You’ll notice an added line at the bottom of the post. This is on advice from a lawyer friend, even though the blog is copyrighted… sigh…
Usual caveats apply. A question here, am I getting too deep in the weeds? Or is it still entertaining?
Comments/recommendations appreciated as always!
Just as the shuttle slowed to enter the Hyderabad’s bay, Ton’Skel opened his eyes and looked up at Fargo. In a thready voice, he asked, “My kill? Did you bring it? I must have proof of…first kill.”
Fargo nodded. “Yes, we have it. You just need to hang on while we transfer you to the Med-Comp , Ton.” My deity, he’s…gray! And his eyes are purple. I’ve never seen that color in eyes before.
Ton’Skel nodded once, then passed out again. Jace picked him up gently as the shuttle settled into its dock. “I will take him to the Med-Comp . It is already prepped and preloaded with his DNA. Meet me there.” As soon as the ramp dropped, Jace was off at a run, faster than Fargo could keep up.
When Fargo finally got to sickbay, Ton’Skel was already in the Med-Comp and it was doing its magic with multiple waldos working on his abdomen and hip, even as others cut the remains of the shipsuit away and inserted what Fargo thought must be an IV in the top of his shoulder. A strong astringent smell touched his nose, causing him to sneeze as Jace turned to him and said, “According to the box, he is going to survive. The question is how much scarring will be left. OneSvel could probably do a better job, but—”
“If we go get OneSvel, there will be questions.” And I don’t even want to think of where that might lead. I should never have brought him along. Dammit.
“You should have thought of that before, Fargo. You colloids do not think logically. Live or die, it is your responsibility.”
“I accept the responsibility. And yes, I am human. With all the faults and problems, I am human. Ton said something about needing proof of his first kill.”
Jace’s delay in replying was longer than normal, and Fargo was wondering if he’d even heard the thought. “Dragoons celebrate the first kill by the young. Usually it is a human or other species, not something that fights back like the Silverback. But he did kill it without arms, which meets all the criteria for a first kill, albeit at least a year younger than normal. Dragoons normally go through at least two years of training before they are allowed to attempt a kill. We will go to the shuttle, return to Hunter and collect his kill. I would suggest caping out the entire animal including the paws and claws.”
“What I don’t understand is why it was there. That’s…not normal. There are usually breeding pairs with no other Silverbacks around. Also, I never sensed it. That’s not right either. I should have been able to sense it coming. If I had—”
Jace chuckled. “What is the old Earth saying? If wishes were chariots, beggers would ride? Let us go. I will monitor the situation while we are on the ground.” Jace turned and started walking back to the shuttle bay, leaving Fargo standing there, his mouth open.
The hatch hissed open, and Fargo headed down the ramp toward the dead Silverbacks, his senses extended as far as he could. Even though he sensed no animals or even the carrion birds he thought, Rifle first, then try to find my knife. I hope it’s somewhere around the other Silverback. He nervously patted the pistol on his belt, knowing it would be less than useless against a mature Silverback. His rifle was still lying on the ground next to the second dead Silverback, slightly wet with dew. Picking it up, he quickly checked it and ensured the rifle was operable, released the magazine, then cleared the rifle. The caseless round ejected, and he reloaded it, then spun in a circle, confirming there wasn’t anything sneaking up on him. He headed over to the one Ton’Skel had killed and found his knife on the ground. He quickly cleaned it, took a quick vid of the dead Silverback, and started meticulously caping the carcass. On a whim, he severed the skull from the remains. A half div later, breathing hard and sweating, he put the cape and skull in the exterior cold compartment.
Walking back to the carcass, he peeled away muscles and tissue until he exposed the spine. Sure enough, Ton’Skel had broken the Silverback’s neck. Damn, how strong is he? I couldn’t even twist the skull off with the animal dead. He took more vids and went back to the two he’d killed. Quickly caping them out, he noted curiously that the only thing the carrion birds had taken were the eyes.
By the time he got the two skins back to the shuttle and in the compartments, he was panting, almost hyperventilating, and sweat poured off him. Damn, if those skins weren’t worth so many credits, I’d have left them where they lay. Staggering into the shuttle, he slumped in the first couch he came to. Hearing the ramp cycle closed, he pushed himself up with a groan and stumbled forward to the autochef. Selecting an enhanced water, he slumped against the bulkhead as it spit out. Hitting repeat, he quickly downed one, and then the second water. “You need nourishment. I have pressurized the shuttle to one thousand feet of altitude and lowered the temperature to seventy-two degrees. That should be adequate for you to recover. We will return to the ship now.”
