The coming of the Mihai
They filled the hall to bursting point, all colours of the rainbow, all sizes and all forms. The jostled each other and made noise, Shan frowned in annoyance, he did not approve that The Master had made this such a public affair, the locals were not friendly and in a situation like this it was far to easy for things to get out of hand.
".....The sentence is death." As the Master finished his summing up Shan brought his attention back to his immediate vicinity and to the man who stood alone up in the box. A strange man this was, Shan couldn't place his finger on it, but this man was different to the rest of the occupants of this planet. Never had Shan found himself in such a bizarre environment, and he had a feeling that this man was directly responsible for the state. "Are there any protestations against the ruling?" There was a slight pause after the Master spoke, then a figure pushed its way forward.
"I have protestations...and I also have a warning." The figure Shan saw, was an elderly man with weak and watery eyes and a weary, etched face.
"Halan...please do not." It was softly spoken, and yet everyone knew who spoke.
"Kihairu, we cannot let this continue." The old man leant more heavily on his stick. "They have invaded us for fifteen years already, it is unlikely they will leave before that Calarny. We must tell them and give them the option. It is bad for our people and bad for our planet that you are so rarely to be seen."
"Halan, they make their own choice. The truth has been there for them to see. You cannot wake a man who is pretending to sleep, no more can you make them see what they wish to deny. Take back your protestation, they will only kill you for making it."
"I cannot Kihairu, my conscience forbids it."
"So be it, Halan. Your protestation is for passing."
"The prisoner cannot decide on the passing or otherwise of a protestation." The Master jerked forward in his seat.
"This prisoner can." Halan gave a cracked chuckle. "Kihairu here could free himself whenever he felt so inclined. He could also kill all of you. Learn your history fast master lest it be of your undoing. Kihairu here is Kihairu of the Mihai...we stand in the hall of the Mihai...the Mihai are the unkillable and the rulers of our planet. Learn or leave Master, lest you reach Calarny without learning." Halan gave another cracked chuckle.
"Seize him." The whisper from the Master lashed through the room. But before any of the guards could reach the man a blue wall pulsed through the crowd and surrounded Halan, the old man continued walking, protected from any possible attack by the blue wall of energy. "I SAID SEIZE HIM!" The Master yelled.
"Master, we cannot." Shan gravely stepped forward. "On our travels we have seen many of these, they are what destroy out factories, if we were to try to touch him we would be consumed."
"A most learned guard." The prisoner leant forward, and it took the guards a moment to realise that he was without his bonds. "Let this be a warning to you master. Only the Mihai can rule this planet. Kill one person here and you will pay many times the price, hurt one person and so too will you hurt many times as much. If you have any complaints, make them to the cats in Chai'tor, they will see that we hear and we will act according to the law of the planet. Take the law in your hands and the whole planet will know and the whole planet will respond." Dead silence followed this for a minute. "You have fifteen years to decide whether to remain or leave, but your life will become no easier. This planet is not a rogue for nothing, in fifteen years Calarny will come and with Calarny comes much suffering. We cannot have discard in the planet when Calarny comes. Take this as a warning and no more, I will now say goodbye for the time being." There was a slight shimmer through the room, then Shan realised the prisoner was with them no longer, he had vanished as if he had never been there.
Chapter 1: 14 years later
The room was long and dark, the only lighting provided by a single screen and it reflected back off a face sunk in concentration. Across the screen figures danced and spun in mindless miriads of complex combinations, combining and separating, weaving and mingling. Colours flash occasionally and light the immediate surroundings in a gruesome greenness.
"Layn." Halan lent heavily on his stick as he crossed to the figure in front of the screen. There was no response at all, not even by the flicker of an eyelash. Halan frowned and poked his stick a the motionless back, the air shimmered and with a faint crack and the smell of energy the end of Halan's stick seemed to vanish. Halan gave a grunt and settled on a nearby rock, his eyes fixed on the motionless figure. Slowly the minutes past with neither person moving, then there was a movement from the man in front of the screen, a slight trembling at the bottom of his hand, a drop formed then fell to land on the gleaming table top with a faint splat. Some minutes later the drop was joined by a second and then by a third, and a fourth and a fifth, the pool continued to grow as each drop fell.
"Kihairu!" There was a loud crash and light flooded in from the far end of the room, but even this interruption had no effect, other than for the red pool to tremble.
"Peace Mihairu." The voice was deep and soft. "He will not suffer permanently and we do need these answers."
"But Shanaka, both Mihaira and I have to deal with this as well..."
"But neither of you can access those codes. He will stop before it is too late." Mihairu frowned darkly then moved away. "We've got a big problem down south."
"The poles moving already are they?.....Let's see how long the illustrious invaders take to realise it, and in the meantime lets hope that Layn finishes the current train of thought before tomorrow."
"Where's Halan?" Mihairu was frowning darkly, he hated it when this started.
"Inside, he'll call Layn if he thinks the problem is getting serious."
"Off checking up on the Master." There was a slight pause. "You wonder far to much my friend, but do be kind and go find where that Kan'Rae guard has got to."
"The one they call Shan?"
"Yes, the one they call Shan, either he will save his fellow men, or he could make life VERY uncomfortable for all on this planet...also try and get a sample of him."
"Shanaka, you are hiding something."
"I am a cat, it is my nature to hide as it is your nature to wonder. Now go, we have much work to do and a very finite time to do it in."
Shan frowned around the huge hall, small passages lead off from it at all angles. Torturous little twists and turns, mind numbing mazes, it had taken them fourteen years so far and though Shan wasn't going to say it out loud he was rather of the opinion that they could continue mapping until they all died and they still would not have mapped the place.
"You are quite correct. Your people could map forever and they would never map more then a small percentage of this place."
"Why do you state that?" Shan turned slowly to face the dim, robed figure. It never failed to surprise him when they just started talking, though he was now getting the hang of concealing that surprise.
"Because what you see depends on your point of view."
"I beg your pardon?" Shan was stunned to say the least.
