tagSci-Fi & FantasyUpon a Savage Shore Ch. 03

Upon a Savage Shore Ch. 03


Author's Note: This is the third installment of what I believe will be a novella length story. As I have said in previous notes, this is a story with plot and character development. If you are looking for a quick fix, I suggest looking elsewhere.

In this chapter, Sergeant Liam Carter is faced with new challenges after his decisions in chapter two. Chief among them is what he will do about the predicament he unwittingly created when taking the three jZav'Etch prisoner.


It was a struggle to get the stretcher to the hollow old tree and the struggle was not complete until Liam and Klat' eil' Da muscled it up to about the middle of the trunk. Once they were where Liam wanted it, they lowered the stretcher to the floor and powered off its impulsers. He took one of his pistols from its holster and held it out to Tem'Ma'tel.

"Take this," he said when she only looked at him. "There are dangerous animals around and I need to take Klat' eil' Da with me to do a little work."

M'pel E'kmel translated what he said. The two jZav'Etch exchanged an uncertain look before Tem'Ma'tel accepted the weapon with a bow of her head. If she was going to shoot him, Liam figured it would be as soon as she had the gun in her hand so he waited a couple of heartbeats before reaching out and switching the safety off. She frowned then smiled very slightly, acknowledging the test with good grace.

"Klat' eil' Da," he said, rising and waved her to follow him. She did with a spring in her step.

"Take now?" she asked happily.

"Work," he said simply.

She huffed out a breath and stumped along behind him. From up the tunnel he heard M'pel E'kmel laugh and say something to Tem'Ma'tel. Liam frowned, feeling he was the butt of a joke he didn't understand.

Outside he located several bushes that would suit his needs and began chopping their branches off with clean swipes of his knife. He bundled them together and turned to Klat' eil' Da.

"I am going to take these inside," he said slowly and tried to gesture in a way that would communicate his intent.

"Take?" she asked eagerly and began to unfasten her fatigues.

"No!" he snapped, closing his eyes. "Work. These. Inside. You use this knife to cut more."

She frowned unhappily and accepted the knife.

"More?" she asked.

"More," he said. He indicated his eyes with two fingers and then turned them out to the forest. "Be careful. Watch for animals."

"I smell," she said confidently. "Take later?"

"Work," he said and stomped off with the branches before she could ask again.

Inside he handed off the task of making sleeping mats to the two wounded jZav'Etch. They quickly understood his intention and set to work.

"Commander," he said before going. "Is there a shorter version of your names I could use instead of saying the full things whenever I talk to you?"

"A shorter version?" she mused.

"For instance," he said. "My name is Liam Carter, but normally my friends and family just call me Liam. Other sergeants normally call me Carter. Other ranks call me Sergeant. Is there any way I could shorten your names without, you know, insulting or offending anyone?"

"I understand," she said and considered. "If you take us, you may give us whatever names you please. Klat' eil' Da would likely accept any name you bestow on her now."

"Commander, I don't know that I can even bring myself to do that," he said tiredly.

"In the case of Tem'Ma'tel, Sergeant, you don't have much choice," she said seriously. "You must attempt Ka' chasck with her. You must make the demand. She will attempt to kill you as soon as she is healed if you do not."

Liam glanced at Tem'Ma'tel. She had stopped work on the beds and was eyeing him suspiciously. Clearly she'd heard her name and the word Ka' chasck. Or was that a phrase? It didn't matter. Tem'Ma'tel did not look relaxed. She was anticipating something. She was tensed, as if readying for action. Liam looked away before his gaze could be interpreted as a threat.

"And will you kill me, Commander?" he asked evenly.

She smiled up at him speculatively, drawing out the moment. Was the atmosphere in the tree getting thick or was that just the tension on his nerves.

"Poor form to inquire before making the demand," she said finally and smiled more broadly, her smoke colored eyes narrowing with amusement. "However, I do not find you objectionable. To learn more you will need to make the demand."

"Wonderful," Liam grumbled, sounding not at all pleased.

"You should also know," she went on, suddenly serious. "Klat' eil' Da may choose to kill you if you continue to put off the event. She has already forgiven you for your earlier insult, but that may not remain the case for much longer."

