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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 2:31 am 
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"The foundlings of Zeta".....Episode 7.....'Ode to old friends and new dreams.'



Opposite the range was one of the big rock fingers; the principal reason for selecting the spot.
Willamson had figured it to be easy to find in the dark. the lad walked around it's great girth; out to face the desert. In the night, the desert was lumpy gray hills; striding off in all directions. Snook seemed to be gifted at seeing in the dark, but still found it somehow disappointing. If only the clouds would open up!

He looked straight up to the uniform canopy. It was no longer the ugly, boiling mass of wind storm. These were smooth and lighter shaded. They might have passed for a mirror of the terrain they passed over; but for the rocks. The rocks, noted the teenager, craning his head further. Then turned about for a easier view of the rock finger huddled over them.


Up close now; young Starsharke saw it wasn't flat surfaced. Indeed, it was pockmarked with cracks and juts and spurs. Must naw be too old, he thought. Has naw been worn down by sand and wind yet. Why; one might almost be able to climb it. He grinned to hisself. Walked up to it, searching it's surfaces with palms and fingers.

And began to climb.

It was easy stuff to grab onto and there were plenty of handholds. Even in the dark, Snook, a fellow with some bit of unassisted rock-climbing under his belt; had no trouble to the last yard or so. There; the rock and a foots' worth of overhang; a slippery lip difficult to make purchase on. After a few moments of tentative tries and a couple thoughts of going back; he was finally dragging himself across hard dusty stone.

On his feet, the lad could make out this topmost porch to be roughly oval, ten by maybe eight feet wide. It wasn't flat, either. It slumped a bit to his left and a two-foot mesa-shaped lump of rock crowded the end facing west; toward the range. He had to be a good fifty feet up.

Facing east; opposite their camp, dark or not; he could see the forms of dunes and occasional rocks like individual grave markers, grim and utterly silent. There was no debris of LS-2 directly in sight but being reminded did not please. He tugged on the sling of his rifle, as if to tighten it.

So very far from home, he chafed. To die so far from home. There must be a special pain for that. He tried to put himself in the place of their families. Some were.... most were coming behind in Noah's Ark. They'd be told, he was certain, before they arrived. If they arrived: the trip being laced with all manner of dangers. Equipment failure (LS-2 was a hard reminder therein) Solar flares (More likelt by the day) Fire or outbreak of disease (Not impossible, surely) All those and lord knew how many others.

And once here, on terra firma.....he grinned, ruefully. Zeta firma, he corrected. They'd be reminded. They'd cry and go into mourning. Would they come here? Of course they would; he chastised himself. Soon as they could. They wouldn't find much: nein monument. Naw yet, anyway.

The teen considered the loss of his own mother, the all-too-recent- murder of his father. He refused to consider further. He tried to sit on the stone bench: his rifle made it difficult. He unlimbered it and placed it very carefully beside his legs. I'll just sit for a bit, he decided. A few minutes. He wasn't tired........not really. He just had to sit, was all.

A breeze stroked the right side of his face and he looked out to the south.

The dunes ran on; one behind the other till he couldn't see them anymore. To his further right was the range; craggy and sawbacked. A immense bookend to the desert. He turned his eyes up to the clouds and thought he spotted a gap; high there: again to the south. As he watched, it grew. The clouds were finally breaking. It was as if it were a great shell cracking open. Slowly; forming a uneven shape of a four-pointed star. In a few minutes, stars could be seen. A few more and the bottom edge of Zyra eased down.

It's face was mostly white: almost a phosphorescent white, with dabs of pale yellow and tiny streaks of blue-green. Those clouds were banded; running east/west, a cord of water vapor stretched all around the big world by it's twenty two hour, six minute rotation. Zyra had rings but they didn't quite impress as much as Sol's Saturn. Saturn's rings were a mixture of ice and ice-coated gravel. Zyra's were believed older, thus thinner. And the heat from Alpha Bellus; which could be so roasting during Zeta's long afternoons, also had long since evaporated any such frost. Looking on them now, the clouds folding back more quickly by the minute, the rings were a narrow grayish, almost mist-like line in front of Zyra.

Zyra was roughtly nineteen times as wide as a earthly full moon and reflected light accordingly. The dunes below began to get shadows; their highest points landing spots for Zyra's glimmer. The first moon was spotted by the teen in no time. Fellow moon; the youngster corrected. No one was entirely sure of the mechanics that had managed to cause the slightly larger then six thousand miles wide Zeta to come to be. It's existence raised a few questions for planetary dynamics.

Snook guessed the small orb, maybe a very timy bit more then one tenth a full moon across, was Zyra-nine. Even Snook, a numbers man, wished they'd come up names. Numbers are easier to remember but....he sighed and watched the sky unfold.

Just beyond the east edge of the ring-line was a ever so tiny sphere. Zyra-four, he reckoned. For a few minutes that looked like all he would find then more clouds parted and out came Zyra-five and ten. Five was about the size of nine and ten took the honors as being the biggest of the satellities; at least for this viewing. It appeared just under half a earth's moon width and was the furthest to the east. Five was nearly directly overhead; the unusual tilt of it's orbit putting it's two cents in. The phases of all were slightly past half full; Starsharke knew in a little over twenty hour hours, Zyra would be full. Awful pretty, the linquist thought, inhaling deeply once more. Better get used to it. This sky.

He kept looking for that one last celestial object and finally it came out; peering out around a clump of stray clouds. Almost opposite the spot Alpha Bellus had slid. Yellowish; not all that big but by far the brightest star in the sky now.

Sol. The sun.

Home.

Canna live on a star, he chided. That 'tis the power source; light source' the light bulb of life. Around that circled home. Yet home no longer. The young man settled back further on the stone stool. It wasn't soft; despite a coating of sand and it wasn't warm. But it's do for a rest spot.

He spied out across the dunes and boulders below. Sol and Zyra's lighting dueled to dominate; the dunes had waterless straits between them; and there were double-tailed shadows now, alien as he could have ever dreamed. This was a funny scene, he thought. It was weird and very....he sought a word till his head hurt. Zetan. This was Zetan. He was getting a hefty-serving of Zeta and he was full and afraid he couldn't refuse to eat more. What a place.

He peeked at Sol and found himself wondering; how should it effect him, seeing it here; so far away?

There was no going back. Ever. He and the rest....and those in the ark, too, eventually: all here for good. It was make it or naw; sink or swim. So how am I supposed to feel about that, he thought. Happy? Excited? Aye: it was a new life. Aye, the challenges would certainly be there. The adventure of a lifetime.

How about fear? Was he scared? Aye, in a way. Now and then. There was so much to keep track of, tasks to undertake, it was overwhelming and sometimes dispiriting. It was a big project with big goals but was undertaken by only men and women. Could such things ever have any chance to work out right?

Nein; he decided he wasn't going to go down that path. That was fear; he had more then enough right now, thank you.

Anger? Was he angry about seeing his old sun? He skipped anger. He'd never really gotten the hang of it, he liked to think.

Sadness? As if having named the devil; it swooped upon the teen. He covered his eyes with his hands, slumped. Sadness. Places to never be seen again. People to never meet again. Would there ever be wheat fields, waving in a breeze? Pine and fir trees; coated with snow before Christmas? That wonderful stain glass glow as one stood in a church? Just stood; listening, feeling.....

So much...

The lad was not without comfort; at least he told himself so. this world was a chance. Like it or not: they had to play this hand. It was up to them to make something of all this. He leaned his head back till it was aimed nearly straight up. He could see Zyra-five clearly. Slightly red; with only vague traces of craters. Volcanic action was the cause. At it's closest passes to Zeta tidal stains set lava flows across it.

Filling his head with such facts and trivia didn't help at all. He still felt....empty. A gnawing, corrosive blank.

What had Wu said, back about five months? He liked to believe she'd said it to him and him alone but he couldn't truly be sure. Lynda Wu was such a nice lady. And wise. She'd looked at him, way back then; when he was feeling much like now and said "There's no vaccine for homesickness. It's a ailment we each survive on our own." How true. But here, now, he found little cheer in it.

Lynda had been on LS-2.

Young Starsharke kept staring at the ruddy orb high above.

The next thing he realized; it wasn't there. How could that be? How odd this rock-seat is digging into my back. And his eyes were laden and he had to rub them. He knew then, even before consulting his watch; he'd gone asleep. How long?

His full four hours; plus fouty five minutes more. He wanted to kick himself and didn't doubt Rigel would gladly take up the chore if he couldn't.


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:46 am 
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"The foundlings of Zeta"....Episode 8...."A new mission unfolds."



Oh, jeez. Dang lucky I didn't roll off and break my neck. He located his rifle and flashlight and took a few minutes to stretch and get himself into the there and then. He finally slung his rifle and began chambering to the sand below. Generally; it's more hazardous climbing down then up, at least in the dark. The lad's experience helped considerably and with nary a miss, he was hopping down to the campsite.

Except a few things were missing from the campsite. Rigel. Cindy. Laddy. Canteens, backpacks, even Rigel's shotgun. The fire-pit was scattered, as if stomped upon.

Snook could only gape; he was completely dumbfounded. What is this?! Did I pull a Rip Van Winkle or what? The next inclination was to yell names. Preferably his friend's. But something told him this was not the wisest move. Snook walked just outside the abandoned site and his flashlight swept back and forth as he circled it. In seconds he saw the line of footprints.

Sand isn't the best of track-retainers and in Zeta's gravity, feet didn't sink in so very far. But these were definitely footprints. They came in a circling course: parallel to the range, then angling up to the campsite so as to keep the highest section of sand dune to it's front. Sneaking up, in simple terms.

And odd tracks, at that. Whoever had made them was two-footed but each print was in a side by side pattern. Hopping along, maybe? They were wide, too. The teen could put both his size fourteen and a halves within one of them. He went back to the campsite, all eyes for the sand. There were few individual prints but a menagerie of all manner. If Starsharke would have taken a guess; then this was the scene of a struggle.

And I slept through it.

He tried to be business-like; his foolish nappy-time had abruptly made time of the essence. Who....what had taken his friends?

They had known Zeta had some manner of native intelligent life. Infrared scanners had detected fire-signatures. And orbiter photo's had shown cities, of a sort. But no individuals had, to date, been caught sight of. And those population centers were to the north, behind a line of hills. There were other's on one of the other continents; thousands of miles away. Landing sites had been choosen with avoiding contact until the colony had a better understanding of who they were dealing with.

Well; we know one thing about them now, Snook thought grimly. They got my friends. Now; where had they gone?

