This chapter introduces us to Roy Masters, a teenager growing up on the most dangerous planet in the known Universe, known as Green Hell.
"I think it was a very good party!" said Charles the Robot, dumping plates and cake leftovers in the Recycler.
Roy tried to remove some Sparkle Bright Neon Gum one of the guests had glued to one of dad's book cases. "It was alright, I guess but I am not much for parties."
"Sparkle Bright, Sticky Messes, Oil and Tar can easily be removed by using Oxy-Scrub!"
Roy laughed. "Charles I think you are the only Cerberus robot in the entire Galaxy that watches commercials."
"I am very likely the only Cerberus robot doing household chores! But one watches commercials because they are part of my favorite Holo show. "As the Robot watches"
Uncle Sam gave Roy the robot as a birthday present exactly eight years ago.
Of course the military used Cerberus type IX now, but it was still an awesome machine. Everybody on Green Hell had a robot and due to the nature of the planet all these robots were armed, but these were usually S-10 Multi function Bots with an added weapon arm. No one had a Cerberus, not just because a Cerberus was incredibly expensive, it was almost impossible for a civilian person to get an Owners License for this sort of military hardware. Roy finally managed to get the gum off
and tossed it along with the rag into the recycler and watched Charles direct the Hoover-Vac around the carpet. "Do you regret being my robot and doing household chores?"
"Roy, I am a machine. I do not have such emotions. It would be the same for me to stand in a corner for the next one hundred years or execute whatever command you choose to give me."
"I know you are a machine, but you are more to me."
Charles' dome shaped neck-less head turned around, not that he needed to do that since he had Omni-directional optic sensors, but this side of the head was his 'face'. "You are more to me than a master. I dedicated much sub processing space to you far beyond the loyalty program. I am a Type IV and quite advanced. I can alter my programming to adjust to new situations. I adjusted this program with you as focus and it is the closest concept I could define in terms of feelings towards you."
Roy hugged the massive machine." I always knew you liked me!"
The robot scanned the room, "Besides logic determines that household work is far less dangerous to a robot than being sent into battle, deemed too dangerous for live beings, so I must say I prefer household chores any time."
Just then Roy heard his father calling him." Roy Masters, come to the study please!"
Charles said, "Go! I can clean up the rest myself!"
Whenever Paul Masters called his son into the study in that tone, Roy knew he was in trouble. Paul would never call him by his full name if he was to commend him.
Roy's father was a fan of antique pre Astro things from Earth. Most of the furniture in the house was made of wood or pseudo wood and had no integrated tech at all. He liked books, the old kind, printed on paper and sandwiched between two lids. Paul smoked pipes and the sweet tobacco smell penetrated deep into the house despite the best efforts of the air scrubbers. To Roy's surprise, his mother was present as well. She stood next to her husband with crossed arms. Paul pointed at the stiff all wood visitors chair in front of the pseudo wood desk. Roy was convinced his father had placed that uncomfortable hard chair before his desk for the sole purpose of interrogating him.
"Have a seat, Son! Your mother and I have to talk to you!"
Roy thought he knew what was coming and what it was all about and to speed things up he said, "I confess, Dad. I was outside. So spare me the lecture please, I know what you are going to say about it all and proceed to the punishment part."
Paul dropped his pipe and raised his voice:" You have been outside again?"
Mother leaned forward." You are 16 years old now, should you not act a little more mature? I cannot even count the times we told you not to go outside!"
There it comes! Roy thought. Dad prepared his lecture. It was the same every time.
His father picked the Pipe from the desk and placed it in an Antique Replica Pipe stand that was a Christmas present from last year." Roy, we are on the most dangerous planet in the known Universe. Every life form out there is absolutely deadly to any unprotected being. Everything out there has raised the art of killing to new heights and everything out there has an arsenal of natural weapons.
Your mother and I are highly trained Xeno biologists and we don't go out there unless protected by the strongest armor suits with force fields and at least six fully armed Marines. Even then we limit our exposure as much as we can."
Roy crossed his arms in a defiant manner." Because you are not Greenies! I am a Greenie! All that armor stuff is for stupid off worlders"
Mother shook her head." We are aware that there are natives that can go out there, in less protection. But not even tenth Generation Greenies go anywhere near the Jungle! You were born here, but we are not from here and you are a Greenie by birth only not by generations of local heritage."
Roy lowered his head." That is what you think and there is no way I am going to argue with you about something you don't believe!"
Paul Masters sighed." Are you still insisting on that lie that you walk from here to Ma' Swenson's? You don't have an Ultra Suit and even if you had one. No one, not even Marines would make it alive to the boathouse on foot through the jungles!"
Mother added." We are scientists, Son. You know that. You cannot expect us to believe the fantasies of a boy. Fantasies we hoped you would grow out off!"
Father nodded in agreement and said:" Which brings us to the real reason we called you. The Science Council offered your mother the Sci- Command over an Explorer ship. This is a very rare opportunity and the greatest honor. All her scientific career will culminate in the most prestigious post any scientist could ever want.
Roy simply listened as he didn't know what to say to that.
Father continued." She requested me as her second in Command and would you believe it, they accepted. Mother and I will leave in six days and we are going to fly half across the Galaxy to a newly discovered planet in the Down ward sector to study a planet with energy consuming life forms. Martha is as you know the foremost authority in this field."
Paul almost forgot his son as he looked at his wife with unveiled admiration and awe. "Your paper on the Lightning Dragons was most likely one of the best study reports I have ever read."
Mother blushed slightly; she too forgot Roy and kissed her husband on the forehead." It's because I am married to the best assistant anyone could ask for."
Paul Masters remembered his son still sitting there and resumed his speech." That means your mother and I will be gone for at least two years and deep in unclaimed space."
