Chapter Five: The Long Haul

The following days were relatively quiet. The large group of Mrows settled into their new home, meeting the slaves from other regions of the canyons. The tension of a limited amount of supplies was silent but strongly present. Although free, many of them continued only to eat the small amount of food they had grown used to.
Under directions from Narl, the unspoken and unanimous leader, Nich had began to train other Mrows the practice of medicine. Her silver-ear bands, shining with certain contrast against her red fur, announced to all that she was a fully trained Medic. After asking before the previous battle, the group of revolutionaries found that she was the only one. To create a team more proportional to the size of the Mrows, Nich would have to train others.
The day was late. Her red, fluffy tail swayed calmly behind her. She sat on a boulder that was just within vision of the Ship-port complex, watching the sun turn the sky red as it set. Nich talked to herself, thinking out loud. “I hope I’m a decent enough teacher…” She mused. “I know that we’re going to need a lot of help. Already, the amputation… and Narl…” Nich sighed, dropping her head. “I wish we didn’t need all this… I wish nobody would get hurt.”
The red mrow raised her head, eyes squinting at the half-covered sun behind the canyon’s orange-tinted walls. “I guess that’s not possible though. The Gowaks won’t give us up easily. We’ll have to be ready to fight.” She whispered, “we can’t lose our spirit or will…that’s what got us here in the first place.” Nich mulled that thought over in her head for a few minutes, quietly to herself thinking of experiences she would rather didn’t exist. “Oh, Andero… please help us.”
Gracefully pointing her feet, Nich hopped off the rock she was sitting on. Her tail swayed behind her as she walked back to the Ship-port, which was reflecting the last rays of the sun off its metallic sides. Other mrows scurried about, trying to finish up their tasks before the darkness fell completely. The healer smiled lightly, flicking her ears politely at the ones that ran by her.
Although no real assignment had been given to the displaced slaves in regards to sleeping arrangements, the places that on the first night the mrows had chosen remained their permanent spot. Nich slept pressed against one of the short walls that dotted the hallway to the master bedroom. She made her way to the spot, and laid down. It was not long before others began to gather round her. A familiar stranger slept by her flanks. The grey and white one fell asleep much quicker than Nich herself did. Even by the time that all of the rebels had filled the corridors of the Ship Port, combined body heat warming the entire canyon, she was awake. Her mind was calm, though, relaxed.
Nich’s neighbor seemed to be having some kind of nightmare. His feet flexed back and forth, and his arms tightened around his torso. She turned her head toward him, ear guard quietly clicking against the floor. Somehow, she could feel his worries. She let her eyes droop and mouth smile. Hopefully, he would feel better if she was. It wasn’t long after trying to subconsciously comfort the stranger, did Nich fall asleep.
Her dream was unusually vivid that night. It started in complete darkness.
“Nich…Nich…” There wasn’t really a source for the voice. It came from all over, resonating with her bones. Nich felt as if she had two sets of eyes, one in front of the other. Her eyes, the ones in to reality, we’re closed. But as the voice spoke her second eyes opened wide into the darkness.
“Is somebody there?” She called out. Although her body told her she was right side up, standing, it felt as if she was lying down at the same time. “Hello?” Her voice bounced off some invisible wall, echoing.
A dim light appeared to the side of Nich’s vision. She turned her head. The yellow-golden beam flickered, every time it dimmed coming back brighter and bigger. The light turned into a star slowly as she waited. Then suddenly, the star flashed quickly into an eye, and quickly part of a giant face. The face was blue, like shaped space, with two eyes of stars. It was an older mrow. Nich could see wrinkles down the corners of her cheeks, and to the side of her eyes. Although her eyes shined so bright, the focus was the large blue figure’s gem. It was white, as if glowing inward, and in the shape of the Herald.
This grand face before her, Nich knew, was Andero. Andero, The Goddess.
