The Dark Empire, Page 78-84 by Wolfenshire ()
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The Dark Empire, Page 78-84
The citizens proudly remembered and chanted ‘Santi, Santi, Santi’.
Legend had it that once long ago these war machines patrolled the streets of every city, protecting and serving the people and the En Jinn living among them. But the En Jinn had departed for the heavens and the descendants had scattered and formed new cities.
Archers rode inside the massive curved backed Crawlers and could loose arrows at the enemy from ports cut into the side walls of the Crawlers. The lethal side claw attached to each Crawler did still work and could lift aside enemy barriers. Two Santi soldiers rode proudly on the back side platforms of each Crawler and waved at the gathered crowds.
The Santi Governor, driving the lead Crawler, used the controls and deployed the side claw. Children squealed and ran in feigned terror. He pulled the claw back to its storage position and stopped in front of the city gates. The Governor climbed out of the Crawler and up on the roof of the great beast.
“People of the Santi Nation,” he shouted. “The En Jinn have returned and do battle with our enemies. We will crawl to the coast and join with the En Jinn, all praise to the En Jinn!”
The crowds cheered and soldiers from the other Crawlers shouted, “All Raktors to green.”
The Governor climbed back inside the Crawler and the city gates swung open. The Crawlers rolled out of the city and started the journey to the coast.
The Medo King stood on the deck of the schooner and looked out at the wide river ahead of him as the ship moved across the smooth water. The tide was moving out with the morning sun and carried the fleet along at a dizzying speed of nearly 9 knots. They wouldn’t be able to maintain that speed once they reached the ocean; they would likely slow to 4 or 5 knots in the heavy seas. The Crystal Isles were nearly a thousand miles from the mainland, so the ancient charts indicated. No ship had ever been that far out to sea before, and the loss of some ships was a concern.
They would anchor at the mouth of the river if their sister cities had also answered the call of the Jinn; there wasn’t enough time to wait for the messengers to return with an answer from the Aomo and the Santi.
“My Lord,” a voice announced.
The King turned to the First Mate. “We’re making good time.”
“Yes, My Lord, we will make the coast in five hours.”
“These new two-masted schooners are an amazing achievement,” replied the King. “What are those shiny blankets the crew is preparing?”
“After our fleet was sunk three years ago by the Geogg, Ship Master Builder Lantho took an idea from the way the Santi polish their Crawlers. We’ll drape those blanks over the sides to deflect the Geogg digger lasers. Master Lantho wanted to surprise you with the new invention.”
The King stepped down from front deck and knelt to run his fingers across the shiny material. “Do you think it will work?”
The First Mate knelt next to the King. “We need only to slow down the effects of their cannons long enough to turn to broadside and fire a volley. With the extra length of the two-masted hull, we now have seven five-inchers per side. If all ten of our ships can get off a volley, we will have a sustained rate of fire of seventy balls every three minutes.”
“Great Jinn preserve us, what has our technology come to that we command ships of such devastating firepower?”
“My Lord, your grandfather was a visionary when he commanded we stop relying on the ancient and mostly broken machines of the Jinn, but instead to begin creating our own technology.”
“We know nearly nothing of the Ancient’s world, but we are their descendants and we will someday again be Masters of Creation.”
The First Officer twisted his head around to ensure nobody was near. “My Lord, you must be careful what you say, if the Priests discover you’re a rounder, not even you would be safe from them.”
“Their time of holding us in the Dark Ages is nearly over,” said the King.
“Ah, it isn’t the Elics you are sailing to help, you want the Jinn to help you over-throw the Priests.”
The King laid a hand on the First Officers arm. “I won’t be upset if the ship’s Priest accidently falls overboard tonight.”
The First Officer smiled. “I understand, and perhaps with a cannon ball tied around his ankle. I’ll make sure it’s done discreetly.”
The King nodded. “The next ship out of the yards will need a good Captain.
The First Officer stood, understanding the implied reward, and what the King really wanted. He needed the superstitious Priest out of the way when he met with the Jinn.
“Aomo to Starboard,” the watch shouted, attracting the Kings attention.
The Medo King stood and looked starboard – a long line of Aomo Knights at least three hundred strong came into view along the river road.
“My Lord Protector, the Medo fleet,” announced the First Knight Protector.
“I see them,” replied the Lord Protector. “Ten fine ships, and am I counting an extra two cannon portholes on those sleek fish?”
“Yes, My Lord, and I must assume another seven on the opposite side.”
The Lord Protector smiled. “If they were to fire on us right now they could destroy a third of our army.”
“Their crews are on deck where we can see them, and the cannon portholes closed,” said the Knight. “They are telling us they are still our allies.”
“Let us be courteous and render honors to our friends,” ordered the Lord Protector.
The First Knight turned in his saddle and shouted, “Prepare to render honors!”
The shout was passed back through the column of Knights and three hundred gauntleted hands dropped to their swords.
“Present, Arms!” shouted the First Knight.
Three hundred swords were drawn and held in front of each Knight with the tip point upward at the sky. Shouts of comradery rose from the sailors on the ships, then the Medo flag on the lead ship was lowered to half-mast in salute.
“I was worried for a moment they might fire a cannon in salute,” said the First Knight.
“They knew it would spook the horses, they’re not as dumb as the Santi would like to think. Those ships weren’t given by the Hydro Jinn, that tech is all Medo ingenuity.”
The ships with their banners snapping in the wind pulled ahead of the column of Knights in their polished armor – the Medo ships would arrive a few hours before the Aomo would.
