A Fire to Extinguish – Short Story for your reading Pleasure (I hope)


LOI-Fire

Below is one of my most recent stories that I finished a while back that I  submitted to a contest…When you have the time, read it and let me know what you think….I personally like it more than some of my others I have written…I feel I am slowly getting better as a writer and I hope this story shows that a little..again let me know what you think…good or bad…but be gentle..:)

A Fire to Extinguish

By Philip Wardlow

Sarvit’s Story

“Please report Scout L1-6A, Trans End” said the crisp light metallic voice into the pilots’ auditory sensory canal located at the base of his neck.

“L1-6A to Mother, Negative as of yet, Zone 42 of Field 100 thru 1000, all clear.  I am now proceeding to Zone 43 for Final Pass & Scan. I will be returning to Mother for Final Jump out at precisely 10100 Time Mark. Mark will not be missed. Trans End.” The pilot replied, in much the same voice metallic voice but with a deeper overtone. He smiled in recognition of the voice on duty at the Com coming through.

“Best you don’t L1-6A, only Protocol Allowance 001.001.100 would prevent Jump Out of the Mother, but I don’t have to tell you how often that has happened, so make Mother by scheduled Mark or choose to stay until follow-up return for Jump Back at 1010010. Trans End.”  The pilot could almost see the smile on the invisible voice’s face as she gave him this warning.

“Positive read Mother and taken under advisement, would not care to stay here for another cycle waiting for return. I am proceeding with scan of Zone 43. Have a nice warm cup of plur waiting when I return. I am proceeding with scan of Zone 43. Trans End Meera.”

“L1-6A, see you at Mark. Cup of warm plur will be awaiting you my dear Sarvit upon return, Trans End.” The crisp metallic voice lightened even more at the end of the transmission. Sarvit smiled to himself again.  He was sure they both were going to be reprimanded for their indiscretion via the Com, but it had been worth it. He had been out here to long; he was ready to go home.

Sarvit flew the ship in over a low ridge hiding a deep river valley filled with dense green foliage and began scanning Zone 43 thinking of his lovely mate and what he wanted to do after finishing drinking his plur with her.

Nogeer’s Story

Nogeer crawled out of the thick brush and leapt atop the dark outcropping of rock wedged into the side of the hill which was itself overshadowed by a very large tree.  From the rock, he surveyed the valley leading downward to a fast running river.  He crouched low with fingers splayed almost flat onto the stone beneath him for better balance and concealment. Long straight black hair fell down to his shoulders and past tied tight with a cord at the nape of his neck. Not moving, his brown skin looked to be part of the rock itself.  He looked carefully with head turning slowly to the right and then to the left out over the fairly open ground leading into the thick forested valley below. He must be careful, he thought. He cocked his head at a skewed angle with ears listening intently to the day sounds which came to him. The chatter between the tree dwellers was normal, the sky was clear, bright even, but the day was escaping below soon and it was time to return.

He slowly brought his hand to his eyes to shield them from the run-away orb which hung lower in the sky every moment he looked to it. Today had been a good day, he thought.  Nogeer didn’t often go hunting by himself because of the many dangers of going out alone but he had awakened to the fighting of the other hunters near the river and wanted no part of it today.  Ryn, Kumka, and Belm had still been asleep when he had awakened so he had left before they drew too restless and could think to stop him.  They would be angry when he returned, especially Belm, she would probably look to a new bed warmer tonight. He smiled inwardly knowing if she did, she would eventually return, she always did. He was her favorite as she was his and they were never long apart; of the five children she had borne, he hoped most had been his offspring and not the others.

Satisfied, Nogeer slid his body off of the outcropping and went back into the brush some fifty strides back to retrieve his two kills.  He dragged out the two large gutted carcasses of an animal both with rich dark brown fur and with bony crest jutting from their massive foreheads. With relative ease, using his massive forearms he flipped them up to balance one on each of his broad shoulders.

Nogeer moved carefully but quickly down the slope entering the clearing.  The exposure the open ground gave him filled him with a little fear, he could be picked off by anything if he stayed too long in the clearing, but night was almost upon him and this was the quickest route back to the river where his people dwelt so he had little choice in the matter.

Sarvit’s Story

Sarvit engaged the cloaking device as he brought the ship lower in its altitude towards an open area near the valley floor. Already his scanners had started picking up readings of recent fires in the area, down close near the river bed deep in the valley spread out over several vectors and displaying a familiar pattern he new all too well. Definitely not random, Sarvit thought.

The allocation of the burns denoted purpose, control, and intelligence. Deeper scans of the ground level confirmed his suspicions as dwelling structures showed up alongside within very close proximity to the evidences of the fires. This mimicked other known areas already scanned from previous days and months.