Rifle held cross-chest, the lad circled the camp; using a wider search area. On the northeast side he found a wide patch of furrows and footprints. They led off east and he followed. A half mile of dunes later, the trail became a oval tramping. Again, seperate prints were difficult to make out. He was long in finding the final feature in the trail. It led northeast: a double line clearly indicating more then a few creatures had passed recently. One or two tracks could
be made out as some vaguely bird-like, three clawed kind. These were even larger then the first kind. It gave something for the lad to think on but not for long. He began a search through the wreckage of LS-2.

A hour later, he had to go with what he had. He'd been hoping for some sign of Laddy. But there wasn't a trace. It worried him but he tried to cover it with activity. He'd lucked out on water. A plastic tote box was easily modified to be filled. He managed just over two gallons, plus a canteen. There was more water, from a split one hundred gallon supply tank. But he couldn't find anything else to carry it in.

Food wise, he had a mishmash of the good, the bad and the ugly. Good was the small cans of tuna; the dry-milk mixable with water; even a box of pop-tarts. Blueberry; without frosting. The ugly was the things he had to make receptacles for. Cereals, poured into a trio of plastic-seal-tight bags. A half-burned bag of 'apple-chips'. They would dry out fast. There were four cans of pears, dripping from holes, three of applesauce in like condition and a single can of black-eye peas. Yummy, yummy.

The bad was the fact that if it lasted three days, he'd be bloody fortunate. Maybe four or even five, if he pressed it. But with no idea fow far he'd be going or what trouble were in store... hey. He knew he was going to be up against it, no matter his stores. Deal with it, he told himself.

He had his flashlight and had dug out a few batteries for it. A small, very rudimentry first-aid kit was managed and a pair of seven by twenty eight binoculars and their case. He even managed two, twenty-round boxes of .356 Winchester rifle ammo; just what he needed. But he could dig up no fire-making gear. No matches; no lighters: nothing of the sort. He might have improvised something but it'd taken him so much time, he had to let it go. The last things found were a dark green laundry sack; just big enough to serve as a cheezy backpack.

And a small bible.

He'd his own; back at LS-1. Hadn't brought it though and he'd smirked when he'd dug this out the shuttle's cabin. Maybe someone was trying to tell me something? He had no idea who's this was. No names were scribbled on the inside covers. Just one bookmark; a orange three by five card. He turned the book over in his hands, but did no reading. He checked the loaded condition of the rifle. Looped the draw-cord of the laundry-bag over a shoulder. Tucked the water-tote box under a arm.

Let's go.

He set out: following the double-set of three-toed prints. He had no mighty plans or thoughts; just put one foot in front of the other.

But he found himself passing the grave-site and something stopped him. A single corner of the metal cover gave it away. Sand was already begining to reclaim it's territory. He looked on for a few moments. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. He took the bible, tossed it onto the grave. It kicked up a tiny spurt of sand, which was swept away in a breeze. As if never having been. "Bye, guys." He returned to trailing. For a whole quarter mile.

Then he had to go back to the burial mound. This is so foolish, he swore. Two people, maybe even three and Laddy out there. Lord knew in what trouble! And I canna even get started! It was that little book, he knew. In it's black leather cover. And that bookmark. He had to look at the pages; the chapter; the words it marked. He just had to. Need to, he realized. Back at the site; he picked up the book and turned it over once and twice in his hands. Kneeled, careful with the rifle. Got the bible open.

'Simon, Simon; satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon; that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back; strengthen your brothers.'

It was only one passage out of a couple on that page and Snook couldn't help but wonder why; whoever's this book's owner had been; had they been reading this? What had they been thinking? What did they seek?

He spoke; looking on the grave. In a whisper. "I'm gonna take this with me. I do naw know why," he tried to laugh. It was quite poor and seemed to have trouble getting out into the air. He stared at the bible, then back to the metal/stone/sand covered friends. "I'll miss you. All of you. Look." He stood.

"I gotta go. I do naw know what to tell you guys but.....thanks." He waved the bible. "Thanks." He set off again; after getting the small tome into one of his vest pockets. Then stopped once more: at the very top of a quite tall dune. The wind fluttered his vest and hair and he blinked.

Damn wind, he thought. And sand. Making my eyes water...

He looked briefly down, to his feet. Hiding his tears. Then up; as if to display them.

"Oh, lord.....my crewmates are out there and I do naw want them to get...hurt or anything. Oh, lord.... I know you must have some purpose behind this. Your purpose. And that means there must be good in it. Somehow. But I canna see it." He swallowed hard. So hard. "Please help me overcome my blindness. Please. Amen." He wiped his eyes, blew his nose. Glanced down for the last time in his life upon the mound below. "Amen."

And into the desert he walked.


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2008 7:04 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"....Episode 9.... "The Lonely Desert."



Snookeroo didn't need his flash. The sky was cloudless now and between Sol and Zyra; creeping slowly to full; there was plently of light. The temperature was falling though and the lad wished he'd heavier clothing. Nein help for it, he decided and kept on following the trail.

It kept a fairly straight path now: convincing Snook whoever it was; they had a particular place of calling in mind. Abstractly, he thought perhaps it wasn't so wise to directly follow the tracks. What if they left someone behind to watch their back? Would he know they were there before it was too late? The teen kept walking.

He managed three hours dune-climbing before his first canteen of water. He refused to eat before he was positively hungry. Who knew how big a lead the.....whoevers had? And one thing he learned about sand dunes: there certainly were a lot of them. When you topped one; there was yet another ahead. To the left and to the right. Long undulating rows of them. Some small and rippled; almost delicate. Others taller then houses; making for long, wearisome climbs. And always more; as far as one could see.

He kept walking.

He at last decided to call a halt for lunch after nearly eight hours of treading. He told himself he was hungry; really; and sat down on the top of a series of pyramid-like dunes. It was a can of tuna, a canteen of water and dry milk mixture and the can of black-eye peas. The peas; opened by a swiss-knife imitation kept in one of his vest pockets; were awful. But he fought down each mouthful, knowing he might as well get it over with.

He glanced behind him; seeing that the range had pulled back to a horizon-skimming grayish line. He wondered how far he'd walked. He looked up. Zyra wasn't quite full; maybe fifteen hours from it, he estimated. the other moons had shifted around.

Farthest to the east was ten; still about the same size. Slightly closer to Zyra was eight; now a eighth the size of a earth full moon. Just nipping the western edge of Zyra's rings was five; smaller then eight but looking like a red, squinting eye. Four was not quite as far west as five and being silhouetted behind the rings; appeared quite small. Furtherest west was nine; nearly as minute.

The linguist tossed aside the empty can of peas. Great, I'm a litterbug, he thought not too harshly. He dug with fingers into the tiny tuna can. He noticed then; in front of him; just to his left. Nearly level with this very dune.

A skeleton.

He sat and ate: looking at it.

It was perhaps thirty feet long; consisting of a thick spine with triangular vertebrae and a long skull; slightly detached from the rest. It lay on the sand; mostly long, very long jaw. Just how that jaw fit to the skull was difficult to exactly make out. The teeth were short and pointy in front; wide and flat in back. The legs were half-buried in the sand but while seemingly small compared to the rest of it; must still have been nearly as long as young Starsharke was tall. Oddest of all; there could be seen al least three, perhaps even four pairs of those limbs. Once limbs, now bones their observer told himself.

Were there many of these laying about? The skeleton; he reckoned; must be a sun-bleached white. It was hard to tell in the dueling light from Zrya and Sol. Snook's father had been a archaeogist and he himself was fascinated by animals of all types. I should be up, looking that stuff over. Maybe collect a rib bone for study later?

Instead; he packed up; finished off his dry milk and went around those old bones; not looking back. He wasn't here to collect bones.

He kept on: one foot in front of the other for another seven hours. Every two hours he stopped for a drink of water and a couple 'apple-chips; quick energy to keep him moving. But with nothing to show for the day's stroll but a big bunch of sand dunes; he finally decided it was time to call a halt. He found a round-edged block of white rock near the bottom of a dune and figured it'd do for a windbreak; should the wind ever return. He sat down; back to it and had dinner. Five minutes and the chow was finished: he tucked his laundry sack under him as a pillow, laid side by side to the rock and was asleep almost on the instant. If he had any dreams; he didn't recall them on waking.

He could tell it had to be very close to full-Zyra but he rushed through breakfast and was off again; still feeling hungry and gave the above no abiding survey. The water container in under one arm(Sloshing more; weighing less), his rifle in the other; the laundry sack swaying from one scapula to the other, young Starsharke kept on. Dune after dune. Following that trail of paired tracks. Somehow, the hungry faded and he felt enlivened. His speed picked up. The trail itself was always before his feet; snaking up dunes, then down them on the other side. It was as if it were all downhill after a while: he just kept having to move his legs faster. Soon, he was in a spongy, not so graceful jog. He told himself to slow down; conserve his energy.

And kept on jogging.

Where were they? What had happened to them? Would he ever catch up?

The trail: their trail, the trail that meant his finding them, became all he could see. A long, endless series of bare outlines; three toed marks. It could as well been a line: drawn across concrete with a bit of chalk. It just went on and on....that chalk line: down block and block of concrete: you could see it before you; running on ahead as far as .... Then somehow, someone got out a eraser. The trail vanished into dark rock so suddenly, but for Zetan gravity; he would have fallen on his face.

Righting himself and drawing to a stop; the lad looked about. The sand was gone; the dunes at his back only. Before him ran, black, pocked rock. Volcanic, he reckoned. Far to left and right it sprawled and even more so to his front. As far as he could judge' he'd come onto a ground depression of some sort: starting shallow and deepening; like a tilted plate; to the opposite way.

Snook got nervous: he didn't much care for this turn of events. He could see no nearby patches of sand. A tracker's nightmare. If he'd had Laddy; maybe the dog could have picked up the path. He slowly kneeled; placing water-container down and resting his rifle against it. He dug out his bino's and put them to work

They didn't work so hot at night as during daylight but did assist some. His first impression about the slope of the stone-way seemed correct and there was more. This depression was walled in by rock with hues of both yellow and red; eroded rock; bringing to his mind icebergs topping a dark, wave-less sea. They seemed tallest nearly directly across from him and cracks, cracks with severe edges, suggested the bergs had been frozen right at the moment they'd begun to break up. The lad put his binoculars back but kept kneeling a few moments. He was finding little comfort in what he'd seen. One of those cracks, gullies; probably had been used by his quarry. But which one? And what lay down them?

With no chioce; the teen chambered a round in the rifle and headed to his left; toward the closest gully. He'd only been on his way a couple rods when he spotted the object; to his right. Maybe one hundred yards ahead. He had a good guess what it was even as he noticed it and trotted over. It was about two feet long; roughly cylinder-shaped, of a pale tan color. One end was a great knot; the other was a chewed-up soggy mess; sand clung to it now. Snook couldn't help but grin.

Laddy's chew bone.

