Cheyenne Dawn Lovett was nervous. What was that phrase Daddy uses? The cliché that always makes Momma roll her eyes? She thought hard for a moment. Oh, yeah: Nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. It almost made her smile. Almost.
It wasn’t the fact that she was on the planet Enya, more than 200 light years from the world of her birth that made her nervous. Well, maybe just a little. It wasn’t the fact that she was more than two thousand kilometers from the relative security of the temporary city of Starlight, where the colonists from Earth had landed several months before. Well, maybe just a little. It wasn’t the fact that she was on the edge of an unexplored forest made up of trees with trunks measured in meters and so lush that little direct light ever reached the ground that made her nervous. Well, maybe just a little. It was the man sitting far too close to her on the fallen tree trunk that made such a convenient, albeit hard, couch.
Dr. Lamont Pierce was in his early sixties with thick, wavy, black hair, penetrating blue eyes and a slender build. The young girl glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He’s not that bad looking, she mused, but his smell! She had always possessed an acute sense of smell that teetered on the outer edge of human normal. To Cheyenne Dawn, everyone had a distinct smell and she could immediately identify someone from that smell, even with her eyes closed. It wasn’t a powerful smell, not an overpowering presence that overwhelmed every other smell, not a stench, but more like an aroma, a subtle bouquet that resided in the back of her throat, identifiable but not blinding.
She could not, of course, identify herself since her own smell was integral to her very existence, but her sister, Ember Anne Lovett, was a calming coconut; her mother, Minuet Lovett, was a delightful and comforting vanilla. Interestingly enough, the smell of a male didn’t fall neatly into the spice category like females. A male’s smell was more things, like new-mown grass, fried fish or burning wood. Her father, Anderson Winchester Lovett, for instance, smelled of a library whose shelves were packed with ancient tomes bound in supple, well-oiled leather—a comfortable, homey place where one could find the answer to any question. One of her older brothers, Beaumont Winston Lovett, carried with him the slightly pungent scent of a bottle of old-fashioned furniture polish; while her other brother, Austin Raleigh Lovett, was reminiscent of freshly baked bread just out of the oven.
Some people, like Dr. Lamont Pierce, gave her a sense not of a thing, but an emotion. She had quickly learned from experience that those who fell into that group were people to avoid. They made her extremely wary, as though that particular category of smell announced some sort of defect, some sort of danger, some sort of wrongness within. They made the small hairs on the back of her neck stand up and she didn’t trust them at all. The smell from Dr. Lamont Pierce brought to her mind a predator, a deadly and dangerous carnivore stalking his next victim slowly, carefully, intent on nothing else but the final killing strike and the gratification of devouring his still-living prey.
She sometimes wondered if her sense of smell was like a dog’s, if they identified people the same way she did—or was it vice versa?—did she identify people the way a dog did? It was suspiciously like the question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? She had long ago given up thinking about it very much. It was valuable to her and that was all that mattered.
He is, she decided, entirely too close. She began to search her surroundings with a renewed determination to find a viable reason to stand up, move away from him to give herself some breathing room—to take back that cushion that was her territorial imperative space.
Eleven-year-old Cheyenne Dawn, known to everyone in the Enya Colonization Corporation as “CeeDee,” had wheedled, begged, pouted and sulked until her parents had given in and let her join Survey Team 16, which had landed several hours ago on a clear space between the edge of the forest that some had already christened Sherwood Forest and the banks of a rapidly flowing river, as of yet unnamed. Her body had started to ripen into that of a voluptuous young woman, her hips broadening, her breasts already straining against her B-cup bra and the two years of intense physical training and exercise with her quarterstaff that, at the moment, lay too far away from her, had changed her once boyish body into something lithe and graceful and sensuous. Platinum-blonde hair and bright-green, exotic eyes left no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was the daughter of Minuet Hays Lovett, wife of the colony leader, Anderson Winchester Lovett.
Momma always said that there were some words, like love, hate and grief, which are fairly easy to understand intellectually but had to be felt emotionally in order to be fully comprehended. I think that I’ve a got another word to add to that list—lust. The thought of her mother, so far away, caused a small sigh to escape from her pursed lips.
Dr. Pierce had been leering at her ever since the moment the two had met back in Starlight and CeeDee was not happy with the clearly lascivious way he looked at her; it was her first experience with being visually stripped naked. In the beginning, she had been confident that she would be able to ignore his unwelcomed attention—now she wasn’t so sure. Maybe I should have stayed home, came the unwelcome thought. While her fraternal twin sister, Ember Anne, who was tall and raven-haired with compelling steel-blue eyes and unabashedly feminine (very unlike her tomboyish sister), reveled in the ever-increasing attention from males of all ages, CeeDee often found that attention more irritating than enjoyable. “It’s not that I don’t like boys. They do have their uses,” CeeDee had often confessed to her mother with a sly grin. “I just wished they would go away when I want them to. Why can’t they be more like Austin or Bo?” And just as often, her mother would reply, “Your brothers are truly special. You can’t expect everyone to be just like them.”
