Here is Chapter Ten 🙂 Please remember this is a rough draft, and as the author I own FULL copyright to it. This work may not be copied/shared in any manner other than a link to this blog. Thanks and enjoy!
‘What? Holi, what is that?!’ Eoin shouted over the sudden din of alarms.
‘That is one of the emergency beacons Alyssa took. She has triggered it.’ The projected blonde spoke with no trace of concern, confusing Eoin.
‘No, I believe she intended to utilise them in trip wires.’
‘Trip wires?! Holi, how long has she been gone, why didn’t you tell me?’ Eoin stared wildly around the room, mind frantically trying to recall the last time he’d heard..
He’d heard the door.
Eoin stiffened when he suddenly realised. He bolted, taking the stairs two at a time up, then down before his feet hit the dirt covered floor of the tunnel. Heart pounding and face flushed from fear, Eoin pushed himself to a sprint, body instantly registering the various emotions as triggers, the nano-virus flushing his system with a variety of stimulants, his vision and hearing enhancing while his mind flared to life in a way that made his normal mental abilities comparable to a monkey. Lungs expanding and heart rate steadying, his skin began to tingle as the nano-virus worked at increasing his pain threshold. The sound of his breathing slowed while the soft echo of his pounding feet kept their punishing rhythm.
Eoin burst from the tunnel into the open space of the hole, eyes scanning every inch in less than a minute.
Ally was gone.
The rank scent of eye watering body odour from the human she crept after had Ally shaking her head, breathing shallowly through her mouth. The dog at least smelled fine, just normal animal muskiness. Though the pair carefully made their way through the jungle, heads low as the human scanned the area and the dog sniffed, she could have heard their movements a mile off. Ally watched as they moved further away from the hole and with a cautious glance around to make sure no others snuck up behind, she silently scaled a tree that had heavy hanging foliage; perfect for hiding amongst. Stretching out along a high branch, Ally breathed with relief when a clean fresh breeze blew through the fragrant leaves that concealed her. Some distance ahead of her the dog had lost the scent, not surprisingly, given she’d never got that far in her explorations yet. The human yanked the animal’s leash, making the dog yelp in pain. The unnecessary violence provoked an instant deep dislike for the foul smelling male. Her upper lip curled as she watched the male yank the dog around more, incompetently urging it to seek the scent.
Back at home they had dogs, and even some cats. The animals were well appreciated by all in the city, and those watching their open borders utilized the animals’ natural territorial instincts in alerting them to any uninvited guests. Leashes weren’t used. Ally smiled at the memory of training young pups at seminary, one of the many methods used to show Promethian children, and the human children that joined them, how to gain the trust and devotion of another, and how to listen to the instincts of another species instead of assuming they thought and acted in ways you would understand. Those lessons had been one of her favourites.
A crunch of footsteps closer than she expected made Ally blink, mind reasserting itself to the present. Dragged along behind the enthusiastic dog, the human brought a small square box to his lips. There was a crackle of static before he spoke, Ally able to understand the few Hindu words.
‘Found the trail.’
Insides cringing, Ally tensed fingers and thighs gripping the branch she lay on as the two crashed through the bushy undergrowth, closer and closer to her tree, the dog whining and crying in excitement.
Staring upward, fighting the urge to shout her name, Eoin clenched and unclenched his fists, his gut in agonising turmoil. Flinging aside his scientist instincts to wait and watch, Eoin moved to the closest wall and stared up the mess of tangled vegetation growing down the pitted sides of the hole. Nostrils flaring he inhaled and exhaled sharply then with a grunt of effort, launched himself up the side. Dirt and debris scattered as he roughly climbed, scrabbling for hand and foot holds, forehead wrinkled with concentration as he attempted to calculate the best routes. It helped distract from the almost overwhelming anxiety that rose at the thought of Ally out there by herself.
Stretching out as long as possible, body tight against the branch, Ally breathed shallowly as the male and dog moved closer, standing beneath the tree. Closing her eyes, she relaxed as much as she could, attempting to counter any excess of body electricity, or odour that might give her away to the dog. Beneath her the man yelled at the dog, voice harsh with excitement. ‘Where are they? Seek! Seek!’
Normally she thought of Hindu as a smooth language, not like the Russian she’d heard Eoin attempt once, but the way this male shouted it sounded violent.
A soft sound a short way off caught the dog’s attention, the male’s too. They crashed off, away from her tree and toward the hole.
The soft slithering sound rose again and Ally sat abruptly, looking frantically for something, some way to distract the male from getting too close to the hole. The hole that she knew all too well Eoin was in the midst of climbing out, creating those noises as he disturbed the growth down the side.
