The King – Chapter 16

Chapter 16.1 – Wounded

Orlen comes over the ridge of the hill. He looks down on the valley in the last rays of evening sun. The military search parties continue with flashlights shining across the landscape. Even though the valley where the battle took place was over 50 miles away the location was easily visible from the massive glow of stadium lights that had been brought in to keep the area visible at night. Turning from the glow in the distance to the groups of soldiers searching the valley Orlen remembers a news report he had heard about one of the Coalition fighters having struck a drone and crashing far from the battle site. He figures he would be lucky if he was able to stumble onto that before the military is able to. He sits down and watches the groups searching through the valley. After half an hour he notices the groups are moving at such a fast pace and in such odd numbers that they are missing small pockets of land. Orlen memorizes the search pattern calculating how long he would have to make each section without being detected.

Getting to his feet he grimaces in pain as the wound on his right side refused to heal after part of the building he had charged into had collapsed. He had pulled a large piece of cement out but was sure a piece had broken off and become lodged in his side. With several days of running since that day he could tell he had lost a considerable amount of blood and had eaten almost nothing. He makes his way down the jagged and unforgiving rock face of the hill eventually coming to a row of brush that lined a gravel road. Now down in the valley he could see it was full of bushes, stunted trees, and sparse grasses similar to the previous few valleys. He wondered when he would leave the arid landscape to more farmland or rolling grasses like he had seen previously.

At the valley floor Orlen runs as fast as possible to the first point trying to keep track of the aircraft. In just over 10 minutes He had managed to cross the two and a half mile distance to the first spot. The nearly 200 square foot triangle gave up no signs that it housed any debris from a ship. With vehicles approaching rapidly Orlen ducks behind a thicker tree that is barely taller than he is. As lights shine across the landscape he takes shallow breathes ensuring his body was out of the path.

“I told you, we got this area.” A man from a second vehicle yells out.

“The General says we didn’t.” A woman yells back.

“Look I know you just came in to replace the colonel today but we’ve been in and out of this valley eleven times in the last four days. We didn’t miss anything.” The man replies walking up to the lead vehicle.

“Listen, I don’t take orders from you. I don’t care if you searched it one million times the General says we search it again, so we will.” The woman responds, the volume of her voice dropping off indicating she was facing away from where Orlen stood. With the comment it was obvious the conversation was ended. The heavy clopping of boots against sand gives credence that the male soldier had realized it was a lost cause. Though the information the two had given him was enough to confirm his analysis of the soldiers search formation. The door of the rear vehicle slams and the two vehicles back up, the search lights on the front of the vehicle shutting off. The euphoria of relief fills him as his surroundings were no longer under scrutiny. He drops to his knees and hands as sweat drips from his head. The vehicles stop briefly causing a surge panic to fill him. Realizing he wouldn’t have any time to stand up and get into position again he bolts forward diving into a bush.

Thorns in the bush dig into his skin as the search lights from the military vehicles light up the bush and surrounding areas. Orlen freezes pushing the pain aside. The door opens and he can hear the sounds of footsteps approaching the area. The single steps give little clue as to who might be approaching, or who he would have to fight if seen, but he suspected it was the suspicious woman who now commanded this group of soldiers. He can see the flashlight swing around behind the tree he had been standing behind. For a second a whoosh of wings can be heard and a sound of something fleeing in the distance. The person stays still, weary that what the two vehicles had heard was really an owl or something else chasing prey. Another door from a vehicle opens.

“Come on we’ve heard other night time predators around here for a week.” The man says his voice coming through clear in the night air. Orlen was confident it was the woman who stood in front of where he hid. The woman turns to look back at the soldier. With her body blocking the light coming from the vehicle he could see the male soldier standing on the door frame with the door swung out his upper body above the roof of the vehicle. He watches as something swoops down startling him causing him to fall out of the vehicle and falling to the road. Orlen clenches his mouth stifling any laughter he wanted desperately to let out. The woman once again turns to look at the bush but gives up as the other soldier is making a considerable amount of noise as he gets up off the ground.

“Let that be a lesson to watch your surrounding betters. The captured alien soldier was seen multiple times heading this way. Be wary of everything.” She says walking to the vehicle.