Time for the final testing. Sarvit blew in heavily through his trunk to calm himself. How many planets had he visited in his lifetime, always it seemed, with the same outcome?  This was the last sector to be scanned on this planet, the last sector out of five-thousand-three hundred and fifty-two. Sarvit was to be the last pilot to yet check in with the Mother and give Final Report.  The data already collected from the remaining Scouts on the species being investigated came up in the negative for viability of this planet to progress any further beyond its current state. Barring any new data this planet would have to be reset.

One divergent line of all the known lines on this planet was found to possess intelligence enough for testing, had it not they would have left this planet alone for another cycle and checked again then. Unfortunately preliminary scans had quickly found an upright mammalian line that possessed the knowledge of fire, the order and control of fire more precisely. His brethren from cycles past knew that with order and control came creativity, and then the sciences and technology. They also knew it could perhaps bring one other thing, destruction.  One such race, called the Gollens, generations ago had brought that to their own planet, almost nearly destroying them utterly until they had prevailed against them and destroyed them instead. Sarvit knew his history well; where once their planet had been home to twenty billion now his home barely supported five million.  Only .00025% of their race had survived that one encounter. Never again, they had vowed, would they let such destruction happen.

Still, knowing the past and what it meant hadn’t made his task any easier in the many cycles since he had volunteered to become a scout and commit himself to the endeavor like so many others for the continuing survival of their race. The only consolation for him was that it had been only one line that they had found on this small planet. A small consolation, but one nonetheless that he clung to remembering other previous worlds that he had scouted having three lines, ten lines, or even thirty viable lines with which to deal with. No, this wasn’t going to be nearly as bad as some others, he thought.

Sarvit’s thoughts were interrupted by the scanner alarm indicating a possible pickup opportunity for him.  It was close, traversing below him on the open terrain moving fairly slow towards the valley floor. Odd, sensors were showing a mix of two species in one, not possible.

Sarvit swooped his ship in lower to get a closer at what his sensors were picking up. He refined the bio filters and magnification on the ocular lens for clarity.  Sarvit smiled when he saw what the sensors had been trying to interpret.  A bi-pedal mammal carrying two very big, very dead species of semi-intelligent quadrupeds of the herbivore variety that roamed throughout this region of the planet. The thing was bringing home dinner it seemed. Ah, never leave it to technology to interpret everything, sometimes it was good to get in close and know for sure.

 It was time to be done with this planet whatever the outcome.  Sarvit took the ship three kilometers ahead to the projected intercept along the creature’s path and brought the ship in still cloaked and switched to hover mode some fifty meters above ground level to just come shy of touching the tree tops with the ships expansive wing span.

Sarvit punched a button on the console to decouple his entire cockpit section from the main part of the ship. His body fell gently downward as the cockpit fell a meter or so until the ships secondary field held him in stasis in the open air.  He punched another button to cause a very long pointed cylindrical projectile tethered to a translucent cable to go shooting out through the very bottom of the cockpit’s hull deep into the ground below. The cable connected to the now anchored cylinder began to glow a bright purple as energy from the ship began to course through it. Three sides around the circumference of the cylinder low to the ground rotated open and down on hidden hinges until they were at a forty-five degree angle to the cylinder. Three more similar but smaller cables shot in three different directions across the open ground some hundred-fifty meters out where they also spiked themselves deep into the ground at approximately one-hundred degrees apart from the other to roughly form a triangle from point to point along the open ground.

The detached cock pit Sarvit sat in suddenly shot down the glowing cable at a tremendous speed stopping just short of a meter from the ground. He heard an audible click as the cockpit settled into place on the nexus of the three cables set into the ground. Sarvit had felt no sensation of speed with the inertial dampening field on all around him; to his body he had not moved at all.

Sarvit brought up a real-time topographical scan of the area using the ships sensors from above, augmented with his own sensors now in the ground, to give him a very detailed three-dimensional view of the entire bounded area.  Now he just had to wait until his subject entered that area.  He opened up his personal music file and pressed on the third selection in the list. A very low-toned rhythmic melody wrapped in layers of heavy bass entered in through the auditory outputs and filled the cabin of the cockpit. Sarvit let his body relax to the rhythm of the music and proceeded to wait for his final test subject to come to him.

Nogeer’s Story

Nogeer had always liked the challenge and thrill of the hunt, but he was beginning to regret hunting alone as he made his way slowly down to the valley floor with his two big kills still slung over his shoulders. An extra hand would be nice, he thought. Normally a strong man who didn’t tire easily, Nogeer’s endurance was being tested. Still, he picked up his pace when he noticed he was slowing down despite the burning pain in his legs as he walked.  The other men would be angry at being denied from the hunt but they would still give him the right to first cut he was sure; which was good, because he would need to eat fully  after this long outing; today especially if Ryn, Kumka, or Belm wanted his attentions in his bed tonight. It didn’t seem likely knowing theirs moods but he knew of ways to persuade them; he grinned inwardly.