Finding a decent footing, Eoin paused to rest his arms and revaluate the rest of the climb. A tentative glance over his shoulder made him grip tight. He appeared to be about half way up. Breathing in firm exhalations he stared at the wall, trying to relax enough to continue with his momentum, to relax the muscles that’d instantly seized at that awful view down.
A crunch caught his attention.
The repetitive sound made him look up, a sudden feeling of relief sweeping over him. Eoin opened his mouth to call to her.
Nothing in her immediate proximity presented itself as a good distraction, and Ally began to consider the very last option. Disposing of the male would very likely antagonise the dog to a degree that she’d be required to kill it too. That was a thought Ally found truly distasteful; killing a creature for doing the job inflicted upon it.
Determined to make that her very last resort Ally turned neatly, swinging her legs so she faced the opposite way, eyes searching again, for something, anything that might work.
Her gaze settled on several large elongated fruits in the tree growing near her tree. Following the line of her branch, she could see she might, if the branch would hold her weight that far out, be able to reach them. They looked big enough to make a decent amount of noise if she hurled them away.
Pushing to standing with the ease and balance of an acrobat Ally held her arms out at the sides and with her eyes on the prize, gently stepped along the branch.
Midway along the branch a protesting creak then groan from the limb made Ally freeze.
Her name died in the back of his throat
when a scent, arid and sour, caught his nostrils so strongly he found himself shaking his head while resisting the urge to gag.
Male. Human male. Not her.
The thoughts rammed home and Eoin flattened himself as much as possible against the wall, an instant sheen of panicked sweat spreading across his brow as tiny bits of dirt crumbled from his hold. The ominous crunching of footsteps drew closer. He belatedly realised he could hear two sets, one a human male, the other a dog, its dry musky scent much preferable to that of the human.
With absolutely no where to go, no where to hide, Eoin slowed his breathing and made himself still, willing his bodily responses to slow too, to stop any spread of his own scent.
Eyes closed, Eoin listened to the encroaching steps.
Once again spread flat across the branch in an effort to keep her weight distributed Ally inched forward. Her clothes clung against the rough bark and she wriggled slightly then cringed at the warning creak the branch made. Stretching the arm closest out, she grunted, her fingers only centimeters from the green yellow oblong orb hanging nearest her. Wincing and inwardly begging the branch to hold, she forced herself forward.
Snatching the fruit, stuffing it under her chin, Ally grabbed another and shunted backward like a retreating squid, coming up hard against the trunk moments later. Relief and panic swirled as she risked a glance back, seeing the human only meters from the edge of the hole and she pushed to her feet, bracing herself in the same moment and with a strong arm flung the first then the second fruit at a sharp angle through the canopy. Seconds ticked by then the fruit crashed down almost a kilometre from her tree.
The human and dog shouted and yelped, the human yelling into that static black box as he was dragged past the tree Ally stood in by the enthusiastic animal.
‘They’re running! Get the bikes ready!’
Staying put, watching until the human was well out of sight and keeping her ears pricked for the demanded bikes, Ally studied the fruit in the tree next to hers. The smell of the fruit she’d held still lingered around her, sweet and succulent, making her mouth water.
The far off roar of bikes made Ally stiffen, listening intently. It seemed as if they moved further and further away from this spot. A sudden smile touched her lips when she realised they’d probably stirred up some wildlife, and kept following the crashes of whatever hapless creature fleeing them. That ought to keep them busy for a while Ally thought. Turning her attention back to the fruits in the tree next to hers Ally decided on the two yellow ones she could see hanging just beyond her reach. Taking a measuring glance from her branch, to the fruit, to the jungle floor some four to five meters below, she shoved off from the trunk.
The branch shuddered beneath her feet as she pushed straight into a sprint, knowing what would happen next, aiming to get as far along the branch as possible before it did. She made it over three quarters of the way along when she felt the first crack. Barely breaking stride she dropped into a lunge, leg muscles bunching tight, and as the loud SNAP of the tree limb breaking beneath her weight rang out she leapt, sailing with arms outstretched. The branch clattered to the ground while Ally kept her eyes on the two heavy hanging fruits. Her outstretched fingers closed around the smooth textured skins. Gripping them firmly, she allowed herself to drop, arching back and twisting so she turned herself fully around moments before landing neatly on the dense leaf littered ground.
The sounds of the human and dog were long gone but a heavy crash made Eoin move faster, climbing the last couple of meters faster than he’d believed possible, almost flinging himself up over the edge. Crouched on the edge, eyes wide, searching, he tensed at an unexpected sound. Seconds later it repeated, a harsh furious hissing. Turning slowly, stomach plummeting with dread, Eoin froze.
