I have about 28 or so pages left to do on the hard-copy edit of Shadows. I should be able to get this done this weekend, assuming the power doesn’t go out (the rain is blowing sideways, and I am considering moving the family into the ark, just to be on the safe side).
I’ve doodled up the next episode of Dinosaur Planet. Now that I have a few of these episodes under my belt, I’ve noticed something interesting. I am more-or-less typing these up and posting them, with just a spell-check and a quick read-through, and I am writing these pieces so as to keep the action going– not a lot of time being taken out for character introspection. As a consequence these episodes have a pretty clean feel to them, especially in comparison to Princess of Shadows. It makes me wonder if Shadows is too top-heavy with internal ruminations and such. On the other hand, I want the reader in Kathy’s head. Somewhere in there is a happy balance. Hopefully I can find it before I publish.
On another topic, I’ve located a few more abandoned fragments I’ll be posting in the near future. This is good thing; otherwise I might be tempted to start posting my poetry, and then we would all be sorry.
PUBLIC SERVICE NOTICE: All bloggers are advised that they read the following at their own risk. In other words, it’s not my fault if your eyeballs fall out or catch fire. You’re on your own. Still, it’s copyrighted, by me, the perpetrator, 2013.
Up A Tree Without A Pulse Rifle
A tree, Paul told himself as he ran, I need a tree.
In reality, though, the problem was not finding a tree; it was finding one with limbs low enough to the ground for him to reach. All about him were giants, whose limbs started twenty or thirty meters off the ground. The only way Paul could have climbed those was with mountaineering gear he didn’t have.
He heard a shriek from behind him—an ear-rending sound that conveyed hunger and blood-lust. He could see nothing moving among the trees—yet. But the sound of large, heavy bodies crashing through brush echoed through the woods.
“You’re going to want to move it a little faster, there, Paulie, old son,” Jasper said, sounding nonchalant. “I doubt those carnivores are going to be interested in me, but I would prefer not having to watch you get torn limb-from-limb. It would sort of ruin my day.”
“Shut up unless you’ve got something to actually contribute,” Paul panted.
“Okay, how about this—the bad guys are two hundred meters away and closing fast.”
There—in the midst of a clearing, three or four smaller trees, a different species that the giants, poking their crowns up out of the brush. They were shorter, with branches diverging out of the central trunk only a few meters off the ground. The trees uppermost branches, or at least the ones that looked as if they would bear Paul’s weight, were fifteen meters high.
Paul shoved himself into the stand of brush. The plants were yellow-leaved, their branches gnarled, the ends brittle under his hands as he pushed and broke his way through. Twigs stabbed at his eyes in his haste.
“One hundred yards,” Jasper said.
The shriek came again, terribly close now. Sweating, straining, Paul fought the brush. Something exploded out of the cover in front of him, some flyer that fled into the air with sharp cries of alarm. Paul trampled down branches, wood breaking under his boots.
He reached the closest tree. The lowest branch was three meters up. Paul didn’t try jumping for it. Instead, the tree’s bark was very rough. Paul grabbed handfuls of bark with both hands, wedged a boot-toe on top of a burl, and pulled himself up.
“Here they come!” Jasper said.
Paul didn’t look; he climbed. The bark threatened to give way under his weight. He shifted his grip, pulled himself up, grabbed the lowest branch with one hand.
“Look out!” Jasper yelled.
Paul looked over his shoulder; he saw a reptilian form come crashing through the brush, glimpsed teeth in a pointed snout. Yelling in fear, he leapt for the branch. The carnivore leapt as well. The top of the creatures head collided with the bottom of the branch just as Paul swarmed up it. The blow nearly knocked Paul out of the tree. He flailed his arms and managed to grab a higher branch. He hauled himself up on it as another carnivore made an impressive leap and snapped its jaws inches short of Paul’s dangling feet.
Paul stood on the upper branch, held on to a third with both hands, and caught his breath. The carnivore tried another jump, but now Paul was a good meter or more above what appeared to the creatures’ best leap. He hung on to the branch, panting.
“Not that I am complaining, mind,” Jasper said, “but that was entirely too damn close.”
“No argument,” Paul gasped.
There were three of the creatures. Each were a couple of meters long, and appeared to be mostly teeth, claws, and powerful hind legs, on which they were now wandering around the base of the tree. They snarled and hissed, peering up at Paul with hungry eyes that as black as a shark’s.
Just to be sure, Paul pulled himself up a little higher into a fork, where he could lean back and rest.
“Well, here we are,” Jasper said, “up a tree without a pulse rifle. You got a plan to get us out of here?”
“Give me a minute,” Paul said. He studied the…well, raptors, for lack of a better name. They showed no sign of leaving anytime soon; apparently they were not eager to pass up a potential free lunch. They snarled and circled about; they seemed cranky and short-tempered creatures, for they snapped and growled at each other as much as they hissed up at Paul.
Paul studied the tree in which he and Jasper now lodged, and the adjacent trees. The trees in the little grove stood close together, so much so that their branches intertwined. He would be easily able to cross from one tree to the other.
The raptors continued to snarl and snap at one another; they seemed almost willing to make a lunch of each other, if they couldn’t get Paul.
“Hang on,” Paul told Jasper.
“I’m sure you mean that in the metaphorical sense,” Jasper said, “or do I actually need to remind you I have no hands?”
Paul ignored the AI. He changed position on the branch so that he could look down on the raptors. He drew the pulse pistol.
“That probably doesn’t have enough power to kill chickens that big,” Jasper said. “Unless you get lucky with a head shot….”
“Not looking to kill them,” Paul said. He took a bead on one of the raptors.
“What?” Jasper said.
Paul pulled the trigger. The pulse gun cracked. The raptor screamed and tried to run away, but its left leg crumpled under it, broken.
The other two raptors, just as Paul had hoped, attacked the wounded one. The injured raptor screamed louder as the other two bit into its flesh.
Paul didn’t wait to watch the feast; he turned and, as quickly as he could, moved from branch to branch into the next tree. He moved around to the other side of this tree, and then swung down to the ground.
“They’re not leaving their former buddy,” Jasper said. “The dinner bell has definitely rung. Go, go.”
Paul didn’t need encouragement; he immediately pushed his way into the brush, moving as fast as he could away from the raptors. The screams had stopped.
“Have to hand it to you, slick,” Jasper said. “As much as it pains me to admit it, that was a nice piece of animal psychology…LOOK OUT!”
Paul emerged from the brush at that moment. A raptor charged across the open forest floor at him, mouth agape, ready to bite out his life. Paul, without thinking, lifted the pulse pistol. He fired, missed, fired, missed; the raptor hissed as it came, huge and inexorable, and Paul put the third shot through its open mouth. The back of the raptor’s head exploded; the creature stumbled, fell, and skidded right across the leaf-strewn ground. Yelling in fear, Paul took a step backward and fell. The raptor’s body slid to a stop at his feet.
Paul lay panting for a moment, staring at the twitching corpse. Then he staggered up to his feet. “Any others?”
“No,” Jasper said. “I don’t understand why I didn’t pick that one up. It’s like it didn’t even show up on my sensors until you came out of the brush.”
“We still have to get out of here,” Paul said. “Which way?”
“Ten degrees to your right,” Jasper said. “That’ll be exactly due east.”
Paul circled around the dead raptor, and set out at a jog. He carried the pulse pistol in his hand, ready; but he thought, Just one shot left.
Next episode: One Foot In Front of the Other….