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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2008 6:00 pm 
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"The Foundlings Of Zeta"...Episode 32...'Gunplay.'

Aye. Aye. And when they got to the deck below; Farlano and Milo would be so full of javelins as to look like pincushions.

The linguist sighted on the window way to his right. It's hatch-like shutter was half-open and he thought.....he was conscious of minute noises. Movement. Spying over his right shoulder; he saw the guard with the crossbow on a knee. His weapon was dead on Snook; his torso. "You sure you know what you're doin', man?" "It'd be a nice change, would it naw?"

Snook turned back to One-eye; gesturing with his head to the crossbow fellow. The lead gray fur waved a hand. The crossbow stood; though his weapon didn't leave it's previous target. Snook sighed. "Cover your ears, Rigel."

The report of the automag was loud; in such quarters darn near deafening. Snook rode the recoil easily and the spent brass rolled along the floor at his feet. Toady had rushed around the table-block to the round bone-shutter. He found the splinter-lined bullet hole and pointed it out vigorously for all to see. One-eye swept the weapon from Snook's hand; the lad just getting the safety on. One-eye took a vaguely correct copy of Snook's one-hand hold and pressed the trigger. Starsharke didn't get to smile at the non-results long. One-eye worked the safety and a second later more noise assaulted. Toady missed being bullet-bait by three inches from a hand. The lad was a little displeased by how quickly the other had learned about the safety. This one is nein bozo, he thought.

One-eye put the desert-eagle down and offered his teacher the rifle; as if he were the one giving of a great prize. Or expecting one. Snook went through the procedure more or less again. One-eye clearly thought the longer rifle rounds a surety of true entertainment. But though the rifle barked louder and the muzzle-flame being quite impressive in the murky hutch; the bullet hole; again in the shutter; wasn't much larger then the handgun's. One-eye fingered a rifle-cartridge thoughtfuly; but offered up the shotgun almost glumly. Some people had nein appreciation for a fine firearm; the lad reckoned.

Snook followed through on the scatter gun as the others; though the sequence was slightly different with the twelve gauge pump. Frankly; the lad didn't care for shotguns. He found them difficult to control and their kick was something beyond palpable. To his thinking, anyway. But all the hulbania got a hint of what was in store when Snook's fellow human; who'd only made a cursory effort at protecting his ears; now pressed both palms tightly over them and squinted his eyes shut. Young Starsharke closed his as well and fired off the device.

The noise was enough that Snook's ears went numb for ten seconds; the smoke enough for Rigel to cough and wipe at his nose. And the damage was enough to the shutter; now mostly fragments; to make Toady almost hop in excitement. Snook tromnobed the used shell; a guard dutifully placed it upon the block-surface when it rolled to his feet. One-eye picked up the warm plastic object; turning it over and over. Then turning to Snook; all but tore the weapon from his arms. "You're welcome." Snook said. One-eye drew his cheeks back and pushed forward the shell-cup. Snook took it and drank; watching the other.

The big hulban rans his paws over every inch of the device; clearly fascinated. He poked gingerly in the loading port; sniffed at the fumes from the 'working end'; short whiskers wiggling up and down. That Zetan smile never left his face. It bothered young Starsharke. Not the presence of the firearm in unfriendly hands nor the other enjoying himself so. No. It was the fact this one here was able to learn. He knew enough to know to learn more. That was a path that could lead to dire alleys.

The gray fur turned his single working eye to the spent shotgun shell. Red; it's one end was burst open like a manmade seed-pod. He sniffed at it; looked fit to bite it; shook it; to see if anything would fall out. He picked up a unfired shell; unmistakably comparing the two. Add curiosity to the learning skill, the lad noted. Not happily. The teen caught his attention; gestured for the unused shell. The other gave it. Snook reached for the handle in the scabbard.

And got his hand swatted away by One-eye. The look that followed it made sure he'd brook no touching of the tool.

Snook tried to seem unemotional about it but was at a loss. He didn't know the Zetan word for 'knife' ot 'cut'. He made indications of same with his fingers on the shell casing. One-eye grunted and seemed to dig into his left armpit. Out came one of odd part-knife, part-spike things. The gray fur handed it to young Starsharke. Snook used it to split open the case of the shotgun shell; slitting it like a red plastic fish. Out came double-ought shot; some wadding and a a collection of short pencil-leads; or so some might have thought. The pencil-leads made a gray pile on the block-top but One-eye was busy rolling the shot around. Snook figured he couldn't discern just how the diminutive items managed to tear things up so radically. The lad scooped up the pencil-leads as best he could and after getting the other's eye; sprinkled it into the red-flame bowl.

Like the flickering tongue of a frog after a fly; yellow flame leapt up. It dissipated almost as soon as started but the odor lingered. One-eye drew back his cheeks once more. Snook doubted he understood the full measure of gunpowder and it's way but he liked it; all the same. He fell to examining the shotgun again. The lad used the opening to drink some more from his shell-cup.

It came to him; from somewhere unbidden: what if this water was drugged? But then; this was One-eyes stash. But then again; maybe that stuff was addictive. Maybe One-eye was a slave-powder addict?

Snook kept sipping away. He was thirsty.

And as a result; he missed most of what One-eye called out. When he was aware; Rigel was being implored with javelin point to leave; their tether sliced away. The larger human didn't look ready to concur. "What 'tis going on?" "You tell me, muscles. I thought we was all gettin' eats." "As I." Snook addressed himself to the big hulban in charge. "Bulg. Guir-stord-mor?" "And vosnad votard. Bulg di guir-stord-mor vorete." Starsharke frowned; clamped his arms onto his sides; as if standing at attention. "Idi?"

"What's up?" "I think we've been double-crossed." "Surprise, surprise. What'd he say?" "Food and water after a little chitchat." Snook glanced to his friend; a dismal smirk making a passing acquaintance with his face. "He 'tis lying." His fellow human's face got hard. The kind of hard that led to heads getting cracked. Snook knew the reality of the situation. "Do naw do anything foolish, big guy. This 'tis my fault. I should naw have bargained..." "You... we didn't have a choice. Remember, muscles. Two can play at double-crossin'." Then they hustled him away. There came the sound of the pole being climbed; the slid of bare hand and creak of shifted feet fading in moments.

One-eye kept with the giving of orders. "Lod vesomt! I voond eb vetard eb dod tutban." Toady made a face; a ear lowered halfway. He peered at his chief. "Ugu?" "Tut esktedia! Vesomt!" Toady filed out then, giving Snook one last dirty stare as he went past. The hatchway was left open and the guard with the cross bow went out to watch from outside.

Snook and One-eye looked one on the other. At last; One-eye pointed at the water-jar; a clear indication to take a seat. Snook resolutely slid it; contents sloshing inside; over in front of the block-table. The lad appeared rather tense, stiff: arms at his side as if glued there. His counterpart didn't look at him a few moments. He'd gone to poring over the items still in front of him. As if they had the answers and not their source. At last he cocked his eye to his audience's face.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sat May 03, 2008 6:50 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 33...'Obstacles seen and not'

"Po vauti rag eib ko bith laia vasi po tut?"

Wall-stones? He meant mountains. Which ones? "Aye. I mean, gob." The Zetan showed his teeth; drummed fingers on the block-top. "Tut ba veuti rag eib ko bith laia." The human male couldn't help but simper at the denial. "And vegomph runiiia ha andiano lobia. Veastordut vepu vemunut. Po veastord and. Mun." The hulban fingered a couple cartridges on the table before responding. Did I insult him; pondered the lad.

"Ugu vesi po vegomph tut ban?" "God vapav and lod." "Ofo vepu gaud?" "God vepu ko veastordjr; ofo vapavut lod ah vepu." The larger seemed to scoff at that. A atheistic society? Agnostic; at least? "Ugu vagomph po vauti eb ko oso vuodor?" Snook didn't get the last two words; but figured the question out in general. Probing s.o.b; this one. He had to watch his answer.

"Andiano simia vapu felovha. And vauti eb veslo." "Vepu vove ana ak po?"

They stared at one another; beings from different worlds. Snook licked his lips; drank the last of the water. The gray fur shifted on his sitting block a little. The dreadful shoulder displays were visible. Hanging there. He could have reached out and touched them. Were they trophies? Signify of some rank?

"Tut." The hulban analyzed the return some bit before tapping the stock of the rifle. "Vepu vove ana ak dodia?" "Aye. I mean, gob." The other nodded; picked up the rifle in both hands. Snook thought he was going to kiss it. Instead; he peered over the device to the lad. The red flame light made a crimson mask to his feelings.

"Reakhd-vegomph!" the voice was loud. And confident; making Starsharke's heart sink a bit. "Vesun dod ba. Log alp te va." Mister crossbow hurried in. Snook stood wearily; knowing the meeting was over. He wanted to say one finale thing to this...person. Something to the point and important. But also hard and undeniable. He felt a need to make up for a poor job of negotiating and yet still show he and his crewmates could take their worst. Now what words did you use for such? In any language?

The crossbow man snagged a elbow of the lad. He shook it off so forcefully; the gray fur nearly capsized. Snook felt slightly better. He made a show of not turning back to look at One-eye.

The trip down the pole was quick but awkward. Snookeroo didn't seem to use his left arm very much; still keeping it pressed to his side. In moments; he was rebound as before. The others wasted little time in pouncing. "That didn't take long. What'd ya learn?" Naw much new." Snook was forlorn. He looked at the shadow he cast upon the decking. Sharp-edged. As if sculptured. "All that shooting had us scared to death." Cindy's voice actually came as dried up. Dusty. "Rigel said something about food?" "And water?" added Rhalpie. Snook shook his head. "Do naw get your hopes up. Me and Rigel got sip-sip, but I think that 'tis as far as it 'tis going." "They're gonna starve us to death." Rigel made it a topic; not a question. "I would naw be at all surprised. They seem to have what they want. One-eye; in any case."

"That bites." Farlano actually didn't sound upset. More resigned. As if expecting it. Starsharke didn't know if he liked that. "I did as best I could, folks." "We aren't blaming you, Snook." Miss Milo stated. Williamson gave a nod meant to be reassuring. "We know you gave it your best shot." "Shot?" Cindy moaned. "Rigel, that's..." "You know what I mean. Yo. It's hard to bargain when you don't have much to bargain with. Gotta come from power." The big man tugged at the binds immuring them all. "None us got much right now. Just gotta deal with it; is all."

"Oh, aye." Snook felt the subject was getting too serious. Well; maybe naw serious. Depressing? Aye; that was it. They had enough problems, after all! "Anyone here know where we're going?" The others all seemed befuddled by the question. Cindy at last spoke up. "You mean metaphorically or literally?" Snook gave a little barking noise.

