After Sheela and I dragged over our first test log, we went back for two more. We cut down the foot-wide trees, lopped off the bottom ten feet of each with our axes, and Hope helped us drag them to the new construction site. The three big logs looked pretty impressive lying next to each other, and I couldn’t wait to have fifty more.
“Looks like we’ll have to get up first thing tomorrow and start cutting again,” I mused as the sun began to set below the tree line. We’d already cut tons of logs for our old fort, and I knew we had close to two weeks of chopping in front of us, but it was going to be too dangerous for us to be out here when night came.
Besides, I’d be swinging axes in my dreams.
“Will we have time to get water, eat our breakfast, and--” Sheela began.
“Yes,” I interrupted her. “I didn’t mean it so literally. We’ll do all our regular stuff, then get back to chopping.” I chuckled at the misunderstanding, which happened a lot between us. While it was true, we had to do more cutting the next day, we always started our mornings by getting water jugs refilled, eating a quick breakfast, and killing snooping orange birds.
“Alright. I trust you to put everything in the correct order,” Sheela replied with an upbeat voice.
“I think tomorrow we should drag over all those poles from the old fort so we have easy access to them,” I said. “We aren’t ready to build the inner hut of our new fort, but it doesn’t hurt to be ready. Then we should sink these puppies into the ground,” I pointed to the three big logs lying nearby, “so we can get some experience maneuvering them into place. We’ll have to get really good at that.”
“It sounds like you have a plan, though I am impressed you do not sound at all tired,” the feline warrior said with a little laugh.
“I think taming Hope has given me a second wind,” I replied with a chuckle. “I didn’t say it at the time, but I was as disappointed as everyone else when the stampede came through. All that pain was wiped away when we were riding on Hope’s back yesterday. Maybe I’m still riding high on that mega dose of adrenaline.”
“You have many amazing qualities, Victor” she replied as her eyes settled on my bare chest again.
“Thanks,” I answered as we walked toward the cave. When Sheela said my name in her sexy accent, I recalled how odd she’d been acting all day. I thought about asking her if something was up, but decided that I didn’t want another reminder that she was married.
“Come on, Hope,” I called out to my pet dinosaur. “This way.”
When Hope heard her name, she stopped chomping on ferns along the hillside and walked toward me obediently. I’d been testing the limits of Tame and figured out I could give her voice commands without having to sit on her back. This was helpful when pulling logs, so I could more easily see where she was putting them, but now it was a handy way to get her to come to me.
“I will never tire of seeing your skill,” Sheela said with a rare touch of awe.
“Controlling dinosaurs is super fucking cool,” I said, using two of my favorite slang words that I knew she understood now.
“It is,” she agreed.
“You ready?” I said to my feline friend after I’d put on my dry undershirt.
She trotted over to Hope like one of those Olympic gymnasts, sprang into the air with outstretched arms, and grabbed onto the parasaur’s neck. With one fluid motion, she pulled herself onto those broad shoulders, swung her leg over the far side, and finished her routine by flashing me a “10.0” smile. The grin seemed almost like a challenge, and I tried not to gawk at where the bikini bottom almost didn’t cover her crotch.
“Nice,” I said aloud as I immediately accepted her dare.
I was no gymnast, but I studied where she’d placed her feet and hands and prayed I could do the same exact thing. I got my run, planned my landing on Hope’s neck, and was a second from jumping when I noticed a problem. Since Sheela was already sitting there, I couldn’t swing my leg over the hump and risk kicking her in the face. I wasn’t going to stop and look stupid, so I could either land on Hope’s neck using my stomach like a little kid or leap and swing my leg right behind her.
I went for it.
I jumped high and grunted as I pulled myself up, swung my leg over Hope’s neck, and finally slammed into the cockpit right behind Sheela.
“Oh, shit,” I said even though I’d been successful. Maybe it was part of my subconscious decision when I ran and jumped, but I’d placed myself right up against the sexy woman’s tattered bikini bottom.
Hope seemed to feed off my anxiety around Sheela, and the dino dipped her head a little. To keep from falling forward, I wrapped my arms around Sheela’s tight stomach.
I wanted to continue holding the beautiful woman, but I worried that it would make her uncomfortable. When I was somewhat confident I wasn’t going to fall off, I unhooked my hands from around her waist, but she pressed them back against her chiseled abs before I could pull away.
It was a full ten seconds before she let me go.
“Victor, I should not have gotten onto Hope first,” Sheela said with an earnest voice. “You are in charge, and you must be in the dominant position.”
“Well, I’d rather be in front if we were going around town, but this is nice while we’re sitting together,” I said as my fingers pressed into her rock-hard abs. The sensation of her tight body against mine was starting to make me breathe heavy. I was sure she was going to notice, so I yanked my hands back and scooted in reverse a few inches, though it was impossible not to rub my inner thighs against her hips.
“It is,” she said in a simple reply.
“Thanks for showing me how to mount her like this,” I said as a way to keep us in safe conversation territory. “That could come in handy.” It would have been far easier to ask Hope to drop her neck to climb aboard, but it was a lot cooler to jump on like I’d just done.
“You are welcome,” she replied. “Now, if you will sit still for a moment, I will fix our positions.”
“Er, sure,” I said.
Sheela surprised me by springing straight up like a cat. She hopped on the balls of her feet so that her ass was right in my face. Then my mind was blown when she did a jumping backflip right over my head, landed just behind me, and then dropped with a firm bump against my backside. There was plenty of room on Hope’s back for Sheela to sit, but I slid up a bit so we were both in the optimal riding position.
