a new family across the hall. That would be bad enough in any case. But this
time it was the worst.
Gudi waited as long as she could that
evening before breaking the news to her husband. “And they’re Wamai,” she finished.
Her husband, Tayra, had been sitting as
usual, semi-somnolent before the television after dinner, but at her words his
eyes snapped open and he came bolt upright in the chair. “What? What did you
“They’re Wamai,” Gudi repeated. “The family
across the hall.”
“How the hell?” Tayra yelled. “How can the
Council let bugs move in here? This is a human town!”
“I don’t know, and please don’t shout at
me. It’s not my fault.”
Tayra didn’t seem to hear. “Stinking damned
bugs! How can this be allowed? I’m not going to stand for it!”
“They aren’t stinking,” Gudi ventured to
protest. “I saw them moving in. There wasn’t really any smell at all.”
Tayra turned bloodshot eyes towards her.
“Don’t be ridiculous, woman. Bugs are always stinking. I know.”
Gudi shrugged. “Well, what can we do about
“It was bad enough that we weren’t allotted
that flat,” Tayra shouted, “but to have it handed over to bugs – that’s too
damned much. I’ll have them thrown out. See if I don’t.”
“How? If they got the flat they have
permission. And if they’ve got permission, there’s not much we can do.”
“We’ll see about that,” Tayra shouted.
“First thing in the morning I’m going down to the Council office.”
And early in the morning he did go. Gudi
stood at the window and watched him march down the street. His back was stiff
with anger, and he hadn’t even had breakfast. Except for a murderous glare at
the closed door across the hall, he hadn’t mentioned the new family at all.
Gudi sighed. This was a complication she
hadn’t wanted. With the baby coming and all, peace and quiet, not to speak of a
larger flat, would have been nice. But they hadn’t got the larger flat, and it
seemed that peace and quiet wouldn’t be forthcoming, either.
Automatically, she reached out and ran her
fingers down the window, as though to remind herself that the wall of glass was
there. The morning sun was shining on the domes of the factory district,
glittering with solar panels. Tayra’s shift started in an hour.
He was so angry, Gudi thought. So angry,
and it would probably be so futile. But he wouldn’t stop, even when the Council
turned him away. It wasn’t like him to ever give up.
All she’d wanted, Gudi thought, was to have
some peace and quiet to have her baby. And that was just what she would be
Her fingers rubbed, mechanically, up and
down, up and down, the glass.
It was just the next day that Gudi met the
Wamaina for the first time. They both happened to emerge from their respective
flats at the exact same instant. If Gudi had looked at the security camera
first she would’ve waited, but it was too late. She hesitated, poised on the
verge of ducking back inside.
The Wamaina showed no such reaction.
SheThey inclined HerTheir heavy black headshield over joined minor forelimbs in
polite greeting. Gudi managed to stretch her features into a smile.
“Er, good morning,” she said. It was the
first time she’d ever been so close to an alien of any kind, let alone a
Wamaina. The huge creature seemed to fill all the available space. HerTheir
spiny tail waved back and forth. “I
believe you’re our new neighbours.”
“That is correct,” the Wamaina said, in
impeccable English. HerTheir voice was surprisingly musical, the enunciation
perfect. Gudi had anticipated something like an insect’s buzzing. “IWe am very
pleased to meet you.”
“Er,” Gudi replied, inadequately, “yes.”
She introduced herself. “My husband’s called Tayra.”
“IWe am KaRaha.” The Wamaina’s heavy head
shield was still politely down, and Gudi realised that the alien was probably
being submissive. HerTheir enormous physical size – Gudi’s head barely reached
the creature’s spiky shoulders – made this strictly a matter of interpretation.
“Your husband is known to us. He’s been to the Council office to have us
Gudi blushed instinctively. “I’m so sorry.
He’s, well, he thinks, he thinks this is a human-only space, and...”
KaRaha waved a minor forelimb. “It does not
matter, really. We have permission to be here. It is only that it would be
more, ah, comfortable if he were better disposed towards us.”
