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13

Page history last edited by rsb 10 years ago

 

Freida had no luck convincing her friends to love the Wumpits on the starship over.

 

"Freida, you can't stop talking about the Wumpits."

"I can't help it.  They're the most interesting thing about the planet.  When we get there, I'm going to need something to study!"

"Did you see the Wiznieckam documentary on those things?"

"Yes!  I thought they were tragic and beautiful."

"Tragic and beautiuful psychopathic killers."

"That's harsh.  I thought they were like monkeys.  On a bad day.  With giant females."

"What's up with that, anyway?  The men look like us, but the women, not even close!"

"I take exception with that. Monkeys live longer. And they're nicer."

"Yeah, but they *look* exactly like little humans!", Frieda said.  

"They are wicked smart.  Monkeys don't have much language.  The wumpits are practically born speaking."

"It's supposedly illegal to teach them english, right?"

"If you see one, put up your shield, and run.  Where there is one of those little buggers, there are hundreds."

"I love them.", said Frieda, pouting. "And when I get in the scouts, I'm going to get my research badge in their park.  I hope..."

 

------

 

It was a brutal beginning.  Frieda was accepted into the girl scouts, and was assigned the research job she wanted, on condition that she wore a sheild at all times, and kept her cloak up, and did not touch the Wumpits.  A war was on between sections 11 and 12.  She almost quit her second day.  Only long conversations with previous researchers allowed her the peace of mind to endure the brutality, and see the beauty of these creatures, and ultimately come to appreciate them again.

 

In the first few days, she compiled imagery from the insect cameras that were everywhere in the forest.  She saw violent combat, brutally carried out with spears, clubs, and plants that could be made to shoot their seeds with deadly accuracy and blinding speed.  The spears were the worst.  They never killed when they could fatally injure, causing the most painful, lingering deaths they could.  Pain beyond what any human could experience filled the battlefields.  Frieda worked hard to edit the screams out of her personal view of the battles, and kept checking her cloak and shield when in the field.

 

Tribe 11A was her first official assignment.  Their section of the park was a beautiful jungle punctuated with streams and rolling hills.  Flowers grew everywhere. 

 

A few weeks in, Frieda got close enough to tribe 11A to see the birth of a Wumpit in person.  Meerjy.  

 

Meerjy dropped out of his mother at birth, fell to his knees and elbows, covered in birth fluid.  He struggled to his feet as his father wiped his head with clota leaves and steadied him.  The family shared a moment together, the parents hugging their child, and then it was off to work for the father, the mother turning to feed the tired infant.  

 

Meerjy was the least important child of that female, as he was born in the summer season.  He would be hairless, never mate, and serve as a laborer or warrior, Freidas research told her.

 

A week later, Meerjy was the most gorgeous young man Freida had ever seen.  She never got far from him again when in the field - Meerjy was so irresistibly charming that it was useless to try to spend a day without him.  

 

Frieda kept her cloak up for another week, then began to drop it on occasion.  Meerjy could smell her anyway, and had come to think of her as his personal ghost, a presence revealed only to him.  At 30 days old, Meerjy was in his fifth season, and spent much of his time absorbing oral history.  He could speak, run, and wrestle with the best of them.  

 

Wumpits bred and fought constantly.  For creatures whose lifespans averaged 200 days, a Wumpit warrior could spend a surprisingly large number of them in battle.  Meerjy was given a spear, and made an official spearman on his 31st day.  Freida projected his first battle would take place in one week.  He would be one of the youngest on the battlefield.  She spoke to him that night.  It was horribly wrong of her, and against the rules, but she had to help this one.  

 

Freida knew controlling Meerjy would be easy.  The Humans and their Dome were part of the Wumpits oral history.  The Wumpits regarded humans with a level of fear and respect afforded to gods, and had never been known to disobey them.  Meerjy was no exception, and Freida convinced Meerjy to meet with her daily and in secret.

