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 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 6:30 pm 
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Iowanic wrote:
Well; some people at least would have already read it. Still; I'm hopeful.

Many people get books from the library and go to the bookstore to buy the ones they like after reading it once.

With friends like Guido, you will not have enemies for long.

“Intellect is invisible to the man who has none”
Arthur Schopenhauer

"The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits."
Albert Einstein

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2008 5:03 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 18..."Home planet advantage"

Snook didn't know about that. Hulking, furry forms were to all sides; nearly; most laying on their sides. He also wanted to take umbrage at that remark about slaves. It was a word that antagonized just to have mentioned. But he also had to go to the pot and quick, too. He began picking his way through the big bodies; seemingly all asleep. The odor among wasn't so much bad as just intense. They'd all been doing a lot of sweating lately and not much bath-taking. He supposed he and the other humans would soon be in the same straits.

That moment; there was a high-pitched squeak: Snook had stepped on a tail. From somewhere; other then the direction of the stepped-on; came a great fist; swung in a backhanded motion; hitting the lad in the chest. He staggered back, more surprised then hurt.

He got his arms up; ready to fight if he had to. Something big moved just to his left and he perceived; barely in the dim light; the biggest of the native Zetans he'd yet seen. The fellow was huge. His upper-body was as wide as Snook's shoulders. His head must have had twice the size of a typical human's and he now had his eyes centered on Snook; facial muscles all contracted around them. The lad waited for him to do more then sit there. But the other seemed satisfied to just throw darts with his eyes.

"Good for you, too." muttered Snook; as much to bolster his courage as pose a threat. He returned to his quest for the potty and found it not long later. It was not worth the wait. It was a round, three foot wide tub-like object. Snook guessed it was of wood; one of the few such articles thus far found. But he didn't much feel like examining much further. The tub was filled to within a few inches of it's top-edge with black and green mush. The only gentle word he could find for the smell was 'other-worldly'. His estimation of their captors continued it's nose-dive. He got his business done and though wishing for toilet-paper; he was glad to get away from the tub alive.

On the way back to Rhalpie; careful through the sleeping forms and sweat-tinged air; he noticed light playing upon the flooring at his feet. Looking; he saw a soft glow coming from a wide, but short opening to his right. The stalk-like latticework crossed it like shadows but it seemed so like a gate; he had to go over and have a look at it. Arriving, he bent down and looked out. The light from without was Zyra-light. Just a hint of slim cloud nipped at it's lower edge. The observer did some mental arithmetic and figured that their direction must now be almost the opposite way they'd been going. These canyons clearly did much winding.

The lattice work was solid enough; the top to bottom 'bars' were a good three inches thick; the side to sides, two inches. They were bound together somehow; it was difficult to make out. But it was clearly a gate. It was round and maybe five feet across. It's only two points of connection to the rest of the cage was a spot; like a axis; down on the right corner and a sliding; bolt-like chunk of stalk halfway up the left side. Clearly the locking gadget; Snook reckoned. He tried it for firmness. It slid back without any fuss. He almost fell from his squat onto his backside. He was dumbfounded.

"Rhalpie..." "Yeah?" "This door 'tis naw locked." "So?" "So! We could..." Then he saw they couldn't; not then. Standing abruptly in front of him was one of the big dun-shaded guard...things. It was on the other side of the gate and at full height, staring down at Snook; he was not unimpressive. Or intimidating, more like, the lad thought. He could make out, vaguely, a sort of wrap-around cloth about the creature's shoulders and lower torso. It's feet seemed to be covered by wraps of some sort as well. In it's big paws was a four foot long, spear-like weapon. Snook was reminded of some African spears; with the blade running nearly half the length of the shaft. Thus making it possible to be used as either a thrown weapon or sword. Snook walked away from the gate. The creature went back to pacing guard-duty.

"These guys really grow on you; do they naw?" Snook uttered to Rhalpie; who grinned his gap-toothed smirk. "Yeah; they're angels, alright. Say; you and the big guy exchange pleasantries?" "Big guy?" "Big guy: the gerbil the size of Hulk Hogan and Andre the giant put together?" "Oh." Snook sat down next to his crewmate; careful not to bump his ankle. "Aye." "Aw; he's always moping around. Don't mess with that old one or he'll come unglued. Took a swing at a guard when you got thrown in here; for steppin' on 'em." Starsharke silently thanked god for dodging that bullet. "Old one?" "That guy." Farlano pointed to a spot not far from the gate. There lay the one he'd indeed tread upon. And he did somehow come across as old; he was skinny, compared to the others of his kind and the bones at the neck and shoulders seemed to poke through fur that was patchy; the missing sections exposing dark skin. He was curled up in a fetal position; bobbed tail held by tight hands. His jaw was twitching; as if eating.

Dreaming, the lad decided; looking on. Did they dream on this world? And what did they dream? Who were these...creatures? Where were they bound? What would..."

"You say something, muscles?"

Snook; embarrassed at speaking aloud to himself; didn't answer at first. He drew up his knees; locking arms around them. He spoke at last. "Had any chance to do any work, rock-man?" Rhaphie peered at the taller with a spark in his eye. "Are you nuts? Work? Here?! And you know how I feel about that name." "Come on: what 'tis wrong with a little geological work?" Geology was Farlano's field. Snook's figuring was that it was a safe subject to start with.

"Now these canyons..." "Rifts." "Rifts?" "They're rifts." Rhalpie was rock-conifident-sounding, indeed. "Then you think they're expanding? Plate tectonics?" "Maybe." "But they're shallow for rifts." "Then they're young. That'd explain why they haven't been filled in with sand yet." "But we're talking thousands of years, all the same. They'd have plently of time to fill in." "Then how do you think they got here, smart guy?" "I 'twas thinking: maybe old riverbeds. Very old, but..." "Bullflop. There's no sediment..." "Could naw see it for the sand, anyway. Look: I saw limestone back a ways..." "So did I." "You get limestone from shellfish, aye?" "So the water level was once higher." "And it fell. And as it fell; rivers formed. Thus... " "Look," Rhalpie had got adamant; "Who's the geologist here? Keep your screwy ideas to yourself, muscles."

Chagrined; his crewmate felt like crawling away: he hadn't expected such a reaction. He didn't quite know what to talk about now. He was still trying to come up with another subject when the floor tilted; then fell out beneath him. Both humans did some cursing and saw that the flooring to this part of the cage-area; a fifteen by ten foot section; swung down like a ramp. Scrambling to his feet; Snook found he was being surveyed by their galley-masters; the perpetrators of this latest surprise. He could see two of them; both close to his height and carrying those four foot javelin devices. For the first time; he got a good look at how they dressed and noticed their feet were definitely wrapped in some brown/tan cloth-like stuff; knotted behind the ankle of those kangaroo-like feet.

Then something struck with terrible force across the back of both his legs and he went down.

The lad snarled in pain and anger and squirmed along the deck on his belly; legs in too much torment to work. Then he was struck on the back of the head and little twinkles of light danced through his skull. Someone stepped on his legs; someone grabbed his arms by the elbows and pulled them rearward. A large hand wrapped it's fingers in his hair; forcing his chin down onto his chest. Another pair of hands went to work on something around his neck.

"You big turds! Why don't.." Rhalpie's voice vanished; as if someone had plugged a leaky faucet. The whole ordeal afflicted Snook with frustration beyond measure: his inability to put up a suitable fight wasn't easy on the pride. And those paws at his throat caused a surge of panic; were they trying to choke him to death? At least he fought the hyperventilation better then anything else. Then it was over; all the paws went away and he was laying; gasping; on his chest and stomach. He was glad for it and got to his knees and looked around. He spotted Rhalpie; struggling under the cruel administrations of a pair of the rodent-like goons. Either of them was easily twice his crewmate's weight and now Snook had had enough. He got his feet under him; trying to gauge how long a leap it'd be to pounce upon the others.

Movement to the left caught his eye. Turning; he saw big, furry feet and great dense thighs. Looking up further; he saw it was Mr. Big; peering down at him. In pity or irritation? The lad wasn't sure. Odd; his observed thought. He's got some sort of a dark brown collar around his neck. Was naw there before.Eyes sharp; Snook saw a cord ran from the back of this collar; down to the gray rough decking to......him.

He felt at his neck with one hand, then both. He swallowed; pulled hard at what he'd found. He'd been collared, too. And was now fettered; like a dog on a lease, to the huge Zetan.

Oh, jeez.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 7:28 am 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 19... "A long trip in a short space."

He was jabbed in the side by something sharp and stood; all thoughts of brawling put to a back shelf. His fellow human; now collared as well; to the elderly-seeming Zetan, in fact; stood awkwardly on his one good leg; favoring the bad one conspicuously. When he saw Snook staring on; he wouldn't match eyes and tried; with much facial grimacing; to stand normally.

A galley-goon came at the lad and his partner in slavery from each side; menacing with those jevelins; indicating they were to advance towards the front of the vessel. In the Zyra-light; they did as they were directed. They were led to the second pair of pedestal-turnstiles and Snook and his larger fellow captive were beckoned close. Starsharke saw Rhalpie and his ragged cord-companion being forced forward and to a opposite side of the galley. Snook examined their setting. He was well along in thinking he'd clearly done less help by diving onto this crazy place then staying away. He told himself not to feel guilty but it hovered just below the surface; waiting to spring out at the first chance.

He avoided all thoughts of Laddy altogether.

The turnstiles sat three on a side; six total. The turnstile area as a whole was a bit recessed; or at least felt so. The walls of the galley rose a good eight feet; Snook reckoned. One might have leaped and pulled one's self up but there ran a foot-wide bit of grayish walkway a few feet from the top edge. Upon it paced a guard; armed with javelin. Actually; the lad now saw; make that javelins. The others were held across the fellow's chest by a cord or strap-like device. They must indeed throw the things.

He saw also for the first time the fact that all the previous turnstile laborers were gone; the other humans, his friends with them, he figured. Where had they been taken? Looking around; he could see other pairs of slaves being led into position. All trussed as he. He was drawn back to the matters at hand. A guard had snagged he and Mr. Big's cord and after gesturing for each to get opposite the other across the turnstile; he worked the cord into then up through a small hole in the center of the turnstile itself. Two other big furry-types were brought in and settled into the turnstile in much the same manner: one in front and the other in back of Snook. All the collected cords in the center of the turnstiles were silently tied off by a additional cord.

You had to give it to them; they knew how to control prisoners. They'd divided the humans; obviously to keep them from talking when they were to be working. And by tying off the captives in pairs; it made a concerted effort at escape all the harder. And there were adequate sentries about. These guys were experienced, was the Lad's conclusion. And yet...what about that unlocked gate? Chance? Snook couldn't bring himself to think so. A lotta pieces to this big puzzle and he was only getting a few at a time. My luck. Starsharke glanced above; into the sky.

It was still night and if dawn was coming; it was doing a good job of hiding it. There was no question: getting used to the Zetan cycle of day and night was going to take work.

Sol was still up and bright. To Snook this confirmed their direction of travel. North; maybe northeast. Zyra was still mostly full; it's west edge just getting to be gnawed by shadow. To the east and looking very small was Zyra-eight; or so the lad guessed. Right on the western edge of Zyra; peeking out barely enough to be made out as a fully round orb, was seven. It was smaller then Eight and he could just make out a dark dot; split in two by the ring-line. That was probably Four. Nine was quite a ways to the west and also small. He couldn't find Ten. Behind Zyra, perhaps. But he found Five; low to the west; almost hidden by the high-wall. It was now largest; maybe three quarters a Earthly full moon. It was scarlet-hued and Snook reckoned it must be getting quite close.

He lowered his point of vision and saw they were well along in getting all the slave-crews in their places. Snook spoted then the two smaller furred Zetans and watched with interest.

They were of the same general built as the others yet different. They were shorter: Snook figured the top of one's head might touch the bottom of his chin and their fur had slightly lighter tone of gray. Their whiskers seemed short and their tails and ears disproportionate: too long. Surely; here were the younger members of these beings. Though just what age they were couldn't be easily surmised. They were carrying what looked like large bowls and were slowly working their way from turnstile to turnstile; aft to front and soon one of them neared Starsharke's. The creature held out the bowl or what was supposed to be a bowl. It was rather misshapen: off center. In fact; odd as it seemed; the lad was most reminded of a scapula-bone; though of quite a large size. Snook peeked over the edge and saw two items. One; there was a pile of leave-things' each twice the width of a man's hand.

And water.

Snook hadn't realized how thirsty he was but he near tried to grab the bowl and start slurping. Watching, the young native reached in and came out with a leave; using it as a cup to hold a measure of water. He offered it to the Earth man; who took it then stood; staring down on the object held so tenuously in both hands. They had planned; way back on the Lewis and Clark; when there were still plans; to wait until after the goats, chickens and rats had all been drinking Zetan water before switching over themselves. After all; who knew what nasty bacteria and virus hid therein? It was only sensible.

Snook shrugged and gulged away. Hey: he was thirsty!

All told; it came to less then a cup but it didn't taste bad, if warm. Now; what did he do with the leave-whatever? He heard a chomping sound and glancing sideways; saw Mr. Big had been served. He'd had his fluid and was now nonchalantly chewing the green-yellow plant-plate. Snook felt his stomach demand some chow but his brain told him this was pushing it. You just did naw pop alien food; untested; into your mouth. Something distracted him. Something above.

First he saw the guard-mast; at least that's what he called it. Centered just about the middle of the section; maybe twelve feet tall; this was the crow's nest he'd been so leery of while boarding. On it sat gray-furred Zetans, on sort of saddles. Rather; they looked like logs; covered by some manner of wrappings for cushioning. Those Zetans looked bored; if not comfortable. It was probably difficult to sit so; with those tails. But the lad could also see what might have passed for crossbows in their arms. Encircling these guards were short stalk-like lengths of...whatever. They hung down from cords above. A mite like a sunscreen; Snook decided.Also recalling of tubular wind-chimes. Though decidedly less musical.

Running from the guard-post were three lines; two side by side and one lower; by itself. It was down this rope-walk Starsharke saw the head-honcho come.

