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 Post subject: New story(?)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:43 pm 
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I'm working up to starting a new story; based on the local in my sci-fi story.
I'd like write it myself, sort of a serial as it were, for others to read and(hopefully) enjoy. Ok with everyone?


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 2:06 am 
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So here we go......I beg your pardon for my bad spelling ahead of time.

The name of the story is 'BAD SIGN'.

Part 1.


A day on Zeta was called a 'cycle' by it's colonists; a alluding to the cycle of phases Zeta's parent-planet, Zyra, went thru. It was the start of a cycle and one of Zeta's colonists had chambered up a heap of rock, up high, above the night veiled savanna. He was examing the world around him and was rewarded for his open eyes and heart with dawn.

Dawn on Zeta was not so much slow as staged: like a meal of several courses, each something to be savored for itself. The sky went gray from black, stars fading, then teal from gray and then robin-egg blue. Thin scattered clouds were marching above, west to east, where they began to pile up. Hadian's range was indistinct lumps beneath that pile, looking more random, thrown together shades then mountains. Something copper-red began to grow into the sky from them.

Snookeroo Starsharke breathed. Just breathed and watched.

It took minutes for the sun, Alpha Bellus. to become a half-orb. It was small, bright and peeled away the night from below Starsharke.

Down there more rock, boulders, gray, rusty red-streaked, were painted onto the scene. Then came a few trees; isolated, scrawny, knobbed, seeming unable to decide which direction to grow. There came shrubs, brown like sun-faded furniture; bristled and spiked and offering only the beauty of being able to endure heat and dry, cycle after cycle.

Most of the savanna was grasses and weeds and these made their entrance; a half dozen brands and kin; some tan stalks, standing above the others like ragged, ancient fence posts. Others dark gray clumps with threatening thorns of red. There was a dragon's maw: a cactus that inspired to be more; it's innards marching away from view down the pits they capped.

Shadows striped the terrain. A ink-blot seeped into the sky at the horizen and oozed towards Snook. He watched it and it became a flock of something; long-necks, fan-tails, prop-winged, humming in unison. Over they passed, hundreds, thousands, hell: maybe millions. They were dark purple with black stripes and there they went; heading to the range. Snook found himself smiling at them and waved. He turned and headed groundward.

Among the flora he strode and tried to do anything but think. Feel; he told himself. The savanna always seemed to make him want to feel; that first, that foremost. He wasn't sure where it came from; he didn't dislike it; not at all. But....but...

He didn't know. He loved Zeta: he was home and he knew it for the first time in his life. But that was the thing; he'd never had a home before. What do I do with it, he asked himself. He wanted to know and was still seeking someway to find out.

There: a rare flower. Among the flotsam of savanna a rod, man-tall, spilting into dozens of more rods as if diced. Each rod was capped with tiny, clear buttons that sparkled in the dawns light; glittered and when poked by a breeze, seemed like dozens of eyes; winking. The stalks were pale blue and Snook wanted to pick one for Kathy but they'd break; shatter and he'd have nothing. they were called boom-bloom, someone had thought the buttons like fireworks frozen in bursting.
Then Snook saw the tracks.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 5:46 pm 
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interesting.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 6:38 pm 
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Part 2.


They were as big as one of his size 14's; the soil was compresed as if trianglar wedges had been driven into it. They went north; then threading thru clumps of plant-life, turned west. He followed for a hundred yards and then the soil got too rocky for tracking. He stopped: staring off into the west.

He found himself subconciously checking the sling on his rifle. He spun on a heel and made for the Williamson's home.

It was across the 4-laned blacktop road: a cluster of tan-mud sandbags stacked for walls. The garage door was open and a big blue van was being stuffed with suitcases and bags by a tall lithe black woman. She saw Snook; waved for him to come over. A dog woofed somewhere in back. Kids were laughing.

"You up in the wild again." Kathy sounded happy but frowned from a long list of chores done and a long list still to be. "Mighty pretty Bellus-rise." Snook could see the van was near full. Were they going on vacation or moving? "Better tell ya," The lass pushed at a suitcase with the same concentration one gave a tricky jigsaw puzzle. "Forgot to get you any meat. You don't got a car..." "I got a rifle." Snook unslung his remi 7600, "Grazelopes plus rifle equals main course. I'll have your freezer full by the time you get back." "I giving you my satellite phone, muscles." "I got my own." "You need a emergency phone. You gonna be all out here by your lonesome." "I'm a big boy, Kathy." "Sure you are."

"Snook! Been looking for ya, man."

Deep voice; the volume tending to the loud end of the dail. Snook turned as his best friend, Rigel Williamson, arrived. Rigel's most memorable feature was his smile: wide and infectious. He had it in full play.

"You hiding to keep from helpin', ain't ya?" "Wow. I canna fool you, can I?" "Took you long enough to learn. Here's the keys...locker included." "Not sure about the locker. I shouldn't need it." "Just in case." Rigel handed the keys over. Kathy had wandered inside. Seeing a chance, Snook gestured with a hand. Mystified; Rigel followed the other out to around the end of the driveway. "What, man? You look..." "I saw skuda tracks."

Snook had expected surprise and worry. But got a knowing resigned nod instead.

"Yeah, I know." "You've seen..." "Tracks, yeah: saw a set, just a few, after the rain. Right at last nightfall." Rigel aimed a big arm out to the north. "Maybe a mile..." "Found mine south; across the road. A bit further but they looked fresh." "Then we got trouble." "Aye." "What would you do?" Snook stared at the other. He hadn't expected the last question.

"Last I heard; skuda move into a area and stay. Naw sure that tis' too cool." "It ain't. Someone's gotta kill it." "Aye." "That's you and me." "Aye." "I'm going on vacation. You noticed?" "Aye. A bit." "Two cycles. I'm really looking forward to it. Kathy is looking forward to it. Terry and Lee? Guess what?" "They're....looking....forward to it?" "You sharp today." "So...." "No. You wrong. I know what you're thinking now. And you wrong."

Rigel was scowling and looking down on the other in a most disapproving way. Snook had seen it before. "WE gonna kill it. This is a two man job. Hell; we'll look up Rod and make it a project. WE. Right?"

Snook nodded, sort of. Rigel scowled with greater effort. Snook sighed. "We, tis'."

A commtion erupted and came around the side of the house. A 8 year old kid, football tucked in close, sprinted in front of a gallopping, woofing dog the size of a shetland pony. The dog could have easily caught the boy but that would have ruined the game. Bringing up the rear, laughing was another 8 year old boy, clearly a twin to the first. "Awright, you hoodlums! We going! Say....oh, -hit."

Something was droning in the sky. Airplane props. Rigel looked unhappy but not as much as Kathy, who came up with wrath in her eyes. "Rigel! What did I say? You can't talk that way in front of..." "Baby, I know....I'm sorry but--hit. Hear that?" "oh-oh." "oh-oh, bet! That's our plane coming in! Everybody, in! Now!"

A short modern interpretation of the Keystone cops ensued, with some spicy vocalization and a dog who wanted to drive the van, apparently. A minute more and everyone who was leaving was leaving and Snook and his dog, Laddy, were staying. Rigel pulled onto the blacktop; idling a moment. He made certain Snook could see his eyes. He wasn't smiling.

"WE, Snook. WE." Snook waved, Kathy waved and away shot the van.

Snook turned to Laddy. "Time for breakfast, big buddy. Say: ever wonder if Skuda eat anything beside grazelope? I'm thinking we're gonna need to find out."


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 22, 2009 7:20 pm 
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Intriguing. Got any publishers in mind?

Man I seen dogs sitting in the drivers seat whilst he was away and they look so darn amusing.

Talking about dogs, whatever happened to the dog that buried a bone. I havn't seen one do it for aeons.

Have they become the victims to the glut of the feast of nowaday knowing they can leave the bone on fidos feet knowing Fido will discard for some feast of Salmon? And as for the lack of white poo! Where has it gone? I saw one wee bit a few weeks ago.


Sorry for digressing. Do carry on.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 6:13 pm 
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Part three.


Snook spent a hour perusing the colony-net from the Williamson's elderly but dependable PC. Hunters on Zeta had their own blog: info was shared and ideas traded. Snook poked about and concluded he was now expert enough on Skuda hunting to get to brass tacks.

First: bait. Out on the savanna, there would simply be no way to stalk a skuda. You could see forever it seemed out there.....but so could a skuda. And if you were seen, the predator would get hid or gone. No; you had to find a way to draw one out to where you could ambush it. That meant bait and one thing all stated again and again on the blog: Skuda's main course was grazelope; by a wide margin. Snook was satisfied; grazelopes were his faverite food-item. It seemed a good way to christen his new endeavor: start with the familiar and build from there.