 

An hour a day, Frieda taught Meerjy how to use two long daggers she brought him.  She simulated spear attacks with her rapier.  He learned quickly, and was full of questions.

 

"You said you have been alive for fifty summers.", Meerjy said, "But you have longer seasons...how can the seasons be longer?  How is it that you can live forever?"

"Focus, Meerjy.  The daggers will protect you."

"How did you learn the daggers?"

"I practice with a group of virtual swordsmen.  And other living swordsmen, sometimes, if they are close enough to me, and care to join me."

Freida spoke softly to Meerjy now, like someone she was caring for.  She could see he was confused.

"I know it's hard to understand.  My eyes have machines in them.  They were put there when I was born.  They allow me to see things that don't exist - things I want to see - as if they were real.  And my brain has a machine in it.  It allows me to feel things that the machine images would make me feel.  So I can have a duel.  I can see it, and I can feel it.  But they duelists are not really there.  And my ears and throat have machines in them.  They allow me to speak to you in your language, without studying it."

 

Meerjys mouth hung open. At length, he said, "I was told there once was a Wumpit wizard.  He knew some machine."

Frieda tried not to roll her eyes.  Magic was machine to Meerjy, evidently.

"But nothing like you.", Meerjy continued, "You can see things, and feel things.  Like living dreams..are...real things to you.  You can make anything, from a ghost."

"Sort of."

Meerjy glanced around, as if checking for apparitions.  

"But...ghosts kill people, Frieda."

"No, Meerjy..." 

 

Frieda looked up.  She did, in fact, have some virtual swordsmen active at that moment, commenting on the training.  A number of Friedas teachers, great swordsmen from throughout history, looked on, in their period garb, relaxing and occasionally commenting on the simpleton, Meerjy, while they waited for Frieda to call them to action.  A former member of the Arditi, Capt. Zancanaro, in his WWI dress uniform, gave Freida a shrug.  They were never helpful at times like this.  

 

"not ghosts...I can make a swordsman appear...and I can feel their sword, but it can't cut me.  I control what I feel.  And you control what you feel.  That's the difference."

 

Meerjy nodded, but it was clear that he was simply mesmerized, staring into Friedas eyes, looking for machine, perhaps, or something else.

 

"But you are not a ghost.", Meerjy said, and reached out a hand to Frieda.  She lowered her sheild, and reached out with a smile, touching his warm palm with her fingertips.  Their eyes were locked for some time.  Freida thought she felt her heart physically leave her chest.  "I might as well be one...", she said, and ran her hand over Meerjys bald head.

 

They continued their practice for a month, four seasons.  They were equally serious but goofy, and quickly developed their own language of farcical facial expressions, often ending practice sessions in laughter.

 

Meerjy was an amazingly fast learner, but had no chance of beating Frieda.  Frieda knew that didn't matter.  Meerjy was now the most dangerous martial artist in the land - and with his daggers - the best equipped and the best in defense against spear that the Wumpits had ever seen.  The perfect warrior, for all intents and purposes.  Frieda improved his knowledge of camouflage.  Meerjy had only to keep down when the seeds flew, and she was sure he would survive to adulthood.

 

---------

 

Meerjy became a spectacular fighter.  Fast, deadly, and creative.  Before each battle, he covered himself in black mud.  He stayed low.  Every time he entered a trench, he cleared it.  Tribe 12 soon suffered from a lack of leadership.  It was a short war, resulting in annexation of tribe 12C into tribe 11A.  

 

Meerjy was soon recognized as the tribes gift from the war ghosts.  He coupled with several of the tribes leading women, and they gave birth to his first child, Viz, in the fall.  Viz was even more beautiful than Meerjy, Freida thought, if that was even possible.

 

Tribe 11As leaders were not ambitious.  They kept their borders, and settled into the winter season.  They celebrated their glorious crop, hunted, gathered, and enjoyed their expanded food stores and range.

 

Tribes 12A and 12B attacked unexpectedly.  Freida was in the dome, having lunch with her parents, when a swordsman appeared to alert her to a research imperative.  "Gotta run to work, she said, and kissed the air.  She felt their return kisses on her cheek. 

