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Skewer

"I could almost feel the tension of the animals below as they heard the targeting pings."

The skewer is a large, fierce, predatory, jet-like flyer from Darwin IV with superb flying abilities. It is widespread across much of the planet and is feared by many other animals. It is able to veer and bank while flying. It was first throughouly observed and named one autumn day in Vallis Przewalski in Planitia Borealis during the First Darwinian Expedition. They have been known to also kill for pleasure. Because of their vast distribution and particular predatory habits, they are reminiscent of Earth's orcas.

These flyers usually hunt in pairs and use ultrahigh frequency pings that can become more rapid when they approach their targeted goal of prey. They are thick-bodied creatures, powerfully winged and equipped with long, curved lances that protrude from their heads. They exude an aura of frightening potency.

During hunts, skewers can be followed by smaller scavenging flyers like violet follow-wings. When herds of flightless prey, such as symets, are startled by attacking skewers, they will attempt to jam the hunters' sonar with trilling. Normally skewers are undaunted by this.

When attacking, they contract their corrugated, leathery wings and begin an awesome power-dive. They often target any herd's stragglers. Though when skewers plunge toward symets, the herbivores will attempt to confuse the attacking flyers with their identically-shaped heads and tails. To a creature relying on sonar recognition, they present a confusing image. The direction of their imminent flight becomes completely conjectural.

At the moment of attack there is an all-too-clear transmission of the kill. Prey like symets can sometimes leap clear, its would-be killer veering off to regain altitude for a second pass. At other times, prey is not so fortunate, taking the full impact of the skewer's wicked lance below its kicking feet, driving it down the lance's length, while the skewer pulls sharply up, away from the ground. The following scavengers, namely follow-wings, get in a frenzy, darting forward to nip at the impaled victim. Bits of flesh fall from the prey animal to be caught by other scavenger flyers.

The soaring skewer takes absolutely no notice of the scavengers, absorbed as it will be in sucking the carcass dry. A few minutes later, the scavengers are presented with a fluidless husk as the skewer lets it fall.

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The skewer's accordion-like wing muscles enable the creature to make very precise adjustments in its control surfaces. Steep dives as well as lengthy glides are facilitated by increasing and decreasing the relative surface area of the wings.

Mating on the wing, belly to belly, the skewer is totally at home in the air. Ranging over 90 percent of the globe, it is unparalleled in its ability to hunt and kill. Virtually no other animal is safe from its attentions (such as gyrosprinters, prismalopes, rugose floaters and Unths), including, according to an amazing eyewitness account, the emperor sea strider. Hunting in pods of up to 30 or more individuals, these predators can overcome even the largest of Darwin IV's inhabitants.

The large head is of very sturdy yet light construction, with bony structures buttressing the formidable lance. The lance itself is a marvel of design, being hollow, internally braced and as strong as titanium. It is also believed that it is, like the best blades, quite flexible. At times skewers hone their lances in numerous passes on volcanic "whetting spires."

AirCreatures
Upon examination of the inside of the lance, there is a battery of pointed, chitin-tipped tongues, each one capable of boring into flesh. This is how the skewer feeds on the wing. Upon the impalement of prey, these tongues will snake out of a dorsal groove on the lance and penetrate the body to suck it dry. Here is a classy irony of nature: a massive, powerful animal whose existence depends upon a fragile anatomical structure.

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