John Racham

Free John Racham by Dark Planet

Book: John Racham by Dark Planet Read Free Book Online
Authors: Dark Planet
Christine still slept, peaceful as a child. Query moved his head a fraction to stare aside and
    51 he saw feet. Bare feet. Human feet, over there. Very slowly he eased free and
raised his head more, came up to a sitting position and stared. And there was a
man over there, ten feet away.
    A man. No
more than about five feet six and lean, sinewy, completely poised, his skin a pale tint against the dark blue green of the vegetation. Hair was a dark fuzz on his skull but nowhere else. Eyes were dark
and intent, bright with intelligence. In his right hand, low down, he held the
end of a rod—cane—something slim and dark, and his left hand, angled across his
chest, held the upper end of it, bent it back under tension as if it was some
kind of bow. A weapon at the ready. But a man, that
was the main thing. A totally humanlike and adult man.
     
     
    VII
     
    Q uery
got slowly to
his feet. In the face of that unmistakable weapon and the competent threat
backing it, he had no desire to do anything fast or provocative. Now he had the
awareness very strongly of many eyes watching him all around. This man wasn't
alone. And yet there was no real threat now that he could feel it properly,
more a sense of readiness. And also that curious feeling that he knew exactly
what this man was thinking. That he was as good as saying, right now, This is a weapon. One false move and you get it!
    He
stooped slowly to nudge Christine awake, moved to stir the old man with his
foot. "Don't do anything sudden," he cautioned, "but we have
some company come to call."
    And
the strange man moved now, relaxing the tension in his weapon, dropping his
left hand, letting the rod rest on his right shoulder. Evans snorted a time or two, rolled over and struggled to his feet.
    "Eh? What? By God, who
the hell's that?"
    "Take
it easy!" Query warned. "We're not in any trouble yet. Let's hope
they're friendly." He tried to read the man's features, which were almost
Oriental, but not quite. He felt sure this was no enemy, but that was just a
feel-
    52 ing without evidence. He heard Christine stir and move and get
up—and gasp and cling to him anxiously.
    "Who's that?" she
cried, and he touched her shoulder.
    "Local inhabitants,
obviously."
    "They're
cannibals!" she gasped. "They'll eat us!"
    "Where
the hell did you get that idea from?" he snapped. "For heaven's sake,
woman, use your head! Cannibals?"
    "That'll
do!" Evans growled. "We'll have none of that kind of talk, Query.
Mind your manners!"
    "And
you, you stupid, fat, flabby, old fool!" Query rapped. "Will you
never learn? These people are the local inhabitants. They are all around us.
They have us helpless. If you have any brains left in that stupid skull of
yours, you have to see that it's up to us to be friendly. Rational. If you start throwing a panic or blustering from some mythical authority, we've
had it!" He shook Christine free, stood her away. "Come on,
now!" he said. "All that talk about the
primitive. Well, here it is. Take a look at it!"
    "Damned insubordination!" Evans roared. "You expect me to kowtow
to a naked, bloody savage, man!" He lurched around to face the stranger,
ready to stride toward him. "Here, you. Can you
talk? Eh? What the . . . ?" His loud-voiced approach choked off as a
snaking black thong flicked from one side and snapped around his ankle, sending
him prone. In short order came three more: one for the other foot, one catching
each wrist; the old man was helpless. Christine cried out and started to run to
her father, and another snaking thong caught her
ankle. Within seconds she was flat on her face and just as helpless as the old
man. Query held still, turning only his head to follow back those black thongs.
    There
was a woman at the business end of each one. Native women, just like the man,
about the same height and slim, but definitely and beautifully female. And competent,
too, judging by the way they kept the tension on their lines. Whips, he
concluded. Possibly some kind of

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