“Yes, sir.” The male soldier says the embarrassment clear in his voice. Orlen listens to the vehicles back down the road absolutely sure he wouldn’t make the same mistake. Now though he knew he had been seen several times during the four day journey down to the battle site. He can see the tail lights of the vehicles heading towards the other end of the 200 feet diamond search area. He crawls out of the bush cringing as thorns tug at his skin, occasionally staying stuck to him. He slowly starts jogging to the next area as he pulls thorns out. In the distance he can see the lights from the vehicles finish a scan of the area they had stopped at. The lights go out letting Orlen know the group would be moving on. He picks up his pace hoping to get to the next area before they do.

Making it to the next area he notices the vehicles had started moving on further away from him. He ponders why they are going that way and stops paying attention to the terrain around him. The flat surface drops down a slope causing him to fall forward and roll partly down a hill. Unable to stop himself he rolls into a boulder larger then him and comes to rest in a ditch that had been eroded away from water hitting the boulder and flowing down and around it. He groans in pain as he pushes himself lightly away from the boulder.

“What the hell was that?” The voice comes through clear. The lights shine at the boulder lighting up the ground to the right and left of Orlen. The footsteps were very light but the gravel and sand floor created too much noise in the otherwise clear night to hide the footsteps. The light narrowing as the person comes closer to the boulder. Another set of footsteps suddenly kicks up shocking Orlen.

“What are you two doing?” The voice says loudly startling the two soldiers that had been advancing on the boulder.

“We heard something sir.” The voice from earlier replies.

“You heard something for 20 minutes? Is that your excuse for why you didn’t meet up with the rest of your squad at the rendezvous with sixth squad?” The man says angrily. Pulling the crude knife from the primitive sheath at his waist Orlen prepares to push himself up and fight the three people if need be. The three shuffle about but no response is uttered. Pressing gingerly against the rocky surface Orlen adjusts himself removing a rock from his side but stops as the top of the rock surface above him lights up from a flashlight shining down the hill that he had tumbled down. The group on the other side of the boulder doesn’t change positions but can be heard raising their arms to block the light shining on them.

“Are you aware site two was cleared half an hour ago? What are all of you still doing here?” A woman yells from the hill top.

“Sir, we’re rounding up everyone to move to site three.” The gruff leader replies ignoring the scolding he was giving the other two soldiers. Orlen sits utterly still afraid that anything greater then a shallow breath would create enough noise to bring those standing on top of the hill down to investigate the sound.

“Alpha and bravo squads have already moved out of the valley. The Colonel called for assistance. So what the hell are you still doing here?” The woman interrogates him.

“Sir, Alpha and Bravo are scheduled to leave search site in three zero minutes. Our primary mission is site two and three. We haven’t finished scouting of site three yet.” The man says unprepared for the onslaught from a commanding officer.

“I know because we just came from site three to find you. Move your soldiers out to site five on the double. You get to run the entire way there. Report to the Colonel immediately.”

“Yes sir.” The man replies the quick swish of air giving away the salute from the three. The light shines away from the rock and the sound of the boot steps leaving brings some relief to Orlen. A moment passes before the other three relax.

“Site five is seven miles from here.” The original soldier says.

“Get back to your squad and tell them to wait for me before leaving. Can you handle that you screw ups?” The man says reprimanding the two.

“Sir yes sir.” The two say in unison saluting the man.

“And do not get separated again. Adams is getting discharged from duty because he went off on his own a couple days ago and coyote got a hold of him.”

“He was that guy from bravo that they air lifted L.T.?” The other man asks.

“Yeah that was him. Now move.” The Lieutenant says before walking off.

“Lucky, a couple weeks in the hospital and they are going to honorable discharge him.” The louder man says.

“Nah man, I guess the coyote really tore up his leg. They say it’s a 50 50 he’ll be able to walk without a cane for the rest of his life. I’d rather do this then risk that shit.” The quiet one says as the two walk away from the spot.

“Yeah, tough break I guess.” The loud one responds at the edge of Orlen’s hearing. Orlen groans again as he pushes himself upright, rocks and sand falling away from the dents they had made in his arm and side. He moves around the boulder seeing the larger groups of soldiers heading away. He mentally counts each of the positions he had noticed and hopes he can check the third and fourth spots before the group is able to. Orlen takes a couple steps away from the boulder before sharp pains shoot through his side causing him to fall to his knees and hands. He pulls the crude cloth bandage from his side seeing it nearly soaked in his blood from hitting the boulder and having several rocks jammed into it. He discards the cloth and pulls another rag from a back pocket and puts it into the belt that was around his body and cinches it tighter. He groans a bit, a tear streaming down his face.

