Susan Morrison sat holding her unconscious brother close, rocking slowly, humming soothingly. She hoped this would not aggravate his injuries. Ilsha Giashu, her Krigoni roommate and ally in the search for the dark group that had touched all their lives, stood regarding them both, black eyes slightly icy, but for a Krigoni she was remarkably warm. Of course, almost all Krigoni in the Explorien organization were what the Krigoni considered children. A Krigoni did not attain ‘adulthood' until age 50, at least. Dranton, short yet muscular, even for a Velexian, paced, brown face set in worry. The other two members of their secret group were off to find a doctor, under the pretense that the five cadets-they were all cadets, and first class ones at that- had been taking strolls as cures for insomnia and had heard a scream, and found David. Although his name was not mentioned. Well, that was acceptable, Susan was the only one who had know David, and the others knew him only from stories Susan told, to inspire them, usually beginning with ‘The sho'gan vin killed my brother'. She hoped that her group would not dissolve. She was the leader, but truly Ilsha was the only other she trusted. All had had atrocities committed against them-villages over-run by nightmare creatures, then the incident covered up instead of being investigated, for example. But if they began to doubt her own reasons for joining, then perhaps they would turn on her like rabid dogs. Well, not Ilsha, and Dranton appeared to be proving his loyalty tonight.
Suddenly Ilsha cocked her head, and announced "There are three people approaching. Running, by the sounds of it." Her hair, apparently white, but transparent upon closer inspection, was tied in an elaborately pulled back, in something like a braid. Susan's own blonde hair was in a simple pony tail. Yes, small details, that was what she had to concentrate on! Susan was disgusted with her lack of focus. Who cared about hair while her supposedly dead brother was lying before her miraculously, yet dying once again, and people were approaching at a run. Perhaps it was the two she had set out and the doctor they had found. Susan, Ilsha, and Dranton would find out soon enough, though. Even Susan could here the footsteps pounding near now, and she estimated that in thirty seconds whoever they belonged to would burst ‘round the corner. Dranton had drawn a small Ion Pulser, from where it had came from Susan had no idea- cadets did not have access to ANY weapons - but his face was determined, and she saw his think muscles tense in apprehension, while Ilsha gracefully stood, ready to face what came with her pale, queenly blue face as courageous and icy as possible, whilst she herself- this was dithering! She was never this witless!!!!
Who careened around the corner was not who Susan had expected. A tall, spindly Krigoni male who looked as if he enjoyed the frost in his gaze, an Aravillian woman, beautifully bronze skinned with a face set in near-panic, and a slight Ingori woman in the intricate white robes Susan recognized as those of a sikis. Her eyes were slightly catlike, the characteristic eyebrow ridges delicate, and her face as beautiful as the Aravillians, yet in a different way. God, she had to keep her wits! Susan recognized not a one of them, and a glance at her comrades told her they did not either.
The Aravillian gasped, though from shock or exhaustion, Susan could not say, as soon as she had burst from around the corner. "David!!" She panted, then lunged for her unconscious brother. Susan snarled, and leapt to meet her in mid air. Somehow, Dranton was fast enough to step between the two of them before the reached each other, the Aravillian trying to turn her leap around Susan, Susan going for her throat.
The muscular Velexian calmly caught both of them in the air by the collar, and held them there. "Before, anyone acts, I think it would be a good idea to find out who the others are, don't you think?" He asked pleasantly, then slowly set both of them down on the ground. "Now, I am Dranton Klavaran, Explorien cadet First Class. You are...?" Susan very nearly goggled. This woman had tried to attack her brother while he lay near death?!
But the Aravillian only straightened her collar- she was an Engineering, an Explorien, now that Susan noticed the uniform- and said, grumpily, "Yenne of Clan Valavan." She heard the Krigoni stifle a small groan. Ilsha looked at Susan calmly, then stood in her swan-like manner.
"I am Ilsha, daughter of Giashu." That was the ancient way for a Krigoni to announce her name to another Krigoni, and the Krigoni male with the two strange women had to give his name, now, by the rules of na'vo.
"Bantu, son of Basha." He said glumly, but in a glum manner that Susan would have called slush, compared to the ice or crystal that was the voice of most Krigoni. Susan and the Ingori woman stared at one another, daring the other to name herself first, but Susan gulped and decided such childishness was not becoming when she saw the other woman fondly stroke a small silver dagger at the cloth belt that held her white robes in place.
