So, I’ve been dreading this post for some days now because there is no way, I am going to go ahead with the story and not say anything about what’s been going on in the world. Yet, I find myself struggling to put into words what needs to be said.
Black lives matter
I am not one for preaching. But I do firmly believe that there is a time for silent comfort and there is a time when we need to speak up. When people are being abused and even killed for what they are, the time for silence has passed.
People are equal, regardless of skin color, gender, ability, who they love or what they believe. Those are basic human rights. Having governmental institutions violate those rights by force of habit is a perversion of their duties. That needs to be stopped. As a species we can only survive if we work hand in hand, with kindness, empathy and compassion.
The only thing I don’t tolerate is intolerance.
If you have come this far reading my story you might have realized that those beliefs are at the very core of it. In fact, though I would prefer to let my characters speak for themselves, I need you to know that this story would not exist otherwise. It was a conscious decision when I first started out.
Although my story has a purely fictional setting, and whatever outcome it has can not be translated directly into real life, I am doing my darndest to sketch out a metaphor for what might work.
If all of this is ‘too much politics’ for you, you might want to reconsider your priorities. Or read some other blog. (‘Kay, bye.)
Else–welcome my friend! Have another episode 🙂
If you are all new to my story, please consider starting with Chapter 1 🙂
Worlds Rising: Rebellion
Chapter 20 Part 2
The half-smile drained off Cole’s face, making room for a look of cold determination as he turned and walked back into the tunnel, holding that dreadful gun much like Abbida had seen the invading soldiers carry theirs too many times. The sight was so contrary to his usual good-natured spirit, it almost turned her stomach.
None of this was right. He should be back at the smithy, hammering molded steel into casings for steam-powered contraptions like some sort of automated sewing machine or whatever. He shouldn’t be forced to wield a gun to defend their freedom. None of them should have to fight for their lives, while all they had ever wanted was to be left in peace!
Abbida balled her fists. Once they made it out of this trap that the mountain had become, she would make sure to find a way to end this madness. She whipped around and stomped over to Lian and Li Xiao.
Immediately, she registered a change of mood: where earlier they had been engrossed in conversation, however controversial, they now stood apart, as far as this side of the cave permitted, brows furrowed, mouths pinched shut. Abbida sucked in her cheeks, “What now?”
“Nothing. I’m ready,” said Lian, pointedly looking away from Li Xiao.
He sucked in air, but before he could say anything her hand darted down to smack her leg holster, “I am not having this conversation again!”
“Fine!” Li Xiao snapped, “get yourself killed! What do I care?”
“What do you care?” said Abbida, before she could stop herself, realizing she had been puzzling over his behavior from the start. Cole was right, mere curiosity didn’t explain the half of it.
Li Xiao’s eyes went wide, and he stared at her. But instead of an answer he clamped his mouth shut and crossed his arms over his chest. “Whatever.”
Abbida sighed. “Let me help you with your jacket,” she said to Lian.
“No, I’m keeping that on.”
“It’ll soak up water and drag you under.”
“On the contrary!” Lian pressed the side of her collar. With a delicate rustling sound the fabric tightened around her neck. Then she did the same with the cuffs of her sleeves and her waistband. “This uniform is the only thing that will keep water from getting to my wounds. Waterproof from the outside, breathable from the inside. You can help me with my boots, though. They are too clunky to swim with.”
As it turned out, the legs of her pants enclosed her feet like stockings. All she had to do was strap her boots together and hang them around her neck and she was ready. Li Xiao followed suit, the scowl never leaving his face, but at least he didn’t try to talk her out of it anymore.
Abbida let them be and walked into the tunnel, where Cole stood unmoving, looking back into the direction they had come from. The light from Li Xiao’s and Lian’s hand lamps didn’t reach here, and it took her eyes a moment to adjust to the faint shimmer of her skin. It cast an eerie outline on Cole when she reached him, and the cool air made her skin crawl.
“Hear anything yet?” she asked, wrapping her arms around herself.
“There was a rumble earlier, but nothing since.”
“You mean like the noise of an aircraft?”
She could feel rather than see him shrug. “Nah, I doubt that. The jungle’s too dense. Maybe ground vehicles. They’ve got some pretty big ones that make a hell of a racket themselves.”
Abbida shivered. She knew what he was talking about. Those vehicles easily flattened and rolled right over a small tree. “Could have been something else, thunder maybe.”
Again he shrugged, but his silence was telling.
Abbida changed the subject, “Anyway, we’re ready.”
“Alright,” he said, his tone softening. He stroked one of her locks behind her ear.
Bitter-sweet nostalgia overcame her, for all the good times they’d had and that seemed lost forever. But she couldn’t go there now, she needed to keep it together. Clearing her throat she said, “Just give us a few minutes for a head-start. And make sure he doesn’t do anything.” She nodded back to the cave, where they could see Li Xiao mill about.
“No worries, I’ve got this. Nobody shall pass here!” he said, puffing his chest in mock bravado.
