Avriel descended from the ship into a large cavern hidden completely in darkness. She could hear the sound of water rushing over rocks in the distance and the flutter of wings higher up. She also heard the sound of movement across the stone floor but do to the echoing around the cavern she could not pin point the location.
"Sidney please turn on the exterior ship lights," she said into the communicator on her wrist. She closed her eyes and waited for the lights to kick on. When the sudden flood of light came it caused her eyes to water even though closed. Keeping her back to the ship to preserve as much of her night vision as possible she open her eyes again and gasped. The carven she stood in was beautiful gems dotting the entire expanse of the walls and ceiling, sparkling and reflecting the light in various colors all over the cavern. At the ceiling of the cavern far over head hundreds of bats flew around in circles, upset by the sudden light, and then exited the cavern through the front entrance and a small hole in the ceiling.
"This is beautiful," she whispered to herself and lowered her eyes to the cavern floor to try and locate whatever had been moving about in the darkness. The light made a large pool around the ship but ended in an impenetrable curtain if darkness. She strained her ears for the sound of movement and her eyes for just a flicker but she could see nothing. Suddenly out of the darkness in front of her rushed a large furry shape with a roar that echoed around the cavern until it seemed to fill the entire world. Avriel brought up her rifle and fire twice before the creatures was on her. It swung one of its massive paws into her midsection catching her armor and throwing her through the air to smash into the side of Sidney. Stunned she lay the of a moment having heard the blast as one of Sidney's anti-personnel cannons fired she wasn't worried about a continuation of the attack.
"What the hell was that," Avriel asked Sidney.
"I believe it was what is called a bear," Sidney replied. Avriel stood checking her ribs to see if they had been broken but found them only sore. She checked the armor and was thankful that Michael had stocked the ship with some armor beforehand since the ship made armor was useless against melee attacks. Walking over to the creature she examined it slowly.
"Is this thing edible Sidney? And is the pelt worth anything to the locals," she asked Sidney while maintaining her watch of the darkness around her.
"Yes, Captain it is. The pelt may bring something in trade from the locals I am unsure of it's exact value to them however it can also be used for making garments or for bedding. Do you know how to skin it and butcher it?"
"No," Avriel said shaking her head forgetting that out of the ship might not be able to see her. At her negative reply the little robot moved towards the carcass one of its pincer arms turning into a razor sharp saw. Avriel sat back on her heels to watch as Sidney through the robot showed her how to skin the animal and how to butcher it to get the best meat. After the job was done the little robot with it's small cargo sled loaded almost to over flowing with bear meat and its pelt went back into the ship. In the food storage room arms appeared out of the wall and the meat of wrapped in a thin clear plastic and then frozen for preservation. The pelt was taken to the spare cabin which had been changed in to a tannery while they had been of ship. The little robot rolled into the room and off-loaded the pelt for a taller bi-pedal robot to take and begin the curing of the hide. Then the little robot returned to Avriel outside the ship where she was waiting.
"What happened to all the blood," Avriel asked looking down at the machine which only a few minutes before had been covered in blood.
"The nanites consumed it for the iron in the blood and destroyed the rest," Sidney replied looking up at her.
"Alright, does that thing have any light on it? My flashlight is only a small one for emergencies."
Sidney pointed the robotic head out toward the darkness and the eyes lit up like flood lamps. She led the way following Avriel's directions so she could she what she wanted.
"Did you pick up the bio-signature from the bear? Are there any more around here," Avriel asked.
"Yes I did get it's bio-signature and no there are not any in this cavern though there are a few miles to the south of us in what appears to be another cave," Sidney reassured her. They came up to the rear wall behind the ship and the water flowing down the wall and across a dozen feet of the cavern floor before disappearing into a hole in the stone floor.
"Could you look up through that hole in the ceiling and see what is feeding this little stream," Avriel asked. As answer one of the robots arms molded into a spherical camera, affording the small flier a three hundred and sixty degree view, with rotating blades attached to the top by small metal rod that spun with the blades. The small flying sphere shot towards the hole in the ceiling with a surprising amount of speed and in mere seconds was through.
"There is a small stream flowing over a flat plain and looks to head off in the distance toward a mountain range Captain," Sidney reported. Giving the little robot a nod she continued her exploration of the cavern. When they reached the entrance having gone the whole circumference of the cavern Avriel looked out onto a forest of tall wide trees. The ground between the trees have very little covering since the shadows of the much larger tree blocked the sun light and choked out the planet life around them. Turning from the sight Avriel and the robot returned to the ship.
"Alright Sidney, how for does the rock from this cavern go down into the earth and how far back?"
