Chapter Four: Transformations

Narl pulled his head back. His nose ached and his hands were asleep. Blinking, he realized he had passed out with his hands in his paws. Narl groaned and stretched his neck.

“Sir?” A small, unconfident voice came from beside him. Turning sharply, he saw the little brown mrow beside him. The mrow must’ve wakened him up…how did he forget that so quickly…?

“Don’t call me that.” Narl growled.

The mrow turned his feet in the dirt. “We…we need you inside.”

He stared at the little messenger. He was weak, with frail slender arms and a sunken-in chest. This mrow, he thought, looked like so many other. Narl squinted his eyes and walked heavily into the structure.

“Finally!”  Kizo gasped. “You sleep like the dead.” The snip’s only response was a low growl. “We’re running out of food, Narl… no new supply ships are coming in and all of the stores at the plantation were blown up.”

These words from the scruffy Kizo, he realized he hadn’t eaten in days. A crippling pang of hunger shot out from his gut, into his arms. Narl could feel an unwelcomed sleep tightening on his mind. They stopped suddenly in the hall, Narl tightening all his muscles to force away the hunger. When he became to walk again, Kizo didn’t even ask.

“So…” He growled, letting the black-tip of his lion-esque tail sweep against the floor. “What do they think we should do?”

“We’re all waiting on you.” Kizo stopped, raising his hand to the crowd that stood before them. Narl’s eyes flashed open. There were so many…their eyes wide and hungry for information.

He was frozen. These Mrows, they expected Narl to lead them. I…I don’t know how to… His thoughts collapsed on top of each other in a tangled mess of growls, Narl stuck in the middle trying to get out. He just stared at the hopeful faces stretched in front of him.

At the top of the crowd were faces he recognized… the white fluffy Mrow from the Plantation, the one who lost his father. He was smiling. His blue-eyes were half closed in a calm, humorous expression.  The young frightful child from the plantation was there, too. His chest was puffed out and chin raised high. He wanted to be a hero…

Narl’s mouth curled up into a snarl. What was wrong with these idiots?! They saw hope…not the war.

“Narl?” Kizo pushed on the base of his neck. “Wake up.”

Forcing his eyes shut, he walked closer to the storm of people. He wasn’t going to give them any speech…he was too weak for that. No, just a plan. “Woman, children, the weak, wounded and elderly will stay here. The Gowaks at the Mines, no doubt, know of our presence and will be ready…so only the fittest will come. Not everybody will have a gun… and many of you are going to have to walk.” Narl remembered the lack of ‘Woks before and now they had more Mrows and some of the vehicles were destroyed. “…umm… is anybody here a medic?”

There was a single raised hand. It was a red, long-furred female. Her right ear was plated with three metallic bands, the mark of a professionally trained practitioner of medicine. She seemed hopelessly hesitant to reveal herself from the crowd.

“You’re going to come with us.” Narl barked, voice growing more confident. “I want a special group dedicated to protecting her…we can’t afford to loose you. Is there anybody else who has even a basic understanding of bandaging and first-aid?” More hands were raised this call, and Narl signaled for them to also be part of the invading troop. “We’re going to need to be fast. We’re over powered and every second we spend is a risk. We’re going to go there, quickly shoot down the Gowaks. Accurately…no firing randomly and let’s avoid exploding anything.”

He turned around and walked outside. Many of the crowd still stood, not expecting their ‘leader’ to end the plan so vaguely. Narl didn’t notice, or even care. He strided to were the ‘Woks were. A paw grabbed his shoulder, turning to see Chambo.

“Narl, sir-“

“Don’t call me that.” He grumbled.

“Narl, I’m working on attaching some of the rifles that we found at the Plantation to some Seawoks… it’s going to take me a few more hours to finish.” Chambo didn’t seem to be in awed by the white, scraggly mrow. He looked him straight in the eye- not with power, but with a calm friendship.

“I’m going to move out now…” He replied. “Some of the weaker mrows will stay behind with you…pull them in with your guns when you’re finished to help us.”

“Alright!” Chambo said as he turned to dash off in the opposite direction. The black mrow’s short, stubby tailed bounced as he ran over the rocks.

