Marauder ramses, p.7

Marauder Ramses, page 7

 part  #4 of  Mating Wars Series


Marauder Ramses

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  “I want to save it,” he says. “We should use it only as a last resort. By the way, what is a penguin?”

  “What?” I ask.

  “You told me to run like a penguin. I don’t know what that means.”

  “A’s an animal. A bird. Well, it was an animal. It went extinct...but they waddled around on Antarctica.”

  “Why would it waddle if it could just fly?” he says, his ears pulling back in confusion.

  “They were flightless birds,” I say. “Good swimmers, though.”

  “Weird,” he says. “But it’s no surprise to me that a bird that couldn’t even fly went extinct.”

  We walk together to the shrub, and Ramses starts to tear off branch after branch.

  “These are too weak to be used as weapons,” he says. “We’ll have to settle for rocks. Come on.”

  He grabs my hand, and even through my thick glove I can feel his warmth…or maybe I’m just imagining it.

  We trudge through the snow, which goes up to Ramses’s knees and as far as my waist. Ramses starts to walk in front of me, cutting a path through the snow.

  “Are you seriously not cold?” I ask.

  “Cold as hell,” he says. “But I’ll survive.”

  I’ve strapped his soaked clothes onto the back of my pack, hooking them on the outside so they won’t get all of the other supplies wet. We still have more thermal blankets, some pots and pans, and some matches. I’d trade everything but the blankets for the food that Ramses lost. Though I can’t exactly blame him for losing the food. We had mere moments to escape the ship before it sank, and he prioritized our immediate safety over grabbing the rations.

  As we begin to walk uphill, my legs start to feel numb. I don’t know if it’s exhaustion or the cold – or a combination of both. There’s a ridgeline in front of us, and it goes about ten meters straight up. The face of the ridge is exposed rock, and there are small boulders circling all around the bottom, only partially covered in snow.

  When we make it out of the snow, I’m tempted to just fall to the ground, lay on my back, and go to sleep. I’m praying that we’ll choose this spot to take shelter, and that we won’t have to continue trudging any farther through the snow.

  Ramses starts to sift through the boulders, and he finds a few that fit in the palm of his hand. He hefts them up and down, then throws one at the rocky face of the ridge. It hits it hard, and the sound echoes across the rock.

  “Nice,” he says. “Here, put these in your pack.”

  He hands one to me, and it’s so heavy that I nearly drop it. He catches it as it falls out of my hand, and then he says, “Hmmm, I guess I’ll carry the pack.”

  He takes the pack from me, throws his blanket off and exposes his full nakedness once again. His dick isn’t rock-hard anymore, but there’s definitely still a lot of blood pumping through it.

  Over Ramses’s shoulder, I see something move suddenly.

  I tear my eyes away from Ramses and stare back at the pile of rocks.

  “What is it?” he asks, whirling around.

  “Maybe the rocks were just shifting,” I say. “Something moved.”

  Ramses opens up the bag and pulls out the stun rod.

  “Isn’t that to be used as a last resort?” I ask.

  Ramses doesn’t respond. Instead, he just holds the stun rod up.

  Then the rock shifts again, but I see – to my horror – that it’s not a rock at all.

  “Stay behind me!” Ramses shouts, throwing one of the boulders at the source of the movement.

  The thing moves toward us, scurrying across the rocks on eight legs. It looks like a giant spider. It’s grey like the rocks, and it has dozens of eyes all over its face.

  He picks up another rock, this one slightly larger than the last, and points the stun rod toward the spider.

  I back up a good five paces, as I’m completely unarmed. “We should just run –”

  “Keep backing up,” Ramses says, also taking steps backward.

  The spider takes tentative steps toward us. Its body is slightly larger than Ramses, and its big legs jut up to twice his height before bending at the joint and going back down. As it steps into the thick snow, I see that it has evolved to this height to keep it well above the snow.

  We continue stepping backward along the path that Ramses created, which leads straight back to the ice-cold water. We can back up, but not for long, and if we try to run sideways, the deep snow will slow us down while the spider moves effortlessly and catches us.

