tagSci-Fi & FantasyUpon a Savage Shore Ch. 07

Upon a Savage Shore Ch. 07

byRipperFish©

Author's note: For those readers wondering who does my editing - Just me. This is a vanity project. My secret sin, if you will. I've chosen to share it here because I cannot bring myself to share it with my friends. This is mine and yours to enjoy.

Thanks to everyone who has left a comment or sent a message. Both are very much appreciated.

*****

Boring, thought Tem'Ma'tel. Her tail twitched in irritation. This was unsatisfactory. Why had she been wounded? If they had been able to salvage her armor the bullet would have glanced off and she would have been with Captain Am'a'all when he fought the Human. If she had been there, though, the Human would likely be dead and that thought no longer pleased her. SarJ'ant, she reflected again, had proven to be very unlike she had anticipated. His lack of fur troubled her at first, but having been around him she felt he would not look right with fur. It was an odd realization.

"You could not see his scars if he had fur," she said to herself, her tail twitching unconsciously.

Something moved in the brush near one of the carcasses. Her eyes tracked it, but otherwise she stayed motionless. The creature was small and it seemed interested only in taking a bite of the dead flesh. She watched it passively, returning to her thoughts.

Why did she have the misfortune of getting lamed? She had tried to put weight on her injured leg, but that had caused her wound to start bleeding again. The pain she could endure, but if the wound broke open she would not heal properly. The commander had put a stint in place with their medical kit to facilitate proper and speedy healing, but Tem'Ma'tel was impatient. To always be on sentry was not at all to her liking. She had never been one to enjoy the long watches. She was restless and wanting something useful to do.

Hearing SarJ'ant coming down the trunk towards her, she turned. He paused and she thought he might be stopping by his nest where Clot'ilda lay, but then she heard him rummage among the gear they'd salvaged. A moment later he emerged into the light of the forest. Tem'Ma'tel caught her breath and quickly schooled her expression, forcibly stilling the urge to twitch her tail. SarJ'ant was shirtless and wore no armor.

"I have a job for you," he said approaching, holding out the machete, hilt towards her.

Tem'Ma'tel didn't know what his words meant, but he was offering her the tool and his tone indicated there was something needing to be done.

"I'll be back in a minute," he told her and she watched the muscles in his back ripple as he went around gathering long branches from the brush. Some he chopped with his knife and it made his muscles ripple even more enticingly. He returned with a bundle of straight branches under his arm. She narrowed her eyes, wondering what they were for.

"Sharpen these," he said and used his knife to cut a point on the end of one of the thick branches. "I'll get some more for you. Then I have to move these carcasses away from the camp."

Tem'Ma'tel was very pleased to have a task she could do that was useful, even if she didn't know what these crude spears were for. She began sharpening the branches, careful to put as fine a point on them as SarJ'and had. She found her eyes wandering to him every few minutes and shook her head. He was not yet her mate and he had not yet made Ka' chasck. Until then she should not look upon him in that way. And yet, why not? He was a good looking, battle scarred male, though Human. She smiled to herself and continued her work.

After bringing her several more loads of branches, SarJ'ant dragged a few logs over to her. He paused a moment to catch his breath, gave her an approving nod and then set about dragging one of the carcasses away down the slope. She watched him until his glistening skin could not be seen among the leaves. A smile spread over her face.

"I like the way the sweat coats his skin," she murmured, unaware she said it aloud.

+>0<+

From atop the giant log M'pel E'kmel also watched Liam drag the carcass through the underbrush. She was not so much admiring him as watching to be sure no animal attacked him unobserved. The fero-plas rifle had more than enough range to deal a killing blow through armor at two kilometers, and its sights were accurate out to nearly twice that range. If she saw something dangerous coming, she could put a stop to it before Sergeant Carter was in any danger.

It took him several minutes to drag the dead animal to the spot they had chosen and then several more minutes to climb back up the slope. He would be nearly exhausted after the work was done.

"We have to conserve his strength," she said to no one.

If there were another attack such as the one last night, they would need his mobility to counter it. He had risked much in going to the top of the log to engage the animals the way he had, but she reckoned the result spoke for itself. In his armor Sergeant Carter had been in little danger from the creature's fangs and claws.