Kishi pulled the two-wheeled cart along the track carved into the rocky cavern floor. Her arms were straight out behind her, claws digging into the wooden handle bars as she climbed up toward the exit. The Leppa Mine… It had been her home her entire life, and the life-long home of her father. He was problem still around somewhere, seducing women every night. Kishi didn’t know, she tried her best never to associate with the man.

Leppa was a unique Meribellian mineral. It was a saturated-yellow color, speckled with grey and brown. The color was always slightly bothersome to her. It was too close to her own fur, golden yellow with brown banded ears and tail, with tabby stripes elsewhere. The similarity between the rock and her pelt represented the eerie, unwilling bond between Kishi and it. She was born in the mine, worked in the mine, and would probably die in the mine.

She grunted, heaving the heavy cart over some rocks that had fallen in the track. Leppa was part of the Trinity. The trinity of three minerals- Merr, Leppa and Pite- that was so important for Meribel. When Merr, a very dense red stone, touched Pite, a highly rare metal, the Merr would separate and blast from all its sides. However, this red blast was unbelievably attracted to Leppa. To place a Leppa ring on a block of Merr, and then touch it with Pite, would create a highly powerful, focused laser. This was how their guns worked, how they powered their space ships and the Swalu Transporter that allowed interplanetary flight, and how they powered almost every technology on the face of the planet.

It was legend that three different tribes of Mrows- a warrior tribe, a healer tribe, and a mystic tribe, brought the stones together to form the Trinity. It represented how one needed offensive, defensive, and mystical energies to create true power… Kishi really didn’t care for that legend though, or really any other story.

She hauled the cart to the mouth of the caverns. The gowak that stood at the top, who checked all the loads, smirked at her. “Hey, if isn’t my absolute favorite Mop!”

Kishi growled heavily as she poured the Leppa into a large bin.

“Oh come on Kishi,” The large-fanned gowak cooed. “You know I missed you.”

She never looked him in the eye. “Go bash your head.”

“Hey!” He hissed, slapping the striped mrow against the side of her face. “That’s no way to talk to me, Mop!”

Kishi growled again. She softly grumbled “Sorry.”

“That’s better.” He smiled wryly, consumed by his power over the slave. “Now why don’t you give me a kiss, eh?” He stuck out his muzzle.

She ignored the green crocodilian monster, pushing the empty cart back down the tracks.

“Hey!” He called, screaming. “You’re lucky I like you—or you’d be working with the shovels!”

Would rather work in the tunnels, digging the new caverns and waiting for the cave-in to kill me than see you all day long, Kishi thought dryly. Digging the tunnels was the punishment for the slaves at the mine. She had often heard stories from traded mrows that their old masters would beat or starve them as punishment. The Gowaks here didn’t have to do them- they would relocate you to the digging. It wasn’t a question of if you would die in a cave-in…but when.

The trip into the dark, dusty mine was incredibly easier than the one up. Hands tightly on the cart, she walked by the slaves pulling Leppa out of the rubble. They threw there rocks behind them, letting them land in one of the many carts that passed by.

“Did you hear…” One of them whispered to their neighbor.

Kishi rolled her eyes. She hated when the slaves gossiped…she hated how they felt better about themselves by talking about others as if they all weren’t grime-covered slaves.

“…About the liberation?”

She froze for a split-second at the words, resulting in a chunk of Leppa clacking against the track. Kishi caught herself and began to walk slower, like one of the older mrows.

“The Ship Port and the Plantation…an army of Mrows came; thousands…killed all the Gowaks…”

“Don’t talk like that!” The older, neighbor hissed. “You’re going to get everybody’s hopes up and then get yourself working in digging.”

“But Mama!” The first one whined. “It’s true. I heard it from the night keeper. They’re upping security and contacting Vanessa to help take back the plantation and port…”

“…are they coming here?” The mother whispered. Kishi could tell she wanted to believe that their bondage would be over, but she knew, logically, it would never be.

The younger one smiled, looking at a large piece of Leppa he had found. When he unearthed the stone, it revealed a bone of an old digger. His smile washed away, eyes fixated on the remains of a forgotten Mrow.

“Yes, Mama, they’re coming here.”