He had often wondered why they had chosen him to bed with the most out of all the men in camp.  Belm especially could have had anyone she chose. He believed her to be the finest of body, with wide hips, strong legs and deep eyes as dark as the rushing blue river along with a spirit which sometimes could be just as violent. He wasn’t the strongest nor did he think himself the most cunning of all the men.  He gave up quickly trying to pull out reason from the bush. What was there to know but uncertainty when it came to any decision they made, he thought, women, a mystery greater than the night and the ocean which fell forever away into the unknown.

Nogeer stopped suddenly in his walking and musing. Something had changed; different from the moment before.  He looked up at the sky.  It was a clear blue with wisps of white hanging high. The sun was a bright ball low to the ground throwing shadows at him though the trees ahead. He turned in both directions surveying the area over the chest high grass which grew tall on the open plain. He turned fully to look behind himself down the trail of trampled grass showing his passing. It all seemed the same but not, the air felt heavier, the colors were not quite right and the tall grass, something was not right about the grass. Then it struck him, the grass wasn’t moving.  It always moved. The wind was gone. There was always a wind on the open plain leading into the valley, always.

He looked further down the trail he had walked even taking a few steps back the way he had come.  His eyes spied something peculiar. Nogeer shook his head to make sure it was clear. Not more than ten full strides distance from the way he had come the grass moved as it always did in the wind; but he felt no wind from where he stood.  What trick is this?

A sharp prick of pain stabbed his neck, it felt like being bitten by one of the giant black eight legged creatures which had crawled into his bed one night while he had slept. Suddenly he found himself on his knees.  Why am I on my knees? The muscles in his arms which held his two kills began to shake but he refused to succumb to whatever ailed him and let them drop.

I must not go under for I may never return, Nogeer thought frantically. He had known many who had been bitten by other strange things such as the eight legged creature and had never woken up again. The eternal sleep his people called it.

A massive shadow grew up from behind him to envelop his own. He felt the earth move as something approached him through the tall grass. It truly must have been massive to shake the ground so, he thought. I will not die on my knees without a fight.

Nogeer let one of the carcasses drop from his shoulder to the ground while he grabbed the other with both hands, and quickly stood pivoting as he did swinging outward with the large dead animal into the air at the large shadow bearing down on him from out of the tall grass. He let it fly true and straight at whatever it was that loomed into view. His vision seemed to be going for the creature which bore down on him looked very similar to an animal well-known on the distant plains and grasslands to the north where his people often hunted. At least in shape, for it walked tall on four legs, with a round muscular body above and a head as massive as the stump of an old dalib tree, it even had the same similar arm jutting out from the front of its head but this creatures arm split into three.  There the similarities between the two ended and the strangeness began; for where the skin of the animal he knew was covered in a thick matting of brown fur this creature instead shimmered like the surface of a lake at night under a full moon with. Its head was round with big holes on either side of its skull, it had no ears hanging at its side of which to hear nor tusks which protruded out of its mouth like the other beasts he knew well.

His aim was true as the carcass of the dead animal hit the creature coming towards him in the middle of its upper body. The creature staggered for moment from the blow but seemed to brush it off almost immediately as if only a small annoyance and kept bearing down on him through the grass at him.  It seemed to be holding some sort of stick in its arm (s).

Nogeer yanked at the spear secured to his back snapping the leather bindings holding it and hurled it at the thing. The point of his spear simply bounced away off the creature’s chest not penetrating the beast’s thick shimmering hide.

Nogeer cursed at it, turned and ran down the trail the way he had come.  His feet felt unsure on the trail as he ran since the bite on his neck.  The world tilted and his eyes wouldn’t focus right, but he ran anyway.

He chanced a look back and saw the creature had stopped moving forward. It simply stared at him running away down the trail. Nogeer looked forward again and considered himself fortunate, yes he had lost his hunt and one of his best spears but he was alive and would live to hunt another day, now he would simply circle back arou – Nogeer’s next thought was sharply cut off as his head rebounded from something very hard that he could not see hanging in the air. His body fell limp and unconscious to the ground amidst the tall grass.

Sarvit’s Story

Heart rate was within normal parameters for this species. Initial examination indicated contusion from the blow to the head by him running into the static boundary he had implemented. Sarvit had determined sex upon inspecting the genital area of the creature; “him” it definitely was. It was so hard to sex a certain species sometimes. The male’s head wound was very pronounced but not life threatening. Administration of pain and anti-inflammatory medication would be the course after completed testing whatever the outcome.  Ethical law 4110.1 required no life form to be unduly harmed through the testing procedure. If race found positive for reset they still were to be afforded all possible care and comfort and be allowed to rejoin their kind for the short duration that remained no matter how long that would be.

