Six Shells of Fury
By Scott Wilson
Word Count: 1574
Tex loaded his six-shooter with a fresh round of bullets from his weathered gun belt. He spun the chamber and watched it carefully, making sure that it was not out of balance after being knocked from his hand during the preceding battle. A quick scan of his belt told him he had to find a supply of bullets soon, or learn how to fight off the creatures of this world in some other fashion.
Four of the seven-foot tall, long taloned bipeds lay dead around Tex’s camp. Only one managed to get within ten feet of Tex, another four feet and the long talons would have torn at his flesh relentlessly until his was a bloody mass of flesh and bones. Over the last few weeks, he had seen the result of these beasts and knew he did not want to be on the receiving end of their fury. They seemed to come out of nowhere attack their pray, and then disappear just as suddenly. With his laser carbine, they were easy to despatch, but with the local 45 calibre pistols, more than one well-aimed shot was required to bring them down.
His leathery fingers spun the pearl hilted pistol before safely returning it to the low-slung holster. Tex patted the dust from his black Akubra hat and put it back on his thick, sandy head of hair. Since crashing on this planet months ago, he noticed the streaks of gray appearing at each temple. He hoped it was just his age catching up with him naturally and not some affect of the environment of this strange planet. Though only thirty-four, he felt twice that age now, and his body seemed to reflect this feeling by aging to coincide with his feelings.
Tex looked around, shading his eyes as he surveyed the naked horizon under the harsh midday sun. Tex could see the grassy plains stretch out as far as the eye could see with only a sparse spattering of trees every hundred meters of so to break the monotony of an otherwise unremarkable landscape. No birds flew in the cloudless purple sky and this unsettled Tex somewhat.
With the foul stench of the corpses rising, Tex hurried to pack his camp and head on his way. He continued in the direction that the sun would set thinking that it would lead him back to his shuttle and hopefully, and a way off this planet. Luckily, the small band of locals found him a good way from his crashed craft when they captured him and brought him back to their town. They appeared primitive in technology, somewhere around the latter half of the nineteenth century of Earth, the good old Wild West.
“Okay, Clyde,” he said to the horse. “Best be making tracks before anyone, or anything catches up to us.”
He mounted the horse and grimaced from the stinging pain from the saddle sores. Riding a horse was painful for the inexperienced, as where the tight denim jeans he stole along with the horse during his daring escape.
It took the posse a week to escort him back the town and he escaped from the sheriff’s office four days ago. If he were on the right path, then he was over half way back to safety. The first thing Tex planned on doing was get out of the ill-fitting clothes that chaffed his thighs and felt as stiff as a board. The second thing Tex would do was fix his shuttle and head back to Earth, provided he could fix the damage sustained from the electrical storm.
“Where you’ all headed padre’?”
Tex looked behind and saw a small man dressed in bone coloured jeans, a red and white chequered button-up shirt, a white cowboy hat, and a tan bandana wrapped around his neck.
“Where did you come from, mate?” Tex asked.
The stranger took his hat off and wiped his brow.
“Gets kind of lonely out here on the Kennel Plains. People sometime don’t see what’s right in front of their eyes until it’s upon them.”
“I’m pretty sure I would have noticed you, stranger,” Tex replied, slowly resting his hand on his waist above his pistol.
“Ain’t no need for any of that now, mister,” the stranger said. “I’sa peace loving person, from a peace loving folk.”
The stranger turned around slowly.
“See; don’t even pack an iron myself.”
“How do you protect yourself from those creatures,” Tex said, pointing back at his camp.
“Oh, those Endercats don’t seem to take much notice of me and my kin. We’ve lived here for centuries at one with all of nature.”
Tex began to understand why he did not notice this stranger before. If he didn’t carry a weapon and appeared out of nowhere, then there must be some underground network of tunnels or something to travel along. Unseen and protected. He looked around to see if he could see any sign of a manhole or the like.
“Oh you are clever, aren’t you?” the stranger said. “We do travel underground. Yes, I can read your thoughts too.”
Tex thought, If you can read thoughts, where do I come from?
“Earth, I’ve heard of that place before,” the stranger said. “We had visitors from you planet many years ago. Like you, the townsfolk rounded them up. They were hung, all ten of them, even the women.”
That must have been the crew of the Haratica, Tex thought to himself. The scientific exploration mission to find alternate planets for expanding Earth’s population.
“Yes, yes. That sounds like them,” the stranger said. “They had a vehicle like yours and they were taking samples of soil, air, wildlife, anything they found.”
“Do you know where their shuttle landed?” Tex said.
“Ah, parts to fix your ship, or possibly to use to get home to Earth?”
Tex thought, I’ve got to stop thinking.
“Hard to stop thinking when you know someone can hear you,” the stranger said with an ear-to-ear smile.
“Look,” Tex said. “If you’re going to rummage around in my head, you can at least introduce yourself.”
“Where are my manners? My name is Ankleon.”
“Well, Ankleon. I am in a bit of a hurry. Unlike the crew from the other ship that landed here, I managed to escape that lynch mob. I don’t fancy standing out here in the open until they catch up to me and string me up to.”
“Yes, yes. I can understand that. Strung up and left for the Ettercat’s to eat isn’t my idea of a nice afternoon either. Follow me.”
And with that, Ankleon produced a device with a number of bright lights and pressed one. A bright white light flashed in front of Ankleon and an opening or portal of some kind appeared. Through the portal, Tex saw a large square room with furnishings similar to those in an office back on Earth.
“Come now,” Ankleon said. “You will have to leave to horse here though. Their scent attracts the Ettercats.”
Tex dismounted and cautiously followed the short stranger through the doorway, not knowing what to expect but expecting absolutely anything to happen. When inside, Tex saw the bright white flash again, the doorway vanished and in its place was a solid steel wall. The other walls were constructed of the same material, two had large windows, and one had a real door, or at least what looked like a real door. In the centre of the room sat a large stainless steel desk with a computer and desk lamp.
“Where is this place?” Tex asked.
“When is this place, you mean,” said Ankleon.
“Yes, when. You mean when is this place. It is not in the same period that landed in. We are on the same planet, but fifty years in the future. Something happened that caused mass devastation on our planet and we need to understand what it was to prevent it.”
“Why did you bring me here?”
“You come from a technologically advanced planet, perhaps you can assist us.”
“And in return, you will help me find the other shuttle so I can get back home.”
“Yes, that sounds amicable.”
“Okay, so where are we then?”
“This building is in the same location as the place where I met you, but in the future. Through an unfortunate series of trials, we found a way to come back in time, but only to the same location. As you can imagine, we lost quite a few scientists through this process. Opening the door into rivers, volcanos, rooms being crushed by the existence of solid formations such as mountains in the past.”
“How many of these doorways have you made?”
“Three, successful ones that is. After losing too many of our diminishing population, we had to stop. Unfortunately, they locations are not spread wide enough to determine what actually occurred to set the chain of events in motion.”
“Do you have any idea what happened? I mean, how do you know it is in this year, or the year I came from, that the disaster occurred? There doesn’t seem to be any technology capable of such a disaster back then.”
“Yes, but I’m sure you will find the cause of the disaster over the years we have assigned you to this task.”
Six Shells of Fury
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