It's a Jungle Out There
Chapter 2

Kim poked at the fire that burned in front of her. They had spent the day searching the area around them and found nothing but woods and open land. Water seemed plentiful but they had not tried any yet. Ron had fixed some food with what they had with them. They would use the cockpit for shelter for now. Later they would have to live off the land and build their own shelter. So far they had seen some wildlife with one creature looked a great deal like a rabbit. Another check of the Kepler had given them some hope. It would take time. Maybe a few years but they might be able to repair the ship. But even if they did, to repeat the trip back would be beyond a miracle.


Kim turned to see Ron standing in the hatch.

"What is it Ron?"

Ron motioned toward her.

"We need to put the fire out and get inside. Just because we haven't seen any of the nasty type of wildlife doesn't mean that they aren't out there. It would be a drag to have traveled so far and only get eaten by some weirdo creature."

Kim nodded.

"Okay Ron."

Kim stood and piled dirt onto the fire to put it out. She made sure that the coals were cool and out before she turned and entered the craft. Pulling the hatch shut, she closed and locked it.

Beneath a nearby tree two pairs of eyes watched.

The light was shining through the window as Kim opened her eyes and glanced around the cockpit of the ruined Kepler. The two of them had worked to make what was left of the small room into some shape of a shelter. The survival pack survived the crash and they used parts of it to make the room as comfortable as the possibly could. A quick check of their ration showed that they had enough food for about a week. They would have to find food and water here quickly. Luckily the Kimmunicators that they carried with them and several new functions. Some of the new functions were for survival. The devices could scan something and tell them if it would be harmful to eat or drink. That function would soon be getting a workout.

Kim sat up from her pallet and stretched her arms. The temperature in the room seemed comfortable but that didn't mean that the outside was comfortable too. She stood up and flipped a few switches to power up the part of the console that held the sensors for the outside. A quick check showed that the temperature was in the sixty's. They would not need a jacket of any type. Ron sat up beside her blinking at the light coming into the upside down cockpit. While the windows of the cockpit were shadowed by the hull nose they could tell that there was plenty of light outside. He turned to face Kim.

"Good morning."

Kim grinned as she leaned over for a kiss.

"Good morning to you."

They shared a nice slow kiss for a few seconds before Kim broke the kiss and sighed.

"As nice as this is I think we need to get to work. Why don't you get something for us to eat and I'll get together some mission packs. We might as well start surveying the area and see what we can find. We are going to be here for awhile so we might was well get settled in. We'll need to find a site to set up a camp and start to find food and water. I'll check on the special pack just in case."

Ron nodded. The special pack was something Wade came up with in the extreme chance they landed on another planet and it was similar enough to Earth. It had equipment and seeds that would allow them to plant food if needed. It also had equipment that would allow them to build a shelter. There was also a drone that ran off sunlight that could survey the area and help warn them of any trouble. He stood up only to bash his head on the overhanging console that was now over his head. Turning to Kim he noticed her grinning.

"Be careful you."

She turned to walk to the other side of the cockpit only to get a facefull of the headrest of her cockpit seat hanging from the floor above her. She turned to look at Ron. His face told her that he was fighting hard not to laugh. With a growl she turned and ducked at the same time and made her way to the equipment hatch. As she opened the hatch to where they stored their equipment he started to put together their morning meal.

Kim stopped and took a sip of water from her canteen as she looked out over a large meadow that they were standing at the edge of. They had been checking the area all around them. The special pack had survived for the most part. The seeds and equipment they would need to plant them survived. Several other items also survived but the drone had been trashed. Apparently Kim's brothers had taken it out of its mounts to modify it and did not put it back properly. It was for the most part trashed. It definitely could not fly and the sensors were damaged but it could at least warn them of approaching danger and keep watch over the camp.

They had started a search pattern of concentric circles working their way out. So far they had checked everything within a mile of their craft. So far they had found a small pond of crystal clear water. Tests has shown that water was water what ever planet they might be on. It was perfect for them. A large grove of trees was nearby with a clearing near the center. There was a meadow beside the trees that was large enough to plant a large garden. They had surveyed out the grove of trees and decided to make their permanent camp there. It was just over a small rise from where their ship had crashed so they could retreat back to the craft if they needed to.

So far they had seen some small animals. They looked like rabbits. A quick scan showed that the creatures were very much like rabbits and the meat would be eatable. There were tracks similar to deer and they caught a quick glimpse of something that looked like a deer. They hoped to get a better look later on. The one piece of equipment that did survive the crash was on that always unnerved Kim. That was a weapons stash. The stash consisted of two pistols, two rifles and two shotguns. Kim left most of hers back in the craft and only wore her pistol. Ron carried one of the rifles and his pistol. He had been about to shot one of the rabbit creatures when she stopped him. A quick argument had ensued about the need to hunt. Kim finally won out since they had enough food at least for the next few days.

