Drafted Beyond the Stars
Chapter 3: Healing

Copyright© 2020 by Wendell Jackson

For many weeks, Tom was laid out at the medical Base. His wound took several surgeries to repair. Ribs were mended with artificial material. Grafted to missing sections of bone destroyed by the gun shot. Shondra used his DNA to grow more bone in the lab, along with the other projects that were cluttering up the work spaces.

Upon observing the grazing animals movements across the grass lands. Christal Rose, the long haired beauty, noticed them eating bulbs that grew on the roots of the grasses. The younger ones gathered around the plants plowed up by the adult animals horns. Using some help, she and two others went out waving blankets, and scaring the feeding beasts away from the freshly turned grasses. It was easy enough to grab a few bulbs and bring them back to the lab for examination. She figured if the animals ate them, they might prove to be a food source for humans too. Over the weeks, more items were brought in for testing. Mostly to make sure they weren’t harmful to humans. It kept her continuously in the lab along with her other duty of nursing Tom back to health.

The weeks he lay with IVs stuck in his arms, were hectic with the rush of obtaining plasma from volunteers. Donors were used instead of the supplies, saving those for more hectic times when time to draw on donors wasn’t available. To the people Tom was somewhat of a hero. The crew wanted to make sure he continued to be a living hero.

When Shondra finally got all the bleeding stopped, the aid teams were able to catch a breather. They all had a hand in saving Tom’s life, it was a victory long overdue and they reveled in it. A small celebration was held with a bottle of the good stuff opened and toasted among themselves, while Tom lay recovering in the Medical facilities. Shondra kept him sedated, which he spent the time mostly sleeping. Along with the sleep came dreams. Dreams where he was being shot again and again. He’d wake up with his medical gown soaked in sweat. The vision of an attacker out of the dark, played over and over in his drug induced dreams. Finally when the medication was ceased, the dreams came less often, but when they did, he usually woke with the shot. Sitting up and staring wide eyed at his surroundings, making sure it was only a dream.

Spring came, and Tom was still convalescing. He was wheeled up to the observation deck atop the Medical Base. On days when the warming sun brought out the distant herds, he could watch them with binoculars. Each time he learned more about them. They bunched together when predators came stocking, and even drove them off when the herds numbers were large enough.

An interesting new herd showed up, causing Tom to set up and really take notice. They were a horse like looking animal. In fact they were a lot like a horse. When the new herd drifted close enough while they grazed, he could see them up close with a strong pair of binoculars. There was so many features like the animals back on earth, that Tom had wistful visions of riding one across the large grass plains.

The hooves were different, instead of a single hoof, there were three toe like features. They fit snuggly together, but separated when the animal reared and pawed the air. That usually happened in the presents of another male. He assumed the hoofs were more of a weapon in the spread condition.

They were a grazing animal, like the horse, and ran like one too. He would have to bring it up at the next big meeting about building corrals and capturing some. Just thinking about the idea of having a horse to ride was exciting. In years to come it would be the main reason the villages survived.

Shondra managed to spend several hours during the day during his convalescent, and spent the nights sleeping next to Tom’s bed. He’d never had such care and loving treatment as he got from Christal Rose and Shondra. It wasn’t all easy, especially when it was time for his rehabilitation. It wasn’t as painful as the last time, but it was still bending and stretching old and new muscles. It all brought pain with each session. He knew it was for his own good, but he didn’t like it. His old life style had kept him in shape, but now he needed the work out, and it was all a new experience.

Each exercise of his rehab, Tom did with gusto despite the pain. He wanted to heal and gain all his strength back. There was a job that was left unfinished, and that was the killing of the Rogues. He wasn’t the type to let an injustice go unresolved. The Rogues were a danger. A continuing threat to the village and the Medical Base. He was going to hunt them down and put an end to each and every one of them. With each work out, he told himself he was closer to full recovery. Soon he would be setting out on his mission of revenge. Of course he didn’t relate to Shondra or anyone else what he intended doing. There were too many soft hearted people that foolishly thought time would change the hearts of the banished Rogues. Tom wasn’t that foolish, he didn’t care if they someday changed, He wanted to kill them now.

The day came when he was walking without the aid of helping hands. The walking was easy, climbing steps was the hard part. It was difficult to step and push up to the next stair, but he continued to struggle. Each day he was able to do it better, but the pain was still there. It wasn’t getting easier, just moving further and faster. Then the pain began to fade. It decreased until finally he could climb stairs and ladders with ease.

