A single ray of light shone through the tent folds, landing squarely on Eos's face. The heat it generated at first just annoyed him, but in the end managed to wake him from his slumber. It was a long time since he had slept and the night before had revitalized him greatly.
"Morning already... always comes too soon..."
He got out of the tent to face the bright morning sun, its strong white light bathing the landscape around him. He quickly folded and packed his temporary shelter and checked his boots before putting them on. The Lorcan spider had a bad habit of ending up in a person's shoes. Once bitten you wouldnít be walking for quite a while.
After all had been packed, he squeezed two whole tubes of ration paste into his mouth and wiped his face with his forearm. It was cold and tasteless, but the protein provided would sustain him for more than half the day.
Making sure no sign of his passing remained, he pulled out his remote console and sat down on a nearby boulder. He clicked it on, and waited as the screen came to life.
"Status, Surena, all systems."
The data streamed slowly before his eyes. It was all as planned. The Surena was fine, all systems were running perfectly. Scans of the planet's atmosphere showed no exit stream. Nobody had left Lorca Prime in the night. Not that anyone could have, but it was better to be safe than sorry.
Eos stood and stretched his large frame. Standing well over six feet tall he was strongly built and liked to keep it that way; the Surena had a well-equipped toning console that he used almost daily. Taking one last look around he strapped on his pack and started his trek.
Lorca Prime was now a dead world. There was nothing except rock, sand, heat, and of course mineral deposits. No company had managed to operate here for too long, however. If Eos was superstitious, he might have suspected bad luck.
The first outfit to set up a few hundred years ago had used the planet's uranium deposits to set up an old style power station. It had worked fine for a while but then without notice blew up killing every single worker on the surface. Another hundreds years passed before another company, the K. R. Excavation and Mining C Consortium, flew in, cleaned up the mess their predecessors left behind, and started operations. They had been even more successful, but a sudden epidemic of Molca T (strain LRP00011) put a stop to their plans. The planet was quarantined for 25 years, and by then the company had put its money elsewhere. Now nobody was left, and it didnít look like anyone would be showing up.
Eos trudged on, only slowing down to take some Hydroxo tablets to keep his fluid levels in check. Water would have been a better option, but he liked to travel light. The last known signal had come from an area three and a half miles ahead of his campsite in a small range of hills. Using his gloved hand to wipe the dust from his goggles, he saw the hills come into view in the hazy distance.
Eos broke into a jog. He was breathing slightly harder by the time he reached the foothills. He stopped and listened to the slight breeze blowing through the valleys. It was a calming sound and he used the moment to gather his thoughts. He knelt on the rocky turf and again pulled out his remote console scanner. He could use the systems on The Surena to scan any area on the planet. He could also if need be, control her by remote.
"Area scan, last signal pickup..."
The data came back positive. It was definitely in these hills that Eos would find what he was looking for. It took a little while but The Surena finally came through with exact coordinates. The signal was coming from a small hill a few hundred feet ahead of him. Life sign scans took more time than a normal energy scan and pinpointing one was near impossible. Eos grimaced as he went forward now. He hoped there would not be too much trouble.
As he drew closer to the hill in question, the readings began to make sense. The hill itself was not at all high, maybe only a hundred feet at the peak, but about halfway up, partially hidden behind some boulders, a cave entrance appeared. Eos frowned slightly. He did not like going into anything blind, least of all a cave.
Approaching the slope at a run, he began to climb. The ascent was not difficult and he reached the entrance quickly. He stopped outside, letting his breathing return to normal. No point in announcing his arrival by making any more noise than necessary... He crept inside.
The cave opening was wide and low so he had to crouch. It smelled musty and old inside. As he concentrated harder, his keen sense of smell detected another scent: excrement. He smiled grimly in the darkness.
It took a few moments to get accustomed to the darkness but now that he was, his eyesight began to make out the contours of the rock. The cave entrance was wide but the cavern narrowed into a passage in the rear wall. The floor was smooth for the most part, so keeping quiet was not very difficult. He moved in with his rifle at the ready. The passage was only wide enough for one and low enough that he had to move in a half-crouch. It went on for about 50 feet and then started to widen out. His pace quickened as he moved forward towards the inner cavern. The scent was getting stronger and suddenly it became very strong.
Eos barely had time to look up as a figure jumped from above, dropping what amounted to a small boulder on his head. He went down hard on his back, wrestling with himself to maintain consciousness.
"So they've sent you after me. You must excuse the reception, but things are a little muddled these days."
Eos sat up, and waited as his sight gradually cleared up. The figure in front of him was tall, taller than Eos, approaching seven feet. The man was stout and looked strong enough to crush Eos's skull with ease if he wanted.
"Well... I can see you... Meliktin Eos, man-tracker."
Eos pushed himself to his feet, glad that in all the confusion he had not dropped his rifle. Standing now, he turned it on his quarry.
"I didnít see that now," the figure said to himself. He brushed his now shaggy and unkempt hair from his face and stepped back to lean against a wall.
"You look a little worse for wear, your beard is as dirty as it is long. Did you bring no supplies?" Eos's head throbbed as he spoke.
