Chapter Three: Winding Siege

The massive crowd of Mrows sat in their places, three to a team. The faces were widely different. Some grinned in hope and excitement, others hunched over in fear. All of them, though, were ready.

            “Alright!” Narl shouted, burning his throat. “As soon as the Gowak’s see us-they’ll open fire. Be quick and be precise!” The response was a faded mumbling. “Let’s go!” He relaxed his legs and fell into the side chair, Kizo to his right steering the vehicle.  Chambo kneeled behind him, hands ready on the large mounted rifle. The rumble of the engine echoed through out the make-shift troops, and the ‘woks began to wheel out over the rocky terrain.

            Kizo drove steadily, slow enough to avoid large boulders or ditches. The sun, Ma, was low in the sky. About two hours remained of light, followed by two more of dusk. As they moved through the gray, dusty air, it was eerily silent. Chambo’s eyes began to wander, glancing haphazardly at Narl’s arm. It was covered by a filthy cloth stained with browning blood, and smelled strongly of it. No doubt it was from that brown queen… He could remember it. The monster killing her, and he leaping with out fear…with out anything. Just hate. Chambo opened his mouth slightly, but before speaking caught a glimpse of Narl’s yellow eyes. They were laced with sadness, a look as if he himself had just died. Chambo didn’t say anything.

            They rode in silence for forty more minutes, when Kizo spoke up. “Get ready. We’ll become in eyeshot-and gunshot-soon.”

            Narl’s glazed sadness disappeared, and he leaned over to shout to the others. “Ears up-Gun’s ready!” The mrows shot into stiff positions, latching onto the weapons.

            “There it is…” Kizo hissed, ears laying back. We’re all going to die. The white tom lifted his hand-gun, prepared. The gang of ‘Woks rolled closer to the huge sheet-metal plated building, surrounded with huge fields of brown stalks. They could see small flecks of movement, slaves busily pulling the stalks over and dashing about.

            Chambo leaned against the rifle, eye in the scope. “Should I shoot?” He aligned scope with a guard, hovering ominously over the field in a watchtower, pointing his own rifle just to scare the mrows below.

            “No…” Narl growled under his breath. “We will fire second.”

            “That makes perfect sense. Don’t kill them until they kill us.” Kizo grumbled, receiving a sharp gaze from the white mrow. He rolled his eyes and continued to drive forward. “…Shouldn’t they see us?” They could see the plantation in full glory now. It rest at the bottom of the canyon, the Revolution currently puttering down the side of the slow-sloping reddish rocks. Slaves ran from place to place, pulling and heaving the nuts. They would come in and out of a side-unit on the side of the building. It was the processor, where the Dray Nuts were ground into powder in the heavy sputtering machine, this area doubled as the slave’s quarters.

            Chambo kept his aim on the same guard as they approached. “Something’s wrong. There is no way they don’t see us.” Similar whispers followed from the other mrows as a blanket of uneasiness fell upon them.

            “Don’t shoot.” Narl growled again.

            Suddenly, slaves erupted out of the quarters. They were close enough to see their flailing and scrambling motions. A square-built Gowak followed, kicking off an Mrow from his shin and tossing it onto the ground. “What the…”

            CRRRRRAAAAAAARRRRSSSSS! Shrapnel flew out of the mushroom cloud like bullets. The smoke cloud quickly dissipated when a thunderous red flame burst out of what was once the slave’s building. Panic screams from both the plantation and the Shipport Mrows rang loudly.

            The explosion had distracted Chambo, who quickly spun the rifle back at the watchtower. The guard had his own gun pointed straight down the scope. “TURN!” He shouted. Kizo jolted the ‘Wok to the left, tires screeching on the ground.  A red beam flew past them by a few inches, destroying the ground below.

            “Fire!” Narl barked, holding up his hand gun. “Fire!” He shot off a few beams, all which disappeared before reaching the plantation.

            Kizo regained control of the vehicle, making a sharp turn. With all his power, Chambo spun the gun and fired at the tower. Similar beams followed from the ‘Woks behind them. Few of the red, shimmering lasers hit the towering structure. Others scattered, hitting areas widely away from the mark.

            Chambo held the trigger down, keeping a constant flow of energy on a metal leg. The guard tower crumbled, exploding as it reached the ground. The Revolution Army was close now to the main plantation. Some of the ‘Woks had wondered into the rows of Dray Nuts, while many were not navigating themselves around rocks-but the fleeing Mrows.

