Snow and smoke hid the dawn as Danal slipped out of his tent. Wind ripped at him over the vast plains. The white dunes had nearly buried his canvas home. Again. Danal grunted and poked his head back inside. “Zeresh! You need to reset camp while I check the traps!”
He resealed the flap before he had to deal with the invective. Once they got back to the Pits, he’d dump her and find a different girl to tend the camp while he busted hump to get food. Zeresh had outlived her usefulness. She knew the deal before she signed on.
He placed the goggles over his eyes and brought up the on-glass map, setting a beacon at camp. Accessing the traps he laid last night, he set course for the first of the circuit. Hopefully something bit. Meat was getting harder and harder to find. He took hold of the cords to the sled and glanced toward thed diesel. There wasn’t a day he longed to use that for his circuit, but the scent would scare any remaining prey away.
He double checked that he wore all the layers of insulation he needed from the cold, cold wind. You could never be too careful out here. All set. Time to go.
Over the snowdunes he trudged. After half an hour against the wind, sweating and freezing together, he found the rabbit he’d stuffed with a heatstick. It sat there, the little decoy, untouched. Danal shrugged; enough in the heatstick to last out the day. Maybe something would bite later.
On to the next one. Another half hour. Danal flexed his fingers every other minute. Couldn’t afford to lose any of those.
Jackpot. The net below the surface of the snow had sprung when the bear had gone for this rabbit. The electric charge had incapacitated it, too. Brown fur had turned black where the netting touched it.
Danal deactived the net with an icon on the glass of his goggles. He pulled the thick cables off his catch, spreading it nearby to avoid tangles. He admired the catch. Big bear. Big profit.
He grunted as he shoved the bear onto the sled. Things were always heavier than he thought they should be.
The roar was louder than the wind.
He rolled down and away from the swipe of a giant dark claw. Another bear; monstrous in stature and stinking like rotting meat.
It didn’t wait to strike again. One claw; another.
He scurried to his feet and dashed. He could never outrun the bear on open terrain, but he didn’t have to last long. He sprinted over the net.
The bear chased after.
Danal cleared the net and reactivated it with a flick of his eyes.
The bear’s roar filled the brightening sky. It reared, skittering, trying to get away. Its rear paws tangled in the thick cables of the net. After a few moments, it lay twitching on the ground.
Danal huffed. He brought up a message to ping Zeresh. “If you pack up camp and come get me, I’ll let you come out with me again.”
Hopefully the woman was good for something. He wasn’t going to get back before freezing with two bears to haul.
Read more of the world of Snow and Smoke here.
Read the previous story, Solace for Sareh, here.
Read the next story, Air for Aaron, here.