The Red Hand Part 26
by Shane Migliavacca
The Red Hand Part Twenty Six Breaking The Chains
“We’ve taken the mine.” Second Gar says.
The scarred blue lizard looks at our Troika prisoner. His eyes narrow. “So you have.” He spits at the feet of the Troika. The chains on his wrists clanging as he steps forward.
“They’re slaves.” I say. In a far more accusing voice then I intended.
The Troika, perhaps sensing that speaks up. “They’re criminals. Every one of them.”
“Your own people?” I ask.
“Do you not have criminals where you come from?”
“And what do you do with them?” He says. “Do you let them run free?”
He’s got me there. “No. But this.” Words fail me at the sight of them. The “miners” are unwashed. Covered in dirt and grime. More then a few bare the same scars as the big blue guy. The stale smell of something horrible, something dead lingers in the air. The sooner we get out of here the better. I’ve been underground one too many times on this planet.
One of the prisoners steps forward. A scrawny looking male purple lizard. He holds the chain binding his wrists in front of him. Offering it up. “Am I a criminal?” He says.
“Prisoner of war.” The Troika answers.
Second Gar walks over to the purple lizard. Gar puts a hand on his shoulder. The poor guy shudders at the touch. “How did you get here?” Second Gar asks.
“They took our squad out on a raid against an outpost on the Varne Plains.” As he speaks his body shakes. As if the act of speaking was to much for him to handle. “They have terrible new weapons. Those that did not die were brought here. Beaten and abused. Forced to mine crystals for them.” He leans on Second Gar to keep from falling. “Kill me. Please. After being degraded here, I’m unfit to return to my clan.”
“What do we do?” Fourteenth asks. He’s been a fairly stoic warrior type so far and even he seems shaken by this.
“We should free them.” I say, looking at the big blue guy. “All of them.”
The Troika laughs. “You’re fools if you do. Your people yes, but these others? Thieves, murders, degenerates and traitors.”
I raise my ax. All that anger and sadness, building in me so long, driving me to do something. I walk towards the big blue guy.
“What are you doing?” Second Gar says.
“Giving these guys their freedom.”
“Don’t be an idiot.” Second Gar says. “We can’t trust them.”
“Well, we’re not leaving them to rot.” I look at the purple guy, now slumped against Gar’s shoulder. “Did these guys hurt you?”
“At first, they did not like our presence here. The old prejudices run deep. But we suffered together at their hands.” He says pointing at the Troika.
I take the blue guys chains in my hand. “Kneel down.” I tell him. He does, setting the chains down on the stone floor as I raise the ax over my head. Bringing it down with all I can muster. Shattering the chains with a loud metal scream. I follow up by doing the same to his ankle chains.
“Who’s next?” I ask.
Second Gar grabs my arm yanking me around to face him. His voice stern, unwavering. “Fool! I’m giving you a direct order now. Proceed no further in this.”
The scarred blue lizard stands. Holding his pick ax in his now unchained arms. He swings it back and forth. “He’s right. What’s stopping us from using these on you after you free us?”
I let out an absurd chuckle. “And do what? Go where? Your criminals to your own people.” I pull my arm away from Second Gar. “Besides, you guys are so malnourished, I doubt you could put up much of a fight.”
This makes the blue guy laugh. “You have quite an attitude for such a little thing. What do they call you? Where do you hail from?”
His question makes me think of home. Greyhaven, New York. Wonder if it’s winter there yet? Snow and cold. The opposite of this place. “I’m called Serena, from the land of the ice and snow.”
The blue guy holds up his pick ax. “Hail Serena of ice and snow.”
The other miners join in his cheer.
Second Gar looks me in the eye. His one good eye narrowing. “What have you done here child?”
We must be quite a sight emerging from the mine entrance. Helping along the weaker among the miners. After a few seconds of staring at us, Tenth, Third and many of the others run over, helping the miners along. After we get them situated, having the healer tend to them over and giving them food to eat, Second Gar pulls me aside.
“You’re done with my squad, understood?” His voice almost a whisper. “I gave you a direct order and you disobeyed.” He shakes his head. “It saddens me. You’re a good warrior. Even if you’re not one of us.” He starts to walk away. “I told them something like this would happen.” I can hear him mutter under his breath. “They never listen to me anyway.”
After he leaves I sit on a nearby rock. Watching the healer and the others tend to the miners. I should feel like shit. I let down Second Gar with my impulsiveness and there’s part of me that does feel shitty, but it’s dwarfed by the splinter of something else growing inside me. Happiness. It’s been an alien feeling for a while now. But seeing the others helping the miners, makes me feel a little giddy inside. Maybe something good can still happen here. Even if they do boot me out of the squad. Maybe some of these guys will start letting go of their past.
