TAT: In The Beginning (M/L, AU, Mature) (Complete)

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TAT: In The Beginning (M/L, AU, Mature) (Complete)

Post by Breathless » Sun Oct 16, 2005 9:05 pm

Winner - Round 10

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Author: Debbi, aka Breathless
Category: Max and Liz
Rating: Teen to Mature

Disclaimer: The Roswell characters belong to Jason Katims, the WB, UPN, etc. I’m just borrowing them for awhile.

Summary: This is an installment in the Time After Time challenge by Fred. The general summary for the series is this:

Time After Time is a series of loosely linked stories throughout history. Each story will feature Max and Liz in a CC relationship. Most of the other pairings will be CC, but it is not required (meaning that mild UC is a possibility). Nor is pairing the other characters with anyone necessarily going to happen. The stories in this series can all be read independently, but will be connected by Max and Liz's relationship, and by one other trend. See if you can pick it out! The stories may end happily, or not. This is at the discretion of the author. The backstory in each fic might be different. These stories are not necessarily canon based. The events of the TV show Roswell are just another link in the time after time chain.

This story is set during prehistoric times, at the dawn of modern man, during the Pleistocene Epoch, approx. 100,000 B.C. When a visitor from very far away makes an abrupt arrival, two lives will be forever changed ...

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IN THE BEGINNING, there was nothing.

No light. No sound. No sensation.

He floated in a void of emptiness, with no awareness of his surroundings. Neither hot, nor cold; plagued by neither thirst, nor hunger. The drone of the ship’s engines didn’t penetrate the living membrane that surrounded him like a protective womb.

Over the course of time, dreams flirted at the periphery of his mind. War. Death. The struggle for survival. Over the light years the meaning of those dreams had become lost. Who was he, and what was his purpose? His slumber deepened inside the protective pod, there was nothing for him in the empty reaches of space. He drifted on the solar winds, seeking that which even he wasn’t aware of.

His seemingly random path through space brought him in close proximity of a relatively young solar system. Nine planets radiated out from the bright gases of the young sun. Lights on a control panel inside his ship blinked on, awakening after the long journey.

The gravitational pull of the third planet pulled the ship into close orbit, while inside, the ship came to life. Computers registered the atmospheric conditions of the planet below, a water world, with several distinct land masses, and polar icecaps both north and south. Readouts warned of tectonic activity in the southern hemisphere; massive landquakes caused by seismic activity as the continental plates shifted – the planet was young, still forming, erupting volcanoes sending plumes of fire and smoke into the oxygen rich air.

The veils of sleep slowly lifted, and with it came awareness of his surroundings. The liquid environment he floated in, which had kept him nourished while in stasis, slowly drained from his protective pod. Deprived of the life-giving fluid his body had become accustomed to since his embarkation, he dropped to his knees, expelling the fluid still trapped in his lungs in wracking, gut-twisting coughs.

When the spasms passed, he gasped his first breaths of air in what – for him – felt like an eternity. Which it might have been. Time had no meaning when locked in stasis, when a million years could come and go within a heartbeat. Goose bumps formed on his naked skin, now deprived of the warmth previously supplied by the liquid environment. With effort, he rose to his feet and tore his way through the membrane surrounding him.

The living tissue gave way with little resistance, its purpose now complete. His hands made a hole big enough for his head to fit through, followed by his shoulders, and then finally, in mimicry of birth, the pod shuddered and expelled his body out onto the deck of the ship, where he landed with a thud.

The floor beneath him felt hard and unyielding, unlike the protective cushion of his stasis pod. A glance around the dim interior revealed three more similar pods, each housing an occupant of its own, one male, two females, still locked in the slumber of stasis. Around him, the interior lighting brightened, the ship seemingly aware and responding to his presence.

“Star date 16589. Sector 13, starchart 77042. Spiral galaxy 46229, system M9447, planet 3. Analysis complete. Class M planet. Nitrogen/oxygen atmosphere within acceptable parameters.”

He rose to his feet again, feeling the chill in the air replaced by a sudden blast of warm air, drying the last of the moisture from his body. Looking around, the cramped interior seemed vaguely familiar: an instrument panel for navigation, a bay with four EVR suits, four reclining seats, one for each member of his unit, with harnesses to hold them secure during planetfall.

He took a step forward, testing his long dormant muscles. EMRS – electrical motor response simulations – had kept his muscles from atrophying during his long sleep, however it didn’t prevent the stiffness and soreness caused by extended immobility. He let out an audible groan, a croak from his inactive vocal chords.

His lurching movements became more fluid as his muscles loosened, allowing him greater mobility. Surveying his surroundings, his attention was drawn to a small porthole, revealing the black expanse of space, and the vibrant blue oceans of the water planet below him. A vague memory of the world he came from flashed in his mind – red seas, desert plains – then dissipated quickly when the mechanical voice of the ship spoke again.

“Warning. Planetfall to commence in five minutes. Essential personnel report to assigned stations.”

The incessant blare of the klaxon drove him to respond quickly. Forgetting his sore muscles, and relying on instinct, he ran for the alcove housing the EVR suits. On the breast panel of each one was a name, two male, two female. Beside each suit was a locker, each with a corresponding name stenciled above the handle. He tore open the first one he reached; survival more important than the sanctity of personal belongings.

“Warning. Planetfall four minutes and counting.”

He pulled on a green jumpsuit made of sturdy micro fibers, woven to hold in body heat while at the same time allowing escape of unwanted sweat or other bodily secretions. He zipped up the front, in the back of his mind aware of the perfect fit, a second skin made specifically for him.

The sound of the engines kicked up a notch, another indicator of the ship preparing for planetfall. This was one of the most dangerous aspects of space travel – penetrating the planet’s atmosphere, where the friction could generate heat in excess of 2000 degrees, and the turbulence had been known to compromise structural integrity, resulting in a fireball hurtling through the atmosphere as the ship broke apart. He briefly thought about slipping into the EVR suit, but another warning from the ship’s computer sent him scurrying for the safety of the launch seats instead.

“Warning. Safety override malfunction. Automatic pilot disengaged. Planetfall in three minutes and counting.”

The vibration in the ship rose up through his bare feet as he raced across the command module. He dove into the pilot’s chair, instincts acquired over months and years of experience guiding his actions. He clawed at the safety harness, securing the straps across his chest while reading the curved instrument panel in front and above him.

His right hand reached out and tapped a series of flashing lights on the flight panel. If his navigator were awake, he’d refer to her to plot the course, but she wasn’t. He was going in blind, with a non-functioning auto pilot, and no knowledge of the terrain below. The ship had brought him out of stasis too late for the customary planet mapping necessary to select a proper landing site.

“Computer! Disengage engines! Stand down from planetfall!”

The computer’s disembodied voice answered without inflection, a mechanical drone with neither emotion nor sentience. “Warning. Abort command malfunction. Failsafe override disabled. Planetfall commencing in one minute. 59 – 58 – 57 – 56 –”

“Damnit!” he slammed the palm of his hand against the readout above his head. Despite his protestations, the numbers continued the visual countdown, as unconcerned as the computer’s mechanical voice.

“49 – 48 – 47 –”

“Computer, divert navigation controls to console 2. Re-route sensors to sections H21 through M15. Cut power aft of R34 –”

“41 – 40 – 39 –”

“Computer! Respond!”

“36 – 35 – 34 – Warning. Abort override off-line. Planetfall commencing in 30 seconds. 29 – 28 – 27 –”

His eyes fluttered closed as the reality of the situation sank in. His ship, the ship that had brought him safely across billions of miles of space, was going in hot, without navigational controls. He folded his arms across his chest, curling his fingers around the straps of his harness, holding on for dear life. Survival seemed unlikely.

The ship shuddered as it began its descent, engines at full power and unstoppable. The vibration rose in intensity; if he hadn’t been strapped in he would have been pitched to the floor, or worse, sent bouncing off the walls. He thought briefly of his companions, probably safer inside their protective pods than he was in the cabin, exposed to the environment. The heat in the module rose as the ship penetrated the outer layer of atmosphere, causing beads of perspiration to break out on his forehead.

The computer’s initial scan of the planet atmosphere indicated breathable air, but what about water, and food? Would the water be drinkable, or poisonous? Would there be food sources available, or was the planet barren? Of course, that would all be moot if he didn’t survive the crash landing.

The computers should have given him all the pertinent information he needed, but somewhere during the flight there’d been a malfunction, a gross breakdown in the mechanical components that controlled the ship’s functions. He’d probably never know the exact cause. According to his mental calculations, he only had about 5 more minutes to live.

The ship shook wildly, streaking through the layers of the outer atmosphere, plummeting toward the ground below. Through the thermosphere, the mesosphere, the stratosphere, hurtling into the troposphere like a ball of fire streaking across the sky.

Given more time, the memories suppressed during his long sleep might have resurfaced, revealing the true reason for his journey here.

Unfortunately, he was just about out of time.




tbc …



Note: I haven’t forgotten about Aftershock, the sequel to Aftermath and Afterburn. I’m working on it, but I wanted to post this story first.
Last edited by Breathless on Sat Jul 08, 2006 12:46 am, edited 28 times in total.
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In The Beginning, Part 2

Post by Breathless » Tue Oct 25, 2005 12:20 am

Author note: Thanks everyone for the warm welcome back.

Ellie, I’m glad you liked the sci-fi details.

Smac, you like my cliffhangers? Ha ha! Friends say I get an evil gleam in my eyes sometimes, and they can tell I’m plotting a nail bitter!

Evans3, you asked if I had a nice long relaxing time away from writing. The answer is no, because I never stop writing. Even when I’m not posting, I’m working on the next story. You just have to wait to see them!

behrlyliz, thanks for the welcome back.

Hi sylvia37, nice to see you poke your head in! I hope you enjoy this one. It’s a little different.

frenchkiss70, thanks for the welcome back! I hope I can keep the intensity up.

tequathisy, I have NO IDEA how to pronounce your name! I hope you enjoy the story.

Sandy, I’ve always viewed the pods as surrogate wombs, so for me, coming out of them is like a pseudo birth. I love the sci-fi aspect of them. Thanks for stopping by!

Scottie, so great to see your name pop up! Isn’t that banner just the greatest? Anniepoo is VERY talented. And your comment about Liz being the little cavewoman – well – this part is going to settle that question.

cherie!, how are you doing woman??! I’m counting down the weeks to Austin. Can’t wait to see you again!

Araxie HRH, you came out of lurkdom for me??! Ahhh, how wonderful! I hope you enjoy.

ebony, I’m glad you decided to venture in here, even though this type of fic isn’t your usual “cup of tea”. Hopefully I can keep it interesting for you.

Lindsay, is Tyler letting you sleep at night now? I miss chatting with you, but new moms need all the rest they can get. Hope to see you again one of these days.

Natz, I hope you enjoy.

Erin aka Roswell 10/2/00, I’ll try to check out your story when I get a free moment.

kittens, they do crash a lot of ships, don’t they? lol It must be their karma.

Raych, this is probably the only “challenge” I will ever do, but the premise was too good to ignore. I love the way each author can write the story of his or her own choosing, but they all have certain common threads. Thanks for stopping by.

LaShon, I see you are from Florida. I hope you are safe and sound, what with this latest hurricane sweeping through your area. Will those damn things ever stop?

nickimlow, the time period I chose definitely presents a writing challenge. I hope I do it justice.

BehrObsession, I’m glad you liked the intensity of the first part. I wanted to set a certain tone. Thanks for stopping by.

Hi RosDude, a fellow TAT writer! I loved the start of your fic, Malign. Aren’t these fun to write??! I’m looking forward to see how yours develops.

Luvya, glad to see you stop by. You’ll find out more about those other pods – eventually.

Roswelladdict, thanks for the welcome back!

Anais Nin, good to see you.

Doublestuf, thank you so much for your comments. I like how you said it feels “alive”. What a compliment!

Fred, hummm, what to say about you. I have to say it right, because, well, we all know – it’s all about you! haha My initial reaction when you told me about this challenge was “I don’t do challenges”, but I’m glad I changed my mind. I hope this story lives up to the premise you wanted.

And finally, BelevnDreamsToo. You said it all. Great feedback Fred! :lol: :wink: :D


Wow, that took forever to write, but I wanted to acknowledge each and every one of you who have taken the time to leave feedback. All of your comments are much appreciated.

A lot of people wondered how exactly I was going to present a story set in prehistoric times. The first part didn’t give you a very clear idea of that. This next part will. Keep in mind the names presented in this story will not necessarily be the traditional “Roswell” names, but I don’t think you’ll have any trouble figuring out who is who.

On with the story …


In The Beginning
Part 2



The hunting party moved slowly, stalking one of the big cats, the kind she’d been warned to stay away from. She wasn’t supposed to be here, hunting was for the men, but the recent attacks by a neighboring clan had decimated their numbers. Gender lines didn’t matter when your people were starving.

