They all stopped dead in their tracks once they saw the beast. It was pretty large and thick. Standing at about 15 feet tall on all four legs and 20 feet long to its spiky tail, it's skin was rough and it had a smashed face but long sharp teeth to make up for it. What made this creature so eerie were its white eyes. It looked and behaved like it was blind.
It came closer to the water, sniffing the air, following our scent. The kid with the stick started wading away to the other side of the pool and then began waving his arms in the air.
"Hey! Ugly! Over here look!" He called to the beast and its attention shifted to him. "Guys run back to the village!"
One of the girls shouted back, "No! Stellan! We can't leave you!"
Stellan was backing away, "Just go!"
The beast cornered Steallan against part of the stone mountain where the water was falling from as Kiko hastily made her way over to him. We all watched in terror as the beast opened its mouth, ready to gobble the kid in one bite.
"Stellan!" the girl screamed.
The beast lunged at him but Kiko swooped in and caught the beast by the teeth. They were stuck in a grip lock, Kiko holding it by its teeth as it attempted to snap its jaws shut on them both. The beast was slowly forcing Kiko down towards the ground as she struggled to keep it at bay.
Rei ran over to me and I immediately knew what she wanted. I threw her blaster to her and took out Kiko's for myself.
She shot the beast a few times in the leg. It didn't seem to do much but Kiko was able to take that opportunity to offset its balance and throw the large beast against the rocks. Then she took the knife she held between her teeth and readied herself.
The blasts didn't seem to penetrate the beast's skin, instead there were patches of black burn marks where each blast struck it. What kind of creature was this?
"Get out of here kid" she said to Stellan.
The kid slowly backed away watching everything that was happening intently.
The beast got back up and swung its tail around, growling with anger.
"Sarth, in my belt there's a pouch that has a bunch of tiny balls." She rolled out of the way of its attacking mouth again. "Throw me one."
I tossed Kiko's blaster to Rei and she ran around blasting the creature from all directions. I started opening her pouches, looking for tiny balls. I found spikes, chains, extra blaster cartridges and finally tiny round balls.
"I found them!" I exclaimed as I ran up closer to throw it to her.
The ball was tiny. I tried to throw it at her but I couldn't see where it went. According to her movements she had to take a step and extend her arm to catch it, but somehow she caught the tiny thing. Then she jumped up the rock wall avoiding each of its attacks.
When she was high enough on a ledge the beast was left jumping and snapping, trying to reach her. She glanced at it over the ledge, rubbing her hands together with quick veracity. When she stopped, she looked back over the edge at the snapping beast, a look of calculation crossed her face. Then she spun around and did a backflip off the ledge and over the beast.
I couldn't see the tiny ball but her movements showed that she threw the ball into its mouth. On the way down she rolled and kicked off its back, landing pretty far from it but still running away towards us. It took a moment for the beast to realize she wasn't on the ledge anymore before it changed direction and came after her again.
The kid was still in awe, watching Kiko not to far away from the action. As she ran she grabbed his hand, dragging him away behind some rocks.
"Get down!" Rei shouted as she shoved the kids behind some other large rocks.
I was barely able to get behind a tree when the beast abruptly exploded from the inside-out. It was a strong blast that bent over some nearby trees just from the shockwave alone which was something I didn't expect from such a tiny bead ball.
Beast guts flew in every direction, leaving nothing but a mess and bad odor. It was still and quiet before we all took a look at the aftermath.
"You guys alright?" Rei asked the kids motherly.
They all nodded in unison, staring at what was left of the creature. One the younger girls was still clutching her leg.
"How'd you do that?" Stellan asked, examining the remains.
"Uhh…" Kiko didn't know how to answer. "I was trained for it."
Not far from the truth, in fact it was the truth. She was always training for situations like this.
"Have you come from Crux to exterminate all the vladicles?!" he asked with excitement.
"No." she said bluntly.
The kids frowned and moaned with disappointment.
Rei interjected, "We just came to visit. Do you know where we can find Vero?"
Stellan's face lit up. "Yeah! He's my dad!"
Kiko remembered something, "Oh yeah that's right, he had a son who was supposed to arrive after we left the new colony."
"So you're Vero's son? It's nice to finally meet you!" said Rei.
"You know my dad?" Stellan asked.
"Yeah we brought him to Dezner a few years ago to start a colony here."
"No way!" his face lit up again. "You're the Jago crew?!"
Rei and Kiko nodded their heads. I guess Vero told his son about the Jago, but of course I wasn't there at the time.
Cashel and Tammy emerged from the bushes. The kids were surprised at first and ran behind us, all but Stellan.
"It's alright, they're with us" said Rei in a kind voice.
The five kids, including Stellan, all looked about ten or younger. I couldn't believe how brave Steallan was, attracting the vladicle so the others could get away. Even the other kids wouldn't abandon him. They definitely seemed to have a strong bond with each other.
"Everything alright?" Cashel asked holding a large blaster in his arms.
