of here, she said, taking manual control
of the scout and gently twisting the joystick. The move thrust
her forward into the safety harness.
CC, more power, please.
The ships cybercell was silent, but
the engine whine from behind increased. Khas had switched off
his scanners and was holding onto the inner wall of the cockpit.
His display visor was more opaque, allowing him to see the yellow
glow of the engine as it throttled up. Another bright light came
out of the darkness of space and rocked the ship with its deadly
impact. In seconds, the tiny cockpit was lit up with flashing
prompts and warning messages streaming along the inside of his
visor. Audible alarms sounded from inside his helmet.
Direct hit to dorsal MPU. Flame-out
in thirty seconds, the ship stated. Szeredy had her hands
full as the ship tried to feed her all the information she needed.
The flight controls winked off and on with power surges as one
by one she lost her critical instruments.
Another rock bored through the starboard
wing, sending fragments of the scout everywhere. The tiny craft
skidded out of control, high in the upper stratosphere, its thin
nose becoming white hot from the friction and enveloping it in
a ghostly hallow.
Were going to fry, get control
of it, Khas hollered over the din.
Im trying, damn it.
The ship uttered something unintelligible
into Szeredys earpiece and then went off line with a pop.
The Cores down, Khas reminded her in his most
irritating, Blueskin manner.
Im bringing us down. Bail if
you want to, but Im riding this out, she said, her
voice shuddering with resolve. That shut him up.
The tiny scout shimmered wildly as it augured
through the thin air at mach speeds. The world traveled up to
greet them, spinning around and around in a stomach churning headfirst
descent. Szeredy could see the clouds streaking by in the orange
glow flickering on her face shield and reflected on the inside
of the canopy. The gravity was pushing her body into the crash
seat, crushing her lungs, even as her g-suit fought a losing battle
to keep her conscious.
Rescue buoy away, for what its
worth, Khas finally announced. He abhorred how useless he
felt as he fell backwards, towards the planets embracing
surface. It was such an undignified way to die.
Szeredy didnt hear him. Her mind was
racing through emergency procedures, searching for a way out that
did not involve burning up or digging a crater. The soft skin
of her cheeks was folding back across her skull, making her look
like a mummified corpse.
She was losing consciousness. Slowly, the
world seemed to close in on her, forming a spinning circle before
her like water down a drain. She didnt remember pulling
back on the gravimetric inversion lever before she passed out,
but she did, and it saved her life.
A flat, thumping sound awoke Szeredy. Outside was a tiny,
black furry face staring at her through the scratched canopy.
Szeredy blinked as the creature continued slapping the canopy
as if it were trying to get her attention. The scout was resting
horizontally, with its nose slightly raised. She had to pull the
manual release for the canopy located behind her head. The concerned
marsupial darted for the jungle heights as the canopy popped open.
Khas, are you there? she called
Getting no reply, she released the harness
that strapped her down and pulled herself up to stand on her seat.
The scout teetered a bit as she looked down at the damaged stern
of the Gunnel-Khener, SR-77 scout.
Khass helmet was resting against the
canopy and she could not detect any motion. The glass was darkened,
further hampering her efforts to see her back-seater. She made
her way out onto what was left of the port wing and pounded on
the glass to get his attention. The marsupials watched her curiously
from the vines above, her behavior no different then theirs had
Her gloved hands found the emergency release
cord under a recessed panel. She turned away and pulled the cord,
blasting the back seat canopy high into the air. The noise sent
the marsupials scampering ever higher to safer territory.
This time when she looked, she saw the ugly
truth. The damage from the meteor impact had breached the back
seat area, but that alone had not killed him. When the scout fell
through the trees and wedged in between two trunks, a thick stump
had poked through the gap and skewered Khass upper torso,
splintering as it drove into the reinforced seat back. The result
was a mess of wood, bone and blood. A few more centimeters and
it would have gone through her back, too.
Her legs became rubbery. She turned away
and sat down with her back against the fuselage. A sudden wave
of nausea swept over her. She quickly reached behind her head
and unlocked the seal of her pressurized helmet, pulling it off.