She motioned to the hunter on her right, signaling him to go around the flank. Big cats weren’t their standard food source, but they shared the same dietary staple: the grazing herds of gazelle that populated the plains. She hoped this cat would lead them to such a herd, but so far, into the third day of their hunt, they’d come up empty.

The cat stopped suddenly, its ears flattening out, its neck stretching forward, its tail swishing left and right. It hunkered down in the tall grass, muscles tense, senses on high alert.

She stretched up on bare feet; her soles toughened from years spent walking the plains and foothills of her home. The heat of the afternoon sun baked her skin, turning it nearly the same golden color as the animal skins covering her body. Stretching out her neck, much like the big cat they’d been stalking, she too, smelled the scent in the air. Turning her head slightly to the north, she saw them: a large herd of gazelle, grazing unaware. Her stomach growled; it’d been days since they’d had a decent meal, and food was in sight.

She motioned to her companions to stay low. To be seen now might mean days more without nourishment. They couldn’t afford to spook the herd. As tense as the big cat, they waited for it to make the first move.

A keening sound reached her ears; the cat’s excited growl rumbling from deep in its throat. She knew how it felt, to want something so badly she could literally taste it. The cat’s muscles bunched and quivered, waiting for the herd to get closer.

When it sprang, it did so in an amazing burst of speed. It raced like the wind, silent except for the whisper of the tall grass left quivering in its wake. It struck the heart of the herd, slashing with its massive claws, taking down one gazelle, and then another, before the herd even realized it was there. Chaos erupted, sparked by animal terror. The herd scattered in every direction, running for their lives.

This was what she’d been waiting for. While the cat attacked, the panicked flight of the herd made them vulnerable, which gave the hunters the advantage they needed. She raised her spear in the air and let out a cry; the hunt was on.

“Aye – aye – aye – aye –aye!”

Her companions rose out of the grass issuing war cries of their own, frightening the herd even more. They followed her lead; they’d grown up together and trusted her instincts, even if she was a female. The leader of their clan had been leery of her, her intelligence far exceeded his, which had led to confrontations. But he was dead now, killed in the latest attack by the neighboring clan.

He’d called her a devil after her birth, and at the time most of the clan agreed. She didn’t look the same as they did. Her brow was too smooth, and her chin too weak, a step up on the evolutionary ladder. Her father had been clan leader then, and his protection was the only reason why she survived to adulthood. He was dead now, too, killed in the great fire during her 10th cycle, when the plains had burned non-stop until the rains set in. By then, her superior intelligence, though a bane to those who still feared her, had been enough to spare her life. The new clan leader couldn’t very well put to death the clan member who had first showed them how to hunt with spears instead of rocks.

“Ohlo! Ohlo!” she hissed at the hunter on her right. A gazelle was headed in his direction, well within range of his spear. He drew back and hurled it, landing a glancing blow along the gazelle’s flank, not enough to wound it, but enough to make it change its direction. It headed right for the leader of their group.

She held her spear above her head, waiting as it neared, unconcerned for her own safety. It was another reason why she was revered: her unwavering dedication to her clan, despite how they had treated her over the years. The older menfolk had kept their distance from her, intimidated by her intelligence, but her peers had accepted her without question. They, too, were a part of the new breed, though the changes in their facial features weren’t as pronounced as hers.

Her hand tensed on the spear as the gazelle neared. Her clan needed this kill. She timed the space between her and the beast, calculating the distance in her head, raising the spear and throwing when her instincts commanded, landing a killing blow. The gazelle fell at her feet.

“AYEEE!” Alee cried out, seeing the prey fall. He’d always had faith in her. Since his earliest memories, she’d always known things the others didn’t. How to hunt. How to divert water to make the plants grow during the hot season. How to cure food to make it last longer.

“Ohlo, Alee!” she cried out, gesturing wildly. A gazelle was headed directly for him. He raised his spear, waiting as she had taught him. When the gazelle was within range, he drew back and threw, spearing the beast through the heart. It fell to the ground mortally wounded.

Alee jumped to his feet, ecstatic with twin kills. Two gazelles were enough to feed the clan for days. They would return to camp as heroes. When Kyree, the third member of the hunting party, landed another kill, it was beyond their wildest expectations. LeeLee would never be clan leader, she was female, and as such not deemed worthy, but if Kyree was ever chosen, he would claim her as his mate.

Later, as the sun lowered in the sky and stars began to appear, LeeLee supervised the skinning of their recent kills. The hides would be used for clothing, and the meat – what wasn’t used in the next day or two for nourishment would be dried for later consumption. When they arrived back at the village they would be greeted a warrior’s return, even if one of the members was female.

She settled in around the fire; the others were curing the meat, they didn’t need her now. She relaxed in the warmth of the flames, looking up at the points of light starting to appear in the sky. Sometimes, the way the lights grouped together reminded her of things. A deer with a horn coming out of its forehead, or a giant bear, standing on its hind legs and swiping at the sky with its massive paw.

As she watched, the moon appeared on the far horizon, painting the sky a deep orange. She cocked her head, puzzled, last night it had been no more than a sliver. It should be several more suns before the Night God’s face appeared again. She rose to her feet as it visibly drew closer, feeling the hair rise on the back of her neck, despite the soothing warmth of the nearby fire.

Kyree squatted on the ground, happily gnawing on a leg bone from their kill. His stomach was contentedly full, but he wasn’t willing to give up the bone until every piece of meat was licked clean. In the distance, beyond the glow of the fire, hyenas whined, drawn by the scent of cooking meat.

“Auk, auk!” he waved the bone threateningly toward the glowing eyes. He rose to his feet, lunging toward the hyenas, holding the bone menacing above his head, laughing when they ran away. With a full belly, he felt invincible.

He turned toward LeeLee, ready to boast about his fierceness, when he, too, saw the strange light in the sky. He raised his bone to protect her.

Alee saw it too. It burned across the sky, headed right toward them, filling the air with a deafening sound. He raised his arm, gesturing wildly. “Ahtra! Ahtra eeoh!”

Fire. Fire in the sky.

As the huge object zoomed overhead, the men crouched low, fearful of things unfamiliar. LeeLee stood her ground, watching it streak across the sky. As it passed, the turbulent air left in its wake whipped her hair around her face, and made the flames of the fire dance erratically. It raced toward the distant horizon, where the waters of the lake kissed the sun every morning. The ground trembled when it impacted, nearly knocking her off her feet.

Alee stood skittishly behind LeeLee. He was a brave hunter, but the Gods of the sky frightened him. Sometimes they’d fight, throwing bolts of fire at each other, and groaning loudly when they were hit. Sometimes the bolts would hit the ground and set the plains on fire.

LeeLee picked up a burning branch and took a step toward the east, where the sky now glowed orange. Alee grabbed her arm to hold her back.

“Doovo,” he shook his head. “Eeoh min.”

She tore her gaze way from the fire in the east to stare at her lifelong friend. She wasn’t afraid of danger, or of the night, but he was right. The hyenas whined in the distance, reminding her there would be other predators out there, more dangerous ones, drawn by the smell of their fresh kill. They couldn’t go as a group to investigate the strange light, if they left their kill unattended it would be gone within minutes, consumed by the hyenas and other creatures of the night, but to go alone, in the dark, would be foolish.

She put the branch back on the fire and settled down to wait. They’d sleep in shifts to protect the spoils of their hunt, and in the morning, when the sun god brightened the sky again, the men would return to camp victorious, while she embarked on a different hunt.

Her quest would take her to the east, to the bright light that had flashed across the sky. She had no idea what she would find there, but the desire for knowledge was too strong for her to deny.
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In The Beginning, Part 3

Post by Breathless » Sat Oct 29, 2005 11:29 pm

Author: Debbi, aka Breathless
Category: AU WA, M&L
Rating: Teen to Mature


A little feedback to the feedback…

kittens wrote:
Homo Sapiens didn't evolve from Neanderthals. And their main food source was fish.
Although Aliens mating with apes to create man was always my favorite theory.
I kind of like that theory too, but I wasn’t going to go there!!! lol If I portrayed Liz as a monkey, I’d NEVER hear the end of it!

As far as the Neanderthals, it wasn’t my intention to suggest that Liz was born of Neanderthals, though I can see how part 2 might have been misleading in that regard. I wanted to show that she, and her contemporaries, were becoming the new breed of man, with softer facial features, etc, but they are from the genus Homo Sapien. As you stated, Neanderthals are a different species. So, when I mention the enlarged brow ridge, or oversized teeth and jaw or her tribesmen, it’s in reference to early man, somewhere on the evolutionary ladder between Neanderthals and modern man.

kittens wrote:
Just one question about the chain of stories... Why is it that there is always a ship being sent to Earth? The theory of reincarnation, and soulmates doesn't mean that it happens the same way in every life. Cause the podsquad being dethroned and sent to Earth seems like a one lifetime thing, if it's reoccuring that's just wrong.
Rest assured, there won’t ALWAYS be “a ship sent to earth”. Some authors may chose to have that, others won’t. Some may have the podsquad dethroned, others might not mention that at all.

MiY, glad to see you made it over here. This isn’t Aftershock, but I hope you enjoy it anyway!

Blue Soul, if I ever need a publicist, I’m hiring YOU!! lol Your enthusiasm is remarkable.

To everyone else, thanks for the feedback. Your responses make all the time and effort put into writing these stories worthwhile.

Alrighty then, on with the story…


In The Beginning
Part 3



Pain.

Heat.

Awareness.

He clawed his way up from the darkness of unconsciousness, nearly succumbing to it again when he attempted to move, causing blinding pain to tear through his body. He gasped in agony, certain his left shoulder was broken, and maybe his arm, and that was just for starters. The pain in his chest suggested at least one broken rib, possibly – probably – more. His left leg felt wrong, twisted at an awkward angle. He hoped it, too, wasn’t broken. If he couldn’t walk, he couldn’t maneuver around the command module, and with the amount of water pouring in through the breeched hull, that could seal his fate.

Sweeping his gaze over the cabin, he used his trained eyes to assess the damage. The control panel was a twisted mess, with sparks flying from the fried components. The display monitors were shattered, the computer silent. This bird would never fly again.

Despite the dire state of his ship, it was the world outside he was most concerned with at the moment. The brief glimpse he’d had of the planet from space showed a world predominately covered with oceans. If he was in the middle on one of those, surviving the crash might just be delaying the inevitable, especially since his ship appeared to be sinking.

He turned his head to look behind him, groaning again as a sharp pain nearly overwhelmed him. Blood gushed from a deep scalp wound, running down his face and into his eyes. He mentally added a concussion to his list of injuries, or maybe even a cracked skull. His odds were looking worse by the minute.

The pods of his shipmates appeared intact, not that he was in a position to render any assistance if they weren’t. With an effort that made beads of sweat mingle with the blood on his forehead, he lifted his hand and pressed the controls to bring his podmates out of stasis, but of course it didn’t work. He’d have to do it manually.

He unfastened his safety harness, hissing as the movement caused pain to sweep like fire through his body. He rolled out of the seat, collapsing to the deck when he tried to put his weight on his injured leg. The pain in his chest intensified, along with an increased inability to breathe.

He unzipped the front of his jumpsuit, careful not to jar his broken shoulder. His chest was a mass of dark purple bruises; he must have been unconscious for quite some time, possibly hours. Gathering his reserves, he placed his palm flat against his chest, using every ounce of energy to heal his internal injuries. His palm glowed as bones knitted together, a ruptured spleen repaired itself, a collapsed lung re-inflated. The amount of energy needed to repair his numerous internal injuries drained what little reserves he had left. His vision darkened, on the verge of blacking out again.

An explosion from somewhere at the back of the ship rocked the vessel, pitching him face down onto the deck. Black smoke entered the module, burning his eyes and choking him. He desperately clawed his way toward the breech in the hull, hoping the air outside wasn’t as toxic as the air inside his doomed ship.

A second explosion tore a hole through an aft bulkhead, nearly splitting the ship in two. The last thing he was aware of was a structural beam detaching from the ceiling, falling directly toward his head. He raised his arm in a futile attempt at protection, and then the world went dark again.

* * * * *

Pain.

Dark.

Wetness.

He floated on the surface of a body of water, clinging to an unidentifiable flotation device. A cushion from one of the seats? A pocket of insulation from one of the bulkheads? Blackened with soot, he couldn’t be sure.

Waves lapped at his face, temporarily washing the blood away from his eyes, only to be replaced by more. He lifted his hand to his forehead, feeling a deep gash along his hairline. He should try to heal it, but healing took energy, and that was something he was fresh out of. An explosion sounded behind him, peppering the water around him with shards of metal. He lifted his head just in time to see the burning hulk of his ship sink below the surface.

A part of him knew there was something else plummeting to the bottom of the sea inside that ship, but for the life of him he couldn’t remember what. To make matters worse, he couldn’t seem to remember anything. His name. This place. All of it a blank. He knew that should disturb him, but the effort to think was too draining. He closed his eyes, returning to the oblivion of unconsciousness.