“From this point on, they’ll be able to see us.” Narl let go of the Driving stick on his ‘Wok, yelling to the mrows behind him. All the grumbling of motors quieted. “They probably know we’re coming, to…”

“Yah, they definitely do.” Kizo grumbled. He hadn’t turned around to face the others. His grey face, coated in dirt thrown up by the vehicle, looked down into the depression where the Leppa Mine and the Mining base stood. “Look, they’ve got a small-fit Lander in there.” Beside one of the gray structures, a conical shaped ship was nestled.

Narl turned his neck sharply to look at it. “…Reinforcements?”

His complaining scoffed. “Heh, I’m honored they thought they needed reinforcements to kill us.” 

Somewhere in the crowd, a makeshift soldier cried out. “Can we shoot them from here?”

Narl’s eyes snapped back into his robotic, commanding voice. “The ‘Woks with the rifles probably can…but the hand weapons can’t. Shooting from here would leave all those defenseless. I’m sure they have heavier ammunition.” He looked back down at the Lander. “We’re going to get closer in; mrows with rifles take the lead. We’ll take out their ship first, and then the Gowak quarters.” He was able to identify the slave master’s building earlier, with the help of a tom who had been traded from the Mines. Fortunately for the rebellion, the slave quarters and storage was in a separate building. “With any luck, nobody will have to set a paw on the ground.”

Kizo grumbled, “And maybe they’ll just surrender.” The white tom elbowed him sharply, and got back into position. He leaned forward on the driving stick, pushing the ‘Wok into the depression.

They had moved down for perhaps four minutes, when a thunderous boom exploded over head of them. An unarmed ‘Wok team rolled backwards with the vehicle, crushed under the rocks and machinery.

“Fire!” Narl shouted, almost using up all the energy he had in him from the foodless days. In unison, three glowing red lasers shot toward the cone-shaped ship. Half way to their destination, their trajectory changed. The energy bolts crashed straight into the ground, blowing a side a layer of soil and rocks.

Kirf!” Kizo shouted. “What the hell was-“

The Gowaks fired back in another roaring boom. As quickly as possible, mrows jumped out of their vehicles, dashing away from the fiery ruins.

Narl pushed all of his weight onto the ‘Wok, chagrining the vehicle closer. Startled, Kizo had to grab the edge of his seat to avoid falling backwards. The rest of the intact ‘Woks and foot  soldiers followed, ready to avoid the sudden shower of explosions.

Loud bangs and flying dirt erupted all around the lead group. “They’re aiming at us!” The gray tom shouted over the noise.

“I know!” Narl hissed back. He shot out his arm, pointing at the top of the Gowak’s Quarters. Three of the large reptilian beast were all crouching around some large gun-shaped object. Kizo jumped over the back seat and grabbed the rifle. Almost as quickly as Chambo’s marksmanship, he fired a large red beam up toward the roof. The thick energy beam flew out of the barrel, and almost immediately nose dived. There was a horrendous hiss as the laser pierced the hood of the ‘Wok, spraying Narl’s back with ember as he leaped out.

Both of the mrows got out of their vehicle, running on all fours to a nearby rock for shelter. “They’ve got some kind of force-field!” Narl almost gagged out his words.

“Force-field?!” Kizo hollered, not looking at his comrade but instead what appeared to be the Gowak’s horrible aim. “There is no such thing as a force-field!”

He wasn’t listening. Narl launched himself off the top of the rock. “Get everyone to get out of their ‘Woks and create a distraction!” He yelled, running away.

“Hey!” Kizo screamed to the white tom’s shadow. “There is no such thing as a force-field!!” He grumbled slowly, before beginning to shout at the others. “HEY! Everybody get off their ‘Woks! I said get off the ‘Woks!” Running up and down the ranks, he managed to dismount all of the mrows.

“Uuuh…” Kizo tried to form a plan. “Everybody- run this way!” The ragtag creatures followed him with great confidence. The mass stayed closely in front of the explosions, many mrows resorting to a primal four-legged run or stiff-kneed hop to edge away from the back of the crowd.

Narl crawled against the rocks, his chest and stomach dragging in the dirt. He rounded about the metallic building and found the ladder to the roof. Jumping over the first couple of rungs, he slithered onto the top. The three Gowaks had their back to the white Mrow, still hunched over the gigantic gun.

