By the time the impact klaxon sounded, Sara was already climbing into an escape pod. She didn’t need an alarm to tell her that something had hit the Hampton and hit it hard. The sudden two gee lurch and deafening crash were a dead give-away.
She also didn’t need the onboard computer to finally give her the order to abandon ship. The pressure dropped twice with enough force to pop her eardrums, even with most of the bulkhead doors shut. That meant there were multiple ruptures that the automatic systems were having trouble sealing. Whatever the problem, the ship was losing oxygen fast and would soon be just as deadly as whatever had done the initial damage to their vessel.
A quick slap on a nearby panel opened the iris to the escape pod slide, and Sara heard a second large rumble just as she was dropping into the pod seat itself. A strong pressure back-draft up the shaft she had just come through told her there was no going back, and her ears popped for a third time just as the twin irises slid shut. She could have waited for the ship to launch her, but given the way things were going to hell so quickly, she decided for the manual option and pulled down the large red handle marked LAUNCH. For one very long second nothing happened, then there was abrupt hard acceleration that nearly caused her to black out. Five seconds later it was deathly quiet.
The trip down was mostly uneventful, and Sara silently thanked the makers of the little round drop-ship, praising their miracle of engineering. The tiny craft had but a single purpose, and that was to carry its single human occupant to safety in the event that the mother ship was no longer able to sustain life. To that end, the on-board computer would automatically search out the nearest safe harbor, whether it be another ship in space, or a nearby planet. It wasn’t a traveling craft to speak of, being hardly more than two meters in diameter, but its creators had packed in a remarkable amount of ability considering. Provided the occupant didn’t die of thirst or hunger, it was technically capable of supporting a human in complete vacuum for nearly a month, though Sara had only ever heard of one person to actually test that limit, and they came out of the pod babbling like a little child. It wasn’t for lack of things to do, for the computer held over three thousand hours of current and archived entertainment to keep a person from going completely buggo. But rather it was the cramped space that got to you. There was basically a seat for one and about a cubic meter of total air space. That didn’t even leave room to change positions. Every other centimeter of the craft was dedicated to something critical.
Sara was only floating free for about twenty minutes before the onboard computer decided what the best course of action was, but even that short period was enough to make her nervous. It didn’t help that she couldn’t get the pod to adjust the environmental controls until it concluded what to do, the makers figuring that a cold but alive human delivered to safety was preferable to a warm but dead one because the ship ran out of juice just forty minutes from rescue. In her case, it was too warm rather than cold.
The escape pod had been situated right next to a heat converter, so it had sucked up quite a bit of ambient energy by osmosis. It wasn’t going to kill her, but it was pretty damn uncomfortable considering she had just come out of the gym room and was already sweating. Her only saving grace was the fact that she was dressed in shorts and a light tank-top.
The pod announced, via a calm voice and video notification, that it had identified an acceptable planetary object nearby and was starting a landing cycle. It gave the option for override.
This gave Sara pause. In order for the computer to choose this as the best option, it must have scanned nearby space and found no sign of a habitable ship. This was worrisome because the computer would still have chosen to wait a bit if the ship were either dead in the water but intact enough for salvage, or completely missing. After all, dropping down through the atmosphere to an unknown world was a one way ticket. The engineers could get you down through a gravity well safely, but not back up again. To choose the planet, the computer must have determined conclusively that the mothership would never again be able to support life. In other words, it had been reduced to tiny pieces.
The good news was that Sara and the other members of her team had spent the last four days doing an orbital survey of the planet she was now dropping towards. Dubbed Torrid 9G217-M, it was about as nice a ball of earth as one could hope to be stranded on. Temperate and slightly warmer and more humid than Earth norm, it sported a rich bio-diversity at three-quarters Earth own gravitation. The atmosphere was cleaner than her home world’s, and so long as the pod chose not to dump her in one of the planet’s four large oceans, she should be fine, environmentally speaking.
Of course, they knew almost nothing of the life-forms since their reconnaissance mission was still in the orbital observation stage. If there were sentient entities, then they certainly didn’t have surface cities, roads or aircraft, all of which can easily be seen from 200 miles up. Hell, they hadn’t even spotted any large predators.
All of this did nothing to ease the knot in Sara’s stomach as the small ball started its free fall through the planet’s atmosphere when she touched “accept”. She knew the escape pods were designed for just this sort of event, but that hardly mattered when a 2000 degree inferno was only six centimeters from your bare skin.
