When Sheela and I got back to the cave, we tied Hope to a tree near the base of the ramp. I was looking forward to one night of celebration to take the edge off all the disasters of the day. Sure, I was going to sharpen axes, make cord, and worry about tomorrow just like every other night, but this time when Galmine got me for the night shift, I was going to make certain I had a little gas left in the tank to greet her.
“Thanks for coming with us, girl,” I said to the female parasaur. “You saved our asses out there.”
She looked at me briefly but could have also just been looking for something to eat. While I patted her on the neck, I noticed Trel watching from the top of the ramp. I leaned up against Hope’s body and acted like I’d come home with a new car.
“Trel, I told you I was going to get a dinosaur and here she is. What do you think?” I called to the spider woman with a cheery voice.
“I thought you’d get a bigger one.” She spoke with her typical sarcasm.
“Are you serious?” I asked, and my shoulders slumped despite my intentions.
“Oh, I’m going to have fun with you, male.” The spider-woman let out a giggle and then spun around to walk back into the cave.
“Why do I feel like I’m walking into a trap with her?” I asked Sheela.
“I do not think we yet know Trel’s true personality,” she replied.
“She eats men,” I said with a laugh, “what more do I need to know?” I momentarily ignored all her contributions to our construction project.
“There is that,” Sheela agreed.
I walked up the ramp with the sexy feline-woman while my mind did loop-the-loops thinking of all the cool shit Hope was going to do. As soon as we reached the middle of the ramp, the parasaur let out a single, hollow note as if she didn’t want us to leave her. I glanced back, intending to reassure her we wouldn’t be gone long, but then I noticed some activity above us.
“Well, fuck,” I said in a hushed voice. “We have another problem.”
“What is it, Victor?” Sheela said as she looked up.
A group of orange and black birds hopped from branch to branch high in the closest of the big redwoods. They weren’t a new threat, but seeing them made me wonder how we were going to take care of the latest member of our growing tribe.
“Besides the orange birds up in the trees, roaming carnos, that missing pterodactyl, and all the other pieces of our daily grind, we have to add pet security to our list.” I pointed to Hope. “We can't leave her out here overnight. Something will come along and kill her, especially if she's tied up.”
Sheela looked at me with concern, then glanced around the almost-dark forest. I expected her to have an answer, especially on matters loosely related to hunting, but she seemed to come up short.
“We’ll have to stay out here and guard her,” I finally said. If Hope was a little smaller, she might have fit into the cave with us, but that wouldn’t leave much room for anyone else. I squinted to see the ruins of our fort out in the growing darkness of the grove and formulated a quick plan of action.
“We’ll have to build a stall or something in our new place, so we can keep her safe. Until then, I think you and I will have to sleep outside with spears at the ready.” Over the past week and a half, we’d had maybe two encounters with dinosaurs in the dark of night. The first happened when those raptors came snooping around, which was pretty fucking scary. The second event was when a huge carnivore ran past the bottom of our ramp as I sat and watched all the fireflies one night. It was so silent I couldn’t be sure what I saw was real, but the next day I found the giant tracks, proving the point that it was never, ever, completely safe in the forest.
“It will be dangerous, but I think it will help to have this beast with us. We will guard her, and she will, in turn, protect us.” Sheela smiled.
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” I admitted. I walked back to Hope and patted her on the side of the neck like I’d done for horses back home. “I told you we’ll take care of you, girl.”
I still didn’t understand the mechanics of Tame, but whenever I spoke, I tried to convey positive thoughts to her. In the short time I’d known the parasaur, I’d ordered her around like I’d been training her my whole life. Even a top-notch AKC show dog couldn’t match the commands I’d been giving Hope so far, and I’d have many new commands when building the fort. But all of that depended on trust between animal and trainer, so I kept up calming thoughts of friendship whenever I was around her.
The orange birds cackled and cawed in the trees high above. They seemed restless as if waiting for their chance to drop in on us, but it was late, and I hoped they were getting ready to roost for the night.
Sheela continued to look up at them while I spoke.
