Leesa was not a brave person. She stood barely five foot, four inches, she had brown hair, brown eyes, and she would have brown skin, if she ever actually went into the sun. She was not fat, but nobody would ever call her ‘sylph-like’, sturdy was more often used to describe her. Short, sturdy and brown…that was Leesa.
She was nothing like her ‘brother’ Danald and her ‘sister’ Judeth. They were the other clones in her particular batch and they felt that strange sibling bond to each other. Though they shared nothing, not even one gene, only the machinery that created and grew them to adulthood at the same time. But Leesa, she was more timid than almost anyone else she knew. She sometimes wondered if there had been a flaw in her memory imprinting, taking her courage and giving a double dose to her ‘brother’.
What Leesa was, she was a cook. A simple, lowly cook working in the OWON Council’s private kitchen. What the OWON Council wanted from their cook, the OWON Council got, or she would be replaced with someone else who could do a better job. Since there were always new clones coming out of the cloning center, that was not an empty threat. But she was good at what she did and proud of her skills. Except now when word had come down that they wanted a special treat, and there was nobody but Leesa to make it happen.
She put on the light armor that Danald had given her, more as a joke than anything, and the pistol. At the last moment she added the survival knife. Since Danald had made sure she knew how to use from the Training Card Library, she might as well use it, right? She left her little house and checked both ways before stepping into the street. You could never be too careful with wild drivers in the city. They seemed to delight in getting as close to hitting someone as possible, without actually doing it, most of the time.
Once she was sure that it was safe, she walked briskly to the gates and left the town. The area around the walls was more or less ‘peaceful’ at least that’s what Danald said. Then again, Danald liked to hunt Lesoo with only a knife, so she took that assurance with a very large grain of salt. Ducks…that’s what the Council wanted for their banquet that week. Well, she knew they were not really ‘ducks’, not the way they used to be back on Earth. But since she’d never actually seen a real ‘duck’ she accepted the scientists’ word that they filled the same ecological spot. They were tasty as well, so everybody just called them ducks.
Leesa knew she was letting her mind wander because she was afraid, she also knew that not paying attention out here would get her hurt or killed. She really didn’t want to go back to the cloning center and have them all laugh at her for being killed on a duck hunt. So she took a deep breath, checked her pistol once more, and walked into the trees, looking for a pond, with ducks, for the banquet.
Hours later, she knew she was in trouble. She’d found a pond all right, but no ducks. The small pond could have legitimately been called a puddle, she thought. So she had followed the stream that fed it to another pond, and another, and yet another. The farther from the city she got, the bigger the ponds seemed to get. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Eventually she’d heard some ducks far away and saw them flying overhead. Though she was tired, she started running in the direction she’d seen them go since they were flying low. They had to be landing somewhere close, right?
But then the trees got in the way, and she got turned around, and no matter which way she went, she couldn’t figure out where she was. Go downhill to water…well, there was no uphill or downhill, not really. Keep track of the sun so you can go west…well, great, but the sun was hidden by the trees, not even a bright spot to tell her which way was what. She cursed her habit of leaving her pda at home. It probably would have been able to tell her exactly where she was, and what the time was, and temperature and how many ducks were in the area…if she’d been smart enough to bring it.
Suddenly, a chill crept over her. Leesa turned around and tried to figure out why she was suddenly so nervous and scared, on top of being tired and lost. Then it dawned on her, the little bugs had stopped making noise, so had the birds and even the wind seemed to have died down. This was not good, not good at all. She was timid, not stupid, she knew something was out there, something that was getting closer, and that something was probably going to see her as a tasty snack.
Running as fast as she could, Leesa tried to follow the faint curves of the land, downhill, downhill, when in doubt go down hill. She’d have given a lot to find a real hill so she would know she was actually doing the right thing. She saw a patch of brighter forest and headed towards that, praying for a town, a house, anything that would protect her from whatever it was making noises in the brush behind her. No luck, no house, nothing but a clearing with a pond and…ducks. She almost laughed, if she’d been any less out of breath she probably would have, but the creature was getting closer and she’d better pay attention before she got dead.
Leesa went over to the pond and climbed on a rock she found there, not a big rock, but flat enough to stand on and tall enough to let her fool herself into feeling safe. She turned to the forest and waited, panting and sweating and swearing at herself for getting into this mess. The forest was dark, the sun was bright, and the breeze cooled her...almost too much. She tried to convince herself she was shivering from the wind, but she couldn’t lie to herself, at least not that much.
Just as she started to think that the creature had given up and went to look for dinner somewhere else, a big, black figure burst from the trees. She never even got a good look at it because it was too fast. She didn’t even try to aim her pistol, just firing over and over again in the beast’s direction. She never knew if she hit it before it hit her. Taking her off the rock and backwards into the pond. The last thing she remembered was trying to breathe underwater and the weight of the beast on top of her, then everything went grey, and then black.
She woke up in the cloning center’s recovery unit. Danald stood there, tapping his foot and waiting for the cloning technicians to finish removing her from the unit. Leesa knew that expression, she was in for a scolding, if not an outright temper tantrum from him. As the unit released her, she heard the words she’d been dreading. One of the technicians turned to the other and said ‘Duck hunt’ and then snickered.
Leesa flushed bright red and accepted a technician’s hand to climb out of the cloning unit. She pulled a robe on and turned to face Danald. This was not going to be fun, Danald had quite a way with insults and swearing when he got himself going.
“Leesa…” he started, but she put up a hand to stop him.
“I know, I know. I should have waited for you, I should have gotten one of the other hunters to do it, I shouldn’t have gone out by myself, and I shouldn’t have gotten eaten. You don’t have to tell me, Danald”
“Do you know what trouble I had getting the Council to bring you back? You weren’t even on the List! I had to fill out a dozen forms, and present my case in person! Do you know what that’s like? Standing around and waiting for a few minutes of a Councilor’s time? Being sneered at for admitting you got killed on a duck hunt? The humiliation I went through for you?” Danald was well and truly pissed, he wasn’t even swearing.
“Well, it worked, didn’t it? I’m back and I’m on the List now, and when WE go track down where it happened, we’ll find the ducks and I can make the banquet a success and everybody will be happy, alright?” Leesa shivered in the cold, medicinal air of the cloning center. “Come on, I need to get dressed and YOU can show me how to take down a six legged, black…um… thing. Oh, you’ll figure it out what it was when we get back. Stop seething and let’s get this over with!”
Leesa may not be brave when facing the wilds, but she could stand up to her brother, and anyone else that snickered at her. She’d show them all, she would…as soon as she figured out how.