Abbida snorted and cast a meaningful glance at the flowery satchel he carried wrapped around his back. In the dim green shine, she could see him grin, although it didn’t reach his eyes. Gulping down a sudden tight feeling in her throat, she said. “Alright, see you on the other side.”
“I’ll be right behind you. Now–go!”
Nodding, more to herself than him, Abbida tore herself away and ran back to where Lian and Li Xiao were waiting at the rim of the waterfall.
Conscious of their glances, she slipped out of her shirt and pants, bundled them up and stuffed them into her satchel. Standing there in her underwear she felt vulnerable next to the almost fully geared Lian and Li Xiao. But that couldn’t be helped now. “Let’s do it!” she said with more authority than she felt.
Barefoot, she padded to where Lian stood, mindful of the slippery ground. Groping the edge with her toes, she took a deep breath. “Lian and me first. On the count of three. One, two–”
The plunge took longer than she’d thought, but just when she regretted all her decisions, her soles hit the surface like she was breaking through solid ice, sending shocks through her muscles all the way to her head. By sheer instinct she clamped her mouth shut as she went under.
Cold! The cold pressed all the air from her lungs, sinking her like a stone. Her insides cramped, her chest tightened, and for a moment of terror she thought her heart stopped beating. Ears ringing, she lost all sense of direction. Fighting not to lose her head, she tried to flail, but she couldn’t feel her arms or legs.
Something tugged on her, but when it finally registered that she was being pulled, she didn’t know if it was up or down. Then her head broke through the surface and basic instincts took over. Gasping for air, she thrashed and battled against the clamp that was constraining her.
“Abbida!” a command rang in her ears. “Open… your eyes! Look around!”
Only then did she realize, that Lian was holding her from behind, one arm wrapped around her chest, the other keeping her chin out of the water. “It’s… all right,” she stuttered through chattering teeth. “I’ve… got you!”
Her face was contorted, from cold and pain. Her injury! A wave of embarrassment washed over Abbida, as she tried to form words of her own. Some feeling returned to her arms and legs, and she found she could tread water without going under. “O-kay. I’m… okay! You can… let go now.”
Slowly, as if she wasn’t sure about that, Lian pulled away. Dammit, Abbida thought, this was supposed to go the other way around! Now that she could breathe more freely, she noticed both Li Xiao and Cole looking down to them, with Cole seeming ready to jump in himself.
“It’s… all right!” She managed to bring one arm above the water and shooed him away. Frowning, he took a step back.
It took her another moment to regain her composure, then she nodded firmly and told Lian, “I’m good. You can hold on to me now.”
Lian clasped down on her shoulder with one hand, the other she would need to swim. “We take a few gasps, then take a deep breath, then head-first. Got it?” she said in a commanding tone.
Though she was the one who was injured, and Abbida was supposed to take the lead, she complied automatically to Lian’s natural authority and started breathing deep: in, out. In, out. In, for as long as she could–and go!
Head-first Abbida dove, propelling them with strong kicks as deep as she could. The pressure on her eardrums increased, her heart beat like a drum, and each stroke of her arms and legs felt like boring through thick molasses.
Huddled behind a rock formation, Tarek, Rona and Ole watched the soldiers underneath unloading tons of equipment from their self-powered vehicles. Sun had risen only recently, but they had set out before dawn and finally caught up with the enemy. Now they watched a handful of soldiers crawling all over the wrecked ship, while the majority of them were swarming the area behind it, towards the jungle and the mountains.
“What do we do now?” whispered Ole.
“We wait for them to withdraw,” muttered Rona. “What the hell are they looking for anyway? The communication device is long gone.”
Tarek had no idea, but Ole said with a shrug, “Looks like they’re going to blow the thing up.”
Rona sucked in her breath and glared at Ole with such intensity that he squirmed. “What makes you think that?”
“Listen here,” he protested, “I work in the stone pit. I know my way around this stuff!”
“He’s right,” Tarek cut in. “They’re fixing up devices all around it, even on the upper level, where I found the communication device.”
“How does that make sense? The wreck has been here for ages,” Rona wondered in a rare show of collegial brainstorming.
“What ever it is, we should grab our things and get out of here.”
“No,” Rona decided, “we follow the other troops into the mountains. Who knows, their home base might be close.”
Ole harrumphed, “That’s ridiculous. How are we going to follow them on foot? Are you going to steal one of their ground vehicles, too?”
Rona gave him a look, cold enough to shrivel his insides. He flinched, and in an obvious attempt to maintain his dignity, shrugged and turned away.
Tarek couldn’t help but wonder if that really was her plan. His bad feeling grew. No matter what, though, he would keep his promise. For the sake of his daughter, for the sake of his whole family, for the sake of the village, he would risk it all.
They grabbed their stuff and followed the soldiers towards the foot of the mountains, where none of them had ever ventured before.
Thank you for reading!
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Black lives matter!