The large wooden sailboat was very out of place. First, the monsters in the ocean could probably swallow it. Second, it was never meant to travel on water. Third, it was floating seven hundred meters above the ground and a couple of hundred meters above the trees below. My place was a couple of days east of the northern colony on Addison's World.
I brought the boat down close to the colony market area. The landing legs extending and the boat settled before I shut down the hydrogen reactor. I shut all grav systems down before I began to unload. Mostly it was small cages with brightly colored birds and bales of furs. There were bags of leaves and spices only found in the deep forest.
The float carts were waiting and the merchants I sold to with them. I was paid and headed towards my supplier. She grinned when I walked in with Jin and George walking on each side of me and Molly and Drake on my shoulders, "if it is not my favorite tree hugger."
I grinned as the two mini dragons leaped into the air to fly towards her as she held out treats, "why is it they behave right up until we come here?"
She laughed as she pet the two while they settled on the counter to eat. She absently tossed large treats for the two dwarf dragons who were just as eager. I sighed as I stopped to slid my comp across the counter for her to look at. She looked at the list and turned to begin bringing everything to the counter.
When she finished she began boxing it up, "you have a couple of tenderfoot hunters going out with you?"
I nodded, "with family. They are supposed to meet me at the boat in a couple of hours."
She pet the two mini dragons and snorted, "a constable was in asking for you. He wanted me to call when you came in."
I looked at her before shrugging, "call and let him know I will be at my boat."
Tina nodded and pushed the box towards me, "have fun with the big game hunters."
I grinned as I lifted the box, "yeah."
The crowd of tourist had grown but they moved aside as Jin and George walked in front of me. Molly and Drake flew from shop to shop which made people stop to look. When I saw the boat two men in tan custom hunter clothes were waiting with a couple of teenage girls. The older started to move in front of me but Jin growled and he quickly moved to the side.
I shifted the box and lifted it over my head to slid it onto the boat deck and turned to the men. The old one stepped forward, "do you know..."
I held up my hand, "I know who you are and I do not care. If you have the doctor's exam sheet stating you are capable I will take you. If you do not have it you can leave."
He frowned but the younger man moved up and held out his comp screen, "I have it admiral."
I glanced at him and took the comp to look at the reports before handing it back, "put your packs in the boat."
The admiral cleared his throat, "why not take a transport or flyer?"
I turned as a constable approached, "because my place is beyond the turn around range of a transport and out of range of a flyer."
The constable stopped and glanced at the men and girls before looking at me, "Terry Michael O'Henry?"
I nodded and he looked me over, "Paul Clint has been released from prison. He has spread the word he was going to kill those responsible for the death of his father and brothers."
I shrugged but he kept looking around, "there was a whole ship and crew responsible."
He looked at me, "the ship was destroyed by a missile while it was docked. The few other men that were involved on the raid have been killed. You are the last one alive and word is he is coming here."
I snorted, "Addison is not a good place to hunt a tree hugger."
He grinned, "perhaps but you are not in your trees now."
I looked at the two men listening, "I am headed out as soon as my clients put their things aboard."
He nodded and looked them and the younger man cleared his throat, "I will go get the bags."
The other man nodded and the constable looked around once more, "just watch your back Mr O'Henry."
He walked away and the older man cleared his throat, "I checked you out."
I looked at him before turning to gesture to the boat and all the dragons flew up and in. I climbed up and began to check the fuel and the systems. I did not tell him I really did know who he was too. He was fleet admiral Dollar, one of the few wild admirals that was respected by the regular crewmen.
It was an hour before his aide, lieutenant Allen appeared carrying three heavy bags. I grabbed the bags and tossed them to the hatch leading down into the boat. I moved my box down before starting the reactor and then the grav systems. The dragons all moved to the prow as I stood behind the wheel and pushed the two levers.
One to raise the ship and the other to get us moving. I spun the wheel as I checked the compass. The two girls went to sit in the prow while the admiral sat in the seat on the port side and looked out, "this is different."
I glanced at him but kept watching the altimeter, "it might not be fast but it gets me home and back."
He chuckled, "how does a fleet marine learn to sail?"
I smiled as I checked the wind and hit the button to unfurl the grav mainsail which would pull us along, "I was hooked after a week liberty on Keys with a pretty petty officer."
He grinned and the lieutenant cleared his throat, "that man that was after you..."
I looked at him as he stood and swayed and looked back before checking ahead, "Paul Clint? I never met him, his father and brothers were hard core killers leading a gang of planet raiders. They made a habit of slaughtering everyone they saw and detonating a dirty bomb after leaving the planet."
I looked back before looking ahead, "my ship was a corvette and we caught them on the ground after they finished killing over a hundred women and children."
I glanced at him, "most fought to the death and those that surrendered were judged by the captain and executed."
He shook his head, "and where was he?"
I shrugged, "caught selling stolen property from another planet and sentenced to three years."
I glanced at George as he looked back and chirped and looked ahead. I glanced at the lieutenant, "you need to sit down."
He frowned but the admiral cleared his throat and he sat in the starboard seat. I nodded and gestured, "I might as well get the warnings out of the way. In the air are large birds, the smaller birds stay close to or below the top of the trees. The larger birds are Dragoneagles, Firehawks and Rocks. They are more than large enough to yank you out of the boat or kill you."
I looked at the admiral, "the dragons do not come this far north normally. The most dangerous animal in the trees is a King Lizard. Both because of how large they can get and how they hunt. They are very fast but they can also be very cunning. They have been known to cling to the underside of a branch and leap down on their prey."
I watched a pair of Firehawks on the edge of the colony before looking at the men, "the most common threat is a pack of wolfapes. The further down the tree levels the larger the threats become. Leaf leopards and lions and Camo Tigers and if you go all the way to the ground there is the Elephant Wolf."
They nodded as I looked around again, "like I advertised I will guide you and let you hunt but I will not commit suicide. In other words I will not go all the way to the ground so you can hunt an Elephant Wolf. Beside the sheer size they tend to stay in packs."
I looked to one side as we passed over the trees and relaxed, "we are beyond the colony now."
The admiral and lieutenant both had been taking constant vids of the few birds that flew near. It was almost a day before I looked at the boat comm as static came out. I looked around and saw a transport way behind us but closing fast. I growled, "you might want to go below or get your pistols ready."
They looked and the admiral gestured, "get my pistol."
I smiled, "you might want to start wearing it."
He looked at me as I began bringing the boat lower to the trees and looking for a place to settle. I ducked into the cabin and returned with my sixteen millimeter carbine. The girls, Julie and Sidney had looked up from the small table but did not come out. I dropped lower and stopped below the top of three trees.
I set the grav anchor and turned to aim the rifle at the fast approaching transport. I was not surprised to see a couple of men in the side door. I waited and waited and one of the men fired an automatic rifle. I squeezed and the big plasma round went straight through the right engine. The transport lurched and dropped and tilted before suddenly striking the top of a tree.
It slashed through several more before catching and spinning as it crashed down into the branches. It was only a few hundred meters away and I looked at the two men with me and sighed, "okay I need to go check for survivors."
The admiral looked at me strangely but I turned to lift the boat and move it to where the transport had broken through the branches. I slowly started down, "Molly and Drake go scout. Jin and George find the transport."
The two mini's dived over the side while the two dwarf dragons leaped into the air. I looked at the admiral, "stay here and keep your eyes open."
I moved to one side and set the anchor again and then went to the side of the boat. I climbed over and dropped onto a branch and walked towards the trunk. It was easy to climb down before I had to start out onto the branches. The transport was a couple of hundred meters to one side with the wings snapped off.
.... There is more of this story ...