Nich’s throat ran dry and her skin fell cold. Her heart didn’t pound, but instead just swelled with energy and power. She felt herself belittled… this must really be her…
“Nich?” Andero called.
She could feel the words being pulled out of her mouth. “Yes, I am… but why…?”
“Nich,” the Goddess restated. “I visit you to tell you of something of grand importance.”
She couldn’t stop herself from talking. “Me, I’m a healer, but not… why me?” Even as she talked her brain scolded her. Andero wouldn’t do something without reason, and surely it was silly to question her.
“I am going to die.” Her words were deliberant.
Nich dropped, as if whatever floor had been supporting her gave way. She stopped midfall, suddenly, once again staring into the great, tired eye of the Goddess as if she hadn’t moved at all. “What?”
“You all knew this would happen.”
“Yes, we did… but, but why now?” Nich pleaded, leaning forward. What, she thought. I didn’t know this would happen, what am I saying? She couldn’t say these things out loud though. These thoughts were locked.
“I have already chosen my replacement, and she is waiting.” Every sound Andero made vibrated within the red mrow’s bones. Although she was full of power, Andero’s tone reminded Nich of a grandmother. Soothing, calm.
“But the revolution! You know, of course! We need you!” She squealed.
“Of course I know. I have over-abounding confidence in your new Goddess. She will serve you well.”
Nich relaxed her shoulders, leaning back into the warm thick blackness. Her eyes dropped down, holding there for a second. A thought sprang her mind, and she looked back into the eyes of Andero once more. “What is her name?”
“From now on her name is…” The bright stars in Andero’s eyes began to fade out. The molded sky that made her face smoothened, regressing back into the blackness. “Her name is Andero.”
She woke up as if she had never fallen asleep, completely aware and conscious. Nich relaxed her chest, giving off a long sigh. The only thought she could string together, her mind strangely empty and tranquil, was “This…this is important.”

The days rolled on quietly and consistently. The mrows began to fall into routines. Those with talents or skills would assist in the ways they could, while others would work odd-jobs, and some more simply helped out when they could.
“What’re you thinking Xof?” Anaxandrea said softly. They were picking apart broken wires and mechanics, trying to salvage any parts that could be used for later. Xof was just staring at a small, rectangular shaped device in her hands. Anaxandrea rubbed her fingers around the tip of her horns. It was a subconscious habit of hers to touch her mutation, the curving gray horns that wrapped against the side of her head. “Xof?”
The white mrow twitched. “Oh, sorry. I was just thinking about this stuff. We don’t really know how it works.” Xof was mainly white, with a face much like her brothers, but with orange tipped ears and tails. Most peculiar off all was her mutation, the tentacles that draped off her head much like Anax’s horns. “We use it all the time, or… well, we saw it used all the time but we don’t really know how it works.”
Anax tilted her head, plucking a burnt wire from the back of a gadget with her claws. “We’re not engineers, though.”
She put the rectangular object to the side, looking directly at Anax. “Yah, I guess you’re right.” Her eyes drifted off to the side, eyes furrowing slightly, and picked up what appeared to be some burnt gears stuck together with frayed string. “I wonder how we’ll be able to help in the war.”
Anax’s back tightened up, the hair on her shoulders prickling. War… she thought. The word carried a lot of weight. “I, I guess we’re helping now.”
Xof opened her mouth, but had no time to speak. Her all-white brother noisily dropped a new pile of salvaged parts besides them. “They got more of these out of the big hole in the controls room.” He smiled and rubbed his pudgy gut. “What’re you talking about?”
“Just wondering about what’ll happen when the war starts up.” Xof said, haphazardly eyeing the new pile of junk. “I want to help out.”
Kamisho jumped a little, letting himself land quickly in a slouched position beside the two. “Of course. I think everyone wants to help, it’s for our freedom!” He beamed.
