"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 42...'Out from under'
"There." "Where?" "There!" Snook examined, shook his head. "It 'tis right under the galley, Rigel." "So's yours. Nearly." "But see? That other ledge? Right above? It'll work like a roof." "You hope." "I hope. Come on, swing! Uh.....dang." "What?" "I do naw know the Zetan word for swing." But the frazzled brown fur picked up the idea and they were soon doing the pendulum thing; in wider and wider arcs. The ledge swung close, then far, then closer. "Snook?" "Aye?" "We can't reach your ledge." "I know." They stopped all efforts and clung to the rope and each other and tried to think the matter through.
Least ways; till the galley began to slide.
"Oh, pickles!" Snook breathed a sigh of relief after the craft halted it's short trip. But now it was swerved over: a portend to a plunge. "We gotta get outta here!" Maybe Biin could snag the edge of the ledge with his tail. Let's...ooof! Biin! Cease! That 'tis my face!" Biin had stepped onto his human friend's face and darn near dislodged the other human by stepping on a shoulder. At first; young Starsharke thought the bulky Zetan had lost it yet again, then caught on. Which was important since his crewmate was about to slug their gerban comrade.
"Rigel! Hold up!" "You got the damndest ways to say things! Get off me, you big..." "Chill, Rigel! I think I know what he 'tis doing. Swing!" "Say what?" "Swing! Now more then ever. Swing!" The two earth men set to, Rigel trying to get a clue. Biin was now climbing up the rope. Or rather, trying. In his huge paws; it must have been not unlike shinning up a lengthj of yarn. "Swing! Swing, Rigel!" "I am!"
But it was difficult to get any momentum. Biin; a large segment of their total mass, was now positioned above them and this posture made getting leverage a task. Rigel still didn't get it, but there wasn't time. He could hear displaced stone and sand falling down from above.
"Come on! Rigel! Sw..." "If I hear that one more time!" "Come on!" Snook was pleading. So unlike him. "We have to get as much out-swing as we can! And pray it does naw break too soon!" "Break?! What?!" "Rigel! Your ledge!" "What?!" "Your ledge, there! Under the..." "Yeah..." "Can you reach it with your legs?" "I.." "Then try! Push off it! Push off hard!" "I'm tryin!" "Hard!" "I'm tryin'!" "Hard! Hard! Hard! Push!" Rigel did try but the harder one pushed off; the more forceful the swing back into the push-off ledge. The first jolt was painful; the second made him think his knees were broken; the third, his pelvis and the next he just closed his eyes and screamed out in rage and affliction.
Then something twanged; broke and they kept going toward Snook's ledge. They hit; started to roll over the edge; rocks clattering away as they clawed and climbed. Then Biin's big paws; covering each shoulder as easily as baseball mitts; pulled them away from the gorge, to him. In a pile they fell together; then looked up; above them, to see the slave galley scrape, slide then roll past them. It scattered rocks and dust and bits of itself, passed not three yards away. Then disappeared down the chasm. It's landing was brief and far away.
A breeze made Williamson wrinkle his nose. He glanced to his fellow fools. Biin was shaking his head; as if to clear it. Snook had crawled to the lip of the small rock slab under them and peered down; over the lip to below.
The lad recalled the skeleton he'd spotted in the desert; a few centuries past. A pile of bone, lingering in the sands as if a gravestone. Now somewhere, down there, this galley, another bunch of bones; lay. A gravestone, too, he supposed. To something. Below; a red light winked. A very faint light. Then it went out. Snook drew away from the edge.
Rigel spotted the rope still about the other's waist. He found the end of it; couldn't understand it. "It broke." "What?" Starsharke wasn't listening. "The rope. It broke. Just at the right time, too. It broke as we came back toward the ledge here and.." "Nein. Did naw break." "Did so." "Did naw." All of them scooted back from the ravine-side. There was barely room for the three to sit side by side but they did. Backs to the rugged bit of stone-wall; they might have been a bunch of earth-bound guys; relaxing after a afternoon of pickup basketball.
"Did naw break." Snook was insisting. He held up the severed end of the item as evidence. "Bit." "Bit? Bit through?"
Williamson looked over at Biin. A thin trail of red crept down one side of the gerbania mouth. Rigel flashed teeth. "I might get to like this bastard anyhow. Bit through the rope! Get back, my man!" "This is indeed hopeful." Young Starsharke was standing; unwinding the cord wound about his middle. It'd left a very visible imprint there, too.
"Hey, you GUYS! What ya doing down there?! And when is break over?!" Rigel peered up; up to the figure with long dark hair staring down at them. "Hiya, toots!" The lass; hair down most raggedly on sun-red shoulders, managed a sour face. "If you're well emough to be a chauvinist pig; I guess you can't be too hurt. How'd you avoid getting flattened?" "Practice." noted Snook. "Stand by, Cindy. You're gonna have to help us up." A canine bark came down. "You, too, weird and hairy. Let's see. Oh, shoot!" "I left the rifle up there." "Silence; amateur comedy-type person. The rope 'tis naw long enough." "This could be a prob." "Indeed."
