Archive for February, 2013
An hour later, the building was finally secure. They closed and sealed the windows. Vents were secured. They moved any machinery outside to a nearby covered shelter. Finally there was nothing left to do but wait.
Dennethom glanced out a window. It was hard to see through the protective layers they had put up to keep the sand out, but the wind had definitely picked up. Still, there was no sign of Nyal and they were unable to raise him on the radio.
“Maybe he decided it was too risky to return. Sealed himself up at the building site.”
“There’s no building complete enough for him to seal up in,” Jerrup replied, unconvinced.
“Well what do you suggest we do. We can’t go out and look for him,” Lerya replied.
“No. You’re right. It’s much too dangerous. We just have to wait until the storm passes,” Jerrup agreed, and sat down next to Lerya, entwining his hand in hers.
Dennethom couldn’t believe his ears. He stared in disbelief about the room. None of the workers seemed happy with leaving Nyal out alone, but no one volunteered to search for him. He sighed to himself. He wouldn’t leave Nyal. He was a leader. Boentu leaders didn’t abandon their people. He began to gather his belongings, packing a bag, and putting on an overcoat and headgear to protect from the wind and sand.
“What are you doing?” Jerrup asked, letting go of Leyra’s hand.
“Nyal may be in trouble. Somebody has to go and help him.”
“But the storm will be here soon. You won’t be able to find him in a sandstorm,” Jerrup protested.
“You’re risking your life and you don’t even know if Nyal is in trouble,” someone else said.
“I’m Boentu. We don’t leave others behind. Besides, he wouldn’t leave one of us.”
He was right. But none of them had the courage to follow him. “Don’t forget to take a spare set of batteries for your radio,” Lerya reminded him.
Dennethom nodded his head appreciatively and grabbed the batteries in question. Nobody else tried to stop him.
Dennethom found himself missing his family as he sat in the scorching desert plains on the other side of Skora. It was a desolate place. The workers needed all the help they could get to build shelters and set up supply lines. It was good work. Honest. It helped ground him. He was surprised at how good he was at construction. When he wasn’t working, he devoted his time to meditation. This was one of those times. But it was uncomfortably hot, and his mind kept wondering back to his family. He couldn’t believe what a fool he had been. He missed them. Had he really been gone four moons already? Arjuna must be getting huge. She probably hated carrying. He suppressed a grin. Maybe being on the other side of the planet wasn’t so bad if it meant escaping Arjuna’s mood swings.
He glanced up at the sun which was now high in the sky. He should probably head inside. That was the other thing about this work. Temperatures were so dangerously high in this part of Skora, that they did their work at night, which meant they slept during the hottest parts of the day. Dennethom gathered his belongings and made his way down the sandy hillside and into the nearby building which served as their barracks.
He hadn’t expected to see anyone still up yet, so he was surprised to see all his fellow workers huddled about the lounge, studying weather reports.
“What’s wrong?” Dennethom asked, gazing about at the tense faces.
“A sandstorm is coming in. Looks like a bad one,” said Jerrup, one of the workers looking at the weather readouts.
Dennethom nodded his head. Every now and again the area was subject to sandstorms. The wind would howl and send sand everywhere. The storms would last a couple of days, and they would often end up having to dig their way out of the structure. If they weren’t careful, the sand would also get into the electronics which meant more setbacks. Supposedly, once the climate settled down, there would be no more storms. But J-Corp, the company that was building the housing structures, didn’t want to wait and have another company grab up the site.
“Why haven’t we sealed up the place yet?”
“We’re waiting for Nyal to get back. He’s out securing the site.”
Nyal was chief of new construction. It was his job to make sure the site was secure during these storms.
“When will the storm arrive?” Dennethom asked.
Jerrup pointed at a computer screen. “It’ll be here in just a couple of hours.”
“We should get this structure sealed tight.”
“What about Nyal” asked Lerya, one of the few female workers on the site.
“We’ll save the barracks for last. That should give him plenty of time to come in.”
