The cold permeated the room. The enormous hole in the wall caused by the ice quake allowed the freezing winds to blow through and cover everything in minute flakes of snow. Flakes that rapidly melted to form thin sheets of ice.

At first she couldn’t stop shivering. Then, after a while, the cold no longer affected her. She was numb, unable to feel anything. Not even the floor beneath her body, and she realized she was becoming hypothermic. Worse, she was growing increasingly drowsy.

I am going to die now. I’m going to freeze to death. Kyber…

A tear worked its way beneath her eyelid and began to solidify, sealing her eye shut. Taking a shuddering breath, she tried to say his name, the name of her love. The name of the creature who had captured her heart. Who tried to protect her with his own life.

She could no longer move her lips.

She was tired. Tired of running. Tired of fighting for survival. Tired of this never-ending struggle to find food and water and a safe place to rest.

Her throat was dry. Her stomach was empty. None of it mattered anymore. If there was anything to be grateful for, it was that freezing didn’t hurt. Her wounded hand Kyber had punctured with his talons no longer pained her. Her leg, with its multitude of clicker bites, didn’t ache. Her body was filled with a lassitude, promising her first long and blissful sleep since her ship had crash-landed on this planet. A sleep without the fear of something attacking.

Her mind began to drift. It took effort to bring Kyber’s face into view. His beautiful Seneecian features, covered with fine black fur that was slightly curly. His warm gaze. The way the corners of his mouth quirked upward when he was amused, revealing the long canine-like teeth.


A scream. High-pitched. Distant. Small.

A small scream?

Scuffling. Grunts. Deep grunts. More little screams.

She peeled her eyes open and tried to focus on the movement several meters away. A figure came into view. Shock went through her when she finally recognized one of Hoov’s people. The giant mantis-like alien was moving. Writhing. Fighting off…

Kelen blinked, unable to believe what she was seeing. Little creatures. Little fuzzy creatures the color of honey. They were swarming the big alien.

No, they were trying to swarm the Hoov creature, biting the big alien until it bled blue-black blood, but they weren’t being successful. The Hoov alien snapped at them. Those furry creatures it managed to grab in its mouth it swallowed, alive and whole. It held more of the little fuzzies in its clawed grasp, squeezing its attackers until they burst. The little screams came from the honey-gold furries as they died.

The Hoov creature screeched when a furry thing managed to reach the back of its neck. The insect-like alien threw an appendage behind its head in an attempt to get at the little being. In the process, it turned. The big creature paused in shock when it spotted her lying on the floor. Opening its mouth, it let out a loud howl and started toward her.


Somehow she managed to call out. Somehow her hands rose up as if to ward off the creature who had every intent of killing her and eating her alive, the way it had killed and eaten the big furry thing up in the temple. The way it had killed and eaten Tojun.

Something bumped her nose. Kelen stared in groggy amazement at the blaster clutched in her undamaged hand.

The creature hurried toward her, no longer mindful of the little things that continued to cling to it. That continued to fight it, to bite it, and to overcome it.

Her vision fogged over, but the Hoov creature loomed before her like a rising wall, blocking out the light. Years ago, when she was a cadet in the space military, she’d been teased about her low scores on the gun range. The term “couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn” had been frequently thrown at her, until she buckled down and perfected her marksmanship. This creature was bigger than a barn, and closer. And there was no way she was going to let it feast on her.

Kelen fired, holding down the firing button. The weapon spewed a wide stream of energy. It caught the Hoov creature at chest level. The creature halted in shock, its mouth opened but no further sound came out. Within seconds the alien exploded, spraying body parts and gore in all directions. Noxious fluid spewed over her. The furry creatures which had been clinging to it stopped moving.

She tried to see if any other of the big aliens were in the room, but things were getting darker. And colder. If more came to attack the fuzzies, there would be no way she could defend herself against them or the furry things. Not again. Not anymore.

She couldn’t feel her hand. Her fingers were numb. The blaster fell onto the floor with a rattle. Closing her eyes, Kelen tilted her head to the side and rested her cheek on the icy floor. With the Hoov creature dead, she was left at the mercy of the furries.

Death by furries.

It could almost be funny if she wasn’t so damn tired. And freezing to death.