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Why not just go by Sax?” K’s orange eyes glanced toward me, as she smirked. She didn’t exactly need to keep her eyes ahead of her since we were in a particularly flat area, and our car hovered a few feet above the ground. Ice was forming on the edges of the windshields, and snow shot past us at an incredible speed.

I found her question amusing, and returning her glance, I responded. “My name is Talcorosax. My mother called me Osax. Sax just seems…”

I was trying to find the words to express my thoughts, but K interrupted, turning her focus back to the landscape ahead of us. “Oh, or you could just go by ‘O’.” She glanced back to me, mouth open in a silly smile.

I realized I hadn’t responded for a few seconds, and began, “Well…”

K began chuckling to herself and looked back at the road, shaking her head. I narrowed my eyes, absentmindedly scratching my chest-fur. “Are you okay?”

It seemed that my questioning triggered something in her and she snorted another laugh, clearly trying to contain herself. Curious, I persisted.

You know, I actually have a sense of humour too. What’s so funny?” I was suppressing a chuckle, despite having no clue what she was laughing about. Her laugh was infectious.

She glanced at me briefly before turning her attention ahead. “Well, I just thought-” She chuckled, “I- I just thought if you were ‘O’, I’d be okay with that.” She looked at me expectantly, her eyes wide matching her grin. “Because… I’d be- I’d be ‘O’ ‘K’, with that. ‘Cause- Do you get it?”

I laughed and shook my head. What a fascinating person, created for combat, yet so amused by such a simple pun. My ears lifted in a smile. “I think I get it.”

She raised an eyebrow. “Why’d you shake your head then?”

I…” I continued laughing, “I’m not sure.”

In an instant I noticed a flash of fear in K’s eyes, and a fraction of a second later we swerved jarringly to the right. My ears peeled back and my fists clenched. I saw through the left windshield amidst the bright snow, a dark, towering shape. My adrenaline spiked. And then it was gone, left behind us as we glided on.

The cockpit was silent other than the straining hum of our vehicle’s engine, the icy snow pelting the windshield, and our panting breaths. After a few moments my heart rate began to slow again.

Did you get a good look at that?” I gasped.

K shook her head, panting. “It didn’t look like a rock…”

The sun was blaring behind us, coming in through small windows on the back of the cockpit. I shoulder checked to see if I could glimpse the object, but we must have been going too fast. All I saw was the blinding light of the sun, dispersed through the mass of snow. I spun back toward the front of the vehicle.

I rubbed my face. “It probably was nothing,” I said.

The sound pierced the hull of our craft with a suddenness that made me jump. It lingered in the air, engulfing us in a shrill tone before descending to a growl, and finally leaving us in silence. K and I locked eyes.

You still think it was nothing?”

I shook my head, my heart pounding. “Some kind of creature...”

I held my breath. My ears slinked back, dangling, as a thunderous thumping sound repeated on itself, each second. It was getting louder, closer, and the hover-car was shaking from each reverberation.

K looked frantically from side to side, checking over her shoulder, then back ahead. “I- I can’t see anything!”

I was breathing quickly, staring at the controls in K’s hands. “I take it you haven’t encountered something like this before?”

K shook her head, unable to look at me. Her horned shoulders were tense, and I noticed her breathing rate had increased. Interesting, I thought, my respiratory rate is also increasing. My mind was losing focus.

I glanced back over my shoulder, trying to get a glimpse of what was chasing us.

Boom. Boom. Boom. Boom.

A figure was taking form, dark, monstrous, and lumbering closer at an alarming speed. I couldn’t tell if it was dangerously close, or just startlingly large. I barely glimpsed its gargantuan maw opening, as one of its limbs hurled something toward us.

Look out!” I screamed, and K swerved to the left.

The massive snowball crashed into the ground just ahead and to the right of us, splattering shards of ice and snow against our windshield. I spun around to get another look at the creature, which I swore was unnaturally closer to us than when I had last looked. But just as I peered out to get a better view, K flicked a switch on the ceiling controls and a thick metal plate slid over top of the rear window.

She glanced at me with intensity in her eyes. “If it hit the windshield, we’d be dead!”

With a crash from the rear, the hover-car lurched forward, dipping its nose downward, and the interior lights flickered for a second. Some electronic coils were sparking in misalignment, and I began to smell ozone.

