Monday, April 22, 2013
September 29, part 2
Okay, I’m ready to pick this back up. Tears averted.
I told Nang, “Let me be a distraction. While I hold their attention, you go in there after Mom.”
Someone behind me growled. I had the suspicion it might have been Esak, but I didn’t turn around to be sure.
Nang considered me. “We want to use a shockwave on them, but we need to get inside for it to be effective. You might be the best chance we have.”
He turned to his men who had crowded around us and snarled away in his own language. I waited while a discussion raged, shifting impatiently from foot to foot. Finally Nang nodded, and several men started barking orders at the younger Nobeks who were waiting for their orders. After a few moments of that, the younger guys began to peel off, running in that crazy blurred way they do. Before he joined the exodus, Esak moved close to me.
“Be careful, Shalia. Please.”
Then he was gone, leaving me to wonder what the hell was going on. Nang cleared that up in a hurry.
“All right, Shalia, we have a plan. Its success will depend greatly on you.”
My heart thumped fast to hear that, but I gave him a firm nod. “Tell me what I need to do.”
He did, and only five minutes later we were ready to put the plan in action. At least I didn’t have time to stew in my nervousness, though I was shaking as I walked with Nang and two of his officers towards the mall parking lot.
Where the Kalquorians had set up their command post was the closest you could get to the mall without crossing the broad asphalt wasteland. The restaurant had been built to be easily accessible to the shopping center, so at this point, we were only about 50 yards from the main entrance.
Nang and his men stopped while we were still several feet beyond the ornamental Japanese maples that shielded us from the mall entrance’s view. “Go on ahead,” he told me. “And if they point a blaster or anything at you, get down.” His hand gripped my shoulder. “Shalia, be alert. If you are hurt--”
He didn’t finish the sentence. There was an instant of anguish on his expression, then he pushed me towards the landscape border.
I walked, feeling the sun heating the top of my head as I went. I unsheathed the knife the Nobek back at the Academy had given me and held it tightly in my sweating palm. A moment later, I broke through the young trees.
“Hey!” I screamed at the glass panes of the mall doors. “Hey! Somebody get your ass out here and talk to me!”
One of the two sets of doors opened, and a man in camouflage stepped out to glare at me. He pointed a long-range percussion blaster rifle in my direction. “What do you want?”
“I want my mother, asshole!” I put all the mad I could in my voice, which wasn’t that difficult. “You cowardly shits kidnapped an old woman with dementia. Let her go and you can have me!”
Something prim and blond slipped out of the mall to converse with the man. Patty. That fucking bitch.
After their consultation, the man shouted, “You want us to let her go?”
“No, stupid, I want you to put on a tutu and dance the watusi. Swap us out!”
I saw a lot of motion behind the other doors, though sun glare kept me from seeing inside too well. I had the feeling plenty of people were jostling for a view though. Good. That was exactly what we’d hoped for.
The man, a greasy, broadshouldered dude with a lot of scraggly beard, grinned at me. “Come on then. Give yourself up and we’ll let your mother go.”
I swallowed and found my mouth and throat were absolutely dry. Here was hoping he didn’t decide to shoot me right here and now.
I started walking across the pavement, heading straight for the man with the big, scary rifle. Suddenly there was a shout behind me. “No!”
I turned to see Nang barreling at me, his face dark with intent, fangs exposed. Damn, he looked scary. His two officers came right behind him. I wasn’t acting when I brought that giant knife that was more like a fucking sword up in defense. I swung it wildly as they neared. Behind me, I could hear exclamations and shouts from the crowd in the mall.
Nang leapt at me. I screamed, dropped the knife, and ran for the mall as if my fellow Earthers would save me.
It turned out the instinct to protect one of their own was stronger than any contempt they held for me. About half a dozen men jumped out of the entrance, their blasters and rifles aimed. “Get down!” someone screamed at me. “Get down so we can get a clear shot!”
Then there was a big, echoing boom inside the building. The men outside the doors turned around. The next second, great blurred bodies flew at them, taking them down.
I was still running, halfway to the entrance, when a muscled arm circled my waist and picked me up off the ground. “Stop, Shalia! We set off the shockwave. Everyone in the mall is unconscious.”
I jerked in Nang’s arms. “Mom!” I yelled.
“Hold on, woman! Let my men clear the building before you go rushing in. Be patient, damn it.”
“Be patient?” I yelled in his face. “Would you be patient if it was your mother?”
His grip tightened, but Nang’s expression was kind. “No, I wouldn’t. But you’re not going in until I know it’s safe for you to.”
The Kalquorians had put cuffs on the wrists and ankles of the six men they’d taken down. Hovercuffs, I later found out. The things actually lifted the prisoners in the air and flew them out of the way. I received a lot of verbal abuse as they went. Traitor, whore, cunt, all the pet names a girl just loves to hear coming from a man’s mouth. The Kalquorians threatened them into silence, but the glares continued until they were transported out of sight.
I barely noticed. I was having a fit to get inside and find Mom. At last Nang’s com went off. After someone jabbered for a second, he said, “I’m sending Matara Shalia in. Keep looking for Matara Eve.” He set me down.
I raced into the building, stopped by the heap of littered bodies lying just inside the doorway. I looked at dozens of people, searching each face desperately as the Kalquorians started bringing in hover stretchers to cart them out. No Mom.
I ran down the middle of the aisle that stretched down the length of the mall, looking into the shattered, broken store spaces as I went. I ran from one end of the shopping center to the other. No Mom. There was no sign of her anywhere among the unconscious people who had taken her. I couldn’t find her. She wasn’t there. I fell on my knees, sobbing in the middle of it all. They’d taken my mother away and I thought I’d never see her again.
Oh God. I’ve got to stop again.