The plan was a simple one. Fall across the atmosphere long enough to slow down to sub-orbital speeds, then drop like a lead balloon until the pod is a mere 30 meters from the surface, at which time you fire some really kick-ass retro-rockets and simultaneously activate an equally kick-ass inertial dampening field to keep the fragile human passenger from being turned into pudding. That’s the theory anyway. In actual application, however, it took an incredible amount of computing and engineering power and precise microsecond timing. A half second off on the firing sequence and you end up as a blackened scar on the landscape.
Holding her breath, both in fear, and to help keep from throwing up, Sara waited the four very long minutes until the computer indicated she was no longer a literal fireball and began ranging the ground once again. She nearly lost it a second time as the final seconds ticked down toward her retro burn. If the system had a failure now, she’d probably never feel it.
Even with the inertial dampening field, the landing jolt was enough to knock the wind out or her. She couldn’t imagine landing on a world with even Earth normal gravity. Finally, she felt a second slight bump and the computer announced with a trumpet fanfare that she was safely on the surface. Apparently, the engineers that designed the craft had a sense of humor.
Despite her acute claustrophobia and the sweltering heat (the environmental systems had finally decided it was safe to turn on), Sara stayed in the closed pod for another few minutes trying to collect herself. When she was once again breathing at a near normal rate, she double checked with the computer about the safety of opening up. When it reported an all clear, she tapped the door sequence and took her first breath of truly fresh air in over six months. She then promptly started coughing uncontrollably.
It was the moisture. She tapped a quick inquiry on the computer and confirmed that it was about as close to 100% humidity as was physically possible without being under water. When she had regained control of her lungs once again, she decided that besides the general sensation of drowning, the weather seemed tolerable and she could get used to it. It felt heavenly to be breathing real, fresh, unfiltered air that no other human had ever shared and recycled. There was even a slight floral scent instead of the semi-medicinal odor that always came with ‘ship air’.
Stretching her stiff body, Sara cautiously stepped out onto the surface of Torrid 9G217-M and scanned a misty jungle all around her. The pod had chosen (or just gotten lucky) to hit a small clearing in the midst of very tall, thin alien trees. There were no sounds save for a soft breeze through the jungle canopy, and a ticking from the pod as it slowly cooled.
“Shit…” she muttered to herself as it sank in how truly alone she was.
By nightfall, Sara had set up a base camp and taken care of the basics. Having used most of its primary energy source getting her to the surface, the pod went into semi-hibernation and shut down the majority of its functions to save power for the homing beacon. But the computer and communications module were still active and she was able to confirm that the Hampton was certainly no longer in orbit. Or if it was, it wasn’t responding to hail. By setting up a manual solar array, the transmitter would pretty much continue to send out its beacon of distress for decades if undisturbed. The problem was that unless someone happened to be very local in stellar terms, she’d have been dead for millennia before the first repetition reached even one of the outpost buoys. Escape pods were incapable of subspace communications.
The good news was that survey ships never go out without checking in first. It’s a basic rule of space exploration. Always tell someone else where you’re going. The trouble with this principle is that the Federation of Planets simply doesn’t have the manpower to follow up on even a tenth of the missing ships that are reported. The only way to figure out what happened is to actually send someone else out there to take a look. Even with the advent of FTL drives, it just isn’t practical. For this reason, most of the larger corporations dealing in exploration have their own set of rescue ships to protect their investments. As soon as the Hampton was late reporting in via subspace, the company would send out a rescue party to see what was up. it might take a few weeks for them to get there, but come they would, if for no other reason than to have an explanation for the insurance guys.
So help might be on its way, but that still left Sara with the problem or surviving until they arrived. The survival gear in the pod included an environmental suit (which was pretty useless on Torrid – you could choose to sweat in the suit or out), about a month’s worth of NutriPellets (they’d keep you alive, but…), a repair manipulator (the Swiss Army Knife of interstellar tools), and something called a PopTent that Sara found out was an instant shelter of sorts. The part in the instructions about standing back when you activated the thing had been rubbed off the protective sleeve and Sara was knocked on her ass when the portable shelter violently expanded into a three meter half sphere.
“Son of a bitch,” she muttered while she rubbed her back side. She had been thrown nearly two full meters and was sitting in some slightly taller grass. “Well, at least I have a place to get out of the rain.” she commented to herself, remembering hearing something about talking to oneself when stranded alone. She couldn’t remember if it was a good thing or a bad thing. She had just decided that most of what she learned in “survival training” was a joke when she glanced over to her left at some movement. There, not more than a meter away was a walking, three-legged jellyfish, or at least that’s what it looked like to Sara.
