Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 12
It was late in the day, and Tara felt Luuko
was ready to progress to a basic geology lesson.
Luuko watched with fascination as Tara
produced detailed maps of her home world, with six continents instead
of five, and huge oceans that covered most of the surface. Arralla was
even more strange, having only three major land-masses, and slightly less
water than the humans' Earth.
"Ooooo-rope. Ooooorope. Eeeeoooorope."
He mouthed the strange sounds, letting each consonant drag out so that
Tara could make sure he was correct in each. Her smile was wide with the
last try, and Luuko wiggled his ears and warbled proudly. A bit shocked,
he realized that he no longer felt the spike of fear when the humans and
Arrallins bared their teeth at him. In fact, he welcomed the strange expression.
"Norf Eeeeoooorope has Feeeoooords,"
Luuko strung together the odd sentence carefully, mimicking Tara as closely
as possible. She pointed to the northeast portion of the map of his own
native Mainland continent, and then to the northwestern portion of Europe
on her map of Earth. Luuko liked the word 'Fjord'. It just sounded right.
"Feeord! Feeord! Feeord!" he chimed, rumbling as Tara laughed.
Luuko replayed memories from earlier times
at the colony, realizing that Tara smiled far too little. He was glad
that he could make her burden as Leader of her strange, lost barryd less
of a strain. He looked over to Rakal, who also was enjoying his work with
Liur, who had also taken to chiming away particular words in Arrallin.
Despite the fact that both Rakal and Tara were Leaders of the same barryd,
they worked very well together with only occasional arguments. If only
the Great Mother would consider such a close kinship with another Leader
possible. He sighed inwardly, and continued viewing the map.
The far southern continent looked like
the Island Continent to the west of Mainland, except that it wasn't nearly
as round. "Auuuu-stray-leeeee-aaaaaaarrr, Auuu-stray-lee-ar"
He listened, trying to drop the 'r' at the end. "No good." He
furrowed his heavy, scaled brows and looked up at the stars.
"You are doing great, Luuko. They
do say Australiar over here." Tara pointed to the northwest corner
of the eastern continent on Earth. "In Bah-stahn. Boston to the rest
of the world." She patted his arm. "You'll get it. Try again."
He whuffled, relieved to finally get the word. Grateful for her unfailing
support, he tried his best to express his feelings. "Thank you."
Liur and Rakal strode up, and Liur was
the first to speak. "Hello, Tara. Hello, Luuko. I am not an egg."
Luuko rumbled appreciatively! Liur's English
was flawless, and he was very confident in his vocalizations. He truly
understood what he was saying, and his mind echoed mirth. 'I am not an
egg' was one of his first sentences, and had become a greeting between
him and Tara. Luuko sighed, comparing his own slow progress to Liur's
blinding pace. In a private bandwidth to Luuko, Liur explained, Because
Rakal had to learn English after he learned Arrallin, he understands the
difficulties we have with learning their speech. He's an excellent and
Feeling slightly protective of Tara's teaching
ability, Luuko quickly shot back, Tara, too is an excellent teacher, but
I am slow to learn. It was tradition for the failure of the student to
be attributed to the teacher in classes, and Luuko did not want his shortcomings
in language attributed to the tiny Leader. Fjord!
Fjord? What is fjord? I like it. Liur vocalized
it, barking it out. "Fjord!" Luuko sent him images of the tiny
inlets all over the northern and western edge of Mainland.
"Um, Tara, what have you gone and
taught them?" Rakal looked up at Liur and Luuko, who were nose to
nose rapidly exchanging words above them.
"We were doing geography, learning
the continents. I was showing him similarities between their Murrkila,
the mainland here, and Europe/Asia." Tara pointed on the map and
beamed up at Luuko and Liur, who understood more through context the words
'similarities' and 'geography'.
Luuko stuck out a middle claw and pointed
to the Isle. "Like Australiar-lia." Liur pointed to the map
of Earth, "Australia."
