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Drake's Sword Part Four
Trinity and the Banderlat
What little sleep Drake did manage to get lasted about five hours, until the morning light filled the sky and the moons became faded and less prominent.
Time was a little weird on this planet that was for sure. As Drake went to the bathroom to wash his face, he glanced at a clock on the wall of the Temp Wing and realized that it was only three-thirty AM in Manhattan. Had he not been so tired last night, he’d have taken a closer look.
Drake found a bed farthest from the window and tried to get some more sleep. Raymond’s snoring had died down a bit, but the sounds of vehicles and car horns were all ready filling the room.
Normally, Drake would have slept through it with no problem. Manhattan’s noise pollution was ten times as worse. But something about the strangeness of the world and the unusual quality of light at this hour was unsettling to him. The numerous changes in scenery the day before didn’t help. After all, it wasn’t everyday someone woke up in a tight, gray, concrete prison cell, spent the afternoon locked to the bulkhead of a prison ship, and then ended the day running from a psychotic gang leader on an alien world. And yes, even though it owned by humans, nothing about Epsilon felt human.
Drake’s thoughts turned to the people he had met. He rested his head on his elbow and looked at Raymond who was still sleeping near the window. How he could sleep after all that happened last night was shocking. Perhaps Drake could have slept easier if he was a few years younger, but he doubted it. Briefly he wondered how much time Raymond had to mourn for the loss of his parents, before Earth sent him here.
The streets of modern day Manhattan always prepared a kid for life on his own at any age. Drake realized that before he was old enough to walk. But Raymond clearly wasn’t prepared for any of this, and yet he was still coming on strong.
Then there was Ely. So far the only thing Drake had in common with him was they were both American. But Ely was no survivor. As far as he could tell, Ely lived in a consequence free world where all you had to do to change the environment around you was manipulate and kill mercilessly. Drake knew kids like that long before meeting Ely, and they were always the first to take punches hard. On Earth they had very little chance of survival, but on a world like Epsilon, in a place like Acheron, this was Ely’s playground.
His thoughts finally ended with Sherry. She was obviously a smart one but she was also very pretty. An unusual combination, but then again what wasn’t unusual on this world. With Drake’s birthday a year off it wouldn’t be that much longer before he could be old enough to date her, but then there was plenty of time to decide someone else was worth thinking about in that way. Even if they met under shaky circumstances, Drake knew this was real life, and that people didn’t fall in love automatically just because the man saved the girl.
Drake fell back against the pillow and stared up at the ceiling as he wondered if he’d ever get to use the sword again. It did feel good in his hands, like electricity surging through his body as he parried Grover’s blows. And something about this particular sword made him feel as though finding it was no coincidence. Whatever he was meant to do on this world it would involve that sword, and he resolved to have it in his possession before too long.
After an hour of lying there Drake decided to get up and explore the building. He went over to Raymond’s side and nudged him gently. Raymond opened his eyes but was still half asleep.
“Hey,” Drake whispered. “I’m going to check out some of the building, but I’ll stop by here to wake you up for breakfast okay?”
“M’kay.” Raymond muttered and fell back to sleep.
Drake went back to the elevator and scanned the floor options. Each floor was labeled and marked according to who could access them. After taking a few minutes to read each floor, Drake decided on “civilian and student laboratories” on the twenty-fifth floor.
Since it was only two floors up Drake didn’t have long of a wait. The twenty-fifth floor was more condensed than the Temp Wing, with a hallway encircling the elevator. Offices, labs, and classrooms were all on one side while portraits and charts decorated the inner wall.
Drake glanced in some of the labs and found chemistry set-ups and advanced computer systems. Each lab had a sign-in sheet posted on a clipboard, along with a marker above it to indicate who was allowed to use the equipment in a particular lab.
A strange smell was coming from one of the larger labs towards the back, and Drake went in to investigate. Cages full of animals lined the walls and several work tables littered with instruments took up the center of the room. A girl with short dark hair dressed in a white lab coat was busy attaching a thin tube to a screeching banderlat.
At a closer glance the banderlat was about a foot and a half tall, from head to toe. Its beak looked deadly this close and Drake was weary as the animal struggled and snapped its head back and forth, in spite of the straps holding it to the table.
“Chill out,” the girl spoke in a soothing voice. “We’ve done this before, you know the drill.”