The day after Dennethom left was a strange one. Arjuna was only just beginning to feel as though they had a routine and now their routine was changing. They would have to hunt without Dennethom. That wouldn’t be too difficult. They didn’t need all three of them to hunt. However, soon Arjuna would be too big, and then Arronanto would have to do all the hunting by himself.
Arronanto wasn’t much of a hunter. He tended to be louder, scaring away animals. He didn’t care to pay attention to the tiny signs showing an animal had passed by recently. Arjuna tried to make him see the paths of the vermin and the recent droppings. But after a few days she gave up and decided to concentrate on showing him how to make simple traps.
But it wasn’t just the hunting either. They also had to go to the market and get to know the people in the township. Some would ask where Dennethom was these days. They often wore knowing looks when Arjuna explained he was off helping to set up a township in Skora’s southern hemisphere. She supposed they thought the monks were trying to build a place of worship there. Arjuna didn’t bother to correct them.
It was Arronanto’s job to help Jora on the Aluen. Most of the chores were routine stuff Jora could do by himself, but Arronanto missed the spaceship. Plus he needed to keep monitoring the comms and news channels. It was dull work. There was never anything new. Katha still hadn’t stepped down. And nobody seemed to suspect at all that the children of Chran still lived.
As Arronanto finished listening to yet another boring news broadcast, he found himself wishing for some excitement. He’d love to take the Aluen up for a little bit, though he knew his brother would have a fit if he ever found out. With a sigh, he wondered how Dennethom was doing.
The Arthemian bun had done a little to quell Drapaudi’s anger. She understood how upset Dennethom was that she was with Arronanto. For Arkaya’s sake she was ready to make peace.
Dinner that night began like usual. The morning’s fight was forgotten. Arronanto could never stay angry at his big brother. As Jora cleared out the dishes, Dennethom stood up. “I’d like to make an announcement.”
The family looked at him quizzically, but said nothing. “After my behaviour this morning, I’ve decided perhaps I need some space from the situation here.”
Arjuna sighed. She had been afraid of this.
“I have taken a position in a construction crew building a new township in the southern hemisphere.”
“For how long?” Arronanto asked, his voice tense.
“It’s a six moon contract.” He winced, knowing this would be the most upsetting part.
“That’s crazy. You’re needed here,” Arronanto replied.
Dennethom shrugged. “I must leave, Arro. Honestly, I don’t know how you handled me being with Drapaudi, but I’m not that strong.”
“But we need you,” said Arjuna. “You’re our leader.”
Dennethom shook his head. “I can’t be a good leader, I can’t make the decisions I need to make, while I’m distracted here.”
Drapaudi sighed. “I understand why you wish to leave. I do. But what about your son? What about Arkaya?”
Dennethom walked over to Arkaya and Drapaudi and hugged his son. “I don’t want to leave Arkaya. But you’re a good mother. You can take care of him. You’ll have Arro, and my mother, everybody here to help. For right now, I cannot be here. I don’t want to be the person who throws chairs across the room in a rage, right in front of my son. I need to heal myself.” He turned to his sister. “Arjuna, I promise it will only be six moons. No more. I will be here when the baby comes. And if there are any problems, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me.”
Arjuna nodded her head. She felt her eyes welling up with tears and she turned to brush them away. Her big brother was leaving them.
Dennethom wished he had gone back for his jacket. The air felt cold this early in the morning. He didn’t know where to go, only that he needed to get away. Far away. Had he really thrown that chair? Why? Silly question. He already knew the answer. The beast was growing stronger. He had trouble sleeping. He hated picturing Arronanto holding his wife. It wasn’t right. He should never have decided to share Drapaudi. How did his ancestors do this? No wonder there was so much backstabbing and fighting back then. He understood why this particular custom was no longer followed.