Good ole lad. All jokes about him by the others notwithstanding; the shaggy pooch was pretty bright. Now: Snook didn't know if Laddy had been captured with the rest or if he was follwing on his own. But he'd known his master would follow and left a sign and not a bad one. Starsharke looked back the way he'd come; lining it up with where the chew bone had been found. He mentally followed the course made therein across the rocky ground and saw it made nearly dead-on for one specific cleft. He stuffed Laddy's toy into his sack and set out at a fast walk for the indicated gully.

As he neared the gully, he felt somewhat dwarfed. It rose a good thirty feet on either side; rock becoming mostly red; a powdery sort. Sandstone, the lad guessed. The opening itelf appeared as if something had tugged at the far end of the rock-wall and it'd broken; narrow at the bottom, wide at the top. It curved as well; Snook could only see ten yards ahead. He went on, certain this was the way. After rounding the bend in the gully and covering maybe forty feet of red gravel path, Starsharke came out into another depression, bowl-shaped. Not quite as big as the one he'd already crossed, maybe two hundred yards wide, There was another gully across from him; wider then the first and he quickly saw this depression was a sort of intersection; to left and right ran other gullies. On this end of the intersection shadow fell. Both Sol and Zyra were dropping from overhead. Beyond the shadow he could make out, scattered here and there; as if sown like seed, small spans of sand. There were a handful of boulders as well; mostly small, round and of the same red rock.

Snook walked up to the nearest stretch of sand, eyes sharp. He found what he was looking for: tracks. Of the same sort as he'd been following. He went to the next patch. The same. Tracks, tracks and tracks. By the time he was in the middle of the intersection of rock, he found he had a new dilemma. He'd gone from having hardly any tracks to too many, and those running in every direction.

At this point, a noise raked by. If a bellow could have a hollow moan to it, this was it. Snook could easily imagine this barren place as some vast giant's lungs and the sound was it's breath passing through. He knew it was just the wind. But it did not amuse. He went further forward: inspecting each strew of sand; finding them each as the last: covered inch and square with tracks. But none he could definitely claim as his crewmate's.

At a few yards from the start of the largest of the intersecting gullies...maybe canyon being a better word, he decided; there was a good sized lay of sand. It only made him further depressed. He found upon the sand what could best be described as two lines: side by side. They were seperated by perhaps twenty feet, maybe a bit more. Each line sank a foot into the sand and were nearly that wide. He had no idea what could have produced them but that wasn't what made him feel so low. It was the fact this was only one set of three; each headed down one of the intersecting canyons. It was a given, those trails...lines...whatevers led to his friends.

Now which one?

"You know," He said aloud, mostly to hear himself, "this really sucks."

At that moment came a sound. It starled him, made his hair stand on end. this was no imaginary asthmatic giant. It was a animal noise; a whine. A whimper of pain. Snook spun around, taking a guess at it's origin; dropping water-container; sprinting with rifle in both hands.

The sound came again even as he did so; softer but somehoe more insistent. Beyond a waist-high bot of rock he dashed.

Just on the other side of it; he discovered a large furry, black and white form. It lay upon the sand like disregarded rubbish. The form tried to raise it's head; managed it but barely. About it's neck, just below it's head; the fur seemed constricted and colored dark red.

"Laddy!"


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Tue Apr 08, 2008 6:29 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta".....Episode 10... "Burden to bear"



The lad jumped over the rock, landing astride his canine friend. The dog whined more and tried to get up; his back legs didn't seem to work very well. Snook shoved his rifle aside; bending to the other. "Easy does it, old buddy! It 'tis me, Snook! I'm here! Nein! Lay down! Lay down, lad."

The linguist had to practically sit on him to get the animal to stay put. The teen's mind was whirling; he wanted to be logical and follow a step-bystep checklist on what to do. But his heart was pounding and that scarlet-tinted fur frightened him. Feeling his friend's neck; he instantly could tell that something was buried there; deep in the thick fur. He tried to claw with bare fingers down to the spot of the crimson stains but Laddy yelped and choked and returned to struggling. With a few oaths, Snook sat down on the dog's shoulders; pinning him down; even if his legs kept spraying sand over the both of them. Teeth pressed together in a grimace; young Starsharke at last got a clue on what was doing his pet so much harm.

About the animal's throat; deep into fur; actually cutting flesh; was a dark, wire-like cord. It was wrapped as if tied but no knot could be detected. It was a single cord; slippery with blood and he couldn't work a finger down between skin and wire. "Hold on, shaggy buddy! I'll have that nasty thing off in a sec!" He extracted his pseudo-Swiss knife; got it's wire-clipper into working order and two seconds later; with a yip from Laddy and grunt of satisfaction from himself; the device was in a hand.

Rising; to get out of the depression-wall shadow and into the Zyra-light; Snook examined the object. It was maybe fifteen or so inches long; he could see it's two ends were not cemented or adhered ont to the other. How did it get wrapped around Laddy's neck? the dog gave no answer. In fact; he wasn't even where Snook had last seen him. The dog was up; staggering across the rocky ground. "Nein! Laddy! Come back! Cease!"

Snook caught up to his pet only after he'd collapsed; falling muzzle down in the sand; trembling. Coming up; Starsharke was mad and anxious and wanted it all to stop. He tried to pick Laddy up. The dog struggled: they both fell to the bit of sand the dog had got to. "Lad! Laddy, stop it. Hold still, will ya? You'll kill yourself." Snook cussed himself for mentioning the idea; finally getting Laddy to lay on his side; panting: clealry exhausted. Then he noticed just where the animal had limped to fall. He blinked his eyes and stared; trying to understand.

They were at the point where the three line-trails met. Laddy had prostrated himself right at the start of the trail leading down the largest cleft. Snook leaned down; hugging his friend. He whispered in a ear. "Dog gone you, you silly mutt. I know what you're trying to say. Dog gone you, Laddy! I love you so much!" Laddy made a gasping noise; that once would have been a bark. His tail waggled; feebly; like something broke that refuses to accept it. This was going to hurt the both of them, he realised.

The teenager tried to do what he could. the dog wouldn't stand for being moved far; so his owner had to settle for a nearby stretch of rocky ground: he didn't want the sand anywhere that wound if it could be managed. He cleaned with water, as best he could, the neck wound. He gave in; with many misgivings; and used a rather pathetic pair of scissors from the med-kit to trim away as much of Laddy's neck fur as could be managed. Laddy was so weak, he could only pant; his tongue lolling about his teeth; getting bits of sand upon it.

The trim was ugly and haphazard but the wound was little better. It wasn't deep; the dog's fur had helped tremendously in that regard. But through the matted hair and mostly dried old blood, it was red and inflamed: almost shouting the word 'infection' into Snook's face. Biting a lip; the young man felt the neck; then checked over the rest of his friend. Nein; nada seemed brocken. Well; Starsharke told himself; if we can get this cleaned out, bandaged up and some food and water into him; he'll be up and kickin' in nein time. Sure! Nein problem!

As he worked to accomplish these things; it became harder and harder to control the lump in his throat or the tightening in his chest. His canine friend seemed so.....empty. He only protested during the wound cleaning; with a thin, high-pitched whine. He just sat through it, panting, eyes open but staring. Neck bandaged as best he could manage; Snook set to getting food into his pet. He couldn't give him water directly from his canteen; the dog would literally drown. It took some manuevering but using one hand as a cup and the other to help his pet lift his head it was managed. At first contact, the feel of his comrade's rough pink tongue on his fingers was reassuring. But reflection and two poorly eaten cans of tuna later, Starsharke knew it was simply a false hope. the dog just lay there; seemingly without energy or caring about a thing. The running to the tracks had sapped him entirely.

This is what was called 'exposure'; Snook recognized. The animal had had to go more then a day without food or water, then to be so cruelly injured by....who or whatever, then to just lay here, bleeding, barely able to breathe.... Snook leaned down close to his friend's ear. "You're naw gonna die, boy. I'll see to that. I'm naw gonna let ya." Laddy blinked.

Now; Snook had to figure his next steps.

His friends were somewhere ahead; down this mini-canyon. It seemed a safe guess their captors had a good lead. He'd have to move fast and long to make up lost ground. But Laddy was in such sorrowful condition. The teen couldn't see himself forcing his pet to walk. Indeed, it'd only slow him down. He could carry him, certainly, if with difficulty. But surely: couldn't that also kill the animal? What Laddy needed was a good twenty four hours of rest and recoup time. Maybe then?

Waiting twenty four hours?

Twelve hours?

Two?

Nein; the young man told himself. It could naw be. If he was ever going to catch up to the others; he had to start now. He sighed and began rearranging his gear.

In ten minutes they were ready, if that was the word to use. Snook slung his rifle with the sling across his collar bone; the rest across his chest firmly. The water-container was tied by a couple strips of denim cut from his jeans to the belt-loops of same pants. It would bounce off his legs while walking but it would have to do. The laundry bag of items would be carried rather like the rifle except it couldn't be tied down as firmly and dangled; swaying a foot from Snook's face when he was crouched over.

And he'd have to be; to carry his pet. Laddy was a huge dog; in Zetan gravity still pushing the one hundred forty pound mark. Hoisting him onto his shoulders wasn't possible; Snook couldn't see how to keep his blance and it would be a painful trip for Laddy as well. He'd have to be boosted unto his master in a piggy-back: the young man's arms tucked around behind him to stabilize his friend's hind legs. With much effort and nearly as much cussing; the two found themselves up and set to go. Starsharke couldn't see too far ahead; the posture combined with the canyon's turns conspired well. Ah hell, he thought. Gotta start some time.

He tromped off: feet centered right between those side-by-side tracks of unknown origin. At the first stumble; unavoidable with both small rocks and dips in terrain along the way; Laddy whined and shifted his weight. Snook ajusted as best he could and began a running commentary. Who it was to comfort was debatable.

"Lad; do naw worry your silly self. We'll find 'em. Might take a bit but we will.Just hang in there and relax. Let me do the work, old buddy. I canna thank you enough, Lad. The way you helped me find you. Darn bonny thinking on your part. Now we'll catch up and get Rigel and Cindy back and then... yo? You bored back there? Tell ya what. I can at least entertain you. Let's see...."

"If I ever needed someone;
You'd be the one.
If I needed someone...."
So off into the Beatles 'If I needed someone' went Snook. His mother had wanted him to be a opera singer and her impromptu tries at training therein hadn't been entirely wasted. It was a dry rendition; it seemed to not so much bounce off the canyon-sides as be absorbed and fade. After that tune, he tried ELO's 'Telephone line'; The Traveling Wilburys 'Congratulations'; then P.M Dawn's 'Downtown Venus'. He whipped into U2's 'In god's country'; and since they were his favorite group, he went for a encore; 'Love rescue me'.

