Nine

Nine

A Chapter by Natasha Reams

We rode Anthras’ back to Sh’Kena’s village. The villagers were hurrying into their huts and closing their doors quickly. The scout that had come to warn us at the cave lead the way to the Chieftain’s large hut. Two guards posted outside covered their mouth with one of their hands in a salute to Sh’Kena. She ignored them as we passed, storming recklessly into the hut.

“Father,” Sh’Kena gave a quick salute just like the guards had. “What is happening?”

The Chieftain of the Shyrians looked down on us from his tall seat made of sturdy twigs and vines. His fur was the same bright orange as Sh’Kena’s, though more parts looked grey from age. The severity of his expression made me wonder if Sh’Kena had inherited hers.

           “Welcome,” The Chieftain spoke in a deep voice more like a growl than his daughter’s. “Forgive me for not greeting you until now. It would seem our chance for pleasantries has passed.”

           Alb mimicked the salute of the other Shyrians before he spoke. “Greetings, powerful Chieftain. We humbly ask for your continued assistance.”

           I glanced at Zev next to me questionably. Alb was rarely so formal and respectful. Zev simply mouthed the word later. Hopefully that meant I would get some sort of explanation.

           The Chieftain stood, rising to a height surprisingly close to my own. With both arms folded behind him he closed his eyes as if deep in thought. “The situation is tense. A Vasnova ship has been detected flying in their standard search patterns, originating at the place of your crashed ship.”

           Jace and I glanced solemnly at each other. The Chieftain continued.

           “Judging by your reactions, you were expecting this. Though not so soon perhaps. Tell me, then, why you have been pursued to the home of my people?”

           Alb glanced back at me nervously. Obviously the truth would be best, but I worried for the number of ears in the Chieftain’s house. Four guards flanked their Chieftain by his throne, and another dozen lined the walls stoically. Several doors branched off the main room as well, so who knows how many others could be listening. The more people that know of my vision, the more dangerous this journey becomes.

           Suddenly Sh’Kena stepped forward, “Father, my Chieftain, our guests would gladly tell you their story. They simply fear how many ears it will reach besides yours.”

           The Chieftain seemed to think a moment. Then he lifted a hand and all of the guards promptly filed out of the hut. When the last had gone, Sh’Kena moved to stand by her father. The two touched foreheads like it was some sort of greeting and then turned back to us.

           “You have obviously shared some truth with my daughter. I trust her judgment, although her mind is still young. I would hear the truth for myself now.”

           Once again Alb glanced back at me. I nodded this time. Sh’Kena had believed and understood, so hopefully her father would do the same.

           As Alb started to speak, the Chieftain suddenly lifted a hand to silence him. “It would seem the Vis standing with you keeps the tale. I would hear it from her.”

           Surprised I stepped forward. “You know of my people?”

           The Chieftain’s face softened slightly, “Enough to know you are young still. Often your kind journeyed to this world. The stories of them are numerous. As Chieftain I preserve such stories and pass them on to the ones after me.”

 

 

           I nodded in understanding. Apparently Shyrian history worked similarly to Vis. Encouraged by this, I shared the story of my vision once again. He listened attentively just as Sh’Kena had. It was easy to see how closely the two resembled each other.

           When I was finished the Chieftain nodded. “I understand. The Vasnova’s search is moving fast. Soon it will come to our village. By then the five of you will be at the spaceport preparing to leave.”

           Sh’Kena’s ears perked, “Five, father?”

           He turned to her slowly, “A journey such as this will end in blood, my daughter. We must all fight so that it will not be innocent blood. Besides, as I recall, you have yet to understand the importance of keeping good relations with outsiders. Until you learn the value of diplomacy, you will not be prepared for the title of Chieftain.”

           I frowned at the Chieftain. “We cannot guarantee her safe return. None of us have that guarantee.”

           With a sad smile he faced me, “I know, child. That is what your success is worth to me and my people.”

           The Chieftain exchanged his goodbyes with Sh’Kena. As I watched I felt a tightness in my chest. If something were to happen to Sh’Kena, or any of my companions, it would be my fault. Their lives could end for the sake of my vision. Was it truly worth it?

           Sh’Kena left through one of the adjoining doors to gather her belongings. Soon after a knock came from the main door. A scout had come with a report on the location of the Vasnova. He had already passed through the spaceport and found nothing. It would likely be three hours before he found the village. It would take the same amount of time for my group to reach the spaceport with Anthras’. The Chieftain brushed aside our concerns about the timing, saying he would keep the intruder busy long enough for us to take off. From there we would simply have to outrun him.

           As soon as Sh’Kena returned we left. She touched her forehead to her father’s one last time before following us into the dim light of the village. An uncomfortable silence had fallen over the village. Every door was closed tightly and every window covered. Compared to the liveliness of the inside of the tree before the Vasnova came, it felt much more hollow.