“If we had a bow and arrow, we could pop them when they get to the lower branches.” It was the second time I’d thought of a specific task for arrows, and that probably meant we should divert some resources to make them.
“Agreed,” she replied dryly.
“How fast can you build a bow?” I asked as I thought about the cost to our schedule. Even with Hope here to help us, it was going to take a miracle to get the improved design of the fort done before the birds arrived.
We’d have to start cutting out non-essentials, like sleep.
“We have unlimited trees, all the cord we need for the string, and bird feathers to make the arrows fly straight,” Sheela said as she returned her attention from the birds. “I can work on it during the night.”
“So, a few hours?” I asked.
“Yes. It is not difficult if I have all the materials ready.”
“I’m surprised you haven’t made one already,” I suggested.
“I did have a bow back at my other cave,” the feline warrior started to say, “but I lost it when I had to flee. I have lacked the time to make another because of all my other duties. Also, arrows are perfect for birds but are not effective against large dinosaurs. Spears are quicker to make and are better able to bring down the big creatures.”
“I see,” I said.
“Spears are also better for close combat on this world. If you have to fight a dino in a tight spot, you will not be able to use a bow.” She showed me her weaponless hand. “And if we are staying out here tonight, I need to get a spear to replace the one I threw. I will return in a moment.”
I fought the urge to gulp dramatically due to her warning.
“I’ll hang out here,” I said with a bit of a laugh to take the edge off the worry, “and see if I can think of a place where we can watch over Hope tonight,” It sounded crazy, but I was getting used to doing and saying all kinds of insane shit around Sheela. Riding a dinosaur and fighting a carno were only the latest.
Sheela was gone for a few minutes, and her absence gave me a chance to look around our front yard below the cave. I barely had time to consider our options when someone came walking back. I figured it was Sheela, but spun around when I heard Galmine on the ramp above me.
“Victor, I love the new dinosaur and love, love, love, the name Hope! You are an amazing provider,” she gushed as she hugged me.
“Thank you,” I replied as I melted in her arms. Though the evening was hot, and I was sweating from rescuing Hope, the warmth of her body was an electric blanket I desperately needed to wrap around me. My insta-hard dick rubbed against her stomach, and she ground against me in return.
“You should know, I’m keeping track of all your brave actions.” Galmine whispered in my ear, and her warm breath caused goosebumps to sprint down my neck. “That’s how many times you are going to get rewarded when we finally have time to ourselves.”
I was again faced with an opportunity to fuck the beautiful woman, and even though I was reaching the level of solid granite in my pants, I had to fight off Galmine’s obvious advances. With Hope down below, I had new duties that were more important than pleasure, so I gently pushed her off my chest and peered into her soulful eyes.
“Grrr. I really want to claim your reward, Galmine, but Sheela and I have to get back to Hope. She’s by herself down there.” I hid my disappointment as best I could.
“I know. And trust me, I know exactly how much you want my reward.” She grabbed my crotch gently, and I felt all the blood leave my head. “Though I want to be taken by you, it pleases me to know how much you think of the other women. I bet that makes them desire you, since you treat them with respect.”
I gasped as she released her hand. My man brain was pummeling my leader brain to let nature take its fucking course, but I resisted my urges and tried to respond to her.
“You, uh, think they like me in that way, too?” I scratched my head while I thought it over. Sheela was married, but was Trel interested in me? Were all her insults just covering up her feelings? It seemed like a longshot.
“Only if I believe what they say while you are sleeping,” she replied with a giggle.
“What do they say?” I asked. I knew I had important things to do, but man brain jammed his foot in the door to keep this conversation from ending.
Her brow furrowed as she studied me in the glow of the first fireflies of the night. “You haven’t had sex with me yet, and you are already thinking of being with them. Oh, Victor, nothing would make me happier than if you used your Tame skill on all three of us, but it isn’t for me to say what words they have spoken. I guess it will just have to be a surprise.” Her eyes became flirtatious as she waved goodbye.
I watched her hips sway as she returned to the cave. I almost asked her to come back, but then Hope let out a little toot, and I turned to watch her down below.
