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ChaptEr 2

on the beach

Glory to Man in the Highest!

For Man is the master of things.

—Algernon Charles Swinburne, “Hymn to Man”

A jeep roared by, full of colonists who were full of beer. “Grab some wheels and we’ll race you to the beach!” Cadmann waved and pointed to his toolbox. They razzed him and careened out of the compound, singing.

Electric lights were wavering to life around the camp as workers changed shifts. The party atmosphere was infectious. Avalon’s inadequate twin moons would smile on a beachful of frolicking spacefarers.

The folding stool’s seat was several centimeters too small, but as he bent to the task of repairing and refastening the wire, he forgot the discomfort.

Avalon’s moons cast double, divergent shadows with their bluish glow, and the stars were brilliantly sharp and clear. No crickets. And along about evening the nightbirds aren’t beginning to call because the things they use for birds here don’t sing. And maybe we’ll fix that, with bluebirds and mockingbirds if the goddam ecology people want them. I wonder if they brought crickets.

Cadmann unwound two meters of wire and scraped at the clotted dust surrounding the loose connection, then clipped the old wire free and attached the new. He fired the soldering torch.

Do they still stand retreat at the Academy? Cadets in archaic uniforms standing in rigid rows, plebes telling jokes in hopes of making upperclassmen laugh and be seen by the officers . . . sunset guns, bands, the Anthem, the flag lowered slowly to the beat of drums . . . He attached the leads from the voltmeter. The needle jumped into the red. Done.

Mist had rolled in from the sea. The stars were gone; the moons were wavery blobs. Cadmann felt pinpricks of moisture on his face.

A calf on the far side of the wire grunted longingly and shuffled over, looking at him with huge, liquid eyes. Cadmann reached through and petted it, and it licked his hand.

“No mother, eh, girl? Must be tough not to have a mommy cow to love you.” Its tongue was rough and warm, and it moved more urgently now as it tried to suckle at his hand.

Cadmann laughed and pulled his fingers away. The calf shivered. “Aw, come now, you can’t suckle my fingers . . . ” Then he saw fear in the calf’s eyes. Its head jerked to and fro, then stopped abruptly as it stared toward the stream.

The other animals moved toward him. They stood together in clumps. A filly whinnied with fear, and Cadmann came to his feet.

“What’s bothering you, girl?”

The feeding stalls were enclosed by the electric fences and narrow walkways. Cadmann carefully stowed the tools and went into the compound. What’s bothering them? The filly was to his right. Instead of trotting over to him she bucked. Cadmann opened the gate to her pen. “Heidi. Here, girl.” She moved warily. “Here.” He ruffled her mane. “Shhh. Heidi, Heidi,” he crooned. “Quiet, girl.”

Night came suddenly. Both moons were at half stage: bright enough, but they left pools of dark shadows through the barnyard, some of them back by the dog pen. There were ten young German shepherds in the pen, and their ears were flattened against their heads. They growled deep in their throats, teeth bared in the moonlight.

“Hello?” There was no answer. “Who the hell is out there?” There was nothing, in the pens or beyond in the deep shadows leading to the bluff. The sound of the panicked animals was a rattling cacophony. Cadmann stood still and listened. Nothing. Carefully he took out the Walther Model Seven pistol and checked the loads. Silly. Nothing here. If Moskowitz sees me with this he’ll take my pistol away. He slipped off the safety, then put it in his pocket and left his hand there.

What in the hell was going on? He looked back at the animal pens. The German shepherds, dogs bred for their loyalty and intelligence, were going berserk. The wildest of them was also the eldest, a nearly full-sized bitch who was actually biting at the electrified fence, touching it and recoiling, returning again and again.

Cadmann ran to the pen’s gate and gave a low whistle. “Sheena. Come, girl. What’s out there? What is it?” She came to him slowly, and stood trembling, panting, eyes fixed and staring out into the darkness. He opened the gate, careful of the other dogs. “Back. Come, Sheena.”

He left the gate open long enough for Sheena to get out, then grabbed the fur at the scruff of her neck when she tried to run ahead. These dogs need training. It’s time. She growled low in her throat. The others barked furiously. Sheena strained ahead.

All the animals were yowling now. Darkened windows behind him filled with light.

“What son of a bitch is screwing with those dogs?”

“Zee virgin, she is mine!”