Had to be the head-honcho; was his thinking. He seemed tall; his feet in dark brown wrappings but apparently he could grip the bottommost walk-rope with his toes. His torso was grit with some manner of plating or what was passing for it. It was the same color as the foot-wrappings but patterns seemed splashed upon it's front surface. They were in back and deep red and on the left side of the chest-plate. The marking was like that of a hand-print. His own; Snook supposed; in bright, bright red. Girt about the waist was a thin strap; apparently serving as a belt. From it hung a scabbard of dull; unpolished dark material. A handle stuck out it; pale gray; like the rest of the galley's structure and seemed shaped; carved perhaps. If the blade hinted at inside the scabbard was as long as it's case; it was a good four feet. The scabbard was slightly curved and dangled out to the side; like a deformed third leg.

About his shoulders; head-honcho had other items arrayed. But Snook couldn't quite make out their likeness or origins. They were long, narrow; maybe two feet long. One went to the front of each shoulder; one to the back and one hung out to the side.

The headset was oddest. It looked a little like a half-made helmet. A shiny, brass-colored section covered the lower jaw and in fact seemed attached to it. When his lips moved; this jaw-piece moved as well. The underpart of this bit had a edged projection underneath; pointing from the chin toward the throat. The lad had no idea what purpose it served. The rest of the 'helmet' consisted of wires; crisscrossed across the upper face; connected to the jaw piece. The ears stuck out on top and the whiskers out to the sides.

This Zetan stopped halfway to the guard-nest and careful to hold the two side by side cords; one on each hand; looked down on those below him. His human observer told himself he was naw looking at him.

"Aba vepu andiano ric-tulia? Veduts?" One of the walking guards; turning his face upwards, answered. "Poia vesukv. Es ve." The one above made a series of odd inhale/exhales rapidly through it's nose. He at last spoke downward again. "Barad sabl. Gs. Di vegomph ko rbkk rbkkto. I voond eb pav ba-roc-ba-be-roc-be-roc de-neia dod mov." This finished; he turned and worked his way back to his place of fount; apparently the higher placed hut-on-pole; with the swaying red lantern. But Starsharke was entirely caught up in those words; that language. So much so; he stuffed the leave-thing in his mouth and chewed without even noticing so.

This was what he was here for: to translate! He had been included; over all other choices; to be the first: the on-site person; to first cross words with native Zetans. This is why God has brought me here, he told himself. He memorized each word; it's order in the sentence; the expressions on the face of each speaker... this was how he worked. This was his god-given talent. If he could just memorize enough...

He realized then Mr. Big was looking at him. Seeing the other spot same; Mr. Big pointed to the crossbeam in front of Snook; then put his own two paws on the one before his self. Snook got the drift and put hands on the hest-high beam. It felt damp; he thought. Sweaty. At that moment, a voice was raised in a shout. "Venov! Venov! Poia falm! Venov!" Then backs and shoulders and weight were pitched against crossbeams; feet scrapped and slid for traction across the knotty decking. Straining; the lad thought the turnstile would never budge. Then it did and he knew they were moving. The turnstile must have been well lubricated or something; it made hardly a grind. Those wheels beyond did, though and with it was the sound of feet; dozens of barefeet; walking and striding and ever so in a short, drab circle. Snook tried to keep track of everything about him; to fully record all that went on. Of course, it was a impossible task but he kept at it; he wanted something to do besides push and walk and push and walk.

The Zetans; his partners in labor, said nothing and awkward seemed their gaits. It took a while for the four of them to each slip into just the right stride-length and pace so that no one stumbled while another trotted. The wall being so high; there was little outside terrain to be seen, 'cept a occasional drift of very tall, red and sandy rock on both sides. They they seemed hemmed in or even motionless and it was the canyon walls that seemed to be moving; not the galley. Then Snook would glance back down; to see his fellow slaves and those who enslaved them.

They did little; those guards: save look unfriendly and be sure their weapons were in their hands. In addition to the one stalking the wall-walk and those in the crowsnest; one stood back by the slave-cage and another walked to and fro; eyeing all and saying nothing. Starsharke glanced more then once back to the cage-area' to see if Rigel or Cindy, by chance, might be looking down through the spy-hole. But he saw no such thing and kept pushing on the beam.

Just when it seemed the most brain-dulling; this endless march in circles; they called a halt. At first, he hoped this signified the end of this shift and they could go whereever they went after a shift. After all: it must have ben close to twelve hours on their feet now! But instead; out came the half-grown ones and they addled out some liquid confection from large cups shaped like seashells; if very ugly ones. The liquid had the taste of very watered down grape kool-aid and while close to two cups worth; hardly satisfied his hunger. They were soon back at it ; around and around and around.

The lad was hungry and while not really tired, not yet; he was bored now. There was no wind and while not cold, was cool. He didn't sweat but the brown Zetans did and it bounced up his nose like wicked vapors from a foul fire. Under his bare soles; the coarse decking was getting slick and it was gray. He hated that gray most of all, he found. His head down, because there was nothing to see anyplace else; it became all he could see. Was he walking in a circle; pushing a damn stupid turnstile, a slave and a fool? Or was he holding onto that turnstile for his life and it was the decking; the gray that went around and around and around. "Tis this why I abandoned Laddy, he cursed. 'Tis this why I left him to die; so I could walk around and around and...

"Veoring! Veoring!"

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri Apr 18, 2008 4:17 am 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 20...'Chow and Chatter'

The turnstile stopped it's movement; he clunked his forehead into it before halting. Head up; he saw all the turnstiles inert and the guards were now milling about; active after so much standing around. In moments; their captors cut loose the bonds to the turnstiles(Though not to each pair) and began herding them; two pairs at a time; back toward the aft section of the galley. The action was confusing and quick; guards with weapons were ahead and behind and quite adamant about pushing their captives along their route.

Snook; hampered by both his cord-link to Mr. Big and his own returned desire to see everything at once; found himself going up a ramp; a short ramp of more of that gray-stalk-like universal galley-substance. Jeez, he thought. They use it for near everything and it's everywhere! Thinking; looking down on that ramp below his toes even as he marched along; he somehow reached the conclusion he knew what this stuff was. Somehow; if he could just....A burly gray-furred goon caught his attention with a swat on the shoulder. The lad eyed him in a most unhappy manner. The other just made those rapid in-out snorts through his nose and pointed his javelin where Starsharke should move; to his left; now.

Snook went to his left, then.

And saw he'd come on a table. Or close, anyway. It looked like a sizable block of some wood; perhaps once a very rich black. It was sown of all bark or what passed for it on Zeta and was roughly rectangular; wider then deep; longer then wide. About it; on either side, sat the brown-furred Zetans; the cords of those so partnered running across the face of the table-block like strands of cobweb. All sat down on the deck or rather; Snook sat down and the brown Zetans sort of crouched; Sitting back on their tails like a third leg. The lad actually thought it quite quaint; somehow; and a small if grim grin chanced across his lips. It felt odd to him and he looked about; now more intrigued.

About him was a small, open-air setting. There was just enough space provided for the table-block' with maybe two yards clearance all about. To his front; over shoulders and past jowls of already seated browns; the decking was lower; barely five feet and he could see a little ways out. Behind the galley; he could just make out that last segment of the vessel; trudging along like a baby elephant; holding onto it's mother pachyderm's tail. The shack with the head-honcho must be almost above them. Behind where he sat; he thought. He moved his head to confirm and saw instead that; at last; dawn had come again. From his left came the glow of Alpha Bellus; it's bright white just painting the dark a deep blue above; which melted into a thin belt of almost indigo color, finished by a horizon draped with the light blue of daylight. Well; he thought. I got through my first night on Zeta.


He was about to search for Zyra when actions caught his attention. Most every laborer was by now seated and two of the young grays bustled about; with gray bowls being placed on the table-block surface. From their sound and a quick; hopeful glance in the nearest one; it was clear that these bowls; easily two feet across and nearly eight inches deep; were empty. Peering at those bare objects; gray and unevenly shaped; Snook at last figured out what all this gray-stuff came from. Or rather; confirmed a prior guess.


These big bowls were, in fact, scapula bones of some immense creature. All the decking...the cage...the masts... Bones. All of it. He was glad for the discovery. But sad, too. He didn't know why but...

"Yo, muscles. We havin' fun yet?"

The lad glanced up; saw Mr. Big was seated across from him. Rhalpie was right next to the huge Zetan; looking very small and also very amused. "Hey," Starsharke's own try at amusement could have used work. "I'm just having a ball. Party on, dude." "Like you know anything about parties." Rhalpie licked his very dry lips; his fist-extracted missing teeth serving as easy-access. Snook sought to his own right and saw old bag of bones was right by him. And looking poor. His eyes kept fluttering shut and he swayed unsteadily; lightly bumping Snook's shoulder then the shoulder of some brown-Zetan on the other side. A little like a weird tire-swing; swaying in a breeze. So thin; so clearly ill. How much more of this could he take? And what would happen then?

Snook figured it wasn't fun-kind of thinking; so told himself to forget about it. His next try to locate Zyra was again sidetracked as Rhalpie interrupted. "Chow time, muscles. Got your bib on?"

To his left; Snook detected the pair of young grays flipping onto the table-block from smaller bone-bowls; some manner of objects. At last; one was flung with a most unappetizing thump in front of him. It was green; a waxy green and shaped like a hoop. Perhaps 10 inches across, it had three bulges, like seed-pods, spaced along it's circle. Starsharke picked his up as if he'd just seen it fall off a passing truck. The nearest thing from Earth that he could even remotely compare it to was the speed-pods of the common locust tree. Which didn't thrill him. Locust seed-pods were not intended for human consumption.

"Yo; if you ain't gonna eat it; give it here."

The lad saw his fellow human's had disappeared; presumably into his digestive tract. And saw the browns were digging in; if with little excitement. He made a face and took a bite. It had lots of fiber and was chewy and somewhat dry. But he figured he could get it down. Lord only knew what would happen after that. Abruptly; he realized he'd forgotten the most important part of a meal. He put down the food-thing; folded his hands and bowed his head. He liked the quiet feeling that came to him. But it didn't last long.

"What are you doing?" demanded Rhalpie. Snook paused; answered without opening his eyes. "Praying." "Why?" "I have a lot to be thankful for." "Like what?" "I'm alive." After a few moments; Rhalpie's voice came again to Snook's ears. More thoughtful. Perhaps even curious.

"Why do you pray, anyway?" "The same reasons I read the bible." Snook whispered a quick amen and retackled his plant-hoola-hoop. He bit into one of the seed-pods and it's taste had a mushy, walnut-like taint. He swallowed; tokk another bite and gave it some molar-work. "And those reasons are...." "Do you ever pray, Rhalp?" The other gave a nervous laugh. Peering over; Snook saw him peering back, a halfhearted smile on his lips. "I haven't prayed in years!" The smile got quarter-hearted. "Maybe I should have, uh?"

They held their talk as another of the young grays came down the table-block with more Zetan delights. Snook eyed the small, more or less white cube that was dropped before him. It was about two inches square and by poking at it with a finger; found it had the consistency of warm butter. Starsharke wiggled his behind uncomfortably on the decking. "They need a menu around here." "Hey. We aint even to desert yet." The lad looked down on the cube; not sure if it was for eating. Car polishing, maybe. Food? Who knew what sort of peculiar bacteria was already tap-dancing in his innards? The thought of getting .....well; what would it be called? The Zetan samba? The Zetan shuffle? Whatever: he didn't want it.

Glancing up; he was just in time to see Mr. Big's cube go down his throat; as if a marshmallow. The big creature chewed without comment and went on living. Snook finally bit into his. It was sift indeed and tasted a little like anorexic skim milk. Tasty, nein. But he could manage.

"You said something about reasons, muscles." "I did?" "Yeah. For prayin'." "Oh. Aye. Well: the first reason I pray and read the bible is salvation." "Salvation." Rhalpie sounded like he'd just heard something very antiquated. Snook went on. "Rhapie; I believe there is a god. And that he sent his one and only begotten son to us. And that he died for our sins. And that he rose on the third day. And he wants each of us to come to him; that our burdens may be carried." "Burdens?" "Every kind of burden, Rhalp. Burdens of sin and pain; burdens of confusion and doubt; burdens of sadness and grief..." Starsharke paused; as if treading water. Rhalpie saw his chance and took it ."And that's salvation?" "Tis to me. And by accepting his son and he alone; can we know this salvation. And it is by reading scripture and praying; I can remind myself of this. And attempt; if only poorly; to be a little bit more thankful. And do his will."

The parade of gray youth had begun again and both humans waited to see the next item due them. It turned out to be about eight inches across; disc-like and maybe a inch thick. Snook picked his up off the table-block surface and shook it; as if being sure it was dead. "I guess if I canna eat it; I could play freezbe." "Frisbee, muscles. Eat up, dude. This is the main course." "Indeed."

The lad at last took a nibble of the article; the mixture of bits of light tan; fallow yellow and dull white was grainy; crunchy and actually didn't taste all that bad. He chewed away heartily; especially since this was by far the most volume-taking food they looked to be getting. About him; all the browns ate as fully. Watching; he was struck by how small their mouths seemed compared to the rest of their bodies. Their arms as well; though that was partly made up by the muscular nature of most of those squatting about. I should be fascinated; he told himself. But I'm just hungry.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sat Apr 19, 2008 6:27 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 21... 'Desert for dessert'

And thirsty. One thing about those grainy-cakes: they were dry. Popping the last stray fragments into his mouth like peanuts; Snook looked up just in time to have a young gray almost climb over the top of him; to empty a large, cylinder-shaped, clay-make container into the big bowl closest. It was, sure enough, water. From down the other end; working their way; came another gray placing curious-looking objects beside each slave. Cups; the lad theorized. Like those used during the break.

He got his and looked at it more closely then before. It was brownish and most reminding of some odd sort of seashell. No two were exactly alike; enforcing the impression. Apparently; you just used it like a scoop. Starsharke noticed his fellow human with a wrinkled face of distaste. He was digging with a finger into his shell-cup. "What 'tis the matter? Buggy?" "Man; don't even say that. Something yellow here....dirt, I guess. Damn it." Rhalpie scooped up a running-over cup of liquid; swigged a couple mouthfuls; then reloaded. Snook spied warily about; expecting a clout. But the browns were following the example; all up and down the block. Water must be plentiful. Odd; the lad thought. You'd think...