"I am Susan." She said simply. Perhaps her comrades felt the need to name themselves fully, but she did not. If these three newcomers were sho'gan vin, then if they knew the names of the ones hunting them they would be in danger. If they were not, Susan could be given a censure for attacking an Explorien, once everything was settled, and she did not doubt Ilsha of Dranton would get away scot free either.
The slight Ingori furrowed her brows, eyebrow ridges drawn into a ‘v', and her healthy orange face seemed as if she had bitten something sour. "I am Audua of Lecel." She announced just as simply, but then Susan was unsure if Ingori had more to their names then their first and the city of their birth. Once the naming was done, everyone stared at one another, not one speaking. Dranton had obviously not expected that tactic to work the way it had, and seemed at a loss. Finally Susan could take no more.
"What do you want with David?!" She said, voice strong with emotion. The Aravillian scowled at her.
"We are the ones who are trying to help him, you..." Her high pitched, strong, clear voice trailed off as she fell into a worried look at David. "Give him to us. We can help him. Audua here is a doctor." The sweet tones of her voice were at odds with her painfully eager face. Susan was now fully sure that these people would not have her brother. Ilsha glided forward, so she and the other Krigoni stood face to face.
"I am sure you must realize we do not trust you." Her voice was calm, like freshly fallen snow. "You cannot have him until you prove to me that you mean now harm and are who you say you are." The small Ingori woman glowered at Susan's roommate, and then opened her mouth, argument plain on her orange face.
"I am so a Doctor, I graduated eight in my class three years ago from Lengrumi Medical Institute, and I took my oaths to help anyone who is injured. Now, let me attend David!" Her voice had grown more and more forceful as she went on, and by the end of her speech she was striding towards Susan's brother, with an expression on her face that nothing short of a stone wall would make her stop. The set of her eyebrow ridges went further, and Susan decided she would plow through the stone wall and leave a very large hole. This would not do! Susan blocked her path with an arm, and was shocked when the Ingori, shorter then her by at least ten inches and so slight as almost to appear frail, brushed aside her arm like a branch that blocked a forest path. Susan was not weak, and she frowned at the Ingori, but even as she did she moved her body to block the path. The Ingori growled. "Do I have to knock you over to attend my patient!?"
She had not noticed Audua's two ‘friends' move to stand behind her in support, nor did she notice Dranton or Ilsha as they moved to flank herself.
"I will not let you at him! For all I know you might just finish killing him!" Susan declared angrily, and the Ingori began to fondle that silver knife at her belt again. Susan swallowed, but stood her ground, staring at the Ingori, daring her to do more then run a finger along the ornate hilt of that cursed knife. Ilsha stared at the other Krigoni, Bantu or whoever, and both looked like calm swans about to bite each others heads off. Dranton, on Susan's left, flexed his hands once, and looked at the Aravillian, Yenne , Susan believed was the name she had given, with a defiant stare. The Aravillian was as baleful in her return look, and she loomed, topping Dranton by more then a foot in height. In a few seconds, Susan was sure a fight would break out, the kind she had always envisioned, her loyal group surrounded by sho'gan vin, but ready to die for their cause. She hoped she would not scream. The Ingori drew her belt knife, and it was begun.
Shaylor shivered for the ninth time in as many minute, he was sure. The pipes he and his friend Anto were clambering through felt like they had been used for a century, and the insects claimed them for their own. He had every possible square centimeter of skin covered, and his socks were tucked into his black pants, but he could still feel the giant bugs crawl over his clothing. But he was leading Anto, he had to keep cool. It was near pitch black; a little light was provided by their P.S.E units, strapped onto their arms, but not enough. Shaylor had agreed with Anto that they had to reach David before Yenne, Audua, and Bantu, but at this rate it would not happen. He coughed violently as a huge cloud of dust was blown into his face, a cloud created by Anto opening an ancient grate. Shaylor suspected that the grate Anto opened was more rust then metal, now, and as he crawled past in the near-pitch black, a quick turn of his arm, shining the light of the P.S.E on the grate, showed he was right.
