Galactic Chronicles Book 4

Adventures of a Greenie

By Vanessa Ravencroft

©2011 McCullough County, Texas

GalNet Entry: Green Hell

While there are many settled worlds that are classified as dangerous to standard humanoid life, there is a world that exceeds them all and is the only garden world in the known galaxy classified as a Type X planet: Green Hell.

While it is a first glance a lush green world with a standard NiOx atmosphere, liquid water and an abundance of native life forms that would warrant the Garden world classification A 1 it is those life forms that make it different.

There are worlds with tremendous storms, those that are tectonic very active. Worlds with dangerous life forms and other treacherous conditions; yet none are comparable.

Green Hell is covered to sixty percent with deep jungles and every life form, from the smallest bacteria to gigantic floating living clouds everything has an arsenal of natural weapons and all are extremely lethal. No known species, be it Pertharians, Nul or the massive Thala is able to survive unprotected for more than a few moments on this world. The strongest corrosive acid known is produced by local ants, the deadliest poisons; bio toxic compounds far lethally beyond even the poisons used and identified by the Shail are produced by animals and plants of that world.

Yet Green Hell has a small Union colony, mostly to support an Exobiology research outpost of the Union science council.

Chapter 1

"I think it was a very good party!" said Charles the Robot, dumping plates and cake leftovers in the Recycler.

Roy tried to remove some Sparkle Bright Neon Gum one of the guests had glued to one of his father’s prized real wood book cases and said. "It was alright, I guess but I am not much for parties."

The robot observed Roy struggling with the bright purple glob and started to recite. "Sparkle Bright, Sticky Messes, Oil and Tar can easily be removed by using Rox-Scrub! Roxy-Scrub, Roxy-Scrub, even you can join the club!"

Roy laughed. "Charles I think you are the only Cerberus robot in the entire Galaxy that watches and recites commercials."

The machine responded with its deep modulated male voice. "I also am very likely the only Cerberus robot doing household chores! This unit watches commercials because they are part of a Holo show. ‘As the Galaxy turns.’ One watches this program.”

Roy grinned. “I do not see the attraction of these programs, but I guess everyone has different tastes.”

Robots do not have tastes. This unit observes it merely for information gathering.”

Roy still grinned. “Yes that’s a good excuse.”

Eight years ago, Uncle Sam had given Charles to Roy as a birthday present.

Charles was a genuine SII-Cerberus Type IV Robot, the very pinnacle of Terran Battle robot technology in its time.

Of course the military used Cerberus type IX now and Charles was decommissioned military surplus, but it was still an awesome machine. Everybody on Green Hell had robots and due to the nature of the planet all these robots were armed, but these were usually S-10 Multi function Bots with an added weapon arm.

Charles was designed as a weapon system from ground up.

No one he knew had a Cerberus and that was not just because a Cerberus was incredibly expensive but it was almost impossible for a civilian person to get an Owners License for this sort of military hardware.

Somehow Uncle Sam managed and Roy was one of only 25,000 civilians owning a Cerberus robot in the entire Union.

Roy finally managed to get the gum off and tossed it along with the rag he had used into the recycler and watched Charles direct the Hoover-Vac around the carpet. "Do you regret being my robot and doing household chores?"

"Roy, one is a machine. One does not have such emotions. It would be the same for me to stand in a corner for the next one hundred years and do nothing or execute whatever command you choose to give me."

"I know you are a machine, but you are more to me."

Charles' dome shaped neck-less head turned around, not that he needed to do that since he had Omni-directional optic sensors, but this side of the head was his 'face'. "You are more to me than a master. I dedicated much sub processing space to you that goes far beyond the standard loyalty program. One likes to mention that one is a Type IV and quite advanced. It is part of one’s ability to alter my programming to adjust to new situations. Neuron pathways have been permanently burned with you as focus and it is the closest alternative one could define in terms of feelings towards you."

Roy hugged the massive machine." I always knew you like me!"

The robot’s dark red dimly glowing visual sensors flashed a little brighter for a short moment and Roy did not notice the machines massive Syntho-muscle powered right arm with the huge Ultronit fist that could crumble steel like tissue paper gently padding the boy’s shoulder.

The robot scanned the room by turning his head 360 degrees and said. ”Besides logic determines that household work is far less dangerous to a robot than being sent into battle, deemed too dangerous for live beings. So this unit prefers household chores.”

Just then the voice of Roy’s father was calling the boy’s name.” Mister Roy Masters, would you please come to the study?"

Charles said. "Your father requires your presence. One is completely capable to can clean up the rest!"

Whenever Paul Masters, Roy’s father called him Mister, he knew he was in trouble. Paul never called him like this if he had good news.

Expecting the unavoidable, Roy crossed the living room of the dome shaped two storey home and entered his father’s study.

Paul Masters was an avid collector and fan of everything Pre-Astro from Earth. Pre-Astro meant things Terran humans used before the ascent over 3000 years ago. Even though Paul Masters was born on Ribenna Colony, 763 light years from Terra and had visited Earth only during his University studies.

This was the reason that most of the furniture in the house was made of wood or pseudo wood and had no integrated tech at all.

Paul loved books, the ancient kind, made of an exotic material called paper. He had those books stacked and shelved everywhere in his study. Roy’s father also had taken to the Terran habit of smoking. He smoked pipes and the sweet tobacco smell penetrated deep into the house, despite the best efforts of the air recycling system.

His father was thin and tall and his colleagues at the Institute often called him the stork, a nickname and a reference to some sort of Terran avian life form. Paul’s nose, Roy agreed did almost have the appearance of a birds beak. His father had the same bright blue eyes as Roy, but Paul’s hair was black and did not have the sandy blonde shade Roy and his mother shared.

To the boy’s surprise his mother was present as well. She sat on the corner of his father’s wooden work desk and they both looked at their son, their stares signaled he was in deeper trouble than he expected.

His mother was, so everyone told him quite pretty. She had a very feminine body and wore her hair in a chin length bob-cut. Her eyes were dark pink as almost everyone from the planet Phantas had. His mother was born on this perpetual twilight world almost 2100 light years away at the other end of the Upward Sector. Like his father she was an exobiology scientist and they had met when they both were students on a famous university on Earth.

Mother never wore any make up, or dresses or anything like that and always wore the same one piece body suit almost everyone on Green Hell wore, the only difference to Roy’s or Paul’s Bio seal suit was that hers had red panels, while Paul’s were blue and Roy’s had a green jungle camouflage pattern, like any real native Greenie did.

Martha Masters did not really approve of this as she looked at her 16 year old teenage son. His hair cropped short in a regulation Marine Corps high and tight style. Roy wanted it that way because Uncle Sam wore it like that. Roy had grown visibly since his last birthday and was almost as tall as his father now, reaching 198 centimeters.

Roy filled out his camouflage patterned Bio suit with a peak athletic body and he had well developed muscular arms a rock hard six pack belly and muscular thighs. His face was angular and Martha saw much of her father in his features, Roy had the same chin, the same Roman nose as her Dad.

Paul pointed to the wooden visitor’s chair before his desk. Roy was convinced his father had bought that chair for the sole purpose of making him uncomfortable while he interrogated or scolded his son.

Paul said with a stern tone. "Have a seat, Son! Your mother and I have to talk to you!"

Roy sat down and was sure he knew what was coming and why he had been called on the carpet. To speed things up he said. ”I confess I was outside again, so spare me the lecture father and let us proceed to the punishment part.”

Paul took the pipe out of his mouth and began to clean the bulb with a silvery spoon tool. “Roy, you are 16 years old, we hoped you would grow out of these ridiculous boyhood fantasies that you have been outside in the jungles.”

He placed the cleaned pipe in a wooden pipe holder stand, which had been mother’s Christmas present to her husband a few years back and continued. “I told you this sermon thousands of times and I will have to do it once again. We are on Green Hell, Roy and you know that! Nothing and no one can survive out there unless wearing the most advanced protection suits our technology can come up with. We are trained to do that and we never expose ourselves for long. We always have Marines in Destroyer suits along. This is what enables us to conduct research here!”

Roy crossed his arms in a defiant manner and glared at his father from under his eyebrows and said. “Because you are not Greenies, I am a Greenie! All that Armor-stuff is for ignorant Off-worlders.”

His mother slowly shook her head.” I am aware of the peer pressure you must experience in class by the other kids, but even tenth generation Greenies go nowhere near the Jungles and pretty much stay on Anthill Island. Yes you were born here, but that does not make you a Greenie. Not that I can even imagine why anyone would want to be one.”

Paul played with his replica antique silver pipe lighter and pointed it at Roy. “I guess you went to Ma Swenson’s boathouse in the school’s armor floater and stepped a few seconds outside the door. I know some of the crazy tenth generation locals do that occasionally but her compound is under a force field bubble, still it is a crazy stunt and you know you should not do that!”

Mother sighed. “I can sense he actually believes his own lies and fantasies saying he walked from here to Ma Swenson’s. Roy if you don’t quit that soon we have to consider psycho surgery or at least serious counseling. Don’t you realize that these are unhealthy fantasies for an almost grown man to have? You must admit and I know you do inside that no one could possibly do that!”

Hearing the increasingly sharp tone of his mother’s voice he knew it was not a good idea to say something, but he did anyway and lowered his head. “That is what you think and there is no way I am going to argue with you about something you don't believe!"

Mother added." We are scientists, Son. You know that. You cannot expect us to believe the fantasies of a boy. Fantasies we really hoped would stay behind with your childhood days."

Father nodded in agreement and said: "Let us not talk about your five second adventure stepping out of Ma Swenson’s house and come to the actual reason we have called you.”

He turned to look at his wife and said with a proud look in his face. “The Science Council offered your mother the Science- Command over an Explorer ship. This is a rare opportunity and among the greatest challenges offered to a scientist. Such a posting shows that her work is recognized by the highest peer. It is very prestigious and the very peak of a scientific career. After such a posting a Professor title and a chair in the Science council is quite possible.”

Roy simply listened it was nothing he was really interested in. Science and research always came first to them and he came in as a distant second consideration.

His father put his hand on her lap and with an admiring smile he continued to say. ”Your mother accepted and asked the council to accept me as her second in Command and would you believe it, they accepted!”

Martha returned a warm smile to her husband and said. “We are leaving in a month from now. We will then fly half across the Galaxy to recently discovered planet in the mostly unexplored Downward Sector. The planet features a thermo energy channeling life form. I am as you know somewhat of an authority in this field.”