Another light blinked on. A male voice bellowed, “Hey, you! I just got to sleep. Will you for Christ’s—? Oh, Cadmann. Cadmann, a lot of us are on the night shift. Can you wrap that up fast?”

“Sure, Neal. Sorry.”

The window slammed. The dog strained at his hold on her mane. “Easy, girl—” Cadmann dug in his heels. Never go out at dusk without a flashlight. Rule One. And I forgot.


Cadmann jumped. Sheena strained just at that moment, and his grip slipped. The shepherd sped baying into the dark.

“Good going, Weyland.”

Bloody idiot. Cadmann recognized the angry whine, had trouble matching the thin, almost effeminate frame of its owner with the label Terry Faulkner: Sylvia’s husband. “She’ll be back as soon as she’s hungry.”



“Oh. The dog. Yeah, I hope so. Listen, Sylvia sent me to get you. If you want to come to the beach party, get moving. We’ve got the last jeep and we’re leaving now.”

“Yeah, well . . . ” There was nothing out there now, no sound but rushing water. Screw the picnic. I need a flashlight.

“Are you coming?”

Damn you! “Sheena! Come, Sheena.”

“I’m leaving.” Terry’s thin lips twitched with a nervous tic that made it hard for Cadmann to look him directly in the face. His small fists balled up and set on his hips. “Sylvia said you should come.”

Did you ever recover from puberty? What if I throw you in the creek? The dogs were quiet now. Heidi nickered and came to the edge of the pen seeking sugar. “All right.”

The jeep slewed around in a tight circle, so quickly that only the ballast of several enthusiastically inebriated colonials kept it from tipping over on two wheels. Zack Moskowitz leaned out of the driver’s seat. He was wearing driving goggles above a shaggy black mustache. “All aboard! Will each passenger kindly check his or her own tokens?”

Cadmann grinned in amusement. His or her. Like a book from the twenty-first century. “H’lo, Boss.”

Moskowitz wiped at his goggle lenses but only succeeded in smearing the dirt more evenly. “Good to see you, Cadmann. How’d the outing go?”

“Great.” Cadmann stood unmoving. Terry had already claimed the seat in front next to Zack’s wife, Rachel. There was no other place to sit.

“Here we go, Cad.” George Merriot squeezed over to make room. It took some squeezing—George could use a few extra sit-ups.

“Thanks, Major.”

“Not anymore, Cad.”

“Right.” Weyland climbed over Barney Carr and Carolyn, one of the McAndrews twins. He wiggled his way into the middle.

“Seatbelts, right? Everybody, right?”

There was a chorus of bored assents. Zack gunned the jeep and roared out of camp. The road out to the beach was smoother than that leading to the mountains, and more frequently traveled. It served the orbital shuttle, which made water landings.

“No problems, Cadmann?” the administrator shouted.

“Ah—nothing, Zack.” Cadmann was momentarily distracted by a whiff of perfume. Carolyn had taken advantage of a bump in the road to lean closer to him. Now if it had been Phyllis . . . but Phyllis and Hendrick Sills were a pair, and the twins were not identical. Carolyn was sallow in both complexion and personality. He smiled at her anyway.

“What about the fence?”

“Nothing serious. Break. I fixed it.”

George Merriot laughed. “Hey, Zack, for a bare instant there, I thought you weren’t playing company director this evening.”

Moskowitz wove deftly around a pothole. “Never happened. Check that fence in daylight tomorrow, would you, Cad?”

“Enough!” Rachel Moskowitz shouted. “No business tonight. The night shift’s on duty. Remember?”

“There was something,” Cadmann said.

Moskowitz slowed, his eyes still on the road. “Yes?”

“Bit of disturbance with the animals. They were acting like rush hour at the stockyard. Scared. Crazy.” The jeep lurched, and Cadmann gently removed someone’s elbow from the back of his neck. “Might not be anything, but you never know. I took out one of the dogs. Sheena. She got away.”

“Aw, not Sheena. Where’d she go?”

“Who cares?” George demanded. “They all got out last week. She’ll come back.”

Zack kept the jeep burning along the track at a racing pace, and as they bumped over a rise near the ring of thorn bushes, Cadmann could see taillights in front of them. We’re in the last jeep? Christ, he drives fast. Cadmann asked, “Something special about Sheena?”

Zack said, “Naw, I’ve been slipping her a few scraps, that’s all.”

“He wants her in our home,” Rachel said. “And we don’t have enough room.”

