The small, hand strewn, canvas tent did little in regards to shielding T’Rik from the elements; at six-foot, three inches it could barely contain his head and toes simultaneously. He had intentionally chosen the campsite for its coverage, but not even the sky-touching limbs of the gray-wood plants could deter the storm from its mission of saturating the entire forest floor. Born on the ark, he was considered a first-generation settler of the planet, Andro7-mX3; which was just shorthand for saying the seventh planet (which has three moons, hence the mX3) from the star in the andromeda galaxy. They hadn’t had time to properly name it, as shortly after touching down the ‘fallout’ happened, so Andro7 had stuck; fifteen years later and it is still Andro-7. Harsh conditions were common; there were frequent dust storms, unpredictable monsoons, earthquakes, several (known) patches of landmass with extreme levels of radiation and an acid lake. Home sweet home.
T’Rik squeezed his knees tighter into his chest; he was a shivering ball, using the one-size-fits-“everyone under six-three” sleeping bag as a blanket and trying with all his might to squeeze in any remaining warmth the tent had. The only bright side of the night-time freezing temperatures was the fact that come daybreak the planets surface would once again rise to well over forty-three degrees Celsius. Similar to desert climates back on Earth, Andro7’s forests were very temperate-volatile. Shivering and clutching his legs, T’Rik turned his wrist over so that the holographic photo of his Mother displayed from his watch. Her image filled the tent with light, if only that light emitted as much warmth as was in her smile. He watched her for the umteenth time lifting the same vial up towards an indeterminate light source and again it back down; the motion was on a loop. The last thing she had said before he left their camp was, “Damn em all. If it wasn’t for their egos the fallout would’ve never happened and you wouldn’t have to complete such a barbaric ritual.”. Not everyone in his tribe had as much sense as the resident bio-chemist though. Nonetheless, her credentials and essential position may’ve been the only thing that saved both of their lives during the fallout fifteen years ago. However, as important as she may be, that did not exclude him from the pilgrimage — tribe law dictates that upon a members seventeenth birthday, they must set off and cannot return to the tribe until they have successfully become a hunter, discoverer or warrior….he hoped with all his heart to avoid becoming the latter.
Though he belonged to the largest of the tribes, there were nine others who had settled in various places across the planet. All nine, composed of previous shipmates aboard the ark that had brought them from Earth — it was a lack of resources, unfamiliar surroundings, poor preparation and egotistical differences had driven them from the plans of scientific discovery and diplomatic settlement into tribal warfare and disharmony. The societal history of Andro7 would go down as one of warfare and disagreement, the very combo that had destroyed their previous home, Earth.
Lightning flashed and T’Rik counted the seconds between it and the rumbling thunder; the storm was getting farther away, but not nearly fast enough. Still it was enough of a task to quell his anxiety, along with the thunder he began to trail off into a very uncomfortable sleep.
T’Rik was startled awake, “WHO’S THERE?!?!”, he yelled fumbling to grab hold of the rifle he slept beside. Luckily it was only the daylit cries of some unknown forest creature — thirteen years on this rock was not enough time to become accustomed to all the various wildlife. He needed to end this pilgrimage soon and be back in his pod, learning the craft of his Mother. She had raised him to be a scientist not a hunter; survival was in his genes though, his Mother had always been sure to tell him about his Father. The man who had forgone his seat aboard the ark to stay on Earth and fight, a brave soldier who was only a memory now. What T’Rik would do to have had the opportunity to learn from him now. He had not even been given proper training with the rifle or puny electromagnet saber they’d given him to complete the pilgrimage with; his Mother had not known he’d be chosen to complete it until two months ago. T’Rik shook the fear and began to tear down the tent, collecting all his gear, making ready to set off on this third day of trying to become a discoverer. He didn’t know what he’d find, all he hoped for was that it be rare enough to grant him permission to remain in the tribe; the last thing his Mother needed was the heartbreak of having her only son exiled.
Having completed four of the five trials already, Omerik only needed to capture one of the beast his tribe had named, Kredojas in order to take Tria’s hand in marriage. Only men who had completed the ‘Five task of Men’ were allowed to marry, and he was determined to complete the ritual before any of the other boys his age could steal her away. He was short and frail, standing only five-foot, seven, but he had done exceptionally well in the first four trials. He was the only one on the fifth currently; the grappling trial had been a breeze, Omerik had tossed the elder tribesman around for the entire three rounds. Without even taking pause to be congratulated by the rest of the tribe he had sprinted towards the tribes navigation expert and requested he be tested immediately, again passing the trial exceedingly; he showed a remarkable aptitude for map marking and pathfinding. He was told by the elder upon completion of the entire ritual he would have a job waiting for him; a man with wife would need a job after all. The third trial — an endurance test — had given him the most trouble, as he was not the best runner; but he powered through it, luckily he had such a headstart on the others his finish time mattered not, all that mattered was that he finished. The weapons mastery test was considered essential to the tribe, everyone watched the participants display their handidness with weapons disassembly, reassembly and accuracy in shooting targets; Omerik was given an above-average assessment and gifted a blaster to complete the final trial in which he now found himself. ‘The first into the forest’, was the moniker the elders had given him as he set off to complete the last trial. It would be a test of not only his tracking ability, but also tactics and bravery. Kredojas were incredibly dangerous creatures, defending their territory with the most vicous of physical attributes: they stood about six-feet high from talons to shoulder, had six limbs with eight toes each, double-row of sawed teeth and a temper to match. As a child, Omerik had watched one scale up a gray-wood, leap and snatch its flying prey mid-air; so he knew despite their ridiculous size, the Kredojas were incredibly agile. Although a man could outrun one in a straight forward footrace, the chances of that in the densely foliated gray-wood forest was slim.
