Invited to Predator Planet

First Chapter of Book 3

I crawled out of the mangled and twisted metal that used to be my emergency egress pod into blinding morning light. A huge spider web of fractures laced my helmet, and with the inner screen bleating alarms and flashing red and yellow lights, I knew the integrity of my suit was compromised.

My left leg had no feeling. I didn’t want to look down. I grimaced and dragged my leg behind me, scanning the rocky landscape for some place to hunker down while I assessed my injuries. I spied a cave in an outcrop of orange and black rocks.

Planting one glove in front of the other, I made my way to the hollow in the rock. I could feel the gravel through my nano-sensors. I might be breathing toxic fumes, but at least the crushed stones and sharp rocks weren’t cutting my palms. Ha.

A few feet from the entrance, I gathered a handful of pebbles and tossed them into the opening. I heard them scatter on hard rock, but nothing else. “Let this one thing go right,” I mumbled to myself and crawled inside. My helmet light didn’t work, so I grabbed my utility torch from a pants pocket. I shone it inside. It wasn’t much of a cave, but that was fine. I needed seclusion and a defensible position while I figured out what in the ever-living-hell I was going to do now.

With a final cry, I entered the cave, taking care not to bump my injured leg over the rubble at the entrance. The cave was about four feet deep and five feet high. I wouldn’t be able to stand, but something told me my standing days might be over. I made my way to an inner wall where I could still see my broken ship, but my body was obscured by the rock formation.

Smoke billowed out from one of the engines and sparks rained from where the nosecone used to be. That worried me. I shifted on the ground, took a deep breath, and lowered my eyes to my leg. I hissed at the sight. A twisted piece of black metal jutted out from my thigh. That explained the warmth. Two inches farther and I would be bleeding from my femoral artery. Good night, Amity.

“Computer, what’s my location?”

“Your suit’s integrity is compromised. Please return to the EEP for possible emergency treatment.”

“The EEP is busted,” I said. “What’s my location?”

“Unable to comply.”

“What about the nanosatellite array?”

“Unable to comply.”

Dammit. “Computer, where is your hard drive located?”

“I have redundant hard drives located in the nosecone and the insulated buffer trap.”

I craned my neck to see the crumpled pod. The smoke cloud had lessened to a gray ribbon. Well, the nosecone was out. “Where is the insulated buffer trap?”

“Access panel to the insulated buffer trap is located on the flight computer’s side panel.”

The flight computer comprised a set of monitors facing the single occupant’s chair. Said chair was inside the pod, and I recalled climbing straight out from the chair into daylight. Through the flight computer panel, to be exact. The non-existent computer panel. I tracked the scar on the hill where black metal shards peppered the rocks. If my leg wasn’t skewered, it might be worth scavenging, in case the hard drive was salvageable.

“What are your capabilities right now?”

“I am able to assess suit integrity and monitor life support systems. I can also access a large downloaded file found in your helmet’s computer memory. Would you like me to access the file?”

I blew out a breath. “Not yet. My IntraVisor screen is busted. Can you read my vitals out loud to me?”

“Blood pressure is 120 over 80. Your pulse is 87 bpm and your temperature is 97.8 degrees Fahrenheit. I have monitored your vitals for thirteen hours and seventeen minutes, since you landed.”

“Great, great,” I murmured while inspecting the metal shrapnel in my leg. “I don’t know that I’d call that a landing, but whatever. Can you tell me how to safely remove a metal shard from my thigh?”

“Scanning suit, please stand by.”

So far, I wasn’t feeling woozy. Once I removed the impaled shard, there were no guarantees. Adrenalin from the crash flowed through my veins, and I noticed my vision acuity was amazing. Every detail jumped out at me, from the grain of the rocks, to the particulate swirling in the air from my smoking vessel.

“Puncture located two point five inches from your femoral artery. Femoral pressure bladder activated. Please wait.”

I felt a squeeze build in my leg, exactly like a blood pressure cuff would feel.

“Do you have access to your MDPak?” the computer asked.

“Yes,” I said. Tingling began to burn below the wound. I noticed my hands shake when I unzipped the pocket with the MDPak.

“Locate the green blister packet.”

“Okay, I have it,” I said. My breathing escalated. I examined the inch-square pouch with a small bio-absorbable nozzle.

“That is the blood clotting agent. When you have removed the object, you will place it in the wound.”

“Okay,” I said. “What do I do first?”

“Use the alcohol wipes to sterilize your gloves or hands, and wipe around the puncture.” The computer’s voice soothed my fraying nerves. The adrenalin must be wearing off.

