Sorry to double post, but...
CHAPTER 2: Calm Before the Storm
“Rise and shine sleepy head.”
The gentle call was just enough to disturb the alien’s sleep, but it was the wafting odors of cooked meat that finished the job. Tammy groggily sat up and saw Eric-lit against the night sky by the flame of a campfire-holding a plate of meat staring invitingly at her. For a moment she was confused-she expected to wake up inside her escape pod. Instead, she was surrounded by the remains of another ship, underneath a make-shift tent. “Where...are we?” she asked groggily.
“My ship,” Eric answered nonchalantly. “It gets really hot on this planet during the daytime. If I left you inside the escape pod you would have died of heat exhaustion. So I came back with water, woke you up long enough to give you a drink, and then carried you here. You’ve been asleep all day.”
“I feel like I could go back to sleep right now,” Tammy yawned as she slowly stood up and limped to the campfire. With a pained grunt, she sat down beside the human and accepted the offered plate of meat. The alien seemingly inhaled the food within minutes, and Eric couldn’t help but question if she even tasted anything. Once she finished, she sat aside the plate and let out a contented sigh. “Thank you,” she said warmly. Then she added, “Not just for the food, but for everything.”
Eric was slow to reply, seemingly more concerned with chewing his food than answering her. “You really shouldn’t think too much of it,” he finally replied after swallowing a mouthful. “Consider me nothing more than your average Good Samaritan.”
Tammy was a little put-off by such a reply. The lack of emotion in his face when speaking made her feel very uncomfortable. “O...kay...” she started awkwardly. “Well, I still appreciate it either way. I mean, I probably would have died if it wasn't for you.”
“Probably,” Eric replied as nonchalantly as before. He took another bite, leaving Tammy to suffer under the awkward silence. Finally, after swallowing another mouthful, he asked, “So, what happened that brought you here in an escape pod?”
“My ship was attacked,” Tammy answered.
“I figured that much,” Eric replied dryly. “I meant what specifically happened?”
“I’m…not entirely sure,” Tammy admitted. “I was on a public cruiser heading for the human colony on Apollo Theta, staring into space from one of the window seats. One moment I’m stargazing, then the next thing I know alarms are going off and I’m running into an escape pod. Something exploded and a piece of shrapnel flew into my leg. I saw something coming through the smoke, so I panicked and hit the emergency eject. The rest is a blur; all I really remember is watching as the pod got further away from the cruiser and crashing onto this planet.”
“So you have no idea who or what attacked you?”
Tammy shook her head. “Not really,” she answered. “I never did see any of the attackers. I heard some people shouting something about space pirates, but other than that I don’t have a clue.”
Eric grimaced. He knew the Turguns were desperate to get him, but to go to this length…? ”What are they up to…?”
Eric muttered to himself.
Tammy's ears twitched. “Ex...cuse me?” she asked confusedly.
“But…didn’t you say something?”
“No. You’re probably just hearing things.”
Tammy stared at the human, but eventually let the matter go. Once again there was an awkward silence between the two. Eric ate the rest of his dinner, and Tammy allowed her eyes to wander. After awhile, they drifted to the dark-haired human and his unusually pale skin. As she examined her rescuer, Tammy eventually noticed something on Eric’s right arm. “Hey, what’s that?”
Eric blinked. “Huh?”
“That!” Tammy pointed to a tattoo. It was a black fox with thorns coming out from behind it. “What is that?”
Eric paused. Then, with a face as deadpan as a stone wall, he answered, “Well, that is what is commonly referred to by most people as a 'tattoo'.”
Tammy wasn't impressed. “I figured that much. I mean, what's it for? Why'd you get it? What’s it mean?”
Eric shrugged. “I happen to like foxes. They're revered as wise, cunning animals on Earth-to the point the Earthen Japanese incorporated them into their ancient mythologies. I didn't realize I needed a particular reason for having a tattoo.”
“Well... you don't,” Tammy admitted defensively. “It’s just…I’d swear I’ve seen that tattoo before. I'm trying to remember where...”
Eric shrugged again. “There have been plenty of designs incorporating foxes before. There’s no telling how many times you’ve seen something similar.”
Tammy let out a frustrated sigh. “Yeah, I guess you're right,” she relented. “Still, it’s bugging me that I can’t remember…”
“You know, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you,” Eric cut in. “What exactly where you doing out in space to begin with?”
Tammy blinked. “Umm,excuse me
?” she asked with a hint of incredulity.