It was currently motionless, as though it had accidentally crossed her path and had frozen in fear, unsure if she were about to pounce and eat it as food. Small as it was, Sara was thinking and acting about the same way. Its main body was about 15 centimeters in diameter, and it “walked” on its three smooth leg-like appendages, although it was almost dead still now. She could see it was shifting back and forth slightly as a predator would do trying to range in on a meal, but it did not attack her.
“Uh, hi?” she said softly, not knowing the correct first-contact procedures. The organism had no response to her voice. “Nice jellyfish…” she implored soothingly while very slowly moving her hands so she could leverage herself up and bolt.
She considered her options. She could run to the tent, or she could run to the pod. She wasn’t sure the pod would even close again, now that it had reopened, and she hadn’t had a chance to see how the tent door unsealed, or even where it was for that matter. The first was a possibility, but given that it was a complete unknown, she thought it better to stick with her own technology. Her heart was beating about three times normal speed when she started to shift her weight onto her feet. If she could just get standing, she might have the advantage. The jelly-star thing’s arms were only about half a meter in length so her running stride should carry her faster… she hoped.
When the creature suddenly lowered its main body closer to the ground, Sara took it as a warning sign and rolled forward into a sprint. She didn’t have to look back to know that the alien life form was following her, the hairs on her neck were bristling with adrenaline. As she approached the tent, she saw right away that she was on the wrong side and nearly twisted her ankle getting around the infernal thing where she found a standard zip-close door… and the jelly star.
It had scooted around the other side of the tent and was waiting there for her. Or was it a second star? She froze, unsure what to do and looked over to where she had been sitting in the grass. It was clear, so this was the same creature. she was both relieved and scared. That thing had really moved. She was hyped up on panic, and had probably never moved so fast in her life, yet the little three-legged jellyfish had actually beat her around the tent. Apparently, she thought, three short legs beats two long ones.
Cautiously, she reached for the zip on the tent door. The alien made no indication that it was even aware of her actions. It just crouched there. She’d have said it was watching her, but she couldn’t see anything that looked like eyes. There were three small holes set in a triangular configuration at the very top of the bulbous body, but they hardly looked like they could be used for vision.
The tent flap was halfway open and Sara decided she could get through. Moving slowly, one leg at a time, she gently eased into the shelter while she kept her eye on the jelly-star. The whole time, it made no motion other than a slight up and down bobbing as she gradually disappeared inside the tent. she watched the little creature right up until it was shielded from her own view by the closing of the door seal. A moment later she heard a scurrying slither and when she de-opaqued the window, she just saw it run off into the forest. It was moving incredibly fast for such a small animal, and she was slightly awed at its agility. Then it was gone.
Sara flopped back down on her sore rear and sighed heavily. “Well, Kaynene, you survived another really bad day. Let’s hope that it gets easier from here on…”
Nearly twenty hours later, Sara wasn’t sure “easier” was the right word, but she was alive, rested (barely), and eating a warm meal. She stayed in the tent with the window pane opaqued until morning and it was only a desperate need to pee that finally drove her from her shelter in the morning. Even the term “morning” was a little whacked since the glow created by the cloud cover and a wicked axial tilt left Torrid in a state of nearly perpetual twilight. The tent could be made transparent or opaque in part or in full, so the extra light during sleeping hours wouldn’t be hard to overcome, but her encounter with the jelly-star, as she was officially calling it, had given her quite the wake up call. More than the strange plants, the weakened gravity or the dysfunctional lighting, the little three-legged creatures were distinctly alien. It fit perfectly with the type of world Torrid was, but it served as a powerful reminder that this was definitely NOT Earth or any of its colonies.
In all likelihood, she was the first human to set foot on the surface of Torrid 9G217-M. Their own survey team was months away from actual ground reconnaissance. In fact, they had only finished just less than half of the orbital cartography. That job seemed like a lifetime away now. Slurping the last of the oatmeal-like breakfast meal she had been eating, Sara considered her inventory. She had pretty much emptied the pod, which is how she found the dried rations. They wouldn’t last more than a couple of days, but they were like a gourmet meal compared to the NutriPellets which were about as tasty as a hair-ball. The pod itself could provide her with fresh water for about a month, and could serve as a filter for water for much longer. Power also didn’t seem to be an issue as the pod, and even her tent she found out, had array systems that would give her a moderate supply of electricity even from what dim light managed to filter through Torrid’s misty skies from its twin suns.
Perhaps her greatest find was the standard issue PSU, or Portable Scanning Unit, which was included in the survival gear. How the geeks in research came up with what should and shouldn’t be included in a survival pack was beyond her. They gave her an environmental suit that can keep a human alive in near vacuum and sub-zero temperatures but leave out a fresh pair of panties. There was a nifty little device known as a Self Heating Pot that will cook whatever you put into it and then recharge itself in about an hour by a means that Sara couldn’t even identify. The label mentioned something about magnetic resonance, but magic seemed like a better description. Yet the same people who had included this technological miracle failed to include any sort of weapon to hunt with.
