6 - Clan Amir: The Shukra War
Copyright 2007 by Ernest Bywater as Ernest Edwards
No one wakes Nancy and Gerry until 8:30 a.m. when Nancy’s mobile phone rings. Rolling over she’s surprised to knock into Gerry. Smiling, she half climbs over him to answer her phone on the bedside table. Naturally this activity wakes him. He waits until she answers the phone, then he cuddles her and tickles her while he kisses her throat. She’s half distracted and not really listening to the phone. Suddenly she breaks free of his grasp to sit up while saying, “Repeat that, please.” She listens then she hangs up. She turns to Gerry, “We’ve just over an hour to meet my sister at Berana International Airport at nine forty-five a.m. They waited until well after the plane took off before calling.”
Gerry sits up while laughing as he says, “Start the shower, I’ll make a phone call and join you. That’ll save time and water.” Giggling, she gets out of bed and heads for the shower. Picking up the phone he dials a number. When they answer he says, “Hi, Bruno, Gerry here, I need the big Jumping Jack at Far View in twenty minutes ready for a quick trip to Berana International and return, please.” He hangs up and goes to the shower. They spend a few minutes kissing while washing each other’s backs. Ten minutes later they’re dressed and leaving the room.
In the dining room they grab some sandwiches and juices. Gerry tells Meara where they’re going and why. She slowly nods while she signals for Vicky and Isobelle to go with them. This first wife runs her family her way, all know it and obey her. Vicky and Isobelle leave their half-eaten breakfasts so Gerry grabs extra sandwiches and fruit while they grab extra drinks.
They arrive at the car park at the same time as Birdman XV 6 (X for experimental), a VTOL (Vertical Take Off and Landing) aircraft lands. The aircraft is designed by Gerry and it’s made by one of his companies. They climb aboard and the plane starts rising while they’re still finding seats. At one hundred and fifty metres the engines rotate and the plane moves forward. Rotating the engines is an old idea that works well, so he uses it on this plane.
Berana International Airport
At 9:35 a.m. XV 6 is landing at the Birdman facility on the edge of Berana International Airport. They’ve no trouble in doing so because Birdman Aircraft has a landing approach lane of their own which doesn’t interfere with the other approach lanes. Quite a few people watch the aircraft land because there’s been talk about their new VTOL private jet and this is the first time it’s been out in public. That usually doesn’t happen until after a very public launch. The plane taxis into a hangar, the hangar doors close, then Gerry and company disembark. They all get into a runway van and are driven across to the International Arrivals Terminal.
Nancy is impressed with his fast arrangements. At 9:45 a.m. they’re watching Shukra passengers walk through the boarding tunnel. Gerry recognises people in one group of passengers. He steps aside to take out his mobile phone and he call the headquarters of the 4th Claymore, The Falling Angels. They’re located between Berana and the airport. He orders two companies to the airport for a special security detail.
He also phones his sister, Carly. She’s in Berana due to having done a public relations task yesterday then staying in town to watch a live show tonight. He asks her to come to the airport because she may be needed for another PR task here.
Walking back to Nancy he sees her standing in the middle of the people he recognised. She’s giving them all welcoming hugs after they leave the customs barrier. She introduces him to her sister Lillian. He looks at them both for a moment before he bursts out laughing. Both stare at him as if he’s mad. Calming down he says, “Sorry, but I just realised someone had a huge joke at my expense.” He turns to Lillian, “How many Dragon’s Teeth in your party?” Both girls are shocked by this question because he shouldn’t know to ask it.
Lillian gulps while she wonders how he knows she has Dragon’s Teeth in her party. She says, “I could only sneak five out.”
“Damn, follow me with your whole entourage, please.” Pulling out an identity card Gerry approaches one of the airport security guards, “Open the secure waiting room and place the airport on Amber Alert.” The guard looks at Gerry before he glances at the identity card. His face goes white then he speaks into his radio. He unlocks a high security room just off the reception area. Both girls wonder at the man’s reaction.
Gerry ushers the new party of seventeen plus his own group into the room while he places two of his security guards on the entrance. Inside he turns to Lillian and Nancy while saying, “You’re father has a nasty sense of humour. He played me for a right fool.” Both stare at him, then Lillian suddenly reaches out to grab his left hand. Rolling up the sleeve she looks at the surgery scars, then she rolls the sleeve back down while laughing hard.
