Welcome to Quantum Muse, a science fiction and fantasy ezine. Welcome to Quantum Muse, a science fiction and fantasy ezine. Your banner could be here! Find out how!
Digital Voodoo.
Posting the finest in science fiction, fantasy and alternative writing and artwork. For free. In our sober moments...
   Reader's login    |    Writer's login
Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
A Felony of Birds

by Harris Tobias
The Greer Agency

by Harris Tobias
Assisted

by Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

by Harris Tobias
Alien Fruit

by Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

by Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

by Harris Tobias
The Stang

by Harris Tobias

The Troop

by

Harris Tobias



The troop eyes me with suspicion. The leader, an alpha male the size of a compact car, looks me over before deciding I am no threat. He runs his sensing appendage over my body. Iíve learned to simply stand still and let him go through his little charade. God only knows what he makes of me. The slimy appendage travels up and down my leg and torso. If Alph senses anything, he senses my desperation to stay alive. I need these guys. Please Alph, just ignore me.

Alph is the head man, the big cahoona, the jefe, the king. Heís not only big, heís tremendously strong. I have my side arm but I doubt it would be much use against him in a fight. The inspection over, Alph chitters to the others and they return to their foraging. Weíve been doing this little kabuki dance for several weeks now. Alph knows me, hell, the whole troop knows me. Iíve been shadowing them since we crashed on this no name rock. I feel like some extra-biological Jane Goodall following the chimps around trying to discern their behavior. Except Iím not observing these aliens to learn about their behavior. Iím hanging around them to stay alive. If anything is apparent in all this, itís that itís my behavior thatís changing not theirs.

The troop represents this worldís most evolved life form and my best chance for survival. They know how to survive ó what foods to eat, where to find water and protection from predators. Theyíre wonderfully adept at climbing the tall thorny plants that pass for trees here. They know what fruits are edible and how to open their impenetrable husks. I wouldnít last a minute here on my own. Theyíve been my salvation since the emergency rations ran out about a month ago. Has it been a month already? Time sure flies when there is no hope of rescue.

No, rescue is out of the question. My flight was off the radar, sub rosa, illegal and clandestine. My crew of four killed, the radio smashed and there never was an emergency beacon. Smugglers and pirates donít expect the cavalry to come to their rescue. Itís part of the bargain we make when we enter this business. The usual end for a pirate is either a quick death from eating vacuum or being forgotten in a damp cell on a prison moon somewhere. Getting stranded on an alien world, well, that just doesnít happen. Itís an impossible long shot. Ainít it just my luck. Shot up and disabled running from the Feds. We lost them in the dust cloud but never gained control. Crash landing on an uncharted world is simply never heard of. I was the only survivor.

The troop is moving again. I follow a few discreet yards behind.  First I look around for any edibles they may have left behind. I see a few half eaten banana-quats. Thatís what I call them. Long yellow fruits with a sour taste. Not my favorite as they often give me cramps, but beggars canít be choosers, so I put the best ones in my bag for later. The troop moves fast and I donít dare lose them. There are some nasty critters here and meat is meat even if it evolved a zillion miles away.

My troop seems to have a well defined territory. In the month Iíve been following them, we havenít encountered any other bands. Thatís fine with me. Iíd hate to be caught in the middle of a border war. These creatures are about twice the size of baboons which is what they remind me of. Theyíre social like baboons and the troop has a similar organization. The troop is dominated by the alpha male. He has a harem with him and an alpha female at the top of the pecking order. Lesser females and young males round out the population. Counting the juveniles, there are about 25 of us.

They look nothing like baboons, however. Besides being bigger, these guys have eight limbs and can change color in an instant. In that respect theyíre more like terrestrial cephalopods than anything else. The color displays are rich and varied and Iím sure if I was doing field research, it would be a major part of what Iíd be studying.