“Fuck me,” I blurted out. “I didn’t know you could do that!”
“I have many talents,” she said dryly. “Some of them are useful for survival, while some are merely for fun.”
“Which one was that?” I said with a little too much anticipation. Sheela was beyond beautiful, caring, polite, a hard worker, and probably crazy in bed. It made no sense why some lord would want her as a seventeenth wife; she should have been ranked at the top.
“We shall see,” she whispered into my ear without missing a beat.
My breath caught in my lungs, and I felt my heart slam into my chest like a boxer hitting a heavy bag. I was so smitten with her that it didn’t occur to me I’d forgotten to grab the water jugs from up in the cave. I almost climbed back down and got them myself, but then I remembered her request to be told what to do.
“Sheela, please get the water jugs,” I ordered. “You seem to have forgotten them.”
“Yes, I suppose I did,” she said as she climbed off of Hope’s back. “I will do as you wish.”
Sheela seemed happy enough to follow my orders. I was left to wonder if these women always knew what they were doing, and I really was the clueless male just along for the ride. Despite being in charge of the construction and planning as well as the dinosaur taming, they were in complete control of my heart. Sheela had just sent it skipping across my fluttering stomach without giving me one clue of her intentions.
All I could do was shake my head.
I started to watch her bend over to hang the clay containers onto her spear, but I looked away so I wouldn’t be tempted to gawk at her cleavage when she climbed back up to me.
“We can go now, Victor,” she purred in my ear as soon as she was mounted behind me, and I pushed Hope around toward the stream.
While we rode to the stream for water, I reveled in the sensation of having her hold my midsection. We didn’t speak while we filled the jugs and let Hope drink, but I noticed Sheela watching me out of the corner of her eye. When we returned to the cave, I parked Hope in her enclosure below, and then we settled around the outdoor fire at the top of the ramp.
Galmine had cooked one of the many orange birds we’d been killing lately, but after tearing through the meal, I forced myself to keep talking so that I wouldn’t pass out from exhaustion.
“I see Jinx is comfy,” I said to the gray woman. The little blue bird was nestled inside Galmine’s crossed legs, and she tossed blue berries to him every so often. No matter how tired I was, it warmed my heart to see my little pal.
“He is very comfortable, Victor,” Galmine replied in a suggestive voice. “You should try it sometime.”
“That does look relaxing. I’m sore all over.” Both my arms were blasted from working with the axes on those large trees, and my legs and ass were wrecked from sitting on Hope’s back.
“I also give great massages.” Galmine let out a girlish giggle and rubbed her hands together.
I couldn’t believe my luck and was ready to rip off my shirt for her, but the gray-skinned woman turned her eyes back over my shoulder.
“Trel’s back there, isn’t she?” I asked quietly.
We all turned to watch as Trel walked toward us on her human feet. Her silk dress seemed pasted onto her hourglass shape, and her jaw-dropping cleavage glistened from drops of sweat as if she’d just stepped out of the shower.
“Ah, good. He’s back from doing chores.” The spider-woman gestured to the group with her hand. “I have an announcement, and you all need to pay attention.”
“This ought to be good,” I joked with mild annoyance because she’d just stopped me from getting a Galmine rub down.
“Oh… it is,” Trel said as her lips curved up into a strange smile. The raven-haired woman stood next to me but spoke to the other two. “Ladies, I admit I doubted your initial impressions of Victor as a male of any worth.” The spider-woman gestured to me. “However, after he and I chatted, I have been carefully reviewing his activity on this planet and have now revised my opinion. He no longer bears any resemblance to the inept males of my world. I was impressed with his fortitude in dealing with the destruction of our first fort. His taming of Hope was another moment of significance. Now, the new fort is about to become a reality. After weighing all these factors, I have come to a conclusion.”
All our eyes were on her as we waited for the punch line.
“I have decided to mate with you, Victor,” Trel said as she peered right into my eyes.
“Say what?” I asked as my mouth fell open. I got to my feet so I could see her better, but also so I could take a step away.
“This is where you all applaud,” Trel stated as if to remind us of our duty. She looked at Galmine and Sheela while her eyes narrowed a bit.
“Oh, this is good news!” Galmine said as she clapped her hands together and smiled at me.
“Yes, it is,” Trel said as she shook her inky black hair, raised her nose in the air, and cleared her throat.
“Uhhh,” I said. “Is it really--” I started to say before Trel talked over me.
“Tonight, in my private chambers, you, Victor, may meet me for a night of intense sex so that I may procreate,” Trel went on. “You will be my third suitor, so I am well-versed in male satisfaction. I will take you beyond any sexual fantasy you can imagine. After all, I must extract as much of your seed as possible.” She glanced at me with those dark eyes and licked her lips.
My stomach dropped, and all the blood left my face.
“Trel, are you--” I started to ask, but she interrupted me again.
“Tomorrow, while you bask in the glory of your greatest sexual experience, I will inject my venom into your throat,” Trel said as if it were no big deal. “Your body shall begin its transformation to support our young.”
There was another long pause that was only interrupted by a happy toot from Hope.
“Oh,” Galmine said as she paused mid-clap. “That actually doesn’t sound good.”
“Transformation?” Sheela asked.
“Yes, of course,” Trel answered as she rolled her head back in annoyance. I imagined that she also rolled her eyes, but it was hard to tell because they were pure black. “My brood will need sustenance when they are born. Victor’s corpse will give them the nutrients that they need to grow into adolescents.”
The blood retreated from my dick, and my previously aroused mood was replaced by fear.