I was still trying to calm myself when Sheela returned a moment later. I wondered if she knew what Galmine had just said, or if she could see how flushed I was, but her face remained as stoic as ever. She stood in front of me and showed me her replacement spear.
“Have you found a place where we can watch over her?” Sheela asked.
“I, uh. Yeah.” I was sweating bullets from how fast my heart had been beating around Galmine, but I steadied myself and tried to get serious. “I did have an idea, actually.” I looked around our front yard again and came up with something in seconds. “We can get a few poles from our ruined walls and lay them down below to make a little enclosure up against these rocks. Then, we can camp up here and guard the pen.”
Sheela watched as I pointed to where I wanted to put Hope, but I kept speaking before she had any questions.
“She could break any rope that we make, so the poles are more of a suggestion for her not to run away. Jinx doesn’t split, and I never worry about him, so maybe once they are tamed, they’ll just stay with me.” It was only a guess based on observation, but I thought that made more sense than requiring me to stay awake all the time to keep the animals under my control.
“Yes,” the cat-like woman said, “and if a threat does arrive, we will defend from up here on the high ground.”
It was getting dark in the grove, but only a few fireflies were visible. I waved my hand toward them as I thought of another piece of good luck in my planning.
“The glow of those creatures will allow us to watch for predators,” I declared. “And if those aren’t around, we should have a moon or two.” I realized another potential solution as my mind jumped several steps ahead. “When we have time, we could move our pile of branches and extra wood from next to the sequoia and put it out into the open. Then we could burn it for extra light during an emergency.”
“I will put extra spears where we will keep watch,” she said.
“Let’s get this done,” I commanded.
She and I worked for several hours to get Hope’s pen set up next to the bottom of the ramp. We tried a few fancy ways of doing it, but in the end, we just dragged some logs to outline a corral and then shoved them into the dirt, so they stood up like fence posts.
I wanted to use Hope to move the logs, but we didn’t have enough thick rope to make the tow line, so I asked Galmine to make us more while we were putting the last touches on the pen.
It was probably 2:00 AM when I guided Hope into her enclosure, and we propped up a long, thin pole as a makeshift door. She went in and laid down at the base of the rocks like it was no big deal. The low, red glow of the moon made it difficult to see the logs and sticks we put all around her, and I thought for sure she’d get up and trample over them, but after several minutes I began to think she was going to stay there.
“Good night, Hope,” I said with a tired voice. After feeling her raw power, I knew none of this could happen without her approval, so there was nothing to be done except be polite to her.
The bright red glow of the moon made it easy to walk the ramp and join Sheela at our tiny watch fire right outside the cave.
“I can’t wait to ride with Hope again tomorrow. I’m still stoked about bringing her back here. That was the coolest thing I’ve ever done. You think she’ll stay there?” I felt like I was mainlining Mountain Dew because of the flurry of thoughts percolating in my head and spilling out of my mouth.
“I trust your judgment, Victor,” Sheela answered. “If you think she will stay with us, then I believe that is what she will do.”
“She’ll stay,” I replied with total confidence.
I thought about what Hope would look like in the light of the morning, and I couldn’t help but imagine the feeling of riding on top of her again. It was way more exciting than the best Christmas present I’d ever opened, and I felt a bit giddy, so I laughed with delight.
I enjoyed the fireflies and the smell of the campfire as we sat in shared silence for several minutes, but we both glanced upward when the sky exploded with colors.
“There!” Sheela exclaimed as she jumped to her feet. “Those are the lights I’ve been telling you about. People are arriving on this world.”
The high redwoods made it difficult to see any of the lights, but their bright colors and frosty appearance reminded me of raver’s glow sticks. They began high up in the atmosphere and then shot down to the planet’s surface in one, fast-moving beam. The colors, direction, and frequency all seemed random, but there were dozens of them.
“You weren’t kidding before,” I said as I stood next to her. “If we could find half of those people, we’d have more than enough manpower to build our fort before the birds get here. Hell, we could build two.”