"Well you see passages 490, 320, 167, 3, 980, 450, 770, 540, 220, 840, 63, 697......." Mihairu died away and gave a grin. "Most of the locals here would see none of those passages, they have their own passages they can see."
"Does that go for the entire place?" Shan looked thoughtfully at the brick walls, if there were more than 980 passages in this single room, then there must be more than one level.
"Many of the passages double over, so though you might see the same entrances as someone else, the passage you would follow leads somewhere else. Layn is the only person who cans see and use all passages."
"You can't?" To say the least Shan was stunned.
"Of course not, I'm only Mihairu of the Mihai."
Shanaka chuckled softly and deeply in his throat as he studied the wide sweep of land below. It was the highest point on the planet and from it one could see three-quarters of the planet. Green sweeps of land, the scalding yellow of the desert region, the blinding white of the poles....the poles. Shanaka gave a sigh as he blinked at the poles...there was no doubt about it, Mihairu was correct, the poles were on the move again. Shanaka twisted his head around through nearly one hundred and eighty degrees and stared up into the burning blueness overhead. One year, now less than one year, until Calarny. With a shiver Shanaka snapped his head back around and launched himself down the side of the mountain, his huge padded feet made little or no sound as they travelled over the ground, the only sound was caused by the shifting of unbalanced rocks. Shanaka practically backflipped in stopping as a rock seemed to liquify under his very nose, turning his head Shanaka could see the men, cowering behind their boulder, the huge gun trembling slightly as they tried to make the adjustments. Shanaka glanced ahead, rocky scree not a scrap of cover for miles, Shanaka glanced behind, the result was the same, rocky scree. Shanaka finally glanced back at the men once more, even they were distant enough that he could not make it in time before they could fire. Shanaka slowly lowered himself down onto the rocks, with Layn distracted there was no way he might survive this, so he might as well die comfortably. The Mountain Cats of Chai'tor might be the main companions of the Mihai, but they were not Mihai, and they most certainly could be killed.
"Kan'Rae!" The words were snapped from behind Shanaka, but Shanaka did not move his head, did not even start to glance away from the men with the gun, he was the last of the Cats and he would not let the weapon go unstudied.
"Sir!" The three men rose abruptly from behind their cover.
"All guards are to report immediately to the castle."
"Yes, sir." The three men turned and moved off immediately, leaving Shanaka to finally turn his head and look at the speaker.
"Your men are well trained." Shanaka blinked slowly at the man who stood a short distance behind him.
"They are Kan'Rae guards. Am I right in calling you Shanaka?"
"I have certainly be known by that name for many years now." Shanaka gravely stared at the man.
"I have never met a talking cat before...or one nearly so large as you are. Tell your..." the man waved his hands uncertainly. "Friends, that Shan of the Kan'Rae guards wishes to speak to one of them."
"Why did not Shan tell us that himself?" Shanaka blinked slowly at the man.
"Because he has many things to concern his attention and talking to cats is not one of them."
"I am not a cat, guard...I am a Mountain Cat of Chai'tor. Had you left my people alone your stay on this planet would have been much easier."
"You seem to think we are not here permanently. Let me assure you cat, that we are here permanently."
"Permanently will be correct for Calarny is less than a year away, and yet you still spread discord and strife through this planet."
"We do not spread discord and strife Cat, it is you people, your friends who spread the discord, we merely bring order and civilisation to this world."
"Perhaps this world is not meant to be ruled by what you call order and civilisation. Maybe we do not wish to live in order and civilisation...maybe you will kill us all, and yourselves with your desire to make order and civilisation."
"And just maybe you should stop talking with the stupid ignorance of an animal." The guard snapped the last before turning and marching off, he was out of patience with these stupid, ignorant, uncivilised...things. Shanaka watched in silence as the guard retreated into the distance, before turning and continuing his journey to Chai'tor.
Mihaira is down near the Mihai Academy, pick her up if you can.
Some Kan'Rae guard said that Shan wished to speak with you.
Shan is already here, but we need Mihaira....and fast.
I'm already gone. Shanaka stretched his toes in glee, and seconds later all that was to be seen of him was a reddish blur the size of a house.
Shan stared around the room...though it was more of a cave. The rough hewn walls stretching off into inky blackness. The room was completely empty, except for the long white bench which was built into the walls midway along. Shan's nose wrinkled as he looked around, the old man Halan...whom they had spent many years trying to capture so they could sentence him...was sitting on a small rock, his large staff rested against the wall behind him. Shan was not actually wrinkling his nose at Halan, for there was nothing to disgust about the elderly man who sat quietly on a rock staring off into the middle distance, what caused Shan to wrinkle his nose was the white bench. The man who sat there was as animated as a statue, not a muscle twitched and not an eyelash quivered, in fact the only movement was made by the drips of blood which were continuously forming and falling from his hands, which cradled his chin. Shan grimaced as his eyes took in the pool of blood which had formed on the table top and dripped onto the floor below.
"Kan'Rae guard Shan?" The question had Shan turning and he saw Mihairu standing a short distance away.
"Yes." Shan studied Mihairu thoughtfully.
"Why have you come here?"
"I just went for a walk." Shan glanced around the room again.
"Just went for a walk...a walk which takes a fortnight to do and travels through the most dangerous land on this planet?" Mihairu's brows rose slowly.
"I have seen people do stranger things." Shan held out a small box.
"And I've done stranger things." Mihairu gave a slight smile. "But my friend, I am not a Kan'Rae guard, I am merely an uneducated savage who needs to be civilised."
"I'm not so sure about that." Shan's eyes had flickered slightly at the response.
"Oh, your fellow guards seem very sure of it."
"I will refrain on commenting on that." Shan's mouth tightened, then he nodded towards the motionless figures. "Who are they?"
"Well Halan you should certainly recognise."
"I do, I will admit that I was more interested in the other one."
"You've seen him once and spoken to him never, though you have heard his voice twice." Mihairu paused and blinked. "That is Kihairu."
"Then why is he sitting like a statue staring at the glow screen?"
"He isn't." Mihairu scratched the back of his neck, then yawned before stepping outside to stare at the sky.
"Then what is he doing?"