I cleaned everything twice. “Okay, computer.”

“Can you shorten the object?”

I looked at my multi-tool. “I don’t have anything that will cut this metal,” I said. “Do I have to shorten it?”

“No. Prepare the blister packet and the wound dressing.”

With heart racing, I forced my shaky hands to unscrew the lid of the nozzle of the blister packet and to cut a length of sterile polymer-infused dressing.

“Administering a small dose of analgesic. Please be still,” the computer said. I felt a tiny pinch in my arm. “Grasp the object. If the object is straight, pull out in a smooth motion. If the object is bent, you must work it carefully in each direction. Immediately apply blister packet and wind dressing around your thigh.”

“Dios mio,” I moaned as I grasped the metal piece. I had no idea how deep this thing was in my leg, or if it was twisted inside. “Three, two, GAAAHHHH!” My vision swam for a second, but the shard was out. I fumbled the packet but stuffed it into my wound with the nozzle side-down. Then I wept as I wound the gauze around and around and secured it. I looked up toward my broken smoking pod, and then fell back onto the hard cave floor. “Computer, I believe I just fainted.”

Tracked on Predator Planet AudioBook is Available!

How was your holiday? Even being homebound, we managed to stay busy. In all the holiday chaos, I neglected to update you on Tracked on Predator Planet’s progress for the audio version. It is live and well! Here is the link to the Audible version narrated by the distinguished Paul Metcalfe: And I should warn you that I am a part of Amazon’s Affiliate program, so keep that in mind as you’re one-clicking! 😉

My readers really seem to be enjoying Book 2; the reviews are great, and I can’t believe I already have over fifty of them. More than one person said they enjoyed Book 2 even more than Book 1, and weren’t expecting that. Neither was I! Then again, once I immerse myself in the world, I have a hard time leaving. I’m trying to build a portfolio of Predator Planet wildlife sketches because it would be really cool to have a Predator Planet companion book to really lose yourself in.

You will be happy to know that Book 3 is well underway, and I have caught myself chuckling at more than one spot in the book. You can expect more danger, more blood, more poop jokes, and of course, more monsters. Thanks for reading, and if you haven’t picked up your e-book copy of Tracked yet, here’s the link to that as well:

If you are interested in a signed paperback, you will have to wait a bit longer, as I have not yet received my order. But the paperback is available, unsigned, from here.

Hurry up and Wait!

It seems like current events require patience on a scale we haven’t seen since it was Christmas Eve and we were six. The good news is that Book 2, Tracked on Predator Planet, is in the hands of my publisher as you read this. Once I get my marching orders for fixes, I will polish it up and send it back for more editing. It’s getting closer! I was fortunate to gather insights from a couple of First Nations “sensitivity” readers who gave me pointers on making Pattee Crow Flies even more authentic. I truly can’t wait to bring her story to you! Here’s a little snippet from Book 2 to whet your whistle:

“Jackpot!” I pulled out the cyclone, the tubing, the pump, and the filters. Yes! I could collect air samples. It was supposed to measure silicates and breathable dust, but I was going to innovate it.

“Vector, can you merge findings from the Air Collection Pump with your Mass Spectrometer?”

“I need more specific parameters, K-90 Miner 110.”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m going to collect silicates once I can walk around. When I bring in the air sample, I want you to scan the silicates for any bacterial hitchhikers.”

“Results will take up to five business days,” Vector said.

Business days. What a crock. “Whatever, Vector.” I knew what lay ahead for me on this planet. My mechanical engineering degree was about to get hacked, because I was making the EEP my official base.


1: Tracked on Predator Planet

I roared at the white-furred pazathel-nax that snapped at my boots. For some kathe reason, the devil dog picked me out as the weakest in the pack. What a load of kathe. I could kill any of my brethren in a couple of tiks. Even Naraxthel. Ha. Especially Naraxthel, now that he was smitten with that useless soft female. It was better he had left us when he did, otherwise the devil dogs would be disemboweling the both of them.

“Run ahead!” I shouted to the three hunters. “Pull them away! I’ve got this mutt!”

I watched them draw the rest of the pack away, Raxkarax feigning a lame leg. I swung my raxtheza but missed the dog’s gray-white head. I parried its muzzle with my double blade, and soon its blood sprayed upon the groundcover. Two more swipes with my blades, and the dog lay dead, its entrails steaming in the rain-swept air. I double-checked my sight-capture was working. The Ikma Scabmal Kama loved to see death and mayhem.