An idea struck her. “I want to go look at the river again,” she said as she launched herself off the tree trunk and rapidly covered the two meters between her and her quarterstaff she had, unfortunately, left leaning against a nearby tree. Bear was right, CeeDee admitted with chagrin. “Never be more than arm’s length away from your quarterstaff,” was a phrase retired Master Gunnery Chief Hari Rockwell, known to the colonists as “Bear,” had tried again and again to impress upon his students. “It can’t protect you if you don’t have it in your hands.”
The Grand Master of the Enya Lodge of The Fraternal Order of The Quarterstaff, a long-time friend of Captain Anderson Lovett of the United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Bear had reiterated in lesson after lesson the message that the new world of Enya was not going to be without its dangers, that the dangers weren’t restricted to the planet itself, and that it was the individual’s responsibility to be prepared for anything. CeeDee ruefully understood that now and vowed that, like the man who was, after her father, the male she adored most, she would never again be separated from the 2.5-meter-long quarterstaff.
Six months ago, she, her family, and almost 7,500 other people had departed Earth to become the first humans to land on a planet outside the Solar System. Enya (named after Earth’s richest man’s deceased wife) was in the constellation Draco almost exactly 208 light years away from Earth. It was the third of 12 planets orbiting the Class G5V star named Intipa Awachan. Enya lay in the middle of Intipa Awachan’s Circumstellar Habitability Zone—commonly known as the Goldilocks Zone—and was an identical twin to Earth. In fact, Enya was even more habitable than Earth, with its 12 degree axial tilt, which gave it a year-round tropical environment; it’s slightly less gravity (three percent less); and an oxygen level that was five percent higher. The planet had a diameter of 12,000 kilometers and the year was 420 days long, composed of thirteen hours of daylight and thirteen hours of darkness. It was a veritable paradise.
All of the colonists’ energies for the first six months after landing had been put toward building places to live, investigating the area around the meteor crater that had carved out a large protected harbor several million years ago (which turned out to be everyone’s first choice of where to land), and discovering which of the varied flora and fauna on this new planet were digestible. Now that they knew the area around the initial landing spot was safe and that a great majority of the plants and animals on Enya could be safely eaten, the next step of the colonization of the new planet had begun. A number of small exploration parties, composed primarily of biologists, botanists, geologists and others with suitable expertise, were flown by shuttle to various locales to discover more about the planet, dropped off and, sometimes days later, picked back up and taken back to Starlight to share their discoveries and update the planetary database. Anderson Lovett called this phase of the colonization process “boots on the ground.”
Doctor Lamont Pierce watched the young girl walk across the small clearing where he had established the base camp for his survey team. His breath caught in his throat. No, he thought, she doesn’t “walk.” It’s more the way a cheetah or a jaguar moves in the jungle—with absolute purpose and a grace and fluidity that is mesmerizing. How can she be so unaware of how she affects me, how even her simple act of walking strokes the fires within my body, how much I desire her?
She bent over to pick up the quarterstaff and Pierce’s heart seemed to stop beating for a moment. He fondly remembered touching her shoulder once and how the tight, firm, warm skin beneath his fingers had immediately caused a stir in his groin that he had desperately tried to hide. That same stir began again as he devoured her every feline movement and the tantalizing body so obvious beneath the Unisex garment she and every other colonist wore—this time he could not prevent his reaction and he unobtrusively squirmed on the trunk to find a less revealing position. She will be my prize, worthy of her place on the pedestal upon which I will establish her. Even her name sings to me and it is music that my soul cannot ignore. I will give her ecstasy, raise her to heights of pleasure she can only have dreamed about, and our children will be as beautiful and haunting as she is. I must have her. I will have her.
CeeDee grabbed her quarterstaff in one clammy hand and headed for the riverbank, leaving her PADD open on the tree trunk next to where she was sitting. PADD stood for Personal Assistant Digital Device, a combination of the obsolete computer, laptop and tablet used in the past. With 9 terabytes of memory and a sophisticated suite of wide-ranging programs, the small, compact and powerful device was an ubiquitous tool which everyone on the unexplored world of Enya kept close at hand.
She could feel the growing tension and a sense of danger hammered at her, nervousness turning to something akin to fear. How did I get myself into this? she asked herself for the hundredth time in the last five minutes. Ignoring the origin of the danger she felt, CeeDee walked quickly out of the small clearing and toward the riverbank. She knew he was following her. She paused at the riverbank and watched the pristine blue water caress the rocks that dotted the edge of the riverbed.
