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  • They woke up in a barn like structure miles away from the aero-space port where the tunnel dropped them. They had stolen a hydrofoil shuttle during the third day of bombing; right after the jet they had been stocking up with supplies was destroyed. Using the reasoning that “in confusion there is profit”, they were able to escape the immediate danger area taking a limited amount of supplies with them. Two days later found them in a green valley lush with growth.

    It didn’t make sense for them to stay at ground zero in a war zone. The way the buildings and hangers were being destroyed, it wouldn’t surprise him if any record of their arrival got lost in the debris. They certainly wouldn’t miss the shuttle they escaped in. For all they knew it was just another casualty of the war. And speaking of the shuttle, it operated on a strange power replenishment system. The instructions were etched out on the side of the fuel tank. Every evening when they stopped for the night they would fill the tank with water from any nearby source. A twist of a knob dumped a tablespoon of some kind of salt looking granules into the tank causing a chemical reaction. By morning the fuel gauge read full and they were good to go again.

    The first day of their escape was spent learning how to operate the shuttle, and finding out exactly how much “height” above the ground they could achieve. There were no roads, so they had to learn to judge the terrain and steer accordingly. His first time behind the wheel felt like he was driving a boat. Sliding into a turn and ending up a few yards past where he meant to be upon straightening the wheel, only the speed across the ground wasn’t more than thirty five knots. Unlike the hydrofoils they had back on Earth, this was practically noiseless. Any sound came from the breaking of tree branches as they passed too close or the clicking of stones disturbed by their passing. By the time he got the hang of it, someone else took a turn.

    So far, they had seen only a few settlements and had avoided being seen by anyone. They were afraid they would start a panic if anyone spotted them. After all, the differences in the two races were distinct. The natives of this planet were tall and thin with bare, ovoid shaped heads. They called themselves Falians and this planet was Faldo. They weren’t unpleasant to look at, but definitely not human. He and the crew would stick out like a sore thumb.

    From what they had observed back at the base, the Falians didn’t have any special powers; no E.S.P. that they noticed. All communication had either been written or oral. If you didn’t count the difference in appearance, they could have been back on Earth. Their plan was to get a safe distance away from the battle zone and wait until the dust settled. If the Falians were able to repel the attackers, they would see if they could slip back in and steal a fighter for the trip back home. Just like the original plan. If the Falians lost the battle, well, they would have to find a way to deal with the conquerors.

    Their first order of business was survival. They had only been able to grab a limited food supply in their hasty escape. The stick like stun weapons their original captors had carried were in full supply in a cabinet as well as several other instruments that looked like they might be weapons. And the potable water tank located on the port side of the vehicle registered about a third full. This valley they had entered looked to be cultivated although they hadn’t seen any of the inhabitants. After they found the old abandoned barn, they pulled the craft inside and closed the doors behind them.

    Because the valley was protected on both sides by high, mesa like cliffs, the twin suns only had a short time directly over head to heat the area. The temperature would reach about 32 C before cooling down at night. And there was a spring bubbling up with running water that formed a stream cutting through the edge of the valley before disappearing back underground. They couldn’t help but wonder why anyone would abandon this Eden like place. There was food everywhere they looked. Of course it didn’t resemble the food back home, but it was tasted and found to be palatable if not downright delicious.

    They left the vehicle in the barn and explored the valley on foot. At the far end the cliffs narrowed and they had to pass through a slit one at a time. The temperature rose sharply as they exited the narrows. Ahead of them was a desert like plain; dry and forbidding. They didn’t stay there long. As they returned through the narrows, he felt this itch behind his shoulders like someone or something was watching him. He only saw movement out of the corner of his eye one time, but the feeling of being watched stayed with him. He told the others and they grumbled that they had the same feelings. Everyone made sure their stun sticks were ready and they continued toward the other end of the valley.

    As they neared the spot they had entered the valley they were amazed that they had stumbled upon this place at all. Through sheer luck they had turned down a blind ravine that emptied into the valley. It would have been so easy to have continued on without discovering it. He said he’d rather be lucky than good. They all laughed at that and as they turned around to head back, they saw the first one.

    Built low to the ground and using all four legs, the creature sidled to a halt. He heard a whisper from the Captain that there were more. As he turned his head slowly, he saw that the pack of four had moved up on all sides to surround them neatly. The long sharp teeth and lolling tongues reminded him of a pack of wolves back on Earth. Only they were much larger; more the size of Bengal tigers. The crew moved into the standard defensive, back to back circle and made ready their untested weapons. The beast on the right leapt at them a split second before the others…
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