 

"Sheilds up!", her dad warned her.

"Cloak on!", her mom admonished.  

They know I've been dropping it, Freida thought, but they love me.

 

After she left, they talked about her.

"She's going to get kicked out of the scouts if we don't stop her, you know.", said Schesla.

"And well she should.  I personally can't wait.  She needs a break to reflect."

"This won't be the last world she visits.  She'll be back to research again."

"Having learned much, I imagine...and safely, I hope..."

Mas fixed Schesla with a determined look, "The scouts won't evaluate her until the end of the year.  In the meantime, I'm keeping an eye on her...don't worry."

"Oh Mas, was it this nerve wracking for our parents when we were in the scouts?"

Mas looked blankly at his coffee, breathed out all his breath, and shook his head before answering.  "God, I hope not."

 

-------

 

Freida hopped onto a skiff, cloaked it, and began the hour-long journey across the park, passing through the dome.  Anything outside the dome saw neither the skiff nor the dome, only a slight blur as the skiff passed through.  

 

She admonished herself.  How had she missed this?  

 

She had been so occupied with her study of the social dynamics of the the tribe she followed, that she hadn't set alerts to warn her of other tribes activities.  She looked through the cameras of the insects and sattelites and saw the first seed rounds impact tribe 11A Wumpits in their watch trees.  

 

The satellites showed more movement in this sector than she had ever seen recorded.  Tribes 12B and 12C had been busy.  Frieda looked back through the logs and tried to piece together their strategy from conversations between the leading women of tribes 12B and 12C.  As she uncovered the details of their plan, tears came to her eyes.  "Oh, Meerjy." she thought aloud.

 

--------

 

Meerjy was desperate.  He breathed heavily and rapidly as he pressed himself into the small felled tree, the only cover he had, hard.  He lied mostly face down in the mud, just enough of his mouth and nose stuck out of the mud and green leaves to allow him to breath something that was more oxegyn than dirt.  Thorny rounds whined over his head and smacked into the mud just past him, making loud cracking sounds and peppering him with the black mud of the valley.  He gripped his daggers tightly.  

 

He might have slipped around a flank before their women targeted him with these rounds.  How was it that there were so many, and they had seen him so easily.  He had moved in cover and camouflage silently, as always.  He turned his head through what range of motion he had.  The canopy was his best bet.  He made a break for it, and reached a tree, but took a round in the back.  He was able to whip around the tree in time to escape further attack.  Always the optimist, "You can survive one round, sometimes", he thought.  He took a deep breath, knocked the round out with a dagger, than used his daggers to aid in his climb.

 

As Meerjy painfully but quickly climbed, he saw another Wumpit from his tribe, Ofa, was in a tree several feet off the advancing lines, behind him, exposed.  What was he doing out of cover?  Just staring at Meerjy, weaponless, as far as he could tell.  

 

The tree Meerjy was climbing continued to be peppered with rounds.  He reached the canopy just as the enemy line swarmed around his tree, and found a hiding place high among the branches.  Rustling soon came all around him.  It sounded like an entire tribe was in the canopy.  He almost took off Ofas head when Ofa popped up.  Ofa quickly popped back out of the Canopy.  Was he crazy?  Either way, Meerjy couldn't stay here, and he would be too slow in retreat. He had to get behind their lines, where he was always most effective, and break to a flank as usual.  He was losing blood.  He steeled himself.  

 

-----

 

"No, no no.", Freida kept saying aloud as she watched Meerjys predicament.  And entire tribe was arrayed against him alone, sixteen women with hundreds of seed rounds and dozens of spearmen in the trees.  They even had a spy from Meerjys tribe spotting for them. They intended to take Meerjy alive, and learn from him.  Freida knew Meerjy would never let that happen.  He was going to die today.