"Running and modifying the contents of the computer you and your Master were looking for. You were never welcome here the first time Kan'Rae and you are still not welcome here."
"First time?" Shan stared at the man in front of him, then suddenly saw what Halan had meant in his warning fourteen years earlier.
"Kan'Rae first arrived on this planet over eight thousand years ago. They left just before the first Calarny. This planet is the way it is because of your Master's ancestors..."
"Elic." The voice spoke softly, but still managed to make Shan jump and spin around, he only sort of registered that Mihairu was doing the same.
"Kai will arrive with Shanaka in a moment. We have precisely one month to break this cycle and Shan is a necessary component."
"Me?" Shan was staring in near horror at the man who stood at the door of the room, the man was slowly scraping away caked blood from his cheeks and chin.
"Yes. The voice was weary, and seemed to get a lot more weary as it spoke. "You are not Kan'Rae Shan. You are no more Kan'Rae than I was ever Layn von Harule of the Gold-Veins, or Mihairu here was Elic von Bery of Chlo'Nar South, or Mihaira was Kai von Tru of Sema'Tor. We need your help Shan, and we need it like no one needed help before. We are in a race to save the world and failure spells our physical deaths."
"You're crazy!" Shan exclaimed.
"Don't tell me about that." Layn turned to leave, then stopped. "Tell Halan when Shanaka and Mihaira arrive. I've got to clean up." Layn vanished into the room and closed the door firmly behind himself. Mihairu gave a sigh and crossed his legs, which left him sitting a metre off the ground.
"Do you HAVE to do that?!" Shan glared in annoyance at Mihairu.
"What?" Mihairu looked stunned, then looked down and laughed. "Sorry, and no I don't have to do it, though it is a most comfortable way to sit. You should try it."
"Me? You have to be joking. I can't do things like that." Shan continued to glare as Mihairu slowly sank down until he was sitting on the ground.
"You might be surprised." Mihairu gave a slow blink.
"I also might not be surprised." Shan growled.
"Why not try it?" Mihairu suddenly flickered and was resting on his head with his crossed legs up in the air. "Really, it's good for your health."
"Do you know what would happen if I shot you?" Shan glared at Mihairu.
"Yes, there would be a faint hiss and a strong smell of shot fired and I would be looking justifiably annoyed." Mihairu flickered again and suddenly he appeared 'sitting' on the very tip of one elbow.
"What?" Shan stopped glaring and stared in amazement.
"Halan did warn you, we cannot be killed." Mihairu gave another flicker and was once more sitting a metre above the ground with his legs crossed.
"Witch-craft doesn't impress me at all."
"It doesn't impress me either." Mihairu gave a grin, then vanished altogether.
"What the..." Shan leapt backwards.
"Relax, I'm still here." Mihairu's voice came from Shan's left.
"Well I wish you weren't." Shan growled, before sitting down in a corner.
"What? ordering me from my own home? You are most unkind Shan...really you are."
"Mihairu, stop teasing the poor man." The new voice had Shan on his feet, and very angry.
"Well at least he wasn't angry with me."
"He only objects to being called a poor man, that's all." There was a brief pause, during which Shan looked around curiously, but all he could see was one of the immense Mountain Cats standing by a large rock. It annoyed Shan that he had not heard it arrive. "In fact, he is thoroughly annoyed with everything. Where's Layn."
"Coming Kai, coming." Kihairu's voice joined the other two, but still Shan could see nothing.
"Kihairu, your hospitality is not great." Shanaka's deep voice reproved, and there was a slight chuckle in response.
"Are we meant to be hospitable?" There was a slight flicker to Shan's left and suddenly Kihairu appeared and with him appeared the familiar figure of Mihairu and a woman whom Shan had seen many times, but never heard the name of.
"We probably should be you know." It was the woman who spoke.
"But we didn't invite him here." Mihairu protested and soon the two of them were engaged in a fairly heated discussion as to whether one had to be polite to uninvited guests or not. Shan watched in amazement as Kihairu gave a faint smile and the two antagonists vanished totally, you could not even hear them.
"You were saying Shanaka?" Kihairu turned gravely.
"I said that your hospitality was not something to boast about."
"True, but I never have boasted about it. And as Mihairu observed he was not actually invited here, and then he called me a liar."
"Called you a liar did he?" There was a definite question.
"Okay, he called me crazy, which for them is a slightly more polite way of stating that they don't believe you."
"Well you are crazy....you've said so many times."
"Logical cat. I suppose I'd better bring them back. Is Maruku still down South?"
"No, Maruku is not still down South." There was a finality in the statement which froze Shan's blood. But his blood froze even further when he saw Kihairu's expression, it was blackly murderous.
"I warned the Master to stop this. He has now gone too far." Layn paused then abruptly strode back into the room behind him. Shan stared blankly at the ground, then glanced across at Shanaka, the large cat was crouched down.
Please belive what they say Oihairu, it is the only way now. The curious echoing sound of Shanaka's voice in his head had Shan jerking backwards.
"What?" Shan stared at the cat.
Just think it, you will learn directional contact with time.
No, see your mind as a gate, when it works your mind feels fuzzy.
You mean like this?
Bravo. The thought seemed to end in a chuckle.
No more for now, you scatter thoughts to the winds if you are not careful.
Did Mihairu mean it when he said I could sit a metre of the ground?
You could sit on your head at 40,000km if you felt so inclined......though it tends to be a bit cool if you don't take any atmosphere with you.
Later Shanaka interrupted him abruptly as Kihairu suddenly came running out of the room.
"Layn, where are Kai and Elic?"
"Right here." As Layn responded the two returned.
"Layn..." Mihairu got no further before Layn had interrupted him.
"They got Maruku, the Androzani will be here any minute, get ready to fly."
"Right." Mihairu and Mihaira both vanished into the room, shortly to reappear pulling on jackets. Five minutes later the three of them were mounting some of the most ungainly creatures Shan had seen in his life. The back feet were clawed with one single hook which gleamed metallically in the sunlight and hung from the heel, well clear of the ground. With their wings folded back, two arms were extended from the elbow joint of the wing and hung down so they just rested on the ground. With their wings extended the arms were clasped behind the head, they were covered with a feather/fur mixture, which resulted in a mottled look. As the riders scrambled aboard there was a faint shimmer around each bird as energy fields were formed.