Space would clear his head. He needed to get away. At least for a few days. It was difficult, them being together all the time. It was easier than the Aluen must’ve been for Arronanto, but still no picnic for Dennethom. The Aluen. Maybe he could live aboard ship for a while. Just until he could meditate on the problem. Get rid of the ugly beast. He couldn’t function like this. Space was exactly what he needed.
He found himself in the market. His stomach growled. He hadn’t had time to eat before picking a fight with his wife. He stopped at a stand, purchasing two Arthemian sweet buns Drapaudi loved. One for himself, and one for her. It wasn’t much of an apology but it was something.
As he bit into the soft, squishy bun, he noticed a sign that had caught the interest of several locals. Dennethom strolled closer and read:
High paid workers needed on the Southern hemisphere to build housing structures for a new community. Hard workers only. Six moon contract. Experience in construction helpful but not necessary.
Dennethom smiled. This was perfect.
In the days that followed, the structure actually did begin to look like home. When did that happen? Arjuna wondered to herself as she got up one morning. They had even developed a routine. Every day, they would go out and hunt the vermin put down by terraformers to clear up a noxious plant. They tasted surprisingly good. Later in the afternoon, Yasana and Xien, who had become quite handy in the kitchen, would prepare the meat. Jayta was better at eating than cooking, so he devoted himself to keeping the new housing structure operational.
Jayta visited the Aluen several times a moon to run maintenance checks. Arjuna suspected it helped remind Jayta of his calling as a pilot. Dennethom would accompany Jayta to the ship to check goings on in the Boentu System, at least, that’s what he told everyone. Arjuna believed he was simply trying to put as much distance between him and Arronanto and Drapaudi, who were now starting their cycle together. He found any excuse he could to leave the house, visiting the market any time they were short on supplies. It helped him get to know the neighbours. The other residents were obviously curious about the Boentu monks, but reserved, which was just fine for the siblings.
As Arjuna made her way into the housing structure’s dining room, she reflected on how at home she felt on Skora, wondering if her brothers felt the same way. As she stepped through the doorway she heard Dennethom’s voice. He sounded tense. Angry.
“I wish you wouldn’t keep treating him like a newborn cub, Drapaudi. How is he ever supposed to learn to be a warrior?”
“Arkaya has plenty of time to become a warrior,” Drapaudi replied, hugging her son to him.
Arjuna paused at the doorway, surveying the scene but saying nothing.
“This is so like you,” Dennethom ranted as he began pacing around the room. “You don’t know anything about our culture.”
“Come one, she’s trying,” Arronanto said, making the mistake of stepping in his brother’s way.
Suddenly, it was as though a beast had been unleashed. Dennethom’s eyes flashed angrily at his brother, as he picked up a chair and threw it across the room.
“We can’t afford to baby our children. We are the line of future leaders!”
Despite being pregnant and beginning to show, Arjuna shoved Dennethom out the door and followed him outside.
She watched as he stood breathing heavily. “You have to get a hold of yourself, Denne.”
“I cant’ help it,” Dennethom replied. “I just don’t like seeing her with him.”
Arjuna snarled in frustration. “This is what you both agreed to. How do you think it made Arro feel when you and Drapaudi were together?”
Dennethom bowed his head in shame. “I’m sorry,” he murmured.
“It’s not me you should be apologising to.”
Dennethom nodded in agreement. “I know. I need to go for a walk first to clear my head.”
Arjuna smiled and let him go. It was a chilly morning. He didn’t even have a jacket. But it was okay. Perhaps the cold air would do him some good, help freeze the jealous beast that seemed determined to take control of her brother.
Skora was a tiny rock, newly terraformed. It was not uncommon for new territories like these to play host to travelling monks, making the planet perfect for Dennethom’s purpose. They timed their arrival with a shuttle full of new colonists, hoping to make a fresh start. Dennethom had Xien hide the Aluen far away from the new township. The ship was too advanced and far too noticeable on a small planet like Skora. They would have to do without it, instead relying on the one ground transport aboard the Aluen, which they used to go into town and purchase a structure for their home.