Sarvit was displeased with himself for incorrectly calculating the wrong dosage on his tranquilizer.  Then again too much could have killed the creature; better to wake with a bad headache then possibly death and not wake up at all, he thought, consoling himself. Sarvit was pleased with himself that the status field on his suit had been on and working when the creature had thrown his dinner at him so unexpectedly. Sarvit found himself smiling to himself admiring the creature’s tenacity for wanting to survive.

The creature moaned on the table it was strapped to, surprising Sarvit who stood closely over him. Even with another half dose of the tranquilizer upon capture this creature still exhibited voluntary motor functions and near consciousness. Strong indeed; perhaps the mixture was flawed in some way to this creature’s biochemistry. None of the others on this planet, and there had been many, had exhibited such a resistance to the sedative. Maybe this one was different; perhaps the testing would prove fruitful. The syringe he held with his right appendage shook with anticipation to get the final testing started.

Standard protocol was to draw enough blood for three tests; always three tests per subject, but for this last subject he drew enough blood for nine. The bio-engineers back on home planet had stressed three tests were essential and adequate for cross checking of all gene paths to gaining a probability factor in the aggressive characteristics  regarding  the progression and evolutionary tract for any particular path a species would take. Sarvit himself, through his own studies in the field, knew three tests were inadequate. Nine he believed was the correct number for accurate testing of a species.  He had even gone so far as to submit his findings in a bio-statistical analysis paper presented to the heads of the Bio-Engineer committee back on home planet. He was just a scout with no formal training in such matters. They had rejected it out. What did a dumb scout know?

Sarvit brought the blood filled syringe over to a small round silver receptacle on the console against the side wall of the lab room and pushed the syringe into it until he heard an audible click and then turned it clockwise locking it into place. He pushed a single button on the panel to initiate the program for the testing to begin. He blew out slowly through his appendages. It’s started. I will be coming soon my dear Meera. He could almost taste the hot cup of plur now.

Sarvit turned back to the subject strapped down on the table to get distract himself while he waited for the test to resolve itself.

The creature was similar in stature and body symmetry to some of the others they had already encountered in this region of the planet. Perhaps pigmentation was a little deeper in this one than some they had encountered but that mattered little. Data had already established the species was a well-known divergent from a sub-class some hundred thousand years ago and were essentially the same breed spread all across the planet in various isolated pockets. Except for small differences such as overall cranial averages for dimensions, pigmentation, muscle mass, and other such trivial physical differences they were indistinguishable from each other. It was well-known climate, diet, and other regional factors forced small mutant adaptions in that particulars creature’s protein sequencing to produce a body type exclusive to that area. The helix however hadn’t propagated to the extent to reclassify any of the subjects as a species unto themselves of all that had been tested thus far and Sarvit didn’t expect there to be a difference with this one.

What luck was it that he was to do final testing? Actually no luck at all,  but Sarvit had to be careful so the others did not know his careful manipulations for ending up last in the testing on most of the planets they had visited in the hundred Home cycles so far. The other scouts knew him to be thorough in his duty that was no secret. Many of his fellow Scouts often had chided him on how slowly he went about his business. Of all of them, only Meera, his mate, knew he was slow on purpose so as to be the one to administer the final test on his terms. His Mother, his real Mother had taught him well in the study of genetics. Though not taught formerly he was more intelligent and progressive than most in the field of bio-genetics, well in secret anyways. They had denied him his application to the Group on grounds that his own mother had been to divisive within it herself when alive and that they knew all too well that trait might manifest in him, her son.

When she was alive, his mother had argued that they we were committing what amounted to genocide on all the various planets that they had been visiting thus far.  Exterminating thousands of civilizations based on the fear of our forefathers and that we were now no better, if not worse than the Gollens that had come before when they had nearly wiped our planet of its inhabitants.

What we were to know was in the heart of a being she had argued. What were we to judge of intention yet to be written? We were the judge, jury, and executioner of races not knowing they were being tried?

What did we truly know of the mind and the DNA which managed it?  How could we take our sterile instruments using our sterile objectivity and ever hope to divine a species future actions. Who were we she had argued.

Sarvit’s mother had died soon after being asked to leave the Group. She had been devastated at being cast out and fell into a deep depression of which she had never recovered.

Sarvit had never forgiven the Group for that. Five hundred cycles later he knew what he had to do to honor his Mother and feel complete in his job now as a Scout. He had done the only thing he could do; he had made the testing better. He had convinced them to increase the spectrum of analysis on the blood draws and raise the standards for selection on every planet they had visited.  It had taken a while; slowly over two hundred cycles or more but finally the Group had relented to his requests, during that time he had convinced the other scouts his region of the galaxy to put forth overtures on their own behalf to stand as a collective in what was needed.  Sarvit knew the Group would always be swayed by the collective over the individual so they had given in, somewhat.