  For each step back we take, the spider takes two – or sixteen – steps forward, if you count each movement of each leg as one step. Its fangs start to move back and forth – as if it’s ready to eat – as it draws closer and closer to Ramses.

  “All right,” Ramses says, “I’m going to go in on it; you hold this.”

  He tosses the stun rod back to me, and I catch it in both hands.

  Go in? With what? A big rock? Why the hell did he throw our best weapons back to me?

  “Do you want me to zap it?” I ask.

  “No!” he shouts. “We need to save that rod for Grius. Back up to the sea! Don’t get near this thing!”

  And then he rushes forward, charging toward the spider, his big boulder held high above his head.

  Ramses roars out some kind of battle cry, and the spider takes a few steps backward. It’s probably never encountered any animal dumb enough to rush straight toward it before, and it doesn’t know how to react.

  Two of the spider’s legs lift up and slam down. Ramses dodges both of them, then he slams the boulder into one of the spider’s eyes. It squeals and tries to scurry back, but Ramses leaps.

  He jumps right over its fangs, grabs hold of the hairs on its body, and climbs up on top of the spider.

  “You fucking idiot…,” I murmur to myself, still clutching the stun rod. Ramses told me to run back to the sea, but I stay as close as I dare, holding the rod ready. At the first sign of something going wrong – as if Ramses riding a giant spider isn’t already wrong – I will turn the rod on and jam it right into the big gross spider’s face. Grius be damned – I’d rather die to a Darkstar Marauder than to a disgusting-looking fucking spider.

  Ramses clings to the spider’s back, and it starts to spin around wildly, jumping and bouncing around. It wants to fling Ramses off, and if it does, I will jam it with the rod before it can get on top of him.

  “Get back, Elise!” Ramses shouts. He gets himself turned around so that he’s laying totally flat on its back, maximizing the surface area that he’s touching and making it as difficult as possible for the spider to throw him off.

  The spider stops spinning after a few moments, and then it locks its dozens of eyes on me, stares and flexes its fangs, and starts moving right toward me.

  Ramses yells again, raises his rock, and slams it into the spider’s head. He raises the boulder and slams again, and again, and again.

  With each hit, the spider begins to veer dizzily off the path through the snow, stepping through the deep snow and going further away from me.

  I start to trudge through the waist-deep snow after Ramses and the beast, still ready with the stun rod.

  But Ramses slams the boulder down, and I see a disgusting green ichor blast out of the spider’s head, and the green goop oozes out of the shattered hole and stains the snow green. The spider’s legs go limp, and it falls down onto the snow, with Ramses still on top.

  “Damn it, Elise!” he shouts, rolling off the spider’s back and falling into the snow. He stands back up, throws his arms up, and pushes back through the snow toward me. “I told you to get to safety! What were you --?”

  “What was I doing?” I shout at him over a howling gust of wind. “One hit from this rod and we could have safely downed the spider, but instead you have to fucking show off and ride it around, slamming it with a big dumb rock? You have to be kidding me.”

  “Conservation of limited resources,” Ramses says. “That
s what survival is about. If we use up all of our tools on the first day, we’ll have nothing left when we really need it. Do you think I can defeat Grius with just a rock? Not a chance. But a big dumb spider, that’s easy.”

  “It didn’t look easy,” I say.

  Ramses laughs. “Okay, it wasn’t actually very easy, but you have to admit it was pretty badass. I didn’t know if the rock would do the job or not. I was going to start jamming its eyes out if I couldn’t slam through its carapace.”

  “There’s a sentence I never wanted to hear.”

  “Speaking of something you probably never wanted,” he says, “at least now we have some spider meat to eat.”

  I nearly retch just thinking about it.

  “Don’t worry,” he says. “Hunger is the best spice.”