Anax felt the side of her horns, running her finger up and down the sides while trying to avoid direct eye contact with him. “We can help out by salvaging these parts…”
“When the fighting starts,” He said, voice growing slightly deeper and more serious, “I don’t want to be back here. I want to be out there, actively fighting those monsters.” Kamisho put his paw on Anax’s shoulder, patting her, and then repeating the same with his sister. “They took Dad… I’m going to make sure they don’t hurt you guys.”
Xof scoffed, smirking. “I feel really safe now.”
Kamisho elbowed her playfully and stuck out his tongue.
“I don’t know if I could kill anybody,” said Anax. She titled her head up and looked spicily into the distance. “I don’t know if I’m strong enough.”
“Do you think you’d feel bad about it?” Xof pondered.
The white male cut in before Anax to answer. “You couldn’t possibly. After what all those things have done…” Kamisho’s eyes dimmed, losing their humor with the memory of his father…and mother…and brother… “Its rightful that they die. Haven’t you lost anybody?”
The skin of the orange mrow fell cold. A spark of ice ran up her spine and across all her limbs. In the slightest change of posture, the twins could feel Anax’s mood. She was cold, and most of all petrified in some memory. “Yes. I have lost.”
Xof reached out her paw, rubbing the back of her neck. “I’m sorry, we didn’t mean to…”
She was interrupted again. “Who?” Xof sharply turned toward Kamisho, giving him an evil eye.
She spoke like a ghost. “My father was already dead as far as I can remember… they killed my mom because she wanted to keep my horns.” Anax lifted her hand with sudden jerks, running a finger along the side of the curling horns. “I was sold to the mines.. Mama adopted me there with her sons… She was good to me. My brothers… they tried to be good but…” She stopped. “He tried to free us…they killed him… when I… they killed all…I…”
Xof extended out her arms, purposefully hitting Kamisho in the chest, and leaning forward to hug Anax. “No…no you don’t have to tell us. It’s okay.” She was stiff in her arms.
“They died for me.” She whispered. Xof continued to rub her neck, hoping to bring comfort. Kamisho brushed his tail up on her legs, slowly waving it to bring softness.
The orange mrow looked up suddenly. “No, I think I could do it. I’ll have to… have to have the strength.”
Elsewhere, Chambo hung his head out of the open door on the side of the Striker. “How about now?”
Kizo was squatted under the ship, stretching his neck to look deeper into the dark underbelly of the machine. “Umm…no. Not moving.”
He grunted. Kishi leaned back from the controls, yelling outside too. “Is the entire thing not moving, or are some of the gears doing anything?”
“I can kind of see some of the stuff on the side buzzing around a bit.” Kizo pulled his head out to look at them directly. “But nothing is happening on the other side.”
“Do you think one of the wires got loose?” Chambo asked her.
Kishi shrugged. “We better check.” She hopped down nimbly, landing on all fours before picking her torso back up.
Kizo scooted himself backwards to make space. After receiving Narl’s rather abrupt orders to somehow put a gun on a Striker ship, they had been acting as mechanics for days. Between the three of them, they had the mechanical expertise of a young apprentice and the work had mostly devolved into “mess around with it until something works.” Chambo’s latest idea was to connect the gun onto the landing wheels. The wheels could be folded out or in at any time, so the gun could be accessible. It would only fire forward however.
She crawled on her belly under the ship, turning awkwardly and reaching her hand up. “Gragh,” Kishi growled. “This thing hasn’t been oiled in ages…”
Chambo chucked a little. “He didn’t even have the courtesy to clean the ship we killed him for.”
“Those things don’t deserve courtesy.” Kishi snapped abruptly. “Anyways, I think I found one hanging-“ She grabbed the wire, letting out a quick grunt as it shocked her. “Yah, live wire.”
“Do you know where it connects?” Kizo shouted. His stomach let out a slow grumble. “Ugh, so hungry.”
Chambo crouched down. “Yah. Food is getting short… they’re deffinintatly trying to starve us out.”