I heard every word of Trel’s statement, but my confused mind imagined she was talking about a different Victor. She was going to fuck that other guy, inject poison so her young could eat his body, then she would raise his kids without him. It was so alien that my imagination couldn’t make any sense of it.
“You are not going to kill Victor, Trel,” Sheela said with a long sigh. “Do you not see the problem with that?”
“I admit, it will present some challenges for us after he is gone, but he has shown us the general idea of the fort, and soon we can have an army of my children to help us build it,” Trel explained as she swished her hands from her chest to her legs. “Besides, he will really enjoy the experience. What better way is there for a male to die than during the process of inseminating this perfect body?”
“But--” Sheela began.
“What?” Trel demanded, “This is a high honor for Victor! In record time he has raced from the very bottom of my suitor’s list all the way to the top. It is my way of showing affection for a deserving male.”
“Couldn’t we just have sex without you killing me?” I asked without thinking. I was still in shock, so it took a few seconds for me to realize I’d just asked her to sleep with me.
“What would be the point of that? I need to procreate, and you have proven your bloodline is worthy. I will sing high praises about you to our offspring, so you don’t need to worry about that.” She still spoke as if her request was perfectly reasonable.
“Trel, I love you, but Sheela is right,” Galmine said in an appropriately concerned voice. “You cannot kill Victor, especially since I belong to him. No, that came out wrong. What I mean is, I don’t want you to kill Victor at all. Not ever. Not for any reason.”
“There is plenty of time if you would also like to mate with him,” Trel carried on. “Why don’t you engage in sex now? I can delay for a day and use him tomorrow night once his testicles have renewed his sperm. Sheela, if you’d like--”
“Whoa!” I interrupted, “I’m honored to be on your list, or whatever, but I'm not planning on dying just to have sex with you, Trel.”
“Just to have sex?” Trel asked with a groan of annoyance. “This is lovemaking, not using each other like animals. It would be the most incredible night of your life.”
She always sounded self-assured, but this time she seemed even more confident. I felt the blood go back to where it belonged, and my heart rate picked up its pace due to the nature of the discussion. Even if it was impossible to consider taking her up on her offer, I couldn’t help but feel pretty fucking stoked that she was the second woman in our group who wanted to “make love” to me.
“No,” Sheela and Galmine both responded firmly in unison.
“You cannot sleep with him if you plan to kill him,” Sheela declared.
Trel placed her hands on her hips and stared at me for ten seconds while two of her spider legs clicked with impatience. She seemed to make up her mind as she spun to face Galmine and Sheela across the fire.
“Ugh! Stupid male! Fine. I’ll ask tomorrow.” Trel glared at me once more before she walked away.
I turned to watch her go back into the cave, but before she got too far away, I thought of an appropriate reply.
“I won’t change my mind tomorrow, Trel. Not about the death part, anyway,” I called out in a surprisingly eager voice. Despite the danger she represented, and even after appreciating the alienness of her folded spider legs, I couldn’t stop myself from imagining what it would be like to pull off her thin dress and feel her naked body against mine.
I was still staring at where Trel disappeared into the cave when Galmine nudged me.
“Victor, would you like that massage now?” the green-eyed woman queried in a teasing way.
Sheela coughed to get my attention.
“I brought the materials to build the bows and arrows, as you wanted. Would you like to do those now or later?” The cat-eyed woman appeared anxious to begin.
I looked back and forth at Sheela and Galmine, knowing what was better for our long-term survival.
“Galmine, I have to take a rain check-- I mean delay, on that massage. We really need to craft some bows.” As I said the words, I couldn’t believe I was turning her down again.
“That’s okay,” the gray-skinned woman replied, “I’ll add this to your growing list of sweet things you owe me.”
Before I let myself get distracted by what she was going to do to me, I shuffled myself around the campfire so I could sit next to Sheela. I briefly noticed the emerging fireflies and other bugs down in the grove, but that show could no longer hold my attention while work had to be done.
“I’ve got all this set up,” Sheela motioned to some sticks and untwisted cord she’d placed off to the side of the walkway. “I can trim the bows and string them if you will cut and sharpen these smaller shoots of wood into arrows.” She handed me a bunch of straight branches as well as a pile of orange and black feathers from the numerous birds we’d killed.
“Well, that’s not a bad plan,” I replied as I settled in next to her, “but I want to learn how to make bows, too.”
“I assumed you would,” she said as she pulled a five-foot-long branch from her pile. “This sapling was about as thick around as my grip, but I split it down the middle, so it is round on one side and flat on the other.”
She showed both sides to me, and then gestured to the other half of the split tree lying in her pile. I assumed this was for the second bow and moved to pick it up.
“We need to taper the ends with our blades and add notches so we can attach the bowstring,” Sheela said. “If you agree, I will carve one half to show you how it should look, and then you can do the other end.”
“Works for me,” I replied with enthusiasm. “How about I bang out some arrows while you are doing that first part?” I needed to stay busy and always have two or three tasks going at the same time, so I’d watch her demo, work on the arrows, and keep an eye on Hope.
“Of course,” she answered.
“Galmine, could I get you to twist the bowstrings?” I asked our partner at the fire.
“Yes! I would love to,” the bubbly woman replied with more of her endless enthusiasm.
The arrows were time-consuming but not that complicated. Sheela showed me how to measure and cut so the shafts would be about as long as my arm. Then I got busy scraping the bark down the length with our stone knives, tying feathers on the back for stability, and hardening the sharp point in the fire. I thought I moved pretty fast, but a half-hour later I’d only just started my second one when she was finished with her end of the bow.
“Here you go, Victor.” My bushcraft tutor handed over the weapon as well as the sharp cutting stone.