He breathes heavily a few times regaining his composure before standing up and continuing his jog towards the next site. He covers the two and a half miles to the third site and is happy to find it empty of soldiers. He desperately searches the area but the darkness of the night swallowed up most of the details of his surroundings. Much of the animal and insect life paid him little attention as they went about their normal activities. Coming towards the center of the area the trees and bushes become wilted, what insects that had been there littered the ground dead. In the distance a small red glow seems to come from the ground.

“I thought I saw something.” The woman’s voice comes through. The voice scares Orlen causing him to bolt behind the nearest tree.

“I heard something, but it could be a coyote. We have scared a few of them today.” A male soldier says. The two soldiers continue walking towards where Orlen was hiding. The two stop a few feet in front of the tree listening intently.

“Holy shit do you see that light?” The man says pointing toward the red glow Orlen had noticed. Orlen bites his lip in anger as the two slowly walk towards the glow with their guns up and ready for anything. Orlen creeps out behind the tree moving closer to the two, each footstep threatening to reveal his position to the two soldiers. Orlen steps behind a closer tree but stops in time as the two soldiers spin around wildly.

“Contact 9 o clock” The woman exclaims as the two see an object after it had made a noise in the distance. The two soldiers run off to chase down what they had seen. Breathing a sigh of relief Orlen knows he must get to the light first. Peaking around the tree he can see the two running to the top of a ridge. Looking over at the red glow he pushes himself to a sprinting pace to reach the site before the two come back over the hill and see him there. The small glow never gets much brighter as he skids to a stop over a three foot crater. Stepping down into the crater Orlen’s face is lit up by the red glow as he stares at the side of a piece of metal imbedded in the side of the crater. He scans from right to left of the metal piece seeing it attached to other pieces that are dug into the ground. He clears away the right side causing large amounts of sand and rocks to slide down against his feet. An emergency latch comes into sight as more of ground slides down into the base of the crater.

The sight of the emergency latch causes some hope that he had found the downed fighter but as he looks at the crater he realizes it was too small to include the whole fighter and the assembly would likely be with a larger piece if it survived at all. He hits the latch and pulls with all his might causing the four foot long metal cover to move out and upward displacing a large amounts of rocks and sand with it from the side of the crater. With the panel fully open it locks into place. Orlen ducks underneath the panel and begins pulling out medical supplies and rations and stuffing them into pockets on the pants he had stolen. He pauses grabbing the visor in the top of the supplies and putting it on. The visor waits for a command sequence but Orlen freezes as he hears rocks and sand sliding.

Jumping out from underneath the panel he goes to stand up seeing the legs that are standing to the side of him. As he moves his eyes up the legs he sees the end of the gun swinging down to hit him in the head. He is barely able to move out of the way, the gun swinging right in front of his face. Without a chance to grab a weapon he springs forward hitting the soldier in the chest. He can hear the man gasp as his lungs exhale the air and desperately try to bring in more air. Not wasting time he punches the man in the stomach forcing the air back out of the man’s lungs starving his brain of oxygen. The soldier collapses, unconscious from the two hit combo.

As the soldier lays unconscious the other soldier comes skidding to a stop. Seeing Orlen standing there over the other solder she raises her gun and opens fire. Orlen dodges down into the crater and beneath the metal panel. The 30 rounds from the soldier’s rifle empty quickly but is unable to penetrate the armor from the coalition ship. Orlen hits a button at the base of the panel activating the emergency release sequence. The hinges on panel release right as Orlen hears the magazine from the soldier’s rifle hit the ground. She rams the new magazine into the rifle, pulling the charging handle and pulls the trigger again the rifle spits out more rounds into the metal panel causing it to shift a bit. Orlen swings the panel up knocking her gun to the right spraying her remaining bullets into the dirt.

Orlen pushes the panel away as he grabs midway up the rifle to keep it to the left of him while it empties itself. As the gun clicks empty Orlen lunges forward to hit the soldier. She dodges the punch instantly letting go of the rifle. She lunges forward kneeing him in the right side close to his wound causing pain to shoot through his body. Letting go of the gun he drops to a knee, his hand blocking another kick and punch from the soldier. The display confused her but she wouldn’t let Orlen get away. Continuing with a left downward hook she hopes to knock him out with one strike but the agility and strength of the Eiris exceeded human levels allowing him to tip back dodging the strike and countering with his own punch before she can do anything about it.