As his moldy oldies were ground out; his eyes were centered on the ground itelf. As the canyon winded and turned to and fro; it became apparent these tracks were made by some manner of wheeled device. There were extra lines as of a separate pair or pairs of wheels undertaking turns. The shadows were thick to his right; angled so that most of the left-side rock was illuminated. He guessed Sol had to be past zenith.

As he sang the last couple lines; he was aware Laddy was resting his head by his left ear. His breath tweaked his hair and the side of his neck. The last chorus he sang very low and halted. Laddy didn't stir. Instead snored. He was asleep. Snook smiled; pleased and enchanted. And walked headfirst into a seven foot tall boulder.

The lyrics he recited now were loud and very rude. If he weren't wearing tennis-shoes; he would have kicked the thing. Laddy stirred: awake and gave a little snort. Snook worked around the obstacle and could see that the canyon section beyond ran nearly straight for a hundred yards or so, turning then to his right sharply.

And something was moving down there.


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Wed Apr 09, 2008 5:35 am 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"....Episode 11...."That of the desert"



In the lighting, it was natural to think he was seeing things. Even as he looked; the object moved around the bend; out of sight; leaving him wondering just what he'd seen. Laddy gave another snort. Now Snookeroo was certain it was real. He probably should have unlimbered the rifle but he had a hint that it was better to be sure that whatever didn't get away. So he launched into a fast walk; head raised to watch where he was going. It took him maybe a minute to cover those one hundred yards and he heard the low, almost grumbling/grinding noise before he'd gotten to the turn. It was a methodical; slow sort of noise and faint as it might have been; Laddy's own raised head told his owner he, at least, knew the source.

He got to the bend and worked to what lay beyond; all eyes. There was another bit of canyon; red sandstone and small bundles of boulders. The canyon; for a short span; had run nearly south; southwest; which allowed Zyra to shine down in a more direct manner. It made seeing the object considerably easier. At least, what could be made of it.

It was tall; three times as tall as the teen himself, he was sure. For a split second; his mind went back to the forlorn skeleton of the desert. But nein: in itself he doubted it was a living thing. It was clearly the origin of the grinding noise. That noise having something to do with it's movement across the canyon floor. Then it turned another bend. With what might have been the slightest, briefest twinkle of a light, it was from sight.

There was a coursing thrill that touched young Starsharke's heart. For he knew; even with only the barest of circumstantial evidece and with no clue whatsoever where this discovery led; that his crewmates were somewhere on, in or however; connected with that thing. Now he had to figure out some way to catch up to it. With Laddy, nice doggy that he was, on his back made it just about impossible. And he would have liked to sneak up on that whatever; rather then barge in for all to see. "Have to try a compromise." Snook muttered to himself.

He backtracked a bit; checked the walls of the canyon. Twenty five yards back, on the right side, he spotted a gully that just might work. "Hold on, Lad. I'm gonna need at least one hand." With one arm trying to stabilize his dog and the other to gain purchase, he made a go at the gully. It was maybe twenty feet up and he made half of it before it just became too much. Slipping and sliding; Laddy giving little whines of worry; he returned to the canyon floor to think the matter over. Sucking on his left little finger, which he'd badly scraped to bleeding; young Starsharke reviewed the cleft. And thought he had something that might work.

"What we need is momentum, Lad. Okay, then. Here we..." Snook backed up to nearly the other side of the canyon then went at the gully as close to a sprint as he could manage. Hitting the sandstone trough leading upward; Snook began to hop from one side of the gully to the other; from one leg to the other. But always upward. In a flash, he'd topped it; stumbling to his knee's just beyond. "Go. Told ya we could do it." Laddy seemed unimpressed. Snook sighed, trying to ignore his now sore knees and got to his feet in stages; searching for any likely spots to put the dog down for a bit.

The terrain had changed yet again. Now white, rounded, nearly egg-shaped boulders abounded. Most were well buried; till only the top foot or so poked out of the sand. But some were quite large; with virtual pits between them; a couple yards deep. Snook was reminded of old cobblesstone roads; inflated to unlikely size. The wind was found again as well. A gentle, cool bit of breeze that came in from the northwest. It was fitful and didn't seem to want to linger.

At his left; not far from the edge of the canyon drop; Starsharke found a spot. It was a unsightly cluster of white rocks: smooth-sided and at odd angles. It formed a sort of two sided hut; being open totally southwest and northeast, totally covered to southeast and partly covered to the northwest. It was topped by a bent piece of stone that could pass reasonably for a roof. Snook sidled over and bending down; saw it's canopy covered a pale layer of small gravel. It'd do, he thought. But Laddy didn't seem pleased with being set down. He pedaled his legs, whined and generally got uncooperative. Even when Snook had him laid out on the gravel the dog; panting; tried to stand. His attempts were only half as painful to watch as they must have been to risk. Snook made shushing noises and gently held him to the ground.

"Nein, nein, you silly mutt! Lay down! Stay, Laddy, Stay! See? I'll put the water....here and all the rest of the stuff here. See?" Laddy grunted and stared at his master. Snook could guess what he was being accused of. "Now do naw worry that doggy head of yours! If I was leaving you; would I just dump this water here? Of course naw! Now: I gotta go check on something. I'll be back in a flash! I promise! You just lay there and take a good nap. Stay, Laddy. Stay." With no more time to take on the matter; Starsharke took his binoculars, the rifle and with a determined shake of his head; went to see about where he was certain his crewmates were.

He could see the routh of the canyon folded back on itself slightly; left to right. That left him the chance to cut his path on foot nearly in half; compared to the moving thing. He bounded off; using the 70% Zeta-gravity to full advantage.

The egg-rock-things didn't exactly make for perfectly safe travel. Some were smooth to the point of slippery and the breaches and cavities between could have easily twisted a ankle or knee if care wasn't taken. But in only a short while; he'd gotten to the side of the canyon again. Here; the canyon wall was higher then thus far. Or the floor lower; the linguist mused to himself. Near the edge; sandstone again inserted itself; making a jagged, threatening looking banister to see from. He snuggled quietly up to a couple boulders and got his rifle in his hands. He took the safety off. He placed the binos by his feet and watched the canyon below.

The first fear that he might have been late was allayed by the fact that he could see no tracks on the small sand-dunes below. They weren't here yet. Zyra was at Starsharke's left shoulder, making his half of the canyon dark; but the shadow did not reach the far side of the canyon. There; across the canyon; the youth could make out other lumps and clumps of those egg-shaped pale rocks. The canyon cut through them like a roadway through a prairie.

Then he heard that grinding noise again. He shifted his eyes to the left as far as they would go and resisted the temptation to aim hence with the rifle. Be onjective, he told himself. Pull your feelings away from the matter. Be logical.


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 8:24 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"....Episode 12...."To the Lord's care.'



The thing came not a minute later: winding over the dunes below; nearly dead-centered in the canyon. It was making maybe three; perhaps three and a half miles per hour; Snook calculated. At most. The thing had eyes; or more exactly; lights. They were two round reddish items; centered about ten yards in front of the rest of it. From his position; Snook couldn't make out a light source but the way it seemed to vary in intensity made him think flame of some sort was involved.

He realized in short order; the thing was segmented; having at least two sections. The first was roughly twenty feet long; maybe fifteen wide and ten tall. It was somewhat bullet-shaped; the pair of lights hitched up to it's front somehow. It had wheels; two on each side. They were of large size; surely taller then Starsharke himself but of what material he wouldn't venture a guess. Wood? He shook his head; not agreeing with it. Above the wheels were two openings that might have passed as windows. They were large, rectangular and utterly dark. He could see forms moving around in that dark but could tell no more.

Behind the first section lumbered the second. It was longer, wider and taller and the impression was of it pushing the smaller section. Like a mother cat nudging a kitten across the floor with it's head. It had three great sets of wheels and they were a dusky white and ground away at the rock underneath. It's tallest section came up almost parallel with Snook's observation post; making him resist a urge to pull away to better cover. But he kept looking: mentally cataloging all he saw.

The tallest structures were pole-like: remindful of limb-less trees; three of them; rear, front and middle. On the front pole, at least, was what could have easily been a crows-nest; on a old sailing ship. It didn't seem to have much in way of guardrail or sitting room. But bulky figures; more shadows, could just be made out nesting there. Little as to detail could be made out. They were large and had at least two limbs passing for arms. This he knew: fore he could see those arms held some manner of devices. Weapons, he didn't doubt.

The hull of this canyon-crawler was a mildly darker white and it's surfaces; what he could see of it from his angle; was draped with a mass of twisted, plant-like stuff; arrayed halfway up the keel. He could imagine it being thorny. A natural form of barbed-wire. The topmost part of the keel had a row of spike-like spurs; in a down-pointing position; all around. Someone was sure worried about being boarded; was the teen's theory. Past this; it became difficult to make out more then vague impressions. There seemed to be a cleared space forward; overhung with a odd; three-sided, almost tent-like structure. Toward the back was another much smaller and raised open space. He could make out a figure walking across the area. Guard-duty, he decided.

Above that area; on the rearmost pole was a hut. At least, it seemed hut-like. It was more of a enlarged; enclosed crows-nest. He could make out what might have been a door; closed and railing across in front of that. Some manner of cords; worked into a possible walkway; ran from the hut to the forward crowsnest. And from a overhang; above the closed door; swung some manner of lantern. It was red and didn't so much shine as glow. He figured it was this light that he'd seen from the canyon floor.

He thought the procession was over when he spotted the trailer. It was just that; a little; single-wheel per side thing; not much larger then a mini-van. It was dragged along behind like a tail. Snook drew back from his viewing spot; put his back to a rock and rubbed at his chin. He'd found the thing and gotten that much desired look-see. But what he'd seen wasn't pleasing.

Could he sneak on? Nein doubt. He was certain his friends were somewhere aboard and if he was going to get them back; he'd have to move while it was still dark. Obviously! Not so obvious was how to proceed and not be caught himself. Crows-nest or naw: sentries or naw; he thought he might be able to leap on from the canyon wall; if he choose the right spot therein to try. It'd have to be very carefully timed and he'd have to land just so. He could do it, he was sure.

Alone.

Laddy couldn't come. Leaping with the dog riding along was past possible. Snook bit his lower lip; hating the situation. Wordless; he crept back to where Laddy had been left.

And found him not there. The big pooch was in a painful huddle at the bottom of one of the pits between the boulders. Snook scrambled down to the unhappy animal; who wagged his tail at his owner's arrival. "I thought I told you to stay put, dummy." Young Starsharke manhandled the other back to his rock-shack and laid the dog out as before. Laddy just licked his muzzle; panted and lay quiet. The teen sat beside him; scratching his ears.

Snook thought about his knife; the goofy swiss-thing. He could make it quick and quiet. Maybe. It would be simple; settle the matter. He didn't want Laddy to suffer. And maybe, maybe....maybe...after he got his friends free and if they came back here and.....maybe.

