“This is where you’ll be going,” the Whale says, pointing with his flipper to the screen.
You stare at the screen obediently–AA attentively. It’s not you who’s going, after all. You just got back from a mission.
“We’ll need you, Cow.”
Of course. Good thing Cow faces are naturally docile. You flick your ears instead of giving voice to your frustration or objections, especially when the Whale continues.
“And a Wolf.”
The Wolves had played that awful trick on you, the one that nearly got you eaten–AAtorn apart– by monsters. You’re not looking forward to working with them again, so soon after just getting back to the ship.
“Don’t give me that look,” the Whale says, eyeing you.
With a flick of your ears, you lower your head, glancing out of the corner of your eye to the nearest Wolf. They’d shouted and howled when the Whales had decreed they allow other species on their starships, so much so that the Whales had assigned one of themselves to each ship. You were lucky—and hard-working—to get this position, and you weren’t going to let it go without a fight. Even to a Wolf. Especially to a Wolf.
You turn and get ready to Matt down to the planet.
“Investigate the Beacon, and come back,” the Whale says, his voice following you out of Command.
As you hurry, your mind races. The Beacon was likely some kind of call of help, but from who, and why? And why did the Wahle send you, instead of a team of Wolves? Wolves were fast and they were cunning, and they worked incredibly well together. Just not so well with the other species, sometimes.
You shove the Wolves out of your mind, focusing on your task. Ignoring the Wolf who joins you in the Drop Room you steady yourself, ready for anything that’s to come.
Or so you thought.
You gasp, a bellow escaping your throat even as you flounder in the marsh. The Wolf isn’t doing much better, struggling with the Matt in his jaws. Your stomach twists as you know the solution, but you don’t like it. Still, it’s better than losing the Matt, and being stuck here forever.
“Climb on my back,” you grumble.
There’s no sassy—AA sly— response from the Wolf. Instead, he just splashes over to you and climbs up, his claws digging into your hide. Your skin twitches but you try not to respond, a fear coiling in your gut at what other trick the Wolves might play on you if you act like prey. You think they’ve gotten past that, but how do you know for sure? You don’t want to risk testing it.
Your hooves are sucked deep in the squishy mud of the marsh, but worry fills you for more than just the ground that doesn’t want to let you escape. The Wolf lays on your back, panting heavily as you slog on, on all fours. Twisting, you catch a glimpse of the Matt, relief uncoiling some of the streets wound in your belly.
“Stop it,” the Wolf growls breathlessly. “The Matt will drop.”
Muttering to yourself you slog on, until finally you meet dry land and can get back up on two legs, as the wolf drops to his own feet, holding on to the Matt. He shakes himself, and you do likewise, watching him with something akin to interest. The Wolf’s eyes are wide and rings with white. If you weren’t sure you were wrong, you might say he was..frightened.
“Come on, we need to find the Beacon,” you remind him gently.
He nods, eyes never leaving the marsh, and his shivers before turning to follow you. You lead the uncharacteristically quiet Wolf uphill, nostrils flared of the scents that will tell you where to go. As you walk, you wait for the Wolf to help out, to give some direction, but he says nothing.
You prod him. “This is the way to the Beacon, right?”
Shaking himself again, he looks down at the Matt. Then he looks back at you. Your blood chills.
“We’re stuck here, you stupid Cow.”
You wait for the next words to fall from his muzzle, dreading them and hating them before they were even born. He looks back at the marsh, his ears flattening. “IF I had let go, the submersion would have destroyed the Matt, or we never would have found it in the murk. So I hung on to it. And look. Do you see any lights?” He thrust the box in your face, and you recoil naturally.
Shifting your weight, your hooves stamp on the solid ground, as if reassuring yourself that there was something solid in the universe. Reassuring yourself that there were safe places in this nightmare.
The Wolf continues, his voice filled with bitterness. The Matt’s lights have all gone out, and you know that’s bad, know what he’d going to say, but you wait for him to say it anyway, some part of you denying it, wishing that if he just didn’t say anything, it wouldn’t betrue.
“The Matt’s lost it’s lock. We took it too far out of range. We can’t get back.”
“We’ll figure it out. The Beacon is still out there.”
“They’re not going to send anyone after us. We have the only working Matt. You want to stay here while they repair the one hat ware broken?”
“Well, maybe. How long will that take?”
“With the materials on board? Years.”
You shake your head and continue one. The Wolf hesitates, clear by the lack of sound following you, and then he runs to catch up, his paws crunching the leaves underfoot. “We’re stuck here!” he shows, as if you hadn’t understood.
“I know. There’s still the Beacon.”
“Don’t you understand?”
“I’m still going to do my duty. I may be just a stupid cow, but I’m not afraid of some hard work. I’m not afraid to finish the task. And I’ll figure out a way home on my own if I have to.”
After all you were given a mission. Investigate the Beacon, and come back.
And that’s exactly what you intend to do.
Coming in at 1,033 words, this did not end up where I thought it would. I had two ideas in my head for the plot for this short, and this ended up taking a third route, though I’m intrigued where we ended up. The worldbuilding keeps developing, which is always fun.
I’m hoping I can edit down some of the internal to add some external, maybe resolve this conflict somehow, but we’ll see. I don’t know what will happen next but I’m curious to discover it.
I struggled writing this, unsure and with no words coming at some points, very different from my first experience with Writer In Motion! But that’s been my writing in a nutshell lately. Words were delayed in coming to mind, and sometimes my fingers had a mind of their own, and wow the typos to fix! But that’s what this is all about, after all: the journey from first draft to final draft!