K steered the vehicle back into position, and accelerated. The pitch of the engine began to rise.

Does this thing have any weapons?” I asked, eyes wide.

Another snowball exploded in front of us, and K pulled the controls back, gliding over the debris. She leaned forward, beads of sweat forming on her forehead. “Yeah, but, they’re forward cannons,” she said, “no turrets.” She paused, clenching her jaw, and slammed the dashboard with her hand in frustration. A crack appeared where she’d hit. “Shit!”

I covered my cheeks with my hands, shaking my head. “Can you- can you try facing it head on?”

She looked at me like I was insane. Just then, the world outside appeared to darken, the thundering gallops almost upon us. And then I realized why.

K scanned the horizon, then flicked more switches with one motion of her hand. “Shit!” Metal panels slid over the front and side windows, and the noise from outside was muffled. The light from the snow-covered fields was choked out of the cockpit, and we were left illuminated only by the dim, flickering interior lights. The small emergency display flared to life, giving us a few narrow views from the cameras positioned on the vehicle’s exterior, flickering in time with the lights. I leaned forward to get a closer view.

This isn’t good,” said K, steering now by the display. We were completely in its shadow, and looking at the rear view camera, all I could see were the edges of four massive legs covered in dark fur, tailing us.

Try changing direction!”

K curved left and right, trying to confuse the creature. The display was hard to view, as it flickered and swerved, but the thing was still right behind us. Eventually K stopped turning. She shook her head with a grunt.

She grimaced. “I-”

She squinted and raised one hand to her head, her face contorting in pain. The veins on her forehead were pulsing viciously.

K?” I stammered, “K, what’s wrong?!”

Boom. Boom.

She didn’t respond, and her steering was becoming sluggish. The right facing camera went dark in a blur of motion, and I heard something heavy hit the side of the car. The vehicle groaned as the right half began tilting upward. K wasn’t doing anything, her arms slowly becoming limp.

My heart was pounding, and my amber eyes darted between the display and the controls. Breathing heavily, I wrenched them from K’s hands, and positioned the armature in front of me. I angled the ship to the left and started pulling up, breaking free from the thing’s grip with a shudder, peeling away from it. My body shook as the car’s front end bounced off the ground before levelling out again. The right camera was clear at last, but as I strained my eyes to see the display, I noticed to my horror that the front camera had been damaged when I collided with the ground. Static was all I could see.

K’s face was blank, her eyes barely open, and she was motionless. I jostled her. “K?! Are you injured? K!”

A bolt of adrenaline hit my veins as I looked down at the rear camera, and noticed between flickers that the creature was upon me again. Its legs were spread so widely apart, it must have been gigantic. The booming sound of its steps only grew more terrifying as time went on.

Both hands firmly on the controls, I looked once more at K. In the flashes of light I could see something wet on the dashboard in front of her seat. I noticed thick blood trickling down from her forehead, her eyes closed. I couldn’t tell if she was breathing. My chest felt constricted.

With one hand I covered my ear, and winced as the creature cried once more, this time deafeningly close. The ship dove downwards in a jolt as the monster must have pummelled its nose. The metal covering the windshield barely sustained the hit, and as the car leveled out once more my eyes landed on the energy cannon controls.

I took a deep breath in and started charging the weapon. The cannons began to hum in the eerie ambiance of the cockpit, punctuated by the creature’s booming footfalls, and I glanced down at the emergency display. While I held the trigger for the guns, building up as much firepower as possible, I reangled the vehicle and watched carefully.

My heart skipped a beat. My body jerked forward, ears swinging, as I slammed on the breaks, launching the vehicle between the creature’s legs. For a second the thundering was all around me, and the next I was tossed to the side in my seat, swerving out of control for a moment as the car clipped one of the monster’s feet.

I held my breath. Flipping a switch, searing light filled the cockpit as the protective shield disengaged from the front window. I regained control of the ship, the hum of the cannons blaring, and when my eyes adjusted to the light I centered the creature in my view. It was gigantic and furred, with two pairs of legs and a long wide tail. Its body contorted upward almost like a centaur, and two lanky arms with black, webbed hands trailed at its side. It was skidding to a stop and rotating to face me, it’s long head tilting like an owl. Four massive white eyes gazed at me and it screeched once more, revealing a set of pale-blue teeth, as long as swords, dripping with saliva. And in that moment, I fired.

