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Section 1

For many years the Fasio pistol club offered me salvation. I had the chance to perfect my shooting, and meet good friends along the way.

Things at the club had recently become awkward, the new president wasn't Chabutian but Mellifluan, and seemed to want to reform the club into something wishy-washy. She was threatening to ban using live ammunition for goodness' sake! It was a good time to get away, and I think the situation prompted Gup's outburst.

Gup wasn't a good friend, but had been ally at the club. He was from Verduba. Everyone knows Verdubans are nice people, but Gup wasn't, and that's why i liked him. In fact, he seemed to hate Verdubans.

"We're so obliging and charitable. If only we could help ourselves instead, and stop meddling in other people's business."

I thought he might be referring to the recent incidents involving Vinicotian cannibals.

"I want to go somewhere and shoot moving targets," he said, "if we go far enough away, no-one from the club'll find out."

"A few Goatbears?" I said with a nervous laugh. I hoped had not been having darker thoughts.

"Yeah, why not?" he said, to my relief.

We went up and set our rudder east.

Goatbears, well, I didn't believe they were real. Whatever we found, I hoped it was really unique, like the tusked head of a boar. Perhaps it would be so impressive when we got it back to the club, they'd give us the presidency, and things could get back to normal.

The last thing I expected was to be fighting for our lives in the dark.


Section 2

We had a few disagreements on the way to Pin, and things came head to head.

"What are we doing? Goatbears aren't even real. Let's find something else to shoot."

"What do you mean?"

"I don't know like a herdsman or something."

I was appropriately horrified, and began to steer the ship back around.

"What are you doing?" he said angrily.

"Taking us back."

"We've come this far, you're not turning us back."

"I'm taking us back," I repeated, at which point he flung himself toward the helm, and tried to wrest the controls from my grasp.

Before long, we were in a tangle on the floor, grappling and punching wildly at one another. The ship began to plunge downward like a humpback whale. The air around us drew closer until it was murky, and all that could be seen above was the faint imprint of the egg-grey sun.

I kept swinging at his face and hitting, but they were weak efforts. He saved up his swings, but caught me hard.

So it continued, until we were both exhausted. The ship was terminally out of control, and we were helpless to stop it.


Section 3

It creaked, lurched and juddered, and then a great roar followed, as it tore through what I though was a rock face. Great clods of earth drummed on the hull, and we put our hands above our heads for protection. Finally the noise stopped, and the engines cut out. In the gloom I could only see the whites of Gup's eyes.

"Where are we?"

"Truce?" he said.

"If you want," I said.

After a few moments I saw a flicker on the periphery of the crash site. Whispering noises. Then movement. A shot rang out. Gup had fired.

"What are you doing!? I said, but he fired again. Whilst he was reloading, I saw one of the creatures come straight for us, then dart behind a boulder. They were gigantic ants, running upright on two legs. Gup hit one, and it flinched but the pistol shot ricocheted harmlessly off its carapace. There were more of them, all getting closer. I said, "Gup, I'm leaving," but he wasn't listening, he was having too much fun. I ran and ran, and didn't look back until I reached a low rise.

The last I saw of Gup, the giant ants were swarming over his body, thrusting their lance-like arms into his sides.


Section 4

My legs were caked in mud, and I was bleeding. I found a haven, a wall of dried out mud under that arced up like the crest of a wave. Ahead an aqueduct of teetered, since our ship had made a hole in it. This must have been the source of the ants consternation - if indeed they were angry at all, Gup had never given them a choice. How fascinating it might have been to converse with them, They were fearsome,, but walked on two legs much like us, and built structures much like our own.

I knew now that this was the Night Lands, where the heavy clouds rule. Barren mudflats. It has plentiful water, but little light and little growth.

After three days, I managed to get to the western coast, and to my amazement saw an unbroken line of blue sky beyond.

The brown sand was as frigid as the water. I made a fire, and clung on to the hope that someone might pass by. I unstrapped the gun and fired it at a nearby concon, whose white milk exploded. Then I made a hole in the sand, and buried the smithers of concon and my gun together, vowing never to touch so terrifying a weapon again.


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