“Well, you're a Lorian, right?” Eric continued.
The mention of her species made her noticeably unhappy. “Yes...and your point is?”
“I know about the Lorians. You’re race isn’t the space-faring type,” Eric replied coolly. “More importantly, most Lorians aren't wearing human clothing, let alone military tags.”
Tammy suddenly became self-conscious of her green tank top, blue-navy patterned cargo pants, and military dog-tag necklace. “Oooh
, I see what you're getting at now,” she said as realization came. “I'm not from Loria, Eric. I was adopted when I was a couple of years old and raised by a human in the military named Polonius Marco.”
Eric did a double-take. “Wait a minute; did you say ‘Polonius Marco’? Isn’t he the sergeant who led the expedition on Loria when it was discovered?”
“The very same,” she replied proudly. “This is his dog tag from when he was a marine. I wear it to remind me of him.” Tammy chuckled. “It seems silly I know, but it’s just really comforting for some reason-as if by wearing the necklace he’s always with me.”
A small smile spread across Eric’s face. “You must have a really good relationship with your adoptive father.”
“As far as I'm concerned, he is
my father. He loves me just as much as he'd love a human daughter...” Tammy let a small sigh escape her solemnly smiling face. “I was actually on my way to see him when this whole mess started. Now I’m not even certain if I’m going to get off this planet.”
The dark haired man nodded in agreement. “I know how you feel…”
Nothing else needed to be said. The silence returned, and both Human and Lorian sat in contemplation of their situations. The fire which they huddled around was beginning to die out and the mess of weeds and sticks which fueled it were transforming into glowing embers. Eric randomly noticed that Tammy seemed especially distraught. “You okay?” he asked.
Tammy snapped out of her meditations. “Oh, yeah I’m alright,” she replied hastily. “I was just thinking about…stuff.”
“Okay then… Well, I’m going to bed,” Eric proclaimed. “I’d suggest you do the same. A little more rest won’t hurt you.”
“Yeah, yeah, blood-loss, blah-blah-blah…,” Tammy replied jokingly. “Well, goodnight!” As Eric got up and walked away, Tammy turned away from him to fish around in her pockets.
However, they were completely empty.
“No…” Tammy uttered in terrifying realization. She searched more frantically, very desperate to find whatever the item was. “No…no-no-no-no-no
The noise caught Eric’s attention. “Hey, what’s the matter?” he asked confusedly as he turned around.
“This can't be happening…where is it
?” Tammy shot up from her place and hurriedly limped to her tent, throwing aside blankets in the search for the mysterious missing object.
“Hey, calm down!” Eric shouted as he followed. ”What's going on?”
“I can't find it! I...I can't find it!” Tammy cried in utter despair.
“Find what?” Eric questioned. “What are you looking for?”
“It's a small pill-bottle,” Tammy answered as she continued searching through the blankets. “It...it has a prescription I need, and it's been too long since I last took it. I need to find it!”
“Hey, calm down!” Eric shouted. “You don’t need to be moving around this much! Sit down and-”
“I don’t care about my stupid leg right now! I have to find that medicine!
” Tammy growled. When she realized her tone, her panic seemed to increase and she doubled her efforts. After five fruitless minutes of searching, Tammy shot up and grabbed Eric by the shoulders. “Eric, please, we need to go back to the escape pod! It has to be there...it has
to be! I need
that medicine! Please!
Eric pulled the Lorian's arms off of him. “Tammy, listen to me; we can't go back tonight! You're hurt, and God knows what’s out there right now. If something attacks us and I can't shoot
it in time, you won't be able to run away. I promise we'll go in the morning, but I can't risk it tonight.”
“You don't understand!” Tammy threw out her hands in frustration and bared some of her teeth. “I have
to have that medicine! If I don't get it soon, I’ll-”
The pleading was cut short by a loud, blood-curdling scream from far off in the distance.
“What…was that?” Tammy asked in a frantic whisper.
“I…don’t know,” Eric replied. “It wasn’t pained, so it wasn’t an animal being hurt. It wasn’t anything I’ve heard from the wildlife either. It almost sounds like a battle cr-” Eric froze. “Oh [censored]
…” He ran and got his assault rifle. He grabbed the weapon, checked to make sure it was loaded, cocked it, and turned on the scope. “Tammy, go hide-now
!” he commanded as he held up the weapon.
The Lorian freaked out at the sight of the rifle. “Whoa-whoa-whoa!” she cried frantically. “What’s going on here?”