When we reached the entrance to the village Sh’Kena once again called for the Anthras. Three came this time: one for Sh’Kena who would lead the way to the spaceport, one for Alb and Zev, and another for Jace and me. Part of my wanted to fly on my own however. There was still a little discomfort in my Core unfortunately. I wondered as we flew on the backs of the large insects if it was because of the weather on Shyria.

I was shaken from my thoughts when the Anthras Jace and I rode suddenly veered and landed vertically on a nearby tree. To either side of us the other two Anthras had done the same. Sh’Kena motioned for us to be still and quiet. For several minutes all was quiet. Eventually I became aware of the sound of a ship’s engine. Overhead, where there was more space between branches and trees, a familiar spaceship was passing slowly. The Vasnova ship flew in a gently curving line. As it continued on its course, it became obvious we had not been spotted.

Jace suddenly nudged my side and pointed down. I looked and saw several pairs of vicious red eyes. Immediately I tried to catch Sh’Kena’s attention. Just as she glanced down where both Jace and I indicated, one of the pairs moved. It darted upwards with claws digging into the tree’s bark. A shrill roar echoed through the trees as the creature latched onto the backside of out Anthras. With a frantic buzz, the Anthras disconnected from the tree and began to fall. Other pairs of red eyes launched forward to continue attacking the Anthras.

I managed to separate myself from the hunted Anthras and pulled Jace along with me. A few flaps of my wings sent us soaring up away from the predators. Shortly afterwards Sh’Kena, Zev, and Alb came up alongside us still with their own Anthras’. Too tired to keep both Jace and myself in the air, I set him behind Sh’Kena. We were about to continue towards the spaceport when a blast of energy hit a tree near my head.

The Vasnova ship was bearing down on us quickly. I turned to the others and shouted, “Go!”

We all took off through the jungle. The two Anthras’ stayed a little high where their large bodies could move easier. Meanwhile I stayed just above where the sunlight no longer reached. It seemed that the Vasnova had noticed us only because of me, since he was following my movements more closely. Thinking fast, I called up to my companions:

“I will draw him away. Go for the spaceport!”

Jace shouted back something, which was most likely a no, but I ignored him. I broke away from my current course and began weaving through trees grown more closely together. The ship managed to follow, though I distinctly heard wood and metal scrape several times. His ship was fast and the pressure of staying ahead kept me from thinking very clearly. The only image that sprang to mind was the waterfall where I had recovered.

On instinct I made for that waterfall. If I recalled correctly, the cliff leading down to the waterfall’s base should be minutes away. Behind me the ship was starting to gain. At the same time I could feel the humid air of the jungle starting to affect me more and more. Each flap of my wings sent spasms of pain along my spine. I was still too weak for this. The Vasnova would catch me and I will have left my people for nothing….

Suddenly the ground fell away and the sound of rushing water filled my ears. Cold droplets of water splashed up onto me. I quickly dived so that I flew parallel the falling water. Flying close to the waterfall, I hoped the coolness of it would be enough. Luckily the thundering water kept my mind occupied and away from distractions. I only looked back once to make sure the Vasnova ship was still following me.

About halfway down the massive cliffside I veered away from the water. After flying straight ahead for just a moment I began to curve down towards the base of the waterfall. The long arc of my flight would take me just above the ground heading towards the cave. I would have to fly recklessly fast in order for my plan to work, and also hope that the Vasnova would do the same to catch me.

Finally I evened out above the planet’s surface with a clear path to the cave. The ship settled close behind me, sending up sprays of water as it flew over the river. Closer and closer we drew to the curtain of water covering the cave’s entrance. My hearts were pounding almost as loud as the waterfall. I tried to take deep breathes to calm my rampaging emotions, but they only stuck in my throat.

Seconds before I would have bursted through the water into the cave I pulled myself up sharply. My belly grazed the water and my wings ached mercilessly. The sheer speed and force of my sudden course change had thrown me off balance; I had barely flown above the ship before it flew through the waterfall and hurtled into the cave. Metal crashing against solid rock echoed across the jungle. Smoke billowed out from behind the waterfall while rocks tumbled downwards around the cave’s entrance.

I hovered in the air for a moment, watching. Sure enough, a figure emerged from the wreckage inside the cave minutes later. I recognized the spacesuit and felt a shiver blow through me. The assassin stood on a rock at the base of the waterfall as he looked up at me. Our eyes met and my hearts tightened. He was glaring so fiercely, but his eyes did not look mad. There was relief. As if he had wanted to fail….

Quickly, I turned and flew off to rejoin my companions. The Vasnova would either make it to the spaceport and contact the Kies, or he would die from the jungle predators. Either way he would not be following us easily.

Sh’Kena and Jace found me just after I had stopped on a branch to rest. Alb and Zev had stayed back at the spaceport to prepare our new ship. Thankfully, Sh’Kena and Jace had brought both Anthras with them. With them sharing one I was able to fly the other and continue resting.  

