Okay, so, there is no 30th in February. I knew that!
Also, spring has sprung–or so the meteorologists would have us believe. Some trees and shrubs are already blooming which supports that theory. With the wind still howling and clouds never far away, our very own rain season ist still putting up a fight, though. We’ll see how that goes.
Related, this episode’s cover pic did come with a bit of a struggle of its own. I’m okay with how it turned out in the end, though, and sleep is overrated, anyway. On the bright side, now you’ll only have to wait 9 days instead of 10 for part 2. Win-win, I say!
But you’re not here to hear me ramble, are you? You’re here for the action. Let’s get with it then!
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 15, Part 1
Hiding in the underbrush, Cole and Abbida tried to get an overview of the current situation in the village. They had snuck up as close as possible, which was by no means near enough to do anything, really. The invaders had cleared the trees from the forest edge all the way to the stream. They dug out bushes and shrubs and raked the ground. An area of about five hundred paces in each direction afforded no cover what so ever: no mound, no hollow, no rock bigger than a cabbage head. The heavy scent of freshly dug up soil still lingered in the humid air. Closer to the woods flocks of crows had fallen in, picking eagerly in the furrows.
“They’ve been busy, haven’t they?” Cole said quietly. Abbida only gaped in shock. He rummaged in his satchel and produced the hunting telescope he’d brought from the cabin among other things. Things that would burn or explode if handled accordingly. Abbida tried not to worry about carrying the stuff around.
“Let me have a look please,” she said.
Handing over the telescope, he said, “Not much of a change since yesterday.”
Gazing through, something odd about the fence immediately caught her attention: a strange shimmer, much like that on Lian’s blade. Well, wouldn’t you know it. It was probably just as razor-sharp and indestructible. After a while she noticed a faint, humming sound, as well. Barely perceptible, just enough to bug her ears… She gasped. “It’s charged with electricity!”
“Yup. Quite the current, too. I watched them demonstrate it with a straw man. Hardly touched the fence before it blazed up like the midwinter fire. Scared the wits out of everyone.”
“I can imagine.” Abbida’s mouth was dry again, from apprehension this time. The intruders weren’t playing around. They had all the machinery and the numbers, too, while there was only two of them–with a handful of flammables. They were in way over their heads.
Scanning the huts and sheds, she said, “But where is everybody now?”
The village looked lifeless. Doors were closed, windows covered with curtains. No telling if anybody was home. What if everybody was long gone? The only humans to be seen were soldiers–equipped with weapons that looked even more deadly than Lian’s gun. How in the world were they supposed to get past them?
Abbida tried breathing more evenly. No use in panicking. They had to make it inside, there was no other way. She panned over to the wide space around the generator house where the aircraft were parked.
For the first time she was able to get a closer look, and as much as she hated everything to do with the invaders, she couldn’t help but admire the build of those machines. The smaller ones looked lean and swift, but there was also a bulky one that–according to Cole–had held more troupes than adults lived in the village. How it was able to even lift off the ground was a miracle.
Suddenly, the gloomy atmosphere was interrupted by bellowed orders. Soldiers started combing through the meeting hall, and fanned out to the huts and sheds. Abbida watched anxiously. “What’s happening?”
Cole grabbed the telescope from her. “They must be searching for someone.”
“Or something! The device from the ship’s wreck maybe? Do you think Rona is still holding on to it? But, why?”
Cole shook his head. “I don’t get that woman. What kind of game is she playing?”
A high-pitched wailing interrupted them. Swearing under his breath, Cole pressed the telescope to his eyes. “It’s Noushka! And the colonel.”
Abbida could see soldiers emerging from the meeting hall now, with the colonel in their midst hauling little Noushka along. Rona followed and tried to reach for the girl, but the soldiers hampered her. Noushka was crying, her sobs loud enough to reach Abbida’s ears.
Rona tried to thrust herself between her daughter and the colonel, but he shoved her aside. Noushka screamed. Before Rona could do anything, the colonel grabbed the girl by her hair and thrust the barrel of his gun against her temple. Startled, Noushka broke off.
“No!” Rona fell to her knees.
Abbida’s heart missed a beat. The colonel barked something, and Abbida strained her ears, when his words drowned in a sudden thunder, that ripped the air apart, and tore at Abbida’s eardrums, the noise vibrating in her bones. Clapping her hands over her ears, she threw back her head.
An aircraft arrowed in and stopped, almost mid-flight, right above the generator house, the turbulence raising dust and soil, causing everyone to duck.
Abbida’s heart beat like crazy. Mouth open, she watched the machine descend. On touchdown, it gave off a last hiss, then there was silence. Just for a moment, before new orders were being bellowed.
Some of the soldiers ushered Rona and Noushka away, the rest fell in step and jogged towards the newcomer. They formed two lanes and saluted–even the colonel. An older man in an elaborate uniform stepped out. Taking no notice of the men surrounding him, he walked straight up to the colonel. Short of stepping on the man’s toes, he started talking insistently, waving his hands about.
“The boss is not amused,” Abbida said.
Watching intently, Cole patted his satchel with all the tools and explosives he could carry.
“Careful with that stuff!” Abbida said. He gave her a strange look that didn’t comfort her in the least.
Over at the village, the colonel accompanied his superior back to the meeting hall. The soldiers resumed their searching, though by now they must have turned everything upside down twice. Cole handed the telescope back to Abbida. “Looks like they’re not going anywhere.”
“You think they set up camp permanently?” She took another look. “There are new housings on the far end of the village.”
Five uniform huts, perfectly lined up, were shimmering in the distance, whenever a stray beam of sun light found its way through the clouds. They were surrounded by another fence, and a whole squad of soldiers was keeping watch. What were they afraid of? The villagers posed no threat to them.
More guards took up post around the aircraft now, too. Nervously, Abbida bit her lower lip. Was it possible, they knew they were being watched? Cole’s warning about motion and heat detecting devices came to mind. A creepy itching between her shoulder blades made her twitch. What if they were being targeted this very moment?
Cole cleared his throat. “So. We need to get in without getting shot–or grilled by this fence. Any ideas?”
“Not with all those soldiers lurking around, I don’t,” she said. “And I would really prefer not to stick around much longer.”
“Well, we gotta get in somehow. Or we might as well give up.”
“Nobody is giving up!” She shot him a determined look. “All I’m saying is, an open approach is not gonna cut it. We need to think of something less obvious.”
She broke off as inspiration struck her. There was one way in that the invaders might not have considered. But that way was… “Oh, yuck.”
“I’m not sure I like that look on your face,” Cole said, nose wrinkled.
“Trust me, I don’t like it any better. If we pull this off, you’ll owe me another kitchen duty.”
It took him a moment, then she saw understanding dawning on him. “Oh no! Not if I have to come with you!”
“Fine, we’ll do it together. You do the dishes, I mop the floors.”
He snorted, a lopsided smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. Weary, she smiled back. They knew each other well. The banter made them feel they were still themselves while the life they used to know was falling apart.
~ to be continued! ~
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