Bob passed the next two days exploring the beach town, relaxing and sampling the local culture on Sollis. During that time, he teleported back to the train station once to ask the station manager about the next train to Earth. The manager seemed surprised at the question, but after verifying Bob's token, gave the same arrival time that Teetok had provided him earlier.
On the third day, Bob awoke early and decided to go hiking. Following the path to the waterfall, he took a fork in the trail he had seen while accompanying Teetok on their previous outing. It led him away from the waterfall, through the verdent foothills surrounding the mountain behind the town. Enjoying the wide variety of new plant and animal life along the trail, Bob walked at a leisurely pace. When something of interest caught his eye, he would ask Ally the name of the plant or animal in question. She provided a wealth of information about the local uses of the different plants and the known characteristics of the animals. Completely absorbed in the experience, Bob scarcely noticed the trail becoming narrower and more rugged.
Rounding a corner, Bob suddenly encountered a young native sitting on a boulder next to the trail. Seeing Bob, the Sollisite jumped up, pointing a sinister-looking cylindrical object at the earthman.
"Stop right there!" he ordered.
Bob stopped and held his hands wide. "Hold on, " he said. "I don't want any trouble."
Quickly approaching Bob, the native snatched Ally from his head and then gestured with his weapon, indicating Bob should continue down the path.
"Hey," Bob shouted. "Give that back!"
In response, the Sollisite pointed his gun at the ground a few feet from Bob and triggered a bright beam of light from the barrel. A small explosion ensued, leaving a blackened hole in the dirt next to the path. He then repeated the gesture with the rifle.
"Okay, okay. I get it," Bob responded.
Continuing to hold his hands away from his body, Bob started down the trail. With a rough nudge from his captor's weapon, he followed a narrow branch of the path that appeared before him. Soon, Bob began to hear voices in the distance. His captor yelled out something unintelligible and two more Sollisites appeared from the underbrush brandishing weapons. Bob felt the gun barrel push into his back again and realized he had stopped walking. With another nudge, he continued. The two other natives fell in with his captor and together, they entered an encampment.
Several dozen natives gathered around them and began talking excitedly. Looking vaguely military, the Sollisites were all dressed in the same drab green clothing from head to toe. After a few moments, a large native with a distinctive red cap approached the group and barked out a command. The rest fell silent. Bob wished he still had Ally to interpret for him as the newcomer began a conversation with his captor.
Seemingly satisfied, the red-capped native gave a few more commands and then strode away. Bob's captor motioned for Bob to move again, this time toward the far side of camp. As they walked between odd-looking tent-like structures, Bob estimated there were probably forty natives in the group. Looking ahead, he noticed what looked like a small jail cell built of straight poles set firmly in the ground and lashed tightly together.
He groaned, "You have got to be kidding me."
Leading him to the enclosure, his guards forced him inside and then secured the door. The cell was small. He couldn't stand upright in it. He couldn't lie down stretched out in it. Dejectedly, Bob sat down on the hard dirt floor with his back in the corner of the edifice and stared out at the encampment.
Copyright (C) 2017 Winslow Williams. All rights reserved.