After watching me scrape and cut the other end of the bow for a few moments, she turned to her own chores and left me to it. I wasn’t close to done after the first half hour, but she already had four arrows completed, so I wiped my brow and dove right back into my job.
When I stopped about fifteen minutes later, she was working with a long piece of cloth-like bark about four feet long and ten inches wide. She noticed me put down the bow, so she began showing me what she was doing.
“You fold this thin bark in half,” Sheela said as she joined the top and bottom together like she was closing a book, “and then you tie around the two ends, so the arrows do not slide out the sides. We will add another rope, so we can sling it over our shoulders.” She held it up to show me what it was going to look like when it was done, and it was obviously an arrow quiver like I’d seen in the movies.
“Damn, how are you moving so fast?” I laughed. It wasn’t a competition, and Sheela had a lifetime of forest experience over me, but there was no excuse for not striving to be the best at these life-saving crafts.
“You are good with your hands, and your technique is competent,” Sheela said dryly, “so it is only a matter of practice and repetition before you will be besting me.” Her voice changed a little in her final words like she was excited, but it could just as easily have been tiredness.
“Here you go,” Galmine said with cheery pride. “It’s one of my best.” The silver-haired woman had been working the whole time quietly, but she wore a radiant smile as she handed over a coil of cord.
“Thank you,” Sheela said to her, “this looks perfect for our bowstring.”
“You are most welcome,” Galmine replied. She popped one of the blue berries in her mouth like it was a reward for finishing the project, but then she gave another to Jinx.
“May I?” Sheela asked when she saw I was done with my work.
“I think I got it.” I handed her the bow, and we both got to our feet.
“It looks good,” she said with a nod. “The wood must have a curve in it when the bowstring is attached. That is the last step. If you hold the shaft, I will tie it off.”
It seemed a lot easier with two people because she could use both hands with the rope. When it was hooked on the bottom and tied around the topmost notch, she smiled and pushed the bow in my direction.
“For you,” Sheela grinned. “I’ll get started on a second one.”
“For us,” I replied as we both held it. “Before you do anything, show me how to make arrows as fast as you do. How many will we need?” I let go of the bow and grabbed the lone arrow I’d made. I figured we’d need a lot, but all my knowledge of these weapons came from video games, and resupplying was often as simple as walking over them with my avatar. Between the two of us, we’d made about five in the last hour.
“We eventually need to have hundreds,” she said as if she were a teacher handing out a boring assignment.
I did mental calculations about how long that would take and knew I had to get a shitload faster at the task.
One more for the endless list of shit I had to do in Dinosaurland.
“You expecting trouble?” I joked.
“Oh, yes. And this time I do not plan on losing my bow,” Sheela whispered to me.
“I know,” I said, hoping to cheer her up. “I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen.” She did smile a bit, but we both got to work rather than talk further about the looming threat to our lives.
My night had lots of cutting and scraping, and zero massages. I slept for a little while when Sheela took her shift watching Hope. Rest was hard to grab though, so I ended up doing more arrow sharpening because my mind would not shut off.
The next day, I fought off my exhaustion as I rode Hope to the watering hole with Sheela. While on her back, the threats of the forest seemed more distant. I had the strangest sensation that my animal-loving parents were somewhere up above cheering me on. I was pretty sure I could ignore sleeplessness forever as long as Hope was there each morning to remind me how fucking awesome each day was going to be.
I was still riding that high at midday when Sheela and I were ready to set the first of the big logs into the trench we made the day before. We slid the ten-footer around, so it was lined up with the back edge of the hole, and then looked for the best way to get it in.
“I say we just grab it,” I began. “It doesn’t seem that heavy when we’re pushing it around.”
“Perhaps we can use a rope to lift it up?” Sheela suggested.
“Do we need a rope? Let’s just try using our hands.” I’d been thinking about hooking Hope to complex ropes and levers and fulcrums all night, but that all seemed overly complicated for the problem, so I figured we should try the simple solution first.
“I am willing to do as you say,” the blonde woman remarked.
We both grabbed a side of the log near the far end and lifted it up. I was surprised how light the long hunk of tree was, but I wondered if Sheela’s strength was a big part of that. We pushed together over our heads and it sort of balanced on the edge of the hole as we walked it higher and higher into the air. Just before it stood straight up and down, the pole slid into the hole.
“That was a snap!” I shouted as we engaged in another high five. Yesterday I had Hope dig about ten feet of trench as the start to our first wall, and I could imagine how we would drop one log after the other in there.
“It is still unstable,” Sheela replied as she wiggled the log a bit.
“That’s fine,” I replied. “I’ll have Hope fill in the dirt around the base. Then it won’t move.”
“That will create a gap as each log needs to have its own hole,” Sheela pointed out.
“We can use cord to tie each log to its neighbors and we can fill in the front and back parts of the hole, so it can only wiggle side to side. The newer logs will be tied in and soon there will be no movement in any direction.” My mind raced as I realized this was going to be a bit easier than I thought it would be.
“I think it will work,” Sheela said in sudden agreement.
We both shared a moment of accomplishment until we faced an interruption.
“You know you’re doing it wrong,” Trel said, as she walked up like she owned the place, then she leaned on a spear as Sheela often did.
I couldn’t help glancing her way with a look of skepticism.
“That’s correct,” Trel pointed to the log we’d just dropped into the ground, “but pretty much everything else you’re planning to do will be wrong.”
“Okay, what would you do differently?” I asked. I knew the key to Trel was asking her ways to do things better than a dumb male such as myself would do, but her lack of any personal insults suggested that she might be serious about helping this time.