But the scanner was truly a wonder. PSUs were perhaps the one bit of modern technology that the Federation had gotten completely right. Basically, it was a very compact, self sustaining computer and data recorder. The hand-held unit had a slew of built in sensors to measure anything from blood pressure to gravitational waves. It was also capable of doubling as a control terminal, which meant that you could use it for anything from checking the potability of your water to remotely controlling a starship in orbit. The survival geeks probably included it for its simple use as a log. It could record several years worth of full quality 3D video and more audio than any human would ever want to save, even an egomaniac. Sara figured that if you at least had a data recorder, it would let the rescue team know that you were torn to pieces by an alien feline with six legs when they came looking for you. Hell, the “always on” loop in the thing would probably record the whole grisly account in color high-def, complete with an audio track of your screams.
That first night, Sara had set the PSU to alert her of any approaching organisms, but she was surprised that the unit had initially found none. This led her to believe that the jelly-stars were somehow able to fool the sensors and sneak up on her, which was what kept her up until she finally passed out from exhaustion. The bleating of the warning alarm that morning roused her, and when she de-opaqued the window, she could see one of the creatures scurrying somewhat slowly at the edge of the clearing, completely uninterested in her or her bright orange tent. At least she knew could detect them.
After her initial contacts with the jelly-stars, she did not see another of the three-legged animals for close to three full days. She figured that they were either leaving her alone the same way you would a potentially dangerous predator, or they were interested in something elsewhere. Either way worked for her as the things gave her the serious creeps.
Sara had staked out her little camp and cautiously explored the edge of the forest in a complete 360 degrees. She found a water source which, to her delight, fed into a small pool, and discovered that one of the trees sported a fruit that very much reminded her of a banana, only it was like an orange inside. It would probably give her a nasty case of the runs if she couldn’t find something to supplement it with, but she had a food source now so longer term survival was one less thing she needed to worry about.
It was on the evening of her third night when she first noticed the proximity alert on the PSU. It was set to alert her of any approaching life form over two kilos. She had just stepped out of the pool when the little warble alarm sounded causing her to nearly levitate from the water. She was scrambling into her freshly washed clothes even as she checked the holographic readout. Sure enough, there was something approaching from the southeast, and the PSU indicated that it had a mass displacement indicating a weight of approximately 50 kilos.
“Oh, shit…” she exclaimed as it hit her that this was something much bigger than her little jelly-stars. She quickly gathered up her boots and headed for her tent. She doubted that the highly durable fabric would stop a determined predator, but it would certainly slow them down, and she’d be blind in the pod. There’s no sense in hiding if you can’t tell if it’s safe to come out again.
She reconsidered her choice when she heard a low growl. Once inside, she cleared a small section of the window enough to get a good view of whatever it was that had found her and could see something rustling just at the edge of her clearing. Whatever it was, it didn’t seem to want to leave the safety of the jungle, which suited Sara just fine. She waited with her breath held until she almost thought that the new creature had gone off. But her PSU indicated otherwise, and showed the telltale movements of something just out of her view. And then she saw it.
“Oh my god…” she gasped when a short humanoid female stepped from the tree line and took a nervous step toward her tent. Sara knew at once that the entity before her wasn’t human, but it walked upright and was biologically very similar. The face was a little thinner than that of a human, but longer in the back as well. It had three eyes, two about placed like her own, and an identical third just above and in the middle. Her mouth (she just assumed it was female since it had breasts, but for all she knew it could have been hermaphroditic) was amazingly human, but the lips were a slight greenish color, as was her skin. She seemed to be dressed in a skirt made from animal fur, but it could have been plant fibers as well, and she had on rough boots of the same material. In her hand was a long stick, a full meter taller than she was, which was topped with a small dark brown ball that looked as though it were made of glass. Her hair was a streaked sandy brown which was braided into tight strands.
Aside from the dissimilarities of her head and skin color, from the neck down the other could have been taken for a very attractive human teen. Sara thought that the girl’s breasts rivaled her own. But her presence at all was a bit of an enigma. The survey satellites hadn’t spotted any sort of modern or primitive civilizations, so where did she come from?
From the outside, the inside of the tent would be dark, so it was unlikely the female would see her staring back through the window. The other had come to within about three meters of her when it suddenly stopped and turned its head back toward the forest. Sara noticed the girl’s shoulders hunch as she stooped lower into what appeared to be a defensive stance. All the while she never took her eyes from the jungle. And then she hissed.