They had rejected his algorithm he had created to better establish a correlation to a species intention and the complex sequencing of a particular species DNA in regards that. They thought his findings insufficient. He was sure they hadn’t even looked at the data.

So he maneuvered himself to be the one to do the final testing when he saw that the species was mostly likely to be scheduled for reset. With his algorithm and with blood enough for nine such tests compiled along with the other scouts findings downloaded planet wide, he was the final tester to submit. The final results were always sent to the Mother indicating only his normal three tests just as it was with the other remaining scouts.  Since he had begun this deception he saved probably over a thousand species. Whereas their version of the test had rejected fifty percent or more of the species tested, his test came back thirty percent higher saving countless creatures from extinction. The Mother and Home never care or distinguished who administered the final test they had only looked at the results. You needed only one positive result to nullify the call for reset which was flaw in their reasoning as he thought but one that worked in his favor many times over.

Still, has he looked down at the male creature strapped to his table, he felt a disquiet that seemed to settle over him. The evidence was so overwhelming with this one. Not one other Scout planet wide had come back with even one possible gene marker in the base pairs make-up for mercy, compassion. Worse yet markers had been found for violence, apathy, and similar anti-social behavior sprinkled through this species genes. Perhaps this one would be different. He would know soon enough; where he lacked confidence in the Groups way of testing he felt assured of his own a hundred fold in sorting out the right bits and pieces from it all.

The sun had fallen well below the horizon and darkness had fallen fast across the open area where the cockpit of his ship sat leading into the valley when the test was finally completed. Sarvit stared at the results on the screen. His brown eyes were fixated and flat just staring at the roll of data he saw before him. How could it be?  Same as the others, he thought. The test hadn’t revealed anything new like he had hoped it would, like it so often did when performing his test. This species was doomed. He stared at the screen as if willing the data to change.

Numb, he slowly shambled over to the creature still strapped down to the table. He saw the male creature’s chest slowly rise and fall in its breathing as it lay there under sedation. It looked to be such a docile creature really. Brown skin and heavily haired covering a soft shell of semi-dense bone standing barely 2 meters when fully erect.  It almost seemed like a child to him.  Perhaps in many ways it was he mused. This child was destined to grow up one day from a lineage stretching back to tens of thousands of years to this very creature which lay here. The date showed in his report that it was pre-ordained to wreak untold chaos and havoc upon this world and perhaps the universe if allowed. It’s very cells told the story. The evidence didn’t lie. His computations were true. Yet, doubt always bubbled up in him along with a vision of his mother.

“Mother to Scout L-16A please report Trans End.”  Transmission came in loudly through the labs communications board in the overhead across from him in the room.  Meera, from Mother was checking in. Jump out was soon approaching.

“Mother to Scout L-16A please report. Trans End” Meera sounded anxious the timber her voice rising slightly in the transmission. He forced himself out of his reverie and walked over to the overhead and tapped the screen.

“Scout L-16A reporting. Final Testing complete. I will be uploading final results for final disposition by Mother shortly. Will be disengaging with subject momentarily and returning to Mother to meet up for Final Mark for Jump-out. Trans End.”

“Message received Scout L16-A please remember Time Mark for Jump out is 10100 – Thank you, Trans End.” At the end Sarvit could tell Meera wanted to say more but held back, she knew she had pushed protocol from before.

“Acknowledged, Thanks my dear Meera. Trans End”   The Mother could come down on him instead. He didn’t care at this point. He suddenly felt disgusted with himself.

Nogeer’s Story

Nogeer started awake.  His body felt numb and removed from himself, disconnected. He lay on his back amid the tall grass and his eyes stared upward at a dark sky with a thousand bright eyes looking down upon him.  The bright ones mischievous sister who carried no warmth was just starting to rise higher in the sky and she was full of herself tonight. It gave him much light to his surroundings.

He willed himself to move but he could not. Not a leg, not a hand, nor his neck. Only his eyes wanted to cooperate. His breath came in fits and starts and was labored, like his body was trying to learn how to work again. The wind again moved across the plains causing his skin to prickle at its presence.

His body trembled just as the ground beneath him shook. The creature had returned. Fear was present only for a moment, more present was the humiliation at being laid low like this and unable to defend himself and meet death head-on, on his terms. He strained the muscles in his neck. He wanted to at least see his death approaching and face it.  Inch by inch his muscles obeyed as he fought his body to submit to his will.

He saw the shadow of the animal’s massive body loom into view through the swaying blades of grass trampling everything in its path as it approached and stood directly over him as he lay on the ground. Nogeer blinked in confusion, was this the same creature?  This creature’s skin did not shimmer like the others before it; but it must be, Nogeer thought. This one’s skin seemed more like his own, lighter in color and thicker but still looked very smooth.