Shaylor had a pang of worry suddenly, a pang of worry and guilt. Here he was thinking about metal while Audua, Yenne, and Bantu were confronting what was almost certainly horrible danger. Audua appeared to actually love him, something he had never thought possible. Yenne was his best friend in the whole Universe, the only one who he had known for almost all his life who still liked him. Bantu was almost like a second father. Peter McConnor had been close with his son, but Shaylor had been doing without a father figure for the past three years since his death. Six years, he must remember. Those three years that had bene robbed by the sho'gan vin Shaylor always forgot to add into things like that equation. He had a hard time believing he was actually 22, instead of 19, the age he had been when he was thrown into deep space for reasons still a mystery. Shaylor felt disgusted again; he was so absorbed in thought that he did not notice the particularly large insect crawl over his arm, nor did he spare worry for his friends. Anto was still behind him, crawling in a steady, almost uncaring, manner. Shaylor wished he would scramble, just so he would know his worry was not unfound. Stars and Moons, he should be taking comfort in the fact that someone as intelligent as Anto thought nothing was horribly wrong!
They came upon the correct vent so suddenly that Anto almost ran into Shaylor. The strong Velexian moved to make room so that both of the Exploriens could see what was happening in the room below them.
There was a silence of sorts, but the air crackled with anticipation, with aggression. Shaylor saw Yenne, Audua, and Bantu standing in a group, an arrow pointed at another group of three, all cadets, or at least they wore the cadet uniform Shaylor had doffed barely 48 hours ago. One was a young Terran female, blonde, and she had the startling blue eyes that occurred only in the Terran race, to his knowledge. A tall female Krigoni was directly opposite Bantu, and her calm grace mirrored Bantu's almost perfectly, but both looked as if they were about to hang dignity and go for each other's throats. Yenne faced a Velexian even shorter and more muscular than Anto, his green skin a little paler then Anto's, face set determidly. Yenne was trying to loom, but even if she was a foot taller, she was probably not as strong. Shaylor remembered something Yenne had said once to him, after punching out a thief who had confronted them on a woodland path on Aravil. ‘Strength isn't everything in a fight. Usually the smarter and faster one will win. I was smarter then this one, at least!' Yenne had not been violent, but she was not some weakling who depended on others to look after her. Unlike Audua, who seemed almost to enjoy a good fight. At least, she sharpened that knife of hers almost incessantly. Suddenly, he saw David lying on a table just at the edge of his field of vision, a table of rough wood. He was definently hurt. One might think him asleep, but bloodstains, slightly darker then the red part of his Pilot's uniform, were visible to Shaylor, increasing his worry from pangs to a steady stream. His skin was a little too pale, his face drawn. Shaylor touched Anto's arm and pointed to their Terran friend.
"I see him. But I know the other Terran, too. She's David's sister, Susan." Anto whispered. "We should stop this. Susan and David were very close; I'd be willing to bet what's unfolding below us is just a misunderstanding. I hope she remembers me." Anto sighed, then kicked out the grate, which fell to the floor with a clatter that drew every head in the room. Shaylor muffled a curse. Anto slipped out of the opening, and landed on the ground in a crouch.
Of course the three Exploriens who had shared Anto's and Shaylor's exile recognized him, even with the blue cloth covering everything but his eyes, but the Terran female, Susan or whoever, looked at him suspiciously. "Who are you?" She said with narrowed eyes.
Anto removed the cloth from his face, rearranged his clothes, which were disheveled, as if there was no rush at all. " Susan, I'm insulted you don't remember Anto Klarisen!" Anto said finally, in good humor apparently. David and Anto had been friends for years before the ...accident... at Landing Bay 3, although not as long as Shaylor and Yenne had been friends. "Shaylor, come on down." Anto said, ruining Shaylor's safe hiding spot, and Shaylor sighed before sliding out awkwardly. Anto's training as a Cadet at Space Station Gemini was not all running through dark corridors with an Ion Pulse Rifle, but he was used to things like this, whereas Shaylor had never been in a ventilation duct before in his life. How could Anto be in good humor when David lay gravely injured not feet away was beyond him! He landed on the floor in a pile, with an "Ooomph!" as the air was knocked out of his lungs.
