Demons Of The Past 02: Revolution – Chapter 16
I stared out the viewport as The EÃ¶nwyl was brought down to a cleared landing area in the central bay of the Kukanaro. I realized that they must be taking the fighters which had deployed to intercept us into the other landing bays â€“ and it’d be getting very tight. Their flight deck boss would be severely annoyed.
With all nonessential power cut off, we could appreciate the delicacy of the maneuvering by the unseen tractor wrangler. There was barely a jar as The EÃ¶nwyl was set down, and for a moment the only movement in that two hundred meter expanse of gray, white, black, and gold was the closing of the bay doors.
As soon as they closed, the lights flickered slightly and a damper field slammed down on my psionics like an avalanche of wet sand; my last fading impression was of another of Vick’s psychic curses. It’s a double screen. Someone’s taking no chances, and they’re diverting a lot of power to do it â€“ not to mention they’ve got to have a top-notch DD engineer to keep the fields synergized instead of interfering.
And the crew was drilled well. No sooner had the psi damper field stabilized than three Seven-squads â€“ almost a hundred and fifty Guardsmen â€“ sprinted out, semi-portable shields and heavy weapons at the fore. They locked down at about thirty meters, enough of them to maintain a full field of fire from any direction. I knew the shield generators would be tuned and synched with their main weapons, too; no taking them out with crossfire from each other.
I did notice that about one-seventh of the squads seemed to be in slightly different armor that triggered a feeling of familiarity, but I was more concerned about what was coming to bother trying to sort it out.
“EÃ¶nwyl,” the voice this time being a level tenor, “This is Red Sergeant Harag, in charge of the units now surrounding your vessel. On my signal â€“ and not before â€“ you will lower your ramp. After that ramp is completely lowered, and not before, all persons on board your vessel will exit it, one at a time, starting with yourself and the others proceeding out when, and only when, I so instruct them to. As each of you exits, you will walk â€“ and only walk â€“ to the bottom of the ramp, with your hands on your head, and then continue a slow walk until instructed to stop. At that point you will drop to your knees and my men will secure you. Any resistance will be met with deadly force. Is this understood?”
“Understood, Sergeant.” The EÃ¶nwyl’s voice was just as level, and her face was expressionless. I still had no idea exactly what had happened with her â€“ how she had somehow anticipated our being forced out, or what had caused her to surrender so easily, when I would have expected much more of a fight.
“Then lower your ramp in threeâ€¦ twoâ€¦ oneâ€¦ Now.”
The EÃ¶nwyl tapped the controls to lower the ramp, stood, and began to walk towards the rear of her vessel. I reached out and touched her shoulder. “I’m sorry.”
Her expression flickered and she raised her hand, gripped my fingers for a moment. “I accepted the risk when I took you on board, Sasham. And we’re not dead yet.” She let go and continued walking. “Butâ€¦ thank you.”
We reached the cargo bay where the other two were waiting, and I stopped. The EÃ¶nwyl kept going, a slow, methodical walk, putting her hands atop her head as she started down the ramp.
With all other power shut down, there were no operating screens, so all we could see was her spectacular head of hair disappear from sight as she continued walking. Then Sergeant Harag’s voice called “Halt!”. There was the sound of several people running forward and metallic-plastic sounds of bindings being fastened. After a moment of silence, the Sergeant spoke again. “Next person â€“ walk down, slowly, hands on your head.”
I glanced at the others, laced my fingers together atop my head, and walked down.
The wall of soldiers and weapons facing me would have been intimidating, but it was the massive pressure crippling my mind that held most of my attention. It was almost funny, in a way; I’d been terrified of even getting these powers, and certainly fearful of what they’d do to me; I’d never imagined I’d become so used to them that they’d feel a real part of meâ€¦ but they had, and this leaden pressure was like being blindfolded and deafened at the same time.
I stopped and knelt as instructed, and a small detachment of Guards jogged towards me. One of them was in that familiar â€“
Even as they grabbed my arms and forced them into shackles, I felt my jaw drop. “Narleya r’arren kintarr, Ptiala,” I managed, while other hands removed my vya-shadu and my sidearm.
The Ptilian Warrior looked at me, startled, but paused in her work to make the great circular gesture that looked like the embrace of a world. “May the Lady smile upon you as well, man of Empire,” she said in Imperial Standard. “Though this is an inauspicious beginning to our friendship.”