“Do you want to go look for them?” she suggested as if unsure herself. Distant thunder rumbled in the darkness, and the lights winked out one by one while I considered her question.
“Yes,” I answered. “I want to find them, but I don’t think we should risk it right now.” The feline warrior had gone out to find me after a similar light show, and I now appreciated how much danger she’d put herself in to get me. “I can’t spare you to search, and honestly I would want us both to go. Also, if we wandered around and didn’t find anyone, I’d be pretty pissed because our timeline has no room for error. In the morning we have to start work with Hope, and we can’t delay five minutes until those walls are done.”
We watched in silence as a second batch of lights popped up and fizzled out in various parts of the sky. It disturbed me that each of those beams was a person who would be as lost and confused as I was upon arrival.
Then there would be lots of dying when the dinosaurs found them.
I wasn’t sure it was the right decision, but for the moment I could only think of my group of women. Things would have been different if the original fort was still intact, but that stampede really altered our outlook for the future. I had to be more conservative and protective of my time and friends.
Soon enough, all the lights faded away.
I took the first shift watching Hope. I wanted to be ready if she somehow untamed herself, but nothing interesting happened during my watch. Sheela slept by the fire as the fireflies ended their show and the red moon moved across the sky. I searched the horizon for the second moon as an exercise to keep my eyes in motion while I rocked back and forth on my feet.
It struck me that the moons needed names better than “red” and “white,” so I spent some time working the problem. I tried to think of names of moons from our solar system back home, but I only remembered two that were in an old video game. I assumed Phobos and Deimos were the moons of Mars, but only because the video game took place there. My tired mind failed me with better alternatives, so I went ahead and dubbed the red one above me as Deimos.
Phobos was just starting to rise, along with the first hint of dawn, when I finally had to wake up Sheela for her shift. I greeted her and then fell over into the sleep of the dead.
“Wake up, Victor,” Sheela whispered almost as soon as my skull touched down on the ramp.
I felt exhausted when I came to, but it was the same as any other day. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes but became instantly alert when I saw Sheela crouched next to me with a spear in her hand. I thought maybe Hope had escaped, but I still saw her curved crest down below.
“We have visitors,” she said while motioning me to look down the ramp.
Six or seven of the annoying orange and black birds were walking as a group near Hope’s pen. I didn’t think they would even register as a nuisance to the parasaur, but their very presence was a threat to the rest of us.
“They just came down from their high branches,” the warrior woman declared. “I knew you would want to be wakened.”
“We better chase these fuckers away, or we’re going to have even more to deal with,” I said. It made my heart skip a beat to suggest fighting them, but we couldn’t let them wander into the cave, and I also didn’t want them bothering my new pet dinosaur.
The branches of the barricade were still shoved into the cave door, so I knew the two other women were safe. My other concern was Hope, but the parasaur was on her feet nipping at some of the green bushes on the hillside and seemed oblivious to the birds.
“You’ve fought these before. What’s the best way to do this?” I asked as we paused at the bottom of the ramp.
She eyed the birds for ten seconds before seeming to make up her mind.
“There are only six of them,” the feline woman said. “We should be able to attack and chase them off, but as their numbers swell they will stop running from us.”
“Well, then we should kill every one of them,” I replied.
“We can try, but they are very fast.” She tossed her spear from her left hand to her right, then turned to me. “Tell me when,” she added with a small smile.
“Go!” I said with excitement.
We both sprang into action and ran the twenty-five feet to the first bird, but they scattered like geese and took flight before we could close the distance. Sheela managed to throw her spear and knock one out of the sky, but my throw missed by a few feet.
“Fuck!” I shouted. A second later, I reached down and picked up a rock. I whipped it at another straggler and managed to hit one of the fleeing birds right in the back. The orange bird screamed in pain, and flapped its large black wings in 8x speed, but it still managed to get away.
The birds spiraled upward toward the top of the sequoia and belted out defiant caws that sounded like blue jays. They apparently didn’t see our presence as a deal breaker because they weren’t flying off to a more distant part of Dinosaurland.
