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.”

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.

The Predators on Ikthe

They’re everywhere and yet impossible to capture on film. Here are suggestions of what the dangerous predators on Ikthe might look like. The scabika, the deadly rokhura, the creatures that make up the lion’s share of the protein that the Theraxl race needs to thrive, are just a couple of prehistoric-like reptiles reminiscent of Earth’s ancient dinosaurs. The predators on Predator Planet are out to kill or be killed. Darwin would have loved a jaunt on this strange planet…if he had lived to study it. Humans have a twenty to thirty percent chance survival rate here. Esra Weaver probably won’t make it a week.

Predator Planet Insect Life

Predator Planet has all of the same building blocks found throughout the universe. Carbon-based life forms and familiar elements such as water, nitrogen or methane. That doesn’t mean the life forms evolved as they did on earth. Predator Planet seems familiar to Esra Weaver with its greenery, rich aromas and the sounds reminiscent of the woods back home on earth. But what exactly are these bugs flying around? What made that noise in the trees? And what is rising out of the boiling mud pit? If it wasn’t for her high-tech suit, she would already be dead from any number of Predator Planet bugs. Stay sharp when you visit Predator Planet.

The Nightmares of Predator Planet

From her crash landing to present day, Esra Weaver must fight for her survival. There are no existing photographs of the predators she faces on an almost hourly basis. Use your imagination and these renderings from Storyblock to craft what her daily commute must look like. Good luck, Esra. We don’t have a lot of hope for you, but we’re cheering you on, anyway.

Predator Planet, or Ikthe

Ikthe, the predator planet, is nearest the dual suns of the sister planets. A thick atmosphere results in a hot and humid climate on most of the planet’s surface. Luscious greenery overtakes most of the land area. With an impenetrable rain forest canopy, the vegetation beneath festers and rots, creating a rich environment for microbes and scavenging predators. Yet there is an alien beauty to the variety of life that grows unchecked here. No civilization chooses to live here, therefore it is unsullied by pollution or constructs.

Ecosystem Variety on the Predator Planet

Esra has just barely scratched the surface of her foray onto the Predator Planet. She wants to get off, but in the meantime, she can’t help but explore and discover the pristine wilderness unsullied by human hands. The crackle of a stick behind her, the boot print on the cave floor, the streak of a jet trail overhead…maybe Predator Planet isn’t completely untouched after all.

Esra is equipped with the IGMC Explorer X8 suit when she lands on the uninhabited Predator Planet.
Photo by Jonas Verstuyft on Unsplash