Blue Gods

She watched the dying boar.

She settled into the shadowed crook of the hill where the brook ran through the deep roots of the hemlocks. The light dappled through the needles, splotches on her visor.

The stone spear vibrated, perpendicular to the slope of the blood smeared dirt, straight through the muscled shoulder, the lungs and gut. It had missed the heart. The boar screamed again.

She felt an itch at her finger. The urge to end the suffering. A quick pulse of the heat beam and she could end it. But she wavered. Turned back to the gored hunter.

He was probably her age, or younger, tan and muscled. Bare skin save a harness of thick leather and hide, a strap for his sharp atl-latl spears. He held his ruptured stomach in with clasped fingers, watching the boar, watching the sky, her.

He had been surprised when she had burned down from above the high peaks, the white fire in her jump boots searing the limbs of the trees. She saw him tense, eyes wide as he beheld the “blue god”, sleek and bristling with machinery. He had lost more blood than she expected. He’d die in an hour or two.

He inclined his head to her, moving his lips. His eyes gestured to the rippling brook a dozen meters out of reach, beyond the throbbing pig. Water. He wanted water.

She wavered, still crouched, resting her heavy gloves on the big steel kneecaps. Then she rose and walked to the hunter, popping a latch on her belt. A hose extended from her hip. She lowered it to his lips and thumbed the release. Cool, clear liquid rained down.

“To hell with the directive,” she muttered. Watching the water rinse the man’s face, fill his cracked lips, wash away the lines of dirt sweat. She glanced at his stomach.

The wound. The tusk had pierced him through the navel and out the side. Congealed black gore glued his enlaced fingers.

She knew she could heal him in minutes with a nanobyte patch, but that was far beyond the initial infraction. Water for a dying man was one thing, employing miraculous medical technology on a native was another. Something that could severely affect the balance, the controls, the datasets.

Her HUD blinked with a few incoming messages. Queries concerning her current actions. They were watching. Field works was envisioned as fast drops, stealthy reconnaissance. Not leisurely naps in the deep woods, especially not in the vicinity of mammalian heat-signatures.

“To hell with the directive,” she said again, this time loud enough – and amplified by her helmet – for the hunter to lift his head and look at her. He muttered a stream of syllables her translation software couldn’t decipher – perhaps a prayer. His hands moved at his belly and he groaned.

She popped off the power gloves for dexterity, digging through a thigh pack for a nanobyte packet. She tore it open, the white crystals starting to glimmer.

“Give me your hands,” she said. The man was confused, and for the first time the wonder in his eyes gave way to fear. She reached down and touched his hand, sticky with black red. He fought her, struggling.

She employed the shoulder hydraulics, pinning his arm.

“This is for your own good,” she said, remembering to flip on the auto-translation. “I’m helping you.”

She pinned his other arm and his belly heaved and seeped, the thin coagulation ripped away. When she poured on the crystals he screamed.

Then the auto-opiates found their nerve receptors and he swooned into drooling bliss. The nest of messy entrails began to reassemble, writhing worms in a blood bed. She stretched a self-adhesive plastic sheet across the wounds, held the entire thing together until the skin cells began to regen.

When she had patted the tape in place, the gears in her knees whirred for her to stand. His hand suddenly on her bloodied wrist. She startled, instinctively jerking away, but he was strong. She let him hold her, his sticky fingers winding through hers.

She looked at him, the weary grey eyes. The fearsome prideful brow. He choked something out, clenching his jaw as the surge of opiates reached his brain, rendered him unconscious. Her software glitched out and she couldn’t find it in her HUD.

The boar was dead.

The spear had been a solid thrust, nearly a killing blow, but the cross hatch had splintered and the animal had run clear up the shaft, flailing its sharp tusks in its dying rage.

The hunter would be too weak to butcher it when he woke. Worse – local predators would be drawn to the scent of all the blood and make a meal of the helpless man and the pig.

But something else compelled her. A blue god would require a sacrifice. Lacking any proof of the visitation – and rescue – the hunter’s tale would be all the more ethereal, mystical.

And besides. She was craving some barbeque.

Her power gloves back on, she hefted the beast, cradling it in the crook of her arms. It probably weighed twice that of the man.

Eyeing the flashing messages in her HUD, she jumped a hundred yards downstream, then another thousand up the ridge, the fire in her boots flaring.

Atop the mountain she butchered the pig with a nanoshiv, spitted it above a themal flare. Then browsed correspondence and munched bacon.

Only much later, as she watched the sun sink into a cloudy purple haze and the celebratory campfires in the village- did she check the blinking red dot in her HUD. The translation had retried and succeeded from audio backup – the hunter’s words: “Thank You.”

She smiled until the dropships arrived.

4 Replies to “Blue Gods”

  1. Interesting, Tim. Question: do you think the morality of a highly developed race of humans would be completely different? Is that what you were saying with an individual breaking the rules? Will future peoples be more humane or less? (What I mean, the humane thing would have been to have killed the hunter. What the visitor did could be considered selfish.) What will their key attritubes be?

    What was the root for this story, the germs? In writing this, it almost reminds me of combat pieces I’ve been reading about Iraq.

    *BIG ONE: I remember one time that I told you I was going to mail you a book and you said just to tell you what book it was and you would retrieve it from the library. So instead of making myself out to be a Santa Clause, I’ll let you do the searching: Arthur C. Clarke, “Childhood’s End.” Read it last summer and it really stayed with me. Big, and sometimes frightening, ideas and concepts. Probably the most epic story I’ve ever read; but it is quite short. Your story and its ideas VERY much reminded me of it. You would love it. Been meaning to mail it for a long time but didn’t – so you get to find it yourself.

  2. I shoot again, hoping to score:

    I added a link to the news piece that there’s a good chance I had stuck in my head while reading your “Blue Gods” and the images melded together. It in itself is about intervention, the worlds that it creates.

    *By the way, interesting that the title is plural.

    A powerful story. It isn’t really a condemnation of the war or of the subpar and flippant psychological care that American soldiers are receiving and the persisting attitudes that help to create this morass of negligibility, and not only that of administrators but of the soldiers themselves. Overall, I think it is just an increbibly insightful portrait of contemporary American life.

    *You never really talk about nationality. Is that something that interests you: origin and communal attitude? I know I talk a lot about it but I suddenly can’t recall you doing so. If so, how do you relate to this issue?

  3. Richard –

    Thanks for the comments. This story was originally the intro to a longer piece. It was going to be about an advanced society that is studying a more “primitive” society for scientific research. Out in the field, they jet around in advanced blue-tinted powersuits, and have been given the title “blue gods” by the natives. Since the protagonist’s actions violated the prime directive, there was going to be a whole bit about her being punished, perhaps thrown out into the widerness without her gadgets.

    I never got around to writing that, so I figured I might as well throw this thing up here as a standalone.

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