A second group was bringing up a semi-portable platform like those which supported the shields ringing The EÃ¶nwyl â€“ but this one was clearly meant for me to sit on. I could guess what that was for. Rather than dwell on the fact that they were going to have me sit on yet another psi-damper, I chuckled â€“ a rather forced sound, but better than nothing. “The Hyarale once told meâ€¦ let me get this rightâ€¦ Hurerre glimill arrada ti’ garren ruru, friendships of adversity are those of eternity.”
“She is wise indeed.” The green slit-pupiled eyes regarded me with curiosity and a grim humor, and her furry tail lashed in amusement. “But eternity also waits on the other side of death, so the saying is not without its darker meanings.”
“Enough talk, Kilarren’tian.” The Sergeant’s voice was annoyed, and I could now see him â€“ a big man, almost as big as my old teacher Helkoth. “We’re here to capture him and his allies, not have a social call!”
Kilarren’tian â€“ whose name told me she was actually born to one of the Priest clans, presumably offered for the Arren warrior clan â€“ let out a soft, rumbling purr-growl. “He spoke in the manner of a proper warrior, I responded. Recall that our people are here to observe as well as assist.”
“Apologies.” Sergeant Harag did manage to inject a small amount of real contriteness in his voice; this told me that Kilarren’tian wasn’t under Imperial command. A nice thought but I wasn’t sure if there would be any way to use it. She certainly wasn’t here to help overthrow the Empire. “Now could you please finish locking him down to the secure chair? There’s other people we need to process.”
“As you wish, Red Sergeant.” The Ptilian Warrior did as she was told, and did it efficiently, holding my arms in position as the catches locked â€“ and just avoiding digging razor-sharp claws into my arms as she did so. I could now see the EÃ¶nwyl, standing off to one side in restraints considerably less massive than mine.
I could not, however, quite prevent a grin at the thought of “massive”, and on cue the immense form of Guvthor appeared, towering so high that he could barely fit under the tail of The EÃ¶nwyl with his great hands properly held on his head; there was a slight but perceptible movement around the perimeter, some of startlement, some of people probably almost at the point of firing.
Whether all his men were aware of just what they were trying to catch, it was clear that Harag was fully informed; the squad that came and secured Guvthor were carrying restraints quite adequate for the occasion. It did require two Guardsmen to remove the Thovian’s axe. “Gently, gently,” Guvthor admonished them as they accidentally scraped one edge on the floor. “The Makthu Hok Guvthor has been passed down through our family line for generations. It is a weapon of honor and a symbol of power indeed, and you mistreat it at your peril.”
I realized Guvthor was playing to the perception of his people as, ultimately, primitives. Can’t hurt if you can get these people to underestimate you. I doubt it’ll work, though.
Vick was last, and once more the restraints were clearly designed with him in mind. “Curiosity still there is,” he said, finally, as all of us were now lined up in our shackles, with none of the Guardsmen within twenty meters of us. “Precise intercept you were capable of how? Position our known how was?”
“My report,” said the voice I’d recognized the moment it first spoke over the comm, “will state that we deduced it from your presence, R’Thann.”
The ranks had parted nearby, and Commodore Veshdar Morno stood there, a rather unprofessional grin showing that he was enjoying our reunion already. “Although that isn’t precisely true. You know, I really have to thank you, Sasham.”
“Capturing the most wanted enemy of the Empire? There’s stiff competition for promotions even now, but I have a strong suspicion, my old friend, that catching you will give me a pretty decisive edge. Admiral sounds like a fine rank, don’t you think?”
I decided not to answer; I couldn’t turn this into a verbal firefight, not when he had all the advantages. Ptialiansâ€¦ that might give me an edge. But I’ve got to figure it out right. “So what do you mean by your report not being precisely true?” I said finally.
“Our presence here can be justified by the fact that you had an R’Thann on board; we can argue that we guessed you’d come through this nameless little system on your way to Thann’ta, and it will look like a stroke of genius â€“ with no little luck â€“ on my part.” His brown hair was still just a little longer than the usual Guardsman, his eyes just as sharp gray-blue, and his shoulders looked a little broader than they’d been twenty years ago on Wyllas. “But really, we have to thank your people, Doctor.”
Vick stared at him, eyes narrowing, crest flaring upward.
“The R’thann told us you were coming.”