After changing her dress, Kira made way outside. Her head was heavy, pregnant with shame. She knew that the others had sensed when she and Vrox snuck out to scratch their itch.
Vrox made a move to pull her to his lap, but she swatted his hands away. Peeking shyly at the others, she found that they were engaged in conversation, ignoring her very existence. It wouldn’t have surprised her if Vrox had threatened them.
As everyone ate, she and Nebula listed everything they missed from Earth. The guys made fun of their English language, saying that they sounded like a drowning glunta– whatever that was.
Ezronian required a lot more tongue activity than English.
Maybe that’s why Vrox is so good at licking my–
Kira stopped the thought before it finished connecting. The last thing she needed was to get horny. They had a lot of ground to cover, so there was no time in the itinerary to bounce on her boyfriend’s lap.
After breakfast, she helped Vrox take the tent down. As they cleaned up, she brought up the request to be taught self-defense. Vrox shut it down immediately, so she settled with asking if she could carry a few more things other than a basket.
He huffed and puffed, arguing that carrying a bag with blankets would strain her back and hurt her pregnancy.
“For the last time, you are being overly-protective.”
“I would rather be this than neglectful.”
“You know, back on Earth, women held full-time jobs while carrying pregnancies. I can do this. It’s just a bag of blankets.”
“This is not your Earth. This is Ezron, where there is only one seed of life– and it is in your belly. I am the only healer in the family, but I have never treated a pregnant female before. I am trying to avoid catastrophe. Why must you question me on this?”
“I understand your concern, but it’s only a bag. I want to help. I don’t feel comfortable leeching off the team without pulling my weight.”
“I will pull your weight,” he slapped his chest. “I took great pleasure in getting you in this condition, and it would not be fair to expect you to do the hard work of carrying the child without any help.”
She facepalmed. They were arguing over carrying a bag of blankets? Why did Vrox have to be so selfless?
She sighed, towing the towel. She didn’t want to stress Vrox further, especially if he hadn’t been feeling well.
“Okay, big guy. You win.”
“Thank you, small one.”
She laughed and then resumed filling their bags. Once the camp was barren from all hints that they were ever there, the men rounded up the two beasts. Kira kept their distance from them, still creeped out by their silence and intelligent gaze.
She walked beside Nebula as they made way to the river, listening to her observations of Ezron.
“Can you tell how old the planet is by the plant types? Maybe they’re in some stage of evolution.”
“I don’t know,” Nebula answered. “I mean, my area of expertise is geography. You know, rock formations, the atmosphere, I even know plenty about fossils. I can look at plant cells, sure, but it would be hard for me to draw conclusions. I studied astronomy as a hobby, so I was able to look into Ezron’s sky. You won’t believe what–”
“We are here. Kira, I will take you across first. Kyros will be waiting on the other side. Once you are safe, I will come for Nebula. Rokan, Ak, Draekon, and Ni’ev will get the beasts and the rest of the containers. Are we ready?”
She nodded, walking to his side.
Kyros stripped off his loincloth, making the girls drop their eyes to their feet. After a loud splash, they dared to look up. Kyros was practically submerged. The water lapped at his shoulders, but the alien was able to march forward. He didn’t bother to swim across, keeping a slow pace as he fought the current. The angry river slapped his bare chest, hungry for his flesh. When he seemed to lose his footing, Kira forgot how to breathe. Kyros, however, persevered past nature’s ferocity. He kept a steady pace for the remainder of his crossing and shot them a toothy grin when he reached the end. When he climbed out, she looked away.
“It is time for us now,” Vrox announced. “Do not be afraid. I will get you across.”
He fell to his knees. Immediately, all of the men turned around, facing away from the sight of the kneeling male. Nebula looked bewildered, still not fully understanding Ezronian culture.
Kira walked to Vrox’s font and wrapped her arms around his neck. When he stood, he secured an arm around her back. After her legs were safely secured around him, he rained a heartwarming kiss on her forehead and then made his way to the bank.
He sat down on the edge and then slipped into the water. It was warm against her thighs– inviting, even, if it weren’t for the harsh pressure that seemed desperate to tumble them over. She hated how the water wrapped around her belly, weaving its slimy fingers around her seed.
Vrox remained solid as he migrated across. She clung on tight as if it would help strengthen him.
When they reached the end of the river, Kyros bent down to grab her by the arms and lift her out. After sending his brother a sharp nod, Vrox crossed the river again to grab Nebula.
Many minutes later, everyone– including the beasts, was safe on the opposite side of the river.
“Let’s move. We have some more hours ahead before we can camp.”
She picked up her basket and followed Vrox into the thick wilderness. It was terribly dense, and it didn’t help that the ground wasn’t paved. Not wanting to give Vrox reasons to carry her, she tried to hush her panting. Nebula sent her a thin smile, sharing her secret.
The men chatted, unaffected by the unwelcoming terrain. Their legs were far too long and strong to consider this a challenge.
“Are you alright?” Vrox asked.
"Yep,” she replied.
