I plan on writing a lot of stories that revolve around my universe. Some will be series, others will be singles. All will be related in some way or another and some may even have cross-overs with other stories. Here is an experiment I’m still fleshing out. A Cooperative prospector had chanced upon a gate that the Sadari had surreptitiously created in the Mori’te system, and ended up being shot down by the Sadari over Terra. This experiment picks up the story where she was gravely injured not just by the violence of the assault, but by chance here on Terra, and her rescue by a recluse with interesting abilities. Ultimately, the goal is to get home. It will, naturally, be an extremely circuitous route, with interference from the Order, from the Sadari, and from regular Terrans themselves.
The time period this story takes place would coincide with the timeline between Books 3 and 4 of the Crow series.
Bear in mind, as an experiment, this is a rough draft. Later on I may give it some editing love, but it’s still readable, so enjoy…
~ ~ ~
“Dolly, it’s getting close. Snowfall is heavier now.” Travis took in the forest around him. “You’re going to leave me and I’ll be alone for months.”
All he got was a huff.
Travis sighed as he continued his trek. A massive grizzly bear followed him, stopping periodically to paw at patches of bearberries for the last few stragglers. He knelt down at some of the patches and stuffed leaves from the ground-hugging plants into a bag he was carrying. “You say that, but I know you’re going to miss me.”
The massive bear shouldered him, sticking her face in the berry patch Travis had been working. Travis grinned and scratched her behind an ear. “I’ll miss you too.”
Dolly stopped rooting for berries in the snow and looked up. She stood up on her hind legs for a moment, towering over Travis. Travis followed her gaze. But with bears, it was more their ability to smell. He really didn’t expect to actually see anything. “What is it?”
The bear dropped on all fours and started ambling in the direction she looked in. Travis chewed his cheek, wondering if he should follow. It wasn’t likely another bear, however. Dolly was already carrying and the males had long since moved on. He tied his bag shut and hefted it as he trotted off after the bear. Maybe there was a fresh carcass. With the freezing weather, it would be preserved well enough for him to hopefully get a few strips of meat.
After about a quarter-mile, Dolly slowed and started huffing, looking left and right. Travis stopped next to her, looking straight ahead. “I see it. Looks like a puma.”
Dolly sat down while Travis cautiously approached a furry creature. He noticed a chain on a nearby tree. “Another trap.” He scowled, glancing back at Dolly. “I don’t know if I can save this one.”
As he got closer, the ball of fur uncurled, and Travis was met with a pair of large eyes. On a furry, human face. A woman. Travis gaped, standing up straight. The creature screamed and lunged away from him, then screamed again when the chain pulled tight, yanking on the steel trap around her shin.
“Whoa, whoa.” Travis held his hands up and crouched down. The woman looked back at him in wild terror. He looked down at the ground and held his hands out, trying to appear as non-threatening as possible. “I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to help,” he said softly.
He sat crouched there for several minutes then looked back up at her. She continued staring at him, less panicked. He pointed at her leg. “That needs to come off.” He made a claw shape with his hands, then opened it.
Dolly ambled past him and sat down next to the woman, placing her huge head on the woman’s chest. The woman squeaked a little, favoring an arm, but otherwise remained still.
“Good, Dolly. You just hold her there,” Travis said as he approached slowly. The bear trap was large and had cut badly into her skin. Blood was caked on her fur, though some of it was frozen. “You’ve been out here for a while.” He glanced up. Dolly’s head was in the way so he couldn’t see her expression. “This is going to hurt.”
He moved her leg slightly, gripping it when she tried to jerk away. “It’s okay. I just need to set the trap up so I can press down on the springs.” Propping her leg with his shoulder, he pushed down on both springs, gritting his teeth as he broke through a bit of bloody ice on the trap. Finally, the springs gave way and the trap opened up.
Before he could say anything, the woman squirmed out from under Dolly and tried to run away. But she stumbled after a step and fell down, crying out in pain. Travis glanced at Dolly as he unhooked the trap from the chain and threw it down a nearby ravine as hard as he could. “If I find the person setting these, we shall have an aggressive discussion.”
