Striders

Sometimes smart women get stuck with dumb men. But not for long.

As I mentioned in The Raping of Cyrynda Strong, in the early 1990s I wrote a triptych of stories in which women took the lead and not always to their benefit. Although not part of the triptych, my success with Cymodoce, spurred me into give a female lead/POV a whirl.

The first story was Rachel, Above the Clouds, While Flying (and was recently published in Across the Margin). The Raping of Cyrynda Strong came next and this story, “Striders”, came last. I can’t tell if it still needs some polish.

Let me know what you think, and thanks.


Striders

 
Gladys stopped in the doorway between the comm and the ship’s claustrophobic living-room. She could see Dobrynin shuffling on his roll-bed and balanced herself in mid stride, the toe of one slipper not quite touching the floor, her tiny figure framed by the comm’s instrument lighting.

Dobrynin sat up and scratched his beard and gut. “Where’d’you go?”

“I…I had to go to the john.”

“You didn’t fuck anything up, did you?”

Alarms sounded.

“What in hell?” He glanced at her and rose. Instinctively she backed away as he hurried into the comm. “Coil chamber integrity, zero. Stabilization manifolds point-ten and dropping. Life-support viability,” Dobrynin toggled a switch which flipped the readout back and forth, “recycling heap and atmospheric plant, both failing. Well, Gladys, not even you could have done this.”

She sighed and her shoulders relaxed.

Dobrynin studied the instruments one more time. “It looks like we’re going down.”

Slowly the stars came back into view and the Venturer shook as the jump drive indicator lights died.

Gladys called up the maps and arranged them according to the emerging star patterns.

“Don’t touch that.” He slapped her hand away from the interface panel as he studied the maps for a landing site. “Emerson’s Planet or Nemel. Some choice.”.

She peered over his shoulder. “Nemel’s closer to trade routes this time of year.”

“I am trying to think.”

“Sorry.”

“We’ll go to Emerson’s Planet. It’s got breathable air and fresh water according to the map. It shows green, so there’s got to be vegetation down there, too. Computer, estimate time before system failure.”

A synthetic female voice replied, “15.7.25.”

He touched the planet’s image on the map. “Locate landing site on selected body.”

A panel lit up to Dobrynin’s right. The female voice said, “Working.”

Dobrynin moved his feet to the servos. They responded with little effort. “Good. At least we won’t crash.” He punched in a descending spiral orbit on the flight control computers, letting the planet pull them in until the computer came back with some findings.

“Landing site found,” the computer said a minute later. A series of crosshairs and circles formed on the map.

“Auto pilot,” Dobrynin said. The servos went limp as the computer assumed responsibility for the descent. Dobrynin went into the storage bay to check food, power, and weapons. Gladys followed him in. “I don’t want you in here, Gladys.”

She nodded, crossed her arms tightly over her chest and walked back to the comm.

An hour later they were on the ground. Dobrynin sent up a Caster then went back to finish checking on their supplies. Within a few minutes the Caster flew over a group of grazing quadrupedal creatures.

Gladys stood alone and observed the creatures in the Caster’s monitor. “Hmm. Morbid thorax and abdomen, at least by earth-standards. Hirsute, rounded mandibular structure, prehensile proboscis and osculates, bi-aural and ocular, apparently herbivores, three-hundred kilo by two-point-seven meter average.”

She flipped the Caster from automatic to manual and gently nudged the joystick.

The Caster flew lower and the creatures broke into a run. “Unguligrade perissodactyl tylopods, evolved for extended trotting and moving in 1-2,3-4 rhythm.”

Dobrynin came up behind her quietly. His hand snapped forward and crushed hers around the joystick, ramming it forward so that the Caster flew among the creatures, knocking some over and scything through the hides of others with its blades.


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