|Galactic Chronicles Book X|
|Previous||Chapter 14: Ambush (GC X)|
|Current||Prelude to Battle|
|Next||Chapter 16: Bar Fight (GC X)|
The Togar and his men came over and even the big Togar looked concerned at the huge Y’All towering behind me. His arm dangled from his left shoulder with a nasty burn wound and he said. “We need to leave fast. I am surprised the Sky punishers have not responded already.”
I said. “It looks like my crew took care of those and they won’t bother you for a while.”
He made big eyes. “You mean the Sky punishers are gone?”
I turned to my friends and said. ”I am as much in the dark at the moment as you, Ninety. Let me catch up with the developments and then we need to roll and get Har-Hi and Narth.”
Shea took the lead. “We knew something was wrong when you did not respond to our hails and were overdue. We located the tank all right and saw the aftermath of a big fight not far away, complete with a huge monster hacked to death and a leveled mountain village with dead soldiers. All clear indications to us you’d been there. Finally we found your PDD and pieces of your suit, but no body.”
TheOther rumbled with his deep voice. “You had us really worried Captain.”
Shea said. “We intercepted communications of the local police that they had captured two aliens and from the description it was clear it was Har-Hi and Narth, but not mention of you.”
She was near tears as she said that, I could tell by her trembling chin. I, not giving a hoot about regulations, took her in my arms.
After a moment she said. “I refused to believe you were dead. Then an Ithe Commander called us on Har-Hi’s PDD and told us you were with the rebels and planned an ambush on a water convoy. She wanted to warn you that there was a much bigger force out here than 40 soldiers and a few water trucks. She also told us about the truly ancient network of sentinel satellites. We came here as fast as we could.”
Mao said. “Not that you really needed our help. I will never forget seeing you riding on that winged beast swinging an axe. You looked like a real warrior goddess.”
“We can reminiscence about all that later, let’s go now and free Narth and Har-Hi; they are held in a military compound about 400 clicks from here.”
A sudden feeling of warmth flooded my mind and Narth appeared from thin air. “No need Captain, after the Commandant deactivated the Stasis field that held us, Har-Hi showed the Ithe authorities how unhealthy it is to make a Dai angry and I also expressed my displeasure in perhaps a more emotionally fueled fashion than usual.”
“Where is Har-Hi?”
“Our first officer is currently in sickbay under the care of Cateria. The rock projectiles that we both unfortunately intercepted with our craniums injured us both, but he should make a complete recovery.”
He was next receiving a hug from me and I asked. “And how about you?”
I found the experience of being rendered unconscious by a rock quite fascinating, but an experience I would not want to repeat. I was able to meditate while in Cryo Stasis and mend my injury. Even without the Commandants aid I was almost at a point where I would have been able to affect our release. I also took precautions not to be influenced by modulated Theta-waves again.”
He cocked his hooded head. “How curious to think that a primitive acoustic wave form would be so effective against Narth.”
The Togar was still holding his arm and said. “It appears you have all you came for. Your friends are safe.”
I said to him. “Not quite, Ninety, there is still some unfinished business and we need to take care of your wounded.”
To Shea I said. “How long do you think those Sky things are going to be out of order?”
She shrugged. “If the locals work fast and replace the Computronic hardware, they could be up and running in a week or so.”
That was good news indeed, and then I asked. ”Who holds the Conn at the moment?”
Shea said. “Elfi has the Conn.”
She handed me my wrist com and I said. “Captain to Elfi.”
My Saran Communications officer responded. “Captain, we were so worried!”
“It is good to hear your voice too. I’ll fill you all in later about the details. Right now I need a med team down here.”
“I sent a landing tank with a field med mission module; Cateria and her team are on their way to the hangar as we speak.”
“Thank you Elfi. I fill you in a.s.a.p.” Then I cut the transmission and said to the Togar. “How long do you think we have until this convoy is going to be missed?”
