the primitive planet Naxor, Zen, rightful lord of Etru, has been sold as a galley
slave by his own corrupt high priest. But while he plots his escape,
high above is a malfunctioning space ship,
with only two survivors -- Dr. Linis Adur and engineer Caris Vay. But
Vay is mad with megalomania and wants to use their superior technology
to conquer the planet. Linis refuses and so Vay pounces on her...
chapter two: descent into savagery
In a blind panic Linis lashed out as her adversary again attacked her, his harsh features distorted further by a vicious mixture hate and lust. Her failing arm, more by luck than skill, struck Vay a heavy blow upon the nose, sending him reeling to the deck howling in pain and rage, blood spurting from his nostrils.
Leaping his writhing form, the girl sprinted for the launch
bay, overcome by every woman’s blackest fear. For Linis Adur her safe
and ordered world had suddenly become a dark nightmare. She wondered if
it would ever be the same again.
Warm night enfolded Naxor with its dusky embrace. Quietness lay heavily upon the anchored ship, disturbed occasionally by the fitful snoring of broken men. Zen looked cautiously about, the thick shadows, dark as clotted blood, were driven back here and there by Thurim’s pale moonbeams lancing through the grillwork of the ventilation ports.
Carefully, Zen began to work free the steel spike embedded horizontally within the thick sole of his leather sandal. He always carried at least one concealed weapon upon his person, and was particularly fond of this one, as it was his own design.
Inserting the spike into the lock of his heavy collar that was chained to the deck, Zen began to work the point about in slow circles. Concentrating intensely on the task at hand, he failed to hear the soft footfalls of the night watch. The lock snapped open; the guard paused, his attention arrested by the faint sound.
Descending to the lower deck Kabis looked about, the rays of his lantern falling upon the sleeping slaves. Everything appears to be in order, he thought. Wait, that slave’s collar looks unlocked!
So swift was Zen’s strike that Kabis never felt the cold steel pierce his heart as he bent forward to investigate.
Zen made a desperate lunge, catching falling man and lantern as each tumbled to the deck. The body slid, sandals scraping as he lowered the corpse, his own chain rattled alarmingly. A slave stirred; Zen froze, heart pounding. If the fool awoke no doubt he’d raise a warning cry in an attempt to curry favor.
Hunched over, the Etruan waited tensely for the man to settle. How long would it be before someone noticed the missing guard? Suddenly, a shout rang out, shattering the stillness of the night. With an oath, Zen tore the collar from his throat, jerked free Kabis’ sword and raced up the ladder to the deck.
More shouts exploded in the night as he leapt from the hatch. Sailors charged towards him, drawn weapons glinting in the moonlight. The world became a blur of flashing steel. Coppery blood gushed upon the deck as Zen, in a whirlwind of fury, severed arms, legs, and heads with slashing blows.
Mariners fell back before his howling onslaught, stumbling in desperation over corpses strewn upon the deck. Three men had fallen beneath his murderous steel, and none were eager to meet that grisly fate. Seizing advantage of this brief respite, Zen threw down his sword, unhooked a massive lantern from the rail and cast it among his startled foes. Men scattered, the lamp shattered, spilt oil exploded into roaring flames.
That should keep them busy for a while, he thought as he leapt the rail and plunged into the sea, swimming towards an island whose shore was perhaps one hundred yards away.
A bright light drew his eye. Glancing up he beheld a glowing ball descending - a shooting star? No, it was coming straight down and very slowly at that. Best I concentrate on swimming, he thought as he saw it vanish beneath the island’s soaring foliage.
Early morning light slanted through tall tree-like growths surrounding the glade. Small sharp-eyed creatures stared from the underbrush at the strange thing whose midnight landing had disturbed the moonlit dell.
The huge white sphere rested quietly upon its tripod landing gear, the feet of which had sunk deeply into the loamy soil. The hatch stood open, its ramp descending like a lolling tongue. At its end a forlorn figure, dwarfed by the surrounding jungle sat, clad in nothing but skimpy underwear.
If only I hadn't panicked, thought Linis for the hundredth time. I could have subdued Vay when I had the chance, stocked the exploration module with a dozen other things. So long as Vay is free he's a threat to this world, but how to deal with him? I just don’t know.
Putting aside these gloomy thoughts, she reviewed her situation. The genetically engineered bacteria she had ingested, a product of her craft’s sophisticated laboratory, would convert the alien foodstuffs of this world into forms her system could digest.
There is neither danger of starvation, nor infectious disease, she thought. My analysis has revealed terrestrial biochemistry differs from that of the indigenous life forms. No native microorganism can survive in the human body. But even so …
Linis knew she would survive, but for how long? The exploration module’s energy-cells would last several years with careful use, but without power all sophisticated technology was nothing more than inert metal – no med-lab to deal with injuries or degenerative diseases, no entertainment system to distract her from crushing boredom and loneliness, no air-conditioning. A descent into savagery was all she could foresee.
She sighed, looked at her discarded clothing. The heat and humidity were already intolerable, and it was still only early morning. Turning her gaze to the surrounding jungle she looked at its tangled growth with a mixture of awe and trepidation. The catastrophe of climate change had devastated Earth’s wilderness. Billions of modified trees, capable of thriving in the new conditions had been planted, but these forests were tame man-made things, nothing like the feral landscape that now surrounded her.
The huge growths towered above her, their gray trunks fluted like Grecian columns, their triangular leaves variegated in ebony and crimson. Strange creatures fluttered in the dark canopy, indistinct with shadows and distance. The steamy air, redolent with innumerable spicy scents from silver flowers, assaulted her nostrils. It seemed that all of nature conspired to overwhelm her senses with its vibrant fecundity. I
It’s light enough to do a little more exploring, she thought, getting to her feet. Despite the dangers I’d best familiarize myself with my surroundings.
Linis checked the remote strapped upon her wrist. The craft’s sensors were in scanning mode and would voice an instant warning if any hidden thing approached. From her waistband hung two grenades and a shock-pistol – weapons from a stockpile Vay had secreted aboard the craft. Trying to look more confident than she felt, the girl moved out into the open glade unaware of the dormant thing concealed by tangled verdure, undetected by her instruments.
This story is copyright by Kirk Straughen. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)