Empty maybes; that's all I'm chasing now. Whatever you choose; it has to be now and you'll live the rest of your life with it. What can you bear the most? What can Laddy bear the most?

The longer I put this off, the worst it's gonna be. If that was possible. As if sensing something; Laddy looked up to his friend. Snook gave a untruthful smile and took out his swiss-knife gizmo. He went at the plastic water-container and with some effort and a few minutes; had a section cut out of it big enough for the dog to stick his muzzle through. It was just above water level, so it wouldn't drain out.

Next; he opened all the cans of tuna. They might attract insects or larger predators but Laddt had to have food. At last; young Starsharke raised his eyes from his work. Laddy was watching: looking into his master's eyes. those deep brown eyes would have spoke on their own and Snook knew what they were saying.

'You're going to leave me, aren't you? And you're never coming back.'

"Nein." Snook could word it with his lips only. He took his canine companion's head in both hands and began to sing. Thin; fragile it was. At first. But it grew resolute and firm by the end.

I seek earnestly for the lord; knowing he will never turn away;
He strengthens me when I stumble; with love and rod alike.
Let us sing, sing with joy
Let us sing, sing with joy.
In his love, I will rest.
In his love, I will rest.
In his love.
In his love'
In his love,
In his love, I will rest.
I run from the gathereding storm; feet set on a narrow path.
At the end is a mansion; with a peace none can surpass.
Let us sing, sing with joy.
Let us sing, sing with joy.
Let us sing, sing with joy.
Let us sing, sing with joy.
In his love, I will rest.
In his love,
In his love, In his love,
In his love, I will rest.

Laddy's eyelids came down and he went to sleep. Snook had his knife but knew it's use was beyond him now. Not here; not to his friend.

Was he weak? Did it matter?

Snook took the binoculars and the rifle and left; climbing atop the stone hutch itself. There he stood a bit; looking down; across the desert to where the canyon ran. Toward where his crewmates were. the wind blew his hair. His face was hard; as if angry. But he didn't feel angry. Sad and yet glad to at least to have to got to here; this point. If I'd stayed down there; with Laddy; he told himself; I might have never got started.

But he didn't feel much better. It was a dull; clutching fist in his stomach. A pointy pain in his throat. He turned his face to the sky; closed his eyes. Kneeled as if a weight had set itself upon his shoulders.

"Oh, lord...my holy father... please look after this friend. Make him understand how much I love him and that I'll be back. So please, lord, please...may there be someone to come back to. Nein task is too hard for you; your arm never short. So please, please god...put a arm around Laddy. Keep him happy and safe and if...if ...if this is his time...please let it be quick...painless. And let him know he 'tis naw alone. Please."

"Amen." He rose. "And amen."


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Thu Apr 10, 2008 11:14 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"....Episode 13...."Rescues on the cheap."



It took him a good twenty minutes to catch back up to the rolling whatever; longer then he expected. But then; it was moving the whole time. He knew the challenge was going to be to time a leap onto it from a close-by rock-jut; there were enough to them to make it possible.

What might not be quite so easily possible was how to do it without getting caught. If those.....kidnappers on sentry duty had any sense; when ever the canyon-way narrowed; they should be most on guard. Just when he would be trying to leap on. He onsidered trying to sneak on from below. From the canyon floor itself. But could he climb the vessel's hull? Questionable; at best. The aerial method seemed the most workable; if that was the way to describe it.

What; exactly; he was to do if he got on board alive was no little matter, either. But he figured one insurmountable problem at a time. Once caught up to the strange object; he found little had changed outwardly 'cept it was further down the canyon. He judged he best just go for it. He could see a possible lever of stone from his side of the canyon and sprinted to get to it. It was a slender ledge of sandstone rounded enough to be like walking onto a log. Starsharke was centered entirely upon his target; staring hard at the shadows and angles of the thing creeping toward him.

There was no outward sign anyone saw him. Jeez, he thought. After all; for this to work.... Then he thought he saw one of the forms on the crow's nest move. Instinctively; Snook ducked down to the surface of the ledge. But no yells came. Not a signal of any sort. They did naw see me, he told himself. He came up a bit; examining the terrain and his descision. It'd be a leap of fifteen feet outward and nearly that down. The vessel began to pass. First the lighted section. Then the wide middle came closer.

Now. Jump.

He stared hard at the crow's nest; unable to find any hints of alarm. He briefly thought of blasting away with the Winchester. But that'd help nein one.

Jump. Jump!

He backed three steps; got a running start and launched himself. Perhaps it was going from shadow into a slash of Zyra-light; but it seemed to the Lad that abruptly everything stopped moving. The canyon; the sky; himself. Everything dead still. But the vessel. It leaped up and at him; approuching swiftly and with unknown purpose. Then his size fourteen and a halves slammed into something solid and he remembered to roll; doing three somersaults. Stopped; he popped up into a crouch; rifle in both hands,; hoping he looked more ready for trouble then he was. But except for the grinding sound of this conveyance's movement; all was quiet. Jeez, he thought. I've made it. I'm actually here.

Cool.

He got down on a knee; feeling the smaller the profile the better. He glanced about briefly; trying to gain some semblance of his new setting. Forward; he could just make out the topmost part of the first segment. The second section; where he'd landed; was just a bit more elevated then the other. He turned, surveying behind him. This section apparently bowed back; he couldn't see down the bend more the fifteen feet or so. At least there was no one sneaking up on him that way.

He hoped.

Everything back that way seemed mostly pitch and clumped shapes of little distinction. The railing of the vessel; perhaps four feet up from the deck; screened Zyra-light quite well. He peered now back forward; but upward; to the rumored crow's nest. Logically; if he was going to be given away; from there it would most likely come. But from hence he could tell little save tall creatures of some sort still abode. What were thses beings like? The lad mentally reviewed; as best he could; all that had been disclosed.

They built cities; photos from orbit had shown and fire; as told by infrared scans. But atmospheric spectrograms hadn't revealed much hydrocarbons and no extensive road systems. So; they probably didn't have internal combustion engines. And of course; no radio hails had ever been answered. Fleets of some manner of naval craft had been spotted from orbit and to the east; a wall with a length of hundreds of miles had been detected. How did this ponderous thing move, anyway, he found running through his head suddenly. Wheels; obviously; but what powered them? The linguist's wandering mind got called back to the there and then.

A sound; behind him. As of footsteps.

Remembering to keep low; he twisted his head about; glad for the rifle; praying there would be no need for it. Behind, something moved. Coming closer. At first; he wished it was a shadow but knew better. He slid over a low, almost fence-like beam of some sort to his left; climbing up higher on this segment's humped back.

The something apparently didn't notice. Snook looked about yet again.

He was close now to the triangular structure; almost dead amidships. He could see it had a sort of lattice/cage-like framework; dark and darker behind. Something that might have been either thin wood or animal-hide covers were haphazardly draped at points along it's length. Crouching; Snook turned his head to look forward; hopeful for a downward look into that recessed section. Close now; he thought at least part of the origins of the grinding noises came thus. That's when a hand reached out of the cage and grabbed his right forearm.

The lad about freaked but stifling a yell; he didn't attempt to pull his captured limb away. Instead he pushed it in the direction of the ensnaring hands; into the cage itself. He met no resistance and in a second he had a arm of his own to grab onto. He twisted and a voice spat out at him. "....it! Let go, you goon!"

Starsharke did; but only after nearly tripping over backward. It took him a few seconds to work up to a whisper. "Rhalpie? Rhalp! That you?!" "No. It's Dorothy and I'm lookin' for Toto! Will you keep it down?"

The lad felt a stab within him. It was partly satisfaction(Darn it! I did find them!) and partly excitement (This is too cool! I'm rescuing people and stuff). He leaned closer to the cage and a face leaned nearer from within. The mix of night and Zyra-light allowed no real details loose. Just a thin, pale face; topped by short dark hair. Rhalpie Farlano.

"You stayin' overnight or just makin' a social visit?" Snook couldn't help but grin at the irrelevant undertone. "Oh, I'd thought I'd stop in for the party." A snort proceeded reply. "That'll be the day." "Yo," Snook got serious, "Where 'tis Rigel and Cindy?" "Around, but listen, muscles. You can't hang on this galley. There's walking guards thick as...--it!"
Arms; hairly arms; big hairy arms encircled Snook from behind and lifted him from the deck. He could hear Farlano do more cussing then he was jammed up against the side of the cage and air began to be squashed out of his chest.

He dropped the rifle; he couldn't use it with his arms pinned. Maybe Rhalpie could get to it? In any case; he had to fight and knew he had to be quick. He lifted his legs; put tennies against the cage and shoved as hard as he could. Over he and his attacker went; a dull thud as first his hairy hugger then he rolled upon the decking. He was loose and scrambled to his feet; disoriented; seeing only a looming form in front of him; big as he yet clearly heavier. Then they were grappling again. Snook got his arms trapped under the other's and he was again caught in a bear hug; front ways now. The head facing his had big ears and a long, almost horse-like muzzle and the breath was terrible. A gutter-mix of stagnant mess and fermenting compost.

Canna use my arms; he thought; leg work probably will naw work again. He grit his teeth; almost happy despite the air-robbing hold about his torso. Well; gotta use my head then. He landed a beauty of a head-butt; right on the muzzle. It rocked the big creature's head back.

But that was all.

As Snook was just beginning to realize his patented head-butt had failed; the foe drew back and the restangular skull collided to the lad's in a head-butt of it's own.

Everything went dark.


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:05 am 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 14..."Kindred Spirit"



Across the green, green fields Uncle Gotham and teenage Snookeroo strode. Tall Gotham; Snook's father's brother; a person, who even had he been unrelated; Snook would have thought beyond reproach. Now he had his nearly seven foot long walking-stick in use; it swinging as if in time to something. That rod had once been a old willow tree branch; but Gotham Starsharke had loved the tree it'd come from. When it came time to cut the old rotten thing down; he'd insisted on a branch as a reminder. And had now used it near on thirty years.

They began the climb to the ledge; a rugged but exhilarating venture. There; they stopped and silently gleaned out over the rolling terrain four hundred feet below. Gotham had the classic frame of male Starsharke's through the centuries. Tall; very tall. Over Seven feet in fact. And wide shouldered, But it was a skinny figure. Gotham didn't top two hundred, twenty five pounds and his neck was long.

The lad had had fits describing that neck. Vulture-like was repugnant; giraffe-like too comical. Swan-like.....well. It just wasn't right. Prow-like, was what he'd finally come to. A long, narrow prow of a light light. Not just capable of plowing through all sorts of waters. But doing so and always seeming graceful. The man's hair was cut so close as to be nearly nonexistent. His nose was eagle-beaked and his eyes that sparkling, glinting orange.

