Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 29
Rakal chuckled, "Nothing's changed...you're
still poring over reports." He poked his head into the open door
of Tara's barryd room.
Tara leapt up from her desk and rushed
toward him joyously. "You're back! You're back! You're back!"
She grabbed him around the waist and swung him around the room, laughing
like she was a girl again.
Breathless, he stumbled back as she released
him, "I have to load up on mainland food, I guess," he laughed
as he caught his breath. Always able to manage his supercilious airs,
"It's unbecoming for even one as important as the Leader of two great
Barryds to be able to lift a full blood Arrallin..."
"Oh, you!" She punched his shoulder
good-naturedly. "I prefer to think of us as shipmates before the
day I was promoted to officer status." She grabbed a report off her
desk and flopped down in her bed, as much as she might have on board the
ship they both flew so long ago, before the Insurrection.
She looked tired, Rakal noted to himself,
not letting his concern show. She had a nervous kind of energy about her,
but her eyes were ringed heavily with dark circles and her hands fidgeted.
Her look matched the mood of the barryds - anticipatory, nervous, but
already stretched to the limit.
He had to ask "So, how's Barryd life
treating you? These plants being good to you?" He patted the mahogany
seat-shelf he was on.
She dismissed his question with a wave,
"Don't try to change the subject bud - you're here to report to me.
Tell me everything! How's Kiralla? When's she due? Are you going to stay
up on the Singularity II, or make a Hive down here like the others?"
Tara pointed to her map of mainland, winking at him as she jabbed her
finger toward a bay along the northeast coast.
"Kiralla's coming along fine. Two
more months and she'll give birth to, from what we can tell, 27 healthy
kits." Rakal whuffled with pride. "As you can imagine, the politics
are unbelievable, but we only have 20 keeni up there so there's little
fighting over the choosing order. They all know they're getting at least
one kit. The fighting's been over who will get two." Rakal looked
up toward the ceiling with mock exasperation, "An embarrassment of
riches." He grinned wildly. "I'm going to transfer up seven
keeni with me when I return to the Singularity II. We'll need them to
start getting acclimated now so they'll be ready to take guardianship
by the introduction time. You know...milk production and all that."
Tara nodded. "I've never been around
a real Hive at this time, but I was wondering how long you'd need for
Arrallakeeni to start producing milk." Tara flipped through a personnel
chart. "I hope I'm invited for the introduction, you! Heck... can
humans take guard of a kit?" She shook her head, "Who am I fooling?
When will I have time to be a parent anyway! I will have more free time
by then, though. I expect to be fully disconnected from these fairly soon."
She patted the wall behind her. "Definitely take Timra and Whirkil.
The other five you can choose however you like. Those two you'll find
particularly useful. They've both developed Psi down here. With their
help, and Kiralla's talent, you can stay connected with the other Hives
more easily. It's the oddest thing, lots of Talent emerging in the Keeni
population. The Dimar tell me it's the Wind down here. If anyone's got
even a hint of psi, it will emerge if immersed in this magnetism long
"Go back a step. Disconnecting from
the Barryds? Explain. Your turn to report, lady." Rakal peered toward
the door, pointing toward Luuko's blue hindquarters visible down the hall.
"He knows...it's fine. But, the walls
have ears. Literally." She waved her hand toward the door membrane
and it slid shut noiselessly. "This is the second reason I called
you down here. I need someone competent - combat competent - to operate
"What? Why?" Rakal's lengthening
mane stood on end. Could he risk himself flying a combat mission so close
to Kiralla's birthing time? He couldn't bear the thought of her having
to become a second mate to one of the Hives down here if he was lost in
the combat. Kiralla was second to no one, and deserved better than that.
He was her only shot at being an independent Hive queen, and despite his
loyalty to Tara, he couldn't risk himself now.
"In three days, we're launching a
Barryd pod. Talks with outside Barryds have completely broken down at
this point. Telka and Mulkol cannot continue as one and not be completely
razed by the rest of settled Dimar. Between our plasma, Mulkol's death
weapons and Telka's cleverness, we pose far to serious a threat, and the
other Leaders know it." Tara leaned back against a wall and seemed
to rejuvenate from the contact. "So, we have to win their trust..."
"With combat flying the Pride?"
"Let me finish. We have to win their
trust or beat them into submission. Either way, the mission cannot be
jeopardized." Tara ended on a low note.
Rakal knew that tone too well, but would
not be swayed into risking himself or the Pride unnecessarily. For once,
he understood Tara's complaints of being pulled in too many directions
at once. He was in the position of leadership now, and would have to make
the final call regarding his own resources, and his own ship. "Outline
the mission. Let me see what we might be able to do from up above."
"This seed will be guided two days
north up to that bay I showed you. What this seed is designed to be is
a combined Mu/Tel Barryd, and it's going to be Dimar's first Starborn
Defense Academy. From there, we're going to train up a fighting force
the likes of which even the Mulkai would tremble to face. No one is taking
our homeworld without a fight." Tara's passive posture didn't hide
the tensing in her arms as she quietly stated her case.
"You sound like a Dimar, Tara. Our
homeworld? These barryds have gotten to your head." Rakal grinned
uneasily. "And how do you think the other non-Mulkai Leaders are
going to take this? You're building a military force in their backyard.
Winning their trust, in the face of what you're proposing, is preposterous.
How do they know that you, or your successor at the Academy, won't just
turn the machinery on them and enslave them again?"
