Awen: Tongue of Flame

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Predators and Prey

The wildlife on this planet was almost prehistoric-looking. Bird-like creatures that were the size of houses hovered over the tops of giant trees. If these estranged creatures were not known to be herbivores, surviving off of the consumption of rough vegetation, then they would very likely dominate the food chain. To suggest that Awen boasted a diverse food chain, would be putting it mildly.

They pulled the truck over to the side of the road for a little sightseeing. 'Look at that!' Kelly said.

Peculiar belly-flopping creatures were performing a ritualistic dance routine. Each specimen dove forward, in turn, it was a synchronised effort to be sure. They looked much like fish from the planet earth, with their brilliant white coloured bodies dazzling under the dusk breaking sunlight. Remaining blissfully ignorant of the humans, they continued to dance joyously in and out of the water.

The steadily fading sunlight was now glistening across the surface of the winding river. The water was splashing as it repeatedly crashed into bedded rocks and produced tiny cascading droplets, of which trickled back down into the torrent from where they came.

Jensen smiled at the benevolent sight, but as soon as he caught a glimpse of his dishevelled appearance through a reflection in the water, he looked away.

'The little fish sure know how to enjoy themselves, don't they?' he asked.

'They sure do, but I don't think that they are fish.' Kelly contemplated.

'They are a close match though, and beautiful, but what the hell is that?' Hal pointed, laughing hysterically.

Before them lay an enigma. Across on the other side of the river, there stood a creature of unlikely proportions. A big fluffy, rounded body overshadowed short stubby legs. The thing resembled a giant ball of wool on legs, with wide oval-shaped eyes and a permanent lopsided grin.

'Hal, we are on an uncharted world remember; I suspect that there are millions of unknown species out there in the wilderness, including this strange animal.' Kelly added.

She waved at the mysterious creature in a friendly manner before it turned to look their way. With a startled expression, it started running with its tiny legs shuffling like an oceanic ship's engine system on full power. Unlike any known seafaring vessel, this thing was barely moving. Gut-wrenching laughter ensued, although Hal's cackling voice outshone everyone else's.

Hal Lockwood was the wagon driver, and taking his time, as usual, he always made an effort to take in the scenery. Lockwood was a heavy-goods transporter in his spare time, but he was also the owner of their timber business. He and Jensen had known each other since birth.

An entrepreneur was the correct term, Hal certainly fit that bill. He boasted thick brown hair, with a glorious beard. Some people would say that he resembled an ancient lion, one that had weathered too many strenuous years.

The man was bulky, just like his friend. He held a fondness for nature; it was almost as if his inner animal spirit desperately sought an escape into the wilderness. He was a veteran of the road, and he would complete his deliveries, no matter what happened to get in his way, only he would do it in his own time. The journey back to the city centre would have been short, but not anymore with Hal driving the damned thing.

They finally took to the road once more.

'Well, would you look at that, here we have road works, and look, more road works. I sometimes wonder if our impact upon the landscape is becoming too much already.' Hal commented.

'We haven't been here that long.' Jensen replied.

'Remember the ancient Roman Empire, back on Earth? Yeah? Well, there were still archaeological remains visible in numerous areas across the planet after thousands of years; remains that include military forts, pits, mines and quarries, plus other intrusive buildings. It just feels like we are doing that here again, what do you think?' Hal asked sombrely.

'I think that we're building what we need to survive, and I'll join you in the capital building for a formal complaint if that's an issue?' Kelly asked, her sincerity matching his.

'Fair enough, Kelly.' Hal finished, now resigned to following her plan.

The journey continued, and the vehicle was trucking steadily along the makeshift highway. More construction crews could be seen to be hard at work, the building of Sentinel Bridge was an undertaking of epic proportions, one that would see the world's two largest landmasses joined together along their tourist trapped coastal regions. This was a task which had taken thousands of years to accomplish back on Earth as a result of the limited technology of the time, whereas here, it was going to be finished a lot sooner.

Jensen was now staring out of the rough-edged vehicle window, his gaze zoning over the glistening pool of water which made up the Tharon River again.

The water shimmered excitedly underneath a gentle breeze, with the body of the river flowing hurriedly past the almost-complete pillars of the enormous bridge. Unchecked water thrashed away repeatedly at the new stonework, it was a foreign entity, and it would have seemed that the water did not want the human construction to be there at all.

The team drove along the developing highway at a steady pace, and looking back, Jensen had to squint to see through the beams of glowing sunlight. The first thing that he noticed were the giant silhouettes of workers spread across the side of the stone foundations of the bridge.

As the vehicle moved further away, the altering shadows belonging to the workers stretched into unrecognisable blurs. The shadowy figures continued to blacken the unused heavy stones that were stacked together, along either side of the bridge foundations, until all trace of them was gone.

'What the hell?' Hal growled.

'What was that?' Jensen added, looking at the others to provide some answers, his hearing was almost gone.

'Shut up!' Kelly barked at them both.

Jensen was in shock after the unexpected and near-deafening static scream. 'What?' he asked.

'Never mind.' Kelly replied.

Jensen was massaging his ears vigorously, willing the ringing to subside. 'I can hear you now, what were you saying?' he asked.

Kelly did not have to reply, and instead, she began tuning in the wagon's old radio receiver. Waves of jumbled static gradually gave way to fragments of words, as her fingers danced all over the dials of the antiquated sound system.

“Attention all Awen citizens… {static}… orbital sat... {static]... picked up... {static}... our sun... {static}... unstable, and showing signs of producing... {static}... Solar flare... {static}... scale... {static}... charts... {static}... Godspeed, Awen Landing... {static}... out”.

The message began repeating.

The voice of Isabelle Sharpe was unmistakable, and she sounded terrified.

'What's going on?' Jensen squawked.

Kelly looked aghast. 'Damn it! If this is real, we've got to get underground and fast.' she cursed.

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