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First story
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Author:  Iowanic [ Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:14 pm ]
Post subject:  First story


Chapter 1

Snookeroo Starsharke stole out 10 hours till nightfall, Zeta-time.
Rigel Williamson and Laddy followed in moments.

"We're gonna get in such trouble," muttered the larger Rigel. "What're they gonna do?" sent back the younger, not turning around. "Fire us?" "Don't be givin' suggestions, muscles." "Less talk, more action, please."

The lad got the rear cargo-hatch open. Rigel had had doubts about that. But Snook claimed to have a way with alarms and it had been safely deactivated.

I think, the teenage Starsharke told himself.

His second best friend on the planet was busy getting underfoot. Rigel hadn't wanted the canine along.

The hatch swung down, toughing the turf like a ramp. In side the space beyond was a red and silver Chevy Blazer. Atop it's cab was a 18 inch communication-dish. It's nearest dooe had been stenciled in dark green.


"Has the grease been obtained? Otherwise, we got a long walk." "5, 2 ana halfers, muscles." "Get on it. I'll hustle out the rest. Laddy! Stay away from that tree!"

Each took to their chore. Rigel levered a 2 and a half gallon fuel container into position. The green-minded Noah's Ark project had decided of bio-diesel.....cooking oil, for fuel in it's surface vehicles. Didn't realize it was so hot out, Rigel thought. Alpha Bellus was edging down, opposite the shuttle. The grease made glugging noises into the car.

Snook had decided on two weeks food for the three of them and as carrying the precious foil-wrapped 'una-meals' was unfeasible; they'd have to exist on dehydrated and scanty canned stuff.

In bulky but light backpacks was nearly all their gear. They had a canteen a piece and a square plastic water-container filled to it's five gallon capacity. Snook had his Winchester model 94 rifle; set it carefully on the hood of the car. He had a couple boxes of cartridges close by.

"What was that?" "Probably a monster." Rigel was into the last fuel container by then. "I thought I heard something." "Ain't nobody heard us, muscles." "Wildlife, then." Snook paused to look around. The 'trees' were tall and spindly. In most cases the branches didn't start till over half way up. What passed for bark was thin and the sap very liquid. Flammable, too, the lad mused; remembering how Carl had found out while taking a chain-saw to one.

The lad worked the Winchester's lever-action: the chamber was clear. the cartridges went into a vest pocket. "Lad! Laddy! In boy!"

The big furry brute came over, curious. Snook motioned for the door and pulled at the handle. He frowned, tried again.

"Yo, Rigel." "Yo, muscles." "Open the doors." "You got the keys, right?"

There was a uncomfortable pause.

"Oh, nein." "Oh. yes." "They must still be in the shuttle. Upfront, most likely." "Who's going for 'em?" "Well..."

Sounds came from the airlock. Someone was cycling the unit.
"We're screwed."
Just then, someone rolled down the driver's side window. A arm came out; keys jingling. Snook and Rigel leaned down, looked in. It was Cindy; dressed in some sort of coverall thing. Her hais was dark, long and her face was half smirk, half dare.

Rigel cussed; pulled at the passenger side door in vain. Snook aimed face and words at Cindy.
You canna come. You know that."

There was a sliding sound in the airlock, a electric motor. Laddy gave a bark and dove through the open window space; basically flattening Cindy. Snook got the door open, slid behind the wheel. "Give me the keys....and get out." "You want the keys." She was having trouble getting untangled from Laddy. "I go along." "You'll be cutting the rest of the team down to three people!" "And increasing this team from two." "Three." Snook was belting himself in. "Counting Laddy." "Does this mutt have to come along?" "Where I go, Laddy goes." "Someone open the door!" yelled Rigel. "Open the door." "Do I go along?"
The outer airlock began slowly sliding open.
"The door, please."

The door got open, Rigel got in and they all began to fight for space. Laddy was well pleased with the festivities.

"Rigel? Did you get the rest of the gear?" "How could I? You get 'em!"

Snook got unbelted and got them ,weapons included. Rigel got the keys and behind the wheel; Snook dashed around the four by four to the passenger side, beaned Cindy flinging the supplies into the rear seats and Laddy whapped everyone with his wagging tail. Snook shoved his way into the mess, closed the door with gusto. "Pray the batteries are up to snuff." "Everyone buckle up." Cindy pushed Laddy out of her lap and then the Blazer turned over, coughed once or twice and hummed. Rigel got it into gear, backed around the shuttle's dormant engines and cruised across the mushroom-doted turf.

None of them looked back at the figure watching them depart. But all eyes glanced to the radio-set on the dash. It was off and frankly; wasn't state of the art. Time constaints, back when, Snook knew.

"Who was it?" "Out the airlock?" "Yeah." "Carl, I think." "They'll be calling." "They can wait. Give 'em time to cool down." "You know what they'll say." "Aye. But I blame them not." "They got a job to do, Cinnnn-day." Rigel had taken to drawing out her name when he spoke it, "And us." "Guess we got one now, too." Cindy and Rigel each chanced a inspection of their fellow crew member. He seemed to be thinking. As usual.

'Rigel, observed Snook after a bit, "Is naw this a bit fast for this terrain?" "Yeah, you're right." Rigel responded further by adding five more miles per hour. Snook shut up as they jolted and thumped. The lad glanced back at Cindy. She was rummaging through a couple backpacks of her own.

"I hope you brought food." "Didn't you guys?" "Indeed. For two people and a dog, naw..." "I brought plenty. And while you two wasted time and space bringing a arsenal, I took the stuff that really matters." Young Starsharke recognized the outline of a video camera then.

"Oh, nein." "What?" Rigel mistakenly cursored the instrument panel, then back and forth outside. "It's candid camera time." "Oh, hell. Did you bring that stupid thing?" "Come on, you guys." Cindy was getting a tape into the gadget. Her voice was of one pleading. "This is documentary time! We could end up world famous, so we better have it on tape. the first humans to walk suit-less on Zeta." "And perhaps the first to die?" That certainly sounded pleasant, Snook chided himself. "Note: if any of us feel sick; they must let the rest of us know. Pronto."

Cindy shouldered her camera and leaned into the front; almost jabbing Snook in the face. "Action! Snook! Say something!" "Something." "Oh.......right. Let's introduce everybody. Rigel! Tell us who you are." "I'ma da so-fer, boss. I'ma just de driver." "Will you stop it? Now....tell us your full name." "Rigel Williamson." "What's your middle name?" "Don't have one." "Why?" "Ask my mom." "What does your mom do?" "She scrubbed floors." Rigel scowled. "No more questions, I'm workin'." "Fine." Cindy sounded no such thing. She moved the lenses to Snook. He eyed her over a shoulder.

"Okay! What's your full name?" "Do naw I get to speak to my lawyer first?" "Come on! You're..." "Snookeroo Aaronaxe Starsharke." "Who named you? Monty Python?" "My father. He liked odd names." "What did he do?" "Monty Python?" "No! Your father!" "Oh."

The lad faced back around front. They were passing a thicket of some manner of wiry, closely packed bushes. They were a deep brown and talled then the car. The terrain had gotten a few small bumps and LS-1 was long out of sight.