Fargo grabbed an energy bar and walked to the first couch past the bulkhead. “In a couch now. Any update on Ton?”
The shuttle lifted off and bounced a bit in the turbulence as it climbed into the stratosphere. “He is nominal. Repairs are in progress. Two broken ribs, right buttock lacerations, dislocated right hip, right thigh partially degloved. The only thing that saved him was the shipsuit. The Silverback managed to do all that with one claw. Review of the vid indicates Ton’Skel was lucky to land almost squarely on the Silverback’s back and stay there. His instinctive move to pull the head up saved him from the Silverback being able to bring the middle set of claws into play.”
Fargo blew out a sigh of relief and slumped back in the couch. “How long will he be in the Med-Comp ?”
“Minimum seventy-two divs. Hip is back in place, nannites are rebuilding rib structure, buttock has been put back together, musculature in right thigh is being reattached now.”
“Could he be moved to the Enclave?” Fargo pinched his nose and did the Valsalva to get his ears to pop. “It might be a good idea to have OneSvel look at him. Or NasTess.”
“That would be acceptable. Ton’Skel will need at least a month to rehabilitate after coming out of the box. It would allow you to make your trip to Myoto, and you should take at least two Ghorka with you.”
Fargo sat up at that statement, mumbling out loud, “Why?”
He looked up to see Jace standing at the bulkhead. “Fargo, think. What did OneSvel tell you? That the trip was an excuse to check out Myoto for Dragoon/Trader incursions. If they are already there, what do you think their reaction would be to somebody like you poking around?”
“Huh…didn’t consider that angle.”
“Also, three guns are better than one. And the unknown is why the colony is suddenly being targeted. They are twenty years into the colonization and nothing like this has ever been seen.”
“That’s…odd. You don’t have anything in your…records?”
Jace laughed. “You mean all the knowledge in the universe? No, there isn’t anything there about Myoto. It is another found planet, previously terraformed, and still terraforming. All that data was lost over four hundred years ago in the last great war on Earth.”
Two days later, Hyderabad touched down at the Enclave in a blinding snowstorm. Lan, Garun, and Bahadur braved the snow to come out and see why the ship was here. Fargo led them into the crew’s mess, got everyone a hot bulb of their choice, and asked them to sit. He stood facing them and cleared his throat. “Um, we need to use the Med-Comp . Actually, Ton…Tyag needs it. He’s been hurt. Badly hurt.”
A hubbub of noise erupted with Lal and the others all trying to ask questions simultaneously. Jace walked in and said, “The shuttle from Rushing River is ten segs out. Both OneSvel and NasTess are on it. They will land directly in the bay.”
Lal glared at everyone. “Ekavir, what in all that is holy happened?”
Fargo sagged back against the table. “He saved my life. He killed a Silverback with his bare hands.”
The Ghorka sat back, stunned. Finally, Lal said in a hushed voice, “That…is not possible. Or at least I’ve never heard of anyone being able to actually do that. How?”
“He’s amazingly strong.” Jace can you cue up the vid, please?”
The screen at the back of the mess popped on and the view from the external cams on the shuttle swam into focus, showing Fargo bent over, his back to the shuttle, his rifle on the ground and his knife out. “Watch the bottom left of the screen,” Jace said as he started the vid.
A Silverback slunk around the back of the shuttle and started to attack Fargo. Ton’Skel seemed to come from nowhere, landing on the back of the Silverback. “Tyag was in the hatch and saw the Silverback. He saw Fargo with his back to the animal and did what he thought was right.”
The vid dissolved into a cloud of dust as they saw Fargo first grab his rifle, then run toward the battle, his knife in his hand. Moments later, it was all over as the dust cleared to show the Silverback flat on the ground with Ton’Skel sprawled across his back. Jace continued, “His injuries are actually fairly minor, compared to what they could have been.”
Garun said softly, “So much blood.”
Fargo interjected, “The right rear claw is what did the damage. Two broken ribs, right buttock lacerations, dislocated right hip, right thigh partially degloved. All those have been minimally repaired, but he needs an additional two to three days in the Med-Comp to complete the repairs. By bringing him here, OneSvel can get a look at him and see if there is anything the Med-Comp missed.”