Roy didn't feel sorry to hear that. He liked his parents but they were Scientists first and, although they loved him too, he was sort of an accident and more of a distraction to their one true love than a son.
Mother however delivered the bad news:" We wished you would have had better grades and follow our example. Because of your rather mediocre grates we were unable to place you at a really prestigious college, but we managed to pull a few strings to get you accepted at the Vandermeere College at Triton. It is a second rate College, I know, but it is still in the Sol System and that carries some weight when you later apply for University."
Roy got angry." Why don't you ever ask me? I don't want to be a scientist. I want to be a Ranger like Ranger Solomon and my grades are fine for that. If that does not work out I sign up with the Marines!"
Mother made a face as if she looked at an extremely ugly specimen under a magnifying device." We haven't raised you to become one of these mindless brutes. Marines are necessary but I am sure there are others that can do that."
Roy sneered." Those mindless brutes are always good to protect your high and mighty butts out there, and if one dies protecting you, ah what the heck, it was just a Marine. Much more important is your valuable observations of the mating cycle of a Bone Gripper survived."
His parents looked at him as if he was a complete stranger. Father said." The collection and evaluation of scientific data is more important than any life! Life is abundant! "
Mother waved her hand." It matters not what you think, Son. You are not 18 yet and we decide what's good for you and you will leave Green Hell in 4 month, when you graduate."
Roy almost cried:" What about Charles and our House?"
The GalNet terminal beeped and interrupted the conversation. Paul answered and Roy recognized Ivan Harrow's voice, the Chief Scientist of the Xeno Bio institute, and his parent's boss. "Paul, Martha. I hope you still have time. Evans believes he found a Light dragon breeding ground and thought you might want to see it!"
Martha got excited. "Of course, Ivan. I can't wait. Maybe I can find the final piece of information I need to complete my observation report. Can you send the Floater?"
"I already anticipated that. The Institute Floater should be there with you at any moment."
His parents now truly forgot about him. Chattering excited, putting on heavy protection gear. Roy left his father's study and went upstairs into his room. The house he called home was a dome shaped Ultronit sphere; made out of the same material they made battle ship armor. The house had two levels and once had been a forward research outpost on Green Hell. Roy switched on the viewer and waited for the Institute Floater that would take his parents away. The outside viewer captured the endless jungles around the house. He saw a Pandora Swan attacking a swarm of Gladiator Eagles, cutting the dangerous eagles with its razor sharp wings in half in mid flight, puncturing others with its long needle beak. It did not matter what they thought. He was a Greenie!
He was very proud of this fact and he knew everything about his home planet. Green Hell was the 2nd planet in the Maxwell System. A luscious green garden world that looked inviting like any other garden world when seen from space.
A long time ago when the old Saresii discovered this world they called it Mrtgtha which meant Murder-all. The Saran rediscovered the world much later and lost several exploration teams and called it Imthe-Seth, Death World.
After Terra ascended and the Union was formed another attempt was made to explore this world. Garden worlds with a breathable Nitrogen Oxygen atmosphere are rare and valuable to any expanding society. Again the Planet proved deadly to those who landed on it.
Unlike Saresii or Sarans, Terrans were stubborn and did not simply abandon the unsuitable world instead they increased their efforts to explore it. Instead of scientists they send Ultra Marines next and they managed to clear an island and establish a permanent base. Scientists returned and with them came technicians and service personnel. Then their families and shop keepers came and made the base a small town called Ant Hill.
The Planet was now known as Green Hell.
Jungles covered sixty percent of the surface. There where large open bodies of fresh water, rugged mountain ranges and somewhat less overgrown poles.
What made Green Hell different from any other planet were its life forms. Every single living thing on this planet was a killer and had an array of body weapons deadlier than anything ever encountered. The strongest organic acid ever discovered was produced by the Dragon Ants of Green Hell; the deadliest organic poison ever encountered came from a flowering bush. Some clouds were actually living gas bags that attacked things and other life forms with controlled lightning.
The heavily armored yellow painted Floater of the Xeno Bio Institute arrived, slipped into the air lock clamps and left only five minutes later with his parents aboard.
Roy smiled to himself and locked the door to his room. Then he opened his closet and put on his bio barrier suit. It was a coverall like garment, which hermetically connected with his heavy duty all terrain boots. He then girded it with a belt with an attached holster and Thompson E-Blaster on his right and a Vibro machete on the other side. Green Hell had a gravitation of 2.5 and most off-worlders carried a Personal Gravitation adjuster. Roy did too, but his was set to almost 4 gees. He'd increased the Gee's on his PGA ever since he was 6 years old and now walked normal and didn't even feel the 4 gees. He smiled even more when he crawled under his bed and touched the hidden contact. A part of the wall slid open and he crawled into a secret air lock. He knew his dad would probably faint if he knew it existed. Maria his friend who also was a wizard with tools had cut the Ultronit and installed this small air lock.
The inner door sealed and moments later the outer door opened. He slid over the smooth metal to get momentum then pulled his feet under him and pushed himself with one fluid motion off the wall. His muscles catapulted him almost 12 meters across the vegetation free area around the house. Charles maintained that area by burning everything that grew inside with his blasters, and he had to do that every second day.
Roy grabbed the branch of a Tantalus Oak, with only two two fingers on each hand, avoiding the 5 inch long thorns. Thorns that were hard enough to pierce normal steel and were tipped with a deadly nerve poison.
He swung himself over to a Trappers Palm and oriented himself for a mere second just above the sticky substance that covered the tree and its branches below. The Trapper tree's glue instantly molecular bonded with most materials and tiny creatures not much bigger than Techno Nanites would came and disassemble whatever had been caught in the glue.
