August 06, 2010

Assignment to Earth Chapter Three

Brilliant blue eyes closely watched the girl serving dessert. Abruptly, Skylar realized he didn’t remember her name.

He hadn’t had a pleasant day of hunting. Every time his hand brushed against his weapon, she had filled his thoughts. Where had she seen another laser pistol? The design was unique. They all belonged to Cavaliers, or to Klodfons who’d taken them from Cavaliers.

If there were Klodfons here, that might explain why Rantek had screamed for help and promptly vanished. Finding Rantek was his primary mission. Maybe she knew where Rantek was…no, that didn't make sense; she had mentioned a time span of five years since seeing a pistol, and Rantek hadn't been on Earth that long.

Scowling, Skylar once again brought his thoughts back to the present. The girl had finished serving dessert and resumed her place at the table, laughing with the other hunters while she ate the creamy pudding.

Skylar automatically appraised her, as he did most things around him. He noted she barely came to his shoulder in height, but was well-proportioned, pleasing to look at and seemed to be in reasonably good physical shape.

Her face reminded him of a friend he'd had on Timora; oval, with a small, straight nose centered above a pert red mouth. Her light brown hair fell straight to her shoulders before gently curving under and never seemed to fall into her face. Her dark brown eyes with their fringe of long black lashes seemed huge. Her skin was smooth and pale. Overall, she had a fragile air about her that made you want to protect her. An air entirely at odds with knowing all about weapons. Particularly laser weapons.

‘I'll have to get her aside before I leave Saturday,' he thought.

A soft voice interrupted his reverie. "If you're finished, I'll take your plate."

Startled, he looked up—straight into her eyes. "Yes, let me help you." He rose, grabbed the empty plate from the table in front of him and followed her into the kitchen.

She was waiting for him just inside the kitchen door and took the plate from his grasp.

"You know, we really shouldn't keep meeting in here…your wife won’t like it.”

“I’m not married."

Jenna shrugged. "Well then, your girlfriend won’t like it, Skylar."

”I don’t have a girlfriend either…and I have to confess I’ve forgotten your name.” He made to take a step nearer, but she turned her back and strode across the room.

She turned the handles and ran water into the sink.

"My name’s Jenna. It’s both short and unusual. Most people remember it just fine. So tell me how your hunting went today." She squirted a liquid into the water and watched the bubbles spread over the surface.

"Guess."

She wasn’t the only one who could play irritating guessing games.

Jenna giggled, then put the back of her hand to her forehead and struck a pose, as if straining to read Skylar’s mind.

"Let’s see…John shot a scrawny deer and will have pressing business back at his office and will leave in the morning. I think his wife makes him come, so they can have the venison. Uncle Glen brought home a couple of rabbits for stew, and nobody else saw anything worth shooting at. I'll have to go out with you tomorrow and show you big tough men how it's done.”

Skylar smiled. "You seem to know John pretty well, and Mike did tease him about the deer’s size. Much as I'd like to see you hunt, however, you shouldn’t come tomorrow. We're going to be gone several days, all the way to the top of the mountain, where Glen tells us the best game is."

"So why can't I come?" Her question was blunt, her voice flat, and her face devoid of emotion as she turned to look at him.

"No chaperon, unless your Aunt would care to come along?"

"You need to learn something right now," she said, "I do what I want and no one stops me." Her manner and statement brought him up short and he stiffened slightly. Her mercurial changes were disconcerting.

She smiled and her voice softened somewhat, her eyes warming. "I usually go on the overnighters as cook. If it makes your overprotectiveness feel better, I carry and use my own tent. By myself. Besides," she added, her eyelids fluttering in exaggerated but obviously false flirtation, "I have to go this time…I just can't resist the chance to see your gun in action."

Her grin sparkled in her eyes before she looked back down at the sink, turned off the water, then left to retrieve the rest of the dishes, ignoring him completely. He gazed after her and shook his head. He certainly had never met anyone quite like her.

Skylar walked slowly upstairs to his room trying to puzzle it out. Jenna appeared to be deliberately baiting him. She seemed to choose her words carefully, then watch him for his reaction. Her conversation with the others tonight had been more open and natural. She did know them better, but it seemed as if she were suspicious of him. Why? And why did she keep coming back to the subject of his pistol? He wondered if this was why Rantek had signed on for this expedition. Maybe Jenna was a clue to his whereabouts. What did she know? Something was going on here and he determined to find out exactly what

Reaching his room, he checked the camping equipment in his pack. Some of it was from his Wyvern's survival gear. Fellowship issue. With the interest she'd shown in his pistol, he wondered what she'd say about his camp gear; a small smile played at the corner of his mouth.

Ready for tomorrow's early start, he pulled out the log he'd been meticulously keeping since he'd left his home on the Aubria. He stared at the small electronic device. What entry could he make for today? He hadn't learned anything new about Rantek. He doubted this camping trip would lead to any answers, but he didn’t feel he could just leave in the middle.

Anyway, this was the only lead he had. Jenna had hinted at having seen a laser pistol, but she’d given him nothing but unanswered questions. The information might be important later, but for now…he sighed. Colonel Harlan would scrutinize the entire log, and he’d really rather not have to explain Jenna's strange conversation. He couldn’t even explain it to himself. Skylar made a short entry about the day's hunting and his lack of progress in finding Rantek. He shut down the machine then dropped it into his pack.

Turning off the light, he climbed into bed and closed his eyes. Sleep refused to come for a long time.