The creature approached him slowly within an arm’s length and looked down at him. Nogeer saw that it held something in its arms.   It was his two big kills he had made earlier in the day.  The creature gently placed them next to Nogeer’s body. What was this?   I do not under understand. What does it want?

The creature’s breathing became heavier to his ear though it looked as though it had not exerted much effort in returning his hunt.  It lifted its massive three prong arm up high behind itself near its head and pulled out Nogeer’s spear he had thrown at it before. It seemed it had been carrying it there in some way.

Does it intend to kill me with my own spear?  First, it mocks me with its strength easily placing my kills next to me and now it wishes to shame me even more by dealing my own death out with a weapon I created myself. He would die as if caught unawares in his sleep like a baby.

But no, just as it had laid his kills next to him, so did it lay his spear to his other side.  Was the tightness in his neck a little less? His breathing felt less labored and he felt a twinge in his left leg. He tried to move one of his toes slightly. YES, success. But it would not be enough he knew. He needed just a little more time, he could feel it.

The thing continued to stare him as it did all this over him. Its eyes were knowing as it looked him. The creature’s eyes were a deep brown like his own. They were soft it seemed. There was no cast of hardness to them as he had expected, just a softness.

It brought its massive arm up overhead and gently rested it upon his head and moved slowly down over his body and with all three arms gently touched his shoulders, arms, chest, and down the entire length of his body until it was done. Nogeer was amazed at the gentleness of such a massive creature. It blew out again heavily as if tired. To Nogeer, he sensed agitation in the animal like a heavy sigh as if something bothered it.

It had look at him intently one last time with that same softness and then quickly turned back the way it had come to leave. The feeling in his arms and legs were suddenly beginning to return quickly now. He sat up slowly and stared at the retreating back of the creature as it was leaving.  Nogeer did not know what to make of this encounter. He had sensed something important had happened but he had not a clue as to what that was.

Nogeer heard in the night, a quick thrashing sound come from out the tall grass up ahead towards the creature off to its right side.  Nogeer’s blood went cold. He knew what made that sound going through the grass, a river demon.  His people knew they sometimes ventured on land to hunt but usually stayed away from the open areas and it was so very far away from the water. The lack of rain had shrunk the surrounding rivers. This must have forced it to look for food further from its normal home. It must be very hungry. He wondered how long his kills had sat outside like this; that would have surely attracted it to this spot.

He quickly stood up on unsteady legs supporting himself with his spear he didn’t remember grabbing from the ground.

The retreating creature had heard the thrashing as well and turned towards the sound. To late however, the demon sprung at him out of the dense brush biting deep into one of the creature’s legs. The creature bellowed a deep rumbling roar which could only have been because he was in pain from the bite the demon had inflicted. The demon still held tight to the creature’s leg.  Nogeer knew the demon would not let go in its grip on the creature’s leg. The demon was walking death.

The size of the demon was tremendous rivaling the creature in sheer weight even though it was set lower to the ground than the creature.  It was dark but there was enough light to the sky that Nogeer could see the demon’s long toothed snout connected to a head as big as the creatures except it was all muscle and teeth.  Nogeer could hear its massive tail whipping back and forth on the ground to gain leverage against the creature it still held. The creature would bleed to death in no time. The creature bellowed again in pain as the demon bit deeper into its leg.

What did Nogeer care? He thought as he looked on the scene.  I need to take this time to gather my things and go or he would be the next kill of the day. His strength seemed sufficiently returned to him has put away his spear and picked up his hunt.

He skirted the two combatants giving them a wide berth as he went around them, to continue his track back towards home. He reached a small rise and gave a quick look back and saw that the creature seemed to be weakening already.  He had seen this play out many times with other such incidents and already knew the outcome to this. He turned away slowly from the fight and continued on home.

Sarvit’s Story

Even through his pain Sarvit noticed the man creature walking away from the area. He couldn’t blame him. He would have wanted to just get away as well after the ordeal.  Sarvit cursed himself for not putting up his status field after leaving the man.  The pain in his leg was excruciating, making it hard to think.  He had to address this thing attacking him quickly before his situation escalated into something he couldn’t control. The thing suddenly bit down harder.

Momentarily all went black in front of him from the pain. He yelled at the creature in frustration and tried to stomp on its head but it thrashed every time he tried, throwing him off balance which threatened in to toppling him over on the ground. If that happened he feared he might not be able to get back up and the creature would have its way.