Thereby breaking the first rule
of survival: Always keep your suit sealed." The helmet
slipped from her grip and hit the charred top of the wing as it
Taking a big breath of fresh, humid air,
she caught a whiff of Khass corpse and promptly vomited
on the side of her spacecraft. She hadnt eaten before the
launch, so very little came up. Beads of sweat covered her face
from the planets relentless humidity. The Biogenic flight
suit kept her body cool and dry, but could do nothing for her
head after she tossed the helmet. She had to retrieve it, if she
ever wanted to be able to eat. The suit was designed to be worn
in full until you were rescued. Theoretically, a downed Starveyor
could survive in any known climate for up to a month. After that,
the organically engineered waste and temperature control features
required level four diagnostics that could only be performed on
a starship. In other words, if you werent found after thirty
days, forget it.
Szeredy took the survival rucksack out of
the cockpit and carefully stepped out onto what was left of the
port wing. There were several vines hanging from the tall trees
and she was able to snag one and test it with her weight before
descending to the jungle floor.
As she lowered herself through the mist,
there was a pleasant drop in the humidity but not the temperature.
The world took on a different look and feel as she neared the
tall grass that covered the ground. A low fog hung over the dull
gray, primordial vegetation. Very little sunlight reached this
far down through the high jungle canopy. She realized that she
would never find her helmet unaided.
Stepping onto the ground, her feet slipped
on the moss-covered roots of the massive tree, sending her prone
into the tall grass. With her face pressed against the pliant
grass, she thought she heard someone laughing. As she pushed her
head up, she saw movement a few meters away.
Two bipedal individuals were walking hand
in hand away from her. They were so familiar; she had to think
twice before calling out to them. Strict non-interference laws
prevented her from making contact with indigenous intelligent
life forms. She watched them strolling through the high grass,
for all the world looking like a young human couple in love.
Their lean, chartreuse bodies were completely
naked, with grass shaped patterns of darker green extending outward
from their spines. She couldnt tell if the pattern was natural
or somehow painted onto their skin. They moved with an elegant
stride that made a humans gait look clumsy in comparison.
A high pitched laughter blurted out from
behind her. She turned around quickly, her blond hair swaying
aside. The humidity had already flattened her regulation bob cut.
Standing beside her was an alien juvenile, covering her face and
giggling at Szeredy. The childs smile radiated from behind
the six-fingered hands that covered her face. Szeredy returned
the smile, falling deeply into the childs large, saffron
Szeredy put a finger up to her mouth in
a gesture of silence. The child probably wouldnt interpret
the sign language correctly, but it was the only thing she could
think of to try and keep her from giving away Szeredys position.
The alien tilted her small round head to
one side and then mimicked Szeredys gesture with her own
frail finger. The move touched a chord deep inside the downed
pilot. She wanted to pull the child close into her arms in a maternal
The two adult aliens called out for the
child. Their voices were strikingly familiar to Szeredy as they
echoed in wind. The little girl withdrew into the tall grass and
reappeared at her parents' side. There was some animated discussion
between the three of them, after which the parents looked around
suspiciously, as if they were not sure whether to believe the
childs wild claims.
Szeredy stayed put on the wet ground, hoping
the kid didnt drag her parents over to see the strange white
creature with the grass colored clothes. After lying still for
several minutes, she ventured to look up. The family had moved
on, and was beginning to blend into the swaying grass. She took
out her biocorder and locked in a fix on them. Gathering her survival
gear and activating the suits defensive shields, she headed
off in the direction they were walking. It was rapidly getting
darker and she didnt care to be alone in the jungle at night.
The helmet she was chasing was left behind in the grass, not a
meter from where she had been.
Walking through the tall grass and ground
fog, Szeredy had to rely on her biocorder to track the family
of aliens. Concentrating on the tiny glowing screen of the instrument,
she stumbled into a snare trap and quickly found herself hanging
several meters off the ground by her boots. The biocorder and
her weapon, jerked out of her hands by the jolt, lay in the grass
below her. She cursed her stupidity as she hung helpless and defenseless
from the vines. After several hours of hanging there, she passed
out from the blood congealing in her head.
Something was poking her in the stomach.
