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The place where you are

They all sat, hands and feet bound, mouths gagged, as the transport they were in rumbled and shook. The sickening sense of moving, fast, upset Brenzel’s stomach. The room they where they were, inside the machine, was as big as the hold on Tane’s ship, but made of metal, cold and smooth.

The soldiers had to literally carry up most of her people, for they fought, biting and snarling like feral cats, completely mad. The Null, just like Tane had said, had sapped them of all reason, humanity, or self control. At first, the soldiers simply deposited them on the floor, all moving and jerking wherever they had been laid, some banging their head against the wall until bloodied. Now, some hours out of their capture, most lay quiet, some having propped themselves up opposite her.

Nothing’s ever as it seems, Brenzel thought, her wrists uncomfortable in the cords that bound them, her shoulders aching. The door at the head of the compartment opened, and the Hadite commander walked in, looking around. He pointed to Tane, still out cold on the floor. Four soldiers walked in behind him, picked the big Kumite up and carried him out.

Meandre yelled through her gag.

Maybe they will try to help him, Brenzel thought, he’s been out a long time. She hoped they were that civilized.

People misunderstood her

Brenzel thought about Wichapi and what she had done for them in The Null. She’d saved their lives, again, and Brenzel was grateful. People just misunderstood Wichapi, and judged her wrongly. She wasn’t evil, just…free. Brenzel wished she could be that confident, not caring what others thought. She knew it was a lonely way for her friend, though, she’d felt that on the mountaintop as she had embraced Wichapi. For all her power and self confidence, she was lonely, isolated, and a bit lost. Brenzel weighed the pluses and minuses in her mind of both their situations. Was it worth it to give up some freedom in exchange for belonging? She didn’t feel an answer anywhere near.

The door opened again, and Tane walked in, sporting a white patch on his temple. He looked around, pointing to Micron. The Hader commander nodded, then said something else to Tane, who shrugged. They both left.

Soon, the door opened again and two men came in, picked up Micron and escorted him out.

What’s going on? Brenzel wondered. Tane didn’t seem to be worried or even subordinate to their captor. Watching Micron go, she almost felt sorry for him.

There was a hissing noise from outside the vehicle, and then a squealing, and they stopped. Men and women filed in through the door, some with guns drawn. Funny, Brenzel thought, the women looked and acted like Meha – subservient, compliant. After the stunning equality between sexes in Elysia and the Fey, seeing women act differently than men was shockingly familiar, like how things were in England where she grew up.

Thirsty

A woman came near and untied her gag. Brenzel took a deep breath and licked her parched lips. She was thirsty. The lady, short hair, looking to be in her late forties, untied her hands and feet, too, as she avoided eye contact.

All the others were released as well, and they all sat rubbing their wrists and ankles, trying to restore circulation. None said anything; apparently the madness had passed. Derek got up stiffly and came over and sat by Fallon and Brenzel.

A few moments later, Tane stepped through the door at the head of the hold, saying, “We are now guests of the Half Clan. When the door opens, you can go outside to relieve yourselves, but don’t try to leave. We are in no danger here, and we are still a long way from civilization. We all had to be restrained for our own safety, and theirs.”

This doesn’t add up, Brenzel thought as the clam doors of the vehicle opened on the side, letting the natural light and the dust in. Taking a deep breath, then exhaling, Brenzel thought, oh thank god, I really have to pee.

***

Kicking sand, Brenzel turned, studying her surroundings. There was only one wagon now, the one that they all rode in. Instead of a vast, flat plain, she saw the beginning of hills, sparsely covered with water-starved scrub trees and plants like the place where she’d met Derek and Fallon. Presently, Fallon came over from behind a large rock and stood by her, gazing back at the strange vehicle. “Who are these people, Brenzel?” she asked.

“I think they are Haders. Let’s get back, maybe we can talk with Tane and find out what’s going on.”

“And some water,” Fallon said, “I’m thirsty.”

