The Dark Empire, Page 34-40 by Wolfenshire ()
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The Dark Empire, Page 34-40
Jasai screamed in terror as a wave climbed to several times the height of the train. Maseth took shelter behind several trees and let Tarabeth press against him so Zil could try to calm Jasai.
“It’s Jon Black,” screamed Jasai. “It has to be Jon Black, he’s making the ocean rise up, he’ll kill us all!” Jasai panicked and started trying to pull the safety belt off that was holding her in the saddle.
Zil wrapped his tail around her and tried to calm her. She shifted to her Mathor form and used her strength to rip the safety strap from the saddle. She pushed Zil away and jumped to the ground and ran from the safety of the trees. The monstrous wave crashed over the train, knocking her to the ground and sweeping her away.
She felt herself being pulled towards the ocean and clawed at the ground futilely trying to fight the raw power of the wave. She found a tree root and grabbed it. The wave receded, but another wave was right behind it and crashed on top of her. She felt herself tumbling in the water. Her lungs burned and she didn’t know which way was up, and which was down.
The wave pushed her to the surface, she wasn’t on the island anymore. The wave had pulled her out beyond the beach. Jasai’s mind went blank from fear – she was going to die in the worst possible way a Darai could die. She was going to drown in the ocean. She gave up, there was nothing that could save her. Another wave pushed her back onto the beach and for a moment she felt ground under her.
She clawed at the ground trying to get her footing in the turbulent water. The water reversed direction and again she was being pulled out to the ocean. She never saw the log in the water, it struck her head, and she heard a cracking sound, and then went limp. She couldn’t move, or fight anymore. She prayed silently to the Night Goddess to take her swiftly as her lungs filled with water.
A voice broke through the darkness. She knew the voice but couldn’t focus. She felt something against her and for a moment thought something from the deep had come to eat her alive.
“I’m here, I’m here, I’ve got you” shouted a voice. Jasai’s mind couldn’t register who was trying to talk to her. She was so tired, it was time to go, the Night Goddess was waiting. “Don’t you give up,” shouted the voice.
Jasai felt something sharp grabbing her arm and pulling. “This is it,” thought Jasai. “I’m going to be eaten by a horrible sea monster.”
The world faded to darkness and she dreamed she was floating in the sky.
Rieka was grateful Jasai was still in her Mathor form, or dragging her by the arm would have cut her deeply – the Mathor scales were protecting her from the wolf’s teeth.
Rieka had defied Maseth’s order for her to stay at the bunker. She knew Maseth had let his arrogance cloud his judgement. The only equal to the Smilodon fatalis, the saber-tooth tiger, was the Canus dirus, the dire wolf, but Maseth still thought the Greater Sherata was superior to all other predators.
She knew that wasn’t true, she was Maseth’s equal in size and strength, and likely superior in intelligence. She didn’t have the genetic block given the Sherata to prevent them from becoming as smart as the Creators. She also had one other advantage that the smilodon didn’t have – dire wolves were natural swimmers.
Rieka didn’t fight the wave; that would be pointless, instead, she swam parallel to the wave as it pulled her further out into the ocean. She waited for the next swell then reversed directions and swam back the way she had come, letting the wave swell push her towards the beach.
She had to time it carefully if her plan was going to work. She paddled harder to line herself up with the back of the train. The wave rose and lifted her into the air. She braced as the wave crashed against the train. She was slammed onto the rear platform of the train. The door opened and Tarlock Malic grabbed her and the limp form of Jasai.
“Maseth, Tarabeth, and Zil are still out there,” Rieka shouted over the wind.
The Tarlock tossed Rieka and Jasai inside just as the wave that had brought her to the train was rushing back out to sea. Tarlock Malic stood against the rush of water as if it were nothing more than a minor inconvenience. He reached over the banister and plunged his arm into the water. He stood back up and pulled a coughing Zil up out of the water by the tail.
Malic used the short break between waves to rush down the steps and run to the tree where Maseth and Tarabeth were clinging. The large Daiami pried the two tigers from the tree and with one under each arm headed back towards the train. The Tarlock braced as another wave crashed over the train. Rieka watched from the window. When the wave passed, the Tarlock was still there and hurried up the steps and into the train.
“I don’t think Jasai is breathing,” said Rieka.