She brushed it off and fell back into a deep sleep. Warm, comforting
sleep. Where nothing bothered her, except that annoying dig in
her bladder. The lukewarm gusher building inside finally released
into the fluid reclaiming system of the Biogenicsuit. The temperature
change forced her to finally open her eyes.
Several dark shapes were moving in the tall
grass below her. One of them was poking her in the bladder with
a long branch of some kind. Or was it a sharpened spear? Szeredy
tried to slap the controls for her personal defense system shields
but she couldnt reach her belt. Her hands were tied together
with more vines. She had allowed herself to be surprised again
by this strange, now dark, world.
The spear poked her waist this time and
her rations fell to the ground. A few moments later she was being
lowered to the half dozen mysterious figures below. They were
male aliens, as naked and hairless as the others had been. Their
bodies were covered with a thick, oily substance that glistened
on their olive skin. That was all she had time to notice before
they viciously clubbed her on the back of the head.
Szeredy awoke to the sound of familiar voices.
Several people were discussing something in broken Votainion.
The accents were high pitched and slurred as if spoken by ignorant
seraphs. She opened her eyes and saw only a brilliant verdant
blur. Streams of yellow light broke through thin vanes of green,
until finally, she focused on the straws of a thatched roof. She
looked around and saw that she was lying in a low hut made from
cut trees and covered with grass. There were several aliens moving
around outside, engaged in cooking a skinned animal over a fire.
She tried to sit up and was overcome with
sudden dizziness. Resting her head back down, she felt a smooth
texture against her skin. It was not the tight, constrictive fabric
of her flight suit. She was naked under the pelt of a dead animal.
There was something crawling under her legs. She looked down and
was startled to see a line of small black insects marching in
single file through the dirt floor of the hut. She let out a startled
shriek and pulled herself away from the parade of insects. They
continued on about their way, totally unaware of the commotion
One of the female aliens entered the opening
of the hut and stopped short of coming inside. Szeredy stared
at the aquamarine colored alien while she covered herself with
the animal covering. The alien noticed the insects and a broad
smile opened across her face. Szeredy didnt find any humor
in the situation. The alien motioned for Szeredys hand.
Szeredy cautiously accepted the outreach and let the alien gently
pull her out of the hut.
Outside there were several other female
aliens and a few children of various heights, all of them a distinctly
chartreuse color. They turned to look at her with their big yellow
eyes and pronounced foreheads. Seeing that they were as naked
as she was, Szeredy lowered the fur cover and let it fall to the
ground. The aliens seemed to relax, as if seeing someone covered
was cause for alarm. The aquamarine colored alien examined Szeredys
hand in her own cool fingers. Several other adult females moved
in for a closer inspection. They seemed particularly fascinated
with her blond hair.
They spoke quietly amongst themselves, discussing
the various odd features of their guest. Szeredy could almost
make out what they were saying as they caressed her body with
their delicate cool fingers. Her body hair, what little she had,
amused them to no end. The children approached her next, touching
her in places far too familiar. She gently brushed their fingers
away from her pubic area. They didnt seem to have any shame.
Finally, the females ordered the children
to retreat. The one with Szeredys hand led her to another
fire pit. They sat down on smooth logs that were positioned around
the white coals of the dying fire. The smell of burning wood permeated
the jungle atmosphere; it was something Szeredy had never experienced
before. The alien pointed to the coals and Szeredy noticed the
outlines of her flight suit. It was designed for far worse damage
then a campfire, but she had no desire to retrieve it. She shook
her head as if to convey that she did not want it back. The alien
Szeredy wondered if her other tools were
also in the fire. All of her instruments were designed to be virtually
indestructible; should she ever desire to dig them out and use
them, they would probably work just fine. But she really didnt
care about them anymore. This world was like living in a paradise.
She had never realized that a wild and foreign planet could be
so seductive and serene. She sensed no danger from these aliens,
despite how they had captured her.
The blue-green female pointed to herself
and spoke. Cyril.
Szeredy pointed to herself and mouthed,
The alien smiled and repeated, Zerdy.
Szeredy was struck by the Votainion pronunciation of her name.
The alien looked more human then the others and her skin color
was a blend of Votainion blue and native chartreuse. Her eyes
were more slanted and dark, almost Voton black. Szeredy realized
that her new friend was either a third or fourth generation Votainion
half-breed. Cyril spoke again and Szeredy found that she could
understand most of what the alien was communicating.
