Pelpoloi saw the first of Kepler-22b’s satellites rise over the mountain peak and scrambled into a narrow crevice in the rock face. Pelpoloi didn’t know what a satellite was and had no need to. The entire concept of the HXX—Habitable Exoplanet Exploration initiative—would confound him. His language lacked so many of the words needed to explain it to him. But he was no fool. He waited for his heart to slow and focused on his breathing and on the thick spit in the back of his throat.

What Pelpoloi lacked in understanding of orbital mechanics he substituted with passed-down stories of angry spirits and winged guardians. While the other points of light sat quietly and prayed, Sh’nesh ran wild causing havoc. It screamed across the sky, tearing its fabric and setting fires. But soon Elapoi, the guardian, would come. The guardian blazed behind Sh’nesh, mending its destruction and chasing it below the far horizon. It was unwise to be out when Sh’nesh ruled the sky. The hunting must wait for Elapoi’s rise.

This was not secret knowledge, of course. It was well known, even to the Kamay who ate from the seas and the Dama Po who all had troubled red eyes but sang only joyful songs.

Pelpoloi’s breathing came easy now and he waved a cautious hand in the darkness beyond the crevice. Nothing happened, so he carefully peeked out his head. From behind thick black curls of hair he saw that Elapoi was already at work cleaning up after the angry child and ushering it into the northern sea. It would be dangerous to be on the water, and he was glad he was not Kamay. Under the benevolent eye of the guardian, Pelpoloi resumed his hunt, looking for signs of a creature he could easily overcome and consume.

620 lightyears away, incomprehensible others were partaking in a similar endeavor. Others with no fear of Sh’nesh or reverence for Elapoi—created them, in fact—and were more experienced hunters. And much, much hungrier.

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