Asthana couldn’t remember the last time she had tasted real meat. The flavour was a half remembered desire, something that was becoming perverted over time by the taste of the processed shit they ate. The pink protein creation they ate made her feel sick every time.
She looked over at Barrios who was silently concentrating on the tracks winding through the underbrush. They had been tracking an animal for the last two hours. What it was remained a mystery. The footprints, although regular, were undefined.
The ancient forest they passed through was very humid. Already she was slick with sweat under her coat and longed for the cool cover of the Phecda. Each step they took led them further away from the ship and into the dark woods were giant trees crowded over them. She felt claustrophobic and would call time soon whether they made their kill or not.
Up ahead was a clearing. She heard a light rustling and Asthana looked to her brother to confirm that he had heard it too. Their eyes locked. She gripped her tactical crossbow tighter and stepped as lightly as she could towards the sound.
Up ahead she could see it moving, it was a quadruped of grey colour that nearly matched the undergrowth except for an orange patch on its rectangular head. Perfect target she thought.
She aimed and let go a bolt, and missed. Barrios ran to meet its escape, firing with his electric rifle. Its laser targeting system was more accurate than her “archaic” weapon and he downed the creature with a single shot.
They entered the clearing and for a moment Asthana looked up, her breath was taken away by the sight of the rings that orbited the planet. She knelt to see what kind of animal it was they had killed and to Asthana it looked happily like something she could eat. She took out her large hunting knife.
“Jesus Ana, you are such a barbarian.” Her brother was more practical about food requirements, but she was a hunter and enjoyed all aspects of the kill much to his disdain.
She cut into the carcass and peeled back the skin. Underneath, strange electrical flashes travelled along the veins. She cut further into muscle, pushing it aside to reveal bone that was dense and dull grey. Maybe not so edible after all. She tapped the bone with her knife and it made a metallic sound.
From the bushes came a rush of trampling feet and long ululating sounds. Animals of the same kind entered the clearing. Barrios and Asthana jumped back as they formed a ring around the corpse. They touched each other lightly and a vibration filled the air. Asthana watched in fascination as the animal they had killed began to heal. She looked to her brother. “We should get out of here.” She said quietly.
“No kidding.” He returned, already half out of the clearing.
© Ellis Landon