Luckily the one thing they had not seen was any sign of predators. There had to be some, but so far they had not run into any. That was the only reason that Kim was wearing her pistol. She didn't like it, but she had learned in training that there were times that you just had to shoot. It was that or get eaten or let Ron get eaten. The simulated training they had to go through had not been on the tops of her favorite list. The thought of running into alien life forms where they would have to protect themselves had been discussed. Kim had let her thoughts be known but knew where Ron's were. He had already killed before. She knew that if something threatened her, Ron would kill if he had to without a second thought. He had already proven that he could and would.

"A quarter for your thoughts."

Kim jerked her head around to face Ron.

"That's supposed to be a penny."

He shrugged.

"Hey, I was taking into account inflation. What's up now? We've completed two circles. Considering how fast this sun has been moving we might consider heading back to the ship."

Kim nodded.

"Yeah, let's break out one of the water jugs so that we can carry some water back to the ship."

Ron nodded and was about to start walking when he froze. Kim as about to ask what was the matter when he motioned for her to be quiet. She followed his gaze and a lump formed in her throat. A group of creatures was standing some distance from them. She could only think that they looked like some overgrown lizard something out of that movie her brothers liked so much much where that maniac cloned dinosaurs. Luckily for them these creature were a lot smaller, about the size of the dog, but they still looked very dangerous.

Ron already had his rifle against his shoulder. With a soft click he turned off the safety to the rifle. Kim slowly pulled out her pistol and clicked off the safety. If these things attacked, as ugly as they were she would have no compunction to shot them. Before she could even whisper a question they attacked. Ron opened fire and downed the first two before they had taken more than a few steps. The others split off on both sides of them and then to cross paths in front of them. Something in Kim's mind told her to turn around. As she did she saw three more coming up on them from behind. The creatures had surrounded them and attacked in a coordinated manner. She quickly raised her pistol and opened fire. She dropped two with her first few shots. The others broke off and ran after Ron dropped three more. Both of them stood there for a few moments before they could catch an easy breath. She was the first to talk.

"You okay?"

Ron nodded as his eyes continued to scan the area around them.

"Yeah, beside the fact I might need to change my shorts. I'm okay. You?"

Kim shuddered.

"I think I beat you to the shorts thing. I think we'll pass picking up that water. What say we head back to the camp?"

Ron nodded.

"Sounds like a plan. Let's scan one of these things so we can set the scan in the drone when we get back to camp. That's at least give us some warning next time."

Kim put her pistol back in its holster and set her Kimmuncator to scan. She played the beam over the carcass of the creature until it beeped.

"Okey dokie, let's get out of here."

She pulled her pistol back out and took the lead heading back to their craft. Ron fell into stride behind her walking backwards for a few steps every few seconds. They quickly made their way up the slope on the way back. A deep quiet settled over the area of the fight. After a few minutes the normal sounds grew back to their normal levels. A figure appeared from behind some trees and walked up to one of the dead creatures. After studying the carcass for a few moments the figure walked over to the area where Kim and Ron had fired. The figure knelt down and picked up one of Kim's pistol shells and one of Ron's rifle shells. It placed the two items in a pocket it turned to disappeared back into the forest.

Ron checked the solar panel they had laid out before starting their exploration of the area. It was the newest thing designed by the Middleton Space Center. As long as they had good sunlight for a few hours each day they would be able to maintain the batteries in the ship. Kim was inside the ship programing the drone that they had set on top of a pole that they had set up in the center of their camp. It would at least give them some warning of anything approaching. After scanning several of the animals they did have a base scan that would warn them of the approach of hopefully any creature.

The attack by the pack of creatures had shook them up very much. It didn't take them long to figure out that the creatures had attacked in a formation and apparently some planning. The fact that the first group had been a diversion so the other group could attack from the rear was evidence of some intelligence. How much they didn't know. They were not about to stop and try to talk to something that was trying to eat them.

Ron stepped into the the cockpit as Kim finished up with programming the drone. She punched the last few buttons and hit the key to activate the drone. The screen in front of her came up and showed the area around them. After a few minutes there were a few dots moving around on the screen. The drone told them that all of the life forms were small. Kim started to clean up while Ron started their supper. The wonderful smell of his cooking soon filled the cockpit.

"Dinner's ready!"

