Trying To Get By Ch. 01byTaLtos6©
This is something that I'd been planning to put up for Christmas, but I hadn't done much development since I was working on other things. But I stopped and took a good look at the calendar.
So I'm putting this up so it's in time and there are a couple of other chapters to it, since it's not really long other than maybe this chapter, though the last one might be a couple of days after Christmas. Christmas itself doesn't play much part, but some of the ideals do to show the two protagonists in this chapter that they do share at least a few things in common.
This is about some very ... uh, singular people. The whole thing left me with some confusion as to where to put it in terms of category, since one of them is related to a character type that has appeared in some movies over the last 30-odd years or so. The character in my tale is NOT the same thing, but I feel that I've got to at least acknowledge the source and I make mention of a relative who does qualify.
I'll add a bit at the end of the chapter to give credit, since I don't want to give any description right now, as I'd prefer that the readers make their discoveries without bias.
Anyway, have fun with it and Merry Christmas.
Close to a lake near the eastern border of British Columbia, at about the midpoint in latitude.
To anyone standing in the forest on this cold day, it might have made a little sense to head for the shore of the lake, if only to be able to stand in the weak warmth of the brilliant afternoon sunshine for a little while. To look straight up was to see that bright clear blue sky.
And if one was doing that in this particular part of the woods, not far from the town, one might wonder at the odd sound in the distance which was growing quickly louder.
There was no one standing there, but the birds fell silent and either listened or they scattered just before the sound became a roar which passed overhead and then receded.
Aboard the cloaked rotorcraft, there were quiet alarms sounding as the single occupant tried to coax just a little more speed out of the thing and noted the upcoming edge of the forest where it bordered the lake. A glance at the closing range to the cause of the alarms required a decision and that predicated the sudden drop down to a height only a meter or two above the light, crystalline snow which covered the ice.
The downwash from the large rotors instantly caused a whiteout which travelled with the craft as it went. It was a little obvious that proper concealment was out of the question - or it would be in less than one minute.
A look at one of the displays indicated the trouble clearly.
A medium-altitude watcher.
The systems had detected it coming in fast but as yet over the horizon of the low, rocky cliffs which were in evidence all around. Even so, the occupant decided, sometimes very thin to no cover at all is almost better than a lot of it, if it presented opportunities.
There was a chance here to hide as well as mask at least some of the thermal clues being given off. A decision was reached in another moment and the craft began to slow, which kicked up even more snow.
Now if there was just a little more time available, all that would be needed was the wind, the flying snow and enough time for it to settle over everything. The cold snow wouldn't hide the heat of the rotor drives for long, but then only a thin window of time would be required.
If this tactic was successful, the occupant thought.
Twenty minutes earlier, the same lake, two miles or so across and on the other side.
Stepping out into the forest clearing, if you stopped walking for a moment, you could hear the silence settle again if you listened for it. It felt like the whole world – well, what you could see of the whole world from the vantage point of a forest meadow in the middle of the dark and snowy part of the year, anyway – that world seemed to be waiting for something.
It didn't make any sense to Irianni, not what she was looking at here, anyway.
The sky on this side of the lake was darkly overcast, like dull, crumpled, rippled metal which slowly moved to the commands of an unseen and oppressive godly will. Everything was silent and still in this place, as though just being here was intrusion into some grand arboreal cathedral.
The trees were unusually large and tall for this part of the continent. The only green to be seen – though there was a fair bit of it – came from the massive evergreens all around. The only browns were what could be seen in their trunks and boughs through the needles. The only grey tones came from the few boulders tall enough not to be hidden from view by the snow.
And there wasn't one track in the snow made by any creature to be seen anywhere. It was as though the animals and creatures of the forest themselves avoided this place. Irianni hadn't seen or heard a single bird in a long while now. She looked down.
Not even rabbit tracks. Not even a chickadee's footprint.
In the middle, not far from where she stood just under the last branches of the trees, there lay a soft white blanket, though the word lent a connotation of warmth which was clearly not in much of any evidence here. She knew that when she took another step or three, she'd be making the loudest sounds for a good distance in any direction.
Just from the snow squeaking under her boots with every step.
She looked around for another moment, wondering.
What was here which made her feel so threatened?
If there was any other breathing thing here at all, she knew that it or they must also be feeling the need to hold their breath.
She turned right abruptly and began to walk that way, into that part of the heavy forest instead.
In a few minutes, she saw that the world ahead of her must be at least a little more graced than what she'd just left behind, because the foreboding overcast was not there ahead of her anymore, though she'd seen this before, earlier today.
Out that way, it looked almost brilliant, though it also signalled the end of the woods that she'd been walking through for hours now, trying and failing to get through, around, or just past the ominous part of the forest. A minute later, she was standing under a different set of the forest's eaves, looking out at a completely different vista.
The sun was just beginning to draw a little near to the horizon over the frozen panorama.
Winter in Canada; pleasant to look upon for all of it's blindingly bright white beauty - if you were inside or at least warm in what you were wearing to any degree.
