| The Pern ship slipped into orbit around the large, heavy gravity world. The planet was not on any known star chart, and was a smooth blue and green sphere. It was unmarred by any mountains or even hills, due to its extreme gravity. At the helm of the spacecraft was Prell, the Captain. Like all Pern he was huge, heavily muscled, and hairless with a thick skin resembling an extinct Earth creature known as a Rhino. Standing close to three meters in height, and weighing in at over four hundred kilograms, he was an averaged sized male.
At the communication stations was Brillya. She, like all the females of her species towered above most Pern males by a meter, and was heavier by at least a hundred kilograms. They could be differentiated from the males, not only by their greater size, but by a large crest across their heads that became engorged with blood and bright red when they were in their mating cycle. Prell, noting the color of Brillya’s crest, made a mental note to review her work performance in private later in the day.
The Pern as a race were known not only for their incredible strength, but for their extreme cruelty and nasty disposition. They were an intelligent species, roaming the galaxy and capturing other humanoids, which were then sold as slaves in the markets of Braxus and Septar Prime.
“Captain, I’m picking up multiple signs of habitation scattered throughout the northern land mass,” intoned Brillya from the communications station.
“I'm not detecting any advanced industrial capabilities.The planet is a class four, with the inhabitants in a pre-farming, hunter-gatherer stage. I am also noticing something strange,” said Brillya, hesitating.
“Well, spit it out,” growled Prell in his usual, deep, guttural voice. He was eager to beam down to the planet, and possibly face the planet’s inhabitants in personal combat. The Pern were not only slavers, but bullies, and liked to use their size and strength to push around smaller and weaker species.
“The planet seems to have large numbers of wildlife appearing to be quite formidable, but for some reason are staying clear of all the villages. Each village has an area surrounding it of over ten kilometers without any signs of significant life,” said Brillya.
“Prepare to beam down to the planet,” said Prell to Brid, his first officer.
Brid was a massive Pern male, almost as large as a female. His thick leathery, gray skin was marked with the many scars typical of Pern males in their never ending battle for mating rights and proving themselves in battle. His strength was legendary among up-and-coming young warriors. Prell had witnessed him break the neck of a charging Grizzly Bear on a planet called Earth, during a recent slaving expedition.
Prell’s thoughts were interrupted by Brillya. “Captain, scanners show the planet‘s air to have a higher oxygen, and carbon dioxide percentage than we’re used to, but its breathable. The inhabitants should do well on other planets. You will need to use gravitational compensators when you beam down. The gravitational pull at the planet’s surface is extremely high at 1.75 Terran Standard.
”Okay,” growled Captain Prell. “Let’s get us some glory, a few more scars, and some strong and healthy slaves.”
The raiding party beamed down into a clearing surrounded by squat, but massive trees with root systems growing mostly exposed along the ground. The trees grew in tight clusters to heights of fifty meters or more, around large open areas throughout the forest. Within seconds of beaming down, the glory point Prell had spoken of earlier was mute, as Brid was knocked to the ground by a huge, green and brown creature. The massive beast had a long beak full of razor-sharp teeth, and a wingspan of at least fifty meters. The predator must have silently glided down from the nearby trees. Grabbing Brid with massive talons, it moved along the ground with incredible speed to the other side of the clearing, and still carrying a struggling Brid, rapidly climbed a tree and disappeared into the foliage above.
Brid’s screams soon mercifully ended as the group warily moved forward. “Keep your eyes open, and set your weapons to high stun.” Prell intoned to the remaining crew members. Prell could see the others nervously scanning the green canopy above as the raiding party moved towards the distant settlement. The huge beast that had taken Brid was an interesting evolutionary adaptation. The planets high gravity didn’t allow for birds or flying insects. The planets predators must have evolved to utilize gliding to snare prey. Prell was amazed at the power and speed of any creature that could so easily take a Pern in the prime of his life; especially one as large and powerful as Brid. Despite the extreme heat and humidity, he felt a cold chill run down his spine.
As the Pern raiding party, which now numbered six with the loss of Brid moved closer to the settlement, they engaged their personal cloaking devices. The plan was simple. They would disengage the light bending technology, which made them virtually invisible, at the edge of the settlement, stun as many inhabitants as possible, and have them beamed directly to holding cells on the ship.
Moving slowly into what at first appeared to be an abandoned settlement, they came to the edge of a clearing, and came upon what Prell could only describe as a training site for warriors. The clearing was filled with dozens of chattering creatures that seemed to be in perpetual motion. They vocalized in a series of words and clicks, as well as a barely audible, high pitched sound that Brillya on the ship above was analyzing.
The planets inhabitants were bipedal, but had a flexible spine allowing them to move across the ground on all fours. They moved at incredible speeds, propelled by massive haunches and short, thick, heavily muscled arms. Their wide feet and six-fingered hands were tipped with four-inch, razor-sharp retractable claws. The warriors were using the talons to climb twenty meter poles interspersed among the clearing. The creatures themselves were no more than one and a half meters in height, but were just as wide. They were obviously, enormously powerful as they moved massive blocks of wood, and chased each other at speeds surpassing one-hundred kilometers per hour.
At the far side of the clearing, on a raised platform stood one of the creatures. It seemed to be scanning the warriors below with a watchful and intense gaze. Every once in awhile it would bark out a few sounds in a deep guttural voice at one of the warriors. The huge creature must have been a female due to her large size. She was at least four times the size of the others gathered in the clearing.
As the raid began, some unexpected things happened. The female, seeing the Pern raiding party; charged, and traversed the clearing in an instant. She took two, full power stuns to the chest without slowing down, and took Kreul the new second in command’s head off with one swipe of a huge hand. Three more Pern went down in a furious attack before Prell could set his weapon to kill, and even then the female took four more direct hits before finally tumbling to the ground. As the female lay unmoving on the ground, the warriors in the clearing became even more agitated, and began to keen in a high-pitched whine which hurt Prell’s large and sensitive ears. Prell noticed he was now alone after an ensign named Wren was disemboweled while trying to hold one of the smaller struggling creatures.
“Captain, prepare to beam up,” came the urgent voice of Brillya. “I’ve managed to translate some of the creature’s language. The sound you hear is a warning signal. It seems you have walked into a daycare center for toddlers and small children. The rest of the settlements inhabitants are closing in on your position at incredible speeds.”
The last thing Captain Prell saw, was a sight capable of making even a Pern’s blood run cold as the rest of the villagers swiftly entered the clearing. He sighed in resignation, closed his eyes, and hardly felt the massive blow.