CHAPTER 17.2

Approx. 6700 words

All Rights Reserved

Copyright 2015   SJ

 

The Ork Situation:

Ork Escort

 

written by  SJ

 

 


    Lana Lyu LaFong returned to Whiley's cabin thirty-one hours after the last time she'd been there. Gannon was piloting the shuttle, with Bull in the co-pilot's seat. They both demanded to be there to say goodby to her.
    Neither of them really wanted her to go, hoping this wouldn't be a permanent goodby. Before leaving Fort Marathon, Bull had remarked how he didn't want to keep a pile of Ork poop in a jar to remember her by. When Lana had laughed uncontrollably at his comment, they both seemed to know since she wasn't worried about not returning, they shouldn't either.
    Gannon and Bull remained seated and said goodby as Lana left the shuttle. It was the middle of the night and Whiley was there waiting for her. He looked strangely at her; she was wearing some kind of robe and holding a large plastic bag which contained her clothing and gear. When she removed her robe and tossed it back into the shuttle, slapping the side to signal it could take off, she stood wearing only underwear, like a skimpy bathing suit.
    As she moved quickly toward the cabin, Whiley followed her while the shuttle lifted and silently sped away, engaging stealth. By the time the two had reached Whiley's small abode, he figured it out. He looked at her standing there with her slender figure, staring, just before commenting, "so...you didn't want to get your clothes wet, huh?"
    She sighed. "Well, I assume they're going to get wet sooner or later--"
     "So it might as well be later." Whiley approved...in more ways that one. He pointed at the plastic bag. "You can't leave that lying on shore over there, so send it back on the rope."
    Earlier that same day, Whiley had sent one of his aquatic critters across the channel with a rope, fixing it so it wrapped around like a ferry rope...without the ferry, of course.
    He explained, that when he gave the rope three tugs, the Orks on the other side would begin pulling. She would need to hold on until she reached the other side...hopefully without being spotted and shot by an Ork coastal patrol.
    Then he spotted something in her hand and smiled. It was a small snorkel. "So you're planning on staying underwater during the trip. Good idea."
    "I was hoping to avoid the ‘getting shot' part."
    Then he had to explain. "Okay. You're going to be meeting three Ork friends of mine. There's Kragado and Trundo. They're brothers. They're both older Orks; Kragdo is almost fourty, and Trundo is a couple years younger. And then there's Zobbie--"
    "Zobbie?" Lana thought that an unusual name for an Ork.
    "Yeah...Zobbie." He confirmed. "He's a much younger Ork...I think about ten or eleven."
    Lana had learned about Orks before she came. In comparison to Terrans, Orks had a much quicker and shorter, life cycle. They grew quickly, and by the time they reached eight or nine, they were teenagers. By fifteen, they were considered adults, which maintained until they hit thirty. By that time, they started a brief middle age period. When they hit forty, they began old age. Orks had usually withered and died by the time they were fifty.
    Whiley looked her over and took a deep breath. "Well...are you ready to go?"        
    "Like you said...I'll never be ready. But, let's go anyway."
    As they moved to the coast, Whiley suddenly mentioned. "Wait."
    Lana jumped slightly and stood looking at him. He held up his phone and took a picture of her. He smiled. "Just for posterity...in case you don't come back."
    As she slipped silently into the water, she only half believed him, but didn't care. Her head was just above the water when she put the snorkel in her mouth. Whiley gave three mighty tugs on the rope, talking to himself out loud. "I think I'll give a female friend of mine a call tonight..."
    Lana took the snorkel out of her mouth and quipped. "Yeah...maybe one of us will get lucky tonight."
    He laughed, agreeing.
    When she replaced the snorkel, the rope wrenched suddenly and started to move. She almost lost her grip, then recovered and slipped underwater, moving at a fairly quick pace.
    ******
    The trip across the water felt much longer than it took, about twenty minutes real time. Lana had to lift her head up out of the water to clear her snorkel several times. As time passed, she didn't know how close to shore she was until she was suddenly yanked out of the water and held tangling like a fisherman showing off a prize catch. She heard a couple Ork laughs, then waited until they held her overland before letting go of the rope, landing on her butt.