Shondra was pleased with his recovery and brought up the subject of the miracle healing of his first injuries. The search for what he’d used for first aid, those months ago, had failed. She encouraged him to write down as much of his journey that he could remember. Every detail was to be recorded on a tablet. Tom wrote it on the tablet not once but several times, along with an oral retelling. Each time he was asked to elaborate, but the fogged fevered mind of that time, couldn’t recall more than the pain and the killing of the giant bird creature. A memory of prying the inner bark and using it to cover his wound, was vague and unsure if it was real or imagined.

Getting new clothes that met his requirements, was not easy. With the aid of a nurse that was a good seamstress he managed to have pants and coveralls with enough pockets for all his trinkets. His vest coat, had pockets that held ammo, compass, flint fire starter, and other things he deemed necessary for long treks through the forests. The boots were another matter, but he found several pair that would do. The Boots were new and again he would have to place a plastic bandage on each heel for protection against blisters. It didn’t take long for boots to get broke in, and neither did it take long for blisters to pop up. So after a day or so, the boots were fine and he didn’t need the plastic band aid strips.

Once he was up walking around, it was no longer necessary for Tom to reside on the medical ward. He was given a bunk among the other crew members, but it wasn’t to his likening. Shondra sleeping next to him on the ward, was something he’d gotten use too. As much as he wanted to further the relationship, there had been no development. Shondra was always near, but not near enough. Now looking at the array of bunks in the berthing quarters, Tom just shook his head. He wasn’t about to sleep there. Instead he went outside to the shelters, set up around the Medical Base. Most of the crew now resided in the shelters where they could have some privacy and share a bed with a special person.

Gathering the things needed from supply was easy, as there were plenty of large cots, big enough for two, and bedding. Tom was about to stake out a spot where curtains could be strung and shield his sleeping area from prying eyes. Shondra drew back a hastily hung curtain on a wire and surveyed his progress.

“You prefer this, rather than the base?” She questioned with an accusatory tone.

“I don’t want one of those bunks in the berthing deck.” He answered quietly. “Too crowded.”

“My quarters aren’t crowded.” Shondra stated flatly. Tom stopped what he was doing and looked puzzled. “Put those back,” she indicated the blankets. “You are bunking with me.”

She didn’t have to tell him twice. Tom almost threw the blankets back at the crate he drew them from. Like a puppy he followed Shondra back into the Base. He felt like he was floating on air, but didn’t dare look down. That night and the rest after, they joined together in heated passion. The next morning when Shondra rose, she kissed Tom and informed him, if she was pregnant, he would be named as the father. It was something he’d be proud of.

Life just got better. During the day, Tom was doing walks around the shelters and base, building up his stamina. Shondra often walked with him, but duties with patients took up most of her time. As much as he loved and enjoyed their time together, he also had another task as yet undone. He just was waiting for the right moment to set off his hunt for revenge. There had been several sightings on the trail to the crash site, an now trips there were never done alone.

Most of the material brought back was pieces of wreckage, that could be modified into something useful. The Crash site would be a valued source of metal, and everything that could be carried by two or more people, was quickly snatched up. Retrieving parts now, had to be sawed off with a hacksaw. The foraging trips were made up of at least four people. Two served as guards, while the others carried the items back to the two shelter sites, they referred to as Villages.

Tom had retrieved his rifle and another bowie knife. The 357 magnum revolver had been replaced with a 44 magnum. After seeing the size of some of the beasts, he wanted the strongest fire power he could get. The time came when he was ready to start on a bloody trail of revenge. With his pack full of rations and ammo. He picked the early hours before dawn to set out. He left without telling anyone of his intentions.

The sightings of the Rogues, were Mostly just one lone figure lurking in the forest. Other than just watching the village, they were not aware of them doing anything else.

Each time one was spotted, the village made sure not to leave anything of value out at night. Word was also sent to the farm village, just to alert them to the presents of Rogues in the area. Often they would see where one of the storage shelters had been broke into. Some rations turned up missing. It was assumed that it had been the Rogues, but one couldn’t be sure. There were those among them, that wanted more than their share. So guards were posted. That drained more man power away from needed duties, and put a strain on everyone. There just wasn’t enough man power, to go around, nor enough hours to get the work done that must be done.

By eliminating the threat of the Rogues. The needed guards would be added to the work details on the foraging trips to the crash site. It was the only self justification that Tom needed. He set out to launch his attacks. It didn’t matter how the fight started, it was his aim to finished it.

After putting enough distance between him and the village, Tom stopped and unpacked his cammo outfit. He’d put it together while his wounds healed. It was the best cammo suit he’d ever made, and he’d made a few. This one was stained with the sap of the different plants he would be hiding among. There were natural grasses and weeds incorporated in the suit, which wouldn’t wilt or change color after drying. With it on he could lay next to any forest shrub and over looked by searching eyes.