So: Hunt grazelope. He got his remi, canteen of water, binoculars and laddy and off he went.

He crossed the road and aimed southeast; the range to his right and he and his dog weaved thru rocks then the grass was all about. Grasses, more exactly: each seeming to have it's own place and style in the savannian canvas. Most of it was dog-ear, a three-pronged pale tan shaped plant a bit like a dobberman's ear;It grew flat on the ground, a mat of overlapping triangles, a river of chain-mail twisting and turning as if searching vainly for a ocean.

Laddy lopped about, looking for something to chase.

Rising from the rivers of dog-ear were islands of featherfern. Taller then dog-ear and remarkably like feathers: orange feathers with one edge of black. Fatherfern was grazelop-chow. They ate it and they hid in it and if you hunted them; you had to get used to featherfern.

Snook unslung his 7600; slid home a magazine primed with 4 rounds of .270. Laddy was shushed and the stalk began.

He eased into a shoal of featherfern; stooped till only his eyes cleared the tops. A cool breeze flowed down from the range; the fern writhed and swirled. Up came the bino's; 7 by 28's and it began a slow systematic swing. No 'lopes to be seen. He waited 10 minutes; swept again. The sun came out briefly, as if checking up on him. But still no 'lopes. Up he got and headed for the next shoal.

That one was a bust and the one after but Laddy found a hint on the next. The featherfern had blotches: stems broken off. Something had been eating here. Yep; the stems were all twisted off halfway up. If a good sized section was tore from the ground or nibbled to the soil, the whole shoal would die. As if clued in on how nature worked; especially to it's own betterment, Grazelopes only ate the top half; assuring a regular regrow. They farmed with thier bellies, you might say. Snook smiled. Nature was so cool....

He bino'ed. Still no sighting. He ran info gathered from a dozen hunts thru his head.

This early in the cycle......they'd be fanning out, traveling away from their nest-warren. Late summer;.....Okay, all the best featherfern would need to be let regrow: the 'lopes had to go further out to the 'no-grow' zone. Furthest from the prairie-loft trees.

Snook had met people from Oz province: 'urbubbas' in local slang, who thought 'no-grow' meant somehow nothing grew out there, 6, maybe 7 miles from the nearest loft. Completely wrong, though. Lots grew there. Grass, anyway. 'No-grow' came from the hunters who had learned that was a spot where all living things had to be alert. Or they wouldn't grow any older.

Long walk, it was. Thru dog-ear, checking featherfern. For feeding patches; bino;s up and down and up and down. There wasn't as much dragon's maw, nary a tree except Loft....way, way off...dark green on a column of black. He was close now. He shifted direction, he could see a loft to his right; there....that shoal. It'd been ate thru, but this was out a ways: their next sweep would have to be near. He got on the southern edge of the shoal, sat and laid his rifle across his legs. He would have to wait. Laddy lay down and looked bored: this was the part of the routine he'd might as well nap thru. He did and the only sound was the breeze brushing fern.

Two and half hours later, Bellus dropping yellow rays thru a window in the gray, he spotted a head. Peeking up, out of fern; maybe 150 yards to his right. It disappeared by the time he got the bino's up. He lowered, actually looking out between the feathers of orange.

Had it seen him? Had he imagined it?

No. There....a cone-shaped orange muzzle; dark eyes like pits in it's head. It darted back into the featherfern; perfect camouflage. Snook bino'ed. Come on...

There, again, peeking. Then another, further to the right, casing the terrain. In the fern they were safe: something went after them and they'd scatter: 20, maybe 30 critters accelerating on three-toed feet in 20 or 30 different courses. 60...maybe 70 miles per hour? Only skudas could out run them....

Another head, but this time not up and out but at the edge, tentative. They'd decided it was safe to move to the next shoal; to cross the open dog-ear.

Snook tromboned the slide, chambering a round. He took the scope-covers off; dailed in 7 power.

The first 'lope was now completely in the open, his shadow nearly atop the smaller second following in his tracks. The follower was female, orange stripes on black fur. They were too close; and Snook waited some more. Too much risk of a 'thru and thru' hitting the female on the otherside. He had a permit only for one.

The wait went on. The first two strode out, conifident by then things were safe. A third; a male, eased out and Snook put the cross-hairs of the remi's scope just above the shoulder. His thumb worked the safety without his even being aware. He breathed in, out then made a fist slowly with his right hand. The remi barked, gave a tap to his shoulder. Grazelopes boiled out of the fern: scattering here, there and everywhere.

Snook rose: no point in hiding now. Laddy howled in cannine-hunting joy and took his pick of passing 'lope to chase.

Snook went to where he'd mentally marked the 'lope as standing. It was nowhere to be seen now. But a few drops of crimson were. They made a trail and Snook knew he wouldn't have to go far. He pumped out the spent cartridge, recovering it for reloading, got the safety on 'no-fire' and took the trail of scarlet.

At the end of it lay the 'lope; laid out open-eyed but not moving, not breathing. It'd just missed falling into another shoal; instinctively seeking the last protection it had, as it's speed finally refused to assist. It lay; on display to the sky and clouds and Bellus and him. Snook bowed his head a few moments; letting the creator of them both know he'd stepped forward as predator and the responsiblity was now his to see nothing went to waste.

He checked his remi's chamber one last time for emptyness, put it aside and got out his knife.

Laddy came back, tongue lolling from his mid-morn run. He found a suitable spot and lay down, watching. He seemed restless, though. Something was worrying him.

The breeze swayed fern.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Fri Apr 24, 2009 5:54 pm 
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Part 4.



Snookeroo opened the door to the sheetmetal hut and slogged inside. He took off his french foreigh legion hat and shook his head about like a dog having climbed from a bath. Except baths are usually warmer, Snook chided...

"Excuse me? Do you have business here?"

Snook pawed wet hair from his eyes and replaced his hat. He finally located someone who looked so like a mortician he half-expected to see a open coffin with earth coated bottom somewhere about. Snook took the hog-tied grazelope from around his neck and held it out. Dracula-behind-the-desk didn't seem impressed. "Your gun."

What? Gun.... it's a rifle. Snook noticed the other was pointing to a spot just inside the door. Oh....there were wooden pegs bolted to the wall; rifles reposed on two seperate pairs of them. Snook unslung and rechecked chamber then added the remi to the collection. Turning back, the count was pointing with a pen now; all the while not looking at the other. Snook found the gesture ended at a row of plastic chairs; on which lounged two other men: they looked soggy, too. "You'll be seen in turn." added the undead officeworker and went back to industrially showing a form on the desk in front of him who was boss. Snook shrugged; waded out of the puddle forming from his clothes and took a end-seat. He put the grazelope on his lap.

One of the men was giving him a side-glance. The other didn't; just sat, staring off into space, chin on hand, elbow on knee. Side-glance offered a lips-only grin. "Hiya. Been hunting, right?" "Actually, someone just threw this out with the trash. I thought it'd been a shame to let it go to waste."

Side-glance yelped; Snook realizing after a couple minutes it was laughter. At least someone was happy... "Next." Mr. Blanklook rose and stepped to the desk like someone being audited. Side-glance nudged a shoulder for attention.

"You're gonna love this guy. I think he's over from Oz." "Cool." "I hear tell that someone's thought up some neat new rules and regulations. He's here to make sure we all know about them." "How thoughtful." More yelps bounced around the room for a bit. "Nice 'lope. Where'd ya get 'em?" The never-ending quest for info extraction was underway, Snook noted. It was traditional, aye; but not all traditions are entertaining.

"South." "What'd ya use?" Snook pointed over to the wall pegs. Side-glance nodded. "What caliber?" "270 Winchester." "130's?" "150." "Custom-load? Gun Cafe's really..." "No. Partitions." "Gotta love 'em, don't ya? How far?" "Oh....120 yards, I guess." "That close..." "This time...." Side-glance paused; seemed to regroup. He spoke in a lower voice now...perhaps not desiring to be overheard.

"I hear they're raising the price on game-points now." Snook said nothing. Which only left a opportunity for continuance. "Someone's getting rich and it's not us, I know that. Hear tell they're gonna outlaw all open-range hunting on Oz. Even on private property. They're gonna set up game-parks or reserves or whatever they gonna call 'em. Not sure I care for it. I mean: I dunno if I'll ever be hunting there but....I dunno. Just don't like it."

The pause didn't prompt a comment from Snook so much as the intent stare that went with it. He tried as best he felt capable of.

"It 'tis a interesting concept. It can be made to work." "Ah....if it isn't broke, why try to fix it? Did they ask any of us?" "This 'tis Kovoko. Oz 'tis naw our turf." "I wonder if anyone got asked. I'm tired of people telling me what's good for me." "Next, please." Side-glance headed to the desk. Snook fidgeted and hoped it'd be his turn before the chair melted under him.