Kim stepped over to the back of the cabin where they had set up a kitchen area. Since the real kitchen area was still on the wall but now was upside down they had to make some changes. Luckily they had been trained in repairs and changes to the craft. Together they had been able to remove the food preparation and heating components and replace them back in the wall unit so they were rightside up. It still leaned but at least they could use it. Ron passed her a plate of food and a bottle of water. She took a seat on the floor and leaned against the side of the craft with her dinner in her lap. She sniffed at the aromas rising up to her nose.

"Ahhhh, you have no idea how good that smells. Thanks."

Ron leaned over to give a quick peck on the lips before taking a seat at her side.

"Just doing my thing."

Kim's eyes rolled in pleasure as she started eating.

"Mmmmmmm, that is so good."

Ron ate for a few seconds.

"So what is on tap for tonight?"

Kim thought for a few moments as she ate.

"Well, after cleaning up dinner here and getting cleaned up ourselves I think we need to map out what we found. That site we found should work perfect for us so let's not waste a lot of time getting a shelter built. We can use parts of the ship to help."

Ron was about to answer when the alarm on the drone went off. Both of them jumped to their feet after putting their plates to the side. Moving quickly into the area where the drone controls were. Looking at the screen they saw a section was high lighted by a warning symbol. Kim typed quickly on the keyboard.

"It's a life form about 200 yards away in that line of trees, just at the edge of our scan range. The drone estimates that it is big. Bigger than either one of us, at least 180 lbs. Right now it's not moving but just sitting there."

Two more symbols appeared on the screen and joined the first one. Kim and Ron watched the screen as the three symbols remained still for a few moments then started moving directly toward them. Without a word Ron turned and pulled his rifle out of its rack, put a magazine in and pulled the cocking handle to put a round in the chamber. Kim pulled her USAS-12 shotgun out of its racked and slipped a magazine into the bottom. She quickly cocked it once to put a round in the chamber. She pulled a shoulder bag containing several more magazines in it and slung it over her shoulder. Taking a few more seconds they put on their pistol belts and ammo pouches. Without another word they turned off the lights in the cockpit and took their places on both sides of the hatch.

Reaching into their packs they pulled out their updated mission goggles. The goggles had night vision capabilities as well as a connection with the ship's computer and the drone. While Ron switched his goggles to nightvision, Kim switched her's to the drone. The drone's scan came into view in her goggles. She quickly located the three symbols approaching their ship. The three objects has shifted to and area of heavy brush and were angling to reach a stand of trees just to the right of the ship directly in front of the hatch. She whispered to Ron.

"Looks like they are heading for the stand of tree right in front of the hatch. They are using the bushes to hide their approach."

Ron just nodded and opened the hatch. They both moved to each side of the hatch and found cover in the ground torn up when they crashed. Ron scanned his eyes across the landscape until he found the trees. This world apparently had 2 moons and with the partly cloudy night the area was well lit in his goggles. Then he saw something move. Something in the trees appeared to move from the left to the right. He pulled his rifle to his shoulder and sighted in the area.

Kim watched the three symbols approach where they were. When the three symbols reached the edge of the stand of trees they stopped and pulled back slightly. When one moved to the right by itself she heard Ron move. She knew he had seen something and might be preparing to fire.

"Ron, wait. Be sure of your target."

Ron hesitated.

"What if it's one of those things from earlier but just bigger?"

She thought about that for a second and hefted her shotgun into position aiming in the direction of the trees. Then came the cracking of a branch. Ron shifted his aim and pulled the trigger. His rifle erupted into full auto as he burned through his first magazine. Kim pulled the trigger of her shotgun set up auto fire. The steady thump, thump of the weapons set a baseline for the crack of Ron's rifle. As Ron reloaded she continued to scan the area while she changed the magazine to her weapon. Her ears were still ring from the fusillade of fire. The night was silent for a few moments when a voice called out of the darkness.

"We mean you no harm, don't fire your weapons."

Kim shifted her view to nightvision and looked over at Ron. Even in the view of the goggles she could see the surprise on his face.

"I am coming out into view. I mean no harm."

Both of them watched as a figure stepped from behind a tree. It was a man looking just like a man would on Earth. He appeared to be about 6 feet tall with dark hair. He was carrying some type of weapon in his hands. Ron quickly sighted in on the individual. He stopped and raised his arms in the air holding his weapon aloft.

"Please, we mean you no harm but wanted to help."

Kim found her voice.

"Strange help coming here armed."

The man's head turned in her direction.

"You had a meeting with some of the local wildlife today. The bigger ones come out at night. Would you be out here not armed?"

Ron glanced over to her.

"He got a point there."

Kim thought for moment as her head swam. Intelligent life. She was actually communicating with another intelligent lifeform.