Tom moved slowly along the trail, never making a sudden move. Going forward only a few feet and stopping to wait, while scanning the trail and surrounding forest. When he arrived at the crash site, he would pick a spot, back in the trees where he could observe the area without exposing himself in the open. That would be tomorrow, but for today, he would try to make it to one of the smaller shelters set up along the trail. Several shelters dotted the route, that the villagers stayed the nights in, rather than camp out in the open. Evidence showed the Rogues used the shelters too. He would need to be careful before entering any of them.

By moving slow, Tom didn’t make the first shelter before night fall. He’d spent the entire day, moving and stopping. Most of the rest periods, were spent several yards off the trail, just sitting and watching. The forest was alive with game, most were feeding and moving slow just like him. There were the small groups, of larger animals, that used the trail too. Some times when they passed, they sensed something was odd. Sniffing the air, and looking about more than usual. They never stayed in the area around him for very long. Choosing instead to put some distance between them. Only twice did the grazing beasts look directly at him, though Tom doubted the animal saw him, but homed in on his scent.

During the night, he used the Tablet as his alarm system. It was sensitive to thermal movement and would go off if any creature came within the safety perimeter. Rather than lay down, Tom propped himself sitting against a tree with large open ground roots. Between the roots He was sheltered from the flow of night air, and stayed warm. The alarm went off several times, but his thermal vision binoculars only revealed the passing of docile beasts.

Shortly before dawn, he moved again on the trail to the first shelter. It was still dark when he arrived and took a position where he could observed the entrance. He couldn’t tell if it was inhabited or not. The night wasn’t cold enough for a fire, so there wouldn’t be smoke rising from the chimney. He had to wait for daylight to see if there would be any movement from the Shelter.

Using the natural cover of a growing bush, Tom made himself comfortable behind it. He was sure he could remain hidden in the open, but it was always wise to take that extra step. With full daylight, birds came chirping into the area. A couple decided to light on Tom’s suit, which he really didn’t like. If one of the flying creatures suddenly realized that something alive was under its talons, and screeched out a terrified warning. It would give him away, to whom ever might be in the shelter.

The birds sang and flitted around, never suspecting Tom was just a layer of ferns under their feet. Bugs were crowding into the air, and the birds left to feed, darting down from above to attack the insects and take them off to their nests. Then the whole area quieted down, when the shelter door was pulled open. Two men and a woman came out, each carrying a rifle, and looking unkempt. The woman’s hair was tied back, but still looked uncombed, and the men were unshaven. It didn’t look like they’d washed for some time.

Tom eyed them for some time, he was sure they weren’t from the Base, as no one there went unshaven. Still he wanted to make sure, and looked them over good, before sighting them in. The three of them, spent a few moments talking and looking both directions on the trail. They agreed to something and moved up the trail in the direction of the crash site. Tom slipped the silencer on the muzzle, then took aim at the person trailing the other two. It was the shorter of the two men, and he stumbled forward several steps when the shot hit him. He made more noise falling down than the mouse trap sound of the silencer. Tom centered his aim on the next one in line, the woman and was about to squeeze off a round, when she looked back. She quickly bent down to aid her fallen comrade only to discover blood covering the leaves and bushes from the bullet exiting the body.

Like a fox, she rolled to the side away from the trail and behind a tree. Tom nonplussed took the next shot, and hit the lead man as he turned to see was going on behind him. He went down with legs and feet swinging into the air as he fell. Tom didn’t move. All three of the Rogues were armed, so the woman hidden from view was either slithering away through the trees, or she was watching, trying to find out where the shots had come from. It would take a very discerning eye to spot him, Tom was sure. By remaining still, he more than doubled his chances of staying undetected.

The birds slowly returned to the area around the shelter, still flitting after the flying insects. Where the woman rolled into hiding, it all remained still. The low bushes never moved, nor did the birds shy away from that area. Tom slowly brought up the thermal imaging binoculars and inch by slow inch brought them to his eyes.

Scanning the area, and taking in the two bodies, that still registered body heat, he wasn’t able to pick up an image from the woman. He assumed that she had crawled away and fled once she was a safe distance with plenty of forest between them. With a thick forest hiding her, she probably was moving out of the area. Tom slowly revolved the binoculars around the whole area, to make sure she wasn’t flanking him. Nothing registered but the birds flying in and out of the field of vision.

