He couldn’t see as he ducked under a tree branch, the mist rising up from the ground obscuring his view. He tripped over a rock and stumbled to the ground, managing to spin himself around and propel himself forward. As he ran, he patted his knapsack. Just as he hoped, the bulge was still there.
A slight grin pulled at his face, but it didn’t last long as he slid to a sudden halt, the ground dropping away. The mist cleared enough to reveal a steep drop, and behind him the Larconian beast howled.
“Crap,” he breathed, looking around. He turned and ran along the edge of the ravine, lifting his wrist toward his face.
A circular device flashed green. “What trouble have you found yourself in this time, Captain?” a woman’s voice said from the device.
“I need you to pick me up now!” Benjamin barked.
The voice sighed. “En route,” she said. “You know, you could always do something more lucrative and safer with your time.”
“Shut up, Elda!” he snapped. “Don’t make me reprogram you.”
Just then another howl tore through the trees, this time much closer than before. The beasts didn’t have any eyes, since they couldn’t see in all this damned mist anyway, but they could hear and smell like nobody’s business. And this one was catching up to him fast.
“Is that a Larconian Mauler?” Elda asked, morbid excitement in her robotic voice.
Benjamin rolled his eyes as he ran harder. “Please tell me you’re close,” he said. He turned to look over his shoulder, hearing the huge, clodding steps of the monster behind him. He couldn’t see it yet, but a fetid odor was starting to fill the air, making it hard to breathe.
Benjamin wasn’t sure how he was going to get out of this one as he looked ahead again, a large tree suddenly materializing in front of him. Before he could stop, he ran headlong into the thick trunk, feeling the wind knocked from his lungs as he fell backwards. Pain shot through him as he rolled to his stomach, but he knew it was too late.
The Mauler was in front of him. It growled through a round mouth full of teeth, that spun like the blade on a saw. Tentacles whipped from its back, and monstrous claws protruded from its thick legs. It didn’t have any eyes, but it had large ears that were focused right on him.
Benjamin moved slowly to his knees, his hand moving toward his belt where a pistol was holstered. He tried to control his breathing, knowing that anything could set the beast off. His fingers found the holster, and he mentally cursed himself as they rested there a moment.
The damn thing was clipped shut.
He knew he had to be fast. His thumb shifted over the snap that kept the holster secure, and he counted down in his mind. Three…two…one!
Benjamin threw the snap open just as the monster lunged. He was barely able to draw the weapon when a mechanized whine filled the air and the beast’s head suddenly exploded, showering him in sticky green ooze. The Mauler fell dead in front of him, a hole blasted cleanly through it.
Benjamin scowled as he wiped at his face, moving to his feet.
“Hey, Captain,” Elda said, letting the wire rifle rest on her shoulder.
Benjamin couldn’t speak for a moment, feeling annoyed and terribly relieved. He watched as she picked at lint that wasn’t really there on her metal body. “Great timing, Elda,” he said finally.
She smirked then, tilting her head. The manufacturer had done a bang-up job with making her face realistic, but she was a defective model. She had too much of an attitude for a bot made for cleaning houses.
“Shall we?” she asked, waving a blue hand in front of her. Just beyond her, the ship was hovering over the trees, blowing away the mist.
Benjamin stepped toward her, still wiping monster-ooze from his face. “I’m going to remember this.”
Elda’s smirk never waned. “Please do!”
Need more Chasing Stars? Read the whole serial here and help support your favorite indie author for only $1 a month!