A loud crack broke the morning quietude followed by the sound of a monstrous tree toppling and crashing through the surrounding foliage. It smashed to the earth with a resounding thud. Birds squawked in alarm and male voices could be heard shouting in triumph. Jeremy and his crew at work!
“Do you think the boats will be completed in time to sail this year?”
Geena stomped down, brushing inch long ants from her short leather leggings. “Damn it. Even the bugs around here are huge.” She glanced up, the tawny eyes flashing. “Jeremy said most of the larger ones are seaworthy and the smaller outriggers are almost finished but I don’t know any more than that.” She shrugged looking bored. “I got better things to do besides chop down trees.”
“It’s just…I just wonder how many of the Nukes will come with us.” A pang of loss wrapped her heart. The tribe had grown pretty close to the primitives and leaving them behind seemed almost like desertion. They fought side by side with the tribesmen during the numerous Cro attacks and had been instrumental in alerting the camp when strangers were in the vicinity. The Nukes and the tribe were pretty dependent on each other for survival. For herself, she’d learned quite a bit from the Nukes, mostly about living off the land and identifying edible plant life. The Nukes’d eat almost anything.
She felt rather than saw the tracker tense up. The air around them stilled. Even the birds ceased their chirping as if sensing trouble. Her stomach flipped. Hairs rose on the back of her neck. That uncomfortable feeing of being watched swept over her.
“Get down,” Geena hissed as she whipped out her throwing knives and hunkered down in a defensive stance. “Cros!”
Instinctively Rachel ducked. “Give me your bow,” she croaked out, reaching for the weapon.
Geena’s hard gaze scoped the surroundings. Without losing an ounce of focus, she eased the bow and arrows from her shoulder and handed them over.
Rachel notched an arrow and waited, heart racing and breath escaping in short pants.
“Where are they?” she whispered through quivering lips. She bit down, stilling their trembling. No time to lose control. She scanned the trees and the high brush searching for any tale-tell sign of the savages’ presence. Leaves rustled in the gentle breeze but beyond that, there was nothing. A swallow convulsed her throat. If Geena said the Cros were out there—they were out there! The tracker’s dead-on intuition was legendary amongst the tribe members.
Terror held her motionless, the bow gripped in sweat-slick fingers. Minutes crept by. Still…nothing!
A puff of air ruffled the tracker’s short blonde locks. She sniffed, nostrils expanding as she searched for scent. “They’re out there,” Geena rasped out. “I can smell ‘em.”
Rachel sniffed but only the smell of the pines and the cooking fires assailed her olfactory nerves. Whatever Geena smelled, it wasn’t catching.
“Why don’t they attack?” she whispered.