"I don't see what choice they have,
Rakal. The only reason they're not Earth force slaves now is because we
stole the gate from them before they could find this place. It's only
by sheer chance that the Mulkai that left Dimar haven't stumbled back
onto it and retaken it - with perhaps a worse regime than before. You
have no idea what they were like before." Tara sorted the plastic
report sheets distractedly. "No, the Leaders will be made to see
that there is no threat from the Academy. It will serve them, and they
for their own protection will want to learn from it. All the books will
be open to them. Anyone who wants to learn from what we do, can.
Dimar got lucky once, but luck has a tendency
to run out. The Telkans have been made to see it, even those so hateful
of Mulkai that they can't bear to fly past the western spire of Telka
these days. The Mulkol, with all their feelings of superiority, agree
that they have to serve the whole. If I can get these two wretched plants
to agree, the rest of the planet should be easy." She smiled half-heartedly.
Rakal nodded. He'd seen some of what she'd
learned from her experiences as a Barryd Leader in her reports, and from
the historians. The fighting farmer-lizards on Dimar were not going to
be the problem in the years to come. The danger was from offworld. An
image from one historical report leaped into his mind - one of hundreds
of non-Mulkai Dimar arranged in a massive column to guide a Starborn Mulkai
ship to space. He furrowed his brow, remembering the animation of the
huge black ship, propelled by all the tiny wings of the Dimar toward the
stars. It crushed them as it passed, and they fell back on the writhing
half-dead bodies of those beneath them as they, impelled by the undeniable
force of a Leader's command, continued to direct all their force up. Hundreds
of thousands of Dimar slaves died with each launch - both Mulkai and non.
It seemed the losers of Mulkai wars were no better off than the non-Mulkai
slaves they kept. There were parallels between certain Hives on Arralla,
and certain nations on Earth, but none rivaled the image of that much
carnage all at once.
"We're going to use our own launch
techniques, I hope." Rakal watched for Tara's reaction closely. He
wasn't sure how much contact with the Mulkai barryd would change her.
She certainly hadn't seemed herself in this interview.
"Definitely. However, there are rumors
of another launching system. Disgruntled Mulkol have destroyed the files,
but the equipment has to be on the planet somewhere. You can oversee the
surveyors on the Golden Hinde for me on that project." Tara flipped
through maps and heat-resonance scans.
"You're not going to use the Dimar
as a launch wall, are you?!" Rakal demanded furiously. His tail lashed
from side to side. He couldn't believe she would even consider it!
Tara looked taken aback. "Never! There
were some Mulkai who recognized the value of life, you know. You shouldn't
believe everything you see in the history reels - many were made for us
by Telkans. Although, the Pillars of Flesh were actually used by the most
cruel of the Mulkai culture. That's who we're going to be defending against.
They make Nazis look like amateurs." Tara explained calmly. Rakal
expected that she'd been through this argument before a number of times.
She continued, "Some Mu, despite their choice of lifestyle, were
quite ingenious. They used another technique. We just have to figure out
what it is. From what the reports can tell, whatever it was, it was environmentally
friendly and would augment our fusion drives. The Pride will only last
so long, and we've got serious mass to lift off this rock."
Rakal sighed inwardly at the idea of his
quiet little pocket of space being invaded by the bulk of a giant space
station. Even orbit wasn't going to provide him with privacy for Kiralla
and his Hive. He consoled himself with the idea that an Academy would
mean less need for him to lead combat missions, and with this in mind,
he almost enjoyed the idea of one last mission. "So, how do you need
us to prepare? Should we gather up bombardment objects in orbit to aim
at the neighboring barryds? And how do you need the Pride?"
"I have no idea how this is going
to play out. They may try to swarm us, in which case we have to keep the
Mulkol from just shredding them. I've been reviewing the ranks, and most
have agreed that in return for Mulkol returning to Mulkol rule and isolation,
they will restrain themselves. Of course, Mulkol is teaming with young
warriors desperate to make a legend for themselves - I'd rather they fight
the Pride than take out a Leader and destabilize the entire political
structure." Tara rested her chin in her hands.
"Great. A friendly fire mission."
Rakal couldn't hide his disapproval.
"What else would you have me do?"
Tara gave him one of those 'Why should I even justify my plans to you?'
looks and continued on. He bristled with annoyance. "In the best
case situation, the Leaders will want a demonstration and explanation
of how the technology for Plasma and Fusion works. In either case, we
need an impressive lightshow. I need to convince them of how serious I
am about full disclosure of this information. In any case, just have the
"Do I have to comply? More importantly,
do I need to pilot it?" Rakal looked deeply into her eyes, wondering
if she'd try to command him.
"No. You're a Hive King now. I can't
tell you how to live your life - all I can do is ask to borrow your transport
and hope you say yes." Her voice was unusually soft, but her face
"In that case, yes. You can work the
ship into your planning. I'll stay down here to watch how things go. I'll
move off to Keinsa Hive tonight. I can't risk myself or any more Keeni.
I'll be moving out all the Arrallakeeni over to Keinsa Hive and back up
to the Singularity II over the next three days. I'm sorry if this leaves
you short-staffed." His tone was curt and to the point. Rakal wasn't
sure how Tara would react, but he had to take command sometime, and the
gate was closed. It might as well be now.
"Fine." Tara's eyes flashed angrily,
but she nodded.
Their conversation continued long into
the night, but was all business. Rakal wondered if he hadn't lost a friend
in gaining a Hive.