“It doesn’t look like much, does it?” Arjuna remarked as she looked at the shiny metal structure. She’d been feeling queasy all day which of course put her in a foul mood.
“I can work with this,” Drapaudi said, surveying her surroundings. She out of all of them felt most enthusiastic to have a place she could call home.
Yasana appeared doubtful, but she allowed Drapaudi’s enthusiasm to cheer her up. “We could probably turn this back room into a meditation area and dojo.”
Arkaya was running around the building excitedly. Drapaudi scooped him up with a smile. “We should create a symbol for our order. Something we can hang up at the entrance to make it look more like a monastery.”
“Why? We’re not going to be having visitors,” Arjuna remarked, sitting down on the bare floor.
“No, Drapaudi’s right,” Dennethom agreed. “We don’t want to raise any eyebrows.”
It was a strange. Arjuna didn’t feel any different. She wasn’t shy about what had occurred between them. After they gathered their belongings, they lay down, watching the wagdu roam about the watering hole. Finally, as the sun began to dip down below the tree line, the wagdu slowly made their way out of the pond. The same as the previous day, they took down one of the smaller wagdu, sharing the task of cleaning and cutting up the meat.
Arjuna was flush with excitement. She had never felt so alive. Seeing Markenn, covered in blood, she found herself overcome once more and the two whiled away the remaining hours, scratching and clawing at each other, bloody, dirty and blissful. Arjuna wished the day would never end. But the sun continued to set and soon they were relatively cleaned up once more, the meat divided and packed up, although Arjuna made sure Markenn got more since she didn’t know how much they could store on the Aluen. Then it was time to go.
“When will I see you again?” Markenn asked. “Tomorrow perhaps?” He had a twinkle in his eye.
“I don’t know,” Arjuna replied. Despondent, she pressed her lips to his. “But I will make sure we come this way soon.”
Markenn smiled. “Then you will need to know how to contact me.” He pressed a data chit into her hand.
Arjuna was cleaning dishes on the Aluen when she experienced the first jolt of pain in her stomach, The quickening was taking her. Her first instinct was to not tell anyone, but that would be foolish. The Aluen was a small ship. Still, it took her a couple of tense days, with her brothers and mother asking her what was wrong, before she finally got Dennethom alone.
“I’m with child,” she said.
Dennethom nodded his head. He didn’t look surprised. “The father?”
She shrugged. “Someone I met on Delphin.”
“Do you want us to return to Delphin?” They were now four Boentu days out from Delphin Prime.
Arjuna shook her head. “We can’t stay there. It’s too risky. And he wouldn’t come with me.”
“You could go to Delphin and be with him. It’s your choice.”
Arjuna fixed him with a glare to let him know that was absolutely not an option. “My place is with you.”
Dennethom sighed. “Then we need to find a home. For all of us.”
Arjuna felt certain Dennethom would object to her returning to the forestry, but he was so pleased by her haul of fresh meat, and so engrossed in the new baby, he said nothing at all when she announced she would be returning the next day. Arronanto even seemed to perk up at the wagdu, and he and Jora put together a meal of wagdu cooked over an open flame.
After dinner, Dennethom announced that they would be departing the day after tomorrow. Arjuna was disappointed at having such a short stay on Delphin Prime, but she was willing to take what she could get. That night, she decided to take a few of her more choice weapons to show Markenn.
The next morning the Aluen deposited her in the southern hemisphere forestry. She and Markenn had agreed to meet at the wagdu watering hole but when she arrived there was no one around, just some wagdu strolling to the pond. She might easily have picked off one or two of them herself, but decided to wait for her hunting partner to arrive.
As the sun rose higher in the sky, she shed her overcoat. Taking out her viewfinders she scanned the nearby bushes to see if Markenn waited for her across the way. She didn’t notice Markenn until he was right on top of her, having snuck up while she peered though the viewfinders.
