Episode 17: The Na'odani Emerge

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The aircraft dropped out of the rainy haze to land smoothly in the center of a compound shaped like an eight-pointed star. The rain-slick walls gleamed black in the waning light. The brackish Kaa rain blew up in gusts from the silent engines.

Between the pain and the medication Seth had given her, Char was fighting to keep her head clear. The moment they landed, the ramp dropped open and the two Na’odani picked her up from her place, slumped against the wall of the aircraft. Another took Venn. They carried Char and Venn toward a door. The other Na’odani herded the rest of the Americans in the opposite direction.

“Hey!” Char bucked against the Na’odani holding her. “Where are you taking me? I need to stay with them.”

The Na’odani with the blue sash came alongside her. “Venn tells me you are injured. We will take you for medical care.”

“I want to stay with my soldiers!” Char barked.

“They will be safe. I give you my word.” The Na’odani bent down and met Char’s eyes with its silver ones. “I am Taig, the leader of these bridgers. You are the leader of these Americans, yes?”

“Yes,” Char said.

“If you come in peace, no harm will come to any of you,” Taig said, straightening. “We are a peaceful people.”

“So I’ve been told,” Char said wryly.

She went with them. The Na’odani brought her into a black-walled room with brilliant white lights built into the wall. They deposited her gently on what looked like a solid black metal table, but when she lay against it, it was warm and molded to her body.

A new Na’odani dressed in white robes sidled over and threw a thick, fluffy blanket over her. It was made of a silvery, shimmering material and reminded Char of building insulation.

Leader Taig circled to opposite of the white-robed Na’odani. “Healer Kaz cannot speak your language. Tell me what your injury is, and I will tell him.”

“My ankles are broken,” Char said. “The solid forms around them are casts to keep the bones in place.”

Leader Taig relayed all of this in the melodic Na’odani tongue.

Healer Kaz squinted at them and replied.

“He will take them off,” Taig said. “We do not use these things.”

Venn lay on the plank-bed next to her. He turned his head toward her and met her gaze. His face was tight with concern.

“Venn,” Taig said. “You will translate for Healer Kaz. Explain to Leader Char what the healer does so she is not afraid.” Taig turned to Char. “I will go speak to your soldiers. Who is leader in your absence?”

“The one called Leander… or Seth,” Char added.

Taig nodded and swished from the room.

“If you come in peace, no harm will come to any of you,” Taig said, straightening. “We are a peaceful people.”

The healer produced a small, shiny instrument. Char steeled herself, but the instrument slid through the solid cast like butter, bisecting it. He made a quiet clucking noise when he saw her ankles and looked up at her with a gentle smile. It needed no translation.

He rubbed some odourless salve over them that instantly made her ankles go numb. She gasped.

“It is just for pain.” Venn’s eyelids drooped. “Perhaps Healer Kaz will condescend to give me some yet.”

The healer strapped Char’s legs into two clear cases that enclosed her legs from foot to knee. Suddenly, a warming sensation went through her legs.

Char jerked her head up to look at them. “What’s he doing now?”

“It stimulates bone growth,” Venn said softly. “In Na’odani. Perhaps it will work for you, too.”

“Great,” she muttered. “A bone grower.”

Her pain had left completely. She was warm after being very cold. Her eyes drew inexorably shut.

Some time later, an animal screech woke her from her sleep. Char sat up. Her legs jolted in their casements, provoking shards of pain.

Venn, with the healer bending over his leg, had sat up straight. Another black-robed Na’odani rushed in, practically tossed the healer aside and leapt onto Venn’s bed.

“Jezeen,” Venn groaned. He wrapped his arms around it and buried his face in its robes.

Char stared. Seth had said something about Venn having a wife or something, right?

Jezeen rocked Venn back and forth, stroking his silky dark hair. Venn’s body quaked.

It felt too private to witness. Char lay back slowly and turned her head away. She lay listening to Venn’s choking sobs and the soothing sounds of the beautiful creature with him.


Char swallowed. She tried to focus on the strange tingling going through her feet and legs, but she couldn’t.

Venn and Jezeen were whispering to each other, punctuated by what sounded like gentle kisses.