    She stood looking up at three Orks staring down at her. Most Orks lost most or all of their hair once they reached adulthood, and they lost it in the opposite way Terrans did, from the sides up to top, where sometimes a small patch would remain.
    The smallest Ork, standing on the left, was more slender than the others, standing almost two meters high with a fair amount of short hair. He wore simple light-colored pants with a leather, sleeveless, shirt that had numerous pockets. The other two Orks were a little taller and heavier than the first. The one in the middle had dark, olive-colored, pants with light-grey, heavy-leather, patches on the knees. He had on a dark, reddish, sleeveless, shirt that didn't quite cover his protuberant belly, plus he wore a small, tight-fitting, leather cap. The last Ork, the one on the right, was almost as big as the middle Ork, and was wearing worn, grey, pants. His shirt was sleeveless also, but it hung down a little past his waist like a short apron. All of them had belts with gear attached to hold a few amount of supplies, water, and weapons. On their feet, they had on some kind of lightweight, toeless, leather, shoes.
    The Ork on the left, Lana figured, was Zobbie, the youngest. He held an AK auto rifle. He had an axe, but it was strapped over his back by a rope. The middle Ork held a weapon that looked more like a large cleaver than an axe, and, at first, she saw only one Ork pistol, held firmly in a makeshift leather holster. Then she spotted a second Ork pistol, substantially smaller than the first, located in a holster behind his back, like a back up weapon. The third Ork had the normal Slugga boy weapons: An axe (called a choppa, strapped across the back) and an Ork pistol (called a slugga, in its holster).
    All the Orks continued to stare at the almost naked woman as she got up and opened her plastic bag, working as fast as she could, removing a small towel first to briefly dry off, before starting to put on her clothing.
    The place on shore where she was dropped at was surrounded by trees. Shortly after putting on her pants, she did a little dance, feeling something on her leg, then wiggled and watched as a beetle crawled out of the cuff of her left pant leg. Once she had her boots and tank top on, she put on her fatigue shirt, then felt something inside with her. She quickly removed a small, harmless, snake and tossed it in the water. Lastly, she put on a light utility belt, which had a couple small pouches and two canteens.
    She looked back at the Orks, who had been silently watching her all along, viewing her like they were watching a clumsy contestant on game show. After a sigh, she placed her towel back into the plastic bag, sealed it, then stepped down next to the shore and attached it to the rope just before tugging on it three times. As she made her way back up, she almost fell down into the water, which would've been as ironic and frustrating as hell after all she went through to stay dry. She pulled herself up using the trunk of a small tree and looked at the staring Orks. When she made a deep, somewhat comically sigh, the Orks looked at each other and almost laughed.
    Her fatigue shirt was still open. The younger Ork pointed at her breasts, commenting, "she got little Gretchen boobies."
    She sighed, grinned, then smiled at the young Ork. "You must be Zobbie."
    He seemed surprised she knew his name.
    She pointed at the other two Orks and took a guess. The middle Ork she called, "Kragado," the other one she called, "Trundo."
    Zobbie and Trundo seemed to smile a little bit, but since they didn't correct her, she figured she was right.
    Kragado stepped forward and frowned at little. "Whiley say you Space Marine."
    "Yes, I am." She smiled only slightly. "I'm Officer LaFong, Cheyenne Ranger Space Marine. You can call me, Lana."
    "Lan-na." Trundo repeated.
    The oldest Ork remained serious. He leaned forward looking at her carefully. "You really small for Space Marine."
    His breath made her waver, but she stood strong.
    He leaned back and stood tall over her. "We gotta long way to go and we gotta run all the way. Trundo and I lead--you follow." He frowned deeper. "You think you and your short little legs can keep up?"
    She frowned back, speaking firmly. "As long as one of you doesn't step on me--I'll keep up!"
    He looked at her with subtle disbelief.
    "May I ask where we're going?" She remained firm.