"Okay, tell the others to come out. We know that there are three of you."

The man nodded before he turned.

"We will do so. Come on out. Raise your weapons."

In answer to his call two figures stepped out into the open. One was a short female looking to be younger than the man. The other figure was another man. They were all dressed in some type of camouflage clothing. All three held their weapons high. The other man walked with a slight limp.

The first man faced Kim and Ron.

"My name is Nathan, this is Dreanna and that is Colin. We wish you no harm. We were surprised when you craft crashed. Are you okay?"

Kim and Ron looked at each other. Ron nodded his head toward the three figures.

"Go meet them I'll cover you from here."

Kim got up and stepped toward the three. They stiffened slightly when they saw her. The one named Dreanna smiled.

"So your world actually allows females in space flight. If you are female?"

Kim nodded.

"Yes I am. My name is Kim. Ron is back there."

Colin scowled.

"Ron nearly took my head off with this weapon of his."

Kim stood her ground.

"Sorry about that, but since the other large life form here tried to eat us earlier we were not taking chances."

Nathan nodded.

"I understand Kim. Could we lower our weapons?"

Kim nodded and lowered her shotgun.

"Yes, I think we can trust you."

She called back.

"Come on out Ron."

Ron stood up and walked up to Kim's side. He kept his rifle leveled between the two groups. Dreanna smiled at him in a way that made Kim's radar go off.

"It is nice to meet you. Although this is not the way I thought I might meet someone from another world. I would like to welcome you to our planet. This is the planet Antares."

The fire crackled in front of the group as they sat around the fire. Nathan put down a plate of Ron's stew.

"My that tastes different but wonderful. Again, we would like to welcome you here. We have been following you since you landed. We were not sure if you were friendly or hostile. But we saw how you worked together. We contacted our government and they asked us to try and make contact. We didn't know what to do or how to approach. You apparently have more technology than we thought. We thought the device on the tree was some type of light but apparently it is some type of sensor."

Ron was about to say something but glance from Kim silenced him. Kim glanced over to where Colin sat. He continued to scowl at Ron. Apparently the first burst Ron fired nearly took off his head. Dreanna had taken several splinters for wood from his head, neck and back.

"Are you some type of hunters or something?"

The three exchanged quick glances before Nathan smiled.

"Sort of. As I said you landed in a remote area of our planet. We work this area. Now, we must return to our camp and report to our government. I would advise you to stay close to your camp for safety. If you like one of us can stay behind."

Dreanna nodded and smiled.

"I would be happy to stay Nathan. I would be very interested in learning more from Ron here."

Kim's blood pressure started to rise when Nathan shook his head.

"Sorry Dreanna, I need you to complete the report."

Nathan turned back to Kim and Ron.

"We and possibly a few other will return tommorrow, possibly with some representatives of our government."

Kim stood up.

"We will be waiting and look forward to it."

The three picked up their weapons and vanished into the night. Ron doused the fire as Kim picked up all the plates. They stepped into the cockpit and closed the door. Kim rubbed her head.

"This sitch is getting too weird. I don't know what to think."

Ron put his arm around her.

"I know, but right now let's get some sleep. I think we might need it by tomorrow."

The next morning they woke up to a pouring rain. They also discovered that the crash had opened up a few seams in the outer hull. This wonderful revelation was realized when water landed right on her face. They worked as fast as they could to find the leaks and fix them. Doing in the dark made it all the more difficult. Since the water was coming through some of the equipment they didn't dare turn on any power.

They ended up splitting up with Ron on the outside with the spray sealant and Kim on the inside shining a light along the seams. The drone had been set to its highest level so nothing could approach without them knowing it. But that didn't prevent something from nearly getting a piece of Ron. The alarm had sounded when he was working on a particularly angled part of the ship hull. The noise startled him and he slipped and fell. He got the impression of something extremely large flying by him. One of its talons had shredded his pants while the other opened up a large gash in the hull. They spent the rest of the evening wet and miserable as they didn't dare go outside again.

After a couple of hours the rain stopped and the sun started to shine through the windows of the cockpit. Ron put his pistolbelt on and slung his shotgun on a sling over his shoulder before opening the hatch and stepping outside. Everything in sight appeared to be soaked and there was no sign of the yet unidentified creature that had attacked him the night before. Kim stepped out beside him armed just as he was.

"Well, instead of just sealing the seams we thought were leaking let's just seal everything. That gash the creature left will take a full repair patch but should not take long. You stand guard and I'll the the sealing."

Ron nodded and stepped out from their craft, his eyes scanning the area.

"Got you covered KP."