"But Mihairu said they could not be killed." Shan frowned in amazement.
"Correct...but Androzani are not Mihai, and as with Mountain Cats, they most certainly can be killed."
Shan stared thoughtfully at his feet for a moment, then turned and studied the huge cat who was crouched next to the entrance.
"Who was Maruku?" Shan frowned in perplexity.
"Maruku was my brother...he was also the second last of the Mountain Cats."
"But..." Shan stopped. "Second last...?" His eyes snapped up to stare at Shanaka. "Oh my...what have they done Shanaka?"
"They have done little when it comes to the balance of the planet, but they have done much against themselves." Shanaka paused, then lifted his head as if to listen. Shan held motionlessly as thoughts tumbled through his head...what difference would this make?
"Shanaka." Halan suddenly came out of the room. "Where is Layn?"
"I think they have all gone to the hall of the Mihai."
"All of them?" Halan paled considerably. "Mihaira and Mihairu too?"
"Yes." Shanaka's voice sighed.
"Could you not stop them?"
"I was too angry too then...they got Maruku."
"Well don't compound the matter. Move it Shanaka, we have very little time."
"What of Shan?"
"Well he can't do any damage if he stays here." Halan scrambled agily up a large foreleg and vanished into the thick fur on Shanaka's back.
"We take him as well." Shanaka spoke softly, and abruptly Shan found himself rising into the air.
Layn. The call had Layn twisting and glancing behind himself.
What's up Mihaira?
What's to happen with Shan?
That all depends.
Depends on what?
On whether I can do the impossible or not.
How very unlike you. Mihaira's response was ironic in tone.
It is, isn't it.
We must have peace Mihairu, and without Maruku I plain can't get it.
Which peace Layn?
Complete peace, Kai...our time here is done...but first we must try to stop the Calarny.
But stopping the Calarny...surely Calarny has been the safe guard of this planet?
No. The response was curt and total silence followed until the landed on the top of the Mihai Academy.
"So we have all three." The master's soft voice froze Mihaira and Mihairu, but Layn merely glanced at the man in total contempt before walking across to the stairs. The gun spoke, a loud and vicious bark. Blue energy flashed across and enveloped Kihairu...before passing beyond and rolling into a ball approximately a metre and a half in diameter. Kihairu slowly approached the ball, you could hear the crackling and fizzing as a hand was extended and gently laid on the side of the ball, a second hand was extended and then nothing.
Two hours later everything was still there, everything was still unmoving, and except that the ball of energy was significantly smaller there was no change. Four hours passed and with a gentle click Kihairu's hands came together, then separated again, the ball of energy was no more.
"Layn." Mihairu took a step forward, then stopped as Kihairu gave a miniscule shake of his head.
"No Elic, this has nothing to do with you." There was dead silence on the roof.
"How did you do that?" It was a dry rasping whisper which swept across the rooftop.
"You should know Garulan." The response froze everyone dead. "There was only one error in your program, and that was that you did not ensure that you could kill us."
"Hah!" It was a dry cackle. "There you are wrong."
It was a dull detonation, which sounded like an explosion fired from far under the ground. But the earth did not heave, nothing was seen to change in any direction, and yet there was no doubt that a detonation had occurred. Toran glanced to his left and right, quick flickering movements which had been long since trained into his subconscious.
"You will see nothing Kan'Rae." The softly spoken words had Toran's head snapping around to stare at Kihairu. Kihairu had one hand raised on a slightly canted angle, fingers outspread, the whole member trembling slightly as if fighting a great force.
"Why so confident?" Toran frowned. From habit he listened to what Shan said on most subjects, but he had previously not listened to what Shan had said on the subject of these three 'beings'...Toran knew no other word, though he was sure that at some stage that Shan had given them a name. As Toran stood there looking at the hooded man, he suddenly realised that Shan had been speaking nothing but the truth when he had stated that this planet needed no civilisation...or not civilisation such as they could give. This raised another question for Toran, if Shan knew that, then the Master also knew that...which made one ask why they had ever come.
"Because there is nothing to see." Kihairu's head turned through the faintest of millimetric degrees. "Mihairu?"
"Shanaka is very upset about something."
"Oh cavities, canyons and the blamed Ice Crystals of Moran." The hand dropped abruptly, and for the first time Toran saw Kihairu's face crease up in concentration. "I wasn't fast enough Mihairu."
"Is he still there?"
"Just, Shanaka's coming fast...but I don't think that will be fast enough."
'Shanaka...Fast...Ice Crystals of Moran?' The words seemed senseless and they spun through Toran's head at dizzying speeds. Toran was still feeling bewildered when his bewilderment died out in a wave of shock, for Kihairu had crossed his legs and was now seated, cross-legged, a good metre off the ground.
"Time we sped things up a bit."
"Layn, are you recov..."
"Quiet Elic." The response was snapped harshly, and Toran was surprised to see Mihairu promptly step back and cross his legs, the woman soon followed suit and all three were now well clear of the ground.
"Witch-craft." It was a soft whisper, a damning whisper, and it raced through the crowd on the rooftop. Had the trio not been outcasts before, they would surely be outcasts now. Toran stared thoughtfully at the trio as they hovered there, his fingers thoughtfully touching his gun. He had seen what had happened when the gunners had fired, and Toran wasn't so arrogant as to believe that his gun would be any more effective. But the fact remained that his primary duty was to guard the life of the Master, and to carry out any orders he gave. Toran was still debating within himself as to what he could and couldn't do, when a horrified gasp had him spinning around sharply. Toran was not surprised that the recruit had gasped, he himself felt a little queasy at the sight. The sight was that of Kan'Rae Leader Shan's limp form about a metre above the rooftop and just hovering. The whole front of Shan's uniform was a bloody and mangled mess, the rest of him was not any better as far as Toran could see. Ribs protruded from the pulpy mess, shattered and jagged. Toran did not know what had struck his leader, but in his mind Kan'Rae Shan, the greatest Kan'Rae in the Universe, was no more.