Roy filled his lungs deep with the warm, almost hot, steamy jungle air. Out here he felt alive and right as rain. This was his home and he knew how to act and behave. He didn't need no 8 ton energy shielded Armor suit to stomp through the jungle only to sink into a mud bog, he was a Greenie. What aided him was an acute sense of danger. He didn't know if it was a Psionic talent, especially since his Heidelberg Psi-Index was only 45, way below the threshold of 98 where usually the first weak Psi powers appeared. But he didn't care about that, anyway. What did off worlders know about Green Hell or Greenies?
Not much! This sense of danger somehow also told him how to act to avoid danger. He knew of life forms out here, his parents had never seen and had no namefor, but he knew what to do around them.
Most of the time he remained in the upper level of the jungle and rarely went to the ground, the dense foliage provided a much safer route and he could pass over mud bogs and Kill Digger burrows.
He estimated he was already a good kilometer away from the house and deep in the jungle, when he heard the tromping sounds of a Stomper breaking through the thickets. Roy waited till he could see this magnificent eight legged beast with sixteen barbed tentacles on one end that could plug anything eatable out of trees and a tough crystalline armor protecting it from most of the plants and attack modes of smaller creatures. Roy put his hands before his mouth and mimicked the mating call of a Water-Snake Bull and laughed silently. The Stomper turned in panic and disappeared back from where it came. Of course it was still over 5 months till the Water snake mating season, but the Stomper didn't know that. Greenies were split in the opinion what was the most dangerous life form on Green Hell. One side believed the Water Snakes were the undisputed kings of this world and had no real natural enemies. The others believed the Dragon Ants where. Water Snakes spend most of their life in the huge fresh water lakes and only during mating season lesser bulls would be driven out of the lakes by the strongest one and seek other water bodies for their home.
Water snakes reached tremendous size. Roy had seen bulls of over 45 meters and perhaps eight or nine meters thick. Water snakes had a scaled skin that was almost impervious to any attack; they could spit a Gelatin-like material and ignite it with a static discharge in their mouth. The stuff burned even in water. In
addition to that, Water snakes could spread their scales and eject small poisonous darts with the force of a high powered rifle. The darts made of the same diamond hard substance as their scales. Those darts were poison tipped and even a slight scratch could kill a fully grown Stomper
Roy once observed a Water snake shooting Arrow wasps out of the air just for fun, demonstrating its accuracy. Roy believed Water Snakes were at least as smart as those Terran Dolphins he had to learn about in School.
Dragon Ants on the other hand only grew to 2 inches, but their ant hills swarmed with millions of them.
The acid produced by the ants was strong enough to eat through any known material except Compacted Ultronit. The ants themselves mixed two components of the liquid by spraying it out of two holes in their bodies.
When an ant colony was on the march to new grounds, nothing was spared or safe from their attacks.
The only place found so far on the planet free of these Ants was the place where the Ultra marines established the original base an island in the middle of Large Lake. Most Greenies had made their choice and it was a common subject of friendly banter. Roy had not made up his mind and believed that there were many life forms on this planet yet to be discovered, some of them might even be more dangerous than either Ants or Snakes.
He avoided the net of a Moolax-Spinner, huge brown arachnoids able to electrify their almost invisible nets with deadly voltage. The filaments of the net were only a molecule thick at sections and could cut through almost anything. He didn't even realize he had pulled and shot his blaster and killed a Vamp-Fly until he had the weapon back in its holster.
Roy didn't shoot or kill for sport or fun, only when it was absolute necessary. Everything on Green Hell had a stinger, or some other means of killing but that didn't mean everything killed everything constantly. It was more of a careful co-existence. Roy's blaster was his stinger and he used it only if necessary.
He had reached a spot halfway between the house and the Shore rocks where he was going to meet his friends. This area had lots of Strangle veins and it was better to be on the ground. He carefully avoided a Mortar Toad so it would not shower him with hundreds of little flesh eating toads catapulted from pockets in its back.
He carefully ducked and crawled under a dagger bush with its steel hard and needle sharp leaves. Every branch was under tension and would release at the slightest touch.
Right after that bush he almost ran head first into an all black huge beast. He panicked for the duration of a heartbeat or two. His sense of danger had failed him and did not warn him of this beast. He froze at the spot, not moving a muscle. The animal in front of him didn't look like any animal he had ever seen on Green Hell. Nothing he knew was black!
This animal was covered with short black fur, except around the neck area where the fur formed a thick mane; it had four legs and a boxy brutish looking head, with two ears and small horns on the crown of its skull. Roy estimated it to be perhaps 140 centimeters tall from ground to its back, the head slightly higher attached to the torso by a short but massive neck. The animal was perhaps 300 centimeters long and had a short thick tail. The muscles of the animal were well defined under the black fur and gave the being a massive and incredibly strong appearance. It had two eyes that glowed dark red and had no visible pupils. The short broad snout was topped by flaring nostrils. A pair of long canines emerged from the upper jaw past the chaps and extended at least 40 centimeters past the lower jaw.
Only now did Roy notice the dark metal band around the beast's neck with short cone shaped metal spikes at even intervals all around, a collar! Roy sighed and relaxed. This was not an animal native to Green Hell. It was quite obviously a pet, a tamed animal. Terrans especially, but other cultures as well found joy in keeping domesticated Pets.
Domesticated life forms were unknown on Green Hell, as it was thought that no domesticated life form could survive the Jungles even for a few moments. Ranger Salomon had a tank of fish in his office, but those were the only off world animals Roy knew of.
His best friends secretly kept Green Hell animals as pets, unknown to their parents of course. His friends, especially Norm, often teased him that he was no real Greenie as he had not managed to befriend a local life form.