"I fear you are making a grave mistake that may cost you your brother's life." Shaylor tried to say icily, but it was hard when you had just fallen on the floor in a heap. He sighed, abandoned the na'vo teachings of dealing with strangers Bantu had spent hours drilling into him, and said, in his normal tone, "We're his friends. David's lying there, dying maybe, and you won't let a doctor at him to save his life!"
The woman -really, she was a girl, appearing to be 17 or 18 at the least -frowned, startling blue eyes fixed in worry. "I don't know enough to believe you. There's nothing to prove this Audua is a doctor; besides I've sent for help already. It should be here any minute! Anto, prove to me that you're Anto!" It was clearly too much for the young Terran. Her thought dead brother falling into her lap, then strangers running at her, yelling for her to trust them with her brother's life, must be trying. She was only a girl; never mind the fact she wore the 1st class badge on her collar. Shaylor felt a moment of sympathy for her.
"I see that you need it proven. That's wise of you, Susan, but I hope it doesn't cost David his life." He sighed, and then went on. "Do you remember the time, on New Terra, David and you got into a huge fight, and you ran away from home? I think I was the one to find you; you had holed up in a cave about a kilometer outside of town. I think you were six, or maybe seven. Is that good enough?" Anto explained, at last a little impatiently. Yenne practically hopped from foot to foot, casting worried looks at David, and pleading ones with Shaylor. He shrugged helplessly; Anto was in control here. Audua, after the first warm gaze, had an anguished look. Despite her sometimes violent nature she hated to see people suffer, both as a doctor and as a friend. The same kind of look that implored Shaylor to make this stubborn Terran girl yield. Shaylor sighed, and shook his head ‘no', which made both females look at him disgustedly, then freeze in what they were doing as soon as they saw each other. Bantu settled for just a placid staring match with the other Krigoni, a female who stood directly opposite him.
Susan colored fiercely, but at a strange look from the Krigoni female at her, she nodded. "You're right, but that memory could have been taught to you. Um, what is my phobia? I think I only told five people that, and you were one." Susan said. Despite the fact she was intelligent enough and had the leadership skills needed to be a 1st class cadet, she was unsure here.
"You're afraid of heights, I think. I remember the day you said that; it was raining, and you had tagged along with me and David when we were climbing the Blue Mountain, on a Saturday, and when we got to the top you didn't want to climb down because you were scared." Anto smiled, despite the eagerness that now slowly cracked through his calm disposure. "Is that enough?"
Susan smiled faintly. "You're always trying to humiliate me; that's the same, too. I believe you." Now a stricken look came across her face, and her simple blonde ponytail swung as she jerked her head to look at her brother. "Oh, David, I'm so sorry! I almost got in a fight with your friends, and now...." She almost choked. "Go. Tend him." She told Audua, who exhaled raggedly, in an exasperated manner, and ran to first check his pulse, and breathing, then to open her kit, which she had brought along. Shaylor walked over to her, to assist.
"You did a fine job of being a... a sheep for Anto." She growled under her breath as she fitted a syringe with a needle. "I'm glad you broke this up, but you hardly said a word!" She wiped the small amount of blood from the wound she had made with the needle with more force then strictly nessecary. "I am not mad at you," she added deliberately, "but sometimes I wish you to be more forceful. Like on Aravil." Yenne had joined them ."I will talk on this later. Now, David needs a transfusion." Audua worked in a businesslike manner, fitting the bag of blood onto the needle she had inserted earlier.
"Hey, Shaylor, you are the sight!" Yenne laughed. Shaylor looked at his clothes deliberately, for the first time since he had crawled out of the vent. Dust covered his uniform, making the black grey and the grey almost a white. There was still a few stray spiders or insects crawling about him, and but most had fallen off, thank the Goddesses! "Anyway, it was good thinking for you and Anto to do what you did. I was so concerned about following the instructions that Guide gave to me that I was not the one who was thinking." Yenne sighed; she always prided herself on the fact that she kept cool in the worst situations. "I think we should go back to Anto and Bantu; the three who found David are about to tell their story, I am thinking." Shaylor nodded, and they both went to see why three 1st class cadets were in an area forbidden to cadets during the early morning hours.