The hit connects sending her backwards. She is able to block and dodge the next two punches, but now on the defensive her momentum is lost. She tries to counter the next punch with a punch of her own but instead she misses Orlen’s knee to her side. A repayment from the first knee she had delivered to him. She flinches in pain, the unconscious act seals the fight against her as the next punch sends her head reeling backwards, pain filling her mind. Trying to bring her sight back to her opponent she is only able to see his fist coming her way. The hit lands on her left jaw. Her head reverberates from the hit rendering her unconscious.

 

Chapter 16.2 – Humanity

Waking up he can see the brown wood rafters above him. For a few seconds his memory is foggy as to where he is or why he’s there. Jolting up he realizes he might not be in a good area. He feels the blanket slide down his arms and come to a rest on his legs. The mound of hay underneath Orlen crackles a bit from the sudden redistribution of his weight. His waist hurts lightly. He looks down at his right side seeing the fresh bandage over the wound. He looks around confused but recognizes the door and wall of the barn from the previous night. After running for several hours and draining a battery pack from the micro stealth field he had come around the wall of the barn to see a boy taking in two heavy metal pails into a house. The boy stops to look at the sound and stares at him. Orlen leaned against the wall, blood pouring out of his wound. As he walked toward the boy a man had walked out of the house door coming to stand between the boy and Orlen.

He orders the boy into the house standing there staring at Orlen. He remembers his vision began to fade as the man told him they wanted no trouble and that he could be on his way, but Orlen had trouble thinking about anything other than translating what the man was saying and must have passed out shortly after that. Now in the barn he can see the morning light shining on the wall become partially obscured for a moment. Spinning his head to look at the window the light is coming from he can see a girl dart away from the glass. The act seemed slightly odd and for a split second reminding him of his early years with his friends watching the soldiers at the local recruitment posts. The sound of talking is muffled but Orlen can make out what he believes is the voice of the older man from the previous night.

The barn door slides open giving just enough room for the man to get through. Some of the horse’s nay in the back of the barn. Orlen goes to reach for his hip but realizes he has nothing to defend himself with if this man attempted to hurt him. Suddenly thinking about more than training he realizes he could have easily been killed at any point. The man holds up his hand as if wanting to calm Orlen down. He recognizes what the man is doing but doesn’t make a motion of understanding. He stares at the man as he takes a step in and shuts the door. He hunches down as the face of the boy and girl pop up in the window to look in the two. It was obvious they were whispering something between each other. The man follows the gaze of Orlen to the window looking disapprovingly at the two.

“My children, they don’t follow my orders some times. I don’t mean you any harm.” The man says looking back at Orlen, but stopping with a sigh looking a bit unhappy. “I doubt you even understand me.” Orlen looks down wondering if it would be a good idea to reply or not, but believes at this point in his condition that he has little to lose from it.

“I do.” He replies. The man is startled by the reply.

“How do you know how to speak our language?”

“As part of my mission your language was imprinted in my memory if I was ever deployed in a situation.” Orlen stops realizing if he mentioned specifics of the situation that any support from this family would end immediately.

“I suspect that sentence was not going to end well.” The man says, obviously conflicted with something on his mind. The two children can be heard running away from the barn towards the house and another voice with a higher pitch yelling out.

“Joe front door!” the voice yells, it obviously from an older woman then the one in the window. The man looks at Orlen.

“Stay here.” He says getting to his feet and opening the door back up and walking out, shutting it behind him. Orlen becomes nervous at the tone Joe had used. He goes to stand but the wound still hurt him, he slowly moves himself to the wall with the window and uses the cross beams on the wall to hoist himself up to the window. Peering out with just one eye he can see Joe walking around the side of the house to be greeted by two military personnel walking toward the barn. Orlen panics a bit but shock takes over as he can hear Joe shouting at the two.

“You have the gall to come back here, are you serious? Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Joe shouts at the stern woman Orlen remembers seeing from the previous night and the other officer that he assumes was the one that fell out of the vehicle. The two officers talk with Joe but are too far away for Orlen to make out what they are saying.