“You are planning on using these giant logs all the way around?” Trel asked as she pushed against the heavy lumber already set in the ground.
“We used six-inch wide logs for the old fort, and the dinos trampled it like it was nothing, so I figured using something twice as large would be enough. You think we should go bigger?” I cringed at the thought of downing bigger trees, but was ready to do what was necessary to make it safe.
“Not if you want to finish before the birds arrive,” Trel said with a smile to show she didn’t mean it as her usual insult. “No, male, I would use these bigger logs only at the corners for added strength, and use smaller logs in between. Or eliminate the corners completely and build in a circle.”
She snapped her black bone-looking fingers as if she’d just thought of something.
“Forget the square,” Trel said with excitement. “You need to make a circle. The fort should be anchored every ten feet by heavy logs, but you can use eight-inch wide logs in between. Because you are building in a circle, it will be much stronger than a flat wall if struck by dinosaurs.”
“Why will a circle be stronger?” I asked. “Aren’t triangles the strongest shapes?”
“Maybe for bridges, or for structures where a single flat side is going to be pushed all together. Look at this.” Trel’s spider legs pushed down into the dirt and her human-shaped body tilted horizontally so she could pick up a bunch of twigs on the ground without getting her dress dirty.
“If you have them in a straight line, what happens when something pushes on one of the logs?” she asked after she pushed some twigs into the dirt so that they looked like a wall.
“Uhhh, I’m not sure?” I didn’t know what she was getting at, and she sighed with a bit of annoyance.
“The log will fall. See?” She pushed one of her claw-like fingers against the stick, and it toppled over.
“But we are digging deep into the dirt. It will take a lot of force to knock it down.” I gestured back to the single log we had already put up.
“Yes, but it can still be pushed over. We will need to put a support beam on the inside at an angle.”
“Okay, so we can--”
“But that will take extra logs, and extra cutting time, or you do a circle. Look and learn, male.” Trel arranged the sticks in the ground again in a tight semi- circle and then she pressed against one of the sticks.
“Huh,” I said after the log didn’t fall down. “Are you pressing as hard?”
“Look closely. Why isn’t it falling?” Trel’s mouth turned into a half smile, and I could see her vampire-looking fangs.
“Oh, shit,” I gasped after I crouched and really studied what was going on. “The sticks are behind the other ones! That’s why they aren’t falling!”
“Of course. I’m a genius. It’s because the circle shape has natural strength. If something pushes on one of the logs, the two placed slightly behind it will provide additional support. Then the ones behind those will take the energy and so on. The whole wall will work together to take weight when something presses against the side. It won’t be perfect, but we only have limited time and logs. So this is the best building method.”
“Damn,” I said. “Thanks.” It was amazing how easily she could see the problems in our design and suggest modifications.
“I’m hot and bored now,” Trel said as she started to walk away. “I will go back inside the cave.”
I turned to Sheela and gave her a “wait-a-sec” gesture, but then I ran to catch up with Trel.
“Please, stop,” I said as nicely as I could.
“What is it?” the regal woman replied as if I’d really bothered her.
“Trel, I thought we made a lot of progress as of late. After our hug and after you, uh, invited me to die for your spawn--” I said before she interrupted me.
“It’s not about the death part,” she snapped before I could continue.
“Uh, before you invited me to a pleasurable night with you,” I corrected myself before going on. “Look, I’m sorry I don’t want to have your kids, but I can’t lie down and die or that will leave Sheela and Galmine without my protection.” I didn’t think I needed to spell it out for her again, but I wasn’t going to take that chance.
“Ugh. You are so selfish.” She crossed her arms and groaned.
“Uhh. I’m selfish?” I asked as I tried to figure out what she was talking about.
“Yes, all you think about is yourself. You don’t think about me, or our beautiful babies.”
“Are you fu-- ugh. Are you serious right now?” I mirrored her movement by crossing my own arms.
“Uhh. Yeah. Cool dude.” When Trel spoke, she gave her words a Southern Californian accent and raised one of her eyebrows.
“We don’t even have babies,” I sighed.
“Because you won’t be a good male and inseminate me! Like I said, so selfish. Am I not beautiful? Do you not wish to climax inside of me? Did you forget about how many males on my planet wanted that privilege? Ugh. You are so dumb. And selfish. And an idiot.”
“I kind of just don’t want to get eaten. Can your like… uhhh brood eat something else when they are born?” I asked, but even as the words left my mouth, I knew I was sliding down a really slippery slope.
“Don’t you want the best for our children?” Trel’s voice was rising now, and I turned my head to see Sheela shrug.
“Look, Trel, can we talk about something else more important for a bit?” I asked.
“There is nothing more important than my offspring, male.”
“Well, I think it’s kind of critical that we live through the next few weeks. Or you won’t have any brood, or babies, or whatever. With me or anyone else. So can we talk about that?” I didn’t even want to get into the discussion of us being able to have children. We were totally different species, so I doubted that she would get pregnant if we had sex.
“Go on,” she said cautiously, and I took a deep breath to steady my nerves. All this talk about fucking her and having babies and then getting eaten by said babies was doing bizarre stuff to my libido.
“Trel, you are an amazing person, and it’s hard for me to say anything about you now that won’t sound like I’m kissing your ass. The truth is I’m flattered by your offer, and though I’m not ready to die to have sex with you, I do find you beautiful.”
“Of course you do,” she snickered. “I am the most beautiful woman you have ever seen.”
“Uhh, my point is: You were in your element back there, and we could all really use your help.”