Paul’s said proudly. “Not just somewhat, my dear. They recognized your brilliance, most likely after all the buzz your paper on the Lightning Bolters created.” He turned to Roy and said. “Your mother’s latest paper on the local living clouds had been published in the Neugruber magazine as the feature paper last month.”

She touched Paul’s cheek. “Because I married the best field assistant anyone could ask for.”

Paul sighed and returned his attention to Roy. “You should really show a little more interest in our work.

Mother waved her hand. ”As it may be all this means that your father and I will be gone for over two years and deep in unclaimed space.”

Roy wasn’t sorry to hear that. He liked his parents alright and he was certain they loved him to in their own way, but they were scientists first and he always was something like an unwelcome distraction, an accident that happened and an inconvenience taking time away from their one true passion.

Father begun to stuff another pipe and said, “We wish you would have had better grades and show more interest in our work so you could follow our path, but because of your rather mediocre grades we were unable to place you in one of the truly prestigious colleges, but we pulled a few strings in the academic world and we managed to get you accepted at Clarkson College on Triton. It’s a second rate College, I know but it is still in the Sol System and that still carries weight even today when you later look for a good university.”

Roy got angry." Why don't you ever ask me? I don't want to be a scientist. I want to join the Marines just like Uncle Sam and if that doesn’t work out I try to become a Union Ranger like Mr. Solomon and my grades are fine for that!”

His mother made a face as if she just had looked at an extremely disgusting specimen under the magnifying viewer. “We haven't raised you, so you become one of these mindless brutes. Marines are necessary I agree, but I am sure there are others that can do that and not our son!"

Roy sneered with a defiant tone in his voice. "Those mindless brutes are always good enough to protect your high and mighty butts out there, and if one dies protecting you so what? It was just a brute and much more important is that you're valuable observations of the mating cycle of a Bone Gripper survived."

Roy referred to an incident that happened just over two weeks ago.

His parents looked at him as if he was a complete stranger and his father said. "The collection and evaluation of scientific data is more important than the life of a Marine. It’s what they supposed to do, protect us so we are able to add to the body of knowledge that benefits society.”

Martha shrugged with a cold expression in her eyes. ”It matters not what you think or want at this point my son.

You are not an adult yet and we decide what's good for you. Maybe leaving this planet will finally help you to grow up. You will leave Green Hell in 4 month, when you graduate and that is the end of it.”

Roy almost cried:" What about Charles and our House?"

She shrugged. "This is not our house; it belongs to the Science Institute, someone else will occupy it. We are going to sell Charles of course or give it back to that bad influence you call Uncle Sam."

The GalNet terminal beeped and interrupted the conversation. Paul answered and Roy recognized Ivan Harrow's voice, the Chief Scientist of the Biology research Institute and his parent's boss. He sounded excited and almost yelled."Martha, the team that went out with Evans yesterday found what they think is a Lightning Bolter mating ground and they are certain the mating is about to start and he thinks you might want to see that!”

His mother got excited and answered.” Yes Ivan maybe I can finally put the final pieces of information I need to complete my dissertation on the Lightning Bolters. Can you send a floater?”

“I anticipated your excitement and already done that, the Institute floater should be there within the hour.”

Roy’s parents now truly forgot about him. Chattering excited, putting on heavy protection gear and gathering their instruments. Roy left the study totally unobserved and went upstairs into his room.

The house he called home was a dome shaped Ultronit sphere; made out of the same material they made battle ship armor out of. The house had two levels and once had been a forward research outpost on Green Hell and served as his families’ home ever since he was born. Roy switched on the outside visual sensor and waited for the Institute Floater that would take his parents away. The visual sensor was on a sturdy telescopic mast and inside a strong protective housing and could be steered and directed to look into any direction. On his view screen he saw the dense jungle around the house. There, a Pandora swan attacking a flock of Gladiator Eagles. The silvery Pandora Swan attacked the much larger eagles with his razor sharp lower wings and cut one of the Eagles in midflight to pieces, while it evaded the barrage of arrow feathers the Eagles shot at it. The swan punctured a second with its long needle sharp beak. It was a spectacular display of raw nature. It did not matter what his parents thought, he was a Greenie!

He was very proud of this fact and he knew everything there was to know about his home planet. Green Hell was the second planet in the Maxell System. A luscious green garden world that looked inviting like any other garden world when seen from space.

Long time ago, it had first been discovered by the old Saresii and they called it Mrtgtha in their language and it meant Murder-all. The Saresii never bothered to come back, thousands of years later the Sarans rediscovered the world and lost several exploration teams and called this world Imthe-Seth which meant Death World.

Then after Terra ascended and the Union was formed a Union explorer ship came this way and another attempt was made to explore this world. Garden worlds with a breathable Nitrogen Oxygen atmosphere were rare and valuable to any expanding society. Again the Planet proved deadly to those who landed on it, no one of the survey teams returned alive.

Unlike the Saresii or the Sarans however Terrans were much more stubborn and could not leave it at that. It was even suggested at one point to P Bomb the world from orbit and then terra form it, but instead of doing that it was decided to research what it was that made this world so dangerous.

Instead of scientists and explorers they send Ultra Marines next and they managed after losing some men to clear an island of its vegetation and sterilize it of anything alive and establish a permanent base. Scientists returned and with them came technicians and service personnel, then their families and finally shop keepers and small businesses and the small island base grew first into a town and then a small city called Ant Hill. The Planet became known as Green Hell

Jungles covered sixty percent of the surface. Instead of real oceans the planet had an almost uncountable number of large and small lakes, vast swamps and slimy bogs. There were a few rugged mountain ranges and cool less overgrown poles.

What made Green Hell different from any other planet was its vast abundance of life forms. Every single living thing on this planet was a killer and had an array of body weapons deadlier than anything ever encountered. The strongest organic acid ever discovered was produced by the Dragon Ants of Green Hell; the deadliest organic poison ever encountered came from a flowering bush. Some clouds were actually living gas bags that attacked with precise aimed lightning bolts of pure energy.

Tiny microbes aggressive as battle nanites, insects able to fly as fast rifle bullets with inch long stingers as hard as steel. Even the local moss and grass was lethal, and all this knowing that less than ten percent of the life forms had been catalogued so far.

He was pulled out of his thoughts as he saw one of the heavily armored, yellow painted floaters of the Institute descent and dock at the air lock clamps on the north side of the house.

A few moments later, with his parents aboard it soared back into the sky, its force field screen peppered by a Lightning Bolters attack.

Roy smiled and locked his door. Then he opened his closet and put his micro mesh jacket over his bio-barrier suit. The Bio-barrier suit everyone on Green Hell was wearing was a one piece garment that hermetically connected with his heavy all-terrain boots. The suit was to protect the wearer from the tiny Buzz-saw Micros and similar mite like mini life forms that feasted on any organic matter with tiny rotating mouths full of teeth. Real Greenies however, like most of the larger life forms on Green Hell had developed their own defenses against those tiny pests, Buzz-Saws never really bothered him and he knew how to evade their drop shaped cocoon like nests hanging between the branches of Plague trees. Al you had to do was use the a few drops of Plaque tree sap and the Buzzers thought you were a Plaque tree too.

He then girded a belt around his hip with an attached holster, in it his Thompson E-Blaster. On his left he carried a Vibro-machete and also attached to the belt was his K-Bar combat knife.

Roy chuckled while thinking about what his parents would think if they knew he had those things.

Green Hell had a natural gravitation of 2. 6 gees above standard and all Off-worlders carried a personal Gravi-Adjuster. A device that reduced the graviton influence on the body mass to standard level; until his sixth birthday he didn’t have one as he was born here and adjusted to the natural gravitation. Uncle Sam told him that carrying one increasing the gravitation would make the body stronger and every single move was an exercise. So he did carry one and he dialed it up every year a little more and now didn’t even feel the constant 4.5 gee the device created. He switched it off and left it behind. Then he crawled under his bed and snickered even more, imagining the shock his parents would get as he touched a hidden contact

Part of the wall slid open and he crawled in a secret air lock. His mother would probably faint if she knew it existed. Maria his friend who was a wizard with tools had cut the Ultronit and installed this small air lock some years ago, allowing him to leave the house unnoticed.

The inner door sealed and moments later the outer door opened. He slid over the smooth curved metal to get momentum then pulled his feet under him and pushed himself with one fluid motion of the wall. His now unrestricted muscles catapulted him almost 12 meters across the vegetation free area around the house. Charles maintained that area by burning everything that grew inside that area with his blasters and he had to do that every other day.

Roy grabbed the branch of a Tantalus Oak, with two only two fingers of each hand, avoiding the 5 inch long thorns; Thorns that were hard enough to pierce steel and drooled with a deadly nerve poison that paralyzed a human sized being in mere seconds.

He swung himself over to a Trappers Palm, oriented himself for a mere heartbeat crouching on a branch, just above the sticky substance that covered the trees trunk and its branches below. The Trapper Palm glue instantly bonded with anything that came into contact with the sticky goo on a molecular level and then tiny creatures akin to the Buzz-Saws would come and disassemble and devour whatever had been caught in the glue.

Roy filled his lungs deep with the warm almost hot steamy jungle air. He loved the musky, moist odor. The Jungle was full of smells and scents, some pleasant, some sweet and fragrant, yet others putrid and foul. Yet every smell signaled a different plant or animal and knowing the smells was part of being able to stay alive out here. For most of the things he had no names, and he was fairly certain his parents hadn’t seen or catalogued a fraction of what he knew and seen.

Out here he felt alive and right as rain, there was no doubt, no hesitation. He was one with the Jungle and somehow he felt as if he was one with the planet. He used all of his senses to the extreme. He listened to all the noises and sounds, he felt and touched. Some of the deadly trees and lethal plants had parts that could be eaten. The flower butts of the Nightmare cactus were delicious and had a nutty fresh taste. All you had to do know was where to touch and not to be showered with tiny needles. A beautiful orchid like plant as big as a man, he had no name for it, had liquid nectar inside the funnel shaped leaves that tasted like a mixture of honey and orange juice, to get it without getting killed took some skill that was all.

Out here he could feast on a hundred things, without being poisoned, killed or paralyzed.

This was his true home and he knew how to act and behave. He didn't need an eight ton energy shielded Armor suit to stomp through the jungle only to sink into a mud bog and be cracked like and egg after the energy ran out. He was a Greenie.