“Great throw, Victor,” Sheela said. “I should have done the same by finding a rock.”
“Yeah, you taught me that, but I need to work in some training time with my spear.” I was happy my throws tended to get very close to the target, but I had to get a lot better or my spear’s damage per minute was going to remain at zero.
“We have breakfast,” she said as she pulled her spear out of the dead bird. “I’m going to get this up into the cave.”
“Hey, while you’re up there, please grab two water jugs. I want to take Hope out for her first task of the day.” I waited until Sheela acknowledged she’d heard me, then I went to Hope’s pen and removed the piece of wood blocking her in.
“Good morning to you. Those birds didn’t bother you, did they?” I smiled at my new friend, but she wore no expression I could read. I’d said good morning to thousands of animals back at my parents’ clinic, but this magnificent creature was all mine. “I’m glad to see you didn’t run away.” I kept my voice friendly and upbeat for her.
Hope blew through her nose and created a deep echo in her crest. It reminded me of someone humming, and I imagined that she was glad to see me. Though her tail didn’t wag like a happy puppy, it did sway a little.
I patted her on the neck while she regarded me with her large bumble bee eyes. Then Hope readjusted her head to watch Sheela jog up to us with the water jugs over her shoulders.
“Great. Now, all we have to do is figure out how to stabilize all this on her back while we ride to the waterhole,” I said.
A few giant dragonflies whizzed by while we climbed into the same seating positions we used the day before. Once we were on top, we straddled Hope’s shoulders and held ourselves in place by wrapping our legs around her neck.
“You ready back there?” I asked after Sheela had taken a few moments to reposition her spear and the jugs.
“Yes, Victor,” she answered.
The solution to carry the water was much easier than I’d anticipated. She was able to set the spear across her thighs as she sat behind me, and each of the jugs hung on either end of the wooden pole so they swung to each side of Hope.
The morning air was fresh, and I held the neck rope loosely in my hands as I tried to steady my heart with deep breaths. It was so fucking cool to be sitting on a dinosaur. Especially with a beautiful babe sitting behind me.
“Let’s roll out,” I said, and Hope sprang from her pen.
We went right up to a steady run, and I heard Sheela gasp. I laughed out loud as the wind threatened to steal my hat, and Sheela added to my joy when she tightened her arms around my waist. For a few luxurious moments, I celebrated the fact I was in command of such a powerful beast while I had a sexy woman gripping my body.
I figured out I only needed to tap my boot lightly on either side of Hope’s neck to guide her. It was more like she knew where I wanted to go before I even touched her, and we flew around redwoods and across fern patches with what I sensed was mutual glee. I was almost disappointed we had to stop at the stream a couple of minutes later.
“This is awesome!” I shouted as I slowed Hope to a stop.
Sheela jumped off the dino and went right to the water’s edge, so she could submerge the two jugs. I remained on Hope’s shoulders to keep watch like a badass warrior on his tough-as-nuts steed, but when the massive parasaur dipped her head to take her own drink, I dipped with her.
“Oh, shit!” I cried out.
It felt like I was a car sliding toward an accident on black ice. I clenched my jaw as I fell forward along Hope’s neck, then I tumbled over her head and belly flopped into the shallow stream. It all happened so fast I needed a few moments to process it.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” is all I could get out as I struggled to my feet.
Sheela splashed over to me but stopped as soon as she saw I was okay.
Hope also made a series of snorts that had to be mimicking a laugh. I spun so I could see her as I sat in the water, but was already laughing a bit myself.
“Did Trel tell you to do that?” I asked the dino between laughs. I didn’t think the spider-woman had any power to talk to animals, but I wouldn’t put it past her to try. Was this what she meant when she said she was going to have fun with me?
“Was it Galmine?” I said with more laughter. “Or Sheela?” I turned suddenly serious while hooking my thumb in the direction of my feline companion.
“It was not me,” Sheela said with a playful defensiveness.
A distant roar ended the moment of humor. It wasn’t a screech I recognized, but that didn’t make me feel any better.
“We should get back. Luckily, we’ll only need a minute, or two.” I was up out of the water in a flash and helped get Sheela and the heavy water jugs situated.
