Chax's legs were locked open, bracing him awkwardly between a lung strut and the gentle curve of the Kollen's upper shell. He had found two dangling egg clusters, one of which was firmly netted to the ceiling in a forest of sticky strands. On the other, the webbing was loose and excessive, causing the cluster to sag and dangle by a number of strained threads. These could be severed with a trivial swipe of the claw, leaving the egg cluster in a neat parcel that would be easy to carry down. Chax stared at this cluster, but his mind, still for the moment Craisht-free, was focused on another problem entirely.
Chax had been so happy to find Aun alive and healthy that Aun's scolding had not upset him much. Also, Chax conceded that he was party at faulthis panic had led him to frantic and ill-considered action that had left him in danger. But he had certainly not intended to land on top of Aun as Aun pulled him free; no more this time than any of the other times that Aun had mentioned. It was mere accident and Aun would surely perceive it once he'd had time to reflect and cool his emotions.
Chax had no fear that he had really hurt Aun. It was one thing to join with one's Oistrem comrades in mocking the Strasmin during a morale drill, to call them puny and ineffectual, or to bolster one's own courage by making light of the challenge they posedbut deadly foes they were, tough, swift and fierce, with the same ability to face terrifying peril with flippancy or self-abnegation.
And this was another factor in Chax's concern. The night creatures could fly and could track Aun, and seemed to be out for blood and vengeance against him. A simple sleep under the open sky could now be lethal. Aun did not seem concerned by the danger, or if he was, he was taking it with a measure of sang froid that could easily prove to be a mixed blessing.
Chax idly batted at the dangling cluster, watching tiny dark forms rock in fluid motion within the translucent shells. As near as he could make out, there was one proto-drone per egg. That was a good thing, when one considered
No, not that, not now.
Chax forced himself back to the problem of Aun's survival. They could try to move towards Botaram in such a way that they always wound up near a safe station, such as the present one. This plan called for a fantastic amount of luck, and Chax discarded it quickly. They could try to switch sleeping patterns, resting by dayand put themselves at the mercy of any active Oistrem patrol. Or Aun could remain on guard all night, and Chax could undertake to carry a sleeping Aun during the day... Surely it was unwise to divide one's effective strength in this way, not to mention how unmercifully the Craisht would chide him for being such a simple tool and traitor as to carry a Strasmin straight to Botaram.
It was a thorny problem, and the solution might be equally tangled.