It was way over the deadline, and I can only apologise for those waiting to read the concluding story about Jenny and Fly's lives on Eden.
I appreciated everyone's efforts in helping me come up with a title, but I decided to go with HUNTED thought up by yours truly. Those who took the time to help me will have their books featured on WWBB later in the year.
Now, onto HUNTED...
I appreciated everyone's efforts in helping me come up with a title, but I decided to go with HUNTED thought up by yours truly. Those who took the time to help me will have their books featured on WWBB later in the year.
Now, onto HUNTED...
They had reached the end of summer without Bodie and Matt yet Jenny was still looking peak-key. Fly thought that’s what she called feeling ill. That’s what Bodie said to her just before he left:
‘Looking peaky, Jen, sure you don’t want to come with us?’
She’d replied with a snap, ‘Stop it, Bodie. We’ve already discussed this. I’m not going back. I can’t leave Fly. I don’t want to leave Fly.’
He’d held up his hands and backed away saying, ‘OK, OK, keep your hair on.’
Fly dropped the spade to the ground and made circular movements with his head to release the stiffness in his neck. He’d been rebuilding the foundations to the bridge he had destroyed to stop the humans finding their home. Shading his eyes he watched as Jenny pushed the woman-made plough through the field, stopping every now and then to remove a stone that had become stuck in the wheels.
She looked well in the distance, but up close, there was a pale tinge to her face and her appetite wasn’t as it used to be. A human body wasn’t built as strong as a Jelvia’s. The Jelvias had evolved to eradicate disease immediately and tissue repair was fast—Fly touched his chin; his lower lip was absent and a long, thick scar distorted one side of his face—although not satisfactory.
Maybe she was missing Bodie and Matt? Maybe the emotion of it was making her ill? Emotion. He didn’t pretend to understand it. It was powerful, and that’s all he knew. It had caused him to withhold his instinct to kill the men and to help Jenny instead of... an old memory brought a nasty taste in his mouth. He swallowed it down.
Jenny had been an astronaut and came to Eden in a small pod from the mothership, Taurus. Bodie and Matt were her companions left in orbit inside Taurus, but because of a communication fault, Jenny was stranded on Eden.
They came for her though—or tried to. Taurus crashed and they nearly died, and if it hadn’t been for Jenny’s soft persuasion Fly would have made sure their deaths happened. It was almost too hard to believe that they eventually became friends. He’d learned so much from the humans: a race he thought primeval. Bodie and Matt returned to earth when the humans sent another ship to complete their failed mission, but Jenny hadn’t wanted to go back.
She loved him.
Just thinking that thought caused a bubble of emotion to erupt inside his gut. It was an odd, but not unpleasant, feeling. It dispersed as he bent to pick up the spade and continued to dig the trench.
Love was all-consuming. It made him obsess about things: illness, injury, famine, attack. Famine and attack wouldn’t happen while he was around to look after Jenny, but he couldn’t protect her completely from accidents. And illness, especially human illness, he had no control that. And she was definitely peak-key.
She strode across the field towards their house. He heard her bang inside. Fly had constructed the house from the remains of his old ship after listening to Jenny’s tales of her perfect home. Bodie and Matt’s old house stood in the distance and was used as an abattoir for their cattle and storage of their meat.
Both houses had been built on a lush prairie and detached from the rest of world by a semi-circle of sheer rock and a fast-flowing river. The only entrance, apart from the river, was a cave-like walkway to the beach. Fly had found the area by accident, and he’d begun building the house bit by bit as Jenny told him about her house back home. It stood as a one-storey, one-entranced house with a grass-thatched roof, synthetic windows, manmade furniture and a huge solar-powered generator strapped to a nearby tree.
The door banged again, and Jenny came out wielding a large hammer. Even from a distance, her determined face was pale. She’d vomited this morning, as well. She didn’t think he’d heard her, but he had.
A loud howl caused him to turn. From across the rushing river stood a native ‘man’. His form was covered with matted hair, his arms were overly long but his body was stout and obviously strong. He stopped howling and looked directly at Fly. ‘The man’ chuffed—the voice undeveloped, then he dropped to all-fours and began to pace along the riverbank; reverting to animal with one movement.
The creature stood again, smacked its chest several times then dropped and walked away on four legs. Fly watched it until it became lost among the jungle trees. The natives, or honnards, as he called them, which meant aboriginal in Jelvian tongue, had been acting strange lately. Their numbers had lessened, as well. He hadn’t seen any bodies though. They’d just been disappearing a few at a time.
