Chapter 2: Take us to Your Leader
We do the traditional rubbernecking on our trip through
Requembel. Among the many species here, we make special note
of the Moto Banu, who can be found in clusters and pairs, as befits
a herd-based culture. Finally we come to a cluster of white,
triangular towers, set in a park of blue vegetation, just on the edge of
the city, with the blue-leafed forest beyond it. Eric explains that
these had belonged to the Fralthan, who Withdrew from Varkard
after the self-imposed extinction of the Denden. After the Psi
Wars, humans and other terrestrial refuges came here, and settled
into the towers, so this is now the Terran quarter, where they live and
conduct business, here in the ruins of the old Fralthan center of worship.
The mention of worship alerts Robbie. He sends out an eye, to determine if there is a sacred space that would dissolve him. "Nice peripheral," remarks Eric. The eye remains intact, and we relax a bit.
We are steered past a plaza, and stop at one of the buildings. The cabbie departs, and (eye in the lead) we enter the offices of TXT. The ceilings are four meters tall, and the motif of white continues even here, on the inside of the building. We soon notice that the white walls are the sole source of light throughout the offices.
We sit down in one of the rooms, and Eric gives us a sketch of the situation from his perspective. To maintain the balance between the two Blenari factions, KaiSen via Jumping Jacks via TXT has been selling arms to the Algis, but it hasn't been enough. The Korando are still pulling farther and farther ahead in the warfare competition. It seems that they have control of some sort of new psionics, which gives them protective effects and regenerative abilities. There are also rumors that they are using Tlappina mercenaries, which is also odd, because the Tlappina, while violent, are not warlike. There are also been rumors of battles fought, here and there on the planet, which have been won by the Korando with special weapons. Eric hasn't been able to find out what the weapons are, where they come from, or how the Korando get them.
We ask Eric about the locations of the two clans and of their battles, and he puts up a map of the nearby area. There on the south is the city of Requembel, fronting on an ocean, and with a river running into it from the north. Northeast of the city, along the coast, is one of the Algis enclaves; northwest of the city, and farther north, in the steppes, is a Korando area. Eric points out that there are three systems of vegetation on this planet, the blue, the red, and the green, and that the Blenari favor the green. We have him put up a map of the entire continent, and post the known battlefields on it. There is one in a forest seven hundred miles to the west, and we decide to visit it, since it is fairly recent and comparatively close. We'll have Salimar run a retrocognition there, and see what she comes up with.
Eric arranges for a small rented aircraft to ferry us there and back again, and gets us a taxi to return us to the Munch. On our way back across town, we spot some classic Blenari feud behavior. One Blenari is trailed by another, which is accosted by a pair of Blenari and runs off. Dafnord notes that the tracker is wearing more lace than any of the other three, and that they are all wearing more ribbons than he. So, there is apparently a designation by dress, into Beaux and Macaronis.
At the Munch, Dafnord changes into an anonymous but impressive uniform, and picks out a nice selection of weaponry. If we get caught snooping around a battlefield, he reasons, it's best if we can present ourselves as opportunistic arms dealers. Dafnord warns us that, for now, the Munch is the "Auspicious Sunrise." We put up with it.
Robbie asks Salimar to pull out the Map of Here, which she does with too much alacrity. We find a dimensional effect here at the spaceport, marked with a stack of identical "pins." There are two more stacks in Requembel. We expand the Map out. There are more stacks elsewhere on the planet, and some are in the Korando and Algis territories north of here. Yes, we may be on to something.
Edvard downloads an atlas for us, and we match a map of the planet against our Map. The other four large stacks of pins are in the other major cities on the planet. There are short stacks of pins here and there, but all are in either Algis or Korando lands. There is one in the battlefield we had already selected.
Our waiting hover-taxi takes us to a large dome on the edge of the spaceport, where we expect to pick up our rental vehicle. There is a small, grey centaur with dog paws and a parrot face working the counter at the rental place. "Greetings, sentient," says Dafnord in his best KaiSenese. We give our total "net mass" upon request, then are led over to our around-the-world class flier. It's an elliptical platform with a transparent dome, which gives us the exposed feeling we are used to in the pantope. We step on board, and are shown the controls. They are in KaiSenese, which most of us can't read; Salimar will have to do that. She starts reading them out loud to Gannar, our customary driver and pilot. We find an exit, decide that we will eventually ignore the warning "Do not override the autopilot," and waver out the nearest exit.
Forty-five minutes into our flight, the autopilot informs us that we are entering Algis air space, and will require authorization. The flier doesn't land, nothing seems to be noticing us, the autopilot makes no further announcements, so we do nothing. In another fifteen minutes, we are hovering over a section of forest. There has been a battle here; there is a lot of destruction and charring to be seen. The Map of Here indicates a stack of pins near the edge of the forest, so we land near there.
Gannar puts us down in a grassy (It's more like clover.) clearing, and we all step out. Daphne asks the surrounding trees what happened, and gets back a report of a pressure wave - or at least a blast of air more powerful than a wind and less powerful than an explosion - followed by people walking by. Salimar produces a visual retrocognition we can all watch (in octarine):
It is night. Suddenly, a flattened-looking geodesic spheroid appears over the clearing. Armed Blenari pour out of it. Their weapons look like alien, crude versions of the shock guns we saw in the Terraform Reach, so here and now, they must be cutting edge implements. When the soldiers have emptied the dome, there is still one figure in it before it disappears. It looks like a cluster of large pods, brown and flat and about a meter long, with occasional limbs, hanging from the cagework ceiling.
We silently agree that Salimar's vision has been very useful. We head out to look at the actual area of the battle, which may tell us more. Dafnord, in the lead, hears approaching footsteps. He blends into the underbrush, while the pixie whisks into a treetop. Two Blenari in battle armor, carrying standard-issue, heavy-duty plasma rifles, step into view and walk past.
Dafnord steps out behind them, and mildly requests, "Please stop."
They spin around, and one points his gun at Dafnord, who stands there frozen, with his sword poised to strike. "You are walking towards my companions. You should stop here."
The one lowers his weapon slightly, and Dafnord continues. "I am the Tenth Dragon of the Auspicious Sunrise. You may call me Ten. We sometimes offer weapons to those who have been in battle."
"May we infer that you could sell us weapons?" asks the smarter of the two Blenari, the one who didn't draw.
They confer with headquarters over a hand comm, then invite Dafnord to come with them.
©2002,2005 Ann Broomhead and Earl Wajenberg. All Rights Reserved.