The air conditioner breeze moved his shoulder-length deep brown hair. He, like Rigel, was a exercise fanatic and it shown in his limbs and neck. He hadn't wasted his five plus monthes in-fight from Earth.

He wore a plain white t-shirt under his vest, baggy blue-jeans and light green running shoes. In his hands, it's stock upon the floorboard, was the Winchester rifle. He would palm it's barrel, one big paw then the other.

His eyes were his most noticeable feature. They were bright orange.

He knew they unsettled people, being so weird. But it was a family trait: male Starsharke's had orange eyes. Doctors mad dismiss, but....

He was a archaeologist." "Indiana Jones, my butt. What does your mother do?" "Housewife." "They still exist?" "They did then." "And how did you become a linguist? "Happened into it. God gave me languages as a gift, I reckon." "How many do you speak?" "How long is this gonna go on? Should naw you be filming what 'tis going on outside?" "From the backseat? I should be up front!" "Nein more interview, Cindy. I'm trying to think."

Snook actually looked distracted, even depressed. He finally motioned with a hand. "Map." "What?" "In my backpack. Could you retrieve my map." "You made a map?" Cindy was digging about earnestly withone hand while trying to film with the other. "It's mostly based on satellite pics. It should be good enough."

Rigel made some indistinct grumbling. Snook was about to comment when Cindy hit him in the left ear with a wad of papers. He picked through them till he got to the map. Unfolding it, the lad spoke without looking over.

"What are you mumbling about? Rigel gave a snort. "Should be good enough? SHOULD be?" "Well," the younger had the map open as much as it safely could be. It was rather sizeable. "You can always go back if you'd like." "Yeah. Right."

They drove the next half hour in virtual silence. A combo, Snook was sure, of deep thoughts and fascinating scenery. The landing probes hadn't done this world justice.

More humps of land began to impose. If not for Zeta's 70 % standard gravity, Rigel verbally doubted the machine could have stood the pounding. As it was, they didn't so much drive over hills as soar on uncompleted takeoffs. They continued on in their semi-flying escapades some bit the, on Snook's direction; they angled slightly east for a half hour, then back direct north. His plan was to head so till they met the heabier plant growth above LS-1 then follow a small river, roughly mountainward. Thus they'd turn again north to 'turn the corner' to the desert.

From there? No one spoke about it.

The greenery did indeed get thicker. the trees became less spindly and also less tall; more squat. A single base seemed to provide the starting point for a dozen trunks and even is each individual trunk, more would thrust out and upward. Like christmas trees, set on their heads, or so Rigel claimed. Young Starsharke had to fight his curiosity to keep from stopping and taking sample. Nein time, he had to remind himself and kept fiddling with map and rifle.

The river was wider then expected but otherwise not notable. The water loked clear but there was no pausing allowed. Their course swung mostly east now, with a occasional bend to head again north. The river didn;t really wind much and the land had become more level. Another half hour and gentle hills began. the river cut through them like a dull knife; ragged and uneven. They saw no creature , but then the mountains began to hove into view.

They were black but the light of Bellus was nearly full upon them; making for more of a grayish tint. Nearly north and south they ran; a seemingly solid cliff. In-orbit surveys indacated that this chain had peaks topping twelve thousand feet, with eight thousand the average.

Now they left the river, which Cindy decided to name 'Guider" and put the mountains on their right. Alpha Bellus came in the left side windows, very bright. Rigel cussed some but all could see the star was making progress to the horizon. Rigel found himself adding another five miles per hour to thier pace.

Cindy had learned at last to save some film, but she hated the idletime. Laddy was napping. On his back; all fours in the air.

Not long after they came to the black trees. And they were; a true jet pitch. Theor roots were partly above ground. They lay about; across the ground like elephant trunks. The tree braches began growth out at about twenty feet off the turf and then they meshed. Not just two or three of a single tree but apparently all of them; on all sides and as far back as could be seen. It was like a roof, a ceiling, those limbs, with vine-like leaves of dark green and pale yellow and red-violet; intertwined so that shadow alone could be seen under them.

Snook scratched at his chin, thoughtful.
Rigel, having stopped the Blazer, made a unhappy face.
Cindy filmed away, left right and center.
Laddy snored.

"I don't like the look of that." "You and me both, Rigel." added Cindy. the orange-eyed one looked briefly at his map and made a resigned purse with his lips. "Seems this stuff stretches right from the range to nearly the ocean." He absently pointed left with a thumb. "We canna go around it." "How thick is it?" questioned Williamson. "Thinnest section is about 30 miles." Right here; to keep oncourse, we'll have to cross just about 45 miles owrth." "Awful dark in there. Who knows what's inside?"

The younger looked sideways to his friend, grinned slightly. "Want me to drive?" Rigel swore. "Hell, no!" He slid the car into drive. "That'll get us killed for sure!" Everyone gave a laugh or two.

But Snook found himself checking his vest pocket for the rifle ammo all the same.

Author:  Iowanic [ Sat Mar 29, 2008 7:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

If anyone wants more, just say so.

Author:  Iowanic [ Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

'The foundlings of Zeta----Episode 2........"A duty to brethren"

It was indeed dark under the strange trees. Their boughs cut Alpha Bellus out completely. The tree roots squeaked and snapped under the tires. Rigel switched the lights on and said vile things about the dangling leaves: how they brushed the vehicle as if tasting.

It took just over a hour and a half to get through. Rigel was at first unwilling to go much over twenty miles per hour. In stages, he added a bit more as they went. About half way; at Snook's direction, he turned from straight north to northeast. It was becoming a solemn and subdued trip. And sometimes unsettling. Cindy at least claimed to see things moving about; out beyond the range of the headlights. And all saw two orbs. Small or perhaps just distant. Glowing; staring one could have said. Then they were gone. No one commented; each with their own thoughts.

At last, Bellus light could be seen slanting down. In moments, they were out, in terrain that was rocky and scant of vegetation. The change was pronounced and Snook tapped a spot on the map. "Well, we're not far from turning the corner now. Maybe 5 miles." Rigel turned the lights off and examined the mountains. They had indeed dwindled in height; though he couldn't be sure of a exact stop. He hoped his crewmate was right.

"I'm going to call that place the Cathedral forest." Cindy insisted, "Cause it was like being in a big cathedral." "At night, on Halloween, maybe." Rigel countered. The rocks were making rough and rugged suggestions to the Blazer's path: their driver took it easy.

Behind the wheel, six foot nine; still over 200 pounds even there, Rigel had his seat as far back as it could go and was still cramped. He aimed his short-sheared black-features over to the other male. "I feel like untwistin' my legs. Any objections?" Naw at the moment." "Couldn't we move further from those trees first?" "Don't worry. We'll protect you." "My heroes!"

They stopped; got out and walked a bit. Laddy roused himself and would have dashed back to the trees but for Snook. The female present was filing the 'cathedrals' as if expecting them to up and walk away. Young Starsharke had taken to gazing reflective=ly at his blessed map. Rigel smirked. Muscles was a thinker; I'm a doer. I guess that should mean we compliment each other on something like this. But muscles had brocken the old molds with his recent actions. He wasn't supposed to be impulsive.Rigel couldn't think of very much more impulsive then....