"What would we do without him?" she wondered. It troubled her that the three females were so dependent upon him. Yes, he was a male, but that didn't mean he was indestructible. They must not let him wear himself out in their defense. And she and Tem'Ma'tel had to take care of their injuries so that they would heal as quickly as possible.

"We need to get out of here," she said and then called down into the tree. "Clot'ilda. Wake up!"

The little Pah'Tht scampered into the open a moment later, still fastening her trousers and blinking against the sunlight. She appeared wide awake and perky, though she moved with a stiffness M'pel E'kmel had to smile at. A mate as large as the sergeant might be enjoyable, but there was a drawback for a female as small as Clot'ilda.

"I am here, Commander," Clot'ilda said with a bow of her head.

"When you went to our camp, did you recover my satchel?" M'pel E'kmel asked.

"It is with the arms case, Commander," Clot'ilda told her.

"Fetch it for me."

Clotilda returned quickly with the satchel and M'pel E'kmel began searching through it immediately.

"Take a deq'istle and go to your mate," she ordered Clot'ilda. "He must be protected. I have work to do here."

Clot'ilda nodded happily and scampered off, her stiffness already abating. M'pel E'kmel smirked at her and then dug into her satchel again, coming out with a cylinder as long as her hand. She touched a switch on one end and then pulled a screen from a slot that ran the length of the cylinder. The screen, no thicker than a sheet of good quality paper, fluttered in the breeze briefly and then went rigid. On it was displayed an orbital image they had taken shortly before the attack on the CP transports. She scrolled through the image until she found the island and then expanded the view until the area of the crash site was clear. Of course there were only trees to be seen, since their ship had taken the image, but she recognized the location from several terrain features.

M'pel E'kmel ran her finger along the line of the valley, north and east towards the hills and low mountains near the coast. She was looking for small rivers or sizable streams, bodies of water that would not go dry in a drought or rise dangerously in flood. If they were able to locate their next camp near one of these then food and water would be readily available. They could focus their efforts on establishing a secure home. Someplace that would be easily defended from animals or curious natives, should those primitive people come looking for them.

"And there is that other threat," she grumbled, casting her eyes up at the clear patch of sky visible through the forest canopy.

+>0<+

Tem'Ma'tel looked up at the soft hiss from Clot'ilda. She found her friend grinning devilishly and pointing at SarJ'ant as he bent to loop a strap around the hind legs of another of the dead animals. His fatigue trousers were stretched smooth over his well-shaped buttocks, sharply accented by the double gun belt he wore and he was oblivious to the two females. Tem'Ma'tel grinned appreciatively and twitched her ears to Clot'ilda in the jZav'Etch version of a wink. Clot'ilda stifled a laugh and pretended to pinch SarJ'ant on the right cheek. Tem'Ma'tel covered her mouth and snorted. SarJ'ant glanced over his shoulder, throwing a questioning look her way, but she raised her eyebrows as if to ask, "What? Something wrong?" He went back to work.

Tem'Ma'tel felt that Clot'ilda would make a refreshing change to the Firsts she had known in the past. Usually a First of Household was a stodgy, older female who took herself and her position far too seriously. Or they were young, jealous females who also took themselves too seriously, preening and strutting as if they were as important as the male who actually defended the house's honor. She generally liked the Firsts of single mate homes, but those who had even one Second were somewhat snobby in her experience. Clot'ilda would not be that way. And Clot'ilda, Tem'Ma'tel knew, was fun to lay with.

Aboard the scout vessel Clot'ilda had been the most popular among the largely female crew. She had even shared the commander's bunk several times. Fun, energetic and always considerate, Clot'ilda was a guaranteed good time.

Tem'Ma'tel's memories of her encounters with the Pah'Tht made her tail twitch and she cast a glance at Clot'ilda, catching her eye. She raised an eyebrow and twitched her tail again and Clot'ilda smiled, giving her a nod. They would take time for themselves when SarJ'ant and the commander stood watch. It was good to have another female close to one's own age. And Clot'ilda was better company than most.

+>0<+

Hours of work and a dozen trips up and down the slope later Liam returned to the lower entrance of the tree. Nearly worn out he half sat, half collapsed on the ground next to where Tem'Ma'tel had been working. Clotilda trotted into the tree and came back with one of the water jugs. He accepted it and drank thirstily.