"Literally. I mean; have naw you guys wondered on this? We keep traveling and traveling. I canna believe we're just going in circles. So: what 'tis our destination?" "You any idea?" "Nary a one, Rigel." "I was thinking..." "Yo, Cin-daayyy..." "Did you get a look below decks, Snook? When you got out?" "Aye. Found a few things..." "Anything that'd pass as cargo?" "Ummm....nein. Naw really." They all considered the concept.

"Maybe we're the cargo."

Snook nodded at Rhalpie's suggestion. "Perhaps. Though I'd still like to know where we're going." "The cities to the north?" "Why north and not east?" "The north ones are closer, miss thing!" No one said anything. Rhalpie made a nervous gulp. "Sorry, Cindy. I'm tired of being tied up like this!" He lowered his voice. "Wish I still had that chunk of blade." Snook seemed unconcerned. "It would be nice. You lost it?" "Somewhere. They weren't real understanding about everything, muscles. You were lucky; being out cold." "'Twas I?"

"One thing 'bout these sum bics that got me buffaloed, though." "What, Rigel?" "How strong these goons are." "I do naw follow you." "These guys have been living at seventy percent earth gravity, right?" "I would think so; aye." "So...how'd they get so built and stuff? They're only towing 'round seventy percent what we had to. How can you build muscle that way?" "Two possibilities." "And they are..." "Their muscle structure is different. Perhaps a unigue; Zetan vitamin/mineral mixture allows for more efficient power-speed transfer." "Does it." "Or something much more plain. They work a lot harder then we do."

The cursed turnstiles came into all their thoughts. Heads nodded. they were in agreement on this theory.

Snook looked about; just to do so. Pickles, it was hot. Not as hot as before. But hot. The shadow in front of him nearly reached to the far railing. Belluset couldn't be too far off. What did these people; in their galley's; do during the winds at nightfall? They couldn't... "So," It was Rhalpie. "Anyone for a hundred bottles of beer on the wall?" It was a spontaneous; if thin chorus of chuckles that greeted the proposal. " Better make it a thousand on the wall." insisted Rigel. "We gonna have time." "That's for sure." Cindy added. Paused. Then went on. "I wonder what Hammond's doing now. And the rest of 'em. You know?"

Both Snook and Rigel moved heads in agreement. "Being ticked at us, I suspect." "Being ticked at us, I know, muscles! Aint she always?" "When we're out and about; aye." "I was thinking...wondering, I guess..." Rhalpie almost sounded as if he were ashamed. "Did she order you guys to come after us? LS-2?" All the others were silent in surprise. Snook; utterly unprepared for such a remark; couldn't even think. Rigel at last had something to offer. "No one ordered nothing, man. This was our own idea." Snook could sense without actually seeing his big friend's gaze turned his own way. "Snook's own idea."

Now he could sense Rhalpie's. "Why'd you do that?" "Well; maybe next time I will naw." Rigel and Cindy snickered. The geologist didn't.

"But... it's not that I'm not grateful... but I don't get it. Why come help us; way out here? Did you know one of us was alive?""Nein." Snook stared down at the shadow leading away from him. "Nein; it just seemed like the thing to..." "You did know, didn't you? God told you?"

Snook felt extremely uneasy; he didn't like the sound of this at all. He shot a glance over at Rhalp; to find him staring his way; dark brown eyes squinted nearly shut. As if trying to see a long, long distance. Or something very very small. "Nein, Rhalp. I do naw think so, anyway. We just...had to." "What was the alternative, man?"added on Rigel. The security officer actually sounded as vexed as the linguist. "Yeah." Was all Rhalpie would say. He looked away. Did he sag a little? He was so sunburned; the hair on his neck was like wide-spaced trees, poking out of scarlet sands. Snook turned elsewhere.

"So; what's next?" It was Cindy. In a shoddily disguised attempt to change subjects. "What's to happen? I mean; what are they going to do with us?" "Freak show."

Neither Snook or Cindy got the absurd remark from Rigel.

"Say what?" "Freak show." Rigel was matter-of-factly. "What else can they do with us? Put us on display somewhere; like the bearded lady and the guy who chews the heads off chickens and stuff." "Say; Rhalpie," Cindy was mischievousness itself. "Do you brush your teeth afterwards?" "Not as often as you should shave." The giggles were heartfelt; if not loud or long. Snook wanted to be cheered; happy would be so wonderful right now. But he was closer to melancholy. There was something in what Rhalpie had said; brought up that distracted. He was hurt somewhere, Snook thought; more deeply then just that ankle. Yet Snook knew neither how to breach the subject nor cure the ill.

"Yo, muscles. You gonna write a thesis on any of this?"

Snook was startled by the approuch. But knowing Williamson; he suspected fun-making was afoot. And responded cautiously. "Well; Zetanese does need to be categorized. My like work now, I suppose. And it 'tis when I'm sitting tied to a pole; in the middle of a endless desert, starving; I wish I had listened to what my mother had told me." "Why? What did she tell you?" "That 'tis the point, Rock-man." The linguist sounded infinitely sad. "I did naw listen." It took a moment, then Snook realized the others were laughing. "What 'tis so funny about that?" The lad desisted; closed his eyes, shook his head...

A odd; short whistling noise came. Snook opened his eys; looked left and right; finding no clue. "Yo!" Their security head was surprised. "Something just flew past my face!" Damn!" Rhalpie was more amazed the alarmed, "One of those pole-sitting dudes just fell out!" If he lands on his head," wagered LS-1's botanist; "He won't be hurt." "No, it wasn't like..." The whistling sound came again. Closer, too. Snook glanced about, finding nothing, till he looked down to the space of decking between his legs. Twelve inches from a most special spot; a foot long length of carved bone was struck; quivering slightly.

A crossbow bolt.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sun May 04, 2008 5:37 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"... Episode 34... 'Party's on'

"Oh, Jeez!" commented young Starsharke.

Judging from the eruption of moving arms and legs and loud voices; most everyone on the galley had the same reaction. Snook tried to keep his thinking clear but it was work. They were as exposed as ducks on a pond.

"Let's get out of here!" screeched Cindy. The back of Snook's head began to receive a through pounding from her efforts to stand. Rhalpie was sputtering quiet but salty oaths. Snook turned his head to Rigel; who appeared unhappy but not out of control. "We gotta get under cover, muscles! Maybe one of us can bite through these..." "Nein need! Relax your left arm." "Say what?" "Relax your arm; so I can reach behind me." The other did; Snook pulling out from where he sat one of the hulbania hand-knifes. Rigel's eyes gave a good try at popping out. "Where the hell..." "Upstairs." Snook awkwardly started slicing the cord that held he and Rhalpie together. "One-eye was so pleased with being shown our weapon's paces; he didn't watch too close. 'Twas hades climbing back..." Rhalpie's right arm cord; Snook's left parted; startling the former, pleasing the latter; who now went after where he and Rigel were corded.

"....down, 'cause I had to hold it against my side; out of sight. Glad for all that heavy bench-pressing now. A wide enough chest 'twas vital..." There came a rattling noise. It wasn't loud but it lasted some seconds. Snook guessed it came from forward but couldn't spare a second to investigate. In moments, they were all cut free; standing not so much pleased as harried. "We gotta get under cover." Rigel pointed. "The cage!" "The cage?" "You can stand out here if you want, Rhalp. I'm bookin'!"

They all did. As they passed through the easily opened gate; the rattling noise came again. From the rear; more of a clatter, to Snook's estimation. Gerbania were about and on their feet; milling and chattering in confusion. The cage; draped with dark fabric the way it was, was dim. But the lad saw Rigel getting down on hands and knees and joined him. They both peeked out; under the bottom fabric edge. The was no sign nor sound from those consigned to the turnstiles just ahead. And no work, either. The galley was at a halt.

Hulbania hustled to and fro but it was apparent that travel about the open deck wasn't safe. Bolts; difficult to see but deadly and accurate enough to alarm, fell nearly incessantly. "Why are they naw moving forward?" Young Starsharke queried aloud, "We're sitting..." Williamson, beside him, pointed a big dark finger toward the bow. The canyon had narrowed to it was scarcely more then twice the galley's width. And now the way was gone. Rocks the size of men and a geat spreading cake of sand blocked the pass. Almost certainly having come from the canyon sides themselves; a primative but very effective roadblock. Dust rose in a yellow cloud.

"Ambush. And well placed." "Aye; 'tis." Snook chewed a lip. Nein going forward now. Who was attacking, anyway? He suddenly stood, spun. "Let's have a look out back here...ohff!" A gerban had reared right into his path; a really big one. Snook rebounded, irked. "Get out of my way, you....Biin?" It was The tall brown fur looked down on the other in a manner that suggested amusement. But Snook didn't laugh.

"Gansa; ino sim! Smud; I vegomph eb vesun ve-ong." Snook flowed back to the rear of the cage, he and close following Rigel again getting down and cautiously peering out.The view wasn't quite as clear here; the rear section of the galley was slightly raised. But another cloud could be seen thinning: explaining much. "We're cut off, man." It was whispered. The lad answered likewise. "Aye. But by who?" "I've got..."

At that moment; there was shouting close by and the pole on which sat the hutch made squeaking noises; as one climbing down. Soon came One-eye; a big figure in the shadows. His scabbard girt his side and he walked as one with disdain for the bolts skipping and stabbing near. In his hands was the shotgun. He shouted back up to his hut; then forward. Apparently not satisfied with the answer; he stomped off in that direction. The shotgun he held before him; like a balance stick to a tightrope walker. Snook and Rigel drew themselves fully into the cage. It was dark and each looked troubled.

"I am naw amused." "Me neither. We gotta get..." Someone blindered up; almost tripping over them. They looked up to see Miss Milo. She was wearing purple underwear; Snook truly saw for the first time. But he got no time to be embarrassed. "What's the deal, dudes?" "We're cut off, Cin-day." "So what's the game plan?" "We're open to suggestions." "Can't we run for it?" "Where? How?" "We can't just..." Something roared forward. A deep thump; as if from the guts of something big. Gerbania muttered and eddied; not liking it. The humans didn't like it, either. "Wonder who he shot." "As long as it's not us." "Say," Cindy sounded pleased with herself; a rather eccentric event, in the middle of all, "Do you think we could lead a revolt or something? These brown dudes and us and all?"

Rigel snorted.