The teen happened to shoot him a side-glance; caught the look on his friend's face.
"What?" "Nothing, man."

Rigel kept smiling; reached back into the car and dug in the back a little. What he came out with a shotgun. It was nickel-plated, shiny. He didn't like that. Light bouncing off it made it near a searchlight: give them away to anything with eyes. But the folk in charge insisted it had to be so. Protection against saltwater, apparently.

He did like the pump-action and twelve guage, nine shot capacity. He also pulled out what Cindy referred to as his Rambo shirt. It was a dark vest with finger-sized loops for holding shotgun shells. He began filling them from a couple small cardboard boxes. "You lokk loaded for bear. Or whatever pases for that around here." The lass fluffed her ahir away from her thin, freckled face. "Do you guys...."

Both the others looked at her. "What?"
"Really think anyone's alive? At LS-2?"

Rigel grunted. He was working on getting a dark canvas carrying case around the shotgun. "Wouldn't be much point to being here if we didn't think so. That's why we're all here, right? To see if someone's made it?" "But.....it's been twenty four hours. More then twenty four hours! And they haven't..." "Radios could be out." observed Snook. He was folding his map. It made crumbling sounds. "We all know that." "But what if we're wrong? And chief was right? All this fuel....for nothing?" "You mean you consider all your video nothing?" Rigel's grin hadn't moved. "I mean: it must be worth something!" "We should call." Cindy looked at Snook, questions all over her features. "You said you were going to." "Let 'tis wait. A wee bit more." "How much more?" "Let's get moving. Light 'tis going."

They piled back in and in a few minutes; things were in order and Rigel had them underway. The ground was alternating short fields of gravelly, yellow stones with solid, dark swells of rock. The lighter gravity again made things a bit bouncy but they'd gotten used to it by then.
"When do we turn the corner, muscles?" "Soon." "Soon?" "Well, here's the deal."

Snook had the map out yet again. Rigel was starting to think it was glued to his hands.'We're waiting." "There 'tis a river right across the turning. A short one, but a river." "And we can't cross it, right?" "I'm naw sure. This bloody map shows it 'tis there but indicates it 'tis as thin as heck." "How thin is a heck?" "Rigel...." "Guess we'll find out, uh?" "Aye." To their right; the mountains were getting closer yet lower. Individual peaks and crags poked up like stacks of gray suger building blocks. they saw no living things, unless one counted a few thorny bishes once or twice peeking out of cracks and among the gravel. In five minutes; Rigel knew the range was ended. In a series of four or five progressively smaller blocks, the mountains ground to a halt. The rocks became smaller and further between. The Blazer bulled through a low stand of light green bushes and there was the river.

In width, Rigel thought it more a creek. It was indeed narrow; Snook couldn't see it any place wider then twenty feet. It winded only slightly; going a steady right to left direction. In spots it had cut through rock; Snook could see that it came down from someplace at the end of the range; gnawing it's slow way around, over or through each rock stand in it's path. How old was it? Thousands, he thought. Had to be thousands of years old.

Rigel stopped, sliding the Blazer into park; engine idling. Snook placed the map onto the seat he vacated in opening his door. Laddy bounded out behind him.

The lad came to the stream; looked it's swift current up and down. He leaned forward; staring hard. He had extraordinary sight. But this water defied him. He strode back to the stand of bushes and worried loose a two foot long branch. He came back, stuck it dutifully as far out into the water as he could. Rigel hailed him from the car, window rolled down. "How's it look, muscles?" "We can deal with it. Let me and Laddy wade it to be sure."

They got wet and a little chilly but it was easy going. The water didn't even make it to Snook's knee. There were tan clumps of mossy stuff on the smooth rocks but Snook again fought down the allure for samples. Laddy stopped to lap some water up. His owner didn't stop him. Whatever was in the liquid; bacterial or otherwise, it was too late. We'll all be drinking this sooner or later, the lad told himself.

The Blazer was across in no time and they were soon off again; heading east, then south. The mountains faced again to their right and the process of thier diminishing now reversed; they began to reach for the sky as the miles went. Snook had been hoping for a glimpse of Zyra; Zeta's parent planet. But now dark clouds had come from somewhere, up from the south, as if they'd been trailed in the first part of the trip. They covered near half the sky already and there was no Zyra to be seen. "That rolled in fast." noted the younger male. "Donaw recall seeing it earlier." "Thinkin' rain?" Cindy was poking aroind in back again. "I doubt it. Not on this side of the range. Desert from here on out." "Nightfall pretty soon, too." added Rigel. Long shadows lay across their pathway. The mountains were blocking the last of the Bellus-light. Rigel turned the lights on and they tolled along; making fourty five.

The rocky soil began to almost immediately to turn sandy. A light tan, talcumy stuff. the occasional breeze would kick it up into wavelike fronts: rattling off the windows and veiling the hood. Behind; it lingered in their passage like a curling tail.

Cindy handed out cups of water and cans of beef stew, much needed; appreciated and cold. Laddy caused problems by growling at her. He took his food serious and didn't want anyone near during chow-time. His owner pacified the big dog by getting out his chew bone. It was a large, rawhide pet toy which the animal soon had enwrapped in his paws and was grinding at with his fangs. He kept his back to Cindy.

Appha Bellus could no longer be seen. The clouds had consumed the entire sky; towering over even the mountains. The wind began to nudge the Blazer at intervals. Like the finger-poke of a giant. Their driver dropped off five miles per hour of speed.

The range bent a little ways from them the next hour and soon there were sand-dunes. Some went as high as ten feet and the car took them in a bounding, swaying, sand-flinging fashon. Rigel was obliged to slow even more and had his work cut out, all the same. Soon, there came great rocks and boulders; here and there. Some were flat and lay like the backs of gray colored whales. Others and quickly the much more common, were tall and spire-like. Some came to nearly one hundred feet tall. Like grey fingers, they thrust up through a creme sea.

"Fun place." commented Williamson. Snook nodded. At length; he looked back. Cindy had fallen alseep at some point. She still had the camera; across her torso like a blanket. Hair framed her face. the jostles of travel lightly moved her about; she was too deep in slumber to notice. The lad turned back forward and spoke.

"Anywhere in here." "What?" "LS-2." "Ah. Yeah." "So we better keep a sharp eye out." "I was thinking....when we gonna call back, anyway? Once upon a time, someone said...." His voice trailed off. They'd both spotted something ahead. In the headlights, it was dark and cylinder-shaped. Perhaps a yard tall and as wide. It sat without movement. A gust scattered sand across it. the blazer slowed: stopped.

Soundlessly; Cindy was woken and after a exchange of glances, they garthered gear and nerves and exited the car. Outside; they all went to stand by the object.

It was a landing tire from a shuttle.

Author:  Shy Dakota [ Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

So far I think it's GOOD!! Will you post more or do I have to wait for the book!! :D
You are a really good writer!!

Author:  Iowanic [ Tue Apr 01, 2008 6:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

"The foundlings of Zeta...... Episode 3...."Brethren found"

"This is the place." Cindy said simply. She had her camera but it wasn't on. She wanted to look a bit longer, it seemed. Rigel passed out flashlights. They were long black and metal. Rather awkward, to Snookeroo's thinking. All of them, since the headlights were off, turned their individual light on. Shadows, dancing with the the beams of light and flung sand, consorted.

