I don’t remember what happened after I blacked out, but I came to when someone dropped me down next to a small crackling fire inside a cave.
“You are safe. Rest,” the sexy Australian accented cat-like woman spoke next to my ear.
“What have you brought us, Sheela?” another woman’s voice asked from elsewhere in the cave, and I heard a clicking sound move toward me. “A man? Ugh. Is that the best you could find today? I’d rather have some meat.” The new woman’s voice was beyond disappointed, and I tried to crack my heavy eyelids open so I could see her. The firelight hurt my eyes though, and I had to close them again.
“He is a man, yes, Trel,” said the woman who had saved me, and I now knew her name as Sheela.
The woman I figured was named Trel made more clicking sounds. “And you know men are useless? Each and every one I have met is a complete waste of space and oxygen. They are slaves to their penises.”
“No. That’s horrible. We can’t have slaves around our hearth.” A bubbly female voice interrupted the other two from another part of the cave.
Trel’s voice huffed. “I didn’t intend it literally. I mean that they are useless and must be told what to do all the time. They are worse than children and are only good for one--”
“Oh. I see. Well, this one’s in uniform. He can protect us,” the bubbly woman replied.
“Ha! If Sheela had to drag him--” Trel tried to say.
“Enough for now,” Sheela countered. “I followed him for a few hours. He is not skilled in survival, but this world is harsh, and we need all the help we can get.”
After more clicking noises and the complaining, one named Trel spoke again. “I’m telling you now, the best thing to do with this man is to kill and eat him.”
“Yuck. You are so gross,” the third voice replied.
“Eat me? Where am I?” I said though it was little more than a whisper.
“Did he speak?” the upbeat woman asked with surprise.
"Yeah, I spoke, why would you eat me?" I said with a stronger voice.
I was still tired from my journey, the restless night, and the sharp bursts of fear each time I thought I heard those feathered dinosaurs chirp, but the drink of lake water seemed to have brought me back from the edge of delirium. My tunnel vision was gone, and I could think straight again. I pushed myself off my stomach, rolled to my side, and made it into a half-kneeling crouch. The fire was inside a ring of big rocks, and a large clay pot sat next to a modest bloom of flames. The aroma reminded me of my mom pulling a big turkey out of the oven on Thanksgiving, and my empty stomach grumbled to remind me the food gauge was on empty.
My eyes adjusted to the low light of the cave and the jagged gray rock all around us. We were in a chamber about the size of my parents’ three-car garage. The smallish exit across the rough floor to my right and the fire to my left provided enough light to finally see my rescuer. I thanked god she wasn’t a figment of my water-deprived imagination.
“Trel is joking, it is nice to see you awake. I am called Sheela. Here, drink some water before you answer our questions.” The feline-woman nodded as she crouched, dipped a little clay cup into a pot, and then handed it to me. I downed it in several massive gulps and felt a bit disappointed it was only half full.
She was just as gorgeous as when I first encountered her. Like a fitness trainer and Amazon warrior rolled into one package while wearing a torn bikini.
My eyes peeked down the taut muscles and firm curves of her amazing body, but I didn’t want to start drooling, so I willed them up to her face so that I could study her alien perfection. Her blonde hair fell to the side of her head and playfully obscured her left cat-looking eye. She wore my hat on her head, and I forced myself to focus on it since my eyes kept trying to check out her body again. Damn, I’d seen plenty of beautiful women during my short life in Southern California, but Sheela was making my head spin.
Or maybe it was because of the dehydration?
“You are, um, wearing my hat,” I said.
I was quite attached to the wide-brimmed leather hat, but she did look damn good wearing it. Nope, it wasn’t the dehydration that was causing my head to spin. She looked amazing wearing anything.
“It would not stay on your head as we walked back to camp, so I put it on my own for safekeeping,” she said unapologetically, but she didn't move to return it.
Every ounce of me wanted to say Sheela could wear it forever, but she soon realized that I wanted it back, so the furry-woman took it off her blonde head and handed it to me. Her hair left a scent on the leather, and I was able to smell it when I put the hat back on.
Sheela stood up, shook her long mane of blonde hair, and then ran her clawed fingers down its length. The movement probably wasn't meant to be sensual, but it reminded me way too much of the videos I had seen of models standing in the shower.
I stood and appreciated that Sheela was a bit taller than me, just like a true Amazonian warrior. I looked away and searched the shadows of the cave for the other women I had heard speak. “Do you three girls live here?”