"What have you done to him?" Toran turned with a hiss back to where the trio had been seated. Had been seated, for when Toran had turned he realised that Kihairu had vanished.
"We did nothing." Mihairu uncrossed his legs and dropped lightly onto the rooftop. Rubbing his head gently as his knees bent to take the impact.
"He looks like that and you say you did nothing!" Toran felt a boil of anger rise up within him. "He is Kan'Rae, there is nothing on this planet that could do that to him. You have to have done it. I ask once more. What have you done to him?"
"Kan'Rae. You state quite clearly that there is nothing on this planet which could do that to him. And yet you accuse us of having inflicted this injury on him. Has it ever struck you that one of your own people might have done this?"
"Kan'Rae would never touch another, we are too rare."
"Now that's arrogance for you." Mihairu crossed his legs again and leant his elbows on his knees.
"Must you do that!" Toran found the fact that he could see straight through underneath the man off putting.
"I remember another who spoke those exact words. No I don't HAVE to do this Kan'Rae Toran, I have no more need to do this than you have of your daily drills. But I choose to do it."
"Our daily drills are to increase discipline and engrain habits. I see no use in sitting a metre off the ground."
"Oh, this is just how we practice our witch-craft." Mihairu gave a faint smile, then blinked slowly. "Can I stop this yet Layn?"
"No, not quite yet." The response, which came from behind Toran, had Toran spinning around yet again, and what he saw made his jaw sink slowly downwards. The man Kihairu was 'seated' next to Shan's limp from, both of them bobbed and swayed slightly in the strong air currents which swept up the side of the building, as Toran watched he noticed three things, first that when ever they swayed enough that they touched a small blue flicker flashed out, singeing the attire of both, second, that Kihairu's fingers never showed the same flickering blueness, even though they were constantly in contact with Shan, and thirdly that though Shan's chest was still a pulpy mess it wasn't as bad as he thought he remembered it as being.
"Mihairu, it is still ten minutes before Shanaka could get here. If only they had not killed Aoten five years ago." Mihaira's voice was almost creased; its intonation was so strange.
"I do not believe Aoten would have been up to this." Mihairu's voice was tight and turning back Toran was surprised to notice that great drops of perspiration were rolling down Mihairu's face and dampening his robe.
"No, but he could have taken part of the load." The voice was slightly reproving, and irritatingly logical in tone.
"Oh be quiet!" The response was snapped, and it wasn't until it was repeated a few seconds later that Toran realised that Mihairu was not referring to Mihaira.
"Who?" Toran stared in perplexity at the man.
"All of you, your thoughts are too loud!"
"Don't worry Mihairu. I'm finished for now." The sudden appearance of Kihairu had Toran spinning to look back at Shan, but his leader was no longer to be seen. Toran wearily rubbed his head, someone was mad...possibly everyone was mad...but right now Toran was rapidly coming to the conclusion that he was definitely going mad. Either that or he had better wake up from this nightmare VERY soon. There was something strange going on here. Something was wrong. And for once in his life Toran knew that he could ponder this matter as much as he liked but he would still not find an answer. This time someone else would have to supply him with an answer. Toran had a low feeling that he would like neither the source of the answer, or the answer itself.
"How is he?" It was a dry cracked whisper which brought Toran away from his thoughts again.
"Could be better Halan, could be much better...But he should survive." Kihairu was passing an almost weary hand across his face.
"You shouldn't have let them stay Kihairu."
"And you prefer the other option we have?" The bitterness, the latent anger and the near fury in the soft response had Toran taking an involuntary step backwards. "No, I tell you Halan. The answer is NO!"
"Halan, I have been alive for nine thousand years already, I have been through ninety thousand Calarnys, when I say no I mean NO!"
"Nine THOUSAND!" Toran's voice rose into a near shriek as he repeated the words, he could not believe it...and yet he knew that it must be truth.
"Nine thousand four hundred and fifty-six years, eleven months, twenty-five days, ten hours, eight minutes and fifty-three seconds. Your Master can confirm my words. Care to argue against me Garulan?"
"My name is not Garulan." It came as a harsh rasp.
"True, but I have heard no name for you and you are certainly not a Master of mine...and you do so remind me of my friend Garulan."
"But Garulan can have been no friend of yours!" Toran was staring his eyebrows creased, nervousness twitching at his eye.
"You know Garulan as the founder of your Kan'Rae guard. Oh that mighty man who had such wisdom and knowledge that he could bring such a force of assassins into the world." Sarcasm fairly dripped from the words. "Garulan had no more to do with the original group of Kan'Rae then he had to do with my coming into this universe. What does your history read on him? Just that he was in the military and the founder of the Kan'Rae. Take a look at the images of the man. Garulan was no fighter, Garulan wouldn't even know a fighting pike if you hit him over the head with it."
"I do not like your tone." Toran's expression was grim.
"I don't care what you think of my tone. It's about time you arrogant Kan'Rae realised the truth about yourselves. The Kan'Rae are not human, no one standing on this roof is human...with the exception of your precious Master. And by that I do not simply mean that your planet of origin is different to the race which we specify as human. You have no planet of origin, you were never born, and you never grew up. You have no memories which are your own, and when you die you force another into this same life."
"You lie!" But once more there was no conviction in Toran's words, within himself he knew that this robed being spoke the truth.
"I lie do I?" The blazing fury had Toran backing up. "Well ask your precious master if I lie. Ask him where you came from...WHERE YOU REALLY CAME FROM!...And while you're at it, ask him why the ENTIRE Kan'Rae were brought to this miserable backwater planet with no weaponry. What do your masters find so important about this place that they send five thousand totally unequalled fighters to a planet which barely carries that as an original population, and only passes it because of the animal life. I can answer that question Kan'Rae Toran. You were brought here with your four thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine fellow assassins to deal with the three Mihai who stand before you now."
"You over rate your importance." The Master's tone was bored.
"No I don't Garulan. You know as well as I do that you won't get within spitting distance of the Genomind unless all three of us, Halan, and Shanaka number among the deceased."