She again set the spear on her thighs while she sat behind me, and I guided Hope away from the water as Sheela clung to my wet body.
A few minutes later, we were back at camp and smiling. Sheela and I dismounted like we’d practiced it many times already, and I let out another laugh.
“Wow. Hope is already paying off,” I said with excitement. “She could save us hours a week of walking back and forth to the creek, Sheela.”
“I will tell the others when I go up there,” she replied. “This is excellent for us all.”
I stuck with Hope while Sheela carried the water up to the cave. I was swamped with plans and tasks and running clocks, but I still had time to admire her sexy bare back, shoulders, and ass when she walked away from me.
“You made me look like a fucking rock star yesterday,” I whispered to Hope as I petted her flank, “but you’re literally making me into a wet blanket today. What gives? I’d bet my last soggy dollar you know what you were doing.” I then laughed at how silly it sounded.
I took off my wet uniform shirt and my white undershirt, so I could toss them on a tree branch to dry. I worried about my farmer’s tan and lack of heroic physique, but when I looked down, I wasn’t completely embarrassed. I was far from having washboard abs and ripped pecs, but I wasn’t a weakling, either. Some muscles were starting to appear on my shoulders, and I could actually see the vein on each of my biceps. I decided the rating of 4 for my strength was definitely earned.
I didn’t flinch when Sheela came out with a shitload of rope slung over her shoulders, but I did expect her to make some kind of comment about being shirtless.
“This is a harness devised by the team inside the cave.” She said as she handed me the rope. “So we can drag logs behind Hope.”
“Team?” I replied.
Sheela looked at my chest for a moment, then came back to my eyes.
“You would have to inquire inside as to who helped make it,” the blonde woman replied. “Someone asked me not to say.”
“Oh, Trel,” I said with a chuckle.
“You did not hear it from me.” Sheela smiled as I took the rope.
“Then let’s get started by testing Hope on one of the logs tossed from our old fort by the stampede,” I replied. The well-crafted rope was thicker and stronger because three separate ropes were elegantly braided together. It was obviously Trel’s handiwork, and I knew I’d probably never hear the end of how easy it was for her to create.
Getting the harness hooked up on Hope took about a half an hour. The main loop went around her neck above her shoulders right where we sat. Another loop went around her broad mid-section and linked to the front loop with a horizontal rope on each side. Two pull lines hooked onto that second loop, went under her tail, and joined together at the log about forty feet behind her. Once she was connected to the load, Hope seemed anxious to start dragging.
“Here goes nothing,” I said as I tapped her neck with my foot. The parasaur’s bulky body made it hard to look over my shoulder and see the log behind us, so I had to depend on Sheela to guide me. I ordered Hope to drag it over to the empty space where we’d built the original fort, and soon enough I heard Sheela yell for us to stop.
The concept worked. We’d used a dinosaur to tow a heavy log across the camp.
“That’s it, girl,” I chuckled. “I doubt you even knew you were pulling something.”
I hopped off Hope, ran over to Sheela, and gave her a big hug. The blonde woman’s chest mashed against my shirtless body for a moment, and I had just enough time to feel her rock-hard nipples rub against me. She squeezed my upper arms for a second, glanced again at my chest, and then flashed a warm smile before letting me go.
“We did it!” I said after the awkwardness had passed.
“I am so happy this is going to work, Victor,” the feline woman said in a businesslike voice. “Your skill is incredible and will undoubtedly improve our lives. Thank you for celebrating with this embrace, but I should not have rubbed your body. We must remember I am married.”
Fuck. Why did she have to remind me all the time? I never forgot for a second that my personal trainer sex goddess of a feline warrior was off limits for me. When I caught glimpses of her side boob or the sweat glistening on her abs, I instantly remembered she was married. When she displayed her rockin’ physique as she chopped trees or tossed spears, I remembered she was married. Even watching her walk was a reminder. Pretty much everything she did tempted me to notice, yet here she was once again telling me the most obvious thing in the world.