“Wouldn’t be fair anyway.” When Zachariah Moskowitz laughed, his heavy arching eyebrows and thick mustache simply cried for a thick cigar and a round of “Lydia the Tattooed Lady.”

“Ten dogs, and a hundred sixty colonists. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to get proprietary, does it?”

“No. Zack, stop. I’ll go back and find her.”

“Come on.” Moskowitz flipped up the filthy goggles. “Gives me a whole new outlook on life. George, give the Colonel a drink, will you? Cad, we’re not on duty tonight. Smell the sea and drink the beer and the hell with it.”

Cadmann didn’t laugh. The salt breezes tickled his nose now, and it cleaned away some of his worry. But he’d lost Zack’s dog!

Zack was still talking. “I don’t suppose that this really impacts you, Cad, but I’ve been a paper pusher most of my life. Administration type.”

“You’re still the only man I know with pencil calluses behind his ear.”

“Ah, but things aren’t the same anymore. I still ride a keyboard, but I ride it lightyears from home, on a planet still two twitches this side of the Jurassic.”

“And so?” Cadmann could hear the breakers now, rolling in steady rhythm against the shore.

“And so on Earth I made decisions and was responsible for maybe one five-billionth of what happened on the planet. Here, I’m one one-hundred-and-sixtieth of this planet’s history. I’ll have cities, states named after me. We’ll be in the history books, Cadmann, and schoolchildren will know our names.”

They always did name cities after their founders. They used to name them after warriors, too, but what’s to fight here?

The jeep slowed to a crawl as the road ended at the edge of the beach. Bonfires had already been lit and tended down to a low roar, and the other colonists waved in greeting.

Minerva One was ass-on to the beach. A team had anchored a winch in the rock so that the shuttle could be pulled up after landing. Nice design there. Land on water, take off on water, never worry about finding an airport. Its desalinization plant was a box floating alongside, with membranes inside to filter the sea water. The shuttle would be flying up to the mother ship tomorrow, one of Sylvia’s monthly jaunts. She wouldn’t be able to take it next month. Regardless of her protests, no one was going to allow an obviously pregnant biologist to undergo unnecessary g-stresses.

As soon as the jeep slewed to a halt, Cadmann and the others piled out. A cooler lay open on the beach. Cadmann fished out a pouch of cold beer. “Zack! I knew you were the right man to head up this trip.”

“Damn straight. You have no idea how hard I fought for that beer.” He dipped into the cooler and extracted a pouch. “We’ll have our brewery next year.”

“Thirty months?” Hendrick Sills shouted, his arm tight around Phyllis’s admirably trim waist.

“Earth year,” Zack answered. The Avalon year was two point six times as long as Earth’s.

Cadmann was crowded away from the cooler by three enthusiastic partygoers. He grabbed a spare pouch, then took one of the young women by the shoulder. “Mary Ann. Juniper berries.”

“Eh?” Mary Ann Eisenhower looked wary. Her blond hair was plastered down with ocean spray. “What?”

“Juniper berries. You’re in agriculture. Did we bring the seeds?”

Mary Ann wrapped her towel around her shoulders more tightly, brushed a few grains of sand away from her cleavage. “Cadmann, I don’t know! Why?”

“I want to make the first drinkable martini on Tau Ceti Four. That will earn me a statue.”

She frowned, then grinned widely. “You’re on. I’ll look!” She reached toward him shyly. “Uh, want to swim?” Like many of the others, she had stripped down to shorts.

“Cold, isn’t it?”

“Sure! But it’s nice when you get out.” She reached toward him.

“Mary Ann! Come on!” Joe Sikes called. Cadmann didn’t like him. His wife had had a baby only a week before, and he was already running after other women.

Mary Ann turned, mouth set in a line. “If you’re in such a hurry, why don’t you just go find Evvie?”

Joe glowered, unable to think of an answer, and slunk back toward the ocean.


It was Sylvia. Cadmann turned. “Speaking.” The corner of his eye caught Mary Ann disappearing toward the water. Where Sikes was waiting. It irritated him, and he wondered why he gave a damn.

Sylvia was over by the fire. She wore a two-piece swimsuit, something from an Earth designer who had understood what to conceal and what to reveal.

Cadmann started toward her, then stopped as Terry came into the circle of firelight. Terry kissed her cheek, then took the roasted samlon steak from her stick and handed her a much bigger one. Terry chewed contentedly.