"I detected the activation of a teenie bomb" said Tammy.
"We're okay now" said Kiko. Cashel took a look at the guts on the ground. "It used to be a vladicle."
"Still territorial as ever I see" said Cashel. "And who are these kids?"
Rei answered, "This one is Vero's son."
"Oh, it's nice to finally meet you." He said to Stellan with a big smile.
Stellan's eyes widened, "You're Cashel! The captain of the Jago!"
Cashel laughed, "Yes I am. Can you take us to your father?"
"Yeah sure! It's this way!"
Stellan led the way with his group of friends as we trekked back through the forest of trees. We walked for about a mile until the trees abruptly stopped, revealing a large village made of logs and tree trunks.
The kids all ran off in different directions once we hit the boarder of the village. The only one who stayed was Stellan who was still leading us to Vero.
We walked almost to the center of the village before stopping in front of a log house. Stellan opened the door and let us in.
"Dad! We have visitors!" Stellan yelled out.
A man from a room next door stepped out. He must've been in his early thirties with a short beard and wavy brown hair. He was dressed like he was ready to go chop down trees.
Cashel smiled when the man realized who it was.
"Well if it isn't the Jago crew!" the man smiled back. "What're you doin' here on Dezner?!"
"It's good to see you Vero! It's been awhile hasn't it?"
"Yeah yeah but let me tell you I thought it would be longer!" Vero joked around.
Cashel chuckled and then sighed, "Me too… we needed a place to stay. I hope you don't mind…"
"No problem! In fact, you can stay here with Stellan and I! We have two extra rooms you guys can stay in."
"Thanks, but I'm not sure how long we're going to stay."
"Stay as long as you'd like! I insist!" he said, ushering us to the two rooms up the stairs.
Vero was a very generous man, and a persuasive one. Cashel and I ended up taking one of the rooms and the girls were in the other larger one. He even helped us bring some stuff from the Jago back to his home.
"I heard you saved my boy from a vladicle the other day" he said to Kiko, carrying some of Tammy's boxes to his house.
"Yeah, we happened to be in the same area…" she answered.
"I can't tell you how grateful I am to you, to all of you" he said sincerely.
"He was very brave. His first concern was his friends." She smiled at Stellan who was helping Rei unpack some weapons. "That's something you don't find very often."
Before I knew it, three months had passed since arriving on Dezner and let me say it was probably the best three months of my life. The planet was beautiful and I experienced different types of weather and changes as time passed. Everyone was generous and hard-working and welcomed us like family to their village. It took a little bit of adjustment for Kiko and Tammy but soon we were blending in and living like all the other villagers.
Since there were no bounties to catch, we pulled our weight by helping around the village. We would either farm or fix houses or work in the mines. Most days we helped out in the mine though, since that was the main line of work for the villagers, but other days we were able to explore the beautiful planet and camp out with the kids.
Stellan would always follow Kiko around, especially when she was training. He admired her skills and strove to be just like her. Kiko wasn't very enthused about the idea, but she always let him tag along since he would basically stalk her otherwise.
All the kids loved Rei as much as she loved them. She and Tammy were the only one who didn't work in the mines. Instead, she babysat all the kids in the village and they played all the time. It was fun to watch her run around and chase the littler kids around with a big smile on her face.
Tammy didn't take too well to the lack of technology, but she never complained. Instead she devoted her time to creating newer and better tools for the miners to use. Literally everyone on the planet went to see her about any technological problem and she did rather enjoy fixing them.
Cashel enjoyed talking with the people. He was definitely a people person. He worked in the mines with Kiko and I, but he got to know everyone we worked with, their names, where they lived, what they used to do before coming to Dezner, he knew it all. Afterwards he would sometimes go have a drink with them in the drinking hall. Everyone loved him and his humor, plus he's just a fun guy to hang around with. His stories were always great too. He was one of the best storytellers I knew.
I did a little bit of everything around the village. Cooking, cleaning, kid-watching, I was willing to do anything to help out and do my part. What I enjoyed the most though was camping out with the kids, Rei, and Kiko.
One day the kids convinced us to go camping up in the southern mountain where the workers had stopped mining because a new, abundant mineral was covering all of their mining locations.
It took all day to hike to the top, but amazingly we made it with ten other kids. It was worth the hike. The view from the top was astonishing. We could see the tops of all the trees, the village, and the northern mountains at the end of it all.
It was a vast planet and a weird thought that we were the only ones on it. Since it is a newly discovered planet, Vero's village is the only one that's been established here. No one else knows about it, except Crux, but contact with Crux is only made once a year when there is enough mineral to transport back to them. But I've been wondering if there was still a Crux to transport to, considering the state the race had left it in. I guess there was no point in worrying about it now.
Kiko and I set up our beds on the ledge of the mining cave where we had decided to sleep for the night. We set up here because it had a great view of the stars, we just couldn't get enough of them.