“You think we’re girls? Ugh. You are such an idiot.” Trel’s angry voice echoed from just behind Sheela as if she’d been waiting for her important moment. She then stepped out from behind the feline woman, and any notion of the word “girl” vanished in the light of the fire.
Her face was heavenly, but there was also something more sinister in her features. Her black eyes seemed to burn red as they sat under regal arched eyebrows, the sharp points of her ears probed from her lustrous black locks, and her red lips were dark and inviting at the same time.
Her neck was tall and thin like a runway model’s, caressed by black hair on both sides and a hefty choker necklace of polished black stones pressed against her marble-white skin. Large black hoop earrings hung from her ears, and I saw that the bands of dark stone were highlighted by thinly spun webs of glittering gold metal.
She wore a white silk dress with accents of metallic gold that might have come from the treasury of an Egyptian princess. It hung from thin strands over her shoulders and flowed down to her feet. In many places, the fabric clung to her skin as if it were painted on, and the sweat of her body soaked through until it was practically see-through. The neckline plunged way down below her cleavage and highlighted every detail of her pert breasts.
A narrow band of gold looped around her flat stomach, and the glittering accessory drew my attention to her Victoria Secret’s Angel model hip-to-waist ratio. Her airy dress hung off her body below her hips, but the silk fabric was sheer, and I was able to see her long legs flow down to perfect calves and little gold-encrusted sandals wrapped around high-arched feet.
The dark-haired woman laughed as she took a final step into the light. “I am a woman. I have hundreds of thousands of males on my planet begging for the chance to inseminate me. Don't you see this delightful body?” Trel asked as she ran her hands down the sides of her stomach, hips, and thighs. Her fingers were unusually long, thin, and black. They almost looked like they were just bones, but it had to be the light doing weird things. “You called us ‘girls.’ Perhaps we should address you as ‘boy.’ Would you prefer that?”
I stood about a head taller, so my line of sight went right to the beads of glistening sweat gathered in her cleavage. Her hands were now on her hips as if she were losing her patience with me. Something was definitely off about her fingers, but I was distracted by the rest of her body, and couldn’t really figure out where I should keep my eyes so that I didn’t offend the strikingly beautiful woman.
I swallowed hard, thankful for once I wasn’t dying of thirst. My heart pounded fiercely, and my profuse sweating wasn’t just because it was hot and muggy. I was about to reply when I finally looked behind her.
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
Trel had wings.
They were dark in color, and the dim light from the fire wasn't letting me see all their details, but it looked as if they folded behind her back like the wings of a succubus. Earlier she mentioned slaves and killing me, which sounded like something a demon from hell would say. At least those from my video games. No wonder she oozed sexuality.
“No words? That is a typical male response when I flaunt my perfection.” Trel’s voice was haughty, and I knew my face was red from embarrassment and a newfound fear.
She spread her wings wide apart to display what they really were, and I let out a gasp of shock. What I thought was a wing was actually three legs folded neatly behind her. My jaw dangled in awe and fear as it became clear she was some kind of spider-woman.
The black spider-legs were almost as thick as her human legs and now touched the ground behind her. The chitinous clicking sounds suddenly made sense, and I felt terror fill my stomach as her human body floated off the ground, suspended by the spider-legs that attached to her back.
“I’m waiting for your answer,” the spider woman said as she tapped one of her rear legs with impatience. She pointed at me with a shiny-black chitinous finger. Her hands looked pretty much human except they were darker than the rest of her arm and her long fingers ended in sharp points, like claws. My body was still numb with shock, and I didn’t know if I should run from her spider-legs, slap away those wicked fingers, or continue to stare at the beautiful human parts of her body.
“Trel, stop. Please,” the third woman said with a begging tone. I still couldn’t see girl number three, but if another spider came out of the shadows, I was sure to die.
Except that I couldn’t look away from Trel. My mind said run, but the rest of me pretended not to hear. Her body defied the laws of physics and reason as certainly as being teleported to a world of dinos. A sculptor couldn’t have made a model with as perfect of proportions as Trel’s human body.
“Are you done admiring my splendid sexual attributes, boy?” Trel's question reeked of arrogance, and her spider-legs relaxed to lower her back onto her human-looking feet. “Would you like to study the curves of my ass next? I assure you, there is none finer.”
I looked at her breasts once more, mostly so I didn’t have to gaze at her spider-legs, but also because they were absolutely amazing. God, how did they lift like that without a bra? They seemed even perkier than when I first saw her, and her pink nipples threatened to tear through the soft fabric of her see-through dress.
