Author : Waldo van der Waal
The sound of an old-fashioned bugle in his aural signaled the start of the hunt. On cue, the chem depositors in his spine fired a burst of adrenaline. His face flushed from the drug and a mad grin spread across his features. He glanced across at the other skimmers lined up on the barren plain, then he smashed both throttle levers to the full-forward position. With the landscape blurring around his craft, he turned his attention to the sky. God, hunting Omnivians was fun!
He timed his first run perfectly. The giant avians’ massive shadows raced over the ground, and he used them to pace his charge. Then, just as it seemed as if he was racing too far ahead of the shadows, he leant back on the controls in a way that one really shouldn’t do in a craft designed to stay near the surface. The frame groaned as the skimmer bulleted into the sky, rapidly gaining altitude, shedding speed in the process. At the zenith, he let go of the controls completely, turned around smoothly and hoisted the gun to his shoulder. In that single, weightless moment, he aimed down the barrel, a mature Omnivian filling the sights. The sheer size of it stunned him for a heartbeat; but then he squeezed the trigger. Things seemed to slow down for a moment, and thinking back, he was sure he could see the projectile leaving the gun, flying true and hitting the bird in the middle of its flat forehead.
The leviathan’s scream jarred him back into action. He turned away from the mortally wounded beast and wrestled with the controls – the skimmer was in a dangerous tail-stall, and death was approaching at an alarming rate. But he might still survive. The Omnivian would never filter-feed through the skies again, nor would it give birth to live young while on the wing. Its constant migration would finally come to an end, and its shadow would no longer race over the barren plains and dunes below. Man had come to its world.
With the ground rushing in, he hauled backwards on the stick, and somehow managed to bring the skimmer under control just before impact. The other hunters had seen his shot, and made their way to the body of the beast. As his open craft settled, he stepped onto the dusty grey ground, and looked at the graceful, gentle giant he had slain.
Evolution had taken its legs, and what might’ve been a beak eons ago was now a gossamer web designed to catch insects in flight. The eyes looked forward, instead of to the sides, and the wings… The wings were truly astounding, not only for their shear size, but also for their vibrant colours. Omnivians never had anything to fear, since their natural habitat put them well out of harm’s way. That is, until the settlers arrived from the blue-and-green marble they called Earth.
He looked down at what remained of the animal. Then he glanced at the faces of the other hunters that had gathered around, and for a moment he saw in their eyes a mixture of shame and regret. No man can kill without regret. Then someone cheered, and they all raced back to their skimmers for the next run.
From far above came the cries from the rest of the flock. Their melancholy songs reverberated through the skies, but the echoes were growing dim. Soon they would become legend. Nothing more than memories. Memories in the minds of men who hunted, because it was fun.