Before Jenny arrived, he only had made friends with them. It was an unconscious act of survival. They knew the land, and he didn’t. They taught him a lot. But he had Jenny now, and she mattered much more to him than the honnards.
A shout caused him to turn around, and he saw Jenny kick the cart.
She still looked peak-key.
Fly had become suffocating.
She was trying to keep her morning nausea private, but it was difficult as he hovered around all the time. Obviously, she must look how she felt—bloody awful!
Because of a contraceptive implant, falling pregnant never entered her mind. And even when her periods came back after the implant had ran its course, she still never worried because, after all, they were two different species of people. She was a human and he a Jelvia—a man from the planet Itor, and she’d assumed their bodies wouldn’t be compatible in that way.
It was a huge shock when her periods stopped, the sickness started and her breasts became tender. A huge shock. In fact, it freaked her out, and she wanted to come to terms with it herself before she told Fly. She wondered how he’d accept her condition—if she was pregnant, that is. She might just be ill.
She was pummelling the dough in the kitchen—a room with a cylindrical clay oven, work surfaces and storage cupboards—and getting it ready for baking in the oven. The oven was always lit in order to maintain a high cooking temperature, and so the room was extra warm. It was Jenny’s favourite room. But today, the heat was getting to her.
Maybe she was ill? Maybe she was running a fever? She was humouring herself. She wasn’t ill. She was pregnant, and it was time to get used to the idea and tell Fly. She glanced at him over her shoulder. He was sitting on the creaky stool, watching her as she worked. He drank from a plastic carton. It had alien words on the side, which Jenny was now fluent in reading. He put the carton down on the wooden side table and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. Jenny turned back to the dough and rolled it onto a floured tray.
She was pregnant. P.R.E.G.N.A.N.T, she spelled the word in her head. A warmth of excitement rushed her; surprising her and chasing her anxiety away. ‘Up the duff,’ she said softly. Then louder, ‘Knocked up. The eggo is preggo!’
‘What?’ asked Fly.
She smiled, and bent to put the dough into the oven. The door opened with a blast of hot air, and she closed it quickly. She rose, and wiped the film of sweat off her brow. She looked at him, wondering how to break it to him. He was a possessive man. Could he handle some of her attention being taken away from him to look after a child?
Oh, my God! Jenny Daykin, you’re pregnant! ‘The bun is well and truly in the oven,’ she said.
‘I like your baking,’ he said. ‘Will it be sweet bread?’
‘No, it’s savoury. It’s to go with the fish you said you were going to catch.’
‘I will catch some,’ he answered. ‘I’m waiting for the tide to turn.’
‘You’re seeing if I’m OK, really, aren’t you?’
‘You were sick again this morning,’ he said, his black, dry gaze fixed on her face. ‘You’ve been sick every morning for many days. Fifteen days.’
‘You’ve been counting?’
He cocked his head at her, his long black hair falling to one side and exposing the scar that began from the corner of his mouth and ended at his ear as if someone had plunged a blade in his mouth and ripped that side of his face open. His lower lip was absent, distorting his mouth, and angry scar tissue covered his chin—all the result of his violent past. ‘You are ill,’ he said.
She cleared her throat and reached for a square piece of cloth to wipe her hands. ‘Fly,’ she began, ‘there is something I’ve been meaning to tell you. I’m not ill—’
He stood up and came towards her, took the cloth from her hands and threw it to one side. He rested his hands on her hips. ‘Then you are upset that you didn’t go with Bodie and Matt?’
‘What? No! No, of course not.’ She pulled his hands off her hips and clutched them in hers. They were riddled with scars. He was born to such a savage world and sometimes failed to understand her gentler emotions. ‘Come into the other room. It’s too hot in here,’ Jenny said. ‘There’s something I need to tell you. But it’s nothing bad,’ she added. She led him into their living room. Because the oven warmed this room too, they used this room as a bedroom, and their bedding was on the floor in front of an unlit fire. Jenny sat on their homemade settee.
Watching her sit Fly said, ‘I will fetch you medicine anyway.’ His all-black eyes were sparkling. ‘Sit back,’ he said and gently pushed her backwards. ‘Put your feet up. Maybe the hard work is too much for you. Your human body is weak—’
‘Stop while you’re ahead,’ she said.
He frowned, not understanding.
She lifted her feet and stretched out. ‘Look,’ she said, teasing. ‘My feet are up.’
Fly wasn’t one for understanding jokes.
Her smile left her face. ‘Sit down, Fly. I want to talk to you.’