There was a sense, a feeling of being certain without any doubt. This sense told him what to do, that alerted to imminent danger and told him on an instinctive level what to do and how to behave.

This sense, this knowledge he absorbed somehow by an unexplainable osmosis directly from the planet. Everything here was a deadly killer, but that didn’t mean everything was constantly killing. It was more like a careful delicate balance and life and death kept itself in balance out here, just like anywhere else. Waltzing through all of this in an Armor suit disturbed that balance and directed everything on that intruder to kill it, to neutralize it so the balance was restored. All this he just knew, he didn’t know how and it was not book knowledge or the knowledge cramped in his mind by Cerebral uploads in school, it was a knowledge that could not really be put in words or expressed in writing. It was different.

For most of his way he remained in the upper level of the jungle, far above the actual ground. The dense foliage provided a much safer route and he could pass over mud bogs, water holes and the burrows of Kill Diggers.

He estimated he had covered two or three kilometers from the house and was now deep in untouched jungle, when he heard the tromping sounds of a Stomper breaking through the thickets. Roy crouched on a thick branch and waited until he could see this magnificent eight legged beast with sixteen barbed tentacles on its front end that could plug anything eatable out of trees and a tough crystalline armor protecting it from most of the plants and attack modes of smaller creatures.

Roy put his hands before his mouth and mimicked the mating call of a Water-snake Bull and laughed silently as he watched the Stomper turn in panic and disappear back from where it came. Of course it was still five months till the Water snake mating season begun, but the Stomper didn't know that.

Greenies were split in the opinion what was the most dangerous life form on Green Hell. One side believed the Water Snakes were the undisputed kings of this world and had no real natural enemies.

Water Snakes spend most of their live in the huge fresh water lakes and only during mating season bulls would be driven out of the lakes by the strongest one and seek other water bodies for their home, slithering many miles through the jungles and fighting with other snakes over a water hole or lake. Then they would mate with a female and produce one or maybe two little snakes.

Water snakes reached tremendous size. Roy had seen bulls of over 45 meters and perhaps eight or nine meters thick. Water snakes had a scaled skin that was almost impervious to any attack; they could spit a Gelatin-like material and ignite it with a static discharge in their mouth. The stuff burned even in water. In addition to that Water snakes could spread their scales and eject small poisonous darts with the force of a high powered rifle. The darts made of the same diamond hard substance as their scales. Those darts were poison tipped and even a slight scratch could kill a fully grown Stomper

Roy once observed a Water snake shooting Arrow wasps out of the air just for fun, demonstrating its accuracy. Roy believed Water Snakes were at least as those Terran Dolphins he had to learn about in School.

Other Greenies were convinced Dragon Ants were the undisputed kings of the jungles.

Dragon Ants grew up to 2 inches and their ant hills swarmed with millions of them.

The acid produced by the ants was strong enough to eat through any known material except Compacted Ultronit. The ants mixed two components of a liquid by spraying it out of two holes in their bodies, to prevent of being eaten by the acid themselves.

When an ant colony was on the march to new grounds, nothing was spared or safe from their attacks and a battle between a Water snake caught by an ant colony was a horrible and fascinating spectacle.

The only place found so far on the planet free of these Ants was the place where the Ultra marines established the original base that grew into the city Ant Hill; an island in the middle of Large Lake.

Most Greenies had made their choice and there was the Snake and the Ant camp and this discussion was a common subject and reason for friendly banter.

Roy had not made up his mind yet and believed that there were many life forms on this planet yet to be discovered, some of them might even be more dangerous than either Ants or Snakes.

He avoided the net of a Moolax-Spinner, huge brown arachnoids able to electrify their almost invisible nets with deadly voltage. The filaments of the net were only a molecule thick at sections and could cut through almost anything. He didn't even realize he had pulled and shot his blaster and killed a Vamp-Fly until he had the weapon back in its holster.

Roy didn't shoot or kill for sport or fun, only when it was absolute necessary. Everything on Green Hell had a stinger, or some other means of killing but that didn't mean everything killed everything constantly. It was more of a careful co existence. Roy's blaster was his stinger and he used it only if necessary.

Three years ago, sponsored by a popular extreme sports magazine and an extreme sports outfitter sixteen extreme sport athletes of the tough being class answered the challenge of a loudmouth GalNet host. That host Akrun Nokhar a Takkian challenged Green Hell’s reputation of being one of the deadliest worlds in the known Universe. His show offered 5 million credits to anyone running from Ma Swenson’s boat house to research-outpost seven. RO-7 was only five kilometers from Ma Swenson’s. There were twelve such outposts around the western hemisphere of the planet, the house Roy called his home was one of those and officially designated RO-9.

Despite warnings and the objection of the Ranger, Nokhar managed to get a federal court order allowing him to proceed. Two Perthanians, eight Saturnians, nine Takkians, two Stellaris, three X101, even a Nul and a dozen others participated...

It was a terrible disaster and loss of life. One of the Saturnians made it a whole kilometer but fell prey to a Burrow Digger. One of the X101 had to find out that Dragon Ant acid was strong enough to eat his tough metal skin in seconds. Only a Perthanian survived but severely wounded, he was lucky to fall right out the force field and could be rescued by the Ranger.

Akrun Nokhar could not be held responsible, he was one of the Takkians; only his crystalline outer shell was later found and identified to be his.

That episode was in the news and all over GalNet for several weeks and no one really questioned the dangers of Green Hell from that point on.

Roy wished he could have participated, but then he was too young. His parents would have found out and grounded him forever. It was him however who found the Takkian’s shell a few days later.

The Galaxy had mostly forgotten about this event, but I had cemented Green Hells reputation. Over at Gillian’s, which was a local Pub on the Eastside of Ant Hill they still talked about it of course. Most Greenies were glad it actually ended that way, in their opinion it kept most Off-worlders away from Green Hell and that was a good thing in their eyes.

Gillian’s was owned by Melissa’s grandfather and Roy and his friends often went there after school to get a bag of fish and chips that were so delicious.

A few Greenies, mostly the Shop keepers and the two Hotel owners however wished that Green Hell would grow and see more visitors and tourists.

He had reached a spot halfway between the house and the Shore rocks where he was going to meet his friends. This area had lots of Strangle veins and Buzz Saw nests and it was better to be on the ground.

He carefully avoided a Mortar Toad that hopped across his intended path so it would not shower him with hundreds of little flesh eating toads catapulted from pockets in its back.

Then he ducked and crawled under a dagger bush with its steel hard and needle sharp leaves. Every branch was under tremendous tension and would release at the slightest touch. A dagger bush branch had dozens of underarm long needle sharp barbed spikes and the force of the released tension was enough to drive those spikes in the though armored skin of a water snake and of course mortally wound a human.

Right after that bush he almost run head first into an all black huge beast. He panicked for the duration of a heartbeat. His sense of danger had failed him and did not warn him of this beast. He froze at the spot, not moving a muscle. The animal in front of him didn't look like any animal he had ever seen on Green Hell. No animal he knew was so completely black!

This animal was covered with short black fur, except around the neck area where the fur formed a thick mane; it had four legs and a boxy brutish looking head, with two ears and small horns on the crown of its skull. Roy estimated it to be perhaps 140 centimeters tall from ground to its back, the head slightly higher attached to the torso by a short but massive neck. The animal was perhaps 300 centimeters long and had a short thick tail. The muscles of the animal were well defined under that black luscious shining black fur and it gave the being a massive and incredibly strong appearance. It had two eyes that glowed dark red and had no visible pupils. The short broad snout was topped by flaring nostrils. A pair of long canines emerged from the upper jaw past the chaps and extended at least 40 centimeters past the lower jaw.

Only now he notice the dark metal band around the beast's neck with short cone shaped metal spikes in even intervals all around its colossal neck . It was something man made, it was a collar! Roy sighed and relaxed, this was not an animal native to Green Hell.

It was quite obviously a pet, a tamed animal. Terrans especially, but other cultures as well found joy in keeping domesticated Pets.

Domesticated life forms were unknown on Green Hell, as no foreign life form could survive the Jungles even for a few moments. Ranger Salomon had a tank of fish in his office, but those were the only off world animals Roy knew of.

Unbeknownst to anyone and kept as a big secret, his best friends secretly kept Green Hell animals as pets, unknown even to their parents of course.

His friends, especially Norm often teased him, that he was no real Greenie as he had not managed to befriend a local life form. Norm theorized that this was the ultimate proof and hallmark of a real next generation Greenie.

He reached out and touched the animal and said:" Are you lost, Partner?"

The animal opened his terrifying maw and for a moment Roy thought he was done for, but instead of being maimed or bitten in half, a huge blackish tongue appeared and licked him straight across his face, the big black tongue was dry and felt like a metal sanding disc.

At the same time he received strange new and foreign images in his head. He saw space, stars, and planets. He saw Green Hell as it looked from orbit and then he saw himself touching the animal and he felt a sudden wave of warmth and affection.

As Roy's mother was a native of Phantasm, and like most Phantasians she was gifted with Psionic powers, he was no stranger to Psionics. Anja his grandmother, he had seen her only twice in person, communicated her affection for the then small boy in a similar way.

His father, Paul Masters was seven points below the Heidelberg Psi Index threshold where Psionics usually emerged in a being.

Roy did not inherit any of his mother’s side abilities and his HPI at 56 was well below the level of any Psionic ability.

Like every Union kid, his HPI was tested and determined the day he entered Union School. It was part of the Psionic Power registration act of 3210 that required everyone’s Psionic ability to be tested and if such abilities existed trained and registered.

Due to this fact he immediately knew these images were of such nature and came from the black beast. H was still quite unprepared and surprised by the sudden Psionics and he sensed that the animal was quite intelligent but somehow unable to communicate in any form of language other than mental images.

Roy petted the animal's immense shoulders. While the black fur felt as soft as the finest Velvet, Melissa had a dress that felt that way, the body and the muscles felt as hard as Ultronit.

The animal lowered itself to the ground so Roy could pet it easier and he felt waves of affection and pleasure from the animal

Roy could not help but smile and he said, "I like you too. Let's see if we can get you home! This is no place for an Off-world pet. Do you belong to someone?"

As Roy asked this question he received a mental image of himself as if the animal wanted to say, I belong to you.