He got his chance: side-glance dismissed back out into the rain and Snook was gestured with the pen to front and center. He looked for a place to set the 'lope. The previous game-officials kept a spartan table; just perfect for flopping game down on. The count had his decorated with orderly piles of color-coded paper forms. He actually straightened one pile before even looking up at Snook. "Over there." "Say again?" "Put the animal over there."

'There' was a cloth-hamper, like for laundry. Snook lowered the 'lope inside and by the time he returned to the starting point, a line-up of stark papers full of blank lines in need of filling out were waiting. Pale and grim ignored him completely: going to the 'lope for processing or lord knew what they were doing now. Snook could fully sympathize with side-glance and the more forms he had to fill out, the sager that fellow became. What was more likely to break a hunter's spirit, wondered Snook. Lack of game or profusion of paperwork?

He crossed the last 't' and signed his name for approximately the 20th time just as Prince Charming returned. He said nothing, offering no indacation he was even noted anyone else was present. He gathered up the finished forms and seemed disappointed he couldn't find any empty blanks. But then he spotted Snook's printed name and he darted a look out from under his brows. He set his lips as if it were time to clean the toilet. "Mr....Starsharke?" "Aye." "What?" "Aye." "I?" "oh.....yes. I mean yes." "I'm a busy man, Mr. Starsharke. Please let's not waste time." "Aye." The other fought his facial muscles for control. "You may pick up your grassalope next segment. Is there anything esle I can do for you?"

Snook blinked. It 'tis grazelope. And next segment?

"Why do I have to pick it up then? I'm naw turning it in for game-research..." "It's mandatory henceforth. All game will be examined and catalogued." Snook didn't know what to make of that: it'd been left up to each hunter to decide for himself if he wanted a kill to be examined for research purposes. Till now. It was included in the cost of the permit...

"Here....this will put you in the know." A pamphlet the size of a bible was drawn out to threaten Snook with. "Big changes coming, Mr. Starsharke." The name was spoken like.....Snook didn't know. And yet did know. Rain began to pound on the metal roof.

He wasn't going to change his name: there was no shame in it to him. Other's saw it different, though. A Starsharke was a Starsharke in such a world and that wasn't a name with many fans on this colony. But what could you do?

Snook decided he'd ask for the permit for the Skuda when he came back for the bait intended to catch it. Snook got the remi and walked out into the rain. It was a long walk back to the Williamson's.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Sat Apr 25, 2009 4:52 pm 
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Part 5.


Somehow Snookeroo managed to avoid in turn drowning and pneumonia; though he was dead to the universe for 10 hours of shut-eye and he spent another half hour being sure his remi was dry, rust sent on it's way and the firearm fully functional. He did some thinking and looked at some maps and reached something resembling a course of action.

He had to know more about the movements of the skuda. It was out there but if one was moving in, the hunter's blog had assured(Or warned, more truthfully) it'd likely stake-out a single prairie-loft tree and make full use of Grazelop behavior. Skuda's typically staked out ambush sites among the grasses in the vicinity of a grazelope's loft-warren and waited for chow to come by: out from the warrens in the mornings, then into the warrens at nightfall. Most skuda worked a kill at both times. Grazelopes had little intention of being food, of course and were no easy meal with their combination of alertness, speed and scatter-for-your-life end game and once in their warrens; they were pretty much safe from anything on Zeta. But with 2 to 3 seperate troops of grazelope warrening to a loft; skuda could usually find a steady stream of meat.

Snook thought he could use the set-up, too. He would place bait and blind at a likely loft and then wait for the skuda to mosey in. The lord be willing and Snook's aim true, no more skuda prob. Rigel would be pleased, no doubt. Snook assembled hiking gear, his rifle and Laddy and set out for the loft closest.

It was now near midcycle and the clouds had slid off beyond the range and Bellus was fully intent on playing rough. It was 90 degrees and likely to climb as they went. He and his dog would have empty water canteens before they got back under shelter.

But it was bright and the air full of flower perfumes and savannian spices. There didn't seem to be any creatures close but the loft he was aiming for: a smudge of green and black on the horizen, seemed to have dots wheeling around it in the air. Flying critters of some sort and Snook found his spirits rising: it sure beat trudging along in the rain. It was a good cycle to be out and about after all.

They latched onto a dogear lane that in a back and forth winding manner; got them going in the direction wanted. Laddy gallloped up ahead, sniffing about, came galloping back as if to insist on urgency, then off he'd go again ahead: big feet spraying dislodged plant-life into the air in his wake. Snook cast a occassional glance to the ground, hoping for tracks but the dogear didn't seem intend on helping. They were a good few miles out when the spoorro was found.

Laddy sniffed it out; just off in some featherfern.

Spoorro were curious creatures: they were a mixture of unmatched body-features, at least to a human-eye. It was as if god had taken a warthog, a porcupine and a horned toad and put them all in a bag and shaken well. Inflate what came out to 500 pounds and spray it with ammonia. They weren't likely to ever win many 'cute-critter' prizes.

And yet they had their role: savanna-recycler. As a rule, they ate just about anything, including occasional carrion. But their repelent odor was a by-product of the largest part of their diet: dung. They perferred the copious droppings from the mighty savelk but were hardly picky. And in turn they produced the highest quality fertilizer on Zeta. This was preety much the only positive thing they directly provided the colonists. Snook had never heard of anyone who tried spoorro bacon ever desiring seconds.
In their best form; these were beasts that presented a ungainly collection of horns, tusks and spiny fur. The top half was a listless back, the bottom of unremarkable flat white.

And this one was very, very dead.

It's throat was tore out: as if a 2-gallon size cookie-cutter had clamped down with savagery and yanked. One front leg was competely missing and more bites; somewhat ragged, ran down to the belly. There wasn't much left inside there. No little blood was sprayed about: it didn't look like it'd fought much. And Snook was certain of the culprit: it was all classic skuda sign. Laddy kept sniffing at the blood spray and annoyed; Snook shooed him away. Stepping in the blood spray, Snook's shoes came away tinted...

The blood was damp, still fresh. He saw no tracks. Comfort this was not. Something chilly looked for a hiding spot in the young man's gut. "Right here...." he whispered, for some reason afraid to say it louder: to the savanna at large all about and he being so small in among it. "It 'twas right here.....Lad....let's go home. I know all I need to know to place the blind. Let's go." They did go and the trip back was otherwise sunny, hot, enjoyable....

And just past the road; right in the Williamson's front yard....skuda tracks. They hadn't been there when they set out.

Snook was wanting that permit real bad now.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Mon Apr 27, 2009 5:46 pm 
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Part 6.


"Sorry, Mr. Starsharke. I'm afraid a permit is out of the question. Good cycle."

Snookeroo contained his desire to slap the taste out the count-of-the-game-office's mouth. He swifted the red and white plastic cooler now encasing his frozen grazelope by way of assuaging.

"Out of the question? I thought peril and pestilence permits..." "Can only be granted to the owner of the land in question." Pale and grim, with his dorky 'bowl' haircut had actually found the strength to raise his face away from the pile of papers still on his desk. Snook suspected the paper's rutting season had passed; they appeared to have multiplied. "You have indicated, Mr. Starsharke, you are not a property holder in the area. Therefore..." The man looked back to the land of forms, "I can't help you. Good cycle." "Then I'll purchase a hunting permit." "Costs have gone up." "I'll pay." "2000 cotrs, then."

Ok, thought Snook. I will naw pay. Seeing what he'd perhaps been hoping for in the other's face, the count.....Chesterfield, said the name tag, smirked. His thin lips made it appear a frog had bit into something tart. "You have to understand, Mr. Starsharke....times are changing. You studied the literature I gave you, yes?" "Aye." "What?" "I read it."

Snook hadn't read it, of course. It'd made good fire tinder, though...."So you'll see: the wildlife and natural resouce office has found it neccassary to return to the path of reason." "Really." "Let me just say this in parting, Mr. Starsharke. The era of using the gun to solve environmental challedges is on the way out. The old, earthside order is outdated and we're living on a new planet." "It's billions of seasons old." "What..." "Zeta is naw a new planet...." "But we are new residents." Chesterfield looked like he'd scored a touchdown, to his own thinking. "Good cycle."

Snook hefted the cooler to his chest, spun on a heel and went outside. What a fix this was becoming...

2000 cotrs.....he couldn't dig that up anytime soon and he had to be in the blind by nightfall: it was going to be close even if he got the permit right away. 2000 cotrs! What the heck was going on with the whole wildlife management routine? What had happened to make everything so expensive......He ran options thru his head and there weren't many. He considered calling Rigel and asking him to grant his permission for the purchase of a peril and pestilence permit; the snicker-inducing 'P.P.P'. But since Rigel hadn't wanted him hunting skuda by himself in the first place, it was hardly likely to work.