* * * * *

Pain.

Cold.

Motion.

He drifted on the waves, shivering from cold and shock, barely cognizant of his surroundings. The sun broke above the eastern horizon, brightening the sky and warming the air. In the distance a land mass wavered in and out of his vision.

Trees grew close to the shore, lush and green, offering shade and safety, if he could just get there. He kicked at the water with his good leg; he hadn’t come this far just to drown in an unnamed sea. The waves helped to propel him, shortening the distance, though the effort exhausted him. Minutes later – or was it hours? – his crippled body crawled from the water, collapsing face down into the sand.

He lay there unmoving as the sun rose in the sky, with the waves gently lapping at his sides. At some point he became aware of movement in the trees, an animal perhaps, watching him and assessing his weakness. He tried to pull himself up, but the pain in his head made the world spin. He fell face down in the sand again, loosing his battle to remain conscious.

* * * * *

Pain.

Exhaustion.

Disorientation.

His fevered mind drifted in and out of awareness. The hours in the water and the injuries sustained in the crash had taken their toll. Dreams flittered in and out: a face, framed by dark hair, with curious eyes. A finger poked at his shoulder, making him groan in pain again.

He heard a frightened gasp not his own, then the scurrying sound of something fleeing back into the trees. He drifted in a sea of pain, but no longer fearful of attack in his vulnerable position. The brief look he’d had into those dark eyes had revealed intelligence, and curiosity, but no threat. He closed his eyes, the effort to keep them open too taxing in his current state.

He felt something or someone turned him over onto his back, while a soft voice murmured nonsensical words he couldn’t understand. Small hands touched his face, his chin, his throat, as if assessing the extent of his injuries. She straightened out his legs, then circled around to his head, slipping her hands underneath him.

He cried out in agony when she attempted to move him up and out of the water. He drifted in a semi-conscious state, aware of her running away again, and then slowly inching closer when his cries quieted. He wanted to talk to her, to tell her he understood what she was trying to do, and was grateful to her for it, but he couldn’t get more than a garbled groan out of his throat.

When she was once more within a few feet of him, she gestured toward the water, then up towards the trees. “Nee – oh – nah, nee – oh – noh.” When he failed to respond, she poked at his cheek, repeating the gesture. “Nee – oh – nah. Nee – oh – noh. Ahtra. Deyoo. Ehtra.”

The words held no meaning for him, but the inflection was understandable. She wanted to get him up away from the water, presumably to where it would be safer. He latched onto the last word she said, repeating it to show he understood.

“Ehtra.”

Her eyes widened with child-like excitement. “Ehtra!” she nodded enthusiastically. “Ahtra. Deyoo.”

“Dey –” he started to nod, but the movement caused a wave of dizziness to assail him. He gasped as a sudden stab of pain stole his breath away.

She jumped back, then timidly inched forward again, curiosity winning out over fear. When he re-opened his eyes she was hovering over him, staring down at his face.

Dirt smudged her cheeks, her long hair hung down in a tangled mess, with blades of grass and twigs caught in it. She wore the hide of an animal, though it revealed enough to determine her genus. Hominid, bipedal, with a rudimentary language, and basic motor development. That she was female was quite obvious.

“Ehtra,” she said again, pointing up toward the trees.

“Ehtra,” he agreed. In the condition he was in, laying out here in the sun would likely mean his death. The trees offered shelter, where he could recover from his wounds. That is, if he didn’t die of infection. He gritted his teeth as she moved around to his head again, slipping her hands under his shoulders.

The journey to the trees was slow and laborious; he was twice her size, and nearly double her weight. He didn’t feel a thing, though. He’d passed out within the first 30 seconds.



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In The Beginning, Part 4

Post by Breathless » Sun Nov 06, 2005 7:18 pm

A couple of comments before the next part…

Galliard, you asked if I had read G. Bear's Darwin's Radio. The answer is no, but it sounds interesting!

Leigh, you commented on James Mitchner's book Hawaii. I haven’t read that book either! They way you described it, I should add it to my list of books to read.

dreamerbabylioness, I’m glad you’re here, reading this as I post it. As for the fate of the other podsters, only time will tell.

dreamer destiny, you also mentioned this is your first time reading as I post. Welcome. Hope I don’t drive you too crazy. Watch out for those cliffhangers. Literally.

sylvia37, it seems like forever since we’ve talked! We’ll have to meet in chat again soon.

cherie, my dear friend. Take care of yourself.

Fred, your son came home with a hicky??? Just wait, girl, just wait! This is only the beginning! A word of advice: Knock on doors before entering. It’ll save a lot of embarrassment and mortification!

Thanks to everyone who left comments. Now on with the story…




In The Beginning
Part 4



She dropped another log on the fire, it was important to keep the stranger warm during the night, and to keep the night creatures away. The smell of wounded prey brought out the predators, forcing her to be diligent both day and night; she wouldn’t leave him until he was well enough to protect himself.

A moan came again from the other side of the fire, where the stranger slept on a bed of grasses. He’d been running a fever for three suns now, burning up with sickness. She rose to her feet and skirted around the fire to check on him again.

She’d never seen anyone like him before. Unlike the men of her tribe, his hair was very short, less than the width of one of her fingernails, both on his head and now on his cheeks. The hair had just started to grow there, reminding her of the boys in her clan, who remained smooth cheeked until they changed into men. But the stranger wasn’t a boy; his body was too developed for that.

She checked the poultice at the crown of his head, near his hairline. The wound there was deep, down to the bone, and had bled for some time. She’d done the best she could to close it, using a bone sharpened to a fine point which she carried with her in her hunting pack, and a few strands of her own hair, woven together to add strength. The wound wouldn’t be pretty when it healed, but she’d done the best she could. She’d also bound his left arm to his chest to keep it immobile, though she doubted he’d ever be able to use it again. A break that bad usually never healed right.

She wondered where he came from, and how he came to be in the water. Had he flown in on the ball of fire that lit the sky that night? Was he a god, disguised as a man?

“Divert power to console 2!”

She jumped back, startled by his sudden outburst. His words were unfamiliar, spoken in a tongue she’d never heard. He thrashed his head back and forth, dislodging the poultice.

“Aloo, aloo,” she shoothed, overcoming her anxiety. He quieted as her hand touched his face, as if that simple contact was all he needed to calm his fevered dreams.

“Abort … planet … fall,” he murmured. “Abort …”

“Aloo anah,” she stroked his cheek.

His eyes briefly opened, tawny gold like the big cats that stalked the plains. He lifted his hand to touch her arm, a gentle touch to match the sentiment in his eyes.

“Thank you,” he whispered, before closing his eyes and drifting into a quieter sleep.

She folded his arm over his bare chest, letting her hand linger on his. His long fingers felt soft, not rough like the men of her clan, the fingernails short and smooth. She leaned close to sniff at him again; he looked like a man, and smelled like a man, though his scent wasn’t as pungent, and his body lacked the quantity of body hair the men in her clan possessed.

She lowered the hide that she’d used to cover him, exposing the smooth expanse of his chest. Purple bruises darkened his left shoulder, and his left hip, all the way down to his knee. She didn’t think the leg was broken, but she couldn’t be sure. The hip joint felt wrong, like it wasn’t fitting together the way it should. There was nothing she could do about that, though. His leg would either work, or it wouldn’t.

She tucked the hide securely around him, covering his naked skin so he wouldn’t get chilled. She retrieved a bladder of water next, made from the intestines of a gazelle, and dribbled a small amount onto her hand. She wet his parched lips first, then used the rest to cleanse the wound at the top of his forehead. As she did so, she let her fingers linger on his smooth brow, so different from her tribesmen. The ridge bone wasn’t nearly as prominent, nor were his teeth as pronounced, or his jaw as large.

She touched her own face, not so dissimilar from his. Her brow ridge was less defined than those of her tribe, her jaw weaker, delicate compared to the others. She wondered what the women of his tribe were like, was there one he found attractive? A mate he’d claimed for his own?

“Auk,” she scolded herself for thinking such thoughts. She returned to the fire, determined to put it out of her mind; he was damaged; probably wouldn’t live through the next cycle of the sun.

But she couldn’t help how her fingers were drawn to the spot on her arm where he’d touched her a moment ago, or forget the feeling that swept over her when his golden eyes looked up into her own.

* * * * *

His fever broke on the fourth day. His eyes fluttered open just as the sun rose above a wide expanse of water, an inland sea perhaps, or a lake, stretching as far as the eye could see. A vague memory flickered in his mind, of floating on that sea, drifting toward land. A hint of something else flitted at the back of his mind, something about the water, but he couldn’t grasp it. He let it float away.

He tried to lift his head, but the dull ache he’d awaken with intensified, making him think twice about any sudden movements. He turned his mind inward, assessing his physical condition; obviously he’d suffered some kind of trauma, though from what, he couldn’t be sure. Head wound, possibly with concussion. Probable broken bones. He hurt everywhere, but at least he was alive.

He attempted to lift his left hand to check the cause of the throbbing ache at the crown of his head, but the sharp pain in his arm and shoulder had him quickly reassessing the wisdom of that action. He used his right hand instead.

He gingerly touched his forehead, feeling a massive lump and the edges of a wound easily four inches long. Someone had attempted to stitch it closed, but with what, he couldn’t imagine. Accustomed to assessing trauma, he rated it a 5. Troublesome, and incredibly painful, but not life threatening. He moved on.

Next he focused on his left shoulder and arm. He felt along his shoulder blade, definitely a broken clavicle. The arm was broken too, in at least three places. Due to the extent of the muscular damage, he supposed he was lucky he still had the arm. It’d nearly been twisted off.

Touching his chest, this was apparently where he’d sustained the most damage. If he hadn’t healed the chest trauma right away, he definitely wouldn’t have survived the crash.

Crash? What crash? How did he know there was a crash, when he couldn’t remember one?

By product of the concussion, he decided. Head trauma could affect short term memory. It would come back to him eventually. Or not. Maybe he was better off not reliving it.

He lowered his hand to his pelvis. Obviously, his left side had taken the brunt of his injuries. His right hip felt fine; his left hip was definitely dislocated. Not life-threatening under normal circumstances, but here, that was another matter. If he couldn’t walk, hell – if he couldn’t move – he was in deep trouble. The injury itself rated a 4. The circumstances made it an 8. There was no question what needed his attention first.

With his assessment complete – his legs and feet seemed fine – bruised, but fine – he decided to start with the dislocated hip. He closed his eyes and gathered his energies together, as limited as they were. He’d expended most of his reserves with the first healing, and in his weakened state, with a fever raging through him, there’d been no opportunity to adequately replenish his healing powers.

His hand glowed weakly against his hip, doing the best he could with his limited ability. After a minute, his hand fell away, exhausted by the effort. When was the last time he’d eaten? Days? Weeks? He needed food badly to rebuild his reserves.

“Aloo. Mata. Deyoo. Deyoo.”

The memory washed over him quickly. Dark hair. Dark eyes. Gentle hands. She tried to get him to eat, but he couldn’t keep anything down.

He lifted his head from the pallet trying to find her, hissing when a stabbing pain sliced through his damaged shoulder. The fire was banked low, but recently tended, with a stack of firewood nearby for later use. An animal hide lay on the ground beside it, her bed perhaps? She must still be close.

He rose up onto his right elbow, doing his best to keep his damaged left arm immobile against his chest. A few feet away he saw his flight suit folded neatly on the ground. She must have taken it off him, because he certainly hadn’t been in any condition to do it on his own.

Nearby, within reaching distance, lay what looked like the guts of an animal. Another memory flashed over him, of the girl holding his head, dribbling water into his mouth.

“Aloo. Aloo.”

He reached for the thing, feeling it goosh as he touched it. He recoiled at the feel of it, but his parched throat took precedent over his disgust. He picked the bag up and sniffed it, then awkwardly untied the rawhide strip from one end to unseal it. He sniffed at the liquid inside, finding nothing offensive in the odor. He dipped his finger inside and then tasted it, relieved that it seemed like normal water, albeit with a slightly elevated mineral count. He lifted the bag and poured a generous amount into his mouth.

A sudden noise had him sit upright on high alert. He was highly aware of how vulnerable he was, naked, with no weaponry of any sort, and no powers to defend himself. What kind of animals roamed this world? What kind of danger? The noise came again, making him snap his head toward the water, but what he saw there wasn’t quite what he expected.

Instead of a fierce animal stalking him for its next meal, it was the girl, in the lake, up to her waist in the water. His mouth fell open at the sight.

Morning light sparkled on the water, and on her wet skin. Her hair was pushed back from her face, hanging more than half way down her back, no longer matted, or tangled with grass and twigs. Her skin looked clean, her breasts high, her nipples upturned, he tried to look away but he couldn’t.