Hot. Married. Sexy. Married. It was a vicious cycle.
“No. It’s cool,” I said as I tried to hide my disappointment. “I’m just happy you and I have another victory. It feels good. Now we have to try to take this to the next level.”
I had her grab as many axes as she could carry from inside the cave and then meet me next to a medium-sized tree about twice as wide as the ones from the old fort. If we were going to up our game and build a wall that could withstand a stampede, we needed to cut and haul bigger logs. The first step to our new process was cutting down a sample tree, and when everything was set, I showed her what we were going to do.
“We’ll each cut away at this tree at the same time,” I said while pointing, “so we can knock it down as fast as possible. I don’t know how many axes it's going to take, but that’s why I had you bring so many.” I counted six, which was just about all we’d made over the past week.
“I understand, Victor,” she said with a grim smile. “We must be prepared to jump out of the way when it falls.”
“That’s the plan,” I replied.
We began chopping while standing on opposite sides of the tree, and we each tried to hit the same notch. I’d gotten pretty good at cutting trees over the past ten days and knew how to get them to fall where I wanted. But even with two axes, it took about thirty minutes to get the tree to crack at the base and then tip over.
“Timber!” I shouted as we stepped out of the path of the falling redwood.
The fifty-footer crashed to the forest floor with a rumble, and I gripped my axe to await trouble. We’d been dropping trees for almost two weeks without attracting attention, but this one seemed extra loud. Sheela saw what I was doing and immediately crouched in her fighting stance with her axe, but after a short period of silence, I finally told her why I was skittish.
“Since the stampede, we’ve had a run of good luck. I feel like something bad is coming.”
“You must make your own luck. Do not let this world dictate it to you.” Positive reinforcement was like second nature to her.
“Now comes the fun part. We have to cut off the bottom ten feet of this bad boy, so we can stand it on end.” The whole point of cutting a new batch of trees was to ensure they were beefy enough to withstand any attack. The sixty or so six-inch-wide logs in our original pile would be great for parts of the enclosure that dinosaurs couldn’t attack, like the living space inside the fort, but we needed these bigger trees to form the stout outer walls.
“What we really need is a big beaver,” I said. A second later I cracked up laughing at myself.
“What’s so funny?” Sheela said as she rested against the trunk of the felled tree.
“Oh, I just thought it would be super useful to tame an animal that could cut all our trees for us. Back on my world, we have animals with nice fur called beavers. They chew through wood like this and use the downed lumber to make their homes. Can you imagine what we could do if some kind of mega-beaver lived in these parts? I could tame it, ride it, and maybe even pet it.” I chuckled a bit, wondering if I was ever going to outgrow this sort of humor.
“Yes, I would love to have a beaver like that,” Sheela replied. “I would pet it frequently.”
I laughed uncontrollably for a solid minute at what she’d said, and I didn’t care if it was immature or not. She took it in good humor until I caught my breath and had to explain it to her.
“Beaver is another name for the, uh, private area between a woman’s legs,” I said. It didn’t sound nearly as funny when I said it out loud.
“Females on your planet wear animals between their legs? You are a strange species, Victor,” she replied with no sign she understood what she’d just said.
I stifled more laughter because we had to keep on task. I’d begun to suspect there were a lot of word jokes I could play on Sheela, but they wouldn’t be as funny if I had to explain them all.
“I’m sorry, Sheela. We need to ready this wood, so we can get it in the hole,” I added while doing my best to get past my laughing fit.
We began hacking the fallen tree at the halfway point, but it took us twice as long because we had to go all the way through. By the time we finished, my hands were on fire from the pain of chopping.
We’d just gotten the big tree hooked up to Hope when the forest came alive with a disturbing noise that sounded like blue jay screams. I hopped off the parasaur with my axe in hand a moment before the orange birds descended on us from the pine boughs of the redwoods.
Hope seemed mildly curious about the noise, but immediately bent her neck to get at some ferns instead of preparing to fight. Several of the birds swooped through the air twenty feet above us and squawked loudly as if to complain about our presence. In moments there were seven or eight of them flying in wide loops like they were buzzards eying roadkill.