Chapter (I forgot)
"I want to know how it is you five are alive." Susan was saying, as she wiped a few tears off her checks, apparently unconcerned over who saw her crying. Shaylor had started to shake his head at the apparently lack of honor before stopping himself. "I remember the Explorien coming to our door, so vividly, telling us David was dead, without even a body for burial.... well, I decided that day there was something a little hollow about the explanation, but I've moved on, dealt. Mom nearly had a breakdown, but she's over it, now." Susan said, and Shaylor wondered how his own mother, Hailu Hahra, took the news of his ‘death'. His own father had died three - six, in real time -years ago, and he was an only child.
"Don't worry about David; Audua is very competent, and I'm sure he'll be up and about, making jokes about you like old times, in a few days. I want to know why three cadets are down underground during a time most are sleeping. If Ignezzia ever found me doing such a thing..." He noticed Susan's shiver at the mention of the woman who had been head of the cadets on Space Station Gemini. "You know Centurion Ignezzia? No, later, tell me why you're down here."
Both Krigoni made to voice a complaint, but Bantu Basha beat the other Krigoni, whose name, whispered to him by Yenne, was Ilsha Giashu. "I do not think it wise we tell them everything." He said to Anto, Shaylor, and Yenne once they had made a small huddle. "They might very well be sho'gan vin, themselves." He saw the looks in the eyes of the other Exploriens; warm yet determined brown, grey eyes with a faraway look, and smiling-yet-serious bronze. "All right, perhaps the girl Susan is sincere, but she is only young. I do not trust the others."
Yenne smiled at him, almost laughed, really. "Oh, Bantu, you can be the silly one sometimes!" The Krigoni scowled -in this huddle, he trusted everyone, so the need to shield emotion was gone -scowled at Yenne. "I am saying tell them. It is being likely their experiences have been the ones almost the same as ours, and perhaps we can even be helping each other."
Shaylor's teacher sighed, but nodded. He stood, breaking the huddle, and formally announced to the room. "I agree and consent with your decision, mahgaisha." His words were announced at Yenne; it was a surprise to here him say that Yenne was the leader he followed by choice and respect. An ancient title, yet apparently Bantu Bash had decided who should lead their group, and it was Yenne. Shaylor whispered to his friend that he would explain it to her later.
The others had been in a huddle as well, and had broken only seconds before theirs. Strangely, the other Krigoni, the female Ilsha, parroted the same phrase as Bantu. "I agree and consent with your decision, mahgeisha." She said, voice the same crystal as Bantu's, just an octave higher. It seemed to Shaylor that being around another Krigoni had made Bantu more formal and icy, which made the other Krigoni the same way, which made Bantu try to achieve even higher na'vo. It was a vicious cycle!
Shaylor began it, telling what really happened that day in Landing Bay 3. The three listeners leaned forward as the tale progressed, and he hoped they had made the right decision. ********************************************************************************
Mirvenne awoke with a start, hands flying to here eyes in the black coldness of an Aravillian night. She sat upright on her sleeping mat, throwing off the heavy blankets. It was black, yet she could see dull shapes, outlines of her sparse room in the High House of Clan Valavan. Shivering, she concentrated, and flames burst into being in three oil lamps she kept in the room. That was one of her Talents, control over the ‘elements', but no one was very strong in it.
She had had a dream, a horrible dream in which her friends, who had left her a month ago on Aravil, were falling off a cliff. Her cousin Yenne, the Terran David, everyone falling, screaming, dying, and she could stop it, but something stopped her.
These were dangerous thoughts. The High House of Clan Valavan was filled with mind- readers. Mirvenne could read thoughts if she concentrated, but her teacher, Chavve, could with little effort. Iron discipline was needed not to think of the sho'gan vin no matter what.
In the yellow warmth of the room, she could examine her harsh features in the old silver mirror that had been her mother's parting gift with her. She had never been called pretty, and as she thought the thought, her already thin lips pursued into a fine line. The lamps gave a comforting light, and Mirvenne decided she would leave them on for the rest of the night. Running her hands over her eyes, she found herself contemplating what she had forbidden herself to ever contemplate. Who were the sho'gan vin? What was their intent? Why were they after the friends she had made during their return home from a mysterious exile? Mirvenne ran some water into her crystal wash-basin, meaning to try to Prophecize, but froze when she saw Chavve standing in the doorway, a look on her face that Mirvenne might have called murderous. ********************************************************************************