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Awake (Chapter 27)

Chapter 27

Siris was on the ground rolling and slapping at the sudden flames that had sprung up from the left side of his abdomen. Subtly interlacing the tableau of pain that dominated the majority of his senses he could smell burning plastic and, strangely, ammonia. He also registered another blast from the shotgun and then a scream.

He worried that Cato had been the next target in the pitiless shareholder’s sights, and despite the pain he lifted himself from the ground and staggered to his feet. The flames were out, but smoke still rose from the smoldering spot, but he grimaced and lifted his shotgun and searched for the enemy, resolving to give the boy more than he gave.

The fact that he had been shot with a Dragon’s Breath round was proof that the shareholder didn’t understand the ballistics behind the weapon he used. While the round was perfect for things like the fire-adverse bats, they didn’t have the penetrative power of a slug or the buck-shot. Siris had done a lot of testing and practicing to figure out which round was best for what, let alone learning how to hit what he was aiming at. He was surprised that the boy had even hit him at all. Maybe he had some experience with guns. Maybe he shot clay pigeons on a hobby ranch like rich people did.

All of this cycled through Siris’ rapid-fire mind in the space of time it took him to locate the boy and Cato. The boy’s writhing body lay on the ground while Cato stood over him, tearing at his throat. He made a horrible gurgling sound as a scream attempted to escape the ruined esophagus.

Siris lowered his gun and ran to the two, holding a protective hand over his wounded side.

“Cato, let him go!” But Cato ignored the plea, and shook his jaws again in savage revenge. “Cato, release him.” Cato let go and took a step back and barked at the boy, as if throwing a final insult after the boy’s departing spirit.

Siris knelt and put his hands over the wound, but he knew it was too late. Just seconds ago he had resolved to kill the boy himself, but seeing him like this, about his same age, struggling to die, he couldn’t find the same hatred that had inspired the oath.

The boy’s blood and air seeped through Siris’ fingers until, finally, it stopped coming.

Siris stood and wiped the blood on his pants. Tears were in his eyes, but they weren’t really directed at the boy who had shot him, but rather at a single-worded question.

Why?

They were separated from the civilization that they knew by light years of distance and thousands of years of time, but the same problems that had faced humanity since the beginning still existed here on Ross 128 b. Man killed man for no other reason than a slight perception of power that it might bring.

He cuffed at the tears and gulped when another ‘why’ came to him.

He nudged the shotgun at his feet with his toe.

A sudden fear gripped him so tight that he gasped.

He bent and picked up the extra gun, ran to the buggy and threw it in the back, then turned to the hill and started up it.

He was breathing hard and sweating profusely within minutes and each step pulled at his muscles in his wounded abdomen. Cato stayed by his side. Siris liked to think that the dog was worried for him.

He had climbed a good three-quarters of the way when he felt some of the soil beneath his hand stuff away and tumble down the hill below him in a shower of brown earth and uprooted ferns. Where his hand had been, a square foot section of dull metal appeared. Here on the side of the ship, the soil hadn’t built up very deep and, apparently, was quite unstable.

He decided to skirt the edge of the ship instead of continuing the climb and started off to the right. The slight ledge that he was on opened up a little and a distinct path formed with clear human footprints in the dirt. He was being as silent as he could be, unsure if he would come upon another shareholder or not, when he heard talking coming from up ahead around the curve of the foliage covered ship. A word, here and there, was all he could make out, but he wasn’t about to walk around the corner and ask them what they were talking about.

Cato slinked to his side, close as ever. Siris squatted down and shuffled low around the curve, gun up. A corroded and crumpled mass of ship was exposed, undoubtedly the point of impact where the Samsara crashed into this very hill. Two tall boys guarded an opening into the darkened interior of the ship. He kicked himself for not fully scouting the ship before leaving Iris and Peter here. He had also been stupid to believe that the initial disgust with the eerie nature of the ship would keep the uppity shareholder kids away forever.

Siris backed back around the curve of the ship and went back in the opposite direction passing his initial path up the slope and the exposed section of ship he discovered.

This time, he made his way cautiously all the way around to the side of the Samsara he was familiar with. He passed where he scraped grease from the gasket for the torches and was soon within hearing of the vine shrouded entrance to his home of a week ago.

He leaned against the ship who’s metal side was exposed on this, the leeward end of the Samsara. He listened for anything, but heard nothing. He pressed his hand against his side and then looked at it. There was blood, but not as much as he’d feared. Maybe the burning shards of magnesium had cauterized the wound as they entered.

He was about to sneak around the edge of the ship, having heard nothing while he waited and was stepping cautiously forward when a voice stopped him in his tracks.

“I’m bored. Can’t we just kill them already?” It was the big oaf who was the dumbest of the big-idiot-trio, who’s name Siris couldn’t quite remember. Donovan…Duncan?

“Shut your face-hole, Devon” Geoffrey said. “If we go in there now you’d be first in line so that your meat can stop all the bullets before they get to me. If that’s the way you want it to go down then I guess we can go now. Otherwise, shut up.” Devon had apparently been cowed, because he gave no response. Siris was surprised by how cold Geoffrey had talked about the death of one of his biggest allies.

There was no way for Siris to know exactly who Geoffrey was talking about, but he half hoped and half feared that it was Iris and Peter. From the little information that he just received, someone was trapped but they were also armed and dangerous enough to make Geoffrey think twice.

“Besides, we have another day at least until Terrance gets the door open.” Geoffrey’s voice had lowered and Siris barely heard the comment, but he shuddered at the boy’s tone.

That was it then. Siris had a time frame. He could afford to regroup and think this through. He was tired of reacting. He wanted to do this on his own terms. He backed away and headed back to the buggy. When he got there, the boy Cato had killed was already gone, undoubtedly a much appreciated dinner for something scary.


It was a half hour drive back to the hab, and while he retraced his previous route, his mind


focused on what needed to be done. He had work to do.



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