Friday, September 07, 2012

100TWC - Day 42: Start

Tani stood in the clearing, her heart pounding as if she had run a sprint race. Another sprint race, she corrected herself. It was, after all, running such races that had put her in this place, at this time. A bead of sweat trickled down her face. She dashed it away with her free hand.

Promecyon -- the alpha sun -- was setting. In another few minutes the only light remaining would be from the beta sun Anubethon, a million times dimmer. A light that barely served to see by. Just this side of total darkness. It was the light that, by countless years of tradition, illuminated The Hunt.

She took small comfort that only the best were chosen. The Hunters meant "the best sport." Those who would prolong the chase and give the most thrills. Take unexpected chances, death-defying risks, maybe even escape capture altogether. It was fabled that there had been one such. A man, in that case. Riki. His name etched in the minds of all who were chosen for The Hunt. One man. One among the thousands who had tried, and failed.

But Tani had a few tricks up her sleeve. In the days leading up to the contest she had spoken to no-one, trusted no-one with her ideas. Instead, she had concentrated on her training. Mind and body she exercised, so that both would work together in total harmony. She knew that, when it came to the moment when her fate would be decided, she might only have seconds. Fractions of seconds in which to decide on a course and execute it. She needed to be at the top of her game, and she was.

So for now, in the last few minutes of alpha light, she breathed deep and tried to calm her racing heart. She rubbed at her tethered hand. The mechocuff chafed, even though she knew better than to tug at it. The post to which it was fastened had been sunk five metres deep into the bedrock and was made of puranium steel. It was said that it would survive a neutron blast. Tani focused her thoughts on her chosen exit from the clearing. She did not look towards it, or even deliberately away from it. She didn't want to give away the slightest clue to her intentions as the seconds counted down to her Start.

Once the cuff released she would have half an hour's lead on the Pack. And another fifteen minutes before the Hunt proper left the enclosure. She discounted those last fifteen minutes. Not much of a bonus when you were faced with being tracked by the Pack. GM wolves with enhanced sight and smell, and legs whose length and musculature had been bred to give them frightening speed over clear ground. Tani did not intend to give them the advantage of any clear ground. Where she planned to flee, the Pack would be hard pushed to follow.

Promecyon edged closer to the horizon. In the surrounding forest the night creatures stirred. One more danger for Tani to factor in to her escape. At best, a few of them could be said to be benign. Even these could give the unwary a nasty nip, although they would only retaliate if attacked first. In the worst cases even that small nip could be fatal, as many of the smaller creatures carried napa glands. The deadly poison tipped the arrows, spears and hand blades of the Hunt. But it was the true predators that held the greatest danger. At least, that which lay ahead of her. Behind her the Hunt had determination, weapons, intellect and intent. Ahead of her, the forest presented an almost equivalent menace. Animal blood lust, strength, instinct and blisteringly fast reaction times. And hunger. On this world the predators outnumbered the prey and consequently lived in a perpetual state of attack, always searching for their next meal.

As if these did not present enough of a threat, Tani faced vegetable foes too. Over millennia the forest had evolved its own defences to the animal life that tried to make a living within it. She was well schooled in the almost endless list of vines, shrubs, leaves and spines that she would have to avoid if she were to match Riki and survive the Hunt.

Unremarked by the animal and vegetable threats surrounding her, the forest canopy extinguished the last fingers of light from Promecyon. With a soundless click the mechocuff unlocked and fell away from her wrist. The Hunt was on!

[this story is continued in "Heart Song" later in the writing challenge]

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