“Does that mean yes?”
She laughed, raising a hand to wipe her brow after making sure that he wasn’t looking. “Yes. I’m fi–”
He grabbed her and pulled her under, pinning her with his own body.
“Vrox? I really don’t think this is the time to...”
“Silence,” he hushed, keeping his eyes on the sky.
“It is an adult squar,” Ni’ev confirmed. “It appears to be alone.”
“Nebula? You okay?” Kira asked with a whisper.
“Yeah. I have Vee.”
A shriek terrorized the sky.
“Mothers,” Ak growled. “It has spotted us.”
“We must annihilate it. I can tank it,” Vrox suggested.
“No. We need you at far range. Someone must take down its wings, and you have the best accuracy. I will tank it,” Kyros interjected.
Vrox nodded, “very well. Akdronis? Ni’ev? Rokan? Draekon?”
Ni’ev tore through a chest, pulling every sharp object they owned. “I will stay with the females and animals. Draekon should come with me,” he answered.
“Give me a cutlass, not broadswords,” Rokan requested.
“Ak and Rokan, you two go for the final strike. Go!”
Kira’s head swam as she tried to keep up with the action. She remained in a crouched position beside Nebula. Her eyes were wild with panic, seeking Vrox’s. He remained solid with determination, rejecting any room for error. He followed Rokan Ak as they climbed a tree, and she barely heard Ni’ev say, “Females, we must go.”
She stood, following Ni’ev and Draekon as they grabbed the reigns of the beasts and led them to a secure corner. Kyros fisted dual cutlasses and rushed to the open area where the trees thinned.
“Come, you ugly thing!” Kyros taunted.
The master of nightmares shrieked, before folding its wings and accepting Kyros’ challenge.
Kyros rolled, evading the portal of teeth that the creature was presenting. It landed with a disastrous thud that created an earthquake. With a roar of his own, Kyros ran toward it.
Adrenaline drummed on all of Kira’s cells.
Kyros ducked last second, sliding under the squar and drawing two parallels of pain on its underbelly.
The squar shrieked, opening its wings wide. With a grunt, Vrox dove off the tree. Like a divine tornado, he spun in rapid successions and produced two streaks of silver. Kira watched the daggers slice with perfect accuracy down the squar’s wings. The tight, thick, scaled veils ripped like paper.
The squar mourned its ruined wings with another cry, spinning around to whip Vrox with its tail, but failing when Vrox backflipped away.
The two horsiraptors shifted nervously, producing an eery rumble.
Kira looked up. What were Rokan and Ak were waiting for? Where was that final strike?
“Do not be lazy, Kyros. Help me get it in position,” Vrox called as he evaded a swipe of the squar’s paw and threw a final dagger at its neck. It impaled flesh, irritating the beast further.
With a laugh, Kyros replied, “You dare insult me? I should let it pick its teeth with you.”
Kira was ready to cry. They were chatting it up while facing this bus-sized monster? If it didn’t kill them, then she would!
With a flurry of swipes, Kyros sliced the squar’s tail, demanding its attention. It tried to flap its wings to knock him down, but they no longer worked. Choosing to use its teeth, it snapped its jaws. Kyros threw himself aside, but Kira was beginning to worry that not all of his evasions would be successful. She nearly cried with relief when Rokan and Ak joined the action, falling off the tree with weapons pointing, landing on the thing’s neck with a satisfying thud.
She palmed her vibrating breast.
“It is about time!” Kyros threw.
“If you had not jumped around so much instead of getting it in position, we would have killed it earlier.”
“Really? I would like to see you tank one of these things,” Kyros argued, pointing a bloody blade at the fallen squar.
“It is not too late for the squar to digest you, Kyros, stop talking before I shove you inside its jaws.”
The boys began their bickering as Kira stood up on her wobbly legs.
“Whew, that was eventful. You okay, Kira?”
She raised a finger, requesting that Nebula waited a moment, before bending over and puking her guts out.
“Fuck,” Nebula swore, swooping her hair out of the way.
“Kira!” Vrox growled, thundering to her side.
“It’s nothing. Calm–” she dry heaved, before producing the rest of breakfast.
“What shall I do? What is this?”
Please tell me that Ezronians know what vomiting means.
“Our child,” Vrox wheezed, holding her to his chest. “I have failed. Forgive me, Kira.”
She would have laughed if she wasn’t busy retching.
“It– it’s not the fetus!” Nebula clarified. “It’s just food. Don’t worry, Vrox.”
"Zix?” he asked hopefully. “They are safe, then?”
“Yes,” Nebula confirmed.
“Goddamn it,” Kira spat. “I’d love some Colgate right about now.”
“What is this? Where can I get it?”
As Vrox began to fret over her, Kira gave Nebula a look, and they shared a fit of giggles.
“This is not the time for jesting, Kira!”
“So they leak from their face, between their legs, and mouths? I thought they could not get more strange, but I have been proven wrong,” Kyros observed.
“Be quiet, Kyros!”