Roy opened his wrist com and dialed for the ranger station. It took only a moment and Ranger Solomon’s face appeared. ”Hi Roy,” the local lawman greeted him with a broad smile on his face. ”Bob is already at that secret meeting place you guys always hang out and I am sure he is waiting for you already.”

Roy said to the father of his best friend. “Good afternoon Mr. Solomon. I am on my way to see Bob and the others. I was calling to ask if anyone reported a missing Off-World pet. I think they call them dogs or something like that.”

The Rangers forehead wrinkled upwards as he answered. “What a strange question, Roy. No there are no such reports and there could not have, as Off World pets and animals are not allowed on Green Hell. Don’t tell me you are outside again!”

“Well I am sort of a little, but not really far. I was just curious if someone misses a pet.”

“Your father is going to have a field day with me if he finds out I know that you are outside.”

“I told them that I am Sir. I told my parents I went outside many times.”

He sighed. “Anyway be careful out there. As for your question no there are no reports of missing animals of any kind reported to the Ranger Network of this entire quadrant, including Green Hell. The only Off World animals I know are a swarm of Gold Fish in a tank in my office and they won’t go anywhere.”

Roy asked. “How big does a Terran dog get?”

“I never saw a real dog, Roy so I don’t know. Whatever you see isn’t a dog and you better stay way clear of it. Maybe you should consult GalNet.”

Roy closed the call saying. ”Thank you Mr. Solomon and I will do that, I mean check GalNet.” He switched to GalNet and connected to the Encyclopedia Galactica site, made a picture of the animal and asked the Computronic to run a visual search pattern. He never had to wait more than a few seconds for any information request, but this time it took almost a minute and the Computronic responded: "No life form cataloged that matches the visual search criteria. Do you wish to make a new entry?"

"Not at this moment. I need to collect more data first."

While he did all that he committed a deadly mistake, he had remained for too long on the same spot and did not pay much attention to his surroundings.

An Insecto-Saurus broke through the thicket and was preparing for an attack.

His sense of Danger did warn him but he had been distracted. Normally he would have had no problem to avoid an Insecto, his trick imitating the Snake sound would not work because Insectos had no hearing and attacked Snakes if they thought the snake was small enough for them to succeed.

His blaster was also useless, because it was not powerful enough to burn fast enough into the crystalline armor of the Insecto and reach any vital parts. Insectos never had their heart at the same spot and their small brains were well protected and he had seen Insectos continue to fight for several minutes even with a completely severed head. They were as tough as Stompers, and twice as fast. His mother once compared an Insecto-Saurus to a mix between Scorpion, Praying Mantis and Raptor Dinosaur.

Roy, who never understood why they always compared anything to Terran life, he never paid much attention and did not know how those animals looked, but he knew the poisonous stinger of the Insecto would kill him as fast as the scissor claws or the powerful mandibles. He would die right here and now and while he was afraid to die, he did not regret it or hate the Insecto for it, this was how things went on Green Hell.

However death did not come, the black animal catapulted itself over the eight meter distance that separated it from the Insecto.

Roy already imagined to see blood and bits of black fur and was worried about his new friend. He pulled his blaster anyway hoping he might delay it somehow, but it was not necessary to shoot!

The scissor claws of the Insecto slid across the furry body without even scratching it. These scissor claws were sharp and could cut trees in half and yet they could not penetrate the black animal’s skin. The Saurus screeched and hammered its poisonous stinger into the side of the black beast and it too could not penetrate, the stinger broke and drooled greenish poisonous slime.

The black beast suddenly had enormous claws coming out of the front of its paws and with them it ripped enormous chunks out of the Insectos body in a frenzied fury, the crystalline armor shattered like brittle glass, showers of blood, guts and flesh sprayed everywhere. The black beast slashed its claws so fast through the air, Roy only saw a flashing blur

That black beast attacked with a level of vicious brutality and power like nothing Roy had ever witnessed on a planet where nature was more vicious and brutal than anywhere else.

It was over as fast as it had begun; mere seconds after the black beast had attacked the Insecto was nothing but a torn heap of shredded flesh and legs, barely recognizable for what it once was.

Swarms of Vamp Flies already buzzed around, attracted by the smell of blood. Roy knew ants would not be far behind.

He jumped over a Fire Nettle and said to the beast. "We better get out of here, fast!"

The animal instantly reacted, and followed him, sending waves of warmth and affection to Roy. There was no sense of pain or agony to suggest the black animal had suffered any wounds.

Roy caught his breath and said "Wow that was something! You sure did a number on that Insecto. I thought we are both done for.”

A feeling of deep pride caused by Roy’s praise emanated from the animal and a warm sensation of deep affection was the answer.

After walking beside the animal for a little while he got the mental image of him riding on the beast.

"You want me to sit on your on your back?" he asked aloud.

The image reappeared.

Roy had never sat on an animal ever, and the very thought of it was very alien to him, but for some reason he trusted that animal with his life and felt affection for it.

Just as he realized his own affection for the animal he received a wave of pride and deep satisfaction from the animal and the image reappeared, him sitting on the animal riding it.

He pulled himself up by getting a hold on the about ten centimeter wide metal collar and swung himself up on the back. He kept his hold on the collar as the animal slowly moved forward.

Roy could feel the rock hard muscles moving under the soft short fur and after a little while he got used to the flow of motions and felt more at ease riding the beast.

He examined the collar closer. It was of a dark metal like substance, but it was somewhat flexible more like memory metal than unyielding Ultronit.

Roy thought the animal was perhaps a local life form after all and just got caught in some sort of snare.

It was a known rumor that some Greenies secretly snared and trapped local life forms to smuggle and sell them to Exotic Animal dealers and the Death Sport arenas on the lawless planets in Free Space. This was one of Ranger Solomon’s main tasks trying to prevent that practice.

Mr. Salomon had told Roy one evening as he was at the Solomon’s for a sleep over that this was very rare now, ever since he caught a crooked Bio Institute researcher and Mr. Beamish a local smuggling Insectos and a Stomper off planet. Both men were arrested and trialed and now spend their time on a nasty Correctional Colony somewhere else.

However no animal on Green Hell, at least none he had ever seen had four legs. Life forms here had none, two, six, eight or more legs but never four.

That didn’t mean much he concluded since less than ten percent of all the estimated life forms on Green Hell had been catalogued and no one had really been to the eastern hemisphere of the planet for longer than a few hours.

Again he cursed himself for being preoccupied with the black animal that he missed the Fire Nettle bush. The animal walked right over it and the fruit like pods explodes, showering the black chest fur with the deadliest nerve toxin known to man. Even the slightest amount on unprotected skin caused any known life forms nervous system to collapse in lethal convulsions.

Greenies were somewhat immune to it, still feeling the burning sensation and being sick for a few days but would not die of the exposure. Receiving such a large amount however would have been lethal to anyone. Surprisingly the dust had no effect on the beast at all.

Dagger bush branches lashing against it, the sharp thorns shattered or bend but did not penetrate or wound the animal.

Two arrow wasps accelerated to almost rifle bullet speed bounced off its skin as if hitting a rock.

It became more and more apparent to Roy why this animal could survive in the Jungles of Green Hell. It did not avoid the dangers like most other life forms did. It waltzed right over it and nothing so far affected it.

Just like a stomper, but even a stomper would have been affected by the Five-mouth centipede that suddenly appeared from its burrow underneath a Nettle bush and snapped its five pairs of mandibles into the skin of the beasts front legs. The beast’s claws severed the centipede in pieces without slowing it down or having any other effect.

The animal responded to his mental directions like it was a part of Roy's body. When he wanted to go left, the animal immediately went left or avoided a danger as fast as Roy could see it. Roy once again paid full attention to his surroundings.

It didn't take long and he reached the edge of the Jungle. There was a thirty meter wide shore line beach of stone pebbles, Terror moss and Murder Grass growing between the stones, and blister crabs camouflaged as small shore rocks hiding among the gray and brownish pebbles and head sized boulders. This shore line edged the Great Lake all around.

Great Lake was one of the largest open water bodies of Green Hell and to the south east about nine kilometers from here was Ma Swenson’s Boathouse and from there you could take a floater and fly to the big island and the City, about 12 Kilometers from here.

Roy always wanted to walk the entire shore line all around but that would take a long time as he would have to walk over 320 kilometers to do so.

Survey soundings estimated Large Lake also to e among the deepest lakes on the planet with depths of over 900 meters down at its deepest areas. No one so far had been down there to see what life forms might live there.

The water was fresh and always cool but not very cold and it was clean and could be consumed by humans without any ill effects.

Some of the merchants dreamed that this would be a good commodity to export, as fresh drinking water was always in demand on the Galactic Market.

Six meters away from the shore was a group of nine huge boulders, pushed there by a long gone planetary ice age. These big boulders were free of ants and the lichen covering some of the spots was the only life form they knew about that had no lethal ability.

These rocks were their secret hang out and it was here they met almost every afternoon.

Roy jumped of the back of his new friend and said to it. ”Wait here, Partner. I want to surprise the others!"

He felt the answer and knew the animal had understood.

He hopped and ran in measured moves between the patches of terror Moss and Murder grass like he did countless times before, always on the look-out for crabs and catapulted himself in a big leap across the water and landed on the first boulder.

His friends were already here: Norm Stevenson, the son of the Major. Maria Scott, daughter of the City Engineer. Bob Salomon, his best friend and son of the Ranger and Melissa O'Malley, her family owned the Department Store and two restaurants in Town.

Bob leaned against the brown furry body of Wobbler.

Wobbler was an almost full grown Moolax Spider, measuring about six meters across, legs included. Bob had rescued the spider from a Stomper when it was still small. Bob raised the spider and bonded with it and whenever Bob was outside Wobbler would wait for him and follow Bob around wherever he went.

Bob was the biggest of them all and the strongest of them. Like Roy he too wore his Grav-Adjuster dialed up since his sixth birth day. Bob had thick black curled hair and he had curls hanging down to the side of his temples in tradition of his family and an old Earth religion, called Judaism. He expressed is faith also by wearing a little round hat on the top of his head. Bob called it his Kippah; Ranger Solomon would wear one like this whenever he did not wear his helmet. Bob once explained to Roy the significance of it, but he forgot. Roy was not religious at all, the only concept that came close to him was the feeling he had when he was out in the Jungle.

