are you coming for me? I want
to go home!" Loneliness
bombarded Adaama as her voice rose to the heavens.
She cried out again. "I
don't deserve this!" Birds
chattered in reply.
three sun cycles she had walked the jungles of Battean.
The carved pole inside her shelter received a mark each day.
It helped her remember time. Three
sun cycles! How could they
leave her here so long?
like today, she doubted her own name.
"Adaama Wess-Lix, Data Specialist, Star Cruiser 48-821-100.
Mission: To explore
Battean for colonization." Her
voice sounded strange to her ears. Did
she even have a mission anymore? The
sole survivor of eight crewmembers? Their
shuttle had torn apart in the turbulent atmosphere.
If she hadn't landed in the river, she would've died too.
plagued her this morning. With
an endless variety to choose from, she shared the ration with colorful,
screaming birds and exotic wildlife that teemed amid tangled vegetation.
The planet was beautiful, but
no humans lived here that she could find.
Oh, how she longed to talk to someone.
She had discovered an empty, stone village, which stood like a
ghostly reminder to a past age. In
one of the stone huts by the silver river, she made her home . . . a woman
today wasn't any different than yesterday, or the days before.
Should she hunt for fat aarackes for first-sup?
Or scoot up a catalbak tree for fresh fruit?
Somewhere near, a felicar roar its deadly catlike warning.
Humm. For safety's
sake, this morning, fruit should top the list.
A catalbak grove had just
ripened, and she'd shoo the skutters away.
The furry little creatures with their tough, tasteless meat were
such pesky comedians but they were so cute. Even if the skutters beat her,
there'd be plenty of fruit. She
laughed. She might send seed
ponds peppering into their thick, furry backsides.
It didn't really hurt them and it was funny how they scampered away
and screeched at her. She'd
have to see what happened when she got there.
Hunger rumbled and she rubbed
her flat stomach. The
tightness of her muscles beneath her hand amazed her.
If only Marzen could see her now.
He used to tease her like any older brother.
He'd flex his muscles, snicker and call her soft.
He couldn't do that now. Her
body had grown strong and toned. Even
though she didn't need the exercise, she ran to the grove.
Remembering him saddened her.
Would she ever see him again?
By now, he had probably mated and produced a child to tag behind
him. He must've have been
born under a golden moon.
Ever since her shuttle crashed
here, leaving her far from civilized planets, she waited for rescue, even
if it may never come. Never.
Same as forever. But why bother thinking about it? If she had been dull-witted, she'd pass the days in blissful
stupidity, content to waste time——sleeping, eating, and lounging in
the cool of the jungle.
~ * ~
fruit grove, the usual gathering of skutters played in the treetops.
Unable to resist, she pulled out her slingshot and loaded a tiny
seedpod. The shot stung the
backside of a female. Her
mate screeched and shook a furry paw.
At least the skutter had a mate to protect her.
Cursed active brain.
Why should she be jealous of a pair of skutters?
A reminder of her solitude? Surely
this punishment came from The Maker.
sigh, she scaled up the trunk of the slick, catalbak tree, bent in a curve
by a storm. On the crook at the top, she locked her feet around the truck
and peered around. Beautiful!
The river looked like a glittering silver ribbon.
while, she went to work on one of the bumpy fruits.
Blasted tough stem. When
she freed it, she almost dropped the fruit.
Fingers throbbing from the rough stalk, she began a one-handed
One again, she took in the
beauty of the river. "What?"
Something appeared to be in the water.
She squinted into the distance, and her heart leapt.
The object appeared to be man-made.
~ * ~
rapids in the shallow river had provided a pleasure for Adaama on Battean.
Since they weren't dangerous, she liked to ride down them.
Familiar with this section of the river, it didn't take long to
swim out to the rocks in the middle, where the shiny object had settled.
She eased onto a flat boulder, and eyed it warily.
It looked as if a huge chunk of a shuttle's hull had been bent to
form a boat of sorts.
Could it be her shuttle?
Not likely, but it might be useful in the future.
She had learned to gather anything that held potential.
