TryHards Origins #1 — Klint
Chapter 1: First Blood
I find them in a clearing in the thicket. Small ship, two tents, three guys. I can see the gleam of sweat on their skins, I can feel the stickiness on mine. They are trying to start a fire, not for warmth but to scare away the armies of mosquitoes — heck, my whole body’s been itching since I left the ship this morning. Lucky that I could sleep in my ship while I surveyed this place, there’s no way they could all fit comfortably in that heap of junk. That way it’s also easier to hear someone approaching — or something.
I should tread carefully.
The ground is full of branches and puddles, and a crack or a splash could be the end of me. I’m gonna have to get dirty. I get on my stomach and creep towards a rock in front of me. I don’t know if it’s really there or if it’s in my head but I could swear there’s a snake somewhere around, slithering its way through the decaying leaves and twigs, just like I am. They’re everywhere here. Snakes. Thin and thick, long and short, venomous and harmless. I had one for dinner last night. It didn’t taste bad. It was better than the dried-up desert snake that you get on those skewers at the food stands in Nova. Juicier.
I get to the rock and I prop myself against it. I can hear the click of a lighter, followed by a barrage of curses.
“Screw it! Get the blowtorch!”
“It won’t work, stupid, you’ll just char the wood.”
Poor devils, they really have no idea. I want to get this over with. I’m tired of the sweat and the bugs and the oppressive air of this place, and I don’t trust these noises. Still, now I can’t help thinking that someone’s watching me.
“We could just turn a light on”
“What do you want? More bugs?”
They’re irritated. I would be, too. I peek around the uneven edge of the rock and look for the head honcho. The moon on this planet shines very bright, brighter than the pink moon of Esperanza. Now that I’m up close, the sweaty bald head is hard to miss, like a crystal ball in the blue light, and I hide again.
My hand is burning inside my glove as I wrap it around the handle of my gun. I take a deep breath and calculate the timing of my shots.
Stand up. Take the baldie out and the guy closer to him. Duck again. Let them panic, let the rock take all the heat. Wait for the confusion, they won’t know where the shots came from. Get up again. Finish the job. Easy.
They stopped talking, to eat, and I cringe at the sound of their forks grinding on the tin cans. If there’s ever been a good moment, it’s now.
You think you can make it on your own, boy?
Oh, not now, for hope’s sake. You could always find the best moment to get on my nerves.
I’m just saying: you’re too green, sonny.
I try to ignore the disembodied voice of my father, the legend. Even from another planet, he still manages to piss me off — quite legendary. I take a deep breath and pull my gun out of my holster, slowly, there’s no rush until the first bullet starts flying. I exhale. One, two, three. Here we go.
As I put my hand on the ground to push myself up, I hear the crack of a twig. My luck, for a change. By the time I notice I’m already halfway out of cover and there’s no way back and when I get a line of sight they already know I’m there and they’re shooting at me. My hat flies off my head. I feel the string pull back softly on my neck, and I duck back behind the rock and this is it, he was right. It gets so darn hot and it’s hard to breathe, the air turns solid. Drops of sweat trickle down my cheeks and my forehead and into my eyes.
I told you.
His voice again. I don’t know how long this rock is gonna hold for if they keep emptying their cartridges on it. I can feel it slowly crumbling behind me. I must find another cover. Right now. There are some bushes to my left, not too thick but they might conceal me long enough for me to reach the pond, but getting into the water is a coin-toss. If they hear the splash I’m a sitting duck. Let’s see the right side.
I can’t see what’s there beyond the thicket. I can try to ram through it but I could get stuck. I picture myself tangled in a web of thorny branches as bullets pierce through the leaves and then right through me.
They must have stopped reloading. It’s as if I had forgotten that they were blasting at me. I peek to the left and I remember the noises I’ve been hearing. I don’t wanna take a chance on what sort of creatures are in the pond’s jet-black water. The silence won’t last and I take a chance on my right side. As I dive into the thick brush I can feel a hundred snags cutting me, and the branches pull me back like a ghastly creature’s thousand tentacles, pulling me down into the depths. I don’t hear bullets amid the rustling of twigs and leaves as I wrestle against the darn bush, but I’m starting to tire and I’m afraid I will have to put all my chips on a final lunge. I relax and let myself lean back on the branches behind me as far as I can without risking a fall. I take a deep breath and I push forward and I fly out of that yellow-green spiderweb and into a ditch, and I roll down a few feet until I land on all fours. I’m on cover.
They must be all locked and loaded again by now. I hope they split up.
“You two check that way! You, come with me!”
Bang. They do. I press my back against the side of the ditch and start inching along with it real quiet. I can hear their steps and their whispers. I feel like soon I will be able to hear their breath above me, as they stand above the ditch. I better prepare for when that happens. I reach for my hat behind my back and put it on. I reach for my gun and lock it while in my holster, as silently as I can. I begin to inch along the ditch when I hear them, no more than a couple of feet away, right behind my head. I only have a few seconds to do something before they see me. I focus for a second, trying to mute out the clicking and buzzing of bugs and the rustling of leaves. Then I place my bet. 20 degrees to the left.
As I unholster my gun I dive forward and turn to land on my back, as I fire my gun towards the top of the ditch. By the time I land on the mud, the two of them are plunging into the ditch. As soon as I hear the thud of their bodies landing, a warm rush of blood and adrenaline overtakes me. My cheeks feel like there’s a ball of fire growing in my mouth and I see blue and red and green lights all around me. My lungs feel like they’ve shrunk to half their size. I need to gather myself.
I crawl back into the ditch and lie on my back, staring at the canopy. I heard once there was an ancient language on Planet X, when it was still known as Earth, that had a word for the light that comes through the leaves atop a forest. They say some Undead still speak it. Too bad there are no forests on their planet. I would like to know a word like that before I die if these thugs are going to fry me. Not the most helpful thought right now. I sit up and lean back on the side of the ditch again, my first two bounties lying motionless in front of me.
Take that, Pops. That’s two out of four.
To be continued…