“I, uh. No. I won’t call you girls. S-sorry.” Scream in fear or fall in love? My mind was going to split in half if I looked at her another second. I realized I was gawking at her nipples still, so I forced myself to look at her eyes.
“I am Trel-Idil-Iria, Duchess of family Iria. You should know your place, male. You are unfit to even share this fire with me. Let alone stare at my perfect body. What do you have to say for yourself?” Her voice was filled with disgust, and my mind spun as I tried to figure out the correct way to apologize to her. I had been staring at her, but I didn’t know how to not stare at her.
Thankfully I was saved a response by the third woman. Her voice was cheery, bright, and I was finally able to turn my attention away from the spider-woman.
“Don’t be scared of her. We’re all friendly, I promise. What’s your name? Mine’s Galmine.” The woman who spoke was a little shorter than Trel and appeared to be completely naked. Her skin was grey and textured with rough stone tiles that seemed to be set on top of the smooth skin. The rocky texture was much rougher across her breasts and in the hot zone between her legs, as if her body created extra layers of the rock-like substance to form coverings and obscure what was beneath.
But the alien skin didn’t make her body any less sexy. Her figure reminded me of a voluptuous swimsuit model I remembered seeing in the tabloids after dating a popular football player. Like every damned curve of hers was chiseled by a master artist and stuffed with twice the femininity.
Fuck me. I hated always classifying girls by their physical features, but a lifetime of operating my man’s brain on the default settings and my current level of fatigue left me with little option. She was just as beautiful as the other two women that stood around the fire, and I was once again blushing as I tried to keep my eyes away from her almost nude body.
Galmine’s shiny silver hair was pulled into a bunch on the back of her head in simple braiding. Her eyes sparkled like green emeralds. I looked into them deeper, and I couldn't actually be certain that they weren't made out of a pair of perfectly cut stones. Her face was a pale grey-ish color, but the skin appeared much softer than the rest of her body. The wetness of her upturned lips made it easy to see how soft and inviting they’d be. The smiling woman bounced on her feet, and her head tilted slightly to one side in anticipation.
I vaguely remembered her asking me a question, but instead of getting her to repeat it, I blurted out the first thing on my mind that didn’t involve smoking hot babes. “This is all so crazy. First, the abduction. Then those men get killed. Then dinosaurs. Then--”
“There were more of you?” Sheela interrupted.
“Yes. There were two others when I arrived here. Um, actually three, I guess, but one got killed right away.” I turned my head away from her so I wouldn’t be distracted by her tight body. “The second guy died when some green feathery dinosaurs ganged up on him and brought him down. The last man was eaten in the jungle. He helped me escape so I could make my way to where you found me.” It was a dubious interpretation of Kelg’s final act, but I didn’t think it mattered.
“Three more would have helped,” Galmine sighed.
“Just three useless males,” Trel replied from behind the other two women.
“As Sheela said, more will help us survive,” Galmine countered. “I’m thankful for your friendship, Trel. I love meeting new people, don’t you? We should welcome our new friend into our home.”
“Pfft. Men serve my needs,” Trel said matter-of-factly.
“The loss of three is tragic. But we saved one warrior. Galmine did ask for your name.” Sheela turned to me and raised a perfect eyebrow.
“Oh, right. My manners are off today. My name is Victor,” I said with a nod.
Trel sniped from nearby. “Victor? No family name? Ewww. Not only is he a male, but he is of poor stature.” She shook her head at me, and her dark hair swirled around the flawless vanilla skin of her bare shoulders.
“Oh, sorry. My family name is Shelby. Victor Shelby. I'm a human. My world is called Earth, and the city I come from is called Los Angeles.”
“I like the shiny metal on your chest,” Galmine said as she pointed across the fire to my shirt.
“This is my badge. From the Los Angeles County Department for Animal Care and Control,” I replied.
“That sounds official.” Sheela's eyes glowed from the fire, and she reached a clawed finger out to touch the metal of my badge.
“It sounds stupid,” Trel huffed. “I bet he's a garbage collector.”
“No,” I said as I tried to keep my eyes off Trel’s nipples and her scary looking spider legs. “I help people with wild animals. It's a good job.”
“You control the animals?” Galmine asked.
“Nope,” I laughed. “I protect and care for the ones we rescue.”
“Humpf,” Trel mumbled while her legs tapped on the cave floor.
“Do you have any idea how to combat the flying orange ones?” Sheela asked.
“What do you mean?” I replied, immediately curious.