Liam blinked at her. He turned away shaking his head. His world had gone insane! Insane! And yet... And yet, it could be much worse. Klat' eil' Da was strangely attractive. He had never really considered aliens in that way. Well, except for that one Vespan on Tempest he'd been interested in until he found out it was a male. That had been a long time ago, though, and Vespans, in general, were considered unusually attractive by Humans. There was almost no outward difference in the males and the females or the third sex of their kind, and it was often the case that Humans began relationships without knowing the Vespan's gender until they were in bed together. Rumor had it that no matter which you slept with, the experience was worth any embarrassment that might later arise.

jZav'Etch were nothing like Vespans, but if he were honest with himself, Liam had to admit he found them attractive. Tem'Ma'tel's eyes were striking, almost to the point of being hypnotic. M'pel E'kmel seemed always ready to laugh or at the very least to be amused and he liked a girl with a sense of humor. Both had very feminine and shapely bodies under their fatigues, from what he could see. Tem'Ma'tel was more muscular while M'pel E'kmel had larger...

"What the fuck are you thinking?" he demanded of himself angrily, coming to a stop at the lower opening.

His mind was awhirl with mixed emotions. He wanted to live through the night and he wanted to live long enough to be rescued. And he did not want to live alone for all that time. That would probably make him nuts and he'd have to spend years in a mental ward if he ever got off this planet. But having sex with not one but three aliens? That was not something he had ever even considered. He closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath of pleasantly cool air. It was laden with strange scents he had not noticed before and he grew more calm, his muscles relaxing.

Opening his eyes, Liam looked over to where Klat' eil' Da was continuing to cut branches. He noticed the shape of her hips under her fatigues and he noticed the sway of her small breasts, hardly concealed by her fur. She really had nice hips and her rump was appealingly round and firm, both features accented by the slimness of her waist. He thought back to the image of her standing naked and waiting and then he remembered how she had knelt, ready to accept him. Aside from the fur she was kind of sexy, really.

And he caught himself again. He shook his head and looked at her seriously for a long minute, absently enjoying the scents on the air. It passed through his mind that she wouldn't look right without the fur. She was sexier with fur than most of the human women he had met in the last year or so. He looked over his shoulder at the two injured jZav'Etch as they sorted the branches and stretched to lay them over the floor of the tree trunk, their fatigues smoothing out over their taut bodies. Liam decided they wouldn't look right without fur, either.

"Oh for fuck's sake!" he spat softly. He couldn't believe where his mind was going and he was irritated that he'd begun to get an erection. There was work to be finished before it got dark, for crying out loud!

He stomped over to where the little cat was working and gathered up the branches she'd cut. She smiled up at him as he packed them tighter under his arm and he rather unexpectedly smiled down at her. He didn't even realize it until he was starting into the hollow again.

An hour later and the beds had been made. Liam thought they looked more like nests, but the three jZav'Etch seemed fairly pleased with them. He lay down in his experimentally and decided it would do, though he didn't at first understand why it was nearly twice the size of the other three. He frowned when the reason dawned on him.

"Commander," he said, getting to his feet having remembered something important. There was no other reason for him to get out of the nest. No other reason at all. "Is there some ceremony for your dead?"

"There are rites, yes," she said.

"I think it best if we perform those rites and get... I'm afraid I can't remember the name of the captain," he said a little uncomfortably. "There are large predators out there in the forest and if they haven't smelled him yet, I'm sure they soon will."

"I see," she said a little down cast. "You're correct, of course. He died in battle. The proper thing is to burn him. Do you think that would be safe?"

"There's a clearing about a hundred meters from here," Liam told her. "It isn't big, but there is a large stone, almost like a table. We could build a pyre on that. It will take time to collect the wood."

"That would be the best," she said. "Forgive me. I did not think you would observe rites such as these for one of our people."

"Normally it would be somebody else's job," Liam admitted. "Here there's only me and you. It's my duty to see to the needs of my prisoners, within reason."

Even using the stretcher to gather the wood and move the captain's body, it took a couple of hours to complete the task. The sun was sitting at high noon by the time Liam and Klat' Eil' Da laid the fallen jZav'Etch on his pyre. The little cat said several prayers over the dead soldier and made a number of reverent gestures. Finally, she cast fragrant leaves over his face and then went to his big hands and pressed the pads of each of his fingers until the long claws extended. She lay them at his sides and then looked to Liam with a nod.