“Ugh, with the camp?” she asked dryly.
“Yeah. It is very likely that we’ll fail if we don’t get your help. If we fail, we are all going to die.” I hated to put it in such stark terms, but who knew what delays we’d experience while building the next structure.
“Eww, but building is such peasant work. Can I give advice from afar?”
“You can do as much or as little as you want, but just know you are saving our butts on the countdown clock,” I said with relief.
“And you will inseminate me?” she asked with a beautifully raised eyebrow. “I will promise you a night of pleasure that you could never imagine.”
I held her gaze for several seconds, and for a short time, I was balanced between two possible answers to that question. Her amazing breasts were visible under her sheer dress, but I was getting good at ignoring them, at least for short bursts when I needed a clear mind.
“Sorry Trel. I find you beautiful and smart, but I don’t want to die. I want us all to live. That’s why I’m working so hard on these walls. Will you help us?”
Her black orbs searched my eyes for several moments, but then she glanced behind me. The black-haired woman didn’t reply, but seemed to look around at our job site, the old fort, and the woods in general. I noted that her eyes fluttered in a way that suggested she was using her Eye-Q.
“We need a door for your dinosaur,” Trel began as she walked back toward the construction site. “We need to pace out the perimeter of our wall. We can drag the branchy tops of all those discarded trees and form reefs around our fort. They will slow down or deflect running dinosaurs, so they never get close to the enclosure. Of course, I have many other ideas.”
I wasn’t sure what just happened, but I figured I’d said the right thing.
“You cut this by hand?” Trel said when she saw tree number two lying on the ground.
“We cut it at the base, then chopped it at about ten feet,” I said. It bothered me that I might have missed a better way to do it, and I tried to think of alternatives, but I kept coming back to bigger axes or making some sort of giant saw.
Trel studied the tree, and I distinctly noticed her eyes flicker in the Eye-Q again.
“You can save a lot of labor if you lit a fire. Just as you used a flame to burn a hole in your axe, you can use it to break the trunk in two,” Trel suggested.
“Won’t that take a long time?” I asked while thinking of how long it took to burn one little hole in my axe.
“Drop multiple trees. Start multiple fires. Even if it takes all day to burn through the trees, it will still save you energy and improve efficiency in the long run. Ugh, why don’t you know this?” Trel sighed dismissively as if I’d skipped the logging portion of my high school education.
“Won’t the smoke bring in dinosaurs?” I asked as I ignored her last question.
“The smoke may also chase them away,” the black-haired woman suggested.
“Hah, I think that’s a great idea,” I said.
“Of course it is a great idea,” she snickered. “I thought of it, after all.”
“Trel, do you mind if I ask why you have your Eye-Q open?” I continued in my most polite voice.
“Well, once you showed us how you used the interface to identify and interact with your dinosaurs, I left the interface open because more data is always better,” she replied while tapping a long, bony finger against her temple. “I don’t know how it does it, but I’m able to see things in a new way. I have a lot of my genius ideas without the computer, too. This just makes it seem to go faster.”
It was my turn to snap my fingers together.
“Fuck, I bet that’s the key,” I said as I addressed Sheela. “Do you ever turn on the Eye-Q?”
“I have turned it on, but mostly have it off because I do not like the interference in my vision,” Sheela replied.
“Even in combat?” I asked.
“Especially in combat,” she said. “I need to stay focused.”
“Next time you’re in a fight, turn it on,” I suggested. “I think it has to be on for your skill to work properly. I’ve been turning mine on to get ID’s of dinosaurs and to confirm my Tame was working, but it looks like there is more to it. I think it has to be running to first use our special abilities.”
I turned mine back on, and I was never going to turn it off again.
“Trel, what do you see in your interface when you look at where our fort is going to be?” I asked while I pointed to the surrounding ground.
“Nothing,” she replied while looking down. “I just see the forest floor.”
“Okay, what about right here,” I pointed to the lone pole butted up against the bark of the sequoia.
“Nothing, though I’ve had a thought.” The beautiful spider woman rubbed her chin with her chitinous claws as if thinking hard. “To make a swinging dinosaur door, you’ll need two extra tall logs set about five feet apart with large holes drilled through the tops. Get a small, straight tree trunk and hang it across this space by pushing it through those holes. Then you’ll need to build a door by lashing smaller logs together in a rectangle and tie it onto the crossbar. The door will swing back and forth so Hope can pass through in each direction. Then we can place locking posts into the ground to keep it from swinging inward. That way attacking dinosaurs cannot come inside, but we can pull them out of the ground to let Hope in. Simple.”
“And we’ll need a dino lock so no one steals her,” I added as if we were storing a rare car in a garage back home.
“That goes without saying,” Trel said with a light-hearted laugh.
“Trel, thank you. You totally rock.”
“Galmine is the rock-girl.” Trel frowned.
“Uhh. When I say ‘rock’ it means you are great or wonderful,” I explained.
“Of course I am, and beautiful.”
“Yeah, well, thanks again.”
“You’re welcome,” Trel replied as if testing the phrase. Her mouth twisted a bit, and then the sides of her lips lifted.
We finally had Trel onboard.
I spent the rest of the day trying to figure out the limits of Trel's abilities. I had her watch us cut down more trees, tow the logs, dig the holes, and outline the first parts of the wall at the start of our circle shape.
In some cases, she had no suggestions at all. She didn’t see any room for improvement in how we’d tied off the tow line on Hope, though I wondered if that was because she created the rope harness in the first place. Trel didn’t seem happy with Hope’s temporary enclosure but accepted it was the best we could do given our resources. She even complimented me on the tree-barrier-door idea and hinted that she couldn’t have done better herself.