"Now about those reasons..." Snook was baffled. "Reasons?" "You said you had reasons for prayin' and stuff." "That 'tis right." Snook nodded in understanding; his face got thoughtful. He didn't think of himself as a preacher; so he wasn't going to try to be. But if he explained what he knew and what he didn't;perhaps Rhalpie could see a little further.

"Another reason I pray;" Snook dipped his shell-cup into the bone-bowl; coming away with perhaps two cups total of warm fluid; "Is inspiration." "You mean like all them miracles and stuff?" "Partly. Certainly those are awesome and meant to prove just how mighty 'tis our lord. But 'tis naw them alone. Look in the bible some time, rock-man. 'Tis naw populated with super-heros and the ultra-gifted. 'Tis the ordinary folk that impress me. The good word again and again tells of everyday people.....people like you and me, Rhalp; doing the impossible and striving against ridiculous odds." The so-young man made a short; thin smile. As if from memories. "I canna help but be inspired by them; knowing such 'tis within the grasp of all. I canna help but pray in thanks and fear to the creator who makes it possible."

Rhalpie nodded; apparently having been given something to think about. Then he spoke again. "Those are fair reasons; I guess." "Well:" Snook seemed to be gazing into his still untouched shell-cup. But he wasn't. His mind was elsewhere. "I do have one more I like to recall." "Yeah?" "It 'tis..."

Someone bumped the lad; spilling water and irritating him no little; till he saw the source. It was old bare bones. He'd not even eaten a thing; each item piled atop the other like discarded toys. Turning; Snook swallowed his irk. The old brown was shaking and seemed barely capable of staying awake. Snook reached to touch the fellow; a reassurance. The poor Zetan piled forward onto the table-block; struggling like a exhausted swimmer to get back onto the block. Doubly embarrassed; Starsharke tried to get him around the shoulders and help. He finally had to resort to grabbing hold of his partner-cord and haul him back that way.
"That poor old fart," Rhalpie was sympathetic sounding. "He's all tuckered out." "What he needs 'tis bed-rest and antibiotics." The lad did not sound quite so pitying. More like ticked. "He will naw last through another..."

"Pu ah garbantr vefrpan?"

It was a voice; above and behind them. Craning his neck and nearly pulling Mr. Big across the table-block; Snook peered up to find it was head-honcho; up by his hut; eyeing the scene below. A voice answered; one of the guards. Standing off to the right. "Al pu ong eb oso; vun-pav." "I vekoud al pu." The dark gray figure above; outlined partly by pale blue sky and part by the pole-hut; looked about; as if surveying the day.

"Veot al co tael mor."

The guard came forward a couple steps; drawing Snook's attention. he wasn't as tall as the others; a few inches shorter then the lad but wide; with a potbelly. The guard's eyes went to old bones; then back up at head-honcho. "Al pu co garbantran." "Tut es de. Eb co tael mor. Ve."

Hardly had the words been uttered; when two other thug-types swooped in; grabbing old bones like a criminal. Both Mr.Big and Rhalpie rose from their seats. The shorter human was shoved back; onto the seat of his underpants. Mr. Big got a javelin set aginst the side of his neck by yet another goon. There were now at least a half-dozen gray guards about and all was quiet. Starsharke peeked up at head-honcho. He could see the other was staring down at him now. If a message was passed by those locked stares; Snook couldn't know. But he could feel a unpleasant something hovering in the air.

He turned back to see the cord binding Rhalpie and old bones cut with a swift swipe of a funny; part-spike, part blade thing wielded by the wide guard. The other two goons; faces hard; like ones consigned to clean a toilet; dragged old bones to the high-walling to the right. Almost before he recognized what was happening; they'd pushed the battered fellow up and over the side of the galley. Rhalpie spat a four letter one-word oath and Snook rose to his fet. But the guards who had done the tossing had chambered up on the wall and were peering down to whatever lay on the other side. Snook took a step away from the table-block; then another. None of the guards moved to stop him. Mr. Big; towering up so tall; followed. Wordless; Starsharke walked over to the wall; gave a hop and perched himself upon the edge of the side of the galley.

He saw here the canyon walls had fallen back quite far and were lower; their red crags truly background now. Under; below them were small dunes of yellow sand. He found old bones upon that sand; but he wasn't doing much more then breathe and look tired; his eyes seemed open but didn't appear to be fdoing much else. He looked like a ragged pile of tossed aside dirty clothes....

Movement to his left drew Snook's gaze but at first he couldn't see what would do so. There were dunes and small red rocks and.... the motion came again; moving in a straight line. It was something, something under the sand. Rather like a mole was digging there; only about fifty times faster.

Right at old bones.

Old bones suddenly wobbled to his feet; a swaying, sickly venture. He'd no sooner done so when the mole-line arrived upon him. There was no sound, but a fury of sand flew; as if spouted out of a cannon. Snook caught a image of something coming out of the sand: a two-foot wide .....head, perhaps: black, no eyes; a great maw filled with teeth like spikes. The maw swung and clamped around old bone's right side and old bones screamed; part squeal; part wail. Long but not loud.....Starsharke saw red start to flow and red and yellow was kicked up into a cloud.

He let himself settle back to the lower deck; before he threw up. He leaned against the wall; hands going to his head; as if to hold it on. The screams......no, Snook forced himself to realize; plea. The plea stopped and crackling, breaking sounds from over the wall.

God. Oh, god.

The lad glanced to his right; found Mr. Big, in nearly the same position as himself. The Zetan turned his head; their eyes matched. "Dob." Mr. Big had a very deep voice. Almost ridiculously so. "Doban." Snook nodded. Tried to speak what he felt. "Evil. Very evil." A breeze came then; as if to soothe or please. It was brisk; making the skin around the face tingle and the eyes squint and you just wanted to inhale till you couldn't anymore.

Starsharke glanced up to see one of the guards; one of those who'd thrown old bones to his death; still poised up on the wall; watching what was going on out and over the side. And that goon was making that rapid in-out noise through his nose and what could have been a smirk; a wrinkling of the face that exposed brown buckteeth. He 'tis laughing, Snook realized. That funny noise was how these....people laugh. He 'tis laughing at...

The lad went back to the table-block; almost strangling himself when his cord barely went so far. He picked up his still unsampled water-shell. And calmly proceeded to throw it; cup and contents; at laughing-boy; beaning him good right between the ears. The laughing stopped and the pelted gray just kept himself from falling overboard; Snook seriously considered darting over and helping the process.

Farlano apparently thought his fellow earth-man's move pretty neat. He grabbed up his part-consumed shell-cup and with a curse; hurled it at the squat guard who'd been talking with head-honcho. The cup missed but most of the remaining water got him in the face and chest; making him sputter and swing his javeline about wildly; blindly. Guards seemed to come from all angles; all directions and soon the air was full of swearing and thuds and feet running to and fro.

Mr. Big got in the swing of things by grabbing up a guard clear off the decking and pitched him down the length of the table-block; water-bowls and shell-cups overturning; a gray bowling ball. A guard tripped Rhalpie; who fell down making very nasty-suggestions. Snook moved to help but saw Head-honcho's main man just recovering from his fluid-induced blindness. Young Starsharke knew he'd never forgive himself if he missed the chance. He stepped in; left fist arcing around in a hook. It connected to the guard's nose; producing red and a squeal of dismay. He staggered away. Snook turned to find Rhalpie had somehow gotten on upside down; onto the back of one of the grays and appeared to be bitting his foe; gnawing with his remaining teeth about the base of the tail. The gray yelled displeasure and spun about; trying to fling Rhalpie off. Around and around they whirled...

Starsharke spotted a guard coming at him from his right; javeline in both hands. The lad backed and crouched; trying to get clear of the swung staff end. He almost made it.


 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Mon Apr 21, 2008 5:54 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 22...'Hands across the stars.'

Awakwning was no more pleasurable then the last time. There were three distinct stages. The first consisted of the impression of someone having parked a mini-van on his chest; while laying across a bed of particularly long nails. The second was of; again; realizing slowly that each major section was in fact both in place and more or less functioning. The last stage was of just not caring to move. He was fully awake; on his back; in some place dim.

He was bruised; considerably. The mere moving of his head proved that. It had a dull ache and yet he didn't seem sleepy now. Which really wasn't much of a gift to his thinking. And he was thirsty; very. He'd not gotten a sip from his shell-cup-missle and it was quite apparent on his cotton-feeling tongue. At last; he risked sitting up and tried to figure out where he was. It was dark but not fully; light came through a low opening to his left. Seeing it; he realized he was back in the cage-area. He decided to try and look out; see what time it was. On hands and knees; he got maybe a yard, then something cruelly pulled at his neck; stopping him.

It was the stupid collar.

He raked at it, angry. It did no good. He simply couldn't get his fingers under the canvas-like coverall it seemed to have; he hadn't noticed that before. Maybe the cord? It was a half-inch thick; fragile-looking. He wrapped his hands up in it and pulled with all his might. The dark cord didn't so much as creak. It was far tougher then it looked. He could cut it; he reckoned; if he could find a sharp edge somewhere... He found someone looking him over. That someone was at the end of the cord. Mr. Big.

There was a pole nearby; rising from the coarse decking to someplace above. Mr. Big had his back against it and his dark eyes took in Snook and Snook took in the other; as intently. Curious face, the lad thought. The nostrils were dog-like....nein. Bear-like, he decided. Though those whickers made for a different note. They were long and thick and the sparse light shone along them like strands of string. The lower jowls were smaller then the uppers and lighter toned fur ran down the wide chest. The ears were big and upright; oval in shape.

Those eyes; utterly jet; with no irises; piqued his interest. Looking close; he realized there was in fact no eyelid as he knew them. It was like layers of clear material covered those orbs. Was this how their eyes adapted to light-changes? By sliding down extra see-through transparencies? Our eyelids acted as protection; theirs as windows. The teen saw then the cut; now notched with dry red fluid. Blood, he reminded himself. That cut ran from the right lower eye and crossed down to almost his whiskers. It'd taken some blow to do that; Snook thought. Probably my fault, too. He gave up on the cord; on looking outside. He slid and put his back against the pole; opposite Mr. Big. Mr. Big said nothing.

Starsharke couldn't recall so miserable of conditions. His great rescue had amounted to diddly; his dog was probably sand-monster bait by now and his crewmates were forced to pass their time between slave-labor and being punching bags.

"Yo;" Snook said, "Big guy? What 'tis your word for 'sucks?'"

He didn't expect a answer and didn't get one. He spotted Rhalpie; not four feet to his left; laid out and not moving. A tinge of worry cut through his discontent. Was his crewmate alright? What had they done to him? As if in answer; his fellow human stirred; gave a soft moan and rolled over; then back again. Well; he was alive. Certainly out of it, though. Snook leaned over as far as his cord would let; trying to detect obvious damage. There were marks that were probably bruises. But then; they both had those. That ankle was nein better. The swelling seemed less; but it was hard to be positive in the light. Looked purplish, too.

Snook turned away; just disgusted with everything. What was he to do next? What would his uncle think of this? Of him? Do naw seem too useful and talented now; that was certain. Oh, why did I come along on this crazy venture? I'm naw good at any of this! They did naw need a linguist. Well, okay. Maybe they did. Guess one could naw see stuff like this. Lord knew he had naw. The lad actually smiled to himself; remembering some of those things he had expected. Then it came to him. It settled his thinking; then disturbed all the same.

Yo. I'm a linguist, aye?

Then why are I naw doing linguist stuff?

A liguist has to talk to people: if he was going to get anywhere. But the teen had such a hard time talking to strangers. How can I do this, he thought glumly. This kinda stepping into the limelight is just what has always gotten me into trouble. I'm a 'in-the-background' kinda guy. I canna talk to..... But he was going to, anyway. Certain he would only make a fool of himself; the lad crawled on hands and knees around to face Mr. Big; finally sitting before him, indian-style.

The light graced the huge Zetan on the left side of his face and Snook didn't doubt he was as poorly lit. Yet Snook could see his guess about those eyes may not have been far off. Clearly the left sight organ of this fellow seemed veiled; as if mostly clear but with just the touch of opalescence. A extra eyelid had slid down; the lad would have bet. Looking him up and down a few seconds; Snook was drawn to the hands; now resting idly in what passed for the Zetan's lap. Those mitts were remarkably human-like. Five digits and length and width well within the boundaries of the people you would have once passed on the street. Okay; still could. For a few more months, anyway. And they were big hands; bigger then his human counterpart's not small ones. The topside was covered with fur; right down to the fingernails. But the underside was bare and the exposed flesh a blue-black. Did they have fingerprints; wondered the lad.

Snook glanced up and saw he himself was being eyes. Well, it was rude to stare. If you're going to do this, do it now. The lad cleared his throat; it sounded unnaturally loud. At last he spoke.

"Snook." He touched his chest with a thumb; then pointed a finger to the other; expectantly. Mr. Big just looked on. "Snook." the lad repeated the whole sequence and waited with the dread of failure. But the big fellow seemed to nod and aimed one of his thumbs at his own furry chest.


Oh, jeez. The human male could only shake his head. It's like being in a old Tarzan movie. Where 'tis Cheeth when you needed him? The lad couldn't help but smile and instantly; detected the slightest movement of Mr. Big's mouth. Was he amused, too? It was a hopeful sign. Snook reapplied himself. "Snook." He again pointed at the other and waited. Mr. Big's forehead fur buckled and bent about; his cut moving so his observer feared it ripping open. It may have been the Zetan version of a frown. Then Mr. Big poked his own wide chest with a thumb.

"Biin." He pointed at the young man across from him. "Snuok."

'Snuok' wanted to give him a high five. Excitement went to work; building a nest in his gut. "Snook;" the lad aimed a finger at himself, then the dozing crewmate just behind them. "Rhalpie." Biin's eyelids slid shut in what could have passed for a blink.

"Rael-fe?" "Rhalpie. Snook; Rhalpie: humans." Biin didn't seem to get it. "Biin. Humaens?" "Nein." Snook indicated Rhalpie and himself once more. "Snook, Rhalpie. Human. Biin?" The larger did get it. "Snuok, Rael-fe: humaen. Biin, gerban." "Ah." Snook thought on it; decided to try a little clarification. "Snook, human. Snook; Rhalpie, humans. Biin, gerban." Snook waved to the browns snoozing all about them. Biin had such a deep voice; the lad noted. Like distant thunder; rolling across a steep-walled valley.