“I arrived fifty-one nights ago. I study everything here to help me survive. The last cave I was in was much like this one, but little feathered dinosaurs flew in and made nests. Alone they are weak, but they are very powerful when in groups.”
I looked around. I didn’t see any in there with us.
Sheela seemed to know what I was thinking. “They aren’t in this cave. Yet,” she replied with an ominous ending.
“They’re on their way here?” I asked.
Sheela shrugged, and then added, “I believe they move down the coast. It was the behavior I observed with them earlier. First, it started with scouts. One or two showed up and poked around the outside of my cave. Over the next thirty sunrises or so more showed up until there were dozens of them trying to get into my cave. I fought where I could to keep them out, but there were too many.”
“Let me guess. You already saw one here?” I asked as if I already knew the answer.
Sheela nodded. “A few days ago. They are hard to miss. They are bright orange like this fire, and their wings have plumage of black like the night. They have sharp teeth, but they can also pierce with their razor sharp beaks. Very hard to fight more than one or two at a time.”
“Sheela’s crazy,” Trel said with a chitter of her claws. “These birds aren’t going to come to this cave. Why would they if they have their own cave? If they do come, we have all we need right here to fight dumb little birds. She can defend us at the entryway.”
I glanced at Sheela and saw frustration in her eyes. I didn’t know how many days she’d spent with Trel, but the beautiful spider-woman was already starting to annoy me, and it had only been five minutes.
“If that first one brings his friends, it will be just like your last cave,” I said.
Sheela seemed to brighten a little. “With enough warriors, it can be different than my last home. We could defend the entrance and also take care of the hunting, fishing, and gathering.”
“How many more would we need?” I asked as I shifted my focus to each of the women.
“We would need us, plus five. Maybe more,” Sheela said after a few seconds of thought.
“I’m not doing it.” Trel’s words were in sing-song form.
“Some of us want to do nothing,” Sheela suggested in an even voice.
“Some of us are waiting to be rescued,” Trel added with insistence, and the ebony haired spider-woman smiled. Her teeth looked like a vampire’s, with twin fangs where her canines should have been.
“Who is coming for you, Trel?” I asked with genuine interest.
Trel pushed between the two women, and her spider-legs carried her clicking across the floor toward me. The sight of her moving made the horror return to my nerves, but I calmed down when she stopped in front of me. She was elevated on her spider-legs with her silk dress dangling in mid air, and my eyes were level with her nipples. It was almost like she knew that she possessed perfect breasts and was pushing them into my face so I’d be hopelessly distracted.
Well, it was working, and I still didn't know if I should be attracted to, or terrified of her.
“Ahem,” Trel cleared her throat. “My eyes are up here, male.”
I forced my neck back so that I could look up at her face. Her eyes were the other alien part of her body. They had no white sclera part to them; they were just balls of black the same color as her hair.
Except the obsidian eyes now reflected the firelight, and the woman looked angry.
“A man will address me as Trel-Idil-Iria, Duchess of family Iria. Not just ‘Trel.’ I have hundreds of thousands of men wishing to breed with me on my planet. I am a treasure of significant importance. As for rescue, my sisters will cross the stars to find me.”
“I apologize, Trel Ill Areola, Du-- Oh I’m sor--” I began to say, but then I realized I’d Freudian slipped ‘areola,’ and I began to apologize.
“We might be rescued, but in the meantime, we need to survive,” Sheela interrupted my apology to Trel. “If the orange creatures come as I expect, we need to be ready to defend our home. We also need food and water daily. As I said, this is easier with more helpers such as Victor.”
Trel’s glare was withering for a moment, but Sheela used her arm to guide the black-haired woman away from me. Trel’s voice became less combative at the cat-woman’s touch. “Is your skill that of a hunter, male? I might overlook your natural ignorance if you could provide food for me.”
“I’m not a hunter in the sense you think, but I do pursue animals so I can, uh, r-rescue them.” I never stuttered in my life, but Trel broke some part of my speech center whenever I looked at her.
“Pursuing animals” was a glorious description of snaring cats and dogs when they escaped from their cages back at the animal control office. We hired interns who sometimes had bigger hearts than brains, and I’d have to round up the animals they let escape. But I often got to do actual fieldwork and capture animals like Ernie the snake out in the “wilds” of suburban Los Angeles. I guess that was hunting.
The three women looked at me, and they seemed puzzled by my answer.
“Uhh. Did I say something wrong?” I asked.