"Great!" Tara smiled. "You
will teach the others?" She looked up at Luuko expectantly.
"Yes, thank you." Luuko purred.
We will confer with all the other ranks during the fire-dig tonight and
exchange all our learning. I am especially curious about what Goothib
and Harmon have exchanged. They were climbing through the metal tree with
many Arrallakeeni betas today. He and Liur both turned to regard the knot
of people and Dimar around the remains of the front half of the ship,
which currently served as an animal pen and cover.
"These 38 hour days are killing me.
I've got to sleep." Rakal stretched, yawning. "Night shift will
take over." Luuko felt a spike of concern for Rakal's health, but
remembered that that was just an expression for being very tired.
"Sounds good. Goodnight, Luuko and
Liur," Tara bowed, and patted Luuko on the shoulder. Waving to others,
many of the tiny colonists wandered off to climb inside parts of the ship,
or the membrane coverings all around the building-site. The betas, Dimar
and humans with Goothib at the pens did not look tired at all, but chattered
back and forth with excited exclamations.
Liur and Luuko together strode over to
listen to the language lesson, hailed excitedly by Goothib. Liur, Luuko!
You will not believe what we have learned today. I will try to tell you
in English, to practice.
"Humans fly in spahce. Spahce has
nothink, empteeer than a morrakus head. Humans put holes in spahce. Holes
lead to Arralla, and Arrallins and humans are friendus. Arrallins fly
in spahce. Arrallins do not punch holes in spahce, but have fahst enginus.
Humans and Arrallins make good sips together. Sips. Suuuhips. No good."
He struggled, as they all did, with the 'sh' sound, his emotions in a
frenzy. Luuko couldn't understand why he was so excited, and waited, struggling
with the concept of the new word 'spahce.'
Holes in space? Holes in something that
has nothing? I can't understand this in the English, Goothib. Luuko struggled,
clearly aware that Goothib felt that all of these new concepts were very
They can teach us how to be starborn again.
They don't know Telkai, but they know how to get their metal trees into
space, to make holes, and go through them. This is very, very important,
Luuko! We're going to recover the lost art of the Starborn Mu, and can
find out what happened to them at long last. Goothib was pulling at the
metal sheeting that covered the trunk of the oddly rounded tree, exposing
it's multicolored metal roots.
Following the path of the starborn is forbidden,,
Goothib! What if they hear us out in space, and we accidentally guide
them back to crush Dimar? Mulkai are starborn - not Tel. Tel make barryds,
and guard Dimar as it has always been. Luuko was flabbergasted. What Goothib
was suggesting was heresy for a loyal member of any barryd except for
Mulkol. The violent ancestors of the war barryds like Mulkol had, using
secrets that no living barryds possessed, taken to the stars to find richer
worlds to plunder. The truth of the matter was, and all Dimar well knew,
that the most ancient race of Mulkai had mostly conquered all of Dimar
by the age of Telkai and in doing so had disrupted the planet's ecosystem
so badly that it was dying.
Once the leaders had abandoned the surface,
the Dimar of the other arts had set about to retake the planet and restore
it to balance. Millions of lives were lost to new diseases, famine, pollution
and remnant wars with the few remaining Mulkai barryds, but the more peaceful
Dimar survivors persevered and the planet was now much closer to it's
original glory. In fact, with the spread of the new Dimar and the increase
in population, the Plan was finally coming together to unite all barryds
and end the waves of firestorms that ravaged Mainland and parts of the
southern twin continent.
Well, what better way to guard Dimar? By
taking to the stars, we can root out the ancient Mulkai and strike at
them before they strike at us. Goothib's resolve was only half-hearted.
As was his engineering nature, he simply wanted to see Dimar return to
the Path of the Starborn to see if they could. His spike of fear made
Dimar heads all around turn as he made a second, more frightening realization.