He pounced, slashing his claws across the back of one’s neck. The Gowak roared. His thick tail shot up, pounding Narl against the side. His claws screeched against the metallic rooftop, jumping back toward his neck. The monster flung his hand out, attempting to punch him, but Narl managed to grab on to his fingers. He sunk his teeth into the soft webbing between the claws. This caused the Gowak to scream, giving enough time for the mrow to leap back onto his neck. Narl used his teeth again, biting at the lump of the creature’s throat. Before the dead reptilian vessel had collapsed, the true Gowak melted into the air. Narl backed up, trying to find something to throw. He couldn’t just swat at the black form, or he would be possessed himself.

The other two Gowaks didn’t turn around to assist their comrade. Between the loud thundering of their cannon, they would yell. “Take care of it, Fresk! These mops are fast and you need to get to packing!”

The black Gowak dived toward Narl, who dropped onto the hot metal. He half-rolled, half clawed away from the pulsating glop. He swept his fluff-tipped tail against the ground, trying to find some loose shrapnel or anything to throw. He leaped, panicked, away from another charge by the Gowak. There wasn’t anything! Channeling all his strength into his feet, Narl jumped in the air over the creature, angrily trying to catch up. He spun his torso in mid-air, shifting his weight and landing him on a damp, cold body. Narl’s claws sunk into the limp Gowak tail. He ripped his shoulder’s around, pulling the tail off the roof. The bright, feathered flail whipped through the air and crashed into the diving Gowak’s true form. The black glob shrunk and imploded with in itself.

“What is taking you so freakin’ long, Fresk?!” Another crocodilian alien turned around. He lashed his arm off the side of the gun, grabbing Narl by the scruff of his neck. “Mop!” He hissed, holding the mrow above the ground. The Gowak flicked his arm, trying to fling Narl onto the ground.

Narl shot out his arms, piercing his lower arms with his claws. Suddenly, the Gowak found himself moving with the weight of his own toss. His stomach crashed down with a rumbling thud, neck barely extending over the edge of the building. The mrow’s feet thrashed in the air, before latching onto a gutter that ran about the side. Claws still dug into the reptile’s arm, Narl forced his knees bent and pulled the two over the edge of the building.

“What the hell!” The third and final Gowak screamed, watching the tail of his team mate disappear over the drop. The loud explosions had halted, at least two were needed to operate the gun. He stood up, fuming, and raced toward the ladder. His heavy foot steps clanged and dented the top of their quarters. “It’s one single Mop!” He growled, sliding down onto the dusty, dirt ground.

The Gowak ran around the corner. His vision was blocked by the black, true-form of his companion hovering in front of his face. The side of his head was suddenly tapped by a small pebble. The stone had slain the black glob, now disappeared. He could see clearly the white mrow, slightly bent over and panting. “Filthy little scum!!” The Gowak roared.

Narl stuck out his chest and ran. They were dashing in a small opening between the Gowak’s quarters and, what he guessed were the Mrow’s. The area was too small to give Narl any advantage with his jumping, and he tried to find his way back onto the open area.

With thunderous stomps, the bulky reptile was gaining quickly. He reached out his hand, trying to grab Narl’s black tail-tip, missing barely. Narl lowered his head and ran quicker, forcing his weight forward. In the charge, he almost ran straight into Kizo, who appeared around the corner.

“Whoa!” The gray mrow jumped out of the way of the mrow. Narl kept running. The giant, dark-green beast was quickly in front of Kizo. “Whoa!”  He tried to turn around, claws scarping against the dirt in an awkward backwards run. The Gowak roared and clamped his hand into a fist, thrusting forward.

BLANGBLANG!

Kizo’s grey fur was sprayed with red blood, and a sticky black mist that disappeared quickly after he could feel it. The remains of the Gowak fell sideways, head bending awkwardly against the corner of the building. Behind him was a yellow mrow, a girl, breathing heavily. Her hands dropped down, each clutching what appeared to be strangely-shaped guns.

“Wha…” He grasped for words. “Why do your guns work?!”

            Kishi leaped over the corpse. “Bullets!” She hissed. “We’re in a Leppa mine!”

            Kizo flattened his ears at the stranger. “So?!”

            She rolled her eyes, letting one side of her mouth raise and show some sharp teeth. “Do you even know how Trinity lasers work?”

            Narl’s head appeared against the wall of the building, peering into the thin passageway at the two mrows. “Come on—the rest of the Gowaks are in the slave’s building.”