“Hope and I can bring over lots of the treetops we’ve cut off, but where should I put them?” I asked Trel as we took our afternoon break.
We stood on the line I’d drawn in the dirt to represent where we were putting the walls. Hope was in the grove nearby and lifted her head at hearing her name, but put it right back down into some ferns.
Trel seemed to study the forest, and I wondered if her Eye-Q was feeding her suggestions or if she saw what she wanted to build. Whenever I asked for specifics about it, she repeated her earlier claim that it didn’t show anything to her, but often that was when she got an idea as if it was dropped into her thought process. I figured it amplified the skill already in her analytical brain, just like my Tame ability tapped into my lifelong love for animals.
“The most efficient pattern would be to place them in several rings around the fort. Start with a ring about ten yards away, then a second ring about twenty yards out, and a final ring that is anchored by those trees over there.” She pointed to the next of the great redwood giants, which was about fifty yards from our home tree.
“More circles,” I said with a knowing laugh.
“Yes,” she agreed with her own bit of laughter. “You are finally getting it. Each ring will reinforce the others and keep us safe here in the middle.”
“Yeah. Well, as much as I love the idea, those outer circles will have to come last,” I replied. “First, we do the walls and hut, then the fancy defenses.” Once we beat the clock against those damned birds with a basic wall, we’d have the time to go all out with upgrades.
“Of course,” Trel replied in a pleasant voice before adding, “male.”
“Oh, that’s how it’s going to be?” I chuckled.
“Well, you asked for my help, so it’s going to cost you one way or another,” she said with an ominous laugh.
We stood there for a few more seconds in our moment when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Sheela held out the bow and quiver of arrows I’d left on the ground not far away.
“What’s going on?” I said in a quiet voice.
“The birds are on the move,” she said in an equally low tone. “I think they are going to attack.”
The three of us got closer to our home sequoia, and Sheela pointed straight up. The familiar orange and black colors were sprinkled on many branches high above.
“Those things don’t give up, do they?” I growled.
“They never will,” Sheela said with a bit of sadness. “More and more will show up.”
“It’s alright. We got this,” I said while checking for more birds in other trees. As best as I could tell, they were only up in the pine canopy directly above our fort. However, there were more than the eight or so we’d faced the day before. Sheela said they would keep adding to their numbers as part of their scouting process.
“Is Galmine safe?” I whispered while we watched.
“I closed the door when I left,” Trel replied. “She is safe, for now.”
My other concern was Hope, but she remained behind us near the leafy green patch of ferns where she liked to go when I didn’t need her. As expected, she showed no concern at all for the rising war cries of the birds above us, and I channeled her calm to steady my growing nervousness.
“We wanted to test our bows, so I guess we now have the time,” I said in jest. We’d talked about setting up a target range and testing both bows we’d made the previous night, but other projects sapped all our time today.
“Shooting is very easy. Take a deep breath, and use three fingers to pull the string back to the same point on your jaw each time; exhale some of the air in your lungs, and take aim on that pause between your next inhale. That will help you be consistent. Use a nice, steady pull, then a quick release. I bet your aim will come naturally.” Sheela showed me her method for a few seconds and pointed out how to keep the string from striking my wrist.
“I’ll try.” I slung my quiver over my shoulder, pulled out an arrow, and then nocked one against my bowstring.
“I’ll be around the tree in case they come that way,” Trel said as she unfurled her spider legs while clutching her spear. It was fascinating to see her spread them out, and she actually looked pretty fucking badass once all six were on the ground. She tapped her forehead in a little salute and then scurried out of sight behind the bend of the giant tree.
The birds were now fluttering around in the lowest branches, which were still quite a way up the side of the towering redwood, and they all squawked in unison as if they were talking. A few moments later, a couple fell from their perch and were soon followed by all the others.
“Shit, they’re attacking!” I yelled.
The group of twelve or fifteen birds spiraled downward around the trunk of the tree until they were about two-thirds of the way to the ground. They came around one last time and then dove straight down on us.
Sheela shot an arrow as the birds closed the distance, but they were moving so damned fast my first shot was barely aimed when I let it go. We flung ourselves against the tree bark, and the wave of orange veered away from us at the very last second.
“Holy fuck!” I shouted as one of them clawed my hat and knocked it off my head.
An orange blob smashed into the soil with a sickening crunch as if it couldn’t pull out of its dive. Then I realized it met its end before it landed. The last five inches of an arrow stuck out of its beak and the rest was jammed down its throat.
“We got one,” I cried, knowing it was probably Sheela’s shot that took it out.
The flock swooped back up a little but then changed direction again like they were all on a roller coaster. They made one pass over the cave but then turned around and came in for a landing on the open ground between us and the ramp. At first, I thought maybe they’d try to get into the cave, but once they got their feet on the open field, they turned in our direction as if we were their greatest threats.
“I want to kill them all,” I said as we watched the birds hop around and flash their jagged-toothed beaks. Several more orange birds flew in as if they didn’t want to miss the attack, and we soon faced twenty of them.
“We’ll draw them in,” Sheela replied as she held back from firing another shot.
The birds relentlessly shuffled our way while keeping in a pretty tight group. They flapped their wings as if they were a mob of combative old ladies trying to use brooms to sweep us away, but it wasn’t going to work on us.
“Back up, but get ready,” Sheela advised.
I knew better than to argue with my chief military strategist, so I did as she requested. The two of us retreated along the edge of the redwood until we were up against the lone pole we’d sunk in the ground.