His only advantage was his height. The thing’s bite was painful but his own body itself was fairly resilient to most attacks to indigenous life form such as this. Unfortunately his own physiology relied heavily upon touch hence many of his nerves ran close to the surface of his skin.   Where that was nice and fairly enjoyable when the added sense of touch came in handy with being with  Meera,  it was not to his advantage when being attacked by a half crazed amphibious creature with a mouthful of razor-sharp teeth that didn’t want to let go. It was an annoyance he had to be rid of now.

Calmly, Sarvit reached back to his supply pack which was strapped to the upper side of his head. He needed his tranquilizer. It wasn’t mixed for this species type but he had no worries that a few injections would even began to hurt it much less kill it. This planet had turned officially turned into a dismal failure for him.  It was time to report in with the final test results and return to the Mother.

He loaded two cartridges into the gun and brought it around with the sites pointed directly at the beast still deep into his left front leg.  He fired once and the first capsule punched into the creature’s backside. The creature didn’t register that it had been shot. Sarvit shot again and fired the second shot for another direct hit into it. Did the pressure from its teeth feel a little bit less? Sarvit took careful aim for the last shot.

A spear suddenly appeared in the things side close to its right eye. The thing roared in pain.  So much for tranquilizers, its adrenal glands were taking off now was Sarvit’s first thought, the second was, who threw the spear?

Sarvit looked to his right and saw the man creature fairly close by with its body in a low crouch breathing heavily like he had been running. Running? For me? Why?

The creature’s mouth which held his leg suddenly released its grip on him.

Sarvit had to get more of the tranquilizer in him before – but before was too late as it thrashed its tail wildly, swinging it almost ninety degrees to its own body.  Sarvit saw the man creature fly through the air to land in crumpled heap some twenty meters away to the ground amongst the tall grass.

Sarvit surprised himself by doing what many would construe as crazy on his planet. He took both of his front feet and raised them high from the ground and brought them both down hard to smash into the beast’s skull crushing it completely. The creature’s body convulsed and thrashed in its death throes and then was still.

Sarvit quickly made his way over to the man. He was in ruin. One of his lower legs was bent at an odd angle with a bone protruding through the skin; blood flowed freely from the wound onto the ground collecting in a pool around him. A large branch from a low lying bush protruded into his back and out the front of his chest possibly puncturing one of his lungs. Finally he had a several head laceration above his right eye where the blood flowed like a river around it to drip off his chin to collect upon his chest. He saw that his barely breathing. It came in fits and had made a very disturbing gurgling sound with each intake.

However, the man creature was alert, even through the pain that was evident on his face his gaze remain fixated upon Sarvit all the while he approached him as he lay bleeding out his life. Sarvit extended his arm out to check and him upon his chest for vitals with his bio sleeve covering his prehensile arm which augmented his own sensory abilities of touch a hundred fold.

Pulse slow and irregular pressure cascading on a downslope, oxygen conversion as well, death was imminent. Suddenly the man reached out and gently grabbed his arm, his eyes still focused on Sarvit’s own. Sarvit held still and caught himself from rearing back in surprise. What did it want? Why did it come back? Why would it come back? To save him…but the test? His mind spun with questions.

“Nogeer.” The man creature uttered weakly to him as he continued to hold his arm.

What was it saying to him?

The man removed his hand from Sarvit’s arm and placed it upon his own chest.

“Nogeer” The man repeated to him tapping his chest as he said it.

Comprehension dawned within Sarvit. His name.

“Sarvit.” He said to the man tapping his own as well when he said it.

The man smiled at him knowingly now and seemingly satisfied with the exchange of meager words.

Sarvit sensed the man new he was going to die and that he wanted to convey himself and to know him before he died. Sarvit understood this deeply on some level he couldn’t quite define. The man again raised his arm and placed it upon his own face and ran it down from his forehead to his chin and then extended his arm outward to Sarvit and mimed the same to him.

What was he doing? What did it mean?

“Tell me what do you mean, I don’t understand.”  Sarvit bellowed at the man in frustration as he stood over him.

The man was still smiling. His eyes though had lost their focus from before, they were distant and gone. For the first time he noticed they had been brown like his own. He closed them gently and walked slowly back to his ship.

Sarvit didn’t remember the walk back to his cockpit nor disengaging from the surface to go shooting back up into his ship parked just above him or setting the ship to auto pilot to return to the Mother while he went back to the lab to finish uploading the final test results.

“Scout L1-6A to Mother, Trans End”

“Proceed Scout L1-6A, Trans End” Meera was still at the Com as voice came to him like a soothing song.

“I have disengaged from the planet and am proceeding on course for rendezvous with the Mother. Ready to proceed with submission of final report.  Initiating now, Trans End.” Sarvit tapped at the screen to begin uploading which would take but a second to reach the Mother for evaluation.