During last nights storm Omerik had smartly covered his skin and clothes with a layer of mud, to not only mask his scent but act as a form of camouflage when approaching the nearly blind predator. Its sense of smell was literally other-worldly, but as the elders had instructed them it could not see past it’s own snout and it’s sense of hearing was no better. As long as one concealed his smell it would be possible to trap a Kredoja. Omerik had seen it done before; well, at least he had seen them brought back to the tribe, rope-bound and howling to be released. The meat of a Kredoja was only good if cooked immediately after silencing the beast. Omerik envisioned the feast that would be had in his honor. He licked his lips in anticipation, daydreaming about how impressed Tria will be at his success.
The howl was loud and to eastward of his location, Omerik noted as he pulled up his binoculars scanning the direction. He couldn’t believe his eyes…a tent…he was no longer alone on the fifth trial. This would make things interesting, he couldn’t let someone beat him in the hunt. He had done to well up to this point.
He continued to his northbound heading, determined he would be able to make a new discovery near the base of the mountain range. Following his Mother’s words of wisdom that the area was one that had been very poorly surveyed when they had first arrived planet side all those years ago.
After about a half hour of hiking towards the mountain, T’Rik knelt down to take another soil sample, it was his intention to head back to camp once he got down to his last ration pack; hoping that his mother would be able to find something “new” within the samples he periodically collected. Maybe a cheap way out of the “coming of age” challenge, but he didn’t care in the slightest. He just wanted it to be over.
That’s when he saw it. Slightly obscured by a wide, low hanging leaf was just the geological discovery he was hoping to find. As he neared his hopes grew even further. If not a rare, precious stone at the very least it has to be a meteor. Maybe a chunk from one of Andro7’s three moons. The rock was such a deep hue of black it seemed to translucent, shimmering in the light. After such a rough night T’Rik was deeply thankful to make his discovery before Andro7’s sun intensified.
T’Rik admired the stone for a long while before finally popping open the face of his wristwatch and tapping in the coordinates of his location. Storing the map marker into the tribes shared data network. Minutes later he began chipping away at the stones surface, attempting to collect a sizable sample. Easier said than done the rock was harder than diamond; there wasn’t a tool in his disposal that could easily chip it. He had to find a way.
”The fool”, Omerik muttered to himself as he watched the other tributary commit a heinous violation when hunting Kredoja; one never, ever, ever, ever, ever fiddles with a Kredoja egg. On the bright side, it would offer Omerik an opportunity to not only prove his aptitude in capturing one of the beast but also his valor in rescuing the fool from certain death.
The loud roar shook the foliage as the imminent Kredoja warning cry of territorial dominance rang throughout the forest as the mother approached.
Omerik broke out into a strategically paced jog towards the baffoon who’d disturbed the natural order of the forest.
With her innate, ultra sensitive sense of electromagnetism, she could detect any disturbances within the territory in which she held dominion. As she knelt her face into the the lake taking a drink she felt the anomaly nearing her nest; however, she remained unfettered, knowing that no life form on the planet dare bother her nest. The only reward for such an act was a quick death.
The downright disrespect she felt crawled up from the soil, through her twenty-four talons and shook the scaly fan that surrounded her head alive. She roared her displeasure, shaking the forest awake. An example was to be made. She broke away from the sizzling lake, reaching full stride within the first few steps of her sprint.
The earth shaking stomps she supplied shook the fool from his folly; she salivated as he stumbled away from her egg. The steam from her spittle rising as it burned against the still moist ground of the forest floor. With her teeth bared she stomped again nearing the bi-pedal invader of her lands. He fell over himself, searching for ground to flee. She hated those who ran from their deaths. With one quick hop to the left, she cut off his intended escape route. She roared again, striking fear into his legs, they betrayed him and he fell to the ground once again.
The fool raised a trembling weapon. The projectile whizzed past her head and sent gray-wood bark exploding into the air. She lunged with incredible speed and accuracy smashing the foul smelling weapon from his grasp. Right before her jaws clamped down into the bipedal a blast rammed onto her side and knocked her skyward. She crashed into the forest floor and her limbs were immediately bound, shocks erupting from the rope and cursing pain throughout her body.
Wanna know what happens next? Here’s ptII ⚠️ Read on: https://storiesbydude.com/2020/08/21/into-the-unknown-ii/
Copyright © 2020 Kacy Gilbert (Writing as Remontz)
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