  7 Ramses

  The sun is low in the sky, and my dick gets rock-hard even with the blanket wrapped all the way around me. The extra blood flow is keeping me protected, but hunger is gnawing away at me. I cut off three of the spider’s legs and bundled them together with the soft branches, and now I’m carrying them over my shoulder. I need to get a fire started to cook them. It’s possible they are safe to eat raw...but I don’t want to risk it. And getting Elise to eat them after a nice cooking will be difficult enough. She’d probably have to be on the verge of total starvation to consider eating them raw.

  We’re walking along the rocky ridgeline to avoid the worst of the wind and the deep snow.

  “I need to take a rest,” Elise says.

  She’s said this every ten minutes or so, and then every five. And now even more often.

  “Can you walk?” I ask.

  “Ramses, I can barely even feel my feet.”

  Frostbite. The extra blood flow protects me from it, but Elise is susceptible. It’s getting too cold. We need shelter, and now.

  I take the blanket and wrap it around her body.

  “Okay,” I say. “Here’s what you do. Take your boots and gloves off, then wrap your arms around my shoulder and your legs around my waist. Keep your hands and feet against my body, and hold the blanket clasped tightly around us to trap the heat in.”

  “You’d like that...huh?” she says. Her voice sounds tired and fading, as if she’s about to fall asleep from exhaustion. I can’t risk her falling asleep, though, or she may succumb to hyperthermia.

  I get her shoes and gloves off, and I see her hands and feet are already suffering from frost nip. I quickly get her onto my back, and she closes the blanket tightly around us.

  “Wow, Ramses,” she says. “You’re so a nice warm oven.”

  “Don’t let go,” I say, walking forward. She’s not that heavy, and it’s trivial for me to lift her, but I need to find shelter before it gets even colder. My body can only produce extra heat for both of us for so long.

  We keep walking forward in that stance, and the feeling of Elise’s body pressed up against me keeps me going as the sun sets.

  The moment the sun falls below the horizon, it feels as if the wind starts to blow twice as hard and it’s twice as cold. The thermal blanket keeps out most of it, but when even a sliver of wind seeps through, it feels like falling into that icy water all over again. Thankfully my body has dried out at least, though my clothes won’t be dry again until we get a fire going.

  To get Elise onto my back, I’ve had to slide the pack around to the front, and I’m holding the spider legs in my arms now. I feel more like a pack mule than a Seraph. I crammed spider pieces into the bag as well, throwing out some of the pots and pans to make space. Elise objected to this, but we really only need one pot.

  After what feels like an eternity, I spot a small hole in the ridge. It’s a little taller than me, and it goes about three meters deep into the rock.

  I sigh in relief and I walk us into the opening. As soon as we are inside, the wind stops barraging me, and I feel warmer straight away.

  “Are we home yet?” Elise asks.

  She’s barely awake at this point. I need to get her warm before she falls asleep in this cold.

  “I don’t think you want to call this home,” I say. “But yes, tell me something about Earth. You can’t sleep until you finish telling me a story.”

  I need her to stay awake while I build the fire and set up our shelter, but I can’t keep checking in on her while I do it. As long as she’s talking, I know she’s awake.

  I wrap the blanket tightly around her, and place her sitting up against the deepest wall of the mini-cave.

  “How are your hands and feet?” I ask.

  “They hurt,” she says.

  Good. At least she can feel them.

  I throw the pack down onto the ground. “Tell me a story about when you were younger.”

  “I wanted to be a doctor,” Elise says. “Ever since I was little….”

  I haven’t forgotten about the infection. The danger of the cold is more pressing, and since Elise hasn’t seemed to show any symptoms, I’ve let it fall to the wayside, but I worry that any extreme cold could weaken her immune system. There’s still a chance that she’s not really infected, but I don’t want to bet on it.

  One reason I’m so determined to keep the stun rod for Grius is so that I can capture him alive. Elise’s only hope may be if I can get Grius to tell me what the infection really is.

  I open up the pack and pull out the spider guts. There’s several organs which are full of the gooey ichor. I have a gut feeling about the ichor, but I also want to see which of the spider pieces is most palatable when cooked.