"It goes down several miles, and back a few hundred yards Captain."
"You don't have to call me Captain all the time just call me Avriel, alright?"
"Ok Sidney this is what I want you to do. First I want you to send out a few hundred of those little flying spheres out to explore as far as they safely can. Leave twenty or thirty doing constant perimeter sweeps up to a mile from our current location so need to have any unexpected visitors. The ones you send out to explore are to take scans of the terrain so you can form an accurate three dimensional map for future use."
"Understood Avriel the recon fliers will be dispatched in moments."
"Secondly I want you to completely dissovle the ship except for a single structure. I want the command center on the top floor accessible by a stairway with a door that will only open for myself and Azriel. The second floor will hold the medical bay and the captain's room. The bottom floor will house the ships generator and AI core. Along with the extra room that at the moment is a tannery. The room with the generator and AI core is to contain any other non-nanite ship components I have no already specified, and that room is not to have a door at all. I don't want anyone in there without my direct permission. I want the generator to power the structure, which we will just refer to the Base. Thirdly I want you to leave a block of nanites here to do some construction or whatever work I need done, but the rest are to begin the assimilation of the stone and ores around us. The cavern we are in is to be untouched except to my direction. Burrow say fifty feet into the stone and began your assimilation there. Make sure that your consumption of the materials doesn't cause a the area to become architecturally unsound leave supports for the ceilings and walls I don't want to die in a cave-in. Also do the precious stones around this room and a great deal to what you assimilate?"
"No Avriel, the gems around us and in the stones give the same amount to the assimilation as any other chunk of rock. The building of the specified structure has begun, please do not leave the bridge. Prince Azriel is still asleep in the Captain's Quarters."
"Thank you Sidney. Place the lights and ship weapons strategically around the lower part of the Base. Also the nanite you left here are to go back into the cavern. I want them to carved out the section under the water fall from the floor to thirty feet up. This will allow us to get the water without having to press up against the floor or wall for it. And last but not least I would like them to for a grate over each hole giving access to this cavern."
"Avriel there are several hundred holes leading into this caver varying in size using the nanite to create
screens will use almost all the current nanites assigned to remain with you in this cavern."
"Will there be enough for a few small robots and some reconstruction work to the cavern?"
"There should be enough for that," Sidney replied.
"Well then that is ok. Just have the rest began the assimilation and have ninety nine percent of the newly created nanites join the others in assimilation while sending the remaining one percent back here to our stockpile. Make a door in the screen covering the front that only I and Azriel can open."
"Done Avriel. The nanites creating the waterfall will be done shortly and return to the stock pile behind the structure."
"Good," Avriel said heading down the stairs to the living quarters to check on Azriel. He was still sleeping peacefully. She gently picked her up cradling him to her chest and smiling lovingly down at him. He snorted softly in her sleep and curled his hand around her finger. Suddenly her communicator began flashing a red light.
"Avriel perimeter breach detected," Sidney's voice came from her bracer. Sidney's voice woke Azriel and he gave a small jerk as he came awake. But he knew well his mother's touch and he relaxed into her embrace once again. She looked at him dubiously.
"I swear you have to be the quietest child ever born, you almost never cry," she said down to him. He smiled angelically back up at her and squeezed her finger. Placing him in the carrier on her chest she grabbed her rifle and headed for the cavern entrance.
"Sidney show me the intruders," Avriel said and an image of four figures moving through the trees appeared above the arm band. They stood on two legs and carried spears will bows strapped to their backs they wore kilts around their waists with a slit in the back to allow their tails freedom of movement. They were furred with the heads of panthers and their pelts were a variety of colors. There was one fully black and two that were spotted with white patches while the remainder of their pelt was black and last was brown. She reached the door at the entrance and pulled it open and stepped out leaving it open behind her so she could make fast retreat if necessary. The five Lios' emerged from the tree and slowed at the sight of her standing there waiting for them. They cautiously moved forward toward her while scanning around looking for more people.
"Stop right there," Avriel called out to them when they were about five yards away. When their progress did not slow, though the brown one began speaking to the fully black one at her words, she raised her rifle to her shoulder. At that the brown pelt Lios spoke a word and they all froze. The black Lios, that she took to be the leader of this group, looked at the brown Lios and hiss and growled at him for a moment before beginning to move toward her again. She shot at the ground inches from the paw of the lead Lios causing them to freeze again.