Feet navigating the stairs, Brenzel grabbed the side of the door. She looked around, but almost no one was back yet, and the door inside that led forward was open. Brenzel and Fallon made their way through it, looking ahead into a strange room with chairs and buttons and other strange stuff lining the walls and ceilings.

“Have you ever seen the like?” Fallon asked in a hushed tone.

On the opposite wall, a door opened and they both jumped. Brenzel turned and relaxed when she saw Tane walk in.

“Good, I was coming to find you,” Tane said, looking at Brenzel. He caught her arm, leaning in. “Lets talk outside,” he said, “I don’t think they will want you here anyway.”

“Sure,” Brenzel said, “but I want some answers.” She allowed herself to be guided back through the door to the big room as others began filing in from outside.

The big guy’s Damian

Back in the open, Tane looked at her intently. Brenzel studied his face, wondering what he hadn’t told her…or anyone else.

“Everything’s okay Brenzel, these aren’t enemies. I know them,” Tane began. “The big guy is Damian. I’ve known him for awhile. He’s rough around the edges, but hey, who isn’t?” His attempt at a grin faded, as Brenzel just continued her icy stare, folding her arms across her chest.

“Anyway, they were actually looking for us, because we were late for the rendezvous. It was a good thing, too, huh? Wow, that was terrible time for everyone, that was. I am glad they showed up.”

Brenzel pursed her lips and shook her head “Tane, that big monkey you call Damian almost killed Komae, I don’t think he’s a good guy.”

Someone shouted from the transport, cutting short their conversation.

“Okay,” Tane yelled, as they walked towards the vehicle, “I’ll tell you everything later, after we get situated. Trust me, it will be okay.”

Remembering what she had said to Tane outside their downed ship on the dunes, Brenzel nodded, turn about is fair play.

***

As Brenzel and the group sat with their backs against the wall in the hold, several women brought around water, allowing each to drink their fill. Others handed each one two little bags, one of dried of nuts and the other of dried morsels of spicy meat.

Brenzel smelled it, mouth watering as she remembered that same smell at the port with Hatty. She ate greedily, savoring every morsel with relish. The nuts were sweet, too, some tasting like hazel nuts. She saw the others sniffing at the meat, some eating, but most not, especially Komae, who looked like she was going to be sick.

“This is good,” Fallon said, eating her nuts and meat, too.

Derek ate his slowly. He had a big bruise on his cheek. He still seemed shaken by the whole ordeal.

Seeing Fallon’s enthusiasm, one of Tane’s crew tossed a bag across the room to her, which Fallon gratefully accepted.

The wagon rumbled on, and eventually Fallon fell asleep, laying her head on Derek. Everyone was dozing, their heads moving with the vehicle, sometimes coming half awake as the wheels bumped over the rough terrain outside. Brenzel’s eyes grew heavy, too, as she felt the rocking of the machine.

The same hissing sound from outside the vehicle woke her. Everything stopped.

Tane walked inside the hold, looking around at everyone. “We’re going to stay here for the night, everyone will get off. The women will take the ladies to their quarters and I will go with the men to theirs. In the morning, after we eat, I want to meet with Brenzel and Komae. After that, we’ll let everybody know what’s next.” He paused, but no one moved. “Come on, everyone up, let’s get going.”

Everyone was bone weary, that was obvious. The ordeal of the last couple of days had been like passing through hell for of each one of them. Micron was obviously absent, but Brenzel didn’t really care, he was always such a wet blanket.

Men and women

Odd though, why separate men and women?

Meha came over, she didn’t seem as bothered as she usually was. Brenzel supposed it was because she was back among her people. She spoke to the woman who came to take them to their rooms, pointing to Brenzel.

The room they were taken to wasn’t much bigger than her cabin on the ship, but it had beds and she’d been shown where the privy was. Right now, Brenzel just wanted to sleep, and she laid down on the surprisingly comfortable mattress. It was soft and inviting; all she really needed.

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