Table of Contents
Lost Waters - Chapter 20
"You can't be serious!" Cries
went up from all sides, human, Arrallin and Telkan as Tara outlined her
plan. Her new psi senses were proving a mixed blessing, preventing her
from simply ignoring the loud mental and vocal protests from the Telkans
as she normally would have.
"Look. We've been over this. We can't
beat them straight out. We need to get in there and surgically cut them
down, starting at the top. And, if we don't get the Great Mother back
before Mulkol takes control of Telka, we lose the Telkans. It will be
humans and Arrallins only." Tara wondered if she'd know when the
Patriarch of Mulkol had taken the position of Leader at Telka. The ritual
would somehow link his mind to each Telkan, and although it did not grant
control, he might have access to any of the plans they'd seen so far.
"We have to act fast, and the number of Telkans filing into Mulkol
through the slave trains is beginning to dwindle. There is no time for
debate." She paused, sensing the despair in Telkans. Many of them
would not return from this mission. She surveyed the faces of the humans
there. A few seemed nervous, but most just had a look of angry determination.
Terrimin stepped forward. "General
Ir'tarku Tara is correct. Our forces will support her. Her plan is sound."
The Arrallakeeni growled a low note of support. "We'll have support
from the Pride, which will engage the majority of Mulkol's defenses, if
not destroy them. We need to assassinate their Leader. It will cripple
them, leaving us time to liberate what Telkans there are left to save."
One of the human men stepped forward. "The
plan's great. It's climbing into one of those Dimar kangaroo pouches that
I just can't stomach. Fighting I'll do. But in no way am I riding around
inside one of THEM." Tara recognized him. He was part of the separatist
group that had been scouting the southern coast for a human-only settlement.
Tara wasn't sure how to deal with him, but, considering his background
in humiliating others, she tried a dose of his own medicine.
"What? Afraid to do what every baby
Dimar on the planet does for three cycles? What a brave fighting man you
are." She dismissed him with a laugh. "Okay, then, you get to
spend the next week as a guest of Ekal until operation Trojan Dragon is
over." Harmon nodded to two Ekal honor guard, who scooped up the
protesting man and spirited him up into the higher levels of the Barryd.
The humans looked stunned.
"Every person who does not wish to
be part of this mission will be detained here, in luxury, I might add,
until the mission is over. Then, you'll be released to try to start a
colony in the shadow of the Mulkol. I wish you luck. You may be the only
ones that survive." Tara stared into the eyes of each human there.
Most were Telkan-sympathetic, and had a look of resolve. A few in the
back quietly slipped out. Harmon was careful to dispatch an Ekal guard
to transport each one.
"Luuko? The envelope, please."
Tara turned and regarded her big blue-green friend. She wasn't looking
forward to this. "A good general doesn't ask her soldiers to do anything
she herself isn't willing to do", she muttered as Luuko dipped a
shoulder to her. "Tell me if the rifle or any of the gear is uncomfortable,
"Will do, Leader Tara." Luuko's
voice didn't hide the discomfort he was trying to mask from other psis
in the room. Tara chuckled. There was definitely something to being a
'closet psi'. Gritting her teeth, she slowly slid herself into the pouch,
hunkering down in the silky white fur. She had expected it to be slimy,
but it was actually quite comfortable inside the pouch.
Outside, she could hear the chatter of
the Dimar as other humans followed suit and climbed inside the various
She could feel the muscles ripple along
Luuko's back as he strode and lifted into the air. They were off.
Through her tiny peep-hole in the deep
downy fur, Tara could make out some of what was going on. Her psi-talent
gave her the additional edge she needed to assess Luuko's work as leader
pro-tem as they made their entrance.
Luuko guided the group along the fire lines
toward the southern entrance to the Mulkol complex. The distant sound
of fighting as the Arrallins engaged the main defenses showed little effect
on the activities of the Mulkol here from what Tara could see from her
perch. Finding a slave train into Mulkol wasn't difficult. The Mulkol
were eager to have servants after so many cycles of fending for themselves.
Luuko ordered the group back, telling them to roll in the mud before proceeding.
Their recent healing marks would give them away.
Tara hugged her weapons tightly inside
the pouch as Luuko rolled in the mud. An accident now for either of them
could spell the end of the operation. She cursed inwardly, regretting
pairing herself and Luuko together. All her eggs were in one basket, or
pouch, and if Luuko fell now, so would she. They had to somehow reach
the leader. She could hear Luuko's thoughts churning away as he worked
on the problem.
Heads down, and thoroughly muddied, their
group of seven shuffled along the muddy field. Some faked injured wings,
and others exhaustion. Luuko took up a faltering flight, falling and flapping
to regain position in the air. They joined the end of the train and blended
in. The two Telkans ahead of them turned back, and Tara could feel their
defiance as Luuko and they had a heavily shielded exchange. There was
still plenty of fight in the Telkans, even the slaves, after all.
One of the Mulkol enslavers swept down
over the line, barking insults and commands. Tara could only hear the
muffled guttural sounds and see the flash of brown-gray wings through
her tiny view slit. She felt a spike of fear in Luuko as the enslaver
paused near him. Tara, trying to be as still as possible, slid her rifle
up to the opening. They were almost inside Mulkol, and she didn't' want
to risk detection until she was within striking distance of at least their
top generals. A piercing mental search passed over Tara, and she blocked,
summoning all her energy into Harmon's blocking technique.
Her cradling pouch contracted as the enslaver
struck Luuko across the head. She felt Luuko's shoulders droop, and felt
his despair wash through every thought. Careful not to give herself away
as a psi, she tried to emanate positive thoughts.
The enslaver grabbed Luuko by the horns,
forcing him to the ground in a hard dive, driving his nose into the mud
and holding it down with a hind foot. Tara struggled to keep from clambering
out of the pouch and dispatching the brute right there. In a roaring laugh,
he announced to his 'mates, This one...this one here is the bloodkin son
of the Great Mother! He's come to save his mahmar! Isn't that precious!
The gray Mulkol wrenched Luuko's head up and struck him again so he fell
on his back. Inside the constricting pouch and under the weight of her
gear and Luuko, Tara struggled to breath under the pressure.
Well, little hatchling...you'll get to
watch her die. The Great Father is still planning on how to dispose of
her. Perhaps the acid pools would suit her well. She could follow in the
steps of your beloved Telkai. But that was a torture from so long ago!
We've improved that technology since then. You'll appreciate our new designs,
I'm sure. He wrenched Luuko up by one horn again, dragging the much smaller
Dimar along behind him like a rag-doll.
Tara stifled her fury as she felt Luuko's
pain and humiliation. The Great Mother really was his own mother, and
he was frantic to see her one last time before she was lost, but not like
this. Tara felt his spirit wane as he resigned himself to his fate. She
half whispered-half thought, "Luuko...this is not how it will end.
By my name, and my honor, Telka will live again."