Bahadur asked, “What…do you want us to do?”
“Help him rehab. I need to…go away for a month or so to do some things. And it won’t be long after that when I hope we can get Tyag home.”
Jace cocked his head. “Are you going to tell them the rest of it?”
Lal asked, “Rest of what, Ekavir?”
Fargo hung his head. “I…have to go to Myoto to…handle some animals that are attacking the colony.” Glaring at Jace he added, “And it is recommended that I take a couple of people with me.”
The ship AI interrupted, “Shuttle docking Bay Two. Two pax plus Evie.”
Jace looked at the ceiling camera and replied, “Send OneSvel and NasTess to sickbay, please.” Glancing at the others, he added, “If you would like to come see Ton’Skel?” He motioned toward the door and walked out, closely followed by the Ghorka with Fargo bringing up the rear.
Five segs later, OneSvel and NasTess met them at the sickbay hatch. OneSvel touched Fargo with a pseudopod and projected, “What has happened?”
“Ton’Skel killed a Silverback barehanded, and it almost killed him. He’s been in the box for two days.”
“I will check.” OneSvel’s GalTrans twittered, “Excuse us, let us get through first, if you would.” He and NasTess moved much more quickly than one would think they could, popped the Med-Comp open, and immediately went to work. After a seg or so, they said, “He is recovering nicely. There will be some scarring, unless we keep him in the Med-Comp for another week.”
Jace glanced at Fargo then said, “I…think I would leave a few scars. He did something not many can do. He killed a Silverback with his bare hands. No weapons. We also have the skin and the skull.”
Guran asked, “May we have the skin? We can tan it for him.”
Fargo replied, “It is a full cape, including claws. It is still in the other shuttle.”
“You get, Ekavir, I will take and tan.
Lal asked, “When do you want to move him to our Med-Comp ?”
Everyone looked at OneSvel and NasTess. After a short period, NasTess’ GalTrans twittered, “We believe he can be moved now. Is there a secure means to do that?”
Jace moved to a compartment at the back of the sickbay and opened it. A device that looked almost like a coffin came sliding out. “You can transfer him in this. It is normally used for stasis, but it will keep him warm and dry. AI, please send a grav sled to sickbay.”
The AI said, “Grav sled on the way ETA two segs.”
Less that two segs later, Klang, the huge Arcturian cargomaster drove the grav sled through the hatch. “Ho, Captain. Sled you need?”
Jace nodded, “Sled we need, attach coffin to sled.”
Klang positioned the sled under the coffin, did something and the coffin came free of its track. Gently maneuvering the coffin, he had it quickly attached to the sled. “Further help you need, Captain?”
“Help not needed, Klang. Thanks you have.”
Klang waved a salute and disappeared out the hatch. OneSvel touched the controls to the coffin, the top parted, and it flowed open. They and NasTess gently disconnected Ton’Skel, moved him to the coffin, hooked up the monitors, and closed the lid. The readouts lit with the required information, and OneSvel’s GalTrans twittered, “Let us move him now. I will go prep the Med-Comp and preload the current treatment protocols from this unit.” They touched the Med-Comp, it ejected a data chip, then started a cleaning cycle, causing everyone to quickly leave sickbay as the chemical sprays started.
Fifteen segs later, Ton’Skel was installed in the Ghorka’s Med-Comp, and Fargo and the others were trying to get out of the way as Chirashree was chewing Fargo a new asshole for almost killing their child. Wanting to know how could he submit Tyag to such danger—
Lal interrupted sternly, “Chira, if you cannot control yourself, we will find someone else to act as the nurse.”
Chirashree’s mouth closed with a clop, she half bowed to Lal, and glared daggers at Fargo before turning her back on him and fussing over the Med-Comp controls as the men left the infirmary. Fargo mumbled, “I think I better leave now, before any of the other women get hold of me.”
Bahadur asked, “Where is the skin? I’d like to get started on it if I may.”
Fargo grimaced. “Back on the ship. I’ll go get it. I’ve got four more that I guess I’ll dump. And I need to get the skull for OneSvel to look at.”
“Four? You killed four before this happened?”
“Yes, two different locations.” He smacked himself in the head. “Dammit, I forgot to let Remington know he’s good to go in now.”