"Fuuuuuck," he groaned and handed the jug back to her. "I'm beat."

"Beat?" Clotilda asked, frowning with concern.

"Tired, Honey," he said, giving her a pat on the leg. "I'm tired. I'll be okay. I just need to rest."

"Food?" Tem'Ma'tel asked them.

Liam looked at her, thinking he might have misheard. Clotilda said something in jZav'Etch and Te'Ma'tel nodded, pointing to the entrance of the tree.

"Liam," Clotilda said to him. "I cut meat. You... wait."

He gave her a nod and off she went. Liam looked at the work Tem'Ma'tel had done and was impressed with how far along she had gotten. She was using a strange tool to pierce the heavier logs he had dragged over. It looked like some kind of drill with a long, tubular bit. Its motor did not spin fast, but it was cutting cleanly through the wood. As he watched, Tem'Ma'tel bored her last hole and set the drill aside. She selected one of the sharpened branches and forced it into the hole. She fit three more branches the same way, ending up with an X at either end of the trunk to form legs.

"Let me give you a hand with that," he said when she stooped to stand the log on its legs. She declined a little forcefully, shoving him back to the ground before he could rise.

"SarJ'ant, wait," she said with a hard look.

"Fine," he grumbled. "I'm too tired to argue. Just don't hurt yourself."

She lifted the log, all six meters of it, with a grunt and set it on its legs. It rocked a bit and then settled. She then hobbled around, fitting more stakes into the abatis, starting from the middle and working her way to the ends. Now and then she had to shave a stake down to fit it properly, but Liam could see she was doing a good job of it. Of course, this was only the first part of the barrier. They would need more branches and maybe another log to make the abatis strong enough to deter another pack of whatever those things had been.

Clotilda returned carrying what looked like a scrawny ham on a rough cut plank. It was a shank of one of the animals they'd killed, roasted and still steaming. It smelled okay, but not as good as the roasted meat from the flying creature. Clotilda set the shank next to Liam and he took out his knife. Before he could cut the meat Clotilda took the knife.

"I guess I'm not going to do anything for a bit," he said with a shake of his head.

"I cut meat," Clotilda said and kissed the top of his head.

The first serving went to Liam and the second she gave to Tem'Ma'tel. As First of the Household it was Clot'ilda's duty and honor to serve the meal, or see that it was served if there were Seconds to help her. The three sat and ate the stringy meat quietly. None seemed to particularly care for the taste, but it was better than rations. At least it was better than CP rations, Liam thought.

"He has worked very hard today," Tem'Ma'tel said to Clot'ilda. "He will need sleep."

"Sleep after a bath," the Pah'Tht agreed.

"I like his scent," Tem'Ma'tel said honestly.

"It's very agreeable, but a bath will do his muscles good," replied Clot'ilda.

"I wish I could bathe properly," Tem'Ma'tel said and patted her leg over the bandage. "I cannot get this wet. Very frustrating. I wish I had not been shot."

"You must rest as well as you can," Clotilda told her. "The commander has located a place she wishes to move to. She used the orbital survey we took of this world. She thinks if we leave here at dawn we might make the journey before the sun sets."

"Do we go tomorrow?"

Shaking her head Clot'ilda said, "Not until you are both healed. She wishes to consult with Liam, also."

"I wonder how we will carry everything," Tem'Ma'tel said, gesturing towards the stack of salvaged equipment. "And there is more that you had to leave at the first camp. Not necessary, perhaps, but it would be better to have it if we could get it."

"You are right," Clotilda said, chewing her meat contemplatively. "Several trips may be needed. Will you mention this to the commander? It is not my place."

"I will."

They fell silent, watching the forest, both wondered about their future. This was a large, dangerous world with only the four of them to rely upon. It was better there were four than three, and Tem'Ma'tel was glad the commander had not allowed her to kill SarJ'ant when he had come to take them on that first day.

+>0<+

Liam listened to the buzzing chitters of the two jZav'Etch, feeling a little left out. It was no one's fault he did not speak their language, and neither of them spoke enough English to carry on a conversation. That didn't mean he liked being the odd man out, though. He sighed, ate the last bite of the unsavory meat and lay back, thinking he would need to take his medical analyzer and find some vegetables and fruit he could eat. All this meat filled him up and the supplements from his ration packets would prevent malnutrition, but he would need natural fiber in his diet.

