Zana sprints around Planet Kaddasm’s rough terrain in perpetual darkness with great ease. Her large, light-sensing eyes give her night vision, and her cold-blooded body allows her to thrive on the frigid planet. She veers left and right, maneuvering through the tree groves without effort.

Zana searches for volboar, creatures that run amok on Planet Kaddasm. The four-legged, wild animal is a favorite source of protein for her species. Keeping a watchful eye out for her safety during the hunting mission is Layland, her defender. Hunting missions generally include two bowmen, and two to three defenders. However, Zana is the Darking Tribe’s most skillful archer, and Layland is, by far, their top defender, making them the only duo hunting team. 

Layland keeps pace with Zana while maintaining a vigilant eye for the dangerous brulion creatures. The fast-running beasts have long, sharp fangs, and their claws can rip through the humanoid’s purple-tinged, thick skin without difficulty. He also watches for the savage tribesmen from Beastville, the greatest threat to the Darking Tribe.

Zana approaches another sizable grove. Through the darkness, she spots the phosphorescent specks splattered throughout each tree. The flecks of light on the trunks and branches blend with the stars shining from above. She slips her crossbow over her shoulder to rest upon her back, then forces a thick and sticky gel to discharge from the pores in her hands and feet. She latches onto a tree, and climbs with ease.

“Come on, Layland. Let’s go to the top and have a peek into the darkened valley.”

Layland surveys the area before shifting his longbow to his back. The thick substance seeps from his pores on command, and he joins Zana in the tree.

“Ya know, Zana,” Layland begins. “You could make my job a bit easier if you’d reel in some of your impulsive behaviors.” He sighs and tilts his head upward toward Zana.

“Oh, quit whining. Your skills are unparalleled because of me.”

Layland releases a mirthless laugh. “How do you figure that?”

Zana stops climbing and looks down the trunk toward Layland. “Well, if I didn’t keep you on your toes all the time, you wouldn’t have tons of experience.”

“Is that so?” His eyes widen and his purple-tinged skin turns a shade darker.

Zana shrugs her shoulders and resumes the climb. “You’re welcome.”

A descending fireball draws their attention upward. Zana ceases her climb, and gazes at the falling object on a collision course for the distant mountains. Layland releases gel from his inner thighs, then squeezes the tree with his legs to free his hands. He snatches the longbow from his back and takes aim in the direction of the mysterious item. 

Moments later, the fiery object crashes into Kaddasm’s mountainside. The explosion lights up the otherwise dark-filled woodlands.

“Whoa!” Zana shouts. Her mouth hangs open and her large eyes twinkle. “Let’s go check it out!” 

“No, Zana. To get to that mountainside, we’d have to go through areas safeguarded by Beastville.”

Zana gives half a shrug. “So? That’s what you’re here for.”

“No, I’m here to protect you while you hunt–not to help you enter enemy territory.”

“Ok, fine. I’ll go by myself.” She scowls at him, then looks the other way.

“Damn it, Zana.” Layland sighs, then points a purple-tinged finger at her. “Fine, but you better stay close to me!”

Zana’s face lights up, and she winks at Layland. She retracts her gel, then dives into a nearby tree, latching on with ease before descending.

“Seriously? You couldn’t wait until I climbed down first?” He grumbles, then hurries down the trunk.

Back on the ground, Zana and Layland ready their bows and head toward the crash site. They move with caution through the darkness. Critters scurry in and out of shrubs, keeping Layland on high alert. His keen sense of hearing is quick to discern the difference between noise and movement from a harmless animal than that of a possible enemy. He remains poised and walks with his weapon at the ready as they approach Beastville’s domain. 

Phosphorescent speckles in distant groves reveal the safest path to travel. Nearby bushes rustle, and Layland shifts his gaze toward the right. He releases an arrow, and it lands deep inside the chest of a Beastville Tribesman. The rival drops to the ground in silence.

Leaves crackle off to their left. Layland spins, and releases a second arrow, then a third. Two more opponents collapse without releasing a warning call.

“Damn, you’re good,” Zana whispers.

 Layland begins to crack a smile, but it vanishes and he points his bow toward Zana. 

“Duck!” He commands.

Zana stoops, then pivots for a look. A pack of drooling brulion charges toward them, revealing sharp fangs. She steps to the side to clear a path for Layland before taking aim with her bow. Layland pops off arrow after arrow, taking out five hungry beasts, while Zana kills three. One remains, and sprints toward her. Layland dives in front of Zana as he releases an arrow. A few feet in front of them, the vicious brulion drops and blood gushes from its head.

“Nice work, Layland,” Zana begins. “It’s too bad their meat is so gross, cuz we’d have food for weeks!” 

“Come on, let’s get moving. We still have to catch some volboar after we’re done checking out that plummeting fireball.” 

They yank their arrows out of the dead creatures and tribesmen, then continue toward the mountainside.

They arrive at the crash site and find scattered objects smoldering throughout the hillside. Clouds of smoke dance their way into their nostrils, provoking fits of coughing. One section flickers red-hot. Layland nudges Zana to stick with him, and they move closer to inspect. He scans their surroundings before allowing himself to direct his focus on the wreckage.

“It’s–it’s a metal craft of some sort,” Layland mutters. “I think it’s a sky flyer.”

“How is that possible?” Zana places her hands on her hips and furrows her brows.

“I don’t know.” He continues walking around the hillside to inspect the debris.

Zana spots an object on the ground, a few feet from Layland, so she moves closer to gain a better visual. Her eyes widen and her jaw drops open. Layland shifts his eyes to follow her stare.

“Holy shit,” Zana begins. “It’s–it’s an alien!” 

“Actually, look.” He points over her shoulder. “There were more of them. Look at the body parts. Perhaps six aliens in total.”

“But…Chieftain Kravid said aliens don’t exist.” Zana mumbles.

Layland shrugs a shoulder. “Obviously, he was wrong.” 

“It’s horrifying–yet awesome. I can’t believe a damn sky flyer with aliens landed right here, on Kaddasm!” Zana beams.

Layland bends to inspect the deceased, intact alien. “Look at its skin complexion compared to ours. It’s very pale, almost sickly looking. And its eyes are peculiar. They have color.”

“Why is it tucked inside that suit thing?”

Layland ignores her question, then tilts his head to look at the entity’s clothing. “They must speak our language. Look at the letters in the alien’s name.”

“Where do you see its name?”

“For some reason, they put it on their clothing.” Layland points to the alien’s chest. “Its name is NASA.”

“I wonder where NASA comes from, and if there’s a lot more of its kind.”

“I doubt it,” Layland shrugs his shoulders. “Look at the size of their sky flyer. It’s pretty small. If the species were substantial, their machine would be much larger, and it would be filled with a lot more of their kind.”

“You’re probably right.” Zana crosses her arms over her chest and gazes at the mysterious being.

“Let’s keep this between us,” Layland begins. “If we share this information with the Chieftain or the tribe, they’ll think we’re crazy. They may not let us hunt alone anymore.”

“Good point.” Zana raises a pinched thumb and forefinger to her lips, then slides them across. “Knowledge of these ugly creatures won’t leave my mouth. Now come on, let’s head back to our territory and kill a few volboar for dinner.”