Opening her bag she removes a long wrapped package. Turning to Nancy she says, “Late yesterday father had a talk with the Clan Father. It seems a young man was seeking father’s approval to court you.” Nancy turns to stare at Gerry. “Father told me to tell you he approves. He strongly recommends the match. He also gave me this to give to you.” She hands the package over, and Nancy starts to open it. When she uncovers the handle of a sword she knows she stops to stare at it, then she looks at her sister. Lillian nods yes, and Nancy re-wraps it.
Lillian turns to Gerry to hand him a similar package as she says, “Father said to give this to you without opening it. He said ‘I trust your judgement, give it to the most deserving. I recognise the problems you face in this, so I free you to use your rules or ours. I know you’ll do what’s best in regards to this.’ I don’t understand it, but here it is.”
Accepting the package Gerry suspects he knows what it is. He half opens it while hiding it so none can see what it is. It’s the Shukri Honour Blade. While slowly nodding he re-wraps it and he sticks it in his belt. Turning back to Lillian he says, “Princess Lillian, I accept this responsibility and great honour your father, King Ahdeed, has placed upon me. I’ll discharge it with all of my skill and knowledge.” Turning to Nancy he says, “Now, you, Little Fox, when we get back home I’m sitting you to table.” The tribal term for a formal marriage proposal ceremony.
A widely grinning Nancy asks, “Is it permissible for me to roll up the hide while you’re still unrolling it?” They all laugh.
He sternly says, “But then I don’t get time to place everything on it properly! You have to wait until it’s set out properly, and you’re asked by Meara.” She nods yes, because it’s clear to all she’s accepting his proposal of marriage.
The door opens and Major Worthing of the 4th Claymore walks into the room. After looking about he walks over to Gerry. He salutes as he says, “I’ve brought D, E, and F companies, Sir. We’ve one company inside the building with the other two in the surrounding grounds.” Gerry nods his approval.
Lillian and Nancy stare at Gerry. The door opens to let in Princess Carly and Lord Robert with their platoon of 1st Claymore security staff. She walks over while saying, “OK, Gerry, what am I needed here for.” Nancy stares at Gerry, very wide-eyed, while Lillian laughs.
Gerry says, “Sorry, Nancy, but you’re not the only one with family in high places.” Turning to Carly he says, “Carly, this is Princess Lillian of Shukra, I need for you to officially welcome her to Berant. We need a three ring circus of her very public entry into the country. We also need to acknowledge she brought several siblings with her, but the media doesn’t need to see them. Also, we don’t need to make her itinerary public. How quickly can you get the media people set up?”
She smiles, “That’s easy, little brother. When I left my town house they followed me. When they saw the Guards here they started filming. I need only wave and we’ll be knee deep in them. If Princess Lillian will come with me to the official reception lounge we can get started.”
Gerry replies, “In a moment, because she has five Dragon’s Teeth with her and I want them in attendance in their full uniforms.” He looks at Lillian, and she nods at the leader of her guard. They take off their carry bags, and they start getting changed. “Carly, when this is finished we’ll be at the Birdman hangar. Can you have Robert sneak them over there, then we’ll fly home.” She nods her agreement.
Nancy moves to stand in front of Gerry while saying, “Little brother! Exactly who are you? Who have I agreed to marry?”
Carly laughs then she says, “Oh dear, this has to be Nancy! I can see why Meara wants her to be Chief Wife.”
Nancy spins around to stare at Carly for a moment. Turning back to Gerry she glares at him hard - very hard.
After taking a deep breath Gerry says, “Your wicked father was standing beside me when I asked your Clan Father who your father was because I wished to formally court you. He then said he knew your father well and would recommend me to him. He didn’t indicate your relationship at all. When you introduced Princess Lillian as your sister I knew he’d had a good laugh at my expense, and at your security, because, by then, he knew I often sign official documents as Edward, Prince Royal. Also, Meara would like you to be our Chief Wife because she thinks you’ll be a very good one, and I agree with her. But please act like you hadn’t heard when she asks you, or she’ll roast us all for dinner.”
Nancy laughs, “Oh dear! I was worried father would object to me agreeing to be the junior wife of a foreign businessman. However, he knows, before I do, I’ll be the chief wife of the most powerful person in the region. Yes, I bet he’s laughing at both of us and our silly security measures.”
