Children of the Light
Chapter 5: Brotherhood and Blood

Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life

Andy and I made our return trip to Aruh right after breakfast. Titan and his two patrol mates had been joined by another three person patrol, and we met Shaker, White Foot, and Eclipse.

These were the abbreviated versions of their names that we used amongst ourselves. Their actual names were much longer and more descriptive. Eclipse was the oldest of the three in the new patrol.

Copper and Slider had no problem with the Yaru. In fact, Slider went over and nuzzled Titan as if he suspected him of hiding an apple somewhere. When I 'looked' through Copper's senses, I realized that the Yaru just smelled like family to the horses.

We had our introductions and then took off across the plains. Titan was setting a quick pace, for his patrol because waiting for us to arrive had put them a couple hours behind, and he was worried about making his scheduled arrival time.

As soon as we established a line of travel I sent my senses ahead, spotting a small rocky outcrop with a few fallen trees on top of it that appeared to be directly on our path, to the northwest, and a good thirty miles ahead of us. One of the Yaru sat in the shade of the fallen trees. Obviously a sentry.

<Are we going to pass that small outcrop of rock with the fallen trees where I see a sentry?> I asked.

<You have good eyes.> Titan answered. <Yes, we will stop there to check in with the sentry before we proceed.>

<Would you mind if I took us there directly?>

<Not at all, but I only hope we do not scare poor Greytail out of his senses.>

So I jumped us to the edge of the outcrop that faced us. We caught Greytail looking the other direction, and Titan made a low 'Hruff' sound, deep in his throat to alert the sentry. The relatively thin Yaru Jumped and spun in mid air to face us. His coat went black and rigid as he did, and he started a loud snarl, until he caught site of Titan and the rest of the patrol.

We 'heard' the mental laughter of the three Yaru as they enjoyed Greytail's embarrassment at being caught unawares.

<Do not let them laugh at you Greytail, > I thought to him. < these tricksters are merely enjoying the benefits of my being able to do this.> I jumped myself and Copper to the other side of Andy and Slider.

<Walkers!> Greytail's amazed thought shouted out. <Walkers have returned?>

"indeed, Greytail. You may not have long to remain here after we arrive at the den. There may be a calling." Titan said in the Yaru speech, followed by a thought to us. <We could be there very quickly if your eyes are still sharp.>

<What do you want me to look for?>

<Can you look through my eyes?>

<Yes.> I said and did.

<Those cliffs?> I asked, seeing them through his eyes.

<Yes. There are caves at the base of them and some Hurim-built things as well.>

Using my own eyes, I zoomed in on the cliffs, another twenty miles or so further to what we would say was the northwest. I could see the caves and more Yaru, as well as the 'Hurim-built' structures, which seemed to be relatively crude wooden buildings of some sort. Zooming out from there, I saw that there was a river a few miles to the south of the caves that ran east and west. Another Hurim built structure marked what might have been a river crossing.

<The horses need to run a little, or they will be disappointed when we return home. Can I jump us to here and let the horses run the rest of the distance?> I sent the image I was seeing to Titan.

<Yes, that would be a good one, there is a sentry there who we will want to send word of our arrival ahead anyway.>

So I jumped us again, and this time we caught the Yaru looking our way when we blinked into existence. He still jumped a little, and his coat made the same amazing transformation that Greytail's had.

"Greetings Boomer!" Titan said out loud to the sentry. "Could you announce our early return, and announce that we are escorting welcome guests? Warn those ahead that we will be coming in at speed, only for the fun of it. There is no emergency."

"At speed?" The sentry asked. "Are you trying to be funny again Titan? You know what Long Night Running thinks of your sense of humor."

"That I do, Boomer. That's what makes it so much fun. You already have a clue what our guests are. No ruining my surprise now!"

"Very well, boy. But you're the one who has to survive the next council meeting, not me."

And then I heard a Yaru speak in the Long Voice for the first time.

Think of wolves howling at the moon, and then imagine the howling is language. In the case of the Yaru, a complex, rich descriptive language.

Perhaps this is how Boomer got his name. I thought to myself as his long call echoed back off the cliff wall a few miles away.