Wobbler rose only a bit as he saw Roy coming, but relaxed again. Bob grinned. "Finally, you made it! We thought you might not show up today."

"My parents gave me another lecture and some bad news, and then had to wait until they left.”

Melissa sat on top of the tallest rock. She was friends with Roy and the others ever since the first days of kindergarten when they all first met.

Roy only recently realized that Melissa was a girl and that she became prettier every day and perhaps already was the prettiest girl in town.

She had a mass of curly flaming red hair that surrounded her skin that had the same shine as the fine English china her parents kept in a locked glass case in their dining room. It had almost looked translucent. Her long lashes framed huge green eyes, over a tiny nose and beautiful shaped lips. Lately she begun to use a little make up and her lips were painted in a nice shade that matched her hair.

She wore her Bio-seal suit skin tight and her body became more female every day. Her suit had long dark green panels on the sides starting at her collar and ending in her boots, the middle was white and this color scheme somehow enhanced her curves even more.

At first it looked as if she wore a beautiful cape of silver, and an odd looking head piece with a long needle sharp point. The cape suddenly moved and Silver, her Pandora Swan lifted his sleek head turned it on the long snake like neck and eyed at Roy with hostile yellow piercing eyes.

Melissa scratched the underside of his neck and the Swan lowered his head burring it in her mass of red hair and once more only his long sharp beak was visible. Silver would barely leave her shoulders and even though it had claws hard as diamond and sharp as knives, it somehow managed never even left scratches on her delicate shoulders. The slightest scratch of these claws meant instant death as they were poisonous.

She gave Roy a charming smile.

Maria sat a little below and had her legs folded in the lotus position and on her lap was a partially dismantled blaster she worked on, her tool belt within reach. The big shoulder bag on her other side moved and the head of Snuggle appeared. Snuggle was a pelted two meter long Ninja Weasel. They usually did not appear during the day and were deadly night hunters, able to adopt almost any background color they came in contact with, blending into the surrounding virtually invisible until they attacked with razor sharp claws and poisonous fangs. It had a snake like body with only two little arms that ended in clawed paws that had the same dexterity and an opposing thumb just like a human hand. They could coil and catapult themselves over great distances and use their long scaled tails covered with needle sharp barbs like a bull whip shredding their opponents. Ninja Weasels were the natural enemy of Pandora Swans as they usually raided the Pandora Swan nests for the eggs and the young, but here the two animals’ co existed within arm’s length of each other.

Snuggle blinked into the sun and at Roy then returned into the bag, but not before getting a Gummy Bear candy from Maria who didn't even look up from her work, doing it.

She waved at Roy. "I am almost done with Norm's blaster."

There was nothing Maria could not take apart, repair or improve. She loved tools and tech and working with her hands.

Maria had long straight black hair and her bangs reached down to her deep brown almost black eyes giving her an always brooding somewhat sinister appearance and she often, especially when interacting with teachers or other kids used her hair almost like a persona shield she hid behind; She too begun to lose her boyish body and developed so it was apparent a nice and appealing chest line. Her suit was colored black and white. Roy wondered for a short moment why he would even notice Maria’s chest and find it somehow very nice to look at, then he was distracted as Norm surfaced and climbed out of the water and onto the rocks, Zisch his Water snake slithered out of the water a second later, and coiled up behind Norm who toweled himself dry. Zisch put its head on Norms lap, fluttered its leathery head sails and as usual was soon asleep.

Zisch was a real Water Snake, a very young one still but visibly grew bigger every time Roy saw the animal. Zisch was about twelve meters long now and about as thick as a human torso. Norm had pulled Zisch out of an Ant attack, and washed and nursed the badly wounded baby snake to health again.

Norm was almost obnoxiously proud of his Water snake.

Norm was about as tall as Roy and just like Roy very athletic, but not as strong. He never had a Grav Adjuster.

"Ah there is Roy!" he greeted, "the water is wonderful!"

Roy looked across the surface and saw the half submerged head of a huge Water snake not too far from the rocks. It was Zisch's mother or perhaps its father and ever since Norm bonded with the young snake the big snake was never far from the rocks and kept watch.

Norm followed Roy’s gaze and nodded. ”Yes Zisch’s mother is out there again, she makes sure nothing is harming me or Zisch. Of course I am a real Greenie and I would not suggest you try to go swimming! They simply don’t like Off-Worlders or pretenders.”

At another time Roy would have been offended as Norm lately begun to tease Roy in a not too friendly way about the fact that Roy was not a real Greenie in his eyes, due to the fact that his parents were Off-Worlders.

Roy said calmly.” So having a local life form as a pet makes one a real Greenie then?”

Norm nodded." We are all seventh to tenth generation Greenies and now we are the first generation bonding with what others like you for example think are mindless, killing beasts. It is as if the planet and all our glorious life forms have formed a bond that cannot be understood by those who still have Off World dirt in their veins.”

Melissa got angry and defended Roy with a sharp tone. "He is a Greenie just like us. Not even you would dare to go through into the actual Jungle as he does all the time."

Bob agreed: "Nine Kilometers every day. If you are so confident in your Greenie heritage why don't you visit Roy on foot one day?"

Maria snapped the last piece of the blaster she was working on in place and said. "Besides our animals don't harm him and accept him too. He petted Wobbler and Snuggle don't mind him. Even Zisch isn’t attacking.”

Norm sneered. "Don't get me wrong I am impressed how Roy, an Off-Worlder can navigate through our Jungles but no one ever saw him really doing it. He could hide an armor suit or something; he is just not one of us."

Bob got up and flexed his strong muscles. “Do you want me to pound your face in? What is it with you today? Roy is one of us always has been! We all know Roy doesn’t have an Armor suit.”

Roy shrugged. “If you want to see me go home, why don’t you come along?”

Melissa nodded.”Good idea, I call the Major and tell him his son won’t be home for dinner.”

Roy turned and called loud: "Partner!"

At first nothing happened and Roy feared he had left his new friend too long alone. Then the big black beast broke through the foliage, like a tracked Marine explorer tank it plowed through the dangerous foliage, crushed a few attacking crabs and neither the knife like steel blades of the Murder-Grass tuffs nor the squirting acid of the terror moss patches had any effect on it

Partner splashed through the water and jumped right next to Roy then sitting down on his hind legs and licking Roy across the shoulder.

The others were quite shocked and surprised by the stormy approach of the black beast.

Silver flapped his wings and hissed at Partner. Wobbler had gone in attack stance.

Zisch reared up and was about to spew fire.

Even the big Water Snake in the water rose and slowly came closer. It took them a moment to calm their animals and then Melissa said, "Well, it looks like Roy is a Greenie after all. I have no idea what he found in the Jungles but it sure looks like an animal to me, a very big one too!"

Bob scratched his head. "I never seen anything like it either, but whatever it is it seems pretty tough. The Terror Moss didn't do shit to it! And not even Zisch would slither across that!”

Maria got up and carefully approached. "Does it attack or can I touch it?"

Roy petted the massive head of his beast. "No it won’t attack. it likes you, you can touch it."

Maria cooed."Oh how soft its fur is! Just like Snuggle!"

Norm waved his hands."Maybe Roy is a Greenie, but that's not a Green Hell animal. I bet he bought it on GalNet. It has four legs. Nothing on Green Hell has four legs. Maybe it's a robot!"

Maria shook her head. "That's no robot! I know every robot model there is and this is not a machine."

Bob added. "How can you be so sure it isn’t native? We know less than one percent of what's out there. No one really has been to the other side of the planet. Whatever it is, it walked with Roy in the Jungle and nothing off world can survive that."

Norm had no real answer to that and had to concede. ”Yes you are right, it must be a native life form, it survives, but I bet my Water Snake is tougher than whatever that is! Maybe I should ask Zisch's mom to fry it!"

"I don't know what has gotten into you?” Said Melissa and she glared at him with her big green eyes and they sparkled with emotion as she continued. "Why are you so aggressive towards Roy today? We always have been friends!"

Maria slung her tool belt around her waist and closed it, and then she said from underneath her curtain of black hair. "Because we are growing up and we are not kids anymore. Norm has feelings towards you, and when you smiled at Roy it set him off. It's hormones that turn males into idiots."

Norm blushed and Melissa gasped. Maria always said things in a blunt and direct way and nothing escaped her analytical eyes and sharp mind.

Melissa stomped her foot. "You are all my friends. Please don't destroy that with petty jealousy games. I am not interested in you Norm; I mean other than being friends and neither am I interested in Roy. Can we not remain friends as we always have been even though we starting to notice that we are not all of the same sex?”

Norm sat down and said with a weak voice. "Maybe I did over react a little and I am sorry. Roy is a Greenie I know. I would never dare to make it on foot to his house."

Roy shrugged again. “Because I live out there and have to do it all the time. I bed you could do it after a while just as I do, after all you are a Greenie.”

Norm liked what Roy had said and nodded. “Sorry Roy didn’t mean to be such an asshole. I am sure you can bathe and swim all day long, Zisch’s mother is protecting us all after all, not just me.”

Maria handed Norm the blaster and said. ”It’s fixed and next time make sure the trigger assembly is completely snapped into place or it isn’t water proof.”

He took his expensive Enroe DE blaster and said. “Thank you Maria, I will.”

Maria cocked her head and said with urgency. “I can hear a Floater engine!”

Everyone turned and tried to hide and duck between the rocks, but it was too late this time, a yellow and green painted armed hover tank with the logo of the Union ranger service on the sides appeared from above the Jungle and swooped down, hovering only four meters above the water surface facing the rocks. The front hatch opened and Ranger Solomon climbed out and stood on the bow of the tank, his fists stemmed into his sides and looking over them with unveiled disbelieve and amazement on his face. “I don't believe what I see with my own eyes!"

His hand darted to his service weapon as he saw the big spider rearing up behind his son and he screamed, "Son, duck there is a Moolax behind you! I have to shoot!"

Bob spread his arms. "If you want to shoot my Wobbler you have to shoot through me, Dad!"

The Ranger slowly lowered his gun and after a long moment he said, "It is true, I didn't really believe it but it is true! The rumors I heard are true! You are out here without armor suits! And now I see you play with …, with life forms no one ever survived seeing close up!"

"Armor suits are stupid and for Off-Worlders!" Said Norm repeating the words all kids used a lot when talking among themselves. Then he said. "Zisch's Mom is watching over us better than a Platoon Marines could!"