Snook had just topped six foot; having grown four inches the year just past and three in the one proceeding. Gotham had stated that he hoped the lad knew his place in things and do the Starsharke name proud by putting in at least another three this year. The lad was already so wide-shouldered as to bring to mind a American football player in his pads. And his eyes were every bit as Starsharke as his kin. But there the similarity ended. He liked his hair long and had taken up weightlifting the last year and enjoyed it. His upper arm was bigger then his uncle's upper leg. Snook had been staying most of the last year; such a busy year; at Uncle Gotham's. Just about the longest stay in a single home in his life. The manor was now off to his far left; toward the sea.

The teen had always thought of this ledge as the star-ledge. Here; his father and he had come at the end of long, study-filled days to watch those tiny points of light come forth. His father had always insisted that it was like peering into the foliage of dark trees. That as one watched; one could see the flowers and fruits of those mysterious trees slowly blossom before one's very eyes. A gift from god; he'd vouchsafed; aye. But also a reminder from same. To let all know just who was in charge.

This had definitely been the place in all the world Samuel Starsharke had most loved. He'd always said; you couldn't come to this valley; greener then green; to this stand of hills; rock so dark as to be blue; to that sea, gray and actually alive: moving as if waving to those on shore to come in; you'll have the time of your life.... you couldn't come to this and not feel tears; tears of love and blessing.

Snook missed his father.

"A wee bit pretty, Lad?" Said lad smiled; leaned forward onto the knee braced upon a small boulder. "Just a wee. Aye." "Have ye given much thocht ta what ye wanna do wi all that schoolin' ye father gave ye?" "'Tis it so much?" Snook scraped with his shoes at the boulder. "There 'tis always more to learn, uncle Gotham." "More ra wisdom; more ra sorrow, aye?" His elder was looking out to nothing; not seeing a thing. What was he thinking, Snook wondered. "Sae; what moor do ye be think' of learnin', Snookeroo?" "Well," Snook made a tiny grin. "You know how I love languages. There are, what? Threethousand or so in the world?" "And ye wanna ken each one." "Nein, nein. But if I can learn more; I should. I mean, uncle Gotham..."

The younger Starsharke now looked out to nothing. Thinking not on what he was seeing. Not with his eyes, anyway. "Languages... they tell the history of the world. If I wanna learn what a people are like; past or present; far or near; I go to their words; their talk; their communication. For language is like blood. It flows through one; it cleans him out and sets his course. A man who canna communicate; somehow; some way; to someone; has nein blood. He 'tis dead."

This seemed to bother his uncle. His voice became insistent. Trying to make a point. "Ye canna cheat death with words, Snookeroo. Ye maun go ta ra source for that." "And when I find him; will I be able to understand him? If I canna speak the language..." "Of love, Lad? Ye canna speak that?" Snook glanced at the other; a breeze blew his hair into his eyes. He clawed it away. "I did naw want to argue." "Nor I."

Gotham seemed to brighten; apparently glad on the direction things were now heading. "Me thoct be, Lad, that it 'tis me ye should be workin' for." The younger kept up his staring; though now with curiosity. "Because I'm a Starsharke, aye?" Uncle Gotham shook his head but his voice still had cheer in it. "Ye do naw trust anyone; do ye? No, Snookeroo. Ye see....I've a....project in mind. A great project. And it 'tis gonna need aw manner of talent. That 'tis why me thoct be of ye." "I am touched." And the lad was. "But what talent; exactly; does this project call for?" "Moor then one;" admitted his elder, "But I know ye can do justice ta it and yeself. Ye be interested?" "Aye. As you knew I would."

"Very well." Briefly; his relative seemed distracted to Snook. As if considering a great many things all at once. Seeing his nephem watching him, Gotham hurried on. "Noo; Snookeroo; we'll be havin' folk cry in on us..." "Oh." "Has ta do wi me project." "Oh." "And I be wonderin' if ye'd do me a wee favor." "Oh, oh." "Now; no blethers! It 'tis yon piano I be..." "You want me to play tonight." "Aye. And maybe a tune ot two wi ye fiddle?" "I'm the entertainment then; am I?" "Ye can look at it yon way, if ye like."

If I like, repeated Snook silently. He smiled at the thought. "I guess I can work it into my schedule, uncle Gotham." " I thank ye!" For a second, the lad thought the other would hug him and got poised to dodge. It didn't happen but for a playful cuff to a shoulder. "Ye be glad ye did, believe me. Oh. And Snookeroo?" "Aye?" "I have something here. Near forgot." He dug around in the vast pocket of his deep blue sweater and pulled out a three by five inch, red leather bound book. He glanced at it; then offered it to his nephew. Snook took it in both hands; feeling stragely abashed. It was a bible.

"Thank you, uncle. I have my own, you know." "Aye; I knew. But this be special. Used ta be ye father's." Gotham motioned them back from the front of the ledge; offering with a hand pat the seat-services of a hunk of rock further back. It protruded from the hillside like the very tip of a giant thumb. Each of the Starsharke's sat upon it; backs and shoulders almost touching. But each faced away from the other. Though hearing was not marred.

"Aw us male Starsharke's; us brothers; have one such as that. Aw us but fer Sar. After Sar went inta Afghany and disappeared... poor Gorwind; he did take on sae. Ye know how he gets." Snook did indeed. His uncle Gorwind's eccentricities put his father's, Gotham's and his own to shame. Gorwind was a professional wacko: the rest of the clan mere amateurs. "Sae he thoct ta give something that would act as part centerpiece; part.....oh; I do naw ken." The elder gave a little chuckle. "I do naw think he does. They aw custom-bound; or sae he 'tis alway said." "Father did naw take it with him, then? When we..." "No; he did naw. Nor I ken why. Probably just forgot, Snookeroo." "Aye. You're most likely right."

"Noo, lad. Do ye ken what ye hold there?"

Snook frowned. He turned; trying to see Gotham but the morning sun had shifted to the point where it hit him right in the face. He squinted; raising a hand as a shield. "A bible." Then when this apparently wasn't enough.."The holy bible." "That be ra lord almighty's word, Snookeroo."

The tall man had began to crimp his neck; trying to be sure the teen was getting each word. That teen saw then that his uncle had a like scripture-tome in a hand. It looked tattered; faded. Aged. Yet in those long fingers it somehow seemed appropriate. Where it should be. The lad had to catch himself; he'd been also looking down at the book in his own. Was it where it should be? Of course; he told himself. Of course! It'd been his father's...it was just where... His uncle was speaking.

"People ur always sayin'; where be the lord's voice; as of old! Michty me!" He held up his bible; like a fighter having his arm raised in victory. "Here it be! Ye read this; Snookeroo; and he'll be talkin' ta ye. Do me a wee favor, aye?" Another, noted Snook silently. "Aye?"

"Listen."

"I do." Snook meant it. "I read a little every morning." His uncle made a face. Skeptical? "And what; Snookeroo; did dear Jesus say ta ra man who asked ta hav his unbelief overcome?" "Believe." "Aye. And yon be ra only thing I pray for. Ta believe." Abruptly; the taller took up his set aside walking-stick; standing. Young Starsharke stood as well. "I be thinkin' we baith hav a long day ahead. Best be goin' ta meet it. Aye?" Snook smiled. "Aye."

And back to the manor they strode.


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:24 pm 
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"The foundlings of Zeta".....Episode 15...."Voices in the dark'



His uncle had been completely right; Snook reckoned. It had been a long day. Yet in his top-floor room; the lad couldn't drift off into sleep. His musical recital had gone well-enough. Frankly; Snook didn't like playing in public. Music was a personnel thing; he enjoyed it the most when his only critic was himself and the lord. And he'd been left with a more irritating thought: was uncle Gotham trying to show him off? He didn't want to think so but the evidence was there, all the same. The lad rustled around on his back a bit. The bed was a mattress, thrown in a corner. What other furniture there was were dark lumps in other corners. Gotham had not much taken to his nephew's desire for the sparest room possible. I do naw need much; the lad had insisted.

"I do naw want much." He whispered to the dark.

The foremost feature of his room(Or rooms; a wall had been taken out to add space) were the books. Bookshelves lined every wall; they piled in pyramids in corners; they poked out of the dresser drawers along with the clothes; like rabbits peeking out at the world from their warren. Snook loved to read.

He heard voices; hardly a impossible feat in this place. Though he resided in the topmost floor of the awkward structure; the heating system still existed from it's early 1900's days of origin. This consisted of wood-burning stoves and open fireplaces. To facilitate the flow of warmed air; vents had been installed in the floors of each level; so the warm rising air could reach the next higher level. And consequently; all the sounds as well. Someone or ones talking in the second floor parlor could readily be heard by someone on the fourth.

And people were talking in that parlor. I should naw do this; the lad told himself. It's rude; it's nosy; it's childish. He did it anyway. The vent was partly covered by the clothes dresser and Snook lay himself out beside it; pressing left ear and that whole side of his face up against the wood of the furniture and dark metal grillwork of the vent.

"...so ye liked ra music, then? Well, that be bonny! He 'tis a good lad; believe me." "Liked that tunin'? Son; that was foot-stompin' fun!" The second voice was that of Karl Johns; from America. Georgia, in fact; complete with a southern drawl thick as week-old grits. He seemed a excitable man; he alone had insisted Snook stay and continue at his music. Though the tunes he'd requested; 'Good ole' reb'; and others of like sort weren't known to Snook. The man had been short; maybe five foot four and built like a bowling ball; with tennis balls attached for head, arms and legs.

"I feel it is time for business, mister Johns. The trip was long and sleep awaits me in my room." This was Gompat Harsha; his sing-song way of speaking and precise word-use marking his Indian origin. He dressed quietly in brown and black; with a set of 'granny' glasses on a thin, pointy nose. He had dark, studied eyes and lips always in a mild smile.

"I hear that. Gotham; let's get down to brass tacks. Where we at in this?" The lone female voice was somewhat deep but this lady alone did Snook know. At least by reputation, anyway. Julie Hammond; until a year before one of the most celebrated of NASA's shuttle pilots. Supposedly; she'd left to further a career in aerospace craft design. But there had also been rumbles that there was more to it then that; which she'd always publicly dismissed.

Snook pricked his ears up. The words had a slight padded quality to them; a hollowness caused by distance. "Where we stand 'tis where ye tell me we do." His uncle was suddenly intense. "No moor funds will be pumped in till we hava guarantee of launch sites. Noo where does that be standin'? Johns?" There were papers-moving sounds. A suitcase being opened? Johns had carried a thick, brown satchel. "Welp; yore in luck, Got-em. Took some doin' but it had to been on the equat-toor, right?" "Or close." countered Hammond. "So here we are. Gather round, all! Now it's in Brazil and you all know 'bout that jungle and all; so it'll take some work to get 'er pree-sentabull but it's where we wanted and..." "You have real estate in Brazil?" queried Harsha. "No." Johns sounded pleased to been asked. "But ah know folk who do." "How large be it?" "Eleven point for acres." There were mutters of dismay.

