Inkya’s mind raced with the possibilities of her future. She had a very important choice to make, and she had to keep her family in mind. The falls rushed outside her family’s cave, but even the familiar sound did nothing for her troubled mind.
She stood and shivered in her thin nightgown so she lit a small fire in the fire pit that was in the middle of her private quarters. Shadows danced as the gentle firelight warmed the cave walls. Inkya took pride in her quarters. She inherited this room from her grandmother who had inherited from her great grandmother, who was the original leader of the Sea Dwellers. She had requested the story so many times from her elders that as a child, whenever they saw her coming, they lit a fire, fixed her some tea, and settled in to tell her it. As she grew up, she would tell it to herself at bedtime just so she could fall asleep.
She brought her hand to her stomach. “Someday I will tell you the story when I tuck you in to bed.”
A cold feeling came over her. Something was very wrong within her village. Seconds later, screams rang out. She ran to the falls and looked through the wall of water. Enemies were raiding her village, dragging girls out from the caves by their hair. They were tied, single file, to a rope six inches in length.
“Princess you must come with us.” She turned around and saw her best friend Aussyria standing in front of a secret door that led to a tunnel out of the village to a safety zone.
“What is happening?” she whispered.
“Warriors from the wasteland have come for the royal family, and they are taking our woman, killing our men. We need to regroup.”
“We have no way of knowing until we meet up at the safe zone.”
“Two armed men headed this way.” A Sea Dweller warrior clothed in animal skins and carrying a crudely made spear and bow, his quiver of arrows strapped to his back, grabbed Inkya’s royal robe, her travel bag and her two weapons, and pushed her toward the tunnel. “We need to move now!” he hissed.
No sooner had they disappeared into the tunnel, and silently closed the tunnel door into the camouflaged wall, as the enemy was pushing their way through the falls.
The leader of the three-point team started tearing things apart and searching in every dark corner. The tunnel was never discovered. “She could not have gotten far.”
“Liber, there is a small opening that leads further into the formations most likely to other cave communities.”
“Search them all. I want Princess Inkya as my wife. If not tonight then long before we become the victors of this war.” He ordered several men to search the escape valley. “Find her and bring her to me.”
“Yes Lyber.” They made a fist with their hand, and pounded their hearts twice, then turned down to investigate the valley road. Liber ordered the rest of his party to take their prisoners back to the wastelands where he would sell the women to become wives to other men who had not seen a woman since banishment.
The falls sounded as if they were raging in sync with Inkya’s heart as she and her party quietly walked the unfamiliar path toward what she hoped would be a place to rest. Her parents and siblings had still not rendezvoused with them, so her heart became heavier with each step.
“Princess, are you okay?” Aussyria asked after she ordered her security team to spread out and check the perimeters of the path.
Inkya lifted her head and smiled at her best friend. “I’m fine, Aussyria, you’ve done a superb job of security with your team for the escape. I am just worried of the fate of my family. It’s making it hard to concentrate.”
Aussyria put a hand on her shoulder. “I have assigned SD1 to search for your family. They’re my best team. If they are hiding in the forest between here and the wasteland, we will find them.”
“If not?” Inkya asked fearfully.
“Then we will prepare to enter the wasteland and find Lyber’s camp.”
Inkya nodded. Aussyria turned to answer the call of one of her security personnel. As Aussyria huddled with her security team. Inkya thought about Makayo, his gentle touch, her sense of security in his arms. She touched her stomach, their child. The possibility of becoming a family. How real will having a future be? How real will their dream of uniting their people be when war was imminent? A tear tracked down her cheek.
Something whistled by her ear, barely brushing her cheek. She whipped her head around as Aussyria yelled. “TAKE ARMS!”
Inkya dived into a clump of bushes by the path and raised her head slightly. Behind her, was four wasteland warriors firing arrows in quick succession, closing the distance between them and her people. She pulled her own bow out, nocked an arrow, took aim, and fired. True to its mark, the arrow hit the chest of one of the warriors.
Knowing she had revealed her cover, she retreated further into the forest, and dipped behind a formation of rocks, barely breathing. She readied another arrow and watched through a crack in the formation for pursuers, breathing slowly to calm her pounding heart. War cries and commands were coming from the battle on the path she had just run from. Why did she run? Why did she not stay with her people? She was a coward.
“Princess!” Aussyria’s voice intruded in her mind. Startled, her readied bow slipped from her hands, and clattered against the rocks. She and Aussyria had often played with their telepathic abilities as children, but neither had done it since those days, because most of her clan did not understand it, worse yet, they feared it. Some people had been banished to the wasteland if they had been caught using it.
“Aussyria, I am fine. I have taken refuge in the forest behind some rocks. I have my weapons with me.”
“Stay where you are, when we secure the area, we will come for you.”
“I will, my friend.” She closed her mind, picked up her weapon and waited quietly. It wasn’t long before she sensed a presence behind her. Using the training she learned from Aussyria, she pulled her bow string back as she spun around and let it go. Her arrow was hit by another coming from the left. She screamed at a silver bodied being before her, then a large hand went over her mouth and she was dragged back down behind the rocks. A pin pricked her neck, and then she slipped into darkness.
Voices were whispering around her. Her head pounded as a chilly dampness penetrated her skin and her bones. Strange white lights flickered from the ceiling above. Suddenly she felt a throbbing pain in her arm. “Ah,” she breathed, her voice weak and soft.
“Don’t move too much, Princess,” a raspy female voice said to her left. An unfamiliar face appeared above her, blocking the light. “My name is Tianna. During your encounter with Lyber and his warriors, you were wounded by a poisonous arrow tip. We have connected you to a medicine delivery device called an IV, which is feeding you fluids and an antidote through a tube.”