At that moment; there came a light but distinct treading sound. Someone was walking close by. A form passed by the gate-section of the cage; a dark shadow that flicked over and across the two conversing captives. They waited to it was past. Snook stuck a finger out in that direction. "Gerbania?" Biin made a voiceless noise in his chest. Like a volcano grumbling. "Tut. Hulbania." The big fellow punctuated the explaination by turning his head over a shoulder and spitting; in the direction of the doo-doo barrel. Snook nodded in understanding. Now where did they go?

He held up his hand; preparatory to pointing something else out. It being his left; he noticed the stain on the back of it for the first time. It was a rustly red; dried and thin.


He was tempted to lap it off but the temptation didn't last long. He knew where it came from. That 'hulbania'.... or was it hulban? Well; whoever; it came from the one he'd popped in the snout. A big furry paw tapped him on said hand; prompting him to look up. Biin was gazing at him. "Ah vadom a vebotomas, Snuok."

"I do naw understand you;" the linguist tried a thin smile, "But I will learn to." Biin exposed his buckteeth by drawing his mouth upwards; his version of a smile. Snook felt at last comfortable as well as excited. There was no question he was at last in his element. He could do this. He belonged; he could contribute. The treading came back, as well as the sun-blocking shadow. They waited till it was from hearing. Snook; inspired; held up his hand; extending a digit.

"Finger. Finger." Biin put out a hand; did a mimicry of Snook. "Roac. Roac."

And so it went. All told; the two queried; answered and learned for something more then seven hours. Biin seemed very sleepy near the end; leading to his breaking off to go to sleep. Or Snook; thirsty or not; would have probably kept on going.

Neither seemed to recognize the cord yoking them as a detriment now.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Wed Apr 23, 2008 7:06 am 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 23...'Questions and hints'

Snook gave into a nap of his own; being as there wasn't a heck of a lot else to do. When he woke later; feeling rested but all the more thirsty; he rolled over; careful not to bother Biin and found Rhalp; himself sitting with his back to the bone-support pole. He spotted Snook with red eyes; rubbed his forehead but said nothing.

"Rhalpie!" Snook didn't realize how ridiculously happy he sounded; till hearing it with his own ears. He lowered his voice. "How goes it?" His crewmate was nowhere near as enthusiastic. "Oh, man! Could you please not talk so loud? You won't believe the headache I have!" "Frankly; you look like a was of used cat-litter." "I feel it, too." "How 'tis the ankle?" "Ankle? Hell! I can't even feel it; the way my head is!" Starsharke thought on things. "That 'tis odd. I got beaned on the head and it hurt; for a while. But naw now. Odd." "What?" Rhalpie didn't look much reassured. "You think maybe it's something from the crash?" "Or maybe something you ate?" "But we both ate the same stuff. But you didn't get much to drink; did ya?" "I did naw get anything." Snook licked his lips at the mere mention of same. "I do naw think Biin did, either.""Bin?" "Mr. Big. Biin, Rhalp. It 'tis pronounced a bit like b-y-n. But the gerbania do naw use the sound we get from the letter y. Apparently. So they..." "Gerbania? What's that?"

A sound that might have been wind; a somewhat buffered one; nibbled at the cloth-like items draping the cage. Snook sat himself a yard from his fellow human. His legs he drew up and wrapped with his arms; as if to keep them from getting into trouble. "Gerbania are all these brown-furred individuals about us. Gerban is the singular. The grays are referred to as hulbania. I'm guessing that stands for 'gray-furs'. Sensible, I think." Rhalpie peered at the other; leaning upon the bone-pole. He tapped the back of his head against it.

"What do they call us?" "Tutbania. That 'tis 'nein-furs'. They think we're very weird naw to have fur." "We have hair. Especially you; you hippy." "This?" Snook snagged a lank of his dark locks and tugged it disdainfully. "This 'tis naw fur; naw to them. That head-honcho of the hulbania also used a phrase to describe us; something to do with being without whiskers. I do naw recall the exact expression, but..." "So you can talk their talk, uh? Just like that?" Snook shook his head; in patient disagreement. "Naw quite. But I got a fair working vocab. I reckon a couple days to fill in the blanks and we'll have something to work with. They have a fascinating tongue, Rhalp. This is nein savage gibberish. This is a language that has depth and 'tis rich with history and ....opps. I'm getting carried away; am I naw?" "Just a bit."

But Rhalpie was also decidedly not put off. He did look out a bit; the lad thought. If that ankle was brocken; which he prayed it not to be; then all this walking about...

"So? What are they going to do with us?"

The younger shook a grim negative.

"Wish I knew. Biin has naw been here that long and I do naw think he has much more of a idea where we are then anyone else." "But what are they going to do with us?" Snook blinked; at a loss as to why he had to repeat himself. "I do naw know. Obviously; we're here to provide the horsepower." Snook looked up at the cage above him. His voice had the hint of marvel in it.

"Know what this thing 'tis constructed of, Rhalp? Bone. Bones; to be exact." "Is it." "It 'tis. There 'tis a logic to it, I suppose. First; we're out in a desert; so you canna expect much wood about. Second; bone 'tis light yet strong; good qualities to have on these desert-crossing treks. I suspect it 'tis difficult to form to exact shapes and how in heck and from what creatures they get such..." "You sound like you're really enjoying yourself." The lad stopped a bit, considering. Had that been a honest question? Or a sarcastic snap? "Well; I can think of a few other places I'd like to be. Say, Rhalp..." "Yeah?" "How'd you get caught, anyway?"

The smaller closed his eyes before starting in. Bored; thought Snook.

"Aw; I never saw 'em comin'. One second I'm sitting on this rock; next I'm laying with what felt like 'bout a gallon of sand up my nose. And tied like the proverbial turkey. For a while; I had the crazy idea I was going to be lunch or something. But I wasn't thinkin too straight." "Do you remember getting out of the wreck itself? Laddy found your tracks..." "Naw. It's all patchy; in and out. I told you; I wasn't thinking..." "So how'd you end up here? And how did you ride out the storm at nightfall?" Rhalpie made a face of distaste. "S____; will you slow up? It's too damn early to be thinkin' deep and stuff. Hey!" Suddenly Farlano got very there and then. His eyes got sharp and were aimed at his taller associate. "You mentioned Laddy. Did you find him?"

The lad stared; mystified.

"How did you know I lost him?" "'cause we saw him. I saw him. Right before they loaded us onto this galley. They'd just shown up with Cindy and Rigel and they stripped 'em down....did I tell you Cindy wears..." "Purple underwear; aye; you did. Now about Laddy..." "Oh, yeah. So he runs up out of nowhere and starts growlin' and snarlin' and barkin' at all those hulbanie-whatevers. Then they...."

There was silence a few seconds. Snook looked away. Farlano's nervous gulp was audible. "You found him."

"Aye." "I'm surpised. They got a kind of gadget they throw; like one of those Austrian things..." "Boomerang?" "No. The kind that wraps around the legs of animals and stuff." "Bola." Snook glanced back. "Guess it was kind of like that. Works like a garrote. Flying garrote." "He died, though; didn't he?" Snook stared at his feet.

"Aye. He 'tis dead." "I'm sorry, man." And he sounded it. "I'm really sorry, Snook."

They both turned away; one from the other. Snook wanted to talk about anything other then that. I left my best friend and now he tis dead: had to be. Why would I want to talk about that? Why does anyone? At last; still looking vaguly off; out the cage-gate; Snook plodded up to a low, hesitant voice.

"Well.....where did you ride out the wind storm?" "I must have been out during that." Snook peered briefly over to see his fellow human frowning; clearly trying to recall. "This isn't the first galley I was on. I think." "Well; I suppose that'd explain all those other trails. Still canna figure out all those three-toed ones, though..." "You didn't see them rappers then? Man; you've missed a lot!" Snook eyed the other suspiciously. "Rappers? Like Snoop-dog?" "No! I mean...you saw Jurassic Park, right? The dinosaur movie?" "Who has naw?" "You remember the dinos that were about; oh; six feet tall or so? You know! They named a basketball team after them..." Realization dawned on the larger and he grinned. 'Rappers', indeed!

"You mean raptors. It 'tis short for.." "Yeah, yeah, them. These suckers look a lot like 'em. 'Cept they're bigger and got hair. Oh, sorry. Fur. Them hulbans ride 'em." "Hulbania." But Starsharke looked hard at the other; at least deciding he wasn't kidding. He shook his head. "Now I'm getting a headache. Fuzzy-wuzzy raptors. Hulbania cowboys. Oh, jeez! This is getting so weird!" "So;" the smaller became quiet. Absorbed in thought. "What do we do?" Snook shifted around a little on his seat.

"Naw much to do; right now. Okay; the door 'tis unlocked." The lad waved at the cage-door. "But we're out in the middle of who knows. We escape; where do we go?" "Couldn't we go back to LS-1?" "On foot; it'd take a couple weeks. Maybe. Where do we get the food and water?" "Steal it." "Assuming we do; how do we keep from being recaptured? Or from being chow for any of those things like what got the old gerban? Sorry, Rhalp. I think we're stuck." Snook sighed. "And I hate it." "Join the crew. Say, muscles? Just out of curiosity...you don't hafta answer if you don't wanna..." "Aye?" "What did your mom do?"

The lad couldn't figure the question. But decided it'd at least pass time.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 9:09 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 24...'Moms, Dads and friends'.

"She was the member of a now near-extinct minority..." "Oh." His crewmate was amused. "A housewife." "Aye. Nice lady, Rhalp. Really was. Had a great heart; great soul." Snook's head shifted side to side. As if caught in a undetectable wind. A sad one. "Sickly body. She did naw live to see twenty four." "Twenty four? S---. That really pisses, doesn't it? Man!" "So," Snook found the subject matter most akward and uncomfortable. "What did your ma do?"

"Mom was a cop." "Really?" The lad was truly surprised. "That must have been different." "You bet ya. All through my teens; she'd size up each of my homeys for criminal potential. Believe me; I never got a speeding ticket. If I had; mom would have seen I got thrown in jail. Still: she was....mom. Ya know?" "Aye. I know." Snook couldn't remember the last time he'd heard warmth coming from his crewmate. Even before planet-fall; those last few weeks of decel; he'd been a bit distant; Snook had thought. Not like him, really. But there'd been so much going on; was he the only one who'd noticed?

"Thing is; I can always recall this one thing about her. You see; the last six years she was on the force; she had mostly desk-work and stuff. But she was good enough that they'd give her a case to work on; by herself. Little stuff, ya know? So there was this phone-perv..." "Phone-perv?" "Guy who makes dirty calls and stuff; ya know? This creep was a phone-perv deluxe. Always seemed to know when kids were alone or when teen-boppers were expecting calls or old ladies were lonely and stuff. And he'd dump all sorts of crap on 'em. Like I said; he was a creep. What he needed; was to be caught."

"So mom tried. And did she try. But the thing was everytime she thought she had him; she didn't. I mean; you gotta look at the way things were. It wasn't like it was murder or something. So no one would give her much help. All she could ever get was circumstanial evidence and it'd just never amount to enough. When she retired; she was still looking for that one final nail to drive into that guy. But it just never happened." The lad realized the pause was going to be a long one; so he best put something light and fluffy in. "That had to be frustrating." "Yeah. Life is a bitch, man."

"Know what my dad did, muscles? He was a principle. A high school principle. Can you believe that? Talk about pressure for good grades! But I had to hand it to dad, though. When I started high school; he sent me across town. Didn't want me going to the same one he held court in. Favoritism; ya know?" "I see." "Your dad was a archaeologist, right?" Snook motioned agreement. "Aye." "Indiana Jones, eh?" "Naw often." Snook's eyes twinkled in remembrance. "Father used to say; archaeology was three parts book-work; two parts fundraising and one part digging. But he loved it. Maybe too much."

Snook wished dearly his miscue wouldn't be noticed. No such luck.

"Too much, muscles?" "Aw, he was naw home much, Rhalpie. There was always one more legend to verify. One more old city to poke about in." "Resentful?" "Of course naw!"

No one was more surprised then Snook by that flying out. He tried to swallow his bile; years in the making, he knew, but never something to be proud of.

"Sorry, Rhalpie. But you see....oh; I do naw know." He brushed at imaginary dust on the bone-floor with a couple of fingers. He didn't want to talk about this: something just told him no good would come of doing so. It wasn't proper. "He was alright, Rhalp. I mean; he put a roof over my head. I never starved. And he gave me a education worth a heck of a lot. I would naw be here otherwise. But for all that; there was something I missed. We traveled a lot. From three to thirteen; I never stayed in any one place more then eighteen months. Sometimes a lot less. I guess I had plenty of houses. But nein home."

"It 'tis naw that he did naw try. I think he did. It 'tis just.....He had this thing. I never understood it for the longest. I'm naw sure I understand it now. I tell myself I do, but....well; he never let me take a I.Q test. Never. Thought it'd allow other people to put me into some invisible box labeled 'untouchable'. But the more my father tried to keep me from that box; the more I got jammed into it. He was naw a bad man, Rhalpie. I swear. He knew how to provide and teach and give opportunity. But something got left out. There was always something missing."

Who'd thought it was possible to go from pleased and joyful to the dumps so fast? I should naw have brought this up. What was the...."Ah; don't get worked up about it, muscles."

The voice was so condoling; so...supportive, the lad had to glance up. He expected to find some new; first-met person sitting there. But it was Rhalpie; being Rhalpie. Yet more. Snook had never heard him so and he stared on the other at the transformation. "I aint never met nobody who was perfect; so I wouldn't get down on him too much. Peoples people, ya know? We make mistakes." "Aint that the truth."

Like a slowly rising tide; hidden by some wall; in unfolded; came a surge on young Starsharke. One minute; there was nothing to see; then a flood of wet and brisk. Rhalpie had always been a crewmate; at least though these last fourteen moths or so. There was nothing wrong with him; to the lad's thinking. They'd been members of the 'undisciplined half-dozen'. This was the Lewis and Clark's takeoff on the dirty dozen. About all you had to been was a smart aleck or doo-doo disturber. And that we were; Snook thought. I mean; are. Most of us are still here! And now Rhalp was a friend. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Not only that; Biin was rather like a friend now, too. There was much more that needed to be learned by each of the other; certainly; but as clearly there was more between them then just a couple yards of cord.