    "We gonna head toward mountains. We gotta be far away from here before Shoota Boyz show up." He grinned. "They may not be as friendly to you as we are. You ready?"
    Lana finished buttoning her fatigue shirt. "Ready when you are."
    Kragado led the way with Trundo close behind. Lana followed, with Zobbie behind her. They began following a path, but in some places Kragado crashed through the small trees and made his own path. They started out slow at first, then gradually sped up.
    ******
    After almost an hour, Lana was breathing harder than she ever had in her life; by the second and third hour, she had gotten her second wind, but was still tiring fast. However, she didn't waver one bit. To her, it felt like she had always been running ever since she escaped from Delta Pavonus. She ran training to become a Marine...she ran after becoming a Marine...she ran training for Special Ops. Subconsciously, she felt if she ran hard enough...long enough, there, at the end, she'd be home, her Aunt waiting for her with her arms outstretched to embrace her; but, since that was impossible, she would never quit.
    When the Orks finally stopped to rest, they all looked at her as she stood catching her breath. She looked back at them, who all looked tired themselves. But, she could see in their eyes, they had acquired new respect for her...seeing her as a real Space Marine, no matter how small.
    When Kragado spoke, even his mannerism was different, like he saw her as a companion. He almost smiled. "We stay here...rest, drink, eat."
    She noticed the other Orks had already opened their bags and were drinking from small water bottles, consuming half the container in one gulp with their large mouths. Kragado and Trundo each got out some kind of dried meat and began eating nosily, crunching down bones with little effort.
    Lana was obviously tired and thirsty, but tried not to show it. She got out and slowly drank half of one of her canteens and started eating one of the five nutrient bars she brought with her. When she looked over at Zobbie, he was eating a similar type of bar, obviously something he had obtained in trade from Whiley. He smiled at her showing her the bar, nodding like it was good.
    The older Orks eventually came over and dropped their empty water bottles by Zobbie, who picked them up and began refilling them at a nearby stream.
    As the light of early morning exposed a verdant, green, forest, it seemed that the Orks had eaten up most of their food. But, it obviously didn't bother them. They knew how to find food and survive in the forest. It was also rumored that the Orks had caches of food set around in different places. Either way, it didn't matter. The Orks could eat almost anything, even rotten food. Lana wasn't so lucky. She kept half of her food in reserve, but knew eventually, she have to depend on her Ork escort not only for food and water, but her very survival.
    When it looked like the Orks were getting ready to start moving again, Kragado, with the others behind him, came over to talk to her.
    "Whiley say you want get close to Savage Ork. Take picture scan." Kragado wanted to make sure, then told her, "there no Savage Orks around here. They all run away when Warboss get Orks ready for battle." He pointed at the mountains in the distance. "We need to go though mountain. I know place we come out to find Savage Orks." He continued pointing. "It gonna take rest of day to get to mountain."
    Lana was still tired, but, like before, tried not to show it. She grinned. "I'm ready to run--"
    Kragado genuinely smiled for the first time. "We gonna walk from now on...if you don't mind."
    She smiled back, nodding her agreement.
    The big Ork continued to stare are her, like he need to know something. Then he asked, "why you need picture scan of Savage Ork?"
    "Well...the Terran leadership needs proof they exist." She tried to explain carefully. "Once I bring them proof, maybe they can talk to the Warboss and try to stop this war."
    "You not believe when we say Savage Ork real?"
    Lana sighed. "It's not up to me. THEY want proof." She grinned, then mentioned. "They told me they think Orks turn into Savage Orks...go crazy and forget what they did afterwards." She smiled. "But, I believe you when you say they exist."
    Kragado stood looking at her, making a face every so often. He made another, almost comical face, then leaned forward, speaking like he was only acting serious. "What if Terra's right? And we turn into Savage Orks--eat you?"
    She didn't waver, standing firm. Then she smiled and answered, "bon appétit."
