A Deadly Kharaa Jungle
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Stuart Greyling pressed himself against the mossy hillside and held his breath. All of his training and instinct told him that danger lurked within the woodlands around him. He listened intently with one ear against the spongy green floor and the other pointed to the forest canopy. Thick, leathery leaves brushed against each other and monstrous trees creaked deep within as they bowed slightly to the wind. Amongst the ambience, Greyling could detect an underlying threat; the distinct sound of claw against tree bark. He slowly rolled onto his back and calmly checked over his rusted, dirt-caked CX-10 LMG. The taped-together magazine contained only a few rounds but he wasn’t worried. He had learned to deal with almost any threat he encountered in those lush forests. Greyling looked down at himself. He was covered in soil and scraps of indigenous flora that intertwined with the strips of fabric he had sewn to his pants and shirt. The fabric consisted of different greens and browns, a pattern that blended in with his surroundings very well and aided him in escaping some of the larger and more threatening fauna.
He was sweating profusely. The temperature was a humid 115 degrees Fahrenheit and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Two suns glared from somewhere above the canopy but thankfully, their rays hardly ever penetrated all the way to the forest floor. Greyling grabbed a clump of cool, black soil and smeared it over his face and neck offering him relief and disguising the light color of his skin. He rolled back onto his stomach and like a snake, slithered between the vegetation and up to the base of a large tree.
His keen senses told him that the clawed threat was somewhere just beyond the thick tree trunk. There were several clawed Kharaa species that inhabited those forests but the sound of claw against bark suggested only a few species. Skulks were excellent tree climbers, however, their movements were characterized as much quicker and urgent, where as the sounds that Greyling was listening occurred less frequently. Another possible species was a ‘Chimp’, a gangly, dangerous creature with brown and green flesh and two-clawed hands. Their feet were five-fingered with opposable thumbs and razor sharp talons. The species did not exist in space but they lived in troops in those forests. Greyling did not detect any other dangerous sounds, however, and deduced that this Chimp was likely out hunting which meant it was far from the rest of the troop.
Confident that the creature was in fact a chimp, Stuart set his CX-10 against the base of the tree and carefully pulled a long, sharp knife from the sheath on his right leg. A bird flew over, announced by the fluttering and chirping sounds it made, and he used this noisy opportunity to slide around the right side of the tree. He found himself at the edge of a small clearing carpeted in moss and shaded by the thick canopy above. It wasn’t a large clearing but hunched over by a log in the center was the chimp. It had it’s back turned to Stuart and he assumed that the creature was pursuing some prey itself. Unknowingly, the chimp hunter had become the hunted.
Greyling rose to his feet and began to slowly descend on his prey, holding the knife out in front of him and silently treading over the moss carpet. As he drew nearer he could see the animal that the chimp was so intent on; a small and harmless rat-like creature that was near the bottom of the alien food chain. It was much too fast for a chimp to catch on the run, so it was being very cautious. The chimp was about five feet tall as it hunched behind the log and probably could have stood up to about six or seven, but the posture of that species was a hunched and cautious one. It was a slender animal, making it perfect for swinging in trees and using its long, clawed arms as weapons but not necessarily for running.
He was almost upon the creature when his boot snapped a twig, which seemed so loud that he expected it to echo throughout the jungle, scaring birds from their perches and causing rodents to scurry away. The sound didn’t do that, but it did startle the chimp and it did not hesitate. In a quick, gymnastic-leap, it rebounded off of the log it had been hiding behind, and flung itself up into the air, back flipping over Greyling’s head and landing behind him. Stuart ducked, assuming the beast would try to decapitate him and rolled forward as the scythe sliced through the air above him. He rolled to his feet, baring the knife as ferociously as the chimp wielded its claws. Their eyes met and they circled, making threatening lunges at one another in the clearing as animals in the nearby trees looked on.