She splashed her hands in the water, then pulled them out and studied them. Apparently unsatisfied, she dipped something in the water – A hide? A piece of fur? – and scrubbed at her fingernails, first on one hand, and then on the other. When she was finished she dipped down, disappearing below the surface of the water.

He stretched higher trying to see where she went. He didn’t want anything to happen to her; who knew what kind of creatures lived in the sea? Poisonous snakes? Eels? Man eating monsters?

She broke the surface just a few feet from the shore, rising up out of the water like a goddess, or a sea nymph, starkly nude except for the beads of moisture running in rivulets down her body. He looked away quickly, but not before the sight was burned into his memory.

Unable to keep his eyes averted, he darted glances in her direction as she dressed in fresh skins, this one in white and black stripes. When she was finished, she gathered up her spear, a fur pouch, and to his surprise, what looked like a large fish. He lay back down as she turned away from the lake and headed up the shore back toward the camp.

He heard the rustling of her passage through the grass as she neared. He craned his neck, watching as she tore a couple of wide blade fronds from a plant, and then a minute later, with the fish wrapped inside the fronds, she set the package in the coals of the fire.

The sight of food made his mouth water; he’d never been so hungry in his life.

“Ahlo?”

He looked up to see her staring at him. She cocked her head, probably surprised to see him so alert.

“Vootu anah?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

She came around to his side and knelt down, studying his face for a moment, before turning her hand over and touching his cheek and forehead with the backs of her fingers.

“Ahtra noh.”

“Ahtra?” He’d heard her say that word before, but everything was hazy.

She pressed her thumb against his forehead making a sizzling sound with her mouth. She pointed at the fire, then at his forehead again. “Ahtra.”

A light went off inside his head as he put it all together. Fire, hot, fever. “No. No fever. The fever’s gone.”

“Ahtra noh.”

“Right, that’s right. Ahtra noh.”

She looked to the left and the right, searching for something. “Ah,” she muttered when she saw it, lifting the bladder of water up and offering it. “Veyah?”

“Water? Yes, please,” he nodded. “Veyah. Water.”

“Wah,” she tried.

Her attempt to mimic him took him by surprise. Before, he thought he’d seen intelligence in her eyes. Now he knew it wasn’t just a fevered dream.

“Water,” he encouraged.

“Wah – tah.”

“Yes,” he smiled, feeling an inordinate sense of accomplishment. He wasn’t sure why her quick grasp of language affected him so, but it did. Maybe because at the moment he was so dependent on her. What other reason could there be?

“Wahtah,” she sat back on her heels, apparently as pleased with their successful communication as he was. At least, that’s what her radiant smile suggested.

She filled her cupped hand with water and brought it to his lips. He drank deeply, then lay back down on the pallet of grass, studying her as she tended to the wound on his forehead. He couldn’t help wincing when she touched it.

“Ahbey?” she asked, knitting her eyebrows together.

“It hurts like a muthafu –” he slammed his mouth closed. With her mimicry skills, that wasn’t a word he wanted to teach her. “Yes, it hurts.”

“Aloo,” she soothed. “Nee awoo.”

He had no idea what that meant, but that was okay. He liked the sound of her voice. Just then, his stomach decided to rumble. He wasn’t sure if it was from hunger, or something else.

“Essah deyoo?”

“Deyoo?”

She raised her fingers to her mouth in a gesture that was familiar no matter what language you spoke. “Nee oh nah ahdeeyo farrahee.”

“Fara what?” he shook his head. She’d spoken too fast; he didn’t catch a word of what she said.

“Nee oh nah,” she pointed at the lake, then rubbed her hand across her stomach in an exaggerated gesture, saying “Ahdeeyo.” She finished by pointing at the frond wrapped fish in the fire. “Farrahee.”

He repeated it in his mind, trying to put it all together. Ahdeeyo – hungry. Farrahee – fish. “Hungry,” he nodded, patting his stomach. “Hungry for fish.”

“Hun gree fee ish,” she repeated.

“Close enough,” he grinned.

He wasn’t sure what he was doing here, or where he was from, or what had caused the ‘crash’ he couldn’t quite seem to remember. But despite the broken bones, and dislocated hip, and the four inch gash across his forehead, he couldn’t think of anyone he’d rather be with right now than the dark haired girl smiling down at him.



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In The Beginning, Part 5

Post by Breathless » Sun Nov 13, 2005 5:20 pm

Thanks to everyone for the marvelous feedback. I wanted to post this part on Friday night, but it didn’t work out that way. Then I was gone for the weekend. So, since someone seems a little anxious ( *wink* Michelle *wink* ) on with the story…


In The Beginning
Part 5



Fish.

Farrahee.

No matter what you called it, it still tasted just as sweet. As he licked the bones clean, he thought fish might be THE most WONDERFUL food ever created.

“Hun gree?”

He looked up to see her offering him the tail section of the fish, and it suddenly dawned on him she hadn’t eaten a thing yet. As he’d pigged out, stuffing handfuls of the succulent meal into his mouth, she had sat back and waited, making sure he got his fill first.

“No, eat,” he motioned to her. “Hungry, you, eat.”

She latched onto the one word that was familiar, holding the fish out for him. “Hun gree.”

“No,” he held his hands up to ward it off. “You,” he pointed at her, and then put his fingers against his lips. “Eat.”

She pointed at herself, saying, “Eat?”

“Yes,” he nodded, pointing at her again. “You. Hungry. Eat fish. Farrahee.”

He watched her settle down next to the fire, picking off chunks of the fish and putting it in her mouth, finally convinced it was her turn to eat now. He wondered if that was the custom here, that the men ate first, and the women and children consumed whatever was left over.

She picked at the fish, not famished like he was, preferring to study the stranger. He seemed so different from the men of her tribe. Aukna, the old tribal leader, would never let her eat until he had had his fill, even though it was she who led the hunting party. It was the way of the world, something she had learned from birth.

When she was finished with the fish she picked at the bones, testing the strength and sharpness. When she found one she felt was suitable, she licked it clean and stored it in her hunting pouch, then tossed the rest into the fire.

“Thank you,” he said, patting his stomach to show her how much he enjoyed the meal. “Good.”

“Goohd,” she mimicked. She cocked her head to the side, something he’d come to realize meant she was puzzling over something, but it was the next words out of her mouth that left him puzzled.

“Och, LeeLee,” she patted her chest, then pointed at him. It took him a moment to realize what she meant.

“Me? You want to know my name?”

“Och, LeeLee,” she repeated, pointing at herself, and then at him. “Vootu?”

The gesture was easy to interpret; she was telling him her name, and asking his in return. The problem was, he didn’t know his name. For the life of him, he couldn’t remember. It was right there, on the tip of his tongue, but the harder he tried to grab it, the more fleeting it became. Zah something? Zir? No matter how hard he tried, it just wouldn’t come to him.

He supposed it had to do with his head injury, and the concussion he’d suffered. Some things he just knew by instinct, like how to heal, while other things, like his name, and his reason for being here, were a total mystery to him. He assumed as the trauma to his body healed, his memories would return, but for now, he needed something to go by, and Vootu didn’t sound right.

He glanced over at his flight suit, still folded neatly on the ground. There’d been a name patch on the left chest – he remembered that much at least – but during the crash it’d been torn off. On the right side was a three letter acronym, something his scrambled mind thought had to do with rank, which was good enough for him now. He turned to LeeLee and said, “Max. My name is Max.”

“Mah-ex,” she tested the name on her tongue.

“Max,” he repeated.

“Mahx.”

“Close enough,” he smiled, which he was surprised to see made her blush. She looked down, hiding her face behind her long hair. He wasn’t sure why, but inside a sense of protectiveness swept over him, which didn’t make much sense considering she was the one protecting him right now. She obviously knew the lay of the land, and the dangers out there, while he didn’t have a clue. Wanting to keep their conversation going, he said, “Farrahee good.”

“Ahtu?” she grabbed her spear and rose to her feet. “Ahtu farrahee?”

“What? No! Wait!” he called out as she ran toward the water. He attempted to stand up, hampered by the lingering pain from his injuries. He might have fixed the hip dislocation, but he hadn’t had enough energy to heal the strained and torn muscles, not to mention the still broken bones in his shoulder and arm. “LeeLee!”

She stopped in her tracks, looking at the water, and then back at him. “Hun gree,” she shook her spear so he would understand. “Feesh.”

He looked around, trying to find a way to convince her he didn’t want anymore fish right now. Finally, unable to think of anything else, he lowered the hide blanket he had wrapped around him, far enough to expose his stomach. He pushed it out as far as he could and gave it a pat.

“I’m full, see? Full.”

When she just stared at him, he puffed out his cheeks and patted his stomach again. “Full. No hungry.”

She stared at his face, then his stomach, then his face again, with the expression in her eyes softening, sparkling, a look that transformed her features. She lifted her hand to her mouth to stifle a laugh.

Heat rush into his puffed out cheeks.

“Hun gree, noh?” she asked, trying to hold in the snicker, but she couldn’t. She bent over laughing.

“That’s right,” he repositioned the blanket to cover his stomach and chest. “Hun gree, no.”

Still laughing, she puffed out her own stomach and turned in a circle, in some kind of primitive dance, issuing a sing-song chant he couldn’t understand. The flush in his cheeks spread throughout his body.

She stopped suddenly, the song dying on her lips as she cocked her head and studied him again. He swallowed hard as she moved slowly – cautiously – in his direction, hunching slightly as she neared. Her hand tentatively reached out and tugged at his blanket.

“Anah?”

“What? Wait!” he gripped the hide, trying to keep it in place.

“Ahbey anoh?” she pulled at the blanket, lifting it up to expose his leg. “Tahee anah?”

“What are you doing?” Max clutched the hide tightly, but she was strong, and his damaged arm and shoulder were basically useless. She pulled at the hide until his left hip and leg were exposed, while he did his best to keep the rest of himself covered.

“Aloo,” she gingerly touched his hip. When he didn’t wince or cry out in pain she pressed her palm flat against his skin and rubbed up and down.

“Um,” he swallowed. “You probably should stop doing that.”

He stood perfectly still while she patted his bare hip, obviously surprised at the change, and why shouldn’t she be? She’d seen the condition of it before his weak attempt to heal it. The leg was still dark purple with bruises, but the hip joint was back in place, not at an awkward angle like during his fever. She reached for his bad arm.

“No, no,” he pulled his arm back, winching with pain at the movement.

“Ahbey?” she asked, with obvious concern in her eyes. When he just stared at her and didn’t respond, she patted his hip, saying, “Ahbey anoh,” then pointed at his arm and asked, “Ahbey?”

“Right,” he nodded. “That’s right.” He touched his hip, saying, “No pain. Ahbey anoh,” then pointed at his left arm. “Pain. Lots of pain. Chew your arm off kind of pain. I deadened some of the nerves so it won’t hurt so bad, until I can regain enough power to heal it properly – and you have no idea what I’m talking about.”

“Ah-boot?” she mimicked his last word.

Staring at her, he couldn’t help but smile. Her manner, her dress, her weaponry, all of it suggested a primitive society, but her mind seemed quick, even eager for knowledge. At the rate she was going, by the end of the week, she’d probably be able to speak his language better than he could.



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In The Beginning, Part 6

Post by Breathless » Sun Nov 20, 2005 3:38 am

Author Note: Several of you commented on the last chapter being too short, and this is true. Many of the chapters in this story are relatively short, and because of that I had originally intended to post this story twice a week, but posting that often just didn’t work out. Maybe as the story progresses I can post more often, but not right now. Too much going on.

Zanity, you asked if I am making up LeeLee’s language as I go along, or if it is code or an actual language. The answer is: I’m making it up! The word Ahtra (fire) comes from a movie made back in the 1980’s or so, called Quest for Fire. I’m not sure if that’s how it was spelled or not – I’ve never read the script – and I haven’t seen the movie in a long time so the word might not be exactly that – Ah-tra – but that’s how I remember it. For good or bad, the rest of the words are all made up in my head.

Michelle, you asked:
Want to make sure I'm on the wavelength... LeeLee was laughing because... she was checking out that Max was a guy? He said something that made her laugh because it was ... I thought when he pushed out his stomach, it was as if he were pregnant and that made her laugh?”
No, LeeLee wasn’t laughing because she was checking out Max was a guy. She was laughing at how he looked sticking his stomach to show her he was full (not pregnant), and he looked funny to her. So she was teasing him a little.

Thanks for all the feedback. On with the story…



In The Beginning
Part 6



On the fifth day, Max woke just as the sun began to brighten the eastern sky. A quick look across the banked fire showed LeeLee sleeping peacefully, with her hand tucked under her cheek, cushioning it from the hard ground. In the soft glow of the orange coals she looked peaceful, serene even, like a child without a care in the world. He knew her life had to be hard, living day to day, constantly hunting for her next meal, but she seemed suited to it. He’d never met anyone more self possessed, or more confident.