Liam lifted the fero-plas rifle and sent a bolt into the kindling at the heart of the stacked wood. The fuel ignited almost instantly, fire spreading in jumps from one log to another. When it was well alight he stood to attention and gave a proper military salute. The captain had been one bad motherfucker who had simply lost the fight. No shame in that.

When the two returned to the hollow tree they found both injured jZav'Etch asleep. Liam checked his chronometer and discovered that it was nearly 1800 hours. It was getting late in the day for him and the sun had not even begun to descend the sky yet. How long, he wondered, are the days on this world?

He moved to his nest and settled down, tired from all his exertions. He drank from his canteen and was about to get out his ration pack when Klat' eil' Da settled in front of him, her movement causing the scent laden air to stir.

"Tired?" she asked simply.

"Yes," he said, glad she hadn't asked him to take her again.

"Food?" she asked.

"Here," he said, thinking she was asking for some. He fished an extra packet out of his musette bag and offered it to her. She smiled but pushed it back to him with a shake of her head. Then she produced a pack of her own.

"Oh," he sighed and smiled at her. "You eat yours. I eat mine."

Again she shook her head then tore the packet open. Whatever the ration was it smelled interesting. He eyed her as she stuck a two-pronged fork into the contents and came out with a lump of something covered in a dark purple sauce. She turned the fork to him, smiling. Liam hesitantly opened his mouth and she put the food in with great care.

Holy shit! Talk about good! The food was savory like nothing he'd ever eaten. The flavors were too many to count just from a single bite. It reminded him of Texas barbeque and Planetia stir-fry mixed with his mom's old fashioned lasagna. Amazing!

After he swallowed he looked down on Klat' eil' Da and saw her grinning her cat grin, obviously pleased with his reaction to the food. Her eyes dropped to his ration packet and she looked up at him expectantly. He gave her a wry look and then opened the packet. Chicken in white sauce was not his favorite, but it was actually edible. Of course it was all synthetic paste with flavorings added, but it was all he had.

"I don't know if you'll like this," he said and scooped a spoonful of it out. He held it up so she could see it and give it a sniff, but she didn't hesitate. She engulfed the so called food and slurped it off the spoon happily. "Like it, eh?"

Klat' eil' Da rolled the cold meat substitute and gravy around her mouth for several seconds before swallowing. She jammed her fork into her meal again and presented another lump of purple covered whatever it was. Liam chuckled and took it. Why not? She seemed happy enough to share and he was certainly hungry. They continued to feed each other until the meal packs were empty and then they shared his canteen. After that Klat' eil' Da edged closer to him until her head rested on his shoulder. He was feeling so relaxed that he didn't even notice until she began to purr. He frowned and looked down on the top of her head.

"You don't know what you just did, do you, Sergeant?" asked Commander M'pel E'kmel from her nest. She sounded amused.

"We ate," he said softly. "And we had some water."

"That's funny," she said. "From here it looked like you accepted food from her and she accepted food from you."

"Um... Yeah," he said, suddenly uneasy. "So?"

"It's complicated," the commander said with a smile. "In simple terms, well, the two of you just went through a trust ritual. That's why she was so happy you liked the food and took it without much in the way of hesitation. The implement she used to feed you was sharp. She could have killed you with it and yet you trusted her not to. She accepted your food even though it doesn't smell particularly good, which is a sign that she accepts you even if you can't provide the best all of the time. I don't think I will be sampling any of that, by the way. You also used a blunt implement which could not kill her unless you jammed it down her throat or something. That demonstrated to her that you have no wish to bring her harm."

"Okay," Liam said, trying to see where he had just landed himself. "So what does all that mean?"

"It means, Sergeant, that you are accepting her into your family."

"That doesn't sound too bad," he said brightening.

"Sergeant," M'pel E'kmel said chidingly. "I think you had better decide to either take her or kill her. If you don't do one or the other by the time the sun rises tomorrow morning she will certainly avenge the insult you offer by the time it goes down tomorrow evening."