“Ah—Cad, did you fix the fence?” Sylvia asked.

A voice too close behind Cadmann laughed. “I am not the only admirer of Señorita Faulkner, sí?”

“Señora. Go jump in a thornbush. Here.” He tossed his spare beer pouch over his shoulder. “Think fast! Good catch.”

A guitar twanged nonsensically, then produced a tune Cadmann had not heard since his youth. Marnie McInnes played while Barney Carr and her husband, Jerry, sang with good-natured tonelessness. Two much better voices dominated the choruses from somewhere on the far side of the fire: Ernst and La Donna Stewart.

Phyllis danced for her own pleasure, for the colonists, and most especially for Hendrick, who watched her with pride and hunger.

Carolyn watched for a few seconds, then humphed and stamped off.

Carlos watched Phyllis for a dozen bars, examining her movement with the eye of a master sculptor inspecting a block of marble. “She is good, that one,” he said offhandedly. “She must learn the real flamenco technique.”

“And you’ll be glad to teach her.”

“But of course.”

“Go for it. Talk to Hendrick though. She may need a teacher, but he definitely needs a sparring partner.”

“Sparring partner? No comprendo.”

“Hendrick Sills was Golden Gloves middleweight champ about six years before we left Earth. Bet he’d love to discuss it with you.”

“On the other hand . . . ”

Cadmann ambled over to the roasting pit.

Spicy meat smells rose from the grill. Much of the food was reconstituted, pouched and freeze-dried and soaked in water or wine—but there were two chickens and a turkey. Cadmann imagined he had known from the smell—

Morale must be worse than I thought if Zack authorized this burnt offering. Lost crops and too much work.

Thornwood logs made excellent coals when hot enough. The oily wood smoldered with a tantalizing hickory scent that blended nicely with the moist breeze from the ocean. Twin moonglades danced in the surf.

Sylvia poked in the grill with a long metal skewer. She glanced to her left where Terry was eating. He wasn’t half finished. “Almost done, Cad.” She turned the samlon steak. Even this cross section of the creature was queer, unearthly. The meat was pink like salmon, but two big arteries showed alongside its heavy spine—for heavier gravity—and the shape showed its flattened belly and strong bones.

“Big enough for two, Cad. Another minute.”

“Sure.” He sat beside her. “Hi.”

“Hi yourself. I thought you might not come.”

“So you sent Terry to fetch me.”

“Sure.” She speared a samlon. “Just right. Share?”

“Love to.”

She hoisted it up and nibbled at it, and sputtered as she burned her mouth. Cadmann couldn’t help laughing at the face she made. She looked serious, pointed toward the stars, and when he looked up, stuffed one of the hottest portions into his mouth. “Laugh at me, will you?”

“Molten metal, molten metal—you do know the punishment for witches, Esmeralda.”

“Sure, they hanged her goat. But Charles Laughton will give me sanctuary. Have some more.”

He held up his hands in protest. “No, thanks. My tongue would never forgive me.” But the first fragment had cooled, and it tasted fine. Taste of salmon, texture of . . . what? It wasn’t flaky like fish. Beef heart? Striated, no fat . . .

She jabbed the second portion at him again, and he splashed some sand at it. “Get that poor dead thing away from me before I spank you.”

Her eyes sparkled. “You . . . ” Terry was close behind her, close enough that she fell silent, smiled and went back to tending the sizzling barbecue. Terry watched her go, then sat next to her with his cooling plate of canned vegetables. He stared across the sea.

Ernst and La Donna stood up from where they’d been eating, hurled turkey bones into the dark and walked after them. Ernst waved cheerfully as they passed. Cadmann smiled but didn’t wave; he could see La Donna’s sudden embarrassment.

Good. Salvage those good genes. La Donna! With luck the kids would look like Ernst, too. La Donna was nice, but plain.

Cadmann moved to the edge of the magic circle of light, away from the others. The waves seemed vast inky shapes, rolling up and thrashing themselves into foam on the sand. There were shrieks of pleasure from the colonists playing in the water. A pleasantly rounded shape ran from the darkness to the light.

“We have them.”


“Juniper berries, silly. I remembered.” Mary Ann shook water onto him and handed him a towel. “Dry me?”

He smiled good-naturedly and buffed her. Her hair was ash-blond, it glowed in the double moonlight, and her skin was baby smooth and clear. Her body was toned and well-rounded. Rubens would have lusted to paint her—or something. Avalon’s increased gravity had added six pounds to her weight when she set foot on the ground. All of the colonists showed better muscle tone, and so did Mary Ann.