“Oh sure, just search my barn again, for the fourth time in three days. While you’re at it you clowns can let out the rest of my horses, because everything else you’ve done to ruin me isn’t good enough? Hey Barbara, call the sheriff up, tell him to get down here.” Joe responds the anger filling his voice.

“Ma’am, that won’t be necessary.” The male officer shouts out waving his hand. The female officer looks at the barn but turns to face the male soldier and Joe. Barbara stood along the back porch of the house half turned to walk to the rear door and was now looking back at Joe and the soldiers. Orlen looks back into the barn seeing the six horse stables with only three horses there. He peers back out the window to see the group of three talking more quietly. It was obvious that Joe hadn’t calmed down and now the female military officer was getting angry as well. The male officer was obviously trying to broker a peace between them but wasn’t making much head way.

“Oh just cooperate huh? How about I cooperate when you clowns replace half my herd of cows, half my horses, the nearly 10 acres of grass land your vehicles and soldiers ripped up and my fencing which looks like fffff swiss cheese.” Joe replies obviously going to use stronger language but saw his children looking out at the group. Looking back he yells to the woman at the back door. “Hey Barbara, can you make sure the kids are working on their homework?” Barbara nods with a smile and walks back into the house. The female officer goes to say something else but Joe lays into the two military officers again.

“And while we’re on the topic of the federal government screwing me over again. If your missing alien or whatever is wounded, he’s coyote food, just like my god damn cows. I’m sure you met Mr. Lapis up the road, his twelve year old son was attacked and killed by a pack of coyotes just last year because you won’t let any of us hunt down the over populated menace. Way I heard it, you’ve even had a few of your own men attacked, which is why I lost my fucking herding dog when one of you yokels shot him!” Joe was now shouting at the top of his lungs at the two seething with anger. He continues with a slightly calmer tone. “I guess I was lucky that it wasn’t one of my children that surprised your trigger happy bunch.” The woman turns and sees a car in the distance and begins to walk back to her vehicle. The other male soldier smiles a bit and talks some more with Joe trying to ease some of the anger of the situation. He walks back to the military vehicle as the other car stops behind the two military trucks. The police officer gets out and begins talking with the two military officers while Joe stands where he had shouted at the two.

The female officer looks unhappy but the two get into the vehicles and drive off. The police officer shakes his head a bit and walks towards Joe as he walks towards the officer. The two talk for a few minutes but eventually the officer walks back to his car. The two wave before the officer speeds off. Orlen moves back to where he had been as Joe begins to walk back to the barn. The door opens and Joe steps back in.

“You didn’t sound too happy.” Orlen says to Joe.

“I’ve had a lot of anger stored up. I guess you just gave me the reason to let it all out.”

“Why did you protect me?”

“Just the way my father brought me up. He was like you once. Shot down in enemy territory, a captive by enemy forces. He got lucky, like you I guess. Instead of being tortured and eventually killed by his captors, like so many who were in that war. He managed to escape the primitive prison he was kept in because the soldier who ran it had some morals.” Joe says leaning against the door way.

“Even though you know I would have done terrible things?” Orlen says looking down at the hay and ground.

“My father piloted a bomber that leveled a town of civilian’s because he was ordered to, hundreds of families gone in just a moment of his time. My race has committed no less atrocities then what you are said to have done. We try to move past those, at least most of us do.” Joe replies. Orlen looks down at his hands. Joe chuckles a bit and continues “Of course my father wouldn’t be too happy with the way I talked to those soldiers, but he’d be proud I stood up for what I believed.” He stops looking at Orlen as he looks down at his hands and continues. “Surely you have family waiting for you to go back to?” Orlen chuckles for a second.

“My parents were career military. I wasn’t born until after they had retired, late in life. My assignment, which they pushed me to try for is 50 cycles long. Stuck in, um, how would you call it, cold induced suspension of life?” Orlen says, causing Joe to nod a bit.

“Cryogenic suspension or freezing we call it. It’s only theory on our planet. 50 years is a long time.” Joe says.

“50 cycles is our measurement similar to your years, but a cycle is about one and a third of your years, so 50 cycles is closer to 70 of your years. My parents are almost certainly dead. Their brothers and sisters died early in their careers, so I have no uncles, aunts, no cousin’s as you call them. I am the last of my line.”

“Why take such a job, when they knew they’d likely be missing out on so much time away from you?” Joe asks a bit mortified imagining such a choice.