I looked through sheets of rain, to the trail my brethren had followed, but they were gone. I heard distant shouting. Wary the devil dogs would sneak around and flank me, I cleaned my blades and jogged off the trail, finding a lesser used game path to head in their general direction.

A snarling log hit me in the shoulder and knocked against my helmet. I fell to the ground with a curse and felt the teeth of a lone devil dog worry my elbow joint. I growled and unsheathed my short sword, stabbing it in the belly. I silenced its high-pitched whine for good. I stood and aimed a disgusted kick at the huge blood-spattered corpse. More curses followed when I slipped in the mud of the trail, almost falling on my ass. I heaved great breaths from exertion, feeling heat from my anger flush my skin from my arm pits to my neck. I scowled and frowned, waiting for more pazathel-nax to lunge at me from the ikfal. Crouching in wait, I held my blades ready.

Rain poured over my armor, washing the blood and gore from its seams, as well as powering the cells. A fuzzy static pierced my earpiece. I cocked my head. “Hello? Raxkarax?” More static. “Natheka? Raxthezana?”

Kathe. That dog jostled my comm when he pounced on me. The sight-capture feed blew out as well. Once the rain stopped, I would remove my helmet and try to fix the delicate technology. For now, I was isolated.


Out of communication range.

Last seen being attacked by the vicious pazathel-nax.

My breaths increased; my heart raced. The tendons in my neck tightened.

I could not have planned this any better if I had spent ten cycles arranging it. A gust of breath escaped my lungs. If I was dead to Theraxl, I was free. I only paused a second to leave my prized blade sunk into the body of the dog. No living Iktheka would leave his raxtheza.

I spun on the trail and tore off in a different direction. Careful to step on springy undergrowth instead of black mud, I chose to hide my trail sign.

I ran for several zatiks, sometimes leaping to grab hold of a low branch and swing myself forward a veltik. The farther I ran west, the freer I felt.

No more sight-captures for the Ikma. No more nights in the Ikma’s pungent lair, filling her baser needs while my promise of posterity withered and died. No more lengthy feasts in the dining halls, pretending to be humored by others’ stories or females’ batting eyes.

On Ikthe, I was Iktheka alone, beholden to no one save my goddesses.

Holy Goddesses, I thank you for the gift presented to me. May I use it to give you glory.

My armor felt lighter. I felt a sensation like cool air lift from my belly and burst forth out of my mouth. A laugh.

Shaking my head at my foolishness, I ran on, headed for the private glade I sometimes escaped to for precious moments of solitude. I liked it because it was defensible on three sides. Protected by a defile of rocks on one side, a gulch on the other, and flanked by a stream on the third, it was perfect. It had access to the bounty of the forest on the north side. I smiled. I would be there in three days’ time, and then I could scheme how I might live out my days as an exile on Certain Death.

I stopped for short meals of speared jokal over small fires. I built them under the heaviest canopy, that the smoke filtering through the leaves became invisible. I obscured my footprints, choosing rocks and treefalls to walk upon, or reversing my walk, in places where prints were inevitable. Leaping and jumping, climbing trees or crawling through bowers, my trail sign was untraceable. Once the heavy rains descended, I would be but a memory of a dream to my fellow hunters.

I slept in the vee of the red tower trees and killed the animals that threatened to kill me first. On the morning of the third day, I smiled at the Sister Suns. Soon I would settle a camp. I would dry meat and use my hands to build a semi-permanent shelter.

I lowered myself from the tree, pulling a jeweled talathel out and twisting its jaws until they popped. I threw it to the ground for the jokapazathel and loped the remaining veltik to my glade.

I slowed to a walk, unhurried for the first time since my adolescence. I reported to no one now, save the Holy Goddesses.

Using my gloved hands to part the foliage, I came upon my glade through the deep woods. Already I heard the babbling waters of the stream where large glisten-fish swam upstream. They made a delicious soup. My mouth watered at the thought.

My eyes caught a movement, and I stilled.

I switched to my heat-vision and cursed soundly.

Holy Goddesses, do you now play a joke on your servant Hivelt? Do mine eyes see another soft traveler in truth? Do you play with Hivelt?

I zoomed in on the figure. There, in front of a small ship, stood a person of Yasheza Mahavelt’s race. I watched in disbelief as they gathered sticks and twigs and placed them in a huge pile at the back of their ship. They had been collecting for days, it would seem.

My eyes widened as I scanned the site, switching back to my natural vision. A drying rack had strips of meat and pelts draped over it. The traveler built a cairn of rocks at four corners of the glade. Another large boulder sat against the rock outcropping, a concave center collecting rainwater.