“Well, you know.” Gudi shuffled her feet.
“I really can’t...I can’t change how he behaves.”
“It does not matter,” KaRaha repeated,
firmly. “IWe merely meant it would make it easier to serve you. You are, after
all, our lords.”
Gudi winced. “I’ve got to go,” she mumbled.
“Where do you work?”
She knew with a sinking feeling what the
answer would be even before it came.
“The damned things are in the factory,” Tayra shouted. His voice
bounced off the walls and assaulted Gudi from all directions. His eyes were
bloodshot and bulging with fury. “They’re on the factory floors!”
“Calm down,” Gudi begged, with no
expectation of success. She wasn’t disappointed.
“Calm down?” Tayra screamed. He slammed his
hand down hard enough on the dining table to make the vase jump. “Is this why I
served in the war, and fought the bugs, so that I’d have to work in the same
place as them?”
“Surely it isn’t that bad,” Gudi said. “I
mean, they aren’t taking over your job, are they?” She decided not to point out
the fact that Tayra had been a mechanic on a maintenance crew, and hadn’t come
close to any actual combat.
“No, they’re down on the factory floor,
servicing the robots and doing repair work. But so what? They’re here, and we
didn’t fight them so they could come over to Earth. We fought them to take
their planet, not give them ours.”
“It isn’t exactly giving them our planet if
they’re doing bottom level work,” Gudi said mildly. Tayra glared at her for a
moment, and then suddenly remembered something.
“Muna is supposed to give a speech
tonight,” he said, turning on the television set. Gudi always kept it off when
she was alone at home. She hated television. “Let’s see what he says about
Muna was a politician whom Tayra admired
intensely. He had been a senior officer in the war, and had resigned his
commission in protest at the peace treaty which had ended the conflict short of
the genocide of the Wamai. Tayra had voted for him in every election since
“He’ll be sure to suggest laws to put the
bugs in their place,” Tayra said, as Muna appeared on the screen. His high
cheekbones and deep-sunken eyes had always reminded Gudi of an animal barricading
itself among a pile of rocks.
He’d already started his speech. “...and
about the recent decision to import Wamai to serve in our mines and factories –
“This will be good,” Tayra said.
It wasn’t good. Gudi, watching her
husband’s purpling face, soon realised that it wasn’t good. It was so far from
good that she quietly took the remote control and switched off the television
before the speech ended. Tayra sat staring at the blank screen for a moment
before he exploded.
“The bastard.” He began quite softly, just
above a whisper. “The bastard, he’s sold out.”
“Now, Tayra – ”
“What the hell do you mean, now, Tayra? Did you hear what he said?
“We have to recognise that the war is over, and we need to work together for
mutual benefit. Mutual benefit!” Tayra’s huge fists opened and closed. “Is it
mutual benefit that we didn’t get the flat across the hall, though you need it
with the baby coming? That’s mutual benefit, isn’t it, when the bugs are
crawling over our factory floor?”
Gudi tuned out for a while. She realised
with a start that Tayra had put on his shoes and was pulling on his jacket.
“Where are you going?”
“I told you, didn’t I? I have to talk to
someone about this.”
“Someone who can help.” He didn’t say help
in what way. “Don’t wait up, I’ll probably be late.”
The door slammed behind him. Gudi didn’t
stand at the window to watch him go.
morning came and Tayra was still not back. Gudi tried to call him and discovered
that he’d left his phone at home. Feeling restless and worried, she put on her
coat and decided to go looking for him. She’d probably not find him, but it was
better than sitting at home waiting.
There was a Wamain coming up the stairs.
HeThey moved aside quickly at the sight of the woman, and bent his little head
shield almost to the floor. “Good morning, ma’am.”
Gudi smiled wanly. “And you are...?”
The Wamain’s nictitating plates flicked
over HisTheir black eyes. “Ma’am? IWe do not understand.”
“HeThey doesn’t have a name,” KaRaha’s
voice came from behind Gudi. “Wamains don’t, you know. They’re only an adjunct
of Wamainas, really.”