"How we gonna go about this?" She had the camera perched on a shoulder. As if prearranged; Starsharke and Williamson seemed to fall into a routine. Snook had his rifle and got out the cartridges. He wordlessly slid rounds into the weapon, Rigel using his flash to assist. The cardboard box containing the ammo fluttered in the breeze. When Snook was finished, Rigel and he looked at Cindy, then one another and each nodded. Rigel went back to the blazer, digging into some of his own gear. Cindy made a face; she knew what was coming.

"Rigel; I'm not taking a gun." "Yes, you are." "No I'm not." "You don't have to use it." "Then I don't need it." "Cindy, come on." Snook knew it was a hopeless something to accomplish. But he'd feel better trying. "Who knows what 'tis out here? Better safe then sorry." "Just keep your macho bang-bangs. I'll just end up shooting my foot off."

Rigel emerged; with a leather shoulder-holster with some years and stains upon it. It held a automatic pistol. He inspected a magazine, slid it home, reholstered and held it out for the woman. "Come on, Gal. Hard to beat a Glock." "I can protect myself." "Sure. If you're attacked by something; you can threaten it with syndication."

At last, she took it and the harness. It hung on her like a watermelon of a apple tree. It didn't belong. Rigel thought he'd been patient enough. "It's time to take it to the hoop. Here's the way I see this..." He pointed to his right, the other's left. "I'm gonna go from here that way." Muscles: you're going the other way." "West?" "Yeah, toward the mountains. Cinnn-day: you're going that way." The big man motioned roughly southward, directly away from the vehicle. "Now we all gotta be on our toes and keep our eyes open. Let's give it, say...two hours." "That long!" "Hell, yeah. Crash like this, Cinnn-day; could have stuff spread for miles. And from the looks of things, we could have a lotta little pieces to find."

It was so quiet the following seconds, clicking noises could be heard from the warm-blazer's engine.

"Guess that didn't come out right." Rigel meekly admitted.

"Well," observed Snook, "Assuming we....one of us should find something..something, you know, something teling and all...." "Yeah?" "What do we do then?" "Yell!" If we all walk away from each other for two hours, we're going to have to do more then yell." "We ain't got none of the hand-held radios." "True. Would that I'd remembered!" "Wait." It was Cindy's turn to go back to the car. the others stood quietly as the lass dug around a bit. Laddy thought it was time to leave and tried to follow. Eventually, Cindy came back into the flashlights shine.

She had a purse. She had just snapped it shut and held out what she'd extracted. Two plastic whistles and a two by two inch black box. "Surely, you jest." The males could only stare on. Wind buffeted Cindy's hair. But her eyes twinkled. "Not fancy, yeah. But these will work." "Them itty-bitty whistles are gonna be heard over this wind?" "You'd be surprised by how loud they are.""What in the world do you carry those things for?" Snook had to ask. She wrinkled her nose at the larger. "This is anti-rape stuff." "Let me get this straight," Rigel was clearly not too cool with the suggstions, "I'm supposed to blow one of those silly things if some monster tries to rape me?" "Gee," Cindy didn't miss a beat, "I didn't realize there were monsters that hard up."

This conversation definitely needs a new direction, thought Starsharke.

"What 'tis the box-thing?" Cindy grinned and held it up. "It's a squawk box." "Nein?" "Yes. See?"
The lass pulled out a ring-like item from it's side and the thing yelped electronic murder. Laddy joined in with some yelping of his own. "ALright, already!" Snook took his hands away from his ears after the lass put it back to rest. "I guess it 'tis better then nada." "Not much." claimed Rigel. "I get the squealer, right?" "Squawker." corrected the female. "We could just flip coins..." "Naw. I'll take the damn thing. See how you people are?"

In a thrice, all had their devices pocketed, flashlights at the ready and more or less, a idea where to go. The menfolk each had their firearms slung across shoulders or back and the lass had her camera "So. To it we go." Snook flicked his flash in the general direction of his course. "To it we go." Cindy started off, popping up, over then behind a sand dune. Her light bobbed in the night. Rigel looked to Snook. "Think she'll be alright?" "Nein. Probably naw. But we both know we'd never be able to stop her." "I hear that. Let's go. And man?" "Aye?" "Watch what you're doin', okay?" "You, too."

The youngster turned and headed toward the mountains.

It was said often, in the weeks and months before arriving at Zeta; that the skies would be indeed a sight to behold. So much to see, many times that it would hardly seem like night at all, from all the celestial objects prowling past above them. But those discussions meant nothing here: it was as dark as the inside of a bag of coal; the clouds allowed nothing past them. The sand itself resisted easy vision and foothold alike. The wind muttered and made visible sand-waves across the dunes. Snook, began measured, back and forth sweeps with his flashlight. The rifle had been slung onto his back; but he felt no comfort from it. This was a place that when one was alone, you felt small; very small.

Something bumped his left leg and suddenly, he didn't feel quite so small. Laddy wagged his tail and lolled his tongue at the mere joy of being alive and with his best friend. The lord has blessed me so much, Snook realized. He bent down to a knee to scratch his blessing's ear.

"Well, shaggy buddy; I've done it again, have I naw? What the heck 'twas going through my head......" Snook stood. Now talking to himself. "But we gotta know. I gotta know."

For Laddy, he'd heard enough. The dog trotted off to investigate some boulders ahead. Snook followed, trying to do his chore. He soon began to find more bits and pieces of LS-2. Small stuff. Some tubing that might have been part of the cooling system; a dozen heat shield tiles, sticking out of the sand like cheap, mildewed shower flooring. The more he found, the grimmer his mood. He began to wonder if he really wanted to know now; to know any of what that last few minutes had been like for LS-2. Did they know they were going to crash? Did they see their....... nein, They could naw have. Snook refused to accept that reflection. Foster had been their pilot and everyone knew he was the best pilot on the Lewis and Clark
reconnaissance. He would fought this to the......well....till he could naw anymore. You could bet on it.

Ahead, to his left, he spotted another of the mesa-like rocks. It had to be a good hundred, perhaps even hundred fifty feet in the air. Laddy was prancing about over hence and Snook's flashlight beam soon joined in the inspection.

He mood continued it's fall.

About the base of the thick, blue-black rock spire were clumps of stone; some as large as beer kegs. They were not the rounded, smooth sort: worn down by years of blown sand and pebbles. They were cracked, freshly marred. Just fallen, very recent, Snook reckoned. Just beyond the first batch of stone, huddled a few yards about the rock spire, was what had once been a wing of LS-2. The starboard one, Snook concluded. Once longer then a semi-truck, now it was crushed like so much discarded aluminum foil.

Snook turned his flash up; up the side of the spire. Craggy and chipped, it's profile backed by black, lumpy clouds, he could see little. His guess was LS-2 had struck this spire; tearing off this wing and lord knew what all else. This also meant the debris field almost certainly started here and ran Rigel's way. As that big dummy, groused the younger, had no doubt guessed from the start. The security chief was always first in line for the dirty jobs.