"All lost in the crash, but you must admit Eos, without all our essentials, it did make it harder for you to find me, didn't it?"
"I suppose it did. Now that the pleasantries are past us, will you come quietly?"
The figure stepped out closer to his pursuer and stood just a few feet away. Eos could see the familiar noble eyes staring out of a haggard dirty face. He was tired, but he was not beaten.
"Come for what? To be stripped of who we are? To be shamed and disgraced for wanting what is right? You have your weapon and you have your orders. Kill me if can, and if not, leave."
Eos's hand gripped his weapon tighter and his mouth hardened at the words.
"I have been asked to bring you back, alive..."
"Ha! What of the others? Maybe you have me, but what of..."
"The others have all been captured. You are the last."
The escapee chuckled, a dry raspy sound that echoed in the darkness.
"Eos, you lie. You mean to say that you could have captured all of us? And I am the last? That is impossible!"
Now it was Eos's turn to smile.
"All are in custody with their clans and they await your return..."
"My return? For what? To watch them die?"
"No, for exile..."
The figure slumped onto the floor and gathered his knees to his chest. His head drooped until his face was half-hidden by his folded arms.
"Exile... to where?"
Eos lowered his rifle and stepped back, the pain in his head dissipating.
"We have found a world that is habitable but it is far, maybe a million light years distant. The atmosphere is suitable and--"
"I know of this world! It is inhabited by creatures not dissimilar to our own dri-kia! We would perish on our own!"
Eos shook his head.
"The world's natural trajectory has been altered to bring it in line with a passing comet. Our calculations will not fail; the creatures will be wiped out and you will wait as things settle."
"Hmm... And then what, Eos? You will put us and all our clans on an inhospitable world to perish a universe away from home..."
Eos sat on the floor and kept his rifle on his captive. In one deft move he removed his pack and again fetched out the remote console.
"Surena, signal lock, cautionary approach, terrain specific landing."
"So, man-tracker... what other news do you bring? What other choice thoughts to leave me with as I await captivity?"
The man-tracker tossed a ration tube on the floor near his captive. It was picked up immediately.
"Actually, it's funny you ask," Eos began. "The world was chosen not only for its atmosphere but also for its interesting fauna. There are creatures there with a cellular makeup very close to ours. A bio team was sent down and they are confident that with the right changes to their genetic structure these very same creatures will look very much like we do. They will be smaller and weaker and understandably less intelligent but they will make good workers for you and the others. The bio team is not sure yet, but they think that you could even breed with them!"
"You would have us breed with animals?"
The empty ration tube was thrown at Eos's feet. He did not pick it up.
"So hunter, you mean to say Gayomarzeh, Osinis, the foolhardy Zeaus, Wotana, and all the others and all their clans have been rounded up? I am the last? How is this?"
The floor of the cave rumbled underneath their feet and dust flew from the black ceiling above.
"Looks like our ride is here. Get up and walk out slowly. I'm sure you know the way."
The prisoner lifted himself on bare feet and made his way toward the outer area. His captor was not far behind.
"If you must know, it was your wife that gave you away..."
"You lie, Meliktin. Haive would never betray me, not in a thousand life times!"
"Well, have a thousand life times passed so soon? She was captured first and was promised leniency for both you and the others if she gave away your positions. One of the high consulars spoke to her and convinced her. I would love to take the credit for your capture but you should save all your gratitude for your wife."
The pair walked out into the outer cavern and into sight of the cave entrance. The afternoon sun was bright making them squint as they approached the exit. The Surena was hovering above them like a giant obsidian bird of prey.
"Don't fret, Aidaam, we will soon be on our way. In the end I think you've all come off lucky for your treachery."
"How could you say such a stupid thing? We are ruined. Our lives are over. Our status, our possessions all lost..."
Eos watched stoically as The Surena began her slow descent.
"Auto landing always takes a little long, eh? Well, you see the consular who convinced your loving wife to turn you in never had it in mind to exile you. In the end he wanted you all exterminated. Of course, since he had promised to spare your lives, his hidden motives did not go down well with the upper echelon. It went to a consul vote and exile was decided upon."
The ground shook and a loud thud was heard as The Surena finally touched down. The boarding ramp came down automatically.
Both prisoner and captor took one last look at their barren surroundings before taking the few steps towards the ship.
Walking up the ramp, Aidaam asked, " Which scoundrel of a consular was this that tried to back out on his promise in such an underhanded way?"
Melktin Eos, man-tracker, escorted his captive to the holding cell on the ship. The Surena was already preparing to leave the surface.
"You can find everything you need in there, you can bathe and even get rid of that hair if you like.
Eos turned and was about to leave when he remembered Aidaamís question.
"Oh, it was a young consular..."
Aidaam looked at Eos expectantly.
"His name is Lucias Ferra, and between you and me I think he maybe too ambitious for his own good!"
Bio: From his home in Dubai, Sohrab Koohapaima says, "I am 28 years old and married (no kids!). I enjoy reading, football and writing music." Apparently, he also likes writing other things, too!
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