father mars, mother earth

written by juneau author bobbi mccutcheon, is an action epic that discards the typical idea of future colonization on mars. instead, this tale begins in the distant past and reveals how mankind is native not to earth, but to mars, a planet suffering an unnatural death. the story details not only the adventures of how the human species, in order to overcome its inevitable extinction, must immigrate across space to a wild and untamed world they call earth, but also around one extraordinary pilot, zymon a. cates, and young jeffra, a shy and mysterious woman he rescues from a life of abuse and ostracism by bringing her out of the hidden catacombs of mars for the first time in her life. the era is 65,000,000 b.c…..

prologue


she should be dead by now, instinctively she knew this…from a predatory attack if not from age. four years after her customary banishment from the herd her life had endured, when by all rights she should have perished within the first, she was that old.
the scattering of coarse hairs that sprang from her wrinkled, mammalian hide did nothing to ward off the chill. she shivered. the season was changing and she would face another winter alone. grandmother hornedfrill snorted softly and the noise lost itself among the tangle of broad ferns crowded around her ground-level nest. eyes closed to the darkness, she probed with her senses. dawn was approaching.


at first the sun sat low behind the gray overcast, barely scattering away the night, then as it rose the air grew thick and pungent with the day’s thaw of waking fungi. hardly a breath of air stirred, allowing lazy infant clouds to form off the tops of the warming evergreen trees. sleepy minutes passed into an hour, then two. as she rested beneath the forest’s needled canopy grandmother could not see the sun as it crept higher, a white cotton disk hidden beyond the mackerel cape of the low-pressure front, but the rise and fall of the dragonflies’ hum as thy darted near and then back told her the day was well on its way, and more importantly, that no predators were near. in the distance, where the river flattened on the meadow and ceased its talk, she could hear the matronly call of the gentle duckbill mothers as they herded their juveniles to the water’s edge.


old grandmother lay wearily against the bole of her gigantic conifer. hiding low among the giant ferns, she was scarcely visible with her four squat legs tucked beneath her long, fat body. her enormous horn-frilled head and calloused, horned nose lay crookedly on the edge of the depression she’d worn onto the soft ground. the earth smelled rich and heavy with the odors of fall. breathing deep, she exhaled, sighing. she did not yet feel like rising and she decided to extend the nap she had begun the night before. the dragonflies droned and the earth stayed cool as the day rolled forward into mid-morning.


after a time she tried to rouse herself, merely out of habit. cracking an eyelid, she peered through the veil of cool leaves down the path toward her cave, which was really just a jumble of angular rocks that had tumbled down the mountain during a long-forgotten quake. collecting along the edge of the river nearby, they had toppled to a halt in such a way as to provide a deep, cavernous opening. it was large enough to admit her height, yet too small for a comfortable den. she had found sanctuary there many times, fleeing from great thunderkillers looking to make a fresh meal out of her. as she hid the beast would pace, snort, sniff, scream, and then ram the entrance, infuriated at not being able to reach where she huddled in the back.
crouching in the dark, she would exercise patience and her fearless, staring eyes would reflect the geometry of the cavern’s opening just enough to maintain the antagonist’s attention. finally, after an hour or so of waiting in vain for her to emerge, the simple-minded carnivore would lose interest or simply forget why he was there at all and wander off to look for new prey.
grandmother closed her peeping eye. why should she rise? she did not yet feel hunger. better to rest. continuing to drift through her nap, warm and curled, she gradually began to perceive a tingling warning nudge at her primitive brain. quietly she listened, wondering what it was that caused her instincts to stir her from her sleep. but she detected no unusual sounds. all she heard was the irregular beating of the dragonflies’ wings and the soothing discourse of the river. unalarmed, she kept her eyes closed and continued to rest and just listen, alert now, but unconcerned.


then, as her senses groped the atmosphere, she detected a sound that didn’t belong in the forest. an off-key disturbance, like a great ethereal pant or inaudible sigh. indeed, it was more of a stirring ripple over her skin than a true noise. it was abnormal. yet the dragonflies droned, she noted. in the presence of any predator they never failed to alight and freeze, for they themselves were a treat for many. her perplexity deepened and with instincts piqued, she listened intently. fleeting moments passed and the strange, skin-crawling reverberation did not return.


