By the fluidity of the animal’s movements, Brad knew a rat broke from cover. He slid the scope from the SLR’s slide cover and angled the barrel after the animal as it fled for the creek. Dirt skipped just behind the rodent.
Brad took aim again. Water splashed from the creek’s surface. It angled for a tuft of grass by the river’s bank. He shot another round, zipping through the grass stalks as the animal disappeared in the undergrowth.
Brad shuddered in anger. For all he knew, that rat had been one of the pack that killed Ben. He began to loathe himself for failing his friend. As he turned, he half raised his rifle on seeing Teyata standing in front of him.
“Teyata! I could have shot you.”
She made no move to avoid the barrel.
“Is that the thing that’ll kill anything?” she asked.
“Yeah. Where did you come from?”
She nodded aside. “I smelled you from those trees over there.”
Brad looked over the relatively flat surface of the field, locating bushland a kilometre and a half away.
“I could also hear you. You take a risk, making this much noise.”
“Have you been watching me shoot?”
“Well, what do you think?”
“That thing won’t help you. It took three shots for you to hit the stone.”
“I’ll get better; good enough to do it in one.”
“And what if something won’t stand still long enough for you? You couldn’t even hit the rat.”
Teyata’s hand, lashed out, buffetting his rifle aside. Before he’d realised what happened, her other hand rested on his throat. He could feel the rigid prod of her claws against his flesh as she stared into his eyes.
“There are things faster and deadlier in the new world,” she said.
Brad continued to shudder as she pulled away.
“That thing wouldn’t kill a coralax. You’d be lucky to make it itch before it killed you.”
“Then I’ll get a bigger gun.”
“How many times can you shoot the loud stick?”
“It has twenty shots per magazine.”
Teyata snorted. “Not much good against a pack of skelps; is it? Throw that thing away. Live in the houses of the old world. There’s plenty of food.”
Brad absently thrust the rifle back into the caddy. His senses swam as he stared at the mountains; within reach, but so far away.
Is this to be my life then?
What Teyata said made sense, but he hoped his future wouldn’t consist of him eating out of tins until he died at the age of eighty something?
An idea formed, making his heart leap with another option.
“Wait a minute; you live out there,” he said.
Teyata stared, waiting for him to make his point.
“So teach me what you know.”
She shook her head. “I could never teach you.”
“You’re a man of the old world, Brad. I’ve seen your holographic books.”
Brad’s eyes widened at the correct pronunciation. Teyata may have been primal, and naive, but she was certainly intelligent; able to evolve.