Dolly sniffed the woman, who lay crying, favoring her arm and her leg. She looked at Travis with wide eyes when he approached and tried to scoot away, but ended up bumping into the bear. Travis knelt down next to her. “It’s okay. I need to take you home so I can tend to your wounds. With a trap like that, your leg is probably badly broken.” She cringed when he reached for her. He glanced at Dolly, shaking his head. “You’re more afraid of me than that bear.”
The woman didn’t respond, trembling and frozen in terror.
“I’m going to pick you up, okay?” He gently put a hand under her legs, and another around her back. She squirmed, then closed her eyes tight, shaking badly and crying. “It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.” Travis carefully stood up, and almost stumbled back. “Wow. You’re lighter than I thought you’d be.” He looked at Dolly who ambled off in search of more berries. “Well, it’s just you and me then.”
The woman kept her eyes shut while he walked, but made no further attempts to escape. Travis took a moment to look at her as he walked. She was covered with fur from head to toe and had the largest eyes he had seen on a person. Even closed, he could tell. She was lithe and tall. Her clothing was scant and torn, which he found interesting given that what was left appeared to be far more robust than his own clothing. She had been in some serious trouble recently. No winter protection at all. Bare feet, even. “I don’t know how you survived the cold. You had to have been there overnight,” Travis mused. “Fur helped, I’m sure.”
He continued talking to her while he walked, noting that when he did, she relaxed a little. His voice seemed to soothe her. Smiling, he just rambled on about anything that came to mind, until he got to the topic of the trap. Scowling, he shook his head. “That trap could have taken your leg off. It’s meant for big bears. I’m surprised your leg isn’t mangled. Poachers trying to get the bears before they go to their dens.” He sniffed and realized his eyes had welled up. The cruelty of it was more than he could handle, and now he was carrying a victim of that cruelty. “I’m so sorry. I try to remove the traps when I find them. But they keep bringing more.”
He glanced at her. She was staring at him. “Sure, look at me when I’m blubbering like a child.” Travis sniffed. He approached a stony outcrop and ducked under a shelf of granite. “We’re home.”
Turning around, he backed into what looked like a stone wall, only to have it flex and move out of the way as he continued backing up. A heavy, canvas blanket gave way, to reveal a modest cave with barely enough headroom for Travis to stand. Metal tins and ammo boxes brimming with supplies lined the back wall, and in a corner was a plush blanket covering a woven mat of willow branches. On this mat, Travis gently set his guest. She flinched a little and looked around fearfully.
“Just gonna doctor you a bit. Got medic training, so you’re in good hands.” Travis rooted around for his medkit and set that next to her. He then grabbed a steel pot from a rough-hewn shelf and walked outside to scoop up some snow. Dolly was finally moseying in his direction. “Hope you’re stuffed. Got a long winter to prepare for.”
The bear huffed and bumped into him as she pushed through the blanket door. Travis followed to see the woman half crawling towards the entrance. When she saw him, she scooted back to the bed, trembling in fear.
“Honey, you have nothing to be afraid of here,” Travis said, sitting back down. He put the pot of snow on a little Sterno stove and lit the fuel. He leaned back and propped the blanket door open a little to let fresh air in. Then he reached up and pulled on a cord hanging from overhead, unblocking a natural stone chimney in the ceiling. “That Sterno stuff stinks, but it’s better than a wood fire in here.”
Rubbing his hands together, he squinted at her shin, evaluating it. “Need to wash that shin of yours. I hope you don’t have gangrene.” He reached for her leg and she jerked back, then cried out from the pain.
“See?” Travis gently but firmly grabbed her leg and placed it in his lap. “If you’d just stop being so afraid, you might hurt a lot less.”
He looked at the pot and poured some of the melting snow into a mug, shaking it gently to melt the rest of the snow. “Here. You need to hydrate.” Travis held it out to her. When she didn’t take the mug, he took a sip from it. “Just water. C’mon now. Just drink.” He held it out. She licked her parched lips as she looked at the mug, then timidly reached out with her good arm. He helped her hold it until she had a good grip, then sat back while she took a deep drink.
“I figured you were thirsty. Eating snow only gets you so far.” Travis looked down at her lower leg. “This isn’t going to be fun. I don’t have morphine.” He poked at the wound gingerly and watched her. She winced a bit but didn’t jerk away this time. Nodding, Travis dipped a sponge in the pot of water then squeezed it carefully over the injury, washing away dirt. “Looks like it bit your shin here, and got your calf a little here. Shin took the worst of it.” He dabbed at the fur and wound carefully until he had most of the blood wiped away. “I’m going to have to shave this fur before I can sew you up.” He squinted at it. “No gangrene though. Not even frostbite. I’m very happy about that.”