Like a cat, the sound that came from the girl was unmistakably a warning. Sara shivered slightly thinking that it was about the most inhuman thing the girl had done yet. But she didn’t get the impression that the threat was directed at her. Frowning, she checked the scanner.
“Holy shit!” she whispered, stunned. The readout showed hundreds of small targets just out of view in the jungle canopy. Each was less than 5 kilos, but the sheer quantity of them was terrifying. But it wasn’t until the first jelly-star slithered from the shadows that she understood her true situation.
“Oh god…” she muttered as her heart rate shot through the roof. The alien girl must have heard her exclamation for she abruptly swiveled her gaze back to the tent, her intense eyes narrowing. As if waiting for a distraction, the smaller creatures charged forward as one, and the girl had a chance to mouth one very human cry before the smaller life forms were on her. Knocked closer, the girl fell back and was a mere meter away from her window as dozens of the three-legged entities swarmed over her prone body. The girl was able to grasp a few, tossing them away as she struggled to keep them off of her, but they were just too fast.
Sara watched helplessly, fully expecting the jelly-stars to begin feeding on the overwhelmed humanoid, and when she saw that the girl was being held down she cried aloud.
“No! Leave her alone!”
The jelly-stars completely ignored her, but the girl looked back at the tent in confusion. She was quickly drawn back to her struggles however, and made a cry of her own when one of the jelly-stars molded itself over her ankle and wriggled its limbs into the soft jungle floor. Once rooted, it used itself as an anchor and literally pinned the girl’s leg in place like a living horseshoe nail. A warbling cry issued from the girl’s throat as she saw her own hope of escape fading. A moment later first her left, then her right arm, then her other leg were pinned in a similar way, trapping the female on her back, her limbs splayed away from her body as though she were a bug on display.
The jelly-stars moved in and once again Sara thought for certain that the girl was going to be eaten alive. She heard her skirt being torn, and could only watch in horror as hundreds of alien arms reached in for her. But they didn’t kill her. As it became obvious that their prize was secure, the stars slowed. Their movements became relaxed and fluid and they moved closer until they were gathered around or on top of the girl. Confused, Sara saw the torn skirt drawn away, leaving the female naked save for her boots, which she saw were being removed even as she watched. The girl was moaning, her head shifting back and forth as she continued to pull against her restraints. Her eyes were closed, and her face looked as though she were fighting something. Confused, Sara stared in horror, trying to think of something she could do to save the poor humanoid, but opening the tent at this point was simply not an option.
There was something about the situation that she wasn’t seeing properly. Some aspect of what was happening to the girl made her incredibly nervous, and when she finally looked at the whole scene, she literally fell back away from the window in terror and disbelief.
It was the motion of the jelly-stars on the girl’s body that first caught her attention. It wasn’t aggressive. In fact, it was slow and sensual, almost like a lovers touch. The smaller organisms weren’t eating her, they were raping her! She hesitantly came closer to the window to confirm what she already knew and sure enough, she could clearly see that the girl wasn’t struggling against pain… she was fighting pleasure. The jelly-stars were caressing every inch of her body with their smooth limbs, which Sara now noticed seemed to be covered with some kind of slick lubricant. They swirled around her breasts and teased her nipples to hard dark green cones. The girl was obviously losing the battle against the sexual onslaught, and Sara gasped when she turned her gaze to the other’s lap. There, several of the stars were actually penetrating the female with their limbs, driving the slick tendrils in and out of her body in a slow but steady rhythm.
“Stop that! Let her go,” she yelled at the mass of creatures, but they seemed to ignore her completely. “Damn it, no!” In frustration, Sara slammed her fists on the floor of the tent. As she did so, she happened to be looking out the window and saw that several of the stars paused and seemed to freeze momentarily as though finally listening.
“Vibration?” She asked herself. She tested her hypothesis by pounding her closed hand on the floor of the tent once again. Sure enough, several of the jelly-stars paused once again, and one or two even seemed to move in her direction.
“Son of a bitch,” she muttered under her breath and reached for her PSU. If vibration was how they sensed prey, then perhaps she could muddy the waters a little. It took a moment to call up the remote pod controls, and from the sounds that the girl was making, Sara assumed that escape was now about the furthest thing from her mind right about then. As the scanner unit went through a pod systems check she glanced over and saw the girl’s body arch, her head tossing back as she let out a wild cry of passion. Stunned at the other’s vocalness, Sara was temporarily distracted by the sight of the girl’s obvious orgasm. The alien teen thrashed and bucked her hips to her merciless lover, unable to escape its erotic torture, unable to pull away even as she was stimulated beyond her threshold of resistance. As the girl gasped into a second moment of bliss, Sara realized that she had stopped what she was doing. Blushing, and with some difficulty, she turned her attentions back to the scanner and brought up its control systems.
