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I had my leather armor on, buckling the straps before I realized I had decided to go outside. Part of my mind gibbered in terror as I slipped on my boots and shrugged into the straps that held my pneumatic weapon. But it was a very small part. The rest of me was either desperate to get some fresh air or panicking that the lizards might have turned on the generators.
The lizards were the major lifeform on Eade, the top of the food chain. No other creatures even scavenged their dead bodies, not even insects.
They averaged about eight feet long, with triangular heads, six legs with clawed, talon-like feet, and long thick tails. Some were bulky, some were whip-thin, some had thick scaly folds of skin, and others’ skin clung. Their colors ranged from black-green to alarm yellow, but they all had similar faces on the backs of their heads. Those were non-functional, like false eye-spots. The faces on the reptiles had not only black eyes, but dark nostrils, and pinched, scaly lips as well.
Their real faces were mostly blunt, fanged mouth, white on the inside, a black tongue with a long fork, and round, black, bottomless eyes. They were intelligent.
I emerged from my treehouse into the storm-charged air. There was a new smell. I hurried through the bonre orchard, dodging through the underbrush and flinching at every vine I imagined was a lizard’s tail. The stillness – nothing shrieked as I passed, no insects whined, no lizards snapped. My skin burned with the static in the air. At the edge of the clearing, I threw myself on the ground and crawled. Up ahead, some monstrous black thing hovered over the compound, stinking of metal and exhaust. After a few minutes, my perceptions righted themselves and I recognized the thing – it was a spaceship.
I huddled in the dirt, too confused and afraid to get up. People, bulky in orange hazmat gear, were climbing in and out of the spaceship, carrying things in and out of the colony compound.
I crawled backwards, back among the trees to press against a boulder.
I missed my mother.
There was a sound nearby – a dry branch cracked about eight yards behind me, to my left. A footstep.
I was still hidden from view, but the orange-suited people probably had tech that could find me.
A scent in the still air – a lizard, young, probably old enough to feel the pull of rut but too young to participate. Much too close. And hungry.
Another human footstep.
The smell from the lizard sharpened, and I jumped up, spikes ready.
But it wasn’t after me.
What came next scared me like nothing else – a scream of pain from another human.
I dove toward the sound, ducking around the trees that were between me and the struggle. The man sprawled in the dirt, his arms waving feebly as he kicked at the thin writhing lizard that latched on his leg. I fired eight spikes in rapid succession at the lizard. They pinned the lizard to the ground, but it was still alive, pumping venom even as the brackish blood streamed from the punctures. I tackled it, wrenched the jaws open and wrestled the man’s leg free, and then broke the lizard’s neck over my knee. I dropped it, shuddered convulsively, and shot a few more spikes into its head before I turned to the man.
I hoped he wasn’t dead already.