I heard movement just before the attack. As a tank, you have to learn how to anticipate everything the attacker will do in order to avoid or block it. I, however, was out of practice. Being in stasis on a ship for long periods of time, crash landing on a planet, and smoke inhalation will do that to a person. He rushed me, clawing at my back. I moved to sidestep the attack, but I was too late and tumbled down the hill towards the water. Trying to catch myself before I fell in, I slid to a stop right at the edge, rocks and dirt falling past me to splash in the water.
I turned to defend myself, but quickly realized that I was unarmed and had no armor. It was all in storage when the ship crashed. Who knew where it ended up? As my attacker ran towards me again, I ran to my left and up the hill a little. As he ran, he let out a deafening screech, making me stumble and hurry to cover my ears. He was quickly closing the gap between us, but I was faster. I saw a tree branch lying nearby, which I grabbed as soon as he stopped screeching. I swung around and brought the temporary weapon down hard, right between his antlers, splintering the wood.
His skull was apparently thicker than I thought, because all I did was manage to make him angrier, and give him a small cut. He tackled me, pinning me to the ground. He started clawing at me, which I had to block with my arms, getting cuts all over them. When he pulled back, I quickly grabbed a nearby rock and smacked him in the face. He leaned towards my face, trying to bite me, but I stuck my left arm in front of his beak. He bit hard, but I was in a fight to the death, so I didn’t care. There was so much adrenalin coursing through me that the pain was almost non-existent.
As he came down to bite me again, I again blocked, but this time I grabbed an antler with my free hand. I twisted his head around, spinning him off of me, and then broke the antler off with a swift kick to his head. While he laid there, trying to get up, I thrust the antler into his chest as hard as I could. He quickly stopped moving. I stood up, breathing heavily, blood dripping down my arms and torso, looking down at the lifeless bird, when the adrenalin stopped working. The pain was quickly unbearable and I collapsed next to the bird.
I awoke several hours later in the medical building up the hill, with my back, chest, and arms all bandaged up. I was still in a lot of pain and passed out again. I woke up again that evening. The pain had lessened quite a bit, but I knew I’d be bandaged up for a while still. I slowly stood up and made my way out back where I found Vindicator Aldar staring off into the distance.
“Hello Aldar,” I said, walking up behind him.
“Hello Kaat, how are you feeling after that attack?”
“I’ve survived worse.”
“Haven’t we all… I bet you’d like to know what happened out there, why that thing attacked you?”
“Things need a reason to attack me now? I thought I just naturally pissed everything off?”
“Oh, come now, you’re not that bad. One of the power core crystals landed in that lake, poisoning the water supply. The birds who drank from the water quickly became enraged and will attack anyone who approaches. We can’t help them though, so we’ll have to kill them before they cause any more harm.”
“Kill them all? I’m ready, just give me a good weapon and some armor,” I said, thrusting my right hand into the air, then quickly realizing my mistake as pain shot through my side. I tried not to show my pain, but Aldar saw right through me.
“Yeah, not happening in your condition.”
“But… damn it, you’re right.”
“You do get to help though. You get to inoculate the birds who haven’t drank the water, so it will be safe for them.”
“Really? One of them just attacked me, almost killing me, and you want me to help you keep them alive? Are you joking?!”
“Aghh,” I said, turning to walk away in disgust.
“No,” he said, grabbing my shoulder and pulling me back towards him, “but, they’re not normally like that. We’ve been observing them and interacting with the healthy ones. They seem to understand what we are trying to do, and have been helping bring back our survivors that landed near their area. They figured out that the water is bad and haven’t let any more of their kind drink from it. They seem to be a fairly smart species, and we’re not going to let you eradicate them on a personal vendetta.”
“All right, but if you get me killed, I will kill you.”
“You’ll be fine, you’re too much of a pain in the ass to die.”