            The gray mrow’s eyes flashed at Kishi quickly before he turned, starting to head off. “Wait!” He shot out his paw, catching Kizo’s chest. “Where did you get those bullet-guns?”

            “They left some boxes of them on the ship.” She replied. She lifted one hand, pointing the barrel of the gun at the conical space-ship.

Narl nodded and turned around. Outside on the rocky plains, scattered with burnt holes from the cannon’s fire, smoke and metal shrapnel from fallen ‘Woks, dabbled with blood and fur, the remaining forces stood unsure. “Everybody- onto the ship!” He barked forcefully. “Grab a bullet gun, into the slave’s quarters!” They followed him urgently, jumping into the open hull of the ship and picking the gun’s out of lined boxes. There were holes against the walls, suggesting an earlier struggle to make the resources available.

 Narl lead the group out. From the corner of his eye he could see the fluffy white mrow from before. They reached the threshold of the door, and Narl signaled for Kamisho to press against the walls. They did. Before Narl could give another order, though, Kamisho sprung out from behind the corner, stretching himself in the air. Some Gowaks hissed at each other. The white tom found himself heated with the gunshots, on managing to scrape his side. Landing, Kamisho rubbed the burnt skin. “Owch…” He murmured, quickly before dashing over to one of the enemy, and leaping over his back. Narl growled at the disobedience. He charged in, holding a gun up and firing openly. The other scared mrows followed behind him.

  “Ho-ho!” Kamisho cooed, running deeper into the swarm of frenzied slaves and Gowaks. He stopped in the exit of a corridor leading to another chamber. A Gowak held his claws clamped around the neck of an orange mrow.

“Put down your guns, Mop-meats! Or I’ll slaughter this one, and a million others!”  Kamisho smirked, and again bounded into the air. Almost in a pose, he kicked out his left foot, slamming it against the base of the back of the Gowak’s head. It fell over, snout crushing against the steel floor. “Let go of the pretty girl,” He murmured to the unconscious enemy with a smirk.

The orange mrow stumbled back a few steps, her bushy tail bumping into Kamisho. She was mutated, with large curling ram-horns growing between her ears. Her green eyes were wide with fright. Kamisho continued smirking. “Head out.” She nodded, mouth agape, and ran through the chaos with her head down.  When she was out of sight, Kamisho shot the fallen Gowak, and quickly again his true form as it rose.

Narl slashed at the knee of a particularly thick reptile. The plantation-worker roared, charging forward at him. Turning on his heels, Narl dashed away. He passed another Gowak, in a fire-fight with a mrow, and clawed at the base of it’s tail.  He was trying to lure the creatures into a single area to better protect the frightened slaves. It was working… He had two Gowaks on his tail, some of his allies chasing after them, and the rest of the workers after the mrows. The group was lead into the side wall of the building.

Narl stopped running and opened fire on the Gowaks. It was a mad rush of bullets coming from everywhere. With the loud booms and horrible accuracy of the bullet-guns, it was hard to see where you’re fire was going. Mrows and Gowaks fell backward, or just exploded into horribly torn chunks all over the place. Narl didn’t really know if he was hitting any of them…he just kept firing at any Gowaks and true-form Gowaks he saw.

The monstrous reptiles were outnumbered. The last one was blown away, finally. The corpse piled on the other giant beasts and crushed mrows… it was a mess. Narl just stared for a while. He was almost deafened by the silence. The scene made his back cringe in place.

“That’s not the last of them.” A course, female voice pierced the quiet. Kishi’s chest moved up and down with her heavy breath. It was almost eerie how she didn’t seem to be unnerved by the Gowak blood on her pelt. “The women… they’re down this way.”

He looked up. Come to think of it, Narl had never actually seen a female Gowak. They were considered too soft, too nice. Males of the species that showed that softness were killed—only those that matched the image of their awful ruler were allowed to live. But females were tolerated… Narl had seemed to hear that the females often thought of mrows as children, not slaves, because they were about the same size as Gowak-youth. He had never seen one of those either.

He was shaken from his train of thought by the hoard of mrows running past him, heavily holding their weapons. He stiffened his legs and followed the thirty or so others that remained. They snaked through hallways, similar to the one in front of the Ship Port captain’s quarters, until they reached a back entrance. The charging cat-creatures stopped abruptly.