            Narl shot at Gowaks, just at the end of his range, chasing the scared slaves. Many of the fleeing creatures were headed toward the approaching ‘Woks. The message of the freedom fighters had most defiantly arrived.

            BRANG! The ground next to the wheel exploded, spraying rocks and clods of dirt into the gray driver’s eyes. “Chambo?” Kizo shouted. “What is firing at us?”

            He looked over the gun, green eyes scanning the panoramic scenery. “…I don’t see anything!” Chambo growled over the rumbling of vehicles.

            “Something shooting at us!” He screamed.

            Narl tossed the round hand-gun into his right rand, blasting a Gowak’s leg. “Hey!” He screamed, punching Kizo in the shoulder. “Steer!”

            He grabbed the joystick-like handle, flinging his entire body to the side. The Seawok flew up on two wheels. Another mysterious laser shot at the ground next to them.

            Suddenly, a cold substance scattered on Chambo’s back.  He turned from firing randomly, hoping to hit the invisible guard tower, to see his black fur sticky with blood. Small pieces of shrapnel clanged in the back of the ‘Wok. “Holy—“ Chambo hissed under his breath. The three-man crew behind them had been shot. A black hole of dirt, fizzing electrical remains, and clumps of fur and blood. His eyes lifted. Similar smoking holes spotted the scenery…at least half of the mrows who had left the Ship Port were not coming back.

            Chambo was knocked onto the ground. The side of his skull crashed against the metallic ground. A young mrow laid, legs flopped, on his chest. Kizo looked over his shoulder. “Hey!” He shared Narl’s punch with the striped child. “Chambo-get on the gun!”

            Burning a reptilian hand trying to reach into the ‘Wok, Narl turned to look at the mrow who jumped into their vehicle. The ragtag liberators had separated now. They were spread about the fields and buildings… Narl could see some of the Ship-Port workers fighting on foot.

            Suddenly, the ‘Wok was spun into the air with a loud blast. They fell out, spines crashing against the ground. Narl coughed, climbing to his feet. The white mrow locked his arm over Kizo’s neck, leaping away from the crash site. The remains of the small vehicle were shot again, exploding into a fiery blaze.

            “Where is that coming from?!” Narl barked, bearing his teeth at Chambo.

            “Ka…ka…I don’t know.” The black mrow’s head was shoved in to the rocks, pushed down by a white paw. The young mrow, fur dirty with soot, leaped over him and skidded on the ground near Narl, grabbing the handgun. He rolled over and shot a thick energy blast toward a window on the side of the building in one swift motion. It exploded, fire and fragments of Merr shattering out.

            The three adults looked at the spectacle, flabbergasted. The boy ran off with the other fleeing slaves, taking the gun with him. Narl got back on his feet and reached out his arm. “Hey! Get back here!” It was in vain, he was gone. He growled in irritation.

            “…I think that was the last of the Gowaks…” Kizo gasped, looking around.

            “Wrong, mop.” A huge, reptilian hand sprung out of the smoke, grabbing Kizo by the neck. He held the squirming mrow to his face. It was the same Gowak that had walked out of the slave quarter’s before it exploded. Kizo gasped, kicking his foot against his chest with little effect. “Heh.” The Gowak spit in his face and launched the mangy mrow into the distance.

            Narl sprung, claws ripping into it’s head-flail. “Graah!” The Gowak slung its tail up, bashing against Narl’s back. He held on, using his teeth to tear up the colorful appendage, toward the skull.  He tried desperately to get him off using his claws to slash blindly at his back.

            Startled by a sharp cut on the back of his shoulders, Narl was knocked onto the ground with a metallic whack. Another Gowak, he recognized as the phone-messenger, regained his normal held on the long rifle. Narl could see Chambo in his peripheral vision. He was lying cold on the floor, pistol-whipped by the same lanky beast. Eyes thinning, Narl jumped back into the air with his claws forward. The bulkier Gowak punched him in the stomach mid-leap, Narl crashing down to the ground once more. The unarmed, thick-shouldered beast was to the side, letting the thinner Gowak point his rifle at the mrow’s brow.

            “What…did…you…DO?!” The first one hissed, bearing his fangs. This one was no-doubt, the Plantation owner.

            Narl panted, feeling strangely as if he had done this before. He responded to the question with a throated hiss. The aggressive noise, somehow, was overpowered by a soft calling. “Dad…? Dad…?”