Biin was gesturing for their attention and when he had it; launched into a couple sentences. Snook listened; his expression going from politely enduring, to a slight smile of understanding, to a enthusiastic nodding. "Biin's got a plan that might work. We'll make a human....err; living ladder." "Will we?" "It'll work." Snook thought for a few seconds. "Well; it should work. Here 'tis the concept: Biin forms the base; I climb up on his shoulders, then you climb up on mine." "I never climb on the shoulders of strange men." "Shut up, Cindy; thank you! Then..." "Yo; I'm taller the you. Might be stronger. So why am I on top..." "We need you up top first, to help Cindy and Laddy pull me up. Then we all combine to haul Biin up. Cool, huh?" "Hmmmp. We're using the rope, right?""Of course! How else could we pull anyone up?" "Don't get smart, wise guy. So: Laddy knows how to pull on a rope?" "Laddy could learn to tap dance; if he could stand on his hind feet. Let's go to it!"
This was done but not without difficulties. There wasn't much room to move around and Biin did seem to have a fear of falls; he wouldn't leave the gorge-wall. At last Starsharke was up on the gerbania shoulders; good but also nerve-wracking. One had to keep their balance; even with the rock wall to lean against. Lean too far back and it was skydiving time. Rigel; with the rope loosely looped about his bare chest; chambered carefully atop the others. Above; Cindy kept darting in and out of view, agitated.
"I can't pull you up, Rigel. You're too big." "Zetan gravity; Cin-day." The big security officer was preparing his rope-throw in thoughtful steps. "You're still too heavy." "Just chill. Here...it...comes!" The rope flitted up and draped itself nearly into Cindy's hands. There was barely a yard's clearance from Rigel's fully extended arms to the gorge-teeth above. "Got it! Now about this mutt of yours, Snook..." "Show him the end of the rope." "He's ignoring me." "Laddy! Ho! Shaggy buddy!"
There came a yip and over the edge of the chasm appeared triangular ears and bright inquisitive eyes. In his mouth; the chew bone was clamped tight.
"Lad! Hold the rope, Lad! Hold the rope!" The dog considered the request then disappeared from view. "He's licking the rope. What does he do for a encore? A tango?" "Tis the end of the rope knotted?" "No." "Then knot it, please. He'll catch on. Just keep telling him to hold the rope."
"Ready, Rigel?" "If I fall; I'm gonna kill you." "Forewarned 'tis forearmed. Laddy! Pull! Pull, Laddy! Pull!" The dog's master instantly felt the weight of his crewmate lighten and then Rigel was being dragged up the gorge-side. Please, god, do naw let the rope fray. Or Laddy hiccup!
The living cargo was soon chambering to safety above, inciting hoots of displeasure from those still below; who got bombarded by uprooted stone. And the lad noticed something in the interim. With a word to Biin, he climbed down. About then Rigel's head appeared above. He was smiling a Rigel Williamson sort of smile. Till he saw what the left-behinds had just done. "Yo! What are you doin'? You comin' or what?" "Well," called back Snook, "I 'twas examining things and noticed a few glitches in the original scheme." "Oh, cool." "If I go up next; will Biin be able to reach the rope?" What was left of Rigel's smile eroded. "You like to do this stuff just to mess with people, don't ya?" "I may have a solution. Just be sure Laddy 'tis ready."
It took some explaining to Biin, but at last things were ordered. Not that Snook was enjoying it. He had to have Biin stand on his shoulders!
The huge Zetan; even in local gravity; had mass to spare. Snook was strong but it was asking a lot of anyone. Biin tried to stand there and not move but he was nervous and every shift threatened to send them both into places they didn't wish to go. Snook closed his eyes and attempted to concentrate on keeping his legs straight. Biin made a twitch with his tail. On his feet; this would have thumped the ground. On Starsharke's shoulders; it hit him on the head. He swallowed a few choice words and kept his legs straight.
Dog gone it; what 'twas taking so long!? Biin just stood there; naw moving. 'Twas he just too heavy? Between the three of them; it should have been possible. 'Twas the rope still too short? Out of Biin's reach? To this; there didn't seem to be a ready rejoinder. Could he climb up the gorge-wall a few feet? It was certainly possible if alone; but not with company along for the ride. He came to only one way. He bit a lip at the anticipated event then got his hands centered under Biin's great feet. Then he pushed up; extending his arms; raising Biin higher; hopefully to reach the rope.
All told; it couldn't have gone much past twenty inches higher. But the lad; after brawls and lack of food; sunburn and dry air and plenty of heartache; it was a battle of agony. Each inch made the next all the harder. And yet the gerban came to arms-length. He'd essentially military pressed four hundred pounds.