OneSvel’s GalTrans twitted, “I will accompany you. I would rather look at the skull in the sick bay. I need a laser to slice it open.” OneSvel and NasTess touched momentarily, and he added. “We go now.” Thirty segs later, OneSvel’s GalTrans twittered, “Interesting. There is an unusual formation here,” pointing a pseudopod at the front of the Silverback’s brain. “It appears that almost a fourth of the brain was encapsulated by this. That would possibly explain why you never sensed this animal. I will study this later.” They opened a compartment, took out a beaker and decanted the brain into it, sealed it, then rotated a pseudopod to look at Fargo. “Do you need the skull?”
“No, I don’t, but apparently there is a thing about first kills with the Dragoons. I’d say give it to Bahadur. Can you put it back together first?”
“Certainly!” OneSvel’s pseudopods went to work and less than a seg later, the skull was back in one piece. As he handed it to Fargo, he touched him and projected. “When do you plan to go to Myoto? I am…getting questions.”
“Ah, just talked about that. Supposedly Ton’s rehab will take a minimum of thirty days. If I leave in the next day or so, I can be back before that is completed, and also before we should be hearing from the powers that be on their side.”
“Good. I will accompany you, as a sifter.”
Fargo glanced sharply at them. “That…I had only planned on two Ghorka. The way I interpreted it was that I was supposed to go.”
“Yes, that is true, but this attack they are suffering under is unprecedented. Who knows what we may find? Yes?”
Fargo chuckled. “Always looking for that one thing that will make you famous, right?”
If OneSvel could have smiled, they would have, but the humor came through the link. “Always hopeful. One is always hopeful. Shall we go?”
“I need to get the other skins. If you would bring the skull, we should go beard the female nearlions in their dens.”
Two divs later, Fargo was happy to escape the Enclave with his hide intact. It was decided that Garun and Shan would accompany him to Myoto, and OneSvel declared they would also go. NasTess would stay behind and take over for OneSvel in his absence. Evie was standing at the hatch to the shuttle as they walked up. “Good afternoon. I assume I will be dropping the Captain at his cabin and returning the two of you to Rushing River?”
Fargo merely nodded, already thinking about what he would need to take with him. NasTess’ GalTrans twittered, “That would be appreciated, Evie. We are not…equipped for long walks in the snow.”
Evie laughed and motioned them aboard, closed the ramp, and made her way to the cockpit as the others assumed their seats. Fargo motioned. “Benches for you?”
OneSvel twittered, “Yes, this is much better than trying to hold on, and the cargo straps allow us to tie in. Much more safe.”
Fargo stood on the porch in the cold looking up at the moons, marveling at the contrast they made with the swirling clouds and the brightness reflecting off the snow as he sipped a cup of real coffee. Amazing. It’s so bright out here there are shadows. So much like Earth. Well, except for the double moons. He opened his senses, smelling the tang of the nearpines up at the waterfall and realized he could sense Cattus and Canis coming toward the cabin. He also dimly sensed Urso, probably hibernating in a cave near the waterfall. My…range seems to be expanding, or I’m just now noticing it, one or the other. A seg or so later, he watched Cattus come bounding up through the meadow as Canis came around the corner of the cabin, jumped to the porch, and jumped up, putting her paws on his shoulders and licking his face, much to his disgust. “Stop that! You know I…oof.”
Cattus sprang onto the porch and bowled over both Canis and Fargo, parking herself on his chest and purring as she licked him with her sandpaper tongue. “You can stop that, too,” he said as he laughed. Canis was shoving at Cattus as she tried to get onto his chest too, and he finally pushed them both off and sat up. “I know, you two just want to be fed.” He managed to get up by pushing them away and projecting, “Sit!” He opened the door and looked at them both leaning toward the door and projected, “Okay, in!” Stepping to the side, he let them bolt through the door then followed them into the kitchen. Pulling their food out, he filled their bowls and went into the living room. Turning the e-tainment system on, he called up the message queue and sent a message to Remington with the vids of the four dead Silverbacks from his datacomp, telling him both the areas were clear of Silverbacks. He debated sending a message or vid calling Nicole, No, I’ll do that in the morning. I don’t want to deal with her chewing my ass tonight. I just want to sleep, now that I know Ton is going to make it, deity willing. Besides, if I go down tomorrow, and she’ll let me, I can spend the night and be at the spaceport in time to meet the shuttle without getting up at oh dark thirty.
A half a div later, he was lulled to sleep by the sounds of Cattus and Canis as they prowled the cabin.