Iíve learned to read a few of their color signals. When Alph grabs a female for mating he flashes a deep green. The female responds by alternately flashing from green to deep purple. My tattered old uniform is several shades of gray. I have no idea what gray is saying, but Iím pretty sure itís not sexual attraction. I suppose theyíve gotten used to me. I know Iíve become accustomed to them. At first I found them ugly, frightening, but we all seem to have mellowed out over time. At least Alph isnít making threat displays every time he sees me. He used to raise a couple of limbs high over his head, turn a bright red and charge. I would have to show submission by falling to the ground.  Then Alph would give a loud hooting cry and swagger back to his subjects. A few minutes later, he would do the same thing all over again. Sometimes this went on all day long.

I came close to shooting the old boy in the beginning before I realized he was just showing off for the home team. Iím glad I didnít do anything hasty. Alph was only showing me who was boss. He canít help what he is. After a week or two he settled down, got used to my presence and went back to screwing and eating; the two activities that occupy most of his waking hours. Alphís a good guy. I donít begrudge him scoring points by making me look weak.

Iíve taken to calling my troop the Babblers. Thatís what their most common vocalization sounds like to meóbabbling voices. The Babblers move from one part of their large territory to another. When we arrive at a likely spot, the subordinate males and females scurry up the thorny trees and begin throwing down fruits or nuts for the rest. The tree climbers have to go way out on the springy limbs to get the ripest fruits. Itís dangerous work. Sometimes they fall and injure themselves. The older females use their strong jaws or rocks to smash open the tough outer shells to get at the inner meats. Iíve tried it myself with rocks and I can attest for the toughness of the nuts.

When the troop moves on, I move in and hunt around for whatever scraps are left. I guess that makes me a scavenger or a gleaner as I would rather think of myself. Itís not a very dignified way for an advanced intelligence like myself to make a living but intelligence alone isnít going to keep me alive on this world. When my emergency supplies ran out after the first couple of weeks and it was clear that there would be no rescue, a man does what he has to. I have nothing to be ashamed of. You do what you have to.

The crash was a terrible thing. I was knocked unconscious by the force of it and donít remember all that much. I must have been thrown clear because when I awoke, I was 20 yards from the smoldering wreck and the rest of the crew was dead. The bitter irony is that this was going to be our last run. This was the big hit, the one every pirate dreams about. Weíd ambushed and boarded an ore carrier in the Orion panhandle. We rounded up her crew and locked them in the hold. We threatened to space them one at a time until they told us something we wanted to hear. After we sent the third guy to his death, the Captain broke down and showed us his hidey hole. We found 63 pounds of pure Tricium, the most expensive metal in the galaxy. At 20 million credits a pound we were set for life. We spaced the rest of the crew to cover our tracks, stashed the loot aboard our ship and let the ore carrier drift. I never said I was a nice guy.

That night we drank to celebrate our haul. We drank to the end of a glorious career. We drank to our new found wealth. We drank ourselves into a coma. Alarms woke us. A Federal ship. We fled, we dodged, we used all our tricks until we lost them in the cloud. The chase proved to be too much for our battered old cruiser. We fried the nav system and most of the drive was shot. The captain picked the best crash site he could. This god forsaken ball. The rest you know. Welcome to my home.

The troopís third feeding yielded a half eaten blue fruit, my favorite edible. They are big and tough like coconuts except theyíre blue and taste remotely like apples. I munch on it as I follow along.  Suddenly Alph stops dead in his tracks. The troop stops too, sensing appendages erect, sniffing the air. We move ahead cautiously and itís strangely quiet. IĎm wondering whatís up when there is a sudden explosion of noise directly in front of us. Out of a thicket another troop emerges. There are considerably more of them than us. Their alpha male is a magnificent creature. He assumes the threat display as does Alph. Their color changes are awesome and in perfect sync, cycling through several shades of red. Both troops begin babbling and screaming as if rooting for their side. The two alphas put on quite a show.

The clash, when it came, was almost too fast to follow. One second the two Alphas were flashing at each other and in the next, our Alph was on his back. Suddenly I was worried. How would regime change affect me? Probably not in a positive way. It had taken me weeks to be accepted by my Babblers. There was no telling how long it would take a new Alpha to accept my presence. What if he didnít, what would become of me then? As Jane Goodall always said, ďBetter to stick with the troop you know than to start up with a new one.Ē Actually, I didnít care what Jane Goodall said. Her survival didnít hinge on the outcome of local disputes. Mine did.