“If we don’t get something quick,” He said, tail twitching, “The thin-disease is going to kill us. It’s not like we have any medicine either.”
Kishi yelled back from under the Striker. As a ship went, the Striker was a small personal craft for Gowaks. The controls were small enough to reach up to a Gowak’s stomach, so it was accessible to mrows, upon which they would reach to their head. It was still big enough for a mrow to fit under when it was rotated on it’s side. “Alright, I think I found it’s imput. Try it now. Let me get out from under.” She wriggled out, shaking some grease off her head.
Chambo leaped back through the open door. He leaned forward and flicked a small switch off to the side. The wheels spun and some gears clicked. They compacted, drawing themselves back into the ship.
“Worked! They went in!” Kizo yelled. He smiled slightly.
“See if they can come back out,” Kishi added.
He flicked the switch again. There was a bit of rumbling and squeaking from the panels, but finnaly they opened and the wheels and gun reappeared again. “Perfect!” Kishi shouted.
Chambo stuck his head out, looking at the two. “Now we just need to find some way to make it fire.”
“Well,” Kizo said, rolling his torso around his hips to try and keep balance as he came out from under the ship, “What do ships normally use for a firing method? I mean, what makes it work?”
“I’m not sure. My guess would be something that lowers the Pike onto the Merr.” Chambo responded. The group had congregated now, in a circle beside the ship. The stood relatively quietly, eyes dashing around the room blindly in thought.
“Maybe we could attach the pike to a gear. If we suspended the axel and maybe just a small engine just above the Merr-chamber, we could thread a wire from the engine to the cockpit. Maybe like a button or something to turn it on?” Kishi suggested, gesturing with her wrists.
“Like a simple circuit-completer maybe.” Kizo added. He didn’t know what Kishi had gained her knowledge of machines, but Kizo had previously worked as a repair slave for the Ship port. They had taught him all this for their service…he thought silently. Pretty ironic now.
Chambo scratched the back of his ear with a single claw. “But where are we going to find a little engine… and even if we did, I’m not sure how we’d be able to put a wire through all of there.”
“You could open the panels up on the side, having the wire just directly under them.” Narl’s raspy voice suddenly rang in their ears. The spindly Mrow was standing upright, although hunching forward.
“Cripes!” Kizo hissed with his teeth closed. “Why are you sneaking around?”
Narl just looked at the one-armed mrow from the corner of his eyes, flicked his tail dissmisivly, and looked back at Chambo. “Every ship has small panels as the protective guard over the inner workings. You can remove them one at a time and keep the thing intact. A small wire like the one you’re suggesting could fit under there if you work at it.”
“Alright,” Chambo nodded slightly and slowly. “But where would we find a little gear and engine?”
Kishi tapped her foot against the ground. Her claws, barely extended, clicked against the metallic surface to get their attention. “They’re making scrap piles alongside the hallways. We should check through those to see if anything fits the bill.”
“We need to find more than one.” Turning to look at Kishi, Chambo said directly. “We’re going to have to right this up in five Strikes, remember.”
Kizo grumbled. “As long as we find five of some kind of gear-engine thing. It’s not like we’re going for anything uniform here. They don’t have to be the same.”
Narl walked off just as the black mrow began to reply. He held his tail up slightly over the ground so it wouldn’t drag, placing his weight in his haunches and walking as silently as he could. The movement was fluid and graceful, but creepy. He didn’t really intend to walk like he was sneaking up on something, it just was. Narl moved down the hallway, letting the voices of the three mrows fade off behind him. He wasn’t sure of where he was going. But sitting idly around hurted him. He could feel some kind of energy, like static electricity in his bones, pinching against the inside of his skin. Narl didn’t want to just sit, he wanted to keep moving. As he passed by mrows, some loitering in hallways, others going up some job they had been assigned either by others or themselves, they would look up briefly. Many would try to avoid direct eye contact with him, like they were scared. Narl wasn’t sure of what he thought of being feared… No, he decided between muddled thoughts. I don’t want them to be scared of me.
