The Huntress Chapter 1
"I found him!"
Shuddering, she withdrew her fist from the hole in the computer screen. Brushing her hair down, she shook off the effects of hitting one of the few active power conduits on her ship. Good thing that the main power generator wasn't working right now. She'd gotten a little carried away there.
*DESTRUCTION OF THIS SHIP IS NOT ADVISED*
She smirked, rubbing her hand. "Yeah, but it feels good, okay? Besides, I don't need that computer for anything. Um... or the chair. Or the light, I guess. So... where's the beacon for Ernest's ship?"
*CANNOT PINPOINT EXACT LOCATION.*
She frowned briefly, but it would take more than that to dampen her enthusiasm. "Then print me out a map of the area. Identify on it anything unusual. Especially cities."
*PROCESSING. WARNING. EMERGENCY BATTERY AT 25% OF CAPACITY.*
"What?! You said there was still three hours left..." she trailed off slowly. Using the sensors had no doubt dealt a death blow to the ship's meager power supply. This sensor sweep would probably finish them off. She was going to have to get ready to leave. "Then get working on it," she ordered, leaving the cockpit.
She didn't have much food to speak of on board, and most of it would spoil quickly without refrigeration. Stupid instant dinners. Someday, she was going to have to learn how to make food without a microwave oven.
She ate two of the dinners cold, not wanting to tax the power any more than she had to. The ration bars that she normally carried with her was absent, since she hadn't bothered to replenish them on her last stop. Much of the food was already beginning to smell funny, and the rest had been destroyed beyond edibility by the crash. But...
Some digging produced an intact six-pack of beer. And another one. And yet another. Energy, liquids and a few semi-essential vitamins! And a mildly pleasant buzz after the fifth straight bottle. Aside from the fact that they were warm, she supposed she could have done worse. She now had eighteen bottles, all intact and sealed.
"Meryti lager," she muttered with a smirk. "Gotta love them bottles. Don't break for nothing. I wonder if I could get on a commercial for this..."
Stowing them in her pouch, she rummaged through the rest of the food for anything else she could take with her. All that made itself known was a couple of chocolate bars, two somewhat flatter than they had been originally. But chocolate was chocolate. Eating the two disfigured ones, she added the rest to her pack. Things were looking good. Five chocolate bars and eighteen bottles of beer. She could survive for some time on that, surely.
*SENSOR SWEEP COMPLETED*
Heading back to the cockpit, she accepted the printout, looking over the results with some disdain. There were two, perhaps three areas that appeared to be settlements within sensor range. Awfully small, though. One of them was within a few hours walking distance, which was good. She would have to make due with what she knew.
"What's the environment like?" she inquired. "Any problems for me?"
*WITHIN TETRAGENE TOLERANCES. GRAVITY IS 58% OF TETRAGENE NORM. OXYGEN CONTENT 4.6% HIGHER THAN TETRAGENE NORM. NO DETECTABLE ARTIFICIAL IMPURITIES IN ATMOSPHERE. ULTRAVIOLET EXPOSURE WITHIN TOLERANCES. HERALDIC RESIDUE EXTREMELY HIGH, BUT NOT THREATENING. PLANETARY ROTATION ESTIMATED AT 25 HOURS, 34 MINUTES, 3 SECONDS. NO ANTICIPATED PROBLEMS.*
She smiled. If she'd had to crash on a primitive planet, she'd found the right one. With the lack of gravity, her effective strength would be vastly magnified. The higher oxygen content would only help her to maintain endurance. The lack of impurities was to be expected from any underdeveloped civilization that hadn't learned how to pollute yet. The low UV exposure suggested that they hadn't learned to destroy their ozone layer yet. She'd get a deep tan at the worst. And the length of day was only a fraction of that on her home planet, which meant she could quite possibly get away with only sleeping every other day or so.
But she couldn't forget the most important preparation. A hard stomp on the floor caused a panel to spring up, revealing an impressive assortment of weapons, ranging from pocket blasters, energy crossbows, stun grenades, assault guns, rocket launchers, and...
Chuckling to herself, she reached down and hefted one of the weapons.
"Kaleidoscope field rifle," she whispered lovingly, shifting her weight slightly to accommodate the massive weapon. It was as long as she was tall, the official weight listed at 29.7 kilograms. Over half her body weight. But with the lighter gravity...
Rapidly swiveling the barrel around, she laughed. It wasn't often she got a chance to use this weapon. It was somewhat experimental, at least it had been when developed. Although it could be wired up to alternate energy sources in a pinch, it obtained its energy primarily through a built in collector that absorbed heraldic residue, which made its use impractical in many instances. But on a planet like this...
She reluctantly pulled her eyes away from her weapon. "What?"
*MULTIPLE LIFE FORMS APPROACHING.*
She set the weapon down again. No sense in letting them see her with weapons right now. Ernest had long stressed the importance of good first impressions. "Great. Time to meet the locals."
Peeking out the hatch, she looked around expectantly.
