The next morning it was still pouring rain as the eight group members that were supposed to retrieve the stone, prepared to leave. I wasn't really sure what time it was since the sun was blocked by a thick, dark layer of clouds. The rain wasn't too bad considering it was luke-warm outside, I was just getting tired of everything being wet.
Rei, Kiko and I were standing just outside the base waiting for Breccan's team to arrive when something caught our attention in the vast sky.
We watched as a giant space ship disappeared behind the trees in the direction we were headed, leaving a fiery trail behind.
"That's not good" said Rei.
"Are they racers?" I asked.
Kiko stared into the trees where the ship disappeared, "Most likely."
"Let's get going, we're obviously not alone anymore" came Breccan's voice as he and his team arrived. "You all know Lux and Pippa and me of course…" he gave a charming smile to Kiko and she rolled her eyes, "but this is Shihon and Tobiah, they're a few of my best hunters."
The first one, Shihon reminded me of the sun dweller creatures I've seen on Sola. His skin was green and bumpy like them and he had a short, reptilian snout and a long tail. His body structure made him wobble side-to-side when he walked. He acknowledged us when Breccan gestured to him, unlike his companion.
Tobiah's reaction was unknown, hidden behind half a large metal mask that covered his nostrils and mouth. He had very rough, tan, hide-skin from what I could tell, while trying to look past the hood he was wearing. His eyes were the most dangerous part about him. He glared at me in disgust with narrow red pupils and yellow eyes.
"What's his problem?" Kiko demanded, taking notice of Tobiah's death stare at me.
"He won't be one." Breccan assured. "I swear it, on my love for you."
I guess that was pretty reassuring. Tobiah turned away and ignored me like I was insignificant.
"Well! Let's go!" Pippa exclaimed happily while bouncing from foot to foot, leading the way through the jungle.
We all had large travel packs on our backs that held everything we'd need for an eleven day excursion. The only exception was Kiko who was carrying a smaller travel pack, as well as the PSL on her back. The extra weight didn't seem to hinder her at all though.
I never really thought about where all the water goes when it rains, but I got to experience it first-hand. We traveled half the day toward the white mountain when we were cut off by a raging river flowing through the trees and brush.
"We have to pass somehow!" yelled Breccan through the sound of gushing water.
Pippa put down her pack and shoved an arm down it, "I have just the thing!" she answered.
Then she pulled out a canister and handed it to Rei. "Here try this out! It'll shoot-out a super strong twine and stick to whatever the end hits."
"Really?" asked Rei analyzing the canister. "It's super light."
"It'll work, trust me!"
"Her stuff never fails!" Breccan guaranteed with an impressed smile.
Rei sassed, "I'll take Pip's word for it, not yours." Then she attached the canister to her blaster and took aim at a far, sturdy-looking tree.
Pew! She fired the blaster and twine shot out and stuck to the tree she was aiming at.
"That was pretty cool!" she said lowering her blaster with the twine still attached. "Now what?"
We all looked at Pippa and she had a concentrating look on her face.
"…Didn't think that far." She said matter-of-factly and then laughed. "Actually…" she stopped laughing, "why don't you try shooting a tree opposite of the other one? That will work."
Rei held up the blaster again and fired at a tree opposite of the other. It stuck there and the twine became taut between the trees. However, the twine was still coming out of the end of the blaster like last time but it was attached to the spot on second tree where she hit.
Pippa went up to Rei and put her finger on a button on the canister, "To cut the twine simply push this button" she said as she pushed the button and the twine detached from the blaster. "To go back to your blaster, turn the twineulator to the right or flick it like this..." She held the blaster in her hand and flicked her wrist toward the right to demonstrate before giving it back to Rei.
"Wow! This is awesome!" said Rei. She took aim at the far tree again and shot it with the twine. Then she connected it to the opposite tree again so that there were two lines, one above the other, and we could scoot across the bottom one and hold on to the top.
Rei was in love with the new attachment and she and Pippa were in such a fixated discussion about it that they didn't notice us prepare to cross.
"A-hem" Kiko interrupted, "We'll be on the other side if you need anything."
We made a line to cross along the twine. The bottom line was about three feet above the water which meant that at least we weren't getting more wet.
The first person to cross was Breccan, followed by Lux, Pippa, Shihon, Tobiah, Rei, me, and then Kiko. It wasn't hard to cross just tedious. We were a little more than half way through when I heard Pippa yelling.
"Strong as in tension! Not it's physical properties! Don't let them bite the twine!"