“What’s your skill, silly,” Galmine asked with a cute smile as she playfully tapped her temple next to her right eye.
“My skill?” I asked with confusion. I knew Trel already thought me an idiot, but I didn't want Sheela and Galmine to believe it as well.
Trel made like she was pulling her hair out, and her spider legs frantically tapped on the floor of the cave. “He doesn’t even know his skill! How are you still alive? Argg.”
“I will teach him, just as I taught you when we first met, Trel,” Sheela said as she stepped toward me.
“Whatever. I would have figured it out without your help,” the other woman huffed.
“Examine my eyes,” Sheela said to me as she rested her hands on my shoulders. Her touch caused my heart to start sprinting, and I looked into her cat-like orbs. For a moment, I felt as if I was swimming in a sea of gold, but then she winked at me twice with her right eye.
“Wink, as I did,” she instructed.
I blinked my eyes, but then I realized I needed to just wink the one. I chose the right, same as her.
A burst of text appeared in my field of vision.
“Oh shit, what is this?” I gasped.
My already-improved eyes allowed me to see better than I had back at home, even with my glasses on. Now they bestowed a new gift: a kind of dashboard appeared in front of me like a head’s up display in a fighter plane.
I reached out awkwardly like a blind man at the strip club. I knew the image was in my eye, but it shimmered when I moved my hand just so. I couldn’t help but giggle at how awesome it was.
“That is correct, Victor. You can move within the I-Q display by using gestures. In time you will also be able to control it with slight adjustments of the eye itself,” Sheela said while stepping out of my way.
“Come again? IQ?” I said while still flopping my hand around. I had to watch carefully, so I didn’t accidentally grope her as I grabbed at the shimmering letters.
“Is that not what you see at the top?” Sheela asked.
Sure enough, in the top right corner were the words Eye-Q written in fancy script, like it was a software company logo or something. My name was also on the very top line.
“Touch your name, and it calls up some computer jarble,” Galmine added helpfully.
I mimicked touching my name on the screen with an air-tap of my index finger. It was kind of like using my tablet back home, but it still felt silly tapping blank air.
Sure enough, the screen blinked and a new array of “jarble” appeared next to a picture of me standing with a dumb look on my face. I didn’t recognize the background, but I was wearing my uniform and aussie hat, so I figured it was very recent.
A few rows of data reported all sorts of things I already knew: eye color, height, and weight; although I thought it was reporting a bit high on that one. Lots of stuff similar to a driver’s license, but also my home planet along with some strange long rows of numbers.
At the bottom section were stats like in a video game:
Special Skill: TAME - Level 2.
Is that what they wanted from me?
“It says Strength 3, Stamina 2, and Movement 3. My special skill is called ‘Tame level 2’. Does it mean anything to you?”
Trel laughed uproariously. “Tame! You can say that again! I told you, men are helpless.”
“I think Tame sounds like a wonderful skill,” Galmine purred.
Trel didn’t miss a beat but spoke with noticeably less hostility. “Well, come on. If he had said ‘Starship Builder’ it might have blown my skirt up. Neither of you can seriously think ‘Tame’ is going to do anything for us.”
“What are your special skills?” I said as politely as possible to redirect Trel from insulting me. I feared they were going to throw epic abilities in my face and make mine look ridiculous by comparison.
I was kind of facing Galmine, so she spoke first. “Mine says Grow, and I guess that’s because my people are very adept at growing plants. In my world, we have far less sun than here.” Galmine pointed outside of the cave and then brushed her silver hair back with the same finger. “It is also much cooler. We live off vegetables and grains. My Eye-Q says I am level 1. My strength, stamina, and movement all say 1, but I don’t really know what that means.”
“It means you are too nice,” Trel replied with a sigh.
“What do you mean?” Galmine asked Trel, and the gray skinned woman smiled sweetly at the spider-woman. “I like being nice to people. You are all my friends. I wish I were home, of course, but I am happy to be in your company.”
“Nevermind,” Trel grumbled, and it seemed to me that the haughty woman couldn’t bring herself to be mean to Galmine.
“What about you?” I asked Sheela.
“It says Critical Strike. I grew up training with weapons, so I suppose that is what they mean. I am also Level 1.”
“They?” I asked.
“Idiot, the beings that took us from our home, tore our eyes out, put new ones in, and dumped us here to get eaten by giant lizards.” Trel spat the words and crossed her arms over her chest.
“Yeah. Sorry for kind of a stupid question,” I said, and I forced myself to smile at the dark-haired woman. Her long thin fingers were more spider than human, and I wondered absently how she touched people without hurting them.