It wouldn't take much to maneuver it through the rocks and guide it
to the bank. Excitement
rushed through her. Could
someone else be on the planet?
hooked her arms over the front of the make-shift boat and pulled.
Once out of the rapids, she floated around the piece to propel from
behind in the deeper water.
water became shallower, she stood and began to wade.
Then she looked down and saw it.
Stretched from bow to aft, a human lay on the boat's floor.
Her heart sank. "Moons!"
Finally, another person, and he was dead.
Such a horrid thought. Her
stomach churned. "Just
what I need . . . a body to bury! Not
a pretty sight to handle before first-sup."
On the sandy embankment, she tugged
the wreckage out of the water. Standing
up, she glanced down. The
boat held a man with golden-blond hair, much the color of hers.
His body faced down. His
powerful back and arms filled out a woven shirt and the sinews in his legs
bulged through tight pants. She
groaned. How cruel this planet was with its beauty and plenty.
Now . . . even crueler to remind her of manhood.
She gazed at him.
What had he been like? Did
he have a family who would grieve? Humm.
Maybe he wasn't dead. If
he was, he hadn't been for long. His
bare arms and legs didn't show any sign of decay.
She stepped into the boat and pushed aside a swatch of his hair on
his neck. She placed her
fingers at the pulse point. Her
heart races when she felt a steady beat.
It took a hard shove to turn
the massive body over. Incredibly,
he had one of the handsomest faces she'd ever seen.
Or was she man depraved? Her
gaze trailed down and took in every masculine curve of his body.
He was exquisite, perfectly formed . . . and probably life-mated.
sighed and wiped her brow. Why
did the sun beat down unmercifully? Mated
or not, she had to get him to shelter and make sure he survived.
muscles ached from the strain but she pulled the wreckage higher onto the
bank. How would she get him
to her stone hut in the village?
From her shelter, she brought
back braided vines, and then she make a harness and slipped it around the
wreckage. It would take
tremendous effort to drag it home, but she had no choice.
~ * ~
The man rested on a pallet in
Adaama's shelter. He breathed
so lightly that he concerned her. Were
his injuries internal? Was he
so weak that she didn't have a chance to save him?
Only a bluish bump on his head showed any external injury. There was only one thing that could help.
She dropped to her knees beside him and prayed.
Merciful, Almighty Maker!
Her earnest pleading ended and
she grabbed a water dipper. She
dribbled drops into the man's mouth, but he didn't swallow. Maybe if she bent his head back.
When she rubbed his throat to ease the liquid down, the water
There was hope. She poured some of the water over his forehead, and swiped at
the dirt that clung to him. It
would take buckets full to clean him.
difference does it make if he's not clean?"
foolish thoughts. She'd been
alone too long. She gave the
man more water. A drop at a
time, the liquid disappeared in his throat.
It must've found his airway, because he sputtered.
She startled and jerked back.
He stopped coughing, sighed and opened his eyelids.
Beautiful ocean-blue eyes stared out.
They were filled with puzzlement.
Relief flooded through her,
and she put the dipper back to his lips.
"Here," she said. "Drink
what you need."
voice swept across her ears. She
couldn't conceal her surprise. Pragonian
words! Something she hadn't
thought to hear again. Should
she cry, or shout with glee? "On
He peered around.
"I know Battean. Is
this the Pragonian colony?"
How could she tell him there
was no colony? She placed her
hand beside his face. "I
am from Pragon, but try not to think about it now.
You've been injured and need to recover."
He clasped her wrist.
"Thank The Maker.
I didn't think I would survive until I found the colony."
Dread churned within her.
She didn't want to tell him that rescue might be impossible.
"What is your name?"
"Hann Cragg, Biologist,
Star Cruiser 40-094-1."
She smiled down at him.
"Hann is a strong name, worthy of honor.
I bet your life-mate likes that name."
His voice rumbled in laugher.
"If I had one."
A joyful thrill raced through
her. She would care for him
and teach him to love her if she could.
Her dreams hadn't died. Maybe
the golden moon had returned to cover her.
~ * ~
Hann rested and Adaama rushed
to the fruit grove to retrieve the catalbak fruit.
