Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Fiction for April 9, 2010

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Joanne, over at An Open Book. Since I’m posting a bit late, I see that there’s already a good turnout on MckLinky, so if you haven’t already, get over there and peruse the wonderful submissions for this week.

I’m taking it a bit easy this week, after so many new submissions the past couple of months, and pulling an excerpt from “The Eridanus Dream.” For those unfamiliar with the story, it takes place in a distant future when humanity is expanding to the stars. At this point in the story, Sean and Y’La have been joined by a phenomenon the Eridani people call “besela,” wherein their minds are permanently telepathically linked. Italicized dialogue in the excerpt is spoken in the Eridani (or Qi’le) language.
The klur is the Eridani beast of burden, used in many of the same ways as the Terran horse. The DEB rifle is a Directed Energy Beam weapon, capable of delivering a pulse of flesh-searing heat to a target. They have just had their journey interrupted by a voice behind them after entering a meadow.

CHAPTER 8
LESSONS

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards.
~ Vernon Sanders Law


The four travelers brought their kluri to a halt and looked behind them. Just outside the edge of the trees stood two women; rugged, dirty, and dangerous looking. Both held long Polearm weapons, and between the two one held a vicious looking carnivore on a short lead.

Drop the Temple tribute on the ground, leave your kluri and be on your way and you will not be harmed. If you try to run, the tzek will easily overtake at least one of you, and the death will not be pleasant,” the one holding the beast’s lead said.

“What’s happening, Sean?” Bob asked in a low voice.

“They’re attempting to rob us,” he replied, not as worried about keeping his voice down, since he knew the criminals would not understand him anyway. “Is your DEB rifle charged?”

The Temple tribute belongs to God,” Y’La objected. “You cannot take it.

Bob casually slipped the rifle from behind his back to his right hand, thumbing the safety off as he did. “Should be mostly charged; it’ll only take a moment for the pulse network to be ready to fire.”

Sean likewise brought the shotgun from behind his back, locking the slide forward and releasing the safety as well. “You any good with the DEB?”

If the tribute belongs to God,” the robber said with a haughty laugh, “perhaps She Herself will come and tell me I cannot take it.”

“Good enough,” Bob replied. “The beauty of the DEB is I simply put the laser spot where I want to hit, and pull the trigger. It’s one reason I chose it.”

“I’ll take the beast, whatever that thing is. If they release it, I’m guessing it’s going to move fast and the shotgun will be the best thing to try on it. Go for the knees on the robbers; they can’t pursue and fight if they can’t walk.”

You would mock God?” Y’La asked with a hint of warning in her voice.

Enough conversation, priestess; I have mocked God my entire life, and never once have I heard Her so much as whisper in Her defense. Drop the tribute and dismount, or I will release the tzek; you will not find her as genial as you find me.”

“Are you ready?” Sean asked.

Bob took a deep breath. “As ready as I’ll ever be, kid.”

Honored priestess,” Sean spoke loudly enough to be heard by all. “Does your law permit killing in self defense?

Y’La turned her attention to him, “Yes,” she said aloud. “The tzek is extremely fast, and its claws contain poison,” she informed him mentally.

The other robber laughed derisively. “The man speaks boldly, sister! Perhaps we should claim him for some sport as well!”

We are continuing our journey to the Temple, with the tribute and our kluri,” Sean said, ignoring the bawdy gesture the woman made. “If you wish to walk away from this meadow today, you will not attempt to hinder us.”

Fool,” the woman holding the beast spat and released the animal.

Sean!” Y’La cried out as the animal sprinted towards them.

He shouldered the shotgun, took quick aim and squeezed the trigger. The first blast shredded one foreleg of the tzek, causing it to stumble. In the same moment, the woman who had held the leash screamed in pain as her right knee erupted in a small burst of flame. The tzek rolled back to its remaining feet and, snarling, began to advance once again. Sean worked the slide of the shotgun and released another blast, this one mangling the beast’s head.

The second robber hesitated, looking in confusion from her sister to the mortally wounded tzek. As she finally began to move, the DEB flame flared on her inner thigh. She stayed to her feet, swaying uncertainly even as she brought the Polearm forward as if to charge them. The second DEB hit to her hip sent her sprawling to the ground.

The tzek writhed in the grass a short distance from Sean, alternating between deep growling and a distressed howling. Sean dismounted, pumping the action on the shotgun one more time, and approached the suffering animal. Staying sufficiently out of its reach, he took aim at the back of the skull and with one final round ended its misery.

Working the action on the shotgun to again charge the chamber, he approached the two robbers. The one who had held the leash made to raise her Polearm, and he stopped out of reach of the weapon. “Can you move faster than your tzek?” Sean asked, leveling the barrel at her chest.

She dropped the weapon even as she glared at him with an intense hate.

“What should we do with them, Y’La?” Sean asked aloud and in English, not taking his eyes off the two.

Leave them,” she replied. “Perhaps now, instead of mocking God, they will call upon Her for mercy.

When the pain of your wounds subsides, which it will eventually, you might be able to walk away from here if you use your weapons as staffs to support yourselves on,” Sean said to the two. “My mother taught me a lesson many years ago, and I will share it with you. She said, ‘Do not be fooled; God is not mocked. Whatever you plant is what you will harvest.’ Maybe God did not come here today and tell you not to take the tribute, but it appears that the message was delivered nonetheless.

He returned to his klur, retrieving the spent shot shells as he did, and without a backward glance the four rode on.

In all that we have shared,” Y’La thought to him as they re-entered the woods on the far side of the meadow, “I had not considered what your weapons were capable of.

It is not something I really wanted an opportunity to demonstrate.” Now that the moment was passed his nerves were shaky and he felt nauseous.

“I guess this answers one question,” Bob said, interrupting the silent exchange. “We haven’t found Utopia where everyone gets along just fine and dandy.”

“If we ever do,” Sean replied, “I hope we leave it without making our presence known. It would be the greatest sin of mankind to corrupt such a place with our vices.”

2 comments:

Rita's Random Ramblings said...

As always, I stand in awe of your writing, you belong on the best seller list! My husband and I both loved reading, "Cardan's Pod." Blessings, Rita

Catrina Bradley... said...

Somethings, sadly, never change - even into the distant future. Great peek at this adventure! Leaves me wanting to know more. T