“And what are your stats, if you don’t mind?” I asked the feline warrior woman.
“My strength and movement are both 8, but my stamina is only rated at 4,” she replied.
“Wow, that’s amazing.” I whistled with awe. Sheela was much stronger than me.
“Humpf,” Trel snorted, and then she cleared her throat and pointed a long finger at me. “You aren't even polite enough to inquire what my Eye-Q reads. You should have asked me first since I am the most important one here.” Trel looked like she rolled her eyes at me as she spoke, but it was hard to tell because they were all black.
“Uhh. What is your special skill?” I asked while being excessively courteous. Trel was quickly approaching the point where her beauty wasn’t enough to justify her attitude, but I still didn’t want to piss her off.
“Structure Building,” she said without further explanation. I could tell she was waiting for me to say something. She smirked, and I saw her vampire fangs again.
“What does that do?” I finally asked.
She threw up her human-looking arms. “How should I know? Do you think I want to build something? Ewww. Peasant work.” Trel's pretty nose scrunched up with disgust.
“And, uh, what are your stats?” I asked, really trying hard to be nice.
“My strength is higher than yours, male. That’s all you need to know. Pft!” she huffed. “If you were on my planet, I'd put you at the back of my ten thousand-deep suitor line. I’m almost tired of hearing my own voice repeat it, but you are going to be useless to us.”
“That remains to be seen,” Sheela replied to Trel with more patience than I thought possible. “Whoever brought us here and did this to us is very powerful. They must have had a purpose for bringing him here, as well.”
“Yeah, so he can drain away our food and water,” Trel sniped back under her breath.
“I can carry my own weight,” I countered.
I couldn’t believe that I was weaker than Trel, but her spider-legs and claw-hands did look deadly. Strangely, I was also a little deflated at getting tossed to the back of her suitor line. It was like high school all over again, with the prettiest girls not giving me the time of day.
“We appreciate your help no matter what skill you have,” Sheela said with a nod, and I saw Galmine smile at me pleasantly.
“Just tell me what you need me to do, and I’ll do it,” I said with more confidence. Maybe Trel didn’t like me, but Sheela and Galmine obviously did, and I’d work to protect them. “If angry birds are coming to roost in your cave, let’s figure out how to stop them. With four of us, I'm sure we can think of something.”
“Ha! As I predicted, the male is only as good as the women who command him.” Trel walked around on her human-looking legs to the other side of Sheela. Her spider-legs were now folded up on her back again, so they resumed looking like bulky wings. It made her no less scary because I knew they could come right back down.
“No,” I said. “It’s not like you command me. I’m willing to help. If we all work together, we can--”
“I do not do common labor or planning,” Trel snapped. “Haven’t you been listening?”
Galmine moved to be close to me. “Don’t worry, Victor, everyone has their place. I am not very strong, nor do I move fast, but I will help where I can. If we find a spot for a garden, I can grow some vegetables for us to eat.”
“Can you grow meat?” Trel huffed.
Galmine was steadfast. “I’ll do what I can for you until then. I’m glad you came to us, Tamer.” She stepped closer and surprised me with a quick hug. Her body was surprisingly warm, and during those tantalizing seconds we were joined, I wondered if the gray rock on her skin counted as clothes, or if she was actually hugging me while she was naked.
“We have a few hours of sunlight left, and much to do, but I will show you around,” Sheela said.
She directed me to follow her through the large cave opening, but the task became shamelessly sexual when I watched her firm ass sway in her torn bikini-bottoms. Her long blonde mane swished across her butt hypnotically while she walked, and I almost tripped over a rock when I was watching her instead of where I was stepping.
A dozen wooden spears were leaning against the wall right at the exit. Their tips were burnt for strength, and I saw one of them was covered with blood. I figured it was the one she’d used to kill the giant crocodile that had almost eaten me for breakfast.
“What’s that for?” I said while pointing to a clay pot just off to the side of the mouth of the cave.
“Do you not relieve yourself?” she deadpanned.
“Oh,” I said, realizing the whole world was now my toilet. “All the time.” I laughed to cover the dumb question, then I followed her out the door.
I rubbed my face with my free hand as we emerged into the daylight. Every moment of my life was now a surprise, but I was greeted by a huge shock in the landscape.