"The Genomind is not our sole objective."
"Tell me about it, your other objective is to get rid of all the contaminants of the strain. Why else you would you have tried to terminate all of us."
"You're insane." Toran spoke softly.
"Of course I'm insane. Wouldn't you be insane after you've lived for nine thousand years and passed through ninety thousand Calarnys. I am fed up with the arrogance of this whole matter, the belief of the master race. You come here preaching Universal Peace, your Masters come here for universal annihilation. Don't try to preach to me Toran, we may be related in the fact that our genetical forebears are the same, but you have only been around for twenty standard years. You will quite comfortably live for another sixty unless you get killed first...but come those sixty years and you will find yourself running, hounded by all, hated by all. You're an unknown Toran and they will hate you for it. Some may not, but the majority will hate you for it. They will hate you for the apparent power you wield; they will hate you for the ease at which you do things which take them hours of sweating and straining. They will hate you because you are different and you challenge their comfortable way of life." There was a slight pause. "And even if I am wrong about where you come from, I am not wrong about the other matters. Once a Kan'Rae, always a Kan'Rae. You cannot change what you are Toran, you are a killer, a mindless killer and you will continue to be so until someone kills you, and then another will rise up in your place. Everyone has heard the legends of the dead armies...well this makes those look like buttered crumpets and ice cream. You will now never get the Genomind Garulan for the Genomind has transferred, and if you care to try and pick my mind you may well find the Genomind."
"You haven't!" The Master paled to a chalky white.
"Not only have I, but you're coming for a walk Master." Kihairu moved slowly forward, and everyone just cleared out of the way. "Your people destroyed me, they destroyed my life, and they have destroyed my people. My time has finally come but I shall not be going alone Master. Come master, meet your M-A-S-T-E-R!" The words were spoken softly enough and yet they seemed to roll around like thunder. With the last word Kihairu had taken the Master's arm, there was a crack like lightning, the air seemed to twist and tear itself apart as a great wind whipped across the rooftop. Crouched near the ground Toran dug his fingers into a nearby cranny and hung on for dear life. Above him Toran could just make out the two swaying figures blue energy was pulsing around, entwining the two figures, and even over the wind Toran could hear the shrieks of the Master, shrieks which slowly died away.
It seemed an eternity later when the wind and storm finally died away. Toran came to his feet and watched as other Kan'Rae climbed gingerly to their feet. Why had they shown no response to the information Kihairu had given him.
They show no response because they did not hear. Toran nearly fell over again as Shan's voice echoed through his head.
"Where are you?"
Right where I was before, but Layn just shielded me.
"What happened to you?"
As Layn said, the Master was eliminating defective products. As Layn also said, he missed me.
You know him as Kihairu. And formally he is Kihairu, but he was Layn for some five years before he became Kihairu and he much prefers the shorter name.
"How do you know all this?"
You will find out this evening...I suggest you stay locked in your room, claim grief for me if you want but make sure no one can get in...your life depends on it Toran.
Toran wasn't sure what woke him at three that morning, but his mind did not remain sleep fogged for long. Toran lay there for less then half a second wondering why he had woken up, usually he could count on a completely undisturbed night...but tonight something had woken him up. As Toran pondered the matter he heard a faint buzzing whine. A noise like that needed no second thought Toran was off the mat which he had been resting on and crouched in a shadowy corner of his room, his gun trained on the door.
"Damn it all! It's not working!"
"It's got to work!" An exasperated voice responded. "Stop playing around Konish and set it going on the code."
"I HAVE and I tell you it's NOT WORKING!" The response came in an infuriated whisper.
"Don't be stupid, of course it works, give it here." There was a brief scuffle and the soft buzzing whine came again.
"What the hell?" There was a brief pause. "Well I never knew his treason against us would go that far. Come on Konish, we'll try his window." Toran listened to the receding footsteps and stared thoughtfully at his door. They had been using a scrambler on the lock...and yet the lock had stayed latched. What was going on in this place? Toran gave a slight grunt as he moved stiffly back towards his mat. These twinges were getting more and more regular, if it didn't stop soon he was going to have to go down to the medics and get checked out. Toran rubbed his aching elbow, then turning he abruptly switched on his screen and swiftly entered in his access codes, a few minutes later he was deeply into the computer network. As Toran ran searches beyond count he found himself considering the planet abstractly, so high in the technical department, and yet it was called a backwater planet. Toran started yet another search and frowned thoughtfully at the screen in front of him, this entire planet seemed controlled by computer, everything he could think of could be found by a simple search, he had found the history of the Kan'Rae Guards, a history he was well acquainted with...and yet by their official history Kan'Rae had never been to this planet the first time.
"Oh we've been here before." Shan's voice had Toran jerking around in his seat.
"Shan?" Toran stared at his superior almost fearfully.
"A fearful Kan'Rae, now that is unusual. No I am not a ghost Toran...though I should be."
"What is happening Shan? Ever since you left a fortnight back things have been going wrong. We abruptly lost all our manufacturing plants and most of the other stuff as well, now Konish and Xanu are taking a scrambler after my door. The Master is dead...I'll probably be up for charges because I didn't try to save him."
"So Mihairu was right about that. I was actually sent to get you Toran. Seems that some minor problems have cropped up and they need your help."
"They...what? Shan you are bewildering me."
"Sorry." Shan crossed his legs. "I can't actually tell you much since all the information is buried under miles of coding. Mihaira knows it all, but she isn't telling and at a guess I'd say that Mihairu also knows all about this stuff." Shan paused, then shrugged. "It seems that the mighty Garulan was nothing more then a geneticist with a rather warped mind...take him, add to that the presence of the Borth on our home planet and you end up with a very sticky mess, especially if you add a planet like this one too the mess."
"You mean that what that man said is true...you really don't believe it do you Shan?" Toran looked almost pleadingly.
"I haven't wanted to, but either they're telling the truth or we've both got mindbogglingly good imaginations. I didn't enter this room by either door or window, and we're going to leave the same way as I came."