He wasn’t sure how he knew that, his memory still hadn’t returned, but he knew in his core that this was different. She was different. There was something about her, but he didn’t want to think about that right now, or what it might mean. He had enough on his plate just trying to recover from his injuries.

As the sun inched above the horizon in the east, an uncomfortable feeling in his bladder demanded his attention. With great effort he turned over and pushed up to his feet, wincing as he put his full weight on his damaged leg. He’d healed the hip joint the day before, but he hadn’t had enough energy left to repair the surrounding muscle and ligament damage. But that would have to wait. The broken bones in his shoulder and arm demanded his attention first.

He faced the lake, with the fire – and LeeLee – behind him. He inched the hide off his left shoulder; careful so she couldn’t see what he was doing if she woke without his knowledge. Despite how quickly she seemed to grasp things, he doubted she was ready for a lesson in healing powers.

He placed his right hand against his shoulder first, knitting the bones of his clavicle together as best he could before moving down the arm. He had to settle for small fixes – his power was limited, and the trauma was extensive. It quickly sapped his strength. He bit back a gasp as he expended his power and the glow in his hand faded. At this rate, he estimated three, maybe four more days before his power returned to full strength. His recovery would be slow, but he’d take that over being dead any day.

He limped slowly toward the trees, wanting to put some distance between himself and the girl before he relieved himself. He’d only gone a few painful steps when she suddenly appeared at his side.

“Mahx,” she slipped her arm around his waist. “Unoh ahn?”

“Just over there,” Max answered, pointing at the trees. It didn’t register that she’d asked the question in her language, and he’d answered in his. It just felt right.

“I can do it myself,” he protested, but she insisted on helping him across the uneven terrain. Though he hated to admit it, walking was difficult. It made him feel weak, but he wasn’t too proud to accept her assistance. He slid his good arm around her shoulders, letting her help support his weight.

When they reached the trees, he stopped. “I can handle everything from here.”

She cocked her head to the left; of course she didn’t understand.

“Um,” he tried again. “I hafta, you know, take care of business.”

“Beez niss?”

“You know,” he waved his hand around. “Business.”

She shook her head, obviously not comprehending. This, he mused, was more difficult to explain than fish. He decided the best way to deal with it was to turn her around and push her back toward the campfire.

“Go back to camp,” he waved her away. “I’ll be done in a minute.”

He thought her expression looked a little unsure, or even hurt, until a light clicked in her eyes and her eyebrows arched. She looked at the trees, then at the area of his crotch, then up to his face.

“Aloo,” she stepped forward, reaching for the hide blanket, like she was going to help him.

“No – no – no – no,” he turned her around again and pushed her a little harder. “This is a one man job.”

“Ja bah?”

“That’s right,” he urged her down the slope. “Business. Job. Same thing. I’ve gotta pee, so you have to leave.”

“Pee,” she mumbled on her way back to camp, darting looks at him over her shoulder. “Ja bah. Beez niss.”

“Well that went well,” Max chuckled. He turned his back to her, lifting the hide blanket to aim at the base of a tree. When he was finished, he shuffled back toward the campfire, but when he got there she was nowhere in sight.

“LeeLee?” he looked around for her. “I didn’t mean for you to leave leave. Where’d you go?”

When she didn’t answer, he looked around on the ground, noticing her fur pouch, the one she usually carried with her whenever she left the camp. He stooped over to look inside, wincing as the dull ache in his head intensified, reminding him he was still far from well. Inside the pouch he noticed an assortment of primitive looking tools. A shard of lava glass, curved to fit in her small hand, with one sharp edge – probably good for skinning the hide off animals. A collection of bones, in different sizes, some long and thin, others short and thicker. He touched one and got a flash: LeeLee, deep in concentration, stitching closed the wound on his head.

He looked up again trying to find her, but not overly concerned. He didn’t have the sense that she was going to abandon him, quite the contrary, she’d put more wood on the fire and the bag of water had been replenished. Her spear was gone, which meant she was probably off hunting for their morning meal.

He was just about to set the pouch down when he noticed something shiny – metal – oddly out of place. He reached inside and pulled out a chain, with a flat rectangle plate attached at the end. An identification tag, which he instinctually knew was his. He wondered if she’d found it, or taken it off his neck when she undressed him.

He debated about putting it back on, but in the end decided not to. He stuffed it back inside the pouch and put it down; she probably liked the shiny metal, and he didn’t need it anymore. Wherever he came from, he doubted he’d be going back there again.

Exhausted by his trek to the trees and back, he returned to his pallet of grass and lay down. Within seconds he was sound asleep.

* * * * *

LeeLee returned to camp carrying her spear in one hand and a furry little animal in the other. It didn’t try to squirm or escape; she’d aimed well and thrown true, killing it with just one toss of her spear. When she arrived at the fire she checked on the stranger first, then settled down across from him to skin their morning meal.

She worked quickly, removing its hide and setting it aside for later curing. Then she gutted it, and staked it, and put it over the fire to cook. The elders told of the old days, many seasons ago, when there was no fire, and the tribe ate their kill raw. They didn’t do that anymore, though. They were civilized now.

She rose to her feet and trekked down to the water’s edge, washing the animal’s blood from her cutting stone and then her hands. She squatted with her feet in the water, looking down at her image staring back up at her.

“Beez niss,” she said to her reflection. “Ja bah. Mahx.”

She knew that wasn’t quite right, so she kept at it.

“Beesniss. Jabah. Mahx. Bisniss. Jaab. Max. Bisness. Job. Max.”

She smiled at her image and slapped the water in obvious pleasure, then ran back up to the camp to ask if she’d gotten it right.

“Max! Bisness! Job!”

She clamped her hand over her mouth when she saw him lying on his back, eyes closed, and she realized he was sleeping. She didn’t want to wake him; he needed to rest as much as possible to recover from his injuries. She knelt down beside him, touching his forehead gently to see if the fever had returned, which thank the sky gods it hadn’t. She tucked the hide around him to keep him warm.

He murmured in his sleep and reached for her, sighing in the midst of a dream, or a memory. “Stay…”

“Stay,” she smiled down at him. She didn’t know what this new word meant, but the inflection was clear. She settled down beside him, watching him as he slept, holding his hand near her heart.



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In The Beginning, Part 7

Post by Breathless » Sun Nov 27, 2005 8:48 pm

In The Beginning
Part 7



On the seventh day, the sun rose in the east painting the sky in shades of red and pink. He awoke to find her gone again, but that was something he was getting used to. She’d leave camp around the same time everyday, hunting for their day’s food, bringing back something different every time. So far, his system had tolerated the food well, and he’d noticed a marked improvement in his condition.

He drew the hide blanket aside and did a self assessment. His broken bones were mending nicely and he’d regained use of his left arm, though the strength had yet to return. The soft tissue damage to his muscles and tendons limited his mobility and still caused residual pain, but it was manageable, and nothing like a few days ago.

His hip felt completely normal now, and the dark purple bruises that previously colored his left side were now turning shades of green and yellow. His healing powers had been slow to regenerate, not surprising considering the extent of his injuries. He was satisfied with his progress, though, and expected to be at or near 100 percent within a day or two, baring anything unexpected.

He touched his forehead, feeling the jagged scar there. He guessed he was lucky the bulkhead hadn’t crushed his skull completely when it fell on him. He’d tried to deflect it with his powers, which was probably what saved his life; he’d only suffered a glancing blow, hard enough to give him a concussion, but not to kill him.

All things considered, he felt fortunate to be alive. His biggest challenge now that his body was healing was the lingering problem with his memory. He’d expected some progress by now, but all he remembered from before the crash were vague images of a ship, and the blackness of space, and a sense of duty. Who and what he was still remained a mystery.

He placed his palm against his head, but he couldn’t sense anything organically wrong in his brain. The amnesia might be trauma related, or possibly psychologically induced by the crash, but regardless of the reason, in time he expected his memories would return. Until then, he’d do whatever it took to survive.

He rose to his feet and made his way into the trees to take care of business, then made his way back to camp, walking with more agility in his step. When he reached the fire he bent over to toss on another log, getting a whiff of himself in the process. His nose wrinkled in disgust.

“Man, you stink!”

He dropped the hide blanket he’d been using for days, grabbed his flight suit from where it was still folded on the ground, and made the short trek to the lake.

He tossed the flight suit on the ground where it wouldn’t get wet, then padded into the water, encouraged to find the temperature within acceptable parameters. In the distance, the sky rumbled.

He walked out to his waist in the water, then dipped down to his shoulders. The water felt good, cleansing, even if he did lack the proper accouterments, like soap or shampoo. He did the best he could, though, sinking under the surface to soak his hair, washing off a weeks worth of grime. When he came up to the surface he shook his head, sending water drops flying.

“Max! Accudabey! Doovo, Accudabey!”

Max turned around to see LeeLee waving at him. She must have brought something back for breakfast.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” he called out. He wasn’t getting out of the water as long as she was standing there.

“Accudabey!” she ran toward the water, waving her arms frantically. “Nee – oh – nah, Accudabey!”

“Accudabey?” he puzzled to himself. The first word he was familiar with; she’d mentioned ‘neeohnah’ several times and he had that figured out now. “Yeah,” he chuckled, “I’m in the water. Don’t worry, I won’t melt!”

“Max!” she cried out again, pointing frantically.

He crouched in the water with it lapping around his shoulders, wondering what she was so excited about. Did she think he was going to drown on his own? He was perfectly capable of giving himself a bath, now that his injuries were healing.

“MAX!” she shouted, running towards the water’s edge. “ACCUDABEY!”

“Accuda-what?”

He watched her race up the slope toward camp, running back a moment later with her spear clenched tightly in her hand, holding it over her head. Was she was going to throw it at him?

A sound in the water behind him made the short hairs on the back of his neck stand up. He turned half way, coming face to face with a giant reptile swimming right at him. Its massive jaws held the biggest, sharpest damn teeth he’d ever seen.

“Oh SHIT!” he staggered backwards. So that’s what accudabey meant. Modesty went out the window as he dove for the shore, praying to god he didn’t get eaten along the way. He fled the water, feeling the monster right behind him, hearing its jaws snapping the air just inches from his bare butt.

What transpired next happened so fast he reacted on instinct, not conscious thought. He heard LeeLee let out a challenging roar as she threw her spear, scoring a direct hit right behind the reptile’s head. It thrashed at the water’s edge, whipping its massive tail left and right, dislodging the spear and knocking her off her feet. As she hit the ground Max used a quick burst of power to blast the creature off its short, stubby legs, exposing its vulnerable underbelly. He scooped up the spear and impaled it repeatedly until the monster ceased all movement.

Max took a deep breath of air and blew it out slowly, letting his hands fall away from the spear. He’d never seen anything like it before, with its wide, squat body, massive jaws, and a hide almost like armor plating. Satisfied it was dead; he looked for LeeLee to make sure she was okay. He turned just as she was climbing back to her feet.

Her legs looked abraded from the impact of the creature’s ridged tail, but the injury didn’t look serious. What did look significant was the expression on her face as she openly stared at him. Had she seen him use his powers?

She approached him slowly, hesitantly, much as she had that first day she found him. She looked him up and down while he self-consciously folded his hands in front of himself, covering his exposed genitals. She touched his left arm, sliding it up to his shoulder, feeling solid bone where it shouldn’t be.

Just a few suns ago his body had been broken, and now he stood on two strong legs, using two fully functional arms to slay the behemoth. Only the most robust hunters in her tribe could take on an accudabey, and usually it took several of them combined to bring one down, yet he did it on his own.

She moved closer and sniffed his arm, and then his shoulder, smelling no sickness there, despite the severity of his injuries. No one in her tribe had ever survived such damage, yet here he stood, only days after she’d found him almost dead, now strong enough to take on the most terrifying creature in the water.

“Um,” Max took a step back. “Let me just, um –”

He turned quickly and grabbed his flight suit, sliding into it with his back to her. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her running back toward the camp.

“LeeLee, wait,” he called out, fumbling with the zipper on the front of his uniform. He chased up the slope after her, stubbing his bare toe on an exposed root, and going down on one knee. He clambered back to his feet just as she ran past him headed back for the water.

“LeeLee?” He watched her drop to her knees by the beast, turning her hunting pouch upside down and spilling it onto the ground. He thought she’d run away because he’d frightened her, but evidently not. She didn’t seem afraid at all.

“Max,” she motioned for him to join her. She paused for a moment as if she was searching for a word, then smiled and said, “Foohd. Accudabey goohd foohd.”

He grinned as he made his way back to the beach to join her. Her world was simplistic, which on some deep level he found appealing. He suspected his pre-crash life had been full of responsibility, and duty, as suggested by the officer ranking on his flight suit, but here he was free to be himself. He wondered of he’d ever felt that way before?

“Akee,” she held out a cutting tool for him. He took the sharp lava rock from her hand and knelt beside her.

“Show me,” he said, motioning toward the dead accudabey. He had no memory of ever skinning his own meal before, but he was more than willing to learn.

