Davis, Jerry – A Long Curved Blade

“No. I want you to tell me what this is all about. I don’t understand.”

“Shrew’s c’m t’age she’s s’posed t’get preggers. Th’people need y’r children ‘cause y’r smart’n brave.”

Selene must have seen the look of panic in his eyes. She knelt down on the other side of him and said into his ear, “This is their version of a ‘coming out’ party, Doug. You’re not marrying her.”

“She’s so young!”

“This is their society. They’re in a race with death. They keep all their women pregnant, and their children grow up faster.”

“Yeah, but she’s so young.”

“You d’n like her?” Jahk asked.

“Well, yes, I mean I like her fine, but, it’s just thatнннн”

“Go through with it, Doug,” Selene said. “There’s nothing wrong about it. You’ll be honoring them and you’ll be helping us.

We’ll need your experience for the records, in fact your uploaded memories will become an important part of our report.”

“Oh, great.”

“This is science, Doug. I’ll go over and explain to Shrew that you’re nervous about all this ннн maybe she’ll make it easier on you.”

“What are you going to tell her?”

“I’ll tell her you’re a virgin.” Selene stood and walked around the fires to the young native girl.

Jahk was incredulous. “Y’never stuck it down?”

The flute music was growing wilder and more intricate, and the dancing females, most of whom were pregnant, started coming up to Doug and shaking and gyrating in his face. The men were treating the young girl across the way with the same attentions.

Then they pulled away and parted, making an erotic pathway between the two of them. The fires were roaring like a monster.

Shrew stood up, her dress shimmering. Jahk pulled Douglass to his feet and gave him a shove toward her. As Doug was taking his first step, he saw something very large and fast move behind Shrew, and the crowd began making panicked motions. It was a skike. Doug saw it raising its bladeнlike forelegs up and pausing, and, before he could react, it brought them down in sharp, spasmodic motions. The flute music was replaced by screaming. He saw Selene pushing Shrew away and then go down under one of the creature’s thrusts.

He heard someone screaming his name. Doug turned and saw his wife holding his rifle. She threw it at him and he caught it.

Doug walked between the two fires, the rifle raised. People were in his way, colonist warriors firing pointнblank at the skike with their crossbows. The arrows would either glance away or sink in only enough to anger the creature. “Move!” Doug shouted. “Move out of the way!” They parted before him and he had a clear shot.

His rifle blazed. Several of the creature’s legs and part of its torso exploded, and it rolled over twice and scrambled off away from the fires. He fired at it again, hitting it in the back. It let out a long piercing shriek, but kept crawling. Doug walked along behind it, waiting for the capacitors in his rifle to recharge. Several of the colonists, including Jahk, followed respectfully behind him.

“It’n burrow! It’n burrow, right there!” one called out.

Doug looked ahead to where the skike was heading. A dark hole in the earth. He walked to the side of the creature, which was mostly dead, and aimed at the mass of black eyes. The gun was recharged and ready to fire. He let loose with one more shot and killed it.

A motion caught his eye. There was movement at the mouth of the hole. As he was turning a tangled shadow of legs erupted from the hole, springing toward him. Doug shot it dead center, blasting a large hole through its most vital area. It reeled, balanced for a moment on hind legs; the skike towered above him, then fell over on its back and lay there with quivering legs. “I killed you!”

Doug yelled at the thing. “Do you understand me? I killed you! I killed you!” He kicked one of its more energetically quivering legs.

Beyond the two dead beasts, one more emerged from the hole.

It seemed to size up the situation, studying its two dead companions, then backed down into the earth. It kicked dirt after itself, blocking the entrance.

Doug walked up to the hole and looked down. The dirt still moved as the creature below packed it tight. He turned and looked at the colonists, who were staring at Doug with open awe.

Jesus, he thought. He stepped back from the hole, and moved away from the dead skikes. He was breaking out in a cold sweat, and he was shaking. The others! He’d seen Selene go down, and Lipton and Cathy. Doug turned back toward the bon fires and the panicked colonists and broke into a run.


The two men kneeled and prayed. They had done all they could do for her, maybe saved her life. They didn’t know for sure; they wouldn’t know for years.

Lipton was crying. His wife, Selene, was now in hibernation until Technica came back to pick them up. Leo and Cathy, the leader and his wife, were both dead. Cromwell and Janet were in another part of the capsule hyper-waving the news to Technica. It was just the four of them now.

“Can’t we do anything else?” Lipton was mumbling. “Can’t we do something more?”

Doug didn’t know what to say to the man. The only MD on the expedition was Selene. Doug certainly wasn’t a doctor. “We have to trust the automed,” he told him. “This is the best chance Selene has. We have her in stasis, her mind is still intact, her body can be repaired once we’re back in civilization. But for now, this is the safest thing we can do.”

Lipton was rocking back and forth, his arms crossed in front of his chest. “I can’t just leave her frozen for six years,”

he said, his voice cracking. “I just can’t.”

“It won’t be six years to her,” Doug said.

Lipton nodded wordlessly, and continued rocking. He’s in shock, Doug thought. He needs some sort of antiнshock injection.

Doug stayed with him for a while, then silently got up to check with the automed about shock medication.

“I’m glad you killed the goddamned thing,” Lipton said.

Doug paused, looking back. “I’m glad I did too,” he said awkwardly.

“The colonist chief, he said they only killed one before.”

“They’re tough animals.”

“He said they came back the next night and killed half his people.”


“The skikes came back, a whole bunch of them, and slaughtered half their people.”

“Who told you this?”

“Kinjon, their chief.”

Douglass felt faint. “The skikes retaliate?”

“I guess so. Maybe last night they were retaliating because you’d hit one.” He was staring at Doug with a haunted expression.

“But that was weeks ago,” Doug said.

Lipton shrugged.

“You think that’s possible?”

Lipton shrugged again. “The colonists would know best.”

“You think they’ll come back?”

“I don’t know.”

“You think they will, don’t you?”

“The colonists think so.”

“That means I … it means I brought them, that I …”

“You couldn’t have known, Doug. Nobody blames you. Kinjon would have killed it himself last night if he’d been able to.”

Lipton’s expression turned savage. “I’m glad you killed it.”

“I killed two of them, Lipton.”


“There were three altogether, and I killed two. The third one got away.”

“That one will probably bring more.”

The two men stared at each other. Doug was feeling more and more desperate. At that moment Cromwell entered the room.

“Technica sends us their condolences,” Cromwell said. “But they said that there was no way to speed our departure. The next hyperspacial window is still years away. We’re to carry on as best we can.”

“What did they say about Leo’s death?” Lipton asked.

“They said what you’d expect someone to say when they learn of a death. Since I’m the senior here, however, I’ve assumed command.”

“They put you in charge?” Doug said.

“I’ve assumed command.”

“But they didn’t tell you that you were in charge.”

“It was implied.”

Doug didn’t doubt it, but still it galled him. “How are you with a blaster, Cromwell?”

“I don’t touch the things.”

“Well, that’s just great. There’s a possibility that the skikes are coming back tonight, maybe more that there were last night. What do you propose to do about it.”

“Do about it?”

“Yeah, do about it. What do we do about the skikes?”

“We can’t do anything about the skikes. We’re here to observe, not to take action. We do nothing. We stay in the capsule until further notice.”

Doug turned to Lipton. “I knew he was going to say that. I just knew it.”

Lipton nodded unhappily.

“You feel up to shooting some skikes?” Doug asked him.

Lipton took a breath, staring at him. Then he stood up. “I’ll kill as many as I can.”

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Categories: Davis, Jerry