Hence came this, the lad questioned. Necessity alone? Nein. He didn't think so; didn't want to think so.

Yet; with the comfort came alarm. He wanted to stop things; make them all halt; freeze the moment, please. So he could grab paper and pen and write all he'd done down for safekeeping. To be used again; later; if he wanted. Making friends; real friends, had always been such a difficult task.

"Say, muscles."

Snook came back to the there and then. He found his fellow human not looking at him. Rather off to the side; out the cage-gate. "Do you remember when we was eating and stuff?" "I can recall a thing or two of the setting, aye." "Didn't you say there was; like; one more reason for prayin' and stuff?" "I guess I did. You'd like to hear that reason?" "Sure..." At that moment; the down-opening forward exit swung down. Hulbania with javelins and loud shouts of "Vesunig! Vesunig!" beckoned. Both humans groaned and joined the procession of bodies heading outside. Work time once again.

Biin took a bit getting awake and Starsharke shook him with a foot. It took a second or two to reference a workable remark. "Vetongoi! Vetongoi!" The sleepy Zetan stared at him a second; rubbed at his eyes and followed the rest. As soon as he stepped clear of the cage, Snook felt something with lots of tiny but razor-sharp claws lay hold of his back and neck. It raked at and made his shoulders tingle. He looked up at what was causing the sensations.

Alpha Bellus was on it's way to overhead; pounding down like strikes from a living creature. It had to be at least eighty degrees. And the lad knew it'd get plenty hotter. He surveyed left and right but couldn't find Zyra. Must be behind them. So they were heading, what? North? More or less? As much as they'd been on the go; surely they had to be getting somewhere soon?

He looked down; on his sharp-edged ahsdow. They were gonna get roasted.

Guards came and ushered them to their places; Biin and Snook back at the turnstile they'd first been at. Farlano was taken to his as well; though; of course; he was no longer tethered. Wordlessly; Biin and Snook were tied down to the turnstile; as well as their co-slaves. There was a pause and in it; the teen again looked around him and tried to take everything in; to examine all that was being seen; felt and heard and ascertain what it meant to him. He was standing in his underwear; barefoot; thirsty and hungry as heck. It was hot and would get hotter. He was collared like a dog; collared to a eight foot tall gerbil he was trying to teach english.

Hey. At least he was staying busy.

Moments later; the leafy-water stuff was passed out and he found himself licking his lips in anticipation. He chugged his water and chewed his leaf like it were cud. But all in all; it just left him wanting more. He wondered; was it planned that way? He thought on these Hulbania. What; exactly; did they get out of all this? And where were they... "Venov! Venov!" came the cry and bodies were soon bent to their task. Snook stopped wondering about much of anything and just pushed, pushed, pushed.

It was a long shift and did get hotter and Starsharke could feel his back and rear portions of his limbs getting a good even singe. But he held to the chore and said nothing to no one. Their mid-work drink helped little. Finally; the bout ended and they were being herded once again to chow-time. Rhalpie; elbowing through the larger bodies about them; came close. His whisper actually startled Snook into a little hop. "Yo, muscles..." The lad figured the furtiveness must have been for some good reason. Or naw? He whispered back.

"Why are you whispering?" "So we aint heard." "Rhalp; nein one but Biin understands english." "So I don't wanna attract attention." The smaller looked with meaning at a otherwise uninterested-looking sentry beckoning for speed from the top of the ramp. Young Starsharke was baffled. "What are you talking about?" "Tell ya later." "What?" "Just trust me. Right now; I want some liquids, dude!"

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2008 5:17 am 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta."...Episode 25...'Water'

He certainly wasn't alone. They were soon about the feeding block and the passing out of edibles was quickly undertaken. There was nothing resembling cover or shade on this end of the galley and Alpha Bellus kept up it's onslaught. It was one hundred if it was anything and Snook wanted to get through chow as quick as possible. The lad got his prayers in just as the ringlet-pods were being deployed and they and the following margarine-squares were soon gone. The grain-frisbees were being distributed when Rhalpie; thankfully quiet during the other's prayers, now startled his crewmate to awareness again. "You wanna know something 'bout girls, Snook?"

The lad peered over uneasily; picking up his grain-saucer with both hands. He was afraid this was going to be a x-rated conversation.

"I'd like to know much of females, Rhalp." "Don't we all?" Rhalpie was trying to smile and eat at the same time; making words into strange sounds and the food into clods on the block-surface. "It's like this, muscles. I always seemed to do something wrong with my girls. Ya know?" "Oh." "When I was in high-school; I was goin' out with this chick. So one weekend; this movie comes out; I gotta see it. She don't want to. I go anyway. She bails out the relationship." The geologist made a gesture reminiscent of a paratrooper pulling a ripcord. "And I'm givin' the shaft. Seems I always did something like that. Ya know?"

Snook nodded and ate. At least it wasn't dirty and everything. He glanced about; at the gerbania eating about them. He could see a covert glance or two at he and Rhalpie. He guessed their reddening skin was a new sight. That fur of theirs made sense. But goodness; was the food dry! The air was dry; there were nein clouds at all and nein wind and everything was just dry, dry, dry...

That clicked in his head. Dry. Everything being dry. It meant something. What? Well; the water would be poured out soon and he wouldn't have to....

Nein, wait. That 'tis where the connection was. The food; the dryness; the water..

Starsharke finished his frisbee; sat looking down at the block in front of him as if it were a view-port somewhere. He was aware Biin; across from him; was watching in curiosity. There came the hulban youth; with their jars of water. They began to fill the bone-bowls; gerbania eagerly filling their shell-cups; drinking deep and replenishing in short order. Rhalpie and Biin each sat waiting; shell-cups in paw; the closest bowl would be filled in just a few moments. Snook reached the conclusion he'd sought. He licked his lips and reached to take Biin's drinking-shell. His tether-mate frowned and pulled it back. Snook prowled in his head for words.

"Tut!" Then quieter; "Tut bulg, Biin."

The larger kept his face scrunched up. "Ugu, Snuok?" "Tut bulg." "Ugu? I vedom bulgoso." The lad didn't get the last word but got the general intent. He tried to explain. "Bulg pu falm." "Pu tut." "Pu eb. Bulg vepu garia. Vesi tut..." Snook didn't know the word for drink; he made drinking motions with his own cup. Biin looked in his ownl then at the soon-to-be-filled bone-bowl. His thick; short tongue plied across his teeth.

"What's with him? You offer to marry him or something?" Snook's laugh sounded more of a grunt. "Naw quite. But nearly as bad. And unfortunately; I've got to tell you the same thing." "Really?" "Aye. Rhalp: do naw drink the water."

He was now stared at by both his friends. "The heat's got to you, dude. We gotta have water." "Naw this water. My guess 'tis there somethings in it." "You're paranoid, dude. If there's something in it; how come none of us are sick or got the runs or that?" Now the bowl was being filled. Farlano looked like he was going to dive in headfirst. Biin's eyes were drawn as well; with longing. And thirst. "Listen. We are being effected by it. You are, anyway." "Am I?" "Rhalpie; do naw you wonder why you and the others always fall alseep so fast? Sleep nearly twenty hours or so; straight through? Then wake up with headaches?"

Rhalpie's face went blank. But his eyes shown his brain to be working. "Sh--." "Very close. Remember that funny powder you found in your cup?" "Yeah. Sh--." Indecision crawled across the smaller man's features. His gaze hadn't strayed from the water-bowl. It's level was going down; as gerbania(save Biin) indulged with gusto and noise.

"What about what they give us during our slavin' shifts?" "Naw treated, 'tis my guess. We'd be nein use to them out on our feet. But they do naw have enough folk to guard our shift and Rigel and Cindy's." "So they drug us." "Drug the off-shift, rather. That would explain the unlocked cage-gate. There 'tis nein need. Everyone 'tis too sleepy to do anything. At least till that last thirty minutes or so. When the goons on duty seem to increase." The lad would have thought he wa doing a good; if hurried job of explaining. But neither his fellow human's face or voice betrayed comprehension.

"But I'm still so thirsty, man. We gotta have water." "The food 'tis part of it, too. It 'tis all so dry! So we feel we have to..." "I need water, muscles. Gotta!"

Starsharke knew he was losing; losing to a sweltering sun and dirt-dry food and long hours of work. And the only way to even things up was naw a lot of fun. "I'm gonna get a drink, Snook." Rhalpie was turning his shell-cup over and over in his hands. "I don't care about the druggin' and stuff! I'm so..." "I'm sorry, Rhalp. Do naw be angry at me, please. I have to do it." "What?"

Snook snapped out his right fist; across the table and into his friend's jaw. Though a glancing blow; it's surprise made up for the inaccuracy. Rhalpie tumbled over backwards without a sound. The suddenness and complete crumbling of his crewmate raised the horrid specter of his death. All the Zetans; gray, brown and even Biin; staring at the pair made it no easier.

But Farlano wasn't dead. He was breathing; if labored. Jeez; his attacker thought. That ankle 'tis naw any better. At that moment; big hands and javelin points forced him to his feet. Tethered still; Biin rose as well. With a glance at his tether-mate; he dropped his shell-cup to the bone-decking. Snook smiled at the encouragement. The huge gerban nodded back.

All the slaves were shoved and jabbed back into the cage; Rhalpie carried and dumped on the floor like a soggy blanket. Snnok sat down beside him; telling himself he should get some sleep. But he couldn't. He wanted to explain to Rhalpie; if he could. He didn't know how but it seemed like something a friend should do.

It was stifling in the cage and no wind came to push around any of the air. Sweaty odors and a doo-doo bucket urgently in need of being emptied flowed about instead. It was quiet, but for Biin. He stayed up with Snookeroo; saying no words but he had a habit. Obviously thirsty; he clicked his tongue off his buckteeth. After a couple hours of such; Snook was considering slapping him a few times; when at last Rhalpie gave a moan and opened his eyes. Snook sat silent as the other just lay on his back. Finally; he rolled over onto his stomach; revealing in the bolts of afternoon Bellus-light a back quite, quite red.

"I'm sure glad I aint got a headache anymore."

Snook nibbled a lip. "I'm sorry, Rhalp. Believe me, 'tis better this way. I did naw break anything; did I?" "Naw. Just let me lay here and dehydrate." Sarcastic or not; the remark wasn't funny. Biin and Snook exchanged glances; saying more then words could. "Rhalpie; I gotta get us some water. In this heat and dry air.." "You said it was drugged." "Canna all be. I'm gonna go find some." "How you gonna get it back?""Do naw know." "Can I come along?" "Nein." "Okay."

So plainly put; Starsharke had to fight to keep the smile off his face. But He was certain he was right. They couldn't possibly avoid dehydration on only a few cups of water a day. They had to store something resembling tamper-free H Two O somewhere. All he had to do was:

A) Get out of his unbreakable tether
B) Get out of the cage without being seen
C) Find where the water was and something to carry it in
D) then repeat the process in reverse getting back.

I must be meshugah; he thought.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2008 5:43 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 26...'Out for water'

He took his tether in both hands; pulling pointlessly. Was naw there a sharp edge somewhere; where he could cut it? He searched about but all the decking and cage-walls were without such chips or splinters. Biin; watching; shook his head but kept his comments to himself. "Oh, for a knife!" "A knife?" Rhalpie hadn't moved. "Hold right there, man."

Rhalpie rolled over; exposing a gap-toothed grin. Snook couldn't see where the other's hands had gone but one hand finally slid into view; with a three inch by one inch chunk of something in it. Both Snook and Biin inclined forward to get a better look at it. Rhalpie offered it up and young Starsharke took it; briefly turned the dark metal object over once or twice; then cringed as a sharp edge nipped. "It 'tis metal. Iron? Where'd you..." "Remember back during the hassle when they pitched that old guy over? That one guy I got with the water?" "Aye?" "Remember how he waved his spear..." "Javelin." "Javelin all around? He hit the side of the table and this piece broke off. I grabbed it before going night-night." "Do I want to know where you've been hiding it?""No." "Why did naw you say something before?" "I was going to! Remember just before you cold-cocked me?" "Oh. Aye. I'm sorry about that..." "Yeah, yeah." Rhalp lay back down; stomach upon the decking. But at least he hadn't sounded mad.

It took close to five minutes before the lad managed to cut himself loose and it was only with Biin holding the tether taut. The iron chunk was sharp but brittle; a mighty poor bit of forging that literally disintegrated as it was used. Loose at last; Snook was gathering his battle plan and courage when Rhalpie spoke again from his place. "Snook...you suppose that drug stuff is addictive?" "Let's hope naw. You rest up, Rhalp. Save your energy. I"m off to find....whatever." Snook stole to the cage door; was about to slide the bar aside when the tread of thug-feet came. He drew to the side; back behind cover of one of the cage-covering cloths. Impatiently he waited as the steps came slowly nearer.

Then he heard another set of steps. Softer; slower but close. Had they put out a additional guard? Head honcho was getting pretty clever....

A furry paw touched a shoulder. He turned to see Biin's face just behind him; like a mountain crouching by a trifling hillock. He'd been the source of those other steps. "I vosnad veuti, ognist." Snook was moved. But also adamant. "Tut, Biin. Po vesnad tut." "Ugu?" "Po vepu..." the liguist didn't know the correct words; he spread his arms in a expansive fashion. His huge friend nodded; even had a grin hinted at. But his eyes seemed solemn. "Po vebavn a felovovu toil." Snook only understood the first and last words, but got the gist. A grin of his own came. "Watch," he pointed to his own eye; then to his prone fellow human, "Rhalpie." The brown fur nodded again then put out both his arms. Snook moved to face him, curious. The walking guard came by; heading back the way he'd come. But Snook was watching Biin.

The gerban had both arms out; palms facing down. His thumb, pointer and middle fingers were not bent; the last two were; curled back onto the palms. Snook put his own hands out in imitation; just as a test. Biin moved his hands forward till their hands met; his right hand's three extended fingers placed over the curled up fingers of Snook's left hand; his left hand fingers placed underneath likewise Snook's right hand. He took the lad's thumb of each and gave a gentle squeeze. His face suggested he was very certain about something and his touch warm. Snook returned the squeeze then pulled away. I think I just learned the gerban handshake.