Youre mate did not survive in
the trees. Where have you come from?
I come from a land very far away,
in the night sky.
Cyril blinked her dark eyes as if that made
perfect sense. She looked up into the dark canopy of tree leaves
high above them. My people come from above the trees in
the night sky. They fell to the earth many generations ago and
have never returned. She looked at Szeredy again.
Do you come from where my people do?
Szeredy nodded slowly. She just couldnt
lie to her newfound friend. Space faring civilizations were simply
not within Cyrils grasp, so Szeredy made it sound as if
there were lands above the sky, higher then the trees. Cyril seemed
to understand. But it was clear to her that the white foreigner
was not telling the whole truth.
They sat on the log and spoke for hours,
pausing briefly to eat the animal the tribe was cooking. Szeredy
had never tasted food cooked over an open flame before. A life
aboard starships and space stations, where fire was a deadly threat
to existence, never afforded her the opportunity. She found that
she liked animal food, immensely.
As dusk approached, the men of the tribe
awoke and emerged from their huts. They were hunters and made
their living at night, when the largest of predators were awake
and hunting themselves. The males were slightly bigger then the
females and carried themselves less elegantly. Their lean, muscular
frames reminded Szeredy of zero gravity acrobats. They paid her
little attention and only spoke in curt sentences to the females.
After eating, they gathered around the fires and engaged in a
form of verbal story telling that Szeredy found most enjoyable.
Seemingly stoic male leaders gestured wildly and made comical
expressions in reciting various tribal myths. To Szeredys
surprise, she was encouraged to join in the tale of her capture
the night before. The children of the tribe laughed in their high
pitched giddy voices and the adults watched her with a mixture
of curiosity and good cheer.
When story time was over, the children were
put to bed and the males began to dress for the nights hunt.
They were taking a young kid out for what Szeredy gathered was
his first hunt. He was nervous and excited at the same time. His
bright yellow eyes took in all the details of the preparation,
studying intently everything his elders did.
They had fashioned a hollowed tree into
a bathing tub and filled it with a jet-black liquid that resembled
oil. One by one the men stepped into the tub and submerged themselves
into the dull black mud. When they came out, they were covered
in it and stood around the fire to let it bake onto their olive
skin. Cyril explained that the mud acted as cover for the darkness
of night. Their weapons were primitive, but deadly nevertheless.
Sharpened spears with flint heads and thin arrows made from wood
and bird feathers. The oldest males boiled a special concoction
of poison that the arrowheads were dipped into. Szeredy watched
the males prepare for hunting and had an urge to join them. She
asked Cyril if she could tag along for the hunt. Cyril looked
at her in astonishment, her black eyes blinking with soft eyelashes.
Szeredy took that for no and quickly dismissed the idea. Secretly
she still wanted to go with the men on their hunt, perhaps another
Cyril sat with Szeredy until the males had
formed their hunting parties and left into the flickering darkness
that surrounded the jungle camp. Then she led Szeredy into her
hut and saw to it that she was comfortable enough to sleep for
the night. Szeredy was not surprised that several other single
females shared the hut with her and Cyril. There was safety in
numbers when the males were away for the hunt. The night was dark
and noisy with the sounds of nightlife. It took Szeredy a long
while to finally drift off to sleep as her first night on the
alien world came to a close.
* * *
Zerdy waited until the others had fallen
asleep, before she rose quietly and left the tiny hut. Kwin was
waiting for her in the designated spot behind the large fallen
tree at the edge of the camp. He greeted her with a kiss, his
long tongue tickling the back of her throat. She pressed her self
against his dried and painted body. After a moment, he pushed
her away and began painting her body with the black oil used for
concealment during the nightly hunts. The oil was warm and slick
and it aroused her when he wiped it over her skin with a feather.
She had come to enjoy every aspect the hunt,
from the painting on of the darkness to the sprints through unbeaten
grasses as the prey was cornered and killed. With the help of
her mate, Kwin, she had taken to the ways of the hunt and excelled
like no female had ever done before. There were those in the tribe
who took great offense at her hunting prowess, and she had plenty
of opposition in the high council, but she would not give in to
their demands. She could not honor their old traditions that females
did not hunt.