then suddenly, another sound. impulse cocked her head, an infinitesimal movement. yes, now a peculiar, intermittent dripping, like water falling softly, irregularly, from the high canopy bows to the leafy undergrowth. almost like a non-rhythmical drip following a rain. but it hadn’t rained for days. confused and alert, she kept her eyes closed, minimizing motion. carefully she flared her spongy nostrils, testing deeply the air that had begun to waft ever so gently into her face. instantly she sorted through all the thousands of forest scents, noting absently that a frost would be coming any day. a futile effort. she inhaled more heavily, risking a discernible rise of her large, greenish-brown belly. her coursing instincts demanded she be wary and she fully expected her old nose to pick up the rotten odor of a predator’s breath, something which never failed to herald his arrival. her leg muscles twitched and shuddered as part of her tiny mind told her to rise and flee to her cave.


but she stayed where she was for there came no thundering footsteps, no telltale scent of decomposing flesh wedged between a large predator’s teeth; only the mingled smells of the forest. it seemed there was nothing to fear. seconds passed and the warning persisted, mounting with intensity, and she became more and more alarmed.


then suddenly she knew! beyond any shadow of a doubt, something was out there. something unknown. a creeping sensation trickled up her neck and bile surged into her throat and she peed as she fought back a convulsive shiver of panic. she told herself not to move, not to twitch, for she was in immediate peril, and terror seized her.


immobility was a tried defense, but her insides trembled and she battled with the desire to mewl in dismay. the last thing she wanted was to reveal her hiding place beneath the giant ferns. only the rhythmic flaring of her reddened nostrils and the rise and fall of her body accompanying her anxious breaths indicated she existed at all. or so she thought.
*

from behind the broken curtain of standing timber her antagonist watched her every move. he was game today for a spirited hunt, but feared this old female would be no sport.


his eyes withered into slits and his wicked teeth grew dry from his frozen grimace. her efforts to conceal herself amused him, for in the chill of the forest shadows her mammal’s breath rolled from her face like a flag. it condensed into steamy vapor, wisping up from the tall foliage where she lay to completely expose her position. a thunderkiller would not have been able to distinguish the difference between her breath and the mist rising from the muskeg.
but this was not the territory’s thunderkiller.


the nomadic thinkerkiller watched her through eyes linked to a more cunning brain than his cousin’s. using a deliberate flanking angle in back of her tree, he hid from her view and downwind from her keen sense of smell: coldly calculated. unlike the vanishing species of thunderkillers, thinkerkiller loved the thrill of the hunt more than the taste of the kill. today, as always, his creeping approach was no more than that of an ocean breeze.


the predator stood frozen in his crouch, watching casually, stretching his game to a climactic orgy of terror. his prey imagined herself hidden as she lay still under the ferns, but he sensed her growing fear and was delighted. wanting her to see him before he dove, he dipped lower, like a machine, and tried to drill the invisible essence of his stare directly into her brain.


finally, when she refused to shift, he could wait no more. he took a single step with his gigantic clawed foot, silent, cautious, not taking his eyes from the back of her skull; savoring that brief climactic moment he loved best-that floating space of time between the end of the hunt and the beginning of the attack.


then suddenly the insects hushed and forest sounds died all around. grandmother’s fear peaked beyond her control. she jerked her heavy head off the ground as if its weight were nothing. to her left and right she scanned, frantic, confused, for she could still neither hear nor see an intruder. panic and uncertainty rolled her golden eyes in all directions.


then, as she stretched her short neck to look beyond her tree, she saw him! he was close! his huge eyes seemed like orange moons. his perverted face seemed to grin as his jaws parted wider and from tightly drawn jowls dripped great drops of saliva, falling for a great distance to buckle the leaves of the ferns. she shrieked with fright and started to rise, but she was old and slow.


springing with both back legs the thinkerkiller heaved his tonnage with lightning speed. grandmother turned her lethal frill and long nose horn toward him, hoping for a gut-wrenching stab.