He reached out and touched the animal and said:" Are you lost, Partner?"
The animal opened his terrifying maw and for a moment Roy thought he was done for, but instead a huge blackish tongue licked over his face. At the same time he received strange foreign images in his head. He saw space, stars, and planets as they looked from the orbit. He saw Green Hell and then he saw himself touching the animal and he felt a sudden wave of warmth and affection.
Roy's mother was a native of Phantasm, and had, like most Phantasians, some Psionic powers. Paul Masters was just a few points below the Heidelberg Psi Index threshold where Psionic abilities emerged. Roy's HPI was low and he had no Psionic abilities at all. His mother didn't believe his Sense of Danger was a real Psionic ability and that it was just imagined by Roy.
He was quite surprised and not prepared for this mental message he got from the animal but he instantly knew it was of Psionic nature. He also sensed that the animal was quite intelligent but unable to communicate in any form of language other than mental images.
Roy petted the animal's immense shoulders. The fur felt soft as velvet, but the muscles below felt as hard as Ultronit. The being lowered itself so Roy could easier pet it. While he was petting the animal he felt waves of pleasure and affection from the animal.
Roy could not help but smile and he said, "I like you too. Let's see if we can get you home! This is no place for a Terran pet. Do you belong to someone?" As he said that Roy's image appeared in his head as if to say I belong to you.
Roy opened his Wrist Comm. and dialed for the Ranger Station. It took only a moment and Ranger Salomon's face appeared."Oh, hi Roy," the Ranger greeted him with a smil:. "Bob is already at you guy's secret meeting place."
"Hi Ranger! I am on my way to see Bob and the others, but that is not what I was calling about. I wanted to know if any Off-Worlders reported a missing pet, I think they call them dogs. Those pets they have with four legs and collars."
"What a strange question! Of course not. Off World animals are not allowed on Green Hell. Don't tell me you're outside again!"
"Well yes, sort of, but I am in no danger, Sir. I just wanted to know if someone perhaps misses a pet."
"Your father is going to have a fit if he ever asks me and finds out I know that you are outside. As for your question, no dog or any other animal was ever brought here, except for a swarm of gold fish and I confiscated them."
"How big do Dogs get?"
"I never seen a Dog, Roy, you should consult GalNet for that. Just do me a favor and be careful. I know of your secret meeting place but I don't feel too good about it."
"Well that is all, Sir. I'm going to check GalNet."
He thanked the Ranger and switched to GalNet and connected to the Encyclopedia Galactica GalNet , made a picture of the animal and asked the Computronic to run a visual search pattern. He never had to wait more than a few seconds for any information request, but this time it took almost a minute and the Computronic responded:" No life form cataloged that matches the search criteria. Do you wish to make a new entry?"
"Not at this moment. I need to collect more data first."
While he did all that he committed a deadly mistake, he had remained for too long on the same spot and did not pay much attention to his surroundings.
An Insecto-Saurus broke through the thicket and was preparing for an attack.
His sense of Danger did warn him this time but he had been distracted. Normally he would have had no problem to avoid an Insecto. His trick with the Snake sound would not work, Insectos had no hearing.
His blaster was useless. Because it was not powerful enough to burn a hole fast enough into the crystalline armor of the Insecto and reach any vital parts. Insectos had several hearts, were as tough as Stompers, and twice as fast. His mother once compared an Insecto-saurus to a mix between Scorpion, Praying Mantis and a Raptor Dinosaur. Roy, who never understood why they had to learn so much about Terran life forms in school, never paid much attention and did not know how those animals looked, but he knew the poisonous stinger of the Insecto would kill him as fast as the scissor arms or the powerful mandibles. The black animal catapulted itself over 12 meters right onto the Insecto!
Roy already saw blood and bits of black fur and was worried about his new friend. He pulled his blaster anyway hoping he might delay it somehow, but it was not necessary to shoot!
The scissor arms of the Insecto slid across the furry body without even scratching it, while the black beast ripped enormous chunks out of the Insectos body. The crystalline armor shattered like brittle glass, showers of blood, guts and flesh sprayed everywhere. The front paws of the black animal suddenly had huge claws and slashed so fast through the airhe could see only a black blur.
That black beast attacked with a level of vicious brutality and power like nothing Roy had ever witnessed.
It was over as fast as it had begun. Mere seconds after the black beast had attacked the Insecto, there was not much left, only a horribly dismembered carcass. Swarms of Vamp Flies already buzzed around, attracted by the smell of blood. Roy knew ants would not be far behind.
He jumped over a Fire Nettle and said to the beast. "We better get out of here, fast!"
The animal instantly reacted and followed him, sending waves of warmth and affection to Roy.
"Wow that was something! You sure did a number on that Insecto! I sure thought we were both done for."
A feeling of pride and devotion to Roy was the answer.
Then he got the mental image of him riding on the beast.
"You want me to sit on your on your back?" he asked aloud.
The image reappeared.
Roy had never sat on an animal ever, and the very thought of it was very alien to him, but for some reason he trusted that animal with his life and felt affection for it. Immediately he felt a wave of affection from the animal.
He pulled himself up, grabbed the 7 centimeter wide collar, and the beast began to move slowly forward.
Roy could feel the rock hard muscles moving under the furry skin and after a little while he got used to the flow of motions and felt more secure.
He examined the collar closer. It was of a dark metal like substance, but it was more flexible than Ultronit. Roy thought the animal was perhaps a local life form after all and just got caught in some sort of snare, left behind by someone, but he had never seen any animal here on the planet that had four legs. All native life forms he knew had none, two, six or eight, but not four.