Arched back with its hood flared wide the king cobra rose in undulating menace to Eoin’s chest height. Shocked, mind scrabbling for the correct reaction, Eoin couldn’t manage for than, ‘Urk!’
Another sound, smooth and fast, caught both his and the cobra’s attention but not quick enough. Ally had it by the throat just beneath its flared hood a second later.
Arching a smug eyebrow Ally winked while gently waving the hissing snake at him. ‘This is why I’m the hunter.’
Repulsed yet fascinated Eoin moved closer. Ally tilted the head back slightly, her arm stretched out as the snake wildly thrashed its tail in an attempt to free itself.
‘Shhh,’ she soothed. ‘I’ll let you go shortly.’
‘What does it feel like?’ Eoin asked, having so far avoiding such physical encounters with snakes, preferring to leave the reptiles to their own devices.
‘Smooth,’ Ally said while studying the snake with as much interest as him. ‘You can feel the texture of the scales. It’s quite dry, I imagined it might feel moist somehow.’
Crouching, Eoin gently caught the tail, stroking it while making a note of the pattern, stripes of almost creamy tan then dark brown while the back of the head that Ally obligingly tilted again so he could see, had an eye like pattern that flared across the back of the spread hood.
‘Beautiful creature,’ he remarked to Ally who nodded.
‘He is. Can I let him go? His heart rate is rather high.’
Eoin nodded with a grin. ‘So was mine when I spotted him!’
Ally laughed and with an easy flick of the wrist tossed the snake a good ten meters away from them. The creature undulated through the air before bouncing lightly when it hit the ground. It slithered off.
‘Thank you for saving me, Ms Huntress, may I appeal to your curious nature and show you my progress?’ Eoin made a courtly bow before Ally who rolled her eyes and snorted.
‘Will it get my heart racing too?’
Eoin straightened and met her eyes with a suggestive smile. ‘If it doesn’t I have certain ideas to address that.’ Then he blinked, eyes fastening on the two large lumps protruding from beneath her shirt. ‘Ally, what are those?’
‘Ooh! I forgot, these smell great, I think we can eat them!’ She pulled the bottom of her shirt out, awkwardly managing to catch one then the other golden yellow fruits against her thigh with her other hand as they tumbled out. Eoin took one, lifting it to his nose and inhaling the scent.
‘Mango,’ he said with a sigh of pleasure.
‘You’ve had one?’ Ally asked with a slight tone of disappointment.
Eoin smiled at her, reaching to draw her close, body relaxing fully from the awful tension of before.
‘Yes, it’s a good find. They’re delicious.’
Eoin’s progress update when they arrived back at the lab was far from heart racing for Ally. She listened equably while he gestured away and just resisted the temptation to zone out where she lay, spread across the comfortable couch in their sleeping quarters.
‘The equipment IS of a high enough quality that I’ll be able to replicate the virus, with our blood samples it should be a fairly quick job, I might even the first concept finished by the end of tomorrow!’
‘Good,’ Ally cut in as he drew a breath. ‘Because the humans are bound to keep hunting.’
That slowed down Eoin’s rush of words. He shrugged before turning to move the kitchen partition into place then motioned Ally to move off the couch. He rummaged through the food parcels in the storage area, occasionally popping one on the cooker to see what it contained.
‘We need to consider our travel options,’ he said while peering at the display on the cooker. With a frown he put the parcel back with the others then selected a different one. ‘Because the chances of us finding our bike, let alone finding it in usable condition, are slim.’
‘And it was likely tracked,’ Ally added wryly. ‘I’m thinking we take the extreme terrain vehicle.’
‘Mmm,’ Eoin said distractedly, setting a parcel in the cooker and pressing go. ‘The what?’
Ally grinned at his confused expression when he turned to look at her. ‘I’ll show you.’
Eoin went to lunge toward the door.
‘But NOT till you give me what you promised…’
‘Err..’ The confused expression grew. Ally snickered and lounged back against the wall glancing coquettishly at Eoin before shifting her body, arching her back then her eyebrow.
‘Oh!’ The confused expression vanished, his eyes seeming to darken and a slow smile spreading. He reached for her, his large hand closing firmly and sensuously around her hip as he drew her close. Ally smiled in pleasure at the feather light kisses he began with, pausing to murmur in her ear.
‘Dinner can wait.’
With a chuckle she tipped her head, lips catching his in a hard biting kiss before she broke away, leaving him sucking a breath in a gasp as she shoved the partitions back, bringing the bed back down to place.
‘It certainly can,’ she grinned at him then shrieked as he tackled her back to the soft cushioned surface, both of them breaking out in laughter that quickly vanished, their hands and mouths busy.