<Let's run!!> Titan thought to us, and we ran! Copper and Strider were in horse heaven, as we ran through the shallow rive crossing, up a shallow dirt bank and onto a stretch of hard packed prairie. At first I worried about how Andy would handle such a hard gallop, and then I worried about how I was going to keep up.

Judging by the expressions on the Yaru faces as we went by, assuming I was correctly able to judge the expressions of a species I had known for a total of one day, we were expected, and a shocking surprise, all at the same time. As we slid by the wooden blur of the buildings I had spotted with my long vision, the terrain suddenly changed to a hard, flat-packed dirt, and then a long shallow climb up a terrace-like slope of rubble, where the brakes got thrown on. Slider showed where his name came from as he did a controlled skid in the gravel, coming to a stop right alongside of Titan.

Copper's stop was a little less dramatic and dignified, which apparently did not make him happy. As soon as we had come to a stop he reared up on his hind legs and let out a long whinny. Yes, I managed to stay aboard and preserve my own dignity, thank you.

Long River-Plain Hunt's leader, Long Night Running literally stood before us, unmoving when we made our dramatic stop, as if waiting for one of us to falter and slide a touch too close and make contact. None of us did, and as soon as the dust settled, Andy let out a huge whoop! Of joy and jumped feet first to the ground before launching himself at Titan's neck and hugging him fiercely.

"That was the most wonderful ride I've ever had, Thanks Titan!!"

It took me a second, but I realized he had spoken in the Yaru language!

<Andy, how can you do that?> I thought at him. And he showed me in his thoughts the simple little adjustment he made, using the Light on his vocal cords. <Nice timing!> I thought to him.

"Greetings Long Night Running, I am Dave McKesson, and this is my son Andy." I said to the Yaru leader.

"Welcome back to the land of the Yaru, Walker. We have been waiting a very long time for you to come back to us. Are we at war again?"

The Yaru leaders words stunned me so completely I blacked out for a split second. My ears were ringing and my heart was beating a mile a minute. Andy's hand on my shoulder brought me out of it.

"We asked for a world where we could raise an army. I guess we weren't thinking that it could mean a world that already had an army waiting to be raised, huh dad?"

The Yaru had long memories indeed. It was what could be called racial, or species memory. Every Yaru born remembered the 'Yaru Stories' and could recite the 'Yaru Knowledge'

Within a couple of hours we had a deal. What a laugh! The first thirty minutes I spent giving my memories to the Yaru elders. The next fifteen minutes was them absorbing what they'd seen, and recovering from some of it. I gave them my entire life, every minute of it. The next hour was spent listening to the Long Night Running tell us what they expected us to do, and the last fifteen minutes were me thanking them profusely and asking if their was anything we could do for them.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" I had said.

When he heard this question I actually saw the leader's eye twitch, followed by a very wolfish grin.

"Yes! You can take Titan with you. Perhaps you can keep him out of trouble, and I can sleep peacefully at night."

So Andy 'got to keep him' after all.

I really did want to do something to celebrate our new allies, and to thank them. I was thinking about that as Titan was getting his 'marching orders' from Long Night Running.

<Buffalo burger?> I thought to Andy.

<For dinner tonight?> I heard the giggle in his thoughts and knew he was just teasing me. <I think that would probably be a big hit with them Dad, especially if you get the buffalo before its burger. Maybe we should ask Titan what he thinks when we get home.>

Idea explored and plan in place, we made our farewells and prepared to take our leave.

Copper and Slider had gotten a raw deal from us when we first arrived. After such a strenuous two mile run. We should have given them a good rubdown and some water at least. But we soon discovered that they were well tended. During the two hours we were with Long Night Running and the other Yaru elders, the horses had been running, drinking water from the nearby stream, eating some of the local foliage and enjoying the company of a half dozen young Yaru.

"Babies!" Said Titan. "The oldest of them is barely thirty cycles."

Titan was fifty cycles himself. That made him only a boy, the Yaru equivalent of Andy, a pre-teen adolescent. No wonder he and Andy became such fast friends.

