Hey ho, and welcome back to part 3 of the latest chapter! How have you been? Busy, maybe, what with all the various holidays happening or coming up? For now, please sit back and enjoy another episode of clueless heroes stumbling through unwanted adventures… err … whatever o.O
So, what happened previously on ‚Worlds Rising: Rebellion?‘
Abbida had managed to tend to Lian’s wounds using all her first aid skills and even built a makeshift stretcher. On the break of a new day the two women are now heading back to the camp site:
“Where’d you get this gun, anyway?” Abbida asked, waving at Lian’s holster.
“It’s my service weapon.”
Abbida’s feet faltered.
“You’re… a soldier?”
Let’s continue from here!
If you are new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1 instead 🙂
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 11, Part 3
Memories came bubbling up. Memories Abbida had been repressing, buried deep inside. Images of aircraft over their heads, of soldiers and weapons and flames. Of people crying, people dying, people taken away. Pictures that, if let run wild, drained her will during the day and robbed her of her sleep at night. She didn’t want to think about it.
Lian coughed and pressed her hand to her injured side. “Well, no, I’m a security officer.”
“What… does a security officer do?
“I guard people. Most notably members of the Five Grand Families. Sometimes high ranking officers.”
“You guard them? From what?”
Lian started to hitch a shoulder, scrunched up her face instead and hissed from pain. She took a moment before answering: “Mostly from their own sort.”
Abbida clenched her fists. In a twisted way that made sense. Only days ago she would never have believed people from the same village could turn against each other. Neighbors, colleagues, people she’d grown up with for crying out loud! But after last night’s events she was ready to expect anything–and she felt betrayed. Cheated of an ideal world that had never really existed in the first place.
After an awkward moment of silence, Lian continued, her voice unsteady. “When I signed up with the service I swore an oath. To guard and protect. To value the life of my charges over my own. At the time I thought I understood what that meant. The strong are supposed to protect those who are unable to defend themselves, aren’t they? My latest orders were to protect my… the chief scientist at the research station here on the planet. But when I learned how your people were being treated…”
She glanced at Abbida with a strange expression, something like guilt or regret or a mixture of both. Suddenly, Abbida wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear the rest. She turned and started pulling again. For once welcoming the pain in her limbs.
Lian coughed again. “I am sworn to obedience to my superiors. You can’t have people questioning decisions in the heat of the moment. But when I saw what was going on, I realized that I, too, had to make a decision. My oath of duty versus human decency… Then I met Ashok.”
“Yes, you said so–but how does that even work?” Abbida said, avoiding Lian’s eyes.
When there was no answer, Abbida thought she might have lost consciousness again and, despite herself, turned her head. Lian was facing away, looking back the way they had come. Her expression was unreadable but for a faint reddish tint on her cheeks and forehead. Which might have been a reflection of the early morning light painting raspberry and peachy streaks into the sky. Or was she feverish again?
By the time they reached the clearing, the freshness and breezy warmth of the break of day was making Abbida a little giddy herself. So, maybe she took in the sight of their abandoned camp easier than she would have otherwise. The tent was gone. As was everything else Rona and Tarek had managed to carry away. The rest, like empty supply bags and Abbida’s own satchel with the remains of her used clothes, lay scattered here and there, torn to shreds.
“This…” Abbida stood and stared.
Lian sighed. “It was to be expected.”
Gripping the rails of her makeshift stretcher she managed to sit, then rolled to the side and got on her knees. Scrunching her eyes shut she breathed heavily, pushed herself up to stand, hands on her knees, head hanging. Wobbly, but she stood. “Alright. I can do this,” she hissed between her teeth.
Abbida was about to give her a hand, but refrained from it, giving her space to test her own strength. Lian limped the two, three steps towards a formation of rocks by the stream, stiffly let herself down on the ground and wiped her face, again damp with sweat. Biting her lips, Abbida watched her straining to slip off her jacket.
“Let me,” she said. Gently, she helped untangle Lian’s arms and sleeves.
Lian slumped back against the cool rock and padded her jacket. “In here I’ve got packs of concentrated food. A bit like your dried rations. Only less savory.”
Abbida furrowed her brow in doubt.
“I’ll keep half of it, you take the rest,” she continued. “And fill up the canteen, too. You’ll need it.”