They’re were two what Narl assumed were female Gowaks. They didn’t really look different, except they’re skin was brownish, with a smaller plume of feathers on their head and not any plume on their tail. The two were half-crouching against the sealed door, clawing it at it. One of them was reaching at the key-pad, wildly tapping at buttons hoping one would open the door. These Gowaks didn’t have any weapons, and were shouting something in some kind of native Gowak language.

The mrows stared at them, faces cold, yet paralyzed. Narl growled, shifting his weight from shoulder to shoulder and barging through the others. The screams of the two Gowaks got louder, and the tapping and banging more wild as he held his gun up to them. He shot twice for their crocodilian covers, and twice for their black forms. The shots echoed in the hallway for a couple of seconds before fading back into quiet.

Kizo had somehow gotten next to Narl. “…I, I don’t get it.” He mumbled gruffly. “The key-code was written on the wall. Why didn’t they press it in?”

Narl twitched, his ear pricking up. His eye shifted sideways, and he turned. He shouted at Kizo, even though he was only a couple of paces away. “They can’t read.”

The gray mrow held back for a bit, slightly shocked on the gruff answer. The other mrows easily let go their discomfort in the slain Gowaks, following Narl. When the tip of the last mrow’s tail had turned around the wall, Kizo snapped into focus and caught up. “What’s the big hurry!” He called, getting next to Narl. “That was the last one—“

“Not quite.” A thick, tall Gowak slid out from the corner. He rested the end of a bullet-gun on his arm, holding the barrel up with his claws.

Narl widened his stance and crouched slightly. “What!” He hissed. “Were you waiting for the dramatic moment to reveal yourself?!”  He pounced, grabbing the side of the gun with the tips of his fingers. The extra weight off set the Gowak. His thick tail whipped against the area, trying to find balance, as the Gowak let a mirage of bullets crack against the walls. Narl put his other hand on the gun, swinging his weight to leap onto the final guard’s face. “Shoot!” The mrow cried, tightly clawing into the flailing reptile. “One of you shoot!”

Kizo roared, jumping forward and firing a his gun. The projectile angled up, piercing the Gowak right through his gut. A black wisp leaped forward from the wound, streaming toward him. Startled, the boxy mrow flung his shoulders back, but was caught by the approaching blob.

As the Gowak’s bones smashed against the ground, Narl leaped off. “Kizo!” He hissed. His friend fell forward, awkwardly, and then quickly snapped upright. His feet slid out. The Gowak wasn’t used to a mrow’s legs, and fumbled trying to get balance. He spun around, claws out. The tip of the points cut across Narl’s face. “Ugh! Kizo!”

The possessed body jumped toward the group of mrow rebels, silently backed off from the area. He growled, trying to scratch in the air. The clumsy body was easily dodged. “What do we do?” Somebody screamed, jumping out of the way.

Kizo’s body landed poorly, skidding on his knees. He pulled himself up and stared at his lost body. Shoulders swaying, he ran through the confused mrows, arms ready to snatch up his gun.

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

The grey mrow spiraled through the air, back bashing against the wall. The true-form of the Gowak poured of Kizo. Narl shoot again, gun by his waist as he crouched, disintegrating the beast.

“Oh my god!” The group of mrows pulled in closer to Kizo. His left shoulder was gushing blood, the arm completely teared back behind him. They could see his shoulder blade awkwardly jutting out.

“Somebody pick him up!” Narl screeched. “Get him to the Medic!”  He pushed his way through the crowds. “Now!”

A barrel-chested mrow slid his hand under Kizo and folded him across his shoulder. His legs were shaking under the weight of the full-grown male, but the mrow seemed more disturbed by Kizo’s blood-curdling scream.

Narl charged out, head forward. By the look in his eye, the other rebels knew they were to  follow him at the same speed. The mrows poured out of the building like rainwater, spreading across the rocky ground. The mrow carrying Kizo and Narl rushed past the crowds, toward a small circle were the medics had gathered.

“Andero’s light!”  The red mrow from earlier screamed, eyes fixated on the injured tom. “What happened?”