"That'd do as much harm as good, now. We need info!" Then, as afterthought, "And weapons." It was a husky, low afterthought. Snook wordlesly handed over his hulban-knife. "Bad-eye still has that shotgun?" Cindy questioned. Snook nodded. "He 'tis out and about. I suspect he thinks he 'tis pretty tough stuff." "Out and about, huh?" "Aye. What 'tis our game plan, Rigel?" "Workin' on it, muscles. If you can think up a way to get some more weapons, I'd be real happy." "You and I both. Wish I knew who 'twas behind this." "I got a few guesses." Snook was somewhat surprised. "Do you?" "Yep. Oh, that's right. You never met bad rogue." "Bad rogue?" Sounds like a professional wrestler." "Carried on like one, too. That's the head-thug who snagged the rest of us. Mean-eeen." "Name says it all, uh?" "And more. I never saw his face; had a cloth across everything but his eyes. He can scowl, that one. Bad scowl."

Snook sighed. "Guess I missed the big party." Rigel grinned. "Don't you always?"

The gerbania were still skittish; but now the sense of panic and fear was gone. Replaced by uncertainy and the need to do something; anything; rather then just stand and wait. I hear that, young Starsharke thought. Then he found himself looking about; trying to find someone. There was Rigel; Biin was over there exchanging chatter with a fellow brown fur. Farlano...there. Sitting down; but spying out front; under a flap of fabric. And Cindy.

Cindy. Cindy? Where was Cindy? He got down on hands and knees and peered outside.

From the sounds; someone was climbing on the hutch-pole. Let me guess, thought Snook. He leaned out a bit; wary of crossbow bolts, looking up the pole. Unless there was more then one human female in purple undergarments, it was Cindy. He wanted to yell up to her, but it'd surely draw bolts. There was really only one choice. There was a backdoor to the cage not far away. He went to it; it was open and he got through; onto the pole and did a quick climb-up behind Cindy.

Halfway up; a mummified breeze brushed his hair and Bellus; blocked by the cliff walls; could only contribute shadows to the affair. Nearing the top; where a half-circle section of the decking above provided access to the hutch-level; Snook found he couldn't see Cindy anymore. She was really getting to be a pest! He topped the half-circle; the hatch to the hutch was rolled aside and there was a light coming forth. But Cindy was nestled off to the left; huddled down; her hair about her face like a curtain cut into streamers. She spotted him.

"Snook! Duck!"

He did and something; whirling; tore by just over his head. It was so close; a few stray tatters of hair floated down past his eyes.


He lunged upwards; turned a tight, swift somersault to the right. Nothing came out the hutch but he also hadn't got a look inside and assembling himself into a crouch like Cindy's; he peered over at her, full of questions.

"There's someone in there!"

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 6:57 am 
Member with over 1000 posts!
Member with over 1000 posts!

Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2007 5:17 am
Posts: 9698
"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 35...'Wolves at the door'.

"You're kidding. Really?" "Ha-ha. Aren't you going to do something?" "I'm going to try."

The male grabbed a section of nearby railing and gave the coarse gray bone a tug. It resisted; but his renewed effort broke a length off with splinters flying; to drift away in the breeze. The bit he held was only about three feet long and shaped like a deformed hockey stick but it'd have to do. He leaned toward the female; to be sure she caught his low murmurs. "I'm gonna rush whoever 'tis inside. Cover me." "With what?" "Your hair spray. Just follow me, please?" Without waiting for repy; he drew a breath then hurled himself into the hutch.

Snook noticed instantly; in the red, swaying flame-light; that it was Mr. Toady. His arm was motioning as if to throw something and before young Starsharke could get to the other; he released whatever it was at the lad. Snook sidestepped it, but there was Cindy, following right behind. She got a hand up in front of her face, just in time. The strange thrown object wrapped around the wrist and with a cry, she fell to her knees.

Starsharke closed with Toady and went to work with his Zetan hockey stick. He jabbed an end into the other's stomach and as he bent down in pain; broke the weapon over his head. Toady bounced off the table-block; slid to the floor and lay still.

Miss Milo's face had one thing upon it, agony. She held her wrist; blood ran down the arm. Snook dashed up for a closer look, took it, then towed her to the table-block, where lay a hulban-knife. He sawed at the wire-like line so tightly wound about her wrist; none to carefully, either. It was questionable which caused a deeper cut but at last he got it free. "Thanks, muscles. Now if I don't bleed to death! What is that thing, anyhow?" Snook held up the cut ends as a display. "Sort of a bola." "Bola?" "A thrown weapon used by Australian aborigines. They've modified it; so it constricts somehow on contact with a target. Call it a flying garrote. It 'twas aimed for your neck." "Tell me about it!" Young Starsharke just nodded and kept to himself his memories of this same device; around Laddy's throat.

"What were you going up here for anyway?" "I figured with the one-eyed rat out; we could get to the rest of our weapons." "Ah; naw bad thinking. Let's see..."

They set to searching; Snook the tabletop; Cindy the cabinets. The flame-light was still rocking back and forth from being disturbed by Toady's fall and the light and shadow play made everything seem prefabricated, cartoonish. Not real. But what the lad found on the block was tangible. "Got the auto-mag. Nein extra magazine, though. Wonder where the rifle went. Did one-eye have it with him?" "Look what I got here." The lass came over with what looked like a pile of paper sheets; piled atop one another. She put it on the table and they both looked on.

"Almost like a book." The lad put aside the auto-mag and felt the material with a couple curious fingers. "I'd say this was paper. Strange stuff. Maybe naw wood pulp." "What are these chips about?" Cindy indicated the small; multi-sized and shaped bone slates adhered somehow to the foot and a half square pages. They seemed random; without pattern. They removed the loosely stacked pages; to find more of same. Cindy suddenly snapped her fingers, wrist notwithstanding. "I know what these are, muscles! Maps! Relief maps!" The chips represent mountains and hills and stuff." "Aye, you're oikea." "I'm what?" "Correct, Cindy." Snook frowned. "I canna recognize this terrain." "Maybe that's just the wrong page. Let's see..." As she moved to select other pages; blood dribbled down onto same. Snook didn't much care for that.

"We gotta get that bandaged, Cindy. If only we could find some cloth." "Well; I can't use my bra. And no jokes about it being too small." "I did naw say anything!" protested the male, turning away to hide his blush. He spotted the form of Toady. "Maybe I can borow some of..." He reached for the hulban; just to find the other not unconscious at all. Not only that; the lad caught a swung rifle butt on the ear. Toady had had it hidden behind his hood!

They grabbed at one another and got to wrestling. Toady pressed his advantage; using the rifle in both hands like a parry-stick. He got Snook; still dizzy and surprised; up against the table-block; which flipped noisily over; sending the pair crashing to the bone-turfed decking. On top; the hulban had even more leverage and his face was inches from the lad's face. The great front teeth were exposed in hard exertion; the breath repugnant. Snook tried to wiggle loose; being sure to keep his own hold on the rifle. He couldn't quite...

Cindy appeared above. She reached in; hair falling over her face and shoulders. She found the trigger to the Winchester. She pressed it.

The rifle must have had a round in the chamber. It made a explosive snarl and something like a handful of flung mud appeared on the back walling. Except it was red and very runny.

The rifle barrel had been right under Toady's chin.

The humans got to their feet; gaping at the mess. The lad levered out the spent cartridge; the lass panted; tried to paw her hair from her face. "I assume you'd perfer different material for a bandage now." "Do I." Cindy closed her eyes. Gave a thin, short sound of misery. "God; how I hate guns." Snook nodded in understanding. "This once, I can dig it."

The lad then noticed the turned over table-block. It's topmost section. "Yo; this top..." "Top?" "Give me a hand. I think it comes off." It did; revealing a cavity of a sorts. Square; carved into the block itself. Clever construction; the lad thought. And bountiful.

"Jackpot, muscles." "Do tell. Darn. I 'twas hoping for a med-kit." "Got the bino's, though." She handed it to him; it seemed in workable shape. "Canteen. Empty. Watch. Yours?" "Mine." He soon had it about a wrist. "Nein food? Nein ammo?" "Nein. I mean, no. No clothes, either." "I guess beggars canna be choosers." Where did I hear that before, he mused. His uncle? His father? "You smell something?"

He sniffed around; glancing down at the flame-light. In the martial events of earlier; it'd gotten toppled. But it was still burning: a little puddle of flame-rimmed red. Oil of some sort; obviously; the lad noted. But Miss Milo was right. Something did smell. Of burning. "I think we better get out of here." "Lead the way, muscles." They got out on the entry-point. As Starsharke adjusted the lever-action across his back and the bino-case around his neck; Cindy gazed down the pole. She caught her male companion's eye with her own.

"Smoke. Something's burning." "Indeed." Snook joined her in looking below. The way seemed clear otherwise. "Nein flames. Let's make it quick. I'll go first; follow as best you can."

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Mon May 05, 2008 5:11 pm 
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"The Foundlings Of Zeta"....Episode 36... 'No fortunes for the unfortunate'

Snook swung down the pole; but stopped after two yards and stared over where that other; following galley had been. That craft had seemed more in design as the very first galley they'd been on. A carbon-copy; in fact.

But now it was a smoldering ruin. A dark pall steamed from every inch of the vessel; though no flames could be detected. The slave-cage's coverings were gone; the hutch invisible through the smoke coming from it. Shapes; cloaked in tan and yellow cloth; were visible; hurrying about. He knew they couldn't be the crew. A steady light breeze swept the cloud to the east but the odor was unmistakable. There were a lot of dead Zetans.

"What are you saying, Snook?" It was garbled; Cindy had to carry the alleged hulban-map clamped between chin and the topmost of her sternum. The lad glanced up once; wordlessly continued on down the pole. Cindy followed. On deck; the first thing the linguist did was step on the body of a gray fur. He had at least three crossbow bolts in his back and hadn't passed without a struggle. A wide blood patch led across the decking; where he'd dragged himself along.

"I'm not going to Disneyland!" announced Cindy, "I wanna be here!"

Young Starsharke didn't comment; he was looking for cover. The slave-cage couldn't be considered. Most of it's coverings were gone; burned; judging from the smoke draping the east side of this galley, from the outer hull to the cage. Still no flames, though. One thing about bone. It didn't bone well. "Where're the others?" "You tell me. I wonder..." The lad bit a lip, to stop from saying it. Cindy caught the action. "What?" Snook was a study in indecision and worry. "Perhaps we're alone." "Alone?" "Do you see anyone else? I do naw...." Then he did; they both did.

A big head seemed to rise out of the decking. From the turnstile pit, young Starsharke recognized. He couldn't quite make out features through the flowing smoke but it's very size was a suggestion.

"Veuti! Veuti; sim Snuok! Ventito!"