    The big Ork slowly smiled, then he, with the others, started to laugh. "I startin' to like you, little Space Marine."
    After they finished laughing, he prepared to march, telling her, "we gonna walk in same order we ran. Even though most Savage Orks run away...few sometimes stay behind. You stay close between us so we can protect...okay?"
    "Okay..."
    ******
    Lana, with her Ork escort, walked for most of the entire day, stopping every couple hours to take a short break. The walking pace was a little quick, simply because the Orks had longer legs. But, she kept up. Once, Zobbie slowed down to open his remaining power bar, then ran to catch up. The others had stopped and Zobbie didn't notice it. He ran crashing into Trundo, which didn't bother either Ork, however Lana had to quickly duck to avoid being sandwiched in between. The Orks had a good laugh; when she tried to mimic their laugh, joining them, they laughed even louder, something that seemed to increase her amiability with the group.
    When they reached the base of the mountains, Epsilon Eridani's orange sun was getting ready to set for the day. Kragado walked over and removed some brush which was concealing an entrance to a cave as the other Orks began preparing camp, a place to sleep for the night. Zobbie then started gathering wood for a fire.
    Lana had finished all but one of her power bars, and all the water in one canteen. She was still hungry, but knew she would be until her body adapted to the new routine. However, either way, it was obvious she was going to have to eat Ork food from now on, saving her last power bar as an emergency ration.
    From the area near the brush next to the cave entrance, Kragado had removed a bag that looked like it had been buried for awhile. When he set it down next to the fire, he opened it exposing some kind of semi-dried meat and moldy vegetables...obviously a cache of food.  
    The meat stank and had a few maggots on it, the woman knowing she wasn't going to be able to eat any of that. The Orks walked over and grabbed their fair share of the vegetables. Trundo took a little larger share and dropped half of them on the ground in front of Lana. She smiled and got out a little army knife to clean off the moldy residue.
    Once the fire was ready, the Orks placed the meat up close as if to cook it little bit. They had lengths of some kind of heavy, metal, wire which they used to skewer their vegetables so they could hold them over the fire. Lana thought it a good idea and borrowed one to cook hers with...plus it would burn off some of the mold.
    As the sun set, Zobbie and Trundo left into the forest. The sun had fully set when they returned, each carrying small bags with them, dumping out the contents next to the fire. Lana could see they were grubs of all types and sizes. Each of the Orks began skewering the wiggling insects to their wires and cooking them...apparently, their version of orderves.
    Eventually, Trundo came over and offered her some of the, presumably, cooked grubs. "Whiley say you like fried grubs."
    She looked at the blackened, stubby, worms, smiling wryly, thinking to herself, "by fried she meant fried in oil with garlic." She smiled, took one and popped it down. It crunched at first, then she felt it burst open inside her mouth with gooey guts, obvious not quite cooked all the way through. She made a face, swallowed, then make a couple more faces.
    The Orks began laughing.
    She smiled, patting herself just under her breasts, commenting, "interesting flavor...like bacon and bile."
    Using her wire, she skewered a couple of the stubbier grubs and began cooking them...this time all the way through. After eating them, she held up her hand with her thumb and forefinger together and said, "much better."
    The Orks began eating the meat, which looked like it was half gristle and bones. After some loud crunching and chewing, it was gone followed by the loudest burps she'd ever heard. They finished off the grubs and left a few of vegetables for Lana. But, she was full...realizing, at this point, she was not going to go hungry. When she let out a powerful burp of her own, they laughed.
    Zobbie had some kind of small, wooden, homemade, musical instrument and played it for awhile, the simple tune nothing she understood, but the Orks seemed to like it.
    Afterwards, Kragado got up and began explaining: "Okay, I take first guard shift, Trundo, then Zobbie."
    At that point, Lana felt she should mention. "I can take one of the guard shifts. That way--"
    She noticed Kragado making a face at her.
