Thursday, September 19, 2013
November 21, part 1
The 19th of November will stay with me until the day I die as the day I nearly died. Me, Mom, Dad, Weln, and Candy all almost said our final farewell. Many were killed, good and bad people alike.
It all started when the Galactic Council’s transport arrived to the prisoners away. We only found out later that the outer perimeter had been breached by those who had been behind the attacks on the Academy. They overran the Nobeks guarding the mile beyond the actual grounds. Then the Earthers waited for the transport to land and the prisoners brought out to board it. They timed it perfectly, while everyone was distracted. That’s when they struck, sending explosives in to take out the fence and the gates, killing more security. The Earthers raced in, almost five hundred strong, shooting blasters at everything that moved.
I heard the explosions from my quarters. I stuck my head out to ask my bodyguard what was going on. “This is big, Matara,” the young Nobek told me. He tried to raise someone on his com to give him direction, but no one was answering him. There was a lot of shouting going over the frequencies. Chaos was going on elsewhere, and no one was bothering with my low-ranking protector.
“Shalia!” Candy’s scream cut across the distant shoo-wumph sounds of percussion blasters and roaring explosions. My guard and I looked to see her running full out across the pine-needle strewn grass to get to us. “It’s a full invasion! They’re trying to take down the Academy!”
“Shit,” I said. My first thought was for Mom. I ran towards Candy, the Nobek on my heels. His fangs were down and his eyes were wide as he held his blaster at the ready. “Are they near Medical yet?” I called as I neared my friend.
“I don’t think so. They seem to be heading for the landing pad, but they’re coming in from all around.” Candy stopped in front of me, gasping. She was white as a sheet. “The Kalquorians are fighting , but there’s a lot of confusion. It doesn’t look like we’ve got a good defense established yet.”
I turned to the Nobek. “I need to get to Medical. My sick mother is there, and she needs protection. She can’t fend for herself.”
He snapped a nod, seemingly happy to have something noble to do besides listen to me and Candy squeal. “I’ll escort you there and join those protecting the patients.”
The three of us took off, Candy and I holding hands like terrified children as we went. The Nobek took the lead. Bless the poor kid’s heart, that’s why he got killed.
The shoo-wumph sound of a percussion blaster went off, and the air shivered for an instant before my bodyguard’s chest exploded. Candy and I screamed, flattening facedown to the ground in an instant. The Nobek fell down, his arm flinging out. The blaster he’d been holding thumped right in front of me.
But it was his glazed purple eyes that filled my vision, and his too-young face turned towards mine that held my stunned attention.
“Shalia!” Candy shrieked, her voice tinny after my ears had taken the force of the blaster shot. It was enough to get me to look in the direction her wide-eyed gaze was pointed at.
Two Earther men in camouflage were running towards us from the cover of some trees. They wore body armor, the kind that deflects all but nearly point-blank blaster fire. They were aiming at us, and we had no body armor.
My hand reached for my dead bodyguard’s weapon, knowing I had no chance. I’d never fired one and surely our attackers would kill Candy and me before they were close enough to shoot. Still, instinct took over, and my grip curled around the stock of the large firearm. I pulled it to me, hiding it beneath my stomach. My hand was damp with sweat, and I was dimly grateful for the rough grip that kept it firmly in my grasp.
The men closed in until they stood over us, their blasters pointed at our heads. “Well, look at this. You gals been slutting for the Kalqs? You been whoring for alien cock?”
I had the mad urge to say, “Just me,” thinking maybe they’d let Candy live, at least. Staring into the huge muzzle of the blaster aimed at me, I couldn’t remember how to talk.
What happened next was a blur. I remember the guy bending down, reaching for me. There was a harsh tug on my hair, but I didn’t really register pain. Still, he pulled hard enough to yank me upright, because the next time I blinked, I was on my knees in front of him. Then there was the massive roar of a blaster going off. Then another. And another.
My next memory was standing over three bodies: my bodyguard and the two attackers. Candy was clinging to me, screaming my name, begging me to talk to her, telling me we had to run. She had blasters in both her hands. Those weapons were sized for smaller human hands instead of the near cannon I still clutched in my numb grip.
“Shalia, come on! We’ve got to get out of here before more come!”
“Did I—“ My voice dried up. I fought to get the words out. “Did I kill them?”
“Yes, but you had no choice! If you hadn’t, they would have killed us! Shalia, we’ve got to go!”
I could only stare at the corpses at my feet. One’s belly was blown out. The other was missing half his head. I’d ended lives. I’d killed people.