The sun warmed him and his aching muscles gradually relaxed. Before long he was dozing. He drifted on the edge of sleep, unaware the females were whispering until Clot'ilda shook his shoulder. He blinked his eyes open to find her smiling down on him.

"Tem'Ma'tel water, Liam," she said.

"What?"

"Tem'Ma'tel water," she repeated. "Liam water. Tem'Ma'tel water. I watch."

Liam sat up discovering that his muscles were stiffer than they had been in a very long time. He would need to start stretching and going through his workouts again soon. Tem'Ma'tel was already on her feet with a crutch she had carved propped under her left shoulder. She looked expectantly at him.

"I watch," Clotilda said and showed him her pistol. "Tem'Ma'tel water, Liam."

"She wants a bath?" he asked creakily. "Okay. I'll take her to the... Wait. Is she going to get naked?"

The jZave'Etch blinked uncomprehendingly at him. Of course they didn't understand. He groaned as he got to his feet. He really didn't have the energy to care right now. If Tem'Ma'tel wanted a bath and she took her clothes off, so what? He wasn't going to do anything about it. Right?

"Liam water," Clotilda said.

"I said I would take her," he grumbled and rubbed his eyes. Clotilda poked him in the side a couple of times. He looked grumpily down.

"Liam water," she said forcefully then pinched her nose. "Understand? Liam water."

"What? I don't smell good?" he snorted. "Okay. Fine! I'll bathe. Come on Tem'Ma'tel. Let's go splash around and risk our necks because my wife doesn't like the way I smell."

As grumpy as he felt, Liam was considerate enough to help Tem'Ma'tel up the hill and down the far slope. It was her first time visiting the stream and she had considerable difficulty negotiating the terrain. Nevertheless, she handled it with dignity.

"Let me see if I can find a spot you can get in the water without falling in," he said, motioning her to stand where she was. A few meters from his previous bathing spot he found a half sunken boulder with a couple of ridges that led into the water like steps. He had to pull a small bush out of the ground to clear the way, but the current carried the muddy water downstream quickly.

Tem'Ma'tel joined him and considered the boulder. It would do for her needs. She took off her fatigues and laid them on the top of the boulder before carefully stepping into the shallow water. It was cold and the stone was slippery, but no catastrophe befell her. She sat down, careful to keep her bandage out of the stream. It wasn't precisely comfortable sitting like that and she wished she could just wade into the water, but such was her life for the moment.

"I'll be over here," SarJ'ant said and stepped away a few paces, turning his back.

That was very considerate of him, but not what Clot'ilda had in mind. Tem'Ma'tel had reluctantly agreed to teasing SarJ'ant. She had never been skilled in that art and felt quite foolish. Males were stupid and... Wait. SarJ'ant was being genuinely considerate. He was not peeking as she had expected him to do. He was looking around for threats. She blinked. What to do?

Her shorts were already soaked and the bottom of her undershirt was wet too, but there was no reason they wouldn't dry before they returned to the camp. There was no reason for her to be uncomfortable the rest of the day. And this was a better chance at a bath than she had had since being wounded. With a determined little smirk she pulled her underclothes off and laid them flat next to her fatigues where the sun warmed the rock. A glance told her SarJ'ant had not noticed. Good.

Liam heard Tem'Ma'tel splashing water over herself and sighed. At least this spot was cool. Between the overhanging canopy and the running water the air here was always cooler than around their camp. Thankfully the hollow tree had enough thickness left to its trunk to insulate against the heat. It was almost as cool as if it had been a cave of stone. He wondered if they would be able to find a cave that was not occupied by some enormous beast armed with giant fangs and razor-like claws. Probably Commander M'pel E'kmel was right. They might be better off building a shelter. His uncle had taught him how to build dry stone walls over a few summers. He was sure he could remember the technique. All they would need...

"SarJ'ant," Tem'Ma'tel interrupted his musings.

"Are you ready to come ou... " He stopped speaking as soon as he turned around. She'd gotten naked. And she had done it really, really well.

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