The Tarlock physician knelt next to Jasai, then lifted her nearly upside down and gave her a hard tap on the back to expel the water from her lungs. He laid her back down and bent over and gave her three quick breaths. Jasai started coughing and spit out water, but she didn’t regain consciousness.
“She has to wake up,” said Maseth. “She’s supposed to drive the train out of here.”
The Tarlock inspected Jasai’s head. “She won’t be waking up anytime soon. She has a crack on her frontal lobe armor plate. It’s fortunate she was in her Mathor form or whatever hit her would have killed her.”
“There’s no one else that can drive the train,” said Maseth. “We’ll have to make a run for the bunker before this thing is completely under water.”
The train jerked, then began backing up.
Tarabeth looked up, startled. “Hey, who’s driving the train?”
“Where’s Zil?” asked Rieka.
Maseth jumped up. “We have to stop him before he does more damage than is already done.”
“Can you drive the train?” asked Tarlock Malic.
“No, and neither can Zil, he’s an idiot,” said Maseth.
Malic lifted Jasai in his arms and laid her on one of the hatchlings sleeping pads. “I suggest you dry off first, you’ll catch a cold.”
Maseth jumped up and growled. “How can you be so calm? I’m going to go stop Zil before he gets us killed.”
Tarlock Malic reached out and placed a hand on Maseth’s forehead. Maseth’s head dipped down and his eyes closed. Maseth laid down and started snoring. Tarabeth cocked her head to one side and looked at her brother. “What did you do to him?”
“He’s a little bit over-excited, I told him to take a nap.” Tarlock Malic reached a hand out to Tarabeth, but she jumped back a step and laid down voluntarily.
The Tarlock looked at Rieka next. She quickly laid down.
“Are you going to do something about Zil?” asked Tarabeth.
Malic checked to ensure Nineveh’s cradle was secure. The train jerked to a stop, then started moving forward again, its engines surging with power and causing even the last car to vibrate. “There is nothing that needs done, Zil has everything under control.”
The train lifted into the air and shot into the sky. Rieka glanced at the window and could just see the ocean and how bad the storm really was. “Oh, that’s why you wanted us to lay down, the train was getting ready to take off.”
“We’re supposed to pull the train into the bunker,” said Tarabeth.
Tarlock Malic grabbed the infant baby’s cradle and pulled it close to keep it from sliding as the train soared above the storm. “Opening a gate on the ground would have flooded the bunker and drowned everyone.”
“How does Zil know how to fly the train?” asked Tarabeth.
“Reptilian species often have genetic memories that only surface when they need them,” explained Tarlock Malic.
“So Zil’s not an idiot?” asked Rieka.
“What do you think?” asked Tarlock Malic.
“I saw him outside yesterday going from tree to tree and saying hello to them,” said Rieka.
Tarabeth turned her head to Rieka. “I saw that too, did you see the part where he was trying to give the trees back the coconuts that had fallen?”
The train began to level off.
“Ah, here we go, he’ll be opening a gate to the bunker in a moment,” said Tarlock Malic. “Everyone move to the forward wall of the car and sit with your back to it, we’re going pretty fast and when we brake, it’s going to be interesting.”
Malic tapped Maseth on the head. The tiger meekly got up and went to the front wall with everyone else. The group sat with their backs to the wall. Malic sealed the egg-shaped cradle with Nineveh inside. He tapped a few buttons on the side of the cradle, then wrapped his arms around the cradle.
“Is the baby going to be okay when the train stops so quickly?” asked Rieka.
“This cradle is actually a Darai escape pod for eggs and hatchlings, it has a stasis field to protect the occupant during rapid acceleration when launching from a ship. I’ve activated the stasis field, she will be fine.”
Tarabeth looked at the fur on her leg, it was standing on end. “The gate is open, my fur always stands on end when there’s a gate open.”
Rieka looked up at the windows. The sky was clear and blue, and then the sky was gone and a wall was speeding past the train less than a foot from the window. The train braked and she was pressed up against the wall until she could barely move, then without warning the train surged forward and accelerated. Rieka slid back across the floor towards the rear wall and the blue skies reappeared.
“What happened?” shouted Tarabeth.
Tarlock Malic was tumbling across the floor with the cradle still wrapped in his arms. The forward thrust ended and Tarlock Malic jumped to his feet.
“Zil couldn’t stop the train in time before it would have crashed into the far wall of the tunnel. He opened another gate in front of us, and unless I miss my guess, he’s going to swing around and try again.”