Longing for Seth rolled over Char. She remembered coming back from deployment and walking into their little apartment with her bags. They fell to the floor and the ‘thud’ was still hanging in the air when Seth’s mouth claimed hers. They spent the rest of the day tangled up in bed, either talking or making love.

The memory of the night before going through the portal filled her mind for the umpteenth time since it had happened. Seth had been so earnest, so tender, and she wasn’t lying when she said they would talk about it, but the thought of what he might say was scarier than going through a portal into another world.

Because if she knew Seth, he wouldn’t say it meant nothing to him. Likely, quite the opposite, and then what was she supposed to say to him?

Char squeezed her eyes shut and tried to shove away the emptiness in her belly. She was tired, and physically comfortable. The most she could hope for was to fall asleep.

When she woke up, she was warm and comfortable and the tingling sensation was gone from her feet. Char turned her head and met the keen silver gaze of Jezeen.

She had the same translucent skin as Venn, with sharper cut cheekbones and chin in her narrow face. She also had ebony hair, but unlike Venn’s, hers was shaved to the scalp on the sides, and flowed in a Mohawk-like cut from her crown, loose down to her mid-back. She and Venn were spooned together on the narrow bed, under the white blanket.

Char blinked and made a little nod of acknowledgment.

A moment later, the door slid open with a small ‘whoosh’ and Leader Taig came in with the healer.

The healer glanced uncertainly between Jezeen and Char and said something softly.

Because if she knew Seth, he wouldn’t say it meant nothing to him. Likely, quite the opposite, and then what was she supposed to say to him?

 “He says he will undo your feet now,” Taig said to Char. She stood beside Char’s bed and gazed down with imperturbable grey eyes.

“Alright.” Char began to sit up, but the healer pushed her gently back and fiddled with the restraints holding the casements shut. A moment later, he removed them and said something.

“He is going to prod them,” Taig said. “Tell him if it hurts.”

It didn’t hurt just then, Char realized. Her ankles felt normal.

The healer jammed a finger right into the joint of her ankle. Char winced, but no pain came.

“Good?” Taig asked.

“Good,” Char said.

The healer poked the ankle all over, and then the other. The results were the same. No pain. He got Char to stand. Her ankles held her.

She walked across the cool stone-like floor to the wall and back to her bed. “What the fuck?” she said under her breath.

Venn raised his head and mumbled, “this isn’t a literal phrase, Leader Taig.”

Taig threw her head back and laughed. The healer jumped and smiled with a confused expression. “Leader Char, you cannot know how that translated for me, but it sounded quite vulgar.”

Char raised her eyebrows. “Literally it is. I apologize.”

“I accept this apology,” Taig said. “Your legs are well?”

She nodded. “I want to see my team,” she said. “Where are they?”

“Your team is well.” Taig swept her gaze from Jezeen to Venn. “But I found Venn’s explanations, thus far, of why you are here severely lacking, and I cannot decide with certainty if you are my prisoner or my guest until I know why you are here.”

Right. Char glanced down at her healed feet and ankles and sat down on the bed again. “Okay, well, we are from another world called, um… Earth.”

It wasn’t as if she hadn’t thought this over while she was on watch outside their camp.

She recounted how Venn came to Fort Situk, and how their people were badly in need of resources. They’d been sent to take samples. That was all.

Taig had also sat on an empty bed, while the healer busied himself in the back of the room. Jezeen sat holding Venn’s hand, listening intently.

 “This is our world now,” Taig said when she’d finished. “Did Venn not tell you that?”

Erwell either hadn’t cared, or genuinely thought they could get in and out without alerting the Na’odani. Char pulled out the lie she’d been shaping since the first night in Kaa. “We have few options. We were hoping we could come to some kind of trade agreement.”

Taig folded her hands and rested her pointy chin on them. “That is outside my authority.”

“Leader Taig, if we could make our case to someone,” Char spread her hands, “we would be happy to do so.”

The alien leader exhaled slowly through her nose. “I will send word to my superiors in Eskalon. For now, I will find you a place to stay.”

“Could I see my team?” Char stood.

Taig slid off the bed. “You may see your seconds in command. That is all.”  She turned. “Jezeen, please take Leader Char to the empty quarters in section three. Venn, fetch the Americans called Seth and Leander. Once you have done that, I must speak to you at length.”

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