Jorja was saved from having to disobey her orders as news of Mary crashing the ship was relayed. Pity they’d already made a mess of the arrays. No doubt she’d have to clean them herself. She lay on the therapist’s couch clutching at the pillow. ‘You know, this is a ridiculous time for a session.’ Jorja stood up, ‘I’m sorry. I just can’t concentrate, I’ll probably see you next in the brig.’ She walked out waving impudently. Her therapist recorded it on her pad.
The woman had been lying unconscious in the cave next to a fire when she suddenly woke up, looked around her and ran out. An hour later and even the toughest orux were huffing. They were on her trail and could smell her and her blood. Another hour later, they were deep into the range, close in fact to an old cave system when they finally caught her. She had collapsed in one of the many mud ponds. She was struggling to get out. Steam was rising up from the mud into the cold air. The orux having saved, or not saved, their brethren from similar fates quickly dragged her out. Scalice tied a rope around her wrists and attached it to his own waist belt to prevent any further attempts in running away. Her face was cut, dirty and wary. She remained silent.
They made their way up to the old caves and Krud organized the group. Scalice tried wiping the mud off her but it was hardening. It did stem blood flows from several wounds but he worried about infection. The night had darkened with cloud cover.
‘I’m taking her up to the baths. Stay here and send out scouts. We don’t want any nasty surprises.’
Krud nodded, staring at the muddy captive scowling at how little she was panting. Scalice grabbed up a medic kit and headed off dragging her behind. She stumbled in the dark so he hefted her over his shoulder and bounded easily from rock to rock reaching the hot mineral baths which lay protected in semi-covered caverns.
Scalice stripped her and then himself. Being an orux, he saw no reason to reassure her. He scrubbed her and part-way through he noticed she had passed out, probably from pain. He left her supported in the hot water and started a fire. He scrubbed her clothes and then dragged her out as easily as if she were a rag doll. He dried and dressed her wounds, then redressed her, flung her over his shoulder and made his way down. His team returned to their home.
By the time they returned she had woken up. She looked around hesitantly, ‘My name is Mary.’
He grunted at her. She wasn’t big-breasted or curvaceous like some of the farm women and it annoyed Scalice that he found himself aroused by her. His men would laugh at him and he had a reputation to uphold. When they whined at how far they had to run to catch her she smiled and told them the gravity was lighter on this planet than that of her home world. Blank looks met her explanation. She refused a roasted rat, ‘If I can get back to my ship I can get something to eat there.’ Mary noted the hurt look on the orux face. He was smaller than the others but almost as tall as she was. ‘I, ah, don’t eat meat.’
‘Don’t eat meat? Why not?’
She glanced around, all the orux were listening astounded at her words.
Mary gulped, ‘I, er, don’t like it.’
The orux looked at the roasted rat, ‘What’s not to like?’
Scalice came to Drax’s rescue, ‘Leave it alone. We can’t leave the caves now, it’s started sleeting outside. Some of the boys collected some boxes from your…ship.’
At his signal they brought through some trunks that they couldn’t open. Without a backward look Mary went over and pressed in the combination. It opened to reveal packages. She took one out and opened another container. Scalice and Krud took a closer look. It looked like medical supplies. Mary’s eyes slid over Scalice’s wounds. ‘I’m a nurse.’
A few happy mutterings began, they needed a real medic.
First she opened her green packet, ‘It’s food.’
Many of the orux had returned to their duties, bored already. Some frowned at her food. Drax snatched it from her and looked inside, ‘Yuk.’
She asked him for a pot and he happily obliged keeping an eye on her food. She poured the mash inside his pot. As it warmed over the fire a smell wafted out. It wasn’t half bad. ‘I thought you said you didn’t eat meat?’
‘I don’t. This is not meat.’
Drax’s face screwed up and dipped a finger in, ‘Tastes like meat.’
Mary smiled, ‘Why don’t you have this one?’
After eating, Mary collected a variety of packages and went over to Scalice who was writing something in a leather bound book. She smiled at the sight of an orc-like warrior using quill and ink.
‘What’s so funny?’
Mary quickly looked down, wondering if she offended him.
Krud snorted. ‘You are.’
Chuckles sounded around the room but hushed suddenly as their leader looked around. Mary peered through her long lashes. Scalice was now scowling at Krud.
She viewed both of them with some trepidation. Scalice was big and didn’t seem overly friendly. His surly black companion however was much bigger and looked, well, stupid. What was more remarkable was that none of the cave dwellers appeared to be all that amazed over her ship or her and since they didn’t seem to want to rape, eat or murder her she relaxed a little. Mary was old enough and had enough alien experience to know when there was danger. Except she, like many others, had fallen under the spell of the Rudheans. It wasn’t the human race’s proudest moment when they discovered how perverted the Rudheans were. Soon after they were renamed the Marquis de Sadi. Mary’s thoughts shifted back as Krud leaned back cleaning his nails with a sharp knife. As he was laughing heartily at his leader his chair collapsed.
Mary dumped the packages on Scalice’s desk spilling them all over his diary, smudging the words, and automatically went to help Krud up. Krud stared at her hand. Orux around stopped what they were doing. Silence filled the previously noisy cave.
‘What are ya doing?’
‘Um, helping you…up’
Sudden laughter filled the cave. Krud grabbed her hand and just about toppled her. Everyone was laughing now. Scalice laughed and pushed the packages out the way and rewrote the words, ‘Like so many of my men the woman had a strange way’ he then added, ‘and for a change I was carried away by the laughter’. It would do for now. She was speaking to him again. Zeft was right. They did talk too much.
‘I can tend to your wounds, if you like?’ Despite how ashamed Mary now felt over what she had said to Jorja, she knew if no one else came to her rescue, Jorja would, and until then she may as well make herself useful. There was no threat and the orux seemed curious and even bored.
Defeated, Scalice stood up and stripped off his vest his brown eyes challenging hers.
Over the next few weeks more large beasts came from the sky. Zeft had joined him at the battlement one frosty morning. ‘Notice how they are avoiding contact with the humans?’
Scalice grunted in reply. Mary would sometimes explain things to him but mostly worked alongside his men who had adopted her. There’d been an argument about an initiation but Scalice had forbidden it. ‘They seem more interested in us.’
‘What do they want?’
Scalice grinned, ‘Well, I told them you’d take a few of their people out to Wyrnn’s castle. They want to meet our leader.’
‘You’re our leader. What are you up to?’
‘Let’s just say I want them to meet the worst of us.’
Zeft laughed, ‘Do you want them back alive?’
‘How can they know how much better we are if they are dead?’
It took a moment, not because he lacked intelligence but because he was a warrior.
‘I hate politics.’ Zeft leaned down and watched more humans being led into the caves below. ‘When do we go?’
‘In a few days. What do you think of the women?’
‘Better looking than the farm women. More receptive and smaller than the orux females. Some look like they fight. I like that.’