Everyone ran back to the forward wall and sat with their backs braced against it. Rieka saw the blue skies outside, and then the walls of the tunnel again. The train braked and she could see sparks outside the window, then she was pressed against the forward wall of the train car with such force she could barely breathe. The space outside between the train and the tunnel wall had turned into an inferno – Zil had fired the powerful rear thruster mounted on the front of the train.
The train screeched to a stop, but everything outside was on fire. The train was burning, the doors to all the side rooms in the tunnel where the others were waiting was on fire, even the concrete seemed to be on fire.
“He’s burning everything down,” shouted Maseth. “I told you he was an idiot.”
Tarlock Malic raised a hand toward the tiger. Maseth sat down and closed his mouth, but anger raged across his face.
“Have some patience,” said Tarlock Malic just as a tidal wave of water rushed past the train and flooded the tunnel. “There it is, he’s opened a gate in the ocean to extinguish the fires.”
“Great, now we’ll drown, that’s much better,” said Maseth dryly.
“No, look,” shouted Rieka.
A gate behind the train opened to clear blue skies and the water drained away through the open gate.
“Zil’s a genius,” shouted Tarabeth.
“That wouldn’t surprise me in the least, Zil’s a bit of a celebrity where he comes from,” said Tarlock Malic. “The Mathors don’t leave their walled cities, they experience life from books and incredibly complex virtual environments. Zil is the first Mathor in billions of years to want to experience real life, with all its dangers, and heartaches, and joys, so there are no genetic memories to help him. Zil is experiencing reality without any context to what any of it means.”
“I get it,” said Rieka. “The Mathors live in a fantasy world with stories where trees can talk, so Zil doesn’t know if in reality whether trees can or cannot talk.”
“I saw him reattaching coconuts to the trees,” said Maseth. “He’s an idiot.”
“No, he has a good heart,” said Tarlock Malic. “He thinks the trees accidently dropped their coconuts and he’s trying to give them back.”
“Wait, you said billions of years,” said Tarabeth. “That would make his species as old as the Creators.”
Tarlock Malic unsealed the cradle while they were talking and lifted the infant out to make sure she was okay. “The Mathors are much older than the Creators, and their technology dwarfs Creator technology. Their virtual reality environments make those Creator memory cubes Jasai uses look like toys. You only have to visit their Shadow Library to get an inkling of just how advanced they really are.”
The door to the train car banged open. Roael and Raen rushed in. Roael went immediately to Nineveh and took her in his arms.
“That was a spectacular entry…” Raen’s eyes fell on Jasai lying on a pallet. “What happened?”
“She was knocked out on the way to the train, but she’ll be fine,” said Tarlock Malic. “She took a hard blow to the head, she needs to rest.”
“Who drove the train?” asked Raen.
“Zil did,” said Tarabeth.
“Zil? “Our Zil? But he’s an idiot?” said Raen.
Tarlock Malic sighed and shook his head. “Are the other hatchlings well?”
Raen nodded. “For the most part, I think they’re okay.”
Tarlock Malic’s eyes narrowed. “What did you do?”
Raen spread his hands and feigned innocence. “Nothing, they’ll survive.”
Tarlock Malic spoke slow and repeated, “What did you do?”
“I gave them a little bit too much ice cream,” admitted Raen. “You might not want to go into the cafeteria until they’re done puking and we clean it up, it smells kind of bad in there.”
“Oh for the love of the Dragon, I can’t leave you Ravens alone for a moment.” Tarlock Malic grabbed his medical bag. “I’ll be in the cafeteria tending the hatchlings. The baby needs fed, then played with, then a nap. Can you handle that?”
Tarlock Malic stormed out the door without waiting for an answer.
“Who’s shouting,” said a weak voice.
Raen knelt down next to Jasai. “Tarlock Malic was saying something about ice cream and feeding the baby. I don’t know why he would want us to feed ice cream to a baby, I wasn’t really listening.”
Roael bounced the baby up and down while she giggled happily. “It’s a little cold in here, ice cream would probably be a bad idea, maybe some coffee or tea to warm her up.”
Jasai turned her head slightly. “I hope you two are joking.” Jasai coughed and winced at the pain it caused her head. “What happened?”
“Zil drove the train into the bunker,” said Raen.
“Now I know you’re joking.” said Jasai.