<Blossom, are you busy?> I sent the thought.

<No sweetie! How's it going?>

<You'll have to follow it in my thought when I tell you, or you won't believe me. The bad news is that Andy got his wish.>


<Does the phrase 'Can I keep him?' ring a bell?>

Somehow without a word or thought, or any invocation of the Light, I could sense my wife, in the midst of the silence that ensued, shaking her head sadly.

<We're dropping the horses off first, and then we'll be home.>

We had a lot of practice in recent years recruiting the best and brightest of the academic community, but in some senses the techniques we had developed where wasted on the kind of people that Legion Team Three wanted. Secrecy was a fact of life for them. Jobs with big payouts and no guarantees were par for the course. So were jobs where you didn't know where you were going until you got there. If then.

They started with people they knew. Former teammates. Those who had instructed them, and those they had instructed. Tony was the most connected of the four of them, and his first thought was the unit once known as 'Fat Eddy'.

Tony and Cyrus met the six surviving members of Fat Eddy at the Mad Cow Bar and Grill, in Porter, halfway between Muskogee and Tulsa, Oklahoma. A couple beer's worth of how the hell ya been's later, Pea Nichols got the real conversation started.

"Obsidian Research, huh?"

"Yup." Tony answered.

"Money's good?"

"Depends. Cyrus and I signed up for a long term gig. We do pretty good."

"Good enough he finally convinced Sylvia Porter to marry him." Cyrus added. "She signed up for the same gig."

"Don't suppose you can tell us where?" Joe Meier asked.

"Nope." Tony answered.

"Don't suppose you can tell us how long?"


"What can you tell us?" Tree Simmons asked.

"Tree, if you sign up, we take care of the 200,000 you owe your ex wife and wipe out the rest of your outstanding debts. Same for the rest of you. When you get on the bus you owe nobody from your old life anything. Chili, that weapons charge they keep hanging over your head down in Natchez will be history."

"What about my kid?" Long Bob Thompson asked. "Who takes care of him while I"m gone?"

"Christ Bob, I'm embarrassed you tried that one. Everyone here knows your kid's in his 3rd year at Indiana State on a full scholarship! What the hell kind of taking care of are you thinking?"

That got a good laugh around the table. They'd been hearing about 'poor little Robby' for years.

"He's a bright kid with a head on his shoulders. How about Obsidian pays for graduate school if he wants it?" Cyrus said.

That was enough to seal the deal for the Fat Eddy crew.

"Listen up!" Tony said after the hubbub began to die down. "For Cyrus and me, Sylvia, Chet alvarez and a lot of other good people, this is a 'Death before Dishonor' kind of deal. I want each of you to look me in the eye and tell me you are prepared for that level of commitment."

They looked, and they swore, and Tony and Cyrus watched the honesty of their thoughts as they did.

"Okay! Cyrus?"

Cyrus pulled out his cellphone and hit a quick dial.

"Team three. We're a go." Cyrus said into the phone. The rest of the table got to listen to one side of a quick phone call.

"Yes, all six. The scholarship for the kid too, just like we figured ... Okay, where?... 4 weeks ... Okay."

"Congratulations meat. The deal is sealed. The money men are taking care of things as we speak."

Cyrus pulled a thick envelope from his jacket and began handing cell phones similar to his own to each person. An Obsidian branded credit card was also handed to each of them

"Your lives are now on Obsidian's dime. Four weeks from now we will be having lunch at my Uncle Chunk's place. You show up there and the show begins. Anyone need directions?"

"What do we do in the meantime?" Tree asked. "We on vacation?"

"Each one of you needs to recruit two more people. Our kind of people. You call me or Tony to arrange a meet with them. We're on quick dial in these phones already. If you find 'em tomorrow, then you get three weeks and six days of vacation at our expense."

"Don't anyone bother trying Pinky Wallace and his crew. He's our next stop." Tony said.

Ambrose McKesson had no problem finding his candidates, they too were a unique bunch. In the military organizations of the worlds major powers, you rose up the ranks on utter merit. To a certain point. To advance beyond that point required a willingness to play politics. Ambrose wasn't interested in the men and women who liked to play politics anyway, so he just set his sights on those of high ranks who hit that ceiling and bounced.