            Ears backed, he looked around. What idiot was still here…? Most of the other slaves- and even the liberators-had fled the area. Narl didn’t think on it long, taking advantage of the distracted guns man. He jumped on the rifle, pulling it down as he wrapped all his limbs around it. The Gowak shot a deep hole into the ground. Tugging at the gun, Narl leaped around, avoiding the Plantation owner’s fists. The weapon spun out of the Gowak’s hands, butt hitting him across the face and throwing the Gowak onto the ground.

            Throwing a powerful punch, the Plantation Owner let out roar. Narl leaped over the attack barely. He grabbed the rifle, awkwardly pulling it off the ground. “Raaagh!” The Gowak screamed, bashing Narl in the head. He was flung back, grabbing at the gun to keep ground, unintentionally sending a laser through the Gowak’s leg.

            “Aaaagh!” The beast fell down, grabbing the wound for a moment. “Mop!” He screamed in a deep, wet voice. Narl leaned back, on all fours, and thrusted himself forward. His teeth sank around the tip of the owner’s muzzle. He lashed his head sharply, tossing the mrow off while letting his teeth make deep cuts across his face.

Back-twisting, he was able to land on his feet. Narl was sick of being thrown around. “Raaaaaaaarrr!” He charged forward, claws unsheathed at the towering creature.

The Gowak spread his feet, but wasn’t expecting the mrow to slide on the ground. Narl rammed himself against his ankles. As inertia pulled his body along the rocks, he dug his claws into the beast’s legs. He was flipped forward, skull bashing against the ground. His already wounded leg snapped, blood spewing forth out of the growing wound. “Aaaaaahhh!”

The mrow jumped back onto two legs and dashed back to the fallen Gowak. The Plantation Owner continued to roar in pain, but as Narl got closer, his thick, muscular tail whipped across his face.

With a powerful crack, Narl was pounded into the floor. His ears were bent sideways, and he couldn’t hear anything over the ringing of blood gushing out of them. “M…mon…” He coughed, trying to push himself out of the dirt. It was no use. The blood in his ears and nose was pouring down his throat….it was getting harder and harder for Narl to breathe. He turned his head back toward the crippled monster.

The bulky Gowak tried to push himself up. He failed, falling down and spitting up blood. A shady figure appeared behind the creature. “Y….you…”  It was a young Mrow, not wounded or covered in dirt. Narl coughed, trying to tell it to leave. “You… you killed him!” The young, fluffy mrow screamed. “You killed Dad!”

Gurgling, the Gowak tried to raise its arm toward him. “You monster! You killed Dad!” The mrow screamed, voice hissing. He shot out his leg, kicking the Plantation Owner right on the temple. “You monster!”

The beast’s eyes fell backwards, and his body limped. The color of his skin faded quickly. Narl spit up blood, trying to push a message through. The fluffy mrow still stood over the dead body, crying and screaming at it. “Run!” Narl squeaked, too softly for him to hear.

From the bloody wound, a dark shifting blob rose. The Gowak’s true from pulsated quickly, as if agitated. It fell out of the air, racing toward the mrow.

“A-ahhhh!” The fluffy one fell backwards, scrambling at the ground. He desperately tried to get away from the black creature. His awkward flailing and pulling at the ground was hardly helpful. Narl hissed pathetically, trying to get enough air to get up. The blood swelled in his lungs, and he could do nothing more than cough.

The air flashed red, cutting through the thick brown smoke, and the Gowak was gone. Chambo let the rifle fall over on the ground and ran forward. He put his arm under Narl’s, lifting him onto his shoulder. He drug Narl and reached the stunned white fluffy mrow. “Come on!” Chambo said, urging him forward. He followed the black stub-tailed warrior out of the smoke. He drug Narl, who had passed out on Chambo’s shoulders, out.

“Good God!” A raspy voice screamed. Kizo jolted for them. “Where have you been?” His eyes passed over them, stopping strangely at the new comer. “Well-come on! Let’s get out of here!”

About half-way between the Ship Port, and the ruins of the Plantation, all the escaped Slaves and fighters gathered in a small flat between hills. Anybody that knew how cleaned and aided the wounded, while others had passed out from exhaustion or fright. Kizo, Chambo, Narl, and the mysterious Mrow were the last ones to reach the others.