A few minutes later Princess Carly, Princess Lillian, Lord Robert, and a contingent of security guards from both countries leave for the official reception lounge and a media conference. Lord Robert is calling the media people while they walk through the terminal, since all of the major ones have people at the airport they’re quick to send them to the reception lounge. Soon after they leave the room another plane disembarks. When the people pass through the waiting area the security lounge opens and a large group of travellers walks off with them.
Several minutes later Gerry’s enlarged entourage is in the Birdman bus and the bus is heading back to the hangar. Arriving in the hangar he sends the bus back for Lillian, with Vicky going to act as the guide. The rest climb aboard the plane to make themselves comfortable while they sit to wait for the rest of their small party.
Both the Princesses make a big show of the official welcome, and they mention the need for secrecy in transit on public transport. Princess Lillian explains she’ll be in the country for some weeks. Several of her siblings are with her and they’ll be visiting with many Shukra citizens who are studying at Berant educational institutions. They’ll also take the opportunity to visit various business and manufacturing operations to encourage their expansion into Shukra. The media event is a big success and the media people are very quick to disperse after the ten minute interview, because they want to get their reports lodged and out to the public a.s.a.p. Princess Carly and Lord Robert leave, heading for the car park with Princess Lillian. No one notices Princess Lillian and her guards vanish before they reach the secure car park. Five minutes later the Shukra group are boarding the plane in the Birdman hangar. Ten minutes after that XV 6 is departing Berana International Airport. Soon after take-off they pass over Princess Carly’s convoy driving back into the city, and the three companies of the 4th Claymore are leaving the airport on their way back to their barracks.
Note: When this news is broadcast overseas some people in the USA and in Shukra are upset several members of the Shukra Royal Family are outside of Shukra, and they will be for some weeks. It means they can’t kill or control the whole family if they act before they return to Shukra. Which is a pain, because things are almost ready for them to act right now, and any delays could destroy all of their plans. They decide they’ll just have to see how things go once they start.
Shukra Royal Place
At 8:30 a.m. King Ahdeed is in a conference with his top advisers to sort out some problems. From the information given him yesterday he now knows all but two of them are traitors. One general raises the issue of the mountain brigands again. There are raiders in both the southern and western mountains who are causing real damage and trouble in the areas. There’s talk neither the King nor the government care about what’s happening to the people in them because they’re too far from the capital. The worst is the western mountains. Another general again raises the concern one of his generals, the only loyal general in the room, isn’t doing his job well. Also, two coastal governors are complaining they need more troops to control local trouble makers. The locals have complained the governors are corrupt and they’re the ones who are causing the trouble. Much discussion goes on about how to deal with these issues.
After forty minutes King Ahdeed says, “Some of these issues can only be resolved by deploying troops. Colonel Habeen will take over the duties of Prince Fredrick at the communications centre because they’re both colonels, and Prince Frederick will take the Third Regiment into the western mountains to seek out the bandits. Write the orders so they can move out today. They’re to pursue and engage the bandits until they’ve the bodies of the top five bandit leaders to bring to us. We know who they are. They’re to stay in the mountains fighting the bandits until all five leaders are dead. Failure to comply will be seen as treason. The fact I’m sending my son and heir will show everyone we’re serious about dealing with this. I want those bandits finally finished. I want this group of bandits completely destroyed.”
Some of the generals aren’t happy because the 3rd Regiment is full of their supporters and are their best troops. These orders will put them in the mountains for some weeks or months. But they can’t object as it puts one of their best in the communications centre, an important spot where they’d not been able to place anyone high. General Ashmed writes the orders, signs them, and hands them to the King for counter signature. The King adds to the orders, ‘The Third is to actively pursue the bandits, leaving badly wounded with locals, and are not to break off to return wounded to hospitals until the mission is completed.’
King Ahdeed says, “That’s one issue. With the southern mountains we’ll deploy Prince Mashir and his company of the Eighth Regiment into the southern mountains. It’s outside the Eighth’s usual area, but it will show how serious we are. Sending in extra troops with a Prince in command will show our support for the local people. I’ll also send along F Company of the King’s Guard to support him. Two companies of extra troops, one of the Dragon’s Teeth, and under a Prince. That’ll show we care.” Again the generals aren’t happy with this very valid action. It makes the task in the capital easier by moving some of the King’s Guard out, but it also puts Prince Mashir out of immediate danger and out from under their control. Another mixed blessing.