His brain had lost track of his location now. Narl found himself walking toward a brown tom, leaning against a corner. He was full grown, but little in stature. His eyes were just looking at the ground. Narl blinked awkwardly. “Hello.” He mumbled, out of respect.
The green-eyed brown mrow looked up. “Oh. Hi.”
Narl was trying to turn and keep on walking. It wasn’t his attention to start any form of conversation, but just avoid making it look like he was just randomly approaching Mrows. The brown one, however, acted like he had been waiting.
“I don’t know why you want to go back, I mean, up to the cities.” He said. Narl stopped, ears twitched, and looked more directly at him. The brown mrow pushed himself off the wall, standing up straight with wide eyes. “I was sold from them…the cities. The gowaks told me that I would miss them when I came down to the plantation. ‘They aren’t kind to mops in the canyon like up here. Better toughen up.’ I think they said.” His tail wrapped absently mindedly his left leg. “They like to think they’re nicer in the city, y’know?” He paused as if waiting for Narl to respond. Narl didn’t say anything however. He was mulling over the words in his head, making sure he caught all of them. “They aren’t. When a slave…I mean, mrow, misbehaves, they send them to Fums. They’ll send people to Fums for anything. Put my sister because she coughed too much. Here, they’ll just kill them. Straight and clean. The Gowaks in the cities feel like since they’re not doing it themselves, its nicer. I don’t know…” He paused again. “I’d rather just die. You know what Fums is?”
Narl did know. The images flickered in his minds. Copped-collored rocks, little piles. No water. No food. No life… it had an atmosphere, barely. Enough to breathe once you got used to all the thin dirt in the air. Always looked like it was in dusk…
The mrow continued, bringing Narl’s mind back into the room. “They just starve to death…slowly. Just slowly. By the time you’re there you’re too weak to even kill yourself. You just have to wait…” He trailed off.
Narl looked at him, eyes flashing a bit with sympathy. He didn’t say anything, still. His muscles twitched…he was standing too long. An apologetic expression on his face, he turned his head and walked off quietly. The brown mrow just followed him with his eyes for a while, before leaning against the wall and thinking.

It was dusk. “I don’t see anything.” Kamisho said, squinting. The Striker ships had been completed, somehow.
Kizo was standing on the opposite end of the roof, holding his single hand against the moonlight. “Me neither.”
Chambo turned from the ship he was looking at. They had put them together so quickly, he was afraid they would just fall apart. “Good… we don’t want to run in contact with anything before we know how to fly these ships.”
“I don’t think we should send all of them up.” Narl added from the ground.
“Me neither,” Chambo agreed. “I think we’re only sending up two. Kishi and I are taking this one.”
“I call the other!” Kamisho yelled, crawling off the top of the roof onto the steps.
“We heard you the first time.” Kishi growled. “I still don’t know why we’re trusting you with it…”
“Nobody here has any experience flying ships.” He replied, smiling. “Might as well be me.”
Chambo turned back to Narl. Anaxandrea, Xof, and Kizo now standing around him. “We probably should go now. We don’t know how long the sky is going to be clear.” Narl nodded.
“We entered the ship’s ID codes into the telecenter. They are pre-programmed to autoaccept any transmissions from any of them.” Xof reported. The group walked around the corner of the ship port, heading inside to the control room.
Kishi climbed into the open hatch of the closer Striker, heading to the back. “Remember what we said, Kamisho?” Chambo called, lingering on the outside.
The white mrow rubbed his toes against the dirt, cold in the night air, and stretched his shoulders. “Of course! I’ll trail you.”