Each pod had a minimal gravity field. It was nothing like the full field they had back on the mothership, but it was just enough to alleviate the worst effects of motion sickness and bone degeneration. Internally it was only about a tenth of a gravity, but externally, it was just enough to briefly lift the pod off the ground about three centimeters as it pushed back against the planet’s own gravitational field. By writing a quit routine to pulse that field, Sara could basically lift and drop the heavy ball on the ground and create a very low frequency vibration. She had used a similar technique on a larger scale in her research into planetary geology. By pulsing a really heavy object, say something the size of a small building, she could create vibrations that could be detected hundreds or even thousands of miles away. By looking at the way these vibrations changed direction or were delayed, she could get a pretty good idea of the internal structures of a geologic area in much the same way sound was used in the medical field.
The noise was deafening, somewhere between thunder and and earthquake. The jelly-stars might not be able to hear, but the effect of the strong vibration was instant. Almost at once, about half of the stars stopped what they were doing to the girl and sped off toward the pod. Then, one by one the others left the still gasping female until she was at last alone and free on the ground. Still stunned by the sexual onslaught, she just laid there panting hard while her aggressors scurried around the pod, trying desperately to gain purchase on it smooth surface to no avail.
“Go!… GO!” yelled Sara through the tent window at the alien teen. Her breathing still labored, the other finally looked up at her, and once again the look of confusion crossed her features.
“Come on, run,” entreated Sara turning her eyes to the pod and then back to the girl as if to indicate her freedom might only be temporary. The other stared at the pod in disbelief, completely unable to explain why she was suddenly unbound, but finally getting the fact that her escape might be based on a deception. With a widening of her eyes, she briefly turned her eyes back to Sara’s and bowed her head while uttering something in an unknown language. Sara nodded back, in acknowledgment, thinking that the words might be a form of thanks. For all she knew it might very well mean, “I’ll be back for you around dinner,” but the girl lifted herself and staggered away, collecting the remnants of her clothing and her staff as she left.
Once she was safely in the forest, Sara considered her options. She’d leave the field on for as long as possible without risking a full discharge of the pod’s battery systems. That way she would give the girl as much of a chance to get to safety as possible. But she worried a bit what would happen when she removed her deception. Would the jelly-stars then turn their attentions to her? She hoped not. The tent certainly wouldn’t hold them off for long. She decided that the key was holding as still as possible. The stars seemed to sense ground vibrations, so any motion on her part might give her away. When the time came, Sara positioned herself so that she wouldn’t have to move, even if she needed to remain still for quite a long time, then, with the PSU in her lap, and her finger on the button that would reactivate the vibration if things started to look grim, she hit the cancel.
The jelly-stars continued to swarm around the pod for about another ten minutes, after which they all seemed to lose interest and scattered into the forest. Sara remained completely unmoving until she watched each and every one leave the scanner’s maximum range, then with a sigh she stretched and considered how she was going to survive the next few days.
It was her food supply that finally drove her away from her base camp. The pod, she found, could condense plenty of water right out of the air, which was abundant with the stuff. But her rations were gone, and the NutriPellets were just disgusting enough to drive her to risk her life and chance the jungle for some indigenous fruits. Maybe that’s what the makers of the pellets had in mind. Either way, Sara was trudging into the misty vegetation after only a week of the things. There was still no sign of a rescue party, and she seriously doubted one for at least another few weeks.
She had seen a number of hanging orbs in one of the shorter trees near her camp, and was eager to test them for edibility. Having retrieved and checked them for toxins, Sara shrugged her shoulders and took a bite of one of the apple-like fruits. She promptly spit the bite out and flushed her mouth with water as the white meat of the thing was so bitter that it left her puckering for several minutes.
“Okay,” she said to herself. “Maybe they’re out of season…”
The only other trees bearing fruits directly around her camp were of the same variety, so after thinking about yet another dinner of the rank supplements, she sighed and moved deeper into the jungle canopy while she kept a close eye on her PSU. She doubted she could outrun the jelly-stars, but if she had enough warning, she might just make it back to her tent where she could activate her “thumper” program as she called it. She had no guarantee that the trick would work a second time, but it was her only defense against the stars advances. Just because they hadn’t reacted to her when she first met them as they had with the three-eyed girl, she wasn’t counting on their curiosity to dissuade them a second time. Certainly, where it counted, she and the alien teen were anatomically the same.