 

-----

 

Meerjy realized that fact a few moments later, after cutting through a half dozen spearmen to reach a canopy opening behind the enemy firing line.  He saw them before they saw him - the best armed and protected group of Wumpits he had ever seen in one place.  Just two meters beyond his tree.  He looked directly down the tree he was in.  Two oblivious spearmen were looking for him.  Looking behind him, Ofa and another spearmen appeared.  Quietly, closed his eyes and whispered a prayer to Freida.  "Oh, Freida.  Oh, Angel.  I take these lives in your honor...may I one day be a ghost in your eyes."

 

He took two steps through the canopy at a stride that extended his legs almost fully, then leapt.  

 

Meerjys daggers landed in one womans head, his feet in her chest.  The daggers continued to land in a ballet of power that made great swordsmen proud.  Freida watched in awe.  Not one seed round hit Meerjy until he reached the tail end of the enemy firing line.  A single female, which Meerjy had not finished, blood in her eyes, desperately fired one last round, and struck Meerjy in his side.  

 

His vision blurry, Meerjy turned to face the five remaining spearmen, who quickly caught up with and surrounded him.  

 

Full of anger, they no longer considered taking him alive.

 

----

 

Freida tried to report on the event impassively, but couldn't finish it.  Then she tried to read, but she felt slow.  There was a weight in her chest that pulled her off center.  She found her head in her hands.  Every time she straightened up, she would lean forward again, and eventually her head slipped back down.   When she could, her eyes and hands focused on the problem at hand, but her mind was working in a dark place she didn't recognize.  Her parents exchanged knowing glances with one another and comforted her silently when she was home.

 

-----

 

The next day, after annexing a small portion of tribe 11As land, tribes 12B and 12C celebrated.  In the bright sun, the sole spearman to survive the attack on Meerjy walked a cheering gauntlet of warriors across a grassy clearing, daggers held high and body covered in mud, in a mock representation of "Meerjy the assassin".  The spearman arrived at a semicircle of the leading females of tribe 12, and described his victory.

 

When he finished, each of the giant women thanked him, and promised him a child.  Finally, the tribe mother proclaimed him lead spear of tribe 12.  He turned to face the cheers of his tribes warriors and to curse the angel of tribe 11.

 

When he finished speaking, with nary a sound, a neat hole opened up in the spearmans right eye, and he froze in his tracks.  His hands loosened on the daggers, which fell to the ground.  Then the hole gushed blood, and the spearman crumpled to the ground.  The daggers disappeared.

 

------

 

Frieda spoke with psychiatrists hourly for a few weeks.  She made only the barest efforts to cover up her interference.  She knew she had less than 10 months left before her review.  She remotely viewed her tribe, and filed her reports without making her field visits.  It didn't matter that she wasn't following the rules anymore.  

 

The only Wumpit she cared to observe was Viz, the beautiful child of Meerjy.  Born in the fall, with beautiful long hair, he was sharp as her rapier and fun to watch.  Soon enough, she was in the field again, and appeared to him.

 

"I hoped you would come someday.", Viz said.

"You don't hate me like the females do."

"As with most of their thoughts, their hate makes little sense to me.  Male Wumpits are a more passive group."

"An independent thinker.  I like that.", Freida said, "Viz, I'm going to give you an oral history.  I want you to know your father, and I want your children to know him as well."

 

"I will stay as long as you wish, but I will be looked for at the evening meal."

"I know.  Today I will just use a few minutes of your time.  I'm going to perform some machine tricks on you.  They won't hurt you, and they will allow you and I to meet without other Wumpits knowing in the future."

"I am honored by your great machine."

"Get on your knees and tilt your head back."

Viz looked somewhat frightened, but he lowerd himself to his knees, tilted his head back to look up at her, and brushed his long, dark hair behind his back with both hands.

 

"These little bugs will open your eyes.  Don't fight it.  It is going to hurt a little.", Frieda said, and gently held his chin with her right hand, as she dropped two contact spiders on his forehead.  The translucent spiders crawled over his eyelids, which closed instinctively, and pried them open with four legs while the other legs pressed themselves into his eyes.  