He'd have to go to his employer, Miss Caitlin Zmbisko: of the 'Gun Cafe' and ask for a advance on his pay. As he'd already taken liberties asking for two cycles off as it was....well. Beggars can naw be choosers....

"You sink any deeper in thought, boy, you gonna drown."

The voice came from a pick-up idling on the roadway not far away. The vehicle alluded to once having been red; mud on the fenders and dust on just about everywhere esle making it a task to be certain. A big fellow with mirrored sunglasses and cigarette in mouth was leaning out a rolled down window. Snook grinned.

"Mr. Buck! Just in time..." "Oh, lord help me. Now what?" "I need a ride." "Don't you just." "I'll pay for gas." "Now you talkin': git in." "I need ice. Gotta a grazelope to keep cold." "To the quicky-shop we go. Git in, I said."

A few minutes and a ice-stuffed cooler was in the back and a very pleased Snook in a seat upfront. The man driving hadn't lost a inch in height to age or a speck of swagger from his frame. The face had years and the voice confidence. Snook knew the man; 'Buck' Barrison. Heck, he was a friend of the family. Snook's uncle Gotham had persuaded this lawman of 20 plus years he was needed and he'd come along: wanting one last challenge. And if all this talk was true, as the colony's wildlife management director; Buck was likely finding it.

"Where we goin'?" "Gimli." "Oh, grits-on-a-stick, Snuck. That's a hour each way." So I'll owe you a pizza to go with the gas money." "owe, huh." "Life's been hard." "I hear ya. Buckle-up, Snuck..." "Snook."

The truck; a typical natural gas/electric hybrid, got turned about and headed away from the airport complex. A big C-130 was rolling into position for takeoff out there; it's noise kept at bay by closed windows and air conditioning on full. They rode in silence at first: dead east. In fact, they'd pass the Williamson's place as they went. Would Laddy; confined inside on guard duty, spot him as they sped by? A few minutes and they passed it without comment: a adobe-looking lump of sandbags here then behind. Not many houses out this way. One or two farmers holding on by fingernails and sheer stubborness.

"Where's the dog?" "Oh, I'm house sitting Rigel's place." The remi's barrel stood up between his knees in the leg-space in front; got passed nonchalantly from hand to hand. "Laddy's standing guard." "Nothing like a good dog. My 'setter just had pups." "Well, praise the lord. I'm naw taking any, though." "Trade ya the pizza for one." "'Tis naw happening, mr. Buck." They laughed mildly a bit: Snook felt good here. Buck had a pump shotgun on a rack behind them; and a holstered revolver. Ever the lawman at heart, Snook concluded. "Rigel? That's the Williamsons, Right?" "Aye." "Well, there's someone who's earned a vacation. Where'd they go; if I may be so bold?" "Lake Obiwan. Two cycles of camping." "I got a belly full of jealousy now. Wish I was up to re-retiring."

Snook couldn't pass the opportunity up. He was simply too curious. And it wasn't so bad to have someone to talk to, once in a while. If they were decent folk.

"Mr. Buck: what 'tis going on with wildlife management? I just got a quote on a skuda permit that about made me fall over. What 'tis costing so much now? And who hired this Chesterfield bozo? He 'tis as much fun as a flat tire. I canna make any sense of it." Buck grunted; as if having inhaled a few bits of gravel. He rolled his window down a few inches, letting in a jet of hot dry air and he spat out his cig and rolled the window back up. He stared ahead a few minutes. "That Chesterfield fella?" "Aye?" "He might end up with my job."

Had Barrison offered to eat live eels; Snook couldn't have been more surprised.

"Oh, you're joking." "I wish." "Why would they replace you with that dead-fish? He called a grazelope a grassalope just the other segment. I think if I drove a stake into one of those paperstacks of his; he'd grab his chest and drop dead."

Buck grinned a bit at that. Glancing over to him, though, Snook could see the man was a long way from happy about the subject. "Did you say something you should naw have, to someone who should naw have been hearing it, Mr. Buck?" "I did that from the start." Barrison watched the road in front of him a moment or two. "Things are changing, I guess. They always do." "A wee consistency would be nice, methinx. Where 'tis all this money going to, anyway? Permit prices doubling? That 'tis ridiculous!" Buck nodded but only looked out at the road. The chance had passed: clearly Barrison didn't want to say more. They sat back and rode on in quiet.

10 minutes and theRange road came up; running from Kovoko's chief town, Jetsam city to the north; down to the Gimli mining site. Snook lived there: if a pair of closet-sized rooms over the local bar counted as living.

They cruised along, Hadian's range to the left; all sorts of lumps in brown and black. Up a ways, pointy Contour-trees marched in their singlefile pattern north to south. Lower down scalepine, with their iridescent leaf-fins overlapping to make a wall, held their ground. Bellus shone down; asking no quarter and giving none. To the right was savanna: grasses and a few far off loft.

A bit more and they'd come upon Gimli: snow-white steam mist drifted up beyond, where the ore processing was undertaken. They went up the gentle incline to the plateau the settlement was laid upon. Stone-walling; twice the height of a man surrounded the place and 5 wooden towers were affixed at measured spaces along it. Figures of folk, people on watch-duty, could be seen on those towers: Gimli took it's defense serious. The gates would be closed and locked at nightfall and if you weren't a resident, you weren't getting in. The villiage of 200 itself was the road lined on either side by homes of earthwork or log construction. There was little beside homes but they did try to make them amiable. Earth-shrubs and flower-boxes were about and just about everyone had some manner of veggie-garden. Buck and Snook rolled down to near the far-end of the lane and there to the left was a low building of illregular but big rocks: all mismatched in color, shape, size and seemingly, placement. There was the sign over the door: big sign, spray-painted in gloss orange and featuring a pair of toy AK-47's, barrels crossed, as if for luck.

The Gun Cafe. Snook's worked there.

They stopped, Snook grabbed the cooler and used his pass-key to avoid the necessity of being buzzed in. They got themselves in the door: Buck following with his shotgun and Snook's remi in tow.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 28, 2009 4:35 pm 
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Part 7.


They entered a half-circle booth/room set with hardwood and clean, thick glass windows. the lights; bright on this side, dim on the other, danced and slid along the windows. Snook raised his voice. "Yo, Kate! We home!"

A head bobbed up on the other side. Something clicked, a door swung open and out she came.

Caitlin Zmbisko was about 4 foot 10 and skinny enough to have been used for a q-tip. She had red hair; cut about a half inch above her skull. It made her look like she were rusting. Her clothes were a nasty OD green t-shirt, mostly ripped and spotted OD green cargo pants(Hopelessly too big) and canvas shoes so small; they might have been part of a Barbie-doll toy-set. She wore granny-glasses and smiled fit to break her jaw.

"Oh, my god! Whatta buncha losers! And I haven't seen that ugly, toothless, fat SOB in too long." "Now I'm insulted." returned Buck Barrison. He smiled. "You left out I'm stupid." "You got that right." Caitlin caught Snook's eye with practiced skill. "Another 'lope?" "How can you tell?" "What else you hunt?" "I've taken two savelk." "Barely. Come on back here, you SOB's. Let's spend some time."

She guided beyond the door and into as confused looking assemblage of tables, gun-racks, dangling lights, rifle stocks, airearms of all manner and drillpresses as there had ever been seen. There seemed no rhyme or reason but Snook knew better. He'd worked here near on half a season. A table with chairs was pointed to; Snook put the cooler aside and joined Buck in sitting down.

Caitlin vanished, then returned with three bottles intermingled in her fingers. "Beer; on the house." "Make mine a A+W, boss." Snook was stretching out his legs; they needed it. "Don't have any, you wuss." "Barq's." Bleep you." "Shasta?" "Don't make me come over there." "Got any tea, Miss Zm?" "Tea? You kidding? I could see if I got some iced stuff. Tea?" "Got inta a habit of it; when I lived in G.B." "G.B?" "Great Britain, England, the United Kingdom. I used to drink coffee till my....well. I used to drink it. Tea now. Funny how people can change, if they want to." A twinkling and Snook had a mountain dew, Buck a tall glass of tea and Caitlin her beer.

They all just drank and sat a bit. Caitlin, sitting on a reversed chair, turned from one then to the other, searching. But neither would say anything.

"Okay. What's up?" "Permit prices, for starters." "That so?" "Doubled." "S__t. That's a hit." "Only to those buying them." "Jee-zez, Buck. I never figured you for robbery." Barrison grunted and looked composed. "I ain't seeing a microcotr of it." "Then who IS?" Snook hadn't wanted to sound so peeved. But it was out now and he looked down at his dew a few seconds before continuing. "I thought the idea was to get the system to pay for itself." "Then maybe it's not. Gotta make adjustments sometimes." "Naw, little lady. I'm no economist, but we was paying the bills. They all wanna do more and they gonna get it from the pockets of them they can get it from." "Us." "Yep."