    When she looked back as to why, he leaned forward. "What you gonna do...wake us up when Savage Ork burp after eating you?"
    "You can loan me your pistol. I know how to shoot Ork weapons."
    He made another face, then took out his larger-than-average, Ork, slugga pistol. "I think this a little too big for you. You shoot...you go flying backwards."
    She was about to mention using Zobbie's auto rifle, then she noticed Kragado's much-smaller, back up pistol. "How about that one?" She pointed at it.
    Kragado turned and looked behind him, but saw nothing.
    She pointed again. "That one."
    He turned again, and saw nothing.
    Lana sighed, then got behind the Ork and slapped the pistol with her hand. "Here...this one."
    When Kragado finally saw it, he made a face, then twisted his belt so the pistol was in front of him.
    She almost laughed.
    He looked at her with a goofy expression. "I forget I have that." He scratched the back of his head.
    The other two Orks snickered.
    "Every time I sit I feel something poking me in back." Kragado smiled as he remove the holster with the pistol. "Now...that gonna feel better." He handed it to Lana. "Here...you take."
    She would've never guessed he had forgotten about the weapon. She almost laughed again.
    The pistol was still large for her, like a .458 magnum automatic pistol, and, very likely, at least as powerful. She removed the weapon from its holster and examined it, then walked over to where she had laid her belt next to the fire. From one of the pouches, she removed a small tool, like a very, small, screwdriver. She sat down and began examining the sights, then using the tool to adjust. She placed the tool in her top pocket, got up, then asked if she could fire the weapon, needing to sight it in.
    All three Orks were standing next to her. When Kragado nodded, Zobbie ran over to a tree and attached his last nutrient bar wrapper to it. He ran back next to Lana, who looked, then stepped back until she was about twenty meters away.
    "You gonna hit that from here?" Zobbie looked surprised.
    As she started to aim, she noticed Zobbie and Kragado standing right next to her. She relaxed her aim, and asked them kindly to give her some room, then went back to aiming.
    The pistol didn't kick as much as she thought, mainly because of its weight. However, she hit the tree about thirty millimeters to the right of the wrapper, missing. Then, she got out her tool, adjusted the sights again, placed the tool back in her pocket, aimed, and fired again.
    This time she blew the nutrient bar wrapper in two, a direct hit.
    Zobbie made a noise like he was very impressed.
    "Boy...you really are Space Marine." Kragado was impressed also. "Space Marines shoot good shots." He stood looking at her holding the smoking pistol, then leaned forward, seriously smiling. "I glad you on our side."
    "Thanks." She smiled back. "By the way...do you know how much ammo this thing has?"
    He shrugged, then informed her. "You got first guard shift. If Savage Ork come, shoot right between eyes." Then, he frowned seriously, finishing his statement, "BEFORE, he eat you."
    Kragado then howled and announced they should all go to bed. Zobbie had just finished filling the water bottles, including Lana's canteen. Trundo pointed at some wood next to the fire and told her it should be kept going all night, then saying, good night...as did the others.
    She kept her back next to the cliff wall the camp had been built next to and stood watch while listening to a chorus of Ork snoring.
    ******
    In the morning, Kragado mentioned it was time to go into the mountain...and how dangerous it would be for someone of Lana's size.
    She had studied the cave fauna of Epsilon Eridani 3 before coming on this mission. There was a jumping spider large enough to eat a young Gretchen, but would probably not go for her. However, there was another type of spider (of the non-jumping variety) that could and would eat her; but, they were much rarer, and she was fully aware of the types of rocky crevices they usually waited in ambush. If they had to go through any underground deep water, there was a plant that had long tentacle-like leaves. If she stumbled on them underwater, they would wrap around her legs and pull her under, her drowned, decaying, body feeding the plant. But, like the spider, it was rare to find them that big. As for the Orks--there was nothing in the caves that could hurt them, or even try.