Cyril had distanced herself from Zerdy when
the hunting lessons had begun. She preferred to remain on her
fathers good side out of respect for him. He held court
on the high council and she would have never made him look bad
in the eyes of the other tribesmen. Cyril missed being with her
white skinned friend, the kinship they had developed over time
had surpassed tribal customs and let them remain faithful to each
other. Zerdy had taken quickly to their language and customs and
was now considered a valued if not fully respected member of the
During the last coming of age ceremony,
Zerdys back was tattooed with the striped pattern that marked
her as a member of the tribe. The initiation ceremony branded
the individual for life and aided in protecting them from jungle
predators. The primitive branding technique was often painful
and unpleasant. Surviving the ritual was a testament to ones
intestinal fortitude. It also marked a vivid transformation, passing
from childhood into adulthood, especially for the males who lacked
a natural passage.
Zerdys markings made her tanned white
skin contrast sharply with the tar black stripes. She had even
cut her blond hair back from her forehead and braided it in the
Tyrmian fashion. Nothing it seemed could make her completely blend
into the permanent green of their world. She would always be marked
as an outsider, no matter how well she assimilated into their
culture. It was something she hated with a passion, but was resigned
to living with. It had been several months since that fateful
day she had fallen onto this world, a fact of which she was blissfully
On this night, Kwin and his party were venturing
into undiscovered country. The hunting had become sparse in their
traditional territory and the high council decided that someone
should explore new, more fertile ground. Zerdy tagged along with
Kwin as they joined the others at the boundary of their known
land. There were four of them in the party. Vinch, their leader,
was slightly larger then the other two males. He wore a bandanna
around his head and carried the strongest bow. Kwin was his second,
and usually walked to the side and ahead of the main group. Zerdy
had taken the number three positions, walking behind Vinch. Trailing
them, and covering their rear flank, was Gweet. Gweet was small
and lithe and he often traveled in the vines above like a marsupial.
The night was alive with the sounds of nocturnal
life. Giant beetles rubbed their thoraxes, grating in sync with
hundreds of other insects forming a background symphony of cacophony.
They walked over the wet jungle floor, their feet barely making
a sound as they moved upwind to avoid detection from possible
Zerdy carried a spear that was twice as
long as she stood tall. She gripped it hard with oily wet hands.
The fresh grass blades brushed by her thigh, flecking off some
of the dried black oil. She tried to step where Vinch had stepped,
to avoid disturbing the ground. There were two full moons shinning
high above the jungle canopy, but down on the moist ground, it
was pitch dark.
Vinch stopped in his tracks and knelt down,
motioning for Zerdy to come to his side. She stepped forward and
put her knee down beside her mate. Her blue eyes shined from behind
a blackened face.
Vinch pointed to a glowing reddish light
in the trees ahead of them. Nothing that she was aware of in the
jungle ever glowed like this at night. Vinchs saffron eyes
were wide and she could tell by his tense posture, that he was
alarmed by what he saw. She peered through the low lying fog and
thought she could see moving figures in the red hallow of light.
Zerdy spotted Kwin a few meters ahead of
them. He was looking back at them, as confused and alarmed as
Vinch. Kwin motioned for them to advance to his position. Zerdy
followed Vinch, step for step until he went prone and crawled
the remaining distance to Kwin. When she reached them, she could
clearly see the ghostly shapes moving in the red light. They were
a Starveyor search and rescue team, and they were looking for
Zerdy froze her entire body tense. She had
hoped that they had written her and Khas off as missing in action.
After a month had passed, she started to believe they would never
return for her. Her mind was racing again, like the day she fell
from the sky. The same hurried, frantic feeling that she was only
just learning to let go of. She tried to relax, to calm herself
down, but she found it impossible.
These are your people, Vinch
told her. He recognized their flight suits as being similar to
what Zerdy wore when they found her in their trap. Do you
want to go back to them?
Zerdy heard him, but she didnt realize
what he was asking. She slowly shook her head. We have to
leave here, or they will find us and take me away with them,
she whispered. Vinch motioned for the others to back off. Then
he told Kwin to head back in the direction they had come.