The wind was whistling around the rock spire now and he didn't much care for it.

A sound. High-pitched. EEEE-EEE! EE-EE!

The squawk box. The lad began to jog toward it, trying to watch his path with his flashlight and make headway in the sand. A quarter mile on; a dozen dunes and what could have been one of LS-2's cargo-bay doors later, Cindy's bobbing flashlight intersected his course. He stopped and she soon popped into view, blinding him with her flash. She looked scared.

"Do..." she was panting, "Do you hear that?!" "Aye. Come on!" The lass did, as best she could and they soon came upon what could have been a man's tracks. They followed.

EEE-EEE! EEE-EEE! The squealing was maddening. And frightening, too, somehow.

Another quarter mile and they came upon the first of the big, impression marks on the ground; the sand pressed down, as if a great weight had bounced here, bounced and tumbled onwards. The blowing sand was swallowing it; eatting the evidence of something ..something.

One hundred fifty yards later, they found their crewmate. He was on the near side of a very tall dune, halfway up. He was crouching on his haunches, not really sitting. As they hustled up, both beams of light centering on him, he wordlessly deactivated the squawk box. He set it, small in his hands, at his feet. Wind blown sand brushed him.

No one said anything. Cindy panted, catching her breath in ragged in-outs. As if for strength, she swung up her camera onto a shoulder. Then suddenly, she drew no confidence from the gesture. She took it down. She tuned away. Looked like she wanted to run away.

Snook fought the urge to join her.

Cindy spoke. It was a whisper. "He found them."

Ask. You must, Starsharke told himself. "Where?" Above, Rigel locked eyes with him, then cocked a thumb over a shoulder. Back over the dune.

Snook felt his stomach fall to his knees. This was why they'd come. This was what they had to know.

And knowing hurt.

Snook found he was looking at his feet. He peered up to Rigel. The other was looking at the sand between his own feet. Shaking his head.

Author:  Shy Dakota [ Tue Apr 01, 2008 9:34 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story


Author:  Iowanic [ Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

"The foundlings of Zeta"......Episode 4....'Unaccounted'

Not quite a hour later, Rigel got into the Blazer, moved the ignition key till he had power; activated the radio, got the mike in his hand. But stopped, went no further. Stared at the dash before him; as if trying to see through to the engine. The passenger side door opened; letting a sheet of sand and Cindy inside. Without looking at the other; she set her camera into the back seat then faced around. The vehicle rocked slightly in the wind. But for the instrumentation light, it was dark. Rigel sighed.

"Muscles putting the finishing touches on?" "Yeah. He doesn't like the idea of them...where they're buried....being lost. Disrespectful, he called it." Williamson grunted at that. It was a grunt just to grunt. "Maybe he's right." "Lynda borrowed my watch." "What?" He looked over to the smaller. She was staring out into the night. "My watch. I gave it to Lynda. I figured.....I'd get it back. You know? My watch?" She looked to him, letting eyes touch across the two feet, letting them express and feel and mourn. Then they dropped. She seemed to sink into the seat as if weighed down.

Rigel keyed the mike, raised his voice.

"LS-1; this is mobile-1. Come in, LS-1; come in, LS-1. This is mobile-1 calling." Nothing came back. Rigel waited five seconds. "Mobile-1; calling LS-1. Come in." Again, no response. The big man felt a brief tide of irritation. "You dips: answer your damn phone! We'll bring your stupid car back!" The lass snickered despite all then the radio spat static and a voice.

"Lewis and Clark here, mobile-1. We can relay, if you'd like."

Lewis and Clark, the spacecraft that had delivered them here, still in orbit above. Rigel realized he'd clean forgotten about the mountains: they'd block any direct radio signal to LS-1.

"I'd surely appreciate, guys." "Give us a couple. What's the weather like down there?" "Windy and dark." "Kamikaze says be on the lookout for hurricane force winds. Maybe tornadoes, too. Oh. Hold on." Static skidded and crackled. "Here go. Chief Hammond; on the line."

Another voice came on, female. Static and a slight echo effect fought to dominate the background. "It's about time, Williamson. Everyone okay?" "Me, muscles and Miss Milo are still in the game. Laddy, too." "How nice." The sardonic tint to the words was unmistakable. Knew she'd be ticked, thought Rigel. And it's seldom good to tick off the boss.

"Report as follows, chief. We have found the crash site of LS-2: coordinates....I can get those later, I guess. LS-2 found. Five bodies accounted for. Sixth is missing, believed dead. Near as can be told; after they lost hydraulics, they tried to clear the mountains. Nearly made it, too. Foster always could pilot." Rigel bit his lip at last; that wasn't something you put in a official report. He carried on. "They hit a outcropping of rock; tore most of the starboard wing off. From there, they collided with another chunk of rock and broke up. Cabin was found; more or less in one piece. 'Bout a half mile further, I guess. We undertook burials as best we could. Could only positive I.D two: Stafford and Perry. The others....." Rigel could find no suitable words then. He took his finger off the transmit button. Hammond came back ten seconds later.

"We'll leave the rest to when the Ark gets here. If their families want...." A pause; clearly the fate of such friends was hard on all. Then there was a attempt at being cheerful. "So....how are you three?" Williamson keyed again. "Alive. We're gonna bed down here for nine, ten hours then head back your way. We're tired." "I can imagine. Lewis and Clark,I'm told, will be going out of range soon." "Forty five minutes between links?" "You got it. I want you all to keep a eye on each other. If you get ill, report. And any samples you can pick up on the way would be wonderful." "Cindy has some video." "Sounds good." A pause. "Later."

Rigel nearly shut it down, but did the key thing again. Had to. "LS-1?" "Rog, mobile-1." "Aint you mad?" Static poked in a few seconds.

"Of course, mobile-1. Out." "Out." Rigel shutdown the radio. Cindy was matter-of-factly. "I wouldn't worry about it, Rigel. I'm sure she'll kill us all when we get back." "No doubt, Cinn-day. No doubt." They suspended talk a bit, both pondering what they'd heard. The female spoke at last.

"That's the game plan, then? We ride this storm out then skitter?" "Yeah; provided the storms over in eight or nine or whatever hours." The male gnawed a lip. "And we have enough grease. Gonna be close." "Maybe we could dig some up in what's left of LS-2." "There's a idea. Now..." Rigel deactivated the ignition; looked out into the now nearly continually winnowing sand. "Where's Snook gone off to? Him and his damn dog!" "He was back at the grave." Cindy said simply. Rigel cursed for the hell of it and got out of the Blazer.

He found Snook indeed at the grave: a twelve foot by seven foot clump of rock-covered mounds. The teen was pulling a wide section of LS-2 debris over the top of the graves. The wind wasn't being much help. He got it in place just as Rigel arrived to help. The lad blinked his orange eyes against all the blowing sand. "Hiya." The other nodded. "Time to come in, muscles. Let 'em rest."