"Now hold on! No mutiny, all! Lemme finish. That done be just the first deed. Lotta that's government land and once we show what we all can do for the local economy and all; welp; it's all in the bag." "The bag?" Harsha wondered. "Yeah! We'll be able to done buy up land for miles in every direction. Jus' a matter of time, you all." The pause was short; the following words pointed.

"An money."

"Now we're to the nitty-gritty." Hammond sounded conifident. As if hearing a truth she'd long known. "This isn't gonna get off the ground..." "Literally." added Johns. "Without green, Gotham. What are we looking at?" Another pause; of some length. Snook could image his uncle pacing a bit. "I think we hav enough ta git 'er off and runnin'. But it 'tis ra flow that will be the crux." "In other words; we're going to be buying on credit." "Do naw sound sae puggled, Julie. If it 'tis ta be; it'll be." "The press will have a field day. I should know." "Press; smess!" Johns was dripping with disdain. "Don't tell 'em jack squat!" "We'll hav ta say something; soner or later." "Gentle people." Harsha was so calm; he might have just walked in the room below; thinking on another subject. "If Gotham has the money to get this magnificent project underway; then the point is being missed. How to do the underwaying."

Chuckles came up the vent; sounding heart felt. Even Snook smirked. He theorized this bunch had been associating some while. They knew when they were all getting serious and combative and how to cause a halt to same. That's reassuring; the lad decided. But what was this all about? Voices filtered upwards to him again.

"How; exactly; is all this money being raised?" "I've a dozen or sae investors, Julie. They be tossin' en chunks of green, as ye say and we'll be bonny." "For now." "Aye; there be no denyin' oor cash flow frustrations. If naw noo; then later. And ye ken how that irks us scots!" "Well; going back a bit..." The lady's voice was low; but very somber. This was a lass who didn't miss much, was Snook's thinking. "About this launch site..." "It'sa done deal, darlin'. Believe me!" "I do. But.... I'm not too hot on a single site." "Single site?" "It's the 'all the eggs in one basket' concept. If something goes wrong there; something big..." "Like what, lassis?" Snook pictured a shrug.

"Any of a hundred things. We'll be working with volatile, flammable materials. They go 'boom' sometimes, you know? What if there's a forest fire? A change in government?" "How many moor sites be ye thinkin' of, Julie?" "I think four sites, total, would be ideal. We might scratch by on three." "Two more?" Johns voice rose to a squeal. "This is soundin' like one big heapa money, girl!" "I think this is all a bygone conclusion." Harsha cut in. "There is another matter I think must be taken care of. The technology."

"Say what, son?" "Mr. Johns; it would be foolish to expect NASA or the Europeans or soviets or any earthbound services to just lend us a helping hand. And if they do; it will be at a cost much over expensive. No, gentle persons. We will have to content ourselves with so-called 'home-grown' equipment. And that does not seem easy to myself." "Content? The word don't fit, Harsha." "Steady on, Johns. That's completely from raw materials, then? Will naw that set us back? There be a time limit, aye?" "Yeah," Hammond's voice shifted; she must have been moving. "But there's no way around it. You realize the obstacles, right?" "We awl know the count, girl."

"Karl: what we're understaking is the equivalent of going to Christopher Columbus; after he got back from his first voyage and telling him how he'll have to help build a one hundred thosand ton oceanliner." "Do we hava choice, lassie?" "Yeah. But we've all made it. Or we wouldn't be here." "Talking of this impossible technology..."

But Snook's attention had been dislodged. He was trying to put all the pieces together. Asking Columbus to build a ocean-liner? What a weird suggestion! Mega-weird.

And what was this talk about NASA and all? Is that how Hammond fit in? But she'd quit NASA! This was sounding like one interesting project. He returned to listening....and then awoke; knowing instantly he'd fallen asleep. He was still laying by his dresser; face on the grill. Oh, jeez. And he couldn't recall just when; at what point in all that talk in the parlor; he'd gone nappy. Oh, jeez.

He sat up, rubbed at his face.


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:57 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 16... "Doom's day".



There were no sounds below. Everyone had probably been long in bed. The way I should, he thought.

But he also thought that sleep wouldn't return easily. He'd naw heard all; aye; but enough to want to take the time and make the effort to pick through the clues and stuff. His eyes had adjusted enough to see light was flowing in from the glass-doors that led to the overhang. He knew the source of that light and got to his feet; in search of his jogging pants and some manner of torso-coverage. It took him some minutes. It was a noisy cycle of his thinking he knew right where the pants were; he going to this sure bet; run into some furniture or trip over a stray clothing item; to at last discover he'd not found what he wanted at all. But they did at last get found and a sweatshirt joined the pants and he was heading out to the overhang.

It was a touch cool but refreshing. He stopped at the edge of the level and looked down to the white marble stonework below. It almost glimmered in the starlight. Uncle Gotham's manor had literally been carved from the hillside by his father; a laborious process and yet of love. But Snook's grandpa wasn't much as architects go. The place was a odd-looking thing. The higher floors faced out from their origin-rock; till the topmost acted as nearly a cave-ceiling for the lowers. Originally; there had been no support for the overhang. Cracks had finally prompted strengthening pillars of epic proportions.

Snook smiled; even as he put the flat of his palms upon the marble railing. He had heady memories of those silly pillars. Among them; feet scraping and slapping on the stone; he and his older brother; Rannen; had played base-tag and hide and seek. It was a rock forest where could be found the fun of only a child's making and understanding and it'd been... The lad sensed movement; heard the slight click of a door being opened deliberately then again shut. He looked about and saw Hammond coming from her guest room; down to his left.

She was wearing a blue robe; it's binding cord loose but holding the halves of the garment together. Her hair was short and in a afro; Snook had had the impression those were out of style. But then; maybe that told something about this lady. She came up and stopped; standing ten feet away; loking across the still heather. Snook turned his eyes; deciding to let her start things. He couldn't think of a thing to say, anyway.

"Couldn't sleep either, uh?" "Nein, ma'am." "You can call me Julie." "Oh." "Chilly, too. Don't you think?" "Aye. It keeps me awake."

The lad forced himself to look to her and was glad she was peering upwards and not to him. His sidelong glance told him much. And little.

Snook didn't know to call her pretty: he'd intermingled so seldom with the female of the species that he didn't feel attuned enough to venture a opinion. But he did think her features delicate. Her ears and nose were small; her cheekbones high. Her skin tone was a smooth, almost rich black. Her eyebrows were thin and her eyes most catching. They were a very deep brown; with jet pupils. Snook thought them like highly polished agates; almost cutting with their sharpness. Altogether admirable in finish. And her shoulders were squared; the posture stiff and upright. Her arms were crossed as if challenging. That tells me something about her, too.

Young Starsharke followed her eyes and found what she was looking at.

Alpha Bellus; now a good dozen times the brightness of a full moon. Nearly a quarter of the sky was as blue as in daytime; before fading into dark in the other parts of the celestial sphere. The Lad looked away; down. And noticed that while he had indeed found a sweatshirt; he'd put it on backwards. Oh, bonny. She'll see it. She'll say something; I know she will. I do dumb stuff like this all the time.....

"It 'tis naw fair."

She turned and gazed at him, startled. He was no less so; he'd just blurt it out. Now he had tracks to cover and smiled meekly. "Alpha Bellus, I mean. It's naw fair that one object should so dominate the sky like this." Lame, lame, lame. Fortunately; she seemed willing to take the lead in. "It's gonna keep getting brighter. I wonder how many years it was hiding in those stellar dust-clouds; heading this way and not a soul knowing..." "Aye. But now all those decades of the outer planet's perturbations can be explained."

Good lord; he sounded so cheezy! He shifted nervously; wanting to cross his own arms but that's only draw her attention more to his attire. Didn't want...

"Understand you're a bit of a astronomer yourself." She turned to him; eyes digging in; searching; he thought. He swallowed before answering. "Just a observer, really. I just like to look at the stars and stuff." "So what;" she motioned with her head upwards; eyes still probing his face, "Do you know about that big unfair star there?" Is this a test, he wondered. And found the best answer was to just answer. "Alpha Bellus has a estimated surface temperature of eight thousand kelvins; with a luminance of fifteen times that of the sun. I,e; it's very bright. This puts it at approximately A-8; on the star scale-thingy. But the odd thing is; it 'tis naw a main sequence star. Canna be; you know..."

Cheezy? Heck; this was mega-velveeta! He didn't know what it was or why it should be but it just seemed he could never figure out how to talk to people. At least outside the family. Finding a subject others had interest in seemed a untouchable craft.

He knew he'd stopped: distracted by his thoughts. He looked to her; curious and maybe just a bit fearful of her reaction. But the lady was facing away now; back out somewhere into the hills and heather. Had she even been listening? A question came to him almost as the idea did. "Miss Hammond; do you think of yourself as a rebel?" She faced him; side-lit by Alpha Bellus. Her face was a half-moon of soft glow and featureless shadow. Snook cleared his throat. "I guess I'm somewhat unconventional myself." "This is about my leaving the agency, isn't it." Not a question, he noticed. A statement.

"NASA? Aye; I guess it 'tis. You do naw..." "No; I'm not defensive about it. I've been asked so many times now. I've gotten so I have a different reply nearly every time. Something that fits the person asking; or the way I feel at the time. The press; other astronaut; family." She paused at that; looked out into the glen again. Her arms uncrossed and fingertips lit upon the marble banister. Ponderous banister, the lad had always thought. "I'm divorced." "Oh." "Didn't want to know, right?" She glanced to him: he writhed, embarrassed. She smiled slightly on seeing it.

"NASA is so bureaucratic now. It's hurry up and wait. Everyone's got ideas; no one wants to stick their neck out to talk about them. I couldn't breath in that." She turned away; her arms crossed again. She looked into the Alpha Bellus light. "Couldn't breath."

The teen knew he was hearing something....important. He hadn't really expected it and now had to seek some suitable remark. He decided on something nice and neutral. "Billions for theories but naw positive about anything, aye?" "Only about doomsday." "What?" He'd barely caught it. Then just like that; her eyes were back upon him.

"So," her odd remark was in the past, apparently, "How much has your uncle told you about his project?" It was both a relief and temptation to have the question. But the lad didn't think mentioning his eavesdropping appropriate. Any gueses he threw out had to sound innocent. Play it safe, he thought. "Naw much. Except he wants me involved." Now, please; just a little info. A little hint....