He slid aside the gate's bar; opened it and waddled outside.

There was shade to be found; caused by the cage. He rolled the gate back into place and figured they must still be heading some place northwards. And frankly; he didn't want to vacate the shade. But he had to and soon; he knew. He had to time it right; to make his move just as the sentry was about to turn the corner to the bow. And there was always the chance of being spotted by those crow's nest guards. He stooped and stayed as close as possible to the cage; ears alert for that familiar stalking-sentry sound.

In waiting; he went over the most likely places to find water. He settled on there really being only three choices. Below the main deck somewhere; up front in the 'guiding module or up in the head hulban's pole-hut. Off hand; he had to eliminate the last two. Having a water storage site up front wasn't logical and how much water could be stored up on that pole? It was below decks he had to go.

His musings were interrupted: the sentry was just about to turn the corner to head his way. Time to move.

The lad scampered up the side of the cage; using the numerous crossbars as foot ledges; rather like climbing a ladder, in fact. Near the top; the most vulnerable spot to his thinking; he had trouble; almost slipping. He caught himself; swung over the apex; slid more then climbed down the other side and alighted easily upon the deck. Here; not far from where the ramp went down to the turnstile pit; he noticed two things.

First; it was mercilessly hot. This was the 'light-side' of the vessel and ole' Alpha Bellus wasn't taking prisoners. Young Starsharke's back tingled as his previous sunburn woke to remind him how much fun was instore. And second; there was someone coming up the ramp.

Snook wasn't one to be rushed; if he could help it. He liked to think things through, normally. But he had to make a split second choice now or he was in some deep, runny stuff. Over the side. It was the only chance. So he went over the side.

Between Zeta's 70% 'G' and the soft sand; the lad didn't get a scratch. And as far as he could tell; he wasn't seen. He suspected it was one of the younger hulbania coming up the ramp; he'd just caught a glimpse of ears bobbing into view as he'd gone over.

He righted himself and found the sand was as cold as a skillet preparing bacon. His bare feet didn't much like it. Looking about; he spotted a beach-ball sized red rock perhaps twenty feet away and got to it quick. It was unsteady and Alpha Bellus had heated it to roasting temperatures. Moving his feet to the shaded side helped; though the boulder tottered and nearly started rolling. He squat down and tried to make some sense out of things. They were still in a canyon; though it's walls were short and brocken. The gaps framed wide spaces of barren sand on both sides. It was wide; this canyon; and rocks and boulders were all about. The teen was starting to think his guess of these canyons being old dried up riverbeds to be getting more possible.

Bellus above continued it's cruelty. It's rays pounded down on his back in a nearly physical way; till he wanted to duck and cover. How could anything live in this heat? He noticed the galley was rolling slowly away; right to left. No alarm seemed to have been raised, yet. But he'd have to catch up and get back on, somehow. Sweat dripped off his forehead into a eye; he knuckled it away. More sweat ran down to the corners of his lips. He lapped at them as much from thirst as irritation. Well; I must have a little fluid left. Otherwise I would naw be....

Something made a slithering sound close by.

He looked down to the sand; the shadow from the canyon walls and all the rocks were sharp and almost solid-looking. Sand moved close to the beach-ball boulder. Close to his feet. He involuntarily tried to draw away; but the boulder wiggled and he forced himself to set still. Whatever it was; it was big. Bigger then he, anyway. The sand shifted and moved in a side to side motion. Finally; it parted slightly and he got a peek at it's cause.

It was dark grey; nearly to black. Perhaps as wide as his shoulders, it's hide looked coarse and though he saw no head; he thought he detected what may have been short; almost pyramid-shaped flipper-limbs. It's motion through the sand was very snakelike in appearance. Another of those beasties that'd taken the old gerban. Must follow the galley; Snook decided; shuddering slightly at the likely reason why. The creature had slid some ways off; roughly circling the beach-ball boulder. Snook felt like throwing something at the animal.

For how was he to get to the galley now? Could he outrun it? If he failed...

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sat Apr 26, 2008 5:59 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 27..."Belly of the Galley"

At a loss; the lad looked again to the retreating Galley. He spied for the first time that the rearmost section of the middle-part had a particular arrangement. A arm's span of hull was recessed from the rest. It was maybe seven feet tall and fit the curve of the hull quite closely. Some sort of a door, perhaps? Or hatch; using the more accurate phrase. Could he stand there; up out of the sand and what waited there?

Yet: how to get there? That...that... sand crocodile or whatever hadn't wandered far. He rubbed at his chin; shifted his feet. The boulder again rocked and nearly rolled and he fought back a few sharp comments.

No help for it, he came to. A prayer then a dash.

He said the one and launched into the other; onto the sand he went and ran for the vessel.

One can run in sand but when it's soft and yielding and when it's hot to the point of scorching and when one is barefoot; bruised and in need of sleep; it can be a bit of a challenge. More so when he misjudged the height of a rock; thinking he could just step over it; was wrong; had a foot caught and was sent rolling to the sand. Get up; you pathetic bozo! That croc must be right on your tail! Despite sand in hair and eyes; he got up. Disoriented; then not; he sprinted all the harder; each stride kicking up a cloud of yellow rearward. He neared the galley and then was scrambling to get up on it; by that recessed hatchway. The ledge-like lower edge; not three inches wide; was a good yard off the ground. He hopped; clutching with both hands then was up. He turned and glanced behind him.

The slithering sand had just turned; sliding off to the left. It must have been close, very close. He leaned back; as best possible and tried to catch his wind. Dang; if the air was naw hot! And dry. Making his lungs feel drained. It was a couple minutes before the lad checked out the hatchway.

The hatchway; actually a pair; one on each side of the section; while of the same construction materials as the rest; was definitely a separate unit of the hull. The hull itself; he saw for the first time; wasn't a surface without scar. There were gaps; just a couple inches wide; from about halfway up the hull to the decking above. He considered spying inside through one of these but suspected he wouldn't see anything. The hatchway didn't display much info, in any case. He couldn't budge it; which wasn't surprising. The small working space made getting leverage just about impossible. What about momentum; he wondered.

Snook; using mostly his climb-experienced fingers; lifted himself up and swung into the hatchway a few times. The results were totally negative. He tried pushing with his legs. Not a quiver. He chambered back down; just in time to nearly get spilled overboard. The canyon floor was indeed getting quite rock-strewn: unavoidably so. Now how was he to get inside this bloody thing? He couldn't see a way. Then a maybe was spotted. Across the breadth of the vessel, was that other hatchway. It would be a bit tricky to get to; the 'tail' part of the craft jutted out right in the way. A obstacle with few hand or footholds. He could have stepped briefly and darted over. But that newly christened 'sand-croc' might debate the action. Tripping now would most certainly be undesirable.

Using finger-holds that barely qualified as such; he swung over. But it didn't look the least different from the first. It was getting depressing. Just then; the galley lurched due to passing over something. The lad grabbed for handholds; leaning back against the hatchway. Which rolled aside; tumbling him on his back.

His first impression; other then feeling like a complete fool; was that it was dark; save the wall of light from the open hatchway. His eyes battled to adjust and when they did; he got his second impression.

Of a hulban sitting not two feet away.

But the gray didn't move. Indeed; the only thing coming from the furry fellow was a droning noise reminiscent of a poorly tended lawnmower engine. When his heart rate was back down to double digits; Snook; levered up on a elbow; saw the fellow's multiple eyelids seemed quite dark. He was asleep! With his eyelids in the down position and all. The sunburn on his back working as motivation; Snook got to his feet. Looking around; he realized he was at last where he'd set out to get. He hoped.

The gaps in the hull had a eye-catching effect. This was along the lines of venetian blinds. All along the decking and all items therein were crisscrossed by long, thin yellow-white stripes. Starsharke glanced back at the napping guard; nervous. But the other continued in his siesta; oblivious to any foreign presence. He slouched back in slumber upon the hull. His chair was a dark block; perhaps of wood-stuff. It's top was craved into a T-like arrangement; to accommodate the gray-fur's tail and flanks. There was no back support. Wrapped up in both arms; held close like a teddy-bear; was a ever-present javelin.

Snook turned from him; still trying to get the measure of the place. At the far end there seemed to be a exit; a half-closed hatch displaying light. With the nature of this section; it was not unlike looking down a tunnel.

It took him a moment; but it became apparent. Much of the structure about came formed not just from bone; but from the spinal column and rib cage of a single, immense beast. The backbone itself was thick; triangular; at least as big around as the lad himself. From it's position on the floor; center of all; the ribs splayed out and up; forming arcs and braces for hull and bulkhead alike. They were; admittedly; somewhat spindly but he couldn't help but marvel at it all. What incredible animal did this come from? He recalled Rhalpie's comment about raptors; Jurassic Park. This creature could have given any of those dinosaurs a run for their money. Size-wise, anyway.

He turned again; hearing the low grind of bone upon bone. And discovered the secret of how the turnstiles worked; whatever the lad had suspected before.

There were poles; bone-make; at least as thick as a leg; running down through the flooring above. These were unquestionably connected to the turnstiles as they rotated at that all too well-learned cadence. And were secured to the floor; or rather; to a revolving wheel-shaped bone-piece. Smaller poles poked out at one point; a pantomime of the turnstiles above. Intermingling with these other turnstiles were side-way positioned bone-beams run from each site through snugly fit breaks in the hull. A big pole was rotated by the slaves above; the bone-cogs revolved in due turn and thus the wheels got their power.

It was primitive; admittedly; but also practical and the lad stood sometime with hands on hips, admiring the workmanship. The thin lines of light draped the workings like stripes on old barber poles. Snook now noticed the porch; to his left. And what lay on it.

He called it a porch; because it seemed to be connected or at least set up against the hull on that side of the galley and it's out-edge was supported by three thick bone-stumps. It looked like a porch; so he was going to call it a porch. But no old hound dogd resided therein. There had to be at least a dozen hulbania; in sleep and snoring; upon it. Great bundles of some manner, like rope-thick dark blue, nearly purple, yarn served as both blankets and mattress. About, under and on top these bundles and each other they lay; most of them a nasal-sounding chorus to their dozing sentry.

So this is where their shift of guards went on their downtime. And yet it was striking to the lad; to see them thus. These cruel, brutal grays; laying now; commingled like close family. Such a contrast! What sort of history; past; did this display? Did they make all this, he wondered. How could they be such craft....men; work so hard; travel so uniquely; speak so fascinating a language and still be so....

And, he interrupted himself; where did they keep their water?

He looked and ultimately found none. Under their porch was a collection of weapons. Javelins and odd-looking knife-like objects; seemingly a combination of a slashing blade; with a spike stabbing piece affixed to a hand-grip. Metal, too, he noted. He wanted to snag them; the knifes certianly. One each for himself; Biin and Rhalp. A couple for Rigel and Cindy; if he could hide them. But he doubted he could nor had a idea how to transport same. Though glancing up to the ceiling above; it was something to think his companions were only a few yards away.

He filed the thought away and noticed anothing telling item. There were few bundles of clothes; few objects tied up to the walls. in simplest terms; there didn't seem to be many personal effects. Most befuddling beings; these hulbania.

At last, young Starsharke found a dried clay-like vase further up front. It was not unlike those used to serve water during chow-time. But it was nearly empty; but for a few ounces of warm liquid; which he forced himself; more as a test of will then reasonable action; not to drink. He looked about; forlorn. Walked back to the half-open hatchway and thought a bit; rubbing his stubbly chin.

So; he'd guessed wrong. The water was naw here.

Then where was it?

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Sun Apr 27, 2008 5:52 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 28..."Discoveries."

He spotted the trailer behind; getting a good jostle from the rocks they were navigating. And kept running theories over in his mind. Naw down here... up front?

Why up front? There simply, plainly could naw be enough room. And the same still went for that pole-shack: however interesting it might be to look for curiosities sake. He shook his head. Water. They needed water, water that was naw drugged. And soon. They'd otherwise have to drink the drugged stuff to stay alive and so; remain slaves till....

Snook; in a offhand way; gazed out to the trailer again. His eyes suddenly centered on it. You do naw suppose...

Nein. Too small. But if it's just for storage....

We canna know that. Then we'll have to find out. How?

Got a idea.

He did, too. Sliding stealthily around the drowsing sentry; Snook kept his eyes peeled and his legs ready. In a couple minutes; apprehensive minutes(He worried of being so close to the guard) it came. He felt it through his bare feet. The swaying of the galley, mildly, but enough to let him know they'd just passed over yet another rock. He watched the terrain; slowly unfolding below his very feet closely and there; a three foot wide; flat dark bit of stone. He placidly stepped off on it. The trailer crawled as placidly up for him to jump onto.

If he could. It's uppermost deck sides were as the main galley; festooned with lengths of thorny vine-stuff. And the line or whatever that bound the two vessel sections had been covered with pipe-like drums of bone. the younger was reminded of the smaller examples of same at the crow's nest pole; those Bellus-blocking sort. He guessed these were used to protect the connection element between the sections. Looking; he saw there was a foot-length or so of unprotected line just where it fit to the trailer. Not much. It was a light jump and a swing of his feet and some pulling and pushing but he soon found himself upon a very narrow bit of bone-decking; gray as ever and the railing was low and gave the impression of being there as a afterthought. He kept down.

He noticed then some funny, egg-shaped objects. He counted three; though he didn't look for more. They were on either side of a closed-door-like spot; a small door. The egg-things were maybe a yard tall; a couple feet across and set on end; made stable to do so by both ends being flat. The material appeared clay-like; a dried dull; brick-red.

He looked briefly about; but this was apparently all this trailer was. A couple wheels, a hump-backed form incircled by vine-barbwire; a possible hatchway at the forward end and now these goofy clay-eggs; seemingly just left here. What were they all about?

He gave one a mild push. It didn't budge. He wrapped arms around it and tried to lift. It was full of something, alright. Liquid, maybe? To judge from the slight side to side shifting, anyway. Did you open these things? There were no handholds; no markings; no openings whatsoever. Well, we'll get back to these. How about this hatch?

It was very reminding of the last hatchway and after listening a few moments with a ear pressed to it and hearing nary a peep; he tried to slid it aside. It didn't so much as wiggle. He tried the other way; with the same result. He pushed on it; pulled at it as one might a earthly portal. Nada, zip. It just stood there.

Well; this was another bonny idea.