“Make sure you have the audio open.” He said, right before he clambered into the inside of the ship. Chambo turned his body sideways, squeezing past Kishi and around the chair. It was red, padded and curved to a Gowak’s spine. He put his left paw on the steering stick and leaned back into the chair. It was, indeed, comfortable. The cockpit’s was almost completely surrounded by the window. At the rim, where the strong transparent material met the floor of the Striker, the window was tinted a slight green. It was the lighting of the display, ready to be used, but not on. He shifted his weight, pulling his paws onto the ground in front of him. “Ready Kishi?” Chambo put his head on his shoulder.
She nodded. Kishi wanted to come along on the first flight, even though the ships could be easily managed by a single mrow. She leaned against the wall into the mechanical area. As Chambo turned around and pushed the steering stick down, engaging, the engine rumbled. The warmth of the Merr heated the fur on Kishi’s back.
Leaning, he reached his arm and pressed the transmission button, holding it down until it locked. A small light on the display began to flash. Narl could hear him now in the ship port. Another light flickered on. Kamisho had turned on his audio. Chambo spoke calmly and clearly as he could. “Flight in one…two…” He continued to press down on the steering stick, slowly depressing into flight mode. It clicked faintly. “Three.”
The flight-tube fell into position, lowering from rest. The Trinity Engine turned on full force. The metal heated signifanctly on the wall to the mechanical area, startling Kishi slightly. It was but a split second that the tube glowed a faded red before a large beam exploded from the back. It was almost like the beam of the guns… but thinner, transparent even. The beam didn’t explode against the rocks but instead pushed against the air. The Striker was pushed forward at a rapid pace. Chambo felt his bones almost completely shoved to the back of his body. He pulled back on the steering stick with both hands. The wings slid down from the top of the ship, propelling the energy upward. There was a rumbling click as the landing wheels folded back into the underside. Chambo and Kishi could both feel the weight of the ship dissipatate as they lost contact from the ground.
The sky turned from a dark blue, to a dark gray. Kishi pulled herself forward to get a better look out the window. Chambo kept his grip on the stick. They were on the outer ridges of the atmosphere now. The nose of the oblong Striker scraped against the air. The debris and specks of dirt heated, glowing red, and wrapped around the window. “Lost visual!” Chambo cried. He relaxed his hold, letting the stick lean into it’s natural position. The Trinity Engine reduced the power, slowing down. The burning around the window cooled down, clearing away. Chambo blinked his eyes. All around his was blackness, dark and expanding. He could see the flickering stars and Moon clearer than ever before. He felt very much like he had just leaped into the night sky, and in many ways he had.
“Everything okay?” A scratchy version of Xof’s voice came in over the speakers.
Chambo breathed out, relaxing his spine. “Yes,” He replied.
“I think you came up too fast.” Kishi added, walking back to the rear of the cabin.
“I think so too.”
“Did the pseudo-gravity come on?” Kamisho asked, still stationary on the ground.
Chambo turned, quickly eying the elevation monitor on the display. It read that they were out of any form of atmosphere. “Yes, working grand.”
“Should I start to engage?” Kamisho came back.
Narl talked now from the ground. “No. Chambo, Kishi, maneuver a little bit.”
“Aye.” Chambo pushed the steering stick slightly to the left. The Striker turned slowly and controlled. He pushed forward, increasing the power of the red laser emmited from the back. They speeded up.
“Trying turning it around.” Kishi spun her extended index finger. He nodded. With a gentle amount of weight, he pulled up and sideways at the stick. The ship began to roll. He felt himself awkwardy pulled to the side, and then the other ways, for a split second. Chambo let go. The pseudo-gravity evened out. Even though they were now upside down from their original point, the two felt fine. “I think everything is working.”
“Alright. Kamisho, ready to follow?” Narl said.
Kamisho smiled, the top of his cheeks pushing against his eyes. “Sure am.”
“Go for it.” Xof seemed to chuckle as she spoke.
