Night finally falls.
It seems like it's taken forever for Caprice, watching everyone groggily trod off to their tents. Bess and Morgan have a light on in their tent but besides the watchmen and Alonzo, they're all asleep.
Prime time to take flight.
It'll be a cinch. Just slink around a couple of tents, delve into the forest and circle around the camp from a distance until she reaches the right direction.
She recalls the vagrant's words. "We've much more to earn before we are to bed."
She doesn't know enough about this man. Who knows what he's done? Why is she going through with this? Why does he want her and why should she care?
Caprice has no one to care for and no place to go even if she does get off of this planet, so why should shouldn't she pursue this relationship?
She's determined to find out what he has in store for her.
When she reaches her destination -approximately 15 minutes from the encampment- Gaal is nowhere to be seen. She decides to wait for him but as she searches for a reasonably critter-free place to sit, he waddles up behind her, holding a flashlight that he had pilfered. He solemnly says her name.
She heard his shuffling footsteps and saw the torchlight first.
It is absolutely pitch in the cave past him and it's opening is so low, he has to stoop to clear it.
"I was beginning to wonder if you were going to come. Are you alone?"
She answers "Yeah." Caprice's mood is fragile.
Taking her hand, he says "Come, my love. Let's get you in."
They walk hand-in-hand down the dark cavern in silence. He leads her to a narrow fissure in the wall that has been covered by a pelt. The faint glow of a light comes through from the other side.
Pulling the skin back, Gaal ushers her in. The air becomes distinctly earthy in this cramped, congested room. Carbo boxes packed with dozens of media chips line the walls. A solar-powered lamp sits on a low table.
Gaal pushes along to the next cavern and doesn't ask her to follow but she does. It's more like a hallway than a cavern. Various animal bones clutter the ground and the smell has become stagnant.
A dirt floor is beneath their feet. Gaal must have brought it in.
He pulls aside a red tarp and encourages her to "Go on", waving his flashlight.
The first thing she sees is another solar lamp with a blinding, blue bulb. It causes the moist, dripping walls to sparkle. Then she spots a shallow pool of water.
Gaal puts his palm to her back and gently pushes her to it. "Look."
Tiny salamander creatures float about in it.
They are of two colorations. Male and female, Caprice suspects. In fact, they are both sexes within themselves. Their eyes are luminescent pinpricks and they have no visible mouths. When they swim, membranous tissue flares out at their sides, evolving their once tapered shape into a billowing oval. If touched, they feel like wet satin but for their undersides, which stick with microscopic and painless barbs.
And they freeze in the torchlight, drifting on the weak current; shining with with iridescence.
Caprice examines them in awe. The edges of the pool are lined with a translucent gel that piles up in little mounds and jiggles when droplets hit the surface.
"They don't taste very good..." Gaal states mournfully of the glassy salamanders. "...And the water tastes terrible, too but they're lovely to look at."
She feels his grasp on her shoulder and turns to him to find that his face is very serious.
"I mustn't dally any longer. I need to discover if you will be able to find me trustworthy."
She has no idea that if she does not, he will kill her.
Gaal shows her the brand on his neck.
"Proof of my falsehood," He admits. "I was never a part of Pontel 7. Never an Astronaut."
He watches to see if Caprice's expression changes. It does not, so he goes on. "...Always, I have been the flotsam, drifting to and fro. Port to port. Never finding a safe harbor..." Gaal stops himself short and gulps in an effort to push down the anger that's welling up from within. "...Suffice to say, I washed up here!" He laughed with a bitter smirk. Still, tears are visible in his eyes. "...It is true that I have been here for many years. That was no lie." His eyebrows are raised and Gaal is humorous again.
After a moment, he asks her tauntingly "Now...what will you do?"
Caprice just looks at him, perplexed. So he continues "Hm? Who will you tell first?"
"No one," She eventually answers, nearly deadpan.
Gaal laughs again and his face brightens. "What an odd woman you are."
It's true that she doesn't want to tell the others. She feels no sense of unity with them and they have made no effort to make her feel welcome. But then, she hasn't really given them a chance to. Still, if he was not an Astronaut, what was he?
"Come here," Gaal says warmly as if he wants to hold her but when she complies, he takes out his dagger and cuts his thumb open.
At first, Caprice is bewildered but then he grabs her by the wrist and readies his blade.
"WAIT!" She exclaims but Gaal just smiles nonchalantly and sinks it into her own thumb, drawing a bright, red stream.
"Ah!" She hisses and jerks away, infuriated.
"Now..." Gaal quietly clucks. "Don't be cross."
Caprice gives him a look of indignation.
"We shall vow in blood... our fealty." He squeezes blood from his fresh wound.
Listening to him, she disregards her misgivings for a moment; allowing herself a small smile.
Gaal studies her, transfixed. Not being at all used to the company of his own species, he wonders if he has simply forgotten the reason why a person would react this way in such a circumstance.
He finds it hard to believe that he actually may be smitten with this girl.
As they press their thumbs together, her tells her with satisfaction "Now, we are bound."