“Shalia! We need to get to your mom! Focus, damn it!”
Mom. The idea of my mother was probably the only thing that could snap me out of my fog. I pulled together my shattered senses enough to let Candy shove and bully me forward until we were finally racing for Medical.
Fortunately for us, the next people who we came across were a bunch of Kalquorian Nobeks, some of whom had done guard duty over me. We had more blasters pointed at us since we were armed Earthers. Because so many of those guys knew me, not just from playing my personal security but also because of my presentation weeks ago, we weren’t threatened for long. Candy told them what had happened to us, and I bobbed my head in agreement since I still found it hard to talk. I kept seeing those dead men in my head. It didn’t seem to matter I killed them in self-defense. The fact remained that I killed them. Period.
The squad commander sent us on to Medical with one of his men, allowing Candy and I to keep the Earther-issued blasters for our own protection. Seeing the tan rectangle that was the Medical facility was a huge relief. As soon as our escort talked to the guards stationed there, we were allowed into its tense but well-ordered environment. I ran straight to Mom’s room.
Dad and Weln were in there, getting her dressed to go somewhere, it looked like. “What are you two doing out of your rooms?” Dad yelled at me and Candy.
“Hi Shalia,” Mom mumbled. “I get to go somewhere.”
“Not outside, Eve,” Weln said gently, slipping a blouse over her head while trying to keep her front covered with a sheet. He’s so conscientious. “Just to another room.”
“Okay, that’s fine. It sounds like war out there anyway.” Mom referred to the continuing blasts we could hear even in her room. It did sound like war, which I supposed it was.
Dad still glared at me, clearly not happy I’d been running around the Academy though he had to know I would head straight for Mom. “Stop being mean,” I said. “I’m having a rough day.” The understatement of the year.
He noticed I was holding a blaster, and his eyes widened. “Are you all right?”
“Her bodyguard was attacked and killed,” Candy told him, her mouth running a mile a second. “They came after us. Shalia had no choice but to defend us both. She was very brave, but she’s in shock now. We took their blasters.”
My friend had slipped her arm around my waist while she chattered. I leaned my head onto her shoulder, letting the horror wash over me for a moment. As Candy went on about how some Nobek commander had given us permission to carry, Dad came over and pressed his palm to my cheek.
When Candy paused for a breath, he whispered to me, “I’m sorry, my daughter. It is no easy thing to take a life, not even when it’s the one of someone threatening yours.”
“Matara Eve is ready,” Weln said, picking Mom up, along with a small case. “I have her medications.”
“Good. Get her to the storage area with the rest. Take Shalia and Candy with you so they’ll be guarded too.” Dad headed towards the door.
“Where are you going?” I asked, pulling free of Candy. “You have to be safe too.”
He turned to reassure me. “I’m just going to get some extra medications, little one. I’ll join you in a few minutes. Go on with Weln now. Stay with your mother.”
He sped down the hallway. Dad’s body looks so much like it’s made to lumber, not sprint, that I stared after him. How can a guy that size move so fast?
Weln smiled encouragingly at me as he led Candy and me down the hall, carrying my mother who waved at the Nobeks we passed. Guards for Medical, was my guess. Anyway, my sweetie tried to be encouraging as he said, “It’s going to be all right, Shalia. Try not to worry.”
Yeah, that’s like telling the sun not to rise.
We went to the back of the building to a door marked ‘storage’ where half a dozen armed and armored Nobeks stood. One noticed me and Candy holding our little Earther blasters.
“I’m going to have to confiscate those,” he said.
I was more than ready to give mine up. I didn’t care if I never fired one again. Candy put up a fight though.
“Hey, the other commander was fine with us keeping these for our protection!” she squalled.
He gave her such a condescending look that even I was tempted to punch it off his scary, brutish face. “We will protect you, Matara. You females have no need to worry with such things.”
I swear, if he’d been able to pull off a southern accent he would have been right at home here in Georgia. “Y’all don’t worry yore purty li’l heads about it none,” I snorted in derision. I tossed rather than handed him my blaster. “Try being a little less patronizing, dumbass. It takes hands, not a cock or two, to fire a weapon.”
Candy scowled angrily at him as she surrendered her firearm. He looked terribly confused as we went past him to enter the storeroom. I guess he was unable to understand why we poor helpless girls weren’t falling all over in gratitude for his protection. It’s too bad he’ll never get the opportunity to figure it out.