As the jZav'Etch commander lay back down in her nest Liam could only stare at the alien clutching at his breastplate. He could not stay on his guard forever. What the hell was he supposed to do?

Sitting there in that warm wooden cave, Liam pondered his strange situation. Could he really have allowed himself to be so stupid? Of course there had been more to the meal than the simple act of eating. She had insisted on feeding him, for crying out loud! And now here she was curled up on his lap purring like a contented kitten, albeit a kitten that weighed almost half as much as he did.

Could he really have sex with her? It was better than having her kill him, wasn't it? And he sure as hell was not going to put a gun to her head and pull the trigger. That was out of the question at this point. It wasn't going to happen. He couldn't do that. Not in a million years. But sex? With her? A jZav'Etch?

From her nest across the tree Tem'Ma'tel lifted her head and blinked sleepily around before her gaze settled on him. She looked at the little jZav'Etch snuggled in close to him and purring. Tem'Ma'tel looked him in the eyes and gave a very slow nod then lifted herself gingerly from the nest and, taking the EP 12 he'd given her, she crawled to the upper opening and gazed out as if on guard. Commander M'pel E'kmel rose a moment later and took the long jZav'Etch rifle from where Liam had leaned it against the wall. He watched as she painfully limped to the lower opening, using the rifle as a crutch and also gazed out at the forest. They were giving him privacy.

Klat' eil' Da stirred in his arms and purred softly as she felt over his armor. He heard a clasp open and she looked up into his eyes.

"Take now?" she asked softly and continued to purr.

With a sigh Liam made up his mind.

"Take now," he said resignedly and hoped he could.

With her help Liam got out of his armor. He removed the helmet and collar. She ran a finger softly over the deep cuts on his cheek where he had been injured during his fight with the male then licked them until they were clean. The breastplate came away, followed by the arms. He sat there with only his undershirt and leg armor on. Klat' eil' Da blinked at him and smiled. She reached out and pulled the hem of his shirt up, dragging it over his head. More snaps, seals and buckles gave way under her light touch and soon he was naked. She narrowed her eyes at his manhood and looked up uncertainly.

"What?" he asked. He looked down and saw that in spite of his initial misgivings, he was erect. "Something wrong?"

Klat' eil' Da looked back and forth between the two jZav'Etch sitting watch and seemed to hesitate. Finally, she rose and darted down to M'pel E'kmel. They spoke in rushed whispers for several moments before they both looked at him. The commander's eyes narrowed and she turned back to whisper something intently to the younger cat. Klat' eil' Da nodded and made a gesture with her hands. M'pel E'kmel put her hand to her mouth and gave Liam a long, appraising look.

"Now what the hell is all that about?" he murmured out loud.

He glanced up to where Tem'Ma'tel sat and found her staring wide eyed at him. She became aware he was looking at her and quickly turned back to look out at the forest, but her ears were twitching and her tail swished and flicked. Liam looked back to where his prospective date for the evening was still exchanging words with her officer and couldn't help but imagine all manner of bad end results.

Now that he was out of his armor would they spring on him and tear him to pieces? Or would it be something worse than that? Had this all been some sort of ruse to put him in their power? He was armed, but he had targets to both sides and if he turned his weapon in one direction the shooter at the other end of the tree would have a clear target. What was he going to do?

Suddenly there was a flurry of hisses, chirps and clucks from the pair of females. M'pel E'kmel said a few words in English and Klat' eil' Da repeated them, but Liam couldn't make out what those words were. The small cat said the phrase again and then somewhat reluctantly returned to him.

"What was that about?" he asked when she got back to him.

"Apologies," she said, pronouncing the word carefully and knelt in front of him in the nest.

"What's going on?" he asked in a strained whisper.

She swallowed and seemed to brace herself.

"Big," she said and pointed to his groin.

Liam blinked and looked down. Big? Well, not really.

"jZav'Etch not like you," she said slowly. "Long. jZav'Etch long. Not like you. You big."

He shook his head, not understanding.

"You big," she said again and made a circle with the index finger and thumbs of one hand. "Big. Understand?"

"Oh!" he almost chuckled at that. Of course there were anatomical differences between the species. That made perfect sense. There were plenty of similarities, which explained why the two races were competing for the same planets, but they had many differences and it seemed genitalia were one of them.

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