Ireta 02 - [Dinosaur Planet 02] - Dinosaur Planet Survivors

Ireta 02 - [Dinosaur Planet 02] - Dinosaur Planet Survivors by Anne McCaffrey

Book: Ireta 02 - [Dinosaur Planet 02] - Dinosaur Planet Survivors by Anne McCaffrey Read Free Book Online
Authors: Anne McCaffrey
physical force.”
    “Reason? And honor?” He gave a dry sour laugh. “To have abandoned a small geological group on a savage world.”
    Varian opened her hands in a gesture of regret. “It is a risk of the Service which we all—”
    “I did not. I had no option.”
    “In justice, you have the right to be bitter. You are the innocent victim of circumstances beyond ordinary control. The
ARCT-10
, the vessel which landed the Iretan expedition, is still missing.”
    “Missing? For forty-three years?” His contempt was obvious. “Were you looking for it when you found this beacon of yours?”
    “Not exactly, but our code requires that we respond to your distress call.”
    “Not mine. My grandparents—”
    “The call was heard and our ship has responded,
whoever
made the original signal.”
    “I’m supposed to be grateful for that?” He resumed his slicing of meat from the ribs of the monster, discarding the initial hunk, which was already crawling with winged vermin. Despite Discipline, Varian found herself revolted by his activity. “Forty-three years to answer a distress call? Mighty efficient organization, yours. Well, we’ve survived and we’ll continue to. We don’t need your help—now.”
    “Possibly. How many are you after two generations?” With such a small gene pool, she wondered if they were already inbred.
    He laughed, as if he sensed her thought. “We have bred carefully, Rianav, and have made the most of our—how would
you
term it, inadvertent plantation?”
    “Ireta is not on the colonial list. We checked that immediately for we are under no compunction to aid a colony which can’t fend for itself.” Her Discipline must be dropping, Varian thought, from the sharpness with which she answered him. Gaber’s rumormongering had lasted unto the second generation.
    “To be sure,” he said, angry sarcasm masking as courtesy. “So, what are your plans now, honorable Rianav!”
    She gave him a long look, playing her role as rescuer to the hilt. “Instructions, rather. I shall return to our base with my report on your presence.”
    “No need to concern yourself with me.”
    “How can you possibly transport all that . . .”
    “We’ve learned a trick or two,” and Varian was certain that his smile was faintly superior.
    “May I have the coordinates of your present location?”
    His grin was more amused than insolent but the mockery was in his reply.
    “Run at a good steady pace to your right, through the first hills, turn right up the ravine, but mind the river snakes. Continue along the river course to the first falls, take the easiest route up the cliff—it’s pretty well marked by now, and follow the line of limestone—you do know limestone from granite, I assume? The valley widens. You’ll know when you’ve reached us by the cultivated fields.” There was pure malice in his grin now. “Yes, we find that vegetables, fruits, and grains are required to maintain a balanced diet, even if we can’t process our food.” He had been gouging past the ribs of the dead beast and now suddenly, his arms dripping with blood, he held up a huge dark brownish red lump. “And this, the liver of the thunder lizard, is the most nutritious meat available.”
    “Do you mean to tell me that you slaughtered that creature just for its liver?” Her xenob training broke through her elected role.
    “We do not kill indiscriminately, Rianav: we kill to survive.” Coldly he turned back to his task, leaning partly inside the ribs to reach more of the choice liver.
    “The distinction is, of course, valid. However, we have no knowledge of the dangers of walking about this land of yours. Is the secondary camp of record far from your present location?”
    “No.” He had removed the curious tube from his back. From the tube he pulled a tight roll of what appeared to Varian to be synthesized fabric, light, waterproof, and durable enough to have lasted forty-three years. He spread the fabric with a

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