Harmon stopped her teaching for a moment, but could not read his private
band. Plus, we have learned that the hole that leads back to the other
home worlds is not closed. More humans and Arrallins could flood through
and continue their dead-building here if we do not find a way to close
it. Harmon wants it closed, but does not know how. She doesn't like Earth.
She wants to defend Dimar. We must tell the Great Mother - we've got to
close that hole, or expect many more silver trees like this one. Already
there are four above, one larger than this one. Earth has thousands! Goothib's
fear was sincere. Much as he was fond of Harmon and even the blank-minds,
he knew thousands of ships would spell the end of the Plan, and the barryds
would be overrun. It would mean war.
Can we fill the hole? Does Tara know of
it? Does she plan to bring many more humans through? Luuko wanted to wake
her, to rip open her canopy and find her to ask. How could his smiling,
laughing teacher bring about the end of his world? And what of the brave
Rakal? Did he intend the same? An unfamiliar sense of betrayal flooded
through him, and he quelled it.
Liur was well ahead of him in action, having
woken the Great Mother and her acolytes to relay a full report on the
hole in space. She would not pass this information on to the other Leaders
until she was sure that the colonists were not willing to close the hole,
as they all knew the other barryds would sweep in and slaughter them mercilessly.
She suggested interrogating Harmon thoroughly, and Tarrin as well. The
minds might be willing to share the truth, and if not, they could be made
to tell what they know.
Luuko needed no second order. As Liur cut
through the crowd toward Goothib and Harmon, he spun on his haunches and
launched himself in the air toward the set of tents that held Tarrin,
Tara and Rakal. Both mentally and vocally screaming, he called them, "TARRIN!
TARA! RAKAL! MUST SPEAK NOW!" He slammed his tail down into the dusty,
grass-free ground, watching as lights flicked on all over the encampment.
Tarrin, his fur on end, galloped out on
all fours, skidding to a halt in front of him. He swung his speckled head
from side to side. Fire? Fire? Luuko, what's wrong? What? Tell me!
THE HOLE! THE HOLE IN SPACE!! You will
close it? You will not bring more through? It would be war - you must
not. They'll kill you! Struggling with divided loyalty for his home barryd
and the tiny struggling colony, he reared on his haunches and lashed his
tail from side to side.
Tara burst through the flap of her silvery-gray
tent clad only in her robe and the morrak slippers, clutching a plasma
rifle. The slippers elicited no whuffling or ear-wiggling from Luuko and
the crowd of Dimar amassed around the tents tonight. "Um, Tarrin?
"They know about the jump gate, and
it panics them. We've got to close it immediately or they'll declare war."
Tarrin's fur was still on end.
"Oh, is that all? Tell them it will
be done, and put them in touch with the psi on the Singularity II so that
they can monitor the Dark Hope's progress. Give them a Full report."
Tara nodded her head and made a hand gesture Luuko didn't understand.
Immediately, Tarrin began flooding him
and Liur with images of the people above that they hadn't met yet. He
cautioned them that Harmon, although a psi, was not a member of this group.
She must not know what he was about to explain to them, so Goothib was
not to know. The four trees they have are all that are to come through
the space hole. There would be no more people or Arrallins brought to
the world, because they were running from their own Mulkai culture. He
showed them the Dark Hope, with it's dented hull and failing engines,
and explained that the hole filler was here, but the ship was broken.
It would take a while to close the gate, but they too needed it closed
immediately, or their Mulkai pursuers would come and destroy both them
Luuko studied the images of the survey
team and the meeting on the Golden Hinde, relaying them to the Great Mother
with Liur. He cocked his head as a thought struck him. Great Mother, if
these four trees hadn't come through and sent back the misinformed probe,
the human Mulkai would already be here flooding us. They have saved us,
The Great Mother paused to consider that
fact, as the details of the crew and resources of the ship flooded through
Liur to her. You are correct, Luuko. They have accidentally averted an
even greater calamity, but the fact remains. They must close that hole,
and they cannot guarantee that the Landry of Dark Hope will perform the
task, despite Tarrin's confidence.