Her eyes widened a bit when Travis unpacked a straight razor from his medkit. He pulled up some of the fur on her leg and made a motion with the razor so she could see. “Just gonna shave some of this off, okay? I’ll be very careful.”
Travis gripped the back of her leg under her knee, then carefully went to work on her shin and calf, shaving off patches of blood-matted fur until the wound was exposed. He rinsed the injury off again with the sponge and adjusted his LED light so he could see better. “Okay, just a cut here and here. Not as bad as I thought.” He pointed. “Deep bruising here, and here. But wow. No swelling.” He squinted, looking around her leg and glancing at the other for comparison. “A little maybe. But…I expected the bone to be shattered. Those traps are brutal.” He poked gently around the bruised area. “You may have a fracture, but, if you stay off it, that should heal on its own.” He glanced up at her. “And you don’t understand me, do you?”
Still no response.
Travis grinned. “That’s okay. I talk to myself all the time.” He threaded a curved needle and put it on his lap. “This will sting a bit. I’m gonna put a cream on your wounds that should deaden it, but it still stings some.” He squeezed a tube of ointment on her wounds and gently worked it around the edges of the lacerations. Then he dabbed some antiseptic on the wounds themselves. She wiggled a bit, but he held her leg firmly until the gel soaked in. He held the needle in the Sterno flame for a moment then got to work sewing the lacerations closed. He had to use more force than expected to get the needle through her skin. “Lady, your skin is tougher than dry rawhide.” He glanced up at her as he pulled the thread through. “No broken bone, tough skin, fur… you’re not from around these parts, are you?”
“You may still have to fight some infection.” He snipped the thread and started another suture, grimacing as he pushed hard on the needle to get it through her skin. “If you’ve been out there long in that trap. Let’s just hope your body can fight that off.” He grinned at her. “You seem healthy enough.”
She just stared at him, so he continued talking. “Been out here for five years. Me and Dolly.” He cut the last suture, then dabbed the wounds with the sponge carefully to remove oozing blood. “It’s peaceful out here. No one yammering for your attention all the time. Hurry, hurry, hurry, then wait.” Travis chortled. He carefully wrapped gauze around her shin and calf, then wrapped that with a strip of cloth that he tied firmly.
He looked up at her and noticed she had dozed off. Or passed out. Carefully placing her leg on the bed, he wrapped the comforter around her and put his gear up. “Well, you just sleep while I get some grub together.” Travis looked at Dolly then took the pot back outside to empty it. He scrubbed it with a handful of snow, then refilled it, packing the snow down inside the pot until it was full to the brim.
When he turned, he saw the woman sneaking away behind him. She saw him and jumped at the closest tree. She was able to climb a little with one good arm and one good leg, but slipped and fell, landing solidly in Travis’s arms. She screamed and squirmed, falling out of his grasp and clambering away from him.
“Lady, I can feel your fear, but you’re delirious. You’re hurting yourself even more.” Travis said as he stood by the tree. He kept his distance from the woman, hoping she would calm down or more likely, tire herself out. He could sense her energy ebbing.
She shook her head and clawed at the ground, trying desperately to get away, until she finally collapsed, exhausted. Travis walked slowly and knelt beside her. She looked at him, utter sadness filling her complexion. He shook his head and sighed. “I’m not going to hurt you, little lady. I wish I could get that across to you.”
He reached his arms under her and lifted her up. She squirmed, then placed a hand on his cheek. He felt a flash of pain, then saw visions and experiences that left him momentarily dazed. Monsters, that weren’t monsters. Other strange creatures. An explosion over a planet. Falling, wrapped in some sort of foam. He blinked and looked at her. She tried to focus again, but the flash of pain was far weaker this time.
“I’m so sorry you are so afraid. But if I don’t help you, you will die. Don’t you understand that?” Travis said, shrugging off the effects of whatever she had tried to do. He carried her back into the cave and gently set her back down on the bed. After adjusting her bandage, he stood up and looked at her. “Please, just heal. Okay?” He glanced at his storage bins, then moved the Sterno stove further away from the bed and the bear. “A meal would be helpful, methinks. You can eat regular food, right?”