Jasai stood at the long flat table trying to fit an inner mantle module around an inner liquid core. The two modules were marked to fit, but they stubbornly defied every attempt. The air around her was littered with other modules floating in the air around her. Raen and Farmer Seth were also helping, each fitting together the parts that would form a Crystal World.
“I’ve got the hydrosphere to fit with the lithosphere,” said Raen.
“It doesn’t do any good if the liquid core keeps leaking out,” said Jasai, looking up at the farmer. “How are you doing with the crust?”
“This is a lot of fun,” replied Seth. “I got farmland to work in the desert by using a wide river fed from two fresh water lakes over two thousand miles away.”
“What about summer droughts?” asked Raen.
“The lakes are fed from two separate mountain ranges with run-off from the winter snows. If one lake suffers drought, the other lake keeps the river flowing.”
Raen leaned over and looked at the project Seth was working on. “That’s very clever. That region could produce wheat year round; it would probably produce enough wheat for a third of the planet.”
Seth waved his hand over the map. “I’m going to cut many smaller secondary rivers from the primary river out onto a flat plain.”
Raen nodded. “Tiger country.”
“Yes, I think this plain could support a wide variety of feed herds for the tigers.”
“It’s impressive how fast you’re picking this up,” said Jasai. “I’m having a terrible time trying to get these modules to go together.”
“I think a planet is a lot like an engine, and the Mekan are good at fixing engines,” said Seth. “Little Seth has been studying those technical manuals you gave him. He fixed that one food processor that was making everything taste like cardboard.”
“What was wrong with it?” asked Raen.
“There was a bacterial contamination in the matter pack, the machine was killing the bacteria as it made the food, but that resulted in giving the food a bad taste.”
“How did he fix it?” asked Jasai.
“He tossed the contaminated matter pack out, then pulled the machine apart and cleaned every component with a cleaning fluid he found in the maintenance locker for exactly that purpose.”
Jasai looked over at Zil at the end of the table. He was building his own planet, though Jasai had no intention of letting it leave the drawing board. Zil was stacking mountains on top of each other. She tipped her head to the side as Zil stacked the last mountain and connected the planet with the moon. She motioned for Raen to look. Zil stepped back and Raen pressed the test button.
“Planet viable,” said a soft A.I. voice.
Raen laughed. “Figures, only Zil could have done that.”
Zil looked up proudly. “Now we can walk to the moon.”
Jasai looked closer at Zil’s planet. The modules he’d used weren’t even matching modules, there was no way the planet he’d designed should be able to work.
Zil waved his planet aside and started a new planet.
“I don’t know how he does stuff like that,” said Jasai, going back to her planet that was now dripping the molten core onto the table. Frustrated, she hit the reset button to start over. The broken planet disappeared.
A beeping sound caused Jasai to turn and look at the computer screens. Raen looked up as well. “What’s that?” asked Raen.
Jasai went to the chair in front of the terminal and sat down. A new panel she hadn’t seen before rose from the console. She examined it and shook her head. She really needed a translation module. The only way she had found so far to deal with the translation problem was to run a cable into the computer room and connect it to the train’s A.I.
“A.I., what’s all the warning lights about?” asked Jasai.
“There are ten ships gathering along the coast, along with an army of three hundred soldiers on horseback,” replied the A.I.
“Can we see?” asked Jasai.
The monitor flickered on and showed the coast of the mainland where ten ships were anchored at the mouth of a river. She could also see horses, men, campfires, and perhaps some vehicles. Farmer Seth came over and leaned over her shoulder.
“That is the Medo fleet, the Aomo Knights, and would you look at that, the Santi have brought their Crawlers,” said Seth shaking his head. “They mean to war with someone, those Crawlers are the most powerful war machines ever built by the Jinn.”
Jasai looked up at Seth, then at the monitor, then at Seth, and then back to the monitor. “A.I., zoom in on those vehicles.”
The image zoomed in to show the large well-polished vehicles. Jasai leaned forward, then looked back at Seth with a raised brow.
Seth laughed. “I’m getting used to that expression,” said Seth. “Whenever you look at me like I’ve eaten a bug, it means I’ve said something I believe to be true, but isn’t.”
“Umm…those are not war machines, those are garbage trucks,” said Jasai.
“Why would you call the great Crawlers of the Santi Nation, garbage?” asked Seth. “Those Crawlers once patrolled all the cities and kept them safe, until most of them finally broke down.”
“How long ago was that?” asked Jasai.
“Hmm, I suppose two or three thousand years ago when most of the tech left behind by the Jinn started to break down.”
Raen leaned in and looked at the vehicles. “Jasai, they’ve gutted the interiors and are using them as armored personnel carriers. Look, there are archers getting in and out of the back. A.I., zoom in on the front of one of those trucks. Yeah, there, translate what that says on the front of the truck.”
“Cruellor Sanitation Inc.,” replied the A.I.
Seth sighed. “Another piece of what I thought I knew about my world shattered.”
“It’s common for the passage of time to twist the original meaning and purpose of things,” said Raen. “It has happened many times on my own world. The Hawks pressed the entire Sparrow race into slavery over a mistranslation on an ancient Merula stone tablet.”
“The Hawks weren’t the only ones to make such mistakes,” said Jasai. “The Ravens hunted the Owls to extinction because an ancient scroll was mistranslated to indicate they could grant three wishes.”
Raen sat down in the other computer chair. “Okay, so, any idea why they have formed an army?”
Seth shook his head. “I don’t know, but I do know those ships were only made for fishing and close shore defense. They weren’t built to sail this far out to sea. You’ll have to go meet them if you don’t want to see that fleet sink trying to get here.”