“Shit. There are more of these bastards,” I said to Sheela.
We both stood next to Hope at the edge of our construction site, but the parasaur remained oblivious to the intruders. Her contribution to our defense was blowing her horn in pleasant notes like she wanted us to know she’d found tasty leaves.
I was going to protect her no matter what she was doing, so I stepped up to the side of her neck and put my hand on her scales to ready myself. However, just as I did that, the birds started to retreat back up into the high branches. The distinctive orange and black colors rose until they were almost out of sight.
We all stood there until I was pretty certain the potential attack was over.
“I do not think they like Hope,” Sheela remarked.
“We’ve got to keep building,” I said. “You were absolutely correct. These orange birds aren’t going to give up just because we’re here. Even Hope won’t keep them all away.”
“Once they found my first cave, they came in ever larger waves until they took it from me. Their migratory habits must be the same here.” My feline friend frowned as she continued to watch the trees above.
“And, if you had to guess, how long would you say we have before there are too many birds to fight off?” I asked.
“Our original schedule seems correct, but it is impossible to say with certainty,” she said with unusual lack of detail. “As you said, we should not delay.”
“So, it might be sooner?” I asked in a quiet voice.
Sheela looked at me and nodded her head to answer my question.
“Okay,” I said after a moment of thought, “we can deal with that, but how long do you think it will be before these impatient scout birds get up in our face and want to fight?”
“Much sooner,” she replied.
I took a deep breath to keep my nerves from getting away from me, then I hopped up on Hope’s shoulders. I tapped her neck a few times to get her to stop eating those ferns, but once she got going, it was a snap to drag the big trunk over to the job site. Sheela called out when the tree was in position, so I had a moment of thought while she unhooked the rope. By the time she uncoupled the log, I’d revised our plan for the day.
“Sheela, I want you to make two sets of bows and arrows tonight. If those birds keep coming, we are going to need something to take them out before there are too many. You’ve been right about everything else, so this seems like the smartest course of action,” I said to her as she walked around the side of Hope.
“And what shall we do right now?” she asked while giving my shirtless chest another quick glance.
“Everything else,” I replied with a reassuring laugh. After her strange flirtations, I wondered if I should be extra firm with her. I was conflicted because her words to me said “marriage,” but her erect nipples and sly glances told me a different story. “Actually, I want you to help me and Hope while we try to dig a hole. We need to bury these poles about three feet into the ground so they stand upright.”
“Just tell me what to do,” she said with a coy smile.
That afternoon the two of us worked with Hope to make a ditch. I mentally suggested Hope use her foot to create a furrow in the soil. It took her a few tries to get it right, but I was shocked at how well the link between us conveyed my wishes. I repeated the tapping as she dragged her clawed foot along the same line until it was so deep she couldn’t reach the bottom.
“Great job, Hope!” I exclaimed while patting her on the neck.
Sheela clapped appreciatively for the parasaur as I jumped off and got a first look at the result of our combined efforts.
“Sheela, we have a hole for our poles.” I cracked up laughing at more boyish wit but attributed my humor to my stress and exhaustion.
“Now we must lift the logs vertically and set them in the holes,” Sheela said.
“Yeah,” I replied as I gave her a coy smile.
“How will you do that?” she asked.
“I have a couple of ideas from my high school physics class involving leverage, but first, let’s cut down a few more logs.”
“Very well,” she said as she moved to grab her axes.
“But before that,” I said as I rested my hand on her toned arm. “We have to give each other high fives.”
“High fives?” she asked with confusion.
“Yep,” I said as I held my hand up with my palm facing her. Sheela repeated the movement, and I slapped my hand into hers.
“High five?” she asked with a little less confusion.
“Yep! That’s the cool way to celebrate.”
“I believe there are better ways to celebrate, Victor.” Her feline eyes met mine, and it felt like a dozen butterflies had been released in my stomach.
“What do you mean?” I whispered.
“Let us cut down more trees,” she said, and then she turned from me with her axes and walked back toward the forest.