“I’ll explain later,” he grunted. He ran back to her, pulling out his pocket knife. “Take this,” he instructed her. “There’s a button on the side that activates the super-heated edge. If you feel threatened, stab whatever is threatening you. Understood?”
isn’t the time,” Eric interrupted. “There’s something out there, and whatever it is its about to attack us. Go hide now, before whatever it is comes and-”
A deafening, horrifying scream interrupted him. Eric snapped to his left just in time to see something really
big running straight for them. “Get out of the way!
” He pushed her aside with just enough time to dodge the large, glowing axe swung at head-chopping level.
Eric saw that the attacker was a large, reptilian looking monstrosity more than seven feet tall with three clawed fingers, dinosaur-like feet, and a large fanged snout. Its garments were that of crude arm and leg armor, worn military pants, and a decorative loincloth. A tuft of fur grew from its chest and head, and tentacles dangled from the sides of its face. Large eyes, black as the night sky with terrifying yellow slits for pupils, stared hungrily at him.
Just as Eric was about to shoot the beast, something hit him across the face and sent him and his weapon flying. He landed against the hull of his ship, almost too disoriented to recognize the follow-up slash of a battle-axe before rolling out of harms way. With a ferocious growl, Eric got back on his feet, grabbed the monster's arm, tugged forward, and slammed his fist into the alien's gut. He followed up with a kick to the knee and finished with an uppercut to the tumbling monster’s jaw. The creature stumbled, then blacked out and fell onto the dirt.
Now that its comrade was unconscious, the first monster- joined by two more of its compatriots-formed a circle around the human. Eric's eyes were glowing violet, and a similar glow seemed to surround his hands. “What’s the matter, none of you can take me by yourself?” he roared. “Well then,C'mon!
There’s plenty of me to go around!”
They obliged. The three charged him, their weapons raised and their battle cries deafeningly loud. Eric rolled around the strike of the first with inhuman speed, grabbing its arm and twisting it out of its socket before pushing the alien away. He grabbed the arm of the second mid-swing, pulled him off balance, and flung him into the path of the third's blade. He grabbed the falling axe of the second, spun in a circle, and tossed it into the chest of the first attacker just as he was getting back up. As the third pulled his weapon-hissing from superheated metal meeting bodily fluid-out of the backside of his comrade, Eric leaped up, kicked the alien in the chest, landed, grabbed the falling blade, and struck down the third. The alien promptly fell down and died.
Eric pulled the weapon out of the body. He noticed that even more of the monsters seemingly appeared out of nowhere. Recognizing that he was horrifically outnumbered, Eric raised the battle axe, the glowing blade illuminating his face against the night sky, and prepared for the worst.
Eric snapped to his left and saw Tammy in the iron grip of two of the monsters. They held her suspended from the ground, one for each arm, with an axe blade hovering inches from her throat. The glow dissipated from Eric's eyes, and he grudgingly threw aside his weapon. The aliens swarmed him, beating him to a pulp from all sides. Once he was good and bruised, they pinned him and tied his arms behind his back. A command was given in an alien language, and two of the monsters held up the human so that he could stare into the eyes of what he assumed to be the group’s leader.
Several things stood out about this alien. While most of the aliens were about seven foot tall, this particular alien was closer to Eric’s six. His armor was newer and even came with a chest plate, and his garments seemed more ceremonial than practical. His blood-red hair was incredibly bushy, and the orange pupils of his black eyes seemed to glow with curiosity. “I have to say, human, you’re not quite like the rest of your kind,” the alien spoke in a condescending, raspy sort of voice.
Eric, bruised and beaten as he was, managed a double-take. “Did…did you just speak English?” he asked incredulously.
The alien shrugged. “If ‘English’ is the name of this alien tongue, then I suppose I did.”
Eric paused. “How?” he demanded.
“I don’t think you are in a position to be asking questions right now,” the alien replied curtly. “Normally, I would just have you killed, but the Voda wishes an audience with you.Consider yourself lucky
.” The creature punched Eric in the stomach and turned to face its comrades. ”Take them away,”
he casually growled in his native language.
The aliens obeyed and proceeded to marching away from the campsite. “Let me go!” Tammy screamed as she struggled against her captors. “Please, I need to get to my escape pod! I have to have that medicine!” The pleas were promptly ignored and the band of hostile aliens, prisoners in tow, marched on towards parts unknown.