What was she talking about? What bite the twine? I saw Rei looking around too, trying to figure out what Pippa was yelling about. Our eyes went to the same spot, below us. A school of ugly looking fish with large sharp teeth were swimming and jumping upstream toward us… and they could jump high.
"Sarth!" Kiko reminded me where my attention should be. Rei was already a few feet ahead of me, moving fast with only one arm on the twine, the other one holding on to her newly upgraded blaster.
Suddenly the bottom twine shuddered and I nearly slipped off. The others were held up ahead of us for some reason and I couldn't tell what it was. Blaster shots flew in every direction, because the fish could jump nearly as high as our heads. I dodged the ones that lunged at me and Kiko shot or kicked off any of them that would bite the twine.
Further ahead, Rei crossed over something that wasn't twine without hesitating but I stopped to notice. Breccan was holding together the severed line that we were crossing while kicking away any fish that tried to eat him.
"Hurry up and cross kid!" he grunted as he kicked another fish away from biting his arm off.
With no time to argue, I stepped over his head and onto his arm before reaching the twine again and continuing forward. I was almost to the other side where everyone else was supporting Kiko and Breccan by firing their weapons at the attacking fish.
I turned around to see Kiko, who stayed by Breccan, attach her hip cable to the upper twine and grab Breccan by his backpack just as Tobiah shot his twine blaster at Kiko's back and started reeling them in with haste.
They both arrived safely with us on the riverbank, Breccan looking pleased as ever.
"You saved me, my darling Akiko!" he said with emotional pleasure.
"And I regret it already" said Kiko as she got up and made her way towards the mountain once again, ignoring his gratitude.
Soon we were at the base of the large white mountain and began our journey up it. As it grew darker, the rain was finally letting up.
"We'll camp here for the night." Breccan declared.
No one argued or said anything. They simply set down their packs and prepared for the night. In Shihon's case, he let down Pippa as well since he let her ride on his back like a scavy, on all fours.
I'm glad we stopped, I was getting exhausted and tired of feeling wet.
We all set up our tents. The girls shared tents in pairs of two and all the men had their own smaller tents.
A fire was set up and blazing in the middle of our camp.
"What's to eaaaaat?" Rei complained, lying against her pack.
Shihon held up three small fuzzy dead creatures. "There are only small animals since everything else we can eat is trying to flee from the black hole."
"We'll have to eat our nourishing capsules with them" said Lux.
I saw her pull out a bottle and pour some small capsules in her hand, "What's that?" I asked, taking a closer look at them.
"They contain everything the body needs in replacement of food" she enlightened while handing me a capsule.
I examined it in my hand, "You eat this?"
Rei sighed when she was handed hers, "It's better to just swallow it."
Everyone ate theirs and I picked up mine and put it in my mouth. The taste was so strongly bitter, I immediately spit it out in my hand and the taste was still killing my taste buds.
Lux frowned, "I was hoping you wouldn't be affected but to some humans the taste can be extremely bitter."
We both watched Pippa pop in a capsule and go back to work on the PSL as if she were eating candy.
The bitter taste was still lingering in my mouth, "I don't think I can eat this." I said.
"The humans who can taste it usually can't," she said as she picked up the capsule from my hand and put it in her mouth. "You can have my portion of food tonight."
A loud crack came from where Kiko was helping move large boulders that was blocking our path. She looked extremely agitated. "You wanted these destroyed right?" she said as she pounded and cracked through the large boulders.
It didn't matter what Breccan would say, she was going to destroy them completely.
"Yes! Excellent job!" Came Breccan's unheard voice.
We all settled around the fire. It was the first time I could fully see the two moons in the since being on the planet. They were the only thing alight in the dark night, since the sage layers blocked out the stars in the sky.
We ate the creatures that Shihon captured and sat around the fire. The only one who didn't join us was Tobiah. He was leaning against some boulders away from camp.
I watched him stare at the moon and wondered why he preferred to be alone.
Lux leaned close to me, "He hates humans. Where he's from, humans were the predominant creatures and ruled over all other species."
I whispered back, "What about Breccan and Pippa and the other human crewmembers?"
"Pippa and Breccan aren't human."
I guess Pippa not being human made sense but I never knew Breccan wasn't human. He certainly looked like one. Actually, Lux looked like one too but her glowing hands gave her away, so I wondered if Breccan was the same species as her.
Breccan clapped his hands, "Alright, everyone should get to bed. We're getting up bright and early tomorrow."
His crewmembers instantly complied, even Tobiah walked back to his tent. Eventually Kiko and Rei complied and headed into their own tent.
It was warm inside my small tent and I snuggled underneath my sleeping bag and closed my eyes, wondering what the next day would bring.