The earth quaked. The sky of the gas giant, Aepa, dimmed as yellow-tinged clouds flared against the purpling sky. Brad closed his logbook, thankful for the archaic system. His logs continued long after the year-batteries of his terminal eked out their final charge.
Iepeac Kup, the pterodon priest, fidgeted outside Brad's lean-to wearing a drab cape knitted from the moss that grew between the pterodon's scales. Brad recited to himself using the mnemonic techniques he taught himself to capture the cape's shape as it draped over Iepeac's shoulders and the formal sash criss-crossing his body.
"Come. You must." Iepeac spoke in Brad's language, the tongue of the stars and not spoken in the cities on Aepa.
Brad followed Iepeac away from the native's lean-tos nestled in the scales of the pterodon's shoulder and towards the mile-wide expanse of the wings where the natives grew the food-shrubs on the back of the muscled membranes. Brad asked in Iepeac's own language, "What has happened?"
The priest refused to speak in his own language. "Come. You see. You must stop Athotia."
They climbed over a bone knob above the winged plains. A cluster of natives gathered where the spine lie shallow beneath the membranes. Jerry-rigged hollow bones scavenged from baby pterodons, too small to sustain a city, stacked against each other to create a platform. A weighted bone spike hung from the platform's center and a counterweight suspended it above the pterodon's carapace. Athotia released the counterweight. The spike dug into the scales. A breeze ruffled across the scrubs as the ground beneath their feet dipped for a second before righting.
"Must stop Athotia," repeated Iepeac. "Only you can. They listen to star wanderer." The priest pulled at the vestments rubbing against his neck.
Brad couldn't. His hair stood on edge as the natives reattached the counterweight and pulled it towards the ground to raise the spike again. Didn't they realize that they lived on a sentient creature? Brad shook his head. The Academy had stressed that the pledge was more important than his life. "You are the priest, a leader of your people. Ask them to stop."
Iepeac's face became blank. An eye twitched. The spike fell again and the ground shook. The priest ran down the bony knob, his cape catching on the branches of the shrubs leaving bits of moss behind him. He ran beneath the spike.
His voice rang pure. "You must not do this. The drilling will harm our host."
The crowd stepped away from the release on the counterweight leaving Athotia standing by himself. He placed a hand on the counterweight's release. "Our priest's faith is misplaced. The host's blood will make us strong. Iepeac Kup fears our strength." Athotia released the counterweight.
The bone glanced off the edge of Iepeac's shoulder. The priest fell to the ground his own blood mingling with the black liquid emerging from the pit where the bony spike had clawed into the pterodon's membrane. The ground tilted beneath them as the pterodon dove. The makeshift tower crashed onto its side before the ground leveled again. The pterodon's blood clotted.
"Help me raise the tower," shouted Athotia. "One more blow."
The natives retreated from the tower except for one man who knelt beside the priest and pushed one of the bone shards away so he could lift the priest from beneath the tower. The man looked at Athotia. "The priest is right. We will not drill."
My attempt at this week's writer's weights exercise to make writing efficient by doing multiple things. Comments and constructive criticism welcome.