“No time for that!” Narl snapped. “Do something- now!” His voice sucked the wind out of him. He stumbled back, paw padding against the black spot on his chest. His feet danced awkwardly on the ground, before his spine let loose and he fell backwards. Another medic caught him.

“When was the last time you ate?” The mrow was whispering, but it sounded like a scream in his ear.

“I…I don’t remember.” He struggled, trying to stand up.

“What?” This was a new voice. “How has he been running around, I saw him take out some Gowaks alone-“

“Smell him.” The voice shattered Narl’s ears. “It’s adrenaline. When you’re about to die, or in a life-threatening situation, you’re abilities are heightened to help escape whatever threat… but that usually only lasts a couple of minutes…”

He drowned out the noise of the two mrows, focusing in on some barking orders from the silver-banded one. “We’re going to have to amputate! Somebody, bring me bandages and fire!”

Amputate? He thought… Kizo’s going to lose an arm. Narl’s body had recognized he was no longer fighting or in danger, and let itself pass out.

There was a grumbling for the top of the valley, and a legion of ‘Woks buzzed down the edge. Chambo felt his shoulder’s tighten. There was smoke puffing out of buildings, and the rotten stink of carrion over powered his nose. He was late, the battle was over. Swiftly, he let go of the steering-rod of the vehicle and jumped out, running toward the growing crowd around the medics.

“Narl!” He shoved himself closer. “Where is Narl and Kizo?” His green eyes caught the gray foot of his friend, twitching statically. Kizo’s body, however, was surrounded by a swarm of mrows, moving directly with purpose. Chambo saw Narl next, limply laying over a rock. “Is he okay?”

“He’s just passed out.” A mrow called back, breathless.

The black stub-tail let his body relax. Just like last battle…as soon as the violence was over, Narl would just conk out… as if a robot, whose purpose was completed.

~

Chambo leaned against the side of the Ship Port, watching as Kizo gestured with one hand as he talked. “There is no possible way that we’ll be able to pull something like that off in Vantessa.” Kizo’s movements were strange. He was not yet used to having no right arm to speak of, and looked off-balanced and awkward. “It’s one of the biggest cities on the entire damn planet.”

“I know.” Chambo eyes drifted off haphazardly. “Especially since the Gowaks there know of our rebellion.” Quickly after the battle at the Leppa Mine, one of the slaves there had reported that they saw a Gowak call up the official’s building in Vantessa. The rebellious mrows had lost the element of surprise.

Kizo collapsed down, stretching his legs straight in front of him. “How long do you think,” He stretched his torso closer to the black mrow, “until they send forces down here?” His voice growled.

Shaking his head, Chambo said hopelessly, “I have no idea. They might not even have to send any thing here.” The gray tom twitched his whiskers. “We have a finite amount of food and stocks. They might just try cutting off all our resources.”

“What about the plantation?” Kizo argued. “I thought the plan was we we’re going to eat those nuts…”

Chambo blinked heavily. “Have you ever eaten a Dray nut?”

Kizo grumbled. “No, I thought the just didn’t serve us any.”

“No,” Chambo cocked his head back. “Eating a Dray nut is like drinking saltwater, you’re better off not doing it. The Dray Nuts are harvested to be processed into a glue.”

He stretched his hand to scratch the back of his head. “Oh, well, great.” Kizo stretched his lips to show fangs in bitterness.

Elsewhere in the Ship Port, the now home of more than five times the residential capacity, Narl lazily opened his eyes. He was laying down in the actually bay on a make-shift bed of package packing. He let his pupils drift in the direction toward an itch on his arm. A crude feeding tube, made of a recycled cooking-baser and needle, was pricked in. A tom sat crouched beside him. “What… what the heck?”

The light-red, almost strawberry blonde, tom turned away from what he was doing. “Oh good…” He mused. “We’ve been giving you food through that thing.”

Narl glared at the feeding tube. “Kemuel…” He grumbled, recognizing the fluffy mrow from the slaves he once worked with.

“We we’re trying to keep you from passing out all the time.” He said, leaning over and lightly squeezing the needle. “Though I guess now that you’re conscious again, you can eat through your mouth.” He pulled out the tube.

Narl did feel better, but he still felt very weak. Not only did he feel to broken to make any significant movement, his mind felt flattened. It was as if somebody pulled away all his actual thought, like he was in a waking sleep. Narl didn’t allow himself to close his eyes though, staring intently until his mind finally came back in full.