"Veutiut, Biin!" Called back Snook; heading that way fast. "Veutiut!" Snook expected a swarm of bolts as they darted to the pit and there were a few; all aimed at Biin; who ducked from sight. Snook and his female friend arrived and found a drop of ten feet; not formidable; admittedly; but the shadow of the decending Bellus made it nearly pitch and there were bodies and fallen weapons laying about. They both hopped down; to find the turnstiles unmanned. For a split second; neither could see where Biin had gone.

"You guys gonna stand out there all day?"

It was Rhalp; Williamson; Biin and nearly all the gerbania on the vessel. They were crowded together under one of the bone-make ramps; apparently it being movable. Snook and Cindy shouldered their way in with the rest. "Finally;" Rigel took the rifle before young Starsharke could even offer it. "Some firepower. How much ammo?" "What 'tis in it and a couple extra cartridges I picked up." The lad handed them to the other; taking care not to mention where he'd stored them during his climb down the pole. "Got the binos, too." "Sounds like you guys had a nice time." observed Rhalpie. The botanist nearby snorted loudly. Snook kept his words aimed at Rigel. "The galley behind us 'tis toast. They'll be heading this way." "Tell me. They already been here! And they'll be back." "Expound, please."

About two seconds after you two left," Rigel's eyes, even in the shadow; flashed displeasure at that fact. "Ol' Long John Silver came in; tryin' to make a deal." "Long John Silver?" "The thing with the messed over eye?" "Oh. Aye." "He stomped into the cage..." "With a couple goon buddies." piped in Rhalp, "And started making speeches and crud." "Which did you enjoy more?" The lass was markedly sarcastic. "The speech or crud?" "I outta slap both of ya." The narrator suddenly got less insulted. "What happened to your arm?" "Flying garrote." "Say what?" "Go on, Rigel. Please." The big man seemed to hunker down as he went on. As if bracing his body for the gale of his words.

"I couldn't understand a thing, of course, but Bin here..." "Biin." rumbled the very mentioned softly. Starsharke couldn't help but smile. "Kinda translated. What I got was; mister genius wanted us all to join forces against these bozos attacking." "How diplomatic of him." "Yeah; right. None of us bought it, of course. Lying piece of..." "And so?" "And so; he hops off and about two seconds after that; we got fire-bombed." The lad had to go over that one. Rhalpie jumped on the interval eagerly. "Should have seen it, muscles! Fire; left, right, and damn center! Gobs of it! Red, like..." "Tree sap." "Huh?" "Do naw let me interrupt. Do go on..."

"It was a little like napalm hand gernades." Rigel stated. Snook didn't question how the other knew about such things. "They didn't expold but can they ever burn. Kinda like..." "Flammable tree sap." "Yeah. Maybe. Anyway; they tossed a bunch of it up on the slave-pen and around there. All the gray-furs on board rushed over and as you might have guessed; it was just a decoy. They hit almost directly opposite; up front and on this side." Williamson indicated to the west with a arm. "And bro; let me tell ya. It was touch and go there for a bit. Gray-furs runnin' everywhere." "What'd you guys do?" "What'd ya think? Ran down here. Been here ever since. Aint too crazy 'bout gettin' out, neither." "I blame thy naw. So: who 'tis in charge of this capricious cavalcade?" "Say what?" "Who 'tis in charge, Rigel?" "We are, I guess. One-eye came back briefly; then he and the rest just dived overboard." "You're kidding." "No. It's smart thinkin', really. Take 'em by surprise. Take off before the attackers can organize another go; hope to scatter in the desert. Risky, but.." "So One-eye 'tis gone then? Taken off?"

Rigel took a second or two. "Out there." He pointed into the shadow; across the width of the turnstile pit. Snook; squinting; made out a clump; just a bit larger then a watermelon; resting over by the far pit wall.

"He 'tis lost a lot of weight." "Among other things." "That's captain dirt-bag?" Cindy didn't believe it. "What happened to him?" "Go see." "I will." Like a child dared; the lass haughtily tramped out and over to the object. A couple yards away; she slowed; doubtful. She inched up and at last picked the whatever up, one-handed. Cindy dropped it nearly as fast and scuttled back. She practically burrowed into the brown-furred bodies ringing them.

"What was it?" Cindy looked at her questioner, Snook, as if he were daft. "It's One-eye." The lad's stomach did some tap dancing on his lower intestinal tract.

"One-eye?" "It's his head." She put her face in both hands. Red-tinted hands. She seemed not frightened. But weary.

"They cut off his head."

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Tue May 06, 2008 10:04 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 37...'Galley: under new management'

"Wonder what they do around here for entertainment?" Rhalpie ventured. He was thoroughly ignored.

"I'd say this explains a lot." Williamson commented evenly. He was still staring out at One-eye's head; a indistinct clump. "My guess is this is all over us." "Get back." "No; Rhalpie old boy. I think so. You seen anyone shootin' at us?" "Aye; that is oikea." "Is what?" "Correct." The teen bypassed the irritant. "They do seem to be concentrating on the gray-furs and gerbania. We must have worth after all." "Amazin', uh?" The security officer shook his head. Tried by my impertinence; Snook decded.

"So: the way I got it figured is; somehow mister bad-to-the-bone; the guy who snagged the rest of us, Snook, got wind of how much was exchanged for us truly when we was resold. And he didn't like it. So..." "He's come to waste those he think cheated him and maybe get us back." "Probably hoping to sell or trade or whatever; us to someone else. For even more whatever." Snook nodded then noticed Cindy peering stolidly out at what had been part of One-eye. "For whatever, uh?" She went without facial change. The lad thought the blood stains on her cheeks; from her hands; made her look clownish. A actor; with painted-on expression.

They all crouched there; unable to say more. The breeze, getting steadier by the minute; swept the pepper-black smoke away from hence they faced; where it joined with the long shadow of pit, galley and valley-side. Night wasn't far off now. The gerbania also crouched; a line of brown fur; wide shoulders and dark eyes. They didn't seem to be doing much speaking but all gave the same impression: of waiting for something to happen. And they were undecided, Snook was sure. Undecided as to whether that something would be hopeful and good. Or violent and dire. We'll find out soon enough.

"Rigel....we need to do something." "Works for me; but it better be quick. They don't seem like the siege-type. Muscles? How many do you say we got here fit for duty?" "What kind of duty?" "Rollin' us outta here duty." Starsharke could only look at his friend. "You canna be serious." The clasp teeth and dense eyes of the other countered the point. "Never more. Look; we gotta work some surprise into this dough." "So it cooks up right; aye?" "Bet. Now explain it to everybody."

The lad got Biin's attention and gave it a go. The big gerban looked skeptical but reiterated his human companion's request. There was nervous milling; low muttering and lots of exchanged glances. Rigel didn't seem to notice any of it. He suddenly sprinted out to the turnstiles, shouting.

"Let's go! Let's go! Altogether, all of us! Go! Go! Go!"

They swarmed out: humans, Biin, the rest in two's and three's' to the turnstiles. There were more then the usual crew and they were just beginning to heave to when the bolts came. High angled things; almost straight down out of the sky. As quickly as they'd run out; all ran back under the ramp. The bolts stopped. Two more gerbania lay out there; not moving. Never to.

"There's one problem with your plan, Rigel." stated Cindy. "Yeah?" "It won't work." Rigel sent her a pair of ominous eyes before Snook spoke up. "If we had something to cover us; as a shield, we might do it." "Shield?" The larger male considered. "The cage isn't much cover. And it's damn clumsy."

Snook looked over them. The ramp was of bone fabrication; close-set lengths of coarse gray. Perfect protection from those bolts, certainly not. But...

"The ramp, Rigel." "Yeah. Maybe. It's heavy." "We got manpower. Cindy, here." "I don't want it, thank you." She put both hands up to push away the .357 desert eagle offered by the lad. Snook pretended he hadn't heard. "Here 'tis the trigger; here 'tis the safety. This 'tis the barrel. The bullet comes out there." "Oh, ha-ha." She did take it; but looked befudled. Finally, she stuck it down the front of her bra. She glared at Snook; eyes a mock-brazen. "How do I look?" "Do naw sneeze."

With Williamson shouting suggestions; Starsharke translating and the lass and Rhalpie trying to look busy; things got arranged. It took some doing to get the gerbania out into the open a second time but Biin, Rigel And Snook demonstrated the plan and in moments they had nearly all the available horsepower at the turnstiles. Cindy and Rhalp were sent up front to figure out how to steer the whole mess and they set to. Shielded(More or less) by the ramp they'd moved over the top of the turnstiles, one side's worth, anyway, there was groaning and the sound of feet sliding across the bone-decking. The galley not so much rolled as shifted it's weight; wobbled up to the rocks and gravel; got it's lead section's nose about two yards up the obstacle and halted. There was more grunting and now muttering but not much progress. Finally. a voice hailed them from up front; Cindy's.

"That's it! We can't get any further!" Rigel cussed aside to Snook. The lad had been holding up one end of the ramp-shield and couldn't himself think of a thing to say. He just looked on. "Too heavy. This thing is too damn heavy." Rigel glanced to his friend for confirmation. Snook just nodded. "Then we gotta lighten things. Where's your friend?" "Rhalpie?" "No, the other one! The one with the fur. And you better not ask if I mean Cindy!" "Silly person. Biin! Biin!"

The big fellow had a more or less short description of the concept explained and in moments; a dozen gerbania were out and about; literally dismantling the galley. The smoking cage tumbled over the side; dead bodies were manhandled along the same route. Biin and a couple others got javelins from the deceased and went after the pole supporting the hutch.

"Yo! Snook!" A hand on the shoulder turned the lad around to see Rhalpie. What was he so happy about? "Yo, Rhalpie. You're supposed to be up helping Cindy. Say, what 'tis it like up..." "Aw; I don't wanna do that. I got a idea." "Idea?" "Is that thing on the end gonna do us any good?" "Thing on the end?" "That thing pulled behind all this? Looks a little like a..." "Trailer." "Yeak, you got it. Do we need it?" "It? Itself, alone? Nein, I reckon naw. But 'it 'tis probably got the major proportion of the food and water..." "Doesn't mean much right now, does it?" The smaller man's eyes actually seemed to sparkle in the shadow. The lad didn't think it comforting; somehow. "Guess naw. You wanna cut it loose, aye?" "You bet ya." "I'll do it, Rhalpie."

Snook had got the hulbania-knife from Rigel before he realized Rhalpie was following him. He no sooner turned to set matters straight; when the shorter up and snatched away the blade. He took off in a half-hop, half-limp for the aft of the galley. Rigel, watching, grabbed a arm of his friend, to be sure he had his attention. "Go after him, muscles. He's acting weird and stuff. And be smart, uh?" "I'll try. Just do naw leave without us!"

