An elegant alien emissary shows up on Earth in a silver spaceship and entices people to come to the wonderful Galactic Confederation. Thousands line up to volunteer. Some send back glowing messages of the glories of the advanced civilization. But most are shunted off to the hunting worlds as prey beasts for alien grandees that play a ruthless, violent, and completely illegal sport. Many Earth people die horrible deaths, but some survive–and fight back.
An excerpt from near the beginning
I carefully constructed a persona—an appearance—from all our conversations with the few people of this world we had enticed aboard our ship. We learned what appearance would frighten them and what appearance would appeal to them.
We constructed a tall silver needle of a space vessel that would stand erect, reaching to the sky like the spire of one of their cathedrals. Not a stubby dark vessel like most of ours, the color of storm clouds, utilitarian but uninspiring.
I drew heavily on the sounds and images we extracted from the devices carried by those we brought into our crafts on prior visits.
My appearance was crucial. Fortunately, my physical appearance is not unlike theirs: tall, bipedal, similar proportions. I crafted a long white robe and turban, like religious leaders in their images. My face, of course, was problematic, but by adding small prostheses and skin coloring, I could make myself look—well, alien, but not too alien.
Except for my eyes. No way to disguise my large dark orbs so unlike theirs. I had to wear what they call sunglasses to conceal them.
My voice, my vocal apparatus sounded strange to them. Yet I have trained to imitate many different Oki races, so I was able to speak enough like them so that they could understand. I tested this on those we held captive. I was surprised to learn that this world has many different tongues. Yet there was one tongue that seemed common enough that I could rely on it.
I named my craft Fantasy. It descended and landed with its spire pointing to the sky. I chose a large open area so that people could approach from any direction. I waited. It didn’t take long. People started arriving, cautious at first, then drawing closer.
I stood on the platform at the opening, several times their height above them. I spoke carefully, testing my mastery of their tongue called English. A short announcement—no need to say a lot—just my carefully crafted and rehearsed message to draw them in.
Their authorities arrived, their military, small noisy flying machines circling around like annoying insects, then large green boxy ground vehicles barging their way through the surrounding crowds.
Uniformed authorities formed a line to prevent people from getting close; pushing people back. But the press of people was overwhelming; they pushed through these lines. I feared the authorities would begin using weapons on those that I wanted to attract. I could see all this from the observation ring atop my vessel.
It was apparent that the authorities sought to monopolize contact with me. That’s the last thing I wanted.
More and more people were arriving in ground vehicles, setting up temporary structures, extending almost as far as I could see.
Late at night, I silently raised Fantasy from the ground and moved it laterally through the air, leaving the military surrounding an empty space, and landed on a small rise near the incoming throng of people.
By dawn, Fantasy was completely surrounded by people eager to come close enough to touch it. So many I could not even count them. I stepped out on my platform above to address them.
Many characters—both human and alien—tell their own stories
I had never even held a weapon bigger than a kitchen knife. I despised guns, and those who used them.
Now I’m practiced with bow and arrow, and dagger and short sword, forged over our fires by the clever Tarchi.
We practiced incessantly for the expected attack by the Hunters and their masters. We hoped to live, but expected to die. Who were we to stand up to well-armed and trained soldiers?
Hide, shoot, duck, and run. Surprise and camouflage, our only hope.
My compact bow and short arrows were right for my small frame, and to avoid getting caught in the underbrush where we hid. Good for close in fighting. Close enough to hear your enemy’s breathing.
We’d had some raiders which we’d killed or driven away. The word spread that we’re not easy pickings’. I had yet to kill anyone.
We knew the big attack was coming. Then it came, by aircraft, power wagon, and disciplined troops. Here to take out our village and punish us for staying alive.
We laid a trap for them. They had to land atop the hill and march down to our camp, which was surrounded by trees.
Our token force was there to draw them down, while most defenders lined the ridges to either side to rain arrows down upon the attackers.
We were well-hidden in the thicket, watching their troops clomp down toward our small town.
A ragtag bunch we were. The tiny Toormei, leprechaun size, holding his long dagger and growling like a terrier. I never learned his name.
The slight Tarchi woman, Eda, there not to fight, but to help the rest of us.
Next to me a tall, broad Earth man from the Men’s Camp, hairy and stinky, eyes of cold steel, a sword strapped to his back. Hank, he said.
And I, a transplanted philosophy major from Vermont who studied non-violent conflict resolution. Ellen, a soft name for a soft, sheltered life.
They came crashing through the underbrush behind us, surprising us, and we them.
Eda, the Tarchi woman, gave the attack warning whistle. The Toormei went after the shin of this tall, black-clad brute wielding a long sword, distracting it. It kicked the Toormei and swung its sword down, cutting the poor thing nearly in two.
This gave Hank time to draw his sword and attack this fighter, a bare-backed man against this uniformed warrior a head taller.
Each clasped the other’s sword hand, then Hank kicked upward with his sandal that had a small blade embedded in the toe. Caught the warrior in the thigh, throwing it off balance. Hank ran it through with his sword.
Another one rushed up behind Hank with sword raised. It seemed like it took me forever to raise my bow but I loosed an arrow directly into its throat.
Yet another one crashed out through the brush. Eda picked up the Toormei’s dagger and stabbed it in the gut as it ran over her, aiming to attack me.
Its sword, already descending, struck my thigh, slicing half way down my leg. Hank hacked it from behind, cleaving its head.
Eda was on me instantly, wrapping my leg in strips of fabric she cut from the uniform of a fallen warrior, trying to stanch the bleeding, using the special leaves she took from her bag.
Then it was over. No more attackers here. We still heard grunts and clangs of blades farther down. But no more fighters came our way.
Soon we were counting the dead and patching the living.
We had won this battle. We, the poorly trained and poorly armed. Only because such unlike beings from different worlds worked well together, and pooled our strengths.
And we were fighting for our lives.
Stinky Hank grabbed my shoulder. “Well, college girl, we saved each other’s lives. I am grateful to you. You fought well.”
“I thank you also, sir. And you, Eda, you also have saved my life, if I don’t bleed to death.”
But Eda knew what she was doing, having been taught well by our physician Penelo. I didn’t even lose my leg.