“Shuuoh,” she mimicked, putting together the word with the action. She covered his hand with hers, staring deep into his tawny brown eyes for a moment, before guiding his hand to the belly of the beast and slicing deeply into its flesh.

The morning went by quickly as they worked together, side by side, skinning the carcass and removing the reptile’s flesh in long strips. Later, after they’d had their fill, she’d show him how to smoke the meat in the fire, to preserve it for later consumption. It was a skill that would serve him well in the months to come as he settled into his new life.



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In The Beginning, Part 8

Post by Breathless » Sun Dec 04, 2005 11:33 pm

Author note: Hi all. Just a note to say I’m trying to stay on a weekly posting schedule, but with the holidays approaching, and things at work hectic, it might be hard to post on time every week.

Paper, you are right in that LeeLee was falling (after being swept off her feet by the accudabey’s tail) at the same time that Max was using his powers to flip the beast over onto its back. We know she saw him kill the croc, but we don’t know what else she might have seen (except Max in all his naked glory! haha).

Michelle, before, you brought up Max’s identification tags, and you wondered why Max didn’t just read the name to learn his true identity. You are right in that US military identification tags have the soldier’s name written on it, however, Max’s tag wasn’t issued by the US government. His ID tag is an alien device, possibly meant to be scanned by an alien “reader”. His ID tag shows only the swirling design we’re familiar with, noting more. His name, rank, etc, is imbedded inside the metal plate, not accessible to the naked eye.

Now, on with the story…



In The Beginning
Part 8



On the eighth day they broke camp. Max’s injuries had healed well enough for him to travel, though he had no idea where they were going. That didn’t matter, though. Anywhere was fine with him. To his knowledge, there wasn’t anywhere else he needed to be.

LeeLee stirred the fire to break up the coals while Max packed the food in the hide blanket for transport. He tore off the sleeves of his flight suit and used part of the material to make strips to tie the package closed, then made straps with the remaining fabric so he could carry it on his back.

“Max?”

He turned to see LeeLee standing behind him holding her hunting pouch in her hand.

“Ready?” he asked, knowing she probably didn’t understand him, though she’d been picking up words quickly. He wondered if he would master her language first, or she his.

She studied him for a minute; his face, his uniform, the insignia on his chest. He wasn’t sure what she wanted, until she opened her hunting pouch and pulled out the chain with his ID tag.

“Ohtu,” she held it out to him, giving back what she had taken.

He picked it up from her hand, debating what to do with it. He knew it should mean something to him, the swirling design on the face seemed hazily familiar, but it held no significance to him. She, on the other hand, appeared fascinated by it. The shiny metal, the design, something she’d never seen before. What to do with it suddenly seemed so clear.

“Here,” he slipped the chain over her head, smiling as the tag settled between her breasts. “I want you to have it.”

She looked up at him with surprise in her wide brown eyes. She touched the pendant and said, “Och LeeLee?”

“Yes,” he grinned down at her with his hands resting on her shoulders. “For LeeLee.”

Impulsively, he leaned down and kissed her on the forehead. The gesture was a simple one, meant only as a friendly token, but as his lips pulled away, and he looked down into her dark eyes, a feeling swept through him that even his faulty memory recognized as something more than simple friendship.

“LeeLee – thank – Max,” she said haltingly.

“You’re welcome,” he smiled, stroking his thumb across her cheek.

He might have kissed her then, the kind of kiss a man gives to a woman, if nature hadn’t interfered. In the distance the sky rumbled, startling a flock of large birds out of the nearby tree tops. LeeLee looked to the south, studying the distant clouds.

“Ahtra …”

“Thunder,” Max observed, watching a bright flash zigzag toward the ground. “And lightning.”

“Doovo,” LeeLee gathered her things together, sending concerned – or even scared – glances toward the southern sky. She sniffed the air, muttering, “Ahtra eeoh. Doovo.”

The only word he understood was ‘Ahtra’, the first word she had taught him, meaning fire, hot, or fever. He looked to the south, seeing another bolt of lightning flash across the sky, expanding that meaning to include nature’s pyrotechnics. He didn’t stop to think she might mean exactly what she said.

* * * * *

As the morning turned into early afternoon Max felt his energy waning. They’d been walking for hours, and while most of his injuries from the crash were either healed or on the mend, it would take time to recover completely. Until then, his energy was easily depleted.

His feet were sore, as were the muscles in his legs. He’d need to rest soon, and maybe when LeeLee wasn’t watching, use his powers to toughen the soles of his feet for the rest of the journey to wherever they were going. Without any shoes for protection, and with sharp rocks and the underbrush cutting into his soles, each step felt like he was walking on nails. Looking at the girl, he didn’t know how she moved so nimbly.

“LeeLee,” he panted, struggling to keep up with her. She could walk over the roughest terrain without flinching, pausing only occasionally to take a drink of water, or to check the skies to the south of them. “I need … to rest …”

He staggered to a stop, bending forward with his hands on his knees, taking in deep breaths of air. Sweat dripped from his forehead and hit the parched ground near his feet.

“Max,” she put her hand on his back, while searching for one of the new words he’d taught her. “North …”

“I can’t,” he shook his head. Exhausted, he dropped down to his knees. “Five minutes. I need five minutes …”

She got down on her knees and knelt beside him, while darting glances at the landscape behind them. “Max –”

“Just five minutes,” he pleaded with her. He didn’t have the energy to take another step.

He knew she had no concept of minutes or hours. Her world consisted of the sun going across the sky during the day, and the moon following it at night. Divisions as small as a minute meant nothing to her, and he had neither the energy, nor the will, to try to explain it. She seemed to sense it though. She nodded her head and relaxed, settling in until he was ready to press forward.

When he woke later, the sun had moved to the west, probably an hour or two later than when they’d stopped. But the sun’s relocation in the sky wasn’t what brought him out of an exhausted sleep. LeeLee’s hand shaking his shoulder violently made him bolt upright.

“What?! What’s wrong?”

“Ahtra!” she stared at the dark sky to the south. “Fi – er.”

At first he didn’t understand. Why was she talking about fire? And then the cobwebs of sleep lifted from his mind and the acrid smell in the air assailed his senses. He stood up, aware that something was dreadfully wrong.

In the south, what at first he thought was cloud cover – wasn’t. Grey smoke billowed into the air, obscuring the horizon, growing closer as he watched.

“What is it?” he asked, feeling the hair on the back of his neck rising. Whatever it was, it was moving fast, and headed right toward them. The ground underneath his feet rumbled.

LeeLee grabbed a fist full of grass and shook it in front of his face. “Fi – er. Big fi – er.”

Something rushed by in a flash of tan and white startling them both. Max followed its wild flight; long neck and a short tail, with powerful hindquarters propelling it through the tall grass. A moment later another raced by, and then another, and another. Soon a whole herd of gazelle were swarming by them.

“What are they doing?” Max stared after them. Instead of the trembling in the ground subsiding as the herd fled by, it intensified.

LeeLee pulled on his arm, urging him to follow the gazelle. “Uta!”

Before he could react the horizon filled with a moving wall of massive grey colored bodies. As they neared the ground shook so hard it nearly knocked him off his feet. The lead mammal raised its long trunk and trumpeted a chilling warning.

As the reality of what was happening sank in Max grabbed LeeLee’s hand and began to run, following the direction the animals were fleeing. He angled toward a copse of trees; it wouldn’t save them from the fire sweeping their way, but it should prevent them from getting trampled. Or at least he hoped so, if they could make it there in time.

They raced through the tall grass with Max leading the way, holding LeeLee’s hand tightly so she wouldn’t stumble, or fall. A quick glance over his shoulder almost made him gasp in fright; one of the massive beasts was right behind them, so close he could see the fear in its terrified eyes. He veered to the right just seconds before the huge mammal ran them over.

“Here! In here!” Max dove for the cover of the trees, taking LeeLee with him. They rolled across the ground to safety, just seconds ahead of the herd. Max gathered LeeLee into his arms and held her as the mammoths stampeded by.

It was only a small oasis in the plains, with trees fed by an underground water source, but it was enough to shield them from animals the likes he’d never seen before. Grey beasts with curved ivory tusks, others with one horn and a hide like armor, a herd of agile creatures with black and white striped fur, identical to the hide LeeLee currently wore.

“Are you okay?” Max touched her face, her shoulders.

“LeeLee o-kay,” she nodded. “Max o-kay?”

“Yeah,” he let out a relieved breath and drew her into his arms. “Max is okay.”

As the danger of the stampeding herds dissipated, Max knew the threat of the fire was increasing. The smoke in the air was becoming denser, and his eyes were starting to sting. He could hope for the prevailing winds to shift direction and blow the fire away from them, but he didn’t think that was going to happen. He had to do something, and quick, before it was too late.

“Max!” LeeLee pointed at the fast moving fire.

“I know,” he looked around, desperately searching for something to shield them. The wall of flames would sweep over them within minutes. He spotted a depression in the ground by the thick roots of one of the trees and an idea clicked in his mind. If he worked fast, he just might be able to save their lives.

Years of training kicked in, of making snap decisions in the trenches. He grabbed a dead tree limb and frantically dug at the ground, enlarging the depression.

“It’s a foxhole,” Max’s arm muscles flex as he jabbed at the earth. “We’ll wet the hide and put it over the top of us. And pray the fire doesn’t come this far.”

A quick look at the sky above them showed they could expect no relief in the form of rain. But he knew hiding in a foxhole probably wouldn’t cut it either. To get out of this mess was going to take a higher power.

He was pleased to see LeeLee join his efforts, scooping out armfuls of dirt from their makeshift shelter. Her hands were strong, used to tough manual labor. When the depression had been enlarged enough to fit them both, Max made her lay down in the hollow, while he unfolded the hide and doused it with the all the water they had left.

As he covered her, LeeLee reached out and grabbed his arm.

“It’s okay,” he said soothingly. A quick glance over his shoulder at the advancing wall of flames told him they were almost out of time. “Lay down. I’ll join you in a minute.”

She tried to protest but he covered her with the watered down hide. What he was going to do next he didn’t want her to see.

He stood quickly and held his hands out, palms down, eyes closed, feeling for what was hidden under the ground. This oasis existed because of one reason, fed from below by the only thing that could possibly save them. Water.

LeeLee huddled under the blanket waiting for Max to join her. She’d seen fires sweep the plains before; even seen animals scurry into their dens to hide, only to emerge after the threat was over, completely unscathed. But they weren’t small desert animals, and they weren’t deep under the ground. Survival seemed unlikely, but she’d seen some amazing things over the last few days. Things her people would undoubtedly view with skepticism and fear. But she wasn’t afraid. Not of him. Far from it.

When he didn’t join her right away, curiosity drove her to lift up a corner of the hide to see what he was doing. What she saw made her mouth fall open.

Max stood perfectly still, with his head bent downward, and his arms lifting toward the sky. It was raining, which in and of itself wasn’t out of the ordinary. When the rainy season started it would sometimes rain nonstop for days. But this rain was totally different. This rain was falling upwards.

The sky above them, blue just a few minutes ago, now teemed with clouds. Before her eyes they turned darker and darker, filling with the droplets of water rising from the ground. She watched, mesmerized, until he let out a barely audible gasp and his arms dropped heavily to his sides. At the same time, the inverted rain ceased to rise into the sky.

As he turned in her direction she replaced the hide quickly. A moment later, he lifted a corner and joined her in the tight space.

“We’re gonna be fine,” Max secured the covering over them and stretched out beside her. “Just fine.”

He spooned up against her, highly aware of how perfectly she fit against him in the confined space, despite the ominous circumstances. The air outside was dense with smoke, but under the hide, all he could smell was her.

“We’re fine,” he repeated, whispering softly into her ear.

“Fine,” she looked up at him through dark lashes. “LeeLee and Max fine.”

“That’s right,” he smiled.

The way she looked at him nearly took his breath away. He didn’t think anyone had ever looked at him that way before, with such reverence and faith. He hoped his plan would live up to her belief in him.

A minute later he heard the first tale tell sign: A plop on the hide blanket that covered them, from a fat droplet of rain. A few seconds later one plop turned into two, then three, then too many to count. Before long a torrent of rain was falling, drenching the plains and running in little rivulets into their enclosure. He held her close to him, hoping it would be enough.



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In The Beginning, Part 9

Post by Breathless » Sun Dec 18, 2005 6:54 pm

Since it’s been 2 weeks since I last posted, does everyone remember where the story left off? Max and LeeLee were about to become toast from a lightning sparked fire sweeping the plains. Here’s a little reminder from part 8 and then we’ll get right to the next part.


From part 8 …

Max stood perfectly still, with his head bent downward, and his arms lifting toward the sky. It was raining, which in and of itself wasn’t out of the ordinary. When the rainy season started it would sometimes rain nonstop for days. But this rain was totally different. This rain was falling upwards.