"You're mad!" Toran stared silently at his friend, then slowly turned away.
"Of course I am." Shan's voice jerked Toran's head around sharply. "Not only am I totally insane, but I'm going to continue to be mad for many years yet."
"Wha..." Toran died away as the room suddenly shimmered and became a curious grey, distorted and unshaped.
"Now Mihairu." As Shan spoke, Toran could hear a sudden rush of wind, and then his view reformed. They were in a long cavern of heavy rock.
"What the...!" Toran stared around the room in amazement, it was a tech heaven. You think up a machine and it was probably there...along with a very large number which you would never even dream up...even in a nightmare.
"Ahh, it seems you arrived safely enough." There was a brief scuffle and Mihairu came out from behind a high rack of wiring.
"It seems that you were also correct. Konish and Xanu took a scrambler after his lock a bit before I arrived."
"That's nice to hear, I hate being wrong." Mihairu wiped his hands on a nearby rag. "You reckon that the computer system of this place is something...well come and take a look at this my friend." Toran found himself automatically following the man further back into the cavern.
"Oh...my...word!" Toran stared in amazement at the immense bank of machines.
"You were warned to learn your history." Mihairu gave a slight smile. "Permit me to introduce Calarny to you. You get to play with that machine to your heart's content. You can do absolutely no wrong to it...even if you blow it up."
"Calarny...but...what...ummm..." Toran finally fell silent, but not because he had run out of bewildered noises to make. He had actually fallen silent because a large hand had clamped over his mouth.
"Keep it quiet will you!" It was a semi-exasperated whisper.
"What?" Toran shook himself free of the hand.
"Calarny is vocally operated, as well as any other method you can think of. Make too many loud noises and you give Calarny a headache. Calarny doesn't like headaches so it'll just pitch you down the garbage shute."
"The garbage shute?" Now Toran thought about it, he realised that Mihairu had never spoken above a whisper since they had come up to the machine.
"Take a look." Mihairu pointed to a curiously shifting section of the wall.
"That's one of your energy fields isn't it?"
"Not one of ours, we don't make those fields...we just borrow them for a bit."
"Whaa." Toran found the hand clamped over his mouth and he was being dragged away.
"Unlike us you will actually die if you get chucked into that garbage shute, so please keep your voice down. Shan would never forgive me."
"I don't think I would either. Elic that variators been shot again." Mihaira came up on them abruptly with an annoyed expression.
"Calarny shot, we're not even going to get that month if we don't get it back on line."
"What's that currently shot...Variators, Calunthas, Xamina, and Frontii...correct?"
"Certainly from what I know."
"Which gives us a week. Give our friend here a voice modulator or something, he talks to loudly and has now twice run very close to giving Calarny a headache."
"Can't modulate him." There was a brief pause before Mihaira responded. "He's just going to have to keep his voice down when he's near Calarny."
"What is Calarny?" Toran finally managed to ask the question he had been trying to ask for several minutes now.
"Well THAT was Calarny."
"But I...we...Isn't Calarny some kind of natural disaster?"
"Oh without doubt." Mihairu scratched his head.
"But...but...but, but, but-but-but-but."
"If you're not careful you'll take off in a minute."
"Sorry darling." Mihairu abruptly pushed his hood off his head.
"But how can it be a natural disaster when it is a machine?"
"What is natural for one planet may not necessarily be natural for another planet. By this planet, Calarny is a natural disaster for everything is networked back to Calarny...with the exception of Genomind."
"Everything?" Toran looked doubtful.
"Pretty much." Shan gave a yawn as he came from behind a mountain of wiring. "About the only thing other than the Genomind which Calarny doesn't manage is what the people on the surface actually do. If you felt so inclined you could give Xanu his own private blizzard."
"You could even give it to him in bed." Mihairu gave a grin, which promptly dissolved into a wide yawn.
"Sorry Kai, just starting to get tired I guess."
"Well consider the poor boy for a minute, he's been dragged down here against his will at some inhuman hour of the morning and you've been talking in riddles."
"Well it's hard not to talk in riddles." Miahiru frowned almost sullenly.
"You could try telling him everything...after all, his life depends on this working even more than your life does." The deep voice had Toran turning, and he nearly screamed as he found himself face-to-nose with Shanaka.
"But..." Mihairu stopped.
"Will it help him any if he knows the history?"
"Well you know it will, for at worst it will give him an idea of where you are coming from and why you are so insane. And at best it might actually give him some idea of the task which has been dropped into his lap and how he might go about completing it."
"True." Mihairu's expression was mixed, then with a sigh he shrugged. "Okay everyone, history time. In the next day we're going to cover everything...so you better not be hungry now because you'll be even more so when you come out."
"Use the lab Mihairu?" Mihaira glanced back over her shoulder.
"It's the best place and it saves moving everything." Mihairu shrugged.
"True." The two of them moved ahead, leaving Toran to grimace at Shan.
"Lab?" Toran lifted his brows inquiringly.
"Don't ask me." Shan gave a slight nod. "I'm as much in the dark about most of this stuff as you. I only saw the landing platform of this place before I came to retrieve you, most of their stuff was done using a surface computer, but with Layn gone it was all getting too complex and difficult."
"Is there..." Toran paused, uncertain of how to continue.
"No Toran, there is not...no more then is between you and Shalin...don't you always call her Darling when you actually reach planet side?"
"But she's my sister." Toran spluttered, red-faced at the reminder.
"And so are those to...oh sure, different names, I grant you that...and Different upbringings...but genetically they are brother and sister. Besides which you don't actually seem to be too romantically inclined after about your first thousand or so years."
"Don't tell me they're nine thousand years old as well?" Toran resisted the urge to gurgle over the words.
"No...only about six or seven I think." Shan wrinkled his forehead.
"Five dear boy, don't make me grow up too quickly." Mihairu looked over his shoulder as he spoke, pausing briefly in his endeavours. from what Toran could see it looked like he was trying to punch a hole in the wall.
"I thought it was only one thousand years between batches."
"True, but we're two batches behind Layn and there were a few foul-ups in-between."
"Okay." Shan gave a grin, then frowned. "What doing?"