 

Viz shuddered and breathed rapidly, shaking his head slightly, so Frieda tightened her grip on his chin.  Frieda then dropped the two radio spiders on his head, and they, too, crawled into his eyes, changing shape and working with the contact spiders to push themselves into Viz's tear ducts.  The contact and radio spiders then dissolved portions of themselves in Viz's tears, staining his cheeks somewhat.

 

Frieda let go of his chin and rubbed the tears away.  "This might hurt for a little while, but the spiders are smart.  It will get better."

The tears gone, green lines ran down Viz's cheeks from his eyes.  Freida stopped rubbing and gently passed her palms over his cheeks.  

"There are a few lines here on your face.  I'll get you something to take care of that.", Frieda said. 

Viz had the look of a man both confused and in pain.

"Go on, then, stand up.  You'll feel better soon, Viz.  Oh, and eat this." Frieda produced a stick of something red and hard. Viz took it, and glanced at it as if he wasn't sure it was real.

Viz just stood there, staring at Frieda as she turned to go.  Before she cloaked, Frieda look back over her shoulder at Viz and give him a wink and little wave.  Then her cloak kicked in, and heat waves from the ground smudged her image into nothingness as Viz peered into the ether.

 

And so Viz began to learn.  Frieda showed him footage of his father, and Viz understood.  She gave him access to the insect cameras in his sector, and showed him how to communicate with her silently.  Advanced notice of enemy activities proved too great an advantage for nearby aggressors, and tribe 11A soon experienced a period of relative peace.  

 

Although as a man, Viz could not lead the tribe, he became more and more important, introducing new crafts, methods, and inventions.  He was a special, trusted advisor to all of the tribes leaders, and fathered several of their children.  Remarkably, Viz lived longer than any Wumpit before him.  He kept the green lines on his face, but took to wearing a hooded cloak and staying indoors.  He became known as Viz the Ancient.  

 

------

 

Frieda faked Viz's death for the records.  At the conclusion of her research cycle, she was denied her research badge and suspended from the scouts for one year.  She wasn't kicked out completely, so a few good friends stood by her, but most of her peers couldn't stand to be associated with her shame.  A cleanup crew sent to find illegal objects found nothing.  She continued her research, illegally, with Viz, while she pursued her advanced certificate in alien bioengineering.

 

-------

 

At the end of his research year, Walther had been ejected from the scouts permanently, and the weapons and other illegal objects he had brought to tribe 72 were confiscated.  He didn't care all that much about the scouts, and continued his studies of multi-dimensional military tactics with the Perfectibilists.  

 

For the most part, Walther was done with the Wumpits.  He had left his legacy there.  Still, something bothered him.  Walther couldn't put his finger on it.  With his help, tribe 72 had conquered dozens of other tribes, but they never made any progress with lowly tribe 11A.  11A was a joke.  Small, no real buildings.  No advanced weapons that he knew of.   The only advantage they had was extreme mobility.  

 

Walther anonymized a video stream, then pulled up video of tribe 72s central tower.  Anonymized viewing was restricted to public_knowledge events in Wumpit territory.  No research scouts, military actions, or other restricted activities could be seen.  But a small Wumpit trekking out with furs, rope, and spear at high noon was seen as a "harmless" event.  

 

Walther smiled.  Harmless.  The winged flyer the small Wumpit had been trained to fly by oral history was also harmless.  Even more harmless since it was hidden deep in the caves of BlackSnake mountains, where no Wumpit dared venture.  The pumps and fuel converters that had been bonded to the front of the flyer were harmless as well, but useful for turning organic matter into liquid fuel.  The pushbutton igniters were harmless.  The cloaking system - harmless.  And the rabidly religious fanatic Wumpit warrior riding the invisible, armored, fire-breathing, wumpit-eating, robot-dragon death-machine?  Walther smiled even more broadly as he thought about it.  That's not harmless.  That's just...Good.  Clean.  Fun.

 

 

 

 

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