MENTAL ESSENCE
PAGE 42
" What was it? "  Asked Hiret.

The remains were around seventy-five feet long.

" They are called Peds.  They are your basic plant eaters, and the basic diet of almost everything else. "  Said private Ott.

The scavengers were gathering around the area, but staying about fifty feet away.

" Guessing by the foot prints in the sand, what ever killed this guy must have been rather large. "  Stated Emerr.

" Those were made by Old Bett.  This stretch of beach is her territory.  Anything coming out of the water, or the jungle, is hers if she's hungry. "  Ott said.

" She can't be hungry after eating this.  I guess we are safe. "  Said MB.

" She's learned to leave us, and anything that looks like it might be mechanical, alone.  You'll be getting up close and personal with her as she patrols the perimeter of the compound.  So remember that you cannot under any circumstances walk out of the compound.  If you do, Old Bett will get ya.  If you're lucky. "  Said private Ott.

" What do you mean if we are lucky? "  Asked Cree.

" Some of those scavengers will attack you if they think they can get away with it.  Around here, your food for somebody. "  Said Ott.

They drove along the beach for an hour before reaching the Cove One.  It was sandy on the side they approached on, and over grown with shrubs on the other.

" Doe's that head belong to the same kind of creature we seen back there on the shore? "  Asked Hiret.

" That guy is about half the size, but they look a lot alike.  They feed on fish and small things that get to close to the water.  Just one of the thousands of reasons to stay out of the water. "  Replied private Ott.

Soon there were five of them staring the crawler.

" We should be heading back.  Part of what we do is not antagonize the fauna. Sometimes the flora can be bit testy as well. "  Ott said.

Once back at the compound, they sat around a campfire listening to private Ott, and others describe the creatures making the sounds emanating from the jungle on one side, and thrashing in the sea on the other.

" What kind of dino is this? "  Ask Emerr eyeing slice of meat on his fork.

" That's lilback.  There a domesticated animal raised for food.  Even if it was allowed, you can't eat dino.  To many parasites, and diseases. "
Said another solder.

"  Yap, even if you get stranded, or lost, do not eat anything that is not on your card. "  Said anther, referring to a packet they had to keep around their waists at all times.

" Even with all those shots you got, there is still hundreds of real nasty things you can catch out there. "  Said private Ott.

" In fact, no one has made it past one year without getting sick from something. "  A tall female lieutenant said pulling up her sleeve to show a dark rash on her arm.  She added, " There is no cure for this.  Maybe some day there will be.  Maybe there wont. "

" Why do you stall here if your just going to die? "  Asked MB.

" Can't beat the hazard pay.  Moreover, it's part of the assignment when you join.  There's no surprises.  Besides, not everybody dies.  We just get sick.  There's a difference. "  The lieutenant said.  Then she sauntered off into the dark.

They sat starring into the fire.

" Cheer up.  One year here, and you make a life time's wages.  Plus, no taxes, and free medical. "  Said Ott.

" You still seem to be getting the short end of the stick. "  Said Cree.

" Na.  Everybody signs up year after year.  Once you have been here a while, you don't want to be anywhere else.  This is a thrill.  Even when you're not in life threatening situations, you know you will be shortly.  Besides, even if you did leave, life would be so boring, you just sign up again.  Then it could be twenty years before there was an opening.  So, we stay.  Life just doesn't get much better then this. "  Proclaimed private Ott.

" When you put it that way, I suppose I understand.  A place like this is probably a dream come true of most beings. "  Said Emerr.

They froze right about then.  A very loud screaming and crashing ruckus sound was coming from the jungle not far from the compound.

" That's sounds like Old Betts big brother.  She's already had dinner, and won't eat again for a week or more. "  Said private Ott.

" Sounds horrible.  I had no idea they were so loud. "  Said Semma.

" Their big, and getting eaten alive by something that size hurts.  A lot. "  Laught one of the other solders.

They sat real still for the duration of the battle.  After a few minutes, there was a quite time.  Then there was more noise coming from the same area.

" Sounds like somebody has to fight to keep its lunch. "  Said Ott.

The new sounds covered a range of types.

" Must be a real banquet going on. "  Stated Cree.

" Ya, I guess there is.  We've filmed a few hundred of such attacks, and I can honestly said the savagery is astonishing.  One of those things you have to witness to believe. "  Said another solder as she approached the fire.

" We all evolved from a place like this.  Amazing our civilizations came to be at all. "  Said MB.

" Your right.  Except for the part where we fought those planetary wars killing each other by the billions. "  Said Hiret with a sarcastic note.

" What hypocrites we are.  We think the other being is more savage because it kills only for food.  We kill because one or two beings in power get greedier. "
Semma said with a sigh.