“How did I miss that easy shot?” Ravenna asked. “I always hit what I’m aiming at. Maybe I need to get my eyes checked.”
Margot didn’t reply right away. She was amazed at how quickly the target disappeared and was trying to catch sight of them again. She’d asked Ravenna not to shoot something that wasn’t threatening them but was ignored as usual. They’d been sent here to explore colonization possibilities, not kill indigenous lifeforms but Ravenna liked killing things for sport. She, on the other hand, wanted to study and learn. “It’s ears were so big it might have heard the bullet coming.” She said after a lengthy pause.
“Hah.” Ravenna snorted. “Nothing can outrun a bullet.”
Instead of replying, Margot picked up her gear and started walking toward the mountains ahead. The mountains were huge! Nearly twice as high as Mt. Everest and stretching from horizon to horizon. Discovering what was on the other side would require a strenuous climb and she didn’t want to waste energy arguing with Ravenna. They could just call the ship and describe what they found on this side of the mountains and ask to be picked up but had to make certain there was no civilized culture they would disturb. While circling the planet their instruments couldn’t penetrate the thick cloud cover on the other side of the mountains so they’d been set down on the sunny side with orders to check it out. The captain failed to mention how high the mountains were. She probably shouldn’t have dumped him on the last voyage to get this assignment as revenge.
After scaling the foothills, they discovered what appeared to be a game trail running through a rift between two peaks. If it led through, they wouldn’t have to climb over. Ravenna kept her rifle ready in case they ran into whatever blazed the trail while Margot photographed everything they passed. The sparse vegetation conveyed the sense of minimal rainfall and suggested the other side might be a swamp. There were slight rises in elevation but the trail continued to skirt the two peaks and give them hope that they would reach the other side before long. They knew they were close when the air cooled rapidly, the light faded, and wisps of moist vapors began to swirl around them. Within an hour they’d left the mountains behind and were now walking on what felt like wet grass but visibility was so poor they weren’t sure. When the trail led to a pile of boulders and stopped, they were uncertain about which way to go.
“Let’s take a break and just listen,” Margot said. “If there’s anything out there, we’ll hear it and can go toward it.” Ravenna was tired, so she agreed.
After a prolonged, eerie silence, a brilliant light broke through the gloom and dazzled their eyes. When they could see again, they saw that strange creatures were marching toward them in a military-like formation. They reminded Margot of kangaroos but had humanoid faces, long claws, fangs, and huge disc shaped ears. “Oh crap!” Ravenna exclaimed as she raised her rifle. Margot reached out and pulled the barrel down.
“What are you doing? They could kill us. Might as well take them out first.”
“Too many.” Margot replied, still looking for the source of the light. Was a ship hovering overhead? “They look scary but could be friendly. If not, we’re going to die anyway.”
When the creatures were within twenty feet, they stopped. Margot could see that some of them were female and had large pendulous breasts. The males were easily identified by their genital display. The largest male spoke to the group in a tongue she couldn’t identify, then a child emerged from behind one of the females. The big male spoke again and the child pointed at Ravenna. Suddenly, the light went out, and Margot heard the sounds of struggling. When the light came back on, she saw that Ravenna was tied to a pole and being carried away. The rifle lay on the marshy ground. The big one pointed to the trail they’d used to reach that point and motioned that she should use it to beat a hasty retreat. She hated leaving Ravenna behind but was glad she wasn’t prone to shoot first and ask questions later. At least she could report that this planet was unsuitable for colonization.