The hulbania about them; hiding in the rocks, unquestionably; seemed to at last figure the ploy out. Crossbow bolts came down all the more thickly; skipping and chipping the bone decking. The lad decided to take a more sheltered way; through the belly of the galley. The enrty point cloest was just to the front of the slave-pits and beyond was pale red lighting. A single flame-lamp was burning within. It rocked; sending shadows swaying and swerving drunkenly. The teen headed to the rearmost section, hoping that this vessel had the same...

A odor; sweaty, soiled odor came before he saw them. They were huddled; two of them; not far from the last turnstill post. A pair of young gray-furs; not even coming to his chest. Their whiskers were long, their tails as well and the fur was full; without patch or rent. Perfect fur. They crouched; trying not to be seen. They each had hulbania-blades but in their hands they seemed alien; not belonging. Snook had to stop and stare at them. How young were they? Boys? He thought so. Boys; children. Carrying knifes. Scared of him.

"Go on. Git."

Their eyelids contracted, expanded back. Blinking. "I said get out of here. Vesomt! Vesomt!" They scurried away; heading up on deck.

What a world this is, the lad thought. He got to the nearest anchor-port(Rear exit) and tried to slide it aside. It went easily. So easily, he pitched forward onto rocky ground.

Spitting out a most distasteful spray of sand and pebble; he dragged himself up. He was really starting to hate these hatchways! About him was a almost picturesque set of red stone walls; left and right; a smaller pile of gravel to his far front; behind which rose a column of writhing, smelly black smoke. Boulders and good-sized rocks were afoot and out of all the crannies and cracks night seemed to be crawling. Somewhere, out there, among those rocks......Snook found himself actually peering; trying to spot any of their attackers. A stiff breeze, brushing him with a thin, fragile coat of sand and warmth, made him see what was at his feet. It was a drum-bone protected rope-cord-whatever. The one that led from the galley to the trailer. It was just laying there. Farlano must have got to it, cut it. Just like...

"Yo, muscles! Don't go!"

Starsharke turned to the calling voice; thinking he didn't look like anyone going anywhere, to find Rhalp. The other was standing, not far away. He was actually doing a stork-stance; one leg; the bad ankle; up off the sand. The bone-drum-line ran right past his good leg; he held the hulbania blade on a hip. He looked tired now. "You're starting to get reckless, Rhalpie. You might like to consider chilling out." "Sure. Sure thing." The sound of rock being ground upon came behind them. Twisting about; Snook saw the bulk of the galley lurch; then move. Up the landslide/pathblock it went. Dang, thought Snook. Rigel was getting his way. "Come on, Rhalpie! We're being left behind!" "Go on. I'll catch up."

Snook did as requested and jumped up the gravel-strewn landslide nearly to the welcoming space of the open anchor-port. He chanced a glance over a shoulder; back down behind him.

Rhalpie hadn't moved. Was just standing there; looking at him. He half-raised a arm. Is he waving? Snook missed a step on a slippery rock and fell. He bound back up, irked. "Rhalpie! Cease farting around! Let's go!"

"I'm not going."

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 9:38 am 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 38...'Third reason'

What is this nonsense, wondered the lad. He came down a few strides; motioning with a arm for urgency. "Come on! They must be..." The sound of bone scrapping upon stone came. Glancing up to the top of the gravel-slide; Snook just caught sight of the galley as it lumbered; surprisingly sudden, from viewing. "Shingles! Rhalpie!" Starsharke looked with hard eyes back to his crewmate. He was now sitting on those bone-drums. "Let's go! They're already going down the other side." "I said I'm not going."

Snook came down a few more steps. His friend did look put out, he thought. Sad. "I'll carry ya." "No..." "Now let's naw get sensitive! I'll piggyback ride ya if I have to." "No, Snook. I'm staying here." The finality in the statement shut young Starsharke's mouth. He didn't know exactly what was going on here. But it felt ugly.

He walked back to within a few yards of the other. He stood; Rhalpie kept sitting. He was looking at the ground now; not Snook. Part of the lad wanted him to run; just leave before something bad happened. But another part said it already had and it was important for him to see it. "Say good-bye to everybody, will ya?" Rhalp peeked up; at least to Snook's knees, anyway. "Everybody was real nice and stuff. I'll miss 'em." "We'll miss you, Rhalpie." "Not for long." "Rhalp; there 'tis nada here. Why stay?" "Why go on?"

Starsharke's stomach knotted a little. He took a step closer. As if afraid not to be heard.

"You canna give up, Rhalp. If you give up; we all have to. We need you, we do. You're a rock-man. Rocky, remember?" The sitting one smothered a snicker. Guess he liked that nickname, after all. "It doesn't matter anymore, muscles. I just wanna stay here. You don't need me. I'm a burden." "Nein; you're naw. You're a part of Lewis and Clark; recon to the planet Zeta. We're gonna open this planet up, learn it's secrets, so it can be colonised. None of us 'tis a burden. We're.....friends." This came out tentative; almost as if not sure he should use just that word. But the next was firm; quite solid and meant. "I'm naw leaving you." "You'll have to." So quiet. And as meant as anything from Snook. "Look; Snook....Snook, it's over. Commander Cammeron.....Foster. Wu. Stafford, Perry.... they're gone. When they went, I should have gone, too. That's the way it should be."

The lad's chest hurt; a single, almost pulse-like stab. He shook his head.

"We've got to go on, Rhalp. Got to. Others are counting on us. All of us. You, Rhalp. You. We canna just.....toss that aside. None of us. We owe all those others...""I'm through owing. I just wanna stop and step off; ya know? I'm tired; I hurt....and....they're gone, Snook. They were like family, man. It's like my heart's fallen out. I loved them. I absolutely loved them. If they're dead..."Rhalp looked up to Snook's face. The sitting man's eyes seemed moist. In the shadow; his countenance appeared formless; all the bits flowing together.

"Why am I alive?"

"Rhalpie.....there 'tis a point in the new testament where Jesus and his disciples are traveling about and they come to this one place and there 'tis this blind guy. And one of the disciples asks Jesus: 'Who sinned; this man or his parents; that he should be blind?' And Jesus said; 'Neither. He 'tis blind; that the glory of the lord might be shown.' And he healed him."

Rhalpie's voice was flat. "You're saying them dying is for the glory of god?" "Or maybe your going on."

Snook just couldn't sustain the mood. He'd wanted to seem in the know; the answer-man. But he felt foolish; a child playing at being a adult. He put his arms behind his back and toyed with a small rock with his toe. "That 'tis naw very convincing, 'tis it? I'm sorry. It did naw come out right at all." His crewmate snickered again. "No. But...." The pause made young Starsharke peek up; to see his friend surprisingly bright-eyed. So sudden; he thought. And looking right at him. "You really don't know god, do you?"

Snook felt a surge of fire in his gut; he scowled. Blasphemy! Blasphemy, screamed a voice in his head.

"But I can see you're lookin' for him."

The fire was extirpated. Snook even managed a lopsided, half-smirk. "And you like that?" "I sure as hell do." Young Starsharke gave a sniff, amused. Poked at the rock again. Rhalp slid into the interval with a resigned yet not sad tone. He seemed to be explaining to someone he thought was standing where the younger was; but not Snook himself.

"I've watched you, muscles. And I can see god is what makes you tick. This Jesus stuff; salvation, prayin'..... it makes you, you. Yet... you aint there yet. You're moving, on a journey. You know where you want to go; you don't know how to get there. But you're sure makin' something of the trip. I wonder.... which matters more to you? Where you get. Or how you get there?" Snook didn't have a answer and the other knew it. "Muscles..." "Aye?" "What was that third reason?"

Snook looked to the sitting form, blinked. "Third reason?""For prayin' and stuff? You never told me." Snook had to marvel at his fellow human's audacity.

"Determination." "Huh?" "Determination, Farlano. Salvation; inspiration; determination. I wake up in the morning and I see a vast field of dark and impossible tasks; fears and people. I see my faults and I see my sins and I know they exist to destroy me. Then I read the gospel and I say a prayer and believe. And when I do..." Rhalpie was pointing behind him, face now grim. The lad spun on a heel.

They came down from the west side of the valley; more towards the gravel-slide then anything. There were three, nein, four that Snook could see. They hopped from rock to rock; keeping cover. For the first time it dawned on the lad; that was their natural mode of travel: hopping. Not so bent over as a kangaroo's but otherwise....

"Run, muscles. You might make it." "I do naw think so." Snook licked at lips dry and cracked. "I'm sorry I got you into this." "Aw, nada to be sorry about, Rhalpie. Let's just make the most of this." "The most of being killed?" "My guess 'tis they'll want us alive." "S----; I'm tired of bein' a slave. After what we've been through, I don't see how Rigel's people could have put up with it so long." "Some of them did naw. But..." His voice trailed off; as the four figures had now worked their way down to the valley floor proper. These were clothed more fully then any hulbania the lad had thus seen. Half their faces seemed cut off by shawl-like things and other bits of cloth; in bands that ran about and overlapped like weird sashes; in flat white and bright yellow and brick-red; trussed their limbs and torso's in a baggy fashion. Camouflage, perhaps, chanced Snook.

"I'm sorry I got you into this." repeated Rhalp. Snook cast a rueful smile to the other. "I'm sorry, too." He looked back out at what was aligning against them. "But whether they intend to kill us or capture us; I'll be damned if I just let them." "Darn tootin'!" The other male suddenly got to his feet, wobbling. "I'll go check out that trailer for weapons!" "Be careful!" The lad centered his gaze on their adversaries. "Someone might still be in there."

Oh for weapons! Williamson had the rifle; Miss Milo the auto-mag. Rhalpie had that blade but he was alone with his wits. Why do I feel like a unarmed man, the lad groused.

The four figures could be made out clear enough to see their own selection of armament. One had a Zetan crossbow, bolt nocked. Another a javeline. The last were girt with a couple of hulban-blades and the other with some flying garrotes. They hovered; fifty, sixty yards off. Abruptly; they began to move again; pairing off. Slowly; the crossbow and garrote began to slip to the left; javelin and blades to the right. "Rhalp! Heads up, man! They're gonna try to divide and conquer!"

A breeze swung through; sand swirling about the lad's feet. It whimpered, moaned in a low, far off way among the rocks along the valley walls. Snook bunched his hands into fists; watching the every move of their foes. There were only four of them! Okay; they were armed but still.... but if a pair of them went for Rhalpie, while two kept himself entertained... Then he was gonna have to stay close to Rhalp and force them to fight him where he could reach them; all of them.