Gudi glanced from HerThem to the Wamain.
HeThey was diminutive compared to KaRaha, only slightly bigger than Gudi herself.
“How many of you are there?” she asked.
It was KaRaha who answered. “Only four of
us, in our flat. IWe and three Wamain.”
Half-remembered tales came to Gudi’s mind.
“That’s not a large Wamai family unit, is it? I heard you usually have about
ten or eleven.”
“That’s right, but...” KaRaha gestured, and
the Wamain, pressing HimThemself deferentially to the wall, squeezed past Gudi
and into the flat. “That’s right,” the Wamaina resumed. “But that’s only true
for the top orders. And IWe are bottom level worker caste.”
“You are?” Gudi blinked. “I didn’t know
“Why do you think IWe were sent here to
your world to work for you? The top orders do not do such things, ever.” The
Wamaina’s voice sounded faintly mocking to Gudi. “But are you going somewhere?
Am IWe keeping you?”
“I was going out to look for Tayra.
He...went out and, well, he should have been back earlier.”
“IWe hope you will find him soon,” the
Wamaina said politely. HerTheir major forelimbs touched Gudi’s shoulders
gently. “Come and visit whenever you want,” SheThey said.
“Yes, er...” A movement in the corner of
Gudi’s eye caught her attention. It was down the stairs. Peering down past the
railings, she saw Tayra coming up, the top of his head and his familiar jacket.
“There he is,” she said, in relief. “I’d better get back inside quickly. If he
saw me with you...” She caught herself quickly, but there was no need.
KaRaha had disappeared.
Tayra looked exhausted but triumphant.
“We’ve made a start,” he said. “We’re organising.”
“Never you mind. You look after yourself
and the baby, and let me worry about this.”
Gudi watched him move heavily about the
flat. “Did you eat at all?”
“Yes, don’t worry about that.” He waved a
dismissive hand. “I’ll be late coming back this evening. There’s a meeting
“You’ll come back, though, right? You’re
not going to leave me alone, again?”
“Of course I’ll come back. Now sit down,
you’ll upset the baby. I’ve got to get to work.”
But it wasn’t Tayra who came that night, it
was a black-clad squad of the Security Police. Gudi had just come out of the
bath when they opened the door with their master key and entered, without
attempting to knock. They could do that, of course. The Security Police didn’t
need warrants for anything. She just had time to wrap a towel, however
inadequately, round her expanded girth.
“Where is he?” the squad chief demanded. From
the voice it was a woman, though, of course, Gudi couldn’t see anyone’s face
through the mirror visors of their helmets. “Where is your husband?”
“He must be at work,” Gudi said.
“Don’t play games with us, woman. You know
as well as I do that he did not go to work today. If he had, we’d have picked
him up there.”
Gudi stared at her, open-mouthed. “He
didn’t go to work? But...”
The squad leader made a disgusted noise.
“Search the place,” she told the others. “Strip it bare. And you, don’t you
Gudi was trembling by the time they
finished, and only a little was from the water crawling down her body. They
didn’t find anything, of course. She’d no idea what they’d been looking for.
“Why are you doing this?” she asked.
“You know quite well. Your husband is
plotting to start a civil war.”
“Civil war?” Gudi yelped. “What on earth are you talking about? He...” she
“Nothing. I don’t know anything about it.”
“No, you probably don’t,” the squad leader
answered. “I don’t think your husband would be stupid enough to tell you. You’ll
find out, though. You wouldn’t be human if you don’t, now.”
“And suppose I do?” Gudi felt reckless, the
blood rushing to her head. “Do you suppose I’d tell you?”
“Oh, you would, if I decided to get it out
of you. The only reason I’m not arresting you right away is that.” The squad
leader pointed at the bulge of her belly. “Don’t push your luck.”
Gudi shivered, clutching the towel around
her. The leader watched her crew leave one by one.
“We’ll be back,” she said over her shoulder.