“In peace it is nearly impossible to be promoted to an officer rank. I joined after a great unrest in the ranks of our military, fresh young cadets moved into ranked spots, likely to never leave in my lifetime as a soldier. My physical form was the one thing in my early years that exceeded, and I had little chance of engaging in any other profession then the military. I could be a mercenary or try for a spot like this every couple years till I got in. Mercenaries are often spit on by the military, and my parents might scorn me if I took that route. When you get done with your duty of 50 cycles you are promoted anywhere from two to five ranks which would allow me to enter command training and compete for fleet general positions. A nice dream my parents never had the opportunity to do.” Orlen explains.

“So they wouldn’t let you pass up the opportunity that they were never given but wanted themselves.” Joe says understanding exactly the torturous thoughts they would have gone through. He looks out of the door at the top windows of his house where his kids should be doing their homework. Orlen looks over, seeing the tears welling up in his eyes. Breaking the train of thought Joe sees his wife in the window and waves for her. He turns back around to look at Orlen sitting there. “Your bandage will need to be replaced. I’d give you some hot food but I barely know half of what is toxic to my own animals, I couldn’t imagine what is poisonous to your people or why.” Joe says as the sounds of the woman’s footsteps approach.

“I appreciate the gesture.” Orlen says as he stops and see’s the white rock Barbara hands to Joe.

“This is what we pulled out of your side. I suspect it’s a fragment of a building or street from the fight.” Joe says handing it over to Orlen.

“It’s a piece of the building that collapsed as I escaped in one of your towns. It was part of a bigger piece that I had to pull out. I wasn’t able to remove that on my own. I lost consciousness when I tried to pull it out and I suspect nearly a full day passed before I woke.”

“So you were one of the original people.” Joe says as Orlen nods.

“Please lift your arm.” Barbara instructs as she walks around to kneel to the right of Orlen. Her voice was soft yet had a confident tone to it that both reassured him yet also shocked him. He turned and watched her as she deftly pulled the old bandage off with ease and complete lack of pain, applying the new one quickly. Orlen studied her face, her features showing a soft and gentleness he hadn’t expected. With but a second longer and she was out of the barn.

“She is a good woman, better than I could have ever hoped to have found.”

“She is very beautiful, and her tone gives off an inner strength that is often sought after in my society.”

“Thank you, I would go through anything for her.” Joe says looking back at her as she enters the house. Orlen looks at him studying his face. He can recognize the same look his own father displayed looking over at his own wife.

“I hate to say it but what I yelled earlier about with the cattle and horses are true. I have to take one of the horses out and try to find them if I can and bring them back. You don’t have to worry, I won’t stray too far from the house in case the military comes back, but you’ll have to sit out here most of the time by yourself.” Joe says. Orlen nods accepting it all.

“I have sent a distress call. I will hopefully be picked up shortly after the sunlight can no longer reach this area.” Orlen says. Joe chuckles lightly.

“After sun down, that’s a few hours away.” Joe says turning to walk out of the barn but stops and arches back to look in the barn at Orlen before continuing. “On the topic of poisonous, we do get scorpions, ants, spiders, and various bees and wasps. All of which have killed out here. If I was you and had no idea what any of those are, assume anything small can kill you. The smaller the scorpion and spider are the more likely they are to be able to kill you.” Joe finishes before continuing to walk to the house. The words put a proper paranoia into Orlen. Plant and animal life was often one of the first things that is cataloged when a planet is set for extensive quarantine and monitoring, but his brain contained nothing about this world ecology and only a few of the languages. Perhaps this was something he would have to bring up with his superiors.

He looks down at the visor sitting next to the ripped shirt on the ground next to several meal rations. Moving his hand down towards the visor it lights up showing the same transmission confirmation he had received the previous night. He moves his hand over to the top ration seeing a small bug walking towards it. Uncertain of what anything was he picks up the ration quickly inspecting to insure no other things might be crawling on it. He cracks the top of the ration pulling out one of the seven inch bars slowly nibbling on it savoring the taste of it, realizing he had never tasted a more delicious ration before. The one he had quickly eaten the previous night had been the first bit of food he had eaten in eight days on the planet and had been so fast that he barely remembered tasting it. The food had provided him a boost of energy but not something he had bothered to really savor. The food brings a slight rush of euphoria as his body desperately needed sustenance.  He sits there eating the ration, pondering the discussion he had with Joe.