The sky above them, blue just a few minutes ago, now teemed with clouds. Before her eyes they turned darker and darker, filling with the droplets of water rising from the ground. She watched, mesmerized, until he let out a barely audible gasp and his arms dropped heavily to his sides. At the same time, the inverted rain ceased to rise into the sky.

As he turned in her direction she replaced the hide quickly. A moment later, he lifted a corner and joined her in the tight space.

“We’re gonna be fine,” Max secured the covering over them and stretched out beside her. “Just fine.”

He spooned up against her, highly aware of how perfectly she fit against him in the confined space, despite the ominous circumstances. The air outside was dense with smoke, but under the hide, all he could smell was her.

“We’re fine,” he repeated, whispering softly into her ear.

“Fine,” she looked up at him through dark lashes. “LeeLee and Max fine.”

“That’s right,” he smiled.

The way she looked at him nearly took his breath away. He didn’t think anyone had ever looked at him that way before, with such reverence and faith. He hoped his plan would live up to her belief in him.

A minute later he heard the first tale tell sign: A plop on the hide blanket that covered them, from a fat droplet of rain. A few seconds later one plop turned into two, then three, then too many to count. Before long a torrent of rain was falling, drenching the plains and running in little rivulets into their enclosure. He held her close to him, hoping it would be enough.



In the Beginning
Part 9



As the sun lowered on the rain cleansed horizon, Max stood within the small oasis and surveyed the changed landscape. The trees still stood tall and proud. The plains grass still waved in the late afternoon breeze. The shallow lake that had formed to the south of the oasis was new, a recent development thanks to his otherworldly powers. It had saved their lives, creating a barrier between them and the fire, preventing it from reaching them, while his alien made deluge extinguished what was left of the flames.

In time, the water would be reabsorbed into the ground, but for now it lay upon the land, its presence an indication of what kind of power existed in his fingertips. A stark reminder to him that he was different from LeeLee, and every other existing creature on this planet. Hiding his powers was instinctual, ingrained, a secret he was mandated to keep, though at the moment the reasons why eluded him. It flickered on the edge of his memory, but the harder he tried to grasp it, the further it receded.

At the sound of a footfall behind him, Max turned, coming face to face with LeeLee. The way she scrutinized him, with her head tilted to one side, left him scrambling for a believable explanation.

“LeeLee,” he began, chewing on his lower lip. “It’s not – I mean – damnit!” he let out a frustrated oath. “How can I explain anything to you if you don’t understand me?”

“Ahtra, noh,” she said.

“Right,” he nodded. “That’s right. No fire. The fire is out. We’re safe now.”

“Sa – if,” she mimicked.

“Yes,” he smiled. He didn’t know why, but every time she grasped a new word it filled him with the deepest sense of accomplishment, like he was finally, for the first time in his life, making a real connection to another living being.

LeeLee touched his chest, and then her own. “Max sa–if LeeLee.” She then spread her arms out to encompass the entire plains. “Max sa–if gah eetay.” In her eyes, Max had just saved the whole world.

“No – well, yes –” he stuttered, but she wasn’t finished.

She touched his chest again and asked, “Max Kahayee?”

“Kahayee?” he quirked an eyebrow.

She raised her hands to the sky, then dropped down on one knee, lowering her head in supplication. “Kahayee.”

“No,” he lifted her chin so he could see her face. “I’m not a god.” He coaxed her to her feet, looking deeply into her dark eyes. “I’m just me. Max.”

He waved toward the sky and pressed on, wishing he could make sense of it all. “I came from up there, from the stars, but I don’t know why, or what brought me here. I can’t remember.”

Exploration? Mapping inhabited worlds? Something else completely? Again, he wrestled with a fleeting memory, but it dissipated, like wisps of smoke from a dying fire.

She touched him reverently – on his chest, his face, his cheek – letting her fingers linger on his lips. “Kahayee, noh?”

“Nope,” his eyes softened and a hint of a smile curved his lips. “I’m just a man.”

“Man,” LeeLee repeated.

“Max: man,” he tapped his chest, then rested his hand on her shoulder. “LeeLee: woman.”

“Woo – man?”

“A very pretty woman,” Max said softly. His gaze swept over her feminine form, lingering on places he dare not think about.

The curiosity on LeeLee’s face faded as she lowered her eyes, replaced by a different emotion, one that was harder for him to define. Her cheeks took on a blush, or maybe that was just from the warm glow of the setting sun.

“Max egahtay woo – man?”

“What? Me? Woman?” Max stuttered, and then her question fell into place. “No, I don’t have a woman. I don’t have anyone.”

Had there been others on the ship? Yes, there must have been, but they must have perished in the crash. Why else would he have been found alone? A memory flashed in his mind: of bulkheads collapsing, the hull splitting, his crew trapped, sinking to the bottom of the lake. He, the sole survivor.

With that memory came other feelings: of duty and the isolation of leadership. The fragments were disjointed, but one thing was starting to become clear. His life had never been his own. Until now. Here, in this harsh, primitive land, he felt freer than he ever had before.

Looking down at LeeLee, he found himself wanting to kiss her again. To cast off the trappings of his past and embrace his new surroundings. Was it just transference? She saved his life, so he felt indebted to her? Or was it something more than that? Something deeper than mere gratitude? He had to know if what he was feeling was real.

He was just about to lean down – to touch her tempting lips with his own – to open himself up for a deeper connection – when he saw her dark brown eyes grow wide with sudden alarm.

He had just enough time to wonder if she was reacting negatively to his intent when a searing pain exploded in his head and his world went dark.

* * * * *

Max woke to the sound of voices arguing.

He couldn’t make out the words; they were too foreign to him, spoken in harsh, guttural tones. Rapid fire shouts and grunts. The unmistakable sound of a solid object hitting flesh, followed by a sharp cry of pain. His eyes flew open, but the sight before him wasn’t exactly what he expected.

Instead of finding LeeLee on the ground, injured – or worse – by some unknown attackers, it was she doing the attacking. A man with long, shaggy hair, scruffy beard, dressed haphazardly in animal skins, was kneeling in front of her trying to fend off blows from an oversized club. As Max watched, she swung it again, connecting hard against the man’s shoulder. He howled in pain while a second man, taller and leaner, hopped from foot to foot, staying well out of LeeLee’s reach.

Max sat up, wincing as a bolt of pain stabbed through his head. He raised his hand and touched his scalp, feeling a large knob near the back, caked with drying blood. Looking at LeeLee with the club in her hand, and the man cowering at her feet, it wasn’t hard to deduce who had hit him, and with what.

The taller man let out a garbled sound and hopped forward, pointing in Max’s direction. Shaggy rolled away from LeeLee and scrambled to his feet. The aggressor once again, he took a lunging step toward Max, only to be knocked down by another well placed swing of the club. LeeLee growled in his face and raised the club high, warning him not to move again.

If his head hadn’t hurt so much, Max might have laughed at the comical sight. She was such a little thing, but so fierce and self-possessed. She had one man on the ground, bruised and battered, while the second appeared too scared of her to come close. And then she looked in Max’s direction and the fierceness dissolved from her face, replaced by concern and anxiety, and maybe something else. She tossed the club aside and came running.

“Max hur–it?” she knelt at his side, studying his eyes first before inspecting the bump on his head.

“I’m fine,” he told her, but when she touched his head he couldn’t help wincing. Seeing him in pain, she whirled on Shaggy and let out a string of menacing words Max couldn’t understand, but their meaning was clear. Anger. Scolding. A fierce rebuke. Shaggy looked away, grunting under his breath, while Tall and Lanky inched forward, his curiosity becoming stronger than his apprehension.

Max sat perfectly still as Lanky first sniffed at him, then poked at his foot. When that elicited neither aggression nor attack, Lanky inched even closer, intrigued by the fabric of Max’s flight suit. He fingered it, sniffed it, tried to bite it. LeeLee hit him on the head.

“Auck!” Lanky darted back, scrunching up his face and rubbing his hand against the back of his head.

Max touched LeeLee. “It’s okay,” he said, letting his hand linger on hers. “He’s just curious. I would be, too, if I were in his shoes. Or hides. Or whatever.”

“Max oh–kay?” she asked.

“Max okay,” he nodded, gritting his teeth to keep from wincing. “Or I will be, as soon as this damn headache goes away.”

Lanky tilted his head, obviously not understanding a word. Max decided to try to make friends.

“Max,” he said, patting his own chest. “Ohtu?”

Lanky rocked back, obviously surprised by the stranger’s use of his own language. As Max’s question sank in, and the friendly manner in which it was asked, Lanky responded in kind. He patted his own chest and replied, “Alee.”

“Alee,” Max repeated. He held out his hand in offering, careful not to move in any way that might be viewed as aggressive or threatening. Hesitantly, Alee reached out and touched him, fingertips to fingertips.

“Close enough,” Max smiled.

* * * * *

The last of the sun’s light had faded some time ago, replaced by a black canopy filled with a billion points of light. The god of the night emerged, though Max recognized it as only a moon, with impact craters mistaken as eyes and nose, the shadows on the surface forming the ‘O’ of a mouth. Sitting in the warmth of the camp fire, Max was glad he was down here instead of up there. Space was cold and lifeless, much like the fleeting glimpses of his own past.

A snort from Alee brought Max’s attention back to earth. The lanky youth was raptly listening to LeeLee’s animated discourse, much to Max’s embarrassment. He’d picked up a few random words, like doovo and uta – danger and run – while the word accudabey needed no translation. She gestured wildly with her spear, thrusting downward repeatedly, then stepped back with her arms held high in triumph. Her repeated use of his name told Max she wasn’t talking about herself.

Alee seemed intrigued and excited by LeeLee’s recount of their exploits. He rocked back and forth on his toes, hanging on her words, occasionally throwing his head back and braying with laughter, or slapping Max’s leg with an easy camaraderie. Meanwhile, the surly fellow, Kyree, huffed and looked away, preferring to pick at something wedged between his teeth. Seeing the sharp differences in their reaction to him, Max couldn’t help but wonder if he’d made a friend today, and an enemy as well.

As Max watched the interaction between his three companions, certain traits began to emerge. LeeLee was a strong willed young woman, intelligent, respected, looked to as a leader, fierce when she had to be, yet capable of great compassion. Alee was witty, quick with a laugh or a smile, as comfortable telling a story as he was listening to one, though at the moment Max’s limited knowledge of their language hampered his ability to comprehend what they were saying. Kyree, on the other hand, was the jealous type, who considered himself the king of the hill. That his sights were set on LeeLee was clearly obvious.

Max didn’t try to psychoanalyze himself. If he did, he’d have to admit that he was half savage himself, and ready to battle Kyree for LeeLee’s affections. On some level he knew how primitive that sounded, but he didn’t care. If he had to fight for her he would.

But in the end, it wasn’t anyone’s choice to make, except LeeLee’s.




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In The Beginning, Part 10

Post by Breathless » Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:09 am

I'm back, kind of. I'm still having online access issues, but I'm trying to get back on a regular posting schedule. Does anyone remember where we left off? I'll post a bit from the end of part 9, then get right to 10.


From part 9 ...
As Max watched the interaction between his three companions, certain traits began to emerge. LeeLee was a strong willed young woman, intelligent, respected, looked to as a leader, fierce when she had to be, yet capable of great compassion. Alee was witty, quick with a laugh or a smile, as comfortable telling a story as he was listening to one, though at the moment Max’s limited knowledge of their language hampered his ability to comprehend what they were saying. Kyree, on the other hand, was the jealous type, who considered himself the king of the hill. That his sights were set on LeeLee was clearly obvious.

Max didn’t try to psychoanalyze himself. If he did, he’d have to admit that he was half savage himself, and ready to battle Kyree for LeeLee’s affections. On some level he knew how primitive that sounded, but he didn’t care. If he had to fight for her he would.

But in the end, it wasn’t anyone’s choice to make, except LeeLee’s.


In The Beginning
Part 10



Standing in the glow of a crackling fire with darkness blanketing the plains around him, Max felt the exhaustion of a tumultuous day seeping into his bones. The trek across the plains had tested his healing body. The exertion of using his returning powers to quench the raging fire had drained what little stamina he had left. And as if that wasn’t enough to leave him debilitated, add in the throbbing knot at the back of his head, inflicted by Kyree’s skull crushing club. But despite it all, Max viewed tomorrow with optimism. He was alive, in a way he’d never felt alive before.

In the distance, beyond the flickering light cast by the fire, night creatures ventured back onto the plains, occasionally calling out to the rising moon. Their mournful sounds carried on the air, as if calling to a lost mate separated by nature’s fiery wrath. He glanced at LeeLee, glad his fortunes had fared better than theirs.

He watched her stir the campfire with a long stick, banking the flames for the night. Her dark hair framed her face, held back with one hand so as not to get it singed. The rich color of her skin glowed in the firelight, on her cheeks, her throat, the swell of her breasts. Flushed with heat emanating from an internal fire, Max tore his gaze away and busied himself by spreading his hide blanket over the ground, fur side up, a soft cushion for his weary bones.