Instead of the wet, sticky tangle of ferns, vines, and strange sinuous trees from yesterday and this morning, we were now in a forest of huge conifers that seemed more like the Sequoia Redwoods than a Jurassic jungle. There were relatively few of the true giant trees, and they grew with forty or fifty yards of space between each other for as far as I could see into the grove. Ferns and other small plants hugged against the trunks, and clumps of smaller evergreens dotted the forest as well. There were also flat, open areas of fallen pine needles between each of the ancient redwoods.
“How far away was the place where you rescued me?” I asked as we walked down the narrow pathway leading from cave to the bottom some twenty-five feet below us.
“About a mile and a half,” Sheela responded.
“How is that possible?” I wondered. “Where are the vines, and stuff? It’s like we’re on a different planet and we didn’t go very far.”
“I do not try to understand the technology controlling this world. I have walked the coast for many days and have seen several different lands. On my world, we have vast swamps, grasslands, and forests seemingly without end. Here, everything is jumbled as if the builders want to confuse us.” She paused for a moment to choose her words carefully. “I stayed here because it reminds me of home.”
I wanted to ask her about her world, but something she said was more pressing.
“How do you know what ‘mile’ means?” I asked. “Do your people use the same unit of measurement?”
“Yes,” Sheela said as she shook her head. “You misunderstand. Our abductors have made it so we speak the same language and use the same measurements. It sounds as if you are speaking my language. We believe they have done this so that we can survive in the world they built.”
“You think all this was built?” I asked as I thought through her words.
“I do not know. It matters not. Come.” She walked me to the bottom of the ramp in front of the cave and then we turned around to look back along the route we came. I could barely see the cave mouth back up the steep hillside. “I spend all day hunting or berry picking. Trel won't leave the cave to do the work, and Galmine moves too slow to escape any of the creatures that are on this planet. You cannot really see the cave from the position down here, but I worry about dinosaurs getting in. A second warrior with a spear will make things safer.”
We stood facing each other as the sunlight beamed from the pine boughs high above.
“Yeah, it seems as if you've been supporting them,” I said.
“I do what I can. Having someone who will cooperate will help us all,” Sheela answered, and her yellow eyes seemed to focus on my badge.
“I'm happy to help. You did save my life.” I smiled at her, and I lost a bit of my breath when she returned my smile. She was like the sun to Trel's darkness.
“I have been here much longer than the other two. Trel is convinced help is coming. I think Galmine believes that, too.”
“But not you?” I asked as I stared into her beautiful golden eyes.
“Rescue might come, or it might not. I do not want to bet my life on the uncontrollable actions of others. I predict that those birds will return to the cave and force us to fight. They might not, but if they do, we will not be able to survive against them the way we are now.” She shrugged, and the movement did all sorts of amazing things to her chest area.
“It's too bad that the guys I first met are dead, they could have helped defend us against these birds.”
“It does not matter,” she said. “They are dead. Wasting energy thinking about what could have been will only hamper our ability to survive. I know Trel will not agree, but you showed up at the perfect time.”
“Yeah, she doesn’t like me for some reason, but I appreciate your words,” I replied with a smile.
“We are all scared, Victor. This world is cruel and unforgiving. I do not know what happened to Trel before I found her, but the constant threat of death affects us all. Do not let her words bother you.”
Sheela’s voice was intoxicating. I had a million questions about her home world, her travels on this one, and how she came to be with the other two women. But I had her alone, and there was one burning question I needed to ask.
“Um, why do you sound like you’re speaking Australian? It’s, uh, distracting as hell.” I was tempted to tell her how sexy she was when she spoke it, but it didn’t seem appropriate.
“This is my natural way of speaking. I am surprised that you interpret it as an accent from your world, but as I said, our captors did something to our minds to let us understand everyone’s different languages.”
“Okay. So you--” I began, but motion caught my eye near one of the large trees fifty yards away at the edge of the clearing. I watched for a few moments before I was certain what it was.
“I’ll be damned. It followed me,” I laughed a bit at the thought and guided Sheela’s beautiful eyes to the object of my mirth.
The little blue roadrunner dinosaur was hopping around pecking at the ground. It would look up, move a little closer to me, then peck at the ground again and pull up some big bug and swallow it whole.
“I saw that beast around you before,” Sheela said with a touch of amazement.
“Yeah, I’ve tried to get rid of it, but it doesn’t get the hint. Maybe I should keep it for a pet?” I laughed at the thought of having a roadrunner for a pet back home. It would look hilarious on a leash at the dog park.
“Can you call it to you?” she asked.
She nodded and then looked to the small bird.
“Okay, I’ll give it a try.”