Again he cursed himself for being preoccupied with the black animal that he missed the Fire Nettle bush. The animal walked right over it and the fruit like pods exploded, showering the black chest fur with the deadliest nerve toxin known to man. Even the slightest amount on unprotected skin sends any known life form with a nervous system in lethal convulsions. Surprisingly the dust had no effect on the beast at all.
Dagger bush branches lashing against it and shattered or bent, but did not penetrate or wound the animal.
It became more and more apparent to Roy why this animal could survive in the Jungles of Green Hell. It did not avoid the dangers like most other life forms did. It waltzed right over it and nothing so far affected it.
The animal responded to his mental directions like it was a part of Roy's body. When he wanted to go left, the animal immediately went left or avoided a danger as fast as Roy could see it. Roy once again paid full attention to his surroundings.
It didn't take long and he reached the edge of the Jungle. There was a small shore line of stone pebbles, Terror moss and Murder Grass edging the Great Lake. Six meters off the shore was a group of big boulders half submerged in the water. These big boulders where free of ants and was the Secret Hangout of Roy and his friends.
Roy climbed off his new friend and said." Wait here, Partner. I want to surprise the others!"
He felt the answer and knew the animal had understood.
He jumped in measured moves between the patches of terror Moss and Murder grass like he did countless times before and catapulted himself in a big jump across the water and landed on the first boulder.
His friends were already there: Norm Stevenson, the son of the Major. Maria Scott, daughter of the City Engineer. Bob Salomon, his best friend and son of the Ranger and Melissa O'Malley, her parents owned the Department Store and two restaurants in Town.
Bob leaned against the brown furry body of Wobbler. Wobbler was an almost full grown Moolax Spider, measuring almost six meters across, legs included. Bob had rescued the spider from a Stomper when it was still small. The spider was with Bob ever since.
Wobbler rose only a bit as he saw Roy coming, but relaxed again. Bob grinned. "Finally, you made it! We thought you might not show up today."
"I had to wait till my parents left."
Melissa sat on top of the tallest rock. She was friends with Roy and the others ever since they were small kids, but Roy noticed lately that she had grown and became one of the prettiest girls in town. She had a mass of curly flaming red hair, big green eyes. She wore her Bio-seal suit skin tight and her body became more female every day. At first it looked as if she wore a beautiful cape of silver, and an odd looking head piece with a long needle sharp point. The cape suddenly moved and Silver, her Pandora Swan lifted his sleek head, turned it on the long snake like neck, and eyed at Roy with hostile, yellow piercing eyes, Melissa scratched the underside of his neck and the Swan lowered his head burring it in her mass of red hair and once more only his long sharp beak was visible. Silver would barely leave her shoulders and even though it had claws hard as diamond and sharp as knives, it never even left scratches on her delicate shoulders.
She gave Roy a charming smile.
Maria had her legs folded in the lotus position and on her lap was a partially dismantled blaster she was working on, her tool belt within reach. The big bag on her other side moved and the head of Snuggle appeared. Snuggle was a furry 2 meter long Ninja Weasel. They usually did not appear during the day and they were deadly hunters, able to adopt almost any color they came in contact with, blending into the surrounding and attacking with razor sharp claws, poisonous fangs and a long, barbed tail they used like a whip. Snuggle blinked into the sun and at Roy and then returned into the bag, but not before getting a Gummy Bear candy from Maria who didn't even look up from her work.
She waved at Roy. "I am almost done with Norm's blaster."
There was nothing Maria could not take apart, repair or improve. She loved tools and tech and working with her hands.
Norm came out of the water, dripping and with Zisch right beside him. Zisch was a real Water Snake, a very young one and only 12 meters long. Norm saved the snake when it was much smaller, pulled it out of an Ant attack and nursed it back to health.
Norm was almost obnoxiously proud of his Water snake.
"Ah there is Roy!" he greeted." The water is wonderful!"
Roy looked across the surface and saw the huge Water snake not too far from the rocks. It was Zisch's mother or father and ever since Norm bonded with the young snake, it seemed to keep watch. "I bet it is, but I doubt I would try it with a big snake so close."
"That is Zisch's Mother, she makes sure nothing is harming me, but of course I am a real Greenie .I would not recommend you get even near. They don't like Off-Worlders!"
At another time Roy would have been offended as Norm always rubbed it in." So having a pet is the Hallmark of a real Greenie?"
Norm nodded." We are all seventh generation Greenies and we are the first bonding with what others think are mindless, killing beasts."
Melissa defended Roy." He is a Greenie just like us. Not even you would dare to go through the Jungle like he does all the time."
Bob agreed:" Seven Kilometers every day. If you are so confident why don't you visit Roy on foot one day?"
"Besides, our animals don't harm him," Maria said," He petted Wobbler and Snuggle don't mind him."
Norm sneered." Don't get me wrong I am impressed how Roy, an Off-Worlders can navigate through our Jungles, but he is just not one of us."
Bob got up." Do you want me to pound your face in? What is it with you today? Roy is one of us, always has been!"
Roy turned and called loudly: " Partner!"
At first nothing happened and Roy feared he had left his new friend too long alone. Then the big black beast broke through the foliage, like a tracked Marine explorer tank and neither the steel hard needle pointed stems of the poisonous murder grass nor the acid of the Terror Moss had any affect.
Partner splashed through the water and jumped right next to Roy then sat down on his hind legs and licked Roy across the shoulder.
The others were quite shocked and surprised by the stormy approach of the black beast.
Silver flapped his wings and hissed at Partner. Wobbler had gone in attack stance.
Zisch reared up and was about to spew fire. It took them a moment to calm their animals and then Melissa said: "Well, it looks like Roy is a Greenie after all. I have no idea what he found in the Jungles but it sure looks like an animal to me. A very big one, too!"