The ranger noticed the big snake slowly coming closer, clearly alerted and ready to strike. “Good Lord!” He shook visibly and knew even his strong side arm would do him no good if the snake would have tried to kill him. It would have been too late to try to get back inside the tank. If the snake would spit fire or use her thorns he would be dead long before he managed to get inside. Then he finally found words. “The snake is protecting you?”

"Yes Sir, Mr. Ranger. We are in no danger."

Melissa stepped forward. "Please Mr. Salomon don't tell my parents about Silver, they take him away from me! I love Silver!"

He made a sad face. "I am afraid I can't do that! I am out here because I am out here on official business. There were rumors that kids sneaked out of the city and played outside for a long time, and during the last city council meeting it was decided to find out if this is true. I knew about Roy sneaking out sometimes but I didn’t expect what I see now.”

Melissa started crying and Maria said defiantly. ”There is no law that prohibits us from being here, Sir. What business is it to the City Council?”

“Actually there is a City ordinance that requires all expeditions of individuals outside City the City force field to be registered with the Ranger Station, ever since that unfortunate stunt of those Off Worlders a few years back.”

Now even Bob squeezed a few tears. “That is a rotten thing to do, Dad! We aren’t Off Worlders and we come here for years. No one of us has been harmed or seriously injured in all that time and I know other kids do it too. We aren’t even the only ones!”

“Son, I am the Ranger and I must abide by the law.” The Ranger raised his hands. ”Don’t lose your faith in the system kids. You didn’t break any laws and I am sure we can work things out. I will talk to your parents and I think we can convince them to change their point of view. “

Norm barked. “No one is going to take Zisch away from me or tell me I can’t have him.”

Roy looked gloomy and said. “No matter what you will tell my parents will make them change their minds. They don’t respect anything but their stupid science colleagues and they will want to dissect the pets. Tell my parents I love them but I am a Greenie and I never go back. I can live in the jungle and no one will ever find me there!”

He turned and was about to leave.

The ranger yelled.”Don’t run away Roy, please. I would have to stop you! My son and you are good friends and I always treated you as a part of my family whenever you were with us. So please trust me. I think I have a plan.”

Roy stopped and turned back. “I respect you very much Mr. Salomon and I hope you know that, but not even you could find me in there.”

The Ranger sighed. “Given the fact that I have received a call from you once over seventy kilometers into the Jungle, I believe you. Just give me a chance.

“Seeing that you have no floaters out here I assume you walk out here every day. So please be at Ma Swenson’s boathouse in three or four hours and bring your animals with you.”

Melissa sniffed. “And then you arrest us or shoot our animals when you got enough fire power and men together?”

He shook his head. ”Of course not you should know better than that and know that I keep my word. I think that if your parents see you outside walking over a considerable distance and in the company of local life forms that not only don’t harm you but somehow bonded with you will change their minds and if you can demonstrate that you have some control over your animals I will issue the first pet owner licenses ever on Green Hell.”

It was clear to the ranger that the kids did not trust him completely and he said. “I give you my word, no one will shoot, capture or dissect your animals. Despite the apparent dominance of the Science Council Institute, I represent the law and that trumps it all, so please be there. I trust in you doing the right thing.”


Ma Swenson’s boathouse was a heavily fortified compound of actually three dome shaped Ultronit buildings sitting on a reinforced Duro-Crete pad right at the shore of Great Lake and one could see Ant Hill from here in the distance. Ma Swenson rented armored floaters to scientists and she and her husband conducted guided tours to the occasional tourists or reporters. She also operated a General Store and a Floater repair shop. It was called boathouse because the Duro-Crete pad reached to the edge of the water. There never had been any water craft or boats. The entire compound was underneath a strong Force field bubble.

Usually only the real locals frequented Ma Swenson’s; the Off World Scientists and technicians hardly ever came here and did their shopping exclusively in Ant Hill. Today however it was different. A huge crowd of at least two hundred had gathered on the Duro-Crete pad before the main building. Several members of the Science institute were there as well as Roy’s parents. Most of the visitors did not feel very safe, being outside and only protected by a force field. So close to the Jungle’s edge, the scientists wore their heavy armor suits, not trusting the field completely.

Those who been Greenies for many generations however and in stark contrast wore only Bio seal suits without any armor or force fields.

Ranger Salomon stood closest to the edge of the Force field next to his floater tank. His report and his news had spread over the small planetary community like a wild fire. Teenagers were outside without armor suits and walking unprotected in the open nature and doing that in secrecy for many years!

Neither Paul nor Martha Masters could really believe it and were certain it was all an elaborate teenager hoax that would leave that primitive Ranger red faced and proof to everyone that the opinion of scientists were much more reliable as those of an uneducated law man on a back water planet. They had reluctantly abandoned their expedition as they received the summons of the Ranger. At first Martha did not want to go, but after she had called Charles and the Robot confirmed that Roy was not in the house she and Paul came here after all. Unable to explain how Roy could have possibly left the house without using an armored floater or triggering the main door alarm; as much as she disliked the Battle robot her scientific mind accepted the fact that the robot was incapable of lying.

She tried to call the Wrist Comm. unit of her son but received no answer. It took her a while to find the right direct code as she realized her Comm. Unit was never auto connected to her son’s Comm. Unit before. Somewhere beyond her cool, logical science façade she felt guilt about that. Realizing she had never found a reason to call her own son.

Paul was thinking along similar lines and now that it was confirmed that Roy was not at the house he felt for the first time in his life concern about the safety of his son.

He could not stand very comfortable in the heavy armor suit, unlike the Marines he never felt at ease in this cumbersome piece of military hardware called a Quasimodo, even though it was the only thing that assured their survival when they conducted their research. He wished he could calm his nerves by smoking a pipe. This would be possible if he would have dared to open his helmet. Did those locals not understand that force fields could fail and that there were dangerous microbes in the air, not to mention ants that could burrow through Duro-Crete if they wanted and break in underside the force field?

He used his direct channel to talk to his wife. “Maybe we should listen to Roy a little better, not that I believe he is part of this hoax, but it makes me wonder where he could be.”

Martha responded. “Perhaps he found a way to fool that cursed war machine in our home and sneaked out aboard an armored floater. I bet he hides somewhere in the City, probably watching a Virtu in the local theatre.”

But then a hushed mumbling went through the crowd. From the east of the shore line five teenagers became visible walking on the pebble beach towards the boat house. Both Martha and Paul recognized their son being one of them.

Roy and his friends arrived. No one had said much during their walk and they all had gloomy thoughts about the imminent future, except Bob who trusted his Das and was certain he would get such an owners license.

Roy on the other hand was especially depressed. Even if all other parents said yes. He knew his would never allow it and most likely take Partner away and dissect it. He had already made up his mind; he would run away and live in the Jungle for good. They'd never find him there!

The assembled crowd watched the kids evading the deadly crabs; somehow it seemed they knew how to differentiate them from real pebbles. They stepped over Terror moss patches, jumped across Murder grass as if they were on a stroll in a perfectly safe city park. What shocked the onlookers even more was the presence of a Moolax crawling right behind the son of the ranger. A small Water snake slithered right next to the teenagers and something big and black no one had a name for since no one had ever seen something like the beast trotting right next to Roy.

Roy’s stomach cramped to a knot as he saw the yellow Institute floater and recognized the armor suits of his parents by their color scheme.

The small group of teenagers stopped just outside the force field. No one spoke.

Neither Paul nor Martha really trusted their own eyes, but Paul recalled the words of his own son and realized that he had told the truth all along. He had been outside, and not just a few seconds exposed, but as it looked for hours on end.

Martha could not decide if she should feel afraid ashamed or elated to see what she saw. Roy did not need psycho surgery. She could feel his thoughts of course and the fear and sadness her own son felt looking at his parents. Had she really been such a bad mother, that her own son feared and despised her? Her own analytical mind answered her question with a clear yes. She realized how little she knew about her own, now almost grown son. He was thinking of running away! Hiding in the Jungle. It was against the law to probe beyond the open thoughts but it was her son and she went deeper for the first time and she suddenly could feel the connection Roy had to this world and she saw his memories of being deep in the jungle, jumping and crawling in an environment she knew as the most hostile environment with thoughts of joy and freedom.

Her scientific mind reeled at the possibilities a person like Roy would provide to the research efforts. She saw him eat things without ill effects, avoid dangers with ease and then she noticed the connection he had with the big black creature she could not identify. The connection was deep and on a level beyond anything she had felt before. Then she remembered that she had come across an old Saresii legend while she was preparing her dissertation about energy using life forms; a legend about creatures unleashed by the mysterious Dark Ones, identified in those old documents as Fury Hounds.

Ranger Salomon was standing just a few steps away from the force field parameter, on the inside of the purple shimmering energy barrier and pointed at the teenagers with his flat hand. "Look at them! They are outside, no armor, no battle suits and yet they just walked several kilometers in an environment considered by all of us as the most lethal place anywhere. Yet none of them is wounded harmed or injured in any way. I know you are as shocked and amazed as I still am to see this, but it will amaze you even more to hear that they are doing this every day and for many years. They are not the only ones either, others do it too. It was their miss fortune that my own son is part of their group and I was able to track him.”

Bob glared at his father and said. “You used me to trap my friends?”

The ranger gestured to his son to let him finish his speech and turned to the crowd. “When humans came to this world a little over 270 years ago, they survived only under the heaviest protection our most advanced technology could provide and yet despite all the technology many died.

“I was born here and so was my father and I do not wear the same thick armor he did and I expose myself for short periods to the outside and often stand on the hull of my floater to enjoy the air and the smells of my world. My father would have been shocked if he had seen me doing it. My father died attacked by Buzz Saws, yet I know how to avoid the areas they occur. I simply know and can’t explain how, but I know.

“Now our children not only survive out there for as long as they want, but even more amazingly they made friends with the deadliest creatures of this world. They touch what we would not dare to approach unless being in a Quasimodo.”

He took a deep breath and continued. “Maybe the grandchildren of them will not call this world Green Hell but paradise. They will not need to hide behind force fields and will be just as our children are, true natives of this dangerous, strange and to us who live here so beautiful world.

“They stand out there and are the living proof that we can adapt to any environment even to Green Hell.

“I gave them my word that we adults give them a chance and hear them out, to show us that they are indeed friends with these creatures.”

The Major of Ant Hill, Norm’s father clapped and then the most of the others joined applauding the speech.