I took a few steps in the direction of the dino-bird and hesitated. If I was back home, I’d try to snare it and bring it out of the wild, but this was all different. The aliens who built this place, if I believed Sheela’s theory, must have had a reason for wanting this bird to follow me.
Damned if I could think what it was.
On a whim, I blinked to turn on the Eye-Q and pointed my hand at the bird inside the overlay of the user interface. “Tell me what that is,” I said half-heartedly.
I was so surprised at the response I blinked the thing off.
“Holy fuck. It worked,” I said.
“What are you doing, Victor?” Sheela called from over my shoulder.
I held up my free hand with my index finger pointing up, hoping she understood the “please wait” gesture.
I blinked the Eye-Q back on and looked at the screen. It showed an outline around the dinosaur and displayed its name.
“Identification: Dinosaur, Jinfengopteryx Elegans, male.”
“This is awesome! Hey, that dinosaur is called Jin, uh, fen, g, opter, ix. Ugg, this name sucks. I’ll call him Jinx for short!” I’d encountered long names in biology and animal sciences but seeing them and saying them were light years of difference.
“Here, Jinx. Come!” I crouched down with glee, still with the Eye-Q system displaying in my field of vision.
At first, the little animal didn’t do anything, and I imagined Sheela’s disappointment behind me. Then the bird sort of hopped a few times in my direction, and I thought I had it for sure, but then it got back to pecking at the ground. I called it for several minutes but finally had to admit that wasn’t going to work.
I flicked off the Eye-Q and turned to Sheela. I expected an insult like Trel would deliver, but the warrior cat woman smiled brightly instead.
“I do think it likes you,” she said. “He will come closer next time.”
“Yeah, I guess,” I replied as I looked at the little blue dino again. It had already hopped away, and I suspected that Sheela was just being nice when she told me he would come closer next time.
“See? He can’t even tame a puny beast. Useless male!” Trel shouted from behind some bushes up by the cave entrance. She laughed and then disappeared back through the opening.
“Trel is harmless,” Sheela said as she stepped near me and motioned to the cave. “And that is the challenge we have.”
Her problem was not complicated. Trel wasn’t going to help, and Galmine couldn’t survive out and about in a world full of bloodthirsty predators. Sheela rescued me believing I was going to be extra hands needed to fight for survival. The dinosaurs that took out Heracula and Kelg sent a shiver down my leg, but sexy-girls-in-distress were more than making up for the terrifying experience.
Maybe I’d stumbled on why the aliens chose me. I really liked animals and beautiful women.
Our eyes met once more, and her feline orbs pulled at me as surely as if she was reaching into my brain. We stared at each other for a few moments, and then she tilted her head and looked up and behind me. When I didn’t immediately turn to follow her lead she looked at me again and repeated the act.
I finally got the hint and turned to face what Sheela was looking at. A pterodactyl-type dinosaur swooped through the pine boughs and landed near the top of a medium-sized tree in the grove of redwoods. The branch sagged under the weight as the dino-bird folded its wings next to its body about seventy-five feet over our heads.
The beast was much scarier than the drawings or models I had seen. The size reminded me a lot of the California Condor, only a little bigger. The wings of the creature were each longer than I was tall. The dinosaur had hooked claws on the end of the top joint, and its long maw was pointed and very sharp. Its skin was gray with brown undertones, and it blended almost perfectly with the tree branches where it perched.
I felt movement by my foot and looked down to see Jinx standing behind my boot. The little guy was looking up at the pterodactyl while he trembled.
“You said the bad birds were orange, right? Does this thing want in, too?” I asked Sheela as I turned up again.
“I am not surprised something else wants the cave. It is a good location for mating and laying eggs.”
Sheela was correct. We were standing out in the open below him, but the pterodactyl didn't seem curious about us. Instead, the winged dinosaur was staring intently at the women’s cave.
But now it was my fucking cave too.
“I'll help you defend your home,” I said as I turned to Sheela. “I’m thinking you’re right, we are going to have to fight birds sooner or later.”
“It will be hard work, Victor.” The woman's full lips turned into a small hope-filled smile that made my heart dance in my chest.
“No worries. You saved me, so I owe you, but I also want to live, and I want to protect your friends in the cave, even Trel.”
“Thank you,” she said as we shared a quick smile. “Evening is fast approaching. Let us get back inside and tell them about this new flying dinosaur. We have much to do to make things safer for all of us.”
“I’m looking forward to it,” I said, and then I followed the beautiful woman up the narrow path to where her friends waited for us.