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Reaver’s Quest: Chapter Three

Sarah

“Anyone else a little freaked out by the purple sky?” 

Nobody answered.

It had been easily an hour since I’d struggled out of my pod, and the entire time no one had answered me.

There was some quote I’d read once about insanity and doing the same thing over and over again.

Maybe right now I was a little insane but honestly it had been that sort of a day.

Because if I stopped talking, stopped assuming that somewhere, someone could hear me, I’d have to admit a terrifying possibility.

That I was alone here.

“The moons are pretty,” I said, leaning against the slightly crumpled nose cone of my escape pod to stare up into the indigo and violet streaked heavens above.

The first moon had already been halfway up the sky by the time the second one peeked over the horizon.

“Think there’s more moons waiting?” I looked around, wishing I’d paid a little more attention to the beginning astronomy course.

I had to assume that despite the purple sky, giant red sun and multiple moons aside, it was safe for me here.

I’d woken up as fresh air filled the pod, the lid hinged open high above me.

No choking, struggling to breath, no foul odor, and as far as I knew, no hallucinations.

Right now, that counted as safe enough.

I was in the mountains, nothing but rocks and scrub brush no higher than my knees anywhere around.

No buildings. No signs of anyone.

And no shelter.

“I know we’re supposed to stay by the escape pods,” I said. “But it’s getting cold up here.”

I swallowed hard past the lump in my throat “Hannah? If you can hear me, I think I need to head downhill.”

The thin blanket I’d grabbed from my bed would have been cozy enough for a short nap inside the padded pod.

It wasn’t going to do a damn thing against frigid mountain temperatures.

I tapped my comm bangle in frustration, but it didn’t even ping.

“Wonders of alien technology,” I grumbled.

The comm bracelet, tethered to the translator implanted behind my ear, should have picked up any of this planet’s satellites, connected me to all the other girls using the same system. 

There’d been no answer over the escape pod’s systems either.

“Doesn’t mean anything,” I tried to reassure myself. “Not like the Loli’s  technology could be trusted much.”

I stumbled as the memory of the explosion of the Dream filled my vision again.

Couldn’t have been an explosion. 

Maybe that’s how it always looked when the passenger disc jumped separately?

I was a terrible liar, even to myself.

But one thing was certain.

I needed to find shelter before the giant sun finished setting.

Turning back to the pod I grabbed everything that looked like it might be useful.

Small foil wrapped bricks which we had been told were universal emergency rations.

I could not imagine that anything that was safe for multiple sentients to eat was going to be tasty, but I wasn’t exactly seeing any restaurants around here.

My half eaten bag of CheezE puffs. As tempting as it was to curl up and stuff them in my face until everything was better, it would be smarter to dole them out slowly.

Maybe they would make for a reasonable dessert after the horrible ration bricks.

A small gray case that I half remembered was meant to be medical supplies.

Sounded useful, if I’d had any idea how to use any of it.

And my tablet. Unfortunately not filled with star maps or survival tips.

Instead every byte was packed with my ever-expanding collection of romance novels.

After a moment’s thought I spread out the thin blanket, piling my pitiful worldly possessions into the middle.

Rolling it up like a burrito I slung it over my back, tying the loose ends across my chest.

Not comfortable, but at least my hands were free. And given the terrain, it seemed like a good idea.

Taking a deep breath I looked around again.

This was the right thing to do, wasn’t it?

Maybe I should wait, try to seal myself back in the pod, wait for someone to come rescue me.

But once opened, the lid had refused to lower again, leaving me totally exposed.

Maybe it was supposed to be that way.

Maybe something had broken in the landing.

Either way it didn’t matter. I needed to move.

“So, in one of those books you always say are a waste of time, the heroine was lost in a forest and knew to go downhill and eventually she found water,” I told Hannah, or whoever was listening. “Right now, that seems pretty reasonable.”

Of course not everything that happened in a book would work the same in real life.