For some reason, as we flew, I found myself glancing back towards the waterfall. That Vasnova would surely continue pursuing us. What was he even after? Could he be trying to stop me from preventing my vision? No, it would not be impossible for him to know of it…. Perhaps Jace would know more; it had been his ship destroyed at the Regalion station after all. Determined to speak to him later when we were safely away, I focused my eyes forward.

 

“It’s exactly like your old one, Alb,” Zev sighed as if talking to a child. “Are you really planning on returning it when we’re done?”

“Of course!” The pilot answered with a loud laugh. “Though maybe not right away…. Anyways, it’s a good ship model. Best out there for smuggling right now.”

“That’s comforting,” Jace smirked.

At the spaceport our group of five hurriedly boarded a ship remarkably similar to Alb’s now-crashed ship in the jungle. In the same ‘T’ shape, only larger, it still contained an intersection of two hallways. From the door of the airlock on one end of the shorter hall, the cockpit lay at the opposite end. Also like before, a ladder chute led both up and down where the two halls connected. What I had seen of the outside indicated that there was a second floor below us though, which was new. According to Alb the first level held the captain’s quarters and storage room. The second level only had the engine room and the crew’s quarters.

Overall the look of it was much newer and less clunky as Alb’s old ship. The ceilings were even tall enough for me to walk through comfortably. As always with metal, my taloned feet clanked loudly as I walked into the cockpit. Alb and Zev were at the controls while Jace had gone up the ladder chute into a turret. Sh’Kena had gone silently to the crew’s quarters.

Our take off was smooth and uninterrupted thankfully. Alb guided us expertly out of Shyria’s atmosphere and began putting in coordinates for a lightspeed jump. Jace entered moments later to renew our discussion of where exactly to go.

“You said the safest way would be staying in the Solar Arm?” I asked as Zev stood to allow Jace in the copilot’s chair.

He pressed a button on the nav controls, bringing up a miniature galaxy map. “It’s safer, yes, but longer. I hate to say it, but we might want to think of trying to outrun that Vasnova.”

Alb pressed his lips together firmly, “Hmm, not sure we can. Even as the better pilot, that pointy-eared one has the faster and newer ship.”

“A ship that crashed into the waterfall cave on Shyria,” I added.

All three men looked at me in surprise. I realized then that I had not explained to them how I had escaped from the Vasnova’s pursuit. After a quick description of my encounter, Alb whistled.

“You ain’t a bad fighter, girl.”

His words unsettled me, “I am not a fighter. Vis are not warriors.”

He shrugged, still impressed. “Could’ve fooled me.”

“Anyways,” Jace changed the subject quickly. “It still won’t take the Vasnova long to get back on our tail. My idea of staying in the Solar Arm is too obvious; it’ll just make it easier to find us.”

Zev steepled his metallic fingers together thoughtfully. “And we’ve already agreed that Alb’s usual route is too suspicious.”

“It’s still our best bet though,” Alb nodded to the galaxy map. “There’s no other way to get into the Barre Cluster unnoticed. If we go in at any other point we’ll be shot down immediately. The Kies guard their space too heavily.”

I stared at the map, tracing both Alb and Jace’s routes in my mind. Like Jace had said the Solar Arm would be faster, but also predictable. Alb’s way was longer and more secretive, but could also be a trap. However, we might not have much choice if that blind spot is the only opening where we can enter the Barre Cluster.

“What if we combine your routes?”

Again all three men turned to stare at me. Clearing my throat self-consciously, I continued:

“We follow the Solar Arm around to the opposite end of the Barre Cluster that Alb usually goes. It will still mean going to that opening, but we will be coming from the opposite direction. If it is a trap, they will be looking for ships following Alb’s route specifically. We might slip past them with this.”

Jace turned and started tracing my route on the map, “Like this?”

When I nodded he grinned. “It might work…. Still risky, but at this point everything we do is risky.”

Alb chuckled as he started entering coordinates for the jump. “Ya got that right. Entering jump coordinates for the Crowna Station. From there it’ll be a quick jump to the Nacrian and Skandian systems.”

Zev stood to leave, “I’ll prepare a list of supplies. Crowna will be cheaper than one of the homeworlds.”

Jace nudged Alb’s arm, “The first thing we’re doing is filling up with fuel.”

They all laughed but my smile was only half-hearted. I was still fairly weak from the hot jungle air, and Alb’s words had upset me. Perhaps after some sleep I would feel better….

I inquired as to the coldest area in the ship and wandered over to the storage room. Metal crates and synthetically strong plastic containers were stacked throughout the room, making it a maze. In the far corner I found where cool air was blowing in from the vents. Already soothed by the low temperature, I curled into a ball on the floor with my wings draped over me. The hum of the engine room below lulled me to sleep and away from troubling thoughts.





© 2017 Natasha Reams



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Added on June 13, 2017
Last Updated on June 13, 2017


Author

Natasha Reams
Natasha Reams

Anderson, AK



About
Hi, thanks for reading my stuff in advance. I LOVE with wolves, and supernatural romances are my favorite books. I have two dogs (one of which is named Samwise Gamgee so I'm pretty nerdy) and I used t.. more..

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