by Kaye Jeffreys -
Traces of web hung from a branch of one of the trees. Reece stopped his one-rider at a safe distance and searched the small island of grey-green trees in the sea of yellow-grey grasses. Rose won't be happy that a spider has moved into one of her nature projects. He'd come back later with others from the mining camp to flush it out. No one takes on a spider alone.
A cry drifted on the wind from the other side of the chaparral.
Reece unholstered his rifle and made a wide circle around the growth of trees searching it and the rippling grass. There was movement in the shadows of the low hanging branches. Spindly legs of a large spider pulled a rope of a web into the chaparral.
Thirty feet away someone fought, unseen, except for the violent shaking of grass around her.
Weren't lassoing spiders extinct? Yet one methodically hauled in its prey from the cover of the trees.
Reece climbed off his one-rider, counting on the hope that the spider could only lasso one prey at a time. He propped his rifle against his vehicle and located the scythegun under the seat. He pulled it out and fumbled at the switches. He fought to hold the cumbersome thing steady in his trembling fingers.
Slow down and do this right. He forced a steady aim.
The spider hesitated, recalculating.
Reece fired. The scythegun cracked.
A shriek ripped the air.
Then all noise and movement in the chaparral stopped except for the leaves manipulated by the wind.
Reece aimed again at the motionless spider, and waited. He listened with ears deafened by the gun's crack and spider's shriek. The wind shifted and increased though it sounded muffled in comparison to the pounding of his heart.
Collapsed in the beaten down grasses, the nomad didn't stir except for her exhausted breathing.
Reece took a step back and searched the horizon for other nomads. There were none. Very strange. He had to decide if he should help her and break one of their laws or walk away and avoid trouble. So far he knew that you don't touch them, you don't talk to them, and you aren't ever supposed to look at their females. He searched the horizon again expecting to see riders pour over the hills any second. Only wind disturbed the grass.
The webbing wrapped around the girl's ankle had rubbed it raw and bleeding. He could not walk away when a Higher Law compelled him to help.
Never looking directly at her, Reece used an old rag to protect his hand as he grasped the sticky web. He sawed through it with his knife a full two feet away from her foot. Then he stepped back.
She crawled then rose to her feet and limped away through the waves of grasses. Picking up speed to a shakey run, she disappeared over a hill never looking back.
"You're welcome." Wind whipped his words away to parts unknown.
What did he expect? A handshake, a thank you, eye contact?
Reece climbed onto his one-rider and started it up. He had to tell the others that lassoing spiders were not as extinct as they thought.