"Entrance pad. if we don't get the right code in the lab self-destructs...and takes 99% of the planet with it. Unfortunately the entrance pad is nicely hidden away with a protective door...a door which hasn't been used in 5000 years, so it's just a little stuck as they say." Mihairu thumped his fist against the section of wall again, then let out a sigh as a mass of dirt and grime crumbled away. Where he had been pounding there now stood a small blue metal panel. Mihairu pressed hard into the centre of it, and the panel sprang to the side revealing a 16 by 16 keypad. With only the slightest of hesitations Mihairu punched in a code. Then frowned and punched it in again...then did it for a third time, before he finally got sick of it and belted the keypad. Toran's alarmed howl was drowned out by the stiff grinding and grating sound which came from behind. Toran spun around and stared in amazement as a large chunk of wall swung clumsily to the side.
"Welcome to our first home." The remark was definitely sarcastic as Mihaira pushed them into the room. The room glistened an achingly polished white, crystals were suspended everywhere, precision equipment if Toran had ever seen the stuff.
"Ajax...history...complete...Kihairu to Layn von Harule, shanita Mihairu to Elic von Bery." As Mihairu stopped speaking there was a grumbling rumble and abruptly the room went black.
Gold-Vein, Calarny and the Ihai Projectus
The words appeared on the broad screen, which was one wall, before they seemingly dissolved away. The words melted and ran, leaving behind the view of a huge cavern of roughly carved stone.
"I am the Gold-Vein Master Shan von Trunan, and this is the year 9326AB."
"Greetings Master von Trunan." Mihairu rose stiffly, awkwardly, like one stood when in front of a schoolmaster.
"So you are Mihairu." There was a brief pause. "What can I do for you and your friends?"
"Well we actually have some new 'friends'....could we view the historical records in full?"
"With pleasure." The figure on the screen walked away, and Toran had a nasty empty feeling around his midriff. This could not be true, it had to be a bad dream.
Chai'Van History 2475639657PB-9326AB
The words flashed up, and similar to the previous heading they melted, dissolved and ran from the screen. But this time it was not the long stone cavern they were shown, instead it was a hall which Toran easily recognised as a slightly less age blackened Grand Hall from the Mihai Academy.
"This is the Gold-Vein Academy Grand Hall, it is the year 2PB and this is what was the beginning of the end." The voice was deep and gravelly. "We are now going to watch the finals of the blading competition." Whoever the speaker was, they did not get to see him as the focus was on a raised Dais where four people stood. "This is the only time anyone was known to successfully past the Blademaster Grandmaster test...and he did it in his first year at the academy." There was a movement from the crowd which stood around the Dais and a boy, possibly he might have been in his nineteenth year, but he looked closer to twelve.
"Layn von Harule, a nomad and an outcast, was brought to the Academy's attention in the year PB by Gold-Vein Mechanic Hala von Sha. Absolutely nothing was known about him but he passed all the tests and was admitted. But with his admission the Academy discovered that had admitted one of the most fooling, bumbling, clumsy, and stupid trainees they had found in over 4000 years of training and testing. Hence it was much of a surprise to all involved when he won the blade competition since until this day he only seemed able to nearly hack his own legs off." As the gravely voice spoke the fight on the Dais was quickly unfolding. The boy who had come from the crowd was loosely dressed in white, but the clothes were firmly fastened at neck, wrists, waist, and ankles. With four opponents it initially looked as if he would get totally dismembered, but after the second cut he stopped the boy seemed to go berserk. Toran rapidly realised that ths blade fighting made Kan'Rae skills pale to nearly clear. For not only were the blades used in Gold-Vein fighting, but the entire body and mind were. Kicks and punches were not unusual, and Toran rapidly realised that the stunt the 'commentator' was calling a 'mind blow' was when an opponent abruptly sailed backwards several metres, as if hit by an invisible fist as strong as a launcher. It seemed to be a point of wonder to the commentator how many mind blows the boy was delivering, while none of his opponents could seemingly even launch, let alone land one.
"Just minute." Mihairu spoke sharply. "Master Trunan, why have we not seen these files before?"
"Grandmaster files are all restricted until the Grandmaster becomes deceased."
"That's what I was afraid of. Continue Master Trunan."
"Thank you." The voice sounded vaguely amused.
"What was that about?" Toran hissed in a whisper to Shan.
"What that was about, was that neither Mihaira nor I ever had the chance at becoming Grandmasters in anything, so we couldn't restrict any information on ourselves. While Layn was a Grandmaster so long ago that we never even knew he had been one, hence we never even thought to look for restricted files on him...though we probably should have thought of it, since he came through the downfall of the Gold-Vein." It was Mihairu who answered, not Shan.
"Or to be even more blunt about it, there's an awful lot of things we never asked because we didn't want to know....and it now looks like we're going to learn them whether we want to or not." Mihaira was sitting, as seemed to be their custom, with crossed legs about a metre of the floor.
"Before there was always Layn...and now we have to face it alone."
The fight lasted for close on an hour, and if Toran had entered the room with no respect for the man who was known both as Kihairu, and as Layn von Harule, he knew for a fact he was going to leave with an abundance of respect for the man......at least as a fighter. Toran also realised as he watched, that the Kan'Rae training system was seriously lacking in several aspects, and those aspects could spell the difference between life and death.
The fight ended and the history resumed its course, and as Toran watched he found his jaw dropping in amazement. It was not difficult to see why the Gold-Vein system collapsed on itself, and Toran realised that the Gold-Vein's themselves had been deliberately corrupting their system. Deliberately lowering all the guidelines which had stood rigid for thousands upon thousands of years.
"Mihairu." It was a faint echoing call, and immediately Mihairu cancelled the screening of the history and dove back into the other room. Toran followed Shan and Mihaira as they chased after him, and Toran was amazed to see him working frantically on a huge lever. Mihaira had crossed to a curious box and was pulling back the screening from it. It was not until the entire screen was pulled back that Toran recognised the landing spot when Shan had brought him. Someone was incoming, but who?
© 2000 Copyright held by the author.