Buck let it linger, sipping his tea. Snook looked irked, Caitlin took the lead.

"Wait a second. Sit tight." She left her beer and went up front and made rummaging noises. She came back with a cardboard box half her size. Snook And Buck pulled their refreshments to safety as she dropped it on the table. They peered inside.

The wildlife pamphlets. A couple dozen, at least.

"Got this segment before last. Cute little letter attached. 'Please hand out to all prospective hunters'. They're just so polite! What'd ya think I should do with 'em?" Snook and Buck's faces said all they needed to on the subject. Caitlin took the box and disappeared out back. On returning, she clapping her hands in satisfaction, Buck spoke up ruefully.

"Now Miss Zm: ain't you the one to stir trouble! The director of wildlife and resources has to be certain all those indulging in our ecologys gifts are fully up on the rules and progress our scientific methods have wrought. We is entering a golden age of wildlife enlightment and we all better git on the train or be left standing at the station." "You sound like you just repeated something." "I did." "Holy s__t. 'We're from the goverment and we're here to help you'! Lordy, Lordy! Get me my gun!" "What I do naw get 'tis the why behind all this? If it 'twas working..."

"Aw, politics!." Buck took his glass in both hands and managed a minor smile. "We come billions of miles and we end up right back where we started: politics." "I do naw get you, Mr. Buck." "Snuck...." "Snook." "Snook; our wildlife department provides funds for research and takes critter tally's and samples to moniter wildlife health and interactions. We officials enforce the rules on them which funds all this; hunters and fisherfolk. Well. That's not enough of one thing and too much of another to someone with certain connections."

"Prime-minister Merrigold?" "Aw....maybe. I dunno. There's a lot of backroom B.S right now and what's comin' out of it kinda worries me. Merrigold's getting a lot of heat. The gray-fur raids; the brown-furs givin' us the cold-shoulder. We all heard about Alicia Merrigold doin' such a fine job runnin' that high-school...""It 'twas a college actually, Mr. Buck." "Then college. She ran a college for 10 years on Earth and is the cat's meow then she comes here, gets elected Prime-minister and things suddenly ain't so easy. I commiserate with her: hell, I voted for her! But it looks like she's decided to redo her promises and princples and we all better grab our butts now, 'cause we mat not have 'em later." "God, I LOVE Zeta!" Caitlin suddenly turned eyes on Snook. "I thought you were house-sitting." "I am...ummm...." "You need another cycle." "No. Ummm.... I need a advance on my pay...."

Caitlin shook her head; Buck pushed back from the table. "I'm gonna go for a walk..." "No, Mr. Buck. Stay. I do naw mind. Nada to hide."

Much, thought Snook. This wasn't going to be fun. He looked to his mountain dew bottle for inspiration but it was empty.

"2000 cotrs." "What the heck for? You get someone pregnant?" Buck Barrison chuckled, Caitlin smiked, Snook twisted in his seat till he could find words.

"I need a skuda permit." "Damn. Double prices is right! Why are you after a skuda?" "We've found one poking about the Williamson's place." "Found? Seen?" tossed out Barrison. Snook shook a negative. "Tracks only, so far. Oh, and a dead spooro recent-like. I'm pretty sure I know where they're setting up. I'm gonna bait them and pop 'em...lord willng..." "And the creek don't rise. You usin' that Weatherby of yours? I reckon you could hit it from about a mile away with that." "No sir. What ya see right here." "That's only a .270, though, ain't it? All I read about skuda say .308 nay-too on up. You know what you're doing?" "Skuda are naw that big." Barrison guffawed good-naturedly. "Son; it ain't the pounds on the beastie but the fight in 'em that makes 'em tough. .270 will take ya a long way but you watch yourself. " "Indeed." Snook turned, uncomfortably to glance at Caitlin. She looked at him like a wayward child and stood. "Be right back."

She went upfront and came back with something fluttering in her hands. She tossed it down in front of Snook and he picked it up for examination. It was a two-page entry form for 'shootapalozza' hence in 7 cycles. The long-range shooting event, in fact. Snook dropped it like it were covered in acid.

"Oh, jeez, boss! Come on! We been thru this..." "I need a shooter in shootapalozza, Snook. That's you." "You go!" "You're a better shot." "Naw hardly. I thought we'd settled this. I'm naw going."

"Snook: listen, alright? I'm a business woman. I'm running the only gunshop on Kovoko...which, strangly enough, just happens to employ you." "I've noticed that." "Kovoko has maybe 2500 folk. That's....what? 800 households?""Probably closer to 700..." "How much profit do you think I make with 700 frigs to keep full and 700 examples of personal property to keep safe? Not much, let me tell you. We have to draw customers across the water, Snook. Oz is where prosperty sits. People won't send their messed up bang-bangs or ask for delux, custom-loaded ammo all that way, unless you offer something special. I do that; we do that. But we need publicity; we gotta be in people's minds when they thinking about firearms. We need one of my employees winning the premier firearms competition on Zeta." "Boss, it 'tis the only firearms competition on Zeta." "Whatever. I wanna win it." "I'm not that good of shot, boss." "You good and we'll make you better. I'm working on a bolt-throw that will kick heiny. I'll tailor the ammo till it can find bull'seyes even if you just threw it. We'll practice till you're sleeping on the range. We gonna win." "Boss....this does naw feel right." "2000 cotrs= one shootapalooza." She dug out a pen and tossed it atop the entryform. "Sign."

He did.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Wed Apr 29, 2009 5:56 pm 
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Part 8.


Prairie-loft trees were humbling.

They grew up from the soil of the continent of Kovoko: roots reaching as much as 3000 feet down to the aquifers that cooled them in summer and warmed them during the winter. As much as 2/3rds of a loft tree's 'Bio-mass' was below ground. These are just numbers: one may not be able to realize the humbling aspects to this. Till one stood under a prairie-loft.

They were tall; some up to as much as 250 feet(rarely); many in the 200 foot range. But what they encompassed with their limbs was where the humbling began to come into play. A large loft could cover 500 acres. When you stood underneath, looking up into a bowl not of blue sky and clouds but of black branch and dark, dark green foliage; you were reduced to trivia in the game of life. You were having a there-on-the-spot brush with mother nature and you ended up knowing your place in things.

Snook thought he abide it as well as anyone. He'd hiked by these colossuses, camped a few segments under them. Even climbed into one once. They were magnificent and they were scary. He loved them but had learned, in turns, as focal-points on the savanna, lofts held as much threat as greeting. The savanna could give and it could take away and the lofts were as formidable expressions of the concept as any.

Prairie-loft, reviewed Snook; heading back to the blind after the baiting was in place. Dungeon-loft was more like it. It was dark under there; Belluslight was slanting in as Bellus was in the home stretch west. He came out from under the limb-border; a great green overhang, but the near bare brickred/brown soil ran out for another 700, 800 feet.

Prairie-loft looked after themselves, the colonists had learned. The leaves sweat a chemical that would drip down onto the soil from the occasional warm-weather rains and moreso from snowmelt at the start of spring. Those chemicals kept all but the most hardy ground cover cleared; thus no competition for soil-fertility. It also served well as firebreaks from the late summer thru fall brushfires.

The soil had been dried from the recent storms and his clodhoppers kicked up little spouts of dust. There was a network of 3-toed grazelope tracks all about; crisscrossing, one atop another. A good spot to bait a predator he was certain. He came upon his blind, just a oval nest of machete-cut shrubs, laid on their sides but with 4 thoughtfully placed gaps he could aim from. He squeezed in, went to his haunchs and got alert.

He was very much alone in the blind: Laddy again on houseguard duty. The dog could be quiet, of course, well enough for any venture where lack of sound benefitted. But Snook felt he had to do this himself. He didn't rightly know why, truthfully. It was a funny thing, certainly. But he'd fret it when it was done and finished. This called for as much luck as planning or precision......and he needed to be here. Now.

Aw, let's maw get spacy. Keep a eye out. You're hunting.

His back was to Bellus and facing the core of the loft; just out from under the overhang of greenery. The blind didn't blend as well with the raw soil as he'd would have wished but he reckoned on neither 'lope or skuda caring. Be quiet; do naw move around, keep covered. The blind and what hide inside would just appear to be a stray clump of bushes. Yep. Everything was under control. He checked his view spots in turn; using the binos but there were no hints of close activity. He did see a big flock og shadowrays drift over out of the east; heading west further into the savanna: their great numbers causing a shadow to chase along behind on the ground; like something begging to not be left behind. He rechecked the viewspots; one by one. No 'lope; no skuda. He sat back, had a granola bar. And waited somemore.