“What do you mean–I’ll need it? What about you?”
“I can drink from the stream.”
“You go on without me. I can’t make it.”
Her tone was matter-of-fact, her stance leaving no room for Abbida to protest the decision. She wanted to! How could she leave Lian behind–injured, without a tent, and no aid? It was true though, she looked utterly exhausted. There was no fooling themselves, for now this was the end of the road for her.
Abbida rubbed her gritty eyes. “I’ll be as fast as I can. Before you know it, I’ll bring help, and we’ll take you back to our village where we’ll nurse you back to health in no time.”
“That’s how we’ll do it.” Lian smiled, but not her eyes.
Abbida knew exactly what she was thinking: Who in their right mind would bear the exertions of this trip twice just to come and get someone who was a stranger at best, an enemy at worst? Once she’d made it back to the relative safety of home Abbida would most likely drop the whole idea and go on with her life.
Well, she was going to prove her wrong. Abbida had tended to Lian’s immediate needs, she was not going to desert her now. In the short amount of time they had shared, Lian had proven more trustworthy, more reliable than Rona and Tarek, her own neighbors, who she’d thought to know her entire life. No, this stranger here was going to show Lian the true meaning of solidarity.
First she set up a sort of shelter for Lian in the undergrowth, in which to hide from view and defend herself against any prying animals. Lian sunk back and sighed. “Here, take my knife,” she said. “I’ll still have the gun to keep away any predators.”
Animal or human, Abbida thought, but kept it to herself. Though Lian was showing no apprehension, there was no way of telling if she really was this tough or good at feigning it. “Give me three days.”
In the spur of the moment, she hugged Lian awkwardly, turned away and ran before Lian could even respond. Not before she was out of earshot did she look back and waved. After that, Abbida fell into an easy, quick march she hoped to keep up for some time.
Crocodiles and snakes were a different story.
Li Xiao entered his quarters, sealed the door, slumped against the panels and slid down to the floor. Alone at last. Finally, there was no more need to keep up a facade of cool composure. He leaned back his head and scrunched his eyes shut.
Inconceivable. Outrageous! His uncle was keeping the natives like prisoners of war! Worse, like interns in a concentration camp. Numerous punctures of injections and surgical scars spoke volumes of the experiments carried out–all in the name of science. Not to mention the scars it left on their psyche. Li Xiao balled his fists.
He knew as well as anyone–better, probably–what was at stake. How desperate the homeland needed results. His people were dying out, there was no denying the facts. But did that justify using human beings like lab rats?
Did his brother know?
Li Xiao pinched the bridge of his nose. Was he being naive in hoping all this happened behind the patriarch’s back? To wish that the man he had secretly admired all his life be the just, if strict head of state he had always taken him for–not a monster?
What if the patriarch himself had ordered this facility be built exactly as it was? Would he feel guilty at all? In his eyes–did the natives even possess any rights? Would he view them as citizens, worthy of his protection? Or would he consider them too foreign and primitive?
No. Li Xiao shook his head vigorously. His brother wouldn’t have tasked him with this assignment if he knew what was going on down here. It was much more probable that his uncle was conspiring in this with the First House. Why he would stoop so low Li Xiao could only guess. Did he hope to supersede Li Xiao as successor to the patriarch? That would explain the number of officers and troops with allegiance to the House of the White Tiger.
It did cast an unsettling light at Li Xiao’s planetside delegation, though. Were they planning an ambush on him? Did he need personal security?
Major Huang Lian came to mind. She’d served his brother as bodyguard on various official occasions. If she were still stationed on Tou Hao, he might have hired her. But of all people she was reported to have defected–to side with the rebels. Much more likely she was dead. Which was all very suspicious in itself!
The door chimed, announcing a visitor, and Li Xiao startled. Then he called himself an idiot. He was here on an official mission. As long as he stayed well inside the station, nobody would dare cause him any harm without raising all kinds of suspicion. And had not the station commander himself banned Li Xiao from ever setting foot outside the dome?
He stood and opened the door, only to come face to face with Colonel Guo.
“About time! We’re moving out! I’m flying with you, so get going!”
Only then the ruckus on the corridors registered, and a steady voice coming over the speakers, commanding staff and pilots to report for their respective duties: ‘… Start in T minus ten minutes…’
~ to be continued! ~
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