Bob scratched his head." I never seen anything like it either, but whatever it is it seems pretty tough. The Terror Moss didn't do shit to it!"
Maria got up and came closer." Does it attack or can I touch it?"
Roy petted the massive head of his beast "No it likes you, you can touch it."
Maria cooed."Oh how soft its fur is! Just like Snuggle's!"
Norm waved his hands." It seems Roy is a Greenie, but that's not a Green Hell animal. I bet he bought it on GalNet. It has four legs. Nothing on Green Hell has four legs. Maybe it's a robot!"
Maria shook her head." That's no robot! I know every robot model there is This is no machine."
Bob added." We know less than one percent of what's out there. No one really has been to the other side of the planet. Whatever it is, it walked with Roy in the Jungle and nothing off world can survive that."
"I bet my Water Snake is tougher than whatever that is! Maybe I should ask Zisch's mom to fry it!" Norm said.
"I don't know what has gone into you? " Said Melissa." Why are you so aggressive towards Roy today? We always have been friends!"
Maria belted her tool belt." Because we are all getting older and Norm has feelings towards you, and when you smiled at Roy it set him off. It's hormones that turn males into idiots."
Norm blushed and Melissa gasped. Maria always said things in a blunt and direct way and nothing escaped her analytical eyes and sharp mind.
Melissa stomped her foot." You are all my friends. Please don't destroy that with petty jealousy games. I am not interested in you Norm, past being a friend. Neither am I interested in Roy. You are friends and nothing more."
Norm sat down. "Maybe I did over react a little. Roy is a Greenie, I know. I would never dare to make it on foot to his house."
Roy grinned. "It's not so bad. I do it all the time that's why. If you did it all the time you'd know what to do just as well."
Maria handed Norm his weapon then she cocked her head. "I can hear a Floater!"
Everyone turned and tried to hide but it was too late this time. The yellow and green painted Armored Floater with the Ranger service logo on the sides swooped down and hovered a few feet over the water next to the rocks.
Ranger Salomon opened the hatch and stood there looking at all of all of them with unveiled amazement:" I don't believe what I see with my own eyes!"
His hand darted to his service weapon as he saw the big spider rearing up behind his son and he screamed, "Son, duck! I have to shoot!"
Bob spread his arms." If you want to shoot Wobbler you have to shoot through me, Dad!"
The Ranger lowered his gun and after a long moment he said, "It is true, I didn't really believe it but it is true! You are out here without armor suits, surviving for hours! And now I see you play with …, with life forms no one ever survived seeing close up!"
"Armor suits are stupid and for Off-Worlders!" Said Norm." Zisch's Mom is watching over us better than a Platoon Marines could!"
The ranger only now noticed the big snake slowly coming closer, clearly alerted and ready to strike." Oh my God!" He shook visibly and it took him will power not to run and say: "That Water snake is protecting you?"
"Yes Sir, Mr. Ranger. We are in no danger."
Melissa stepped forward." Please Mr. Salomon don't tell my parents about Silver, they'd take him away from me! I love Silver!"
"I am afraid I can't do that! I am the Ranger and I must abide by the law." Salomon raised his hands." Don't lose hope or run away. I have a plan to help you and make it all legal: Yes I will tell your parents and you all are to be at Ma Swenson's boat house in 3 hours from now, bring your animal friends along and if you can demonstrate you have control over your animals and if your parents agree, I will issue you all Pet Owner Licenses, the very first ever issued on Green Hell and everything will be legal and I am not neglecting my duties."
Ma Swenson's Boathouse was a heavily fortified compound on the shores of the lake about 4 kilometers from the rocks. Ma Swenson rented armored floaters to scientists and she and her husband conducted tours for the occasional tourists or reporters. She also ran a floater repair shop and a weapon store. Her house was surrounded by a force-field bubble.
Roy and his friends arrived a little early. No one said much and each was in a gloomy mood, already fearing they were about to lose their animals. All except Bob, who was certain his Dad would issue him a license.
Roy was especially depressed. Even if all the other parents said yes. He knew his would never allow it and most likely take Partner away and dissect it. He had already made up his mind; he would run away and live in the Jungle for good. They'd never find him there!
To the surprise of the teenagers, there was a small crowd waiting for them. The kid's parents and at least twenty other people.
Roy also saw the Institute floater and spotted his parents standing alongside their Supervisor.
The entire crowd became silent as they saw the kids approach.
Ranger Salomon was standing just a few steps away from the force field parameter, on the inside of the purple shimmering energy barrier. "Look at them! They are outside, no armor, no battle suits and yet they just walked almost 4 kilometers in an environment considered among the most dangerous in the known galaxy.
"None of them is harmed, no wounds, no injuries. They are children of this world. When humans came to this world almost 200 years ago, they survived only under the heaviest protection our technology could provide and despite all the technology and protection, many died.
"I was born here and so was my father and I don't wear the same thick armor he did and I expose myself for short periods to the outside. Something he would not have dared. Now our kids not only survive, they made friends among these hostile creatures!
"This truly is a historical moment, and they are living proof that we can adapt to even the most adverse conditions.
"Maybe the grandchildren of those kids will no longer call this world Hell, but paradise. and not need to hide behind force fields and thick armor but become true natives of this dangerous, strange world of ours."
The Major, Norm's father clapped and the other adults joined. Ranger Salomon actually blushed and raised his hands to quiet them." Don't applaud me. Give those kids a chance to proof they are in control of their animal friends and don't separate them. Don't force them to adapt to your understanding of this world but begin to see it through their eyes!"
Melissa's father stepped forward." Is that a Pandora Swan perched on the shoulder of my daughter? That beast is poisonous, has razor sharp claws and wings!"