Ambrose's principal targets in the United States were Commodore Stephen 'Ducky' Brenneman (retired), Colonel Haywood Covington USMC (retired), and Brigadier General Randall Tyler USAF (retired). Those three, along with his top British candidate, Commander Admiral Geoffry Butler Symington of the Royal Navy (retired), and the now bitter and unemployed former soviet submarine commander Victor Emanoff were now sitting with him at a corner table in the back of Bull Feeney's in Portland, Maine. The good natured banter between Symington and the Americans was countered by the seemingly perpetual glare of Emanoff.

Ambrose had made his arrangements through a third party, seeing as how the world thought of him not only as dead, but as spectacularly dead in that dramatic and supposedly deadly explosion at sea.

So when it was Ambrose who walked up to their table and sat down, rather than their expected host, they forgot their banter and their bad mood and simply stared.

"Welcome gentlemen! I suppose you are all wondering why I"ve asked you here today?" Ambrose began with a chuckle. "I've always wanted to be able to say that. I finally got my chance."

"Ducky and I assumed someone was trying to form a think tank of some kind to tackle a military problem." Haywood Covington said. "But you're dead, so I guess not?"

"A ghost must have interesting tales to tell." Victor Emanoff spoke suddenly, with far more spirit than before."

"I suppose Howard Dexter isn't dead either then?" Randy Tyler asked.

"I am not in a position to answer those kind of questions until we have a deal, if we can reach one." Ambrose said to them. "You all know me only because I made a considerable effort many years ago to stay connected to the services after I left. I missed the life and enjoyed the people. Even you Victor!"

That drew a laugh, and their waiter arrived in the middle and waited for it to die down before placing their drink order on the table.

"No vodka, Victor?" Ambrose asked.

"Beer is to keep the hands busy now. Vodka is for celebrating after the deal is done."

"Very sensible!" Geoffrey said, raising his glass. "To honorable service!"

They drank their toast, and as the glasses touched the table, Ambrose had five pairs of eyes on him.

"Gentlemen, those I represent are in need of military thinkers, it is true, but we are not looking to start a think tank or craft a position paper or any of the things dry old retired officers of your rank and experience get asked to do. What we need are men who can still be strategists and tacticians and commanders. We need leaders of men who can build a military force and wage war with it."

"You are asking us to help you create a military force for some third world country? Is this where you've been hiding?" Stephen Brenneman asked.

"No, I"m not." Ambrose answered.

"Then is this the final corporate takeover, is this a Blackwater on steroids kind of deal where the McKesson Group or Obsidian Technologies gets a private army?" Haywood asked.

"No, its not that either." Ambrose answered. "Here's the dilemma, and the reason your five were picked out of all the possible retirees of our acquaintance. You're good at what you do, you're very much not political, and you all have nothing to loose."

"I still have hopes of getting my daughter and her children out of Kyrgyzstan." Victor said angrily. "That worthless husband of hers betrayed our people and her, and paid for his mistakes with his life, but the petty tyrants in charge there will not release them!"

"We all understand your problem Victor, but we all know there is little chance you will succeed on your own. I will tell you that we will aid you in those efforts once you sign on."

"What's the catch?" Randy Tyler asked.

"There are multiple catches gentlemen. One: You will be asked to create a force using tools unfamiliar to you. Two: You will face an enemy you are not familiar with. Three: the theater of operations is completely outside of your experience. Four: Failure could well mean many deaths including your own. And Five: Even if we succeed, it could mean never returning to the places or people you know."

"You paint a rosy picture!" Geoffrey said.

"There are things I cannot tell you at this time which would make this picture seem better than it does at the moment. Here's the only hint I'll give you. Say yes and A.J. McKesson will personally thank you."

"We are all naval and air force. No ground action?" Victor asked.

"I am not the only recruiter." Was all Ambrose said in reply.

It took three more hours before Victor switched from beer to vodka, but he was the last to be convinced.

Ambrose pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and hit a quick dial. Everyone at the table listened to Ambrose's side of the conversation.