“Transmission received Scout L1-6A, Evaluation complete; per your data supports viability of species 1H9U69 to continue on this planet – Wait – conflicting data reported Hold – Trans End” the COM was deathly silent to Sarvit in the ship. The ship’s engines low hum was the only sound present in the lab as he waited patiently for further response from the Mother. Sarvit’s feet shifted impatiently as he waited.

“Scout L1-6A, Data collected per test does not coincide with chronological signature encoded into data. Time stamp indicates incorrect procurement of source please explain anomaly for report back to Mother for final disposition to be determined. Trans End.” Meera’s voice came through the Com controlled and calm, but he sensed an undercurrent of tension in it. She must know what he was trying to do.  He knew this was a longshot but one was he willing to take it. Would she go along with him was the question. Time to find out.

“Original data was corrupted planet side due to main module system failure; backup module recording same test results from species was a recycled module which seemed to be improperly reformatted prior to insertion into my ship’s lab by the technicians. I will make sure it gets properly reformatted prior to any future testing. Data is clean and good as submitted please make exception for time stamp as it holds no bearing on test. Trans End.”  Sarvit held his breath.  Please Meera …Please Meera.

“Code L1611 will be instituted for exception to anomaly. Final Jump Out of Mother on target, per your Auto Pilot report I expect your arrival shortly. Trans End”   Sarvit closed his eyes and exhaled fully. Meera, my dear Meera, thank you.

 *********************

 

The ship docked and Sarvit went straight to his quarters from leaving his ship. No one bothered him as he walked through the vast corridors of the Mother. Mostly because Jump out was fast approaching and protocol demanded everyone to be in lock down prior to departure. Meera may already be there. Would she have his plur waiting for him?

He rounded the corner off the main hall leading from the dock station and took another turn down a narrower hallway which led to the barracks for all the planetary scouts on board. He came to a massive set of metal doors to his right with two glyphs engraved into to door which indicated his name and Meera’s.

He placed his arm over the two glyphs and the door became insubstantial and opaque. He walked through it feeling cold prickle his skin as he did. Once through he turned back to the door and touched the same glyph hanging in midair. The door immediately turned back into a solid mass of metal.

“I was wondering if you were going to show yourself to me or avoid me for the duration of the trip by taking residence in a fellow scout’s quarters” Meera stood next to the glass panels in the front sitting room looking out to space as she spoke the words. He was sure she had been waiting for him probably since her last communication.

“Why would I do such a thing?” Sarvit walked over to her nudging her slightly.

“Recycled Module, bad re-format, seriously Sarvit?”  She nudged him back but harder than he had.

“Why? Sarvit, Why? I trust you in what you do. But have you decided to start manufacturing evidence now to suit your own ends. Are you that vain to think you know better than all the rest? You put all our lives at risk. Our whole race at risk if you are wrong.” Meera reached out and delicately touch him with her arm and stroked his head and ran it along his own arm.

“I am no more vain than The Group back on home planet dear Meera.” Sarvit moved closer to Meera.

“Except now I have woken up from that. I finally understand what my mother had been fighting for all her life and what cost her career and her own life in the end. We have killed countless millions over fear and hate. A decision based on either is the worst kind of injustice we could met out to another species. I would label now what we do as evil, pure and unadulterated evil no better than what the Gollens tried to do us. They lusted for power as we lust for the comfort in knowing the destiny of our lives is controllable.”

“What would you have us do Sarvit? Wait for them to reach our doorstop all over again to repeat what they didn’t finish…you know the histories.”  Meera look away from him.

Sarvit stared out the glass panels. In the distance was the small blue planet hanging in space. The focus of all his frustration and now his found realization.

“I met a man creature today. My last subject using my final test. He failed the test Meera. Like all the rest on this planet. He was devoid of the necessary prescribed gene construction and chemical balance to validate the species for saving. He needed to die. They all needed to die.”  Sarvit spat it all out in anger bellowing to the high walls of the room he was in with Meera.

“In the end I couldn’t be the one to condemn him. There was something to him I hadn’t seen or noticed in others like him before on this planet or the other countless ones we had already put to death.”  Sarvit spoke softly now in reflection.

“He was aware of me and himself. He knew his worth and he knew of mine at the end of his life in his sacrifice he chose.  So you tell me. How does a man as primitive as that with all the evidence pointing in the negative behave in such a way? Where does it come from? Tell me because I can’t quantify it. Tell me where does it come from?” Sarvit found himself on the floor with his head leaning against the glass.

Meera came over and gently laid her arm upon Sarvit’s head.

“I don’t know Sarvit. I don’t know.” Meera looked out at the little blue planet which was nearly a speck now as the ship maneuvered itself out of the surrounding solar system for final Jump out.

“Perhaps one day we will find out if this planet has any tales to tell.” Meera said quietly to herself as she continued to console Sarvit.

The End

4 thoughts on “A Fire to Extinguish – Short Story for your reading Pleasure (I hope)”

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