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Alien’s Treasure: Chapter One

Gir

Tightening my muscles, I sprang through the jungle from branch to branch. My occupation as a treasure hunter had brought me to many different worlds, but this was definitely not one of my favorites.

Not that in general I had a problem with a planet full of outlaws, rogues and criminals, but at the moment my plans didn’t involve dealing with anyone else.

Call me greedy.

Part of that whole ‘treasure hunter’ deal, I’m sure.

This uninhabited section of the continent was hot and humid, and it seemed as though bugs wanted to burrow under my fur, straight into my flesh.y

I landed on a thick branch and flicked my ears to dislodge a particularly annoying stinging insect.

Reaching for my belt, I toggled a small personal force field. This particular force field was one I’d picked up in a marketplace two hunts ago. It was small and had a low yield – not strong enough to stop a fast-moving object like a ballistic weapon that some of the primitive planets wielded, and it might’ve only turned away a glancing blow of a blade.

No, this force field’s most important and valuable function was the ability to repel insects.

I pressed it and a low hum filled my ears. Slightly annoying, but something I’d learn to dismiss after a few minutes. The batteries didn’t last long and I’d have to turn it off and allow the device to recharge once night came.

However, the days here were long. If luck was with me, I wouldn’t be on this planet come nightfall.

A low-key ding rang between my ears, then through my implant came the professionally concerned voice of my AI.

“Is everything okay, Gir?”

“Yes, of course it is.”

My AI was relentless. “I’ve detected the activation of your personal force field. Are you in any danger?”

“You’re my AI, not my mother.”

I rolled my eyes.

I once had a partner who’d called my AI the equivalent of a nanny bot. It wasn’t a direct translation from his species, but close enough.

I’d always reduce the settings so the AI wouldn’t be as annoyingly worried about me. That way, it wouldn’t have the ability to check in on me at random times. But it was nice to pretend somebody else cared, even if it was annoying and was actually a computer function only following its programming.

I’d been lonely for a long time. I’d learned to deal with it.

 “I’m fine,” I repeated, annoyed but secretly pleased, then aggravated at myself all over again. I shouldn’t have to rely on an AI computer system to check in on me.

Wasn’t that the duty of one’s mate?

Ah, but in order to acquire a mate, I’d first have to slow down enough to court one. I was busy and although I’d had some relationships, nothing had been serious. My constant travel wasn’t appealing to a potential mate from my species.

I glanced up at the sky. The thick jungle had an overabundance of chlorophyll, which seemed to permeate the air. As a result, the sky held a greenish cast to it, interacting oddly with the blueish sun.

I squinted, looking up in vain for the slight glimmer that’d indicate my ship. It was parked in a stationary orbit and should’ve been directly overhead, but try as I might, I couldn’t see it.

Perhaps it was something to do with the many moons.

“What’s going on up there?” I asked, knowing the force field wasn’t the sole reason why the AI had reached out to me.

“The designated orbital shift will occur in ten galactic minutes,” the AI said. Was it my imagination, or had it actually sounded a bit frustrated I’d forgotten about that?

No, it had to be my imagination.

I cursed under my breath.

In ten minutes, my ship would break out of its geosynchronous orbit and fly off under the AI’s direction. Then it’d pass behind the sun, seemingly on a path that’d take it out of the solar system altogether.

The reason why it would do so was threefold: First and most importantly, it’d throw any competing treasure hunters off my trail. It’d give the appearance I’d searched the planet, found nothing, and moved on. Anyone following me would be led away.

I’d grown quite a reputation for myself over my last few scores. I knew for a fact there were less successful hunters watching my moves closely.

The second reason was because having your ship stay stationary in space was like waving a giant flag for any scavenger looking to add your ship to their collection.

A moving ship was much harder to locate and capture. They wouldn’t realize it was completely empty and they’d assume I was on board, ready to fight for my ship and my freedom. Most of the time, it just wasn’t worth the effort.

And third, I really, really didn’t want anyone else on the planet getting curious as to what I was doing down here.

“Of course, I hadn’t forgotten,” I lied irritably to the AI.