  “So when I was sixteen,” Elise says, “after I passed the initial tests and interviews, they let me start interning at the hospital. I was working under this really great doctor, Dr. Leedy, and she was everything I wanted to be. She was patient, caring, and incredibly knowledgeable. I still had regular school for half the day, but Harmony puts us on career paths early on, since she could evaluate what career we are most suited for. Every day at school, I was counting down the hours until I could go to Dr. Leedy’s office and do what I really wanted to do….”

  Below the spider pieces is the one pot I saved. I set it to the side and dig through until I come to the extra blankets. I’ve stacked my soaked clothes, which are frozen stiff, in a bundle against the wall.

  The blankets have a small pouch filled with tools such as rings, hooks, and stakes. I use one of the boulders to ram the stakes into the rock just above the opening, and I hang the blanket down so it covers the opening of the cave – mostly. There are some gaps, but it should trap in a good deal of heat and keep out the worst of the cold.

  I go back inside and throw the bundles of sticks down into the center of the cave. I grab the matches from the bag, and echo a huge sigh of relief that Elise managed to save them. I’m used to starting fires with flint stones, but there’s no guarantee I could have found the right kind of stone here on Atlantis.

  “One day,” Elise continues, “when I came into the office, there was an addict that Dr. Leedy was treating in the waiting room when I walked in. He was going through withdrawal, and I could see him shaking and getting nervous. He kept asking the receptionist when he could go in and get his meds. He was on one of those programs where he had to go in every day to get medication and addiction treatment – to keep him on the wagon – but I guess he’d missed his scheduled time, so he had to wait an extra-long time, and was losing it. He started shouting at the receptionist, pacing the room, that kind of thing. Normally I’d just walk right through and go help Dr. Leedy, but the receptionist seemed in over her head, and I wanted to help….”

  I set smaller stones from outside around to form a small barrier for the fire, and then I take the kindling and smallest branches and place them in the center. I light the small branches, and once they are burning, I slowly stack larger branches on top. There are a few more shrubs outside, and to keep the fire going at this rate, I’d need to make constant trips all night long to throw more and more weak, tiny branches onto the flames.
  Once all of the branches I’ve gathered are on the fire, the heat starts to wash across me, but just as soon as I feel the glorious relief of that warmth, the branches are already burning out.

  “I’d had self-defense training since I was little,” Elise says. “My mom was mugged back in the last days of the Empire, and she wanted me to be able to protect myself. So I see this addict grab the receptionist by the arm, and she looks at me with these terrified eyes. The guy pulls her arm through the booth, and the chair falls out from under her, but the guy is still tearing at her arm.

  “He was bigger than me, but he was also wasting away from the addict lifestyle, and he had no real muscle mass or anything. I grabbed him from behind, shoved him against the counter with my forearm, and then jammed my other elbow into the pressure point on the back of his arm. He screamed and let go of the receptionist, and I held him there like that until Harmony sent a drone in to fully restrain him.”

  Now it’s time to test the ichor.

  I take one of the spider guts, tear it open a bit, and drip some ichor onto the flames. As soon as the green fluid hits the fire – even just a few drops – the fire flares up, and heat surges out.

  Excellent. I have enough ichor in all these guts that I can slowly feed the flames without having to gather more branches and twigs.

  I hold my hands over the fire and nod to Elise. “And so Harmony decided you shouldn’t be a doctor after all?” I ask.

  “Yeah,” she says. “I always wonder what would have happened if I just hadn’t done that. If I had just ignored it and walked by.”

  “Well,” I say. “That’s not who you are. You saw someone who needed help, and you helped them.”

  “But maybe I’d have done more good as a doctor,” she says.

  “If you had been a doctor,” I say, “I’d never have met you.”

  “And you wouldn’t have been on this horrible planet right now,” she says. “You’d be on Earth still probably...doing real good, instead of wasting your time babysitting me.”

  I move to her side and pull her body close up against mine. “I chose to do this. I wanted this.”

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