Startled, Arjuna threw down her viewfinders and reached for her knife but stopped when she smelled him. With a grin, she rolled over and the pair wrestled. Arjuna snarled and clawed but ultimately let him win. She was Boentu, far stronger and better trained than Markenn. It would be too easy a win for her.
Markenn for his part crowed at his victory. He exclaimed at having beaten the mighty Boentu warrior. She laughed, playfully shoving at him and he grabbed at her, hugging her to his own body. They kissed, powerful hungry kisses as their hands explored, tearing at clothing until they both lay naked in the mud, their bodies and minds focused only on each other.
Arjuna nodded her agreement and they got to work. The plan hadn’t exactly worked out as intended but they silently agreed to divide the wagdu meat into two groups. As they quietly skinned the creature and removed usable meat parts, Arjuna felt the stranger watching her carefully. A bemused smile played across his lips. He seemed unsure what to make of her. For her part, Arjuna worked in silence, uncertain what had caused her to kiss this Gaian. The silence between them seemed awkward. Finally he spoke, “we don’t see too many Boentu hunting here on Delphin,” he remarked.
She glanced back at him half-suspicious, though she knew he trying to break the awkward silence.
“I am just visiting,” she replied, concentrating even harder on her job of cutting up the meat for transport.
“My name is Markenn,” he said, still watching her.
“Arjuna,” she replied without thinking, then cursed herself for not coming up with an alias.
“That is a beautiful name.”
Arjuna was extremely careful not to look back at Markenn. She felt sure she would be too shy to meet his gaze. “Thank you,” was all she said.
They seemed to be talked out. Markenn was apparently realising this as well, but still he watched her. Normally if someone were looking at her this closely she would assume he had recognised her as Dennethom’s sister, but she knew that wasn’t it at all. Finally she gave into the power of his stare. “I must admit, you are an excellent shot. Your plan,” she tried to suppress a grin, “was sound, if only the wagdu had cooperated. Have you been hunting long?”
“All my life,” he replied with a smile. “I confess I do it as much for the thrill as for the food. Being out here in the woods, stalking a creature. Holding the power of life and death…” his voiced trailed off. “But you are Boentu, you must understand that.”
“I do,” Arjuna replied, with a hint of longing. “But for a while I thought that feeling had gone.”
“Ship-bound, huh?” he asked with a grimace.
Arjuna nodded her head. “Yes.”
“That used to be me,” he said as he cleaned thick purple blood from his blade. “I was married once. To make ends meet I would haul cargo around the Gaiain System. Of course I hated it. It seemed like I had barely hit dirt before I was back in artificial gravity again.”
“How did you deal with it?” she asked.
Markenn chuckled. “Not very well to tell the truth. I got addicted to things I shouldn’t have. My wife left me. I was in trouble.” He chuckled again but his voice contained no trace of bitterness. “Spiralling out of control is more like it. I decided to get help and part of seeking help involved reconnecting to what is important. I realised my calling was here, out in the forestry, hunting game. I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than out here.”
Arjuna envied him. She turned away to hide her reaction. A part of her wanted to run away, which was a decidedly un-Boentu instinct. “I wish I could stay out here,” she mumbled.
“You could,” Markenn replied. Arjuna felt his eyes on her, watching her. He made no attempt to move towards her, certainly no attempt to kiss her, yet still Arjuna felt a jolt in her stomach. She forced herself to meet his gaze.
“I can’t. I must take care of my family. Which means, for now, giving up what I love most.”
“I understand.” He laughed. “Well, I don’t actually, but it is your choice.” He stood up. “This seems to be our haul. Not a bad day. Will you at least be out here tomorrow? I could use the company.”
“Yes,” Arjuna replied, without thinking. Dennethom wouldn’t like it, but she needed this. She was going stir crazy on the Aluen. “I’ll be here.”
Boldly, Arjuna stepped towards Markenn placing her hands on his chest. This time, not taken by surprise, Markenn smiled and leaned in to kiss her. He stank of sweat, dirt and blood from the wagdu. To Arjuna he smelled just perfect.