He examined a while. He noticed the topmost edge had a slight gap to it and it's surrounding frame. He dug in fingertips and pulled downward. It came toward him; almost flopping him on his back. The door-top swung down and out; the bottom in and up; pivoted it seemed. Peering into what lay on the other side, Starsharke saw the bottom part now met with a slightly higher decking of bone-make. Beyond was dim; yellow light and things hard at first to make out. Snook slid on a hip through the portal.

He found the light came from a square; maybe foot and a half on a side opening directly opposite the entrance. It was without any covered and Bellus-light flowing in and from the now open hatchway provided just enough light; once one's eyes got adjusted. The ceiling was higher then he expected but the walls narrow. All were of bone-make; gray; coarse and with slight gaps here and there. A dozen feet long, total; a bit more then arms-breadth wide; there wasn't much walking room.

To his left were three sets of square; almost stump-like items. He made out a door-looking thing on their tops. A lid, more like. He went to one and with a few fumbles; found it slid sideways; on a pivot of it's own sort. He looked in and spotted about forty pounds worth of those dreaded circle-pod things. They half-filled the stump-bin and he actually expected to see some facsimile of a Zetan rat eating away. But it appeared pest-free. But for me, he snickered.

The second one held the grain-cakes; nearly all gone, too. The third had a series of bone-trays; smartly fit into grooves in the stump. The trays had slots whittled in them for the meal-cubes; which also seemed to be getting low. He now turned to check across the way.

He found two cabinets or something like them; connected by cord to the walls; about eye-high. He swung open a door; each with a single such and found shell-cups; dozens. The other cabinet had same. Needed to be washed, too, he thought. So: this was the kitchen. Wonder how they get all this over to the main galley? Well; it was stopped during the slave-shift switches. He had his attention drawn to the shapes underneath the two cabinets. In the light; they were shadowed and somehow mysterious-looking. But it didn't take long discern thier nature.

The shapes were of the same dried clay-stuff as the outside items. But these were smaller; more sphere-like. They had a single opening; at the end of a bit of clay formed as to a tube; as long as a pair of hands. Goofy looking arrangement, he thought. He picked one up and it seemed light. Peeking into the two-inch wide tube confirmed it's empty state. His eyes were then caught by another of the shapes; back by the little window. This one was mounted in some manner of frame, of bone; it's spout pointed to the ceiling and stopped with a bone-piece. He poked at it. Aye, he told himself. It was designed to swing; tip the spout downward. He smiled. He knew what was so cached.

He got a shell-cup; removed the bone-plug and tipped the clay-shape. Clay water jar, more exactly. The sample of warm fluid dribbled into the cup and got gulped into his stomach in nearly the same moment. He was on his third cup before using his head and giving pause.

He wiped at his mouth with a forearm and did some mental exercise. Food low... this water jar was maybe two thirds full. That would naw last long at all. His guess was just to the end of the next shift. So: they were due for supplies. The how and where were imposible to phantom. But it had to be. He chewed a lip. Maybe he should wait? Water would be coming soon enough. Biin and Rhalpie could wait a little longer, aye?

Now that made a lot of sense, he chided himself. We went through all this fuss; to come back empty handed? I think naw! And if he'd gotten water; the other two would.

But how to transport it? He couldn't just lug the whole thing; they were too awkward to be climbed with. He spied about for a answer; wasting time now becoming a worry.

Then he spotted the three smaller containers. Like the stump-sort, but only a foot and a half tall and a foot across. They'd been off to the side; almost hidden by those larger stumps; as one looked in from the entrance. Thier lids opened as the larger and inside the first, he found a few inches of dust. Powder, rather, he thought; poking with a finger. Yellowish stuff.

Wait a second. This was.....had to be the....

Before thinking what he was doing, he swung to the window and without ado; pitched the container out with ardor.

It was a mistake, of course. It must have hit a rock and it was loud; surprisingly so. It's thunk amost echoed. The lad cringed. What foolishness! He was certainly going to have to stop this impulsive stuff. It only seemed to get him into trouble. Never any good at it, anyway. In any case, he had to be making tracks and now.

But at least he'd found something to transport the water in; these things. He'd thrown the least-full one away; but looking at the ever so faintly bitter-scented powder; he thought he saw possibilities. It was very fine-grained stuff; easy to rinse away clean. Surely worth the extra use of water. And in moments; it was so. It did indeed hold water; Snook going with about a half gallon. He knew getting back to the galley wasn't exactly going to be fun; but to have made it so far was reassuring. To celebrate; he slugged down one parting cup of water; then got back outside.

There was only one remotely secure way back and that was across the line or whatever it was that connected this with the rest. It took some work; but at last he worked out a arrangement. He dangled by his hands; while holding the purloined powder-now-water stump with his legs. It was hand over hand along that line; swaying and Bellus made for a curious play of shadows on the rocks and sand beneath him. He realised then, he'd left his tether-collar unremoved: a bit of the cord, too and it did a pendulum routine; back and forth; back and forth; as if part of a old clock.

He finally got to the main-galley; no mean feat. Those bone-drums over the connection line didn't make for easy handholds. Access to the larger section was up and through a man-sized gap notched in the galley's wall/decking. Actually; Snook was starting to think they could use some touch-ups with their defensive arrangements. It was just too easy...

He got to his feet; turned and saw four unarmed hulbania staring at him; rather ominously, in fact. He smiled meekly.

"Yo. The door 'twas open."

They came at him; a gray stampede.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Mon Apr 28, 2008 5:47 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...'The cost of fisticuffs.'

He didn't seem to make a effort to run or defend himself, 'cept perhaps slide the sleep-powder-turned-water container aside. They were om him in a swarm and that would have been all an observer could have seen; big, burly gray furs moving all about. Then Snook was visible; a pair of hulbania a hold of each arm. The lad didn't appear concerned. He took a step back, bent down slightly, drew his arms close...then the gray furs were all rolling across the decking as if pitched down stairs.

Father's aikido lessons payoff at last, the lad thought. But do naw stay still! Keep moving!

A bulky hulban with dark foot-wrappings had disengaged himself from the pile and came cautiously at Snook; shoulders down and fists beside his head. Snook made a rough copy of same and closed. They circled; both looking for openings. Snook feinted a right; the heavier skipped a step back. Snook followed; feinting a left. The other ducked but held his ground; eyes on Snook's hands. The lad faked a left again; the other jerked his head; then decided to launch a right at his smaller opposition's face. Snook blocked it with a elbow and landed home with a right to the ribs; the sound a thump through the fur.

The lad pressed things: left-hooking to the head, a sharp blow; a right to the other side of his foe's head, a glancing shot. But it drew his hands up again to either side of his skull. Snook feinted another left to the head to be sure those hands stayed put then stepped in close; real close, their shoulders bumping. The youngster seemed to reach for the decking; to pick something up; but it was a hard thrown right uppercut; aimed for the exposed underside of that gray chin. Rigel had always chided on this move; claiming the younger wasn't accurate enough with it to be of use. But it was of use now. It struck with a popping sound and two abrupt aftereffects. One; Snook's right hand went tingly; as if fallen asleep. Second; the hulban fell and stayed felled; out cold.

Snook spotted other hulbania; watching in huddles of twos and threes. Where had them come from? But whatever; do naw stay in one spot, you bozo! Move!

Someone grabbed him around the neck from behind. The lad twisted; shoving into his attacker instead of pulling away. They grappled a bit till Snook got the other spun about; actually facing away. The lad wedged his victim's sizable head across a shoulder; the neck spreading. He then just dropped to the deck; the move too swift to be countered. The hulban neck got whip-lashed; stunning him into a head-shaking ball of fur. In professional wrestling circles that move was known as a reverse neck-breaker. Another of young Starsharke's favorite. He darted to his feet; just in time to face another attacker. This one was taller then Snook and thinner then most gray furs. He came hurtling forward; throwing out a long right fist at the human's chest.

The lad sidestepped; grabbing hold of the out-thrust limb as he did so. Bending slightly and moving now behind the other; Snook faked a poke at those black eyes; even as their owner was forced by Snook's grip to follow. The hulban raised a paw to protect his eyes and succeeded in losing all control of his center of gravity; as this aikido technique was designed to accomplish. All Snook had to do was go to a knee; while giving a tug on the other's arm. The big Zetan went over the lad's shoulder and down on his back. Right at the feet of the human.

Thereupon the teenager forgot just what he'd been telling himself; he didn't keep moving. The hulban was winded but alert. He reached back and wrapped both hands around Snook's right ankle. Shoot! Snook prepared to stomp his offender in the face with his free foot when another hulban jumped on his back. Snook pitched him off, to the deck. Where he joined his fellow galley-guard by grabbing Snook's other ankle. A second later; another hulban pounced on his back.

Then another. And another. Snook buckled under the weight and the last five seconds of light were a blur of hulbania foot-wraps; as they rose and fell in stomps and kicks.

It was dark some while; then Snookeroo thought it more gray. Like a pale moon in a starless night; cloudy.

Then came a baying sound. Sort of wolf-like; but low and mournful. Slow and lengthy. Snook knew who it belonged to. Laddy. Lad was calling and he had to get to him. He was hurt and he had to help. Hold on, lad! I'm coming! I'm coming!

"Snook! Damn it, sit down!" Young Starsharke didn't get it. Laddy could talk now? In Rigel Williamson's voice? The sound of a female pealing in pain came; close by. Snook tried to fight through the murk; something resisted. It pulled at his arms and wouldn't let him stand; as if he suddenly weighed too much for his legs. He attempted to get those legs under him; with more curses and cries resulting.

"Snook! Snook! Wake up! You're okay! But stop tryin' to stand! Stay put!" That did naw make sense; thought the lad. But he did stop and at last; his eyes opened. The light batted him a little and he wanted to rub at his sight organs but couldn't get his arms under control. His back hurt like heck and he was dizzy. But he also gathered a few sights. Before him was decking like galley-sort; with a low bit of railing. He could see a line of rocks; reddish and dust-draped; moving from his left to his right. He blinked a little and could see better.

"Where 'tis Laddy?" "What?"

It was Rigel; to his right. Turning his head; he found his crewmate; sitting with his back to a pole. Yo, Snook recogized. I'm sitting by this pole, too. Tall pole. Taller then a tall man. He looked down at his legs; as if surprised to find them. He wanted to stand: gave it a go. The female cried out again; someone sounding a lot like Rhalpie cussed and Rigel pulled at his arm, voice insistent. "NO! Muscles, stop! We're all tied together! If you stand, you'll choke Cindy! Sit down!"

He did stop and sit down and worked at sorting things for sense. He glanced again to Rigel; to find him eyeing him sharply. The larger man's face was beard-tipped and his lips looked like dry prunes. "What's this about Laddy, man?"

Snook just stared at the other. Then away. He closed his eyes. His voice soon came; saying things he wasn't sure he was listening to. "I had to leave him." "Laddy?" "Aye. I had to. It was you guys or him. I just could naw..." No, he came to. He was listening to his voice and had heard enough. He halted and looked around again.

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2008 5:59 pm 
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"The Foundlings of Zeta"...Episode 30...'All together'

Rigel was correct; they were all tied together. Snook's right arm was secured to Rigel's left; at the wrist and elbow by thin, cord-like bindings. Strong ones, too. They'd give and creak but wouldn't break. Snook peered to his left. Rhalpie was there; right right bound to Snook's left. Craning his head; Snook could see that the pole behind them had small holes bore in it and through them the tethers of their collars had been run. Rigel and Rhalpie's were tied together. These holes only being three feet off the decking and the tethers, as one, not even two feet long, made standing out of the question. So who was he tethered to? He tried to see and it spawned a curse in a feminine voice. Ah. Cindy.

"I'm sorry, Cindy." "Just sit still, will ya?" "Aye. What 'tis the view like from over there?" "Sunny. Too sunny." East; Snook thought. I'm facing east. "How long have I been out? 'Tis it still today?" "Sorta." Rhalpie paused. "You were out just long enough to get sold." "Sold?" "Sorta. I think the rest of us got thrown in as extras." The orange-eyed one could ask no more questions; he had to think a bit. Once more; he looked about; hoping vision would clear his mind.

He saw they were indeed on a galley; of a different order. He thought it was slightly smaller then the first or at least the middle section seemed so. To his front he could make out the forward sections; as the first galley's; as was the crow's nest not far away. It seemed to rise out of the gray decking as if jammed into dun mud by some immense creature. It rose from a recessed section; just in front of their own pole. Snook knew both by intuition and the slow, steady sound of laboring feet and long-worked backs; that was the turnstile pit. Or what passed for it here.

Rearward; a large, longer then wide; roughly triangular slave-cage filled most of his view. This one was as the first, 'cept it had a more regular network of covering cloth. Though the whole east side of those cloths were up; he could see no one therein.

He could just make out another galley; something he certainly wasn't expecting. It was behind them; close enough to make him think it was yet another section of this one. But it did not shimmy and sway as a trailer. It had to be a separate craft. The last one they had been on, maybe? He couldn't be sure; not being able to make out more. And dang if it still wasn't hot. He was thirsty.

"Sold, huh?" "Got rid of; more like." Rigel managed to sound almost authoritative on it. It seemed out of place. "You gettin' out and runnin' round was the last straw. We got to be too much trouble, man." "Well; I hope they got a good price." No one laughed. Snook decided jokes weren't in order just then. "What'd they use for money? And how'd they meet up with those other hulbania?" "Hulbania?" "Hulbania." Snook sounded disappointed. "Rhalp; have you updated these guys on anything?" The geologist snorted. "I've been busy." "Well," Snook went on; trying to be matter-of-factly; "Hulbania are the gray furs. The others are called gerbania. But remember; that 'tis the multiple. The singular wards are..." "You speak their slobber?" "A wee bit, Rigel. Now remember..." "We was traded in." Snook peeked at the other.

"Traded?" "For weapons, food and water and some weird-lookin' chest things..." "Chest things?" "Looked like loped off tree-trunks. Bitty things." The other nodded. "That'd be the knockout powder. Rhalpie tell you about that?" "More or less." "Seems some got thrown over the side."

Snook didn't elaborate; but thought he detceted just the slightest chuckle from Williamson.