Out of some habit, Kamisho flicked his tail and nodded though nobody could see it. He put his palms, one on top of each other, against the rounded top of the steering stick and shoved his weight down into them. The stick clicked into position. “Take off in one…two..three!” He called excitedly. The Trinity Engine murmured, and the flight-tube lowered. A short flash of pink beckoned the powerful beam behind him. Kamisho took weight off the machine. He wanted to be careful to try and go slower than Chambo had, and avoid the lift-off burn. The Striker rose over the ground, charging forward before tipping upwards into the sky. The ship rumbled as the wheels recoiled. Kamisho’s blue eyes widened, taking in the awe-inspiring visuals as he flew through different colors of sky. “Wow, it’s beautiful!”
KERPOW!… Kamisho could feel some sudden pressure release from under his feet.
“What was that?” Narl called in hastily over the speakers.
Something was loose now in the underside of the Striker. It loudly clanked around in the wires. Kamisho tightened his grip on the steering stick, trying to pull back the speed. “I don’t know!” His long white fur stood on end.
Xof leaned over Narl’s shoulders, pushing him slightly away from the display of the telecenter. Anaxandrea pushed herself closer, breath tight in her lungs. With a quick motion, Narl activated the outside security camera. He could see the Striker ship, awkwardly wobbling near the top of the screen.
“Kamisho! Pull back!” Xof cried with worry. They could hear another loud noise over the intercom. In a flash of electrical lights, a black, pixilated shape hurdled down from the Ship.
“The gun! The gun fell out!” Anax cried.
“It took the wheels with it.” Narl hissed. Front hands against the curve of the console, he pushed backward. Crouching low to the ground, almost on all fours, he ran out the control center. His feet pounded against the cold dry rocks looking up.
“Kamisho? Do you read? What’s happening?” Xof put her mouth close the microphone. There was no reply for a short while, and then two short clicks followed by crackling static fuzz. “Chambo! Something’s wrong!”
“We can see him.” Kishi clammered over the speakers. “His ship has crossed into space… but it’s decelerating.”
Anaxandrea squeeled, throat tightening. “Kamisho!”
“He’s going into Swalu Mode!” Chambo shouted quickly.
“Is he going to make a jump?” Xof yelled back. She felt around the control switches, urgently switching back to the read out of information.
Narl rushed back into the control room, claws clicking against the ground. “It looks like half of the wiring fell out!” He growled urgently.
“The ships making a jump!” Xof shouted at Narl, turning around.
In a flash of pink, the sky seemed to have it’s colors inverted and the stars drawn closer together. Kamisho’s ship was ingulfed in the reaction and was gone.
“We lost visual!” Chambo said in shock. “We lost visual- the Swalu Transporter activated.”
The three mrows on the ship port could feel their eyes wobbling in their sockets from shock.
“Your read on the ship should be able to tell us where he went!” Chambo continued. “Does it work?”
Anax snapped out of a stupor. “Where’d he go?”
“Chambo, be ready to follow for assistance!” Xof yelled.
“I don’t know—“ He began.
Narl clamped his teeth, gaining the attention of the others and silent. “We got a read out. The warp drained the Merr on the Trinity engine.”
Kishi gasped. “Where the hell did he go to take that much energy? It’s got to be farther than the solar system!” She was closer to the communicator now.
Narl scratched and pressed against some of the control buttons. “I don’t know, I’m trying to find where…” Xof shouldered him out of the way, pointing to something on the glowing screen.
“There.” Her finger rubbed against the coordinates.
Narl and Anax read them silently. “Those…those coordinates…” Narl murmured.
“What is it?” Chambo asked nervously.
“It’s Tica.” Xof spoke in a half-whisper. “Somehow… he, he warped to Tica…”
Narl turned sharply, ears down. “Where the Herald is from?”
Anax rubbed her hands around her horns, speaking quietly. “Andero carried the Herald here… carrying a message from the Sylphs.” She was thinking out loud, manners lost in her panic, of what her had told her. “They told us of the life of those passed…in the language of Sylphs. We could only understand a little. That those of good souls were lead to a paradise of water. The Herald brought us a map and a readout of this paradise…the planet, Tica…”
“It can’t be!” Xof yelled with her mouth wide open. “It’s too far! You can’t warp to Tica!”