This was gonna be a ball.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Wed May 07, 2008 5:07 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"....Episode 39...'Hand of god'

'yo! Muscles! You were right. There was someone in here." "Was?" "Yeah. Now he gotta arrow sticking out his ear. It's one of them skinny ones." Starsharke said nothing but thought back to the pair hiding below decks on the galley. He could hear his fellow human moving about inside the trailer. The breeze came again as well as it's moan.

Or howl? More like a howl now. Or was there a howl in it; being carried by the wind? I know that howl; he thought. I know.... "No weapons, Snook. Left one of those flame-things goin;, though. Hmmm." Rhalpie did more thumping about; Snook moved to peer in on him, but stubbed a bare toe on a rock. He cussed a bit, feeling his foot.

Wait. A rock. Something was better then nothing, aye? He picked it up; hefting it for suitability. Aye; was just right. Not too big to grip; yet big enough to get the point across. He pantomimed a southpaw baseball pitcher; aiming for the pair heading right.

He missed: overthrowing badly. But they got the message and seemed to pause; then converse together in diminutive voices. Snook didn't wait; gathering all the rocks he thought useful within some yards. Then he stood on top of the pile; as if making a challenge. Then he tried to be a human windmill; flinging with both hands. High, low, soft, hard, at one pair then the other. By the time he was into his second dozen projectiles; he tired and his mind began to wander.

What am I doing, he sought. Buying time. Buying it. Or wasting it? What 'tis the objective? This 'tis futile! It 'tis naw going to accomplish anything! Before long; he was actually on the ground; a rock in each hand; panting, shoulders hurting. They were still closing in.

That moment, a breeze carried a scent to him and the lad detected a odor he could place. A spicy, almost oily smell. At first, he thought it must be coming from the first, burnt out galley. Then he recognized it as coming from much closer. He got to his feet and looked; without success; to the trailer just behind, for his crewmate. "Rhalpie! Are you messing with those big egg-shaped things?!" "Well, maybe..." "My guess 'tis those are full of tree sap. The flammable kind? So you better be careful!" "Yeah, but..."

Rhalpie's thin arms, two-tone shaded from the sunburn; came upward, into view. One hand palmed a flame-bowl; he seemed to be placing it up on the roof of the trailer. Rhalp's head was just rising into sight when young Starsharke's own burst into thunderchaps and echoing church bells. He noticed the ground came up at him quite violently and then things got dark; 'cept for the strange, outlandish speckles of blue, green, gold and silver. They flitted and danced about his eyes; as if caught in a dust devil...

What was that howling, anyway? Lord, it sounds so familiar! I've heard it before. The wind. Had to be the wind.

The lad managed to roll over on his back and saw figures, hulbania. Three were around the trailer; obviously trying to snag Rhalp. Another stood close by. Watching, Snook supposed. He also supposed he'd better get off his butt and into things. He grabbed the nearest hulban leg; twisted; upset him to the rocky ground. Then they were wheeling back and forth; exchanging hard punches and crude language. After a few spins; they both tried to choke the other out. In doing so; Snook found himself with a good view of what his fellow human was up to.

The smaller was now standing on top of the trailer. Two of the hulbania; weapons still in tow, were nearly on top of him. The third stood; looking up at the funny-acting no-fur curiously. Snook found he was doing the same. What was Farlano doing?

In both hands; held above his head; was one of the egg-shaped things; the tree-sap containers. It seemed impossible at first for the smaller to held such up so; even in Zetan gravity. Unless it was not entirely full. The topmost section of the container looked marred; chipped away; hacked off. In one of Rhalp's hands, sticking out like a odd detour sign, was that hulban blade.

Ohhh....something wasn't.......oh. no....

Rhalpie upended the container; proving it wasn't completely empty. Syrupy, dark, smelly liquid cascaded forth, down the sides of the trailer, onto the hulbania climbing up; onto Rhalpie's legs.

Ohhh, no....

Snook felt himself getting to his feet. The gray-fur he'd been battling was doing likewise. Rhalpie reached down, beside his bare feet, the swollen, misshapen ankle. Took up the burning flame-dish.

Oh, no. No, no, no......

Rhalpie put it over his head; tossing aside the sap-container to do so. It was a eeried; two handed mimicry of the statue of liberty. Rhalpie's eyes glowed. Positively glowed. He leered; his missing front teeth a dark spotch. The flame-dish swayed and lapped at the air.

Snook ran. The hulban close by cried out; urgent; for the others to follow the example then did so himself.

"For a old brown-fur!"

It was a gulp; like something very big; with a vast throat was swallowing. Then a spitting noise, growing to a belch. Heat flowed across Snook's sunburned back. He could see his shadow before him; being lit from behind. He stopped; bare feet sliding across rock. He turned about. The gray-fur with him already had.

The trailer was a ball of fire; a crimson curtain held in front of them. The lad could just make out the human figure on top; as if looking through a window of flame. Then Rhalp faded and the fire begat smoke; like dark stringy hair; flowing away from the setting Alpha Bellus.

He 'tis gone, thought Snook.

The lad could see one form, a body, a bundle of low; ember-like glows and vapors. Snook guessed it was one of the hulbania; too close to have escaped. He couldn't see ones whereabouts; perhaps fallen into the interior of the trailer. But he could see the last and it wasn't pleasant. This one came back upright; but slowly; as if walking up a steep incline. His arms were wrapped across his face, which smoldered. His forearms still had flames feeding on them. He soon fell, twitched and ceased all movement. He'd never made so much as a peep.

The hulban nearby gave a cry; a cry of distress and ran to the fallen one.

Snook was wordless; thoughtless a second. His brain couldn't digest what it was seeing...what it was seeing? What was that? He saw movement; something moving up on the east side valley-wall.....nein; now down among the rocks...naw as big as a hulban. Four-legged? What? What was that?

Additional movement, closer, caught his attention again. The gray fur was now standing away from his lifeless....friend? Brother? And he was looking at the human. He held, in both hands over his head; shades of Rhalpie; a football sized rock. The Zetan's teeth were exposed; dark eyes glittering. Then he attacked Snook.

Young Starsharke got sharp and managed to get his hands up; blocking the strike intended for his face. The gray-fur's bulk rammed into his prey and he went down. The rock fell away from each and they took to grappling. The hulban got his knees onto Snook's chest and his thumbs into his throat and the lad knew he was in it deep. He tried to pull those big hands clear; but the other was determined and strong. Snook attempted to claw those deep, black eyes out but the other got the palm of Snook's left hand between upper and lower jaws and bit down; producing pain that closed the lad's eyes. His lungs demanded air; his trachea put them on hold. Damn, thought Snook. This s.o.b 'tis naw just bitin' like a dog; he 'tis growling like one!

Then the grip eased. Snook shoved the other away; staggered to his feet; gasping for each breath. Close was the stone used by his enemy and the lad seized it and made a attack of his own.

The other was still making those outlandish noises; snarling like a enraged hound. In fact; he seemed distracted; kept peering behind him; as if trying to locate a item close to his tail. Snook cared none at all. He clouted the hulban on the side of the head; a great blow with a meaty sound. The gray fur tumbled to the ground; head red with blood. Snook came close; weighing his weapon. The other lay; head on the rocky surface. Snook; still panting; hoisted the rock; two-handed overhead. It'd be so easy to crush that skull....

Then, there. The thing up by the rocks, the four-legged thing. It was here, right here. Skipping, jumping about, ten yards off.

The something was furry and it stopped to look at him; in a playful, irrelevant way. It had a fiercely wagging tail. And a ratty-looking rawhide chew-bone in it's jaws.


 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 12:55 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 40...'Catch-up'

Snook began to cry and hurled the stone away. His canine compadre; seemingly back from the dead, woofed, dropping the chew-bone. They collided and Snookeroo dried his eyes on Laddy's head; between those wonderful furry ears.

The dog was dirty; sand worked so deep into his fur Snook didn't want to think how many baths it would take to get out. His neck still had it's missing thatch of fur and he was skinnier then before. But he was alive! His eyes were bright and mischievous; his tail wagging so hard to almost upset them both and he barked and snorted and licked till they both knew they should stop and neither could. And explained was the strange looking about by the hulban and the release of that choke. The animal had probably been biting his tail or like. Laddy had saved the day.

Well. Not Laddy alone.

Starsharke bowed his head; one hand flat on the sand dusted rock below; one around his best friend's neck. "Oh, lord..."

His windpipe seemed to shrink; the words not coming. How could he ever give enough thanks? His shaggy buddy, alive. Here. Now. "Oh, lord...thanks. I do naw know...why. But thanks." He was going to leave it at that; but the wind shifted; just for a second or two. The odor of burnt flesh, acid, clinging to the nose and lungs, visited then left. He bowed his head again. "Oh, lord; my most blessed father...Rhalp. Look after him, please? He was a pretty good guy and he 'twas so sad....I did naw want him to die like that. I tried. I tried."

It sounded all wrong. The words were right; I'm wrong, he thought. Laddy 'tis here; I'm here; Rhalpie was gone and I could naw... What could I have done? Maybe......

He didn't know. And it hurt. "Amen."

He stood, noticing a javelin not far off. He didn't give a thought to the unconscious gray fur nearby. Other thoughts were intruding. "Laddy; we gotta make tracks. Rigel and Cindy...remember them? We gotta find 'em!" He snagged the javelin; jogging for the gravel-slide. "This way, Lad! Look lively!" Up the stone and sand the pair scrambled: each happy to be together; just to be together doing something. The teen got to the top first; Laddy at his heels. But there he had to stop. He wasn't tired.... least ways, no more then before. Yet he did halt and turn and look back; on the scene behind and below. Shadow streamed across the valley; like a huge bookmark across a immense page. The figures laying about it seemed small. The trailer still smoked and tiny flames; hundreds of little candle-glows, decorated it.

Snook raised a hand.

"Bon voyage, Rhalp. Hope we meet at the end of it."

Snookeroo hustled down the other side; following the trail of the galley. Here the valley resumed but now it was steep and the walls rose high; peak-like; red and sand scoured. The two friends jogged down it; shadows backed by breezez that pushed and sent sand milling about like buzzing flies.

Then they saw figures moving ahead. Starsharke gripped more firmly his javelin and peered hard. They were large; those figures and heading their way. The forms became tall, furry gerbania; some with blades and all with fear on their faces. They hurried past; back the way the galley had laid it's tracks. None spoke or stopped. Finally; with will; Snook placed himself dead in one's way: he couldn't move around. Laddy shown teeth; he didn't seem able to tell gray fur from brown. "Eke vepu po vetogut?" The other; half a head taller; shook it's head, tried to step around. Snook moved over; to stay a roadblock. "Eke pu ko..." Then the other shoved past and was away, never looking back. Whatever had happened; it was providing motivation to run.