Well, now they knew he was after them. Tom decided against tracking the woman, lest she set up an ambush. He doubted it, but wasn’t going to take an unnecessary risk. He would back off, the way he’d come and then circle the whole area to the left and rejoin the trail further ahead. They would either be waiting for him at the next shelter along the trail or at the crash site. He was now at the disadvantage of not knowing what they were doing. They knew he would be coming and might decide to leave the area. Tom didn’t think they would do that. They needed what items they could salvage from the crash site, or steal from the village’s. Only the farm village, would have what they desperately needed.

The only other alternative they had, was to set out to find the other Base’s. Those other landing sites, had to be so many miles away, that it wouldn’t be feasible. Here was the only food source they had. They must be low on the few supplies they gathered from the crash site. Everyone had picked that over to the bare bones. Tom’s people retrieved the largest share, and barely left any behind. Still no telling just how much the Rogues did have, and when it would run out.

If the roles were reversed, Tom knew what he’d do. Eliminate the sniper and pick off the villagers one by one, until there were none left. Even if it were possible, that wouldn’t help the Rogues survival. There had to be some fatalities over the winter, so their numbers couldn’t be more than ten at the most. With the two he’d killed today, that whittled them down to maybe eight. He’d have to be more careful with his next move, as they would either be waiting for him, or come looking.

One thing he was doing now, that he’d neglected before, was to scan the trees ahead and around him. So many had those low limbs so handy to climb. The nest like tangles of brush and leaves, that could conceal a sniper. Having thermal binoculars was a great aid, as it revealed body heat, even behind the thickest shrubs and bushes. He was seeing a whole different forest, with animals and insects that were hidden before. With strengthen confidence, Tom pushed onto complete his self ordained mission.

He spent the good part of the day lounging around a small lake, fed by a flowing stream. He was a mile distant from the next shelter, and felt safe enough to catch up on some sleep. He replenished his water canteens, and ate one of the rationed meals. This one had chicken as the main course. He was going to miss Chicken when the supply ran out. He wondered at the over site, of not including Chickens and other animals along with the supplies. The fact that they didn’t have a single cat or dog, was the greatest mistake. With a dog, he would have a companion and an assistant hunter. A cat would have taken care those pesky squirrel like animals. They wouldn’t have so many getting into the crops and storage areas. Somehow they would have to find a replacement.

There was a chance he would find some kind of replacement here, but how long would it take to domesticate one. He doubted they would have enough time, at least not in his life time. Sooner or later, their electronic devices would break or wear out. Then what would they do. There was no way to replace anything like them. Their only hope was to find the animals they needed and raise them as pets. He thought about the horses, and what it would take to ride one. He wonder if they could be trained in the same way. This new world was beginning to interest him more and more.

A movement in the trees across the lake, caught Tom’s eye. Quickly bringing the binoculars into focus, he saw a vague shape moving through the trees away from the lake. He surmised the creature had been taking water, and he’d missed seeing it. Only able to catch glimpses of movement, he realized that it was humanoid. A real tall humanoid, once he compared it to the height of the surrounding brush and trees.

A few moments later, it was gone. Tom continued to glass the far lake side, hoping to see something more. Maybe there were more, he thought as he scanned the far shore and the tree line. He was reminded, of the creature that climbed the tree he was in one night. It had looked him over as he did the same to it. The dark and the tree hid the creature from a full view, even with aid of the tablet. Could it have been a creature like the one that night. He knew it wasn’t any of his fellow earth beings, as no one was that tall. The nearest guess was something around nine feet. He hoped the creature would be friendly or at least not dangerous. Just in case, Tom checked his 44 magnum, assuring himself it was ready and available.

Checking the progress of the sun across the sky, it was time to be on the move. Moving through the trees after donning the Cammo suit, Tom headed for the shelter. He would be approaching the camp from the other side of the trail leading to the Villages. He hoped anyone laying in wait for him, wouldn’t expect his approach from this direction. He was still far away that the shelter couldn’t be seen through the trees. Tom began his slow movements, with long periods between steps. When the shelter could be seen, he used a tree several yards ahead to shield him as he moved towards it. Once there and looking carefully, making sure no one was near, he crawled around and picked out another tree or large bush to move towards, using it as cover.

Knowing that a ambush could be set back in the very patch of forest he was moving through, Tom kept scanning the surrounding trees and eyeing the upper branches for lurking snipers. One mistake and it would be over. There would be no second chances, unlike the computer games the others liked to play. He used the thermal imaging devices, the tablet and binoculars. Giving the forest a good looking over with each rest stop. He wasn’t sure how well an object could block out the thermal signature of a human, but he wasn’t taking any chances, and examined the area behind each tree as he progressed forward.

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