The AI paused for a few galactic seconds. I didn’t think I’d read into it too much. It’d definitely displayed its disbelief. “Then are you close to finding the obelisk?”

I growled under my breath and reached into my pocket to pull out a round pendant. It wasn’t large – the size of a timepiece my father, who loved old-fashioned things, used to carry in his pocket.

The pendant was a dark jet-black stone and etched on it was a representation of the obelisk I was searching for.

“I’ll locate it soon enough.”

The AI’s reply was crisp. “Do you need assistance?”

“It depends. Have you verified the that latest scans show the starting point?”

“Affirmative.”

I shrugged. “Then there’s nothing more you need to do. Searching for this obelisk is just a matter of following the dots, easy as falling off a Prolixian log.”

Again, the AI paused for an extended period of time. I was just about to check the connection before it spoke again.

“Your ship is due to break orbit in T minus 2.56 galactic minutes.”

“Well, don’t wait around on my account.”

“Once the ship leaves orbit, you’ll be out of communication range or assistance, should you need it.”

I rolled my eyes. “Keep my ship safe. I’ll do my part here on the surface. When you return, I’ll have the treasure in hand.”

“Then tradition dictates I wish you good luck.”

“Thanks.”

Seriously, I knew perfectly well that the AI had only responded as programmed.

Its actual conversations were formed from a tree of programmed responses.

But still, I couldn’t help but feel good about it.

I really needed to get out more.

“Good luck to you and keep my ship safe for my return.”

“Affirmative,” the AI responded.

I cut off the communication, ignoring the pang of regret.

After all was said and done, I had to seriously look into making some new friends.

The only real conversation I’d had in weeks was with my own AI system. That was sad.

Shaking my head, I ran along the length of the branch and jumped into the air.

My species were natural climbers and jumpers. I’d be able to cross more of a distance in one leap than most could sprint in the same number of seconds.

I hit the trunk of the next massive tree, digging my claws in, and scaled up to the next large branch. When I got there, I ran along its length, using it as a sturdy pathway.

I wasn’t afraid of heights, knowing that when my people fell, we always landed on our feet.

Thanks to the force field, the bugs had finally left me alone. But there wasn’t anything I could do about the heat and humidity, that made my fur itch.

After an hour of hard running, pausing only to check the dots on the map, I found what I was looking for.

There it was: the obelisk, rising from the jungle floor.

I’d traversed this section of the jungle for some time, and it was the first created artifact I’d seen.

It was as jet-black as my pendant, rising straight and true nearly twenty meters from the jungle floor. Vegetation had been cleared around it in a large circle, and some aspect of the obelisk kept it from growing back.

Interesting.

From this vantage point, looking down at the obelisk, I identified several markings on it. I stared for a moment, cocking my head in consideration. From that angle, I couldn’t read the markings, not even enough to tell what language they were in.

There were plenty to choose. I wasn’t fluent in all of them – you’d have to be an AI. But after a lifetime of hunting, I could recognize most.

The jungle was silent, with no hint that I’d been followed, so far.

I took a step, intending to drop off the side of the branch and fall all the way down to the forest floor. A ping from a sixth sense made me stop in place.

I whipped around, my ears swiveling back and forth trying to identify sounds, the hair along my spine rising as my instincts screamed at me that something wasn’t right.

Finally, my mind caught what my senses had been trying to tell me. There was a high-pitched whistling noise in the air, and it’d only grown louder.

Once I became aware of it, I was able to pinpoint it. I looked up to see a burning streak — a meteor?

No. As the object drew closer, I realized it wasn’t a meteor, not even ship debris. It was too regular, and oval shaped.

An escape pod?

I barely had time to come to that conclusion before I realized the pod had dropped from the sky and was headed straight toward me.

Of all the bad luck!

Immediately, I jumped to the next branch, then the next, trying to get out of the trajectory of the descending pod.

But it fell shockingly fast. And I realized with horror it wouldn’t land on me at all.

No, in fact, it was aimed straight for the obelisk.

“No!” I yelled, but completely powerless to do anything about it.

The sound of the descending out-of-control pod grew into a scream of air as a plume of fire lit from behind it.

It crashed straight into the obelisk, sending it toppling over into pieces on the ground.

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