Kim made her way up the where the gash was to fix that first. Her hand shook as she placed the patch over the hole and sealed it shut. Her mind rushed through the thoughts of what talon that could rip through metal would have done to Kim. Their plight was growing each day as they found themselves trying to survive on this planet.

"You okay up there KP?"

Kim shook her head to bring her back to the present.

"Just checking out this hole and patching. I was thinking that if it made a hole this big in metal what it would have done to you."

Ron looked up at her and smiled.

"It's okay Kim."

She was warmed by the smile he gave her. Blowing a kiss back at him she turned to spray the sealant on the exposed seams. The air started to warm in the sun and the humidity started to take its toll on the both of them. Soon Kim signaled Ron for a break.

"Let's take a break Ron."

He stepped over to help her down off of the ship and set her lightly on the ground. He reached into the ship and pulled a couple of bottles of water from inside. Kim drank greedily from hers as she mopped her brow with a neckerchief.

"Well, we got the ship sealed so at least we won't be getting wet again if it rains. Now we..."

She stopped talking as the sound of some type of vehicle approached them. They noticed Nathan and Dreanna sitting in the front of the strange vehicle. Strange in that it had no wheels and appeared to float over the ground. There were two more people in the back of the open vehicle. One appeared to be a gray haired man and the other was a woman who appeared older than Dreanna but younger than Nathan.

The craft came to a stop at the edge of the clearing and settled to the ground. Nathan and walked toward them while Dreanna opened the door for the other two. Kim noted that the older man needed a little help in getting up. Nathan stopped a few step away.

"Hello to the two of you again. I am glad you made it through the storm okay. You didn't have any trouble."

Kim shrugged.

"Well, we were trying to fix some of the leaks last night when something big and flying nearly took Ron. It left a gash in the hull."

Nathan grimaced.

"Yeah, there is a gratatugat in the area. They are big, mean and they only come out at night. I am glad it was not able to harm you young man."

The others walked up to Nathan. He bowed to the two newcomers and turned to gesture to Kim and Ron.

"Mr. Abarkass, Ms. Nebok, this is Kim and Ron. They are travelers from a distant galaxy. Their ship malfunctioned and it crashed here. Kim, Ron, this is Mr. Abarkass and Ms. Nebok, they are our leaders in this area."

Kim played with her hair for a moment.

"We wish we could have been a little better prepared. We have been working on our ship."

The older man spoke.

"It is quite alright Kim. Will you be able to get your ship operable?"

Kim was about to answer when Ron interrupted her.

"We are working on it Sir. It make take some time to get it operational again."

The man nodded as the other lady spoke.

"That is good to hear. As Nathan said I am Ms. Nebok, on behalf of the inhabitants of this area I welcome you. We would be happy to take you to the nearest settlement where you can rest in a more comfortable and safer environment."

Kim and Ron exchanged glances then turned to face their new hosts.

"We would be honored."

Ms. Nebok clapped her hands against her chest with a smile.

"Ohhh, good. I am sure you will be more comfortable. We can leave as soon as you are ready."

Kim looked back at the ship and Nathan stepped forward.

"Do not worry about your craft. Dreanna and I shall watch over it for you. We will be happy to bring you back any time you would like."

Kim shrugged and turned to Ron.

"What do you say?"

Ron scratched his head.

"It might be a little more comfortable and they say we can come back."

Kim turned back to the group.

"We will come. If you don't mind give us some time to pack up a few things, clean up and secure the ship. I don't know how you tell time here.

Dreanna pulled a device out of her pocket. It looked like a small Kimmunicator. There were a display on the front similar to a digital clock.

"This is a small time piece and communication device. The screen counts up. We will return when the counter says 15,00."

Kim looked down at the device and the screen read 10,00. Dreanna continued to explain.

"There are about 26 drakes to a day here."

Kim nodded as she looked at the device.

"I think I understand."

Nathan spoke.

"If you find that you need more time just press the blue button on the side. That will connect you with me and you can tell me when to come get you."

Ron nodded.|

"Thank you we will."

Dreanna helped the other two back to the craft as Nathan pointed out a few of the other features of the device. It was mainly a fancy clock and radio. He turned to see the others waiting in the vehicle for him.

"Well then, we will see you in about 5 drakes or when ever you call."

He walked back to the vehicle and climbed in. With a slight roar it lifted off and disappeared into the distance. Kim and Ron stood there for a moment before turning back to the ship.

Well that's it for now. Kim and Ron have met the inhabitants both good and bad. It seems things are normal but are they really? Hang on for the next chapter.

This is the Captain
Roger and Out
Right Hand Salute