But that sort of made sense, didn’t it? Water ran downhill. So if I went downhill too, I should find water. 

And where there is water, maybe there would be people?

Because there certainly wasn’t much of anything up here.

Though the sun was now the barest memory of light on the far horizon, the two moons had been joined by a third, their collective light making my descent possible.

Unfortunately, the warmth of the evening was  quickly turning cold, and even with my flannel I began to shiver.

The light slippers we’d worn on board the Dream didn’t do much to protect the soles of my feet from sharp pebbles, and far too often I slid in the loose scree, arms flailing to catch my balance.

“Just keep going,” I told myself. “The mountain can’t go on forever.”

Bleat!

Jumping at the sudden sound, my legs slid out from under me, and I landed painfully on my ass.

“What in all the hell?” Slowly I brought myself back up to my feet, rubbing my behind, searching the area around me for whatever the noise had been.

A shadow moved, and I realized something was standing on the top of one of the rocks before me.

Bleat!

“That almost sounds like…” my words trailed off as I began to skirt the rock, but the strange shape sprang through the air, landing directly in front of me.

Bleat!

I stumbled back, but this time managed to remain standing.

“You’re a goat,” I blurted out in surprise. “Or at least, something like a goat.”

Well, sort of.

Gray and shaggy fur covered the thin body, six legs coming down to sharp looking hooves that glinted in the moonlight.

Two pairs of horns curled from the creature’s forehead, above the enormous dark eyes that were fixed on me.

“Are you friendly, boy?” I murmured softly, edging to the side, wondering what to do about my new admirer.

Bleat!

Shit.

That didn’t come from the not-a-goat in front of me.

On the boulder to my right another shaggy shape had appeared.

“Who’s your friend?”

If dogs could smell fear, I was going to have to assume that not-a-goats could too.

They’d certainly be getting a muzzle full now, as the second was joined by a third, and then on the other side, a fourth and fifth beast appeared.

“You’re very cute, but I have to be going now,” I said.

The critter in front of me didn’t move as I squeezed past, just slowly swiveled its head, following my progress.

I sucked in my stomach, crossing my arms over my chest to make sure I didn’t touch it.

Who knew what a casual touch meant to an alien goat?

Heart pounding in my ears I forced myself to walk slowly, to focus on the slope before me.

Creepy critters. That was all.

They were probably just as scared of me as I was of them.

And then I heard the click of hooves tripping along behind me.

Glancing over my shoulder I saw the herd following me.

Their numbers had doubled, and the distance between us was closing.

“Go away now,” I called out. “Go on, shoo!”

They weren’t listening.

In fact, instead of going away, they sped up.

Scrambling away, I tried to increase my own speed, slipping and sliding until it was less of a run and more of a controlled fall.

That was fine. Anything to get away from the menacing mass and those unblinking eyes, sharply pointed horns.

Bleat!

I glanced over my shoulder and quickly regretted it.

Goats back on earth were herbivores.

The moonlight had gleamed on the bared teeth of the beast in the front of the herd, revealing wicked fangs.

I could too easily imagine them rending and tearing flesh.

My flesh.

“Nope!” I push myself harder, thighs beginning to burn. “Not happening. You’re not going to get me!” 

Scanning the ground before me I realized that it suddenly wasn’t there anymore.

The mountainside ended with a jagged edge, only darkness beyond.

“No no no no no no no!”

I tried to stop, but I couldn’t, my momentum carrying me along.

Maybe I could throw myself to the side, roll, hope to stop before I went over the edge, and then deal with the sharp hooves later.

Not a great plan, but I didn’t have any other ideas.

Before I could stop myself, the slope ended, and I was falling, my own scream echoing thinly in my ears.

And then suddenly I wasn’t.

Strong arms held me close to a bare broad chest.

“Maybe the air here isn’t as safe to breathe as I thought,” I murmured.

Because what I was seeing couldn’t be true.

Copper wings, shining in the moonlight, carrying me and my rescuer away.

Had to be a hallucination, right?

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