Chapter Eight

She stands up on stiff legs with her fingers flexing and chilled air brushing across her skin. It smells fresh and clean despite the ship that landed not that long ago. The exhaust fumes have already faded. She revels in the smell that she did not notice for so long. She must escape, she must get out. But the moon Artimus is already rising.

The wind changes direction with the gravitational pull, and she looks towards the rocks. The light flashing across them wavers slightly with the sudden change as she turns her attention back towards the sky. It is not entirely dark anymore, and the sun will rise soon as well. But she might have a chance, she might have a chance that she would not have in the middle of the night.

She flicks her tongue across the air and swallows it as the moon rises higher. Her legs tense underneath her as she tries to wait for the next shift of wind. It comes suddenly, and she bolts from Sa’s cave and jumps along the rocks as she heads towards the ancestral plains and the edge of the mountain.

An alarm goes off in town and makes her ears ring. She ducks behind a bolder with her heart racing in her chest. If they catch her… if they catch her in her natural form she might as well be wishing for death. They would not give a native mercy, especially a Hirpoun. At least she knows that whoever arrived on the ship is not the only one looking for her.

She never thought she would be thankful that she is being hunted by multiple parties, but now it seems as though it might actually be an advantage. She swallows thickly and ventures to peek around the side of the bolder. A search light roves across the rocks and is joined by another as someone shouts. They have seen her. They must have seen her.

But she is hidden. They will not find her unless they leave the safety of the town and track her across the rocks. A sick feeling settles across her, they will find her easily if they leave the safety of the town. Their new technology must be even better than the systems she has heard about, but even the tracking devices that she has learned of would not allow her to escape. She will have to keep moving. She will have to make sure that she never stays in the same place for any longer than she must.

And perhaps, just perhaps, they will think that what their sensors saw was a fluke. Until then, she must act as though she does not exist. Or she must act as though she is powerful. She shakes her head and tries to keep her heart from racing even faster, she has an advantage, she must have an advantage. She simply does not know what it is.

It could be her Sight, it could be, but there must be something else. Her abilities as a Hirpoun would only be part of it. She is being hunted; and there is her advantage. She must not be the only one. If the council of beings are planning on settling the planet again, they will have to make sure that no one from the previous settlement is alive. They will have to exterminate everyone on the planet.

There is her advantage. She tastes the air again; she will have to make sure that she is right of course. But she will have an advantage and a plan waiting for her if she is. She scowls at the rocks around her, finding out will be harder than she would like if the town believes she exists. She could not pretend to be dead or fake her own death, she will simply have to find a place where no one will find her. She will have to hide where she can see what is happening and no one will be able to see her.

But she will not be able to stay in one place either. She sighs sharply. She will have to stay in the mountain. For the moment at least. She will have to wait until the ship’s beings become tired of hunting for her. She will have to wait until something else catches their attention. And she might just know what it will be.

She sinks down lower as she hears an engine running. She might be able to change into her normal form and walk right into the town, but she is not sure if she would be able to get back out again. It might be better to be inside and watching everything as it is happening, but she needs to know if the unnamed gang were able to get back into the town before the ship arrived. She doubts that they were able to. And, if they were not, than they might end up being her largest allies.

Something sputters. But it seems too far away to find her. She shivers as cold wind brushes against her and makes her wish that she had a coat. Her Hirpoun skin might be used to the planet’s atmosphere but she is not. She looks down at the clothes that have shrunk on her form; it would be easier not to wear so much cloth. But she should attempt to look decent in case she needs to change back into her normal form again.

She sags against the ground with a strange pulse ringing in her ears. She tries to get back into a normal sitting position, but something knocks into her and she is walking along a dirt road.

The road is not like the roads on her planet. It is rocky with small ground-covering bushes sticking up through the tan dirt. Wind whistles around her, but it does not knock her off balance as it gathers up dust and turns into a spinning hurricane of dust and debris.

She holds out her arms on instinct as the wind whips in a tight circle in front of her, the name comes to her without her realizing it. Tornado. What kind of beautiful thing could be called a tornado? She laughs as the wind rips the dirt up from underneath her feet. It feels like pure joy whipping across the land as it leaves her untouched and passes her in a swift gust that knocks the air from her lungs.