‘Soon,’ he said, and irritatingly left only to come back a moment later with several packets of medicine supplies and a carton of fresh water. He gave her the water, and stood and tried to decipher the words on the packets. Bodie had taken them from Taurus XII before he’d gone—he’d left them many other supplies. She held out her hands for the medicine but laid them in her lap without looking at them.
‘I’m not ill,’ she said. ‘We might need these pills and antibiotics later, but for now, I don’t need to take them.’ She moved her legs off the settee saying, ‘Sit.’
‘You look peak-key,’ he said, sitting beside her.
‘Fly, I’m pregnant.’ She had to say it quickly, and when she did, they stared at one another for a full minute, neither speaking.
Jenny broke the silence, ‘In the early months women used to get sickness. Morning sickness they called it because it happened mainly in the morning, but medical advances saw that eradicated on Earth, but well, here, we’re basically starting again, aren’t we?’
He hadn’t spoken yet.
‘Our genetic makeup is too different,’ he said at last. ‘You can’t be pregnant!’
‘I’ve been feeling like this for a while. I was about to announce it when Logan came, then, well… you know what it was like. Bodie and Matt deciding and undeciding whether to stay or go. Making sure Logan and crew didn’t spot us, faking my death and all that. It slipped my mind.’
‘No,’ he said. ‘This is bad.’
Bad that it had slipped her mind? Jenny frowned. ‘It’s good news, Fly. I’m not ill. I’m pregnant!’ She injected enthusiasm into her voice and beamed at him.
He drew himself up as if he needed to regulate himself, then got up and turned from Jenny so she was left staring at his broad back. He was a huge man, and Jenny had often wondered if it was typical of his race or just genetic.
In another life, he had been an assassin, but he’d killed the wrong person, and his primary managers turned their backs on him and saw him imprisoned. His punishment, along with others, was banishment to another planet. Fly had told her that this was an experimental venture by the Jelvian authorities, but the prisoners rebelled, the spaceship crashed, and all but Fly survived. He had lived on Eden alone with the natives until she, Bodie and Matt arrived with their European flag and excitement.
He believed that loneliness had crippled him but Jenny knew it was because there was no need for his brutality here. Survival mattered and as social creatures, they needed one another. But sometimes, sometimes, she could see he was battling with his old teachings. She told herself she wasn’t frightened when she saw his eyes dry up, or his large, scarred hands clench into fists as if an emotion was struggling to erupt. But she knew she was lying to herself. The old Fly she was terrified off. Her Fly, the one who was tender when they made love, who had brought her food from the very beginning and built her a house from the stories she told him of home, that was the Fly she wasn’t scared of. He was the one she loved. But sometimes there were glimpses of the murderer, and Jenny was all too aware of how dependent on him she was for her survival—at his hands, not just the planet’s. He had been so jealous of Matt and Bodie, surely he wouldn’t be jealous of his own baby?
Time had helped her come to terms with her pregnancy. Maybe that’s all Fly needed, she assured herself. Time.
He turned back round. His all-black eyes either glistened or were completely dry depending on his mood, now they were as dry as a sandstorm. ‘How did you forget something like that? You should have told Bodie. He was a doctor.’
Her own anger caught her unawares. She was always piggy-in-the-middle—between him, Bodie and Matt, and now the baby. She was pregnant, for Christ’s sake! He could hardly be uncertain of who the father was in their situation! She stood up and faced him with her arms folded across her chest.
‘I didn’t forget. I chose not to tell him. He would’ve stayed and forgo his chance of going back home. I couldn’t risk that!’
‘He was a doctor. He would have helped you remove it before he went home.’
Did she hear right? Did he say ‘remove it’ like it was a mole on her leg, or something?
‘He was a doctor,’ Fly repeated. ‘He would have made something for you to drink. To destroy the foetus.’
She stared at him wordlessly. She didn’t trust herself to speak. She couldn’t blame the language barrier because they were speaking in Jelvian.
‘A baby will have a big effect your health. It is already,’ he said. ‘You’re physically sick and tired—’
‘It’s natural,’ she cut in. ‘I knew you’d be shocked. I mean, I was. But I’m struggling with what you just said. Destroy our baby? Really? Is that what you want?’
‘Yes,’ he said.
Jenny spun round to face the synthetic window, made from the innards of Fly’s decaying spaceship, which was now a heap of tangled metal hidden beneath the planet’s fast-growing undergrowth, then pushed past him and left the cottage with a hefty slam of the door. She wrapped her arms around her middle, wishing she’d thought to grab her fur poncho, and went down the hill towards the river. The boat was bobbing on the surface.
Destroy the foetus.