Melissa gave her father a withering look in a way only she could, somehow her bright red hair seemed brighter and her eyes burned with a green and intense fire: "Yes Father, that is a Pandora Swan, his name is Silver. He doesn't hurt me, he protects me and I will divorce you if you try to take him from me! I am old enough and know the laws! I love you Mom and Dad but I will not abandon Silver!"
Her father swallowed hard. Melissa's mother who looked like an older sister of her daughter said." It doesn't look like she is hurt and the swan does look very beautiful. I never knew they were so pretty!"
The Ranger took the chance and said, "Melissa, your Swan is not a hamster or a domesticated cat, but a wild predator and one of the most sophisticated killers on a planet of killers. Are you able to control it?"
Melissa now stared the ranger down, but only for a moment. She pointed at a swarm of arrow wasps that was approaching fast, the adults behind the screen got nervous and some ducked even though they were behind a force field. Arrow Wasps appeared in swarms and those 8 centimeter insects could propel themselves to projectile speed, penetrating their victims with long steel hard stingers, and like most life forms they also were poisonous.
The swan shot like a streak of lighting from Melissa's shoulders, It's lower wings extended like sickle blades and just as sharp, displaying aerobatic skills few had ever observed, cutting and piercing the Wasps in a frenzied attack. Roy, Norm and Bob simultaneously pulled their weapons shooting the rest of the wasps in a series of incredibly precise shots, none of the boys had any electronic targeting systems and yet they fired fast, never missed and their guns returned to their holsters with the same precision and speed.
Ma Swenson gasped aloud." Jeezuz Christ, you guys are fast!"
Silver winged down, returned to his spot on Melissa's shoulders and buried his head in her locks. Melissa petting the bird and it made a rattling and pleased sound."
"It looks to me she has total control over that mons…I mean that swan! " Melissa's father said. I doubt there are Terrans who have that kind of control over their cats or dogs!"
The Ranger switched a structural hole in the force field. "Melissa, you can come in!"
Melissa walked to the man sized hole. Just then she pulled her blaster fired sideways without even looking, evaporating a Scare bug that had suddenly appeared from a hole in the ground.
She went past the hole and the ranger restored the shield." How did you know that Scare bug was about to appear and attack?"
Melissa made big eyes. "Scare Bug?" She turned her head and looked at the smoking hole." Oh, that one. It was to close I had to burn it. They bite right through your ankles if you don't and that close it's hard to evade them. Silver usually takes care of those but he doesn't like the taste."
Salomon shook his head slowly and spread his arms speaking to the other adults. "Any one of us would have been bitten and maimed. This young girl puts trained Marines to shame with her marksmanship and speed."
Melissa's parents came closer. Silver raised his head and screeched a clear warning. The parents backed up, but Melissa petted and cooed the bird and it relaxed. "Sorry Mom and Dad. Silver is very protective and doesn't like strangers coming to close to me, but it is fine now, you can come."
Her dad laughed. "What better protection could I ask for? She's growing and I already considered buying a shatter gun! That swan is much better!"
His comment made quite a few adults laugh. Melissa's mom reached out with a shaking hand and touched the Swan and nothing happened. The animal was perfectly docile.
"It looks like a beautiful silvery cape! I am almost jealous!"
The Major couldn't hold himself back and have no part of all this attention." Norm my son! What animal do you have?"
Norm seemed to grow a few inches right there. "Zisch is a Water snake!"
He pointed at a tree trunk. "Zisch, burn it!"
The Snake rose behind him and it was a terrifying site; spread the leathery wings on the side of its head and a beam like stream of ignited burn gel engulfed the tree with explosive force!
Norm now pointed his finger at a more distant tree. "Zisch, nail it!"
The Snakes scales spread and finger long spikes slammed in the trunk with deadly accuracy.
Norm wasn't done. In pure horror did the Adults watch as he took off his suit shirt ran to the lake, evading Terror Moss and Needle Grass and dove into the water! No human had ever bathed in any of the lakes as far as the Adults knew, because of the razor fish and of course because of the snakes.
Zisch slid just as fast next to him and it too disappeared beneath the water. The water settled and his father made a terrified face, clearly thinking he had lost his son.
There like a rocket Norm appeared breaking through the water standing on the nose of a giant fully grown Water snake rising at least 20 meters into the air. It was a spectacle that made the assembled crowd drop their chins, even Roy's parents could not hid their amazement. Norm dove head first into the waves and walked moments later back onto the land, again Zisch close to his side. Norm couldn't help himself and bowed like a performer after a successful show. "How's that, Dad?"
It took the major more than a moment to collect his senses and all he could say was: "Wow!"
Norm grinned and crossed his arms. "So can Zisch and I stay together?"
Now it was the Major's turn to beam with pride and he said." I have never in all my life seen anything like it. If anyone would have told me what I have just seen I would not have believe it! You are friends with all Water Snakes?"
"No Dad, just with Zisch and his parents. It happens to be that Zisch's mother is the biggest one in this lake and nothing on Green Hell messes with a big mommy snake protecting her young. She considers me one of her litter and I am as safe in that lake as you behind that screen!"
"Come on in, son! I'll sign your Animal Owner's permit myself!"
A man Roy knew owned the local News Agency said." Norm, what would you do if you were the Major?"
"I'd make Snake Hunting illegal and anyone hurting a Water snake without serious reason, I'd send bathing!"
Norm passed the force field with Zisch and posed with his Dad for a News image opportunity. The Major promised Norm to make Snake Hunting a punishable offense and signed his son's permit for anyone to see.
Salomon waved to his son." You're next!"