She had a kumtbabas from yesterday's last-sup that was still good
and she could feed him the softer fruit from them.
fruit survived right were she had left it.
She picked it up, turned toward river and froze.
A huge felicar blocked her path.
It roared and showed his long feline teeth.
How could she have been so stupid as to come out without her sling
or blade? Had she lost all
good sense because of the stranger in her camp?
each step backward the felicar moved toward her.
Her pulse pounded wildly, but she didn't dare run.
The beast would pounce on her before she could turn all the way
around. As she kept her eye
trained on the advancing threat, a catalbak tree jammed into her back.
She knew not to break eye contact with a felicar but she slowly
stepped sideways, and then back.
beast roared out. Fear rushed
through her and at a cautious pace, she grabbed the tree's truck and
shimmied up. The cat sprang and she scrambled higher.
Felicars knew how to climb, but she could only wait to see if it
would. Her escape angered the
feline. It bellowed and paced
below. It'd be just a matter
of time before it would come after her.
sounded. The beast howled out
and turned. Hann!
He had a sling and her blade.
Another large stone zipped through the grove, and then another.
When one hit his face, the felicar screamed and fled into the
grove. Skutters screeched and
scrambled out of his way.
~ * ~
stone hut, Adaama shared the catalbak fruit.
It was good to be alive, good to look over at Hann.
"Thank you. I owe
you my life."
smiled. "And I owe you mine.
I might have been on that piece of our shuttle until I died."
He glanced around.
He would wonder where the team members were.
She handed him the kumtbaba, which he peeled and ate with hungry
slurps. He already seemed
the only one, aren't you?" he asked.
peered down at her food. Maybe
her silence would speak for itself. His
touch was gentle when he lifted her chin and forced her to meet his gaze.
are, aren't you?"
it matter?" Her voice
was just above a whisper.
"No, because I didn't
think that I would find anyone alive.
We're still stranded here. Rescue
can't come through the turbulent atmosphere with our latest shuttle
design, and it may be many sun cycles before a new shuttle is ready."
she asked, "It's taken them three sun cycles to make something to
come though the atmosphere?"
He nodded. "I've been here two moon cycles. Once of those felicars attacked our camp.
I used the shuttle's wreckage to escape, but it had already killed
my two surviving team members. I pushed the craft into the river and jumped in.
My head must have hit something because that's the last I remember.
You'll have to teach me other Battean's hazards until we are
three sun cycles, I haven't heard a voice or seen a sweet smile.
I thought I would walk these tangled jungles alone until the day I
died. I'm sorry that you're
stranded, but I thank The Maker that you're stranded with me."
She touched his arm and warmth spread through her as a large grin
filled his expressive face.
Adaama Wess-Lix, aren't you?"
Mouth agape, her gaze met his.
"You know me?"
"No, but you fit the
description. I was sent to
find the colony and look for Commander Wess-Lix's sister."
happiness choked her voice. "Marzen!"
smiled at the blush that covered Hann's face and wondered what her brother
was up to. "Well?"
you and I found each other suitable, Marzen wanted us to consider being
prayers been answered? "Life-mates?"
The man standing in front of her was everything she'd dreamed of in
a mate. Her exhilaration was
impossible to contain, and she laughed.
Then something came to mind that stopped her laughter. "But
placed a quieting finger on her lips.
She loved his simple touch. "We
must make our request to him——as is the tradition since you have no
father," he said.
pulled his hand away from her mouth and lifted his arm.
Wrapped around his wrist, he had a solid metal bracelet with an
embedded crystal communicator. "Do
you see this?" he asked.
"We are not completely
stranded. The glow of the
Crystal tells me it still works."
A grin lifted the corners of his mouth.
"So, the mother ship knows I am alive.
Marzen is on the other end, and probably wondering where I
am." He took her hand. "If you do not like me and we have not consummated, we
can search for another mate when we return to Pragon. We will return to our home, Adaama."
the blur of tears, she gazed into his eyes.
"It pleases me to have you here."
No longer able to contain herself, she lifted her mouth and kissed
his warm, inviting lips. The
return to Pragon was suddenly not a priority.