New story: The Flavors of Sunlight
New story, The Flavors of Sunlight, published in The Reclamation Project, year one.
Angle was the only one still above deck when the sky darkened again: there was a ship hovering silently a few hundred meters overhead.
“Soldiers!” Angle shouted. “Soldiers! Soldiers!”
Claws clicked over the four decks. People were sealing the science labs on each yacht and opening the defense stores. The Islanders kept no offensive weapons on the ships, as they could easily be used against them and required too many outside materials to manufacture. All they had were flash and smoke bombs.
Angle crossed the rope bridge as fast as she could, and she was nearly across when someone dropped to the deck in front of her, landing hard. The implants in the attacking lizard’s legs compensated for the fall, and she then rose to full height, spreading her hands and showing her claws. The lizard wore the blue clothing of a Parassi enforcer, one of the ‘Claimer cities still afloat above the clouds. Only the soldier’s head and muzzle were uncovered, showing red and green scales. She had puffy jowls, and she flicked her forked tongue at Angle. A tegu.
Angle held on to the bridge and met the soldier’s eyes. Smoke bombs detonated on the ships around her, and the yachts became covered in clouds. The lizard reached down and slashed at the ropes with her claws. Angle stood on one rope and coiled her legs. Just as it began to fall away, she leaped long, sailing straight into the lizard. The soldier held her claws ready just as Angle slammed into her chest and they tumbled into the cloud.
No vision here in the white smoke. Only scent and touch would help her. Angle did not give this soldier a chance— she clamped her mouth on whatever scales she could find. Angle felt claws raking her back and face. She heard feet stomping all around her as she wrestled with this lizard.
Angle bit. She kicked. She bit again and again.
Claws dug through her fur and pierced her leg.
Angle bit again.
The lizard choked and fell limp.
Angle untangled herself and scooted away, feeling through the smoke, gasping. She heard screaming and thumping from the other yachts. Moments later, the sounds of footsteps ceased, and the clouds began to dissipate in the wind. Angle smelled blood, and she saw eight other lizards and four ‘Claimers sending streamers into the air. In a moment, the magnets on the end entered the magnetic field of the ship overhead, and the soldiers shot upward and out of reach.
Angle turned around. The scaled soldier lay on the ground, bleeding from a wound on the side of her neck. She was holding it with one hand, trying to stop the blood.
“One survivor,” Angle called.
The second rope bridge had not been cut, and people began to migrate from the yachts. Some of the Islanders began to detach them and prepare the ships to relocate. The Parassi ship was already gone, leaving them alone under an overcast sky. Angle yearned to taste sunshine again.
Two of the scientists stood over the fallen lizard now. The ‘Claimer and the avian nodded, and then lifted her. Angle ran ahead of them and opened the doors below deck to the lab.
Each vessel had an identical lab, where the kitchens used to be, allowing the team of scientists to continue their work no matter which one they were on. Faster than Angle could comprehend, the scientists had the lizard strapped to an exam bed and were already working on disinfecting the wound.
The lizard lay snout up, staring at the ceiling, black eyes wide in pain. Angle leaned inside the door frame, watching the scientists work. It was some time later when the bleeding stopped, and the two scientists stepped back and gave the tegu room to breathe. When she realized she was not about to die after all, she raised her head.
“Are you coherent?” Sokin asked.
The lizard closed her mouth. She gasped, testing her voice, and then she spoke. “I am.”
“Who sent you?”
She tested her breathing, taking deeper and deeper breaths. She flicked her tongue once at the avian scientist, and then again in the direction of the ‘Claimer. “Does it matter? Everyone has a price on your heads.”
“How did you find us?”
“We have our ways.”
“They left awful quickly. Why?”
This question seemed to amuse the lizard. She huffed through her nose in laughter. “We did what we came here to do.”
“I’ve said enough. Do with me what you will.”
“Your uniform is Parassi. Do you work for them, or is this a false flag?”
“I serve the city of Parassi. As far as my commanders are concerned, I am dead, so what happens to me now doesn’t matter.”
Sokin turned to Enti. The ‘Claimer nodded, and then the avian turned back to the tegu strapped to the table.
“You have two options. We can send you adrift, or you can join us.”
Read The Flavors of Sunlight in The Reclamation Project, year one.