Bob blushed." I don't know if Wobbler can do any cool tricks like that. He just likes to sleep a lot and eat pizza like me." Then Bob's face lightened and he climbed on the back of his spider and rode the arachnoids up a steep set of boulders , made Wobbler shoot filament webbing to a tree and the spider balanced with Bob on its back up the almost invisible line and back.
Salomon laughed. "Maybe Norm's display was more spectacular but seeing my son ride a horse sized spider up a tree and back , will make me remember this day for the rest of my life!"
Again there was laughter and Bob went in.
Maria's parents said, "Our daughter can come in. She is a Tech whiz. She never likes anything alive. We are very proud of seeing her outside and playing for a change,rather than just hanging out with tools and machines!"
Maria parted her long brown hair that almost always obscured much of her face and she said, "I do have an anima,l too, and I love my Snuggle! He doesn't do any tricks!"
Snuggle heard its name and peaked out of Melissa's shoulder bag. She grabbed it and the long furry thing curled around her arm and then snuggled close to her cheek. Maria said." Snuggle is still a baby!"
The Ranger said." No one expects you to have it do tricks. All I ask if you have it under control so it won't harm others. It is a dangerous life form!"
Marian nodded." Snuggle is very smart and totally tame." She snapped her fingers. "Snuggle does know tools! That should count for something!"
To the animal she said, "Go get me the Small universal."
Amazingly the furry being slid down and pulled a tool from Melissa's belt and dropped it in her hand. Maria held it up."See, it is the small universal!"
Maria was allowed to pass the Barrier. Her parents immediately petted the Ninja Weasel and it turned on its back so they could massage its belly!
Maria's father said: "I never touched a local animal and I was born here. That Weasel is the cutest thing I ever saw. I had no idea they could be so soft and docile!"
Roy knew from the beginning he was last and his parent's faces were unreadable.
The Ranger said to his parents." I know you are scientists and not locals, but your son is. He crossed seven kilometers across the dense jungle today. He does so every day to meet with his friends. No armor either and I know he often went further into the Jungles than anyone else on our world. Because he called me once and I got his signal 35 clicks away from here.
"I don't know what animal he found but give him a chance!"
Roy knew he had to have to have Partner do something but he didn't really know what. So he said, "Partner run that way and fast!" He pointed at a random spot at the jungle's edge. Partner became a streak of black and like a brush plow smashed into the vegetation, a Tantalus oak thick as two men splintered in half on impact, Partner didn't even slow down. The falling tree exposed a huge anthill and Roy became pale. Partner slammed right into it!
Partner was instantly covered entirely with angry ants. He already thought he lost his friend, but he received only the calm friendly emotions as ever when he thought about his animal. He concentrated and said more thinking than aloud." Partner get rid of those ants and come back."
What happened next shocked everyone to the core.
A bright blinding explosion of pure energy emerged from where Partner was, the sound wave of a thunderous boom echoed over the lake. Partner came running towards him and sat down as if nothing happened; smoke still wafting from his fur. Where the anthill was, there was a glowing crater of molten rock! It was his mother who after a while spoke first." It cannot be, but I saw it with my own eyes!"
Roy stood before Partner and said." I knew you would react differently than all the others. I know you want to take Partner away and dissect it, but I won't let this happen. You called me a liar and dreamer. You never believed me when I told you I was outside. I am outside and I am going to hide in my Jungle and no one, not even with all your science, can find me there!" He already turned to leave.
His mother raised her hand." Roy wait, don't run away! Seeing you outside makes me realize you spoke the truth all the time and I believe you when you say you'll run away. I won't take your friend away from you. If I am right I doubt we could!"
The Ranger eyed Partner with unveiled fear and then said to Roy's parents." Do you think it is safe to let that in here?"
His mother smiled." Ranger, that animal discharged enough energy to collapse a force field ten times as strong as this one. If it wanted to be in here it would be!"
Roy had his hand on Partner's still warm almost hot fur.
The Ranger pressed the sensor and Roy came in carefully, not entirely trusting his parents.
Sure enough his mother held her ever present Bio scanner then showed the read out to her husband who blinked "It can't be!"
Mother said." Roy this is a SII Mark III Bio matrix Multi sensor. None of the sensor beams penetrate that being and it is recording nothing at all. But with my own abilities I sense there is a Psionic link between you and It. You are its Psionic twin!"
Roy didn't understand a word." I am what?"
"Son, every living being has a Psionic signature; a base wave if you will that is totally unique to each person or being. Natural born twins often have a very similar base wave and thus sense even over great distances if something happened to their brother or sister.
"In the rarest case it occurs that two beings share an absolutely identical base wave.
"The Saresii who are the masters in this field have only recorded 12 cases in over a million years. You and that being are one on a mental level."
Roy only understood some of it but he got the general idea, that's why he could see those images and feel partner's emotions.
Ranger Salomon pointed at Partner. "Dr. Masters, do you know what this is?"
"No, Ranger Salomon, I don't know for sure but I think Roy might have found a Furry Hound!"
The Ranger looked puzzled and so did Roy.
She added, "It is more of a myth, a legend than scientific knowledge. None has been seen since the Celtest fought the Dark Ones. I only know about it because I specialize in energy based life forms and stumbled across the legend in ancient Saresii documents. Incomplete documents reporting of entire packs of similar described beings, able to survive in deep space and emit directed energy of incredible strength."
"So this is not a Green Hell life from?" Salomon asked.
"I don't know that either, Ranger. Maybe it is a Furry Hound maybe it is not. Maybe Furry Hounds are native to Green Hell and Roy found one of perhaps many, or it has traveled here. I do not have enough data to make a conclusive statement."
The Ranger shuddered." We might be in trouble if there are more like this!"
To Roy's complete surprise his father said." My son demonstrated complete control over this life form so does he get his license too?"
Salomon issued it, but said nothing.