Kizo scanned the area. His eyes stopped at a young, striped boy…holding Narl’s gun in his lap. “Hey!” He barked, ears folded back. “What were you doing?” This was no doubt the young mrow he had jumped into their ‘Wok seconds before it exploded.

Despite being a head-shorter than the mangy gray Mrow, he looked up without fear, but with bold confidence. “You couldn’t see the last Guns man. I shot him for you.”

He growled under his breath, slightly reluctant to agree the youngster had saved them. “That was dangerous…”

His golden eyes didn’t waver. “My name is Sia-I want to be a hero.” There was a slight grumbling from an mrow on the floor next to him, who looked away when Kizo tried to glance at his face.

“Well-Sia,” The gray tom replied. “I would like our gun back.”

As they talked, the blue-eyed, white and fluffy Mrow broke from the group, dashing toward a white fluffy female. She had orange-tipped limbs…and strange tentacle-like appendages dangling from her head. “Kamisho!” The female shouted. “Where did you go?”

Kamisho leaned onto his sister. “He killed Dad, Xof….He killed him!” The siblings continued to hug, both softly crying.

~

30 Minutes Earlier….

                     Kamisho flung the bag over his shoulder, quickly walking the nuts to the building. He weaved in and out of the other returning slaves. He walked slower that the others, who raced past him. The white mrow saw no reason to work himself into the grave any faster than what he was already doing.

                     The metal building was hot, steam from the processing machinery filling the entire construction. The metallic cots, pushed into the far corner of the room, were covered in liquid. As always, when the slaves went to sleep, they would be bathed in almost boiling water.

                     Kamisho poured the bag empty onto the conveyer belt. The nuts rattled along, toward the main compacter. The motions were almost mechanic…he did the same thing day in and day out. He turned and waved at his sister who, like always, was only a few steps behind him in the process. Xof waved back, pouring the Dray Nuts onto the machine.

                     “What did you do?!” A voice echoed across the room. The mechanical routine of the slaves was shattered in an instant. They all stood, scared. Gratsin, the owner of the Plantation and subsequently every mrow there, stood at the entry. “There are mrows on the hills…armed!”

                     A wave of gasps over came the slaves. Kamisho turned, staring at his sister. Some of the Slaves had been whispering all day. There faces changed, some lit up while other shut down completely, as they murmured. Was this what they were talking about…?
                     “I’m sure you thought you’d call your Mop friends, to come over and ‘free’ you?” Gratsin stepped closer into the crowd, arched over like an animal about to pounce. “That a couple of dirty Mops could take me down!”

                     Horrified, Kamisho realized something. He wasn’t talking to the entire crowd of slaves, but to a single one. Pushing his way past other stunned Mrows, he tried to get closer to Gratsin, to see who he was talking to.

                     At the bulky Gowak’s feet was a thin, off-white tom. His face was sunken with age, but his blue eyes were still bright and passionate. From his back, two bony prongs stood out against his shoulders. His “almost-wings.”

            “….Dad.” Kamisho whispered terrified.

            “Is that what you thought, you filthy mop?!”

            He took a step back, but continued to look the plantation owner in the eye. “No-I had nothing to do with this.” Kamisho wish he had his father’s courage, to stare with great strength straight into the beast’s eyes, but he didn’t. He was paralyzed with fear.

            “Liar!” Gratsin hissed. “Who are they?”

            “I don’t know.”

            “Liar!” He screamed this time, stomping his foot. “Tell me the truth! Who are they?”

            “I am telling you the truth.”

            Xof touched her brother’s shoulder gingerly, choking a whisper to him. “What is dad doing…?”

            Like a spoiled child, the bulky Gowak stomped his feet and began shouting louder to the crowd of mrows. “Fine! You damned, filthy idiots!” His hand, almost magically, produced a remote-control switch. “If you don’t want to be civil with me, they you don’t get to be at all!” His thick, clawed foot jolted forward, hitting the old mrow in the gut. Just as his strange mutations broke against the wall of machinery, Gratsin flipped the switch.

            POW!  Flames burst forth, ashes and shrapnel spewing from a hole in the processor. Nobody heard anything as the panicked screaming came with even more force than the explosion. Mrows ran out of the building, tripping and falling over their own feet, and being trampled over by other fleeing creatures.

            Kamisho, without thinking, leaped on to Gratsin’s leg. The Gowak didn’t mind the fluffy creature, instead running out with the rest. Once outside, he kicked Kamisho off his shin without so much as a word….and activated the true terror.