She knew Fly sometimes mixed up his human words and the meaning became lost. But they’d spoken in Jelvia. He’d said ‘Destroy the foetus’ in plain Jelvian. She climbed down the grassy bank, and got into the boat. She rowed to the other side, working off her anger on the oars.
The river was narrow, but the depth was unmeasured. It flowed at a steady pace, and if you allowed your mind to wander, it would be easy to let the river take the boat towards its rapids, and where the original Taurus crashed; its shell probably in pieces now at the bottom of Eden’s vast ocean.
On at other side, Jenny grabbed the gun, always kept beneath the seat in the boat, and climbed up the boggy riverbank. She tied the boat to a wooden post Fly had erected years ago. Matt had carved his initials in the post: Matt woz ere. Year dot.
That had been the joke; Planet Eden the beginning, and ‘year dot’ the beginning of their calendar. They had lived in the 22nd century— 2136 to be exact and human advances had allowed people to travel out of the solar system for the first time. ‘People’ being Jenny, Bodie and Matt. It hadn’t gone exactly to plan!
Astra scientists discovered a planet, its size, oxygen, chemical balance almost identical to Earth’s, and there was a scramble between the nations to send trained astronauts. But the UK won the vote and Bodie, Matt and Jenny were selected to travel billions of light-years to study Eden, and place probes on the surface so Earth could watch it evolve from afar. Only Bodie, Matt and Jenny encountered a crashed alien spaceship and its lone survivor: Fly. He was very unwelcoming in the beginning.
Straightening, she looked back across the river. Fly’s tall figure stood on the top of the hill. The wind tossed up his long hair and it whipped around his face. He looked every inch a warrior as he watched her. Why did he react like that about her pregnancy? Shock, yes, but that? It wasn’t normal. She gave an emotionless laugh. This wasn’t a normal environment. Fly wasn’t human. But it hadn’t occurred to her that he’d reject his own child.
As he began to walk down the hill towards her, she turned and jogged towards dryer ground where the buggies were kept. She didn’t want to speak to him. She felt as if he’d physically slapped her, and all she wanted to do was go somewhere quiet and lick her wounds—and prepare herself for the fight she would surely have for her unborn child.
It would’ve been quicker for her to reach the buggies by taking a shortcut through the forest, but she skirted the dark and dank trees. Eden harboured many animals; the most usual were the wolves. Not really wolves, but their call sounded similar to a wolf and Jenny had labelled them as such.
On two legs, they were as tall as her. Their thickset bodies were covered with matted hair but they had flat humanoid faces that both fascinated and repelled her. There were two kinds of ‘wolf’ apparently. The ones which favoured walking on two legs Fly called honnards, which simply meant ‘native’ in English, and for the others he used Jenny’s ‘wolf’ because she’d told him about the wolves on earth and he believed the honnards had a higher intelligence than ‘simple animals’. Regardless of the species Fly hunted with both creatures. Matt would say he couldn’t tell which was the beast or man sometimes.
She stopped with a jolt of surprise as, a short distance away, was a young wolf. Its hair was golden and sparse on its body. It was enchanting—it looked no more than an eighteen-month-old toddling child. Jenny had never seen a young native before. She crouched so not to appear a threat, but the creature didn’t seem threatened. She took in its humanoid face, its long thin nose: a characteristic of a native, and blue human eyes, and human ears either side of its head.
Jenny sucked in her breath. She couldn’t believe this little humanish creature would grow up to become a hairy, smelly, howling native. Wolf or honnard, she wasn’t sure.
‘Hello,’ she said. She kept her face void of emotion.
‘Chuff-chuff,’ the little native said. It opened its mouth wide as it ‘spoke’ and vapour puffed around its face. It didn’t have many teeth, Jenny noticed.
Something was watching her. She could feel a penetrating glare to the side of her head. She didn’t want to look, but felt she must. The cub’s mother was sitting against a tree and its shadow had been hiding her from Jenny. Of course, a native this young wouldn’t be far from its mother! Usually they never left their burrow.
Jenny rose slowly, as did the native. It stood up right, and looked well-balanced on two legs. This was a honnard that Fly had explained were evolving people. First-people or not, Jenny’s hand reached for her gun as the native reached out a hand for her cub and pulled it towards fleshy breasts that bulged from the tangle of hair on her chest.
‘Chi-Chi,’ the honnard said. Her voice was muffled because her face was pressed against the tops of the cub’s head. ‘Chi-Chi, Chi-Chi.’