On the far side of the fire, Kyree stomped out a place to sleep in the grass, and by the look if it, Max thought the trampled thicket appeared large enough for two, sparking a strange emotion in him. He recognized it as jealousy, which surprised him; he didn’t think he’d ever been the jealous type. With his faulty memory he couldn’t be sure, but he suspected he’d never before had anyone in his life he cared enough about to be jealous over. The emotions LeeLee stirred in him were new, and exciting, and powerful.

Exhausted or not, he wasn’t about to let Kyree’s resting place surpass his own. On some deep level, a part of him knew his response was no different than that of a strutting male peacock, fanning its tail feathers to show what a superior catch he was, but he’d be damned if he’d let Kyree outshine him. It was a ritual as old as time, instinctual and primal.

Max bent down to smooth out the edges of the hide, but despite his mental determination, his body wasn’t quite as willing. The movement caused a wave of dizziness to assail him; he let out a muffled moan.

Within seconds LeeLee was at his side, arm around his back, the look in her eyes filled with concern. He welcomed her support, despite the scornful look Kyree cast his way.

“Max o–kay?” LeeLee asked in the halting style of someone not yet comfortable with a new language. Not that Max needed to understand the words; he could read the emotions clearly in her eyes.

“Yes,” he touched her chin, ignoring the grunt of dissatisfaction coming from the far side of the fire. “A bit of a headache,” he added, “but I can fix that later.”

“Fee–ex?”

“It’s nothing,” Max reassured her. “Max is okay.”

“Goohd,” she smiled.

As he settled down onto the hide, she pick up her spear and move off a few feet. At first he thought she was going to Kyree, which caused an uncomfortable sensation in the pit of his stomach, but then she crouched down near the fire taking first watch. Kyree and Alee settled in as if this were normal, which Max was quick to realize it undoubtedly was. He was the new one here, getting familiar with their way of life.

Lulled by the heat of the fire, and drained by the long day, Max fell asleep quickly. When he woke later it was from the slight jostle of LeeLee burrowing in beside him. Her watch had ended, with Kyree taking second shift, and instead of settling down on her own hide, she’d chosen to come to him, a statement that was as plain as day without any words being spoken.

With a smile on his lips, ignoring Kyree’s grunts of disapproval, Max wrapped his arm around LeeLee and drifted back into a contented sleep.


* * * * *

Morning arrived, heralding the return of blue, cloudless skies. The sun rose in the east, spreading its warmth across the great plain, waking a wide assortment of creatures from their night of slumber. Of the little band of travelers, Max was the first to stir.

The sun crept across his face, highlighting the cut of his jaw, now speckled with a few days worth of growth. His eyelids slowly lifted, and as he breathed in the fresh morning air, a familiar scent filled the space all around him. A special scent. Her scent.

Now three days into their journey, it was something he was becoming accustomed to: waking with her scent filling his nostrils, and her warm body close to his. Kyree didn’t appear happy about her sleeping arrangements, but there wasn’t much the surly fellow could do about it. LeeLee knew what – and who – she wanted. Max was just happy that her choice had swung in his favor.

Her head rested on his left bicep, her warm breath came out in soft, rhythmic puffs against his skin. It was a sensation that he welcomed, this intimate space that wrapped around them like a cocoon, and he was loath to leave it, not even to answer the morning call of nature. Instead, he brushed her hair back from her face, content to study her profile as she slept.

Her dark lashes lay upon sun bronzed cheeks, her jaw curved with subtle elegance, her full lips were something he found himself staring at often, as he did now. She felt deceptively soft and delicate, so small curled against his larger frame, yet he knew the kind of strength she possessed. She had the fierceness to take on an accudabey three times her size or more, and yet the gentleness to nurse him back from the brink of death. In truth, he found her amazing.

Unable to resist the temptation, he brushed the backs of his fingers across her soft cheek. She stretched, and slowly opened her eyes.

“Morning,” Max grinned, despite the fullness in his bladder.

She closed her eyes again, but the smile spreading over her face told him she wasn’t drifting back to sleep.

“Goohd mo–ring,” she said.

“Mor–ning,” he corrected.

“Morning,” she repeated, getting it right this time.

She rattled off something else he didn’t entirely understand, but the meaning was easily deciphered. After three days of traveling across the plains, they were nearing their destination. Would her tribe welcome him as easily as LeeLee had, and Alee? Or would they view him with suspicion and distrust – a stranger in their midst – and subject to the kind of hatred only fear – or jealousy – could breed? Time would soon tell.

A dark shadow fell over them, disrupting the intimate moment. Max looked up to see Alee grinning down at him, holding out the skinned remains of what had once been a small furry plains dweller, now cooked and skewered on a spear.

“Hun–gree?”

Max sat up and took the offering, pleased at Alee’s attempt to communicate in Max’s own language. “Thank you.”

“Thaaank you,” Alee mimicked.

“No,” Max shook his head. He patted his chest and said, “I say ‘Thank you’. You,” he pointed at Alee, “say ‘You’re welcome.’”

Alee and LeeLee looked at each other, testing out the new words.

“Yoor wel – wel cah.”

“Wa – el – cuum.”

“Thank you yor well cum.”

Max chuckled watching the two of them chatter back and forth. They both seemed eager to master his language. Unfortunately, the fourth member of their party wasn’t as amenable. Kyree sent scowling looks in their direction, scoffing under his breath between gnawing on his morning meal.

“Thank you,” Max repeated to LeeLee and Alee, choosing to ignore the surly fellow.

“Yor wa – el – cum,” they responded at the same time, smiling at each other like children with a new toy.

“Thank you,” Max kept it going, adhering to the old adage: Practice makes Perfect.

“Yor wel – cum,” they repeated; Alee touching his lips to feel how the words sounded, and LeeLee trying over and over until she got it right.

“Yor welcum!”

“That’s right!” Max beamed.

Kyree bolted to his feet and threw his food into the fire with enough force to send sparks flying into the air. He jerked his hunting pack off the ground and stabbed a finger toward the north, daring the others to disagree with him.

“Well,” Max dusted off his pants and rose to his feet. “I guess it’s time to go.”

* * * * *

By midmorning, the flat plains Max had become accustomed to began to recede, replaced by rocky outcroppings as their elevation increased. In the distance a snow capped mountain rose toward the sky. Moving more gingerly on the rocky terrain, he hoped LeeLee’s home wasn’t somewhere high in the mountains. He’d toughened the soles of his feet to make traveling easier, but walking barefoot through the snow was another matter.

He thought about what type of footwear he could craft to make his transition to this new world easier. Obviously, his companions felt no need for shoes or the like, they moved as agilely over the rocks as they had over the plains, but they’d had a lifetime to temper the soles of their feet, while he’d had only days.

A thought occurred to him as he followed LeeLee up a substantial rock face, vigilantly mirroring her fluid movements. At some point during the last 10 days of his life, between the crash landing in that inland sea and now, he’d settled in to the new life this world offered, accepted it, without any reservation for the life he left behind.

He wondered if that had anything to do with his faulty memory – he couldn’t remember his past, so his mind coped with it by embracing the present – or maybe a part of him didn’t want to remember. Could it have been so bad that he wanted to block it out? Or so empty that this primitive life seemed full in comparison? Or was his other life too complicated, and this simple world gave him the freedom he secretly craved?

Would the veil that shrouded his mind ever lift? Or would he live out the rest of his life never knowing what brought him here, and why?

As he neared the crest, his right foot found purchase on a jagged ledge, but as he shifted his weight his foothold crumbled, the rock beneath him not as solid as it first appeared. He floundered for a moment, nearly losing his precarious balance, while bits and pieces of dislodged shale pinged and clattered to the rocky terrain nearly a hundred feet below.

His grip instinctively tightened on his handholds, white knuckling the fissures in the rock face to keep from following those bits of stone to an untimely demise. How ironic would it be, to literally fall from the stars and survive, only to meet his fate at the base of a slope a mere hundred feet in the air?

But fate had more in store for him, and his destiny hadn’t yet been fulfilled. His foot found new purchase on solid rock, and after a moment’s pause to get his heart rate under control, he followed LeeLee up and over the crest.

“Let’s rest a minute,” Max knelt down on solid ground, wiping beads of sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. His legs felt rubbery, and although the topography looked less severe here – no further skyscraper rock faces to transect within his field of vision – he needed a moment to catch his breath. LeeLee knelt beside him and offered the pouch of water.

“Thanks,” he took it from her, unaware until that moment of just how thirsty he really was.

“You’re welcome.”

Max paused in mid-gulp, almost sputtering on the water. Her dark eyes were sparkling, the grin on her face a mixture of both delight and accomplishment. He had no trouble reading her expression, because inside he felt the same; exhilarated by her ability to not only mimic his language, but to apply it. He tossed down the water and cupped her face between his hands.

“You’re something, you know that?”

Impulsively, without conscious thought he was even doing it, he leaned forward and kissed her. The contact was quick, over almost before it had even started, but the shock of it resonated long after their lips parted – for him that he had done it, for her the wave of emotion that had accompanied it.

Max sat back, slowly dropping his hands from her face. Her taste lingered on his lips. Her scent in his nostrils. In that one second of contact between them, he’d never felt more alive.

“What this?” she asked, touching her fingertips to his lips, and then to her own.

To his ears, her voice sounded awed, as if that brief moment of contact had sealed her fate as unequivocally as it had sealed his. He had to swallow hard before he could answer.

“A kiss. It’s called a kiss.”

With her fingers still touching her own lips, her gaze traveled over his face, bouncing from his eyes to his lips, up then down, eyes then lips, without the words to adequately convey to him what she’d felt, and experienced, still absorbing the wonder of it.

Max had to figuratively shake himself to clear his mind of thoughts and feelings not his own, though her mental imprint lingered, scored onto his brain, the images so clear. The first time she saw him, face down on the shore, water lapping at his sides, more dead than alive. How she’d been afraid, but how she’d pushed that fear aside because he needed her – would die without her. How she’d swallowed that fear and pulled him to safety, tended to his wounds, nursed him back from the brink – this stranger wearing odd clothing, speaking incomprehensible words, as foreign to her as ice cubes in a glass, or rain falling upwards.

He knew the wonder on her face must be matched by his own, for he sensed the connection hadn’t been one way. Had she felt what he felt? Seen what he saw? Or had she seen something else? Some insight into him, as he had seen inside of her?

“LeeLee,” he started, reaching for her face, not sure where this was leading but wanting to feel that connection again, that sense of belonging – when a startled cry from behind them ruined the moment. Max spun around, seeing nothing at first, then realizing it came from beyond the rim he’d so recently scaled. He scrambled to the edge and looked over, at once shocked and alarmed by the sight below him. LeeLee appeared beside him and let out a startled gasp.

On the rock face below, Kyree hung by one hand, feet flailing in the air trying to find purchase, while rocks and stones tumbled down the rock face in a mini-avalanche. He’d followed Max’s path, handhold by handhold, foothold by foothold, putting his weight on the ledge Max had had trouble with, but this time it had given way completely. Below and to the right, Alee tried to help his floundering friend, but he was too far away, and his own position too precarious. Max flattened on his belly and thrust his hand downward, stretching as far as he could.

“Here! Take my hand!”

The whites showing around his eyes gave away the extent of Kyree’s fear. As a hunter he’d traveled this path many times before, but their existence was a harsh one, and danger was their constant companion. The most mundane task could prove to be life altering. Or life ending.

“Kyree! Grab my hand!”

Max stretched as far as he could, feeling the blood in his body rush to his head as he hung face down over the ledge. Their fingertips touched for just a moment, but Kyree’s unbalanced gyrations prevented a solid hold.

Kyree hugged the rock face with both hands while his feet dangled loosely, unable to find solid purchase on the sheer face. Each attempt to find a foothold resulted in more dislodged shale and stone clattering to the ground below.

“Kyree!” Max thrust his hand downward.

Kyree glanced down at the sharp rocks below where an imminent death awaited him, then to the stranger’s offered hand of salvation, so close, but just out of reach. Could he trust the stranger? Could he reach that far?

Beside Max, LeeLee shouted at Kyree in their native tongue, while Alee encouraged from below. Max inched further over the edge trying to get closer.

“Come on, Kyree! Grab my hand! You can do it.”

The troubled climber made a grab for Max’s hand, missed, tried again, fingers touching this time but not holding. LeeLee gasped as she saw his balance waver, the one solid hold he had left almost slipping. Kyree hugged the rock face again, breathing heavily, holding on for dear life.

“Kyree,” Max stretched as far as he could go.

The two men’s eyes met, focused, held. Kyree’s strength was waning. There would be no second chance. A look passed between them, a nod, and then Kyree swung upwards with his right hand, while pushing off with his left. It gave him the lift he needed, but would it be enough?

His fate was up to the gods now. And Max.



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