Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
A savage chorus rises about us and I start running, dragging Mitchell with me.
“What? Why are we running? I didn’t see anything.”
I say nothing and try to hit my sprinting speed with a hundred-kilo doughball in tow.
“Slow down! They’re not chasing us.”
Again, I don’t have the breath to reply. Ahead of us, I see an angular shape amidst the foliage. That’ll do! Slamming into the side of an old storage pod, I roll to one side so Mitchell doesn’t slam into me.
“Some warning would have been nice.”
He squeaks when he sees my expression, then wails as I yank him toward the wide end of the pod. He’s still making unhappy noises when I whip him round the corner and stuff him through the door. His whining peaks as I kick him in the bum to get him inside so I can shut the door behind me.
“Now we’re trapped. We should have stayed in the open.”
I look about. It’s an old military model. Solid walls, lever-action rear door, small skylight above, which is covered in green stains and blown leaves.
“Are you even listening to me?”
Scrabbling through the junk and plant life on the floor, I don’t bother to reply. Of all the men to be caught outside with. I’d been dumped on patrol with Mitchell Liverston so he could meet his quota of ‘menial duties’ – a requirement all scientific personnel on this trip have to fulfil.
Not sure what happened, but whatever it was, it happened fast. I’ve never been on a planet like this: everything regards humans as prey. There’s nothing we’ve found that doesn’t want to feed on us in some way. Our base is an artificial hill that towers high above the forest canopy: I kept having dreams about the gigantic alien anteater that would end us all. Sadly, this disaster isn’t that epic.
“Did you bring anything to drink?”
I rock back into a crouch and glare at him.
“Yes. I have the same trail gear as you.”
He blushes. Where’s his harness?
“It was chafing. I took it off when we rested.”
Fantastic. Two people with only an afternoon’s trekking rations for one.
I shake my head.
“No idea. Comms said something about gorillapards rampaging about inside. Then a killgator escaped from the pool room. The last I heard was Professor Nipde yelling about some ‘lull’ not working. I think that’s what he said. Difficult to make out because of the screaming.”
Mitchell’s gone white.
“What did I say to make you wet yourself?”
I resist the urge to add the words ‘even more’.
“I didn’t- Err, no- You see…”
For pity’s sake.
“It’s a figure of speech. Now, why are you white and shaking? Something about ‘lull’?”
He looks like my kid brother did after mum caught him masturbating in her wardrobe: guilty, embarrassed, and little bit excited.
“‘Lull’ is the name I gave my aggression suppression gas. Designed to make the animals here less hostile toward humans.”
“You got that wrong.”
“Absolutely not. It’s perfectly designed for their biology. I really don’t understand why it failed to work.”
“No, I mean there’s a fundamental error in your analysis.”
That got his attention.
“How dare y-”
“Shut up! You’re suppressing their aggression, but the problem is they’re not angry, they’re hungry. You gave them a chilled-out feeding frenzy. Pray the orbital station sends something to rescue us before the locals calmly work out how to crack open this pod.”
He starts crying.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.