Alpha-Bellus lowered: shadows lengthing in toward the loft. Something up in the loft branches scampered and climbed then gave a single hoot. Whatever it was shutup or went elsewhere; it grew quiet again. Snook took to the binos. East, west, north, south. Nothing moving in the grasses. On the wait went.

Sound came again, to his right: south. A distant bellowing yodel: many. Mixed together, dozens of them. Like a chorus uncoordinated and far away.

Savelk, Snook recognized. They'd be heading south now; rising with the ending of the cycle to travel to their next feeding spot. They were big, beautiful creatures: the royalty of Kovoko. Being south, they would have already passed this loft, so he wasn't likely to see any up close. Good thing, he assured himself. Their great long legs in measured, circumspect
strides tended to scare grazelope off. 'Lopes fed out in between lofts: savelk followed the ragged lanes of diminitive trees and shrub that ran from loft to loft. Another example of a nature-made highway. Too bad, Snook found himself thinking. Savelk: they were so uniquely Kovokan.

A hour, then another. A few more and Bellus would nip the horizen. A few more hoots and climbing noises came from the loft. Night creatures were warming up for their role. Snook checked view spots; again and again. He indulged in his themos of chicken noodle soup and checked some more. He sat and checked every round in every one of his five rifle magazines; just to do so. He bino'ed the grasses, he bino'ed the loft, he bino'ed the sky for any flying critters. The shadows were pretty long now: running out from his blind like a trail: as if the blind had been dragged as a whole, right to the spot. He shifted and looked and decided he really, really hated hunting from a blind.

Dang it.....he knew he'd planned this out right! The grazelopes would come and the skuda was propably even now setting up to nail one. So; why hadn't it come check-out the half 'lope he'd hung from the loft periphery?

If only he could see further! The binos did their job but the stretchs of dogear and more so; feather fern cut the visibility of a sitting human no little.

He bit a lip.

As it was; he might not see a skuda lurking; setting up for a rush. Unless it was awful close; hardly a comforting thought. The window to get a shot off would be brief: a instant. Visibility. He needed visibility. He had to see the skuda as soon as possible. And a clear, unobstructed shot was nothing to dismiss.

Higher up; he determined. I need to get off the ground.

His eyes centered on the prairie-loft.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Thu Apr 30, 2009 5:10 pm 
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Part 9.


Hey; he'd climbed in a prairie-loft before. And the pluses outweighed the negatives; anyone could see that. And he wouldn't be up there that long....he was sure of that. In fact; the sooner the better!

He kept his binos about his neck and slung his rifle and was out of the blind and heading toward the loft's core in moments.

The loft towered over him and it got darker seemingly with every step. A couple hundred feet and he was where a vine-root was close enough to the ground to be reached. The vine was black and smooth as if from a mold. Along it at intervals were gaps, nooks; making the vine seem vaguely like chain. They could be climbed and Snookeroo tightened the rifle sling up snug across his back, spit on his hands mostly as show and surplus enthusiasm and took to hand-over-handing up into the loft. Snook was so intent on what was above, it never registered how high up he was till he reached the branch the vine swung from. He had to explore with his hands a bit but he was off the vine and standing atop a branch.

Branches; more truthfully. The branches were twist together; in size from as thin as a pencil to thicker then a man's leg. Wrapped together....braided; Snook came to, spreading out from the core but also down; vine-roots grew down from the branches, seeking soil. Acting as guy-wires, they allowed a loft to grow outwards for better then a couple thousand feet. And they grew up: shoots much thinner then the vines but closer set together, came forth from the topside of the branches. A few yards above the braid-branch they fostered little fins; leaves and the greenery was sharp and dark and you couldn't see far that way: the upperstory of prairie-loft was it's own world. We ain't in Kansas no more, Snook told himself and began picking his way thru closely set green; wary of where he put his feet and had to more then once untangle the binos from snaring shoots.

It took maybe 5 minutes and it seemed longer; having to concentrate so and when he finally saw the set he wanted, a place perfect to lie down at and spy below; he realized just how high up he was. 40 feet; he reckoned: all that. It was breathtaking and exhilarating to look down. Just a single slip.....a mere step the wrong way....well. No Ambulance out here! He'd have to crawl to that satellite phone he'd left at the blind. That's if he was able to do anything at all.....

Enough. We gotta move! It was nearly all pitch down there now: it'd be illegal to hunt before long. Unhappy with the thought he tried to hurry to the choosen spot and...

Was falling.

He cried out and clutched at anything around; his hands finding nothing. Up lurched the ground, the cinnamon-tinted soil; falling, falling......hell, this was gonna hurt, damn this was gonna hurt, damn....

Something clamped onto his left ankle and jerked back fit to pull the whole appendage from his pelvis. He slammed his eyes shut and waited for blackness....

Pray, you idiot! Pray! One never knows the moment of their death. Pray...

He did....and was struck dumb that he was able to. Why was he still alive?

He opened eyes and could look upwards; or rather, up and back towards his feet....he hadn't hit the ground. He could see his left ankle; green as background to the vine-root that was entangled with it. His ankle; just that ankle, was snugged into one of the little root-nooks. Barely. He was upside down; dangling lord knew how many feet over.... he'd have to climb back up. He didn't figure this would be easy or soothing. He paused despite all, to just set there, swaying, wishing somehow he could start over and be smart and not do really, really foolish stuff...

Something hissed.

Something below.

Snook, heart beginning to pound; looked down. It was 20 feet to the play of shadows below.

And the skuda peering up at him.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Sat May 02, 2009 3:32 pm 
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Part 10.


Snookeroo's respiratory system tried to climb out and leave him to his just deserts but he fought for control and to get a hold of the vine. He grabbed it as tightly as he could and shook; kicked out with his left leg. He came loose; legs dropping Zeta-ward; somersaulting in air, but his hands stopped the rest of him from following further. His grip did slip a few inches, but he held on. He squeezed the life out of that vine; looked down below.

The sluda was still there; staring up at him with big, forward placed eyes. They had no life, he thought, those eyes; as if they were windows into pits of purple-black liquid. Snook could make out the lung-vents; either side of it's neck. It hissed again and it's airfoil like tail slapped at the ground.

Gotta climb, gotta climb....

A louder, more insistent hiss and when he looked back down, the skuda was rising up at him.

Snook practically flew up the vine: his fingers numb to his frantic scrambling and clawing. He found purchase and pulled himself up, up, till he draped himself over on the foot-thick branch the vine had stemed from. He fought to find his breath; feeling like someone who's swam to Oz and back.

No sound from the skuda. Snook worked up to spying about; looking back below. The predator was pacing a tight figure-8 down there. It hadn't jumped high enough to get him; apparently, though he wasn't sure he really wanted to know just how close it'd been. It hissed again on catching sight of him.

It was a good-sized brute; Snook thought: surely about 250 pounds. It's teeth-plates, a half-oval set of dull white bone(Razor sharp edged, he didn't doubt) were out for it's prey to see. It could easily chomp off a arm at the shoulder. It didn't have nostrils, parsay; it's lung vents did such duty. It's limbs, with muscles seemingly growing out of muscle, were capped by dark hooves, which were tipped with a single great point; a stabbing point: for traction and holding of prey. The animal didn't walk about; it flowed across the ground on those hooves. It said 'speed' all over it; no one outran a skuda on foot. Those legs often became the focal point of describing the creature: it was it's signature. Depending on who you talked to, Skuda had 4 legs....or 6.

The flank legs were each two-toed, a hoove on each toe. The front two legs started out from a lithe, muscular upper- arm, then did a split at the elbow. The leg(s) from that point formed a sort of upside down 'Y': two forearms made it to the ground from that point; the front forearm short but with the largest stabbing hoove. The back forearm longer and there mostly to assist the back legs in speed along the ground. The front legs were designed to envelop, wrap around what it caught. And what got caught, wouldn't live long.

It seemed to almost desire to lock eyes with him; he noticed the hide's camo splotches and rings; different shades and shapes and scattered across it with no easy to see pattern. The two half was a different shade of gray(Darker) then the lower and the borderline between the two was a color all it's own; a pale blue, he thought. Someone had once called this pattern 'tie-die'. It wasn't much off, he thought.

It slapped it's tail, flat, wide, upon the ground.

Snook set his teeth; he saw a challendge being made. Bravado filled his lungs "I got something for you, pal. Just stay right there..." He felt around his shoulders, his back. The Bravado drained away.

His rifle was missing. He hadn't even remembered it falling loose. He was unarmed.