"Where'd all this commerce take place?" "At a spot where all those trails and stuff met. There were two other of these rolling slave-farms; same ones as when we first got taken on. Seems they couldn't get rid of us fast enough. And that big brown thing that Rhalpie says is..." "Biin? He 'tis with us?" Snook had his spirits lift a little. "Why'd they trade him along with us?" Snook glanced at Rhalpie, wary. "Something happen while I 'twas out?" "Lots; but I thought I was explain'. If you ask me, they sent him along 'cause he so big." "Say what?" "Breedin' stock, muscles. Breedin' stock." "Oh." The lad sat with his thoughts a moment; trying to mentally picture all that had been described. "Rigel...." "Yeah?" "What happened to you and Cindy?" "We got sold...traded along with you two, man." "Nein; I mean back at the crash site. Uh,,,,I fell asleep. On guard duty?"

Young Starsharke wanted to hide his head. But Rigel's voice dismissed all need for guilt.

"Aw; just saved ya from gettin' caught with the rest of us." "So what happened?" "They snuck up on us. I got just enough time to open my eyes then they was bouncin' spears and fists off my head. Must have been two dozen of 'em. Never got a peep out." "I do naw feel so bad now." noted Snook. Cindy made a deporting grunt. "I'll sleep a lot better; knowing that. If anyone can sleep with the sun beating down..." "So what happened then, Rigel?" "Next thing I know; I'm tied up and being flopped up and down on a giant pelican."

The teen had to repeat the last in his head once or twice.

"Pelican?" "He means rappers." budded in Farlano. Rigel wasn't amused. "I mean pelican." "They don't look nothin' like pelicans. Pelicans fly." "Go back to playin' with your rocks." "They still don't look like no pelicans!" "Snook," The lone lass thereabouts was a quiet countpoint to the other's rising voices. Snook thought she sounded awful tired. "They ride these funny-looking, two-footed things. Furry." "With no feathers." "Rhalpie, can it, will ya? Please? They ride these big, ugly suckers, Snook. Me and Rigel got a real merry ride on 'em." "I see." Snook wished he could get a better look Cindy; just a reassure himself she was capable of taking what Zeta had dealt out so far. Tough girl, he thought to himself. "Hope I get a gander at these creatures. All I've seen of 'em 'tis some big three-toe tracks." "Like a giant pelican's, right?"

Snook knew better then to comment on that aspect. But there seemd plently of others to touch on. Despite all; his sense of wanting to find out all useful things of Zeta had reoccurred. "Where'd they take you on those weird thingys?" "To another kind of intersection place." Cindy had taken over the narrative. "There were three of these desert-ships and a ton of..." "Galleys." "Huh?" "Me and Rhalpie been calling 'em galleys. Like slave galleys." "How nice. So there they were and all these big gray jerks with tails staring at us and poking us with their spears..." "Javelins." "Huh?" "They're javelins. They can be thrown or..." "Look: how long does this explanation manual run?" "Sorry." Snook was. Cindy could really scold when she wanted to. "Go on, please."

"So they finally made us strip to our undies." Cindy made a unhappy noise at the memory. "Let me tell you; I really love these guys now." "Do naw we all." Snook agreed. "Rhalp; you tell 'em about what they did to that old-timer?" "Old-timer?" questioned Rigel. Rhalpie sild in eagerly. "These sum-bits tossed a sick old gerban overboard. Got all ate up." "Ate up?" "You'll meet the diners at a later date, I'm certain. So; Cindy: I 'twas wondering..." The lad sounded more like he was worrying. "Did they take all the gear? My binos and the..."

There came a sharp crack. It came from above; Snook thought and looking; spotteda head-honcho shack over and just beyond the slave cage. All the humans exchanged glances.

"Weapons." finished Snook. "Yeah; they got our guns." "That was naw a glock. I do naw think, anyway." "Isn't. Cindy lost that glock sometime while we was being bagged." "Did she." "I did, too!" "I did naw mean anything." Snook wasn't the least convincing. "That was naw my rifle and certainly naw the shotgun. So..." "Mine." "You had another gun?" Rigel nodded. "Yeah. What can I say? You gotta love desert-eagles." "The present, then." "Yeah." "That 'tis in .357, aye?" "Would have wanted the .44, but.....you know. A present is a present." "I'm surprised. But I do naw know why."

Hulbania were raising their voices in questions and in moments; a pair of husky gray furs came scrambling up from the turnstile pit. Apparently; there were ramps. Javelins in their arms; they hustled past the humans to the bottom of the shack-pole and began making loud queries upward. In a few seconds; a answering voice came from upstairs. Starsharke looked up and saw a short (By hulbania standards) thin shouldered gray fur had come to the railing girting the honch-shack; leaving a door-hatch rolled open behind him. He leaned over the railing; shouting down to the others. Snapped; more like. He was angry.

"What's he sayin'?" questioned Williamson. "What's going on?" demanded Farlano. "I can't see..." "And who cut the cheese, anyway?"

All the males made the effort to look at the female. To those who could see her; she sent back a tenuous smile. "Just trying to lighten things up, guys." "Yeah, right." Rigel avoided a opinion on the concept. He addressed Snook again. "Now what's all that gabber about?" "Maybe someone shot their mouth off." "Shut up, Rhalpie. What's the deal, muscles? The lad listened patiently; trying to absorb as much as he could. After a few moments; he attempted a ongoing analysis.

"Seems the guy up top there wants the others to mind their own...nein, wait. Nein; someone..." They could all hear shouting coming from inside the shack. "Someone..." The guards had all turned and cast eyes humanward. Everything seemed to stop.

"I can't even see what's happening," Rhalp announced, "And I know it's bad."

 Post subject: Re: First story
PostPosted: Wed Apr 30, 2008 5:49 pm 
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Member with over 1000 posts!

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"The Foundlings of Zeta'...Episode 31...'Charming company.'

One of the guards made a funnel with a paw beside his mouth and called out something. And then began to approach. "Snook," it was Rigel. "Something's gonna happen but before it does; I want you to look at Rhalpie's ankle."

"Rhalpie's ankle?" Snook didn't get it. "I've seen his ankle." "He's seen my ankle!" Rhalpie nearly yelled it. He sounded insulted; outraged. "It don't look good to me." The security man muttered. "You can't walk on it, can you?" "We plannin' on a marathon or something?" The lad had to cram his neck to see; he could hear Miss Milo intake breath in pain from his movement; so he kept it quick. The geologist's ankle was more swollen and it's way of just dangling there; as if removed from all that was going on about it; made Snook turn back to Rigel.

'Well; it 'tis awful swollen. But it 'twas that way before, Rigel." "You tell 'em, Snooky!" "Snook, Rhalp." "Oh, hell." Rigel didn't sound sated. "Can anyone here say 'gangrene?" The interval following lingered in a most ugly way. "You think he has gangrene, Rigel?" "I don't have gangrene!" "Hell, you'd know better then me, muscles." "I don't have gangrene!" "I'm nein doctor, Rigel. It does naw smell, though. Gangrene has a odor..." "I said..." "You don't have gangrene." Cindy finished. "So you keep telling us."

At that moment; big furry paws and hostile eyes were upon them. All struggled but against armed hulbania, it was foolish to press the issue. It became apparent that they desired Snook and Rigel; not the others. The two left-behinds were bound together then the 'chosen'; with a tether so short there was only inches between shoulders; were led by four gray furs toward the pole hutch. Two were with javelins and the others with the crossbow-like weapons. The humans were brought under the hutch. There they found short pegs had been placed in alternating fashion; leading upwards. One of the javelin luggers went up first; as if showing the no-furs how it was done then the last three hulbania indicated with weapons the course the captives were to take. Snook then Rigel set to quickly. It was hardly easy going. The short tether hindered no little.

At the hutch; under the close scrutiny of the lead-javelin hulbania; the earthmen found a very short porch; bordered by bone-railing. A open hatchway and firm held javelin beckoned; so they went inside. It was dark in there and close. Roughly square; maybe 15 feet a side; with a seven and a half foot ceiling; everything in sight was of bone-construction. Save perhaps the table. Or was it a desk, young Starsharke thought. It was a great block; a smaller version of the chow-time table. Also far cleaner.

To the left of the block-table stood the smaller hulbania; the angry, shouting one. His feet were in black cloth; his chest in a almost blouse-like bright yellow. Upon his shoulders and neck was a strange garment; dark red. It reminded of a fairy tale 'little Red riding hood.' Running through the shoulders; two to each; were those odd but wicked bands of metal. Such as had been found so crually about Laddy's neck. If mere lengths of metal cord could look dangerous; these did. His tail was thin yet long; his face was that of a cylinder with long, wide-spaced whiskers at one end; big, laid-back ears at the other and close set eyes in between. He stared on the two humans with contempt.

Upon the block-table was a small bowl, metal. A flame danced in a reddish and yet almost mist-like flicker and sway. It's glow under-lit the figure behind the block.

He was tall; the tallest gray fur Starsharke had yet seen. Not as big as Biin but certainly bigger then himself. And fat, very fat. His cheeks bulged out as if a wedge of watermelon was held inside each. Like the other; he wore a blouse-like garment; but of darker, duller yelow. He seemed to have no neck and his light gray fur had small patches of white. His whiskers were short; cut perhaps; looking like bristles on a stiff-hair brush. The right eye didn't match it's counterpart. It seemed to be filmed over. Due to injury, wondered Snook. Cataracts?

Looking on the block, Snook could see his rifle, Rigel's shotgun and a almost ludicrously large automatic handgun. A couple stray cartridges and shells lay with them. A four foot scabbard; like the head-honcho's of the first galley, lay nearby. Within easy grabbing range of the bug hulban, Snook noted.

But what was dangling from the shoulders of the big Hulban's blouse drew his gaze. A pair of things on each side and he had to battle to contain a smile. For he thought they looked like so much sausage! Whatever was he doing; why decorate one's self with....

Well; it was rather odd sausage. At least two feet long and covered with brown...

Wait a minute.

Brown fur. They were covered with brown fur.

These aren't sausage. They were gerban tails.

"Found it."

Snook glanced to his friend, startled. The larger was pointing to a locality on the ceiling; just over the table-block. Snook nodded as understanding arose. "Bullet hole." "Sure as hell." "Ofo ak po vetardut runiia?"

It was fatso. Snook concentrated on his return. "I vesi." "Garban!" The smaller budded in; clearly ticked at Snook. "Dod vepu ko vun-pav! Vetard hotkh kho." "What's that all about?" Williamson also seemed angry; but at the other. Snook could see a difficult translation ahead. "Seems I've acerbated local etiquette. I'm naw sure what the title means but elephant butt here 'tis a 'vun-pav'. I'm to refer to him as hotkh kho." "Tell 'em to eat..." "Bouku!" 'Elephant butt' made a waving motion with a hand. "Tut an gar runiiia." He indicated with his hand for the humans to move closer. They did; the javelin and crossbow that had entered with them keeping close.

Up close; the fire gave the black surface a eerie glimmer. The lead hulbania took the handgun; Rigel's desert eagle, in both hands and offered it to the orange-eyed lad. He drew his staring eyes from the gristly trophies displayed by the Zetan; catching the other's drift. "He wants us to show him how these work." "Tell 'em to eat..." "Rigel. I got a idea." "Not another." "I know my track record 'tis naw impressive at the moment, but we got a angle here." "Angle?" "When 'tis the last time you had something to eat?" Rigel got it. "Too long. Water, too." "So let's make a deal." "I don't dig that, man. You want these scum-bags runnin' around with guns? If you ask me; they'll kill us as soon as we show 'em." "I do naw see that as a worthy alternative to starving." "Then show 'em wrong. Or break..."

"Bouku!" One-eye clearly distrusted all the talk he couldn't comprehend. He centered his eye on Snook; who felt uncomfortable under the gaze. This was one who looked for details, he thought. Weakness. Dare he show any? The lad cleared his throat; sorting words. "I voipl gun." "Goun?" "Gun. I voipl gun. Po veater bulg. Guir-stord-mor." The other thought a moment; then drew back cheeks slightly, exposing buckteeth; both brocken. Snook took it for a knowing grin.

"Vekros op goun. Po voeter guir-stord-mor." Snook shook his head. "Guir-stord-mor. Bulg. Vove gun." "Bulg." The big fellow gestured with a hand. "Ve." The smaller gray fur glowered at the humans but bustled over to their right. There they saw one of the egg-shaped containers. There were cabinets up off the floor; not far from a thin slit of a window. The toady rummaged in them; tipped the egg and two shell-cups were in head-dude's hand in a flash. But he did not offer the cups right away. Sat looking at the humans. The lad couldn't help but lick his lips and found; surprised, they were not just dry but cracked. His fellow human was shifting his weight foot to foot uneasily as well.

Snook held out a hand; as if offering to take a shell-cup. The other looked at it as if expecting it to fall off and wiggle around. Snook had to give it to the guy. He was a tough negotiator. Snook smiled as sweetly as he could. Quietly; carefully picked up the desert eagle. He disengaged the magazine; well-loaded and turned the big firearm over once or twice. The Zetans were all eyes.

Snook thereupon, in less then ten seconds; 'broke it down'. He disassembled it into it's basic components and left it laying there; among it's fellow tools. Under the red glow; One-eye's ears lowered.

"Vegas lo! Ve pav lo ba ut!" Snook wordlessly pointed to the cups. The lead gray fur snorted; put one shell-cup forward. "Take it, Rigel. I'll get another." "You better hope so." But his friend took it, too. Snook reassembled the weapon in methodical fashion; never looking up from his chore. He was nearly finished when his fellow human spoke again. "Where'd you learn to do that?" The younger glanced over, a slight smile present. "I read a lot." He put the firearm back on the table-block. Peering up; he found a hard eye watching every detail. Mr. Toady was a nerve-irritating presence to his left. One-eye tapped the handgun with a finger, the intention manifest. Snook set back to work.

The lad had left the magazine separate. He picked it up and clicked out a single round; being sure One-eye got it. He pasued; then made sure the safety was on. He showed his unsuccessful try at a trigger-squeeze to his audience; then how it would function when the safety was off. He glided the magazine home; scrupulously loaded the chamber. Then looked for a target.

Naturally; the idea of shooting his way out came to him. He could blast One-eye; toss Williamson the shotgun and they could just use lead to pound their way clear. Easy, aye? Nein prob for two tough-guys like them, aye?

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