Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

Trees lay flat behind the ship where it had crashed to the ground in the forest. Its silver shell winked in the sunlight, shuddering occasionally as whatever machinery inside of it quaked to a wounded stop. The hunter had seen nothing like it, not even on the newsfeeds. Maybe a new kind of experimental ship that had crash landed.

Setting his jaw firmly and readjusting the grip on his gun, he stepped forward towards the silent craft. The violence of the craft’s crash landing had ended. Squirrels resumed foraging, deer resumed grazing, and birds began their songs anew. The ship’s hull ticked as it cooled. The film of frost that had formed on it started to melt in the sun.

Through the largest crack in the dripping hull, the hunter could hear movement. A whispering shuffle that ended with a clank. The hunter knew the sound of a wounded animal when he heard it. He advanced to the crack with his gun ready. The alien inside the craft was probably close to death or stunned. The hunter walked slowly and softly towards the crack and peered into the gloom.

A silver whip of corded metal shot out from the crack and skated across the hunter’s cheek, laying it open. The hunter’s hands tensed in surprise and he emptied both barrels of the shotgun. A shower of sparks from buckshot ricochets lit up the interior for a second and the hunter clearly saw the alien life form.

It was like a metal octopus with many more tentacles. The tip of each tentacle ended in a specialized tip. The hunter had shot directly into its center of mass. The creature thrashed and lay still. It was a lucky shot. If the creature had integral organs there, it was almost certainly dead.

The hunter’s cheek buzzed. His right eye closed. He dropped his weapon. There was something in the cut on his face. He felt his heart race and a fever take over his body. He fell to his knees and the sun seemed to get brighter. His breathing came hot and fast. He passed out.

When he awoke, he felt refreshed. He brought his hand up to his cheek to find it healed. He felt the ridge of a scar. Judging by the position of the sun, it looked like about an hour had passed. He stood up, picked up his gun and went back to his cabin. In the morning, he’d go into town and report what he had found. Right now, though, he was exhausted and thirsty.

It didn’t occur to him until he got back to his cabin that he knew exactly how to build a metal octopus and spaceship. Chemistry beyond his education unspooled in his mind. Mechanical processes popped through his mind. He’d need to invent the tools needed to create the compounds necessary to make the chemical chain reactions that would result in the hardest bonds in the new metal. There were no names for what he was thinking about, just clarity and pictures. The memories of the alien life form were there as well. He couldn’t access them but he knew they were there in a corner of his mind, waiting for download into the shell he now had the ability to create.

It would take six years and it would make him rich if he kept the goal of his projects secret. The patents would change the history of Earth.

The hunter looked at the mirror in the cabin’s bathroom as he prepared for bed. The scar on his cheek was silver.

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