“We’ll be back, much sooner than you think.”
They didn’t even bother to close the door
didn’t bother to straighten up the place. There wasn’t any point; they’d
probably be back in an hour or two and toss everything around again.
She dressed quickly. She needed to go out. The
flat had suddenly become intolerable. The walls seemed to be closing in on her
like a fist.
The streets were dark and empty already,
and silent except for the familiar grinding and clattering of a police half-track.
But the vehicle was several streets away, and she did not see it at all.
She didn’t know exactly where she was going.
She’d never gone out with Tayra, and didn’t know who his friends were. But she
had to look for him somewhere, however futile the exercise was.
Walking past the deserted local school, she
had an idea. Once, she’d seen him with a man he’d introduced as Mit. She’d
never really met Mit again, but she’d seen him several times, usually near the
market that catered to the factory workers. She’d noted, almost by accident,
where he probably lived.
It was one of the oldest buildings in the
city, of dark yellow stone and green paint on the door. When she pressed on the
bell, nothing happened for a long time, so she rang it again. Then the door
slid open enough for an eye to look at her.
“Go away.” It was Mit. She couldn’t see
more than the one eye, but his voice was terrified. “Go away, and don’t come
“I know who you are. Please don’t create
trouble for me. I’m not involved in this.”
“In this? What is this?” Gudi snapped. “My home was raided by the Security Police, my
husband has vanished, and you won’t talk to me. How would I create any trouble
when I don’t even know what this is about?”
Mit stared at her and then, reluctantly,
opened the door a crack more. “I suppose you’d better come in.”
Gudi squeezed inside. It was a dimly lit
room with too much furniture. Mit pointed to a chair and locked the door
quickly. “I take it that he didn’t tell you anything?”
“About what? It’s not illegal to demonstrate
against the Wamai, is it?”
“Demonstrate?” Mit blinked. “Where did you
get the idea that he was going to demonstrate?”
There was a long silence.
“You poor woman,” Mit said at last. “So you
really don’t know what this is about.”
“Go out the back way,” Mit said. “They might be watching the front.”
Gudi was still feeling dizzy from what she’d
just been told. She didn’t have to ask who they
might be, though. “They don’t know I’m here,” she objected.
“You might have been followed. It’s not
“Nothing’s safe,” Gudi said bitterly, as
she went through the tiny kitchen. The back door opened on to a tiny walled
garden with a narrow lane beyond. Mit ducked back inside and shut the door
without a word more.
The last thing she could do now was go
home. She looked up and down the lane quickly, almost expecting hulking figures
everywhere, but the shadows were dark and still. Was it too silent for this
time of night?
“Stop it,” she muttered to herself, hurrying
down the lane. “Don’t get paranoid, now.”
The lane opened on to a side street, lined
on one side by the canal and on the other by a row of storage warehouses for
the factories. Even in the daytime this was a fairly dismal place. At night, it
was not a place anyone would want to be.
She was half way along the street when she
saw the glow. It was only a flicker at first, among the factory buildings, a
flash of yellow. A moment later, it erupted in a white-hot fireball rising over
the domes like a blossoming flower. It was so bright that she cried out
involuntarily, holding her forearm up over her face.
There were noises, a snap and crackle and a
distant roar. When she could open her eyes again, the main factory was wreathed
in red and yellow flames. The heat was intense enough to make her flinch.
Little figures were already rushing about
in the distance, arcs of water rising up towards the fire from pumps set up
beside the canal. She could hear shouts. Something exploded with a hollow bang,
and another fireball shot up, even brighter than the first.
Burning debris began raining down.
Something large bounced on the pavement beside her and disappeared into the
canal with a hiss and puff of steam. It was only after that that she realised
her own throat was hoarse with screaming.
Turning, she began to hurry back towards
She saw them in the lane just in time, four
or five in the uniforms and helmets. If it hadn’t been for the flames lighting
up the sky behind her she wouldn’t have seen them at all. Mit was with them,
looking tiny and scared. He pointed vaguely, in the wrong direction. The
Security Police didn’t seem impressed.