    Finally, Kragado told her it was possible for there to be a Savage Ork in the caves. It was VERY rare since Savage Orks were afraid of the caves. But, it was possible. In his life, Kragado had only seen one, and that one ran away right after spotting him, exiting the cave quickly.
    As they entered, they took the same single-file formation as they did outside, only a little more spread out. They didn't seem as worried about Lana now that she was armed...and especially after they saw how good she could shoot.
    ******    
    Inside the mountain was a maze of dark, rocky, passageways, and spacious caverns. Before entering, she watched as the Orks, using an elastic band, fixed a small, dim, flashlight to their heads. Even though the Orks had good eyes for seeing in the dark, there were obviously places even they needed light.
    They had just passed though the initial cave passageway and entered a small cavern, when Trundo turned to look at Lana. He jumped slightly, seeing her. Her eyes looked different.
    As part of her gear, she had a set of small, round, glasses, something which enhanced her vision in the dark. She lifted up the glasses, showing him, then smiled. He smiled back, understanding.
    As the Orks traveled from cavern to cave, and cave to cavern, Lana tried to remember the route they took, but soon realized it would be almost impossible. When they came to an underground stream, she watched as the Orks waded through waist deep ahead of her; she knew the water would be almost up to her neck. When she hesitated, she felt a pair of strong hands grab her right underneath her breasts, lifting her up as she grabbed the hands and squirmed a bit, ticklish, remaining that way until she was taken to the other side, getting only her boots slightly wet. Then Zobbie set her down. She sighed, then took a couple seconds to adjust her bra.
    "Little Space Marine need help across deep water."
    She didn't know if Zobbie was asking a question or making a statement. She also didn't know if he was trying to help her across or simply trying cop a quick feel of some little Gretchen boobies. Either way, as they resumed their walk, she thanked him.
    A little later on, when they briefly stopped, she noticed Zobbie had a piece of thick vegetation around one leg; it looked more like a tentacle. She smiled at him again, guessing if she had crossed the stream on her own, she might be sucking cave water right now. She pointed it out to him and he easily removed it, thinking nothing about it.
    The most common creature in the caves was colloquially called a Stubgrub. Lana had already spotted many of them of all shapes and sizes. She had thought it interesting reading about it: In the far past, the creatures had once been a type of beetle that lived in the caves during its larval stage, then crawled out once it became an adult. However, for some unknown reason, it began staying in the caves. Eventually, it changed; now, as it reaches adult stage, it grows stubby little bumps under it body which is uses to crawl around, like a worm, staying in the caves and feeding mainly on fungus. They were completely harmless, even though a little gross looking, and could grow as long as eight meters and as thick as a tree trunk. If hungry enough, Orks could eat one, but they hated the taste. The creature's meat would make Terrans sick. Inside the caves, they were the most common source of food for almost all cave predators.
    ******
    After about another hour, the Orks stopped and sat down in a small cavern, or so she thought, to rest. But, she didn't see Kragado anywhere, and it seemed like the Orks were waiting for him to return.     
    Lana was able to keep track of time with a small, pocket watch. They sat and waited for almost thirty minutes, Zobbie and Trundo talking among themselves. Outside, she wondered if the war had already started. She could only hope not.
    Then she heard talking coming from a nearby passageway. It was the sound of many voices, but they weren't Orks. When Kragado appeared, he was followed by four young Gretchen males, each, aside from their normal Gretchen clothing and gear, wearing what looked like an oversized backpack.
    "Grots, come..." Kragado ordered, but not sternly, like he was talking to children. He pointed to where Lana, Zobbie, and Trundo were sitting, ordering them to unload something. When they saw Lana, they began all talking at once, pointing at her, like they had never seen a Terran before...which, they probably hadn't.
    "Grots unpack." Kragado ordered again. "We hungry."