“Where is Chambo?” He broke the silence. The budding medic turned sharply, keeping Narl from getting up.

“I don’t know if you should be walking.”

Narl grumbled, spitting, “I am not a cripple.”

Kemuel got up, looking down at the yellow-gemmed Mrow with intent. “I’ll go bring Chambo and Kizo to you.” Narl narrowed his eyes at him, but the light-red mrow walked off anyways.

“I refuse to be a cripple.” He leaned forward, putting his paw against his knee and pushing his back up. He unfolded his legs, spindly from malnutrition like most of the slaves, and stood up. As Narl suspected, he felt better standing tall. He waited quietly for a while, but it was not too long before Chambo, Kizo, and Kishi entered the area.

He looked at Kishi from the side of his eyes. Although no official names or ranks had been given to anybody, Chambo and Kizo had earned some superficial spot of authority. The tabby female, however, would not allow herself to be uninvolved in the rebellious efforts. She spoke first. “There is no way we’ll be able to take Vantessa.”

“It’s a huge metropolis already,” Chambo concurred, “and they’ve called in reinforcement. One of the Gowaks at the mine was able to send out a message.”

Narl folded his ears back at the news. His long tail bounced and waved, the black-tip sweeping from side to side against the floor. “Are they sending Gowaks?”

Chambo shook his head. “I doubt they will. They just need to cut off supplies from us.”

“My sister,” Kizo grumbled, staring at the floor, “is already feeling pains of hunger.”

His tail continued to lash around behind him. “We control the ship-port.” He stated dryly. “The passage of trade is under our own control.”

“I highly doubt they’ll be sending cargo ships are way.” Kishi said.

Narl leaned forward, make a generous gesture with his left paw. “Vantessa is an urban city.. they don’t support themselves. Without shipments of food and other supplies, from this port, they’ll die.”

“What about compact landers?” Chambo raised his head. “They’ll probably send those in, like the one at the mine.”

Narl growled. “The closest other ship port is in Talchap.” Talchap was a smaller city, to the west. “Can we shoot down the compacts?”

The other mrows stared at him, a little shocked. Chambo finally spoke up. “No, none of our guns could go that far up… We’d have to have some kind of ship to shoot down anything. Even if it’s smaller than a Floofnay.”

“Well, do we have any of those? Ships, I mean.” He looked at the group from the corner of his eyes.

The pause was even longer this time. “We have a deserted canyon, not some kind of armory.” Kizo’s muzzle wrinkled upward as if he was disgusted.

Narl stepped forward, ears pointed straight toward the amputated tom. “We have a ship-port! I expected a ship-port would have ships!”

“You worked with the ships directly.” Chambo said cautiously. “If you don’t remember anything like that, we don’t have any…”

Kishi flicked her tail impatiently. “If I might say, the mine has about five strikers. The overseer’s personal…he would take he and the others out on it sometime. Usually girls. Can only imagine where he was going.” Her voice was dry and serious.

Taking a step back, Kizo blurted. “Are you serious?” He let his shoulders drop forward, his one arm dangling feet above the ground. “What are you made of? Lucky dust?”

Before she could answer, Narl jumped into the throat of the conversation. “Strikers…” They were small, simple ships. “Could you modify those to be able to be run by mrows?” He turned abruptly to Chambo.

The black mrow closed his eyes, visualizing one of the small, personal crafts. “They just had basic controls… a steering rod, activation gauge, simple Swalu construct….” He opened his eyes again. “If I remember correctly, the things are pretty small already. Controls all real jammed together, I imagine you’d only have to move the chair forward.”

Kizo spinned on the balls of his feet. “Lucky dust!”

“But,” Chambo added. “Strikers are just personal transport craft… they don’t have guns or anything.”

“The name is misleading.” Kishi said.

Narl’s tail flicked violently, and he raised a paw. “So? You stuck a gun on a Seawok, can’t you stick a gun on these? Just remove them off the ‘Woks and reinstall them.”

“It’s not that simple. I’d need to rig up some kind of controlling device. I don’t think I have the knowledge to-“

“Find somebody who does!” He barked.

“Sir, but-“

Narl growled now, ears pressed back. “Do not call me that. I’m sure somebody knows.”

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