Asaki stirred, sat up. And that round head above turned to follow the
Chief Ranger's every move.
"Above ... by the finger rock ... to the right...." Dane kept his voice close
to a whisper. When he saw the sudden constriction of muscle across the
Khatkan's bare shoulders, he knew that the other had heard and
Only, if Asaki had spotted the rock ape, he did not betray his knowledge.
The Khatkan got lithely to his feet. Then one of those feet stirred Nymani
into the instant wakefulness of the wilderness-trained man.
Dane slid his hand about the bole of the tree and touched Jellico, watched
the captain's gray eyes open with a similar awareness. Asaki picked up his
needler. Weapon in hand, he whirled and fired almost in one connected
movement. It was the fastest shot Dane had ever seen...
# # # # #
"Back!" With one arm Asaki sent Jellico, his nearest neighbor, tumbling
back into the jungle. Then the Chief Ranger pumped a stream of needle
rays into the remains of the ball. A shrill, sweet humming arose as red
motes, vivid as molten copper in the sunlight, climbed on wings beating
too fast to be seen.
The debris of the nest smoked into nothing. But no needle ray could hope
to stop all the poisonous army issuing forth from it, fighting mad, to seek
any warm-blooded creature within scenting distance. The men threw
themselves into the brush, rolling in the thick mold of the vegetable decay
on the ground, rubbing its moist plaster over their bodies in frantic haste...
# # # # #
The roar of a blaster, of two blasters, drowned out the clamor of the apes
as Dane drew his fire ray, set his shoulders against a tree bole and
prepared to fight it out. He fired, saw a smaller and more nimble enemy
go down screeching. Then there were none left on their shaggy feet,
though some on the ground dragged themselves forward, still striving to
reach the men.
Dane slapped a fire-wasp from his leg. He was glad of the support of the
tree at his back as the smell of the ape's blood drenching him from chest
level down, and the mess on the ground, made his stomach churn...