A growl made her freeze. Slowly turning to face the source, she found herself looking at a huge pile of fur. Tilting her head back, she found herself looking at a matching huge hairy face, complete with a huge mouth and huge over-sized fangs.
"Shit, you are one _ugly_ bugger," she greeted.
It roared, drawing back one arm in preparation to attack.
"Now don't take it personally..."
She threw herself backwards as the huge fist left a dent in the side of her ship. "Heyheyheywaitaminute!" she protested quickly. "I didn't mean it! You're a stud! You look great! I come in peace!"
More roaring ensued as the creature tried to squeeze its massive form through the doorway.
"You're not fitting through there," she pointed out. "Now let's talk this over, okay? We got off to a bad start, but it's never too late to start again, right?"
More roaring. A quiet groaning reverberated through the ship as the sides of the door began to buckle outwards.
Her eyes widened in disbelief. "Whoa! You're a strong sonuvabitch! Back off NOW!!! Hey! Computer!"
"What the hell is this thing? Can you recognize the language?"
*PROBABILITY OF INTELLIGENCE: 0.1%*
She flushed. "Oh. You mean, this thing isn't the intelligence on this planet?"
"Oh, well that solves _this_ problem. Looks like it's hunting season."
Grabbing an automatic rifle from the weapons storage, she tapped the safety off, took aim and let off an ear-splitting stream of armor-piercing shots into the creature's head.
The impacts sent the creature flying off the ship, landing in a disfigured heap on the ground below, clearly dead and then some.
"Teach you to screw with me," she muttered, flipping the safety back on and replacing the rifle in the weapon's compartment. "Any more of those things around?" she asked the computer.
She blinked as the voice trailed off. "What's wrong?"
Still no answer.
She sighed. So the battery was finally dead.
The ship shuddered again, making her focus on the present reality. The computer had said that there were multiple life forms approaching the ship. She'd probably just mowed down the first of them. Now she had to deal with the rest of them. Not that she was going to have much difficulty doing _that_.
Hefting the Kaleidoscope rifle, she adjusted the strap to the proper length, then flipped the switch to activate the unit. The small screen atop the stock lit up, informing her of the status of the unit. More specifically, it told her that this planet had such a high amount of Heraldic residue, the weapon would probably never run out of power, and if it did, it would recharge fully in a matter of hours.
The ship shuddered again, another furry face trying to force its way through the doorway.
She gave a slightly sadistic grin to the creature that was trying to try open the doorway wide enough to let the rest of its body in. "I hear fur coats are popular these days."
She waved off-handedly. "Nothing personal, right?"
A screech of thunder, and the entire top half of the creature ceased to exist.
"And only 50% power! Sweet!"
Following a few more well-placed blasts that served to vaporize or scare off the surviving creatures, she decided that she had better get moving. Slinging the Kaleidoscope rifle over her right shoulder, her survival pack over her left, she started away from the ship in the direction her map suggested.
"After all," she muttered, "stupid Ernest came all the way out here without you. He's just as likely to _leave_ here without you too."
Despite her less-than-pleased tone of voice, a lone photo tucked carefully in her survival pack suggested otherwise.
The trek through the forest was monotonous at best. Despite the rather impressive piece of artillery she was presently hauling, the comparatively light gravity made the task much less of a strain. Even the survival pack, complete with eighteen bottles of beer, an automatic handgun, and four clips of ammunition was only a small additional burden. The sensor equipped head unit that she always wore on expeditions was present as well, although the crash seemed to have rendered it inoperative. She would see if she couldn't effect some repairs on it at another time. At least it still worked to keep her hair out of her face. Really, the worst part of traveling was her clothing.
Considering that she was chasing her boyfriend halfway across the galaxy, being stranded on a planet was one of the few things she hadn't planning on dealing with. What she _had_ planned on dealing with was convincing him to let her finish the trip with him. Accordingly, she had dressed for the part. A high-slit black gown, low-cut black blouse, stiletto heels and an olive-green bulletproof jacket. Very fetching, VERY sexy, but just not meant for long distance traveling. And all her other clothing had managed to catch fire during the crash.
And shit, was it EVER hot out...
The overhead sun was beating down mercilessly, making her glad she wasn't wearing make-up or mascara. It probably would have melted long ago. The lack of breeze in the thick forest did little to help matters.
If she ran into Ernest out here, he'd probably fall in love all over again if he saw her. Fall in lust, certainly. Opening the jacket, undoing a few buttons on her blouse and unfastening the hooks that kept her gown closed had been all she could do to try and alleviate the heat. Anything more would probably overstep the bounds of any culture's decency, and she did NOT want to run into the locals looking like that. This really sucked.
It reminded her of a safari she'd been on once, on another planet. Just yourself, your gun, and a lot of big animals who would just as soon eat you for their next meal. Exhilarating, really. Although the safari's generally arranged for more appropriate footwear, and smaller, less interesting guns.
She sighed, pulling out the first bottle of beer from her pack. It wouldn't do to get dehydrated.
She didn't know how much time passed, aside from the fact that it had involved the consumption of two more bottles of beer. But eventually, she found something worth noting.
