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The prey died. The dome slipped off, sliding out from beneath the others. The prey’s face was exposed, its nose, eyes, ears, lips torn off by the others. While digging out its eyes, the spikes on the others’ arms damaged the prey’s brain. The dome is glossy, reflects the sun. It has a panel, a visor that moves on hinges. Most likely for eating. It looks like glass. But brittle. Pressing on it, I can feel it give. It doesn’t seem like it’d take a lot to break. Inside, there’s a strap, a bit damp with blood. I see. To prevent the dome from slipping off, the strap goes underneath the prey’s chin. But it wasn’t very helpful, seeing as it’s in my hands now.

But how sturdy is it? There’s two things I need to test: puncturing, smashing. Stabbing down with a normal wooden spike only leaves a tiny scratch. It’s a bit disappointing that it left a scratch at all. What about smashing? This sluggish other will work. The helmet fits on its head quite snugly. And now, I’ll swing the metal stick.

Crack.

Is it still alive? Yes, it’s moving. The dome is cracked. But it worked. The other survived a lethal blow. Perhaps this dome was only good for a one-time use. If I hit it anymore, it’ll break. But I’ll know exactly how many hits it takes to kill whatever its protecting the next time I encounter a dome like this. One swing. Two swings. Three swings. Bits of the dome are cracking off. There’s spongy white stuff underneath, almost like brains. Four swings. Five swings. Six swings. The other stopped moving. The white foam is broken, split apart. Black liquid is oozing out from between the cracks, staining the white foam.

It took seven swings to kill an other through the dome. That’s another seven lives. Was it a waste to test? No, spending to learn is never wasting. With the next dome I get, I won’t suddenly die from it suddenly breaking. I’ll know how close it is to needing a replacement. Oddly enough, the glass portion of the dome survived. It makes sense. I hit it from behind, not the front. Can it be penetrated with an arrow? To kill others or prey with an arrow, hitting their eye to pierce their brain is the only way—for me, at least. The prey can kill others by hitting their foreheads. My arrows don’t fly as fast, as hard, penetrating only through soft flesh, not bone. It’s because I’m small, lighter than most others and prey. The arrow isn’t pulled as far back on the arrow shooter’s string. Or I’m using the arrow shooter incorrectly.

Twang.

The arrow pierced the glass. But not deeply. It only scratched the other’s eye, leaving a web of cracks on the visor. Not enough to kill even at point-blank range. Hunting prey that have these domes, aiming the arrows at their heads is pointless. Piercing their clothes is better; the smell of blood allows for easy tracking. The prey’s clothes is torn, ragged. Large flaps revealing bloody flesh underneath. With enough time, the others can tear it apart. But it’s very useful, helping the prey survive for much longer than it would’ve without. I think I can salvage parts of it. Is there a way to repair clothes? How are clothes made in the first place? Are they created by prey? If they are, there should be a way to fix them. But maybe clothes grow on trees.

Inside the prey’s bag, there was the black box with the black finger. It’s not really a finger, having no joints or flesh. Maybe it’s a big bone. But what is it? The prey was speaking into it. Or maybe it was breathing something in. It doesn’t smell. And it doesn’t taste like anything. There’s a button here. Pressing it does nothing. No, it does something. There’s a faint sound like static—jumbled, indecipherable whispering. Releasing the button stops the sound. Too bad I can’t speak. Would groaning work? Nothing. What if I groan while holding the button? Still nothing. It’s a mystery.

“Patrick? Over.”

A voice. Prey? It must be; others don’t speak. But why is it coming from the box? I’ll try groaning again. Nothing. Groaning while holding the button?

“Patrick? Are you still with us? Over.”

Prey are transmitting their voices through this black box? There was a similar box back by the fire. But no voices came out of it. It seems like prey have a method of communicating with one another, disregarding distance. How far away is the owner of this voice? Could it hear me if I banged my metal stick and arrow shooter together? That would seem pointless if prey can just shout. That’s right. The prey shouted before taking out the black box. The range of communication must exceed the range of their shouts. That’s dangerous. Does this mean the prey was calling other prey while stranded in the tree? Are they coming right now? Or maybe the prey was warning its companions that others were nearby, like the suspended-cans alarm system. Will the next prey I encounter be prepared? They’ll likely set up more traps, put up more ropes, create more arrow shooters. Winning against unprepared prey is easy. But organized prey with armor and domes protecting their heads, difficult.

What else is in the prey’s bag? Maybe something inside can help. There’s the glass jar with a film of black liquid covering its insides, the stink sauce that masked the prey’s smell. Are these more armored clothes? They’re the same as the prey’s, black and green. They’re rolled up, thick, hard to bite through. It seems like I won’t have to worry about repairs. I can wear these. And there’s this—the flat metal spike. Not the same one the prey used; that one’s still buried beneath the others. But it’s the same, about as long as my fingers and palm combined. Pointy at the end, made for stabbing. The side is odd too, extremely flat. Why is that? I’m not sure. But stabbing it into an other, the metal spike penetrates with no resistance. This is much better than the wooden spikes. It’s a shame the prey only had two.

What’s this? Another metal box. But it’s small, not even as big as my palm. There’s a hinge that flips, revealing a button. But pressing the button does nothing. It clicks, scraping against the pointed circle underneath. Odd. Is it broken? Buttons normally cause a change when it comes to tools prey have. Why is this one different? Wait. Was that fire? Pressing the button produced fire for a second. I finally found the tool prey used to create fire.

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Virlyce

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