Luuko could feel Harmon trying to pry into
their exchange, and he pushed her mind away. She was not part of the inner
circle of leaders, and she could broadcast dangerous information to the
starborn in the ships above, and they might not close the gate.
He watched Tara on the communications panel.
"Landry, good, you're awake," she seemed strangely nervous talking
to the face in the viewer.
"You forget, we up here are still
on a 24 hour day. What's up - looks like you're throwing a party down
there with all that hubbub." Landry grinned, and Luuko did get a
surge of fear looking at his teeth. He continued to listen and broadcast
back to the Great Mother.
"The Dimar have made their final decision
- and we're welcome to stay here. You should close that gate immediately,
and we'll bring the rest of the crew down separately afterward with the
Arralla's Pride." Tara smiled, but Luuko did not sense in her body
movement the enthusiasm in her voice. "We've got a bit of a victory
party going on down here, and seeing the fireworks as the gate shuts behind
you would really finish the effect, not to mention impress the heck out
of the Dimar."
"Not an option, fearless leader. Sorry
to burst your bubble, but check out this engine display. Kiralla and the
other two have been working round the clock, but as soon as they get one
system online, another breaks." He shrugged. "We'll be ready
to shut the gate for you on schedule, but not before."
"This won't reduce the number of credits
that will be transferred to you when you get through to the other side,
Landry. We don't work that way. In fact, I'd be willing to wager that
you getting us here safely ahead of schedule and sealing off the gate
would probably get you a bonus." Tara smiled again. Luuko watched
Landry's face, hoping for some nod of agreement, but none came.
"That's not the problem. We're just
not able to fly yet. I'm sorry. I'll speed things up as much as I can,
but all hands are already pulling double shifts." Landry shook his
"Kir? Mm... what's her name? Kirana
is leading the engineering team with who else? Have them report - patch
them in to me, please." Tara was gripping the sides of the console
tightly, but her face looked very calm to Luuko. He was confused by her
mixed body language, and watched, trying to learn more.
"Um, Kiralla and Murram and a few
others, actually. They're working in the lower hold, and I'm afraid I
don't have communications consoles down there. Would you like me to call
you back when they come up for lunch?" Landry's face was unreadable
to Luuko, but Tara's hands gripped the console tighter. He wondered what
"Do that. I've got a very bad feeling
about the gate, and I want to be safely on this side as soon as possible."
Tara dismissed him absently, "Tara out." The screen faded.
"SHIT!!! SHIT!!! SHIT!!!" She
was stamping up and down. Luuko had not learned that word yet, and tried
the difficult 'sh' sound.
"Seeeehit! Seeeit! Sit!" He mimicked,
usually evoking a smile or a laugh. Tara just sank to the ground and groaned.
Rakal had been standing next to the console,
and his fur was on end. Something was very, very wrong. Luuko transmitted
the scene to the Great Mother, puzzling over it as they did so. I have
much to learn about facial expressions and English, I'm afraid. I sense
that very much has transpired here, but I'm not sure what.
Their Landry is disobeying. That much is
clear. He will not close the gate yet, but, if what we have heard is true,
he will close the gate. Do you, my child, believe that these people will
be true to their word? Our barryd - all barryds are at stake now. The
Great Mother's voice was firm, and there was no evidence of the fear in
her that Luuko felt, just a grim feeling of resolve.
I trust Tara and Rakal. However, it is
Landry we must be concerned with. A ship is due to land here tomorrow
and Tarrin says they can use it to help fill the hole in space. There
are three ships above perhaps they are enough to fill the hole. Luuko
felt confident that his new friends would find a way around the problem,
and could feel Tarrin's distant call to the other ship above.
The comm crackled to life, and Tara leapt
to her feet, fluidly assuming a nonchalant stance in front of it. Luuko
snorted with confusion, and a bit of amazement at Tara's actions. These
humans are very good at the art of misrepresentation...but I wonder why
she must act so calm before the eyes of the starborn?