Her heart thudding painfully, Gudi pressed
herself into a slice of shadow thrown by a tree on the wall. Behind her, the
fire was now a tower of light licking at the stars.
Something caught her by the shoulder and
pulled. A hand clapped over her mouth, stifling her scream.
“What the hell are you doing out here?” Tayra hissed in her ear.
“They...they’re looking for you,” Gudi stammered. “Mit said you’re
planning an armed rebellion.”
“Did he?” Tayra had dragged her to a
warehouse set apart from the section that was burning. He’d pulled her to a
room that was little bigger than a closet and thrust her down on a wooden
bench. “What would he know about it?”
“What is this place?” Gudi asked. Neither
Tayra nor the other two men in the room, neither of whom she had ever seen
before, answered. One of them was peering into a large bag, doing something
inside. The other one had earphones on and no expression on his face. “Tayra?”
“We’re the ones planning an armed
rebellion?” Tayra shouted suddenly. He pointed towards the tiny skylight,
through which the fire could be seen, still soaring skyward. “What do you call that?”
“But...” Gudi licked her lips. “Wasn’t it
your group that set the fire, then?”
“Us? Why would we want to burn down the
factories? We want it for ourselves, without the bugs. Does it make any sense
that we’d set it?”
“Who did, then?”
“I have no idea. Whoever did, though, they’ve
started something bigger than anyone can control.” Tayra grinned. “Maybe it’s
your friends the bugs who began it. They’re certainly stupid enough, to set
fire to something they were supposed to be given on a platter.”
“What if it’s...an accident?”
“Listen to that.” Tayra laughed harshly as
an explosion sounded from the direction of the fire. “You think that started by
itself? An armed rebellion, did you say? It’s going to be a lot bigger than any
armed rebellion, now.”
Gudi changed tack. “Where have you been all
day, then? Didn’t you care what I’d be going through?”
“You’d have been all right as long as you
stayed at home. The police didn’t hurt you, did they?”
“No, but...” Gudi felt pulled in multiple
directions. “How could you expect me to stay waiting without news?”
“Don’t you understand? There are more
important things going on than you.”
There was an immense flash of light and
something heavy crashed down outside. The man rummaging in the bag looked up
calmly. “Fire’s spreading, Tayra. We’ve got to get out.”
“Come on, then.” Tayra pulled at Gudi’s
arm, dragging her to the door. Outside it was bright as day, and so hot that
she thought her hair and eyelashes might shrivel. The other two men were close
“Where do we go now?” the third man,
wearing his headphones around his neck, asked. His voice was soft and had the
unmistakable accent of the farm country to the south. “Site B’s already been
The half-track erupted out of the flame and
smoke like a shark parting the sea, its tyres smoking on the concrete. Sparks
flew from debris as its churning tracks crushed them down. The gun mounts
swivelled like fingers searching for something to point at.
For a moment everyone seemed frozen with
shock, and then Tayra reacted. He thrust Gudi away so hard she went staggering.
“Run,” he shouted, his voice almost lost in the noise of the fire and the
half-track’s engine. “Get out of here!”
Gudi managed to stop herself falling and
turned. The other two men had already disappeared. She caught a glimpse of
Tayra, looking over his shoulder at her. He mouthed something at her and
disappeared behind a pall of smoke.
Gudi straightened, her breath harsh in her
throat. The half-track was hesitating, as though confused about which way to go.
Its gun muzzles swivelled, aimlessly, and then, as though making up their
minds, turned towards her as one.
There was no way she could run, with her
belly, even if the air hadn’t been fire in her throat. She stood there and
waited as they climbed out of the half-track and came to her.
“So you didn’t know where he was?” the
Security Police officer said. “Just how much of a fool do you take me for?”
of the half-track was cramped and smelt of oil, but the air conditioning kept
the heat of the fire at bay. They’d pushed Gudi down to the floor, where she
crouched between their boots. Over the noise of the half-track’s engine she
could hear explosions. She had no idea what they were.
