The Archer chronicles
Lost Boy
CHAPTER
3
Along came a spider...
Something woke Archer and he sat up like a bolt of lightening shooting straight into the sky. It was early and the sun was just beginning to chase away the darkness. Stars that had sprinkled the space above him were just little pieces of fading light.
Dash hummed beside him, his energy output on low, and Archer struggled to clear sleep from his eyes as he peered down toward the ground. He’d climbed a tree hours ago and was well hidden within the long sweeping branches—safe from predators, both humanoid and animal.
But something was down there. He was sure of it.
Carefully he reached for Dash, fingers fast as he programmed the cloaking mechanism. He hadn’t engaged it during the night for a few reasons, mainly because he was trying to conserve the lumen energy and battery back-up that powered his bot. Besides, the cloaking rays weren’t all that strong and depending on what the pirates used to detect life it might not even matter. But for now it’s all they had.
He listened for a long, long time, eyes sweeping back and forth, and then sighed softly as he stretched his arms and untied the rope that held him to the tree.
It was now fully light and the jungle was slowly coming to life. The trees whispered with the wind. Insect-like creatures scurried across the branches though they took care to avoid Archer and Dash, their long spidery legs moving quickly as they sprang to other branches in order to get around them. They were colorful, but unlike a lot of the jungle creatures of his home planet, they didn’t use camouflage to blend in with their surroundings.
These creatures wanted to be seen, but since they didn’t bother with Archer he figured they were harmless. Or at least, he wanted to believe that, and as long as they stayed away from him he would do the same.
He watched a large purplish spider-thing with legs the color of ripe apples, pause to stare back at him. Archer tensed, thinking about the crystalline creepy crabs that had tried to attack him in the cave. He went as still as a statue and held his breath, but after a few moments the spider crept along the branch near Archer’s head and continued on its way.
Wincing he stretched out his legs and reached into his backpack. He needed a drink and knew that he had to find water soon—his jupe juice wouldn’t last more than a few days.
Instead of a bottle, his fingers closed around something small and rectangular. Very carefully he pulled out the flat item and held it in the palm of his hand for a few seconds. With a quick glance around he decided it was safe and he slid the tab along the bottom right.
Instantly a holograph sprang up, a 3D image of a woman with kind, brown eyes, long buttery hair moving lazily in the wind and a smile that made his heart hurt, his throat tight. She was at the beach, water rolling against the sand behind her—Archer’s father smiling just to the side—and cradled in her arms was a young boy. A young boy with wavy, brown hair and big round cheeks.
A young boy who giggled up at the woman and reached for her face, catching a long curl instead. Archer couldn’t stop staring at the woman as she gently tugged her hair from the child’s grasp.
His mother, Penelope.
He stared at the three of them for a few more moments, finger tracing his mother’s smile and then his father’s. Sometimes Archer wasn’t sure who’s smile he missed more.
“Archer. We’re not alone.”
Dash’s voice was muted, just like his power it was on a lower frequency, and it took a second or two for Archer to process what he’d heard.
His head shot up as he shoved his precious cargo back into his bag. His stomach grumbled but he ignored it as he peered down through the branches at the jungle floor. Vines covered most of it, their color the greenest green he’d ever seen. Purple and yellow plants that looked an awful lot like ones planted in his grandfather’s garden littered the edges like a carpet, and mixed among them were deep red round things.
They were some sort of fruit because he’d seen them in the trees, but the ones on the ground were sweet smelling and kind of bloated. He noticed that the spidery-like insects were making their way down to the biggest, fattest ones.
Tense, Archer glanced up at Dash, but he was too far away for him to switch the bot into high power mode. Dash wouldn’t be able to run a diagnostic to tell Archer what was heading their way. What was slowly pushing at the edge of the jungle, there just past the third tree on Archer’s right. Was it one of the pirates? Or a new animal? Some predator who’d caught Archer’s scent?
Reaching back into his bag, Archer grabbed the old electron weapon and carefully pushed the release button. Holding his breath, eyes never leaving the jungle floor, he waited….And said a silent ‘thank-you’ when the weapon began to vibrate against his palm.
A clumping of vines that twisted near the trees began to move, parting in the opposite direction of the breeze.
Archer gulped down fear and hunger and thirst, as he watched carefully. He’d made it through the night and there was no way he was going to let some stupid pirate or mean-eyed jungle creature hurt him now.
His father would return for him and Archer planned on being alive when it happened.
“Are you going to come down from there or am I going to have to come up and get you?”
The voice rang up at him, higher-pitched than his own and that told him whoever was out there was either younger than Archer or…
The vines trembled slightly and then parted.
Or a girl.