the thinkerkiller didn’t attack like a mindless fool, as would the larger thunderkiller. he was shrewd, cunning, more evolved. her horns could cause serious damage, even pierce through the protective shields of rib-like bone that lie beneath the thick skin of his chest and belly. he wanted no part of her defenses. cleverly, he sprang over her offering and came about on her unprotected right, his tiny forearms appearing useless as they flailed the air like an infant’s. he landed with thunderous vibration and his gigantic feet cut deeply into the soft ground as he skidded and spun to a halt.


perfectly timed. in an explosion of flying earth and moss, he whirled toward her with surprising grace, dipped his head, and lunged for her body. in one fluid motion he sank his teeth into her thick hide. she screamed in agonized response and he locked closed his jaws, tightening until he felt all his fangs connect.


rib bones shattered. instantly the sharp claws on his forelegs began frenzied tearing, exposing her soft entrails. grandmother screamed with torment and in battle-answer swung her arsenal to gore him in his massive shoulder, puncturing deeply into his muscle.


a bloodless wound. he roared and released, but then struck anew at her exposed viscera. again, she swung with her horn, but it was a feeble gesture. life was leaving her.
enraged at her painful counter attack the great carnivore never let up his assault. he raked with his claws and tore with his serrated teeth, possessed of a murderous ferocity known only among his own kind. her torso burst apart, and then he ripped through her thick layers of sinewy neck muscle and heavy spinal cord until he’d wrenched off her head...a master at mutilation. he kept his huge mandibles locked around the ragged edge of the body’s gaping neck opening, rhythmically shaking his head from side to side, whuffing loudly with every swing…humf…humf…humf…ensuring she was dead.


there was no question. her severed head lay next to his blood-bathed feet, dead eyes fixed and staring down the short trail leading to her cave that she herself had worn into the undergrowth.


finally his vicious shaking slowed, and then stopped. he released the steaming body and it dropped heavily to the earth. incapable of remorse, he stood and looked at it savagely, panting, staring, blood dripping from his teeth. then, as if the mingled shrieks of battle weren’t enough to shatter the day, he suddenly threw his head back and roared, long and loud with the resonant sound of cold-blooded victory. the horrendous noise split through the forest like a raw clap of thunder and the intensity of the sound wave tossed large, neighboring insects from their perches where they fell dead to the ground.


as his scream died away, the crazed fury also faded from his glittering eyes. slowly, a vacant and unmistakable expression of indifference appeared in its place. quietly, gradually, the leaves began to rustle softly around him, as if shaken by an invisible force. he snorted, blasting the foliage with his reptilian breath, causing typical sounds of scuttle. thinkerkiller knew they would come. they always came. he gazed down at the cooling remains and grunted with satisfaction. the kill had been better than he had hoped. lurching heavily to sidestep the body, he lumbered away, gaining casual momentum with each rocking step. he wasn’t hungry.


expectantly, the little scavengers that always trailed along with the great beast moved in for their breakfast……………………………………………………………. 


chapter 1


the shock was like a physical blow and a surge of raw dread seemed to warp the air in the room. the musky smell of human fear suddenly rose to mingle with the once appetizing odor of fresh baked rolls, which sat untouched on the sideboard. fifteen sets of eyes stared into the hub of the conference room, the thoughts behind them stunned beyond logic as the vision of the slowly retreating predator faded away. the recording, with its screams of violent death and uncensored images of victory, was mercifully finished.


the confrontation between the leathery earthlings was real, yet disassociated from the actual present; an event being months old, now it was merely a pinpoint of history, a three-dimensional hologram image inside a liquid-filled crystalline tube risen from its housing in the center of the ovular, solid rock table. for a few brief moments the creature’s deafening roar echoed through the deeper level of darkness, and then the abrupt quiet dropped like the crack of a gavel in the ears of the native martians.


the holo-tube thrummed, crackled with bright bolts of static electricity, and then changed to a blank deep purple, awaiting a new command. the terrifying image was gone; the horror of it, however, lingered and its long-term implications sank into everyone’s mind with immediate and nauseating clarity: earth was hostile. the immigration and colonization was suddenly in serious jeopardy...

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