General Ashmed asks, “Your Highness, what about the Ninth District and the coastal governors?”
“With the Third in the mountains we don’t want to send any more of the Army out because that’ll weaken the city’s defences, but they need combat troops for control in some areas. Hmm. Well, for the Ninth District we’ll try a change of command. Order General Maskeer to Shumeer and he can take over duty as the First District’s Second in Command while General Mendar will take over as Commander of the First District. General Shendar can take over command of the Ninth District as he’s a very able administrator and a good diplomat. He should be able to calm them down. Hopefully he can sort that out without recourse to military action. As for the coastal governors, a few platoons of King’s Guards in each area of concern should be able to control the troublemakers. Well, anything else of importance?” They all shake their heads no. These changes will give the rebels the final controls they need to have while weakening the palace defences. Overall, the traitors are happy with the outcomes of today’s meeting.
When they leave the conference room Princess Adriana, the eldest of the non-adult Princesses, as she’s fifteen years old, approaches King Ahdeed and asks, “Father, can I go to the country estate early this year? The city is so hot while the estate is so cool and comfortable at this time of year.”
King Ahdeed smiles as he replies, “No reason why not. Organise to take most of the palace staff, your younger siblings, and a company of the King’s Guard. You can go as soon as you’re organised. That gives you plenty of time to learn how to instruct the staff in preparing the estate, and I’ll join you the week after next. You’ll have two weeks to supervise them getting it ready.” Smiling, she departs to get things organised.
Twenty minutes later, in his private apartments, King Ahdeed briefs Prince Frederick, Prince Mashir (by phone), Princess Adriana, and Colonel Daneer on the rebellion and his actions to counter it. Prince Frederick is already dying of cancer, but no one outside of the family and his doctor knows this. His job is to actively pursue the bandits and to engage them in combat to the extent they become non-existent. He isn’t to concern himself with losses amongst his troops because they’re all traitors. This way the traitors can do the country some good while they die. They all like the plan. Prince Mashir is to do what he can about the southern bandits, but he’s to escape to Berant with as many loyal troops as possible when the rebellion starts. He and the Dragon’s Teeth will form the core of the counter revolutionary forces. F Company is to go with him. E Company will accompany Princess Adriana while they go to the country estate, and then continue south to Berant in secret. D and C Companies are to go to the coastal areas to arrest and execute the two governors for corruption. The King hands over the evidence provided by Gerry’s spies. They’re to stay there in hiding and to help protect the people. B Company will stay at the palace to make it look as if the bulk of the King’s Guard are still present. When the attack comes they’re to protect the remainder of the palace retainers while they go to safety. They’re to try to make for Berant or the Berant embassy or the coast; whichever seems best at the time. Hiding until recalled. A Company, the Eye Teeth, will stay with the King and cover their withdrawal. When the King falls the remaining King’s Guard are to save themselves for later action. None are happy with his battle plans, but they agree to them because they’re the orders of their king.
King Ahdeed is happy because most of the palace’s small children, his and the palace staff’s, have already left for safe harbours. The Clan Father is passing the word, and those that can leave are going on holidays early. Those that can’t leave are making arrangements to seek safety at the Berant Embassy when the trouble starts. He can do no more to help his people. Now he must play the fool so his people can get set to save as many of the people as possible.
That afternoon Nancy calls to tell him she’s agreed to become Gerry’s wife. He smiles because she sounds so happy. He gives her some final advice by saying, “Nancy, remember your husband’s now more important than anything else, anything. You must always obey him, always. Also, I ask you to remember the legends, because we now live in a time of change, a time of prophesy. It’s time for the legends to be fulfilled. In you the two reeds now become one again.”
A surprised Nancy takes a deep breath before she replies, “Yes, Father, I’ll remember, and I’ll follow your advice. We love you, good-bye.” She hangs up with tears in her eyes because that sounded so much like a farewell speech.
Gerry hugs her while saying, “I know, love, he knows, they all know. Remember his words, because they’ll probably be the last you hear from him. The traitors plan to kill him within the next week or so. He’s done what he can to mitigate the damage to his family, clan, and people. Now we must wait, and prepare to extract revenge when the time is ripe. We won’t need to wait long.” He holds her tight while she cries. Her father is as good as dead, and she mourns him already.