    The four Gretchen acted very much like children, or more so, like juveniles. They continued to babble away was they unwrapped some cooked meat, which the Orks took and began eating. They also had some bread and vegetables. When Kragado said something to one of the Gretchen, then pointed at Lana, the Grot walked cautiously over and placed some food over for her. He stood looking at her.
    "Hi." She smiled. "Thank you."
    The young Gretchen had small, narrow eyes, a long nose, and long pointed ears. Eventually, he spoke. "My name, Graban."
    "I'm Lana."
    "You Terra Space Marine." Graben spoke innocently. "How many Orks you kill?"
    Lana sighed, but didn't mind answering. "I haven't killed any Orks." She smiled. "I hope I never have to."
    Before the Gretchen could say anything more, he was called over by Kragado.
    Once they had all finished eating, the Gretchen backpacks looked lighter as everyone got ready to move again. Apparently the Gretchen were coming with them, their backpacks still carrying more supplies. The four Gretchen took a position in line between Kragado and Trundo, continuing to talk garrulously as they walked along.
    ******
    More hours passed and, by Lana's watch, it was almost evening. When they entered a long, narrow, winding, cavern, Kragado stopped the group and began speaking seriously. The Gretchen were silent, aware of the serious situation they'd soon be facing. Eventually, led by Zobbie, they took off into the cavern and disappeared. Kragado went in another direction, to what looked like an opening leading to the outside world. Trundo stayed with Lana as they waited.
    "This most dangerous part." Trundo began explaining. "Kragado go to call Savage Orks. He say to them, we bring food. They come. We wait here. When Kragado return, you do everything he say."
    Kragado returned after a few minutes. "Savage Orks out there. They hungry. They always hungry." He looked at Lana, who stood, listening to him. He remained, serious, speaking to her directly. "Savage Ork like to eat you." He pointed at her abdomen, his big finger making contact with her solar plexus."
    She grunted, almost doubling up.
    He continued. "Your soft little belly tasty good for Savage Ork."    
    She frowned, holding her stomach. "Next time point without jabbing me, okay? And anyway, I'm still using my soft little belly--so they'll just have to eat something else." Her voice was firm.
    Zargado grinned approvingly. "If Savage Ork come to you, you shoot between eyes." The big Ork sighed. "But, if many Savage Orks...we not be able to stop. It gonna be dangerous." He paused, then asked. "You still wanna come?"
    "Yes." She didn't hesitate. "I understand...but, what I need to do is important. Many Terran and Ork lives depend on it."
    Kragado nodded like he understood and approved.
    In a distant part of the cavern, Lana heard the voices of the Gretchen. Soon they came out carrying a big blanket, each one taking one of the four corners. Inside the blanket were numerous, dead, Stubgrubs. Zobbie had his axe out, now soaked with pale, greenish, blood.
    "We go now...before more Savage Orks show up." Kragado announced, "Lana, you stay with Grots. Come when I say...ONLY when I say."
    Kragado and Trundo readied their axes, but kept their pistols holstered, as did Zobbie. The two older Orks exited first, then the younger. Lana and the Gretchen moved to the cave opening, looking outside. The Gretchen were obviously scared, but seemed to have some kind of comfort seeing Lana holding her pistol ready.
    Outside, she saw Kragado and Trundo take positions about twenty five meters away, holding their axes menacingly. Zobbie was behind them as a back up.
    Then the two older Orks began howling. When there was a response, only Kragado responded, using different sounding howls, apparently some kind of primitive Savage Ork communication.
    Lana had to holster her pistol in order to use the scanner Dempsey had given her. Outside, all she could see were the three Orks. Using her scanner, she picked up the same thing: only the three Orks.
    Another minute passed, and Trundo called, "Grots, get ready."
    The Gretchen remained silent, obviously scared.
    At first, the only bio-sign reading she was able to get was that of the three Orks. Then she got scanner blips, bio-signs, further in the forest, the scans not long enough to get anything else other than it was something alive. And, she still saw nothing, the creatures nearly invisible in the woods.
    After several more howls, Kragado called the Gretchen, who hesitate at first, then ran out with their load of dead Stubgrubs.