The teen held onto his javelin and jogged on along the two parrallel trough in the sand. About a quarter mile further; along a valley now uneven and as up and down as a roller coaster; they saw the galley. It was on the right side of the valley. But it looked lopsided. Nein. It was laying on it's side; apparently leaning out into a gorge. Oh, jeez, thought Snook. He could piece together what had happened even as he neared the wreckage. In the middle of that stretch of rocky surface was a small huddle of stone. It was much too large to roll over with the galley. To the left of the huddle; valley-wall crowded too close to pass. Those steering the galley must have tried to slide by on the right. Which hadn't worked.

The pathway lead on some further couple yards; visibly descending to a mere twisting slit; cut out of the hills about them. These hills flanked and towered; all around the gorge and pathway. They ascended as they tumbled back; one row behind the other. Their red, jagged rock-fangs seemed to pillar up the sky and shadows slunk among them.

"Snooky!" "Muscles! Yo! Over here!"

The lad saw two shapes; human shapes, legging it toward him. He and lad ran down to smiles and handshakes and disbelieving stares. The dog dropped his chew-bone and got silly.

"Man; we was worried! How'd you..." "Long story, Rigel. You two okay?" "We're alive. How; is anyone's guess! Snooky; this stupid thing got out of control! It started rolling down the steep spot.." "Spots." "Spots back there and we ended up just being along for the ride. Hey, Snooky. Where's..." "Snook, Cindy." The lad knew the coming question; didn't feel like answering. "It 'tis Snook." He walked away; hoping he'd made his point. He went to the galley.

It lay, keeled over; across a barrier of one to two yard tall chunks of rock. Those crags were like the last few teeth in a old timeworn jaw-line. Snook noticed the steering section was missing. He carefully walked up to the rock-teeth and with a solid grip upon one; leaned over; looked down. He couldn't clearly make out any bottom to the ravine. But he knew it had to be there. Two; three hundred foot drop; minimum, he reckoned. He called back to his crewmates.

"Did everybody get clear?"

Rigel and Cindy came close. "Most everybody. Cindy jumped from the head section but one or two of the browns didn't. Couple more got whipped over the side when it stopped. Nearly all the browns done run off..." "I saw." "Snook; where'd you dig up this mutt!?" "Hey! Nein dissing! This 'tis nein mutt! He 'tis a purebred Shetland wolfhound." "Shetland wolfhound, my eye! There's no such thing!" "Tell my uncle!"

Then it came to Snook. He glanced about; as if having mislaid something. A stiff breeze kicked up sand around him.

"Where 'tis Biin?"

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Thu May 08, 2008 6:53 pm 
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"The foundlings of Zeta."....Episode 41... 'On the edge'

The other humans kept their expressions blank. Which was more painful to see then glares or frowns. "We aint seen 'em, man. Nowhere."

Young Starsharke threw his javelin down so hard; it bounced nearly up to his knees. He wanted to cuss, long hard and graphically. Lord, why?! First Rhalp, then Biin? What did Biin ever do? Tis naw fair! Could naw...just this once... after so much....

Wait, the lad thought. Laddy's been delivered back. By the very same god. You can tell so much from a language. And the lord's language was love. So what do I do? What have I learned? What does....

"Maybe he 'tis onboard." "Oh, man." Rigel didn't like the sound of his crewmate's voice. He was getting to hear that disliked part a awful lot lately, too. "Everyone who could get clear, done got clear." "Don't you go out there!" scolded Cindy. "That lump of junk is about to fall!" The male teen said not a word; his face said it all. He was grim; facing more grimness ahead. He went up to the galley; looking it over. It's upended wheels dangled above; dwarfing. Snook spoke back over his shoulder. "Stay, Laddy. Stay. Stay!"

"Muscles, come on!" Rigel was on his friend's heels. "Don't do this stuff! You're gonna get yourself killed." the other gave no answer; was feeling the bones sides of the galley. It looked suitable for climbing; plenty of finger-holds... Rigel grabbed a arm; trying to spin him about. Snook snatched his limb away. Arduous looks were exchanged.

Rhalpie 'tis gone, Rigel. He gave up. And I could naw change his mind. If Biin 'tis dead, I have to know. And if he 'tis alive; then I gotta be there. That 'tis the way it should be, aye?" Snook was scrambling up the exposed keel of the galley. "Being there for your friends?" Laddy woofed in alarm and bound up to the galley. "Stay, Laddy! Rigel; keep him under guard!""Snook, damn it! Don't be a fool!"

But the younger wasn't listening. He was climbing.

He was right about the fingerholds; but he couldn't help but feel like a fly scampering about a.....well. A dead fish, he supposed. He tried to concentrate on what he was doing. He was soon as far across the breathth of the galley as he could go. Looking over the edge of the galley decking revealed little except a dark, austere fall. A few rocks were dislodged from the valley wall. He didn't hear them strike bottom. At the edge of the decking; the turnstile pit was directly below. He peered over; gripping the hull edge tight. The keeled over position of the vessel made one seem about to pitch forward.

The pit was dark but Snook knew Biin wasn't therein. No one was; the galley was on it's side. Anyone there would have fallen out; save perhaps by clutching a turnstile. Biin must be inside; the lad told himself. Now could he get in as well?

He crawled up front; wary of how the slope became worst this way. Finally at the round entrance; opened; for which he thanked god; he got up close and tried to peer inside. About all he could tell was that it was dark. I sort of figured it'd come to this, he thought.

The lad swung down through the opening; but not without a precarious dangle and accompanying scare. But down he got.

It was mostly dark; true; but not entirely. At the far end was a glow; a reddish; flickering glow the lad now knew as being one of those flame-bowls. Again; he was reminded of the bone construction of these desert-going devices and how it kept structural fire down. He also noted a someone staggering in the light. He made his way over. This was no easy feat. This vessel's crew-quarters were a proper mess. The drive-beams of the galley had to be worked around and dirt was under his bare feet in places. Soil pressing up through the gaps in the bone material like blood seeping from old wounds.

Whoever it was; was gerban and he was immense and seemed confused. "Biin! It 'tis me, Snookeroo! Yo, Biin!"

The other turned and saw the smaller but nothing else seemed to happen. Then the lad saw it. Blood; real blood. Just a hint; between the brown's big ears. Got cracked on the head. Again; Snook reckoned. Biin kept looking at Snook; face blank but eyelids shifting back and across the ebony sight organs. Blinking. Then his right arm raised. His hand held a hulban blade. "Biin! Lo vepu op, Snook! Pono sim!"

It took a few seconds; very worrisome seconds, but the idea at last sank in. The blade clattered to the floor. Biin's teeth were exposed. "Snuok!" And he got his massive arms around Snook in a hug. Snook was glad to have found his friend but the hug was too much. Biin got a shoulder under the lad's chin and he thought he was going to be squeezed to death. And while Biin's fur may have been soft; by far the softest thing Starsharke had felt in much too long; it could have used a bath. "Jeez, Biin. I like you, but jeez..." "Yo! Do I get a hug, too?"

"Rigel!" The younger had to work a little to get free of Biin. Sure enough, there was his crewmate; flame-dish reddish light dancing about his frame; as if unsure where to set. The man was smiling. But a resigned sort. "So," Snook gave his own little abdicated grin. "Seems fools multiply." The floor tilted; almost eerily in silence. Those present rocked and swayed and got uneasy. Rigel faced to Snook when the movement stopped. "Let's get to subtracting our butts from here."

But when they got to the spot where they'd entered; instead of a view of the side of the gorge; there was one of the sky; a dusky sky, the lad thought. The beast who's belly they were in had shifted. "It's the wind," insisted Rigel, "It's comin' up and this gorge acts like a funnel." "Well so." noted Snook, scratching his chin in thought. "But can we all get out this way?" "You and me, sure enough. Okay, maybe. But King Kong here..." Both humans nodded. In his dazed condition; trying to get Biin out then up was perilous.

"Let's check the anchor-ports." Snook came up with suddenly. Rigel stared at the other. "Anchor-ports?" "Back here. And let's hurry! One more breeze..." They got to the anchor-ports and found them swung open. Here the view was the opposite of the bow; back and down into the chasm. The tilt of the galley was such to make one anxious; it made one feel they were about to fall out. Rigel and Snook drew back.

"That bites." "Aye. We're in the same spot as up front. If only we had some line!" "Line? Say what?" "Line, rope. We could tie a line to me; I climb out; secure my end; then you could come out. Then..." "We both haul up this giant gerbil here. Yo....looky here!" Rigel stooped and came up with what Starsharke recognized as the bedding of the hulbania. And also saw the same potential as his fellow human. "Rigel; we'll have to cut the bindings; to make it more rope-like. Look around; there should be a blade ot two about..."

There were and in rushed, hushed breaths, they prepped the cords. The resulting rope was thin but strong; of a purpish color Snook thought reminiscent of the contents of a baseball. In moments; they had a reasonable length. They tied off one end on the nearest wheel-axial, Snook knotted the other end around his waistline; chaffing slightly at it's irritation of his sunburn. Rigel and Biin took firm grips of the rope between the two ends. Rigel did, anway. Frankly; the hulking gerban still seemed out of it. He followed along with the others; like a willing but untutored puppy.

"Let's take it to the hoop, Rigel. Ready?" "Rodger dodger. We pressed for time, man." "Aye."

Snook; using mostly his climb-learned fingers; swung out and up and over; landing upon the port side; just above the exited anchor-port. Here there was somewhat more light. the lad felt a touch of optimism; things could be accomplished. "I'm up, Rigel. I'll fasten the rope down; hold on." The lad scuttled on hands and knees; surprised by the degree of tilt. Well; there were plenty of handholds.....the rope snagged on something. A sliver of bone, perhaps. Snook casually sent back a hand to wiggle the line. He was sliding across the galley side in a second.

He grabbed with both hands at anything remotely resembling handholds but it didn't help. A moment later and he was falling over the side of the vessel.

Logically; he knew his friends would save him. He told himself that; ineffectively; as he saw the chasm-sides shift and the dark path between them yaw up; like a open, toothless maw. Snook clamped his eyes shut and the jolt of the rope drawn tight came securely. His downward flight stopped and there he dangled; glad for the first time for a mostly empty stomach. A full one wouldn't have remained one long; not after the way the rope compressed his middle.

"Yo, Snook. Going somewhere?"

Starsharke cocked a chary eye above to his watching crewmate. "Oh, I thought I'd hang around a bit. Shingles! Talk about feeling a fool!" "Be cool! We'll have you up in a jiffy. You! Biin guy! Pull! Come on! Help me...woah! Hey! Muscles! Look...."

