(This flash fiction is set 100 years before the events in Drifters Rising, available for purchase on 5/2/2017)

“Cade, have you even once hit the target?” West laughed, pulled back the bow and let his last arrow fly. As with the others, it hit in the center of his target. The teenagers retrieved their arrows and prepared to fire again. While waiting for the teacher, they had dropped their packs and staff weapons to practice with their bow and arrows.

“Shut it. You’re the only one hitting the bullseye,” Lennox huffed and let loose her arrow. As if to prove her words, her arrow curved and landed in the sand between two targets. Neither was hers. Her second arrow hit the edge of Cade’s target.

“I would make a snide remark but I’m no better,” Cade commented. He rested his bow on his shoulder. “The problem is our equipment. On Old Earth, we trained with precision weapons that were mass produced. Making our own weapons is not a skill set we were taught and the adults have all of the weapons brought from Old Earth. West’s bow and his arrows look professional, unlike mine.” Cade held up one of his arrows with a couple of small bumps on it and cut his eyes to West. “Can I try yours? Just to see?”

West shrugged and handed Cade his bow and one of his arrows.

Cade took aim and let loose the arrow, which landed near the center of the target. He handed the bow back and asked, “How about a trade? You teach me how to make a proper bow and arrow. I’ll teach you how to make a good fishing fly.” Bartering had become the new currency and West’s bows and arrows were already in demand.

“Show me your favorite fishing hole and it’s a deal,” West responded. Cade always caught fish, and in this new world basic survival skills, like finding food, were important.

Lennox slid her arm around West, “If you teach me, I’ll prepare a picnic for us. We can walk up to the Parese River one afternoon.”

“Eww, propositioning your boyfriend in front of your brother?” Griffin rubbed his chin, “Hmm, I’m not above blackmail. Teach me and I won’t tell Dad you guys are sneaking off for a picnic.”

“Deal,” West replied before Griffin changed his mind. “Does anyone know what the new test is and why we’re the only five?”

“I’m more interested in why we were told to bring packs and weapons,” Cade shrugged.

“We’re about to find out.” Lennox looked past the others to the adult walking toward them.

Commander Gilles laid his pack and a weapons satchel on the ground. “Prepare your packs for inspection.”

“Yes, sir,” they responded in unison, moving into formation. Since landfall, school had become a military style training camp for the teenagers. This new world had many dangers and everyone had to be able to defend themselves.

When Gilles completed his inspection, he pulled out a map. “Gather round. The Overseers have agreed that runners will carry messages between the settlements. Each settlement has selected five teenagers for training. We, along with the trainees from the other settlements, will run between the settlements, creating the route. Our goal is to carve out a trail for standard use and for you to learn how to travel solo between the settlements.”

“Solo?” Bailey squeaked, her eyes widening. “You mean we’ll be running between the settlements alone?”

“For now, we run in a group, but soon you’ll run in teams of two and then, eventually, solo missions.” Gilles opened the satchel and pulled out a bow and arrows. “Cade, your father offered up his weapon for your use.” He proceeded to hand out bows and arrows to the others from their parents, but stopped at West. “You can keep yours.”

West’s chest puffed out a little.

“Your staffs are fine. They don’t have to be perfectly straight,” Gilles added.

Cade cut his eyes to West, who had crafted a staff that was as straight as the ones brought from Old Earth. Maybe he should get training on creating a staff weapon, too.

*****

Cade groaned and plopped on the ground, resting his tired body. This day had been hardest so far in their runner training. Establishing trails between the settlements would take a while, since all trails had to weave around natural obstacles. At landfall, three rope bridges had been quickly built, across the two rivers that separated the land they had settled. With Gilles’ supervision, and help from both settlements, they had spent the day building a proper wooden bridge over the Fevit River between Cetus Landing and Taldalen.

West dropped to the ground beside Cade. “Today I would have appreciated the use of power tools.”

Cade grinned, “Yeah, sometimes I hate we aren’t going high tech on this new world.” He waved away objections before they were made. “I get it. We don’t want to mess up this planet the way we did Earth, but it would have been nice today.”

“I enjoy not having to check the weather each day to find out what setting my breathing mask must be turned to. And we can be outside without the chemicals in the air burning our skin,” Lennox said, joining them.

Bailey nodded, “I agree. This world is nice and clean, we must protect it, even if it means every part of my body aches.”

CetusCvr20160602d“Glad you think so. Tomorrow we’ll start a journey through all the settlements, crossing the bridge we just built and run through Taldalen, cross the bridge to Yothsor, and run up the mountain pass to Mynview. From there we’ll run through the northern mountains and cross the bridge into Whiteshore and then take the fairly flat path back to Cetus Landing,” Gilles commented as he walked past.

“That’s over two hundred kilometers!” West exclaimed.

“According to the guys in Yothsor, the mountain pass by the waterfall is more mountain climbing than running,” Bailey moaned.

“Well, I guess we’d better go gather food,” Cade grumbled.

“I’m beginning to think being chosen as a runner is a punishment of some type,” West added, before joining Cade in the search for food.

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