"Stop right there this is your last warning," she shouted and the brown one leaned back in to the leader and translated her words to him in hisses and growls. One of the black and white spotted ones behind the leader growled in anger and lifted his spear as if to throw it. Avriel shifted her aim to the spotted Lios. The brown grabbed the spotted one's wrist and hissed at him. The black one continued to watch her and began to ease his foot forward but jerked it back when she shifted the rifle back to him. He gave her a feral grin exposing his pointed teeth. Avriel sneered at him in return the black and white spotted one who remained silent leaned forward and growled softly in to the leaders ear but then went back to silently watching Avriel. Suddenly the black and white spotted Lios, with his spear lifted, struck the brown who had ben holding his arm, and she was sure these were all males. This caused the brown to stumble away and the Lios launched his spear seeing it coming she shot one of her wings forward and in from the side knocking the trajectory off so it flew past her harmlessly to clatter against the stone wall.
"You were warned," she said coldly to them. Shifting her aim back to the black and white Lios she aimed low and shot him in the knee. He dropped to the ground with a howl of pain clutching at his wounded leg. The leader didn't even turn to look at his injured companion. He growled to the brown, bringing the translators attention back to him. He growled and pointed to Avriel.
"What is your name," the brown Lios asked. His voice was deep and rolled across the r's like thunder.
"It is polite to introduce yourself before asking someone else's name," Avriel shot back lowering her rifle slightly. The Lios spoke to the leader who nodded back at him. The Lios she shot was still laying on the ground whimpering although the other silent Lios was now tending his wound.
"I am Lenath," he rumbled, "this is Slant," he said motioning to the one whimpering on the ground.
"This is Sloan, and this," he said motioning to the leader, who puffed out his chest, "is the Rashak."
"I am Avriel and this is Azriel," she said gently running her fingers over his head as he sat watching the
whole confrontation silently. The leader studied her for a moment then growled and hissed to Lenath.
"Sidney, can you decipher their language from the conversation already and their translations," Avriel asked into her bracer not taking her eyes from the Lios'.
"Yes, Avriel I can also translate any of your word to Lios, in your voice even, so that a translator will be unneeded."
"Please do so."
"Get the female to lower her weapons. I wish for her to come back to our village. She is strong and will bare strong children. Offer for us to take in her whelp as well," a growling tone came from her bracer as Rashak spoke to Lenath in hisses and growls.
"I refuse," Avriel said cutting off their conversation. Rashak's eyes widen in surprise as the hisses and growls that issued forth her denial of his offer.
"You cannot refuse I am the Rashak and you are a female," he growled at her and she got the distinct impression that he was sneering at.
"So," she asked him. He looked at her confused by the question.
"All the females must do as the Rashak demands it is the law," he answered her.
"It is not my law and I am not Lios so you will just have to deal with me NOT following what you say," said to him calmly. When the bracer translated her words his nostrils flared in anger and he took a step forward but froze when she returned the rifle to aim at his head.
"You will come willingly or by force if need be, you have no choice. You are a female you cannot stop us," he threatened.
"Yeah sure, tell that to Slant over there," she said motioning to the wounded Lios still on the ground. Rashak growled at her in frustration and then motioned for the other two to lift the wounded Slant and follow. He stalked off without looking back. Avriel bent and retrieved the spear Slant had thrown at her and went back into the cave closing the door. She examined the spear as she walked back to the Base. It was sturdily made from a polished wooden staff with a stone tip sharpened to razor sharpness. She headed back up to the captain's room and made lunch for herself and Azriel.
"Avriel, there is something I believe you maybe interested in," Sidney said.
"Yes? What is it?"
"There was one Lios out in the trees watching your meeting with the others. Also there was what I assume to be a Lupos out there watching too. None of the groups interacted with each other and the two that remained hidden did not seem to be known to Rashak's group or each other."
"Well isn't that interesting," she said leaning back into her chair. She spent the rest of the day having the nanites carve their cavern while leaving the gems in the walls to help light the cavern. She had them carver out a large store room in the rear of the cavern.
"Sidney without touching the ones in the wall of the cavern I want you to place one in every one in every ten of each separate type of gem into that store room in the back."
Finishing the work she wanted done on the cavern she returned to the Base and went up to the captain's room. Filling the tub she pulled Azriel from the harness and set him on the bed. Stripping her clothes and armor off she stripped him as well. As soon as she picked him up to head to the bathroom he latched onto her breast. She looked down at him in amusement.
"No matter how much you suck on that you aren't going to get anything. They're all dried up," she told him but he ignored her and continued to try. Sitting down into the warm water she pulled to from her chest. He whimpered in protest and tears filled his eyes. She cooed to him and tickled him till laughed with her and began splashing in the water while she held him with his back to her. She was her hair while he played in the water and then washed his making sure to keep the soap from his eyes. She then washed their bodies and rinsed the soap off then dried herself and then Azriel. Taking him to the bed she laid him down on the bed letting her blonde hair drag across him tickling him making him laugh. She smiled down into his happy face then laid next to him and curled her warm naked body around his tiny form and drifted off to sleep while he jabbered at her and played with the golden strands of her hair.
