Lucy hops around the sapphire blue fire, occasionally flapping her tiny wings to get a good feel of them. I load my magazines with ammunition and watch her as she dances around the flame. Here on Cordial, most firewood stored enough energy to turn the flame blue, and the one branch I found did exactly that, and it lit up the area around the crashed gunship very well tonight, there isn't a single crack we can't see.
"She sure is pretty that bird," Lieutenant Wills whispers to me.
I nod and watch her as she bounces around, cooing softly at the flame. "Her eyes opened last night while we were going for the antenna. Since then, she hasn't stopped hopping around." I lean back and rest on the crashed gunship. "She's a bird of prey, when she finishes growing, she'll be about the size of an eagle, maybe larger."
Wills whistles, and Grayson grunts as he sits himself up, careful not to move his wounded leg too much. I glance at the wounds on his right thigh and shin, which were practically mummified by the bandages. Lucy hops up and flutters on her wings, flying toward me, and she lands on my lap. She takes a couple steps up and down my left thigh, hops to my right thigh and walks up to my knee. She stretches her wings and flaps them a little, and then she hops onto my right arm.
She chirps, and I notice the feather crest that she's starting to grow. Three long red feathers that reach down from the back of her head, along her neck to the centre of her back, if I remember correctly when she's old enough she can raise them as a sort of territorial threat to rival chubikii (her species).
Wills reaches out to touch her and she pauses and looks at his hand, when his hand reaches about a foot away she lowers her head and spreads her wings. His hand gets closer and she raises her crest with what I'm sure is a hiss. Guess she is old enough. Wills pulls his hand back and she keeps the crest raised, she isn't much bigger than a month-old chicken, but she has a ridiculously strong bite. I should know, when I imprinted on her it was through the blood she'd drawn from my forearm with a single peck.
"She's real spirited, and obviously still your bird," He says. "Guess she doesn't like me."
"I doubt it, she knows you well enough to believe you're friendly, she probably just doesn't like being touched without permission." I reply.
I put my left hand in front of her and she looks down at it, and jumps on, she then settles down on my palm. I would say she sat, but she moved too much to make herself comfortable for it to be a simple act of planting her buttocks on my palm. She coos softly, her eyes shutting and I gently close my fingers around her body.
"So you have permission, eh?" Grayson half-groans.
"Yeah," I open my hand and she looks around and stands, flapping her wings. "What I heard from the guy who sold her to me is that the chubikii are proud, they don't like being disrespected." Lucy turns to me and looks at my shoulder, then she hoists herself up and lands next to my cheek. "Your body-language has to be respectful, or she'll feel offended or threatened."
Wills nods in understanding. A gesture Lucy acknowledges with a chirp, but she doesn't move from her spot on my shoulder. I continue loading bullets into my magazines as the fire crackles, driving away those god-forsaken bugs like a nice can of repellent. Lucy whistles a soft three-note song, and I pick up my canteen.
"What is it?" Wills whispers and lays his hand on his rifle.
"She's thirsty," I open the canteen and pour some water into the cap.
"Bloody hell man," Wills sighs in relief. "You gave me the screamin' abdabs!"
I snorted. "She cries when she smells danger, mate. Everything else has a not-so-scared sound." I hold the cap up to her and she dips her beak into it, catching water in her beak and she tilts her head up.
The action looks more like she's chewing rather than swallowing with the way her beak moves, but it still is rather entertaining to watch for some reason. She dips her beak into the water and repeats, she does this a few times more until she starts wiping her beak on my shoulder. I pour the water back into my canteen and take a sip myself, the crisp, refreshing water cooling my throat, and twist the cap back onto the canteen.
I put the canteen back down and resume loading my magazines, we have another forteen hours 'til dawn, and I'm not going to be caught with an empty mag if the fire burns out. I might be a plain colour sergeant, but I'm not gonna be edible. Not tonight, not tomorrow, and I have Lucy to help me see that through.