"I better not say anything if he hasn't. You're...what? Eighteen in November?" He blinked. "I'll be sixteen in November." She seemed staggered. But recovered; shifting feet about as cover. Why should my age surprise her, he pondered.

"Snookeroo?" "Aye?" He looked to her attentively; but the lady was looking down on the banister again. "On this project; we can't have personalities. We can't have slip-ups." She stared hard into his eyes. "We can't have immaturity."


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 6:05 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 17... "A rescue's Postscript".



"I'm naw immature."

Pain came in then. Pain like forty or fifty wooden mallets; all pounding on him. He tried to move and the result convinced him that those mallets had splinters. He announced his opinion of this and it came out like the sound of a hound dog having a ear clipped with a bic-shaver. A voice came into his head; sounding distant. "Easy does it, muscles. Give yourself a few." That sounded like someone familiar. Where was he?

He tried to establish this and it wasn't much fun. He opened his eyes but not for long. If pain were light; someone had just dropped a prism on him. He ventured to feel around. Aw: something was moving about the sides of his torso. Aw, arms. He still had arms. How nice! He gave controlling his arms a go and it didn't amount to much. He felt around some more. Well; if they're connected to my lower torso; those must be legs. He straightened them out; touched a furry object. I do naw have fur in my shoes, he thought. How odd. He went back to his rediscovered arms. He felt anout between his shoulders and aye, contrary to popular belief, his head was still adhered to the rest of him. So cool, he thought. With work; he got his upper body up on his elbows. The view swung back and forth a bit but finally halted. It was dark, it smelled and he was in his underwear. And someone was chuckling at him.

He spotted a small figure, a sitting figure; just to his right. The figure was skinny; had his back against some manner of barred structure and also clad in only his underwear. Thank the lord; he was naw into thongs.

"What was that?" Snookeroo looked at the other warily. "I said; I feel like dog doo-doo." "Hey, dude; you're lucky to be alive. These gray-furred goons don't play around." The larger closed his eyes a few moments. His head especially felt abused. "So I have to look out for elderly thugs, do I?" "I didn't say that." Rhalpie Farlano sounded peeved. "But you'll find out soon enough." "Aye." The lad reopened his eyes; looking first to the sole survivor of LS-2; then briefly to either side. He tried to get matters to make sense.

The ceiling was maybe seven feet up; but it slanted to either side. A tent-like shape; the lad realized. The sides were dark bar-like forms; cage-like, really. Crisscrossing and running up and down as well. There seemed to be some manner of covering on the arrangement; hide, perhaps? Maybe that was what had touched his feet. "Where the hamster are we, Rhalp?" "Like that choice of words; 'hamster'." The man giggled like a ten-year old told a dirty joke. "But you're with me and we're in jail. Basically. The cage you found me in earlier? This is it." Starsharke rubbed his forehead. He still didn't feel like sitting up any further. "You figure out a name for this whatever we're on, Rhalp?" "You know: it's sorta like a ship, right? Only we're on the ground; not the water." "Kinda of a desert-clipper, eh?" Farlano grunted. "More like a desert-galley." He moved; sliding on hands and knees to the younger man's left. "I wanna show ya something." "What?" "Come here."

The bony fellow had stopped about two yards away and was digging with hands at the floor. A section loved and a thin beam of reddish light flouted up and touched the ceiling. Rhalpie was motioing with a hand so Snook crawled over. There was a roughly diamond-shaped hole in the floor; maybe eight inches wide and ten long. The flooring itself was like stalks of bamboo; only rougher textured and pale gray. The lad looked at the hole by his hands as if expecting a cobra to dart out. Rhalpie kept motioning to it and Starsharke at last leaned down and peered through.

His eyes; adapted to the darker confines, took a second ot two to focus. When they did; they took in the oddest sights they'd yet seen on Zeta.

Below; perhaps eight; eight and a half feet down; was what must have been some lower-level decking. It's flooring was as above; though now he could make out the individual sections of those rough stalks; most of them being no more then a yard in length. How they were bound together; he couldn't then decipher. The red light or glow; more exactly; came from soucres left and right and fairly close-by. With a liitle lean forward; almost putting his face past the gap; he caught sight of some lamp-like objects; swaying back and forth gently. Fire was involved, he could see, but little smoke. He would have loved to examine those lighting devices, curious how they worked. But craning his eyes; he saw more. Much more. Why Rhalpie had chuckled earlier became apparent.

There were great, cross-shaped objects on that level below; in wheel-like shapes. They seemed constructed of the same gray-stalks as the rest of the vesel and were posted upon....nein; rather; his closer observation correcting him; connected to; a thicker; pedastal item. Which disappeared into gaps between the stalk-decking. These posts were constantly turning; slow and rhythmic; as the four 'cross-prongs' were as equally continually pushed.

By huge hamsters.

Well; not exactly. These beings were tall; the teen knew most of them had to be in range of seven foot and they were bulky; wide-shouldered; thick-chested and with great meaty flanks. As one presented it's hind to him as it trod in those Zetan....turnstiles, he guessed the best description; he could see a stubby, three foot long tail. They had arms; from what he could tell and walked upright; like humans. Though the gait looked slow and awkward to them. Their heads were big; wedge-shaped with ears on top. And they were furry; head to tail; even to the back of their big paws. The exact color was a bit hard to make out from Snook's vantage point. Tan, perhaps? With a lighter shade across their fronts?

Suddenly; there was movement directly below his spot; something stepping out into the light. It was one of the furry beings; though somehow different. He wasn't as tall and his fur was a undeniable gray. He carried a spear or something like; maybe four feet long and he turned his head up to look at Snook peering down. The upper jaw was larger then the lower and there was just the hint of light brown buckteeth. There were whiskers; ragged and sticking out at all angles; some nearly eight inches long. The nose was a darker gray; a pair of dog-like nostrils. The eyes were completely black, no pupil visible. They stared up at Snook; sending a silent, universal message. 'You looking at me?'

Starsharke drew his head away from the hole. Rhalpie wordlessly recovered the spot; Snook moving to a indian-sitting position. He nudged Rhaphie accidentally; producing a yip of pain. Snook rubbed his forehead; as if trying to bring out some genie of reason.

"Think you can deal with it?" The lad didn't look to the other in answering. "I'll have to. Oh, man." Suddenly remembrance came back. "Yo. Where 'tis Rigel and Cindy?" The other human looked surprised. "You didn't see 'em? They're out there; further up front. They're okay; so far." He gave another little-kid snicker. "Did you know Cindy has purple underwear?"

Snook blinked. This whole affair was beyond trying. He tried to make a few safe observations.

"We're all going to get fried by Bellus; come daytime. Providing we're out in the open." "Oh; we'll be out in the open, alright. I've already taken one session out on those....those..." "Turnstiles." "Yeah, turnstiles. That's good. Turnstiles, then." "How long was I out, Rhalp?" "Four, five, six hours." Farlano waved a hand in dismissal. "Something like that." "Any chance at something to eat? Or drink? I'd give a lot for a cup of water." "Dream on, muscles. Water is only given when they damn feel like it. Not that I can blame them; bein' out in this desert and stuff." The lad noticed discomfort on the face of his crewmate and he doubted it had anything to do with their talk.

"What 'tis wrong, Rhalp?" "Nothing." "You look like you're in pain." "It's my ankle." He slid out his right leg as proof. The light still wasn't good but the ankle was unquestionably swollen. "Maybe it 'tis broken." "No. I think it's just a sprain. That and a good bang on the head was all I got from the crash. Can you believe that?" "A bang on the head, uh? Got a headache? Like mine?" The lad smiled at his own inference. But the other just took his own head between both hands and shook it. "Of course I got a headache! It aint that bad. I'll live." "We'll have to watch that. You could have got a concussion. Have you had any double-vision? Ringing in the ears? Dizziness?" "Hey, lighten up doc! I'm gonna pull through. It's not that bad of a headache. Least ways; till I got here." The smaller paused; as if regrouping. When he spoke again; he wasn't looking to his fellow human.

"They're all dead; aren't they?"

Snook glanced down at his feet; wiggled his toes as if to be sure they were still present and working. "Aye." He waited a seond more. His voice was low and almost restive. "We buried them as best we could."

"You should have been there, muscles." But Rhalpie wasn't seeing the other. It was more like he was talking to himself. Or someone Snook couldnt see. "Foster, man. He's a pilot's pilot. Was a pilot's pilot. Man; he was so calm, it was something. We'd just cleared the coast when we lost power... you know that?" "We heard...." "So that mother couldn't be guided worth garbage. But did Foster complain? He acted like he'd just been invited to a tea-party or something! So he hung in there; doin' what he could. Then Cammeron announced we were overshootin' the landing site. Hey; no big deal. But then we were headin' for those mountains and Foster took us over 'em. Damn, I was so scared! I thought I was gonna jump up and run around, yelling 'someone do something! Help us!' Then bang!" The skinny man brought his hands together over his head in a clap. It was abrupt and loud; carrying to his listener like a poke in the ears. Rhalp kept his hands to either side of his head; digits fisted shut in his eagerness to explain.

"You've never experienced anything like it. The cabin filled with smoke and stuff was flying around..." Rhalpie's face grew white; his hands dropped into his lap as if cut off. Snoo cleared his throat.

"Uh....nein food or water, uh? Well; where 'tis the little boy's room? I gotta go." Rhalpie came back; pointed over Starsharke's shoulder. "Thata way. There's a nice bucket set in the floor. Watch your step." Rhalpie grinned; displaying the fact that four of his front teeth were missing. Snook tapped his own: the other got the question. "Oh, these? Got 'em when they jumped ya. Guess they didn't like my helping." "Guess naw."

Snook got to his feet; needlessly crouching over and feeling quite vulnerable; running around in his skivvies. They'd truly taken everything; including his watch, vest and shoes: everything.
He wondered; what good would a watch be to those creatures, anyhow? Well; nevermind; got other stuff to deal with....

He turned around; in the direction designated by his crewmate. He stood very still some bit then spoke evenly.

"Rhalp." "Yeah?" "Were you aware there 'tis a bunch of seven foot tall gerbils laying down over here?" "Really? Now how did they get in?" "Rhalp..." "Muscles; we're all slaves here. Get used to it. You're looking at the veterans, is all. We rookies better watch our step, too; I'm thinkin'."


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 8:21 pm 
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OK now I am 3 behind I will try to catch up tonight if not tomorrow. GREAT SO FAR!!! are you ever going to publish this?


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sun Apr 13, 2008 9:03 pm 
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I'd love to publish this, Shy. Might be harder now that I've posted it here, though :D


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 12:49 pm 
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why would it be harder now? I don't understand?


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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 6:01 pm 
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Well; some people at least would have already read it. Still; I'm hopeful.


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