The Troika comes over to me. His hands still bound. He holds them out to me. “And what of me?”
“Not sure how I feel about you.”
He sighs. “They’re criminals. They deserved to be there.”
“Maybe. But maybe they deserve a little more respect than that.”
He scoffs. Kicking a little rock on the ground. “You judge something, something you have no right to judge. You’re are not from here.”
I stand. “Your right. Absolutely, I’m not from here. And if you came to Earth, you’d probably lose your shit with the way things are there. I don’t want to be here. Never wanted to. I…I don’t know what to think about anything anymore. I’ve killed since coming to this planet. Watched a friend die. If I do go home I’ll never be who I was when I left.”
I grab his hands, starting to untie his bonds. “But what I do know is…nobody should be have to walk around with their hands bound.”
He smiles. “Your name is Serena.” He offers one of his now freed hands. “I am Nasr Junner.”
I take his hand, shaking it. “Well Nasr, I’m trusting you to behave. If you don’t…I’ll kill you myself.”
I pull my cloak tight. The night has gotten cold. The others have gathered in the stone buildings used by the warriors to keep warm. Their one big weakness. All of them, makes me laugh. Tough lizard warriors who can’t get too cold.
The courtyard is cleared of the bodies of the fallen. They’re lied out in one of the building awaiting a burial ceremony. The ground though, still bears the marks of the battle. Blood stains the sands. Craters where those gun blasts hit.
In the distance I hear the large beasts snort. There’s a large patch of grass or weeds used for them to graze on. Like horses they seem to sleep standing. They’re unhooked from the wagon now. They look content there sleeping and eating.
I wish I could feel that content. I may have screwed up everything trying to do what I thought was right. Second Gar is pissed at me. There’s no doubt of that. And I’m more than likely going to be kicked out of their military. After all the hard work I put in just to get here. Thrown away because I couldn’t do as I was told.
No. It wasn’t for nothing. No matter what those miners did, they didn’t deserve to be left chained and starving down there. Living in their own filth. Now what?
There'll be hell to pay with The Reint when I get back. If I get back. I have a sneaking suspension that Second Gar is going to kick the lot of us, prisoners, miners and me out into the desert to fend for ourselves.
I wander over to the gate. Looking up from this close makes my head spin. It dwarfs me so completely. Wonder who made this? More “criminals.” I might dismiss that label. But I should a little wary of them all the same. Some of them could be more dangerous then they seem. I’ll keep an eye on them and my new “friend.” Can’t be too sure.
“You should come inside, sister.”
I turn to see Tenth walking towards me. Wearing her own cloak. Her arms folded in front of her. “It is too cold tonight to be alone out here.”
I look down at the ground, wrinkling my nose. “Just needed some me time. Besides some people might not want me around.”
She rubs her hands over her arms vigorously. “Nonsense. Come inside.” She takes me by the hand.
I let her lead me inside one of the stone buildings. At the building’s center there’s a large stone fire place. Circled by rows of wood tables and benches. The miners sit around the fire warming themselves. Sitting further back are Nasr and the other prisoners. There’s a few of our guys here too, keeping an eye on the others.
“What’s going to happen to them?” I ask.
Tenth sits on a bench near the door. “That is for Second Gar to decide.”
I sit next to her. “What do you think he’ll decide?”
She sighs. “Let me ask you this?” She says. “What would you do with them?”
I look at the miners are gathered around the fire place. Sure they’re in bad shape, but they’re joking and laughing. Bonded together by their mutual instinct of survival.
“I think the only way any of this can end for good is if your people act like them.” I point at the miners. “I mean, it’s never perfect. Where I’m from, we’ve been trying for hundreds of years to coexist. Everybody equal and all that. Doesn't always work. But if you try.”
Tenth seems to consider my words for a few minutes. Biting her lip as she thinks about something and then finally reaching into her cloak and pulling out something.
She hands it to me, putting a finger to my lips before I can make a sound.
“What if I told you there was a way to make that happen.”
I turn over the thing she handed me. A small broach. At its center a clear white crystal. On either side of the crystal are two figures. It’s exactly like the one those warriors handed Second Gar.
“I too serve.” She says.
“Your…one of those guys.”
She nods. “Yes. We are here. There. In many places. Wandering. Watching. Standing guard against the darkness.”
“You knew about them?” I say, trying to keep my excited voice low.
“Yes. But it must be kept a secret…for now. Our secret.” She smiles. “Yes?”
I hand the broach back to her. “I wanted to tell you for some time, but it never felt right till now.”
“Well consider my mind blown.”
“Is that a good thing?” She asks, a confused look on her face.
“Yeah, it is.”
“Good. I’d hate to blow your mind if it was a bad thing.”
I start laughing and after a few seconds she joins me. Our laughter joining with the others.
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