My breaths came in short bursts. My heart seemed to slow with time. I blinked, willing the sight to change. It didn’t. The soft traveler’s industry belied Yasheza’s race. Perhaps this was another race? Naraxthel’s Yasheza ran from him and hid. She took baths. This one—this one worked.

I watched for several jotiks, checking my camouflage settings obsessively. When she left her site to approach the tree line, I faded further back into the ikfal. What was she approaching so carefully? Flailing movement at ground level caught my eye. Ah. This traveler set traps.

The mahavelt’s suit was identical to Esra’s. I retreated into the ikfal an extra step but waited to see the face. If it was a female, I would turn and run, if it was—

They turned to look at me, but I knew I made no sound, my armor at maximum stealth settings. My camouflage obscured me. But she—I could see her face.

Luminous silver eyes, like the scales of the glisten-fish, saw through me and pierced the empty place where my heart was not. They shone out of a darker skin tone than Yasheza Mahavelt’s. The contrast was striking.

Her brows turned down as if she could detect my presence, and her mouth frowned. Her eyes narrowed, and she dropped her wood, taking steps toward me.

Run, Hivelt. Run and hide.

My face grew hot and I clenched my fists. My heart hammered in its heart-home, and I took a great draught of air. The little industrious trespasser built a homestead in my glade.

I reached for my raxtheza, and my hand came away empty.

She took one more step, then cocked her head. I watched her lips move as if she spoke, but I heard nothing. She turned away and resumed checking her snare.

My heart returned to its usual pace, and I relaxed my hands at my side.

By all appearances, this female intended to stay. But I would observe for a few days until I decided if she deserved the raxfathe and death. Naraxthel spoke of corruption in Theraxl ways, and the Ikma Scabmal Kama revealed it to be so, but that didn’t mean the raxfathe didn’t have its place in the order of things. Especially when an uninvited interloper took up residence in my place of solitude and serenity.

I snarled and snapped my teeth, remnants of the pazathel-nax fight hounding my thoughts. I watched her progress along the tree line, and my eyes tracked a path to a spot in front of me. There! A clever snare utilizing a sapling sat within a long stride from me. A dead jokapazathel hung limp. Seeing she was preoccupied with her load, I cut the rodent loose and kept it for myself. A tribute.

Death and fury would be my companions tonight. I retreated further into the ikfal and climbed a tree.

Tracked on Predator Planet

I pulled myself out of the risewell and found purchase on the rock wall behind the access hole. The sky was black with no moon or Ikshe shining above. The rains had ceased, but the cloud cover remained. I climbed hand over hand, stealth settings engaged. Joaxma would not leave her ship in the dark, but one could never be too careful.

I reached the lip of the cliff and peered above at the glade. All was quiet. I saw a defile of bones. Large bones. The bones of the rokhura.

I gasped. What had happened while I scrabbled through the caves like a mud-rat?

I clambered up the ledge and stood at the lightning barrier Joaxma created. Even at this distance, with the little ship to my left twenty paces and the bones a half-veltik from me, I could see the bones were clean. Picked and devoured by rokhural and Pazathel-naxl alike. She hadn’t been caught unawares, had she?

Photo by Joel Felipe on Unsplash

When Esra Found the Caves

Inhabited by gigantic spider-like carnivores, the caves are overrated. Unless you’re hiding from a hunter that looks like an apex predator out of a movie franchise. Then the caves are slightly more appealing. If Esra can get rid of the current, uh, inhabitants, she’ll be fine. Maybe better than fine.

How Predator Planet Came to Be

Predator Planet evolved after a cataclysmic asteroid event. A giant planet in the “Goldilocks Zone” split in two after an asteroid the size of a football field impacted. Two planets formed over time, the massive rocks behaving like liquids in the vastness of space next to two suns. One planet became a paradise of mild omnivores and rich soils for growing a variety of produce. The other planet became a tropical hot zone for dangerous predators. A race of hunter/gatherers evolved alongside the planets. They’ve developed a culture of predation and survival, using Predator Planet as a training ground and its beasts for protein. They protect their home planet viciously. Explore Predator Planet at your own risk.

Volcanic Activity on Ikthe

The predators on Ikthe aren’t the only violent things there. In planet years, Ikthe is young with a limited history of volcanic activity. Esra has yet to learn how many tectonic plates are on Ikthe, but once she has time to study the seismic activity, she’s in for a grand surprise.