But out there ... out there where a breeze which did not have enough to it to ruffle the snow could exist, that same breeze could and often would feel less than friendly unless you were well-dressed for it – and sometimes it felt that way even if you were.
That was just a breeze, of course. Mostly what was out there was actual wind and it didn't necessarily feel all that inviting – not if your nerve endings were telling you that you needed to get the hell out of it – and soon.
But out there now with the orange ball of the sun beginning to sink, it's lower periphery still a little way above the horizon as it's light gave everything a soft golden cast, it looked really grand.
It also hid what was really out there to a great degree, lying under what looked to be a pure white gossamer blanket. From this vantage point among some trees at the top of a rocky slope, looking out toward the west, Irianni saw the flatness that went on for miles in that direction, featureless for a good long way. And if you knew the landscape just a little, you'd know that what appeared as riffles way out there, most of the way that one could see, was really a rocky shoreline, frozen under what blanketed it.
Most of what was visible in the middle distance was a frozen and snow-covered lake.
Irianni knew that landscape quite well now – well enough, anyway and she muttered a few quiet curses.
She'd walked across what lay out there, across the lake and up the slope into the forest with a hope that she might not be the only sentient being out here.
That had been her hope, anyway.
Her quiet prayers were a little removed from that.
She prayed that if she found the one that she hoped to find, that one wouldn't be just another of the ones who wanted to kill her, just out of their ignorance and fearful tales about her kind.
There had been a dozen of them once, long ago now. They'd come as members of a vessel's crew, sent to chart and note the changes which were thought to have occurred on several worlds, this one not even being on the list at all.
There had been a few minor system failures over the long duration of the mission. Some of the crew argued that it would be better to return home with the successes and the data that they had rather than risk the massive failure that they felt would come if they made one more attempt so that the list could be called complete.
The mission commander did not concur.
That failure did occur during the initial phase of their approach. Two were killed out of the crew, including the commander before it was aborted and they clawed for a higher orbit.
The world which they'd been instructed to land on was one with never-ending storms, continuously high sustained surface winds and an atmosphere which was lethal to their kind without protective clothing, gear, and breathing apparatus. Another attempt at going there seemed beyond absurd to everyone.
Without the interference of the dead commander, they'd altered course while they could and made for a much smaller place, a ball of almost brilliant blue as seen from space, since their information about it indicated that it was the closest thing to their home world that they believed could be reached with their damaged ship. The diversion had taken a few years, since they did their best to hold things together, almost knowing that they'd have only one chance when they got near it.
The ship kept them alive throughout most of the long approach, though overall control was lost somewhere in the final, gliding, power-off part of the descent. A critical sub-processor failed somewhere in there and the airfoils were actuated far too early while they were still going too fast. They were burned off in seconds and after that, their glide slope was a lot closer to that of a brick.
No one was injured beyond superficially, but the vessel was already collapsing in on itself as it rolled to it's final stop and was slowly engulfed by the fire which had ignited in an auxiliary hydrocarbon fuel tank.
There was no time to gather anything and they just ran, trying to be far enough away to survive the blast when the main hydrocarbon tank exploded.
They lost sight of one female and assumed that she'd been killed by the explosion.
Most of the survivors quickly learned that the inhabitants were not altogether welcoming. It led over time to them being captured by their military after five more were killed in the attempt to do that.
The female knew nothing of their fates. She'd awoken in a frozen ditch hours later and wandered to the only building visible far in the distance. It was the home of a man who was the last member of his immediate family and lived alone working his small farm.
The female traded on the similarities of her appearance to humans in general while she struggled to learn Russian as quickly as she could while hiding the traits about her which were not very human at all.
Irianni was the product of the love which her parents grew out on that lonely farm. A lonely little girl whose mother had given her a proper name for her home world, though she'd insisted on the Russian one that her man had given to their offspring.
To anyone here, she was Nadya Chernovsky.
To no one but her mother, she was Irianni.
As she grew, Irianni excelled at anything physical. Her academic records were astounding, and based on these things, she had no difficulty during her national service, staying on at the end and pursuing a career there in rotary wing aviation.
As long as it made beating noises, Irianni could fly it – from heavy transport birds to gunships, conventional and coaxial helicopters – even experimental rotorcraft which no other test pilot could even begin to hover, let alone fly in any stable way. Anything with rotors, they'd dance to her will more precisely than if she were playing a piano recital.
Then back home, her mother took ill.
Not knowing any better, Irianni's father sought medical aid and just one X-ray showed skeletal structure not at all common to human beings. Seeing that there would be little help forthcoming, Irianni's father tried to stop the examinations and was subdued, detained and eventually shot. Her mother died as a result of further examinations and that was when Irianni's own troubles began.
Records of her birth had come to light and after a search; she was located and taken into custody "for observation".
The point where their observation would require the use of restraints and surgical implements was where Irianni took her leave – killing more than two dozen guards and burning the majority of the "medical complex" to ash during her escape.