“This is perfect,” Sheela said quietly. “They can’t get around us.”
Hope was at our backs, so shooting her by mistake was impossible. I pulled the nocked arrow to my jaw as I held the string of my new bow while waiting for the perfect moment.
It didn’t take long.
“Now!” Sheela shouted.
I let go of the string when the birds were about twenty feet away.
My arrow sunk right into the middle of the nearest orange dino, not the one I was aiming at, but it counts, and Sheela’s arrow tore through the next one over.
“Kill them!” I yelled as a war cry.
A lone bird might have been scared away by my loud voice, but they were fearless in a pack, and my scream just seemed to help them hone their attack on my position. They seemed to stream toward us like an orange tidal wave.
Sheela got her second shot off a moment before mine. I did a lousy job of aiming because my hands were shaking, but her shot sailed true and pegged one of the orange birds in the face.
Sheela fired two arrows for every one of mine, which was a testament to her skill. She stepped several paces to my right, so she could get some shots into the side of the flock, but that gave one of the faster runners an opportunity to get in close to me.
“Holy shit!” I screamed as it charged me with its toothy mouth opened wide. It was too close to use the bow, and I remembered Sheela’s warning about close combat with dinosaurs, so I readied my secondary weapon.
I felt the crunch of bones as I got a solid kick with my steel-toed work boot. The turkey-sized bird slammed against the bark of the tree and fell to the ground ten feet away.
Another of the birds followed behind the one I’d kicked, but it stopped and spread its slick wings as if to show them off. I wasn’t impressed, but because it was only five feet away, I had the perfect opportunity to finally ID the little bastards.
“Got ya!” I said as I focused on my Eye-Q.
Identification: Bird, Pelagornis Cardiffirus, male.
“Fascinating,” I said without emotion, and then I sunk an arrow into the bird. The shot wasn’t anywhere near perfect, and it landed along its flank without piercing its insides. It screamed in pain, and I took two steps so I could kick him in the stork-like face. His neck twisted away with a snap when my steel toed boot hit him, but I didn’t have time for sympathy.
Life and death were now as simple as us versus them.
A couple more birds fell over as Sheela killed them with her arrows, but the crazy fucks still pressed their attack. There were way too many of them, and I felt a surge of terror seize my stomach.
Then a heavy spear fell from above and skewered one of the larger birds in the flock.
“Trel!” I cried out in surprise. She’d used her spider legs to cling to the side of the redwood trunk and had come all the way around until she was about twenty feet above us.
She saw me and flashed a grim smile, then walked a few feet down the trunk before leaping into the chaotic flock.
Sheela shot once more, but then we both watched in awe as Trel was engulfed by the orange storm of the eight or ten remaining birds. Her two back legs lashed out and dragged a couple of the birds closer to her body where they were crushed against her other legs. She hopped a few feet off the ground and impaled two more birds before they could move away. Finally, she grabbed her spear and spun herself in a blur, so the tips of her legs impacted any bird that was still close. She ended up in a cloud of orange and black feathers, and there were only a few birds left uninjured.
I kicked a disoriented pelagornis, and Sheela loosed an arrow against one flapping a few feet off the ground. Her shot hit, and the orange bird tumbled back down just as the last two birds began to retreat.
Trel tossed her spear at one of them, but her aim was a bit off, and the javelin skidded across the ground and into some ferns.
“They are getting away!” the spider-woman screamed as the escapees took to the air.
I tried to aim my bow at one of them, but I didn’t trust myself to shoot over Trel’s head. Sheela managed to let loose an arrow from her spot off to the side, and it hit one of the birds in the wing. It was her last arrow, and there was still one bird left.
“Take one of mine,” I cried out as I tossed an arrow through the air to Sheela. “Use your Eye-Q!”
Sheela caught and nocked the arrow like she practiced the move every day of the week, then blinked to call up her computer. I watched her study the target until I thought she had missed her chance to fire. At the last possible second, she let the arrow fly, and we all watched the homemade missile arc across the clearing until it made contact with the bird some fifty yards in the air. The target let out a sad cry as it spiraled to the ground like an airplane with one engine out.
Then the battle was over.
Nearly three dozen dead birds were lying next to the redwood tree, mostly near Trel’s feet. An equal number of them were spread in feathery piles around the outer edge of the battlefield. It was a lot of carnage, but my friends and I had won this battle, and I felt a surge of euphoria fill my muscles. I double checked the sky to make sure there were no more orange birds coming for us, and then I ran over to Sheela.
“That was an incredible shot,” I exclaimed as we both hugged each other.
“You were correct, Victor,” she said while we embraced. “The computer showed me where to aim so that I could land a critical strike.”
I pulled away from Sheela and turned my praise on Trel. She stood among the dead bodies of the failed attack and bent down to pick up my hat.
“Trel, that was fucking amazing!” I gushed. “I don’t even know where to begin to tell you how cool that was. Hell, that’s almost worth accepting your offer. Who knew you could fight?” I held out my arms to make it clear I wanted to hug her, too.
A couple of her spider legs had blood splashed on them, but she seemed unharmed and stepped my way with a barely suppressed grin. When she was out of the worst of the mess, she put the hat back on my head, held out her arms, and returned my hug without speaking.
I was glad to have her in my arms. Her help had convinced me that we were going to be able to have our new fort built in time, but Trel also revealed a kind of mama grizzly bear fighting attitude that I never would have suspected in her. She was a great asset to the team, but I was happy to have her as a friend. We’d shared some laughs today and holding her in my arms confirmed my feelings for my three friends.
I’d fight to the death to keep these women alive.