On the forested planet Urwald Solis DeLacey has been captured by Kruath soldiers who are working with a human traitor named Carstairs. Paranoid, Carstairs tortures DeLacey to find out how much she knows about his plans. His inquisition is interrupted, however, by an attack from above.
Confusion reigned over the Kruath. Soldiers were running this way and that. Solis heard a defening noise above her and looked up to see a small ship streaking overhead. As it strafed the main body of the Kruath encampment it dropped another bomb. Tents flared and soldiers returned fire in the vain hope of hitting the ship.
Another passed over, then an other. Solis thought about the lights she had seen earlier in the sky. The ships were whizzing overhead, dropping bombs on the heaviest concentrations of Kruath. Solis tried to stand, but couldn’t. Another shockwave knocked her down. She felt the post at her back shift under the withering blast.
Solis had to get out of the open. With ships strafing and bombing all around her it was only a matter of time before she was hit. Solis pulled at the wooden stake to which she was bound. She felt it move slightly. The force of the blast had loosened it from the ground.
Her body was exhausted and her muscles were in agony from the shocks they had taken from the persuader. Nevertheless, she had to move or be obliterated. She wrapped the binder cord around her wrists and pulled. Every joint and limb screamed in protest, but she ignored the agony and pulled. She felt the stake give some more. She pulled again.
A flash exploded nearby. Solis dropped to the ground and curled into a fetal position before the shockwave hit. It knocked the wind out of her and lifted her off the ground. She let herself go tumbling and her arms were pulled violently. She felt like her arms would be pulled out of their sockets. Then she landed with a thump.
She lost consciousness for a few second, perhaps for a full minute, she did not know. She opened her eyes and gasped a breath. Every inch of her felt like it was on fire. She moved her arms and was rewarded with a fresh burst of pain along the full length of both of them.
But they moved freely. The binder rings were still around her wrist but the ends had torn free of the wooden post. The post itself lay a few feet away, shattered to pieces.
That could have been me, she thought and thanked the Eternal Void for allowing her this much luck today.
Solis ran as fast as she could, making for the cover of the trees. The muscles in her legs were in agony, but the adrenaline rushing through her body helped her to ignore the pain. Ships continued to roar overhead and explosions brightened the night. She still could not hear anything but she could not worry about that now. She concentrated only on running.
Another blast hit close. She saw the flash and felt the concussion. It knocked her to the ground. She skidded to a stop, scraping her chin on the ground. She rolled over on her back just as a craft passed overhead. She closed her eyes and braced for the expected strafing, but nothing happened. She opened her eyes and scrambled to her feet.
The craft turned. Was it coming back to finish her off?
She ran. She didn’t look back to see if the craft was gaining. Solis put on a burst of speed and practically dived into the dark woods.
The air was suddenly cool against her exposed skin and Solis began to shiver. Crouched low, she moved as quicky and as quietly as she could through the dense trees.
Everything around her was black. Just like the night before, she was running on instinct, trying to avoid being tripped up by roots underfoot, or dashing her head on low hanging branches.
She heard something drop into the undergrowth from above. She froze, trying to determine the direction from which she’d heard the sound, preparing to run in the opposite direction.
“Human Girl?” a voice called out.
“Ovrafa!” Solis scrambled over to where she’d heard the Ovrafa drop. She felt the Guiranam’s long arms wrap around her and she did her best to hug her back.
“How did you get away?” Solis asked. “I was afraid that you’d been…”
“Some of us were,” Ovrafa said, her voice quavering. “They gathered us up and shot Chief Hawp. Then they said they’d shoot every one of us if we didn’t tell them what we were doing here. We told them, but they kept asking and kept threatening to shoot us. Then the ships came and started bombing. A few of us managed to escape during the confusion, but I got separated. I’ve been keeping to the branches, trying to avoid the ships. They seemed to be searching for survivors.”
Solis nodded. “Same here,” she said. “One of them chased me into the woods. Do you know where we are?”
“I think so.”
Ovrafa led the way. Her night vision was better than Solis’ and her footing more sure. Ovrafa would have preferred to climb and travel through the branches, but she couldn’t carry Solis on her own, so she stuck to the undergrowth. The sun began to rise as they reached the edge of the forest. The sky was clear of ships so they chanced traversing the open spaces, but they tried to keep to the tall grass and they kept low.
They spied the survey pre fab. Much of it had burned but some of the structure stood intact although nothing seemed to be spared the scorch marks left behind by Kruath weapons fire.
Inside the structure, Solis found what was left of the communication array. It was broken and burned beyond repair. There was little that wasn’t broken or burned. Solis wandered into the structure’s small galley. The water was not running and the stasis units were all broken open, their contents littered over the floor. Insects buzzed above the foodstuff that was slowly spoiling in the heat of the day.
The spoiling food smelled bad but the odor was not overpowering — not yet anyway. Solis saw a packet of biscuits. The biscuits within were mostly broken but the packaging was still intact. Solis was excited and she wanted to share her find with Ovrafa. She moved out of the kitchen and was about to call when a figure in an atmosphere suit came in through the structure’s main entrance.
Solis froze for a second then ran back into the kitchen. There was an exit at the back of the Galley and Solis made for it but when she got there it was blocked by another atmosphere suited figure. She backed away. The figure moved towards her unhurriedly. The figures were tall and the suit’s structure was unfamiliar to her. The suits’ helmets were oversized and the faceplates were completely black.
They did not look like Kruath but Solis was not about to take a chance. She turned and ran back the way she’d come. Somewhere from upstairs she heard Ovrafa shriek.
Solis was trapped.