Inkya studied the woman, and then looked down at her wrist. There was a tube hooked into one of the veins on Inkya’s hand. Her eyes became round as saucers, and she frantically tried to pull the needle out.
“No! You mustn’t do that! You could cause uncontrollable bleeding and infection.” Tianna gently, but firmly pulled Inkya’s free hand away and held it in her own strong one.
Tianna was unlike any woman Inkya had ever encountered before. Her skin was the color of the night-time sky, but her dark eyes were compassionate and kind. “My name is Tianna. I am a practitioner of medicine, a warrior, and a member of the Land Dweller Clan tribe “Oasis”; an adopted member of the Rebellis, and friend to Prince Mankayo.” She smiled. “He heard your tribe was in trouble and sent me and my platoon out to help.”
Inkya closed her eyes and swallowed. “It was you behind the silver body?”
“Yes. I was inside the suit. Ancient warriors wore similar suits in battle that were made of steel. We have replicated it in a lighter metal called Aluminum.”
Inkya moved her head until she was looking into Tianna’s eyes. “How do you know this, are you a magician or a witch?”
Tianna chuckled. “No, Princess, nothing so dramatic. Land Dwellers have explored the territories around us and have found some buildings that survived the “Disasters.” Some of them are called “Libraries” and in them many books dwell. Those that were not damaged, we have brought to our villages, and have learned many things. However, Rebellis has taken what we have learned, and started educating those that are willing to learn, and help us rebuild our societies.”
“Like weapons and medicine?”
“And power, and survival.”
“Where is Mankayo, I wish to speak with him.”
“He is exploring,” Tianna said. “He will be back this evening, and he will be thrilled to hear that you are feeling better. He has been very worried about you.”
“Hmm.” She drifted off again.
“She will sleep for a while.” Tianna told a young lady standing nearby. “I gave her a sedative.” Then she left the room and headed to the command center.
“Is she asleep?” Commander Devlin asked. He was a former Sea Dweller, and head of their scientific discovery unit. He and his team had been studying the past scientific history of the world before the “Disasters”, and together with Land Dwellers and Sea Dwellers alike, they had created the command center.
“Yes.” Several computerized consoles were scattered around the room with the largest console in the middle where the commander stood. Three 100’ monitors showed areas of the wastelands, and the surrounding territory.
If Tianna chose to put in a different number sequence, they could move surveillance to other targets. A map of the world was stretched out on a table as it had been when they discovered the underground bunker, just as all the computers and electronics had been. The electronics had to be reconnected, and the computers reprogrammed with an interface so Commander Devlin and his team had gone in search of books that would teach them what they needed to know. After they had learned it, they had acted on it, and rebuilt all the technology needed in the bunker. The rebuilding of the bunker was finished within seven years.
“Is she aware of the fate her people?”
Tianna shook her head. “I am not going to tell her anything I am not certain of,” she sighed. “Mankayo is out looking for survivors now.
He shook his head. “Sadly, I have searched the area of the battle, and her village. It does not look like good news.”
He switched between scenes on screen, and he was about to change again to check out the paths at the conjunction of the wasteland when Tianna stopped him.
“There on the hill of castles.” She pointed out the area that used to be Mulholland Drive. The homes on that territory were so grand that they called them castles. However, all access was cut off as many roads between the territories were either collapsed or impassable since the “Disasters.”
She moved up to his console, pressed magnify, and paused the screen. “There is a light.” She pointed to a barely visible twinkle on a window. “Could be a light, but it could be a reflection too.”
“Do we have a team out there?”
“We have a hunting team in the wasteland forest. There is some mountainous terrain six miles east of their position. They could meet up with Mankayo’s team, and investigate.”
“How long would it take?”
“A week, providing there are no issues or battles with Lyber’s army.”
“It is an unknown Territory. I have heard rumors of the Elitists Clans that have settled up there.”
“So have I, but alas they are just rumors.” She looked at him. “We need to find out.” She inhaled, then let it out slowly before she spoke again. “That light was very small, and insignificant. It could just be a traveler needing shelter for a night, or it could be Inkya’s surviving family. Either way, I want a party on that mountain as soon as possible. Make it happen, Commander.
“What of the hunters wares? We are getting low on our supplies.”
She thought for a moment. “Have them send Taz, and Vanna home with the wares. I have no doubt they can get it here safely.”
“As you say General.” He went over to the North wall, lifted a radio to his mouth and barked out the orders.
“This is EX23-Mankayo. Who is sending this order? It didn’t come from me.”
Tianna took the radio mike. “That would be me, Sir. There is a strange light illuminating from a window in one of the castles. I thought it might be important to check it out.”
“Why, we know the possibility of a clan living up there is very high.”
“It could also be Inkya’s family survived and found refuge up there, hoping Lyber would not find them.”
Mankayo was silent for a long time, and Tianna thought maybe he had closed transmissions. She was about to call out his name when he came back over the airway. “Fine, but such a large team is not needed I will take six with me. The rest will return to base in case Lyber attacks another village.” He sighed, Tianna could hear the frustration in his voice. “How is Inkya?”
“She is responding to the medicine, and she is sleeping. She will be resting much over the next few days. It will be days before she is recovered enough to get out of bed. I will keep you informed of her progress.”
“I’m going to hold you to that, Tianna,” he said. “We’ll camp out tonight at the next clearing, then I will go forward with my team, and send the rest back to you.”
“Okay,” she was about to sign off when she heard screaming over the line, a sickening thud, and more screaming.
“Bunyan!” Mankayo cried, and then he started barking orders “Positions!” A fearsome growl, ”Surround, and attack! Terrance Down.” Multiple screams, and then the airways went down, and Tianna screamed Mankayo’s name into her mike, but it remained silent as a winter’s night.