    Then Lana was called.
    As she ran out, Zobbie tried to stay near her, within four meters, at least. It was obvious he was scared also.
    On the left, in the distance next to some trees, she spotted a blur; then Zobbie moved in that direction waving his axe. Kragado continued to howl, being answered often.
    Lana stood next to a large tree, then adjusted her scan, pointing it in the direction of Kragado, then widening it. There, before her eyes, along with the Orks scans, were about five other creatures, with very Ork-like bio-scans, different only because she was able to compare them to the regular Orks scans.
    She became enthralled--this being one of the things she wanted. Then something moved in the distance to her right, just a blur. But, in about a second, she had it on her scanner, a close up reading of a Savage Ork. She saw the regular Orks scans coming toward her, then she looked up and saw they were retreating. She continued to scan the Savage Ork, which was only fifteen meters in front of her. When she looked up, she finally saw it.
    Her jaw dropped. The creature was monstrously gross. It was Ork-like in appearance, but was thinner and shorter, its body, arms, and, legs, all tough and sinewy. Even though it was smaller than an Ork, it was very likely much more powerful, and faster. It had sharp, jagged, teeth, with long, lower, jowl teeth. It was almost completely naked, its greenish skin blotched in such a way to be completely camouflaged. Looking back at her scanner, she noticed she had a full, complete, scan of the creature.
    She almost jumped out of her skin when Kragado let out a screaming howl very close to her. He was standing only about five meters away at a forty-five angle to her left. The Savage Ork stood drooling, looking at Lana. She quickly stepped behind the tree, put away her scanner, and drew her pistol. When she stepped back out, Kragado and the Savage Ork were faced off against each other, only five meters away.
    "Run, Lana!" Kragado side stepped between the woman and the Savage Ork.
    She quickly ran back near the cave entrance. Kragado backed off as well, followed by the Savage Ork. To her right, the Gretchen had dropped off the Stubgrubs and were moving back toward the cave. The other Orks were falling back also. Then she saw one of the Gretchen trip and fall, recognizing him as the one she talked to, Graban, the others not noticing, leaving him behind. In the pile of Stubgrubs, something moved, then out came a large jumping spider. It moved quickly toward Graban and jumped as he screamed. But, Lana was quick: she, aimed and fired in less than a second and shot the spider in the air. Graben looked at her with wide eyes, then got up and ran. The spider flopped around on the ground, then laid still, dead.
    At the same time, when Kragado took his eyes off the Savage Ork, it made its move toward the Terran woman. But, Kragado was quick also; he spun, swinging his axe. The next thing Lana saw was the headless Savage Ork body flopping around on the ground, its head rolling toward her, seemingly still alive, its mouth biting, slobbering with blood and saliva. Then she shot it between the eyes.
    In the distance, she spotted a blur of Savage Orks run away, apparently frightened at the beheading event. It was now obvious to Lana why Orks carried axes. The Savage Orks were incapable of understanding firearms, not afraid of them. But, the axes were something they could see--a clear visible threat.
    In another several seconds, everyone was safe inside the mountain, sitting down and resting on rocks in the cavern. However, the Gretchen were still scared, some crying. They no longer wanted to carry their backpacks...all they wanted was to go home. Kragado looked tired. Even though he had performed exemplary against the Savage Orks, for the most part, he was an old Ork.
    He looked at Lana. "You get picture scan you want?"
    "Yes, I got many good scans, thank--"
    "Then I goin' home. I gettin' too old for this." He stood up and rallied the Gretchen. When he told them he and Zobbie would  take them home right now, they cheered. He looked at Trundo and Lana. "Trundo, you take little Space Marine back to Terra home. Maybe we join you later." He stood up, and with the Gretchen in between him and Zobbie, they took off quickly, disappearing in the darkness of the cave."
    Lana looked at Trundo. "I need to get these scans back to Colonel Dempsey and Prime Minister Lancaster."
    Even though he was younger than his older brother, Trundo was still getting along in age. He looked tired, but explained. "I need to go home first. Wanna see Gabba. Rest. Then I take you home. Okay?"
    Lana understood. She had wanted to bring a communicator with her, one with a satellite link, so she could send the scans directly to Planetary Guard HQ as soon as she got them. But, Whiley said no. If she had been captured by an Ork patrol with such a device, they would've shot the Orks and gutted her as spies. Once the Terran leadership got the scans, they'd have to try and contact the Warboss. Then they would both need to talk, try to understand what had happened fifteen years earlier--hopefully, stop the war. Her job, so far, was only half done.
    She smiled. "That's okay, Trundo. We can go to your home first. I'm tired also."
    He smiled back, then got up to go in a different direction from that of the other Orks. "I know better way to home. You follow, okay?"
    "Okay...lead the way."

 

 

 



 

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