She giggled and leaned back into him in a clear invitation.

Methodically he scrubbed out the wet tips of her hair and worked his way quickly down her body.

She sighed and shuddered slightly. “You have talents I didn’t know ’bout, Cad.”

“Part of the service. Where’s Joe?” He moved his hands under the towel.

Her eyelids fluttered with brief, suppressed pain. “We don’t keep track of each other.” Her expression tightened. “Ah. I owe you a rub now.”

Her skin beneath his hands was cool but growing warm. She’s willing, she’s nice . . . nicely shaped . . . isn’t she smart enough? Isn’t she Sylvia? He said, “We’ll take a rain check on that.”

“Coward.” Mary Ann brought her pug nose close to his. “I’ll never live to see the day.”

He winked at her. “I may surprise you yet.”

“Hah!” she said, and jiggled off to another bonfire. The men there shouted as she approached.

Cadmann looked determinedly at the twin moons. We can’t keep calling them “Big” and “Little.” “Cadmus”? That’s a good name for a moonoh, hell, here comes Terry.

Terry Faulkner said, “She’s a dish.”

“Yes, I’ve always liked Sylvia.”

Terry’s nose wrinkled. “Mary Ann. She likes you. She’s told me.”

Cadmann said nothing. Terry said, “I’ve noticed that you don’t keep company with any of the ladies.”

“That’s not what I’m here for, Terry.”

“True . . . ” Terry’s gaze panned from Mary Ann to Sylvia. “But there is one lady you’ve been spending a lot of time around, you know.”

“Come off it. Sylvia and I are just friends.”

“I know.” There was a cutting edge to Terry’s voice. “You were pretty friendly the first three months you were down, while the rest of us were asleep up in the ship.” He made harsh squiggling patterns in the sand with his toe.

“What’s your point?”

“I’d just feel a lot better about it if you had a nice healthy interest in one of the other ladies, that’s all.”

Carlos was loitering nearby, his ear innocently turned in their direction. Cadmann cleared his throat loudly. “Now hear this. Boy, would I like a beer right now.”

“Con gusto, amigo.” Carlos walked away whistling.

“Terry, you must know there is nothing between me and your wife. We talk—”

“A damned lot.”

Cadmann pointedly eyed the beer in Terry’s hand. “Yes. We talk. And if you talked to Sylvia more, she wouldn’t need a friend so badly.”

Terry froze. “My relationship with Sylvia is none of your damned business.”

“You brought it up. Which makes it my business. We talk, and if you’re worried that she looks for more than talk, maybe there’s something else you don’t give her enough of.”

Terry turned away, walked two steps and turned back. “You really are an asshole, Weyland.” He turned away.


Faulkner stopped. “What?”

“Did you think that getting Sylvia knocked up as soon as they thawed you out would hang a big ‘hands off’ sign on her?”

There was a sudden lull in the air around them. Every face near them was carefully, deliberately turned away from the exchange. Cadmann’s face heated, suddenly flushed with blood. Terry’s hands hooked into claws, and his mouth worked silently.

Too loud! Aw, shit.

The thin man kicked at the fire, sending a burst of sparks into the air. “You know, Weyland, I don’t really care what went on before I woke up. Because you’re not the big man anymore. You’re not a farmer, you’re not a builder. You’re not even an engineer. You’re just an assistant navigator, and an extremely expendable security arm.” He leaned closer to Cadmann, who lowered his eyelids slightly. “I hear that you want to be part of the mainland expedition I’m putting together. Just watch your step. Be very careful that you don’t suddenly become obsolete. I’d hate to see Colonel Weyland pulling weeds or mucking out the stables to earn his bread.”

He turned and stalked away.

Wordlessly, Carlos tossed Cadmann a pouch of beer.

Cadmann bit it open and took a mouthful of brew, feeling some of the foam running down his chin. Terry grabbed Sylvia by the arm and pulled her aside for a talk. His gestures were violent and jerky, like a puppet with tangled strings. Sylvia’s face was impassive, her answers calm, and finally he quieted.

The entire beach seemed to heave a sigh of relief, and slowly the music and laughter rose up from a soft burr and swallowed the silence.

Carlos poked his arm. “He’s wrong about you, isn’t he, amigo? You’ve never made a move on the lovely lady.”