She considered that for a moment. There were other more subtle differences, but aside from the extra eye and a slightly elfin body type, the indigenous girl was very human-like in appearance, even down to short pubic hair or maybe fur. She recalled seeing a very faint light colored hair in distinct zebra like patterns over much of the female’s body as she scrambled back into the forest after being raped by the jelly-stars. That and her overtly green nipples. But there were a number of humanoid species with non-red hemoglobin.
And she certainly wasn’t a xenobiologist. There could be all sorts of symbiotic relationships going on that she knew nothing of. It could just as easily be that the jelly-stars were the male of her species and Sara had unwittingly spoiled the girl’s one chance at reproduction. There simply wasn’t any way for her to know. That was the primary reason that new worlds were so carefully quarantined and studied prior to a specially trained “first contact” team ever setting foot on the surface. One simple mistake in judgement could forever alter an alien ecosystem.
Roughly a half mile from her pod camp, Sara found a grove of somewhat taller trees which also had fruits. Like bright red bananas, they could be seen about halfway up the 30 meter tall stalks. Luckily, the trunks of the trees had evenly spaced scoops for what Sara assumed must be for collecting moisture. The scoops enabled her to easily scale the tree to retrieve the blood-colored bananas. After a toxicologic screening, she found to her delight that they tasted like a slightly starchy orange on the inside, and peeled much like their human counterparts. She gathered as many as she could carry and headed back toward her camp. She was only halfway there when then alarm went off on her PSU.
“Oh shit…” she exclaimed, dropping the banana things and scrambling for the scanner for a better look. A single blip was moving along at the edge of her detectable range, but it was headed right for her. The scan indicated a smaller creature, but Sara had seen what the smaller denizens of Torrid were capable of. As if to confirm her fears, the PSU beeped a second time as multiple targets entered the field. All of them were headed in her direction.
Not needing a second opinion, she threw off the rest of the red bananas and took off running. She hadn’t gone four or five paces before the scanner started beeping wildly and with increasing intensity. They were gaining on her. And then she had another thought. What if there were more than one group? She could be heading right into them. She had to check, so without stopping, she glanced at the scanner. Nope, they were all behind her, but gaining rapidly. Still, she might just make it to the camp if she were lucky. Once in her tent, she could activate “thumper” and go silent.
Suddenly, Sara found herself flying through the air. Her left foot had caught on a root and sent her sprawling through the air. She managed to tuck and roll, but the PSU went one way, and she the other. Dazed and disoriented, she shook her head to clear away the fuzziness and then frantically scrambled to find the missing gear. Without the PSU, her plan was useless.
“Damn it! Where the fuck are you?!!” She screamed in reference to the wayward scanner as she looked through the jungle foliage. She knew she was wasting precious time that she didn’t have, but it was all or nothing. The tent would never work as a defense, and she knew it.
And then, as if it had suddenly appeared out of nowhere was a jelly-star. It stopped about three meters from her, twitching slightly and apparently assessing her. Sara also stopped moving, thinking that if they tracked her by ground vibrations, perhaps being still would make her invisible to them. She knew it was wishful thinking, and when several others scrambled out of the jungle foliage, heading directly for her, she screamed and bolted.
She made it perhaps two steps before they tangled around her legs and tripped her up. Remembering the three-eyed girl, Sara frantically fought off the creatures as she struggled to keep them from pinning down her limbs. She knew that once that happened, she was doomed. Their skins were tougher than they looked. Smooth and slightly warm to the touch, they were none the less packed with pure muscle. Each one was like trying to beat back an orangoutang, or more aptly, a giant, three-headed snake. But she fought furiously and managed to toss two back into the forest and crash her fist down on a third stunning it before she noticed that the majority of the creatures were now gathered around her out of range. In a loose circle, she understood with frightening clarity that the attacking jelly-stars were simply there to wear her out.
And their plan was working. Already, her arms were burning with use. She wouldn’t be able to keep up her aggressions for much longer. She whacked back another star by literally punching it in its bulging middle when she felt something slither over her left ankle. At the same time, another star flung itself through the air and jumped right onto her chest, knocking her back. She managed to toss the thing over her head into the jungle, but not before she felt a strong pressure around her calf. She looked at her leg just in time to see the other star wiggling its limbs into the earth. Its body then sank down over her booted leg like a giant weight, trapping it.
“Noooo…” she wailed, knowing she was in very serious trouble. As if on cue, the dozens of waiting jelly-stars scrambled in closer around her. A second star managed to similarly entrap her right arm, and it was only a matter of seconds before the rest of her body was locked into the earth such that she was flat on her back staring up at the misty sunlight streaming down from above.