~ ~ ~
Travis stirred the pot and sniffed. “Almost ready.” He looked around the cave and retrieved the top of the Sterno can, placing it next to the burner. “You’ll like this.”
His guest only stared at him.
“You must be wondering what a guy like me is doing in a cave like this. With a bear.” He scratched around the ears of the grizzly then leaned back. “Dolly is my friend. I raised her from a cub.” He looked sad for a moment. “Her mamma died. A trap.” He sighed and looked at the pot of soup for a long moment. “Like the one you…” He shrugged. “But you survived. Right?”
The furry lady didn’t say anything.
“Yeah. So, I’ve seen a lot of weird stuff out there. But never a furry person. Yeah. That’s a first. And that trap would have near taken my own leg clean off. Just gave you a cut and a bruise. I wish you could speak English.” He stirred the soup again and sat back. His talking seemed to put her at ease, so he continued rambling. “They thought I was crazy. Gave me pills and everything.” He waved at a corner of the cave. Old weathered but unopened prescription bottles lay stacked on some rocks. “But don’t worry. I’m not crazy.” He chewed his cheek. “Okay, a little crazy. But I’m safe. I promise.”
“I named her Dolly after Dolly Parton. Lady has a set of pipes that’d make angels croon.” Travis grinned, closing his eyes and rocking to music only he could hear. “Besides, Wilson was already taken.” He looked at his guest sheepishly. “That was funny, by the way. A joke. Wilson was a soccer ball, I think. Volleyball? Definitely not a bear.” Travis chortled as he shook his head.
He wiped his mouth and looked at his guest. “Okay, you don’t understand a thing I’m saying. But if I don’t talk, I’ll explode. Dolly here understands me well enough.” Travis pulled out a bowl from a crude cabinet and spooned some soup into it. “Mushrooms, fish… No Dolly. Not for you.” He waggled the spoon at the bear. “Miner’s lettuce, pine needles, other stuff. Healing stuff… I think you’ll like it.”
Travis stood up and shuffled over to the woman and sat down.
Sighing, Travis held the spoon up, then took a spoonful of the soup and slurped it. “See? Just food. Yummy. Dolly, I’m going to slap the fur off ya if you knock that over.” Travis shook his head. “She really is a sweetheart. Curious to a fault. Here. Your arm is broken so I’ll hold the bowl.” He held the spoon out to his guest.
She looked at the spoon, then back at him, her already large eyes wide. He waggled the spoon, then lay it on her lap.
“You need to eat.” He held the bowl closer to her and nodded encouragingly.
The woman tentatively picked up the spoon and dipped it in the bowl. She lifted it over the bowl and squinted at it as she spilled the contents of the spoon. Eyeing him warily, she dipped the spoon in again and brought it to her nose, and sniffed.
“Yeah. That’s right. It smells good,” Travis said, nodding.
She sipped a little from the spoon, raising her brows, then slurped up the rest. Travis grinned while she dipped the spoon repeatedly until she was finally scraping the bowl, looking for more.
“Told ya it was good.” Travis held a hand up. “I’ll refill. You look like you haven’t eaten in days. Feel like it.” He went back to the pot and filled the bowl up then stopped. “Yeah. That’s one of my weirdnesses. I feel other creatures. When they hurt. Or are happy.” He glanced furtively at his guest. “But I don’t… I’m not crazy. Really. People, they’re too much for me. But animals are just right. And you.” He looked at her curiously. “You hurt. Your arm and leg. Hungry too. Are scared. But, you’re not like, a total mess. Like people are. It’s actually kinda refreshing.”
He sat back down and held the bowl out again while his guest promptly emptied it. He smiled, nodding. “And now that feels good. You were making me hungry for a bit.”
The woman put the spoon back in the bowl and winced as she adjusted her arm.
“I’m going to have to make a sling for that,” Travis said, nodding as he rubbed his own arm. He glanced at her ankle. “Those bandages need changing too. I can feel a fever coming on.”
The woman wiped her brow as she followed Travis with her eyes. He pulled out an old shirt from a plastic tub and held it up, eyeing it then her. “This should do.”