“Not yet.”

“Meaning?” Carlos’s dark face was split in a suggestive grin.

“Meaning that I’m going for a walk.”

“Have a good walk, amigo! I think I’m going to investigate Carolyn.”

“She’s a tease.”

“She’s also depressed. I have just the thing for her.”

“Your generosity never ceases to amaze me. Bon appétit.” Cadmann moved off down the beach, toward and past the huge beached shuttle. He didn’t stop until he was lost in the shadows. When Marnie’s guitar was no more than broken rhythm against the surf he turned to look at the wavering lights and listen to the sounds down beach. The night wind brought a whiff of seaweed and salt and roast samlon, and the sound of merriment.

A finger stroked lightly along his spine, and he turned, startled. Mary Ann smiled at him. She was breathing heavily, wet sand splashed along her calves from a jog in the surf. Her eyes were wide and luminously dark. “You’re a strange one,” she said. “You know how I can always find you?”

“How?” He reached out, lacing his fingers behind her neck. Impossibly, her skin seemed cool and hot at the same time. I don’t want you, he said silently, but I need . . .

“I just look for where people are having fun, getting together, enjoying themselves and there you are. Cadmann Weyland, off to the side, watching.”

Go away. Just go away, he thought, drawing her closer. “Watching,” he said. She shivered as he traced a circle under her ear. “I don’t always just watch.” Suddenly, he wanted very, very much to put the lie to her words.

Her eyes reflected the glowing surf. When she spoke again, her voice was husky. “Well, I tell you what. Why don’t you show me what you do when you’re not just watching?” She linked her arms around his neck.

He didn’t know whom he needed to convince more, himself or Mary Ann, but there are times when twin aims share a single purpose, like twin moons casting a single shadow.

She took his hand and led him away from the campfires, toward warmth.

Something was ahead of her. Sheena strained to reach it. A shadow bigger than herself, it seemed to move in jumps, waiting until she was almost on top of it, then streaking away into the dark, cutting behind the animal cages, across the stream, into the cultivated ground.

Sheena yipped in confusion, disbelieving what she had seen. Machines moved that quickly, but not animals. She sniffed the ground. The new smell was already faint, so fast had it moved, but there was no mistaking it. Wet and warm, and unlike men or calves or chickens or anything in the compound: the stink of it was a mortal insult! She streaked after it, splashing through the icy water, shaking her fur before continuing on into the dark.

She was beyond the plowed area, into the zone filled with burnt crumbled tree stumps and sprigs of tough grass just now puffing up through the blackened crust of the earth. Where was it? Clouds were moving across the smaller moon, and Sheena sniffed the ground again, purring low in her throat.

The cloud cover parted for a moment.

There on the hillock, black with lunar highlights, sat something inexplicable. A thousand generations of instincts couldn’t identify it. Big. Not man. No ancestor had hunted this thing, none had fled and lived to remember. Her cortex knew what it was not, but could not say what it was.

Unknown. A threat. It might harm man or man’s children. Kill!

The thing cocked its head sideways and cooed.

The sounds were disturbing. What had ever sounded like that? Where were the men? Sheena’s ears flattened back against her head. This was not a dog’s job. There were no men here. Sheena leaped to do battle.

One moment it was there, and Sheena’s teeth were snapping at its neck. Her teeth closed on nothing. It receded like a cloud-shadow beneath the moon, and returned as fast, and now it was on Sheena’s back. Its cold, broad feet clamped around her middle with sudden, terrifying strength. Sheena’s ribs sagged inward. She snarled her agony and rolled to mash the thing from her back.

It walked off her while she was rolling and was several feet away. Fast, unfairly fast! Thick fleshy lips pulled back from daggerlike teeth in a grimace of pleasure. Lovingly it cooed to Sheena.

Sheena was terrified now, but she leaped.

She was in the air when the creature rolled. Its jaws flashed up and locked on her throat, reducing her death scream to no more than a terrified hiss. It drew back into the shadows before she hit the ground.

She lay on her side, struggling weakly to breathe, bubbles of air shining blackly in the moonlight as they pulsed from her throat.

She watched her killer draw close, stared into its eyes, its huge, soft, silver eyes. She whimpered.

It cooed at her, and when Sheena’s flanks ceased trembling, came closer and gently licked at the blood oozing from her throat. The creature was hot, like a stove. It turned its back. Sheena felt blades entering her, and then nothing.

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