That it was one of the giant hairy creatures that had taken a disliking to her was nothing new. She'd blasted at least a dozen of them into organic purée already. They never seemed to learn, although they did help pass the time.
What make this giant hairy creature unusual was the fact that it was already dead. And she knew she hadn't killed it. Looking around carefully for any other of its kin, she cautiously approached it. No disturbances around the corpse, which suggested that she wasn't looking at a trap set by the locals. It was most certainly dead, a fact attested to by three sizable holes its body. None of them were particularly well-placed, but the combination had been enough to dispatch the creature.
What made the holes worth noting was that they were clearly inflicted by an energy weapon of some sort. Shoddy marksmanship, but most certainly a energy weapon. And according to the computer, there shouldn't be anything like that on this planet...
Ernest. It _had_ to be. No one else on this planet, aside from herself, would be packing such a weapon on them. He might be closer than she'd originally thought.
One more bottle of beer later, she finally saw signs of civilization. The term was rather generous, but she knew that bridges weren't a natural phenomenon. Especially not ones with "A+R - Friends Forever" engraved on the side. Beyond the wooden bridge, an encampment was visible, complete with a windmill and a large arrangement of buildings.
Civilization. Or at least, what little this planet had to offer.
The inhabitants seemed humanoid enough in appearance. Two arms, two legs, one head. The incredulous stares she received upon entering the village were easy to ignore at first. Then they began to get a little annoying. It was when a few of the children stopped playing at their game to gawk at her that she finally lost her temper.
"What the HELL is your problem?" she snapped at them.
The children fled into a nearby building.
She scowled, continuing her way through the village. "Geez. You'd think this was some backwoods joint that never got visitors."
A young man leaning against the fence was too slow to escape. Despite her rather petite frame, she was long a master in the art of acting dangerous. She'd learned it shortly after learning the art of _being_ dangerous.
"Hey you!" she growled, cornering him.
For a brief moment, she hesitated. Asking for the location of the nearest supply and repair depot would be pointless. As would asking about energy weapons, more than likely. "Where the hell is this?" she finally demanded.
"Don't you know?"
"Arlia!" he repeated, sounding more convinced.
"I'm looking for a guy named Ernest? You seen him around?"
The man shook his head vigorously.
"He didn't swear you to secrecy, did he? Because I'm a friend of his. Are you _sure_ you didn't see him?"
"Can I help you?"
The voice caught her by surprise. Spinning around she came face to face with an elderly man. At least, she thought he was elderly. His lack of top hair and an abundance of facial hair was consistent with most cultural norms among the elderly.
"I'm looking for someone," she informed him, ignoring the still cowering man behind her.
The elderly man raised an eyebrow as he took in her appearance, but unlike the others, contained himself. "I see... would you be amicable to coming to my house for something to drink? You have obviously traveled far. And it is a hot day out today. We can talk there."
She blinked a few times, prompting a restrained gasp from the elder and several onlookers. "Uh... sure. Lead the way." It seemed that this civilization wasn't entirely hostile. Maybe they were all just in awe of her gun. It _was_ a sweet piece of firepower...
"This way," the man invited, pointing towards one of the buildings. It was notable larger than the others. It was possible that this man had some influence in the locale.
Both were silent until inside the building.
Taking a seat, she allowed the man to give her a glass of water in a cup. The water had a slight edge that suggested a high mineral content, but she drained it in one gulp nonetheless. Refreshing, to understate the case.
"Goodness," the man observed. "You certainly are thirsty."
"You try hiking in high heels for who knows how long with nothing to warm beer to drink," she retorted. "You'd be pretty damn thirsty yourself!"
For an answer, the man produced a second glass of water for her. "Then by all means," he invited. "You may call me Arvis. I'm the elder in Arlia village."
She nodded approvingly as she drained the second glass of water. "Opera."
He raised an eyebrow. "Your voice _would_ suggest you to be a singer-"
She rolled her eyes, prompting a swallow from Arvis. "No, no, my name is Opera. Opera Vectra. I only sing for fun or when I'm drunk."
Producing a third glass of water for her, he took a deep breath. "May I ask you something?"
She drained this glass as well. "Shoot."
"How in the world did you come to have _THREE_ eyes?!?"
Hmm... I deliberately withheld her name for this long, but I'm not sure if it was a good idea. I read somewhere that it's easier to establish a person's character when the reader doesn't have a name to go by at first. One of my primary goals for this work is to pick up on characterization where the RPG left off, so I thought I'd give it a shot. I dunno.
Some nuances in this chapter such as Opera's state of dress and choice of weapons, I felt necessary to explain/rationalize somehow. I mean, the game has her dressed up with a kickass gun and an evening dress on a foreign planet, and no explanation why. Not that I'm complaining or anything (^_^), but I'm trying to do a thorough job here. On the odd chance that you haven't played the RPG itself (But are still reading this fanfic???), dredging up a picture of her would probably be beneficial. Or if you've seen the anime "Sazan Eyes", you've got a rough idea of what her face would look like.
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