She is a Leader, Luuko. You are seeing
a rare aspect of our difficult tasks...a Leader must never show weakness
to unruly subordinates, and Tara is preparing herself to command the Landry.
The Great Mother's tone belied a minute resonance of respect, although
it was clear that she disapproved of Tara's outburst a moment before.
"Mmm, yes?" Tara fiddled with
another screen, scrolling wildly past a set of atmosphere reports.
"Kiralla's here for her report to
you, sir. Landry transferring," Landry's pale, thin face faded as
the communication lines switched.
A black spotted chocolate brown Arrallin
face with striking green eyes came into view on the screen, and Luuko
studied her features closely. He realized that she wasn't actually spotted,
but that the marks were from soiling of some kind. "Kiralla, Ir'mora
of the Singularity II reporting, sir. Man...I wish I were back on the
II. This tub stinks!" she laid back her ears and turned to snarl
at the jumble of wires and tubes behind her.
Tara grinned widely, and Rakal made a show
of smoothing his ruffled hackles before he strode around from next to
the console to come into the viewer's range.
"Hey there, guy! Nice pets...those
iguanas on sterobols, or what?" She pointed a clawed finger at her
screen toward Luuko.
"Yes...I tamed them myself with only
my claws and fangs. Impressed?" Rakal whuffled, and swept his tail
from side to side, moving very close to the view panel. Luuko struggled
with the context for the word 'tamed', and finally assumed it meant 'found.'
He relayed his best guess to the Great Mother.
"Yeah...right." Kiralla winked.
"So, why'd you pull me out of the lower hold for? Lemme guess, the
timetable's been moved up?" She slouched a bit as Tara nodded. "When
do you need this thing moving, and what are you planning to do with it
when it does move? We're not going to be landing this in atmosphere, I
"Nope...you've just got to close that
gate. Seems our iguanas here hate the idea of a thousand Earth Command
heavy cruisers coming through that hole as much as we do, and we lose
our welcome-wagon if it doesn't shut soon." Tara looked up at Luuko,
"Yes. Fill the hole, please. Thank
you." Luuko bowed to the face in the screen.
Kiralla whuffled, "SHNU! You taught
them to speak! Wow!"
Luuko was pleased that he had had such
a striking effect on the Arrallin. It was obvious from her demeanor and
the actions of Tara and Rakal that she was considered an equal. He rumbled
"Well, this channel is secure - I
should know... I rewired it." Kiralla bared her teeth in a vicious
Arrallin grin. "I've got to tell you, though. Things around here
should not be in the incredible state of disrepair that they are. Someone
may be throwing a monkey in the wrench, so to speak, and that makes me
plenty nervous. This tub is old, but some of the failures have been on
newer systems. Landry is right - the engineering crew here has barely
lost it's milk teeth, but I have trouble believing that any full-blooded
Arrallakeeni would let things get as fouled as they are here. I'm going
to keep my guard up."
"I want you to transfer to the Singularity
II as soon as you can. We can't take any more chances - gate or no gate.
Leave Malry and Linaro to finish the job. The Pride will be bringing the
next load of colonists and supplies in tomorrow. Can you be on that flight?"
Tara cast a glance up at Luuko, who shook his head.
They must fill the hole, Luuko. Even if
she is a Leader, any proper Leader knows that losing life to save their
children is a high honor. The Great Mother echoed what he already knew
with such strength that all Dimar, Harmon and Tarrin instinctively turned
toward the north.
An unfamiliar voice answered bitterly,
Children? Easy for your Great Mother to talk of children! If I die on
this tub, I will never get a chance to breed, and my people will be left
one line shorter of a full blood Arrallin of the second House. I know
my duty. The gate will close.
The brown speckled face in the viewer snarled
loudly, as Tara and Rakal backed away. Kiralla's indignation at the Great
Mother's superlative tone was clear. The fury hit Luuko broadside.