Jenny didn’t dare turn her back, but edged away slowly. The gun was suddenly slippery in her hand. ‘Easy, girl,’ she said in a soft soothing voice. Who she was soothing, she didn’t really know. ‘I’m not about to hurt you or your cub.’
The native hugged her baby and the small animal squeaked as if in protest. If Jenny didn’t know any different she’d have said the female native was acting shy. The only other time she’d encountered a native first-hand was when they were trying to kill her, and shyness was certainly not part of their character back then. They were the four-legged kind, the non-honnards, she reminded herself. And this female was just as hairy and probably had just as many sharp teeth and claws. She continued to sidle away.
Her other hand circled the whistle tied around her neck, and she was ready to blow into it to summon help from Fly, but there was a decent gab between her and the honnards now. She broke into a run; glancing over her shoulder to make sure she wasn’t being chased. But there were no slap-slap of the strange native footsteps, and no sight of the she-wolf.
She reached the buggies. One was the space buggy, the other completely man-made. Or Bodie-made. She climbed into the Jeep, and with the roof above her, she felt protected. But the female honnard and her cub hadn’t followed—neither had Fly. He’d have reached her by now, if he had. Feeling strangely hurt, she put the car into action and drove towards the amber cave—so-called because part of the cave was underwater and the partially broken rocky ceiling spotlighted inside and lit up the cave, reflecting off the water and the orange rocks turning the cave a golden colour.
The lake was the result of underground geysers, which spurted out heated water and had eventually it had formed a lake in a deep crevice at the bottom of the cave. Jenny had deduced that the planet’s main heat came from within—the suns’ warmth being too far away. There were pockets of heated water dotted around Eden’s highlands, and Jenny believed there was a network of hot springs below its surface. She was certain the springs, which flowed into the ocean, was the reason it wasn’t always frozen.
The road was fine dust with sparse tufts of grass that littered the plains. She passed grazing animals so huge they’d make an elephant seem like a baby. The creatures posed no threat though, and those that did she would shoot. She was quick with the gun now, and didn’t think she’d be shy using it if her life depended on it. She thought back to how pathetic she was in the beginning; on how, when she made a fire for the first time, thought herself brilliant. She gave a snort. Had Fly not been there she’d have curled up and died.
Had Fly not been there they’d all be back on Earth by now. Celebrating their success, doing celebrity interviews, living the high-life... but the thought of going back filled Jenny with dread. Despite their argument, she was happier here. It was her home.
A large shadow fell over the buggy. Eden had a binary star system and its shadows were unlike those on earth. Used to them now, Jenny ignored it, but a loud squawk accompanied the silhouette and made her stamp on the brake. With the windows built in, she couldn’t buzz it down, so she opened the door and peered up at the sky—her gun poised.
Nothing was there, and the shadow was gone.
Eden had birds and flying insects, large butterflies in particular, but nothing that would have made such a huge shadow. The sky was cloudless. Jenny pulled the door shut and continued to drive.
She pulled up outside the cave, and taking the gun, she gingerly stepped inside. Sometimes, animals used the cave because it was warm, but today it was empty. Jenny tucked the gun away and continued inside. It was warm in the cave, and the deeper she went the warmer it became. She knew the path well, and when the light cut off she continued to move forward with one hand on the cave wall to guide her.
The wall curved round and then the light came back in pinpricks of sunlight as it glinted in from the ceiling. It was like walking into a jewel, and Jenny never tired of it.
The centre of the lake bubbled like a Jacuzzi as hot geysers spurted up, stream rising, and falling harmlessly cool back into the pool.
This was where she and Fly finally began to trust one another. Where she fell in love.
On the orange rocks, beside the lake, was evidence of their last visit. They’d brought mattresses (they’d taken many mattresses from the cabins in the old spaceship, and most were stored in the barn) and left them on the rocks rather than keep taking them back.
Jenny sat on one, pulled up her knees and stared into the bubbling lake as the steam warmed her chilled body. Winter was fast approaching, and soon the land would be covered with a blanket of snow.
Fly’s jealously was absurd, but with Matt and Bodie he had reason—the men were equally jealous of the other. A baby wasn’t a threat. A baby was a baby—innocent and theirs.
She pulled off her battered boots and rolled up her hand-made trousers, and went down to the lake. She sat at the edge and lowered her feet into the water. The water felt hot at first, until she became accustomed, and then it was bath-warm.
The burning tears in her eyes caught her by surprise, and then she couldn’t stop them. She was sobbing like a child. Maybe it was hormones. Maybe it was because she missed Bodie and Matt more than she let on, or maybe it was because she knew she didn’t have the strength to fight Fly and his insane insecurities any longer.