He looked over the carnage and said. “It is hard to say, but with their Sky eyes down they might send out flyer patrols and it also depends if the soldiers here had time to use their radios. I am sure we have several hours, but who knows what they’ll do if they find the prisoners missing along with whatever your men did to the regional outpost.”
A rugged and strong looking Ithe mountain man said. “I am of the Oote tribe and I want to thank you for killing the Draak soldiers.”
The Togar growled at him. “Why did you attack out here, especially if you saw the convoy was much bigger than usual and had tanks with them?”
The Oote man lowered his stalk eyes and said. “The Draak convoy was larger this time because they came back from punishing our village for hiding a water source from the government. He made a gesture behind him and over perhaps 200 men. “This is what’s left of 1200. They shot everyone else and the sky punisher destroyed our homes. What else was there for us to do than fight and die?”
Shea swallowed hard and said. “They killed your wives and children, for water?”
Ninety said. “Water is precious and a water source like a mountain spring means wealth, power and control. No rebels and Waste land
Ninety put his good hand on the Tribe leader’s shoulder. “Forgive me.”
The Dai warrior also joined us and said to me. “Your Thaa Gryther is badly wounded. Do you want to shoot it yourself as Gryther warriors do or should I do it?”
I walked a distance and found the creature on the ground, both its large wings in broken disarray. I noticed not only the burned wing but a second blaster wound to his muscular hind legs. Shea knelt next to it and put an Auto Doc Unit against the beast’s neck, while I patted it and said to Shea. I rode it only twice and don’t really know it, but I sort of like it. I think it saved my life, by trying to land even after it was wounded.”
She checked the Auto doc read out and said. “No worry, the Auto Doc is stabilizing it and Cateria will have that thing fixed in no time.”
-- Cateria had arrived and with her came several Med Techs and five med bots. Ha-Hi had piloted the tank down. Har-Hi came over to where I was standing and smirked. “The next time I am going with you on an away mission, I wear a helmet. That rock hammered me real good, you know.”
I squeezed his hand and put my other hand on his shoulder. “I am sorry, it was my fault. I should have listened to you.”
He chuckled. “No it wasn’t your fault. We all picked a dangerous profession and getting out of bed is dangerous.”
I sighed and frowned at him. “I guess you will lecture me now that we should not get involved in local affairs, right?”
“No Captain, I won’t. I am your XO and must be the devil’s advocate, but once you make a decision, I support it to my last breath. He crossed his arms and said. “I am just glad it isn’t me who has to write the log book entry or explain what we are doing to the Admiral.”
It took us no time with my Friends and the temp marines they had brought along as well to clear the road, bury the bodies and the scrap. The Togar said the water trucks were valuable and would be taken back to the compound, especially since there were no sky eyes watching. The ones that came on flyers returned as they came. The now homeless men of the Oote tribe sat on top and clung to the water trucks and some sat on top of our landing tank. TheOther, Hans and three marines carried wounded Grythers flying ahead.
We all arrived at the rebel hide out with the first rays of light of a new day, I had remained with the Togar and several marines to guard the trucks and make sure they arrived safe and unobserved. There in the cavernous belly of the freighter wreck industrious and well organized was Cateria, med bots and med techs. They had triaged the wounded, set up treatment tents and processed what looked like endless line of beings.
To the Togar I said. “I was under the impression there were only a few wounded, where do they all come from?”
An Ithe woman came over and shook my hand with both of hers. ”I can see again! I can see again! Dugos the benevolent Spirit has heard my chants. Thank you!”
The Togar answered my question. “No one here has seen a doctor or got any medical aid in ages. The news of your miraculous med crew spread like a wildfire through this community of ours.” He looked to the floor and I sensed the big cat felt embarrassed. ”I am sorry for us taking so shameless advantage of you.”
I said. “I don’t think you need to be ashamed or embarrassed. I am glad we can help.” Pointing at his bandaged arm, I added. “You should have that checked out by my CMO as well.”
“I will be last, if there any supplies left.”