"Ambrose, its a go ... yes, all five?" Good ... Yes, and the daughter and grandchildren. Of course."

Ambrose put the cell phone back in a pocket and pulled out a heavy paper envelope from which he began pulling cell phones and credit cards, handing one each to the five men.

"You are now on the payroll. My number is already entered in each of these as the first quick dial. Mr. Symington, you could, if you tried, use that card to pay off your considerable debts back home, but they have just been taken care of. The post-it note on the back of the credit card lists the address of where we will be meeting in three weeks."

Mor Grestain had the enviable ability of just contacting the Board of High Governors and saying "The Spirit Masters need our best military minds."

"Make your selections. Take who you need. We will officially reassign them to detached status." Was the word that came back. The Governor's took all of ten minutes to debate the issue before making their decision.

"Arden, welcome to the biggest, most impossible to miss secret in the universe." I said.

Con, Arden and I were standing in front of the infamous 'fifth ring' on Obsidian. The Arena, our Hall of War.

The Arena was a single open space almost a mile wide and almost fifteen stories tall. The thirty feet of space between the inner wall and the outer wall included an observation ring, a row of seats that ran completely around the inner surface. Four control rooms were spaced equidistantly around the perimeter.

I led the three of us to one of the control rooms. Arden's eyes moved back and forth across the many displays and view screens that showed the open space beyond.

"Its like we have our own Danger Room!" Arden said suddenly.

"I've always thought of it as the world's biggest Holodeck!" I argued. It is also the worlds biggest cooperative simulator array. The observation ring contains a total of 300 simulator stations, all of which can be tied into the same interactive holo-projection. Here is where our military geniuses will teach themselves about the weapons we give them and develop the strategy and tactics that best use them.

Before they can do that, you two will bury yourselves in the Arena database and find those tools. Don't try looking for the perfect choice, include anything that looks promising. We'll let the military types decide which of your choices are best suited. If you find a category that looks promising, just flag the entire thing.

Con, for the moment I don't want anyone else in here except you guys. Can you set something up?"

"Of course. I'll activate the palm scanner screens at the doors, just like the ones we had back at the old house. You'll both have to do the activation routine, but you're used to it. Quick and painless. One of us will have to let the warriors in when the time comes."

We did the scanner routine and I left them to their work. As I left, I heard Arden telling Con, "Okay, what kind of menu options does this thing have. Can we pick categories, like 'battle cruiser', and just see what we get?"

I jumped back home in time to see Serenity riding Titan across the front lawn, chasing a running Andy, waving her arms and squealing with joy. Ginny was sitting in the porch swing watching. I sat beside her and leaned in to kiss her cheek.

"How are you handling it?"

"I send you off to do a simple little thing. Find a world to train your army on. Instead you return with a second adolescent male to add to our household. A 500 pound, eight foot long adolescent!"

"I'll be taking him with me as much as possible, if that helps. Titan's not breaking things or scaring the help is he?"

"No, its the young boy mentality and enthusiasm more than anything. Andy keeps him pretty busy during the day." She sighed and smiled. "Andy said something about the three of you making a shopping trip?"

"Not exactly shopping. We're going to go pick up a present for Titan's kin back on Aruh after lunch. We shouldn't be gone more than a couple of hours unless the Yaru need us for something."

We watched the kids play with Titan for an hour or so, until Shelaana came out to get us all for lunch. Titan sat out on the back patio while we ate.

We had identified more than a dozen worlds so far that were habitable but not currently occupied by a society of intelligent beings. Some, like Mesa were habitable but impractical. Some, like Pearl, were habitable but dangerous. And then there was Kite, habitable but doomed.

Of these worlds two had untouched buffalo herds like Meadow. Shrike was an otherwise gorgeous world, but one with a predatory and lethal bird species that hunted in swarms. We left it alone. The second of the two was Cascade.

Cascade was one of the worlds we had designated for settling when and if the time came that we could let the people of Earth know of the existence of facets, and of our ability to travel to them. In the meantime, there were the buffalo.