He began to walk back to the shelter of the Blazer. Snook soon caught up; hovered just behind his friend's left shoulder. Rigel glanced back at him, kept walking. The wind had shifted right into their faces and headway was slow work. They kept their heads down, eyes nearly shut, spare hands in front of them as a sad try at being a shield. Rigel's flashlight ray was tore and scattered by the sand in the air. Frankly, Rigel thought the flashes, his anyway, was seeming a bit worn down, pale. Hope we have some spare batteries, he thought.

"Rigel?" "Yeah?" "Something 'tis naw right."

Williamson didn't stop to stare at the other. He'd half been expecting this. "They're gone, man. Don't go huntin' for ghosts."

Then Snook surprised him by being very methodical in his manner.

"We can account for the pilot and copilot. Stafford and Perry also did naw make it. Who the poor soul we found in......well. Rest in peace, friend. But we're still missing one body. The body that would have been in the one harness that was unhooked." His crewmate plodded along, face aimed at the sand under his feet.

"No one could have survived a crash like that, muscles. You know...." "Nein such thing. Rigel: people have crawled out of airliner crashes that make this look like a minor fender-bender." "Then if someone did; where'd they go? Why in the world would anyone just walk after something like this?" "Who knows? Maybe he had a head injury; got disoriented. Maybe something scared him or her off. Who knows?"

Rigel hated that phase 'who knows'. From Starsharke, now, with him getting a sand facial; he hated it even more. "So you want us to go lookin' for him or her, right?" Rigel waved a arm. "In the middle of all this?" Snook didn't seem plused. "If you were wandering around on a alien desert; in the middle of a sand storm: would naw you want someone to be looking?" His friend felt a expression of displeasure romp about his face. "You don't have any proof."

The younger got a tiny bit plused. "With Laddy, I might." "When you do, you come find me. Snook....Snook, listen!" "Aye?" "I'm givin' you fifteen minutes." The big man tapped the watch on his wrist, "And I'm timin' it!"

Snook gave a hop, soared two feet into the air, got caught in a gust and had to manage a clumsy landing. Kicking up sand with his shoes; he began to run back down the dune they'd been climbing. At the bottom, he halted, his flash on now and making a round spotlight of the sand at his feet.

"Rigel!" "What?!" "Thanks."

The other said nothing; never even glanced back. He disappeared over the dune. Shifting, veil-like sands clouds buffeted.

Snook ran on; calling for his dog.

Author:  Iowanic [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:36 am ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

"The foundlings of Zeta".....Episode 5....."Those remembered"

Cindy almost jumped out of her skin when Williamson thumped his way back into the Blazer. The lights were off inside and out and he switched his off as well. He brooded: not facing his crewmate. The lass knew something was up. "So? You find him? Where was he at?" "Out lookin' for ghosts." "What?" "Oh, him and his flaky ideas! I swear..." "What?! What's he doing?" "He thinks one of the guys is up and walkin' around." "You're not making..." "Snook thinks the sixth guy...you know, the guy we didn't find a trace of? The undone harness and stuff?"

Cindy looked unbelieving. "You told us no one could have walked away from that! Whoever it was; got chewed to.....you know that's what you..." "Tell it to muscles! He thinks that guy, gal, whoever, got knocked coo-coo and has wandered off." "And, of course, he expects us to go looking. In..." She pointed out to what was swirling around outside. "That." The male curled a lip. "You got it."

The female sat back in the seat as if trying to disappear within. She crossed her arms. "I just don't know about him. He's always coming up with these space cadet ideas." "Oh, I know what it is." Rigel scratched his chin. As thoughtfully as his mood allowed. "It's because he's so young and all. Always worrin' 'cause he won't fit in. So he pulls this weird stuff to show he's worth the food on his plate." Cindy shot the other a sideways glance. "You ever tell him that?" "Yeah. Once. Told me I needed to cut back on my metamucil intake."

Cindy giggled; realized she was, tried to stop. Which only made it worst. "I can believe it. He can be so insecure. So....he's still out there?" "I gave him fifteen minutes to come up with some proof." They sat in silence and dark; a gust of wind rocked the car. The security officer heard his crewmate give a sigh.

"I'm going to miss them , Rigel."

"Me, too." "To come so far, then..." "But it's part of the job, girl." Cindy hugged herself harder. Her voice seemed to get taut: a line had had the slack taken out of it. "Not everything is 'part of the job'. This isn't 'part of the job'." Rigel gave a noncommittal grunt. "They knew the odds. Now....the deal's done. They're gone. We got memories." "That enough for you, Rigel?" He looked long out the front windshield.

"It's gonna have to be."

The other almost thought it a challenge. Or a threat. But all she could do was fiddle with the armrest. For she knew it was neither. "We talk about Snooky. Not fitting in?" "Don't let him hear ya callin' him that." They both chuckled. Young Starsharke loathed the title. And so, had to hear it quite often the last year.

"We talk about him not fitting in. But what about us? Do we fit in? You think I know what I'm doing here? I don't, Rigel!" She looked at him, eyes suddenly hard. "I wanted to be along when I was nominated. I wanted to be involved during training. Snobby crewmates; half-ass technicians; theoretical nonsense? I just told myself: go with the flow. You'll be glad when it's over. And Proud!"

She hissed the word.

"Proud! So damn proud, Rigel! Here I am; out in a damn sandstorm, a million miles from jack and I'm so friggin' PROUD!!!"

She began to sniffle. Sniffles led to tears. Tears to sobbing. Sobbing to trying to stop, vainly. She sat: knees drawn up; face in hands. The big man beside her said nothing for a bit. What was there to say, he told himself. But it was a facade he didn't feel like using. He reached out a arm, got a shoulder. Squeezed gently.

"Hey, girl. Cinn-day. You gonna ball all night? Look out there. The new world. Who wanna ball on a new world? Come on, now. We pioneers, Cindy. Pioneers. And pioneers don't go it alone. No pioneer could go it alone. So we're all gonna be there for each other, aint we? That's why I'm here now. Muscles and his silly quests? Hell. I'm here 'cause I gotta be: for LS-2. If it'd been us, they'd been there. Been there, girl. That's why...."

Something thumped into the car. Williamson, annoyed, turned to see a somewhat sand-encrusted Snook Starsharke staring at him through the driver's side window. He might have been grinning. Rigel rolled down the window.

"No hitchhikers, damn it!"

The orange-eyes one was grinning. "Rigel? Mind if we go for a walk?" He glanced around the larger as he got out of the Blazer, saw Cindy but made no comment. Rigel faced him in the blowing sand. they stared; one at the other. Rigel, so tall, thick-chested, dark cammies and ranger boots insisting on his military background. Snook, not quite so tall, nearly as wide-shouldered but still seeming clumsy; not all the parts of him quite fitting together. His vest was missing Rigel, noticed.

The younger wordlessly pointed; back toward where the shuttle cabin had come to lie. They began to trudge toward same. "You found him, didn't ya? Something Cindy shouldn't see, isn't it?" "Actually; you're wrong." Snook's voice sounded almost relieved. "I did naw find anyone...I mean nein bodies, anyway. But I did find.....you'll see." Sand hit them sinuously; they waded on. The taller thought a bit before speaking. "Where's that flea-bag of yours?" "Laddy? About."