“Ninety, I see you are a good leader with the wellbeing of your people foremost on your mind, but as a leader you are needed and you can do that best by being well. I am sure we can manage supply wise.” I walked with him over to Cateria, who just came out of a treatment tent. I said to her, “Sorry for putting all this on you, but I have one more.”
She actually smiled and said: “Captain, I know I am not always the most emotional person and I am well aware of my reputation, but I became a Medic because I wanted to help. It was my idea to have those people checked and I tell you some of them really needed our help badly, lots of infected Taser and whip burns, gouged eyes and other wounds from torture.”
While she spoke she scanned the arm of the Togar.
Just then Jolaj the white Togar girl came out of the tent carrying a small Ithe child and handing it to its waiting mother. “He is fine now, I treated his skin infection.”
The big Togar fell to his knees and buried his head between his arms. “My life is blessed. I was privileged to gaze upon the Goddess with the Innocent fur. “
Jolaj said.” Get up, Togar. I am not a Goddess, perhaps once I was. But that changed and I became an outcast and a wanted criminal by the decree of the Queen and the High priestess. Now however I am med tech First Class Jolaj Grotha, Union citizen.” She actually raised her chin and her voice as she said that and she looked quite proud.
Ninety got up, but still bowed devoutly. “Neither jealous priestesses nor blind queens can change the fact, what all Togr kind knows. What joy and hope will you bring to the thousands of Togar slaves on the smelter moons if they hear the Goddess of the Grotha is alive!”
She waved her white paw and said. “I would not want to return if the Queen herself would offer me all the treasures and honors the Empire could bestow. I am a free Union Citizen, have a purpose and friends.”
Cateria leaned over and whispered to me. “Her official CITI came over GalNet just a few days ago and Lt. Har-Hi made her conscription official. She tells that to everyone at least three times a day.”
I watched as she pulled the big warrior with a resolute move inside the treatment tent. -- I had a shower in one of the inflatable hygiene modules that were part of the medical equipment brought down from the Tigershark and Shea had brought me a new leather suit. The greatest joy in days was to use a simple brush on my clean again hair that had looked like an old floor mob. Feeling much more presentable, I checked with the ship to make sure everything was alright and then had a bite to eat.
The medical treatment of the rebels was still going on, but the line was short now.
The Togar intercepted me and said. “Your Gryther is doing well, and the other wounded animals will soon be fully recovered as well.”
I looked over to the stable boxes and said. “I am glad to hear that.”
“You will leave soon I assume?”
“I am pressed for time, I only have a few days, but I am not gone yet. I am pondering what we could do right now.”
Har-Hi came out of the landing tank and came over. “I set up perimeter guards; I am sure the local authorities will discover the destroyed regional headquarters soon.”
I looked at him from the side. “You completely destroyed it?”
“I did have a few Antimatter grenades left and I was not in a good mood, Captain. Besides you should talk to your Narth friend. I never saw anything scarier than him turning loose his powers.”
“All the troops are dead?”
“After we freed the prisoners, they armed themselves and showed no mercy. Most of the soldiers were killed by the prisoners. A few escaped I am sure and some were secret sympathizers.”
The Togar said. “It is hard to predict what they will do. They may retaliate against villages and small communities in the district. They may go into a full attack and round up everyone.”
The female Ithe commander had joined us and she said. “I think the regional commander will keep it quiet and simply replace the soldiers and rebuilt. I know him and he would not want to explain to the Magistrate how a military convoy and the regional HQ got destroyed. He will however terrorize the region even worse.”
I turned to her and said. “Thank you for keeping your word and freeing my friends and alerting my ship, Commander.”
She declined her head. “I am a Commander no more. To the world I am dead like the rest, but I am free.”
Cateria joined our small group and said. “We are pretty much done here, Captain. Everyone is treated. Jolaj and my staff are wrapping things up and then we can pack everything.”
Har-Hi made a snorting sound, looking at me from the side and said. “This concludes our involvement here, right?