Rigel came tumbling down. The younger swore but remembered to get arms around the other and managed to hold on. Rigel had just leaned out too far. They both cussed a bit. Snook at having to keep a grip on the other's wind-milling arms and legs and Rigel from embarrassment.

"One thing about Zeta." The lad offered sheepishly, "You never lack for exercise." "Shut up!" Suggested the larger. "We gotta..." "Hey, you guys!" Snook hadn't known Cindy could shout so loud. "Where are you? What's going on? Hey!" "We're having technical difficulties!" shouted back a even more irritated Williamson; to their unseen questioner; "Don't bother us!" "Technical difficulties, huh? Rigel; donaw put your knee there! That 'tis my back!" "I'm tryin' to climb up this rope of yours!" "Look, cease!" They struggled a bit; as each sought to better their positions. "Rigel; let's get Biin to pull us up." "Both of us?" "He 'tis as strong as a ox! Biin! Biin!"

Above; Snook made out the gerban's great head; peeking out of the anchor-port just far enough to see his whiskers and nose. "Biin! Yo! Hey! Pull us up! Emmm... Vevin! Vevin, Biin! Vevin!" The whiskers disappeared, Snook turned to Rigel, smug smirk in place. "Hold on, big guy! We'll be back on terra firma in a flash. Or 'tis it Zeta firma?" "Muscles?" "Aye?" "Here comes your bud."

The teen looked up just in time to have Biin nearly crash headfirst on top of him. He cussed, Rigel cussed, Biin cussed and all of them struggled to hold on; each to the others. Rigel got a leg of Biin; Snook his tail and Rigel got a leg-scissors around his fellow human's middle. A now very compacted middle. "Vetag elg op." noted Biin, sounding mournful. Snook frowned. "Now he tells us." "What?" "He 'tis afraid of heights." "Great."

There they dangled; looking and feeling utterly ridiculous. A breeze came again; from below and they swayed and reeled.

"Snook! Rigel! What are you doing?! Come on! This thing's gonna fall!" "Thank you, Cindy." muttered Rigel. "Muscles, you'll have to climb up. I'll hold onto roly-poly." "I canna. The rope is tied to me." "Then get untied." "It 'tis naw gonna work. Yo. That ledge." Williamson had to cram his head around his crewmate's shoulders and Biin's butt but he saw where his friend was indicating.

"What? Fifteen feet?" "Less." Snook didn't sound convinced, though. "We can reach it; if we swing." "Wait." Rigel looked about them; wanting something closer.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 12:01 pm 
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"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.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri May 09, 2008 5:41 pm 
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Member with over 1000 posts!

Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2007 5:17 am
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Final episode....'Home'

Pull him up! Pull him up! I canna hold... Biin's weight lessened. Then he was being drawn in slow, spotty jerks, up the gorge-side.

Above, Rigel gave up cussing only because it took breath and that, he'd need all of. He'd seated himself on the mostly red-rock ground and it was not just hard but without firm foot-brace. He was in a tug-of-war with a unseen foe and kept telling himself he was winning; he had to be. He could see all the rope going past! While Cindy had kept her feet; she swore enough for both of them. Back by their anchor-beast; she pulled more resolutely then effectively. Laddy had developed a distaste for the affair as well. Everytime the order to 'pull' came from Cindy; he'd haul back then snarl through the knot clenched in his teeth.

Then Biin's head appeared; his eyes closed. Rigel grit teeth and raised voice. "He's nearly up! Pull! Pull!"

They pulled, pulled. The Zetan's chest met the edge of the gorge-side and that opened his eyes. Not two yards away; Rigel and Biin looked at each other. The gerban risked a single arm off the rope; held it trembling with fear out to the human. Williamson risked a hand of his own; trembling from effort. Fingers, then big palms, one hairy, one black, clasp. The one with the black hand rolled his body backwards; the one with the hairy one thrust with his feet then he was over; tumbling on top of Rigel; sending the others falling into a pile of sand. Cindy came up; demanding a explanation; Laddy showing teeth at Biin. Rigel got himself clear of the mess; rubbing his aching hands and blood-starved fingers on his thighs. His eyes were drawn to the chasm-side.

"Now we gotta get muscles up." "Nein need."

Off to the left; just a few yards away; through the stone-teeth, came Snook. He was smirking slightly and his dog gave a ruff and came over to get silly. Rigel had his own grin on. "Just couldn't stay put, could ya?" "I got tired of waiting, Rigel!" Snook felt tired suddenly. He went to the ground, knees to the rocks. Rigel got down and gave his shoulder a squeeze. Cindy got down and gave them both a hug. Biin needed no translation. He came over; bent down and enveloped everyone he could reach. Laddy came up and licked Cindy's face; which produced some very rude remarks.

They were alive. We're alive, thought the lad. He bowed his head. Thank you, lord. Thank you. Thank you.

The others actually noticed before he did that he was staring at a pile; not far away. It was a pile of their gear; what little there was. The bino's; the rifle...and a book. A three by five inch book. "Where did you find that?"

Cindy didn't get the question; followed Snook's pointing digit. "What?" "That." Snook got up; pulling from all the arms and warm bodies. He picked up the book from it's nest and riffled the pages. A breeze thumped gently; riffling some pages of it's own. The others gathered round, pensive. "Didn't you see me find it? Up in that office?" "Office?" "Of One-eye? I found it there; with all the rest. You know?" "Oh." "That's not yours." Rigel observed. He was watching his crewmate very close. As if expecting something. "Yours is back at LS-1." "I found it. At LS-2." The lad started to turn, look back hence he'd left a friend.

Rigel caught him; spun him slowly back around; away from his intent. Snook was surprised and peered; full of questions; to the other. Williamson's face was hard. But his voice was acute and musing.

"Let's just deal with it, muscles. He's gone. That's it."

Young Starsharke wanted to explain; implore if he had to. I wanted to help; I should have. But I couldn't do a thing. There was that orange three by five card; still stuck between the pages. Still being a bookmark. After all this tome had gone through; all the hands and places; there it was. He felt a smile tugging at his cracked lips. He wanted it to leave him alone. Then he opened the book; to the pages of the three by five card.

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

He discovered his friends all looking on in a most peculiar way. Laddy was sticking his nose about in the sand, looking for things.

"Snook?" "Aye, Cindy?" "What does that mean? All that?" He just stood a bit. A still, forlorn figure. That's one sad thing, thought Williamson. A lost young man. "Snookeroo..." The lad looked up. Mostly because he so seldom heard his complete first name from the other. "We're real sorry about Rhalp. We know ya tried. I knew something was up; the way he was acting." "He just gave up." Snook shrugged shoulders. "What could I do?"

"I've heard it referred to as survivors guilt." Cindy briefly pawed hair out of her eyes. Very frank eyes. "He couldn't dig being the last of LS-2." She suddenly glanced down. "It killed him." Her crewmates nodded, numbly. Then she was peering back up at them. Nein, thought young Starsharke. Glaring.

"Look at us! We're all standing here; like we've had our brains amputated or something. Okay! Let's say it! Snook failed!" The lass trod on; pouring through the gap left for her outrage before the others could so much as deny the charge.

"Damn; we're all so scared of that word! I say; to hell with it! Failure isn't the end of the world.....I mean; the end of things. Snook couldn't help Rhalpie get his head out of his butt; then so be it!" The lad had no answer for that. His arms dropped to his sides. His head drooped as if abashed. "I just wish I could have done more." "Think of it this way, Snook. Is it better to be dead on a victorious army or alive on a losing one?" The lad looked up; eyes simmering.

"Cindy.." "Yeah?" "That has gotta be the dumbest thing I've heard in weeks."

Then they were giggling and then hugging. The sort of hugging and snickering adults never indulged in unless they no longer cared what others saw, said or felt. No: it didn't chase all their cares away. Young Starsharke still had a kernal of emptiness; a single; low ember of dissatisfaction. That was Rhalp, he knew. But will I mourn forever?

Rigel; arms full of friends; stuck words into each ear that he pulled close. "Now do we all know what the book means? Do we?" A vigorous wind buffeted them, raising sand into their eyes, nose, ears and other orifices. The gorge moaned, as if adding it's own sort of chuckling. It served as a signal; breaking them up; each to be themselves.

"We gotta get our rears in gear." Rigel had the rifle in his hands in a second. "Them nightfall winds be ready to jump." "We'll need shelter," Snook found himself agreeing, "Caves, maybe?""Let's see." The lass was scrutinizing the gear; hands on hips. The lad realized she still had those markings on her face; the ones in blood. Did she look like imitation american indian? Or a football player? He decided against telling her. It'd be more amusing, he thought. But he also saw her wrist. It was bleeding again. It'd have to be tended.

And there she stood; hair laying in a single, knotted and sanded cable down her back. "We got no food."

"Nein water." Added Snook.

"Hulbania!" tossed in Biin.

"And we got hurricane-force winds about to blow us away." Finished Rigel.

Snook smirked. "And you guys say I canna party!"

They laughed and gathered stuff and worked on getting organized. Snook felt his eyes drawn upward.

The sky was deep blue to the far east; reddish to the far west. Cliffs of crimson rock hid Alpha and Beta Bellus but twilight was advanced. Between; directly above; the air seemed lemonish. Dust, sand, the lad reckoned. Swept into the sky. Sand storm soon and big.

Then he caught sight of Zyra. It peeked over a pointed peak; a finger's width up. In half-phase; it's pale bands gird it like ribbons. Diffuse but majestic. Light played along the ring-line that was visible; making mild prism-like effects; that faded and were swallowed by the half unlit. To the west; just beyond the lit ring-half was a moon; tiny; which one, he wasn't sure. Two more hovered off the east end; like weird eyes. The furthermost out and the largest, maybe a eighth of a full earth moon; he knew to be number five- it's red gleam like a far away candle.

Nein, he decided. I will naw mourn forever.

He caught Rigel looking at him. "What?" "Nothing. I was gonna say: earth-to-Snook; Earth-to-Snook. But this isn't..."

"Earth? But it could be home."

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 8:21 am 
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Member with over 1000 posts!

Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2007 5:17 am
Posts: 9698
I guess I've waited long enough to ask....

What ya all think? Is this a story worth publishing?

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sun Dec 21, 2008 11:01 pm 
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Member with over 1000 posts!

Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2007 5:17 am
Posts: 9698
No one has a single coment? :(

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Mon Apr 20, 2009 10:39 pm 
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Member with over 1000 posts!

Joined: Fri Jun 08, 2007 5:17 am
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Half a comment? 8-[

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