Luuko whipped his head around and nearly
smashed the console. He hadn't even bothered to look, but there - clear
and true - Kiralla's resonance shone through. She was a Talent, however
minor, and had heard the Mother's call! He paused, not sure how to proceed
"Whoa...Kiralla! Okay...don't transfer."
Tara snapped back, holding her fists to her sides. Tara was oblivious
to the exchange, Luuko realized.
"She is a Talent. She is mad at us
for our talk." Luuko spoke quietly to Tara, hanging his head low,
and letting his ears droop. Had he been more cautious, he would have known
to block her from his channel with the Great Mother, and they would not
have insulted one another. He had caused a political incident for his
carelessness. "She would like to transfer, but knows to fill the
hole is her honor and duty."
"A Talent, huh? Kiralla...we'll talk
later. There is more than one way to close the hole, Luuko. We can slam
the Pride right through and puncture the containment field to close it.
There are three hundred plus Arrallakeeni down here who would pay credits
to be the one to do it and be sung as martyrs in the Exodus saga. Transfer
on this run or the next, but GET DOWN HERE." Rakal's tone was imperious,
and many Arrallakeeni near the console sat down unexpectedly.
Kiralla just laughed. "Don't try that
Arrallin command crap on me, Rakal. I know my duty, and I'll get there
when I can. Kiralla out." She slapped a soiled paw onto the console
and the picture faded.
Luuko reached out to Kiralla, seeking the
fiery red resonance of her mind. We meant not to insult. Please come down
for them. We did not know that you were not the only one who could fill
the hole. We are sorry. He managed to slip in a deep chord of remorse
for the incident, and hoped that she would accept his apology as that
of the Great Mother. He walled the Great Mother's own indignant echoes
in his mind, making sure they didn't carry through his message.
Fine...now can I get back to work? Make
sure that no one starts sending psi-chatter my way, too. You guys are
the loudest bunch I've ever orbited above, and it's hard enough blocking
you out without having every curious hatchling paging me. Kiralla was
straining to reach him, and he could not tell if she truly accepted his
attempt at amends. He could only hear the words, not the tone.
You will not be bothered. Good luck in
your work. Luuko withdrew from the exchange still worried, and returned
to translating Rakal and Tara's excited chatter.
"Ghu, I thought it was all over. When
Landry said that she couldn't report, I nearly died." Tara was smiling,
and leaning against the console.
"You're relieved? Ha! When she snarled
after you ordered her back, I was panicked that she'd passed her season
and had chosen some other mate. I saw my bloodline flash before my eyes."
Rakal was whuffling happily, resting on his haunches.
Luuko struggled to translate the strange
expressions. "Bloodline flassss before your eyes? Passed season?
Can you explain these, please?"
"Okay...now remember how only Arrallin
alphas mate? Well, when the female has her first season, she will chose
a mate for life. If it is not an Arrallin male, she will bond sometimes
with a beta, or even a human, of either male or female type." Rakal
looked around, careful that there were no humans that were out of the
inner circle in earshot.
"So, Kiralla is an alpha female who
has not mated?" Luuko was careful to relay the information clearly
to the Great Mother.
"Yes. That's why she's so, well...actually,
Kiralla is always that aggressive, angry. We have known each other since
we were kits. I like her very much. I want to be her mate, and she would
like to be mine." Rakal spoke slowly, using simple words. Luuko understood
"I understand. Ssse will wass when
ssee comes to Dimar?" Luuko wiggled his ears, thinking of how the
Great Mother, who already had made it plain that she did not like the
Arrallin female, would react when she arrived covered in soil spots.
Rakal stared at him, and tilted his head
to the side with confusion.
"Wass? Oh, wash!" Tara laughed.
"Yes, Luuko. She'll be clean when she meets the Great Mother. Don't
Rakal whuffled, and patted Luuko on the
leg. "Well, if anyone can fill the hole, Kiralla can. We'll let you
know how she does."