Everything in me told me to stay and do something about the situation, but so far I had no clear idea what to do, that could have any effect on the local conditions. A Kartanian who was the only one of his kind among the rebels, had fought alongside the mountain Ithe, but had not spoken a word so far. I only really noticed him standing near the Togar as he spoke. He said to Har-Hi. “You are Dai Than and acts of mercy might not come as easy to you as to your female friend and Captain. The medical help you provided has mended more than bones and healed more than wounds. It has raised hopes and reignited dreams, that we are not alone in this hopeless struggle after all. The fate of Itheamh and its people is closely linked to the conditions in the Kartanian Conglomerate and as long as the First Engineer is kept prisoner and asleep by the horrible Guild Masters, the Kartanian fist lays heavy on this world as well.”
The Togar sighed and said. “My bone faced friend speaks of the realization we all have to face, that our rebellion movement has no chance of ever succeeding and freeing our world. It is this hopelessness that keeps us from speaking with one voice. I am certain even many Draak would follow us if we could make some headway.”
While I listened to them, somewhere in my mind, a spark of an idea, began to grow. I was not yet able to put it into thoughts or even words. I said to the Kartanian. “Tell me more about the Kartanian situation.”
The rigid face of the Kartanian could not show emotions, at least none I could identify, but his voice was full of emotions I could understand. He said. “I still have hope. One day someone will break into the deep chamber underneath the Guild Hall and carry the lost key to awaken the First Engineer. He will wipe away all corruption and the filth that besmirches the noble and ancient halls of our trades. When this happens, the Smelter moons will go cold and no sentient being be it Kartanian, Togar or anyone else will be forced to work and die. When this day comes Itheamh will be free too. The Draak Magistrate who bases his power on his Kartanian masters will be swept away.”
The Kartanian turned to Har-Hi and said. “Even you would rejoice, as there are many thousand Dai slaving and dying on the Smelter Moons as well. There are species that adjust to slave labor better than others. I can tell you, your kind is not one of them; they suffer greatly as their pride is hard to crush. Yet we still call them brothers.”
Har-Hi said to him. “You misjudge me, Kartanian. Dai are as honorable and able to feel compassion just as humans do, but I am the first officer of our ship first and foremost and in this capacity I must remind my Captain of our primary mission. We have little time and we are just a small ship, not a battle ship with thousands of trained marines to simply topple the regime and then have the time to stay and make sure you do not start to fight among each other. When you remove one force, the vacuum that is created cannot stay empty. Nation building is a difficult business, not to mention that it is against Union regulations to interfere in such ways.”
The Togar nodded slowly. “I understand your dilemma and we are not asking you to stay or fight with us, we merely hoped you would.”
Har-Hi again turned to the Kartanian saying. “You are correct, Dai-Than do not do well in captivity, but I doubt there are thousands of Dai slaves. Where would they come from? The Kartanian and the Togar are formidable but they are not capable of overcoming Dai Clans and capture thousands.”
The Kartanian snapped back. “Who said anything about capture? They are sold by their own peers.”
Har-Hi pulled his swords, both of them and almost killed the Kartanian. “Do not insult my people, Boneface. We are not Kartanians, no Dai-Than has ever enslaved another Dai. No Dai has ever sold another Dai!”
The Kartanian was braver than he looked and raised his head and presented his throat to the hovering blades and he said. “Then strike and kill me. My death does not change the fact that it is done, you can ask two of your kind right here. Where do you think they came from?”
I did not interfere as Har-Hi’s swords hovered less than a hairs width from the thin rigid throat of the Kartanian. Har-Hi was taking a deep breath and I knew he performed a mental exercise to calm down. I trusted he would make the right decision.
Har-Hi returned his swords into their scabbards and said between pressed teeth. “What do you know about Dai-Than being sold into slavery?”
The Kartanian said. “It is for over twenty years now and used to be a great secret. It is a High Clan leader and his name is Cam Elf-Nah. This Clan leader made a deal with the Guild masters of the Chamber. In exchange for slaves he would receive raw materials and the right to hide his Clan fleets in Kartanian space. I know all this from my Dai Slave brothers and it is from that source I know that this Cam Elf-Nah dreams of uniting all Dai Clans under his rule and anyone not accepting his rule, he declares Okthi-Dai.”