I exhaled. The energy blast arced in a shining blue pellet toward the creature, bursting with a mighty crack on its body. The thing recoiled from the hit, smoke rising from the impact. But my vehicle was still moving toward it.

I steered away just in time to miss the monster’s legs by a meter, then one of its hands came down from above and knocked my vehicle off course. The vehicle spun as I tried to break, losing altitude and skidding roughly in the snow to a halt.

The navi-system blinked innocently. After catching my breath for a few seconds, I deactivated the other blast protectors so I could see out all the windows. The creature was a fair distance away from me, on the left of the vehicle, and appeared to be motionless.

I closed my eyes, and rested my head on the controls for a second, trying to control my breathing. But a second later, my heart jumped.

K?” I said, turning to her. She was sitting limply like a ragdoll.

I unbuckled my seat belt and reached under the dashboard, opening the emergency compartment, my heart still beating quickly. My long fingers frantically removed the adhesive bandages, and once I had one secured, with a cloth from the medical kit I wiped the blood from K’s head. She had been bleeding from a patch of skin on the top-right of her head, but at a glance the wound didn’t appear deep at all. Hastily, I slapped the bandage on her forehead.

I looked at the wet spot on the dashboard and in this light could determine it was blood. She must have hit her head on the dashboard the same moment the front camera broke.

I grabbed her hand, pressing my fingers to her wrist, feeling for a pulse. Her skin was too thick to detect anything, so I tried her neck. Her heart was beating steadily.

I let myself rest for a moment, knowing at least that she was alive, and tried to clear my head so I could better focus. You are okay. You’re alive.

When I calmed down, I realized her head wound was probably not an issue, as alarming as it had been to see her bleeding. Though I wasn’t sure about K’s exact physiology, I knew from my education that humans bled disproportionately from head and scalp wounds compared to other parts of the body, due to the high concentration of blood vessels. She probably only suffered a minor cut. But why had she fallen unconscious?

I looked at her still body, breathing lightly, with a pained expression in my eyes. I rested my gaze on her face.

She opened her eyes, and blinked. “Mm… what…”

My eyes lit up. “K! Are you alright?”

She sat up slowly, looking around. “Wh- where... what happened?” She looked confused. A second later fear crept onto her face, and she looked me in the eye. She said to me, “Are you hurt?”

I shook my head slowly. “I got thrown around a bit, but I’m just a little shaken, that’s all.”

She closed her eyes again, her expression morphing from relief to frustration. She put her head in her hands. “So, you got us away from that thing.”

Yes.” I said, looking out the left window at the creature’s enormous body in the distance. K followed my gaze.

Holy shit.” she said under her breath, and for several seconds we sat in silence, the navi-system blinking softly.

She shifted in her seat, still gazing out the window away from me. The silence stretched on. The smell of ozone filled my nostrils. I turned back to her.

Are you okay?” I asked once more. She turned to face me, her expression stern.

Yeah, I’m okay. Let’s keep going.” She reached across my front and swung the control armature back to her side, and without a second thought engaged the hover systems. The car stuttered for a second, before lifting up a few feet off the ground, as it should, and leveling out. Her eyes glanced down to the navi-system.

Wait,” I said, gesturing to her. “You- You really think you should drive?”

You got a problem with that?!” She whipped her head around to face me as she said this, and glared at me. My ears recoiled.

The bandage I’d tried to apply to her dangled in front of her eye. In my rush to help her I had misplaced it across some of her horns. She tore it off and stared at it, before throwing it to the floor of the cockpit and looking forward. “I’m fine,” she said gruffly. Her eyes trailed down to the crack on the dashboard she had caused during the chase, and I noticed her body tense. So did mine.

She said at last, “We’re closer to the ruins than the station. May as well make this trip worth it.”

I hesitated, and in that moment K spun the vehicle around, and began speeding off toward the point on the navi-system. I decided to save my breath for now, but I was very conscious to buckle in my seat belt.

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About the author

Seb Woodland

Bio: I'm a writer, game developer, artist, and musician. Just a creative guy working on art and trying to make his way in the world.

-There is always hope-

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