Well; he found he still had his bino's and his swiss-army knife imitation. Also a pack of Trident gum. He broke out a couple pieces from it and tried to figure things out. There was no getting down as long as that beastie held true. Without his rifle(was that it there.. down in the dirt? Maybe...and he'd just cleaned it, too) he'd have to move....climb along the branches and maybe....it wouldn't follow him? He heard savelk yodels somewhere. He couldn't help but look above him; up into the green, thicker growth. He didn't want to go that way if he didn't have to. He stood carefully and began walking along the branch: in roughly toward the core of the loft. Would the Skuda follow him?

It did, eyeing him balefully and hissing once or twice as if daring as much as threatening. It always seemed to hug the ground close; crouching as if it always was about to leap. Snook looked down at it, the beast up to him. They weren't really locking eyes; it was too dark now for that. But they each sent enmity to the other all the same. You treed me, you SOB, Snook mentally sent to the other. But this dance 'tis just starting.... He couldn't guess how long it'd follow him about. If could see him here in the lower branches and maybe it'd get bored in a few seconds and go away and maybe he'd be here all night. Zetan nights, late summer or not, were long. Far longer then he'd enjoy in these conditions. The satellite phone was still in the blind and it'd been all so easy had he had it to call for help.....

But he probably wouldn't have, anyway. Who'd he call? Rod? Caitlin, of course. They'd be hours getting here, arrive in the dark and the mortification of being treed....No. He was getting himself down.

A sudden impulse, utterly stupid even as it came, had him lean out, aim and spit the gum at his foe.

He missed; it not even close. The skuda came over to where it'd lit on the soil and wheezed loudly: like a vacuum-cleaner with something obstructing inside and pawed at the ground. Ripped at the ground with it's deadly hooves. Dirt flew for yards, a dust cloud arose; fogging over the form of the creature, as it spun and stomped and hissed.

Snook had seen enough for the moment and found a suitably strong shoot to hold him and began to climb up into the roof of green above. The savelk were yodeling again; louder it seemed to him.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Mon May 04, 2009 4:22 pm 
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Part 11.



Snookeroo pushed up thru the foliage and espied a new frontier. The space was open beyond; like a cavern with walls of green. There were smaller, thin branches with palm-sized or smaller fins. These jut out from the cavern walls like lamp-fixtures, offering not light but pine green on one side and a silvery-white on the other.

This was essentially as far as Snook had gotten his last climb. It looked a bit innocuous and more then a bit adventurious at first glance. But branches moved further above; wiggled as if something was passing by up there but nothing was seen. This was a realm of the savanna not much visited by colonists and he was all on his own. With trepidation poking about his guts, he worked his way over to the wall of the botanic-canyon and after a few minutes assaying how best to find hand and footholds; began to climb. This he could not rush but he was not upset therein. The light was fading and he had to be careful.

How high up would he have to go? He craned his neck and guessed.....150 feet...at least. He decided he'd do it in 2 parts. And up he crawled; branches brushing and jabbing: as if the loft was trying to figure out just where he fit in. When you find out, let me know, Snook thought.

The light was diffuse: getting thru from above but it was almost like it were screened; passing thru a mildly frosted-window. Squinting up there; he couldn't make enough out to drawn any ready conclusion. He's seen photo''s of prairie-loft for on-high: slabs of pale yellow grew side by side on their crown. He'd get to see what they were about soon enough. He was again humbled: what big things these were! The cavern he saw as he strove upwards was somewhat cylinder-shaped and the walls were a tangle of branches and shoots; he couldn't tell right off how thick. Made steady climbing, though.

There: that dang hoot again! Above him; but he saw nothing but swaying branches. What was making that sound? What lived here? He expected flying creatures higher up and grazelopes and skuda did their dance of death and life below....so what was between? What was watching him?

He climbed, slowly, but he climbed. At last, he figured he was halfway up and called a break. He wedged his backside far enough into the cavern-wall to pass as a seat and reached for a canteen; realizing they were back at the blind, too. He made a face and looked about instead. Across the way; something hooted. He peered hard, saw nothing. Another hoot then: further down. A answering call? What were they talking about then? Who, what hid so well?

Something poked him on a elbow and he just about went sky-diving. Twisting at the waist, digging for his swiss-knife he was expecting to meet hell itself....but instead got a blobee.

A blobee was a creature somewhat shaped like a almond. About the size of a football, it was a glossy black but it's outer skin/shell/sheath was transparent. The 'inner' creature was what it's name suggested: a blobish-lump; but one with pointy, claw-like legs(8). There was no particular order or plan to where these stuck out of the outer sheath.

That sheath was filled with blobee and a gel that enabled it to live away from ocean; it carried it's own pond. There were little trapdoors and portholes in the sheath; the blobee could open or close these entries. Useful when it desired to use spike-legs for movement, holding something or just to inquire of it's surroundings. When a spike(thin, curved) was sent out; a few drops of gel might seep out. But as long as it could find food; such losses could be replenished.

They had little beady-eyes; like polished black pearls, and never seemed to be in a hurry to get anywhere. Snook had often thought them like other-worldly snails or more so; bloated starfish that had gone terranaunt. Long ago, he fantasized; they'd wanted to know what existed above the waves; in the land of sand, rock and wind. They'd formed natural-make environmental-suits; scuba-gear gone backwards in intend of use. Perhaps once they'd come ashore they'd lost their way home and that was what they were doing whenever they were in their frequent sitting spells: trying to remember where they should be.

Snook shook the dream away. This one was examining Snook, his back now, using two spike-legs to trap a branch for it's own support and prying at him with a pair of other spikes: trying to see if what it'd come upon was edible. Blobees were herbivorous; preferring dry, decaying vegatation, according to the info Snook had read. Finished with his intermission; Snook pulled away and went back to climbing.

Blobees were silent. So: they weren't the ones doing the hooting...

He was closing on the pale-yellow caps and then he was there; as far up as he could climb. He looked at them, trying to get their measure. They didn't look thick at all: during the day Belluslight must filter down to some degree. What purpose did they serve the loft, he wondered. Keeping something out? Keeping something in? Peering down now, the visual effect of the botonic-cavern was remindful of a factories smokestack. Most odd, he thought. Well: could he climb out?

It was difficult to physically examine the caps(No, lids, he decided to call them hence) you had to keep a hold of the cavern-wall branches with one hand and poke and prod about with the other. He didn't learn much about them that way: so he dug in his legs; scissor-locking them about some branches and leaned out further; pushing with both arms upon the lid. It bowed out as if made of rubber: a big drum cover. Snook saw no other recourse and got out the swiss-army knife. He swung out it's longest blade; the one he kept sharpest, since it did 90% of the grazelope field-dressing for him and jabbed into the lid. It cut; with some pushing. He cut a hole a few inches long and tried to look out. It was dark but he couldn't make any other details. He cut more; lengthing the cut as far as he could while holding onto the branches. When he dared not risk leaning out any further, he put his knife away and shoved up on the cut: it hinged up enough for a man to pass thru. He wormed his way up; up and outside.

Bellus was below the horizen now: stars popping out here and there; twilight a blanket of black slowly drifting down. He tried standing on the lid and it bowed, not exactly good for peace of mind....but the cut didn't widen and he tip-toed across to the next one. It did more of the bowing stuff but no further. He kept walking, looking about.

The air seemed fresher here; he thought or perhaps it was breezier, air flowing past as a invisible creek. His eyes couldn't see it but his skin felt it and his hair danced in joy at it's presence. It was a scene Snook found himself taking to: here was a field of oval yellow-ponds, a meadow of giant lily-pads; way, way way far and wide: all about. And he could feel the sky above him; inviting him to look and be amazed. Stars, night sky, open air.....was there anything more wonderful? He forgot skuda and loft and hunting and tried to grab the sky and hold it close....

Something smacked him good; right behind his left ear.

He made harsh words and ducked his head. Something hummed close; then whizzed past, blurred. Something hooted and something, another, answered in kind. Oh! The hoots were some sort of spin-wing call! It was nice having discovered the source as from one of the numerous species of propeller-winged flying animals of Zeta. Present conditions didn't allow for clear veiwing but most spin-wing types looked a mite like flying dinosaurs, with bone-props jutting backwards out their wings. This flock didn't seem to much care for vistors and they swooped and the hum of their props darted and dived: he got smacked again. He covered his head with his arms, his trail with cussing and ran across the lily-pads. The spin-wings hooted, hummed and kept up their attacks.

It was a bit like running across a line of stiff trampolines and a couple more dive-bombings convinced him he wasn't getting away. He got his knife, went to surface at the side of a lily-pad and got to slicing one-armed; the other over his head and face as protection. The spin-wings hooted and dived and then he had a escape route and he climbed away from them and the allure of the loft-top. He sighed and climbed down now: time to get back to the world below.

What was that skuda up to now?