Roy noticed that none of the members of the science institute clapped, but then maybe because it wasn’t really possible to do that in a Quasimodo unless you were a trained Marine.

Somehow they looked like fools in their protective armor and it was clear that the irony of the contrast between them and the teenagers outside was not lost to them.

Ma Swenson, who stood in the door of her shop with crossed arms, had no qualms telling how it is. “It seems those who supposed to be so schooled and so much smarter than us, are the ones most blind to all of this. They stomp around in their suits, so self important and their noses in the air that they miss the real world by light years.”

Martha Masters was the first and she actually brushed the visor of her suit back and her helmet folded itself into the collar of the suit. Paul was not as confident but he did the same. His face was everything but relaxed.

The Ranger held up his hands and said.” Don’t applaud me, give those kids, your children a chance and let them be children of this world. Don’t force them to adapt to our understanding of this world, but let us try to see it through their eyes.”

Martha had to admit that ranger was anything but a numb brute, his speech was quite eloquent and laced with fine polished lines of almost poetic truth.

The richest man in town, the owner of the big department store, one of the hotels and several other businesses Raleigh O’Malley who also was Melissa’s father stepped forward and closer to the force field barrier. “I just realized there is a Pandora swan perched on the shoulders of my daughter, Ranger before we continue please shoot that beast! You know how deadly those claws are, the slightest scratch and my daughter is dead!”

Melissa gave her father a withering look in a way only she could, somehow her bright red hair seemed brighter and her eyes burned with a green and intense fire:"Yes father that is a Pandora Swan, his name is Silver. He doesn't hurt me, he protects me and I will divorce you if you try to take him from me or have it harmed! I am old enough and I know the laws. You will find me a formidable opponent in court!” Her voice had a steel edge but it became softer as she added. “I love you Mom and Dad but I will not allow you to harm Silver or make me abandon him!"

Her father swallowed hard.

Melissa’s mother who looked like an older sister to her daughter also stepped closer and said to her husband. “You know how stubborn the females in our family can be and how serious they are when they protect what they love and care for. It does not look as if the Pandora Swan is harming our daughter in any way. She would be dead long ago if the Swan had tried!”

Melissa’s dad clearly was thinking and looked at his wife, “Not to mention she is standing out there all this time.”

Melissa’s mother stepped as close as she could to the shield and said.” I think it looks very beautiful. I never saw a Pandora swan so close up. I always loved to see Pandora Swans when they fly!”

The Ranger stepped in and said. “Melissa, your Swan is not a hamster or a cat domesticated over thousands of years, but one of the most sophisticated and dangerous predators on a planet of sophisticated killers, are you sure it is safe for you and those around you?”

At first Melissa gave the ranger her famous deadly stare and it almost had effect on the grown man, then she pointed at a swarm of Arrow Wasps that was just approaching form the Jungle, preparing to attack and she said. “Go get them Sliver!”

Arrow wasps were eight centimeter long insects that could propel themselves to projectile speed and penetrate the tissue of their intended victim with their long steel hard needle sharp stingers and release hundreds of little larvae that begun to devour and eat the victim from the inside and like almost everything on Green Hell, Arrow wasps were poisonous, their stingers secreted a potent paralyzing nerve toxin that could fell a Pertharian in seconds.

The swan shot like a streak of lighting from Melissa's shoulders, its lower wings extended like sickle blades, vibrating so fast that the wings movement broke the sound barrier with and made the high pitched humming sound the Pandora Swans were famous and feared for. The swan cut, diced and picked the wasps in a display of aerial acrobatics and with a speed few had thought possible.

Roy, Norm, Bob and Maria had pulled their weapons shooting the rest of the insects in the large swarm in fast and incredible precise shots, not one shot went astray and yet to the utter amazement to the watching crowd, none of them had any Computronic targeting systems. They just displayed an almost superhuman level of hand and eye coordination. They returned their weapons to their holsters.

Ma Swenson clapped her hands together and uttered.”Jeezuz Christ, you guys are fast!”

Norm shrugged. “Once Arrow wasps commit to an attack there isn’t much else you can do.”

Melissa’s swan circled back and then carefully like a feather landed on Melissa’s shoulders and buried his head in her locks. Melissa petting the bird and it made a rattling and pleased sound."

She then said. “Silver is very protective of me and I can’t guarantee the safety of anyone or anything that tries to harm me, but other than that he is very docile and does not leave my shoulders unless I ask Silver.”

Melissa’s father swallowed and then said. “It looks my daughter has total control over that monst… I mean that swan. I doubt there are many Terrans with that kind of control over their dogs or cats.”

The Ranger switched a structural hole in the force field. "Melissa, you can come in!"

Paul Masters could not stop his own reaction as he brushed his helmet back on and step back as there was a hole in the field.

Martha however stepped a little closer and said. “I have to agree, the level of control and the way the Swan reacts to his owner is quite unusual and impressive. I think we need to completely revise our observations on Pandora Swans, perhaps their intellect is far greater than we thought.”

Ivan the Institute Chief nodded in agreement. “I have studied these Swans for twenty years now and I have never observed anything like it attacked the wasps. That it has bonded so closely with a human being is a fact I have yet to comprehend. The way it landed on her shoulders is as if it knew it would harm the human if it wasn’t very careful with its poisonous claws. This would require a comprehension at least at the level of a Terran dog.”

Melissa walked to the man sized hole. Just before she stepped through and on the Duro Crete she pulled her blaster fired sideways without really looking looking, evaporating a Scare bug that had suddenly appeared from a hole in the ground, less than twenty centimeters from her feet.

Paul Masters was glad he had the helmet back on, regardless what others were thinking.

Melissa had passed through the force field gap and the ranger gave Ma Swenson the sign and she used her remote to restore the integrity of the field. The ranger asked Melissa. “How did you know that Scare bug was about to appear and attack?"

Melissa made big eyes. "Scare Bug?" She turned her head and looked at the smoking hole outside. "Oh, that one, it was to close so I had to burn it. They bite right through your ankles if you don't and that close it's hard to evade them. Silver usually takes care of those but he doesn't like the taste.” She was thinking for a moment and added. “I always know when there are Scare Bugs. The dirt is always turned slightly darker above their shallow digs and didn’t you see the empty crab shells. It was so obvious there was a scare bug close by!”

Salomon shook his head slowly and spread his arms speaking to the other adults. "Any one of us would have been bitten and maimed. This young girl puts a trained Marine to shame with her marksmanship and speed of reaction. It also proofs my point I made earlier, those kids see this world with different eyes. They see and interpret the signs of their environment we don’t even know exist.”

While he said that Melissa’s parents went to her daughter, Silver raised his head and made a hissing sound, a clear warning and her parents stopped their approach but Melissa petted and cooed her bird and it relaxed and she said. “Sorry Mom and Dad, Silver is as I said very protective of me and doesn’t like strangers coming to close to me unless I tell him its okay. You can come closer now it’s alright.

Her dad grinned and said. “Seeing how much my little girl is growing into a woman, I already considered the purchase of a Shatter gun, but what better protection could I ask for than a real Pandora Swan watching over her?”

His comment made quite few adults in the crowd laugh. Melissa’s mother reached out with a trembling hand and touched the swan and nothing happened. The animal was perfectly docile.

Her mother said. “In all my life I never thought I would touch an animal and now I am finding myself jealous. The swan looks like a beautiful silvery feathery cape.”

Martha turned to her husband. “A captured Pandora killed two trained animal handlers and we could examine it alive only under heavy sedation and now we see this.” She then rolled her eyes.”We look like fools in our suits, at least turn of your shield and open the helmet!”

Even as he was only the major of a small city, he was a politician at heart and Mr. Stevenson, Norm’s father could no longer hold himself back, seeing that the Ranger and others got all the attention so walked to the edge of the force field and said. “Norm, my son you have bonded with a local life form too?”

Norm seemed to grow a few inches as he proudly answered.”Yes Dad, I got one too and Zisch is a water snake.”

Having his son declare to be friends with a water snake, a beast considered by many to be one of the most dangerous life forms encountered anywhere was both frightening and a source of pride to the Major and seeing the twelve meter long, armored reptile so close was a bit unnerving, even though there was a force field between them.

However he remembered that he had put himself on the spot the major said. “And the water snake is following you?”

Norm answered. “Much more than that, Dad, Zisch is very smart!” He petted the head of the snake as it raised its head and Norm pointed at a toppled tree trunk and said.”Zisch, burn it!”

The Snake rose even higher, it was a terrifying site as it spread the leathery wings it had on each side of its long head and opened its terrifying fanged maw. A stream of organic gel burst out of the snake’s mouth and ignited into a roaring bright yellow arch of fire and engulfed the tree with explosive force!

Norm padded the side of the snake and then pointed at another tree about 30 meters distant and said.”Zisch, nail it!”

The belly scales of the snake stood up like hundreds of little gun portals and a dozen finger long spikes hammered deep and with deadly accuracy into the hard wood of the Tantalus Oak had pointed out.

Norm was not done showing off and to the pure horror of the watching adults took of his Bio Suit, exposed himself to his swimming trunks and ran like this to the lake evading bare feet as he was Terror Moss and Murder Grass and dove with a jump into the water. Zisch had slithered next to him just as fast and also disappeared into the water.

As far as the adults knew no one had ever bathed in any lake on Green Hell because of the Razor Fish, all the other dangerous creatures in the water and of course because lakes were the domains of the Water Snakes.

The water settled and his father could not hide his terrified facial expression behind the hand he had placed before his mouth, clearly thinking he just witnessed the death of his son, but then like a rocket Norm appeared breaking through the water standing on the snout of a full grown giant water snake, no less than a seventy meter beast. Norm rose to a height of at least 15 meters and then jumped into an elegant head first dive back into the water. It was a spectacle that made everyone gasp with sheer wonder. Even the present Scientist could no longer keep their “we have seen it all and know better” faces and stared in child like awe as the rest.

Norm came out of the water, Zisch close to his side. Outside with nothing but a bathing trunk and then he bowed just like a performer after a successful show and he grinned all over his face. “How’s that for control and friendship, Dad?”

All the major could say was.”Wow!”

Norm crossed his arms. "So can Zisch and I stay together?"

Now it was the Major's turn to beam with pride and he said." I have never in all my life seen anything like that. If anyone would have told me what I have just seen I would not believe it! You are friends with all Water Snakes?"