Just as with the three-eyed girl, once the stars knew they had her, they slowed, their actions no longer focused solely on binding her.
“Oh god… oh god….noooo!” Her yell was absorbed by the jungle around her in silence. The only other sounds being that of her heart pounding in her chest and the slithering of what seemed like hundreds of small alien creatures as they began to work on her clothing. She felt limbs all around her, some secreting a slippery lubricant that turned their touch frighteningly erotic. They swirled around and onto her body, reaching in under the garments wherever they could. Her loose tank-top hardly gave them pause before they were sliding into the arm holes and literally tearing it from her body. She whimpered in terror as she felt them curl around her breasts and begin a slow caressing motion that left her nipples hardening to tight peaks in moments. Part of the problem was that she knew what was coming. She understood fully that the stars didn’t want to kill her outright. Instead, they were about to begin pleasuring her, raping her just as they had the alien teen. Her mind filled with images of the young woman, head back, her pelvis thrusting against the relentless intercourse as she cried out again and again in bliss.
Her shorts gave the simple organisms a bit more trouble, but once the magnastrip down the front was pulled loose, the garment tore more easily and was pulled away in pieces. Her thin panties hardly lasted but a few seconds. Even her boots stayed on no more than a minute under the determined attack of the jelly-stars, and not more than three minutes from being first knocked down, Sara found herself completely naked. She was also quickly losing control. The stars wasted little time, but started probing and caressing her nether region as soon as it was laid bare. Spread wide as she was, they had little resistance as they pushed through her petals and were stroking her toward arousal even as the last wisps of her garments were dragged aside. More and more of the slick limbs reached over and around her until it felt as though her entire surface was being stimulated all at once, and moaning, Sara found it impossible to ignore.
She gasped sharply when the first tendril gently wriggled within her depths, and strained with all her might against the bonds holding her down to no avail. She could do nothing but watch as it pushed deep into her tunnel, twisting and pulsing as it eased itself into her. With a painful slowness, it then began to pump back and forth in a rhythm she recognized at once. “Ughnnn… no… ummmm… oh god….ughnn!!”
Forgoing foreplay, Sara knew that she was now being fucked toward her ultimate dissolution. She had no reason to believe that the creatures raping her would ever stop or let her go. Certainly they had pushed the three-eyed teen to multiple orgasms with no indication of slowing, which it seemed was about to happen to her as well. She understood that she had only a few moments more of coherent thought before the pleasure became too great and she too would start cumming. Already, her hips had started to rock against the star despite her forced violation, and her nipples were pulsing nubs of arousal. Helplessly, she felt a warmth building in her middle. She felt the warmth grow and build with each second and each thrust until she was making little cries in time with the rhythm. Heat flushed to her face as her moment started to overcome her, and in a final act of rebellion, Sara arched her back and tensed her whole body just as wave after wave of pleasure rolled over her.
“UGHNN!! AHH!! AHH!! UGHNN!!” Her cries of passion slipped into the alien jungle, unheard. Nor did they cease, for just as they had with the three-eyed girl, the jelly-stars continued to work her, even in her greatest moment of bliss so that she hardly had a chance to rest before a second orgasm was building inside her… then a third… and a fourth. On and on the pleasure held her until her thrashing body began to weaken. Still the strange creatures stimulated her, never pausing so that after fourty minutes or so she was literally dizzy with ecstasy and no longer aware of her surroundings or where or even who she was… only the pleasure, which went on and on, unceasingly.
At some point, Sara realized that she must have passed out, for she woke in near darkness, which never occurred on Torrid. It took her a moment to adjust to the dim illumination that came from the moss along the cave walls, but once she understood she was beneath the ground, she started to take in her other surroundings. She was laying on her back in a nest of sorts made of a very soft heather. Still naked, and although it was no great surprise, still tingling between her thighs, she found herself clean and freshly bathed. The slippery lubricant that the jelly-stars had used on her was gone. Sitting up, she looked around for her own possessions but could not see them. She could hardly make out anything in the lack of true light, so she concentrated instead on listening.
There was a very faint sound of running water someplace nearby, but otherwise nothing. She was about to get up and look around when her eye caught a shape at the edge of her vision that she thought she recognized. When she turned to look at the shape directly, she could see nothing. But out of the corner of her eye, she was certain that a human form knelt in one corner of the small cave, quiet and unmoving.
“Hello?” she said softly. There was a gentle scuffling, and then a figure slowly began to emerge from the dark. When she was finally able to recognize them, Sara almost fled blindly. It was the three-eyed teen.