Narl roared back, full-force. “His engines are gone!”
His voice echoed against the mechanical walls. The room grew silent as the roar faded. Xof dragged her paw against the floor, leaning forward slowly. Just as she was about to loose her balance, she grabbed hold of Anax. Anax fell loose in her arms. They wept.
There was a large rumbling. About ten mrows burst into the control room, eyes wide and fur prickling. They all cried out at once. Narl couldn’t make out most of it, but a few phrases.
“What happened?”
“What was that noise?”
“Something fell out of the sky!”
Without warning anybody, Narl ran out of the room. He pushed past the worried crowd. When the door outside approached as he turned the corner, Narl rotated around his foot and let his back bash against the door pushing it open.
Chambo and Kishi were standing outside, breathing heavily. “We landed the Striker! We can’t find him.”
“He went to Tica.” Narl grumbled. “What happened?”
Kishi shrugged. Her lip pulled back in a unconscious frown. “We don’t know.”
Chambo bounded over a rock, inspecting the damaged wires scattered across the ground. “The edges… these wires are burnt.”
“At the edges!” Narl spoke loudly with a gaping mouth. The full impact of what had happened began to flood into his mind. His thoughts grew louder and more frequent, blurring. “I’ve seen this before. A loose spark, something caught onto the glue. Didn’t check! They didn’t do their check up… glue past due. Fire! Those ignorant!” He knees were on the ground now. Narl’s spine contorted. He grabbed Chambo’so shoulder. “He’s dead. This could’ve been! Kamisho! Kamisho!” His claws extended, scraping against the skin.
“Narl!” Chambo growled. He shot out his arm, slapping the white mrow with the back of his hand. In the second he roared, Chambo became one of the most frightening thing Narl had ever seen. The first thing, recently to scare him. He let go of his grip, falling backwards with a thump.
Narl was still in the dirt for a little while. His mind seemed to simmer…and he felt heavy emotions fall to the back of his head, thoughts dulling. “Check the other ships for glue rot,” He said, still flat on his back. Chambo stared down at him for a while, mouth curled in confusion. Slowly, he nodded and walked off.
Kishi bent over, extending her paw out to the collapsed mrow. Narl didn’t take it, but instead jumped to his feet himself. She took a few steps back. Both their eyes were thin slits, and they glared into each other in a stiff lock. Narl turned suddenly, looking at the ring of others who had gathered around them. “We have lost another.” He paused. “It is not our first.”
“We can’t afford to abandon these ships. After more thorough inspection, we’ll continue flight. Food is low and we need to… we can’t hang around idly.” The crowd looked back with blank eyes. He could see that they felt unsatisfied, like hungry bellies wanting more. Narl wasn’t sure what else he could give. No, he was sure there was nothing else. “Go back inside.”
Mothers hanging over children turned around first, pushing their young ones with them. The others followed the river of former slaves. They walked quietly with only a small hush of whispers that would ripple through the crowd like waves. Narl lagged behind until Chambo came back from the ships.
“I can’t….I don’t see anything like the glue that was on the edges of Kamisho’s ship.” He tried to speak formally. “I think the rest are fine.”
“Are you sure?” Narl retorted, looking over his shoulder.
“I’m not positive.” Chambo replied. “I’m not quite sure what to look for.”
Narl turned and walked past the sturdy black mrow. He held his tail out behind him like a banner, brushing against Chambo’s side. As he watched him go, Chambo sighed a little. Kishi elbowed him and signaled to come inside. The glow of the moon was beginning to pass under the mountains and the air continued to drop temperature.
Narl came in later after the rest, after he was sure of the integrity of the ships. As soon as got steps within the entrance, he leaned his back on the silver wall and slided down. He fell asleep sitting against the wall with his head pressed against his shoulder.


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