“Where are you taking me?” she asked once.
“Shut up.” A boot prodded her, not too
kindly. “I’m not going to tell you again.”
Gudi subsided. The terror she’d held at bay
all day now came over her in waves, threatening to overpower her. She’d heard
tales of what happened to those taken by the Security Police. That she was
pregnant might have postponed her arrest once, but it would not save her again.
“If only you hadn’t been wasting time,” she
heard someone say bitterly over the noise of the engine, “we could have got
them all. Instead, we just have the woman, and you could have got her anyway.”
“Shut up,” the squad leader snapped. “If you
hadn’t lost the signal from the tracker, we’d never have had to...”
It was as though a buried giant had woken
and smashed up a fist through the earth into the floor. It threw Gudi into the
air. For a moment the half track spun around her, filled with screams and
flying equipment. And then something slammed into her head and she was knocked
When she regained consciousness, she was
outside. Someone had her under the armpits and was dragging her along the
street. A short distance away, the half-track sagged, tilted over almost on its
side, broken metal links scattered around a crater in the ground. The gun ports
swivelled, muzzles flashing, firing aimlessly, their noise merging with that of
the explosions and the fire.
“Can you walk?” a voice shouted in her ear.
“We need to move quickly.”
“Yes,” she managed to gasp. She did not
know who the man was. There was another one with him. They pushed her along,
down an alley and into a narrow space between buildings which were still
untouched by the fire.
“Please,” she managed to gasp. “I can’t go
any further...my breath.”
“Well, you’ll have to.” The man’s fingers
dug into her arm. “The commander asked us to get you, specifically. Why do you
think we’ve been looking for you all night? Why do you suppose we hit that
half-track, for fun?”
“The commander?” Gudi blinked in confusion.
“But Tayra was with me just before . He told me to run.”
It was now the man’s turn to peer into her
face. “Tayra? What are you on about? I’m talking about the commander. Muna.”
All of a sudden some things became clear to
Gudi. “Oh, god. He’s the one who
planned the rebellion. And he wants me to use as a hostage, against Tayra. Isn’t
“What does it matter why he wants you?” the
man grunted. “Now are you going to walk, or should we carry you?”
her,” the other man snapped. “We can’t dawdle like this.”
“No, I’ll walk.” She wouldn’t let them
carry her, wouldn’t sacrifice that much of whatever little dignity was left.
How many factions were there, and what was she to them except a tool? To the
police she was a source of information about Tayra. To Muna she was a hostage
to control Tayra. And to Tayra she was...what, exactly?
“Almost safe,” the man who’d wanted to
carry her grunted. They’d come out into a small square. The buildings around
were dark and silent. “They’ll never find us here.”
“Just a moment.” Gudi pulled at her captors’
sleeves. “Just one moment, let me breathe.”
The world exploded.
When Gudi could hear and see again she was
lying on her back next to a wall. She caught a momentary glimpse of it then – the bat-winged
shape of a drone overhead, just visible from the reflection of the fire. Smoke
and dust from its missiles was still rising into the air in slow motion.
Dazedly, she sat up. There was no sign of
the men. They’d probably run away and left her for dead. If it hadn’t been for
her last minute plea for a rest the three of them would have been blown apart.
Gudi had stopped thinking. She no longer
had much idea what she was doing. She let her legs carry her whichever way they
wanted. No way was better than any other.
After some time she realised she was on
familiar territory, the street but one behind her own building. Obediently, as
though drawn by an invisible signal, she turned towards it.
Limbs strong as steel came out of the
shadows behind her and picked her up like a child. She felt herself held close
to an armour-plated chest.
“You aren’t looking very well, ma’am,”
KaRaha’s familiar voice said. “IWe think you need help. Am IWe mistaken?”
“No,” Gudi whispered, and the word repeated
itself like an endless echo. “Nonononono.”