The storeroom was vast, almost warehouse-worthy in size. Medicines and plenty of treatment machines were stockpiled in floor to ceiling shelves in half the space. Also stockpiled in the other half of the storeroom were the ailing like Mom, and those with special needs, like Mom. I recognized some of her old daycare buddies, the people Weln helps with. There were equal calls of welcome to Weln and her as we came in and joined the patients, doctors, orderlies, and caregivers. You’d have thought it was a party. Heck, there were even juice drinks and cookies being handed out. It was a We’re Under Attack Bash. All we needed were balloons.
Weln settled Mom in a hover chair and hurried off in search of something. I squatted down and took her hand while Candy chatted up a cute Imdiko who was helping another older woman put together a vid puzzle. Mom kept sliding to one side, still too weak from her stroke to sit up straight on her own for very long. I looked around for something to prop her up with.
Weln re-appeared with his hands full of pillows. “This will help,” he said, tucking them around Mom’s frame. She smiled up at him, but her eyes were distant. Dad was right. She’s getting worse fast.
Once he had her set to rights, Weln sat down on the floor and pulled me onto his lap. “My poor Shalia,” he said, hugging me tight.
“Weln,” I whispered, burrowing my face against his chest. I crowded against him, trying to hide in the circle of his arms, finding shelter in his strong body. I started to shake as I told him, “I don’t even remember doing it. I could hear the blaster going off, and then I was standing over the bodies—”
“Hush,” he told me, rocking me like a child. “It’s over now, and you’re going to be okay. You did nothing wrong. It’s all right, sweetness.”
A minute later, Dad came running into the room, the door shutting loudly behind him as bursts of blaster fire sounded loudly. “The building is under attack,” he said, his eyes wide. “We think the assault on the landing pad failed and they’re trying for hostages.”
That made the humans wail and the Kalquorians look grim. Dad did a quick check around the room of the sick and injured before ended up with me and Weln.
“Does it look bad?” I asked him in a low voice.
He licked his lips. “The security team here will do everything in their power to keep us safe,” he said.
It wasn’t a real answer. That came moments later when the telltale sounds of battle started booming right outside the storage room’s door.
People started screaming, and there was a rush to cower in the corners and against the wall as what must have been a pitched battle commenced. I stuck close to Mom, with Weln and Dad standing between us and the door. Mom simply sat there, not seeming to register much of any of the panic going on around her. Her lips moved once, and I thought she said, “Loud.”
The thudding rumbles of fighting and screams of men seemed to go on forever, but probably went on for no more than five minutes. The abrupt silence that followed was even more deafening. My breath was like a windstorm, my heart like the galloping hooves of a horse in that eerie quiet during which no one dared to speak. I peeked out from behind Dad’s tree trunk legs to watch the door. I needed to see if friend or foe would walk in.
The door opened, and Matt King stuck his head in to look at us. I could have cried from relief to see a friendly face.
His eyes found me, as if drawn like a magnet. A grin slowly unfurled. “Hello, Shalia. So glad to see you here. I was hoping to get the opportunity to thank you for telling me about the transport schedule.”
I blinked. I stood up and took a step forward. “The transport schedule?”
Matt nodded. “The transferring of prisoners was perfect timing for us to attack these murdering monsters you enjoy slutting around with.” His mocking grin grew larger. “Let’s see if you like dying with them as much. Door, close and lock.”
He moved back and the door shut again. There was a telltale buzzing as it locked. Several Kalquorians raced forward and tried to force the door open again. I stood glued to the spot, my head still trying to catch up with Matt’s words. He was with the attackers?
“Son of a bitch,” Weln swore. “They were on the inside as well as the outside.”
I rose to my feet, though my knees felt as if they’d give out at any second. Candy moved to stand next to me and yelled furiously. “That asshole! He pretended he was our friend. That he wanted to work with you guys. All along he was working with the killing bastards!” She turned to me, breathless with realization and anger. “That night we were shot at, Shalia! He was near the perimeter. He must have been meeting with them then.”
I couldn’t speak. I’d done it again. First Armageddon, when I hadn’t alerted the general populace that most of them were sitting on time bombs. Now this. I’d given Matt the information so that the group trying to destroy those of us in the Academy could attack. Attack and win, from what had happened so far.
Someone said something in Kalquorian, and Dad stiffened beside me. “You smell smoke?”
The men crowded around the door stepped back, and I saw the first gray curls coming in through the cracks. Someone cried out, “They’ve set the building on fire!”