He sat back down next to her and gingerly fitted the shirt under her arm. Lifting the sleeves he reached for her neck, stopping only when she cringed. He waited a moment until she relaxed, and tied the sleeves behind her neck. “This’ll support your arm so you’re not having to baby it so much. Just be happy it’s not a compound fracture or we’d be in a world of hurt.”
She closed her eyes and shivered.
“Stress, injuries, hunger, dehydration, and lack of sleep. You’re running a fever little lady. Trying to run away didn’t help any either,” Travis said softly, helping lay her down on his large sleeping blanket. He pulled part of the comforter over her. “You just relax and heal.”
She blinked and looked at him when Travis opened a wrapper and started munching on some dried fish. He glanced at her and smiled, then put the cap on the Sterno can, extinguishing the flame. He reached up and pulled another cord, blocking the chimney.
Darkness came quickly that time of the year. With a quick peek outside, he pulled the heavy tarp over the entrance of the cave. The small LED light provided amazingly sufficient illumination. He sat back down near the crude bed and pulled out a book. He thumbed a few pages and started reading when he noticed his guest staring at him. “It’s okay. I’ll keep watch. You sleep.”
~ ~ ~
The woman woke with a start and pulled the blanket tighter around herself, shivering uncontrollably. Travis was inspecting her leg wound, shaking his head. He noticed she had woken up. “You must have been in that trap for a while. Worked some nasties deep into your injuries.”
She flinched as he tenderly touched the skin around her wounds.
“Okay, I’m going to have to clean this out better. But it’s going to hurt like mad.” He glanced at her as he removed the lid to a bottle of rubbing alcohol. “This will help, but sting. I really wish you understood me.”
He dabbed a piece of cloth with the alcohol and let her smell it. She grimaced and stared at him. He pointed to her shin, then to the bottle. “I need to rinse the wound out or you’re going to get a blood infection. I had hoped the antiseptic would be enough. This stuff really hurts.”
She sat up on her elbows as Travis braced her leg with both of his. He held the bottle up then counted down from three with his fingers so she could see, then dribbled alcohol on the wounds.
The pain hit instantly, and she stiffened and grit her teeth. He started slapping her other thigh while holding tight to the injured leg. After a moment, she took in a breath and stared at him, her eyes wide.
“A little trick I learned.” Travis gave the thigh one last slap then returned his attention to the wound. “It distracts you and helps you bear the pain better.” He grinned. “With children, I’d pinch and shake their chubby little legs while giving them shots. Worked every time.”
He examined the wounds closely. “The stitches are holding well. You’re lucky your skin is so tough.” He dabbed them with a cloth he had soaked in alcohol, removing any clinging puss. She gasped but didn’t flinch this time. “Just need to make sure it’s clean.” He looked around and grabbed a large jar. “Time for the sweet stuff. I hoped I wouldn’t have to use this. It’s the last of my stash. But, you’re worth it.”
He gently slathered honey on the wounds and sutures until the wounds were saturated. “Natural hydrogen peroxide, and bacterial dehydration, plus other antimicrobial goodies. Raw honey is nearly miraculous.” Travis glanced at his guest. She was staring at him. “Yeah, you don’t understand a word I’m saying. But…” Travis shrugged. “Fresh gauze.” He wrapped clean bandages around her shin and tied the cloth strip over that, using part of it to wipe a stray dribble of honey from her calf. “That’s all I can do. I don’t know what antibiotics you can tolerate, so we’ll just have to weather the storm.”
He carefully extracted himself from her leg and pulled the blanket over her. She continued to shiver as she tried to keep her eyes open. Travis looked at her critically, putting his hand on her face. “Now you’re freezing cold.” He looked at Dolly who was curled up in a corner of the cave. “Normally she keeps me warm since I don’t have a heater.”
Sighing, he shook his head. “Don’t take this the wrong way, okay?” He pulled off his shirt and folded it neatly on a rock. “I’ve been told I’m like a personal radiator.” He crawled under the blanket with her. She tried to scoot away, but Travis gently grabbed her shoulder. “You need warmth or you’re going to get seriously ill.” He pulled her closer to him and tucked the blanket around them better. “Just give it a moment and you’ll see.”
She stared at him, inches from his face.
