“Hello, Legionnaire,” said a female voice on the trail Timber Wolf had walked along to get to his present position. “Welcome to my web.”
Brin Londo smiled thinly when he saw the dark-haired woman aiming a hunting rifle at his prone body. He pushed his body into the air as she fired the rifle. The narrow beam cut underneath his spinning body as he soared through the air.
The Legionnaire landed on his feet behind the huntswoman. She tried to turn to fire again, but his fist stopped that with one blow. He smashed the rifle before heading back in the direction of the lodge.
He wondered how many more wanted to put him in that trophy box. Would it make them feel good to know they bagged a Legionnaire? They weren’t getting him that easily.
Londo wondered what to do next. He could pick his foes off one at a time, but that wouldn’t get him off the planet. He needed to find their spaceship if he could or, failing that, a radio that worked. He wished he found his flight ring but realized that would have been the first thing the Huntsman Society had discarded when he was captured.
He started his hovercraft and headed out. He would try to direct the rest of the hunters into a trap. Maybe one of them knew about leaving this deathtrap. He headed deep into the woods, humming a song as he worked on the details of his plan.
Londo directed his craft away from where he had been dumped and the lodge. He wondered briefly how many were after his head. Did the successful hunter get a reward for a job well done?
A buzzing came from behind him. He glanced over a shoulder quickly. A swarm of insects filled the air behind the hovercraft. Londo pushed the throttle forward as the strange bugs flew closer with unnatural speed.
One came close enough for the Legionnaire to examine it. It was a mechanical replica of a real bug. The antennae glowed for a second before a thin slice of energy reached for his face. He jerked out of the way. The beam struck the control panel, sending a stream of sparks in the air.
Timber Wolf brought a hand around with his unnatural reflexes and slammed the bug into a passing tree. It embedded itself in the wood with a protesting whine.
Londo struggled with the hovercraft as the robotic insects closed in from behind. He spun the platform to go in the other direction. He leaped away as machines met in a crackling collision.
Timber Wolf leaped into the branches of a tree as the surviving insects began to gather again with an angry buzz.
The Legionnaire used the trees as a highway to trace his path back in the direction he came from. He heard the bugs start after him. Small slices of energy tried to cut him as he leaped from tree to tree. He needed to find who had sent the mechanical menace after him.
Londo came across his foe as he fled the swarm. A tall, skinny Malusian stood among a bunch of robotic animals. Londo glanced back to gauge how close the insects were to him.
A metallic bird took wing. Small lasers fired from the tips of its wings as it closed with Londo. The Legionnaire leaped through the blasts. He landed on the ground lightly, prepared to spring again. A gorilla with six arms rushed at him, intent on protecting its master. Londo hurtled the gorilla, leaped through another burst from the flying bird, and flipped a simulacrum of a saber-tooth tiger.
The robotics master tried to back away from the angry Timber Wolf. His animals converged on the supposed quarry. Londo leaped and flipped completely over the hunter. He threw one punch, and the animals went dead as the robotics master collapsed like a puppet with his strings cut.
The Legionnaire smiled. Maybe this one could tell him something useful.
Brin Londo disassembled the robots before their master regained his senses. No use letting him activate the things again. He wrapped a piece of metal around the fallen Huntsman to hold him in place. He slapped the robot master awake.
“Ow!” said the hunter, trying to rub his face and finding his upper body restrained.
“All I want to know is where can I get a ship to get off this planet,” stated the Legionnaire. “That’s it.”
“There’s no way,” said the hunter.
“What do you mean?” asked Londo.
“It’s automated,” said the robot master. “A ship won’t return until you have been declared killed by one of our implants.”
“You’re telling me I won’t be able to leave until one of you gets me?”
“Correct,” said the robot master. He started smiling.
“Guess who isn’t getting the win?” said Londo. He knocked the robot master out with one vicious punch.
“There has to be another way,” said the Legionnaire. “What idiot didn’t put some kind of failsafe in place in case things didn’t go as expected?”
Maybe if he beat the rest of the hunters. He immediately dismissed that idea. That was more likely to cause the pickup ship to self-destruct rather than land to carry off survivors. He had to make it look like he was dead.
He pondered the idea as he circled back toward the lodge. Maybe he could fake his death. The circumstances would have to be just right. He would have to fool the hunter and his implant to succeed. That could be easier said than done.
A whirring noise sounded from behind. The hero threw himself down out of instinct. A nearby tree exploded from an unseen impact.
What was that? Londo asked himself as he dodged behind a tall, thick tree for some kind of cover. Another projectile sailed through the air. This one he tracked and easily moved away from before it exploded.
Timber Wolf leaped behind another tree farther along. He couldn’t quite figure where the thrower was standing amidst the brown forest. Maybe this was the break he needed to get off this rock and head back to civilization. All he had to do was trick this idiot into thinking he was dead. How hard could that be?
Four of the killer lances flung themselves at Londo. He moved as quick as a snake to get beyond the range of the explosives, setting off in a fast-paced trot. He knew exactly what he was going to do if he could find the right place.
Timber Wolf moved with all of his enhanced speed. The javelins had stopped as the hunter lost his view of his target. Londo heard clothes rustling and a faint tinkling as he headed for his ambush point. Hopefully his plan would work, and he could get out of this insane mess.
Londo came to the edge of a gully that deepened as it ran to one side. All he needed now was one of those exploding spears.
“Turn around, Timber Wolf,” said the hunter. “It’s time to bring this to a close.”
“Do it!” said Londo in mock rage.
“Yes, no need for more talk,” said the hunter.
One hand pulled a javelin and threw it at the waiting Legionnaire. Brin Londo fell over the edge of the gully, spear in his side.
“Kill one hundred,” said the javelin-thrower with undisguised glee. “The others will explode over this.”
He pressed a button on the side of his targeting visor. Robotic units would come and claim the carcass for stuffing and mounting when the ship landed.
A yellow streak descended from over the horizon. The designated landing spot was at the lodge. The hunter took off in that direction as fast as his augmented legs could run. Another successful hunt to log, and everyone’s humiliation had been recorded.
Perhaps they should hunt other Legionnaires. He wondered who would make a good target. Perhaps Lightning Lass would like to join Brin Londo in the Hall of the Fallen.
The augmented hunter arrived at the lodge as the ship lowered its landing gear. A ramp extended from one side as an entrance opened. He slowed to a walk as he contemplated the successful completion of the monthly hunt.
No one else had ever run the gauntlet and survived before. Timber Wolf would have a place of honor in the trophy hall.
The Huntsman disengaged the ship’s security with a thought. After all, his only enemy had a spear buried in his chest.
A lone figure lunged from the tree line with a soft growl. It smashed into the Huntsman from behind, knocking him down easily.
“Guess who’s going in the box,” Brin Londo said as he brought a fist down on the Huntsman’s head.
Brin Londo grinned at nothing at all as he watched the vast emptiness of space slide pass his viewer. He would be home soon. That’s all that mattered. He wanted to talk to Ayla about his experience, but she was away on Legion business. Their relationship had suffered in the last few months. He wanted to put things back on an even keel.
He vowed to work on it when he got home to Earth. He would be better than he had been, even as he had been better than the Lone Wolf persona he had thought of himself at the beginning of his career.
Timber Wolf would quit the Legion if he had to to make things better between himself and Ayla Ranzz again.