We jumped to Cascade at midmorning, local to the region the buffalo were currently moving through. I put the three of us on a high bluff overlooking a sea of grass and within it a great, wide brown river of flesh.

Titan's coat went hard, and the colors cycled through dark blue to mint green and back several times.

"These are the creatures whose meat I tasted last night?" Titan said.

"They are called Buffalo." I said, "We have a herd like this on the facet where we have our home as well."

"I know the meat of these creatures is the present you wish to give my people." Titan said. "But if you were to let the Yaru elders come and hunt these creatures themselves, it would be a present that could never be equaled."

"We had these animals in numbers like this on the facet of my birth as well Titan, and we managed to hunt them almost to extinction, as did our allies the Taluat on their world. We would have to manage the herds here so this could not be repeated."

"You would not get any disagreement from the Yaru in that regard. We learned this lesson at our own hands long ago, though the Strilem were nothing like these magnificent creatures!"

"Perhaps the hunt could be used by the Yaru as a rite of passage, to mark the entry into adulthood?" Andy said from beside me.

I turned and gave him a stare.

"What?!" He said. "I read books!"

"Titan, I know you a little, after these past few days, and I know that if there were a path to this place that was always open to you, but the elders told you that you must have permission to come, you would honor their request. But I do not know the Yaru as a people. Do you have lawbreakers and thieves? Do you have those who would take what was not theirs?"

"Yes, we do." Titan said, his coat going all white and ruffled. There is great shame when a Hunt produces a rogue, but the greater shame would be in not bringing them to justice and making an example of them to the young."

"Then we need a gate with access that can be controlled by the Elders." I said. "Andy, any ideas?"

"Well, how about something like the Sonox necklace we've given to Titan? Something they could wear, like we do with our bracelets."

"I was thinking the necklaces would be combat gear for all the Yaru who saw action against the Sh'kxu. They'll need it if they are going to keep millions of Preci calm in the middle of a war." I said. "Still, that's a practical idea. We should check with Constantine. The necklace idea was a good quick solution for Titan, but with time to think about it he may probably come up with something better suited to the long haul."

"In the meantime, we have the buffalo question to deal with." Andy reminded me.

"Titan, what if we take back one of them now as a sample, and offer to bring the elders here to show them. We can discuss options with them then."

"That would be best. The elders are not overly prideful, but they do have their pride. They will appreciate being consulted from the beginning. And it would be a singular honor to be given the chance to make the first hunt."

"You should have the honor of the first kill, Titan. But not the first hunt?" Andy asked.

"A wise distinction, Andy. Yes, having the first kill would improve my standing, while leaving the elders the honor of the first hunt."

So I culled one of the stragglers from the back of the herd, jumping it to the rock and shrub covered slope behind the bluff we stood on. Titan made a quick kill, which made Andy's eyes go wide. Hell, it made my eyes go wide. It is one thing to know someone is capable of such carnage, but another to see them wreaking it.

Titan stood, his forepaws on the hind haunch of the dead buffalo, his eyes gleaming with the feeling of the kill, and his coat stiff and jet black when I jumped the three of us to the dry packed dirt approach to the rubble slope in front of the den. The second we appeared Titan roared word of his kill in the Long Voice.

Long Night Running and his second in command Mudfoot came immediately in response to Titan's call. Seeing the three of us, and the buffalo, and Titan hovering over it, he shook his head in almost a human way.

<Dave, have you given Titan his own hunting grounds? He seems quite pleased with himself at the moment.>

Some small little rituals of the pack happened then, probably of more importance than the casualness with which they seemed to happen would indicate.

Long Night Running approached Titan and the buffalo, and Titan backed away at last from his kill. Long Night running gave the buffalo an examination with his nose, and finally reached down and tore the heavy hide over the neck with his sharp teeth. He then howled in the Long Voice. Finally he approached Titan and the two Yaru stood nose to nose for long moment until finally Long Night Running turned, and faced back to the den. Titan 'whuffed' something and walked up to stand alongside and just slightly behind his leader.

There is more of this chapter...

To read this story you need a Registration + Premier Membership
If you're already registered, then please Log In or Register (Why register?)