She was saddened to have lost her family and a little terrified to be alone, but she was oh, so very thankful to have inherited a few gifts from her gene pool on a far-flung world – her ability to cause combustion with her will and the ability to send it with a thought being one. And the fact that she was highly psychic being another.
With some thought and a bit of effort, she could even change her appearance, though it was not a true change. In fact, it wasn't really a physical change at all. The only thing that changed was the way that others perceived her, seeing features which were not really there.
All of her life to that point, she'd looked to anyone like the way that she'd chosen to look – with a little of her mother's help at first. She spoke like a young blonde Russian woman who might have a fair touch of the Tatar in her – as well as maybe a good helping of Mongol somehow. Anyone could see it in her cheekbones and her eyes in the right light.
But if she needed to, she could make anyone believe that she looked completely differently – with different facial bone structure, as an example, along with the accompanying other traits such as eye and hair colour.
She'd spent more than a year on the run before making her way across the Pacific Ocean in a cargo container with a lot of other illegal refugees, looking for all the world like a middle-aged Cantonese woman.
After landing in Canada and successfully evading the authorities by repeatedly changing her appearance and stealing clothing as she ran, she'd eventually gone back to looking the way that she was used to as she made her way northeastward, but she'd never fit in, not understanding until much later that the people here didn't share the same background as the people in Russia.
She survived by moving frequently – often in the middle of the night and with only a very few belongings. But after a time, she'd gotten her accent under control, pretty much. The fact that she was alone a lot of the time made it difficult to learn the language here properly and a little of her accent remained if one had the ability to listen for it.
Eventually however, she'd give herself away and it forced her to move often from one place of refuge to the next leaving sometimes only minutes ahead of the immigration types.
They were looking for aliens of a different sort and though she was one like that, she was also trying to hide any traces of the other kind of alien that she was – not by birth, but by her genes.
There were things about her that she could hide from sight, but she knew now that she couldn't hide any of them from an X-ray machine.
She didn't know the best way to bluff, since she wasn't in Russia. The same sort of bullshit wouldn't fly out here.
She'd lived alone since coming to this area very quietly, being as unobtrusive as she could make herself to be seen to anyone's eyes. That meant that if she found that she absolutely had to have any form of contact with any of the dominant life form on this planet, she did so wearing enough rags and clothing to cause the people to wonder if she was a leper or something such as that.
Immediately afterward every time, Irianni would run once more, trying to put as much distance between herself and the people as she could. She took the fact that she was still alive at all as an indication that she'd been successful to this point, but she was also aware that not every attempt had been entirely successful.
Twice, she'd had to kill to escape them, and both times, the victims had been individuals which she interpreted by their actions to be enforcement types. Between the two incidents, she'd left more than fifteen of them dead, but she'd interpreted enough from her memories of their communication chatter to learn that she was growing a legend among them as something to be feared.
And one of them had called her a fire demon.
All that she knew from what she'd been able to piece together over some time was that somewhere in this direction, there was a lake which was beautiful to see in it's wild setting, known for a long time for it's pure, clear water and abundant species of wildlife and game fish. For a long time, it had been known as a vacation paradise, if the one or ones who sought to vacation there were prepared to rough it a bit, since it was located a little far from any settlement and was a protected wildlife sanctuary.
But sometime during the last few years, something ominous and deadly had sometimes been rumoured to have appeared in that area, something unseen which seemed by all of the local accounts to hunt people. Individuals or some small groups of them known to have remarked about going to that lake had been reported missing after a time. Searches of the area turned up nothing, though occasional bright flashes in the sky off in the direction of the lake had been seen.
It was a mystery, though not as much so to the mind of Irianni. Her interpretation was that it was more than likely that the missing persons had all been young; just teenagers or young adults who'd sought for a quiet place to drink, party and screw in the wilderness.
Her mother had a saying for young ones like that among her own people – sometimes even including Irianni when her age and unsophistication at the time might have paralleled what she'd meant.
Just young ones with more body than brains.
As far as the growing legend went, Irianni slowly came to the idea that perhaps whatever it was that was out there might be someone a little like her; someone who wanted no contact with the people on this world because something had happened once to show that one that it was the best and probably only way to go on, even if it was a lonely existence.
To someone such as that, their experience would show that being alone was better than being dead – at least until the idea of being dead looked like a better alternative.
Irianni knew how that felt very well. It had crossed her mind a few times in her lonely and miserable existence. She kept running into a single fact which crossed her mind now and then: She knew no one. Nobody knew her. Nobody cared about her in the slightest.
She should be used to it by now, she'd tell herself, but regardless ... sometimes – when she was feeling even more alone than usual – if something such as that could be felt – Irianni would weep. Sometimes, it was out of being alone, and sometimes out of having just the want to know a single other person. Sometimes she'd blame herself for not being more open, that she ought to be used to it by now. But no matter what, she always ended up with lonely tears in her eyes.