She took out her knife which now had the firestar embedded in the handle and held it up to the sky. It was glowing brightly as usual.
Something was on her mind.
"Do you think people change?" she asked me.
I turned on my side in my bed to look at her. "You've lived twice as long as me, do you think you have?" I asked back.
She contemplated my remark.
"I want to say I have, but I'm not sure if I believe it."
Something was bugging her. I didn't know what it was and I'm not sure she wanted to say, but I knew something's been nagging her since we've met.
"Believing you can is the first step to changing." I smiled at her. "I believe you can, but I love who you are right now."
She chuckled. "I believe you were always the Sarth I've known. I don't think you've ever been different."
I chuckled back. "You didn't know me back then, so how would you know?"
She sighed and her smile dropped.
"Exactly," she said as she lowered her knife and turned away from me. "Good night."
I wanted to say something but I didn't know what. I obviously didn't say the right thing last time, so I sighed with frustration at myself and said good night.
We were hiking back down through the mountain caves when I noticed something move on the black rock walls.
"Did you see that?" I asked Kiko.
She nodded and gestured for me to stay back. The black rocks on the walls of the cave were supposed to be the new mineral that kept this mountain from being mined because it was so abundant that it was easier to just move to a new mountain.
The rest of the group continued on ahead of us except for Kiko, Stellan and I. We watched as Kiko took out her knife to examine the rock that moved.
She slowly touched the tip of her knife to the rock and it unexpectedly moved like a glob of liquid on to it. When she noticed it moving she instantly threw the knife behind her on the other black rock wall.
That took Stellan and I by surprise. We weren't expecting her to fling her knife but our gut reactions urged us to duck on the ground when she suddenly turned to throw it, and it was good that we did.
We looked at her with wide eyes.
"Sorry" she apologized, "I threw it on instinct."
"We know you well enough to tell when our life is in danger" said Stellan rubbing his chest where his heart was at out of relief.
The three of us got closer to examine the half blade sticking out of the rock wall.
The blade was jet black like the black rocks. Kiko tapped her knife to see if it would react again but it didn't move. Then she gripped it and still nothing happened. Finally she pulled the knife out of the rock and continued to examine it.
"Huh. That's strange. Have these rocks ever moved like that before?" she asked Stellan.
"No I don't think so." He said.
"I'll see if Tammy knows anything about it." She put her now black knife back on her hip. "Let's catch up to the others."
By the time we reached the village, Rei, Kiko and I were all holding a tired kid on our backs. Rei made sure they all got home safely as Stellan and I followed Kiko who was going to see Tammy about her black knife.
"What do you think?" she asked Tammy inside the house.
Tammy twirled it in her fingers and then wrapped a glowing hair around it.
"I've never heard of a mineral like this before" she finally responded.
"Do you think it's dangerous?"
"No… in fact it likes you."
The three of us made a face.
"It… likes me?"
"Yes. It seems this mineral is type of basic life form. Therefore, it can think for itself. And it likes you, which is why it has chosen to stay with you."
"Oh. So I should keep it?"
"That is up to you, although getting it off might prove to be difficult. Its composition enables it to change its shape, and the fact that it can think on its own makes this an extremely rare mineral. I see no harm in keeping it."
"I see... thanks Tammy."
Tammy handed her the knife back. "May I make a request?" she added.
"Sure go for it," said Kiko.
"Will you take me to where you found this mineral? I would like to examine it more in its natural habitat."
"You want me to take you on a day long journey back to where we just came from?"
Kiko stared at her for a moment, trying to determine if it was a joke.
"Alright… call me when you're ready."
"I'll come too" I said.
"Me too!" said Stellan.
An hour later we found ourselves hiking back up the south mountain. We made great pace since there were only three of us walking. Yep, that's right, I said three.
"I didn't think when you asked me to take you, that it literally meant I would carry you up the mountain." Kiko protested.
Tammy, who was on her back, didn't say anything.
It was truly difficult for Stellan and I to keep from bursting out laughing at her comment.
We reached the mining cave just before nightfall and Tammy spent the next few hours studying the rocks. I left Kiko who was teaching Stellan how to correctly throw a blade into the ground and went to sit down next to Tammy. I wondered what she was doing.
She was just sitting on the ground, holding a small black rock in her hands so I asked her, "How's it going?"
"Fascinating, I've never seen composition like this before, it is able to take on different forms at will, depending on the situation. Plus it's evolving even faster as it experiences new surroundings."
"Oh," I said with interest, "so why does it like Kiko so much?"
Tammy wrapped a glowing hair around the small piece of the black rock and it transformed into different shapes in the palm of her hand, "I'm sure it likes her power."
I thought for a moment, "Her power huh?"
Her power. What is her power? The power to be a super awesome fighter? The power to kick ass? I wasn't really sure. I don't really know what power is. There was so much I didn't know about her or the galaxy…
All of a sudden Tammy readily stood up and turned to me.
"We better leave. Someone else has landed on this planet… with hostile intentions."