She looked up and noticed Drake.
“Hi, you must be one of the new comers. I’m Trinity.”
“Drake.” Drake made a motion to shake her hand, but noticed that it smelled like the pink liquid Sherry used to spray the bridge. “Um, is that a banderlat you’re working with?”
“Yeah,” Trinity said, going to a small device and flipping switches. “I’m extracting her scent right now.”
“What is it?”
“Its what they use when they’re old enough to attract males. We spray down the bridge to keep intruders out at night.”
“I know all that, but…what’s the stuff that makes the scent?”
“Well…” Trinity blushed and grinned. “It’s their…menstrual fluids.”
It took a second for her words to sink in. Drake’s expression went from disgust to amusement.
“So…these things get PMS and it actually attracts the males?”
“Yeah, that’s the gist of it.” Trinity laughed. “They’re funny little creatures, but I love them.”
“So what is it you do exactly?” Drake asked. The banderlat screeched again.
“Shh.” Trinity scratched it on the back of the neck, calming it down. “I’m studying to be an exo-nutritionist. My license won’t ever be an official one, not so long as I live on Epsilon but it’s what I want to do with my life.”
“W-wait, back up. What’s an exo…?”
“Exo-nutritionist. You know, there the people who study alien animals and plants on different worlds to see which ones can be eaten or not.”
“Epsilon might not be the best place to start a career, but I figure I can study here for as long as possible and then maybe get a job on a cargo ship as a freelancer.”
“So how old are you?”
“I turned seventeen a couple weeks ago.”
“Happy Birthday then. Personally I’d have asked my parents for a car.”
Drake laughed a little. Trinity was a bit more laid back than Sherry it seemed.
Trinity gestured to one of the stools by the table. “Sit down. So what did you think of my cousin.”
“Yeah. She usually spends time at my mom and dad’s house on the beach. Whenever she’s not chasing banderlats or some other animal that is.”
“Oh, she’s pretty nice. We didn’t get to know each other that well yesterday, what with holding Ely hostage so his men wouldn’t kill us.”
“Yeah, Ely’s a bit of a prick.”
“That’s an understatement.”
“I’m sure it is.” Trinity checked the machine. “Almost done. You want to have breakfast later today?”
“I was going to meet Sherry in Cafeteria Three at eight.” Drake said, watching pinkish liquid flow through the tubes. “Seems a bit early though.”
“At least we mostly face the east.” Trinity pointed out. “That’s another thing you probably noticed by now. The planet rotates in the completely opposite direction as Earth, so all that really changes are the way the suns raise and set.”
“Well it’s not like it threw me off really. Should I be worried?”
“Nope. Although we’ve had a few obsessive compulsives who had a problem with it at first, but they get along fine now.”
Trinity stopped the machine and began removing the tubes from the banderlat. Drake leaned rested his head on his elbows and watched as the animal screeched struggled in her arms. Though the lab coat didn’t show much she sure didn’t look very muscular, yet she was able to keep the writhing animal in check even as she brought it back to its cage.
“The males are even harder to handle,” Trinity explained, as if Drake asked. “We can only keep two of them and they both have to be in separate pens. You also have to keep track of which females they’ve bred with, or they’ll kill each others mates.”
“Not exactly the brightest of animals are they?”
“So what else do you breed them for?”
“When they get older we kill them for their meat. We also eat the eggs, which are high in protein and vitamin D. Plus the shells have certain key ingredients for a skin lotion, which is necessary when the suns align for the summer season. Oh, that reminds me, we’ll have to get you and the other kid fitted for special goggles before January.”
“January?” Drake looked confused. “Summer?”
“Yeah, the order of the seasons is kind of weird here. You’ll have to have Mrs. King explain it all. She runs the City 5 observatory over near Riverside Ave.”
Drake ran his hand through his hair. “I’m gonna need a score card to keep track of everyone here. I didn’t know this many people in Manhattan.”
“You don’t know where Manhattan is?”
“It’s a big galaxy.”
“Well its in New York, in the Upper East side of the United States. You don’t even have a globe or a map of Earth or anything like that?”
Trinity shrugged. “Somewhere around here. Want to help me out?”
“Sure. What do you want me to do?”
“Grab a lab coat and a couple of spray bottles. You can find them all in the supply closets down the hall.”