His Girl Friday
Part 7: Right Of Passage
Realising that he'd never outrun the creature chasing him, Sheppard skidded to a halt and ducked down just in time to avoid the massive paw that would have otherwise taken his head clean off of his shoulders as the beat reared up on its hind legs. Hitting the ground hard, he rolled onto his back, bring his P90 up in one fluid, practised move. Relying on pure instinct, he pulled the trigger, sending a short burst into the bears soft under belly. To snarled, slamming back down with enough force to shake the ground, forcing Sheppard to roll to one side to avoid being crushed. He brought the P90 around again, but the weapon jammed the instant he pulled the trigger.
"Oh hell no!" He cursed, looking at it for a split-second with a look of betrayal on his face, before the bear took another swipe at him, forcing him to dive out of the way, the useless weapon hanging from his webbing. He hit the ground hard, the force of impact driving the air from his lungs. He gasped for breath, knowing that every moment of hesitation cloud mean the end of his life, but his body refused to obey.
A new sound filled the air: it was a cry of anger, fear and determination, driven by something primordial. Sheppard looked round just in time to see a man dressed in a simple tunic erupt out of the long grass and land high on the bears back, a long, cycle shaped sword in one hand, while the other grabbed a handful of the beasts thick hair. Sunlight glinted off the blade as it cut through the air before slicing into the creatures back, sending a splash of blood flying. Again and again the man slashed and hacked at his target, all the time keeping a steady grip on its back while it did its best to dislodge him. The scent of fresh blood filled the air, making Sheppard reach as he kicked his feet out to back himself away from the frenzied battle, trying to unjam his P90: he wasn't sure just who was going to win, but he wanted to be ready in case they weren't friendly.
Finally, through blood loss and exertion, the bear collapsed, its breathing growing slow and laboured. The stranger jumped off of its back and walked round to look it in the eye. The two of them stood, looking at each other for a moment, before the man brought his sword round one last time, the razor sharp blade slicing cleanly though the bears neck, severing the windpipe. The bears body shuddered once, then went still.
"Um, hi!" Sheppard smiled, trying to look as non-threatening as he could when confronted by a man that had just taken down a massive sabre-toothed bear singled handed, "I don't suppose the phrase 'I some in peace' means anything to you?"
The stranger looked at him, seeming to size him up, his hand tightening its grip on the bloodstained sword. His eyes were bright and alert, but still showed the same killer instinct that had driven the near suicidal attack on the bear. Sheppard almost had a stroke when the young woman he had almost killed earlier ran out of the long grass and wrapped her arms around the stranger, burying her head in his neck. He looked at the two of them for a moment, and realised that they looked a lot alike, possibly brother and sister, or at least cousins.
"Well, it's been fun and all, but I really should be going." Sheppard started to back away, but found himself walking into what felt uncomfortable like the tip of at least two spears, "You know, this kind of stuff never happened to Kirk..."
Weir sat huddles in the back of the Jumper, torn between her overwhelming terror and the burning need to go out and find Sheppard, to make sure he was aright. Checking yet again that the Beretta was loaded and ready, then placed in back in its holster, before retrieving the flair-gun, remembering how effective it had been. Making sure that the last remaining cartridge was in place, and grabbed one of the spears and the lighter of the two first-aid kits: she knew that if Sheppard needed the larger kit, then he wouldn't be in a fit state to walk back to camp, even with her assistance. She set out with a growing sence of interpretation, all her senses keys to try and pick up the first sign of danger. Walking as quickly as she dared, she followed the by now well worn path through the trees out out the other side into the long grass.
Sweaty hands gripping the spear, she inched her way forward until she came across the abandoned canteens: one of them had been flattened by some immanence weight, the two ragged claw marks that perforated it making it clear just what that weight had been, while the spear he had been carrying lay broken to one side. Her stomach lurched; from morning sickness or fear, she couldn't tell. Forcing herself to continued, she followed the beasts tracks through the long grass, every step bring with it the fresh fear that she'd come across her companions remains. The stench of fresh blood assaulted her nostrils, and she had to physically force herself to step through the last patch of long grass.