In the end, they must have gone a good one hundred fifty yards past the cabin; out into a clutter of sand dunes and small, spherical rocks. The wind snapped over the dunes and whipped around the rocks and they said nothing, for the wind hardly made it easy. A form tottered out to meet them from behind a ten foot tall, stump-like stone lump. In the flashes, Laddy was dirty and took to circling them; clearly uneasy.

Starsharke caught his crewmate's attention; pointed to a spot directly furthest from the wind: near the stone-stump. Williamson maneuvered his flashlight, Snook added his to reveal a item of clothing; his own vest, laying on the sand. His rifle was also visible. Rigel didn't recall the other doing so, but the barrel end of the firearm had been duct-taped. Good idea, in this sand. The rifle stood bracing the side of the stone-stump. Rigel looked with questions to the younger. Snook answered by leading him closer to the prostarate vest. the vest was even by then becoming coated with sand and Rigel just stared at it; in the flash lighting like a book; waiting to be opened. Laddy; following at their heels, gave a yip, a short little plea. "Go ahead, Rigel. Pull it off. But carefully, please!"

Rigel handed his light to the other and did so; revealing what appeared to be only a small stretch of desert with a slight indentation. The security head had a angry retort readied; when things cleared in his head. It was a footprint; clearly the mark of a heel. It looked almost part of the sand itself. Words came out the big man's throat rather hoarsely.

"Holy..." "Tsk, tsk." "I mean....god! When did you....I mean...muscles?" "Twas naw me that found it." The long-haired one was quite calm about it all. "Laddy and his nose did the job. He may naw be a bloodhound but when he puts his mind to it, he can do just short of wonders. Aye, Lad?" The dog woofed. Odd sort of woof at that, Rigel thought. Maybe it was the wind...
"You recall the way Laddy first sniffed around the LS-2 cab?" "Yeah. I was about to kick him for it, too." "Your hasty boot not-with-standing; Laddy homed right in to here." Snook briefly let the flashes play across it. "And I found this." Laddy intruded: rubbing against the back of Rigel's legs, nearly making him fall over backwards. He shooed him off, still not taking his eyes from the heel mark.

"Couldn't be one of our prints? The lad took his vest from the other before answering; handing him a flash back as exchange.

"I never came here and doubt Cindy did. 'Tis certainly naw Laddy's. Face it, big guy. Rhalpie made it this far." Snook looked out into the windy blackness beyond. "And now he 'tis out there. Maybe alive; maybe..." "What makes you think it's Rhalpie?" "Logic. Or guess work, depending on your point of view. Stafford and Perry we can account for. Pilot and copilot....as well." Snook didn't sound happy having to hurry past the last. Rigel understood. "So that leaves Wu and Rhalpie." "And Rhalp's feet are probably bigger then Lynda's."

Williamson nodded; having to think things over. A sheet of sand flung around them. They both sought the shelter of the stone-stump. Backs to it, side by side, the heel mark right at their own feet, they stood a few moments. Snook had gotten his vest on and taken up his rifle. Rigel was digging at a ear: trying to extract sand.

Laddy whimpered, a half-howl, half-moan. His owner glanced at him; pacing a couple yards from them. What was bothering the silly pooch so?

"He could be dead by now, muscles." Snook was startled back to immediate matters. Looked thoughtfully at his crewmate. "Perhaps. But we canna just walk away now." Sand whipped into their faces, cleared or got coughed out. "He could have a concussion. Any number of things. I figure he left his track here after the call of nature got the better of him." "Say what?" "How do you think Laddy found this? Rhalpie took a leak and got some on a boot. It acted just like plaster of paris, methinks. Otherwise the wind..."

His voice drawled off. The wind was gone. Both men stood away from the rock, turning, looking about.

Laddy howled. A wolf-like, drawn-out cry. He thrust against his master. The dog was shivering. Laddy only shivered so much if he was very, very scared.....

A single, fragile poke of breeze poked at them.

Then they heard the rumble.

Author:  Iowanic [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

"The Foundlings of Zeta".....Episode 6......."Storm wrack"

It was a low rumble: almost more of a hum. At first, Snookeroo couldn't place it's direction and Rigel was turning all about, searching the skies as even he did. "Something's wrong." Rigel's voice was flat. No tone; no emotion. Then they saw it.

To the south, the clouds a darkling backing, something was moving. It was tossing sand; all sorts of debris. First it twisted left, then swung back right. Slowly; rhythmically; as if preforming a studied dance routine. Yet it was ugly; a snake-thing; crawling up into the sky. Williamson thought of some huge monster; living unseen in the clouds; letting down it's tail. Twitching it.

Laddy howled again. "Lord almighty." Starsharke whispered. A word from Lewis and Clark came to Rigel then.


Snook was shouting now. "Where 'tis Cindy?!" He began running. Rigel followed. Laddy kept howling. Just past the graves, sprinting down a long dune the winds came back. As if having been stored up for a single strike. It knocked Snook off his feet, he somersaulted twice before stopping himself. He was covered in sand but he staggered up and took off again. Behind, Rigel was yelling but noone could hear the words.

Miss Milo had noted the shift in wind as quickly as the others. And in scant moments, spotted the funnel, curling in front of darkm roiling clouds.

She freaked.

With her heart trying to climb out of her; the lass jumped out of her seat into the driver's; hands flying over the steering column. No keys! Rigel. He must have took them. What do I do?" Get out of the car! And away from it! And I'm NOT scared!

Cindy was out in a flash and with four Zeta-gravity assisted leaps, got in back of a dune, maybe fifteen yards from the Blazer and buried her face in the sand. She could actually 'feel' the vibrations of the approaching tornado through the sand: like a tuning fork placed against her skull. Then she remembered all their food. Had to get the food!

Up and into the car she went: clawing feverishly into the back seat. She knew the others had put the food into two backpacks but there were more then four and other gear and she was fighting to keep clear headed. Finally, with a strap in each hand, she stumbled back; the gale trying to turn her into a windmill. In seconds, she'd flopped back down where'd she'd first fled.

Wait. Water. Without water, the mostly dehydrated food wasn't much. And this being desert...

Into a tsunami of sand she plunged: the vehicle itself was shaking and that rumble-hum was loud. Don't be scared, she was repeating now; don't be scared! She found one canteen right off, a second a twinkling later. There was a five gallon water jug way in the back but she couldn't possibly.... Don't be scared!

She stumbled out; running into the open door then sliding away and was lost: there was so much sand in the air, she couldn't hear herself think and yeah, damn it, she WAS scared. Her ears began to pop. She wanted to scream but knew no one would hear her.

That was when a figure; a young man, with orange-eyes and a terrorified look on his face hurled out of the sand and noise and he grabbed her, hauled her some wyas, she didn't know how far, didn't care then he cast them both upon the sand and the roaring and wind tore at them as if to consume.

Rigel had lost sight of Snook, hell; he'd lost sight of the tornado. It drew about itself sand like a shield. You could hear it; you knew it was there but all you could make out was this curtain after curtain after curtain of sand; a cape of desert.

He knew in a few moments, it was withdrawing...heading north, maybe northeast. He couldn't recall if that was right. didn't they mostly go in one direction? He kept running to where he was sure the Blazer and the others were. Except....

Where was it?