“I know. Awkward. I don’t exactly have a heating blanket, however.” Travis grinned sadly. “Dolly usually keeps me warm when it gets really cold. At least until she leaves for the winter. Then I just pile up snow around the entrance and burn a few of my Sternos. At least until the fumes get to me.” He caressed her arm as she shivered until she finally fell into a fitful slumber.
Several times she shivered herself half-awake, and Travis wrapped his arms around her tighter until the shivering abated. He caressed her hair until she’d drift off again. She snuggled up close as she slept, and Travis couldn’t help but grin. When he felt her fever breaking, he finally relaxed and fell asleep himself.
~ ~ ~
He woke up and blinked. Dolly had left the cave and the heavy entrance blanket was partially open, letting in the morning sunlight. He looked down at his guest. She had ended up nearly laying on top of him, curled up and snoring softly. He closed his eyes, feeling her body heat. The fever appeared to have broke already. He smiled and dozed off. Finally a good sign.
She shifted a little, bringing Travis out of his doze. He blinked and looked at her. He was met with her large eyes staring back at him.
“How did I get here?”
Travis blinked again, suddenly much more awake. “You can… but you didn’t say anything.”
“You tended my injuries.”
What she said was more an understanding of intent than actual words. And in his head. Her lips did not move. “Yeah. You were pretty bad there for a bit.”
“I don’t remember it.”
“Then, how did…”
“You remember it.”
“Oh.” Travis pursed his lips as he looked at her. “You’re thinking to me?”
She just stared at him.
“How long were you in the trap?”
“Three days. I think.” She sighed and relaxed a little. “My arm was injured. I was hurt. Too weak to spring the trap.” She wiped her brows. “Where am I?”
“What planet… “ She looked at him, oddly. “Earth?”
“Well, yeah.” Travis raised a brow.
His guest looked to the side, then her eyes went wide. “Terra! I’m on the Forbidden Planet!”
“Uh…” Travis tried to formulate a response. “Just where are you from?”
“Syagria.” She sat up a little, then slumped back down onto his chest.
“You’re weak. Just rest,” Travis said.
“You saved me.”
He shrugged. “You needed saving. What do I call you?”
“Li’Loa Trip Astritel Mos Salara Syagria”
Travis grinned. “I’d call you Leeloo, but that’s taken already.” He giggled then sobered at her blank stare. “Movie. Bruce Willis. Multipass.”
“I see the reference, but don’t understand it.”
“Entertainment. Nowadays I just read.”
She pursed her lips for an uncomfortable moment, then relaxed a little. “My family calls me Li’loa.”
“Okay,” Travis said, subdued. “Are you really thinking to me?”
“I do not know your language, nor you mine,” Li’loa thought to him. She looked to the side. “Do you know where…” she shook her head, “Seattle?”
“Almost due south,” Travis said, waving.
“I need to go in that direction. So I can get home.”
“You live in Seattle?” Travis cocked his head.
Li’loa squinted at him. “There is a gate South of Seattle.”
Travis got the impression of a portal of some type. “You’re not from Earth, are you?”
“No,” Li’loa said simply. “I’m an Elf. And…” she stopped and looked towards the entrance. “Hold very still.”
Travis looked over his shoulder. “Why?”
“There is a large creature coming this way.”
He gave her a curious look. “How do you…?” The cave got a little darker as something cast a shadow on the entrance. He glanced over his shoulder and grinned. Dolly had returned.
“Just hold still and she won’t hurt you,” Li’loa said.
“Dolly?” The Elf cocked her head. “You know this creature?”
“Of course. Raised her from a cub.” Travis squirmed when Dolly licked his ear. He reached up and scratched her snout. “She’s been my friend ever since.”
You are very peculiar, Terran.”
“My name is Travis.”
“So it is.” Li’loa smiled, appraising him curiously. She took in a breath and closed her eyes. “I am not well to travel. But I need to leave soon.”
“Then I shall take you,” Travis said resolutely.
Travis looked at her, at a loss for words. He coughed and fidgeted. “It feels like I’m supposed to.”
“You are not required.”
He frowned and looked away. “Still feels like I am supposed to. Like I need to help you.”
Li’loa cuddled a little as she dozed. “Whoever shot me down might be looking for me. You may regret your decision.”
Travis didn’t respond as he watched her fall asleep. Shot her down from where?