The placid river was about 200 meters wide here at the survey team’s base camp. On the opposite bank the forest began again, the upper branches interwoven to form an identical canopy to the thick trees which populated the forest behind her. The tree limbs spread out wider as the tree height increased like an inverted triangle, getting thicker and thicker as they got taller. Here and there were small trees, with thick limbs jutting out a meter or less from the ground. The leaves of both kinds of trees were verdant, a lush green that contrasted with the deep blue of the river. A few fluffy, white clouds marred the otherwise clear, cerulean sky and, just for a fleeting moment, the beauty spread before her overcame her growing apprehension. Her mood shattered as she felt Dr. Pierce behind her.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” His silky voice sent a shudder down her spine.
CeeDee nodded in spite of her apprehension she and tightened her grip on the quarterstaff clutched in her right hand. Unconsciously, Cheyenne Dawn recognized that a climax was approaching between her and the biologist. Even that realization didn’t prepare her for what happened next.
Dr. Pierce moved quickly from behind her to her side and grabbed her left arm in a vice grip. He turned the young girl toward him and stared into her surprise-widened eyes.
“I love you, Cheyenne Dawn Lovett,” he stated forcefully. “I love you and I want you by my side for the rest of my life.”
Her mind froze at his outrageous words and she stood there, immobilized, shocked, appalled, repulsed, afraid. He reached out with his left hand and cupped her breast possessively, as though he was formally taking ownership of her body and soul and this was his official imprimatur. Cheyenne Dawn realized at that moment that she was in far more danger than she had thought. Automatically, she recoiled from his touch and he held her tighter.
“You are everything I’ve always dreamed of. I want you. I need you. I will have you.”
It took a moment for the ramifications of his touch and his words to sink in, but when she finally understood his intentions, it galvanized her into instinctive action. She brought the quarterstaff in her right hand up from her side, tucked the end under her right armpit for additional leverage and, with her left hand providing all the impetus she could muster, brought the end up with every last bit of strength in her. When the weapon smashed into his crotch, he let out an animal-like shriek that, for just a split second, appalled the young girl. His hands went to his groin in automatic reaction to the horrendous pain and he went to his knees, tears in the eyes that stared back at her in utter disbelief.
Another snippet from her training with Master Chief Gunner Rockwell intruded upon her now angry thoughts. “If it’s either me or thee, it jolly well won’t be me.” She changed her hold on the quarterstaff to the more traditional grasp, brought her hands closer together almost at the end of the staff and leaned back slightly, carefully keeping her balance, to increase the force of the blow, and brought the staff across from right to left in a whistling arc until it landed on his upper arm. The sound of his arm breaking was even louder than Pierce’s gasp for breath as his body slammed down on the ledge above the river. Cheyenne Dawn assumed the self-defense stance she had learned to emulate in her sleep and stared coldly at the huddled figure at her feet. “Bastard!” she shouted. “Keep your fucking hands off me!”
The edge of the ledge beneath Lamont Pierce began to crumble and he screamed, “Help me!” as the ledge began to disintegrate, sliding down the sheer, 15-meter drop to the rock-filled river beneath him. Without thinking, Cheyenne Dawn dropped to her knees and held out her left hand for him to grasp. She didn’t want to kill him, just stop his attack. He grabbed her arm with one hand, the other one, the broken one, scrabbling for purchase on the collapsing edge. She could see the agony on his face. The only thing his attempt to save himself accomplished was to rip the commband from her arm, leaving a long gouge on her forearm that immediately filled with blood. She dropped the quarterstaff and reached out with her other hand but it was too late. Dr. Lamont Pierce’s desperate scream as he fell into the river was suddenly cut off as his temple met the corner of a pointed rock.
Horrified, Cheyenne Dawn leaned over the riverbank to see Pierce’s body wedged between two rocks, a halo of blood quickly diluting in the water below. She felt the edge of the cliff start to give way beneath her and she desperately scrambled backward to safety, instinctively grabbing for her quarterstaff.
I didn’t mean it! I didn’t mean it! Her mind seemed to fixate on the words for an eternity as she realized what had happened. Her fight-or-flight response, an integral part of the human psyche, took control and she ran back to the clearing, gasping for air that now seemed too thin for her to breath. The only thought in her mind was Get Away! She grabbed the backpack that leaned against the trunk of a tree, struggled into it, and began to flee into the forest, away from the river, away from the body and away from the temporary campsite, turning ever so often to look for non-existent pursuit, leaving her still-opened PADD behind.
After several minutes of pell-mell flight, she turned her head once again to look behind her. She returned her eyes forward just in time to see the tree branch that stood in her way. The impact knocked her feet from beneath her and the quarterstaff flew away as she hit the ground—hard. Everything went black.