Solis DeLacey, after being assigned to a Kyann Ship for a lapse of judgement, was enjoying shore leave on a forested planet called Urwald. During the night their outpost is attacked and Solis manages to escape into the jungle.
The jungle was whipping by her upside down. Creepers and branches slapped her face, her shoulders and her outstretched arms. She could feel hands grabbing at her waist and legs, hauling her up into the trees. She was dizzy and she felt her gorge become buoyant. Her dinner and the rasha were threatening to come back up, but she forced it down. If she threw up while she was upside down she felt she was liable to choke and suffocate.
She was suddenly turned the right way up. The world spun around her and she had to fight with her stomach again.
“We’ve got you, human girl,” a voice said in her ear. It was Ovrafa. She and another Guiranam had ahold of her from either side and they were making their way through the treetops at a dizzying pace. Several times it proved too much for her and she had to close her eyes, but with every movement she was afraid that she would slip from the Guiranam’s grip and fall to her death below.
Her stomach lurched one or two times during the passage even with her eyes closed. Once she was certain she was falling and she barely bit back a scream that wanted to escape from her lips.
The Guiranam’s progress slowed. She felt herself dipping down once – twice – then a third time. “Ground,” Ovrafa said and she felt the dense vegetation of the jungle floor beneath her feet.
She tried to stand upright but she could not keep her balance. She fell to her hands and knees. Ovrafa and the other Guiranam plopped down on either side of her.
They sat in silence for a moment, listening tensely for the sound of weapons fire or of soldiers moving through the jungle. All Solis could hear was the sounds of the jungle which seemed to loom darkly all around her.
“Who…who were they?” Solis asked, her voice barely above a whisper. Ovrafa looked at her, her eyes wide, but she shook her head.
Soon other Guiranam plopped down beside them. They were all silent and watchful. Solis could not see because of the darkness but she had the impression that all of the Guiranam were there. Their flight into the jungle had saved them all and Ovrafa and the other had saved Solis.
Once again, she thought. I owe my life to someone that I cannot repay.
Solis managed to sit up. Her cadet whites were torn and soiled and her hair was festooned with leaves and twigs from her passage. She was trying to pick them out but they were hopelessly tangled in her curls.
The Guiranam had begun to discuss the situation amongs themselves. Some of the senior engineers were arguing about what they should do. One of them, an older Guiranam, said that he was rated to fly shuttles. If they could get back to the shuttle they could perhaps fly back to the ship.
Solis shook her head. “The ship was attacked,” she said. The Guiranam all looked at her. “The Kyann pilots… they were in communication with the Kr’tk’tk. I heard the ship challenging an intruder and then the communication cut out. Even if you could get to the shuttle there might not be a ship to go to.”
“Who are they?” another Guiranam asked. “Why did they attack us?”
Solis shook her head but the other Guiranam began chattering, asking the same question and floating wild theories. The noise level began to rise and Solis was suddenly frightened that they would be discovered by the soldiers. Some of the other Guiranam tried to quiet the others but they just made the noise worse.
Solis stood up and began to move away from the group. She felt dizzy and exhausted and her stomach was lurching again. She told herself that she just needed to walk it off but in truth she was trying to put distance between herself and the chattering Guiranam. She was frightened of being discovered again.
The sound of the Guiranam receded behind her. The thick undergrowth threatened to trip her up a couple of times, but she managed to keep her feet. Her stomach was another matter. She leaned over and heaved its contents onto the ground.
When she finished she wiped her mouth with the back of a torn and soiled sleeve. The smell of what she’d thrown up — half digested dinner and Rasha — threatened to cause her stomach to heave again so she walked away, trying to be careful of her footing. She moved slowly in the dark until she could not smell the offending odor anymore.
She stopped and blinked, trying to make out her surroundings but the darkness was complete. She listened, trying to detect any sign of the Guiranam but she could hear nothing save for the sounds of the jungle at night.
Small fingers of panic began to write in her belly. Had she wandered too far? It would be easy to get lost in the jungle during daylight hours. In the blackness of night navigating was nearly impossible. If she couldn’t get back to the group…
She listened. She stood still and tried to pick out any familiar sound. She thought she could hear someone moving to her left but she wasn’t certain. “Ovrafa?” she hissed. “Anybody?”
Suddenly the trees around her were alive with movement. She could hear Guiranam hooting and shouting all around her. She could hear rustling all around her as if someone was running all around her.
The soldiers! Had they found them? Solis was rooted to the spot with fear.
Suddenly she could see a light moving through the trees. It flickered and bobbed up and down. then she saw a second and a third. Torches!
In the light of the flames she could see that torch bearers had dark, dark skin. They were tall and wore little or nothing in the way of clothing. She could hear them shouting and their speech was low and gutteral, almost a series of grunts. They did not speak any of the standard lingua, nor did they carry weapons.
Were they Urwald natives? Solis had not reviewed the survey files as her supervisors had suggested so she had no idea if the initial survey mentioned a native population or not.
Solis’ heart was hammering in her chest. In the torchlight she could see the newcomers trying to round up the Guiranam. The Guiranam were taking to the trees with screams and shouts. She saw two of the newcomers had grabbed one smaller Guiranam who was putting up a fight.
The area around her lit up. She turned. One of the natives was behind her with a torch.
He was humanoid and dark blue in color and he was covered in patches of bark-like skin. His forward-facing eyes were red and the skin on either side of his face swept up and backwards in four vaguely horn-like structures. His teeth shone whitely in the torchlight and he smiled.
Solis tried to back away but her foot caught in the tangled undergrowth and she went down on her ass. The native loomed over her with his torch. He uttered a gutteral shout and two of his fellows came running.
Once again hands were grabbing at her and Solis was being carried away in the dark.
…to be continued…