Rigel slowed to a unsure walk a few moments, looking hard. The wind began to fall. Sand, in the lighter gravity, lingered. Rigel tried to pull it apart with his hands; as if trying to dig though to see. See.....yes. He could see now. The Blazer was gone. Gone.

He stopped in his tracks and tried to figure out what he had to do now. Then knew and he smiled; he knew what he had to be doing: go make sure his friends were okay.

Below; rising from where'd they'd been, The figures of Snook and Cindy. They were looking about; clearly shook up. But alive.

Alive. Rigel smiled very wide. They spotted him, waved a 'a-okay'. Laddy yipped his pleasure and they all ran to discuss and chatter and assure and wonder at their luck. Good or bad.

"I'm sorry I didn't get the radio." It was at least the fifth time the female had announced this. Across the mild campfire, Rigel was shrugging shoulders in dismissal. "You're sorry about the radio? I should have taken it with me." "Aw, pickles." added the youngest male. "If I had naw been playing Sherlock Holmes; we might have been able to save everything. Sorry." "Sounds like we're all just one big sorry family."

Snook decided to was too much work to snicker: he was tired. All he wanted to do was lean back on a small sand dune, 'nature's easy chair' he thought, and give Laddy's ears a scratch every so often. Of all the objects in the lost Blazer; all the things they could have used; five gallons of water, radio, map, medical gear....only a single item had been found. The dog's rawhide chew-bone. He was making full use of it; paws wrapped about one end' the other end being given a thorough, toothy going over.

"How can we possibly walk all the way back, you guys?" It'll take a week!" "We'd be lucky if it took just that." observed Snook. He sat up straighter. "Food might last but if we get through the next twelve hours on those canteens, we'd be blessed."

Cindy had no answer; she was sprawled on her side, facing the fire. It'd taken the collection of combustibles from nearby LS-2 bits and fragments and a couple of Rigel's stashed matches to get it started. It wasn't much of a fire; served more as a centerpiece, thought the security officer. He glanced back over a shoulder; eyeing the tall, dark crags not so far away. They were a constant factor; always drawing his attention.

"Do you think they'll send the ultralight?" Snook wondered aloud. The larger male guffawed grimly. "No, I don't. I wouldn't. if I was in charge." "You would naw?" "Hell no. They're down to only three people, muscles. They can't efford to be sending out more search crews. Besides, can all us fit on it?" Snook made a face at reality so solid. No way LS-1's ultralight could carry more then two people. There just wasn't room.

"I was thinking," Cindy stated, "I'd forgotten about that LS-2 guy." "Yeah." Rigel nodded. "Rhalpie." "You really believe it's Rhalpie?" "We're guessing it 'tis Rhalpie," corrected Starsharke, "Only through the process of elimination. But you've brought up quite a little matter in itself, I'm thinking. If he 'tis out there and he 'tis still alive..." "No, muscles." Rigel was picking at his teeth with a used match. Never knew that goo from concentrate to get between the teeth, mused Cindy to herself.

"No, muscles, we're not forgettin' him. But we're in pretty poor condition to go out runnin' about for whoever. Sleep, man. We all need some downtime. So's we work all the better. Way I got it figured; we'll each take a four hour shift; givin' us eight hours nap time." The others stared at him. Rigel slipped out his best Mr. T voice. "I pity the fools that be starin' at me." "Shifts?" "Shifts, oh maladjusted ignoramus?" "Shifts, you sissy-pants. Look: I'll take the first four hours." The big man put a hand on his nearby shotgun. "So; who's gonna take second?"

The lass put her hands under her head as a place-mat and began to make a production of her snoring noises. Young Starsharke fought to hold back a smile. Such silly people. "Okay, okay. I'll take second. Remember now, watch it with the water!"

They all began to shift about to make themselves more comfortable. The sand was soft and the temperature down. It was still cloudy but the wind had gone with the tornado. There might not be much hope ahead thought Snook. But it was a start, of a sorts. Or a end, maybe, he reconsidered.

He considered his prayers; something his uncle Gotham found as a vital something before bed. He had no problem with it...he agreed. He patted one of Laddy's furry shoulders and leaned his head back. Then someone, Williamson, was banging him on the chest.

"Get up, man. Your shift, I said." "Waa? Waa?" Snook sat up, rubbing at his eyes. His head felt heavy. "Shift? Canna be my shift, Rigel. I just..." "Took a four hour nap. This is the fourth time I've shaken you. Now come on!" The younger tried, with gradual success. Only by getting to his feet; almost a bound in the light gravity, did the sleep start to clear away. His pet was no where to be seen and the lass was dozing where she lay; hair about to hide her face.

"Where 'tis Laddy?" "Oh; he's been in and out. Funny noises, ya know." "Oh?" the teenager's curiosity flattened the last of the sleep in him. "What sort?" "Desert noises." The larger seemed unconcerned. "I'm gonna lay down now. Think you can hack it, muscles?" "I'm gonna try." Snook located his rifle, two-handed it across his wide chest. He eyed the duct-taped barrel, was satisfied. His vest falpped in a passing breeze. "Should I walk or just stay put, Rigel?" Then, apologetically; "I've never stood watch like this before."

"Yeah, well," his friend was seating himself, using a dune as a back rest. The shotgun he put across his legs. He checked it's safety, glanced up to Snook; a tall figure outlined by the range behind. "I'd keep movin'. Keep ya warm and keep ya from seein' weird stuff." "weird stuff?" "Yeah. You stare at one spot too long in the dark and things'll start movin' on ya. They aint really movin' but your eyes be playin' tricks. Them noises and Laddy and all? Don't sweat it. Like I said: desert noises. Rocks creakin'; sand blowin'. That stuff." Rigel took a pause as a big yawn fought it's way into the open. He actually looked surprised, peeked up at Snook again. "You do see something, give a holler." "A big one, I assure you." Starsharke decided the rifle was best put on a shoulder by it's sling. He was trying to find console in the other's words....he was a bit uncomfortable. His now reclining crewmate motioned to his own firearm.

"Wanna use the 'gun? You can if..." "Nein. I'm good to go, Rigel." "Alright then. Nighy-night. Four hours, now. And no fallin' asleep, right?" "Aye." Snook turned away to the desert night. "Aye."

The air was dry but somehow easy to breathe. All this dashing and distractions and he realized just how amazing the mere act of breathing air could be. He inhaled through his nose, a deep, lung-filling sort. Then exhaled quickly.

Bonny, it was. Bonny air. I could like the air here, he thought. I really could.

He walked about, trying to find just the right route around the campsite.

Author:  animallover [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

*SHEESH* now I am 3 behind

Author:  Iowanic [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

Opps! I double-posted there. Sorry for any confusion.

Author:  animallover [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 7:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

Iowanic wrote:
Opps! I double-posted there. Sorry for any confusion.

#6 right?? I will go back and delete one of them.

Author:  Iowanic [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

The second # 6 would be the best bet for the one to save.

Author:  animallover [ Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

Iowanic wrote:
The second # 6 would be the best bet for the one to save.


Author:  Shy Dakota [ Thu Apr 03, 2008 4:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: First story

I got worried this morning but I am on track!! keep them comming!!

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