She stepped into the clearing, careful not to crush the fruit at her feet and put her hands on her hips. At her side swung a weapon and from his perch he could make out some symbols. Symbols that looked like Drakyn.

He thought only warriors could wield them. He’d heard the stories. The legends. The whispers of legends. So why did a girl who looked no older than Archer have one?
“Well?” She cocked her head to the side, long dark curtains of hair swooshing around her waist as she tapped her foot and stared up at him. Sheesh. Did she have X-ray eyes or something? How did she know he was there?
“I can smell you,” she said as if reading his mind. She tapped her nose. “You’re human.”
Archer snuck a sniff. Okay. So he might have missed his shower in his haste to get onto the shuttle the day before but he sure as heck didn’t stink.
“How would you know?”
The words slipped from his mouth before he could snatch them back.
“Archibald,” Dash said as he floated closer. “That wasn’t a smart thing to do.”
The girl shrugged and smiled. “Come down and I’ll tell you.”
He considered her for a few more moments. “I have an electron weapon.”
She shrugged again and patted her own side weapon (as if that would stand a chance against his electron). He supposed in the right hands it might but she was only a girl, and no older than Archer.
“I’m coming,” he replied, crouching against the large column of the tree so that he could shimmy down. “My bot is armed as well so don’t try anything.”
Of course that was a lie. But how would the girl know?
Within seconds he was on the ground, face to face with the stranger. She was an inch or so taller than Archer, her wide exotic eyes tilted as she studied him in kind. Her skin was several shades darker than his, as if she was permanently tanned though he was pretty sure that wasn’t the case. Living on a ship didn’t leave much time for these things.
But her eyes were interesting. They were so pale…as pale as the moon on his home planet, and startling against her dark hair and brows.
“Who are you?” Archer asked, Dash now at his side, hovering a few feet above his head. He wondered at her knowledge of the universal language used by most colonists. Was she human like him? She looked it.
She was silent for a few seconds and he got the impression she was studying him like he’d done to her.
“My name is Del.” She arched a brow and cocked her head, tapping her foot impatiently.
“Archer,” he replied. “How do you know I’m human? Are you human?” His cheeks went hot as she began to giggle. Why did he sound like such a dweeb?
“The ship we fired on yesterday was from Earth and as far as I know only humans inhabit that planet.”
Yep. Definitely with the pirates. She didn’t really look like one. For one thing she was clean and from what he could see she wasn’t missing any teeth and the ones that were there were white, not gold. Not that he’d ever seen a real, live pirate before, but he’d sure read about them.
“So you’re one of them,” he said, more than a little angry now.
Something wavered in her eyes. They went wide and then the smile faded from her face as she stared at him in silence.
“I’ll never be one of them,” she whispered fiercely.
Just then something crashed behind her and she whirled around, hand on her weapon, hair flying around her head.
“Where are you, you little maggot? Did you find anything?”
The voice was rough and tumble, with a heavy accent that was hard to understand. It sounded like broken glass.
Del glanced back at Archer, slowly shaking her head, her eyes wide as she held up a finger to her mouth.
Archer’s chest hurt from his pounding heart as his ears filled with the sound of his fear. Was this it then? Were the pirates going to take him and torture him and make him a slave? Were they going to sell him to a dealer on the slave planet?
“No,” Del said, her voice ringing out as Archer melted into the trees. “There’s nothing here.”
A massive mountain of a man appeared at her side, wide shoulders struggling to fit between the narrow space of the trees. His head was bald and shone beneath the sunlight, and when he growled gold appeared between his lips.
He fell into the small clearing, his heavy boots crushing several large fruits on the ground along with a bunch of the spidery creatures. Archer thought that he heard the little critters crying as they fell beneath his big dark boots.
“Well, come along then. You don’t earn your keep, you know what happens to your father.”
The hulking pirate disappeared the way he came and Del cast one last look toward Archer, her pale eyes finding him through the vines until they slowly fell away and she turned melting into the jungle as if she’d never been there.
She’d just saved him. A young girl.
Archer reached for Dash and programmed him into high power mode. He wasn’t sure what had just happened but since he had to wait for his father to return anyway, he realized he had all the time in the world to find out.
“Run a diagnostic, Dash.” He thought of the fear he’d seen in her eyes. Fear and something else…sadness?
“Tell me where that pirate ship is.”
“Good idea, Archer,” Dash replied, his eyes glowing blue as he began his scan. “That way we can avoid them at all costs and head in the opposite direction.”
Archer stared into the trees but didn’t answer. What was the point? Dash would disagree with his plan. And like always Dash was usually right.
Because Archer’s plan was going to take him right to the pirate ship.

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