Stepping out into a clearing, she reached as the bears body came into view, surrounded by a large number of fly like insects and other such carrion. Blood covered the ground and was splattered across the tick blades of grass. The glint of early afternoon sunlight on spent bullet casings showed where Sheppard attempted to make his stand, but they were pitifully few considering he had left camp with a full magazine. Mentally preparing for the worst, she looked around for his body, the fear that she would now be alone on such a dangerous planet.
"John..." She croaked, her moth dry. She swallowed a few times, taking a deep breath before trying again, "John? John, can you hear me?"
There was nothing, nothing but the buzzing of the flies and the soft rustle of the wind though the long-grass.
Sheppard's foot tripped on a rock and he fell forward, landing face first on the ground. Taking a deep breath, he struggled to get back to his feet, the way his hands were tied behind his back making it hard to regain his balance, but he finally managed it. Looking round at his captures, he saw the way they looked at him, with fear and confusion in their eyes. That he could understand; his pale skin was significantly lighter than their own, and his uniform was in stark contrast to the tunics and short, knee length trousers they wore, and while he wore a pair of sturdy USAF issue boots, they were barefoot.
They had stripped him of anything that could have been considered a weapon back where their apparent leader had killed the bear, but no one had said a word the entire time; they seemed to communicate with hand gestures and whistles. He had tried to talk to them on more than one occasion, but had earned himself a a jab in the ribs with the butt of a spear for his troubles; it was obvious that they wanted silence. The path they followed led down towards the river, several miles downstream from where he had fished with Weir just a few days before.
Just thinking about her sent a pang of guilt through him; there had been know way for him to leave any kind of warning or message for her, and he still felt that it was his duty to protect her. Now here he was; being led away by a group of natives armed with spears and swords. He knew that he could have used his P90 back when they'd captured him, and would have had a better than average chance of fighting he way clear, but that would have meant wounding or even killing at lest four other men, let alone the young girl who'd been his first contact with them. He couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't being escorted to a social event, but he knew that playing along was his bet chance of getting out of there with his skin intact.
Weir collected the discarded canteens, ignoring the damaged one, and went down to the river to fill them. Her actions were automatic, almost as if she was sleepwalking: her mind unable or unwilling to process what had happened. The first real thought she had for many hours was to light the camp fire, mainly to keep warm; her stomach was just too unsettled for her to eat anything. Instead she just sat, looking at the flames.
She felt like she should cry, but she found it impossible: that would be too much like admitting that Sheppard was never coming back, that the Daedalus was never going to rescue them. These were both things she couldn't allow herself to even contemplate. Perhaps, if it has just been her, she might have given in to despair, but she was now responsible for another life, so giving up was not an option. Sheppard would be back, the Daedalus would rescue them. All she had to do was hold on until then. With this renewed determination came a sense of deep inner peace as she felt something powerful welling up inside her, a deep inner strength that she had never realised was there, making its way to the surface. Oh yes, she would survive.
And wow betide anything that stood in her way.
Sheppard had found the hike difficult: the distance wasn't the issue, but having his hands tied behind his back meant he had to be extra careful about making sure the ground beneath his feet was solid before he shifted his weight. Despite this, he fell several times, his captures never once offering to help him back up. The open grassland had been bad enough, but trying to pick his way down the twisting tack that lead down through the rocks where the forest started was almost impossible without his arms to balance himself with. Yet somehow he managed, and was led to a small lake just past the tree-line, where the party came to an abrupt stop.
It was a raft. A big one, with a sail, but a raft none the less.
A nudge with the end of a spear indicated that he should climb aboard, and he managed to do so without falling into the water. Finding a spot where he could sit down rather than topple onto the deck proved more of a challenge, but by backing himself up against the mast, he was able to slowly work his way down until he was sitting cross-legged on the rough wooden beams that made up the raft itself. The others quickly cast off, using long wooden polls to move the craft into the deeper water at the middle of the river, and it was soon moving along at a reasonable speed, the massive, overhanging trees providing some shelter.
Closing his eyes, Sheppard lent his head back against the mast and offered up a silent pray to any higher beings that might be listening to keep an eye on Weir.
To Be Continued...