Zerdys attention was focused on the
search team. They had found the scout ship and were attempting
to lift it out of the tree. It was covered with jungle growth
that impeded their efforts. Zerdy, are you staying?
Vinch asked her.
Yes, for a little while. You go back
with the others. I will follow shortly.
Vinch was hesitant to leave her. He was
afraid she would decide to return and there was nothing he could
do to win her back. Her people were wizards, capable of calling
up light from the darkness and moving heavy objects with unknown
magic. He knew he could not
compete with them. He took her hand and squeezed it gently. She
looked at him as if just noticing his presence.
Come back with us, Zerdy. We need
She looked into his large eyes and kissed
him hard. Go now my mate, I will not be long. He turned
and crawled away, looking back once, before disappearing into
the shadows of the night.
Zerdy moved in closer to the removal operation.
She crawled up beside a gray tree and peered through its twin,
sinewy trunks, her black covered face hidden in the shadow save
for the shine of the white of her eyes. She wondered if they had
found her helmet in the grass under the scout. She had taken great
pains to retrieve all of her gear and scatter it around the crash
site, in an effort to make it look like she was attacked and devoured
by a local predator.
She even went as far as having Vinch remove
the neuro implant at the base of her neck. It was a painful operation,
despite her use of the Med-kits laser scalpel and analgesics.
She later hid the implant in some meat and fed it to a Tracalor,
the most vicious predator on
the planet. She knew that the implant would lead rescuers to her
no matter where she tried to hide.
Something was moving in the grass behind her. She spun
around to find one of the Starveyor troops standing with a biocorder
pointed at her. She could see the mans wide-open eyes behind
his helmet visor. She must have been quite a sight to behold,
naked and coated with a dry and crumbling mud. She saw him reacting
confused to what his biocorder was reading. He even slapped the
instrument a couple of times to be sure something wasnt
ajar inside of it.
Zerdy stood perfectly still, trying to decide
what to do next. Either the man had a faulty biocorder or the
mud she was wearing somehow obfuscated its readings. Either way,
she had to act quickly, before he reported in to the others what
he had discovered.
The man turned suddenly and pointed the
biocorder to the right, just as Cyril appeared at her side. Cyril
clung to Zerdys side in a traditional show of support common
to the Tyrmian people. The Starveyor reacted even more surprised
to the readings he got from the second, blue green colored female.
Zerdy knew that her friend scanned as a Votainion, not a Tyrmian.
She decided to make a break for it, and
hoped the human didnt press after them. Zerdy gently pushed
Cyril aside and told her to run into the tall grass. Cyril nodded
and then bolted for the open grass. The move startled the Starveyor,
who followed Cyril with his biocorder.
Zerdy lunged for his side arm and quickly
seared off the mans communications link. He froze, realizing
that she had effectively cut him off from the others. Zerdy took
the biocorder and flushed its memory. She moved around behind
the Starveyor, putting him between her and the other members of
his team. She afforded a quick look in the direction of the cleanup
operation and saw that they were unaware of the drama being played
out just a few hundred meters away from them.
The Starveyor was looking at her differently
now. She was no longer a harmless, biocorder anomaly. She was
now a serious threat. Cyril came back out of the grass and stood
beside her friend. Are you coming back with us? she
Zerdy kept her eyes on the Starveyor. Yes,
Cyril motioned behind them and the entire
tribe appeared from out of the tall grass. The Starveyors
eyes went big as he realized he was in over his head. The male
Tyrmians surrounded the Starveyor, spears pointed at his torso.
Vinch came to his mates side. Do you want us to kill
No, she said firmly. She instructed
them to rig a sling trap and snare him in it. Vinch led the operation,
rigging the ancient trap in short order. When the poor man was
hanging from his heels, she removed his helmet and tossed it aside.
He watched her carefully set the biocorder on the ground and place
the side arm beside it.
Who are you people? he asked,
sweat dripping from his face from the oppressive humidity.
Zerdy said nothing. She backed away from
him and motioned for the others to retreat into the jungle. The
man called out to her again. Wait, who are you? he
Zerdy smiled. I Tyrmian, she
said as she ducked into the tall grass and joined her people in