I could see in my friends face that he believed the Kartanian and he clenched his fists. “What has become of my race? Is this the true legacy of my father’s decision? If my father would have stayed, maybe he could have uncovered this atrocity.”
I put my hand on his shoulder and said. “The history of your people has just begun; the Dai will emerge from this even stronger than they are now.”
He said to the Kartanian. ”You said there are two Dai, can I meet them?”
The Togar answered instead and said.” They are right here, mighty Dai.”
Ninety had a truly mighty voice as he roared loudly and called the Dai.
The Dai I had met before and a second even younger looking Dai came moments later down the ramp and walked closer staring at Har-Hi with wide eyes.
Both had the characteristic red skin of Dai-Than and were tall and muscular, but they had their hair cropped short, unlike the black long hair of my friend who wore always carefully oiled and combed it back. Both of them wore a conglomerate of uniforms and armor pieces.
The older Dai wore his crudely made Clan glyph attached to a home-made crisscrossing across the chest like the broad armor plated straps all Dai Warriors wore, each strap carrying a special knife, and the deadly disc shaped Alti-Karr behind the Clan glyph plate.
He bowed before Har-Hi his fists crossed before his chest. The gesture I knew was called the Urst-Thanar and only done if a Dai Warrior accepted the supremacy of another and declared himself a servant and follower that way.
While I watched them I realized how much I already knew about the Dai Culture.
The older slapped the younger one and he too then bowed in the same fashion.
Har-Hi removed the cover of his clan glyph and almost visibly he straightened his stance even more, his eyebrows rose a little over half closed eyelids as he mustered the boys. I was certain not even the grand wizard of the Kermac could have possibly looked more arrogant. Yet Har-Hi added flair of princely grace somehow. He said to them. ”You may identify yourselves now.”
The older one said. “I am Mar-For of the For-Ka-Ti tribe and this is Mar-Ta. He was born on the smelter moons so I made him my brother.”
Har-Hi said.” I am the first son of Tar-Ka-Hi, Champion of Thana Shoo, High Warrior of the Crimson Order and bearer of all seven honor blades.”
I knew he did not do that to brag, it was his way to instill a little racial pride in the two young Dai Than. It did not fail, their yellow eyes glimmered and their faces lit up with awe. The older then furrowed his brow and said. “Is not the Clan of Kar-Hi declared Okthi by Cam Elf-Nah?”
Har-Hi’s right hand went for his upper honor knife and he said with an ice cold tone in his voice. “I stand and deal death to anyone dishonoring my father and my tribe. As it appears that blinded fool Cam-Elf Na is doing more damage to the Dai Than and covers all that is Dai-Than with shame. Crawling and taking orders from the Shiss and now I hear he is selling Dai into bondage. No such crimes have been committed since the Evil Ortha Okthi was defeated by the Sentient Sprit warriors in the time before time and sent to the darkest pits!”
I remembered him once telling me of this mythical battle between the God Spirits the Dai believed in and a horde of evil Dai that turned into demons by all the evil deeds they did. It was the origin of the world Okthi and synonym with all that was without honor.
Mar-Fo bowed again and said. ”We have been sold to the Smelter moons, as we were very young and long before your father decided to go to the Union. We only know of these events from the Dai that are now sold in great numbers to the Smelter Moons.”
Har-Hi kept the hand on the knife but said. “I could not believe the Kartanian as he told me many Dai are sold to the Smelter Moons. How can that be?”
The other Dai Nor-Ta spoke for the first time. “We don’t know many details, mighty prince. I was eight and Mar-Tar was ten when our Dai Mother was destroyed and we were sold into Slavery.”
Har-Hi’s face fell even more and he said. “What enemy did your tribe face, back then? Surely it must have been a formidable enemy.”
Mar-Fo shook his head and said. “No High Prince, it was not. It was Cam Elf-Nah who ambushed us and destroyed our Clan. This is what my mother told me to remember.”