The rival Alpha appeared to be winning handily. My Alpha was on his back for a second time.  His colors flashed from red to orange to yellow while the rivalís color remained several shades of red. It was time for me to step up and do something to help my team. I drew my side arm and put six bullets into the rival male. His color display changed dramatically as he died going from red to grey. Then he fell over dead. Alph picked himself off the ground with as much dignity as he could muster and examined his opponent. Alph poked at him with an appendage before flashing his victory display. I swear he looked like a boxing champ who just scored a knockout, both arms raised in victory.

Iím not sure the troop as a whole understood what happened but I suspect old Alph did. The dynamics of the troop changed almost immediately. Iíve been eating better for one thing. Alph makes certain that there is food left behind for me; and not half eaten leftover food either, but whole, fresh, untouched food. He has assigned a female to me as well. At least I think that is what is going on. Sheís one of the lower rank juveniles. I call her Jane. She gives me green flashes when she looks my way. Iím not sure what sheís saying but I find it sweet. Iím not quite ready for a relationship just yet but in a few months, who knows.

Itís not quite the life I had in mind. Me and my mates were supposed to be living the high life back on Terra about now. Unfortunately they are all dead and Iím alive. Thereís a moral in all this somewhere but I donít have the luxury to think about it. My troop is packing up and moving on. Jane is lagging behind making sure Iím all right. I see a nice pile of nuts left behind. I scoop them up and put them in my bag. I give Alph a call of thanks and follow.


Read more stories by this author



2012-05-29 21:13:18
An interesting castaway story! Fluent narrtaion,intriguing plot,good work!

2012-03-03 02:13:22
Good tale. It had me hooked right to the end. You never think of castaways having to suck up to the local chimps in order to survive.

2011-11-20 15:09:35
Sidewinder4 - Good read. Clear and fast moving. Sidewinder 4

2011-11-04 08:09:56
As usual, another good read from Mr. T. I liked the cohesion and tightness of the narration. Didn't drift out of character or parameters anywhere, no extraneous imagery. Taut. Very interesting.

2011-11-04 05:39:36
Ironspider - Most enjoyable. Reminds me, in a good way, of Charles Logan's Shipwreck, though Logan is more focussed on his characters survival in a hostile environment. I particularly like the interference in the alpha duel - watched plenty of natural history programmes where I've wanted to step in and help. Good language, nicely narrated.

2011-11-01 06:16:32
Great story! That was an interesting take on the theme of being stranded on another planet.




This story has been viewed: 2108 times.

Please leave comments on this story. Remember you are commenting on the story, not the Author. Love it, hate it, that's fine, but don't bring up the marital status of the author's parents.

Enter the code above to post comment:


You need to be registered and logged into the site in order to rate the story. Login

comment:



ball Did you enjoy this story? Show your appreciation by tipping the author!

Enter your tip amount. ($1.00 minimum)

Then click on the tip cup!

Books by Quantum Muse contributors and friends.
A Felony of Birds

by Harris Tobias
The Greer Agency

by Harris Tobias
Assisted

by Harris Tobias
Hold The Anchovies

by Harris Tobias
Alien Fruit

by Harris Tobias
Peaceful Intent--Stories of human/Alien Interaction

by Harris Tobias
CHRONON--Time Travel

by Harris Tobias
The Stang

by Harris Tobias


| Home | Editorial | Submissions | News |
| Discussion Board | Recommended | Merchandise | About Us | Links | Webrings | Archives |

Gallantry Web Design Services

We shamelessly accept handouts!

Give generously to the United Wa - uh, we mean Quantum Muse. It keeps Mike off the streets from scaring small children and the Web Goddess from spray painting Town Hall - again.
Enter your tip amount. Then click on the tip cup!


Quantum Museletter! Be the first to know when new stories and artwork have arrived.

Subscribe to Quantum Museletter by filling out the following form.



Enter the code above to verify entry:
Your email address:
Your name (optional):
 

Do you like this site?
Recommend it to a friend by pushing the button below!