Ohre (Heaven's Edge)

Free Ohre (Heaven's Edge) by Jennifer Silverwood

Book: Ohre (Heaven's Edge) by Jennifer Silverwood Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jennifer Silverwood
we weren’t dead yet. So maybe, only maybe, we had a chance of surviving this after all.
    Rain gave us cover as I followed Adi to the village edge. Through the wide-leafed plants and vines, the settlement was so close I could count the hairs on the backs of the children’s heads. I could have aimed my gauntlet and set their wooden and mud huts to blaze with a mere flick of my wrist. But, much as I loved the hunt, I wasn’t water-logged. I wasn’t so totally unhinged that I would murder unknowing creatures. I preferred my prey capable of fighting back.
    I remember as a child, running through the tunnels where Old Brien and Adi’s clan mined for bare minerals and dust. Beasts lived there too, only these had been hunted nearly to extinction, save those that lived in the deepest cracks of the world. And unfortunately for me, I preferred dark and abysmal to light. Most of my scars came from stepping into another creature’s territory. I was air-kissed to make it out alive, but the very first time I went below I lost my way.
    I was much smaller then and the dark reminded me more of my home beneath the sea than the too-bright, too-clear caves the clan indwelled. I was used to hunting, not mining, and I brought my old bone blade with me, determined to face the terrors I had heard haunted such places.
    The creature came from nowhere. I had followed the sound of the slight scratches of its claws against the cave walls, the slither of its belly on wet stone. It clawed me in the gut first, but I ended its existence swiftly and with relish. For a moment I could pretend I was with my blood clan, before the liquid heat ate them alive. I lifted the beast over my head and let out the same ancient cry as those who came before had over countless kills. But the creature was much smaller than I anticipated. When I looked better at it, I realized it was a child I had murdered. Other soft, mewling cries came from the same corner it had sprung. Its brothers and sisters, I recognized with cold clarity, and the knowledge its mother must be somewhere close by. In this way, I had killed my own kind and for the first time, wished I could weep over it.
    “Ohre!” Adi hissed so faintly, no land-dwelling creature could have heard it. But we were used to the tight pressure of the deep, and our ears needed to hear further and better. I blinked and focused on the gray-skinned, tattooed face of my shipmate and remembered our mission. I was one step from a pitfall, her gloved hand the only thing keeping me back.
    I grimaced and nodded once to her before spreading out to the left while Adi took the right flank. We would sweep either side and knowing her, she would plant the boomers, ready to set off just in case. I rubbed the one she’d handed me with my free hand, while testing the settings of my gauntlet with the other. The sensors were working correctly, and as I had programed, ready to react to the subtlest twitch, in case we came under fire.
    The children’s voices grew louder then, as they played with some kind of hooped stick along the main pathway across the village. It was odd, I first noted after sidestepping a tripwire, that the Var settlement was so small. From the way Qeya said the Nuki’s had told, these alien beings were monstrous beasts who swarmed as a pack and destroyed everything in their path.
    I wished I had not thought of the youngling creature I had killed as a boy. Many star years later, I had eradicated all remorse from my mind. After everything I had been through and seen, little could move me. And my first impulses were so often violent in nature that I was forced to keep a tight mask at all times. Old Brien taught me mechanics as a way to channel that energy and his son taught me to fight on land. Now that the elder was dead, I could acknowledge the truth I had been unwilling to look at. I had changed. I wished that Qeya had not made me soft and weak enough to question my killer instincts.
    I nearly stepped into a snare

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