"Avriel wake up perimeter breach."
Avriel rose to consciousness with the sound of Sidney's warning ringing in her ears. Azriel had woken also but he didn't make a sound just watched he as she hurriedly through on some clothes and her armor along with the harness. She grabbed some small clothes and dressed Azriel before strapping him into the harness. She grabbed her rifle from where she had left it by the door on her way out.
"Show me Sidney," she said hurrying down the stairs. Two images popped into existence above her bracer the first was of the Lios that had been hiding in the trees earlier, recognizable by the distinct blotches of white fur the ran along it's spine. It clutched something to it with one arm while it pounded on the door for entrance while whining. The second image was of a bunch of Lios tromping through the woods toward their cave. Some of the Lios were moving on all fours noses to the ground as if they were follow a scent trail. Judging by the fear of her unexpected night visitor and their actions Avriel guessed they were after whomever was pounding on her front door. Hurrying to the door slid open a panel at face level.
"Please, let us in," the Lios asked. Avriel realized with a start that the Lios was female.
"Why are they after you," she asked the woman.
"I am a renegade, I do not submit to the males. They will come to take me by force if they can catch me. They will take my daughter from me and teach her to be weak like the other females in the village. Please help us," the Lios pleaded with her. With a sigh Avriel opened the door and gripping the woman's arm dragged her inside to the side
of the door in the shadows were she couldn't be seen from the outside. Stepping out so she stood in the open door way she waited for the Lios to reach the open field in front of her cave. The Lios poured out of the woods in a wave.
"Sidney can your little robot form a gun big enough to kill a Lios," Avriel asked the robot that had followed her out of the ship. Without a word the little robot shifted into a miniaturized version of Sidney's anti-personnel cannon. The rushing wave of Lios moved towards them at a rapid pace Avriel tried to count them.
"There are one hundred and seven of them Avriel," Sidney said having over heard the captain counting under her breath. Avriel just grunted in acknowledgement. When they were about a hundred yards from the cavern mouth she fire a warning blast into the ground at their feet. This seemed to spur the to run faster. So with a shrug she raised her aim to the charging Lios.
"Open fire Sidney," she said coolly as she followed her own instructions. They fired as fast as they could take aim. By time the Lios reached the fifty yard mark they had lost thirty of their number. They continued firing and a couple dozen of them peeled off and ran for the trees. Avriel let them go focusing on the Lios still charging. As they closed more and more dropped until there were only three when they reached her position and were to close for the rifle. The three Lios thinking that, now that her long distance weapon was no longer usable, they had her at their mercy they leapt forward to try to capture her. Avriel dropped her rifle and pulled her sword free as she rushed forward to me their charge. One of them tried to grab her shoulder but she cut up across her body severing her hand just above his wrist. Pivoting on her heel she bashed one of the Lios in the face with her wing, knocking him back. Stumbling back the Lios tripped over the body of one of his fallen comrades and went sprawling on his back. Avriel's sword flashed in an upward cut slicing through the spear that the Lios had used to try and deflect it splitting his head open from muzzle to forehead. The Lios reeled back and collapsed from the pain of the wound as his blood sprayed speckling Avriel's face, hair, armor, and Azriel who just sat there watching impassively. Avriel whirled back to the Lios who she had, literally, disarmed and stabbed him in the throat to silence his screams. She turned back to the Lios who had tripped. He was just now rising to his knees and her sword stopped him there pressing into his vulnerable throat.
"Go back to your village and tell Rashak that I will kill him if I ever see him again. On the way there any female Lios you meet you will tell them of this cave and how to get here and that there is safety from their savage men here. Do you understand?"
The Lios nodded his head so violently the Avriel had to pull her sword back a little to keep from accidentally cutting the males throat.
"Good, go carry my message, and if I find out you didn't do exactly as i Told you to I am going to find you
and peel of your hide while you scream," she said ominously. The Lios' face paled enough that she could tell even through the fur and he nodded rapidly again before turning and racing of into the trees. With a sigh Avriel bent and cleaned her sword on the kilt of a fallen Lios. She then sent Sidbot (Sidney controlled robot) to collect all their weapons and anything else they might have of use. After that was done Avriel and Sidbot dragged the bodies out to the tree line and returned to the cave. Closing the door behind her, Avriel leaned wearily back against it.
"Such a fantastic first day," she said resigning herself to the strife to come that her decisions today would bring.