She stands and stares after it as it rips through a house and leaves debris behind. Everyone is afraid of the thing in front of her. But she is not there at all. She gasps for breath through closed teeth as her face presses into the ground behind the bolder. She turns onto her back and blinks rapidly as she tries to sit up again.

It is rare that the things Sa show her seem so real. But it was almost as though she was there. It is almost as though she is dreaming now. Her impossible situation would not be impossible in imagination, and yet, she knows that she is breathing now. Something that would make everyone flee and run screaming would not simply leave her if her Sight had been showing her reality.

No, her reality is where she is now. It must be. And if it is not… could she die in a dream? Could she become stuck? She must assume that she could. She must assume that where she is now is real in the same way that she has always taken her mother’s touch as something she knows.

But it is so hard to tell. Everything looks similar, sometimes it is hard to tell if she is actually living. Is this real? Are the grumbling machines searching for her real? But it does not matter, they are searching for her and she must make sure they do not find her. She crouches down lower; she should have found a better hiding place.

She looks at her hands and spreads her fingers out on her thighs. Who knew that she would end up where she is now? Perhaps Sa did. But she never would have been able to guess. Everything was normal a few days ago. Boringly normal. And now, now she is someone she thought she would never be; something she thought she would never have the chance to be.

It seems everything comes with a price in one way or another. But her price might be death; the price for being who she actually is will be death. Looking different, and seeing things differently. Are those things such a crime to banish her forever?

Are ancient origins so important that Hirpouns must be called devils and demons? Who has seen a demon? They are things created. But belief creates things too. It seems as though she could be whatever the council of beings says she is, but she could also be something completely different.

If this is one of her Sights or a dream, she will not have to fear anything. And if it is not, then she will have to hope that things do not end with a snap. Either way, hiding will only last for so long. It will be much better if she gets to choose when she stops.

Until then she must watch and wait. And then she will choose which one of her plans to follow. She settles back against the bolder, if someone finds her than they find her. Until then, she will wait until it is dark to sneak closer to the town and see if her suspicions are right.

The day passes slowly as machines are turned off and on and she ducks behind the bolder without daring to look over. The dried red wine sun sets softly; and she waits until it is entirely dark before peeking above the bolder. She can barely see the lights of the town, but she will not have to go inside. She simply needs to make her way around it.

She bites her cheek, if the ship’s beings are sleeping in the center of the town as she expect they are, there is a chance that she would be able to sneak towards the ship and learn what sort of transport it is. But it might be far too risky. She will stay where she is until Artimus rises and changes the tides of the wind.

She will not have much time, but it should be enough. She will run across the rocks and see if they have begun to dig another mass grave for all of the previous settlers. And if they have not, what will she do then? Perhaps the council of beings are willing to make a deal with the settlers this time. But everyone is a criminal in one way or another. And the council of beings’ last mission statement said that they will not work with criminals, especially on the ‘reformed’ planets.

No, they will only have two clear courses of action. And she will find a way to use either one to her advantage.

She settles back against the bolder, where is the unnamed gang that was searching for her? She must find them if they are still alive and on her side of the fence. If they are not, then she will use them as an example of what will happen to everyone else. She holds her legs close to her, is she truly thinking about doing this? Is she truly considering a fight that she will never be able to win?

But no one will have anything to loose by fighting if the council of beings are planning on exterminating everyone on the planet. She is not going to sit back and wait to be caught. She will not let the ship’s beings catch her unless she can gain something by it. And she is not going to stand down if someone decides to kill her.

If this is a dream, than she should not care for her life so much. But then, no one likes to die in their dreams either. If this is a dream than she will have a backup plan. If it is not, she will have to hope that she is anything similar to what she thinks she might be. Sa, please show me something. Please. I do not know what I am doing.

But she does know what she is doing. She knows that she is acting like the Hirpoun she is. And she does not intend on stopping. She intends on pulling the advantages that she has out of a black top hat like a magic trick and showing it to a group of fearful ship’s beings. She intends on being home instead of walking around in someone else’s skin. She intends on following a plan that may or may not work; but the punishment that she would receive for either will be almost the same. If she is right, and she is sure she is, than whatever is happening is not nearly as simple as she thought it was.

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