My friend could not hide his emotions as he heard this and he said. “Tribe wars do happen but they are declared and it is at Thana Shoo such wars are fought, in the arena warriors against warriors, not ships against ships.”
Mar-Fo answered. “I was still little back then, High Prince. I do not know anything of the details, other than what my mother told me. Our Clan Leader bested Cam Elf-Nah in the fights for the honor to be Champion of Thana Shoo. She said that Cam Elf-Nah swore revenge and ambushed our Clan. After he destroyed our defenses and killed anyone who resisted. He could not leave anyone alive to tell of his deed, so he sold all survivors to the Kartanians.”
Har-Hi shivered with barely contained rage. “Your story must be heard by the Pale Elders of Thana Shoo, it will end the reign of this demon! How many Dai-Than are on these moons?”
Mar-To raised his shoulders and said. “We know only of Olx, the moon we escaped from, but there are seventeen such places, all called Smelter moons. On Olx we think there are many times the number hundred.”
Mar-Ta held all fingers of his hands and said. “We are not very good with numbers and such but for each finger you can count hundred for sure maybe a little more.”
Har-Hi whispered. “A thousand Dai Slaves?”
The younger Dai nodded and said. “There are less now I am sure, only the women and the young ones survive. The warriors usually die very fast as the Overseers kill them for disobedience or for trying to fight and never let them out of the heavy chains.”
Neither I nor the others had said a word since the Dai talked.
Har-Hi looked at me with pain in his eyes. “I am honor bound to you Captain and to my commission, otherwise I would go to war right now and not stop killing until the last Kartanian died for what they did to my people. I am Okthi; I am the son of my father, but I am also Dai and the blood in their veins is the same as mine. I cannot stand idle to see a megalomaniac destroy what is left of our culture and our heritage. With every Dai that dies the gene pool of my species shrinks. What of the cultural treasures every Dai Mother carries, the precious antiques and artifacts rescued from our doomed planet.”
Har-Hi was talking himself into a rage, like I had never seen before.
Mar-Ta said. ”You speak with fire and honor, High Prince, but why are you traveling with a weak human female and take orders from her and not be on the side of your father with a Dai Fleet in Orbit?”
Har-Hi grabbed the throat of the Dai. ”I am Lieutenant Har-Hi of the United Stars Navy. It was my father’s wish that I become the first Dai Than who serves the Fleet and set an example. I am honored beyond your grasp of understanding to serve with this Captain.”
The Togar growled. “She defeated a Shogotrz with nothing but a sword and I have seen her attack a Draak Armored troop carrier with an axe and win.”
Har-Hi tossed the young Dai aside and looked at me with eyes that shimmered with tears of rage and sadness. “Captain, leave me here. I will fight. I must do whatever it takes to free my kind.”
I put my hand on his shoulder. “I am not leaving you behind and I am not leaving you alone in this, you are my friend.”
Har-Hi’s eyes shimmered and I know he was close to tears and he said. ”Captain that will end your career or maybe they’ll hang you first for abandoning our mission and disobeying orders.”
“Richard Stahl told me once that a Captain must first and foremost do what she thinks is right. Our mission is important and we will find a way to find that depot. Even if we have to capture the Red Dragon and squeeze the location out of him somehow, even if we have to fly to the other end of the Galaxy to find it. We will not leave here until the Smelter Moons are shut down and then we will fly to Thana-Shoo and talk to the Pale Ones.”
Har-Hi slowly put his hand on my shoulder and said. “Captain, are you sure?”
“You said you’d follow me to the gates of hell. Sounds like these moons are the next best thing.”
“You know I will!”
I then turned to the Togar and the Kartanian. “I guess we’ll stay here after all, at least until you all are no longer rebels and I think I even have an idea how we going to do that.”
The Togar said. “Whatever you need, Captain; whatever you want us to do we will do it or die trying.”
Mao’s voice interrupted us, coming from my wrist com. “Captain, there is an army marching towards the scrap field forest, at least a thousand men with tanks, battle walkers and bomber-flyers.”