Cran Palto | Books | Raheem
Their Herd




Chapter 22
Their Herd

Enormous companies rose to meet the industrial demands of the Terraforming Authority, but the success or failure of planetary colonies ultimately hinged on the leadership of a few people, regardless of how many resources were deployed.

—A New Space Race: Lessons in Humanity, by Harkun Yam, seventh administrator of the Frizixa settlement.

Agra kept to herself for three days, drawing diagrams and calculating things, noting findings and results on paper in her tiny, delicate script. Most of the time she spent at her research desk, which was growing with stacks of sheets and binders, and with a map of the area drawn directly on the wall to her right. It wasn’t exactly to scale, but it was useful to note the paths and creeks, points of interest, and the crash ship they had not returned to.

On the morning of the fourth day, she arrived at her study to pick up her notebook before going hunting. She glanced at the map and noticed the unexplored lake area below the crash site. She had seen it from afar, and she now recalled the glittering lake and the dark band of dense vegetation that surrounded it. Surely there would be animals there. She grabbed the notebook and put it in her bag, then went out again.

Vaega was at the campfire, rolling dried leaves of Genoresis Macraw. Yigars and Trion were sitting near her. It was still early morning, and sunlight had that gentleness of hope. When she arrived, Trion and Yigars stopped their conversation and looked up at her.

“I want to go to the lake below the crashed ship.”

“What about the creatures inside the ship?” Trion said.

“What creatures?”

Yigars and Vaega had spoken at the same time.

“What creatures?” Vaega repeated, her face suddenly hard, eyes questioning.

Trion raised his hands to align with his shoulders, palms facing outward. “It’s okay. They did not follow us. They seem to avoid open spaces.”

“And at night?” Vaega asked.

Yigars spoke then. “The diggers don’t go out, day or night. If they are attacked, they will fight in the open, but they will return to their tunnels and burrows. They live in dark places. Their eyes see the faintest light and even when the darkness seems complete to us, they can see enough to hunt.”

Yigars’ face seemed drawn into a frown. “And we can’t fight them, not with these weapons. Their shell is hard and slick, and bullets bounce off. They are fast, with many legs, and when they reach humans, they stab and slice with razor-sharp claws. They are deadly.”

He turned to Vaega. “They only live in the mountains. We are safe here, this far away.”

“Are you saying I should not go to near the ship?” Agra asked.

Vaega shot Agra a worried glance.

Yigars shook his head. “If they decide to hunt you, you won’t survive without a war party. I would not go there.”

Agra stayed silent, pondering his words.

Trion stood and held Agra’s shoulders in his hands. “We’ll find the parts we need somewhere else.”

Yigars stood. “Speaking of somewhere else, let’s go to Bison Prairie. There is always game there, even though it’s far.”

“How far?” Agra asked.

“Half a day. We will return just before nightfall, if we leave now.”

“So, we can go then?”

Yigars replied. “We can go.”

Moments later, Trion and Vaega were at the gate to see them off. Yigars had his bow, Agra had her bow and spear.

Trion spoke. “Please me careful. Don’t take risks.”

Agra nodded. “We’ll be careful, but hunting is dangerous.”

Yigars smiled and placed his hand on her shoulder. “Agra’s a skilled hunter. Very brave, very accurate.”

Agra looked at him with a smile. “That is such a nice compliment. Thank you.”

Vaega hugged Agra. “Be safe, please.”

After they left, Trion closed the gate. Vaega was still next to him, arms crossed, as though lost in thought. He took her hand and said, “Come with me.”

They walked back to his workshop while holding hands. Inside, he flipped the switch to the YeohLed. He lifted a thin plank off the desk to reveal a glittering gold figurine.

“Oh!” Vaega gasped and covered her mouth.

Trion lifted it and put it in her hands. “Here, it’s for you.”

“It’s heavy!”

“It’s gold.”

Vaega turned the little figurine over in her left hand, touching it with her right, tracing the edges and curves with her index finger. “It’s a little spaceship!”

“It is. I used a design from an assignment at my engineering school.”

“I like the details on the tiny little landing gear, and the carvings on the dacadan stream slipper.” She looked closer. “And here.” Turning the ship sideways. “The little supply connectors.”

“Do you like it?”

Vaega smiled at Trion. “Yes! It’s amazing! Thank you!”

“I hoped it would make you feel better. I’m happy it does.”

When Yigars and Agra returned, only faint light remained of the crepuscule, and the torch Agra held up fought valiantly but in vain against the encroaching darkness. Behind them, two large shapes lumbered at the end of a leather rope Yigars held firm in his fist. Just outside the camp, with enough rope to reach the creek, grass, and the shelter of trees, Yigars tied the two bison to a stout trunk.

“Will they be safe here?”

“Yes. There are no predators, and they are calm. They will eat and sleep.”

“And tomorrow?”

Yigars smiled. “Tomorrow is tomorrow. First, we will eat and sleep.”

Trion and Vaega were at the gate, looking at the two beasts which had settled in for the night, and at Yigars and Agra, who, despite having walked all day, appeared gingerly happy.

“Welcome back!” Vaega exclaimed.

Trion was eyeing the bison in the distance. “Any troubles?”

Agra was smiling. “Not at all.”

Yigars held the gate door as they all walked back into camp. “They really are gentle creatures. It was a pleasant day.”

Vaega was smiling from ear to ear. Yigars smiled too, showing teeth. “You seem happy.”

“I am! Trion made something for me. I’ll show you after dinner.”

Agra glanced at Trion. “You did?”

Yigars shut the gate behind them and walked with them to the fire. “I can’t wait to see it.”

Next chapter: Harvest

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