He got thru the floor-level shoots, down onto the under-branches. It was darker then ever down there now. He looked hard and listened hard: taking his time. He must have spent 10 minutes just staring and listening. Nada, nothing. It was gone. He'd came down at a different spot, true: that'd been his intention. Not being able to see him, the skuda must have wandered off. It'd likely lost a meal. Though, the bait had been in place. It'd been a easy meal now; being as there was noone guarding it.(Snook was a bit piqued by the thought, frankly) He found a vine-root that went to the ground and got down it; alighting on the dirt alert.

It took a minute or two to find where the skuda had scraped the ground so viciously; it looked like it'd been gone over by a couple drunks with shovels and pickax. He kicked about a few yards and found the remi; buried under dirt. It didn't seem otherwise damaged but, curse it, it almost certainly had dirt in it's action and more dreadfully; in it's barrel. Fire it now and he'd risk a burst barrel, a ruined firearm and injury. Well; he had the machete....that was something, sorta. He went over to the blind. The skuda had been there, too. It apparently had something in on him now: every item was cast about. The thermos was crushed to uselessness, the machete looked useable but it's holster was missing: ate, maybe. He owed Kathy Williamson one phone; assuming the little fragments of plastic on the ground were what remained of it. He did find the flashlight and it worked; though he left it off after testing to be sure.

He and this skuda weren't going to get along, Snook concluded.

Well; there was no help for it: time to head for shelter. Walking in the nighttime savanna with basically a couple toad-slicers wasn't exactly likely to produce any lighthearted frolicking on his part. But Zyra should be dang close to full and that'd provide a fine light. A hikin'; we will go, he assured himself. Hey: this was just a single setback; one step of a process. He'd live and learn and he'd be back. The skuda had won round one; he conceded that. He at least had the consolation it had likely had to gone mealless. That struck him as odd, actually. The bait! What about the bait? Surely, it'd fed off that. Too easy pickings to have passed up. Snook had to know; it was part of this game; he had to have info and the bait's condition might provide some. Machette in hand and flashlight in the other he went over to where he'd roped up the half-grazelope. The blue-nylon rope tressing it disappeared up in the loft's lower story; meat dangling 3 feet off the ground.

It hadn't been touched, though. Weird. Skuda were weird: why pass up a doubtfree meal? Maybe it didn't eat carrion? The hunters blog hadn't said anything about such... Dang it, anyhow! I made assumptions and I assumed wrong. Back to the drawing board....

Something hissed. He nearly jumped out of his shoes. He gripped the machette and swung the flash....

There.

Coming across the barren-soil strip; eyes all for prey. And the prey was Snook.


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 Post subject: Re: New story(?)
PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2009 3:25 pm 
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Part 12.



The machete in his right, the flashlight in his left and the hanging bait a couple yards away; thoughts piled into Snookeroo's brains and just plain and simple: he couldn't decide what to do. Death was lining up for a go at him and he stood blank-faced and scared.

He stabbed at the skuda's muzzle with the flash; hoping to blind it and doing nothing of the sort. It hissed as portent and lowered it's weight down; legs coiling and flexed. It was about to sprint at him and he so wished to think of something....

His rifle! At the blind! Grab it....
Dirt in barrel, you fool! It's useless...
Don't care. Only choice....
Won't work! Run!
Where?! Won't get away....
Here it comes!

Three great bounds it took; monstrous limbs spraying out a cloud of dirt behind; into the air it went: aiming for Snook's face with wicked tooth-plates...

And missed: Snook had ducked; the only thing he could come to. The young man somersaulted, end over end, the creature landing 2 yards past and spinning back to the battle.

Snook was on his feet and attacked with the machete; swinging as hard as he could at his foe's head. One strike, solid, a second, glancing, a third..... the teeth-plates slammed shut upon the blade and it actually creaked audibly as they clamped down. A jerk of a muscular neck and the machete was brocken off at the handle and Snook staggered; kept his feet and hardly had the skuda spat aside the machete blade when Snook returned to the fray: his flashlight being used as a club. The eyes; if he could really bash those eyes....

On the fourth meaty strike the flashlight flew to bits and it got real, real dark. The combatants were figures; without detail one to the other; figures whirling and cussing and hissing and trying to kill and live. And there wasn't enough air to breath apparently: they gasped and panted and went at each other.

Snook's brain said close with it; his legs said run and as a result he got close, bumping off it's side. The jaws snapped and turned to him; he dodged and dodged again and then they were circling: swirling about one another in a murky dance. Snook had discovered skuda were as fast as a lightning bolt in a straight dash but it's curious leg-arrangement made it clumsy if it had to make tight turns. Now.....where did he go from this? He had a skuda by the tail and he couldn't keep ahead of it's teeth forever...

And he didn't: it hooked with a lead hoof-claw, snagging one of the young man's lower legs and down he went and the creature pinned him flat in a half second. Snook tried to squirm loose without success and it hissed in his face; nasty breath like fire burning dung and it aimed for his face again; the next hiss dripping with triumph but it's prey grabbed with both hands, clawing, sinking in fingers into either side of it's neck....into the lung-vents and he squeezed till he thought his fingers would break. The skuda wheezed hideously, Snook got his legs under it and shoved it away, scrambling for his feet; loose dirt making him pedal legs to stay upright.

Snook returned to the thought for running; he yelled in his head it was futile and tried it anyway and he was right: it was futile. The creature darted in front of him; cutting him off from the grasses. Snook floundered to a stop; spotted the bait still hanging; a few yards off. At a loss; he lunged over, grabbed, swung it about as a barricade between he and the beast. It was ludicrous. He was standing behind half of a 60 pound grazelope. He might as well been trying to block a bulldozer with a shoebox. This is it; he told himself; this is where it gets me. God, I so want to live.... the skuda clacked it's bone-plates, top and bottom, together as a taunt and eyed him: clearly looking for just the right moment. Something had discolored it's muzzle enough for it to be detectable in the dark. Perhaps Snook had done some damage with the machete after all.

This is it....this is it....

It flew up off the ground; at his head. He saw wide open gullet and with both hands; with all he could muster; stuffed the bait into that. It coughed, struck out wildly with all limbs and tried to uncork it's mouth. It flung about and jerked on the nylonline like hooked marlin at sea; tree branches cracking and leaf-fins falling like confetti. Snook ran. He ran, convinced he was wasting his time and life and was dead, any second and kept running and running. He got to the grass, ran some more, harder now and tripped over something and fell on his face. The breath was knocked from him and he searched for it, face down, for all he was worth.

The branches were still rattling. I should be running, actually whispering so meekly to himself; run. I canna get away you do naw outrun skuda, I'm dead. But.....run! What esle can I do? Air flew in and out of his nose and mouth and he levered himself up to hands and knees; face still down in feather-fern. Maybe he could find a rock....he could clobber it good...maybe...if it got close again....

The tree quieted but something was pawing about: kicking up dirt. Malice was a stark tune sung without tone or depth. It would be coming for him. But; he decided; even as his breath returned, maybe he could get by: by NOT running.

Skuda were day-hunters: they relied on their vision to detect targets. How well could they see at night? He was going to find out. He lowered flat to the ground; little spikes of brocken fern stalks jabbing his chest and belly. He was all ears: he couldn't see anything where he lay.

Nothing for a bit: night sounds only. There....something...behind? A bit further to his left.

No, no; he corrected. Big, slow languid steps. Nothing said skuda couldn't do such but his heart said it wasn't the case. His heart thumped his ribs: he listened harder. How close? There; that milder, slinking-thru-fern rake. It was in the grasses; out here with him. How close? Could it find him?

It got closer; causing Snook's guts to knot in tension but then away....to the left, yes, searching. Shifting thru fern. There: a hiss, low. Perhaps annoyed.

It couldn't find him. He found a terse smile from somewhere and it hung heavy on his face. He slowly, v-e-r-y slowly rolled onto his back. Stars were up there now; Bellus off-duty. Did he risk a peek? Up over the edge of the featherfern? It didn't seem wise: it might see him.

There was so much unfixed about so much going on about him he felt very alone then. Alone was what you made of it; he'd always thought and it wasn't something he feared; not really. People were just so impossible and so much of what they valued held so little interest to him....

But: there was no deck to draw more cards from now; just him and the creature. He certainly saw himself with one poor hand to play and everything out in the middle of the table...

Another hiss: much lower. Fern...some ways off; was pushed past, shimmied thru. Not close... but getting closer. He did need to find something to defend himself with. He dug, sight not much use, thru his pockets. The trident again,,,he wasn't partaking any, though. It might not be able to see him but that creature might be able to hear well enough. His pocket-ransacking became a test in quietness for him now and his very breathing began to seem a telltale.

Then, a yodel. Loud yodel; he lost his swiss-knife out his fingers just as he found it.

Savelk. And near. And getting nearer.

Snook's mind churned for someway to use this.


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