            CRRRRRAAAAAAARRRRSSSSS!  The slave’s quarters erupted into an unrecognizable pile of smoke and debris. Frightened slaves raced over the white mrow, some pulling burnt limbs behind them. Kamisho coughed, fighting to find oxygen in the smoke and dust. He couldn’t see Xof anywhere near him. He couldn’t see anything.

            The sound of lasers began: loud cracks and crashes as the red energy beams blasted their targets. Hanging onto consciousness, he pulled himself up and ran away from the smoke. The battle noises grew louder as Kamisho ran-but he didn’t stop. “Dad! DAD! Where are you? Dad?”

             

~

 

           

“Uuugh…” Narl blinked, slitting his eyes against the bright sun. His head was throbbing. Despite the pain, he pulled his torso up to look out the open Ship-Port bay doors filled with sunlight. “What the heck…”

            “Good morning, princess.” Kizo sneered from across the room.

            Narl growled. He rubbed his head on his temple, trying to ease the pain. “Where am I?”

            “The Ship-Port.” He walked up to him. “You passed out in the Canyon…we just put you in the back of a ‘wok and drove you back. I’m guessing you don’t remember the times when you woke up to cough up blood and who-knows-what.”

            The white mrow pulled himself up, legs shaky and weak. “No….Where is everybody?”

            “Outside.” Kizo said haphazardly, picking up a wooden splinter on the ground. “Chambo is teaching the, heh, ‘new recruits’ how to use the guns…”

            “What!” Narl shouted. The loudness of his own voice hurt his head even more. “Doing things without me…!” His strong footing came back as he darted out the door.

            The gray mrow shouted. “Well, excuse me, Emperor Narl! Humph.” Kizo turned away, rolling his eyes. Earlier it seemed like Narl was reluctant to lead the others. This sudden change of mood was a bit baffling.

            Chambo was pointing his figure, talking about aiming. Narl’s irate mood was stopped for a moment. When did Chambo learn all these things about guns…? He thought. Ugh, never mind that.

            He was interrupted before being able to speak. “Narl!” Chambo gasped. “You shouldn’t be running…I think you have internal bleeding.”

            “What are you doing without me?” Narl barked back. The black mrow’s audience grew silent, watching the two.

            Chambo pulled his head back “Err, you were passed out.”

            “So-so…” Narl’s ears fell back. He didn’t know why he was angry about this. In his gut, he could feel there was some reason, but what he didn’t know. “Just…Don’t do things like this without me!”

            “Ugh…” Chambo wrinkled his nose. “Fine. It’s not like we’ve gone to the Mines or anything.”

            Narl shuffled to the back of the make-shift class, sitting and thinking. The mines were the last thing in the Durop Canyon, the desolate rocky ditch on Meribel. The dry plains around were vast as well. The nearest city was Vantessa… one of the biggest cities on the planet.  He groaned, cupping his head in his paws.        What have I started…? This isn’t going to work.

 

Gashi held the base of his tail, twisting it back and forth. Six spikes that poked off of the very tip gleamed in the light of the sun. His eyes were dull and half-open. “Brother?” His younger sibling asked. “What are you going to do once we’re free?”

He scowled and turned to face the significantly shorter mrow. “Rot. The only way we’re leaving here is with a gun to the heart.” He growled and turned back.

Sia bit his lip. “Oh come on, Gashi. The Gowaks can’t hold us down forever.”

Gashi didn’t bother looking at him this time, but replied still following orders. “The Gowaks are extremely strong. We, however, our weak and stupid-you in particular. The only way we survived on this planet is their intervention, and it’s the only way we can survive.”

He laughed child-like. “Being stupid, eh? I took out the guard tower yesterday! We can fight them!” Sia closed his eyes, recalling how he helped Narl shoot down the elusive guard. He wanted to be a hero…

Teeth bared, Gashi whipped his tail around his back. The spikes slapped against his striped brother’s leg. He stood up abruptly, showing the strange spots on his elbows and knees. He was white, like Sia; with the same color brown perfectly circle spots, but a darker, almost black, tint in the center of the spots. Strangest of all, his gem mimicked the pattern enclosed in the brown ring. Gashi, in short, was weird. “You’re so pathetically stupid…”

Sia watched as his brother stormed off, heading back into the metallic ship-port. He didn’t always use to be this mean… Folding his arms, he turned away and scoffed. “Jerk.” He sat there for a little while longer, staring off into the scenery around him.

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