"No Dad, just with Zisch and his parents. It happens to be that Zisch's mother is one of the biggest ones in this lake and nothing on Green Hell messes with a big mommy snake protecting her young. She considers me one of her litter and I am as safe in that lake as you behind that screen!"

"Come on in, son! I'll sign your Animal Owner's permit myself!"

Despite the incredible spectacle Norm had just demonstrated there were quite a few pale faces as Norm came in along with the Water Snake at his side.

A man in the crowd had recorded it all with a flying Cam-Bot and who the local News man was took all his courage and came closer and said. ”Norm no one would ever believe what we just have seen, but I recorded it and I am sure it will be a hit all over the Galaxy. What would you do, if you could be the major?”

Norm put his arm around Zisch’s back and said.” First I make Snake hunting illegal and anyone hunting or shooting Water snakes without a serious reason, I’d send bathing!”

Norm’s father could not let this opportunity pass and placed himself on the other side and actually put his arm on the snake as well. “I promise I will ask the City Council to pass an ordinance along these lines my son!”

Then he asked for the permit and signed it before the Cam Bot and the News man.

Martha was now convinced that the intelligence of the snakes also was seriously underestimated. She said to her colleagues and her husband. “The snake clearly demonstrated that it could understand different commands of that boy and that the mother animal who could clearly not be trained to be used in such a fashion as we just saw, must mean they have at least the intellect level of Terran Dolphins. Colleagues I think after this day, Green Hell poses more mysteries and questions our approach.”

The Ranger paid little attention to the discussion of the scientists and said.” Bob, I guess you’re next!”

Bob blushed and spread his arms in an apologetic gesture."Dad, I don't know if Wobbler can do any cool tricks like that. He just likes to sleep a lot and he eats pizza just like me."

“No one asks you to have it perform tricks, son. We just want to see and know it is safe for you and others when you hang out with a Moolax.”

Bob was thinking for a moment and his face lit up and he climbed on the back of his spider and rode the arachnid up a steep set of boulders, made Wobbler shoot filament webbing to a tree and the spider balanced with Bob on its back up the almost invisible line and back.

Salomon laughed. "Maybe Norm's display was more spectacular but seeing my son ride a horse sized spider up a tree and back , will make me remember this day for the rest of my life!"

Again there was laughter and Bob went in.

This time the crowd was much less scared and Ma Swenson came over carrying a Pizza. “Let’s see if it’s true.”

The whole crowd even the Institute chief scientist cooed as the big Moolax took small pieces of Pizza with his mandibles from the hand of the woman.

Bob said. “Ma Swenson, you just made a friend for life. It will be hard to keep Wobbler away from this place now.”

Ma Swenson petted the Moolax,”Then don’t! I just need to find a way to make sure I know it’s your Moolax and not a wild one.”

Maria’s dad was the Chief Engineer of the City and he said standing next to his wife. "Our daughter can come in. She is a Tech whiz. She never likes anything alive. We are very proud of seeing her outside and play for a chance, than just hanging out with tools and machines! I have nothing against her being outside if she thinks it’s safe for her then its fine by me."

Maria parted her long hair that as always obscured most of her face and she said. "I do have an animal and I love my Snuggle! He doesn't do any tricks!"

Snuggle heard its name and peaked out of Melissa's shoulder bag. She put her hand to it and the long furry thing spiraled fast up her arm and pressed the side of his head to her cheek. This caused especially the women in the crowd into a collective sigh.

Maria said."Snuggle is still a baby, he doesn’t have to do tricks!!"

The Ranger said." All I ask if you have it under control so it won't harm others. It is a dangerous life form!"

Marian nodded. "Snuggle is very smart and does know tools, that should count for something!"

To the animal she said, "Go get me the Small universal."

Amazingly the furry being slid down and pulled a tool from Melissa's belt and dropped it in her outstretched hand. Maria held it up."See, it is the small universal!”

Maria’s dad laughed. “So it is, maybe Snuggle can help fix things.”

Maria was allowed to pass the Barrier. Her parents immediately petted the Ninja Weasel and it turned on its back so they could massage its belly!

Maria's mother said: "That Weasel is the cutest thing I ever saw. I had no idea they would be so soft!"

Roy knew from the beginning he was last and his parent's faces were unreadable.

The Ranger knew about Roy’s situation and said to his parents."I know you are important scientists and consider the opinions of others as less valid than those of your peer. You don’t consider yourself locals and I know from Roy that you don’t allow him to feel that way.”

Martha listened to the words of the Ranger. She knew of course that Roy was friends with Bob, the Ranger’s son and that her son had spend many nights over at the Ranger’s house. After the events of the day she actually listened to the man and she understood what the ranger said between the lines. The worst part was that he was right. She realized that she often belittled the ranger and now it became apparent that Roy had shared his feelings with a stranger.

While she was contemplating these thoughts the ranger continued saying:”Your son crosses the distance from your place to the shore rocks through the densest jungle over seven kilometers. He wears no armor and I know he often explores the Jungles further and deeper and anyone on this world would dare. Once he called me and his signal came from a position seventy kilometers away from your house. It was him who found the Takkian’s shell a few years back. He is a child of this planet as much as I am or my son is. Now I don’t know what kind of animal he found but I implore you to give him a chance just like the others had.”

Martha knew all this was true, she had seen a glimpse of Roy’s memories.

Roy knew he had to have Partner do something, but he didn’t really know what, so he pointed at a random spot at the jungle’s edge and said.”Partner run that way and fast!”

The black animal became a virtual streak of black and like a cannon ball smashed through everything in its way. A Tantalus Oak as thick as two men splintered on impact like it was made of paper, it didn’t even slow the big animal down, but the falling tree exposed a big ant hill and Partner plowed right into it.

Roy became pale as he saw his animal friend covered in second by squirming angry ants. He already thought he lost his friend but he still received the animal’s emotions and they were as calm as ever.

He concentrated and said more thinking than aloud." Partner get rid of those ants and come back."

What happened next shocked everyone to the core.

A bright blinding explosion of pure energy emerged from where Partner was, the sound wave of a thunderous boom echoed over the lake. Partner came running towards him and sat down as if nothing happened; smoke still wafting from his fur. Where the anthill was, there was a glowing crater of molten rock!

It was his mother who after a while spoke first."The Saresii legend is true; it must be a Fury Hound. Paul I think we found a Fury Hound”

Roy stood before Partner and said." I knew you would react differently than all the others. I know you want to take Partner away and dissect it, but I won't let this happen. You called me a liar and dreamer. You never believed me when I told you I was outside. Now what do you say? I am outside and I have been outside. What did you suggest, mother? Psycho surgery and counseling as I recall, you think of me like something stupid and sick. Maybe I am not as smart as you, but I have seen the mating cycle of the bone gripper long before you wrote your stupid paper about it. Maybe your scientific peer finds it all exciting and cool, but you got it all wrong, Mom. Oh and we found the breeding ground of Lighting bolters, I could have told you two spots right near the house but you never wanted to listen or when you did you never believed me. All you can think of now is getting your hands on Partner. Once again I am unimportant. Well I am done, I am to say good bye and I will hide in my Jungle and not even all your science can find me there!”

He almost yelled the last words and turned to leave.

Paul said.” Mr. Roy…” that is as far as he came. Martha interrupted him and said. “Don’t you realize he is running away?” She stomped to the screen and yelled. ”Roy wait! Don’t go, don’t run away. Today I realized we made terrible mistakes and I believe you, I am certain we can’t find you out there. I promise we won’t separate you from that animal. If I am right I doubt we could if we wanted to.

“I know it is way too late to amend for some of our mistake, but give us a chance. I am your mother and I know I never showed it, but I do love you, Roy!”

That last sentence made Roy stop; she had never said that to him as far as he could remember. When he was younger he sometimes wished she said it just once.

His mother yelled. “Please Roy, turn around and come in and bring your friend along.”

Roy turned slowly and then came back.

The Ranger came to her side and said. “Dr. Masters, do you think it is safe to let that thing in here? After seeing what that … animal did to that ant hill. I think Water snakes are cuddly.”

Martha looked at her ever present scanner equipment." Ranger, that animal discharged enough energy to collapse a force field three times as strong as this one or more than hundred Lighting Bolters. If it wanted to be in here, it would be”

The Ranger gave Ma Swenson the nod and Roy came in, carefully and not entirely trusting his parents.

Sure enough his mother held her Bio scanner up and aimed it at Partner, and then she showed the read out to her husband.

Mother said." Roy this is a SII Mark III Bio matrix Multi sensor. It is capable of detecting any known life form we know. Since it is mine it is also enabled to detect energy based life. I can detect No Corps, Naviiix and I can even detect the presence of a Narth, but none of the sensor beams penetrate your animal or can tell me it is even present. That means there is no tool known to man that we could use to dissect or harm your animal.”

Ranger Salomon pointed at Partner. "Dr. Masters, do you know what this is?"

"No, Ranger Salomon, I don't know what it is. I have a very weak theory based on very old and incomplete Saresii documents that it might be a Fury Hound.”

The Ranger looked puzzled and so did Roy.

Roy’s mother said. “Generally I don’t like to elaborate on weak speculations based on nothing but an idea but during my student time I came across old Saresii Documents that had been compiled while the Saresii and the Celtest fought against the Dark Ones. Maybe you know that no one really knows who or what the Dark Ones are and the documents I am talking about were copied many times, deteriorated and incomplete. However in those documents Saresii observers speak about a four legged creature that is described very much like this one before us and that these creatures were in some way associated to the Dark Ones and there were many thousands of these animals able to survive deep space and emit directed energy with incredible strength.”

Ranger Salomon scratched his chin. “So this is not a Green Hell life form?”

She sighed.”This is why I do not like to comment on speculations. I don’t know that Ranger Salomon. Maybe it is indeed a Fury Hound but that would make it over a million years old, maybe Fury Hounds are native to Green Hell and found here by the Dark Ones. Maybe this isn’t a Fury Hound. Fact is that Roy found it somewhere in the Jungles of Green Hell and the possibility exists that there are more like this out there.

“If that is true we better reinforce our shields!”

To the surprise of both Martha and Roy it was Paul Masters said. “My son demonstrated control just like the other teenagers, so he will get his license too?”

The Ranger nodded.”That he did” and with this words he signed the Pet owner’s license and wrote under Species: Possible Fury Hound and handed it to Roy.

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