“Here,” the Wamaina said. SheThey eased Gudi onto the van’s padded
bench, steadying her against the swaying and lurching of the speeding vehicle. “It’s
lucky IWe saw you before we left.”
“Where are you going?” Gudi mumbled. The
Wamaina filled the interior of the little vehicle almost to overflowing. One of
the Wamain was in the front, behind the wheel. The other two were nowhere to be
“Out of the city. It’s not healthy here, as
you can see for yourself.” There might have been irony in the Wamaina’s voice.
SheThey gestured with a minor forelimb at the fire climbing over the factories.
“Now take off your clothes.”
“What?” Gudi asked.
“Take off your clothes,” the alien repeated
patiently. “We – IWe and you – don’t want
to be traced. You’ll see.”
They found one tracker in the seam of her
jacket’s collar, clinging on with tiny mechanical legs. Another, like a little worm,
was dug into the heel of her shoe. KaRaha pitched both out of the window. “Let
them try and find you now,” SheThey said.
Mechanically, Gudi dressed again. “That’s
how they knew where I was,” she muttered. “They must have seeded all my clothes
with trackers while searching the flat.”
The Wamaina blanked the van’s windows. “Now
we only have to get out of town before someone puts up roadblocks,” SheThey
said. “We only need a little luck. Not that it matters, of course, in the long
“How do you mean?” Gudi asked.
“There’s no way we Wamain can get back
home. All Wamain here are trapped. Sooner or later, we’ll probably be hunted
down. But not for now.”
“I’m sorry,” Gudi whispered.
“For everything. It’s not your fault you’re
here, caught in our troubles.” Gudi winced as something very loud exploded not
too far away. “It’s not your fault you’re here and can’t go home.” She had a
thought. “Where are your other two Wamain? Are they in another vehicle?”
“They will not be joining us.” KaRaha’s
nictitating plates slid back and forth over HerTheir eyes. “They have stayed
behind to do what they have to.”
“What?” Gudi struggled to sit up, but the
Wamaina easily and gently pushed her down again. “They’ll be killed!”
“Of course, but that does not matter.
Wamain are not really independent thinking creatures. And in any case it is a
sacrifice in a worthy cause. As will MyOurs be, when it comes. After all, I’m
only a tiny part of the great Wamai Hive, a very small and expendable one.”
“Worthy cause? What worthy cause?”
There was no mistaking the satisfaction in
the alien’s voice. “Our liberation,” SheThey said. “It starts tonight.”
Gudi lay back silently, waiting.
“You humans,” KaRaha went on, “wanted to
enslave us, and thought you’d succeeded. And then you thought we would be paid
off with petty little jobs in your factories and farms. But just because you thought it would be that way doesn’t
necessarily mean anything to us. Do
Gudi’s lips moved. “The factory fire...”
“One of MyOur Wamain set it. Very
successfully, IWe might add.” KaRaha gestured with a minor forelimb. “We Wamai
have been studying you, ever since the surrender. We’ve seen your internal splits
and fissures, your tribal resentments and social divisions. All it takes is a
hard blow in the right place to break it all apart. And it’s not just this one
factory complex, of course. All over your world, mines and farms and factories,
power stations and communications centres, everything Wamai have access to,
everything is going up in flames right now.”
“Civil war,” Gudi said.
“As you say, civil war. It would have come
sooner or later, but now is the time
when it will cause the maximum chaos and destruction.” KaRaha’s head shield
slid back and forth as another blast shook the van. “How many factions do you
suppose are going to be at each other’s throats by this time next week?”
“And I?” Gudi cried out. “Why did you save
me? Why did you bring me along?”
“This city will be destroyed, and more
likely than not everyone in it.” The
Wamaina touched the woman’s face. “You deserve to have a chance at life
elsewhere, you and your baby. After all, we don’t mean genocide. We aren’t
There was a long silence, except for the
van’s engine and distant explosions, before KaRaha spoke again.
“We’re just the family across the hall,” SheThey
said. “And all we want is freedom.
“Is that so very wrong?”
Copyright B Purkayastha 2017